Maybe Honesty Is Overrated

Ever sensitive to the sorrows of empire, the Washington Post informs us that a “Karzai rift prompts U.S. to reevaluate anti-corruption strategy in Afghanistan“:

Senior Obama administration officials have concluded they need to step back from promoting American-style law enforcement as the main means of fighting corruption in Afghanistan because of the rift it has caused with President Hamid Karzai.
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President Obama’s top national security advisers, who will meet with him this week to discuss the problem, do not yet agree on the contours of a new approach, according to U.S. civilian and military officials involved in Afghanistan policy. But the officials said there is a growing consensus that key corruption cases against people in Karzai’s government should be resolved with face-saving compromises behind closed doors instead of public prosecutions.
[…]
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Relations between Karzai and the United States have nosedived since the arrest of one of his palace aides on bribery charges six weeks ago. The arrest – made by an Afghan anti-graft task force that has received extensive financing, training, equipment and intelligence support from the FBI and other U.S. law enforcement agencies – proved embarrassing for the Afghan leader. Karzai responded by ordering the aide released and instructing his Justice Ministry to impose new rules limiting international involvement in corruption investigations.
[…]
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[T]he change almost certainly will draw fire from some in the military and diplomatic corps who believe a strong public push against high-level graft is key to reducing the culture of impunity that pervades the country, as well as from some members of Congress who deem such efforts essential to securing support for $3.9 billion in additional reconstruction funds sought by the Obama administration…
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Some officials, principally at the staff level, contend that government venality and incompetence is the principal reason Afghans are joining, supporting or tolerating the Taliban. Other administration and military officials, particularly those at senior levels, maintain that graft is just one of many factors – along with sanctuaries in Pakistan, historical tribal grievances and anger at the presence of foreign forces on Afghan soil – that fuel the conflict.
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Compounding the challenge is that many Afghan officials who are regarded as corrupt also provide valuable assistance to U.S. forces, including sensitive intelligence. Some, including the palace aide, are on the CIA’s payroll – a fact not initially known to investigators working on the case.
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“There’s been the schizophrenia that we haven’t been able to resolve,” the administration official said. “We want to fight corruption, but we also want to use these guys.”



“Palin-Beck Death Porn In the Land of the Midnight 9/11”

The very serious so-called papers of record failed to staunch my curiosity, but Wonkette’s “Northern Terrortories Warblogger” Bill Scannell has a trio of hilarious (yet depressing) posts on the Nine-Eleven Grifters Gala in Anchorage. The pics in the “Palin-Beck 9/11 DeathFest Crowd Haunted By Weird Protesters” dispatch add a special surreality — why is the guy wearing a bunny costume and a ‘Scream’ mask being patted down by security guards? — but the event itself seems to have been underwhelming:

It was a classic case of bait and switch. The Palin/Beck NineEleven™ Porno Deathfest was a LIE. They promised masturbatory delights beyond the wildest dreams of even the most ardent exurban WTC pr0n junkie. Instead, the close to 4,000 attendees were served up something far more profitable in the long term to Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin: a Messiah myth…
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For the next 20 minutes, Beck and Palin did their shtick, chastely fondling the aura of one another’s genitals and bantering on about Alaska and how Grifter Girl has caribou blood under her salon fingernails and the Spirit of Alaska must renew A’murka until finally, FINALLY they got to The Point. Glenn Beck announced that he will not run for public office while Sarah Palin thrice refused (hear that Christian dog whistle?) to say whether or not she would run for President in 2012…
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Glenn Beck may have made seventeen separate references to his own insanity during the course of the evening, but he is no nut job. This wily huckster, this greasy purveyor of shallow dreams and crocodile tears, set the pick tonight on what will be his biggest score yet: a years-long never-consummated and congenitally impotent dry hump on a ghost candidate. For at least another several years, we will all have to watch these two grifters roll.

