Passive Aggressive Rot Sets In

Obama’s troubles are ours now. We collectively identified Obama’s peculiarly militant brand of passive aggressiveness beginning in March 2009. Recall our frustration watching the Rightist initial fabrication of the Tea Party then go unchallenged. Or behold Obama’s White House spokesman joke in Summer 2010 they might even lose the House.


Seeing This Car Wreck In 2007

We could do little but share why the re-constituted Movement would quickly mutate into a demonstrably feral brand of anti-Enlightenment, anti-democratic emotive rejections. In the face of Obama and Democratic inaction, we argued ‘the fever’ would not quickly subside. Did we not — at the time in 2008-09 –declare Obama’s chief task to be seen doing one thing surpassingly well? To rebut Rightist narrative and restore faith in empirical government?

Even before his 2008 victory, Obama’s congenital “Goldilocks Syndrome” of compromise in the face of extremes was obvious. Didn’t we predict with scary accuracy how it would work?

Here’s our take from 2007 for new Readers. NPR’s “Spilled Bong Water” show assessed the Obama Campaign and his presidency like a seer.

NPR Spilled Bong Water on 2007 Obama Campaign

[Read more…]

Hello From The Shut Down Imperial City

We’ve always maintained that D.C. is a weird amalgamation of First World Starbuckian smugness and Third World dreariness and incompetence. Nothing makes that point better than the regional utility companies. Or Metro. But today let’s go with the utilities.

It’s true that every American is convinced that their utility is uniquely incompetent. Dominion, PEPCO et al. actually are. Once one leaves the federal enclaves the infrastructure, particularly the electric grid, is beyond feeble. It’s not that the grid failed so broadly after this violent storm. Rather, it predictably fails after almost every storm.

(Dominion, too. Bueller? Bueller?)

Right before the utilities folded like a paper napkin a TV personality friend sent an email about a DHS report detailing domestic incidents of Stuxnet contaminating U.S. computer networks. Which naturally prompts one to imagine the post-storm quasi-apocalytpic landscape (SUVs forlornly waiting outside dark Wholefoods, drivers unable to overpay for prosciutto) as D.C. under a foreign power’s decision to ‘take down the lights’. Via their version of a less discriminating Stuxnet or even kinetic fire strikes like Belgrade 1999.

It’s a stretch, of course. Only the electric grid collapsed. Other than a stray tree in the road here or there, the transportation remained intact. Communications continued; cell networks, while congested and slow, eventually did work. And psychologically, a storm as culprit is easier to process than a foreign adversary.

But only a stretch. For as sure as Dominion, PEPCO et al. will fail again soon, we will as a nation reap the whirlwind we have sown from 2001-2012.

Update
Newt on Italian vacation plugs utility incompetence as prelude to EMP attack ala Frank Gaffney.

His next tweet underscored how the storm aftermath proves the need for East Coast BMD installations but got lost in Italian packet networks.

Playing Patty Cake In The Setting Sun

History often focuses on the metropole during Imperial twilight. Rich narratives in the decadence (technically defined), the cacophonies, the what could have beens. The satraps and clients states along the periphery usually get short shrift. Even if theirs is a more stressful transition — letting go of old certainties and discerning which is the next waxing power. Teetering metropoles exert distorting and unpredictable gravitational fields, adding to complications – and potential opportunities.

So it should come as no surprise that our AfPak client states manifest signs of looking past the U.S. for their new future. Irritation aggravated by still being encumbered with yesterday’s arrangements. Consider: the U.S. officially confirms ‘conclusive’ intelligence that the ISI directly organized and murdered Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad.

Shahzad’s work about militant radical infiltration in the Pakistani military had to go. The ISI isn’t thrilled to be fingered. But shrugs it off. (Astute readers might ask why the U.S. apparently didn’t intervene to save Shahzad? Part of the metropole cacophonies, supra).

The battle for an American-less future in Afghanistan continues. Pakistan reminds Kabul who is the local power with a shelling.. Karzai claims he’s for the high ground and calls for restraint. He’s got more pressing problems like a rogue ex-Central Banker on the run.

Pakistan’s got full hands, too. Some 100 Afghan Taliban (formerly of Swat and Malakand division) attacked a manned border outpost on the Durand Line. They attack coming or going. Pakistan’s internal turmoil continues to expand – over 1,100 have died during political violence in Karachi alone in 2011.

Lest anyone forget them, the Pakistani Army:

. . .extended an offensive against Taliban guerrillas in its borderlands with Afghanistan, its chief spokesman said.

Troops moved into the mountains of Kurram Agency, a tribal district that Taliban factions have used as a base, according to Major General Athar Abbas yesterday. While Abbas declined to give details, the newspaper Dawn and other Pakistani media cited residents and officials as saying thousands of troops were involved, some flown in by helicopter.

