Wednesday, December 31, 2003

More in 04

To the few, the proud, that have taken the time to read a few of my posts: Many Thanks, Merci Beaucoup, Muchos Gracias, Molto Grazie, etc. etc., and Feliz Ano Nuevo.

To badly paraphrase Heisenberg: the future is very uncertain, but one day it WILL be the present.

Here's hoping the twelve months of 2004 bring you nothing but the best. See you then.

2millionth, More or Less

First, small apology for letting an otherwise innocuous idea stretch itself into a mini tome on my previous post. That happens sometimes--while driving into work on what is a slow day, the idea hit me...sometimes it works, sometimes...

But upon conclusion of the long post (read if you dare--or print it out if you need something to put you to sleep), I wandered over to BigLeftOutside, and came across the following:

Stop the Presses! Newspaper Discovers Blogs

Giordano links to a USA Today article that gives the details:

Political bloggers think they are riding a wave that will revolutionize campaigns and communications in the USA and around the world. A blog can be started by anybody. Owning a computer isn't necessary. All it takes is access to a computer at a public library or Internet cafe.

No one knows how many blogs there are. ''Three to five years ago, there were probably tens of thousands,'' Trott says. ''Now there are millions.'' Blogspot alone hosts 1.5 million bloggers, Goldman says

Al also promises to continue his work in journalist adoption, which is something Atrios and Steve Gilliard have been promoting (below is a link of my own to Gilliard's request).

Adopt-a-journalist is a good idea--especially if the adoptive "parent" embarks on a policy of "tough love" for the adoptees (remember, that's the ONLY thing they'll listen to).

And if you can't adopt a single journalist, you can always adopt-a-concept, like unique coverage of Louisiana news and politics, as Timshel so ably does. CrawlingWestward is usually a several-times-a-day read for me.

Don't know if I'm yet ready to actually begin the adoption process, but I appreciate those who've already done so. If there IS someone, though, who requires a dose of strong medicine, I might become sort of a foster parent...
Mid-Season Replacement Policy

No link yet, so here's the generic Nightline page. Hopefully they'll post something like a transcript in the next day or so.

The first segment dealt with an Israeli plot to assassinate Saddam Hussein back in 1995. Special attention was paid to the SCUD missile attacks Iraq undertook against Israel during the Gulf War. The report emphasized that Israel, in spite of being targeted by at least 40 SCUDs, restrained from retaliation (at the request of the United States).

Aside: my attitude towards the assassination plot is similar to my attitude towards the aborted coup against Saddam that we undertook right around the same time. IF either had been successful, ABSOLUTELY I would have grumbled, because, sorry, civilized nations aren't supposed to do such stuff (at least "officially"), but, and I hate to have to repeat myself OVER AND OVER, I couldn't give a rat's ass for Hussein. My concern would be on the basis of non-intervention in a country's internal affairs, which has been a principle of nation states since the Treaty of Westphalia. I don't think it's a good idea to do away with a 350 year old concept, with a proven track record of keeping things from getting REALLY ugly, because it's "inconvenient." But, if either the assassination or coup had been successful, grumbling is about all I'd have done, to be honest. Sure, I probably would have attended a rally--if one was organized. But I guess the question is moot.

That said, back to the topic--keep your eye on reports mentioning Israel in context of the Iraq war, because I have a very strong feeling the reasoning "to protect Israel" will be the "new, improved" justification. To paraphrase the late Ron Ziegler, this is the operative statement. All other statements are inoperative (or soon will be).

This will fit neatly into a Bush re-election strategy, as it will attempt to paint any opposition to the war as anti-Semitic, just as any criticism of Israel is now attacked as anti-Semitic. Given that anti-Semitism is a political death sentence in the United States, it is highly likely this will be the marketing approach.

Of course, this has been in the background from the beginning, but, let's face it, the United States tries its best to maintain some "discretion" about the "special relationship"--much the same way Bill Clinton kept Gennifer Flowers et al at arm's distance (when he wasn't having--uh--sexual relations with Gennifer et al).

In other words, everyone knows, but few really talk about it. After all, the US must attempt to maintain at least a facade of fair play when it comes to Middle East affairs, no pun intended. And, on the other side of the coin, Israel must maintain the facade of being an independent entity in the region, and not a dependency of America. This requires deft footwork.

But with the situation in Iraq deteriorating by the day, if not the hour, heavy firepower must be brought to bear in the political arena. Expect to see the Israel card played, at least for serious domestic consumption.

By the way, Israel also sort of serves as a model for our occupation strategy. Just between you and me, I'd hate to see us enjoy the same sort of "success," namely, ongoing acts of violence.

Which brings me to another point I wanted to make regarding the marketing of the war. Like my last post, I find it interesting that little or no sense of perspective is brought to bear regarding the build-up to the great debacle. However, given the truly pathetic nature of the line of reasoning, I wonder if the sheer juvenile stupidity of the various marketing attempts have been sufficient to embarrass the press, politicians, and pundits into actively ignoring the lines of reasoning that brought us into the occupation.

Let's look at the various campaigns:

Bluster--WWF Mode

Evidenced by most of the citations below, the WWF mode of operation was the line for the fall season 2002. "Saddam Hussein, you might be big, you might be bad, you might use your massive arsenal of VX, Sarin, and Anthrax, but we're STILL GONNA give ya an ass whuppin like you only seen back in '91--only this time, the Middle East AIN'T BIG ENOUGH FOR BOTH OF US!

The Brits were a valuable tag team partner in this phase, while the Coalition of the Willing ably led the cheers.

Then this was cancelled, in favor of:

Opening Day, College Football Season

I've discussed this below. College Football Season always begins for the big schools with a good old fashioned thumping of a creampuff like--well, North Texas State actually went to a bowl game this year--but it was the New Orleans Bowl, so I guess I can make them my reference. I've gone into the details below.

But football fans can be fickle, especially when the national championship isn't on the line. So, how about a low-budget summer replacement? Hence:

Reality Show

Iraqi Freedom, the summer reality replacement, had many reward "challenges." The Iraqis played for whatever they could swipe from public facilities throughout the country. Freedom was a messy thing.

Periodically, some Iraqis were permanently voted off the island--there were the inevitable "accidents," or "collateral damage," but the Americans had spoken, and a number of torches were extinguished. This had the unfortunate effect of turning the American football game into more of a soccer hooligan scene, to which our Resident in Chief declared, "Bring 'em on."

Initial ratings we're postive, but when Americans began to likewise get voted off by the resurgent Iraqis, it became evident that the Neilsons were beginning to slacken--either that or "technical difficulties" ensured that the picture was fuzzy. So, there was a concerted effort to make this a big-budget working project:

The Fugitive

No, it wasn't a one armed man, but it WAS the hunt for Saddam, who, with a litany of disguises a long beard managed to find a hole in the ground. Less lucky were sons Uday and Qusay (and Qusay's son), or "the other one-armed men," who were finished off the old fashioned way: Shootout at the Mosul Corral. Meanwhile, the Iraqis, perhaps unaware that the reality series no longer was running on American TV, kept playing their rather deadly game. They began to get better at it, especially during Ramadan, when religious feelings run deep. In response, America took to the original reality series:


Bad Boys, whacha gonna do when they come for you? Hussein was merely the highest profile arrestee; hundreds of Iraqis discovered that Occupation COPS was filmed live with the men and women of Occupation Law Enforcement. However, all suspects are NOT considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law...and, unlike its US counterpart, the "Crooks" sometimes don't flee, but instead, engage in hostile actions.

Some of the recent activities in Iraq also bear a surprising similarity to the California Governor's Election--it seems as if everyone with a small following is looking for a piece of the action, although there is, at present, no distinction between major and minor claims to power. This is NOT what the Occupation Authority had in mind, even as they play their own sorry version of Big Brother, having locked themselves away from all outside activities in the Green Zone, the CPA's Big Brother House. No word on any steamy action happening on the web cam, though.

