You may only read this site if you've purchased Our Kampf from Amazon or Powell's or me
• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

June 06, 2010

Karl's Favorite Expert

Speaking of Obama's choice for Director of National Crazy (below), Karl Rove cited the same New York Times article on p. 339 of his recent book Courage and Consequences:

Another possibility is that some weapons may have been dispersed to other countries, such as Syria, before the war. That was the assessment of General James R. Clapper, Jr., then the director of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (now called the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency). He told the New York Times: "I think people below the Saddam Hussein-and-his-sons level saw what was coming and decide the best thing to do was to destroy and disperse." Clapper said satellite imagery showing "a heavy flow of traffic from Iraq into Syria, just before the American invasion in March, led him to believe that illicit weapons material 'unquestionably' had been moved out of Iraq."

Change, audacity, hope and so forth.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at June 6, 2010 02:48 PM

At this point we can probably all agree that, to the extent that it means anything at all to say it, Obama's worse than Bush ever was. Right?

Posted by: ethan at June 6, 2010 04:08 PM

To clarify, I don't say that specifically because of James "Clap On Clap Off, The" Clapper, but because of any number of things in combination.

Posted by: ethan at June 6, 2010 04:09 PM

"a heavy flow of traffic from Iraq into Syria, just before the American invasion in March"

Imagine that! A lot of traffic out of a country about to be invaded! I can't figure it out!

Posted by: g at June 6, 2010 04:16 PM

I think everyone was just on their way to Syria to pick up party supplies and flowers to welcome the US troops into Baghdad but their car broke down and they got stuck until it gets fixed.

One of these days it's going to be a big party!

Posted by: darrelplant at June 6, 2010 04:34 PM

Ethan: Equal-yes, worse-no.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 6, 2010 06:08 PM

The PROBLEM isn't whom WE elect, the problem IS who WE are.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 6, 2010 06:15 PM


Sorry, I don't agree, but I will say that it really is striking how Langley calls most of the shots in this Administration. Gates is an old CIA hand, which Obama obviously always understood, and the Washington Post reported yesterday how John Brennan has Obama's ear more than anyone else on terrorism issues. (Brennan's whole career is as a Middle East CIA operations and counterterrorism guy, which amounts to his having been trained in the heart of darkness). For some reason Brennan and Blair were at odds, and Gates sided with Brennan over Blair (including on such things as drones). Apparently they all view Clapper as preferable for some reason.

It's pretty sad when the CIA guys have the President's ear because everyone else is crazier. (Note: not worse, crazier.)

I wish an epidemic of Quakerism would sweep over the nation. That would be a nice change.

Posted by: N E at June 6, 2010 06:21 PM

Ethan - yes, I think he is worse.

Posted by: Susan at June 6, 2010 07:17 PM

Probably no worse-generally hard to distinguish.

I would like to see at least one area of stark's so telling that they both had the same reaction to a disaster in the Gulf of Mexico: to do basically nothing.

Posted by: seth at June 6, 2010 07:28 PM

The sting of daily indignities during the bush administration must have faded for you all. At least Obama has a short list of domestic issues that he's mostly on the correct side of. We're not getting another executive order or signing statement every week cutting funding to some vital education program or other culture war issue. He's got net neutrality under his belt, and non-americans hate him marginally less, which is a little better for our security. We've got Sotomayor in the Supreme court, although we're probably also going to get Kagan. Sotomayor + Kagan is slightly better than Roberts + Alito, albeit not good enough.

So, is Obama terrible? Yeah, or at least very bad. Is he as bad as Bush? On many issues, yes. Overall? Not even close. I'm not really interested in defending the man at this point, but Bush definitely doesn't deserve even that much credit.

Posted by: Jack at June 6, 2010 10:31 PM

Inevitably he is worse... because he is a continuation.

Not that it has much to do with him, personally.

Minor Fixer, and still is just that.

Posted by: Marisacat at June 6, 2010 10:31 PM

OT: US cruise missile parts found in Yemen

Link here

While running for the White House, Barack Obama deplored the excesses of George W Bush's "war on terror" and he and his administration have even stopped using that term since coming into office.

However, the secret war being waged by the US against insurgents has actually vastly increased in both scope and in size under the new President, with special operations forces now operating in more than 75 countries around the world from Colombia to the Philippines.

There has been a marked increase in the number of drone attacks against al-Qa'ida and Taliban targets inside Pakistan and special forces operations in Somalia and the Yemen. In all three countries authorities have claimed that major figures involved in the international jihad have been eliminated.

