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.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Slow Day

Haven't posted much today, and this, alas, will probably close me out. Have to knock out a few chores, and then I'm heading out to a Christmas party this evening.

Spent a lot of time trying to google up the answer to Timshel's quiz to no avail. Check the link out. The paragraph is an excellent summary of the mindset of a neo-con. For those who feel challenged, fair warning: I made two wrong guesses in his comments, whereupon Ricky put me out of my misery and revealed the author.

The paragraph is dead on accurate, if you ask me.

Otherwise, between work projects, I surfed the usual sites. Going back to the New York Times, I chanced upon this odd caption to a photo on the main web page:

Afghan Highway Is Resurfaced
The once-torturous but now silkily reconstructed road between Kabul and Kandahar was formally completed today, just as President Bush had promised more than a year ago. (my italics)

I say odd because it's not normally the case that The Times would add the "just as President Bush promised" line to what is admittedly a "good news in the war on terror piece," and, combined with the fact that precious little news emerges from Afghanistan these days, it piqued my curiousity just enough. Here's a sample of what I found:

The once-torturous but now silkily reconstructed road between Kabul and the southern city of Kandahar was formally completed today, just as President Bush had promised President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan more than a year ago that it would be.

OK, this is good news, right? But wait a second:

In truth, the road, whose reconstruction was overseen by the Louis Berger Group, is not totally done: it has only a single layer of asphalt, with additional layers to be laid next spring, when shoulders will be built and signs placed.

But if it isn't complete, why are they trumpeting that it IS complete?

"President Bush personally committed himself to the success of this project and he is a man who keeps his promises," Mr. [Zalmay] Khalilzad [US ambassador to Afghanistan] said, referring to Mr. Bush's determination that the highway be finished before the end of the year.


For Mr. [Hamid] Karzai [Afghanistan President], who has been defending the achievements of his presidency this week at an assembly to ratify a new Afghan constitution, today's inauguration was a way to show that his government can deliver development and security.

Ah, politics. But of course. The road is completed, but that doesn't mean it's COMPLETE. Now, to be fair, here's another lifting from the article:

But even as is, the road will allow for easy travel in winter...

Which means, I guess, that Afghan cars aren't exactly the speediest on the planet.

And then, as always when a story like this makes the paper, buried paragraphs provide some telling details that a headline reader will skip over:

But the road's inauguration was marred by the fact that not everyone feels secure enough to use the road. As construction on the road proceeded, so did attacks by a resurgent Taliban, who killed four Afghans securing the road and seriously wounded 15 people. Eventually almost 1,000 guards had to be deployed to protect construction work.

Mr. Karzai prayed at a plaque to memorialize the dead, calling them "the martyrs of the reconstruction of Afghanistan." He and others spoke of a Turkish engineer who was kidnapped and then released by the Taliban, and of two Indian engineers who are still being held.

"They will fail in their attempts to stop Afghanistan's progress," Mr. Khalilzad said of those launching the attacks.

But some southern delegates for the constitutional assembly who attended today's road opening said they had been to flown to Kabul for the assembly, or avoided the road, out of concern for their safety.

The continuing threats were underscored by the huge security presence on the stretch, lined with snow-dusted hills and barren poplars, between Kabul and the dedication site. Mr. Karzai's American-guarded convoy drove down a road cleared of traffic, lined with armored personnel carriers and troops, and watched over by Apache helicopters.

Mr. Karzai did not drive back to Kabul, instead flying back in a Chinook helicopter.

I think the road is an apt metaphor for the "progress" in Afghanistan. It's complete, except it's not, the president and many of the dignitaries who attended the opening didn't actually USE the road, and the Taliban, while not stopping the construction, managed to generate fear and terror to the point that construction crews had to be heavily guarded. And yet, this is somehow considered a success.

Other Topics

Again, sorry for the slow posting today, but I've been trying to work out some thoughts in my head that I hope to have on this page pretty soon. It could potentially be a long post, but my editor and I (that's a joke) will do my best to keep the verbiage down to a reasonable level. Main ideas will include lies, myths, the political process, and the media. I hope to be able to point to some specific links in support of the opinions I'll be posting--provided they haven't yet gone to the ether archives.

Hope this doesn't bore any of my low-readership to death.

