November 22nd, 2005

New Marc Nadel Cartoons!

by Philip Baruth

My most excellent neighbor, cartoonist Marc Nadel, continues to provide VDB with the sort of top-end political caricature you expect in a blog of this sort. I have a feeling the Rove will come in particularly handy.


Someday very soon I’ll be writing some long, thoughtful posts on the responsibility-averse phenomenon that is Donald Rumsfeld, and the ovoid political tick that is Karl Rove, but for the moment I thought I’d just let you study their faces.


Is it just me, or do these guys look corrupt and mendacious? Remember, these Nadel drawings are VDB exclusives, folks. Marc was just your average hard-working artist until the Bush administration pushed him over the edge, and back into political cartooning.

Tremble anew, evil-doers.

November 22nd, 2005

The Latest Improvised Explosive Device

by Philip Baruth

Okay, the Big-Big story today was moved by the AP out of Cairo: A “reconciliation conference” of different Iraqi factions settled on a few common points: 1) American soldiers should leave Iraq soon, and if they don’t 2) it’s open season.

“Reaching out to the Sunni Arab community, Iraqi leaders called for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces and said Iraq’s opposition had a ‘legitimate right’ of resistance.

“The communique — finalized by Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni leaders Monday — condemned terrorism but was a clear acknowledgment of the Sunni position that insurgents should not be labeled as terrorists if their operations do not target innocent civilians or institutions designed to provide for the welfare of Iraqi citizens.”

So as long as insurgents target Americans, rather than Iraqis, they will be officially considered freedom fighters by the newly-elected Iraqi government. bushDid anyone really expect any different?

In all seriousness, which story do you think will be in place 30 years from now, that the US invaded, occupied and did Iraq a favor it can never repay? Or that the US crippled Iraq with sanctions, leapt on its weakened carcass, but then was driven away by brave Muslim lions, fighting tanks and Humvees with only makeshift bombs and AK-47s? This is why this war is so maddening: staying the course — if it worked — would mean putting in place and bolstering a fundamentalist Shiite government destined to align with Iran, destined to oppose US interests, destined in fact to denigrate the operation and the soldiers that brought it to power in the first place.

Funny how this communique was announced right at the height of the controversy over Murtha’s call for a six-month timetable.

Almost like a rhetorical IED.

November 21st, 2005

Funniest Bush Footage EVER

by Philip Baruth

In case you haven’t heard the story: Bush was at a press conference in China, and a reporter asked him if he wasn’t a bit “off his game.” Bush, famous for his slow-burns over tough questions, bushabruptly ended the press conference and tried to march out of the room. But he picked a set of ornamental doors that wouldn’t open.

Crooks and Liars has the footage, titled “Where’s the Exit?” You will bust a gut watching this clip. (You’ll need to scroll down the site a bit.) Money-back guarantee.

Late Update, 4:45 pm:
Ah, it didn’t take long — Bush’s choice “no exit” moment has been upgraded by all major media outlets to a Metaphorical Moment, not unlike the way that George Senior’s “impromptu regurgitation” was read as an icon of American economic weakness in the early 90’s. Look for comic pushback tomorrow — Bush will superglue reporters’ doors shut, or some such, to take ownership of the symbolic debacle (”See, I can joke even when my numbers are in the tank, and the Chinese mock me with prop exits!”). Be the first to spot it and report it to VDB, and we’ll . . . well, we’ll use it and take credit for it!

November 21st, 2005

Odds on a Zuckerman Run: Only 4 to 1

by Philip Baruth

So I ran into State Representative David Zuckerman the other day at a UVM United Academics Union rally at the University of Vermont. And all the bullhorns and sign-waving got me in the political mood, so I decided to just ask him flat-out: You running for Congress?

Why is this important, if you’re reading this in Tijuana or Biloxi?

Well, in Vermont the Center-Left makes up about 60% of the vote, with Democrats and Progressives jockeying over who best represents that liberal two-thirds of the state. In a good cycle, we manage to settle down and field one candidate — Progressive Bernie Sanders has usually run without Democratic opposition, a key to his success nationally. And Progressives traditionally limited their influence to Chittenden County, the state’s most liberal terrritory, a key to Howard Dean’s rise.

