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Elements of Past & Future Combined Into Something Not Quite as Good as Either

Patrick Farley's Online Journal

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The Bush Years: All Circus, No Bread
Boosh Rabbit

Trying to explain what was wrong with the Bush Era feels like trying to vomit up a cannonball. I don't think my jaw can stretch that wide.

Seriously, where does one even begin? Abu Ghraib? Ahmed Chalabi? Mission Accomplished? The "Battle of Iraq?" Valerie Plame? No-bid contracts? The billions of dollars the Pentagon can't account for, and apparently never will? The Department of Justice firings? The blue Iraqi flag? The staged press conference? The fake Thanksgiving turkey? Terry Schiavo? Freedom Fries?

I can at least say this for Bush: he *didn't* plant any WMDs in Iraq.

But really, Bush himself wasn't the problem. Bush was a cipher, the perfect vacuum at the center of a perfect storm -- an ideological superstorm which rotated, like some slow, sick, wobbling hurricane of raw sewage over America for 8 years, like some brown, shitty version of Jupiter's Great Red Spot. This Neo-Conservative Superstorm, as I'll call it, had three major sources of energy feeding it:

a) a panicked population in need of a Protective Patriarch,

b) a Republican party crowded with brazen and reckless ideologues,

and most significantly:

c) A network of Conservative Think Tanks with deep pockets and a fearsomely coordinated army of media pundits.

As for the first two factors: I'll leave the question open as to how so many Americans could be so gullible, or how so many elected officials got it into their heads that they were entitled to do WHATEVER THE FUCK THEY WANTED simply because they belonged to God's Own Party. Stampede voters and the thieving fuckwits who prey on them have always been with us. Nothing new there.

What is new and unique about these past 8 years was the rise of the Conservative Think Tanks. To explain who they are, how they operate, and what kind of mischief they've caused, is to try and throw up the mother of all cannonballs.

Think of the Conservative Think Tank system as a parody of the university system; a network of "institutes" all founded to support an ideology, whose "scholars" write "reports" and conduct "studies" which surprise! -- all re-affirm the correctness of their institute's ideological premise.

If you're thinking of "Creation Scientists" whose papers are "peer-reviewed" by other Creationists, you already understand how Think Tanks operate. It also helps to picture a crowd of lunatics clustered together, peeing down each others' legs.

What do Think Tanks primarily produce? Policy. And who are their clients? Government officials (but even here the distinction blurs, as think tank "fellows" are often appointed to cabinet or advisor positions while elected officials are often groomed and funded by Think Tanks from the beginning of their political career.) The invasion of Iraq, to take a famous example, was crafted by Project for a New American Century in 1998 (but you already knew that, right?). These policies are supported by the Think Tanks' own "reports" and "studies" whose footnotes, on careful observation, reference studies by other, ideologically-aligned Conservative Think Tanks.

And, well... you get the idea. Cherry-picked intelligence. "Greeted as liberators." "Plan B is to make Plan A work." Caesar will only hear what is pleasing to Caesar. Lunatics pissing down each others' legs. Etc.

What made 2005 the bleakest year of my life was the realization that I lived in a Post-Truth America. The Neo-Cons had created an environment where truth not only didn't matter, truth was outright impossible. If I don't like the facts, I'll invent my own facts was the apparent motto of the Bush White House and indeed the whole Conservative movement. And it *seemed* that the majority of Americans were okay with this. Could you, for example, have found ten people who agreed that WMDs were (or were not) discovered in Iraq? Could you have found ten people who agreed that Saddam Hussein was NOT responsible for the attacks of 9/11? When the administration itself was incapable of giving a straight answer to these questions, there was no way of establishing the truth or falsehood of any lunatic belief at that time. It was like watching a burglary in broad daylight, where none of the neighbors -- in fact, not even the homeowner being burgled -- was interested in calling the police.

And as Bush's cronies amble away into the sunset today, their pockets still bulging and jingling, I find myself wondering: "If a law is broken, but nobody cares to press charges, was a crime actually committed?"