The US recently changed its laws to allow the assassination of US citizens who are terrorist suspects abroad. It was aimed specifically at future attempts to target Anwar al-Awlaki, a fundamentalist preacher and fugitive who supposedly mentored the "underpants bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and US Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a psychiatrist, who killed 13 people at Fort Hood in Texas. He is believed to be hiding in Yemen.

Behind the softly spoken words about reaching out to international adversaries and healing wounds, the Obama administration has proved to be as ruthless at hunting down America's enemies as any of its predecessors.

Posted by: Susan at June 6, 2010 10:49 PM

Wait-BHO did one thing that Bush never did-he dropped the bar on letting people with HIV into the US.

So now visitors or sex tourists or whoever carrying a chronic and fatal (?) STD are free to come here.

Call it you have a choice?

Posted by: seth at June 6, 2010 11:41 PM

Is he as bad as Bush? On many issues, yes. Overall? Not even close.

No, very close on the issues alone, and he's arguably not just worse but much worse in terms of foreign policy.

But I'd also say he's worse overall despite being better on some domestic issues, because—as I've written before—George Bush catalyzed dissent but Obama euthanizes it. And that means that his worst policies go forward with just that much less opposition. Look at health care: what would have happened if Bush had tried to shove through Mitt Romney's private insurance mandates? Pandemonium. But when Obama adopted them as his own, liberals dutifully lined up to back him. So now insurance and pharmaceutical corporations have been handed even more power, and single payer is dead for decades—all thanks to Obama's ability to persuade the generally-saner half of the population to embrace Republican social policies.

Posted by: John Caruso at June 7, 2010 01:16 AM

He LOOKS worse because YOU voted for him. People naturally hate a traitor much worse than an open enemy even though they both do EXACTLY the same thing. FISA and his opinions on Afghanistan told the story BEFORE the election. The Liberal Left ALL projected their idology on Obama. I got banned off Jesus General for pointing out these VERY red flags and raked over the coals on nearly every left site I commented on that hadn't banned me over suggesting people call Pelosi to impeach Bush&Cheney. The fact is Obama is JUST continuing on the SAME trail as Reagan, Bush I&II, and Clinton, no different. NEXT TIME actually LOOK at whom YOU vote for. He's black and THAT'S the only thing different, its the ONLY progress made. (That's why I will only vote for me until I see someone who will represent MY interest through DEEDS not words)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 7, 2010 01:49 AM

No supporting evidence, just a "personal assessment" but a good one. After all, how else can you explain heavy traffic leaving a small country, which is practically undefended, about to be invaded by a world superpower?

Posted by: Paul Avery at June 7, 2010 02:20 AM

Mike, *I* didn't vote for the Boy King Ken Doll; I knew he wasn't on my side from the beginning. I second John Caruso in his assessment that one of the worst aspects of of Obama's regnum is that it has thoroughly co-opted what passed for mass left opposition to empire.

This gutting of opposition was foreseen (since anyone still awake and not in thrall to tribal politics knew exactly what Obama represented). See one example in Arthur Silber's essay "The Fatal Illusion of Opposition" (

In an earlier essay dated May 3, 2008, "The Nightmare Made Real" Silber wrote:

"You desperately need to understand this: the next President of the United States, no matter who it is, will enter office knowing that he or she can systematically and regularly authorize torture, order mass murder, direct the United States military to engage in one campaign of criminal conquest and genocide after another, oversee uncountable acts of inhumanity and barbarity -- and he or she will never be challenged or called to account in any manner whatsoever. It may have taken the Bush administration two terms to bring us to the point where such evils are committed and even boasted about in broad daylight, while almost no one even notices -- but this will be where the next President starts.

And for this monstrous, unforgivable fact, you can thank the Democrats and those who whore themselves for the Democrats' success in our disgustingly meaningless elections."

Posted by: RedPhillip at June 7, 2010 10:39 AM

What John and Marisacat said were what I was getting at.

Between this, and what Susan lists, and the massive expansion of secret war, and deploying predator drones to the Texas-Mexico border, and assassinations, and and and and and and...

Posted by: ethan at June 7, 2010 11:52 AM

He LOOKS worse because YOU voted for him.

I did? Wow, someone should have told me.

Seriously, I know you probably weren't addressing me, but I doubt you were addressing many other people either. Most of the people who actually did vote for Obama will never admit that he's worse (to the extent that it means anything to roll up a thousand different factors into the single word "worse", as ethan said)—or even allow themselves to see it. And the few who voted for him but are now willing to say he's worse deserve credit, not a poke in the eye.

