Friday, November 17, 2006

"If We Don't Succeed, We Run the Risk of Failure"
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OK, so Shrub's throwaway remark wasn't quite as loony--his exact words were "We'll succeed unless we quit"--but my first thought upon hearing Dim Son's "sage pronouncement" was that he was channeling his daddy's veep...although instead of Quayle's deer-in-the-headlights, dimwitted innocence, we have Shrub's beady-eyed, I'm-sure-he-thinks-it-conveys-resolve-but-it-actually-reveals-vicious-small-minded-stupidity visage. I wonder if anyone even bothered to tell him the latest about the kidnappings in Basra, or the even more glaring fact that a state visit of the kind he's making in Vietnam is an impossibility in Mesopotamia...and of course plenty of others have noted the irony of this being his first trip to Vietnam, as opposed to a return journey, given his political connections some four decades ago.

Oh, and maybe this is what he meant by "succeed or quit:"

Barker had earlier described how he was approached by a fellow soldier with the plan to carry out the rape and killings.

Barker told the military judge he was drinking whiskey purchased from Iraqi soldiers with 21-year-old Army Pvt. Steve Green, who has since been discharged, when Green proposed attacking the family.

"He brought it up to me and asked me what I thought about it," Barker said. "By the time we started changing clothes, it was more or less a nonverbal agreement that we were going to go along with what we were discussing."

'I hated Iraqis'
At one point, the judge asked Barker why he had decided with the other soldiers to commit the rape and murders.

"I hated Iraqis, your honor," Barker said. "They can smile at you, then shoot you in your face without even thinking about it."

Barker described changing clothes, then climbing through backyards as the five soldiers left the checkpoint they had been manning to carry out the attack.

"We went through a chain link fence on the back of the property that had been cut on a previous patrol," he said.

The killings in Mahmoudiya, a village about 20 miles south of Baghdad, were among the worst in a series of alleged attacks on civilians and other abuses by military personnel in Iraq.

Cortez and Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman, 22, members of the 101st Airborne Division along with Barker, have also been charged in the case.

Cortez has deferred entering a plea and Spielman will be arraigned in December. Pfc. Bryan L. Howard, 19, also deferred entering a plea at his arraignment in October.

Green pleaded not guilty last week to civilian charges that included murder and sexual assault.

He was discharged from the Army for a "personality disorder" before the allegations became known, and prosecutors have yet to say if they will pursue the death penalty against him.

Barker described in vivid detail how he raped the 14-year-old girl with Cortez and Green. Green killed the girl, her younger sister and parents, Barker testified.

"Cortez pushed her to the ground. I went towards the top of her and kind of held her hands down while Cortez proceeded to lift her dress up," he said. "Around that time I heard shots coming from a room next door."

The defendants are accused of burning the girl's body to conceal the crime.

Howard, Cortez and Spielman could face the death penalty if convicted. Cortez and Spielman are both being held in confinement and Howard is restricted to post.

Attorney: It could happen again
Barker did not name Spielman and Howard as participants in the rape and murders, but said they were at the house when the assault took place and had come knowing what the others intended to do.

The soldiers were stationed in a violent area known as the "Triangle of Death" because of frequent attacks on soldiers patrolling the roads.

Soldiers in Barker's unit were often asked to spend weeks manning remote checkpoints, where several from the unit died.

Barker's attorney, David Sheldon, told reporters during a news conference following the hearing that Barker took responsibility for his actions, but he also said the U.S. Army was to blame for the way the war in Iraq was being fought.

"The United States Army did not ... put enough soldiers on the checkpoints," Sheldon said. "It's very important that the public knows that this type of thing can happen again if the Army doesn't take measures to put enough troops on the front line in the war against terrorism, the war in Iraq."
On the Job

We're having some issues over here that'll be taking up plenty of my time for the near term. Maybe things will be back to normal in a little bit...

