Archive for August, 2009|Monthly archive page

cia vs doj: round one

so the Justice Department has opened an investigation into the imaginative interrogation techniques the CIA used on terror suspects. and everyone is getting all pissy over intelligence, and right and wrong.
so I will surmise.
here you go, an 8th grade explanation, if I were a civics teacher:

what they did, these CIA interrogators, was probably semi-legal at the time — what with the sleep deprivation, the light beatings, the mock drownings and executions, and the threats against family. all of this was legal, because the Bush administration used the Justice Department (under John “let the eagle soar” Ashcroft) and its Office of Legal Counsel to fast-track a lot of questionable shit into law.

so now you’re Eric Holder, the attorney general, you walk into a justice department that is being questioned because the Bush administration politicized it; among all the other employees in the giant, secret, federal cafeteria, it feels like a sell-out and a snitch, and it has been called one as well. and you feel you have to do something, to set yourself apart, and act on your instinct. because while being a cabinet member is the most political of appointments, you’re also supposed to retain even a modicum of self-respect and attempt to perform your job independently.
and you’re faced with mounting evidence, most of its disclosure forced by lawsuits, that CIA ended up doing some outlandish and awful things. things that produced only arguably valuable intelligence, while further scrubbing away the veneer that America’s image enjoys abroad.
and you, Eric Holder, you kind of wanted to poke at it anyway.

but then again, you’re Leon Panetta, and you’re the installed political leader of the Central Intelligence Agency, and hey, your employees were just doing what they were told, man. and Bush, he said everything was cool when he left after taking the last beer out of the fridge and the money off the dresser. and now your daughter’s knocked up. 
in short, the CIA is left holding the bag. because it’s not like there’s going to be any prosecutions of former political figures, no goddamn way. the agency will answer for this.

I am of the opinion that the CIA should, you know, get the fuck over it and accept the fact that while they are greatly appreciated for the work they do, they’re government employees in sensitive positions and therefore susceptible to wild swings in public opinion. and further, I only believe in this ‘hurt morale’ bullshit on a sliding scale. because, what. is the intelligence community quit and go work for the other team? are they going to throw their hands up and say, fuck it, I’m not doing my job any more? most of them didn’t get into intelligence collecting because they thought it paid well and would get them, chicks, I hope.
no. this investigation, I think, will turn out to be nothing.

here is why:
Obama, is now going to have to manage this,
an ongoing war in Afghanistan that isn’t going smoothly, and is slacking public support only months after he committed a bunch of troops to the conflict;
a still-large, expensive deployment to Iraq; 
an economy that is only barely beginning to not be awful;
a vicious, politicized debate over health care reform;
the recent announcement of a $9 trillion budget deficit over the next decade;
and the death of America’s favorite good-natured alcoholic uncle, Ted Kennedy.
his ass can’t afford to get bogged down in another political spat. when I imagine him and these issues, I imagine him in a high school gymnasium, with each of the issues represented by a physically fit eight-year-old. but mean ones, like Children of the Corn types, and they’re trying to break him. ol’ Obama, he can handle a few of them, or maybe even a lot of them. maybe he gets pretty torn up, but still comes out on top.
but eventually, if they keep coming, if more eight-year-olds arrive, they will be hanging from his arms, and one will jump on his back. and then he will be Fucked. it’ll be like a pride of lions, riding an elephant into the ground on ‘Wild Kingdom’.
so to keep this beast at bay, he’ll politicize the Justice Department, again. he’ll say no to the investigation that should by all rights take place (and will, eventually, in some future), but I’d be surprised if this thing gets very heavy and deep. politically, it just can’t afford to. the Obama administration can’t keep letting it pile on like this, because it’s entirely too early into its tenure to be taking so many kicks to the shins.