Posted by: John Caruso at June 7, 2010 01:10 PM

Actually Obama has turned out to be worse than predicted by serious leftist critics. See the following as one example.-Tony

Posted by: tony at June 7, 2010 01:47 PM

John Caruso: Well, he ISN'T any worse than Bush and is actually a good speaker so that's a plus. I guess YOU voted for McCain then?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 7, 2010 02:03 PM

I voted for Obama, and I'm not remotely sorry, because he's not worse than W or Cheney. It may be too obvious to point out that they didn't exactly start in the same place. Obama has to fight not just entrenched bureacracies and a captive corporate media, but a whole American militarist jihadi movement that W and Cheney created. They like this mess, which they worked hard to make, whereas he is just your typical politician--self-interested, opportunistic, hoping to advance his political agenda, willing to sacrifice his principles and abandon his base when necessary, all the standard stuff that is so disappointing from an idealistic perspective and normal from a more pragmatic viewpoint.

I'm not afraid to admit mistakes when I think I've made them, and boy have I changed my mind about some things over the last decade. Obama is about what I expected, though even less effective in dealing with the CIA and military, which is a huge problem. We have a system that guarantees that either the Republican or Democratic candidate will win, so who the hell should people have voted for? I have never heard an answer to that question suggesting anythign but a protest vote. Screw that. People need real votes. The problem is the structure of the system that presents that dismal choice, not that people didn't throw their votes away on write-in candidates. For more than a century people have been largely dissatisfied by their options, and yet the system never changes. Change the voting system and the structure of the government and we may get real choices. It won't be easy, but at least it's possible.

I have abandoned many beliefs based on learning, which is of course a process that people born knowing everything get to skip, but those who think they are experts on the self delusions of others should be careful that they have looked closely at their own delusions, unless they think they don't have any. I'm betting they do, because they grow like weeds in the United States. And some of the factually silliest are the most widely held. Thinking American Presidents have vast power over the government, and especially the National Security State, is so "empirically challenged" that is approaches being delusional.

The difference between W or Cheney or McCain and Obama of the "Dembots" is that the former would like things to be as they are now, but even worse, while Obama and the latter would for the most part like things to be a little better (but probably not too much better, if they were to ever think about it). The problem is, Obama just doesn't have that much power against the mighty MICFiC of mistah charley. I think people who voted for Obama and expected much better results are probably mostly very fine people with high ideals and an admirable capacity for disappointment, but they didn't understand very clearly how our craven political system works for "we the people," which is understandable since no one really with any clout wants "we the people" to understand it. It's better to keep us all perpetually angry and confused, and that is oh so easy too.

This is going to play out like it always does. A fair number of those disgusted with Obama and the Dems now will stay away from the polls, and some will actually even change their votes to the GOP, and the GOP will again gain strength, and then they'll get the Presidency in 2012 or, more likely, 2016, and then they will behave like the barbarians they are and the Dems will put up a candidate running on change (as the GOP is now), and the GOP will push everything further right, and the Dems will push back a little but only partly, and everyone will keep running on change over and over again in this cycle until the planet is really hot, more or less like hell. And while this happens things will indeed change, but for the worse, because most of the real power resides with the military, the intel agencies, and their corporate clients (which include the media conglomerates), none of whom have a humanistic agenda. Congress will help a little by writing draconian laws to make it easier to deprive most people of everything, but they won't ever fight with the military or intel agencies or corporations, because they aren't stupid.

Unless people quit focusing on candidates and office-holders and demand systemic change, that's what will happen. It is assured. In fact, it has been happening for a long time, and it's getting worse and worse. To stop this from continuing, some changes will have to be made to the structure of the government, which means to the Constitution. James Madison was not God, and we have all those amendments because there was actually a time when Americans believed they had a right to more freedom and more democracy, which go hand in hand. We need some more amendments, and we need them now, because without them we won't ever have really democratic government capable of keeping the National Security State and its corporate clients in check. At present they are in charge, and they intend to stay in charge.

Needless to say, that is not the platform of either the Dems or the GOP, and they would all call it socialism or communism or terrorism and anything else they could think of. Obama would too. But he's still not worse than W, and he's not the problem, notwithstanding that people get bamboozled by his skillset.

