Behold 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. And note the Ashlee Simpsonesque transformation of his nose. Maybe people with the initials KLS are just vainer than most. And while the Guantanamo diet was good for the love handles, waterboarding leaves you bloated with bags under the eyes? In any case, something, it's hard to know exactly what, motivated Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to finally tell us what was up with Al Qaeda. Easier to know is why we finally found him: some Pakistani farmer type wanted to win $25 million. Will the same tactic work for the auto industry? John McCain wants to offer $300 million — Fun fact: just under one thousandth the cost of that recent farm bill — to the first person to invent a 30% more efficient car battery. Holy mindfuck, right? Like, on one hand, he's appealing to humanity's most rational Smithean impulses! While at the same time, betraying a sinister distrust in the ability of the market to solve everything! Megan and I read a shitload of newspapers over the weekend so we could share an informed combination of disillusionment, disenchantment, disgust and depression over Zimbabwe, the SEC, the corn industry etc. after the jump.
MOE: Morning Megan! Nice weekend? Good thing I already know the answer to that question because there are like ninety things we need to discuss this morning, and like, none of them is George Carlin! We should maybe start with how they abandoned that whole election idea in Zimbabwe after Mugabe made the truly salient point in a speech that "How can a ballpoint pen fight with a gun?" And Mugabe has so much more than a gun, and he's been wielding them liberally to assassinate pretty much everyone with the combination of courage, integrity, idealism and purposefulness to openly oppose him.
One such target was Better Chokururama, a 31-year-old activist with an appetite for bravado and fisticuffs, nicknamed "Texas" for both the cowboy hats he favored and the moniker of a torture camp from which he once escaped. He was abducted on April 19, and his legs crushed by his captors with boulders.
He said in an interview afterward, as he lay with both legs in casts, that he had told his captors "that beating people would not change anything because the opposition had beaten the governing party, ZANU-PF, in the elections."
"They laughed loudly," he said, "then threw me out of the moving vehicle."
MEGAN: Ah, Zimbabwe. Is it sad, or accurate that I wonder if his statement was coerced? Because he only just got back to the country, and I can't imagine that Better Chokururama (or the 86 people killed, or the 10,000 who've been injured or the 200,000 refugees) would prefer not to cast their vote for Morgan Tsvangirai right now than wait for... something. Mugabe's death or whatever, not that his hand-picked successor will likely be any different.
MEGAN: It almost makes me wish I'd watched the end of Last King of Scotland only when the white dude fucked Amin's wife I was like, ok, seriously, I don't really need to see how this ends, it ain't gonna be good.
MOE: I'm not reading you re whether the statement was coerced. "Beating people will not change anything" or "They threw me out of the moving vehicle." The rest of his story, which I omitted, has him getting captured again with some other activists whose bodies showed up a few days later. But there's some other news that I kind of want to get to starting with how the chairman of the chief financial regulatory agency was about as worthless during the whole Bear Stearns debacle as…the old CEO of Bear Stearns! He missed most of the conference calls for birthday parties and went on vacation with his family. Guess that's what you get for expecting someone to police people making nine figure pay packages on a six figure salary!
MEGAN: Well, I meant whether Morgan Tsvangirai was coerced to drop out of the race. He got back from exile to avoid being coerced and dropped out within hours. It seems suspicious to me.
MOE: Ugh, what the FUCK is a former Orange County congressman Reaganite lose doing fucking regulating our financial sector…Oh Morgan Tsvangirai's statement that the election was a violent illegitimate sham of a political process and that he didn't want to start a civil war?
MEGAN: And re: Chris Cox, that's what you get for hiring a guy stupid enough to be a conservative Republican in New Jersey who wasn't exactly known for being hte most go-to Congressman ever to run a regulatory agency when his political ideology is based around smaller government i.e., not regulating. The only good thing about Chris Cox at the SEC is that he's not in Congress anymore.
MEGAN: And by Jersey, I meant California, sorry.
MEGAN: Well, I mean, they already have a civil war. They also put another top party leader in prison and charged him with treason, not that anyone's seen him since.
MOE: Yeah a fucking Reaganite knownothing donothing, God I fucking can't stand those ideological free marketeers whose understanding of the financial sector begins and ends at best with some P.J. O'Rourke essay.
MEGAN: Do people really still read O'Rourke?
MEGAN: Also, he was a Congressman. I'll bet he thought the SEC gig was a step up with fewer actual responsibilities because he has more staff to hold his soft, white hand and do everything for him. Why would he miss a birthday party for regulating anything? He never did in Congress I'll bet you.
MOE: But in the wake of the internet bubble which was followed by the corporate malfeasance fest which was followed by the options backdating debacle how the fuck does someone like Cox get that job? And can Obama make hay out of this? Because I'd rather that than make um oil out of corn but that's neither here/there!
