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H5N1 pulls ahead, Alito follows close behind, and Syria's coming up strong...

The BushCo playbook for damage control is simple:
  • the best defense is a strong offense, esp. if it's a blitzkrieg

  • blame someone — anyone! — else

  • distract the rubes with misdirection, esp. if it induces fear

So no one should be surprised when they start accusing Turd Blossom's enemies of some kind of sour grapes vendetta against their boy wonder. Plus they're very open about their strategy. In a recent Washington Post article there are a couple of particularly interesting and telling lines:

Mehlman, who said he talked with Rove several times in recent days, instructed GOP legislators, lobbyists and state officials to accuse Democrats of dirty politics and argue Rove was guilty of nothing more than discouraging a reporter from writing an inaccurate story, according to RNC talking points circulated yesterday.

"Republicans should stop holding back and go on the offense: fire enough bullets the other way until the Supreme Court overtakes" events, said Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.).

Having no shame or scruples is a definite boon for developing effective escape strategies if you know you've been caught red-handed. Republicans seem naturally drawn to metaphors involving weaponry and ballistics, so, to continue the metaphor, they are in the habit of bringing guns to knife fights — not to mention any other event, like debates, court appearances, school, etc. — so we shouldn't be surprised how often they win. The civilized, reasonable person is naturally repulsed by unreasonable troglodytes brandishing weapons, and the natural inclination is to rid oneself of their company as expeditiously as possible, which usually means just giving them want they want and hoping they'll go away. It's a tactic bullies intuitively understand. Mario Cuomo, who saw the GOP for what they are — ie, a bunch of sociopathic bullies — summed them up thusly: "They are ugly people, and they behave in ugly ways."

By way of illustration it's useful to recall conservative activist David Horowitz's injunction:
You cannot cripple an opponent by outwitting him in a political debate. You can do it only by following Lenin's injunction: 'In political conflicts, the goal is not to refute your opponent's argument, but to wipe him from the face of the earth.'
The democrats, as their putative political adversaries, assist them in this by handing them sharp knives: simply go Boo! to a democrat and they'll cry and whine a bit, and then they'll read some tea leaves with their lobbyists and strategists to see how they can cave in to the bullies without bothering to save face.

Representative King's assertion in the WP article is especially interesting for its unintended ambiguity. Does he intend that the Supreme Court will overtake Plamegate as headline fodder? Or does he imagine some more instrumental interference from the black-robed traitors?

Plus, the Plamegate denouement will sorely disappoint those who put great stock in it actually effecting any substantive changes in BushCo. There might a few minor indictments on technicalities, maybe a resignation or two, short sentences, insincere apologies, some bad blood...then it will sink into the quicksand: another minor embarrassment for BushCo; yet another proof that "the system works". Even though Fitzgerald descends from an Ashcroft appointment, he appears to mean well. But if he's really the by-the-book, clean-cut, "truth/justice/American way" kind of guy he appears to be, don't expect any shocking or embarrassing revelations that will actually rock the boat too much, 'cause if he doesn't entangle himself in technicalities, then the forces opposed to him will; and thus will the bigger picture quickly fade. After all, BushCo is not Nixon, nor are they Reagan. These guys are playing a much more serious game of hardball, and they will not permit themselves to lose.

That being said... Though it would be enormously shocking if it happened, it's not impossible to imagine Rove being removed from his duties wiping Bush's bottom and changing his diapies for his parental overlords. Yet no matter how much the dems may salivate at dreams of his departure, BushCo will not let that happen — they are too powerfully entrenched, and too vicious and partisan to permit it without some kind of all-out political warfare.

(Which, indeed, seems to have already begun. Just as I was composing this I read this article that says dem leader Harry Reid called for a rare closed door session, which repubs derided — rightly or wrongly — as a "political stunt". Majority leader Bill Frist, however, provides us with a stellar example both of the very strategies we've been discussing, and of political projection in action: "The United States Senate has been hijacked by the Democratic leadership. They have no convictions, they have no principles, they have no ideas." He's right, of course — but for all the wrong reasons.)

(Besides, I honestly don't know which is scarier to me: Bush with Rove, or Bush without Rove.)

These are just my inchoate thoughts about the whole affair, since I haven't been following it very closely. Speculation and discussion of all things Plamegate is profuse and ubiquitous, so I'll leave more thorough discussion to others. It really could go one of many ways, but two things are certain: the republicans won't pursue a strategy of healing, bi-partisanship, and truth-seeking; and the democrats will badly fumble their opportunity. There are no winners in any of this; but whatever happens, the biggest loser will once again be the American public.

And so my focus shifts to the third prong of the playbook. And right now it's looking like the Avian Flu is pulling ahead in an increasingly crowded field in the race for BushCo distraction.

First off, asking Rove to quit, or asking Cheney to apologize, is a bit like asking Ed Gein to return the dresses: it's too little too late, unless your idea of justice for heinous crimes is extracting a heartfelt "Yeah... sorry... whatever."