But some years back Progressives took their party state-wide — a very logical move based on healthy growth in their tallies — and ever since the Center-Left has been shooting itself in the femur on a regular basis.

Hence, our current Republican Governor and Lt. Governor.

So now Bernie has decided to jump to the Senate seat being vacated by Jim Jeffords (remember him?), leaving a House seat open. Immediately, Peter Welch — a left-leaning Democrat — threw his hat in the ring, with broad support from not only the Democratic establishment, but from Bernie himself. The GOP candidate most often mentioned is Martha Rainville, Adjutant General of the Vermont National Guard, a pro-Choice female General. Hardly a push-over.

So the question has become: Will a Progressive enter the race, split the 60% down the middle and throw Bernie’s very reliable liberal seat to the Republicans?

My answer, after my chat with Zuckerman: I don’t think so.

Zuckerman is a very nice guy, and he clearly wants to run, but my aggregate sense of the conversation was that he’ll pull back at the last minute. Now, understand, he never said this flat-out; but he did talk about waiting until late January to make a decision (a cripplingly late start, in a state where media plays a relatively low-key role), and at one point he referred a little wistfully to the current proto-campaign as one designed to “raise issues” that wouldn’t otherwise be on the table — the sort of thing you expect from someone who more or less knows he’s not going to pull the trigger. Finally, he talked a lot about the decision being based on whether or not he feels support around the state, monetary and otherwise. None of this had the ring of finality you’d associate with a serious candidate for Congress with less than a year to go before Election Day.

My best read: If Zuckerman had Bernie’s endorsement, he’d run. Or if Bernie had agreed to stay neutral, he’d run. But Zuckerman’s best argument — that Welch is not a liberal but a corporate stooge — now directly implicates Bernie. Still, Zuckerman clearly wants to use the run-up to the election (the next two or three months, in any event) to position himself as the Progressive Party’s post-Pollina standard-bearer. I could be wrong — I called 2004 for Kerry — but VDB says Zuckerman ultimately takes a pass.

A final note: David Zuckerman is a very nice guy, and clearly he has a future in state politics. But over and over again he made the argument that if Center-Left voters go Democratic, they’re “voting their fears.” Voting Progressive, on the other hand, always constitutes “voting for what they want.” At this stage of the game, that’s not logical and it’s not even good political strategy — it’s just demagoguery.

David, you can do better than that — and let me know if you think the 4 to 1 odds need tweaking.

But until I hear otherwise, I say it’s Welch v. Rainville, and Welch wins it in a horrible squeaker.

November 18th, 2005

Hair-Band Boys Now on (Spoof) Video!

by Philip Baruth

Apropos of my hair-band/Right-wing analysis below, I thought you might like to see this new and very funny spoof I dug up. It’s a Daily Show-style “music video” for the Right Brothers’ song “Bush Was Right!”

Think of it as comic rapid-response. The news anchor is dead-on — until he spits out his coffee.

Tremble, evil-doers.

November 17th, 2005

Former Hair-Band Boys Geek for Bush!

by Philip Baruth

So let’s see: week before last, the White House announces that it’s going to “hit back” against the irresponsible Democrats who’ve irresponsibly tanked the President’s poll numbers, by suggesting that Iraq has been a shell game from the start. Then over the last few days we’ve gotten several podium-pounders from Bush and Cheney, Bush even interrupting press conferences in Asia to slam critics of the war.

Then this week, the push-back goes gnarly: a pop song directed at the millions of clueless young head-bangers Bush rallied briefly following 9/11, but eventually lost as more and more clueless young head-bangers died trapped in burning Humvees in Iraqi cities whose names they were unable to pronounce.

The group is The Right Brothers. The song is “Bush was Right!” and it reads like something straight out of Bob Roberts, Tim Robbins’s send-up of right-wing myopia:

Freedom in Afghanistan, say goodbye Taliban
Free elections in Iraq, Saddam Hussein locked up
Osama’s staying underground, Al Qaida now is finding out
America won’t turn and run once the fighting has begun
Libya turns over nukes, Lebanese want freedom, too
Syria is forced to leave, don’t you know that all this means

Bush was right!
Bush was right!
Bush was right!