Posted by: N E at June 7, 2010 02:25 PM

ITS A RIGGED GAME because of who WE are. Barak and George were raised up by the same people---US. Educated in the same school system, watched the same TV shows, indoctrinated into the same culture, so they have no other choice but to be the same. Obama and Bush---its just how WE roll. Sure there's left and right(whatever that means) and those SMALL differences ASSURE WE stay on the same track. Look at the last few elections population wise. Its usally close to 50/50 with the winner gaining a few points population wise. The Electorial College is the ONLY thing that assures a SOLID win on occasion. Bush or Obama can EASILY get an army up out of this country to pretty much put anybody into the stoneage. Presidents(or any elected officials) don't pull triggers, don't build airplanes or bombs, don't load cannons, don't rape and slaughter the natives, WE,FELLOW AMERICAN CITIZENS, do. The Prez and Congress just point US in the right direction and away WE go. They don't even have to wind US up with the facts or TRUTH. Apparently ANY lie will do nicely. WE want those resources for OUR cars. The Prez and Congress can ONLY drive one car at a time and DON'T need 20 billion gallons of oil PER DAY to go any where. They only need the light in one room at a time to see, one TV to watch, one belly full of food per meal. Its the REST OF US that suck the oil, food, and electricity, not them. Bush and Obama, WE raise 'em like that, its WHO WE ARE, and this is how WE roll.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 7, 2010 02:35 PM

N E, I appreciate that you use my handy-dandy, self-rhyming, duosyllabic, historically-based and yet updated-for-the-twenty-first-century acronym MICFiC. There are darn few who do.

However, I feel I must clarify one point. You write, Obama just doesn't have that much power against the mighty MICFiC. If I was arguing your point (and it's not an unreasonable one - Obama IS clearly operating within limits imposed by ruthless killers), I would have said Obama just doesn't have that much power WITHIN the mighty MICFiC. It may seem like a subtle difference, but I think it's an important one. Your willingness to reach for "against" when "within" is the literally correct choice may be indicative of your own cognitive distortions, born from your hopes and dreams for a better world. I share your pain, brother. It seems clear that peace and justice are not for THIS world, but the next - or the one after that.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at June 7, 2010 02:51 PM

It seems clear that peace and justice are not for THIS world, but the next - or the one after that.

Me, I'm pinning my hopes on the cyclical collapse/rebound theory of the Universe, and hoping it gets it right next time.

Posted by: NomadUK at June 7, 2010 04:53 PM

And hasn't everybody gotten tired of the fucking flag lapel pins?! I mean, can you all stop that already?

Posted by: NomadUK at June 7, 2010 04:54 PM


If he takes off the flag lapel pin, he will be killed.

Mistah charley ph.d.

You nailed me on that preposition like a real composition pro. It seems there really is no escaping delusions.

As for the next world, or the one after, Donald Johnson (I think) instilled in me a profound fear of cosmology and eschatology by referring to stacks of turtles holding up the universe. I sometimes wake up in night sweats being chased by them and thank God that they are even slower than me.

Posted by: N E at June 7, 2010 06:28 PM

Doesn't everybody in the UK wear Union Jack lapel pins?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 7, 2010 07:07 PM

Paul Avery demonstrates amazing American stupidity for all the world to see - and he is one of hundreds of millions. I work with people with college degrees who could not figure out that there were NO WMDs in Iraq and also believe the horseshit about transporting "weapon materials" to Syria.

Really, it is embarrassing to share the country with them.

And I did not vote for Obama in the general election - I voted for MCKINNEY.

I will not vote for someone with blood on their hands for the rest of my entire life.

Posted by: Susan at June 7, 2010 07:28 PM

Susan--The problem with not voting for anyone with blood on their hands is that you won't ever be voting for anyone who can win any significant election, let alone President, as long as the rules stay as they are. That is not necessary, it's just the rules that James Madison and the Founding Fathers decided on because they feared "the mob" above all. Well, the Founding Fathers also endorsed slavery and counted slaves as 3/5ths of a person for purposes of determining representation in Congress and the electoral college; they provided that Senators would be chosen by the legislatures of the various States; they denied women the franchise; they sanctified contract above all else, including the lives and liberty of children. All that was changed because it was plainly wrong. Get rid of the rest of that reactionary structure and every vote you make need not be just a protest vote. It is not certain that people on the right would disagree, because they are in the same position. That is also the danger, of course. The outcome of a different system cannot be guaranteed.

Mike Meyer--in case you care about the support of intellectual heavyweights, I think I once read somewhere that V.S. Naipaul shares your position that no country can really rise far above the overall character of its people. Ouch.

Posted by: N E at June 7, 2010 09:33 PM