And, now, at last, we're moving into daytime drama--the US and Israel locked in a highly charged relationship, but one that must forever remain discrete, as each pursues other suitors while exchanging the occasional knowing glance (or furtive tryst). However, as the situation continues to crumble, it will become more and more evident that this is the final attempt to generate the kinds of ratings that will make this latest show a success. And, they'll keep trying to get the public to buy more lies (Look! Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda everywhere! or Now we've really turned the corner! or It's Baathists remnants who hate freedom, or IF YOU DON'T SUPPORT THE WAR IT MEANS YOU HATE ISRAEL.--as opposed to the REAL facts that yes, there are SOME Al Qaeda who've probably infiltrated, there are probably SOME Baathist elements who hate LOSING THEIR PRIVILEGES, and there are SOME WHO ARE SIMPLY PISSED OFF BY OUR HEAVY HANDED TACTICS, especially when there's always the option of hitting Americans at their weakest point--when travelling in small groups). And while this version of the show might generate enough of a rating to carry Bush over for another four year run, it's also entirely possible that the public's taste might wan regarding the war--especially if it continues to go badly (there's only so much you can hide, even with a compliant, fawning media), or if domestic concerns come to the fore. If daytime drama becomes "how do we pay the electric bill," even playing the "defense of Israel" card won't save Bush.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003


From Truthout, via Wendy's comments in Atrios:

"Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction." - Dick Cheney, August 26 2002

"Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons." - George W. Bush, September 12 2002

"If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world." - Ari Fleischer, December 2 2002

"We know for a fact that there are weapons there." - Ari Fleischer, January 9 2003

"Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent." - George W. Bush, State of the Union address, January 28 2003

"We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more." - Colin Powell, February 5 2003

"We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons." - George Bush, February 8 2003

"Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised." - George Bush, March 17 2003

"Well, there is no question that we have evidence and information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical particularly . . . all this will be made clear in the course of the operation, for whatever duration it takes." - Ari Fleischer, March 21 2003

"There is no doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction. As this operation continues, those weapons will be identified, found, along with the people who have produced them and who guard them." - Gen. Tommy Franks, March 22 2003

"We know where they are. They are in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad." - Donald Rumsfeld, March 30 2003.

The quotations are from a longer piece about Joseph Wilson regarding his trip to Niger and the subsequent outing of his wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA operative. Wilson debunked claims regarding Iraqi attempts to purchase uranium from the Central African nation.

A genuine free press would return to the quotations above OVER and OVER until someone gave a straight answer regarding Bush Administration claims of WMD in Hussein's arsenal--especially considering that, to date, the claims are GROUNDLESS.

Instead, we have this exchange:

DIANE SAWYER: But stated as a hard fact, that there were weapons of mass destruction as opposed to the possibility that he could move to acquire those weapons still —

PRESIDENT BUSH: So what's the difference?

Representatives Wanted--Pay: $5.25/hr.

From Calpundit, via Kos:

But I'll renew an even better idea I proposed a year ago: index it to congressional salaries. Assuming a normal 2000-hour work year, congressmen make about $75/hour right now. How about simply making the minimum wage equal to 10% of that? Congress can then increase their own salaries anytime they want, but only if they're willing to help out the working poor at the same time. Seems fair to me.

And I've got an idea of my own, that I've argued for several years: Congress gets paid the minimum wage. It can be whatever they want it to be, but whatever they decide is their salary, THAT'S the minimum.

Congress would then fully understand how to balance the necessity of just compensation with the demands of the market.

And, on the same track, limit the salaries of the President and SCOTUS as well. I for one am sick and tired of hearing them whine about how little they make as it is. They want to whine? Let's give them a reason. Hell, that alone would probably be enough to get Scalia (and Thomas) running to the private market.

There are those who might worry that, under those circumstances, the goverment might not attract "the most qualified" people for service. To which I reply: you really think it could be any WORSE than the current crop?
Re: Below

Once again, Atrios has a link to someone who made the point better than me, alas. Still, I'm glad the theme is being picked up on.

From Steve Gilliard:

The media in America lives in a dual world, one where they want to hold people accountable, yet flip out when people do the same to them.

Atrios's reporting on the AP's Nedra Pickler, led to a nasty letter from the AP's legal counsel about harassment to one of the people who wrote to complain about her reporting, which promptly got a sneering reply. Journalists have amazingly thin skins when they are criticized in any way, shape or form. Anyone who writes media criticism can make a bunch of enemies really quickly by writing about their peers. There are people at Salon who still hate the fact that I looked at the 10Q's (quarterly financial reports) and showed them to be woefully managed.

I think it would be a really, really good idea to track reporters, word for word, broadcast for broadcast, and print the results online. Not just for any one campaign or cause, but to track people's reporting the way we track other services. If someone had bothered to question the reporting om Wen Ho Lee, he might not have been accused of espionage falsely by the New York Times. If someone had actually checked Jayson Blair's work, the Times might have fired his ass years earlier.

And let's give credit to Bob Somerby at The Daily Howler for continuing to point this stuff out.

BigLeftOutside is another website that rightly gives pundit-lackey journalism the treatment it deserves on a regular basis. Giordano has gone so far as to assert that the candidate who runs against THE MEDIA might find it a winning issue in this election cycle:

But I think that Dean has stumbled upon the first issue of the campaign that could win him the general election: Run against the media!

Drudge posts the transcript of Dean's exchange on the matter with Matthews, which shows that Matthews really pulled Dean onto the terrain of the big media monopoly issue. The transcript suggests that Dean kind of fell into the issue as part of his (poorly worded) "re-regulation" platform.

On the other hand, if Dean starts sounding less like a bureaucrat, and more like Teddy Roosevelt or Huey Long on matters like Big Media and the corporate coup over a system formerly known as American Democracy, he could turn the country's political map upside-down, inside-out, and win the general election.

I'm inclined to agree. There is a general distrust of the media these days, even if this distrust runs the gamut of the political spectrum. However, this might be one way to either break the media cycle of lackeydom, or at least get a different set of lackeys reporting the news. If the former occurred, great, if the latter--well, at least there would be a small breakdown in the present habit of REWARDING sniveling, whining, syncophants.
And Down! Down Goes Ashcroft!

If only it were a permanent recusal to heavily walled, rural real estate, in a 6 x 8 foot cell.

Saw it first on CrawlingWestward.

By the way--have you noticed how, once again, the press has been giving Dubya a free ride on this? I spoke last night with some good friends of mine about this phenomenon: the media's treatment of Bush is roughly on par with the lackeys in Saddam Hussein's regime (or the civil servants of the various Imperial Houses in China).

I mean, you all but expect them to approach Dubya the Dauphin with eyes averted, head down, and perhaps backwards on their knees. Jeez, I've seen more backbone exhibited by a dog about to be punished by its master (and knowing it did wrong) than by the press in their dealings with the regent.

Sure, there's the whole "thirty pieces of silver and a view of the Potomac (or Hudson)." I'll grant them the fact that any serious questions asked by a single journalist would likely result in their immediate banishment from the White House Press Corps. Which, to a career journo, is sort of like having tenure at a major university. Well, almost tenure, because if you lose your gig, well, you're likely to be fired. And there goes the chance to write the novel, the memoir, the chance to go on the lecture circuit, etc. etc. etc.

Of course, you can also say that the press corps has checked their collective sense of ethics and responsibility in with their coats and hats when it gets this bad. You know, at least Al Giordando keeps the independent tradition of the free press alive.

As for the rest of 'em, couldn't they at least come up with some sort of disclaimer?

"What you are about to see, read, or hear, is a simulation. We repeat, only a simulation. No actual "news" is implied by the consumption of this "news product." FoxNews, USA Today, The New York Times, CBS--hell, all the print and broadcast media--thank you for your cooperation."

Josh Marshall has some strong words for Howard Dean today.

I don't care if Dean says he'll endorse whoever wins. He's playing the defection card. And that crosses the line.

I don't doubt that it would be hard to reconcile some Dean supporters to another Democratic nominee. But that's not the point. By saying it, he's leveraging it, and encouraging it.

The price of admission to the Democratic primary race is a pledge of committed support to whomever wins the nomination, period. (The sense of entitlement to other Democrats' support comes after you win the nomination, not before.) If Dean can't sign on that dotted-line, he has no business asking for the party's nomination.

While I like reading TPM, it looks like Marshall is accusing Dean of exactly what the DLCers are threatening to do in the event of a Dean nomination, namely, sit out the election...

You know, I thought this was all settled a few weeks back when Ted Koppel made an ass of himself during the Democratic Candidates' Debate. As I said at the time (but am too lazy to link to--sorry), I agree with Atrios--every Democratic Candidate should indeed say they'll support WHOEVER wins, and that WHOEVER wins can beat George W. Bush. Stop the idiotic sniping.

However, that's NOT what happened, although, in the end, the person who looked most chump-like was the moderator. Mr. Marshall, the odds of you reading this are, no pun intended, at least one in two million, but I'll ask anyway: why are you risking the same?

Besides, Dean simply is reiterating what a LOT of pundits noted when Al Gore jumped on his bandwagon: that endorsements don't mean much these days. More people, particularly those with an interest in politics, think for themselves.

It's sad to say, but I wonder if Marshall isn't really trying to make use of his position to keep up the sniping on Dean--which ultimately plays into the hands of Bush. Everything negative you might hear about this or that Democrat between now and the nomination will be picked up on and magnified a thousandfold by the BushRove $250 million dollar hammer.

No word on whether the Pentagon wants to know where to buy said hammer.
Tony Kushner Interview in Mother Jones

MJ: What about the Democratic Party? Can it effectively oppose Bush?

