Naomi Klein headlines the horror in, of course, a British newspaper:
The Bush gang's parting gift: a final, frantic looting of public wealth
The US bail-out amounts to a strings-free, public-funded windfall for big business. Welcome to no-risk capitalism
Wall Street's chief executives will hunker down and pay bonuses this year in the face of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, a taxpayer bailout and mounting political outcry, industry veterans say.
Odds that Wall Street will forgo the payouts are "slim to none,'' said John Gutfreund, 79, president of New York-based Gutfreund & Co. and the former chief executive officer of Salomon Brothers Inc. ``They're going to have to be a little bit sensitive because politicians, whether they like it or not, are part of their lives now.''
Year-end payments at the nine banks that received $125 billion from the U.S. Treasury are under investigation by U.S. Representative Henry Waxman and New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who are demanding details on the companies' compensation plans. Three of the firms, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch & Co., have already set aside $20 billion to pay bonuses this year.
The first salvos were fired late Tuesday when Rep. Henry Waxman, who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, disclosed that he sent letters to the first nine major banks set to receive a capital injection from the government, seeking information on their compensation and bonus plans for 2008 and other years....
Rep. Waxman's letter cited reports about billions in bonuses and quotes an unnamed analyst as saying: "Had it not been for the government’s help in refinancing their debt, they [the companies] may not have had the cash to pay bonuses."
According to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, the chief proponent of the big bank bailout, flooding the banks with taxpayers’ money was supposed to get them to start lending freely again. And that, in turn, was supposed to stabilize the markets and prevent the downturn from being worse than it otherwise would be.....
Now, lo and behold, with $250 billion in bailout funds committed to dozens of large and regional banks, it turns out that many of the recipients of this investment from taxpayers are not all that interested in making loans. And it appears that Mr. Paulson is not so bothered by their reluctance.
As Joe Nocera comments in the New York Times:
It is starting to appear as if one of Treasury’s key rationales for the recapitalization program — namely, that it will cause banks to start lending again — is a fig leaf, Treasury’s version of the weapons of mass destruction.
Late Thursday afternoon, I caught up with Senator Dodd, and asked him what he was going to do if the loan situation didn’t improve. “All I can tell you is that we are going to have the bankers up here, probably in another couple of weeks and we are going to have a very blunt conversation,” he replied.
He continued: “If it turns out that they are hoarding, you’ll have a revolution on your hands. People will be so livid and furious that their tax money is going to line their pockets instead of doing the right thing. There will be hell to pay.”
Let’s hope so.
Which is precisely why we're writing this for your edification.
What can you do about all of this?
1. Know your voting rights in your state by clicking on the ACLU map.
2. If your state has the option to vote straight ticket, DON'T
3. Check your registration
4. After you've voted in states where the count is tabulated, protect the count, Here's how.
Photo note: Big yellow fish about to bite the American flag -- a metaphorophoto
From our email two days ago, just in case it passed you by.
Dear Red States,
We're ticked off at the way you've treated us Blue
States, and we've decided we're leaving.
We intend to form our own country, and we're taking all
Blue States with us.
In case you aren't aware, that includes California,
Hawaii , Oregon , Washington , Minnesota , Wisconsin ,
Michigan , Illinois and all of the Northeast.
We believe this split will be beneficial to the nation, and
especially to the people of the new country of New
To sum up briefly:
You get Texas , Oklahoma and all the slave states.
We get stem cell research and the best beaches.
We get Nancy Pelosi. You get Sarah Palin.
We get the Statue of Liberty. You get WalMart.
We get Intel and Microsoft. You get WorldCom.
We get Harvard. You get Ole' Miss.
We get 85 percent of America 's venture capital and
entrepreneurs. You get Alabama .
We get two-thirds of the tax revenue. You get to make the
red states pay their fair share.
Since our aggregate divorce rate is 22 percent lower than
the Christian Coalition's, we get a bunch of happy
families. You get a bunch of single moms.