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come and get your mind blown.

walling.

yes, Ted Kennedy died today. duly noted.

meanwhile, the White House acknowledged we’re going to owe a couple of extra trillion dollars of debt by 2019, and we, the yawning, plodding public is now able to read about CIA’s meticulous, well-reasoned torture methodology. happy Wednesday!

the other major

have you been paying attention to what’s happening with the California prison system?
it’s bursting at the seams. there’s entirely too many people locked inside of it, stacked on top of one another. as demonstrated by that riot a week or two ago at Chino, or the recent ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th federal appeals court (the dirty liberal one!) that the state must reduce its prison population by 40,000 over the next two years. 
it has to be done, because California is facing a scenario in which physical violence could realistically occur. it already has. but the state’s broke, has no way to manage this violence it fosters in these pens, and corrections is just another budget item.  and when you get down to it, keeping motherfuckers locked up for minor drug offenses might win you votes one day, but isn’t a realistic longterm prison policy.
the government there is completely fucked. do you see? this is what happens when you elect Arnold fucking Schwarzenegger to be the chief executive of your state. and don’t boil that down any other way. Arnold Schwarznegger starred in a Terminator vehicle recently. he was elected because he’s a celebrity, whose previous experience — besides ‘Total Recall’, ‘End of Days’, and ‘Kindergarten Cop’ — is highlighted by a stint as chairman the President’s Council on Physical Fitness. ‘Terminator 3’ got him elected governor, of the most populous state in the union. mull that over for a minute or two.
I’m wandering. but keep an eye on California over the next few weeks. watch Sacramento thrash about in deadlock and indecision, until that federal appeals panel begins ruling by edict, just to get the ball rolling.

avail

“Train in Vain.”
you ever listen to that Clash song? it’s notable, shows those motherfuckers flexing those old pop-rock muscles. it wasn’t all political, that was just context. the Clash were a rock and roll band, first and foremost. and that is explained by the existence of certain songs, like “Train in Vain.”
he’s singing about getting dumped. it is very black and white, obviously, as these songs are usually in the narrator’s corner, and it hits on all the notes you’d want it to. indictments. love. hopelessness.
I keep on hearing thunder, but there’s no rain.
I don’t think anyone’s really got a song, no matter what they might say. unless they’re keeping it generic, specifically for us all, for mass consumption, it’s always the singer’s song. lyrics are specific things, and it’s hard to mold a song around your experiences, unless you’re dedicated to it, are willing to bend, to fit yourself to it. for you’ll always come to a verse, that doesn’t blend with your narrative, and you might throw up your hands in exasperation. because only a narcissist would claim a song all the way through. you can only do as well as you can do, and then share it with the next person. let them take from it what they want. 
that’s the point of music, I think, or at least the rock and roll that I subscribe to. it pertains to me, but not only to me. and thank god for that, because I’m far from perfect and need to be reminded plenty. though sometimes, being reminded really blows.
with that said, “Train in Vain” is a good song. getting dumped sucks. and that’s a univeral theme right there. for it will feel like a kick in the stomach, every time.

cicadas

these record labels sling our tapes like dope.