TK: I have said this before, and I'll say it again: Anyone that the Democrats run against Bush, even the appalling Joe Lieberman, should be a candidate around whom every progressive person in the United States who cares about the country's future and the future of the world rallies. Money should be thrown at that candidate. And if Ralph Nader runs -- if the Green Party makes the terrible mistake of running a presidential candidate -- don't give him your vote. Listen, here's the thing about politics: It's not an expression of your moral purity and your ethics and your probity and your fond dreams of some utopian future. Progressive people constantly fail to get this.

The GOP has developed a genius for falling into lockstep. They didn't have it with Nixon, but they have it now. They line up behind their candidate, grit their teeth, and help him win, no matter who he is.

MJ: You're saying progressives are undone by their own idealism?

TK: The system isn't about ideals. The country doesn't elect great leaders. It elects fucked-up people who for reasons of ego want to run the world. Then the citizenry makes them become great. FDR was a plutocrat. In a certain sense he wasn't so different from George W. Bush, and he could have easily been Herbert Hoover, Part II. But he was a smart man, and the working class of America told him that he had to be the person who saved this country. It happened with Lyndon Johnson, too, and it could have happened with Bill Clinton, but we were so relieved after 12 years of Reagan and Bush that we sat back and carped.

In a certain sense, Bush was right when he called the anti-war demonstrations a "focus group." We went out on the street and told him that we didn't like the war. But that was all we did: We expressed an opinion. There was no one in Congress to listen to us because we were clear about why they couldn't listen. Hillary Clinton was too compromised, or Chuck Schumer -- and God knows they are. But if people don't pressure them to do better, we're lost.

MJ: Is there a tension between the more analytic, complaint-oriented side of your personality, of your work -- it's everywhere in your plays -- and this more pragmatic view of politics?

TK: I think what one has to do is to ask oneself, "Do you want to have agency in your own time?" If you really believe that it's your place to leave the world a better place than it was when you arrived, then how do you get the power? In this country, the most powerful country on earth, you get it by voting the right people into power. There are means of getting the power out of the hands of the very rich and the very wicked. It still flabbergasts me that people didn't see this during the last presidential election. We had had 12 years of Reagan and Bush to prepare us for this outcome. It couldn't have been clearer who we were dealing with. George W. Bush was -- is -- a little robot programmed by his daddy to punish Saddam Hussein and get as much money for the petrochemical bandits. It's absolutely jaw-dropping that Democrats saw that and decided instead that they wanted to send a message to their own party that they weren't happy with it for some relatively minor offense. Why didn't we turn out in vast numbers for Gore? Why did we vote for Ralph Nader or not at all? We would absolutely not be in Iraq today if we had a Democratic president in the White House, and I don't need to know any more than that.

Read the rest here.

My own position is a little different. As noted in a previous post, IF Bush is comfortably ahead here in Louisiana, and IF Nader is running, then Ralph stands a good chance of getting my vote. This is in itself pragmatic: if the Democrat is clearly losing (i.e., more than the margin of error in several reputable polls) then why waste a vote there, when you can help, say, the Green Party as it seeks to reach the matching funds threshold? Kushner notes accurately that politics is NOT seeking a utopian ideal, but I say politics DOES imply putting good ideas into the realm of public debate. And there are MANY progressive ideas that, with the right financial backing, could turn heads--especially heads within the Democratic Party. The conservative elements within the Party (i.e., the DLCers) need us as much as we need them. And we helped them take the White House with Clinton. It's time the DLCers played ball, and got behind WHOEVER wins the Democratic nomination...

But that might be merely wishful thinking on my part.

From TalkLeft:

Thousands of soldiers are being forced to stay in the service through "stop-loss" orders and many of them are very unhappy about it.

Read the rest of Jeralyn's post here. I strongly recommend the Washington Post article that she links to.

TalkLeft concludes with a statement hoping this isn't a sign that a military draft is on the way. Right now, I don't think a draft is necessary; however, if the aggressive neoconservative foreign policy continues to be our course of action, I don't see how conscription can be avoided.

As it stands, our commitment in Iraq and Afghanistan has stretched the military pretty thin. Unless we drastically cut back on our other significant overseas troop contingents (and I seriously doubt we will), our pursuit of folly in the Middle East will require additional manpower. Presently, this is being handled by activating National Guard units and through "stop-loss" orders, but at a certain point, the military might have no alternative.

Of course, as long as the economy doesn't produce jobs, the military might still be an option for some--in spite of the odds being REAL GOOD that new recruits are most likely to see combat (the military is loathe to lose people who've spent some time in the service, because the careerists represent a significant investment in training). On the other hand, what price is one's life?

I keep hearing people say that we've "just got to stay the course." But these same folks seem to be clueless as to the nature of the Iraq conflict. "Staying the course" means being a target to a hostile population of Iraqis, who, more and more, seem to be wishing the US would just get the hell out.

Sadly, some are--link via Atrios, although Today in Iraq also has this story--and it is really gives one pause, even as the young man who was wounded comes to grips with the permanance of his injury, and is trying to take steps to overcome it.

Was this young man's sacrifice worth it? What if we are STILL taking casualities say, five or ten years from now? What the hell will that prove? It's evident that the "terrorist threat" is still with us (you know, the 'color o' the day'), so why on earth must we "stay the course" in Iraq? To save the Resident's face?

Is that what we tell the wounded? "You lost your [limb/sight]/suffered burns/nerve damage, etc. etc., to make Bush more electable?

I don't like the way that looks--or smells.

After reading this over at CrawlingWestward--I guess the only thing to decide is:
Farmer's or World?
Buy or borrow from the Library?
Do I dare use a highlighter?

Wait, here's an online link to the Farmer's Almanac. Would this be considered a "subversive" website? Registration is required. Wonder where that info goes?

And here's the website for the World Almanac. Not really much there. Looks like you have to buy it or check it out of the library.

Can you imagine a cop pulling you over, checking your license and registration, then asking "do you mind if I search the vehicle for any signs of contraband or almanacs? You're not carrying any almanacs on your person or in your vehicle, are you?"

"No, sir."

"So, what kind of books DO you read?"

Monday, December 29, 2003

Homeland (In)Security

And this is during a heightened alert condition (more here).

For the record, I'm damn glad they didn't shoot the pilot out of the sky. Unless I'm mistaken, it sounds like he was confused, and did what most people would do in such a situation--he found a landmark and tried to go from there. Under "normal" circumstances, it's likely he'd be given a warning and a suggestion that he take more flying lessons, particularly focusing on airborne navigation.

Under "Condition Orange," though, the sentence came mighty close to what the Resident calls "the ultimate penalty." And if that had happened? I'm guessing there would have been a cursory apology, and a stern warning to all that confusion is no excuse in a time of "war," although this is the first "war" I recall where few people seem to give a rat's ass about the day-to-day fighting, unless you count the "War on Drugs," where the casualities are less often killed, but more often ruined with the stigma of a prison sentence, confiscation of property, inability to file for student financial aid, etc. etc. etc.--Unless your name happens to be Al Gore, Jr., or Noelle Bush, as Al Giordano so ably notes.

But I digress. My point--that the war on terror already is generating conditions where an otherwise law abiding citizen is damn near shot out of the sky for making a mistake--does not detract from anything I noted below. Instead, we see an over-reaction to a simple mistake, AND a situation involving a drunk guy STEALING A BUS, which is a strong indication that general security measures are not adequate. A comprehensive force of well trained security personnel would surely have been able to prevent a bus theft, while additional measures to protect the skies in the wake of 9/11 could easily have prevented the pilot's mistake. And, by additional measures, I mean a bit more than restricting the airspace, or sending a helicopter gunship up against a Cessna.

Instead, though, we keep seeing weirder and weirder things every day--which, like the above, aren't part of the Bush re-election strategy, but certainly help spin things in a way that works for them. For more on that digression, check this article out. Short version: look for the terror code to wax and wane over the next eleven months, while various Operation ThunderStrikes "cripple" the opposition in Iraq and Afghanistan (note: they've been "crippled" so many times that you'd think they either have dozens of limbs, or are capable of regeneration), and expect the head of Osama on a platter sometime in October. OK, maybe not on a platter--but I'd give even money on it being stuck to a pike and paraded around the Tribal Belt.

Of course, by that time, the Al Qaeda "leadership" will have already morphed into its post-bin Laden structure. So we'll be right back to square one...
Terrorists Iraqis Hate Freedom

How long is it going to take before the Bush Administration makes that their talking point?

"With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them," he said. He was speaking from a village that his men had surrounded with barbed wire, upon which was a sign, stating: "This fence is here for your protection. Do not approach or try to cross, or you will be shot." (snip)

Describing how an American soldier in a Santa Claus hat was giving out stuffed animals to children, reporter Jason Keyser wrote that one 11-year- old child "looked puzzled, then smiled" as the soldier gave him a small, stuffed goat. Then the report continued: "Others in the crowd of mostly Muslims grabbed greedily at the box," adding the soldier's remark that: "They don't know how to handle generosity."