Until then, I guess I'll be earning my paycheck today...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Just a Bad Idea
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Something tells me Team Bush has their tentacles stuck in this one:

Air pollution may be just the thing to fight global warming, some scientists say.

Prominent scientists, among them a Nobel laureate, said a layer of pollution deliberately spewed into the atmosphere could act as a "shade" from the sun's rays and help cool the planet.

Reaction to the proposal here at the annual U.N. conference on climate change is a mix of caution, curiosity and some resignation to such "massive and drastic" operations, as the chief U.N. climatologist describes them.

The Nobel Prize-winning scientist who first made the proposal is himself "not enthusiastic about it."

"It was meant to startle the policymakers," said Paul J. Crutzen, of Germany's Max Planck Institute for Chemistry. "If they don't take action much more strongly than they have in the past, then in the end we have to do experiments like this."

Serious people are taking Crutzen's idea seriously. This weekend at Moffett Field, California, NASA's Ames Research Center hosts a closed-door, high-level workshop on the global haze proposal and other "geoengineering" ideas for fending off climate change.

In Nairobi, meanwhile, hundreds of delegates were wrapping up a two-week conference expected to only slowly advance efforts to rein in greenhouse gases blamed for much of the 0.6-degree-Celsius (1-degree-Fahrenheit) rise in global temperatures in the past century.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol requires modest emission cutbacks by industrial countries -- but not the United States, the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases, because it rejected Kyoto. Talks on what to do after Kyoto expires in 2012 are all but bogged down.

Oh, on the subject of bad ideas--over in Mesopotamia, insurgents are STILL holding over 80 hostages kidnapped on Monday (and those who've been released show signs of torture)...and this story ought to put a damper on any assclown who insists we're "not hearing about all the good things happening over there."
May the Curse Be With You

A voodoo priest from Indonesia is doing his best to put the hex on Shrub:

Ki Gendeng Pamungkas slit the throat of a goat, a small snake and stabbed a black crow in the chest, stirred their blood with spice and broccoli before drank the "potion" and smeared some on his face.

"I don't hate Americans, but I don't like Bush," said Pamungkas, who believed the ritual would succeed as, "the devil is with me today."

He said the jinx would sent spirits to posses Secret Service personnel guarding Bush and left them in a trance, leading them into falsely thinking the President was under attack, thus eventually causing chaos in Bogor Presidential Palace, where the American leader was scheduled to meet President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Monday...

"I am doing voodoo, because other ritual would not work," he told reporters after he conducted the gory ritual about 1 kilometers from the palace.

Growth In New Markets
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It's a bull market for the death industry:

Helped greatly by the Bush Administration, U.S. weapons manufacturers amassed a grand total of $21 billion from September 2005 to September 2006 in sales to other countries, twice the amount of the previous 12 months...

Policy changes made by the Bush folks assisted in enriching the coffers of Lockheed Martin and the rest of the gang. The Bush people opened up enormous new markets for arms peddling by lifting bans or restrictions in recent years on previously proscribed countries, most notably India and Pakistan. Pakistan responded by buying $5 billion worth of F-16 jets from Lockheed Martin. India, for its part, is aiming to place an order of 126 jets, with American corporations salivating at the prospect of being chosen for the largesse.

The lone discordant voice in a recent New York Times piece [1] on the weapons industry’s bloated coffers was William Hartung of the World Policy Institute, a group that has done invaluable research on the subject. In June 2005, the organization issued a report on U.S. weapons sales.

“U.S. arms transfers end up fueling conflict, arming human rights abusers, or falling into the hands of U.S. adversaries,” the report stated [2]. “As in the case of recent decisions to provide new F-16 fighter planes to Pakistan, while pledging comparable high-tech military hardware to its rival India, U.S. arms sometimes go to both sides in long-brewing conflicts, ratcheting up tensions and giving both sides better firepower with which to threaten each other. Far from serving as a force for security and stability, U.S. weapons sales frequently serve to empower unstable, undemocratic regimes to the detriment of U.S. and global security.”

