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ISSUE #112
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ArrowMcCain's Mutiny
Why "Mr. Integrity" wants the war to drag on
Allan Uthman

ArrowThe Negligents
How to convert ignorance into “skepticism”
Ben Zaitchik

ArrowCivil War?
An oxymoron in one act
Ian Murphy

ArrowBaker-Hamilton Omission Report
Iraq Study Group aims to change perception, not reality
Matt Taibbi

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Turistas, Blood Diamond, Unaccompanied Minors, Apocalypto, The Holiday

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Baker-Hamilton Omission Report
Iraq study group aims to change perception, not reality
Matt Taibbi

In private, some members of the Iraq Study Group have expressed concern that they could find themselves in not-quite-open confrontation with Mr. Bush. “He’s a true believer,” one participant in the group’s debates said. “Finessing the differences is not going to be easy.”
—David Sanger, The New York Times, “Idea of Rapid Withdrawal From Iraq Seems to Fade,” Dec. 1.

What a fiasco this whole Baker-Hamilton episode is, with all its attendant leaks and media manipulations — a veritable symphony of Typical Washington Bullshit. It has all the hallmarks of the pusillanimous, cover-your-ass mentality that rules our nation’s capital, where all problems are political problems and actual real emergencies never make it to the desk of anyone who matters.

The Baker-Hamilton commission, also known as the Iraq Study Group, released its long-awaited recommendations last Wednesday, but the overall gist of the panel’s labors was obvious way back in March, when President Bush first appointed the panel. Baker-Hamilton from the very start was a classic bullshit-cloud in the proud tradition of those damnable congressional “studies” we hear about from time to time, in which “bipartisan panels” are convened to much fanfare and packed off to the wilds of suburban Virginia for years of intellectually masturbatory activity — the usual solution, whenever House or Senate leaders are faced with a genuinely thorny political issue that offers no easy or obvious solutions, i.e. a problem that can’t be simply blamed on one or the other political party, but which needs actual fixing.

Whenever one of those issues pops up, Washington politicians generally find themselves at a loss. They don’t know what to do. For the vast majority of these buffoons, their expertise lies elsewhere. These guys know how to spread their legs for campaign contributors, raid the budget for redundant public works projects and worm their way onto the six o’clock news wearing a hardhat or a Cubs cap — but the average elected official knows very little about actually solving real political problems, because in most cases that’s not what got him elected.

The successful politician today is the one who can best convert the agendas of his campaign contributors into politically saleable policies. That’s the business of government today; both the legislative and the executive branch are mainly engaged in searching out and finding the acceptable mean between voter sentiment and financial interest. It’s sort of an ongoing math problem — figuring out how many voters you can afford to fuck every four years, or how much money you should be extracting, and from which sponsors, for each rape of your constituents.

That kind of negotiation, Washingtonians are great at. But there’s no upside to taking on difficult problems for most politicians, who a) usually don’t give a shit anyway, since there are few problems outside of anthrax-infected envelopes that actually affect a Washington politician’s life, and b) have few institutional remedies for effectively addressing problems even if they were so inclined, since so many backs need to be scratched en route to taking action.

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