I don't doubt the soldier's wish to do good. But what is one to make of the "mostly Muslims" who "grabbed greedily" at the gifts? Or the soldier's insensitive remarks about generosity? Iraqi newspapers have been front--paging a Christmas card produced by US troops in Baghdad: "1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Wishes you a very Merry Christmas!" it says.

But the illustration is of Saddam Hussein in his scruffy beard just after his capture, with a Santa hat superimposed on top of his head. Funny enough for us, no doubt--I can't personally think of a better fall-guy for St Nicholas--but a clear insult to Sunni Arabs who, however much they may loathe the beast of Baghdad, will see in this card a deliberate attempt to humiliate Muslim Iraqis. It is for Iraqis to demean their ex-president--not their American occupiers.

Read the rest of the Robert Fisk article here.

As far as Saddam's capture making things safer for the occupying troops--once more, I urge anyone taking a look over here to link to Today in Iraq. Additionally, last night I took a glance at 60 Minutes--ok, I'll admit it, at least in part to glance at the walking freak show that Michael Jackson has become, although I couldn't handle more than a thirty second dose at a time--but the piece which followed was chilling (so chilling that CBS has yet to post more than a one paragraph summary, although this is likely also an attempt by the Tiffany network to maximize the publicity of the Jackson interview. Hell, ABC did almost the exact same thing last month).

Anyway, the piece by Christiane Amanpour made it clear that our attempts to create civic order in Mesopotamia are almost laughably dimwitted, unless one realizes that the end result of this will mean the deaths of more Iraqis and more US soldiers...and, yeah, placing the Iraqis first THIS ONE TIME is something I did deliberately. It's time we realized that first, killing Iraqis either accidentally or deliberately is one of the things that is LOSING this war. Also, there is a simple question of humanity factoring into the equation. As long as we consider Iraqi deaths to be of such little consequence, we are implying that Iraqis are somehow LESS than human. Again, this will negatively impact any attempt to win hearts and minds.

I'll try to link to the Amanpour piece from 60 Minutes as soon as it's available. Among other gems it noted:

At least some "Iraqi Security Officers" are, in fact, working with the opposition. Imagine that!
For a while, most of the "Security Officers" carried no weapon at all, which meant they were outgunned by most citizens, who usually have an AK-47 or like weapon in their home. Something tells me that a weaponless Security Officer doesn't generate much in the way of respect over there. England it ain't.
"Joint" Patrols seem to consist of a single Iraqi officer making the rounds while guarded by a number of American soldiers. Bet that doesn't go over too well for either the Americans or the Iraqi.
While more "Security Officers" now carry an AK-47, they are still outgunned by opposition forces, who have RPG's, AAA (Anti-Aircraft Artillery, which doesn't necessarily have to be aimed skyward), as well as small arms. Additionally, our Iraqis are allowed very limited quantities of ammunition.
Police buildings, when they exist at all, are largely inadequate--some were bombed during the war, while others were looted after Hussein's government collapsed. Just creating a genuine civil law enforcement presence will require a massive investment.

And, one other thing: All the money that's been sunk into Iraq to date--the roughly $160 billion, the chunk that came out of the regular Pentagon share of the purse, and whatever has gone to contractors like Halliburton--remember, all of that money could have gone into a genuine attempt to counter terrorism, by working on improving our domestic security (as opposed to the idiotic "color-my-world-with-terror" code).

Why don't true conservatives note this?
No, No, It's All Perfectly Safe

Still, I've gotta say that I'm glad it's either a chicken or seafood entree that sits on my plate these days...

WASHINGTON -- A Holstein infected with mad cow disease was born a month before the United States and Canada began banning from use in cattle feed brain and spinal cord tissue that is the primary source of transmission of the ailment, Agriculture Department officials said Monday.

Of course, these same folks told us that Mad Cow disease could NEVER happen here...

I guess I've been pretty slow to post over the last day or two.

There was the Dr. John show Friday night, followed up with my own version of Operation French Quarter Freedom. Let's see: I spent a lot more money than I should have, I probably alienated the crap out of at least a few folks moving about (but not the bartenders, I hope--having previously held service jobs, I try to tip early, often, and somewhat generously), and I accomplished nothing except for the achievement of a massive Saturday hangover that lasted through yesterday.

Note: Knew I would be in no shape to drive back to BR even BEFORE the show started, so went ahead and stayed at a hotel in the Quarter. This was a good move. Even during the holidays there are fairly reasonable rates.

However: Using the valet car service turned out to be a pain in the ass. I was promised twenty minutes from the time I requested until the time the car showed up, but it ended up being an hour and fifteen minutes. Hated to do this, but the tip that normally goes to the driver went instead to the concierge, who was one of the few folks who noticed the problem. Twice I checked with the front desk, was told it was on the way, but when this guy went in to check again, he found out that the car never left the garage. And then I still had to navigate for a brief spell through the narrow streets.

This is yet another argument for an increased investment in public transit--it would have been much easier, and cheaper, to take a train down to the city, followed by a cab to the hotel, which was an EASY walk to HOB. A lot of hassle would be avoided...

Dr. John, by the way, was great, as always. Played much the same set as he did a year or so ago, when I last saw him--at the same venue. A good two hour set.

More to follow a little later, but work calls.

Friday, December 26, 2003


On my way to see Dr. John at House of Blues this evening. Will have something to say about that and a bunch of other stuff tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Off To Siberia

Not really, but I used to think of New Iberia as Siberia without a hard freeze...

Once again, I'm hoping that the car survives the ride. I'll be over in the slow lane, so pass at will.

Happy Holidays--the odds of me finding a place from which to post tomorrow are close to zero, but I'll be back on the 26th...and if there's still a consensus amongst the Louisiana web loggers, exiled or not, to do some serious drinking this weekend, by all means let me know--maybe add a comment over at CrawlingWestward.

Won't really be able to post, but should be able to quickly glance at the usual websites. Otherwise, happy holidays to y'all.
Rush Limbaugh, Apologist for the ACLU?

I haven't slammed Rush for a while now, because others are doing such a good job of it. To wit, check out Al Giordano over at BigLeftOutside:

For more than a decade Rush Limbaugh has sat at his microphone and piled on drug addicts, prisoners, criminal defendants and the Constitutional rights they invoke in their defense. He's even gone after defense attorneys as a group, but mainly he's picked on people who couldn't fight back, who had no microphone, no money, no chance.

Limbaugh has never, in fact, entered a fair fight in his life. So he's in a bit over his head now that he needs his own criminal defense, his own defense lawyers, and, this is really funny, Rush now needs the Bill of Rights!...

His discourse yesterday, on the radio, is revealing....

"Why would any of us want such records made public, even if they prove our innocence? It's not up to me to prove my innocence by giving up my right to privacy. I have to give up my right to privacy now in order for the state who is, in effect, just casting a line out there, hoping to hook something. They've got to invade my privacy to do this...

"Now, as you all know, I have admitted that I was addicted to prescription painkillers. I have been to five weeks of treatment. After failing twice to get off of these things myself, I sought professional help, did so, and I continue to be in treatment now. Now, I don't know, and this is...I run the risk here. I'm not whining about it. I'm just genuinely curious. How many such people are being pursued by the authorities?

"I could give you some names of actors and actresses and sports figures, and not one of them have been pursued in this circumstance..."

When Rush asks "How many such people are being pursued by the authorities?" the operative word is "such." Because half a million Americans have already been pursued and imprisoned by the authorities for drug related crimes. A much larger number have been arrested, detained, had their homes and cars seized, lost custody of their children, been kicked out of their homes, lost student loans, been expelled from school, been beaten by cops and prison guards, been raped by other prisoners under the gleeful eyes of the guards... all this and more has happened to millions of Americans.

And Rush knows it. Wanna know how I know that he knows it? Because he's spent the past fifteen years kicking all these people when they've been down!

No, with a simple turn of the phrase, Rush refers not to all these people but, rather, to "such people" as "actors and actresses and sports figures" whom he considers to be his peers. (Wisely, he left politicians off his list, lest we remember how authorities used Washington DC Mayor Marion Barry's girlfriend Rakshita Moore to lure him to a hotel room, put a crack pipe in his hands, and film it on video from a secret camera, in a film quickly leaked to the TV networks.)

What does this tell us about Rush? He always says that when people talk about others they reveal more about them selves. What does Rush reveal about himself here?

In essence, Rush thinks he belongs - or should be considered to belong - to an elite caste along with "actors, actresses, and sports figures," who, because they are wealthy and famous, are above the law.

Read the rest here.

Apropos my post below--there's nothing wrong with giving Rush a good slam. Face it: there's not a chance in hell that he'd cut anybody whose politics are to the left of Atilla the Hun ANY SLACK AT ALL. And the rest of the neo-con, wingnut right is marching to the same drummer. They set the rules: remember when 'questions of character' became a defining chant from these folks back in the 80s? 'Character' trumped everything...