MOE: If anything it makes Obama look less hot to the Brazilians:
"We made a series of mistakes by not adopting a sustainable energy policy, one of which is the subsidies for corn ethanol, which I warned in Iowa were going to destroy the market" and contribute to inflation, Mr. McCain said this month in an interview with a Brazilian newspaper, O Estado de São Paulo. "Besides, it is wrong," he added, to tax Brazilian-made sugar cane ethanol, "which is much more efficient than corn ethanol."
MEGAN: But it's the market! The market! Market failures will be regulated by the market and so regulation just damages the ability of the market to correct itself which it will do if you don't overregulate it and so Chris Cox is just doing his job by not regulating the market because regulating it would damage it!
MEGAN: Well, it's a tariff, not a tax, and it's not just on sugar-based ethanol it's on all imported ethanol but McCain's point remains valid. It's incredibly ineffecient and not environmentally sound policy to put tariffs on imported ethanol as a way of additionally subsidizing the construction of ethanol plants in the Midwest that can only be used for corn instead of whatever plant is cheapest. But that's US ag policy: those little family farmers that hardly exist anymore need your tax dollars, dammit, and if a few hundred million or more need to go to multinationals to make sure that a couple farmers won't sell out to them anyway, well, that's the trade-off we all accept to continue fetishizing the family farm.
MOE: Yeah and just to put a number on that…the last agriculture bill was $370 million, yes?
MEGAN: It was a lot, let's just go with that...
MOE: Because fucking agribusiness is so cash strapped right now the leading corn syrup supplier is only commanding a 31% premium over the market price of its shares Man, take a fucking look at this chart. If only I'd been pissed off about ethanol back when I was busy being pissed off about …oil!
MEGAN: Oh, well, ethanol was a better oxegenate for the environment than MTBE, and it seemed so environmentally friendly when the corn growers were all lobbying for it to be a corn-oxygenate back in the day. I mean, it's whole fucking purpose is to allow us to continue driving the exact same automobiles in the exact same way while marginally reducing emissions.
MOE: Anyway suffice it to say the corn industry hasmore than enough money left over to convince America the corn industry is good for America.
MEGAN: It is good, see, sweet delicious corn!
MEGAN: So yellow, so environment-y!
MOE: Ok check out this segue. So that last story was about the corn industry's public relations push to remind Americans that High Fructose Corn Syrup really isn't any worse for you than sugar…and guess what has HFCS in it? Ensure nutritional beverages…Al Qaeda logistics mastermind Abu Zubayda! Which is just one of the numerous fascinating facts we learned from yesterday's A1 Scott Shane story on the interrogation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Did you read that? I highly recommend it.
MEGAN: Ensure is so disgusting, it's supposed to be a supplement for old people and instead they're marketing it as a meal-replacement solution for healthy people and it's not. Talk about sick PR. But, no, I didn't read the story. I'm sure it's bad.
MOE: Okay, so let me guide you through the important parts of the story: I think the "little farmer guy" who turned in KLS in hopes of earning a quick $25 million and resettling himself and his family under a new identity in the US has to be my fave. Do you think there is some gated community tailored for, like, lottery winners and successful plaintiffs in massive malpractice suits where they could just sort of hide that guy away? Because that could be a fun movie starring Kal Penn.
MOE: But I guess mostly it's a profile of the lead interrogator Deuce Martinez, a wonky egghead analyst who skipped waterboarding classes and played "good cop"
MEGAN: I would snitch on anyone for $25 million, I'm just saying. Didn't we discuss a few weeks ago that the CrimeStoppers programs always end up paying out a ton more money when the economy sucks? I feel like we did.
MOE: Hahaha I really wish I remember what the fuck I read a few weeks ago but I'm just saying I don't think you could interrogate that out of me. Anyway, the whole thing was, well, KLS was waterboarded and subjected to other miscellaneous forms of torture a hundred times, but yeah aren't we sick of talking about the whole torture thing? More weird details! KLS wrote poetry to Deuce's wife! He was captured a few days after the informant sent a text message "I'm with KLS." He was originally transported to Thailand! (Or maybe that was Abu Zubayda) ... Thailand and the US are so close they didn't even have to tell the Thai PM. And Poland is "the 51st state." Really the whole "secret prisons" things seemed to be improving our relations with a lot of foreign countries before Dana Priest discovered them and Bush had them all flown back to Guantanamo.
MEGAN: The Poles just want to be part of the Visa Waiver Program and will do anything to get it. They're the only country in the EU at this point without it, if I recall correctly, but Congress keeps talking about and never passing a bill to let them into it and DHS has no idea.