Oh--and here's one more diversion that caught my eye today--actually, it was in The Times last week, and I just got around to linking to it: Centennial of Flight. And it surprised me that this article didn't make the special section. Short version: Tomorrow, a replica of the original Wright biplane will attempt to duplicate the first sustained powered flight that the Wright Brothers accomplished in 1903.

Interesting article. Full disclosure: when I was a kid, my family lived in Virginia (my dad was a military officer--a Naval Aviator, in fact). On a school field trip we went to Kitty Hawk, which was a lot of fun for a child. I recall running down the hill where the memorial is located, having limited success in flying a homemade kite (it was too damn heavy--so much for my engineering skills), visiting the museum, and seeing a replica of the track that was used to launch the original Flyer. Man, the first flight was SHORT. The signpost at the 120 foot mark looked close enough to the take off point that it was hard to think of it as an actual flight.

So, if you occasionally like to check out science articles for the lay person, or if historical re-enactment is your thing (for the record: I'm not a big Civil War reenactment buff, but I can somewhat understand why some folks are--likewise, other reenactment stuff is hit-or-miss for me: great if I'm interesed, ho hum if not)--keep an eye out especially for any news footage, provided that the conditions at Kitty Hawk allow for this to proceed. While not being a big, big fan of the Wrights, I certainly appreciate their impact on history, and if I was able to be in attendance, sure, I'd go in a heartbeat.

Wish I'd Thought This Up

Unfortunately, I don't know who to cite as author of this. It came my way via email. Whoever wrote it, thanks for the laugh and I hope you don't mind me posting it.


Transfers Nod to Bush in 5-4 Decision

Just moments after former Vice President Al Gore endorsed former
Vermont Governor Howard Dean for President in Harlem yesterday, the Supreme
Court overturned his endorsement by a 5-4 margin.

The Court, finding the former Vice President's endorsement of Mr.Dean
unconstitutional, transferred his endorsement to President George W.
Bush instead. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice William Rehnquist
said, "There's really no explanation necessary - we're the Supreme
Court, and if you don't like it, you can stick it where the moon don't shine."

While some Democrats howled that the Court was inappropriately
politicizing itself with its controversial decision, Mr. Gore accepted the ruling,
saying, "After four minutes of partisan wrangling over this matter, it is
time for us to move on."

Mr. Gore expressed some regret that his endorsement had been transferred
from Mr. Dean to Mr. Bush, but added, "It'll be nice to be on the winning
side for a change."

But Mr. Gore's endorsement could turn out to be a mixed blessing for the
Bush campaign, as a survey of those who heard Mr. Gore's Harlem speech
showed that 55% felt "drowsy" while 40% "lost consciousness altogether."

In other political news, Senator John Kerry (D-Mass) decided today to
reinvent his campaign once more, officially positioning himself as
"the most potty-mouthed candidate ever to run for President." In an
interview with Rolling Stone released today, Mr. Kerry said, "If anyone fu*****
says that I'm not fu***** qualified to be fu***** president, I'm going to fu**
them up."

Monday, December 15, 2003


I went out and played tennis this evening--yeah, I know it's a yuppie sport, but it's also damn good exercise. But now it's getting a little late, and I'm lazy (payday was Friday), so maybe I'll use dinner as an excuse to go out for a while.

But first, Mary posted this, among other things today--just lemme know what Koufax Award you want a nomination/vote for, Mary, and I'll add my fraction of a penny's worth...

Except for maybe humor, because wow, Fanatical Apathy is good. Took a quick look before I cut out of work, and was laughing so hard the denizens of the adjoining cubicles at the cube farm thought I was about to BUY the farm.

Thanks for the link. Oh--after you check Mary's site out, and have a good laugh at Fanatical Apathy, take a look at Al Gore and the Alpha Girls at Rittenhouse Review. This one brought back memories--I can say, with some confidence, it's very likely the first thing I ever read on a web log.

Off topic, but: yeah, I won the tennis match, not that anyone is really interested.


Short Post
Have a few minutes between stuff. Noticed this yesterday, but rather than have it look like I was trying somehow to take away from the euphoria over Saddam's capture I decided to let it pass.

But Billmon over at The Whiskey Bar makes it easy to add a quick link:

(My Headline) Musharraf Survives Assassination Attempt

In the end, Musharraf's survival is probably a hell of a lot more important than the precise dimensions of Saddam's spider hole, or how many cavities they found when they examined his teeth. There already have been at least two attempts on the Pakistani dictator's life since he sided with the United States in the attack on Afghanistan, and much evidence of unrest and anger both within the Pakistani military, and even more so within the country's powerful security service, the ISI.