I do love a nicely-turned phrase, and little gems like “a years-long never-consummated and congenitally impotent dry hump on a ghost candidate” may have to serve as my only consolation during the next couple of political months. As Wonkette commentor MiniMencken summarizes:

Wow! This really is good old-fashioned American revival tent grifting. Beck announces he is going to be in Alaska on 9/11 for a big announcement. Palin tweets out to her fans that she will be there for this really, really huge announcement. They fill a drab meeting room with far fewer people than what I would imagine the word stadium implies, collect a pile of cash and don’t actually do anything apart from show up. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I give you — the Hope and Crosby team of the wingnuts.



Early Morning Open Thread: Squid-Cloud of Butt-Hurt

Dave Weigel at Slate suggested that the Koch brothers should embrace their new notoriety and strut their anti-populist, anti-progressive, anti-environmental credentials proudly. What’s the point, Weigel seemed to think, of spending hundreds of millions of dollars on everything from climate-change denialism at the Smithsonian to astroturf “Tea Party” groups if you’re too shy to stand up and take pride in your achievements? Especially once all hope of obscuring your connections to everything from your daddy’s role in founding the John Birch Society to your own success in bankrolling every glibertarian outlet from the Cato Institute to Reason magazine to the teabagger-flavored Americans for Prosperity Foundation has been exposed for all the New-Yorker-reading world to examine?

Later that morning, Weigel posted on his blog, under the title “Kochs Keep Tossing Bricks at New Yorker Profile”:

Here’s more on the story I published this morning — a letter that the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation is sending around arguing that Jane Mayer’s New Yorker profile treated the Kochs unfairly.
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“The New Yorker article, and those pieces that have echoed it, rely heavily on innuendo and unsubstantiated assertions,” writes foundation president Richard Fink, who is the public face of the brothers’ ideological work. “Unnamed sources and those with a strong philosophical opposition to the Kochs – many of whom have no current or first-hand knowledge of Koch Industries, Koch Family Foundations, Charles Koch or David Koch – go unchallenged. Supporters of the Kochs are largely ignored (as evidenced by the fact that the reporter chose not to include the vast majority of supportive comments made by a number of people familiar with the Kochs and the organizations they support). On the other hand, those who reinforce the reporter’s preconceptions are given a free pass.”

This letter is a fine exemplar of the Squid-Cloud of Butt-Hurt, but there is a detail here no decent novelist would allow to pass unedited: Are the billionaire “Kochtopus” brothers really being defended (for money) by a man who calls himself… Rich Fink?
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Elmer Gantry, ver. 64.2.10

If you’re Glenn Beck, the Lonesome Rhodes path to supremacy is blocked with a Limbaugh-sized… ego. That guy ain’t going away without a fight that would damage both contenders. On the other hand, there’s an opening for Heartland America(tm)’s Most Conspicuous Jeebus Huckster — Franklin Graham just doesn’t have his old man’s charisma, and Rick Warren is tainted by his association with… you know… ‘poor people’, let’s call it. Pious Gated-Community Americans don’t pay tithes to Goldline.com to sit in an un-airconditioned pew next to someone who couldn’t get past their HOA!

Since he’s supposed to have attended a Jesuit school, I’m sure young Glenn flirted with the idea of joining the Fabulous Prado Shoes branch of the Catholic hierarchy, but getting even a decently comfortable monseigniorship can take decades of hard work (look at what all those years of dedicated syncophancy have done to Joseph Ratzinger). However, Joseph Smith, Jr. provided a golden template for an ambitious young American chuch-shopper with a bipolar talent for stagemanship. Hey, it’s not like Willard Romney was going to draw the rubes looking for a little upbeat entertainment with their hate-mongering! The Free Market (all praise be upon it) abhors a vacuum!
Read more



B**k

Facebook has sued a teachbook.com, a site devoted to teachers and learning, because it has the word “book” in its name. The site looks nothing like Facebook and the site founders say they picked the word “book” because the site is about teachers and education.

I doubt that Facebook has a real trademark infringement case here, but it really doesn’t matter. Teachbook has 20 users and not much money. Simply defending themselves in a lawsuit would probably kill the company, so they’ll change their name, and Facebook will effectively own the word “book”.