Well, the character issue is coming back to haunt the very people who made so much of it. And there's nothing wrong with payback for those who, like Rush, made so much political hay playing the 'morality card' all this time....

To that end, maybe I should ask Bill Bennett what the odds are of El Rushbo serving any time. Maybe he can hook me up with one of his buddies in Vegas. For that matter, maybe Bob Livingston can help bring the ladies...

Hypocrisy, thy name is Limbaugh.
Hate Speech

Via Steve Perry's War Blog (and I say this over and over: not the lame Steve Perry aka Journey's frontman lead singer), we have an example of the hysterical nature of certain wingnuts as they seek to deify the second coming of Bush while demonizing any who dare question the divinity of the Kennebunkport Crawfordian.

As one Canadian just discovered, news in the United States no longer breaks in cresting waves but increasingly strikes in a swarm of tiny stings, delivered by an expanding hive of conservative news-media outlets whose growing influence is set to dominate the coming presidential election campaign.

The new U.S. micromedia swept north of the border last week, and, as usual, its assault began as gossip.

Few Republican Party loyalists in the United States noticed that a young Edmonton man set up a website called Canadians for Wesley Clark, urging Canadians to support the popular retired general's bid to become the Democratic Party's presidential candidate.

Mr. Clark's official website links to the page.

Within hours, news of the Edmonton site was picked up by gossip gadfly Matt Drudge and became a top news story on the Texas-based website GOPUSA, a one-man operation whose news stories often provide content for hundreds of phone-in radio shows across the United States.

Less than 12 hours later, the Canadian made headlines in the conservative New York Sun, which proclaimed: "Anti-Bush Foreigners Eye Web for Donations to Democrats."

By the end of the day on Friday, the Edmonton website had become part of the election: George W. Bush's campaign team sent millions of Republicans a fundraising letter that accuses Mr. Clark of "raising foreign cash to attack our president."

The whole thing was so unnerving for the Canadian student who runs the Wesley Clark site that he will identify himself only by his first name, Rob.

"I knew something big was up when I checked my e-mail one day and found over 200 of them, all of them hateful and quite ignorant," he said yesterday.

"I've received almost a thousand e-mails since then."

As news, there was not much to it.

The website informed visitors that foreigners cannot donate to U.S. political campaigns and urged them to give instead to non-partisan groups that produce ads opposing Mr. Bush.

After the story exploded south of the border, even that pitch was removed.

(Courts have not decided whether foreign donations to U.S. activist groups are legal.)

None of the major U.S. newspapers, magazines or TV networks considered it news, but the story is a perfect example of how small, ideologically driven media outlets are becoming part of U.S. politics, many observers said.

"There's no question that conservatives have built up a sophisticated echo chamber in which talk radio and cable help drive certain stories" that have their origins on the Internet, said Howard Kurtz, a Washington-based media analyst for CNN, as well as The Washington Post.

That's quite a bit of the story, but not all of it. Take a look at the rest here.

In a certain sense, this should be considered food for thought for anyone opposing the regime of Dubya. When the left busily snipes away at each other, questioning what sorts of aggressive political tactics are acceptable (e.g., the Bush ad that 'cleans up' some obvious gaffes in his SOTU address, making the dauphin sound more, uh, presidential), the right will unleash the dogs at the earliest opportunity--and, if it doesn't work out, they simply move on. There is NO NEED for them to worry about being called on this by the press because the press has the collective memory of a plasmodial slime mold these days. And if anyone DOES call them to task, there is always the defense of plausible deniability. As the story above makes clear, this latest case of launching slime bombs against a Canadian, for chrissakes, comes from the Republican version of the Storm Troopers (aka the varied flavors of dittoheads who have mastered just enough technology that they've managed to program the various hate-radio telephone numbers onto their speed dial), whose ideological underpinnings are Matt Drudge, Limbaugh, the MurdochPress, and so on--which are affiliated with, but not quite subsidiaries, of the Republican Party. The wingnuts supply the vitrol, while the inner circle can pick and choose which attack they will add their own-knee-to-the-groin to, and which will remain in the realm of the Shock Troops. Works out nicely for them.

If the left wants to compete, we will need to launch our own attacks--early, often, and unrelenting. The fact is we've got far more in the way of issues--although, in retrospect, I'd have given Bush as much grief as possible on the SOTU remix--hit him on it, then move on. I took a look at a Howard Dean policy address--my link was via the good people over at Bad Attitudes--and it's the kind of attack that is hard-hitting but eminently fair. Whether or not Howard becomes the nominee is of less interest to me than what he says--all of his points are dead on accurate. Let Dean and the rest of the people running for the nomination do their "presidential" stuff--while, simultaneously, we should make certain that as many people as possible know just what sort of petty, two-bit, low-rent-for-such-a-high-brow guy Bush really is. If we do this right, Bush might show his true colors, instead of getting the free ride of a lifetime from the SCLM. And Bush's true colors aren't that pretty. Which is why Karl Rove's job for the next eleven months will be to keep Bush far away from anything even remotely resembling a genuine public setting. Sure, he'll give speeches to the moral equivalent of a carefully vetted studio audience. But the key to this election will be to make sure the vast, unwashed masses (i.e., the rest of us) are unaware of the true candidate--a moral, ethical, financial, and political failure, who rose to the top of the slag heap with the connivance of a willing, MurdochLead media--and, even then, it took a few illegal actions in Florida as well as the worst decision in the history of the SCOTUS to get him there...
Holiday "Spirit"

I don't know what's weirder--everyone wishing you a Happy Holiday or many of the same folks trying to run you over in their cars, while leaning on the horn and showing you the Holiday Finger.

Tis the season.

Finished my Holiday shopping, which is one of my least favorite things to do. It's enough to keep me away from stores for several months, which is a bad strategy, since there are always post-Holiday "dump the merchandise" sales.

This year, I'm gonna try to motivate myself for one more round of consumer spending, as I actually have a few things I honestly need. But I know it won't be much fun.

And--the ongoing saga of my car continues to vex me--the damn thing won't shift into overdrive on the highway. There is plenty of transmission fluid in the resovoir. But it went from being stubborn--would wait ten miles or so to shift--to more stubborn--won't shift at all.

I might not hit the stores after all. The last time I had a car with transmission problems, it set me back $1300. And that was ten years ago.

Maybe the mechanic (or the mechanic's family) will enjoy shopping with my money...

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

So We're in the Good Range...

For now. But holiday driving still sucks. I've said it before, but I'll post again: can't the United States come up with a set of genuine choices in transportation? Basically, less than a thousand miles, you've got one choice: a private car. More than a thousand miles, you've got one choice: an airplane.

Actually, I'll cut SOME slack to the airlines--it's not my favorite way to travel, but it's fast. When you're going a long way, speed helps.

But for shorter haul trips there needs to be some kind of rail-based service. If nothing else, it would help keep traffic down to the point that the highway system can function safely within its design parameters. Interstates are NOT designed for bumper-to-bumper traffic. Period. Every time I hear the term "chain-reaction-crash" on the television news, I want to goddamned pick up the phone and shout at the people responsible for such Soviet Style transit choices--except that this "choice" has been in the making for the last sixty years or so.

Periodically, I'll see the science pages of the paper report on the latest attempt to "automate" the highways. But trains already do this--they allow a high concentration of people to transit in a much smaller amount of space. And, besides--if you can't trust the road crews to keep the asphalt and concrete in proper maintenence, are you really gonna trust them to keep up the immensely complicated systems that will be required for an automated highway system to function properly? Hell, I bet automated highways NEVER make it, not the least reason being that any State or national actuarial official would shit thirty pound bricks before allowing the State of Federal government to assume liability for a system failure. And if you think the private sector will pick up the slack--ha--don't make me laugh.

I've also noted below (am too lazy to find the link, but it's in the archives, probably from around the LAST major holiday), that even the hard-core acolytes at the altar of the automobile should think about supporting mass public transit. It's in THEIR self-interest. Car-worshippers would no longer have to deal with the veritable junkyard of metal plying the highways at a snail's pace (because they are substandard vehicles).

Have you noticed that many drivers, especially on the highway, have a maddening tendency to tailgate? I used to chalk this up solely to the stupidity of the individual driver(s). But, more and more, I try to take into consideration the following: many of these folks are caught in an interstate rush hour commute that makes football game day traffic look like a picnic. At a certain point, the bad habits developed during rush hour spill over. And it seems that once that happens, good driving skills are lost.

And I'll repeat: I'd be happy to support much stronger penalties for driving under the influence if there truly was an alternative to the private car. As it stands (or stumbles) I mostly walk to the tavern(s) of my choice these days, one, because I can, and two, because I know that I'll be in no condition to drive upon leaving.