If Musharraf dies, all bets are off as to what happens in the world's only nuclear armed Islamic state. The possibilities begin with a dramatic increase in the power and influence of Pakistan's radical Islamist parties, go on to another border war with India, and get worse from there. If America thinks it has current problems in Iraq, imagine trying to subdue a nation of 150 million people, armed with medium-range nuclear missiles.

I would guess that destabilizing Pakistan, and potentially getting its hands on the country's nuclear arsenal, ranks first on Al Qaeda's "things to do" list -- ahead, even, of overthrowing the House of Saud. Short of that, anything that heightens tensions between Pakistan and India wopld also serve Al Qaeda's interests, both by creating yet another foreign policy crisis to distract the already overburdened (and under-talented) U.S. foreign policy team, and by further polarizing the world into Islam vs. the infidels -- Hindu as well as Judeo-Christian.

So, sure, enjoy the spectacle of Saddam, Homeless Shelter Edition. In a sense, this could be the best thing possible: in the initial phase of combat, I was worried that Hussein would somehow become lionized, particularly had he died in battle. Thank heavens that didn't happen. Instead, he'll be caged like an animal in a zoo--but without the open hours.

But, as always, this does NOT factor into the source of our troubles in the Middle East--namely, a clash between religious fundamentalism and secular values. Pakistan is sitting on a powder keg in this regard. Let's hope no one strikes a match.

And--if anyone was wondering if Saddam's capture would have an effect on the insurgency--click here. Yankeedoodle lists eight attacks that made the news--I wonder how many didn't...


I'll try to sneak a post or two in during the day, but am unlikely to be successful. The week before Christmas is usually kind of busy over here. My guess is that the suits, as it were, want to be able to point to something productive being accomplished prior to next week--which will be pretty slow.

That said, I sometimes wonder about the whole push for productivity. Some of the people for whom I provide technical support have managed to make a career out of not doing much of anything at all. God knows what would happen if something was actually, um, "accomplished." One person's accomplishment could be an entire section's problem (and the section would be MY section. You just can't believe the number of times folks being "proactive" have managed to generate large setbacks--mostly by deleting critical files of some kind, be they related to general business or to the computer systems which I support).

But, speaking of being productive--I've got two server setups on my list this week, and need to research some vulnerabilities a consultant discovered for us a couple of weeks ago. The latter should be (no) fun--we have no idea how the potential "fix" will affect server access. My guess is that we'll do a lot of file renaming, hope for the best, and be ready to un-rename as soon as someone hollers.

Of course, given that Windows is not exactly the most stable of OS's, we won't really KNOW if problems are the result of the fix, or due to other factors...which is the ugly saga of Windows in a nutshell. But I really shouldn't complain--a substandard OS like that which Bill Gates has foisted upon us is responsible for my gainful employment...and I'm even given the day off on Christmas. Thank you, Mr. Scrooge.

Back to the grind over here...

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Quick Comment

I read Ken's site for several reasons. He's nice enough to link to my site, being from Louisiana and all. Also, he's up in New York City, which is always high on my list of places to visit. Hat's off to you, Ken, for figuring out how to make your way to the capital of the empire, as it were. If I could figure out how to do the same (at least for a while, until winter finally forced me southward again), I'd definitely give it a shot. It's New York...

And, while Ken and I probably disagree about just about everything, I appreciate the fact that he makes his points well, he's open to debate, and doesn't seem to mind reading an alternate point of view. Public debate is just that--argument between opposing points of view, and reading his site keeps me honest.

Here's a post of his from today.

And here's the link to the article he references.

I read a few of the British newspapers online, and take the time to hit the BBC web site (on 9/11, BBC became a major source since all the US sites were so bogged down with traffic), but I really don't keep up with which paper promotes which point of view, besides The Guardian and The Independent--and yeah, I hit the page 3 site a few times--strictly for purposes of understanding the phenomenon, I assure you (sarcasm). But without being sure of just where on the spectrum The Telegraph stood in the whole scheme of things (for the few who might not know what this means, UK newspapers do NOT follow "objectivity" the way US newspapers SUPPOSEDLY do. On the contrary, they adopt very specific stands as to what editorial line they follow, and report accordingly), I took a few tens of minutes to google around regarding their point of view.