“Call When You Get Honest Work!”

Does a career politician who’s spent his professional life (like his father before him, and his son after him) on the public tit really want to go there?

If it’s easy to make fun of the Cat Food Commission, it’s even easier to mock “Pink Panthers” and their (our) sensitivity about “degrading, sexist, ageist and profane language”. Silly HuffPo firebagger ladies and their PC pablum, so pre-post-feminist! But, chroist jaysus nekkid on a pogo stick, has Distinguished Ex-Senator A.K. Simpson, VSP changed his first name to Abe?:

The flamboyant (some would say plain nutty) co-chair of President Obama’s Fiscal Commission, Former Republican Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming, who became an instant You-Tube star earlier this summer with a rant against senior citizens, is at it again big-time.
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Evidently smarting mightily — and mighty belatedly — from an April 27th Huffington Post blog by Ashley Carson, Executive Director of the Older Women’s League (OWL), Simpson fired off an email Monday. He accused Carson of lying and “babbling into the vapors about disgusting attempts at ageism and sexism and all the rest of that crap.” Piling on the sexist rhetoric, he then instructed her to read a graph which “I hope you are able to discern if you are any good at reading graphs.”
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Declining to address whether or not he accepts his own Social Security benefit (he’s pushing 80), Simpson saves the best for last: “And yes, I’ve made some plenty smart cracks about people on Social Security who milk it to the last degree. You know ’em too. It’s the same with any system in America. We’ve reached a point now where it’s like a milk cow with 310 million tits! Call when you get honest work!”

John Kenneth Galbraith, a lifelong defender of America’s Social Security system, often pointed out that those who spent their careers at highly-compensated “intellectual” tasks were more liable to resent mandatory retirement than fear physical breakdown. Someone whose greatest daily challenge on the job is finding a greenroom muffin that satisfies both a rarified palate and the minimum daily fiber requirement may find it easy to forget that working twelve-hour shifts at Wal-Mart isn’t just less monetarily rewarding, it’s also considerably harder on an aging body. As the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO) points out:

Forty-five percent of women over age 65, who live alone, do so in poverty. Women, who earn less on average for the same work as men, are hit again upon taking Social Security benefits; due to lower lifetime earnings, women receive on average less than $12,000 per year in Social Security benefits, while men receive nearly $14,000.
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Further, women are not living longer in retirement (low-income minority women have seen decreases in life expectancy), and cannot continue to work more years in physically difficult or demanding jobs. Social Security is not an overly generous program helping all seniors live out luxurious retirements. Social Security provides a base level of replacement income for older Americans who can no longer work, and any cuts to benefits, either in the form of smaller checks or by raising the retirement age, will hurt all generations, forcing more and more Americans back into poverty.

I agree with Paul Krugman on this — it’s time for Obama to fire Alan Simpson.



Obvious conflict of interest

In my opinion, this sort of thing calls for the mother of all blogger ethics panels (via):

On Sunday, policy makers, higher education watchers and ordinary readers opened their newspapers and Web browsers to an editorial endorsed by the Post’s staff board that took a stance that could’ve come right out of Kaplan’s playbook.

After disclosing the corporate link — noting that the paper is owned by the same company that “owns Kaplan University and other for-profit schools of higher education that, according to company officials, could be harmed by the proposed regulations” — the editorial bashed the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed rules, voicing concerns about access for low-income and working students, and worrying more broadly about how the country could meet President Obama’s higher education goals without for-profit colleges.

“When I first saw it, I thought, ‘Wow, this is really surprising,’ ” said Lauren Asher, president of the Institute for College Access and Success, which has been a strong advocate for the government’s toughened regulatory approach to for-profit higher education. “Not just to see the Post editorializing on this issue, but to look at what the board is saying.”

Why on earth would the money-losing branch of an educational testing company that runs for-profit schools think they could get away with editorializing in favor of for-profit schools?

This is all going to get worse when the VeriGoogle news consortium starts telling us what a terror net neutrality is.