All my life I've heard Baby Boomers bitching about Nixon, even after he was dead. I used to wish they'd just GET OVER IT, but now I understand their bitterness. It wasn't what Nixon did that infuriated them so much. It's what he got away with. Nixon was nudged out of office by a momentary gust of public disfavor over a botched burglary attempt -- not, say, a Congressional investigation into the bombing of Cambodia. There was never a thorough reckoning of the misdeeds of Nixon's White House, just as there will probably never be a full accounting of the perversions and swindles of Bush's presidency. To the majority of Americans, Bush will be that guy who invaded Iraq and wrecked the economy.

But I guess that's the good news: as today's events testify, the Neo-Con Superstorm eventually blew itself out. Exactly how and why, I don't fully understand. It's like the alien war machines toppling over at the end of War of the Worlds because the Martians all died of natural causes. Strangely anti-climactic, but WTF, they're dead all the same. Perhaps it doesn't matter that 30% of Americans STILL believe Saddam Hussein planned the attacks of 9/11. As today's events testify, a majority of Americans aren't buying the Think Tank New American Empire bullshit anymore. When all is said and done, jingoism doesn't put food on your family.

Hm. I think I've worked out the epitaph for the Bush administration:

All circus and no bread.

And yes, I know. It was no circus to the armless Iraqi kids. It was no circus to the families of dead American service men and women. I know, I know. Like I said, my jaw can't quite stretch wide enough to puke up this cannonball.

Tonight, let's raise a glass, to ourselves, for surviving the Bush Era.

And let's raise a second glass to those who didn't.


Addendum 1.21.2009:
Apparently somebody *did* manage to vomit up the cannonball: Hugh's List of Bush Scandals. Gods bless the Internet!

Jeebers Q. Croutons . . .

. . . that was . . . sheeat. That was beautiful.

Clean up the language and you could submit that as an op-ed column.

In fact, why don't you?


Re: Jeebers Q. Croutons . . .

Thanks for the kind words.

In truth, on re-reading this entry, it all seemed so... dare I say it... Coulteresque?

It all fell apart for them because truth did in fact matter.

The only silver lining to the financial bollixry that we'll be living through for the next while is that it proves once and for all that those smartest guys in the room who came up with a gazillion ways to make money without making anything were just very bright idiots, and the people who made things in exchange for money weren't the suckers they were made out to be, but the ones keeping reality warm for the rest of us.

In much the same way, all those people who didn't care about facts or other people's ideas, but focused on imposing their own beliefs on the world, and who'd gotten so fucking smug about it by 2005 (and there's probably a significant overlap here) have been exposed as the myopic idiots they always were. They may never fully pay for what they did (though I'd expect some heads to roll) and they'll never fully admit their inadequacies, but to see them brought down is some pretty good catharsis right there.

So go make us all some comics, and we'll find some micropayments for them,and reality will prevail. At least until the economy is fixed and everyone forgets and votes the assholes right back in, but that could take 2, maybe 3 terms, so why worry!

Thanks! And I do have more Electric Sheep comics in the works, I promise you this. In the meantime I've also got a fill-in novella I'm doing for Jenn Manley Lee's Dicebox, titled "Don't Look Back" (my own little tribute to the Prog rock of my childhood.)

>Nixon was nudged out of office by a momentary gust of public disfavor over a botched burglary attempt

Al Capone went to prison for tax fraud. You take what you can get, when you get anything at all.

Where it all changed for me

"What made 2005 the bleakest year of my life was the realization that I lived in a Post-Truth America. The Neo-Cons had created an environment where truth not only didn't matter, truth was outright impossible."

Oh yeah. I've been there.

You know where it all turned around for me?

Sitting in a dark theater, watching V for Vendetta.

Specifically, the scene where John Hurt's Chancellor rants on TV, warning everyone to stay the fuck home or else.

And then the movie camera backs up and shows us the pub, the living rooms, the old age home rec room, and we see that there's not a single goddamn person watching.

Aw shucks. If I knew scads of people were gonna be reading this I would have made an illustration to go with it!