Not surprisingly, I've found that their editorial position is extremely pro-war. The paper itself is basically an organ of the Tory (conservative) party of England, and their biggest contribution to the issue to date seems to be their report on George Galloway, the Scottish MP who, The Telegraph alleges, took money from the Hussein regime. Galloway has vigorously denied these allegations, and has initiated legal action against the paper.

The Christian Science Monitor has already apologised for running its own version of the Galloway story, and, while the Monitor and Telegraph claim the documents they had are different, it certainly raises questions. We'll see once the case goes to trial in Britain, where libel laws favor the plaintiff.

As far as the latest story, in summary, The Telegraph article claims that Mohammed Atta met with and was trained by Abu Nidal, the notorious Palestinian terrorist. Nidal was in residence in Baghdad for a number of years until he was killed by the Iraqis (who claimed he committed suicide) in 2002. The paper indicates the proof "[is] contained in a top secret memo written to Saddam Hussein, the then Iraqi president, by Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, the former head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service." In a subsequent paragraph, we have the following: "The second part of the memo, which is headed "Niger Shipment", contains a report about an unspecified shipment - believed to be uranium - that it says has been transported to Iraq via Libya and Syria."

Interesting. In one memo, hitherto uncovered evidence supposedly PROVING two of the biggest aguments of those in favor of invasion. Evidence that was uncovered by a newspaper with a clear record of support for war, and a paper with a vested interest in such a document being discovered (by the way--the latter part of the document certainly would intrigue Judith Miller of The New York Times, who managed to keep the WMD myth alive long after it was clear that the threat of WMDs was nonexistent--so much for the so-called liberal Times). Add to this the ongoing conroversy over the Galloway allegations, and I'll say that I'm extremely skeptical as to the veracity of the document. Until I see more proof, I'm going to file this along with the other myths--the thousands of liters of botulism, anthrax, and chlorine, the nuclear program (buried parts of a centrifuge do not a nuclear program make) and, an oldie but goodie, the myth of callous murder of the Kuwaiti incubator babies (propaged by the PR firm of Hill and Knowlton, complete with the appearance of the Kuwaiti ambassador's daughter before a US Congressional Committee--she claimed to be one of the Kuwaiti mothers, which was untrue--by the way, this myth is STILL being pushed, depending on how gullible the audience seems).

So, far from being a smoking gun, my opinion is that someone seems to be blowing smoke rings, and then claiming a gun was there all along. I think this will be yet another allegation that is quietly debunked, allowing the rumor and myth to become part of the popular dialogue. And, as I noted below, I'm convinced that myth has a far more profound grip on the public than most would like to believe. I find that interesting--some 5,000 years of civilization, and we're still clinging tightly to one of the most ancient components of civilization's development--lore. How little we have advanced from--uh, the Fertile Crescent, as a matter of fact.

Got Him

Entergy decided to cut the power off here for a couple of hours, so I'm just getting to look at some of the rebroadcasts of the press conferences. Haven't yet heard Dubya's speech, but I'll try to offer some opinion based on what I've managed to read thus far.

I commented over at CrawlingWestward that I was surprised they got him alive. Given the violent end of his two sons, I was under the impression that he'd likewise fight to the death. I'm also glad he's alive and presumably going to trial--this could bring a small sense of justice to those who suffered under his reign.

The hiding place, in my opinion, is evidence that his role in the insurgency is limited. The type of hit-and-run attacks the US Military has been subject to cannot be planned from a spider-hole. I'm guessing, given the limited amount of evidence the military has shared thus far, that he did not have a large number of hiding places, but instead, mainly hid out of sight for the most part, living off his trunk full of $100 bills, with a limited coeterie of guards--indeed, there were only two other individuals captured in the raid.

Far more interesting to me at this point is the C-Span call-in, which has separate lines for support and opposition to the war. Once again, the callers confirm to me that myth is far more important to people than facts. Pro war individuals continue to propagate the myth that Hussein was intimately involved with Osama bin Laden, that Saddam Hussein was behind the September 11th tragedy, and that we are fighting for the Iraqi people, and, somehow, for our own freedom. At least some anti-war callers are reviving the myth that it wasn't Saddam captured, but one of his "doubles," to which I would say that the whole doppelganger myth was merely another lie brought to you courtesy of the government, conveniently abandoned when it no longer served its purpose. The WMD myth is now being once again brought to the fore as well--some are expressing the opinion that we'll finally find them now, which is a complete joke. Riverbend, in an email she sent to me a while back, expressed the opinion that the US knew there were no such weapons, and the invasion would not have occurred had there been such weapons. I'm inclined to agree.