Please be aware that Nuevo Califoregon will be pro-choice
and anti-war, and we're going to want all our citizens
back from Iraq at once. If you need people to fight, ask
They have kids they're apparently willing to send to
their deaths for no purpose, and they don't care if you
don't show pictures of their children's caskets
We do wish you success in Iraq , and hope that the WMDs
turn up, but we're not willing to spend our resources in
With the Blue States in hand, we will have firm control of
80 percent of the country's fresh water, more than 90
percent of the pineapple and lettuce, 92 percent of the
nation's fresh fruit, 95 percent of America's
quality wines (you can serve French wines at state dinners)
90 percent of all cheese, 90percent of the high tech
industry, most of the U.S. low-sulfur coal, all living
redwoods, sequoias and condors, all the Ivy and Seven Sister
schools, plus Stanford, Cal Tech and MIT.
With the Red States, on the other hand, you will have to
cope with 88 percent of all obese Americans (and their
projected health care costs), 92 percent of all U.S.
mosquitoes, nearly 100 percent of the tornadoes, 90 percent
of the hurricanes, 99 percent of all Southern Baptists,
virtually 100 percent of all televangelists, Rush Limbaugh,
Bob Jones University, Clemson and the University of Georgia.
We get Hollywood and Yosemite , thank you.
Additionally, 38 percent of those in the Red states believe
Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale, 62 percent believe
life is sacred unless we're discussing the death penalty
or gun laws, 44 percent say that evolution is only a theory,
53 percent that Saddam was involved in 9/11 and 61 percent
of you crazy bastards believe you are people with higher
morals than we lefties.
By the way, we're taking the good pot, too. You can
have that dirt weed they grow in Mexico .
Photo note: Note the star studded triangular expanse of the blue, in contrast to the twisted ribbon of the red.
You may have heard that small town gal, Sarah Pee beefed (or is it moosed) up her wardrobe over the last coupla months to the tune of $150,000. She didn't really spend a penny, since she charged it all to the Republican National Committee. The RNC had to report it, and it was picked up by the press Things just aren't done that way in Alaska. Sarah says she plans to donate all her new clothes to charity after the election. After all, a girl can't wear Dior eviscerating wild animals, or even to a church where exorcisms get messy -- but, as an anchor on Fox News.....
You might ask yourself just when does a busy person like Mrs. Pee have time to spend this kind of cash sprucing up the family? Seems that she had a little help from robocall operative/personal shopper, Jeff Larson who has quite an eye for a straight guy - and you know he's gotta be straight to hang with the Pees. Mrs. Pee also had a $13, 000 makeup consultation which evidently included vats of blush --necessary due to the lack of tanning beds on the Campaign Trail. And speaking of moosed up, Sarah's crowning glory has been modified too. No bill for that yet. Maybe the Beehive Salon in Wasilla did it pro bono.
Alhough there's very little comparison between Obama and Palin, the Obamas are not above discussing fashion. Michele wore a $34 sundress from GAP for that interview, and hit The View this summer in a now famous $148 black and white number. She's not always so moderate, as can be seen on the website devoted.to her fashion preferences. Nonetheless, it has been said that Michele Obama is the new face of fashion democracy. Not like our gal Sarah who is about to join Cindy McCain as a member of the fashion aristocracy--- and the Tiffany's bill hasn't even arrived.
Photo note: Christian fashionista with a cross to bear - statue at Mt Auburn Cemetery looking quite like you know who from behind
Leave it to Friday's Guardian to report that a 10% chunk of the infamous $700 billion bailout, or $70 billion. will be paid out in bonuses to those who brought you the "Bush Crash"
Financial workers at Wall Street's top banks are to receive pay deals worth more than $70bn (£40bn), a substantial proportion of which is expected to be paid in discretionary bonuses, for their work so far this year - despite plunging the global financial system into its worst crisis since the 1929 stock market crash, the Guardian has learned.
Staff at six banks including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are in line to pick up the payouts despite being the beneficiaries of a $700bn bail-out from the US government that has already prompted criticism. The government's cash has been poured in on the condition that excessive executive pay would be curbed.
