Mission Accomplished, Michelle!

Remember when this was the great hope for the teahadists:

According to a tweet from NBC News’ Jamie Novogrod, Bachmann responded to the recent raiding of the British embassy in Iran, by saying that if she was President, she would close down the U.S. embassy there.

There’s just one problem: The U.S. has not had an embassy in Iran ever since the Iranian hostage crisis, when revolutionaries from the budding Islamic state held 52 Americans for 444 days.



Someone at CNN just wasted hundreds of words to state that Rick Perry called the NH primaries the NH caucuses by mistake.

Absence of malice

In the comments to my post on establishment motivation, Steve writes:

There is a maxim that one should never ascribe to malice what can equally well be attributed to ignorance. That seems to apply here. A lot of these people just don’t have the faintest clue about Social Security.

That point is central to my argument. Establishment media types are innumerate. I doubt that more than a quarter could estimate the US GDP within 35%. The details of pro-Social Security versus anti-Social security arguments, or austerity versus expansionary arguments, are completely lost on them. (It’s possible that I am not as conversant with these arguments as I should be myself, though I think I am reasonably conversant, to be honest with you.)

So they gravitate towards whichever position is more in line with some fuzzier, more qualitative world view; that world view is often that the American middle-class is spoiled and needs tough love. They don’t want to starve the middle-class, they feel they owe it to them. This is about more than making money. I doubt Ruth Marcus or Joe Klein would lose their jobs or suffer a pay cut if they stopped fluffing Paul Ryan. I also think that they genuinely believe that the American middle-class needs to suffer. I am not attributing any malice to anyone here, quite the opposite.

It’s striking that so many economists — even conservative ones like Greg Mankiw and Martin Feldstein — supported the stimulus, albeit with caveats about how it wasn’t perfect and so on, while non-economist pundits were generally critical of it. This happened because economists were more likely to consider the quantitative details while punditubbies (EDIT: h/t) thought gubmint should tighten its belt when Real Murkins do.

I also don’t think establishment media types supported the Iraq War because they wanted to see Iraqis and American soldiers die (with some exceptions, Tom Friedman has explicitly stated that he wanted to tell Iraqi civilians to “suck on this”). They didn’t understand the complexities of a potential war, so they went with what felt good — spreading freedom, keeping America safe, showing the Muslim world some tough love, etc. In some cases, crass careerist or circus dog motivations came into play I am sure, but I bet some of these people honestly thought it was “the right thing to do”.

I wish that more people would understand that most of the journamlism we see from establishment pundits is baseless musing that only reflects their own world views and life circumstances, and that their world views and life circumstances are very different from those of most middle-class Americans.

Can animals commit suicide?

A touching story sent to me a few days ago by reader JS, in response to an ongoing Sullivan meme.

Fletcher was dying, born with an enlarged heart my parents had been told. I’d driven home to my parents where he lived because I didn’t know what else to do.

I’d brought Fletcher home from my summer job in the OK oilfields where my boss had dumped him out after his kids had grown bored with him. He’d been there three days. He was just a puppy and all us were pretty sure he was going to die. He was too young and weak to hunt like the other dog who’s name that I can’t remember that Otho had dumped. I felt bad for him, but I was going back to school in a few weeks and being that I lived in the dorms a dog was out of the question, especially since my dad had made it clear that he didn’t want anymore dogs. Just get in the fucking car and leave I told myself everyday, except today he was laying underneath my front tire. I grabbed him and threw him into the car figuring I’d take him to the pound or something that getting put to sleep was better than starving to death. He laid up under the middle console of my Ford EXP the half hour drive to my parents never moving or making a sound.

What I expected would happened when I got home with him did. My dad was pissed, yelling at me that he didn’t want any goddamn dogs. I assured him that I’d be taking him to the pound and that he didn’t need to worry. He responded by telling me that if the dog made so much as sound that night he’d shoot him before I had the chance to. I finally got so sick of listening to him that I told him to go get the gun “toughguy” and I’ll shoot him now. Fletcher never made a peep that night.