So now we've got him. My guess is that there will be a very public trial at some point, although the time and place are open to speculation. As long as Iraq is in a chaotic situation, Saddam will presumably be detained at a highly secured US facility. There will be no trial until civil order is restored, and there is no sign that this will happen anytime soon. Meanwhile, terrorism is still a very real threat, and our adventure in Iraq is still a diversion from this. Saddam, for all his brutality, is not the threat--fundamentalism is the problem, and our invasion will not change this.

Still, I think we can gear up for an extended-play version of the two-minute-hate. Video of Saddam will be prominently displayed, over which we can vent our anger and rage. In Iraq, indeed, there have been celebrations, complete with the usual cloud-shooting by this heavily armed society, but I don't think anyone believes that this will end the insurgency. As for the long-term situation--if I was the betting type, I'd still be laying money on an Iraqi civil war, as soon as the US troop committment drops below a certain critical level.

Now that my electricity is back up, I'm going to watch some television, and read some websites--will probably have something to post a little later.
Other Thoughts

If anyone isn't going out tonight (or tomorrow morning, given when I'm posting this), and has access to C-Span, you might want to check out The Nation Institute rebroadcast of a talk from last October featuring the editorial board and (most of) the writing staff of The Onion. I began reading this paper up in Madison right after it first came out (partly because a friend of mine shared an apartment with one of the then writers). In ten years, The Onion went from being a conduit for take-out restraunt coupons to perhaps the leading voice in social and political satire in this country. The rebroadcast will be at 1:55 am Central Time, and, if I do make it out tonight, I'll try to catch some of it upon returning home.

For the record: Yeah, The Onion is a weekly read (it comes out on the website late Tuesday most of the time). The only reason I haven't made a permalink to it is that I've figured most people who stop by my site already know the url or have a bookmark.

It's also a good, free New York souvenir--whenever I'm in the city, I'll pick up a few copies of the printed edition, and pass them along to friends (along with NYC transit maps). And, no, that's not the ONLY thing I get for said friends, but it's usually what they appreciate the most.

Unfortunately, I wasn't paying attention when they revealed who the six people are whose photos appear in the What Do You Think section. Damn. And worse, this is NOT in the C-Span video archive, although it IS in the C-Span store (for $45 bucks).

In Other News

I came across a couple of good posts over at Bad Attitudes, first, a quick piece regarding Halliburton and price fixing--sorry to incorporate the entire post, but it's that good:

The best teacher I ever had told me that a reader can only really remember three points. Anything more complex will fail.

1) Cheney was head of Halliburton before he became vice president of the United States.

2) Halliburton was awarded a no-bid contract to supply fuel to the U.S. armed forces in Iraq.

3) Halliburton overcharged for the fuel by $61 million.

The beauty and clarity of it all brings tears to my eyes.

And second, which is entitled Uncle Strom's Cabin, gives a good account of the Republican Southern Strategy which, in a nutshell, is an absolutely shameful political strategy that they've used since the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Basically, it consists of appealing to the ever present racist tendencies of certain white voters down here in order to consolidate political power. By all means check out the article and the link to The Black Commentator, who has an excellent analysis of the December 7th Howard Dean address. The Black Commentator goes on to explain the necessity of the Kucinich and Sharpton campaigns in keeping pressure on the Doctor (or, should it happen, anyone who takes over the frontrunner position for the Democratic nomination) regarding issues of poverty and race. It makes for good reading.

Oh--speaking of Strom, here's the Washington Post article about Essie Mae Washington-Williams, one of the late Senator's daughters. Reading it makes it clear that the dynamics of race, particularly in the South, are complicated. And, to her credit, I think Ms. Washington-Williams has handled this situation with grace, dignity, and courage.

And on that note, I think I'll close for the evening. The Prine concert last night was just what I expected, and more, by the way--two solid hours of good music, funny stories, and an appreciative audience. This was a good investment of 40 bucks. Might add more comments about it later during the day...