None of the banks the Guardian contacted wished to comment on the record about their pay plans. But behind the scenes, one source said: "For a normal person the salaries are very high and the bonuses seem even higher. But in this world you get a top bonus for top performance, a medium bonus for mediocre performance and a much smaller bonus if you don't do so well."
[clickie is D's]
Oh THAT'S how it works! Is this an admission of abnormality? And why, pray tell, did this piece of investigative reporting break in an English, rather than an American, newspaper?
"When Congress placed restrictions on excessive executive pay, it had no intention of permitting business as usual with respect to bonus structures," Kucinich said. "It would add insult to injury to ask taxpayers not only to bailout a firm, but to pay for bonuses as well. The Guardian's report necessitates an immediate inquiry."All of us here at Dakota pray that Kuchinich has some klout as Chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Hold it! Here's a bit about those generous executive bonuses in the Wall Street Journal A FULL FIVE DAYS LATER!
On the darker, lighter side Tim Minchin sings a ditty for "normal" people
Photo note: See title above- refresher on the alert system -shot when running an errand for Joe the Plumber
In spite of the Bush Crash of 2008, Barack Obama raised $150 million in the month of September. The average contribution was $86. Now it seems that Obama's committed partisans have turned their enthusiasm to pumpkin carving
There's even a design for the thinking Republican.
Barack picked himself a fresh one.
Scroll down and see everyone's creation, then get busy on your own.
Photo note: A bunch of pumpkins waiting to be carved, shot by a person who is too busy writing a blog to engage in such frivolity.
Photo note: Flags at the Waldorf -- okay, okay..... it's the Copley Plaza
Anyone who watched the debate last night couldn't miss the myriad references to and statements directed toward Joe the Plumber - 2008's very own Everyman. McCain wielded Joe like a ax at Obama's tax plan, while Obama found in him a teachable moment. Today the press corps, inspired by bloggers over the past seven years, inserted themselves everywhere into Joe's world, with one possible exception.
It all began on Sunday, on a campaign stroll along Main Street, Ohio, when Obama had a friendly encounter with Joe, which, as is his wont, Barack used as a teachable moment.
This morning, fresh from her Palin triumph, Katy Couric called Joe for a wake up chat and he made The New York Times , where we discover that he is a registered Republican, without a plumber's license, and probably won't be worrying about the taxes on his nonexistent business income anytime soon (although he figgers it will fall in a tricky category for Obama's plan somewhere between $250,000 and $280,000, someday...soon...maybe).
Turns out that Joe owes some back taxesand is related to Keating's son-in- law, Robert Wurzelbacher, (how many Wurzelbacher's could there be?) who went to jail for his dealings in the S&L crisis.
While we're at it, all of us here at Dakota would like to pass along the information that Joe the Plumber is 34 and single. He has a son by a previous relationship which ended badly. So if you think you could bear to be in intimate circumstances with a Republican (James and Mary do it) - go for it girls
But really what does it matter? Eight dogs, a commenter on Jonathan Martin's blog puts it succinctly:
Joe the plumber IS an issue because Joe the plumber is another republican lie. He's a living example of the deceit the GOP will stoop to to deceive the American public. He is NOT a licensed plumber in Ohio. He is NOT undecided, since he IS a registered republican. He is nowhere close to making $250,000 a year as a plumber. And he's related to one of McCain's old pals , Charles Keating via his fathers relationship to Keating. His father is shown to be a consistent donor to republican party causes and campaigns. Joe, the fake plumber, is posing as a middle class business man in order to promote McCain's policies from a seemingly detached 3rd party citizen, when , in fact, Joe is not that. Republicans lie. It's what they do. It's a prerequisite for belonging to the GOP. And THAT is the issue.
And then there's this quote from the Couric interview which disturbed a Feministe commenter
He [Joe the Plumber] went on, “You know, I’ve always wanted to ask one of these guys a question and really corner them and get them to answer a question,” he said, “for once instead of tap dancing around it. And unfortunately I asked the question, but I still got a tap dance.”
He added, “Almost as good as Sammy Davis Jr.”