Why should industry types worry about all this? All they are looking at is the bottom line, and they are ecstatic.

More here and here. h/t Cursor.
You Can Lead a Shrub to Logic...
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...but you can't make him think.

Not my best effort above--that was the only set of blinkers I was able to find on "the Google"...but I guess it's not really all that funny anyway when Chimperor Dingbat the Son's grand idea for Mesopotamia is...another twenty thousand soldiers and a "final push" (h/t Adrastos), as if there's a chance in hell that Iraq is salvagable. Geez. Deep down, I think Shrub really IS wearing blinkers on some fundamental, sub-conscious level.

What he--and his "dream team" of nincompoops have actually accomplished is the handover of Iraq to Islamic theocrats. Nice going, simpletons.

If I was a Democrat, I'd be reminding the public of this repeatedly.

And, on the flip side, I'd point out that if Team Bush focused even half as much on the Gulf Coast as they have on their foolish, doomed Mesopotamian misadventure, we might actually be seeing a genuine regional revival, instead of reconstruction by fits and starts. Come to think of it, there's a term Shrub's probably familiar with--in a different context--but one that captures perfectly the essence of his two terms:


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Taking Charge...of the Massive Mess
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I've been wondering over the past few days if some of the GOOP complacency over the Election Day "thumpin'" might be due in no small part to their assuming the public has a limitless capacity to forget just who got us where we are today. In this scenario, pretty much everything coming down the pipe over the next few years--the end game in Iraq, the reckoning of the economic costs resulting from that war, the Afghanistan war, the wholesale looting of the Treasury, etc. etc., can then be blamed on "the liberals." OK, so I'm a pessimist...but I'm also a realist, and I sure as hell don't foresee the day when yer Rethuglicans EVER fess up to so much as an iota of responsibility for the consequences of the ever more absurd/deadly follies (with more than a bit of assistance from their media lackeys).

The essence of the GOOP attack machine is to, well, attack. And just as Jimmy Carter became the whipping boy for what was essentially the price of Vietnam--the stagflation of the late 70's--I expect the GOP to attack the "liberal" 110th Congress...and a "liberal" president in 2009, assuming a Democrat wins (note: "liberal" in this usage is a perjorative by default--it doesn't really matter whether the Democratic Congressperson, Senator, or President actually IS considered liberal by any reasonable definition. To the GOP, "liberal" is a loaded word--they use it in the same way their forebears once used a certain term to describe African Americans).

The Democratic Party, then, should counter with its own offensive--as many have already noted, one benefit of controlling Congress is the ability to conduct official hearings and issue subpeonas--and it's high time to make Rethuglicans answer for their actions. The dual benefit here is that one, it keeps the public focused on the GOOP's less-than-stellar record (to put it mildly) and two, it puts THEM on the defensive, effectively limiting their ability to attack. And while it won't mitigate the damage, there's the possibility that it'll keep the public aware of just who CAUSED it.

Remember, the Rethuglicans are like the proverbial child who murders his parents, then begs the court for mercy on grounds of orphanhood. Hell, they wouldn't just beg: they'd DEMAND pardon, then bitch to high heaven at even a reduced sentence...while going out of their way to paint ANY opposing viewpoint as the embodiment of treason.

So, the only real option is to keep them squirming...preferably under a bright spotlight (which, as I pointed out the other day, is something cockroaches seem to especially hate).

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

All the More Reason...
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That said, I sure as hell DON'T want FEMA to cut off the existing bus service between Baton Rouge and NOLA, which they're threatening to do as what I can only guess is a rather sick idea of an early Christmas present...of course, the reasons needed for the service are equally foul: a mix and match of the present housing crisis in the Crescent City and an employer-class in Red Stick apparently not all that willing to hire people who've been forced to relocate.