It’s not up there with Bob Roberts’ best (”This land is my land, this land is my land, from California . . .”) but it’s pretty amusing stuff, still and all. Even more amusing, though, are Right Brother Aaron Sain’s musings on how and why he took up work in propaganda: “In the early ‘90’s Aaron moved to Nashville to pursue his dream of making it in the music business. About that time the music Aaron listened to was phasing out. ‘The big hair bands of the 80’s whose music I enjoyed so much, such as Def Leppard, Poison and Bon Jovi, were suddenly just gone. And when the music scene went alternative, I turned to country.’”


The sheer absence of Bon Jovi — a deep-seated yearning for Bon Jovi, if you will — produces a young man’s turn to Jesus, and also to Condoleeza Rice, two authority figures with Serious Hair. Which seems to beg the cheneyquestion: Is the hard-Right as a whole closer to 80’s hair-bands than previously theorized?

Of course, you go on stage with the hair you have, not the hair you might need or want at some future time. And Dick Cheney has only six hairs, several of which he “owns” on time-share with Karl Rove. But you take my point: Maybe Scooter Libby and the boys formed the White House Iraq Group because they couldn’t be White Snake. The acronym, after all, was WHIG.

Thanks to VDB-reader Buzz, who dropped the dime on this latest twist in White House propaganda. More on this as developments warrant.

November 17th, 2005

Freedom on the March: Part II

by Philip Baruth

Alberto Gonzales famously argued, in an epic bit of bureaucratic cheek-smooching, that torture wasn’t torture so long as the torturer didn’t cross the red line of “organ failure” or permanent disability. Now Iraq, our little mentee in democracy, proves that they’ve learned our ways, and can take them to their logical conclusion.

CNN has a surreal story up today in which the new Interior Minister defends the secret torture prison discovered a few days ago. But all you really need is the screamer.

CNN headline: “Iraq Minister on Torture: ‘Nobody was beheaded or killed.’”

Our ideals truly light the world.

November 17th, 2005

WMD Found, Reader Reports

by Philip Baruth

Re: the infamously missing Weapons of Mass Destruction, my man NP points out that they seem to have been found — in our soldiers’ mortar tubes. Turns out we’ve been using white phosphorous as a weapon, one designed to have catastrophic psychological effects (as enemy soldiers see those around them being burned alive by it). The BBC has the story, and some devastating analysis.

We torture in secret prisons, and we thereby undercut every moral argument we make with regard to torture. We use chemical weapons, and we thereby undercut every moral argument we make with regard to WMD (see also our use of “Daisy-Cutter” ordinance which so dwarfs other conventional ordinance that it might as well be considered WMD).

Is it any wonder that the world simply laughs at us when we sit down at the UN to jawbone about freedom, about human rights?

November 16th, 2005

A “Pecksniffian” Parting Gift

by Philip Baruth

The outraged Right-leaning VDB-reader — the one who initially labeled us “pecksniffian” — has signed off in a very cordial way, and passed on a useful link to us Left-leaning conspiracy theorists: a mock-essay on tinfoil hats to protect us from government propaganda.

It’s fairly amusing. Who knew that Bush voters had active senses of humor?

November 16th, 2005

Torture Apparently On the March

by Philip Baruth

Says the Boston Globe: “The Iraqi government launched an investigation yesterday into the apparent torture of detainees in a secret Interior Ministry jail after the US military found 173 prisoners inside who appeared to have been abused, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said.”

Some of these abused detainees had apparently been “paralyzed,” just to be specific, and al-Jaafari pronounced himself “shocked” when they were discovered.

Now let’s get our causes and effects straight here: We toppled Saddam because he ran torture prisons, which prisons we then began to run as torture prisons ourselves, in order to put in place a democratically elected government that would then be free to torture in the name of the Iraqi people.

Freedom on the march, no doubt in my mind: free to give torture, free to accept it.

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