Photo note: lean pickings in the plumber/ patriot department
Ladies first. The Village Voice sent Wayne Barrett to Alaska to do a little moose sniffing. Not only did he track down fascinating contributions to Palin's campaigns, but he raises the question of who built the Palin house and how that relates to the famous Wasilla Sports Complex nearby
When the Palins began building a new family home off Lake Lucille in 2002—at the same time that Palin was running for lieutenant governor and in her final months as mayor—Spenard [Builder's Supply] supplied the materials, according to Antoine Bricks, who works in its Wasilla office. Spenard actually filed a notice "of its right to assert a lien" on the deed for the Palin property after contracting for labor and materials for the site. Spenard's name has popped up in the trial of Senator Stevens—it worked on the house that is at the center of the VECO scandal as well.
Todd Palin told Fox News that he built the two-story, 3,450-square-foot, four-bedroom, four-bath, wood house himself, with the help of contractors he described as "buddies." As mayor, Sarah Palin blocked an effort to require the filing of building permits in the wide-open city, and there is no public record of who the "buddies" were. The house was built very near the complex, on a site whose city purchase led to years of unsuccessful litigation and, now, $1.3 million in additional costs, with a law firm that's also donated to Palin collecting costly fees from the city.
Some of those who were on the Forrestal and other persons familiar with the ordnance told me that because the rocket did not hit McCain’s craft, only actions by the pilot could have caused any bomb to fall from McCain’s Skyhawk. These sources—who spoke under the condition that they not be publicly identified—agree with each other that, if any bomb fell from the McCain airplane, it was because of actions that he took either in error or panic upon seeing the fire on the deck or in his hasty exit from the plane. Two switches in the cockpit of a Skyhawk need to be thrown to drop such a bomb, according to the sources.
Whatever the circumstances of the fire’s origins, McCain did not stay on deck to help fight the blaze as the men around him did. With the firefighting crew virtually wiped out, men untrained in fighting fires had to pick up the fire hoses, rescue the wounded or frantically throw bombs and even planes over the ship’s side to prevent further tragedy. McCain left them behind and went down to the hangar-bay level, where he briefly helped crew members heave some bombs overboard. After that, he went to the pilot’s ready room and watched the fire on a television monitor hooked to a camera trained on the deck.
McCain has never been asked to explain why he claims that the Zuni rocket struck his plane. If a bomb or bombs subsequently fell from McCain’s plane as he has said, it seems to strongly suggests pilot error, and if a bomb or bombs did not fall from his plane, it suggests rash disregard for important facts in his accounts of the accident.
There is plenty more about this story that raises questions about McCain’s truthfulness and judgment. In the first hours after the fire, he apparently did not claim to have been injured. New York Times reporter R.W. Apple, who helicoptered out to the ship the day after the tragedy and sought out McCain as the “son and grandson of two noted admirals,” never mentioned him being wounded, although he reported on him more than on any other crew member. ......
McCain’s actions after the fire show a determination to exit the ship as quickly as possible. When New York Times reporter Apple finished gathering his notes on the fire, McCain boarded a helicopter with him and flew to Saigon. Given that fires still burned on the ship and some of his fellow airmen were gravely wounded and dying, McCain’s assertion that he left the carrier for “some welcome R&R” in Saigon has a surreal air. Apple, now dead, said nothing in his news reports about inviting McCain to leave the ship, although he did report talking to him in Saigon later that day. McCain does not mention receiving permission to leave the still-burning ship. Merv Rowland, a commander and chief engineering officer of the Forrestal at the time of the fire, told me that he had not known that McCain left the ship within 30 hours of the fire and that he found this “extraordinary.” Rowland added that only the severely wounded were allowed to leave the ship and that no one, as far as he knew, would have been given permission to fly to Saigon for R&R. McCain’s quick flight off the Forrestal meant that he missed the memorial service for his dead comrades held the following day in the South China Sea.... The record suggests that after McCain left the burning Forrestal for the greater ease of Saigon, he saw his Navy career as being in jeopardy. Soon, he went to London, where his father, Adm. John S. McCain Jr., was stationed as commander in chief of the United States Naval Forces in Europe. Sen. McCain has written little about the fire, and his book does not mention any conversations with his father about bombs dropping from his plane on the Forrestal or his leaving the ship. However, it is difficult to imagine that he did not discuss the tragedy and his own personal difficulties because, by McCain’s own account, his father had intervened on his behalf before. After seeing the admiral in London, McCain went to the French Riviera, where he spent his nights gambling at the Palm Beach Casino...