take a break from the gargantuan, ridiculous, drunken stumble that the health-care debate is turning out to be, and read about how the CIA hired Blackwater for that assassination program to kill al-Qaida leaders disclosed to the nation a few months ago.
you know this already, but Blackwater is that private military company from North Carolina (just another reason to hate the Tar Heels) whose employees got strung up on a bridge in Fallujah in 2005 (?) and shot a lot of civilians in a Baghdad square in 2007. the Bush administration loved these motherfuckers. thrill seekers. I mean, really. it’s a private military company. American mercenaries. Hessians.
when this story broke at the beginning of the summer: CIA chief Leon Panetta went to congress, told a handful of committee members that he had just learned of an agency program to target al-Qaida’s command structure, and he had shut it down. the reason congress — and by extension, us — didn’t know about it was because then-Vice President Dick Cheney told the CIA not to tell it. fuck Cheney. it’s a sad reflection on all of us that that son of a bitch was elevated and elected into the kind of power he still has.
anyway. everyone made a big stink out of this. the CIA isn’t allowed to attempt assassinations any longer, says the article, because Gerald Ford said so in 1975. people had bugged when they learned we were trying to kill Castro. but, as Cheney argues, we were, are, at War with Terrorists. of course we’re trying to kill these motherfuckers. they attacked us once, and have vowed to attack us again. and while I’m all for specifics and leaving congress in its right to declare war, the Bush administration made short work of that formality when it used the world’s most advanced, expensive military to invade Afghanistan. and Iraq.
am I wrong about that? I’m legitimately asking. did the nation officially declare war in either of these conflicts, or did we take the politically expedient route and consider them a Police Action?
but I digress. I’m typing in circles, because I’m getting cold feet about actually admitting to this. I’m with Cheney on this one. as he might say: kill those motherfuckers. I’m all for drone strikes, and alliances with obscure, central Asian warlords.
but what the hell does it say about our spy agencies when they have to contract out to Blackwater to do it? that’s the real question. the incapability of our own people to do this. motherfuckers are gettting lazy. what the hell are we pumping half of the national budget into defense for if the fucking defense department is just going to use that money to farm out all of the work we’re paying them to do? and I know that the CIA isn’t part of the defense department, god damn it, I’m speaking in populist right here. intelligence aids national defense, among other things. yes? 

oh, and there is a story in today’s Post about how public opinion has turned against the U.S. effort in Afghanistan. 
nice job, fellow Americans. only eight months into the Obama administration, and two months after the military was allowed to actually start trying, and on the day that Afghanistan is trying to hold a goddamned election, we’ve already lost interest. couldn’t we have waited, like, another week before we made that turn?

feats of strength

Tom DeLay is going to be on ‘Dancing with the Stars’. and if that’s not a fitting end to the political career of one of the dirtiest sons of bitches to ever befoul the halls of Congress, then I don’t know what is.

so I spelled my name wrong on a job application I just sent out. McMulllan. I noticed it about a second after I hit ‘send’.
god damn it, is that shit irritating. it was a job for a transcriptionist. my cover letter was playing up my eye for detail.

I had a good time up in NYC for a few days, but relaxing it was not. family vacations, in my family — and this became a family vacation, long after it was planned to be a guys-night-out-get-drunk-and-reminsce-vacation — are never relaxing. some families, they go to the beach and lounge around for a week. decompress. my brother, his family, my sister, and dad and stepmother, they’re all doing that right now.
fuck them. I say that with unabashed jealousy. I recognize that I’m not the only motherfucker who could use a South Carolina beach vacation, but right now I could stand to sit and watch the ocean for about a year. somehow, my ass is left holding the fucking bag when everyone high-tails it to the beach.
and I’m back at the goddamned newspaper. tunafish sandwich on an onion bagel for lunch, please.

but it wasn’t all bad, man. it wasn’t all bad! mom and grandma stayed in a Best Western about a block from Times Square that was undergoing heavy renovations. me and mom and grandma toured Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. we ate the hell out of some dinner in Chinatown. took in the view from the top of the Rockafeller Center. Aarti met my mom. I met Aarti’s cousin. Phil met Aarti. Phil and I walked Phil’s dog.
and mom and grandma and I, we bitched and complained and argued the entire time. grandma, for instance, thought the whole trip was stupid. that’s it, that’s grandma’s quote of the week: ‘this is stupid.’ her feelings on just about everything we did, every tourist trap we walked into. well put, grandma.
mom, though, she motored through it all, itinerary in hand. here’s an anecdote, that many of you have already heard firsthand:
mom, grandma and I are waiting for the ferry, the ferry to take us from Ellis Island to Liberty Island in New York harbor. from one national treasure to another. we had missed the last ferry. the gift shop has grown boring. and we, have decided to wait outside by the dock, on the water, so that we don’t miss the next one. it’s best to be close, because we don’t move quickly as a group. grandma is closing in on 90, and has lost some of the spring in her step over the years.
but we have walked for miles, and struggled with directions and hordes of other tourists and confusing, self-guided audio tours, and we are weary. and we are wearing thin, and grandma is broke-ass tired. I don’t blame her. we all are. and it’s raining. so we park her on a bench and cover her head to keep away the cold, and we wait.