Taking control of central areas of Kurram may enable the army to block the last major escape route for militants based in North Waziristan, the country’s biggest remaining guerrilla stronghold where the U.S. has pressed Pakistan to conduct a ground offensive, said Ashraf Ali, director of the FATA Research Center in Islamabad, which monitors the conflict in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Petraeus promises U.S. fighting will pivot this direction, eastwards. All for naught. This typical sample merely underscores why withdrawing — or keeping — part of the surge forces is irrelevant to the actual battlespace. The U.S. is the only party that doesn’t seem to know. Questions about which batch of troops stay or leave only have internal twisted logic within a metropole’s cacophony. And expect that to get louder.

Demotic Hierarchy And Exclusion – Get Used To It

What’s most bothersome about this invitation [from the Hirshhorn Museum] is the statement about members: “Members get in free and have access to VIP area.” You can see that line for yourself in the picture at left.

“A VIP area”? At a public museum, an arm of the Smithsonian Institution? . . . And now, the Hirshhorn — no doubt in an effort to raise money (the lowest level of membership costs $100 to $249 a year ) — is creating a VIP lounge within an already questionable activity? After Hours seems to involve gallery tours as well as “music and live performances on the plaza.” Guess which is the draw?

As a subsequent press release said:

From his infamous dance parties (RAW, MIXTAPE) to his guest spots at numerous DC nightlife events, audience favorite DJ Shea Van Horn sheds his drag alter ego, Summer Camp, and returns to After Hours to stir up the dance floor and leave a trail of exhausted revelers in his wake.

We’ve been left behind in steerage for some time. It’s the little details that speak volumes. It’s tempting to see this through the prism of elitist art, etc. — in fact, precisely how the Movement assaults ‘wealthy’ union families earning $49,000 a year. Or perhaps some well-intentioned if clueless ‘Yes we can!’ believer thought a rave party at the Hirshhorn would improve visibility, attendance and promote art (somehow).

We agree the larger, more important issue the symbolic: the non-chalant acceptance of class privileges in public spaces.

Even The Cherry Blossoms Know . . .

Despite re-touched postcards, D.C. is truly beautiful for about 38 days a year. 18 come in what now counts as Spring. The remaining 20? Scattered across the Fall. These are glorious days.

Otherwise, because our Founders wisely selected swamped land for their capital, days are by turns staggeringly humid or clammy, oppressive and cold. We are now in our supposed 18 beautiful days.

A key ritual heralding the arrival of Spring are cherry blossoms. Not just the gifts from Japan surrounding the Tidal Basin. Across assorted neighborhoods blossoms offer a spellbinding canopy that attracts embassy staff, tourists and locals alike.

This year the blossoms have not come out to play. Nattering ankle-biters will point to petty factoids like the weather. We know the truth. They are paying somber respects. They know about the potentially 100 year struggle to contain Fukushima and care for over half a million homeless

100 years. Something to think about as a Nation economically and even culturally intertwined with Japan turns its lonely eyes (and half a billion dollars plus) to a non-descript strip of sand on behalf of people we’re only now bothering to see who they are. Decades after people have forgotten the names of today’s American policy makers and places like Misrati or even Benghazi, our ally (Operation ‘Tomodatchi’ an inspired choice) will still be dealing with the tsunami and Fukushima after effects. Although to hear CNBC, Japan’s not facing catastrophe at all, but a golden opportunity.

Blossoms before in happier times.

Military Chic Contagion

Traditionally, commanders hand out the [Challenge] coins to troops for exemplary service and morale boosting. That’s how Duckworth got hers. That’s why it meant so much.

But in recent years, many outside the military have adopted the tradition, turning a sacrosanct ritual, some say, into a form of military chic that is now part of the Washington power game. The coin craze extends into almost every nook of the federal government. The secretaries of education, transportation and agriculture have coins. So does the EPA administrator, and even the Department of Agriculture’s Office of Information Technology.

The coins have gone global – the Australian ambassador has one. And corporate: Boeing has a coin. So does Starbucks.

Just another symptom of America’s aping military culture for hollow status and plain jock sniffing. It’s part of a pervasive tapestry of military jargon and even practices seeping into our domestic lives. What’s remarkable about the HBGary story is how little coverage it generated in the traditional media. Defense contractors gleefully and mostly without internal debate turning external cyber warfare techniques inward on domestic civilian targets. The slides prepared for Hunton & Williams are redolent with military style phraseology and fixated on taking down enemies. No one really blinked an eye.

Just more change we can’t believe in. The Obama Administration enables the cult of militarization to spread with the Boy Kings aspirational ‘bi-partisanship.’ He agreed to CIA’s self-promoting exponential increase in drone strikes in Pakistan which have polarized Pakistani politics. In return for negligible effect on the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Or Agencycontractors shooting Pakistanis in politically volatile Lahore. (Everyone in this town was calling Davis a CIA contractor weeks ago, so the current press bubble is either shameful or a sham). McChrystal did propose a decoration for restraint which followed him out the door. Meanwhile, NSA and Cyber Command want more pervasive control over private sector networks and ‘kill switch’ legislative moves through Congress.