McCain’s book skips over the weeks after the Forrestal fire, but Timberg says that the young naval officer spent the months of August and September 1967 “unsure of his status.” Following McCain’s application for a transfer to the Oriskany, his orders were delayed, and in September he returned to his home in Jacksonville, Fla. There, an old friend, Chuck Larson, saw a change in McCain: The pilot was discouraged about his future. McCain confided to Larson that he might have to get out of the Navy because, in the words of the Timberg biography, “his past had become a burden” and “whenever he joined a new outfit he was dismayed that his reputation for mayhem had preceded him.”7 Aside from any questions about his Forrestal actions, McCain had, in his short Navy career, crashed two planes and flown a third into power lines in Spain because of, as he put it, “daredevil clowning.”
[clickies and bold type brought to you by all of us here at Dakota]
And then there's the question of what started the fire in the first place, and why McCain might have worried that he was in trouble. Some eye witnesses reported that McCain tried a "wet start as a practical joke on the pilot behind him on deck --from CQ Politics:
Normally, it’s a harmless, common stunt by “cowboy pilots.” But on this occasion the exploding kerosene caused a six-foot long Zuni rocket under the trailing pilot’s wing to launch across the flight deck.
“[It] ripped through the fuel tank of McCain’s aircraft,” Dickinson writes. “Hundreds of gallons of fuel splashed onto the deck and came ablaze. Then: Clank. Clank. Two 1,000-pound bombs dropped from under the belly of McCain’s stubby A-4 . . . into the fire.”
McCain rolled out of his cockpit onto the deck and ran for his life, Dickinson writes.
“Just then, one of his bombs ‘cooked off,’ blowing a crater in the deck and incinerating the sailors who had rushed past McCain with hoses and fire extinguishers.”
But according to historian Mary Hershberger, writing on the liberal Truthdig.com site, McCain panicked.
.....and you have it from there.
If this entry weren't already challenging your attention span, we might mention that William Timmons, who heads McCain's transition team "aided an influence effort on behalf of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to ease international sanctions against his regime." But we won't.
Photo note: Patriotic lure with big hook - a metaphorophoto, of sorts
bit the dust
Photo note: No one ever said Eliot was a sweetie
There's more. Were you aware that Bush planned ahead and has given himself the authority to legally suspend the election in the event of an economic crisis? We knew you'd find that comforting.
Blackwater, everyone's favorite private army, has been contracted to help out with home evictions, because they are known for their kind treatment of civilians in Iraq and New Orleans. In case they could use a little help, as of October 1, the army stationed an active duty unit in the US, to assist with "crowd control", thus trashing the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878
Taking an innovative leadership role, Maryland police classified activists opposed to the Iraq War and the death penalty as terrorists in their databases. If you are an activist, you should probably go easy on the phone sex for now.
It's time to reread Naomi Wolf's famous Ten Easy Steps To Fascist America", which are:
1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy 2. Create a gulag 3. Develop a thug caste 4. Set up an internal surveillance system 5. Harass citizens' groups 6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release 7. Target key individuals 8. Control the press 9. Dissent equals treason 10. Suspend the rule of law
Or better yet, listen to her recent interview. She has some suggestions for actions we can take to preempt the establishment of a police state. Maybe it's not too late.
When John McCain began his speech yesterday, "My fellow prisoners",, he wasn't just whistling Dixie.
Photo note: Tin flag
Addendum:The End of America
Photo note: Automobile air freshener: a reasonable facsimile can be ordered here - one is left to wonder about its scent
Rolling Stone's Tim Dickerson has written a rather damning summary of John McCain's career to date, entitled Make Believe Maverick. It's ten pages long. Concentration being what it is these days, we have excerpted two relevant parts, but only to encourage you to read it in its entirety.