But look at the numbers:

carrying an average of 1,000 people a day, the free buses have been running between New Orleans and the state capital, Baton Rouge, where many storm victims live, since last fall.

True, the numbers would drop for a pay-service, but the fact that you've got upwards of a thousand or more folks traveling between the two those who continue to go those who drive their own cars (in my own case, not all that willingly)...means there's definitely a market for intercity transportation. Personally, it'd be a no-brainer: you could deal with a traffic and parking headache, and/or not being in condition to drive back...or you could ride the train, relaxing, staring out the window, reading a book, or whatever.

It just makes sense...
Reaching the Fork in the Road
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While James Baker and company try to their damndest to coat the ugly horse pill that is Iraq with a few tons (metric or English, take your choice) of high fructose corn sweetener, William Lind delivers the not-very-good-news straight up:

In the absence of any good options, politicians of both parties in Washington, not wanting to hold the bag for the inevitable failure, will be able to agree only on a series of half-measures. We will train still more Iraqi troops or police, ignoring that both are mostly militiamen for one or another faction. We will pull our troops back into remote bases, where most already stay, remaining in Iraq while the civil war boils up around us. We will try to get the regional powers to help us out, despite the fact that those who would can't and those who can have no reason to do so. We will steam in circles, scream and shout, hoping desperately for a deus ex machina rescue that is unlikely to appear.

In a reality neither Republicans nor Democrats will dare face, we have only one option left in Iraq. That option is to admit failure and withdraw. We can do it sooner, or, at the cost of more American dead and wounded, we can do it later. Obviously, sooner is better, but that would require a bold decision, which no one in Washington is willing to make.

In World War I, after the failure of the Schlieffen Plan, my reporting senior, Kaiser Wilhelm II, wanted an early, compromise peace. Regrettably, he was unwilling to force that policy on his recalcitrant generals.

Today, in Washington, the generals want peace. They could give the politicians of both parties and both relevant branches of government the cover they need to make peace, by going public in favor of an early withdrawal. Unfortunately, that would require a level of moral courage not notably evident in the senior American military. In its absence, the whole American political system will continue to flounder in a sea of half-measures, American troops will continue to die in a lost war, and the crisis of legitimacy of the American state will continue to grow.
All the World's Canal Street's a Stage...
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OK, guilty as charged for using Jackson Square instead of Canal Street in the picture...but the gist of this Gambit article Oyster pointed to is a VERY good idea.

I've thought for some time that NOLA could support a major theater, and having one--or several (more on that in a second)--would be yet another reason to visit the city...and plenty of New Orleanians would no doubt qualify for the various jobs a project like this would offer.

A genuine "Broadway South" might be a little much to bite off all at once--but establishing, or re-establishing, say, a major venue, a smaller stage, and perhaps an experimental space/workshop or two would be a start. Work out the tax incentives with the state, and then set up something with your major theaters/artists, and this could develop quite well.

Personally, it'd give me yet another reason to drive down, spend some money, and probably stay overnight: catch a show, go out for a decent dinner, maybe see some music afterwards...and, knowing me, not being in ANY condition to drive until the next day. Also, just to be selfish, the Gambit article mentions the riverfront tax incentives they're discussing could apply to places like Red Stick (I'm also thinking that a few shows might decide to check out BR's new facility, which is a short walk from where I live).

Damn, but here's hoping something comes of the concept...
"Bravura Performances in Pretended Gravitas"
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"...the rules governing these types of commissions are as ritualized as Noh drama..."

"Werther" sneak-previews the Baker Commission Report on Iraq:

A run-down of its...principals should give us a strong indication where this operation is heading. Aside from Baker, there is as co-chairman once again Lee Hamilton, a past master at these performances. As the éminence beige of the Democratic foreign policy apparatus, Hamilton has been participating in high-level cover-ups of government shenanigans stretching back to the Iran-Contra affair.