Yeah, it would take a lot of investment to offer genuine transit alternative to those in the US who have none (basically, everyone except the denizens of the east and west coasts). But it could pay for itself over time in fewer fatalites, less pollution, and less costs to fix roads that fall apart with incredible rapidity (the latter in part due to the much larger volumes of traffic using the roads compared to what said roads were designed for). I'd like to think that, if we hadn't run off into Iraq for what everyone now knows was non-existent reasons, we'd have $160 billion to start.
One More Post Re: Lenny Bruce
If you ever get a chance to listen to the Berkeley performance, be sure to listen carefully to the section where he describes how the need for law enforcement developed. When you stop laughing, you'll realize how right he was...

Example: [man of authority explaining to the recruit] "We need someone to enforce the rules. So I'm gonna give you a stick and a gun, and you do it, you hear? BUT WAIT till I'm out of the room. Now, occasionally you might hear me say something about how it takes 'a certain sort of mentality to do that kind of work' but DON'T YOU BELIEVE IT, you just KICK 'EM IN THE ASS real good..."

Rules and the People Who Comment on Them

Justice is finally served, although cold enough to qualify as a frozen dinner. Lenny Bruce was pardoned by Governor George Pataki for a conviction stemming from an "Obscene Performance:"

During a November 1964 performance at Cafe Au Go Go in Greenwich Village, Bruce used more than 100 "obscene" words. Undercover police detectives attended the show, and later testified against Bruce. The charge was Giving an Obscene Performance

The police were probably laughing along with everyone else.

I can recommend both the Curran Theater CD/Album and the Berkeley Performance, and, while it isn't his best, I have a tape called The Law, Language, and Lenny Bruce.

Example: "As smart as any Southerner could be--if Albert Einstein (adopts fake Southern accent) tawked lak thayatt--there wouldn't be no bomb." (Continues as Southern Albert Einstein) "Folks, I wanna tell y'all 'bout nukulur fissyion. Man, I'm talkin' some STUFF, buddy."

I take no offense...because it's funny, for chrissakes. Besides, intelligent Southerners who DO sound Southern scare the shit out of northerners--I speak from experience.

More on Lenny can be found here. Hard to believe it's been almost thirty-eight years since he passed on.

Josh Marshall took the time today to express his own skepticism about something that I noted a couple of days ago. Marshall notes the reporter in question (Yvonne Ridley) might not be in the best position to check the veracity of the story. Additionally, she's not on top of some obvious facts--for instance, the name of the leading Kurdish opposition group.

So chalk it up to--well, take your choice--a fanciful mind, a gullible reporter, whatever. Not that it really made much difference.

On the other hand, Today in Iraq links to a Seattle Times story that suggests Saddam behaved much more--how say--Saddam-like when captured: Saddam was being handcuffed, he began to struggle with his captors. He spat at the soldiers. One of the commandos decked him, either with a punch or a rifle butt. (The military later tidied up the story of his capture for popular consumption.)"

The story goes on to note that the Bush Administration has essentially denied the story--or is it that they simply can't recall?

Atrios has it posted, but I saw this last night and thought I'd add a link as well. Short Version:
Newly declassified documents show that the US was quite eager to assist Iraq in its war with Iran, despite evidence showing an almost daily use by Iraq of chemical weapons. Our general condemnation of chemical weapons use was strictly for public consumption, and our real position was that Iraq must not lose.

Excerpt: As a special envoy for the Reagan administration in 1984, Donald H. Rumsfeld, now the defense secretary, traveled to Iraq to persuade officials there that the United States was eager to improve ties with President Saddam Hussein despite his use of chemical weapons, newly declassified documents show.

Mr. Rumsfeld, who ran a pharmaceutical company at the time, was tapped by Secretary of State George P. Shultz to reinforce a message that a recent move to condemn Iraq's use of chemical weapons was strictly in principle and that America's priority was to prevent an Iranian victory in the Iran-Iraq war and to improve bilateral ties.

Rummy says he "doesn't remember" if he read or otherwise followed the instructions Secretary Shultz passed to him.

After all, he was traveling under the aegis of--oh wait, that's right, he was "just a private citizen" at the time. Surely he couldn't be expected to act as an agent of the United States' government, right?

If you believe the above, I'll give you a choice--Bridge in Brooklyn or Swampland in Florida--take your pick. Either one is a steal.

And don't you love how high level officials always conveniently get a case of amnesia when it comes to embarrassing disclosures?

Monday, December 22, 2003

Moral Duplicity

Apologies are in order to whoever pointed this out to me--I forget who it was; otherwise, I'd link to your site first.

A disabled soldier will never see combat again, but he might find himself fighting a new fight against the government's medical bureaucracy.

Lieutenant John Fernandez, who lost part of both legs in Iraq, knows he can no longer be a soldier, but he's not ready to leave the army.

"I personally don't think it's right to be forced out of the — the military and all of a sudden be forced to live on half of the pay that I was getting," he says.

Ryan Kelley, who lost his left leg below the knee, makes about $20,000 a year as a staff sergeant. Once he leaves the army, he will receive about $8,000 a year in benefits.

Fernandez is appealing his medical discharge. "I'm not gonna let myself be pushed around," he says.

People who opposed the Vietnam war have been falsely accused of abusing soldiers upon their return to the United States. But what is more abusive than basically giving the heave ho to people who gave their all while in uniform? Certainly the wounds suffered by many soldiers render them unable to perform combat missions--duh. But there are plenty of non-combat roles these individuals can perform in, IF THEY SO CHOOSE. Giving these folks the bureaucratic run-around is nothing more than figuratively spitting on them. Between this and Bush's attempt to cut combat pay--fortunately, enough outcry was raised to put a stop to that--you have to wonder what the hell is going on in their minds.

Of course, consider: of the big shots in the Bush administration, exactly two--Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld--actually served in the regular, full time military (and Rumsfeld's service was between wars). No wonder they have little or no awareness.

A Chickenhawk AND a Liar

Via Atrios, a link to Matthew Yglesias over at Tapped:

An awful lot of ink's been spilled in recent weeks on hand-wringing over liberal Bush hatred, but as Tom DeLay's appearance yesterday on Meet The Press shows, the left still has a long way to go before reaching the rhetorical depths of the GOP leadership. The interview began with DeLay referring to Democrats as "hateful," "moronic," "beyond the pale," "outrageous," "cruel," and "extremist" by way of trying to establish that liberals are excessively negative.

The Hammer went on to smear Wes Clark, whose spokesman reminded us of something Tom said back in 1988:

"He and Quayle, DeLay explained to the assembled media in New Orleans, were victims of an unusual phenomenon back in the days of the undeclared Southeast Asian war. 'So many minority youths had volunteered for the well-paying military positions to escape poverty and the ghetto that there was literally no room for patriotic folks like himself.' Satisfied with the pronouncement, which dumbfounded more than a few of his listeners who had lived the sixties, DeLay marched off to the convention." [/Houston Press/, 1/7/99]

If you make it over to Tapped, check out the post immediately below the link above as well. Short version: Sam Donaldson admits he's got the fine herding instinct of the best of sheep. Even though Howard Dean's pronouncement that "America is not safer because of Saddam's capture" is factually correct (my note: if we WERE safer, why did they raise the terror threat level?), he, Sam Donaldson, and the rest of the corporate media, are COMPELLED to attack the statement because--well, because. Baaahhh.

And Sam went off bleating into the night...

Sunday, December 21, 2003

What is Your Favorite Color?

Yellow--no, Orange. Forgive me if I'm a little nonplussed by the latest change in the security color. Sure, there are plenty of well-minded folks working for the Department of Homeland Security, but the idea that we can somehow plan for acts of terrorism is a little ridiculous. About all we might be able to do is potentially raise enough noise on our own to scare any would-be terrorist into delaying or calling off their plans--sort of like we might have been able to do pre 9/11, if certain higher ups had done more than planning month-long vacations.

I wonder if Tom Ridge is somehow doing Howard Dean's bidding. Or maybe he just doesn't know that raising the threat level might lower the morale of our troops.

Murmur Gadfly

Actually, I'm pleasantly surprised that BlairBush managed to negotiate a deal with the Lybian Colonel, although it's a little ironic that, in light of all we've accused Iraq of doing, we'd let someone like Ghadaffi off the hook. I've always been a little skeptical of the Berlin disco bombing--I'm inclined to believe the perpetrators had either a Syrian or Iranian link--but the PanAm tragedy was admitted to by Lybia, which has agreed to pay compensation to the families who lost loved ones when a bomb brought the plane down over Scotland.

I don't justify the actions of the Lybian national(s) who brought the plane down. The "defense" of the accused was that it was an act of revenge following the downing of an Iranian airliner by the USS Vincennes in 1988. However, this downward spiral of revenge/attack/revenge/attack will, in the end, do little more than dramatically raise the level of hostility between the West and the Middle East. Until we overcome the idea that Blind Rage is an acceptable response to hostile acts, we'll do little more than play into the hands of the bin Laden's of the world.