What’s perverse about Obama? While he bestows bipartisan gloss on militarization (he has his own Challenge Coin, after all), he’s utterly incapable of applying that ethos to defend his base or rebuff those bent on his political extinction. America has Internet connects. We have Facebook. We have Twitter. If these tools are truly transformational, one would think Americans would self organize and take a stand against plutocratic/oligarchical oppression, wealth transfer and a downward spiral from middle class to the disenfranchised, interchangeable, atomized poor. Apparently Facebook, Twitter and the like don’t work for sheep.

Erik Prince, True To Form

The NYT discovers Prince is trying to insert himself into the Somalian civil war even as he exits Blackwater/Xe. Of course, the Times gets only part of the story. Prince the past 18 months or so has been prospecting a whole host of African conflicts to use in his search for new financial sponsors.

There’s the old business phrase ‘turn around meeting’. It’s where a party goes in expecting to discuss X but finds the other party surprisingly make it all about the opposite, discussing er, Z. Prince inflicted that on one unsuspecting non-governmental but supremely influential institutional figure. This figure thought the meeting would be about Prince making charitable contributions. Instead, Prince made the meeting about this non-governmental entity funding him to ‘solve’ a human crisis in Africa by killing any identified bad guys. Just one example of many.

We’re all for the Times keeping an eye on Prince. But if the Stiftung knows all this, then surely an intern at the Times could put it together.

We Were Somewhere On The Edge Of Barstow . . . (Summer Boredom Edition)

We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like “I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive….” And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming: “Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?”

Then it was quiet again. My attorney had taken his shirt off and was pouring beer on his chest, to facilitate the tanning process. “What the hell are you yelling about?” he muttered, staring up at the sun with his eyes closed and covered with wraparound Spanish sunglasses. “Never mind,” I said. “It’s your turn to drive.” I hit the brakes and aimed the Great Red Shark toward the shoulder of the highway. No point mentioning those bats, I thought. The poor bastard will see them soon enough.

OK, it was Foxhall Road, not Barstow, the ribbon-like vein leading down to Canal Road, Key Bridge and the Imperial Metroplex. And it was Summer 1985, not the era of the last good Stones albums. For a D.C summer, it was still brutally humid, made crushingly worse by a savage vodka hangover.

[Read more…]

A Black Hole Party: Five Things You Would Send From The Imperial City

It’s the new jenga you’ve seen on the InterTubes. You know, throwing black hole parties. How does it work? For example, GameLife offered a list of games so bad they should be tossed into a black hole (Sonic was number one). In July gadgets got The Gong.

Why not here? The Imperial City in August itself is relatively quiet if one is not enmeshed in the health care morass. Brownshirts are out on location. Even Novak’s Corvette doesn’t menace drivers and pedestrians like just a few scant years ago.

So, what should go into a black hole? We’re setting some boundaries. First, we can exile things or persons that started in, or have a {Barry McCaffery’s-best-closing-new-client-retainer-voice} ‘center of gravity’ {/Barry-McCaffery-voice} in D.C. So, for example, News Corp. itself is out of bounds. Conversely, Britt Hume’s All Stars aren’t. And so on. Here’s our list and why. By all means, offer better suggestions or save a candidate:

1. Focus Groups

They’re a disgrace. What a crude thing to exert such a cynical, corrosive impact on political conversation in America. Two specific individuals are probably responsible for staking this statistically meaningless, rare and theatrical practice into the heart of American politics. What followed for those two was a tsumani of personal wealth, empty posturings and professional copy catters. These farcical bull sessions with 20 or so participants are the political equivalent of the Wall Street fake wealth creation of the 2000s. CDOs with zero real value and lots of toxicity. Yet the practice determines the very vocabulary that almost everyone uses on a policy issue, changing estate taxes to ‘death taxes’, global warming to ‘climate change’, and so on whether they know it or not.

We cop to using them, too, to manipulate a Congress, media and White House on behalf of private sector clients. Mostly because our clients believe in the stuff like some arcane druidic rite. Sadly, it also works. (You’d be surprised how ‘sophisticated’ media, politicians, other operatives lap it up). There was a time when a politician or their speechwriter offered the best words they knew how at the time. America was a better place then.

Don’t believe us? You must adore Xe!

Extra Credit For Those Who Smile Seeing This

[Read more…]

For Once We Hope Bill Kristol Is Right

From the equine’s orifice tonight:

And haven’t conservatives been lamenting the lack of a national leader? Well, now she’ll [Sarah Palin] try to be that. She may not succeed. Everything rests on her talents, and on her performance. She’ll be under intense and hostile scrutiny, and she’ll have to perform well.
All in all, it’s going to be a high-wire act. The odds are against her pulling it off. But I wouldn’t bet against it.

We hope so. We were planning on donating and already have been vocally agitating in Movement circles on her behalf. To ensure she became the 2012 nominee. Sigh.

There May Have Gone One Of Tina Fey's Best Annuities

[Read more…]