Damn, that was awesome. Thanks, Patrick.

Maybe Planned

"...the Neo-Con Superstorm eventually blew itself out. Exactly how and why, I don't fully understand."

I submit that the Superstorm is not over. Who in their right mind would like to be president during a great financial catastrophe? Much like “there has never been a terrorist attack on GWB’s watch”, the financial apocalypse will be the result of Democratic policies.

The public is incredibly stupid; they will consume whatever they are fed, and they are fed by whoever has the money to feed them. This decade’s flavour is proto-fascist propaganda.

Finally, if you think that Obama’s words are not heavily tested in focus groups, you are in for a disappointment. I believe

Re: Maybe Planned

"Who in their right mind would like to be president during a great financial catastrophe?"

It occurred to me during the election that the Repugs really didn't want to be holding the bag. The appearance of Sarah Palin made it very clear the the ticket existed only to pander to the twitchies who were already committed.

Of course, the notion that someone might want to sacrifice some of their own to aid their country during crisis is so completely alien to most Neocons that they could very well mistake it for a symptom of not being in one's "right mind".

Re: Maybe Planned (Anonymous) Expand
Re: Maybe Planned (Anonymous) Expand
Re: Maybe Planned (Anonymous) Expand
i just ran across your post in boing boing.

amazing, that was a great read, thank you!

I too am here via boingboing, and I couldn't agree with you more. Well said.


I have been following your work for years.

When can we expect a finish to the apocomon series? Or... you know... any of that other stuff you finished that was awesome that you never finished?

My plan is to finish all the outstanding novels this year -- Apocamon, Spiders, Mother of All Bombs, and the Scotty Zaccharine story. These stories are all retrospectives on the decade that's drawing to a close, I realize, so it's now or never. If I'm not able to complete them in graphical format I'll simply upload the screenplays for all to read and move on. In 2010 I'll be publishing Delta Thrives and another new series I'm developing. (I might also have a movie in the works at that time, but ssssh, it's a secret!)

amen, brutha. amen! *cincin*

Very well said. I hope the next eight years are kinder to you than the last.

I'm not here via Boing^2. Great read.

I think the Neo-Cons eventually lost power because one can only manipulate things just _so_ much. Even a powerful nation, like ours, cannot alter the Truth. We avoided it, concealed it, put lipstick on it, and a whole bunch of other verbs, but, in the end, the Iraqis were not delighted to have us invade their country, etc.

Good riddance to Dubya, hello Great Depression 2.0

I was worried they'd assassinate Obama, but then again if that happened the social unrest would likely disrupt the country enough that heads would have to roll. If this country ever had a "popular insurgency" it'd melt like ice cream on hot pavement no matter how many cameras they had to watch it.

What I feel they'll do is keep enough toadies in to try to "Carter" Obama. To bitterly oppose each and every progressive plan, to blame him totally for all failures and to take credit for what he manages to accomplish.

Remember in the 90s the government was shut down by political bickering and we lost a good portion of the Jupiter probe from Gallileo because the scientists were locked out of their control rooms among other stupidities? This was the Republicans braying "Wag the Dog" since Clinton was good at going after actual enemies of the USA with minimal collateral damage... And if I remember right that particular Filibuster saved the life of Osama bin Laden...

Anyways, like all your fans I am drooling to see a new E-Sheep up again...

Let's bribe you...

Let's each put aside some $ on a gift card like US$10 which we'll transmit to him as soon as we see a new e-sheep site with at least two new comics and the archives...

Including the stuff that disappeared, like the Bush/Humungus joke and "Dolphin Brother"...

Also, I checked Renderosity and there's a "pfarley" member, but no pics or data... Is it you or someone else? I'm bringing that up because a lot of us fans would gladly fill a 'wishlist' for you or even make you 3d stuff on request if we could...? And what about a new server? I like for my own inflictions of frustration on the world which causes me pain "Dreamhost" which gives what in the late 90s would have been a staggering amount of space and bandwith for a very low price...

Bribing Patrick

I'm ready to send him $100.00 as soon as the archive goes back up.