here they are.

go get that shit

standing next to me in the rain, looking into the choppy harbor under gray skies, lower Manhattan to our left and the Statue of Liberty to our right, mom, well aware of the track record of vicious dogfights that are our annual family excursions, she says, “I think this one’s going to go down in the anals of history.”
I think that one over for a few seconds and say, “don’t you mean annals? annals of history?”
the ball has passed back to mom. she studies it for a few seconds longer, and she says, ‘no. anals.” and we both started laughing, one of those long, exhausted laughs.

good morning

“Sometimes I can’t sleep at night. But these are the times when you have to define who you are. To do anything less is to be an accomplice.”

also. I’m going to New York City. without Mike, or stupid ol’ Josh. right. now. so, I’ll be back in a week, with lots of hilarious you-had-to-be-there stories and badly composed pictures. you can go ahead and lock that in, broseph.

gotta go running

the same guy who sold guns/accessories to the guy who killed 32 people at Va. Tech two years ago sold guns/accessories to the guy who shot up an NIU classroom, and now, apparently, is the same guy who sold guns to the guy who opened fire at gym near Pittsburgh.
I’d hate to be that guy right now.

annd, check out this song I heard on ‘Eastbound & Down’. which is a very funny show, by the way.

medicine

I read this book a while ago, “World War Z.” a work of fiction recounting the recently conlcuded zombie apocalypse.
I like that there’s an entire subgenre of zombie fiction. this video rental place I would frequent during my college daze, Plan 9, it had an entire section devoted to zombie cinema. granted, it was only a shelf, but it was still a hell of a collection. and I watched a lot of those flicks, before moving on to the werewolf genre.
of course, you run the risk of beating an idea to death, when you have so many crackerjacks taking a swing at the same topic, but the risk is worth it. you’ll have hits (the original “Dawn of the Dead”), and misses (“Land of the Dead”), but the hits will be good. “World War Z” is a hit. and the last I heard, Brad ‘fucking Jennifer Aniston got boring so I moved on to Angelina Jolie’ Pitt’s production company bought the rights to the movie.
and I will wach the shit out of that movie.

anyway, in the book  — and I’m going on memory, here — the zombie outbreak begins in China, where someone gets bitten while swimming in a newly-flooded reservoir. the authorities quarantine the area, try to prevent the infection from spreading. of course, no one calls it what it really is, because no one actually believes zombies exist. right? right?

well, check this shit out: Chinese authorities have sealed off a rural town in Qinghai province (like any of us have any idea where that is) because of an outbreak of pneumonic plague.
plague! I bet you didn’t even think it still existed. it’s okay, don’t be bashful about it; I didn’t. but apparently, there’s all sorts of shit you can still die from out there in the world. the New York Times says a dozen people come down with pneumonic plague  in the States each year.
bugs, bugs, bugs, and dirty drinkin’ water. malaria kills over a million people in the world each year and sickens a lot more, mostly children. most of this stuff, of course, could be treated, if we bothered to get decent medical care to the billion and change living in poverty. but when you can’t even fix your own broken goddamned health care system (Pfizer has rights too!), what hope do you have for extending your goodwill to the rest of the planet? I’ve got a fridge full of food and a medicine cabinet full of aspirin, and if I could ship half of it to Niger or Bangladesh in a box and know it’d make it where it needs to go, I would. but I don’t.
fuck. what a depressing series of thoughts this post turned out to be. let’s us brighten up with some mother and child reunion.