(It's also patently absurd and demonstrates how little they understand BushCo, since there is no fucking way BushCo will ever apologize for anybody or anything involved in Plamegate (or Iraqgate, or Electiongate I & II, or Gitmo/AbuGhraib/Fallujahgate, or Deficitgate, etc.etc.etc.). Daddy Bush captured this mentality as President when he said "I will never apologize for the United States of America - I don't care what the facts are" after demands for an apology when Murkan forces shot down an Iranian passenger plane, killing 290 innocents. They are psychologically incapable of it. Doing so would be an admission of error, or failure, and BushCo doesn't do that, remember? Olympians cannot deign to join us mortals, and will never display such pathetic human weaknesses as contrition, empathy, or compassion.)

The nomination of Alito was a good move. After the stupid Mier's nomination BushCo is now catering to the hometeam, and it's bound to be divisive and controversial. This will create lots of useless fodder to fill up columns of ink and much bandwith, and it will give the Barbies & Kens on TV something to distract us with. But though the Alito story is a fast sprinter, it doesn't have the stamina to last through the second turn.

Next we have the tremendous hype about the coming apocalyptic bird flu. It's making headlines all over the world, pushing away other, more embarassing headlines. And it's spiking my "Conspiro-Meter"™ too.

For one thing, it's obviously fear inducing, which is always a good way to get people thinking and talking about something else. And they're really pulling out all the stops, too, making it sound like some kind of impending biological terrorist attack from Ma Nature herself. (It also serves to accustom people to the idea that they and their loved ones might succumb to the random and heartless vicissitudes of a modern plague originating from birds instead of rats or some underground lab... So if you want to live you'll need to trust Dear Leader to tell you what to do.)

It also has the wonderful side effect of shooting up the stock prices of the Big Pharma companies charged with creating enormous stockpiles of these unproven vaccines. One can't help but wonder what kind of investments BushCo and cronies have in these companies. Ever heard of "peak oil"? Somehow, coincidentally, oil companies are currently registering "peak profits". Remember the run on duct tape a few years ago? How about all those billions that went to Katrina? or Iraq? Where'd that money go? These guys are brilliant at manipulating the media for PR campaigns that induce flash panics, all of which pours money from taxpayers into their own coffers. It's guerilla marketing in hyperdrive, a more finessed and potent version of what Hollywood does to program the public to attend some movie's opening weekend.

Ostensibly it's all about the Benjamins, what with the "the Senate last week pass[ing] $8 billion in emergency funding for Bush to spend on the preparations" for the "long-awaited pandemic plan" (yet it somehow can't seem to find 1/10th of that to help hungry people eat). As one healthcare fund manager said "If Bush becomes president, it's good for the sector because the pharmaceutical companies love George Bush." And now we can see why. He hands them mountains of taxpayer money, then says "...Congress must pass liability protection for the makers of life-saving vaccines" so they're not sued when people die from the shit.

But it feels to me that there are more ominous aspects to this.

Bush said yesterday "In September at the United Nations, I announced a new International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza -- a global network of surveillance and preparedness that will help us to detect and respond quickly to any outbreaks of disease. The partnership requires participating countries that face an outbreak to immediately share information and provide samples to the World Health Organization. By requiring transparency, we can respond more rapidly to dangerous outbreaks."

Since when does BushCo care about science, or cooperation, or transparency, or helping anybody? Why not address global warming with this kind of vigor and International Partnership? I don't know about you, but reading this passage makes me very, very nervous — especially in light of my recent, long post about global population culling, where I hint that this Avian Flu (or its vaccinations) could serve such nefarious ends. I don't know if it's true, but the pieces of the puzzle can easily lead to such a picture. My goal with that post was to fire people's synapses, to get them thinking about the ominous connections between Big Pharma, forced vaccinations, militarily enforced "quarantines", corporate windfall profits, and neoliberalism.

Perhaps the most ominous element of this to me is that this could be the issue that leads to Murka officially jumping the shark to emerge in its new political incarnation — whatever uniquely Murkan free-market totalitarian flavor that happens to be. All this talk about pandemics, and using the military to quarantine areas, and forced vaccinations, and shutting down borders and preventing international travel, sounds like great ways to turn up the heat of the pot in which the frogs swim.

Lastly, in the battle between Syria and Iran for next official Murkan target, Syria seems to have pulled out ahead of Iran in Operation Magic Wand. The UN unanimously passed a resolution to compel Syria to "cooperate with a U.N. probe into the death of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri or face possible 'further action.'"

As Yogi Berra said, "It's like deja vu all over again." There's that pregnant phrase..."further action"...the diplomatic equivalent of "I dare ya!" It also officially marks the beginning of the end of Syria, since this same loophole became large enough to drive tanks and fly bombers through on their way to Iraq.

Syria has long been an obsession for Murka, ever since the CIA's failed coup attempt in 1956 to install a puppet regime. Years later, according to a declassified CIA document quoted in William Blum's essential text Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, President Kennedy met with British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, and the two leaders agreed on "Penetration and cultivation of disruptive elements in the Syrian armed forces, particularly in the Syrian army, so that Syria can be guided by the West." Has this aged agreement between the two leaders of the "free world" finally borne its fruit? After all, "covert action of some kind is the favored route for Washington hard-liners who want regime change in Damascus and Tehran". Expect to see much more of this story in the coming months.

Even though the Avian Flu is the sexiest and most muscular of the distractions, and even though Alito got off to a fast start, my money's on Syria. Syria may have gotten off to a slow start, but it's been in training a long time, has very strong legs, and great endurance. I predict it will burst out of the pack as it heads towards the finish line.