And I Have No Idea What to Think of This

At first glance, these stories seemed to be of the wingnut variety, but they are beginning to see some play, particularly in the Australian media, for some reason. So call me cautiously skeptical about this, although it wouldn't be the first time Centcom has been a little loose with the truth.

I didn't think Saddam looked like he had been drugged. If anything, he looked like he'd just crawled out of a hole in the ground (imagine that). Apparently, though, the question the articles linked to above wonder who put him there--and why.

Like I said, call me skeptical, until I see something that really offers concrete evidence.

In Closing

Well, I'm being a little lazy here, watching a football game (on FOX no less), and they were kind enough to cut away to a special news report by one of the more vapid newscasters I've seen in some time. In the two minute report, they managed to break down the color-coded terror chart--complete with the announcement of the "new" level of danger--while assuring us that our Christmas won't be affected. Still, I guess it lends a whole new meaning to "shop till you drop."

There's a good chance this will comprise my only post of the day. Chores await, and I gotta knock some out before the holiday week starts.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Why Let Truth Get in the Way of a Good Story

I'm guessing that most people who want to read the Sy Hersch article about "Stovepiping," a term used to describe means by which the normal process of vetting intelligence is bypassed, have already given it a look. Hersch focuses on how the Iraq/Niger uranium story became a policy point for the Bush Administration in spite of it being, in a word, false.

The uranium hoax became a bit of an embarrassment for the President, National Security Advisor Rice, and George Tenet, head of the CIA. Indeed, the latter engaged in a public spectacle of political humiliation, insisting that he'd inadvertantly allowed the false information to make it into the State of the Union speech last January--although Tenet had advised Bush NOT to make the same allegation during a speech in Cincinnati in October 2002. In political terms, Tenet "took one for the team."

However, in light of this article, you have to wonder if anyone in the Bush administration really gives a damn when it comes to articulating its policy points--especially when you factor in those who continue to believe such reports long after they've been discredited (see my post below regarding this).

Short Versison: Jim Lobe, writing for AlterNet, describes the philosophy of Leo Strauss, a political philosopher who taught at the University of Chicago after escaping the Nazi regime in Germany. Strauss became a popular figure for a number of neo-conservatives. Lobe offers three main reasons why this might be the case:

Deception (of the masses)
Religion (for the masses) &
Agressive Nationalism

Lobe concludes:

Strauss' attitude toward foreign policy was distinctly Machiavellian. "Strauss thinks that a political order can be stable only if it is united by an external threat," Drury wrote in her book. "Following Machiavelli, he maintained that if no external threat exists then one has to be manufactured (emphases added)."

"Perpetual war, not perpetual peace, is what Straussians believe in," says [Shadia] Drury [author of 'Leo Strauss and the American Right' (St. Martin's 1999)]. The idea easily translates into, in her words, an "aggressive, belligerent foreign policy," of the kind that has been advocated by neocon groups like PNAC and AEI scholars“ not to mention Wolfowitz and other administration hawks who have called for a world order dominated by U.S. military power. Strauss' neoconservative students see foreign policy as a means to fulfill a "national destiny," as Irving Kristol defined it already in 1983, that goes far beyond the narrow confines of a " myopic national security."

As to what a Straussian world order might look like, the analogy was best captured by the philosopher himself in one of his and student Allen Bloom's many allusions to Gulliver's Travels. In Drury's words, "When Lilliput was on fire, Gulliver urinated over the city, including the palace. In so doing, he saved all of Lilliput from catastrophe, but the Lilliputians were outraged and appalled by such a show of disrespect."

The image encapsulates the neoconservative vision of the United States' relationship with the rest of the world as well as the relationship between their relationship as a ruling elite with the masses. "They really have no use for liberalism and democracy, but they're conquering the world in the name of liberalism and democracy," Drury says.

I strongly urge anyone interested to read the entire article (linked to above, and here).

In my post below, I've spoken strongly about people who believe the lie long after it's been debunked. This itself is dangerous, but even more dangerous is the apparent lack of concern by those in power (and their acolytes, such as Bill Kristol) regarding the pushing of lies to their followers. Sure, politics involves a good deal of rhetoric--but the type of lies promulgated are going far beyond the normal scope of political give-and-take. We're not talking about petty partisan disputes, but about the national security policy of the United States, which will have far reaching ramifications worldwide.

In that spirit, take a look at this op-ed by Jay Bookman. Short version: the rest of the world is beginning to get mighty tired of our agressive posturing on the world stage. Sure, if we want, we can continue to play the world's bully. But this could come back to haunt us--whether we like it or not, we need the rest of the world--either as political allies, or business partners. If we are viewed with fear and suspicion, it will be difficult to maintain political or business relationships.

Oh--and here's one other article for the interested reader. It's a review of the 1966 documentary The Battle of Algiers, which will be released to US theaters next month. I doubt it will make Baton Rouge, but it might be a good excuse to take a trip to New Orleans if it shows up there. Algeria is a classic case of winning the battle, but losing the war link via Josh Marshall).


For a nice diversion, check out The Onion's latest top story, Christmas Brought to Iraq by Force. It sort of follows along the line of a long ago post I wrote, noting that our position in Iraq seems to be "we'll liberate the Iraqi people even if it means we have to kill them all before they're free."


Totally off topic, but last night was spent enjoying the music of The Michael Foster Project, which has no relation to the outgoing Louisiana governor. Instead, it's one of the better jazz ensembles you'll likely find on a given night here in Red Stick. This is the third time I've seen them (venue was at Cafe Reggae, which is housed where the old Bayou bar used to be--before the fire)--and I can't recommend them enough. I remember hitting a jazz club in NYC a couple of years back (Smalls), and, while the music was great, it made me realize how spoiled we are in Louisiana, where fantastic bands are performing almost every night. Between that and the mild winter, I'm glad I made it back from the cold midwest.

Friday, December 19, 2003

More on the Weapons Front

I discovered this site via Mary's a couple of weeks ago--it's now a regular staple of my reading diet.

The Difference
From The Washington Post:

In an interview Tuesday night with President Bush, ABC correspondent Diane Sawyer asked why the administration stated as a "hard fact" that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had such weapons when it appears now he only had the intent to acquire them.

"So what's the difference?" Bush responded. "The possibility that he could acquire weapons. If he were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger. That's what I'm trying to explain to you."


Diane Sawyer is to be forgiven for her inability to understand. Once again, our President is showing uncommon leadership, this time in the field of mathematics. In asserting the lack of a difference between "lots of weapons" and "no weapons," Bush is opening a new frontier in number theory, so it's no wonder that Bush left Sawyer in the theoretical dust.

Let's examine the advances being made here, taking as an example the "500 tons of sarin gas" that Bush once claimed Saddam was brewing up. Traditional , old-school math would suggest this formula:

500 tons of sarin > 0 tons of sarin

Reasonable to the untutored, perhaps even intuitively correct. But the new Bush math comes to a different, bolder conclusion:

500 tons of sarin = 0 tons of sarin

This may be counterintuitive, but the derivation is sound. I'd love to give you the actual formulae that were used to derive this startling advance, but the relevant papers have been sealed by the Vice President's office "for reasons of national security." Rest assured, however, this is rock-solid stuff.

I think it's been noted before, but once more: there is quite a degree of difference between the possibility of something happening, and the fact that something actually happened. I'm reminded of this difference almost every time I see someone whom I find attractive, although I'd give bonus points to anyone who told me that my chances were "about as good as the possibility of Saddam getting his hands on 500 tons of sarin."

So--maybe some other time, then?
Bring The President to an Aircraft Carrier

"My fellow Americans," Bush said, straining to read the teleprompter that always seemed to be going just a little too fast, "Searches for Weapons of Mass Destruction are now over."

David Kay, having resigned as leader of the search in order to take a position in the Bush Administration's Banner Writing Department, jumped down off the ladder he used to hang a giant "Mission Not Quite Yet Accomplished" pennant from the conning tower of the USS Abraham Lincoln (which had been moved thirty miles out to open ocean especially for this occasion), and quickly strode towards the President. Holding the microphone to muffle his voice, he whispered something into Mr. Bush's ear. Nodding, then clearing his throat, Bush again stepped to the lectern.

"Uh--what I meant to say was MAJOR Searches for Weapons of Mass Destruction are over."

Oakland Nader

I found this on one of my many trips to Eschaton, and I took a few minutes to add some opinions. Then I took a look at the comments. Damn, Nader sure generates plenty o' hate amongst some on the left--Ratfuck Ralph they call him.

For the record: Nader got my vote in 2000, and he'd stand a good chance of getting it in 2004 under certain circumstances. IF the Dems nominated Joe Loserman or IF Bush was way ahead in Loosiana, then why not lend a hand to a long overdue movement seeking to broaden the horizon of public debate? Ah, but the ugly spectre of Florida continues to turn erstwile liberal/left thinkers into bloodthirsty ghouls with a strong desire to slake their thirst with Corpusclii Naderi.