Part One: Temperament
Over the years, John McCain has demonstrated a streak of anger so nasty that even his former flacks make no effort to spin it away. "If I tried to convince you he does not have a temper, you should hang up on me and ridicule me in print," says Dan Schnur, who served as McCain's press man during the 2000 campaign. Even McCain admits to an "immature and unprofessional reaction to slights" that is "little changed from the reactions to such provocations I had as a schoolboy."
McCain is sensitive about his physical appearance, especially his height. The candidate is only five-feet-nine, making him the shortest party nominee since Michael Dukakis. On the night he was elected senator in 1986, McCain exploded after discovering that the stage setup for his victory speech was too low; television viewers saw his head bobbing at the bottom of the screen, his chin frequently cropped from view. Enraged, McCain tracked down the young Republican who had set up the podium, prodding the volunteer in the chest while screaming that he was an "incompetent little shit." Jon Hinz, the director of the Arizona GOP, separated the senator from the young man, promising to get him a milk crate to stand on for his next public appearance.
During his 1992 campaign, at the end of a long day, McCain's wife, Cindy, mussed his receding hair and needled him playfully that he was "getting a little thin up there." McCain reportedly blew his top, cutting his wife down with the kind of language that had gotten him hauled into court as a high schooler: "At least I don't plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt." Even though the incident was witnessed by three reporters, the McCain campaign denies it took place.
In the Senate — where, according to former GOP Sen. Bob Smith, McCain has "very few friends" — his volcanic temper has repeatedly led to explosive altercations with colleagues and constituents alike. In 1992, McCain got into a heated exchange with Sen. Chuck Grassley over the fate of missing American servicemen in Vietnam. "Are you calling me stupid?" Grassley demanded. "No, I'm calling you a fucking jerk!" yelled McCain. Sen. Bob Kerrey later told reporters that he feared McCain was "going to head-butt Grassley and drive the cartilage in his nose into his brain." The two were separated before they came to blows. Several years later, during another debate over servicemen missing in action, an elderly mother of an MIA soldier rolled up to McCain in her wheelchair to speak to him about her son's case. According to witnesses, McCain grew enraged, raising his hand as if to strike her before pushing her wheelchair away. (note from D: What makes him so angry about those MIAs?)
McCain has called Paul Weyrich, who helped steer the Republican Party to the right, a "pompous self-serving son of a bitch" who "possesses the attributes of a Dickensian villain." In 1999, he told Sen. Pete Domenici, the Republican chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, that "only an asshole would put together a budget like this."
Last year, after barging into a bipartisan meeting on immigration legislation and attempting to seize the reins, McCain was called out by fellow GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. "Wait a second here," Cornyn said. "I've been sitting in here for all of these negotiations and you just parachute in here on the last day. You're out of line." McCain exploded: "Fuck you! I know more about this than anyone in the room." The incident foreshadowed McCain's 11th-hour theatrics in September, when he abruptly "suspended" his campaign and inserted himself into the Wall Street bailout debate at the last minute, just as congressional leaders were attempting to finalize a bipartisan agreement.
At least three of McCain's GOP colleagues have gone on record to say that they consider him temperamentally unsuited to be commander in chief. Smith, the former senator from New Hampshire, has said that McCain's "temper would place this country at risk in international affairs, and the world perhaps in danger. In my mind, it should disqualify him." Sen. Domenici of New Mexico has said he doesn't "want this guy anywhere near a trigger." And Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi weighed in that "the thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He is erratic. He is hotheaded."
McCain's frequently inappropriate humor has also led many to question his self-control. In 1998, the senator told a joke about President Clinton's teenage daughter at a GOP fundraiser. "Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly?" McCain asked. "Because her father is Janet Reno!"
More recently, McCain's jokes have heightened tensions with Iran. The senator once cautioned that "the world's only superpower . . . should never make idle threats" — but that didn't stop him from rewriting the lyrics to a famous Beach Boys tune. In April 2007, when a voter at a town-hall session asked him about his policy toward Tehran, McCain responded by singing, "bomb bomb bomb" Iran. The loose talk was meant to incite the GOP base, but it also aggravated relations with Iran, whose foreign minister condemned McCain's "jokes about genocide" as a testament to his "disturbed state of mind" and "warmongering approach to foreign policy."