The rest of the cast consists of: Vernon Jordan, one of Bill Clinton's money men and obviously intended to slap the Wahabbite insurgents of the Black Caucus into line; Ed Meese, faithful purveyor of balderdash for countless decades and a link to the Reaganites; Lawrence Eagleburger, a saturnine Bush family wheel horse and Kissinger liegeman known mainly for his staggeringly immense girth and ability to balance on a cane while juggling a cigarette and an asthma inhaler; Leon Panetta, a professional ward heeler and thief of a 1986 Indiana Congressional election, tasked to corral a spectrum of Democrats roughly bounded by Rahm Emanuel and Steny Hoyer; former Defense Secretary William Perry, representing the interests of the merchants of death; Charles Robb, who began his career as a White House doorman and who symbolically remains one four decades later; ex-Senator Alan Simpson, wise-cracking cowpoke (and member of a disastrous Congressional delegation to Iraq in 1990, whose purpose was to ply Saddam with U.S. taxpayer loot via the Commodity Credit Corporation); and former Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the lone member of the commission with no obvious ties to Beltway monkey business and presumably tapped for the sheer novelty value.

Probably the only reason Baker and Hamilton didn't select Clark Clifford or Paul Nitze to serve on the commission is that these two quintessential Establishmentarians are legally dead. But the leaden predictability of its membership preordains its conclusions.

Given that the rules governing these types of commissions are as ritualized as Noh drama, we believe it is safe to roll out our own projection of what its findings will be. Here, in capsule form, are the Baker-Hamilton report's major findings:

There have been major challenges to stabilizing Iraq, but it remains vital to our interests; precipitate withdrawal risks chaos and a power vacuum (i.e., Iraq has been a colossal screw-up, but we are holding no one accountable. "Our" interests means superior folks like us. Nature abhors a vacuum; too bad it does not abhor drones and aged blowhards).

The next six months will be critical (Where have we heard that before? As we have been in Iraq for over 42 months, there have been at least 7 inflexion points where "the next six months will be critical." These are Fabian tactics).

The Iraq government needs to get its act together (Do tell. But how can the dummy solve problems created by the ventriloquist?).

The Iraq government must be given a timetable/benchmarks/some other euphemism (This finding will challenge the creative writing skills of the commission staff).

We need to strengthen/beef-up/robustify Iraq's army and police forces (No kidding; you geniuses earned your per diems for this? We tried that with a variety of indigenous forces: the ARVN, Hmong, Meo, Coral Gables Cubans, and a host of other Third World paladins now operating chop suey parlors in proximity to CIA front buildings in the Northern Virginia suburbs).

U.S. forces will redeploy to neighboring states (where the ruler has a CIA stipend or the local emir has business interests intertwined with the Bush family. The "deliberate" and "phased" withdrawal means the redeployment will proceed at the speed of the Humboldt Glacier).

The United States must pursue a multilateral approach with its friends/allies/coalition partners/nodding acquaintances in order to bring stability to Iraq (That would be a first; but why, then, has the Executive Mansion resubmitted the nomination of acting UN ambassador John Bolton, who vetoes UN resolutions as maniacally as Grover Cleveland vetoed pension bills? And for the express purpose "as part of a public relations strategy to put the onus on the Democrats for not allowing a vote on his appointment to go to the floor"). [2]

There must be a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. But Israel, our major ally/the only true democracy in the region/the light unto the gentiles, deserves blah blah blah (This is standard boilerplate wherewith the commissioners will simultaneously sound "balanced," yet not risk suffering a boycott against their lucrative consultancies by the Israel lobby).

There will be more in the report, but it will amount to cotton-wool packing, filigree, and cathedral gargoyles.