The next morning as I was feeding him some leftover scraps before heading to work my dad was already on me to take him to the pound I assured him come Saturday I would. About that time my mom walked outside looked at Fletcher and said simply, the dog stays.

Seven years later I was lying on their garage floor next to him on the pile of blankets my parents had laid out to keep him comfortable as he gasped for breaths while I cried and waited for my dad to get home, so that we could take him to the vet and put him to sleep. At one point he got up and headed through the yard that had been his to the gate. I opened the gate and followed as he headed down the path towards the creek where we had always walked. I know he was just a dog, but all I could think was “he’s trying to make me feel better.” When we got to the creek he climbed into the water and looked up at me with a look that to my mind said goodbye. At that point I started screaming at him to get out, to come to me which he finally did albeit seemingly reluctantly. He didn’t stop as he passed me sobbing, he just headed back home. Finally when my dad got home, later than usual we took him to the vet. I insisted on staying with him as the vet searched for a vein that hadn’t collapsed yet until finally he found one and Fletcher went still. I kissed him and covered him up and then my dad and I carried him outside to the truck and drove home in silence.

When we got back we took him out of the truck and laid him in the grave in the backyard where his house had always set that my dad had dug the day before. Then we covered him up as my dad sobbed and my mom stood watching.

To this day I think I should have left him alone in that creek, but I was young and weak and goddamn I loved that dog.

Where is my motivation?

I know nothing about psychology, but I’m guessing this proposition is hardly novel: people’s underlying motivations are often misunderstood, even (especially?) by themselves. This is why I can’t believe in rational markets, altruistic Galtians, or impartial pundits. Even if people believe they’re being rational, altruistic, or impartial, there’s a good chance that they’re not, and, to take it one step farther, their belief in their own rationality/altruism/impartiality may well indicate that they are merely delusional or narcissistic.

Atrios makes a good point apropos of the lock-out instigated by the mighty job-creators at the NBA:

Too often we assume that Homo Economicus is truly just motivated by the money, or more ridiculously the financial interests of the shareholders of the companies they run. The truth is, Our Galtian Overlords are frequently just assholes because they are assholes, not because being assholes will actually make them any richer.

Likewise, Charles Pierce translates Ruth Marcus’s cry of the wounded school-marm thusly:

“I are an actual journalist. Please note my concern for the First Amendment, a quaint notion that I believe applies to me and to the eight people I had dinner with last night, and not necessarily to potty-mouthed high-schoolers.”

Marcus most likely wants to silence “potty-mouthed” high-schoolers because their tweets in some way undermine her own her influence, whether she or not she admits it (or even knows it).

When I discuss the American political scene with tote-baggers, the notion they resist the most is that we should question our Galtian and Village overlords’ underlying motivations. When I tell them, for example, that the establishment wants to cut Social Security and Medicare simply because they enjoy fucking the middle-class over, they tell me I am insane. When I ask them what other motivation there could be for replacing a reasonably efficient government health-care system with a less efficient private health care system, they have no answer.

Republican Anniversary of the Week: Iran-Contra

Now that reports of Iranians storming embassies indicate that our national newspapers of record have been permitted to shake up the normal somnolence of their readers, an optimist might wonder if any aspiring journo would dare to mention the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Iran-Contra scandal. Few Balloon-Juice readers are optimists, but it did surprise me slightly how much the whole disgraceful interlude seems to have passed from the national public memory. Peter Kornbluh, of the National Security Archives, published an excellent precis in Salon:

It has been 25 years since President Ronald Reagan stepped up to the microphone in the White House press room and made the announcement that launched one of the greatest scandals in modern American politics.
Reagan announced that his administration had sent “small amounts of defense weapons and spare parts to Iran” not to trade arms for hostages, but to improve relations and support moderate mullahs. There was “one aspect” of the operation that, the President said, he had been “unaware of.” His attorney general, Edwin Meese, then stepped forward to describe how “private benefactors” had transferred profits from those sales to counterrevolutionary forces, the contras, fighting to overthrow the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. No U.S. officials were involved, according to Meese, in this “diversion” of funds that linked two seemingly separate covert operations…
The list of the “other… more important ” aspects of the sordid story that became known as “Iran-contra” scandal is a long one but worth recalling 25 years later. The Reagan administration had been negotiating with terrorists (despite Reagan’s repeated public position that he would “never” do so). There were illegal arms transfers to Iran, flagrant lying to Congress, soliciting third country funding to circumvent the Congressional ban on financing the contra war in Nicaragua, White House bribes to various generals in Honduras, illegal propaganda and psychological operations directed by the CIA against the U.S. press and public, collaboration with drug kingpins such as Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega, and violating the checks and balances of the constitution.
“If ever the constitutional democracy of the United States is overthrow,” the leading political analyst of the scandal, Theodore Draper wrote at the time, “we now have a better idea of how this is likely to be done.”…


Charles P. Pierce, in Esquire‘s Political Blog, nicely summarizes the “lost opportunities of Iran-Contra“:

… Iran-Contra was a straightforward constitutional B&E. The Reagan people wanted to fight a war in Central America. Congress did its constitutional duty and shut off the money. The administration then broke the law by arranging private funding for its pet war. One of the ways it did that was to sell military hardware to the government of Iran, which sponsored not only terrorism, but also the kidnapping of various American citizens abroad. All of this was in service to a private foreign policy, devoid of checks and balances, and based on a fundamental contempt for the Constitution and the rule of law…
Iran-Contra was the moment when the country decided — or, alternatively, when it was decided for the country — that self-government was too damned hard, and that we’re all better off just not knowing. It was the moment when all the checks and balances failed, when our faith in the Constitution was most sorely tested, and when it was found most seriously wanting. Iran-Contra is how all the crimes of the subsequent years became possible. It is when the Constitution became a puppet show.

I was in my mid-20s then, old enough to understand the depths of Republican treason and dishonesty exposed by the Walsh investigation, and young enough to be outraged by the unseemly haste by which both wings of the Permanent Government Party and its media courtiers swept all evidence of global criminality out of the public eye. Mistakes were made! Honorable men — opinions differ! And yet even the truncated clown-show proceedings permitted to enter the official records established, to me, what prosecutors call “a pattern of misconduct”: One October Surprise might be dismissed as the abberation of a paranoid drunk misleading a band of well-meaning innocents, but repeating Nixon’s ‘mastercoup’– putting American lives at risk for nothing more valuable than a presidential campaign — made it clear that the Republican Party was deliberately degenerating from a political party into a criminal junta. I have always been a proud Democrat, but it was the whole sordid, murderous Iran-Contra scandal which convinced me that (to quote Driftglass and the Rude Pundit):

Anyone who votes for a modern Republican is voting for a Bad Person.

In Which I Find Myself In Total (and Gobsmacked) Agreement With Jeffrey Goldberg

If you want to know why supporting Israel — in any meaningful sense of the term — has to be different from supporting Likud/Netanyahu, check this out from Goldberg.  (If you don’t think that supporting Israel in any context is a good idea — well, we disagree, but you can still marvel at the Netanyahu administration’s truly impressive, the-wheel-is-spinning-but-the-hamster’s-dead stupidity.)  Golberg’s concluding passage:

The idea, communicated in these ads [created by the Netanyahu govt. for American TV], that America is no place for a proper Jew, and that a Jew who is concerned about the Jewish future should live in Israel, is archaic, and also chutzpadik (if you don’t mind me resorting to the vernacular). The message is: Dear American Jews, thank you for lobbying for American defense aid (and what a great show you put on at the AIPAC convention every year!) but, please, stay away from our sons and daughters.

Let me go further:  not only is this latest absurdity proof that there is a vast gulf between a commitment to Israel and a defense of its current government — the two are actually in conflict.  Likud and Netanyahu and their further-right allies are doing lots of things that I think weigh down the long-term prospects for Israel’s survival.  But I have to say that if they want to make things worse much sooner, potentially alienating a significant  fraction of the most committed American supporters of Israel is a pretty good way to go about it.

To steal a term:  Morans!

Image: Jozef Israëls,A Jewish Wedding, 1903