Part Two: The Forrestal fire
Now 30 years old, McCain was trying to live up to his father's expectations, to finally be known as something other than the fuck-up grandson of one of the Navy's greatest admirals. That morning, preparing for his sixth bombing run over North Vietnam, the graying pilot's dreams of combat glory were beginning to seem within his reach.
Then, in an instant, the world around McCain erupted in flames. A six-foot-long Zuni rocket, inexplicably launched by an F-4 Phantom across the flight deck, ripped through the fuel tank of McCain's aircraft. Hundreds of gallons of fuel splashed onto the deck and came ablaze. Then: Clank. Clank. Two 1,000-pound bombs dropped from under the belly of McCain's stubby A-4, the Navy's "Tinkertoy Bomber," into the fire.
McCain, who knew more than most pilots about bailing out of a crippled aircraft, leapt forward out of the cockpit, swung himself down from the refueling probe protruding from the nose cone, rolled through the flames and ran to safety across the flight deck. Just then, one of his bombs "cooked off," blowing a crater in the deck and incinerating the sailors who had rushed past McCain with hoses and fire extinguishers. McCain was stung by tiny bits of shrapnel in his legs and chest, but the wounds weren't serious; his father would later report to friends that Johnny "came through without a scratch."
The damage to the Forrestal was far more grievous: The explosion set off a chain reaction of bombs, creating a devastating inferno that would kill 134 of the carrier's 5,000-man crew, injure 161 and threaten to sink the ship.
These are the moments that test men's mettle. Where leaders are born. Leaders like . . . Lt. Cmdr. Herb Hope, pilot of the A-4 three planes down from McCain's. Cornered by flames at the stern of the carrier, Hope hurled himself off the flight deck into a safety net and clambered into the hangar deck below, where the fire was spreading. According to an official Navy history of the fire, Hope then "gallantly took command of a firefighting team" that would help contain the conflagration and ultimately save the ship.
McCain displayed little of Hope's valor. Although he would soon regale The New York Times with tales of the heroism of the brave enlisted men who "stayed to help the pilots fight the fire," McCain took no part in dousing the flames himself. After going belowdecks and briefly helping sailors who were frantically trying to unload bombs from an elevator to the flight deck, McCain retreated to the safety of the "ready room," where off-duty pilots spent their noncombat hours talking trash and playing poker. There, McCain watched the conflagration unfold on the room's closed-circuit television — bearing distant witness to the valiant self-sacrifice of others who died trying to save the ship, pushing jets into the sea to keep their bombs from exploding on deck.
As the ship burned, McCain took a moment to mourn his misfortune; his combat career appeared to be going up in smoke. "This distressed me considerably," he recalls in Faith of My Fathers. "I feared my ambitions were among the casualties in the calamity that had claimed the Forrestal." (Note from D: Whyever would that be? Was McCain at fault?)
The fire blazed late into the night. The following morning, while oxygen-masked rescue workers toiled to recover bodies from the lower decks, McCain was making fast friends with R.W. "Johnny" Apple of The New York Times, who had arrived by helicopter to cover the deadliest Naval calamity since the Second World War. The son of admiralty surviving a near-death experience certainly made for good copy, and McCain colorfully recounted how he had saved his skin. But when Apple and other reporters left the ship, the story took an even stranger turn: McCain left with them. As the heroic crew of the Forrestal mourned its fallen brothers and the broken ship limped toward the Philippines for repairs, McCain zipped off to Saigon for what he recalls as "some welcome R&R."
McCain's arrogance and entitlement becomes strikingly clear as one reads through Dickerson's piece. Like George W., as the son and grandson of powerful men, McCain has been awarded privileges, and given the benefit of the doubt far too many times. We've almost seen the end of the world under W.. If McCain wins, he'll surely finish the job.