The politicians will rush to praise the report's sagacity, and heed it, more or less. For the Establishment, which stretches back through Clifford and Nitze, through Henry Stimson, Colonel House, Albert Beveridge, back through the Morgans and the Astors, through the founding of Skull & Bones, and finally alighting on Alexander Hamilton, the prototypical oligarch of the new North American republic, it will be a Bromo-Seltzer after the nightmarish hangover of a failed scion's rebellion against his illustrious father. It will be an assurance, like a bank vault slamming shut, that in Washington, everything will be fundamentally the same for all eternity.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Dumbing Down Infinitely
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Matt Taibbi gets it:

The thing that people should be concerned about isn't that the news networks are choosing to cover politics like a football game. It's the idea that both televised football games and televised politics might represent some idealized form of commercial television drama that both sports and politics evolved in the direction of organically, under the constant financial pressure brought to bear by TV advertisers. Both politics and sports turned into this shit because this format happens to sell the most Cheerios, regardless of what the content is. If you work backward from that premise, and start thinking about what the consequences of that phenomenon might actually be, your head can easily explode.

[checking to see if my head is still attached to my neck...ok, good]...

Yes. I've had the same thought myself...I suppose you could go back to JFK to find the first instances of deliberate media (sorry, I meant "television") "manipulation," if you want to call it that...or to "The New Dick" Nixon...but I think it was during the Reagan administration when there was sort of a rebound: Reagan, the consummate second-rate actor, was the perfect image for an office that had devolved into little more than the original "reality TV." Hell, what did it matter that he--or, his lineal descendent, Shrub W. Shrub--more often than not uttered more or less utterly incoherent gibberish when not reading a teleprompter? Reagan, Shrub, Abu Ghraib, the War in Iraq, etc., in terms of TV itself, is mere programming---filler between the ads.

Or at least that was the case when I did a bit of work for, ahem, public TV in Wisconsin: if we went off the air during the show, it was no big deal (at least when it wasn't during migraine headache time pledge drives). However, "grantor" spots, or the "non" ads that ran between shows (just like ads on commercial TV, because, well, they WERE ads) HAD to run, or at least be listed on discrepency reports so we could eventually add "make goods" at appropriate times.

But, I point is simply to reiterate Taibbi's--when something is reduced to the level of a TV show, then you can count on the aesthetics of television to become the defining element of whatever it was that's been so reduced. I guess that's kind of a roundabout way of saying that just as Hee Haw became at one point the most widely syndicated show on the idiot box, so too did a classic non-entity (albeit with superb connections...h/t Hullabaloo) become the "leader of the free world."

Unfortunately, though, reality ISN'T a TV show--and no, we can't change the channel, or even wait for the show to get cancelled (which, considering how low the approval ratings are, would've happened quite some time ago)...
Saving Face...
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First, apologies for taking an extra day away from the internets on Friday--I needed both the rest and the time for some pressing matters, although seeing (via Oyster) Greg's latest post reminds me that blogging itself is pretty small in the whole scheme of things.

Please send some kind thoughts/warm wishes/prayers-if-you-pray-or-mantras-if-you- don't Greg's way.

Back to small things, I was sent this VF article by a friend...between it, the latest headlines, other news items, posts from the big bloggers, etc., it's pretty evident that the denoument to this most pathetic of administrations will be a final attempt to save face...

It'll be interesting to see which faces DO get saved versus which get tossed over the side like Rummy's, and I sure as hell won't mind watching the various Humpty Dumpty's suffer their great falls...but, to be fair, this sort of exercise is just more Beltway-insider crap, and the "great falls" for every last one of those who don't make the grade will merely be of the Hollywood variety (even Scooter Libby can presumably count on a Club-Fed prison...and perhaps a preznital pardon in early tangent even further, I wonder if yer national press corpse will display the equivalent indignation of 2001 and Marc Rich). But, in the end, they'll all get their book contracts, their lecture fees and/or some sort of soft landing when all's said and done.

Which is quite, um, "generous," when you consider how others--who AREN'T responsible for getting us where we are today--fared under this administration
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