Haven't yet slogged through the almost two hundred comments, but here's one that accurately reflects my own view regarding the Florida debacle:

Here's a recap of some of the many factors that affected the 2000 race: Gore's shitty campaign, Holy Joe as the VP choice, the media screwing Gore at every chance, Florida illegally purging 90,000+ legitimate voters and then failing to count tens of thousands of actual ballots cast, the US Supreme Court inventing law out of whole cloth to select their chosen candidate, no Democrat Senator challenging the Florida vote count in Congress, Gore letting illegal Florida military ballots be counted, and yes, Ralph Nader earning 97,488 votes in Florida. Oh, and of course, James Harris, John Hagelin, David McReynolds, and Monica Moorehead, all candidates to the left of Gore, and each earning more than 537 votes in Florida.

Unfortunately, no email or homepage, just the name jason.

Thanks for injecting a little sanity into the feeding frenzy.

First, Nader ran for several reasons, not the least of which being that the DLC is so busy trying to be Republican-Lite that critical ground has been ceded in the realm of public debate on all kinds of issues. That's at least one reason why Howard Dean has become so popular--his initial talking point was an expressed desire to speak for "the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party." These are the people who make NO apologies for believing in things like good schools, good roads, respect for the enviornment, and good jobs. They believe health care is a RIGHT, not a privilege (and that HMOs are nothing more that "Soviet-Style Medicine" with a capitialist face). If a Democrat doesn't stand up for issues like these, then what's the point of having a different political party? Democracy, or Republic, if you prefer, isn't a debate over hairstyles. Real issues need to be brought up, thought over, and argued thoroughly. Each side does its research, makes its proposals, and the public, via the franchise, makes its choice.

I voted for Nader in 2000 (and, for that matter, in 1996). In 96, Clinton was crowing about welfare "reform" that I considered pretty disgusting--at least when he wasn't signing the Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act--so I did what I could to help deny him a "mandate," whatever the hell that was supposed to mean (BTW--remember David Brinkley going apeshit at the end of election night?).

In 2000, Ralph got my vote partly because Bush was comfortably ahead in Louisiana, and there was nothing Gore was going to do about it--although if Gore had spoken the way he's done recently it might have persuaded me to turn the lever for him. I even signed up on one of the lists for Nader/Gore vote trades between safe Bush states and close swing states. And then I spent election evening partly in a funk because I had just broken up with my girlfriend, but grateful that the close race helped occupy my mind.

I think everyone knows what happened, so I won't repeat the details. But, in summary, if Ralph runs in 04, I certainly hope that the Democrats don't go out of their way to make him Satan, because he isn't. Florida was lost for a variety of reasons, as jason noted. And until the Democrats stand up for their traditional ideas, there will be a need for Nader and others to step in--because someone needs to articulate an agenda that isn't written by and for a six-figure income constituency.

Besides, he's already stated that should the nomination go to someone like Dean, there's a good chance he WON'T run, which is being far nicer to the Democratic Party than they've been to him.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

What I Was Trying to Post Before Being so Rudely Cut Off

Take a look at these stories, and try to guess what I'm getting at:

It's not what he said, but who he attributed it to, from National Review Online.

How many times do we have to tell you that Mohammed Atta and Saddam Hussein were connect... (link requires subscription)...oh, I guess it's a forgery after all.

If we say it often enough, maybe someone will think there's a connection.

Did we say 9/11? Oh we meant WMD, I mean liberation of the Iraqi people, I mean the flypaper strategy, I mean--hey, we got Saddam! Let's kill him--then beat him up!

Combat Operations have ended--wait--where's the edit key--ok, MAJOR Combat Operations have ended. (Thanks to Today in Iraq for the link).

I'll see your 8500 liters of anthrax and raise you 100-500 tons of chemical weapons.

Actually, the point isn't that some newspapers aren't averse to publishing before everything checks out--hell, that happens. Sometimes it's for sloppy reasons, sometimes it's because the paper really thought they had the story, sometimes they don't care, but want to push an opinion. The point, though, is that the story, true or not, becomes part of the mythology of, well, in this case, the Iraq situation. As noted below, last Sunday I spent a chilly day watching (once the electricity was restored) a call in show on C-Span regarding the war (interspersed with repeats of the various press conferences). And, while a call-in on the cable network may not be a representative sample of the public, I was especially struck by the lies, non-truths, guilt-by-false-associations, non-truths by overgeneralization, and so on, that the pro-war callers kept repeating. It struck me that truth is no longer much of a concern for most of these folks.

While I don't buy the pro-war argument for a second, I'll at least listen to a good, reasoned position--for instance, most if not all of the horrors perpetrated by Saddam against his own are a strong argument in favor of his overthrow. His invasion of Kuwait twelve years ago certainly gives one pause (at least until you read this interesting article which argues that the invasion of Kuwait was not Saddam being his usual meglomaniacal self, but rather was a desperate attempt by a career bungler to keep Iraq afloat financially--and make sure you note Henry's source--the US Army War College Strategic Studies Institute--not exactly a commie hotbed). But again, I've digressed. My point was that the right certainly can point to Saddam being evil, they can certainly say that US hegemony over the entire Middle East would be good for the US (if we could actually do this--Iraq is proving to be a real problem as a "test case") and so on. But the arguments that emerge from the pro-war side are often partisan reports that don't seek to uncover truth, but instead arouse the ire of their followers, whatever you want to call them (dittoheads, Coutergeists, etc.). Once published and consumed, it doesn't matter if they're true, false, or simply weird.

And that's why fighting against the war is such an uphill climb--a worthwhile climb, but an uphill one. Because, the truth will eventually get out--it just has to fight through the proverbial pack of lies. And while I get pissed off at those who believe the lies we've been told about Iraq--especially after the lies have been thoroughly disproved--it never ceases to amaze me when I hear the other voices, those folks who have been lifelong Republicans who are opposing RoveBushCheney (the three-headed monster) precisely because they see through the shallow arguments, the continual lies that the press FAILS to follow up on, the pattern of deception that is truly replicated only in those countries whose democratic traditions are essentially non-existent, the whole cynical, scripted, phony show. Those people give me hope.

Blogger Ate My Homework

To be fair, this might be a collaborative effort between blogger and the office. Yet another switch change is occurring even as I speak, and the network is doing its best impersonation of a yoyo.

Thought I could sneak a pretty long post in regarding lies, the lying liars who tell them, and the public that believes said lies, but it's gone.

About to reboot a switch. Posting now.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

That's Why They Call It Work

Will try to post something of substance a little later. Work ruled the day.

A couple of posts back, I mentioned that bad things happen when people get overly proactive. And that's exactly what happened today. A switch was replaced on the network--ok, that's necessary at times, and the idea was to clean up a couple of traffic jams that affected some subnets. However, it would be considered good practice to alert at least some people to the change--especially those who handle network configuration for devices like printers and workstations.

In summary, the switch change cleared up a number of traffic jams by dropping several subnets entirely. Great. This necessitated a reconfiguration of workstations and printers that lost their network connections. Workstations are pretty easy to fix, but printers have to be redone at the server and at the network card. Additionally, my supervisor decided to rename several printers to correspond more correctly with an otherwise ridiculous naming convention--this meant that the users had to delete and readd their newly named printers. Most people would probably consider this a very basic operation, but computer literacy has never been high on the list of skills needed for work over here.

And--as an added bonus--the new switch seems to have a few issues of its own--connections between the print servers and some of the printers in the affected area are dropping in spite of the configuration change. Packets are getting caught in a loop of death between two IP addresses. Here's hoping someone will pay attention to the email I sent out explaining what was happening.

But, it could be worse--and it was. Because I tend to work slightly later hours than most over here, I was caught--on my way out the door, no less--by a referral to one of the big shots across the street. This person had a corrupted file in Microsoft Word that wouldn't save. Now, Microsoft could come right out and admit that their software is lame, and prone to bugs like files becoming randomly corrupted, but what's the fun in that? No--instead, Microsoft drums up an error message--in this case, Word erroneously claimed that there was no free space to save the file on, in order, the C: drive, the D: drive, the network share, and the private SAN. Roughly 400 gigabytes of space available, but not in the Microsoft Universe.

Hey, Bill Gates--no, not Bill Gates, Sr., not the large number of people who unfortunately share the same name as Mr. Gates, but who don't happen to be the largest shareholder in Microsoft--no, I mean BILL GATES, JR., he who foisted a subpar Operating System on the world--yeah, you, Bill. Fuck you.

I managed to salvage most of the document, which earned me a partial thanks from said big shot across the street, but this is part and parcel to the Microsoft way. They sell garbage, but package it like it was a dozen roses.

OK--now I feel better.