Photo note: self evident
According to Metafilter, Mrs. Pee's Alaskan Republican opponent, Andrew Halco, said "I've debated Governor Palin more than two dozen times. And she's a master, not of facts, figures, or insightful policy recommendations, but at the fine art of the nonanswer, the glittering generality. Against such charms there is little Senator Biden, or anyone, can do."
She once told him over coffee "Andrew, I watch you at these debates with no notes, no papers, and yet when asked questions, you spout off facts, figures, and policies, and I'm amazed. But then I look out into the audience and I ask myself, 'Does any of this really matter?' "
Matt Taibbi at The Smirking Chimp captured America's fascination with her ever so eloquently:
"She totally reminds me of my cousin!" the delegate screeched. "She's a real woman! The real thing!"
I stared at her open-mouthed. In that moment, the rank cynicism of the whole sorry deal was laid bare. Here's the thing about Americans. You can send their kids off by the thousands to get their balls blown off in foreign lands for no reason at all, saddle them with billions in debt year after congressional year while they spend their winters cheerfully watching game shows and football, pull the rug out from under their mortgages, and leave them living off their credit cards and their Wal-Mart salaries while you move their jobs to China and Bangalore.
And none of it matters, so long as you remember a few months before Election Day to offer them a two-bit caricature culled from some cutting-room-floor episode of Roseanne as part of your presidential ticket. And if she's a good enough likeness of a loudmouthed middle-American archetype, as Sarah Palin is, John Q. Public will drop his giant-size bag of Doritos in gratitude, wipe the Sizzlin' Picante dust from his lips and rush to the booth to vote for her. Not because it makes sense, or because it has a chance of improving his life or anyone else's, but simply because it appeals to the low-humming narcissism that substitutes for his personality, because the image on TV reminds him of the mean, brainless slob he sees in the mirror every morning......
Sarah Palin is a symbol of everything that is wrong with the modern United States. As a representative of our political system, she's a new low in reptilian villainy, the ultimate cynical masterwork of puppeteers like Karl Rove. But more than that, she is a horrifying symbol of how little we ask for in return for the total surrender of our political power......
Not only is Sarah Palin a fraud, she's the tawdriest, most half-assed fraud imaginable, 20 floors below the lowest common denominator, a character too dumb even for daytime TV -and this country is going to eat her up, cheering her every step of the way. All because most Americans no longer have the energy to do anything but lie back and allow ourselves to be jacked off by the calculating thieves who run this grasping consumer paradise we call a nation.
Right-wingers of the Bush-Rove ilk have had a tough time finding a human face to put on their failed, inhuman, mean-as-hell policies. But it was hard not to recognize the genius of wedding that faltering brand of institutionalized greed to the image of the suburban American supermom. It's the perfect cover, for there is almost nothing in the world meaner than this species of provincial tyrant. Palin herself burned this political symbiosis into the pages of history with her seminal crack about the "difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull: lipstick," blurring once and for all the lines between meanness on the grand political scale as understood by the Roves and Bushes of the world, and meanness of the small-town variety as understood by pretty much anyone who has ever sat around in his ranch-house den dreaming of a fourth plasma-screen TV or an extra set of KC HiLites for his truck, while some ghetto family a few miles away shares a husk of government cheese.
The great insight of the Palin VP choice is that huge chunks of American voters no longer even demand that their candidates actually have policy positions; they simply consume them as media entertainment, rooting for or against them according to the reflexive prejudices of their demographic, as they would for reality-show contestants or sitcom characters. Hicks root for hicks, moms for moms, born-agains for born-agains. Sure, there was politics in the Palin speech, but it was all either silly lies or merely incidental fluffery buttressing the theatrical performance. A classic example of what was at work here came when Palin proudly introduced her Down syndrome baby, Trig, then stared into the camera and somberly promised parents of special-needs kids that they would "have a friend and advocate in the White House." This was about a half-hour before she raised her hands in triumph with McCain, a man who voted against increasing funding for special-needs education.
Watch for all of this tonight.
BBC analyst Ian Leslie has some strategic advice for both parties
Photo note: Self evident
Addendum: Things Sarah Palin can name -- don't miss two nicknames buried in the comments "Yukon Barbie" and "Bible Spice"