Saturday, November 01, 2003

UPDATE, via TalkingPointsMemo

Sid Blumenthal has an editorial in The Guardian UK about the intelligence debate regarding Son of Gulf War. You can read it here.

EXCERPT:

If the CIA would not serve, it would be trampled. At the Pentagon, Rumsfeld formed the Office of Special Plans, a parallel counter-CIA under the direction of the neoconservative deputy secretary of defence, Paul Wolfowitz, to "stovepipe" its own version of intelligence directly to the White House. Its reports were not to be mingled or shared with the CIA or state department intelligence for fear of corruption by scepticism. Instead, the Pentagon's handpicked future leader of Iraq, Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress, replaced the CIA as the reliable source of information, little of which turned out to be true - though his deceit was consistent with his record. Chalabi was regarded at the CIA as a mountebank after he had lured the agency to support his "invasion" of Iraq in 1995, a tragicomic episode, but one which hardly discouraged his neoconservative sponsors...

Having already decided upon its course in Iraq, the Bush administration demanded the fabrication of evidence to fit into an imminent threat. Then, fulfilling the driven logic of the Bush doctrine, preemptive action could be taken. Policy a priori dictated intelligence รก la carte.

In Bush's Washington, politics is the extension of war by other means. Rather than seeking to reform any abuse of intelligence, the Bush administration, through the Republican-dominated senate intelligence committee, is producing a report that will accuse the CIA of giving faulty information.

Final note: I'm not usually a defender of the CIA. That said, former agents like Victor Marchetti have stressed for years that the Agency has two arms, sometimes referred to as the Ivy Leaguers and the Cowboys. The Cowboys are the operation wing of the CIA, doing things like stirring up unrest in places like Chile, Guatemala, and Iran, while the Ivy Leaguers tend to be folks who read and analyze everything from confidential cables to newspapers. These are the folks whose job is to CENTRALIZE and organize the mass of data that is received regarding particular issues, e.g., WMD, or particular countries/regions. It is the so-called Ivy Leaguers that I have no gripe with....

Channel surfing through my cable tv is an easy, but dreary exercise. I have the lamest-of-lame cable, the basic package from Cox--so awful that they no longer include it on their website. For $13 bucks, I get 20 odd channels--the networks, a glut of religious channels, WGN, and CSPAN. CSPAN 2 used to be part of the package, but that got pulled during one of the periodic changes...
Ah--no big deal. I watch too much TV as it stands, and my cable is here only because it gave me a small discount on a cable modem. That said, I'm a little pissed that CSPAN 2 is gone.
Sure, most of the time CSPAN is about as exciting as drywall, but yesterday I came across a repeat of a Wednesday talk by Paul Wolfowitz. Those interested can watch it here.
I ignored a good bit of his scripted speech, given that is was simply another exercise in Bush administration spin control, but I kept checking back for the inevitable Q and A followup. I will give an iota of credit to Wolfo--he's the only Administration official who routinely goes before--uh, I'd say the general public, but his habit seems to be the student body of elite schools like Georgetown. Still, these forums are anything but friendly, even as a viewer like me notices one problem right away: it's not easy for a young person to face off against a powerful government official. Still, they manage to ably express points that the mainstream press ignores.
So, I watched the give and take. A couple of things stuck out. First, several students noted that a banner and some flyers were confiscated prior to their entrance into the auditorium--so much for Team Bush's so called love of free speech. Second, a young woman courageously told Wolfowitz how thoroughly disgusted she was with his policy--a policy that needlessly kills both US soldiers and Iraqis. She finished to loud applause.
Wolfowitz, again to his credit, listened in silence, then said dryly, "Well, I guess that means you'd be happier if Saddam Hussein was still in power." He likewise received applause--I encourage people to view the program and judge for themselves as to the relative levels of clapping.
I bring this up, and sorry for such a long post, because it is indicative of the black and white, us versus them, freedom or axis of evil approach that the Bushistas take. This is because they've allowed the political wing of the Administration to take control over all policy matters, to the detriment of the country. Wolfowitz KNOWS that War or Saddam is NOT the only policy, but chooses to cynically make that point in the hopes that the disinterested public (which has things to do like paying the bills, work, children, finding a job, and so on) as their focus. By the way, I take this moment to "publicly" challenge Wolfowitz to a debate on Middle East policy--name the time and place, Wolfo--just give me enough lead to work out some vacation and whatever sort of transportation is required.
Had I been at the talk, here is something along the lines of what I would have told/asked him:
Dr. Wolfowitz, in response to your statement to the young woman: you and I BOTH know that the US policy towards Iraq prior to March 2003 was NOT a question of "loving Saddam" or immediate invasion. As you well know, opposition to a foreign leader can be manifested in many ways, including embargo, which was ongoing in the case of Iraq, fomenting civil unrest and/or organizing coup d'etats, which I don't support, but which at least would keep our military out of harm's way, assisting in the establishment of a genuine government in exile, unlike the Iraqi National Congress, which was simply a means by which Ahmad Chalabi fed at the taxpayer-financed trough, working with allies to seal borders, which prevents smuggling, and, most important, taking the time to establish genuine sources of intelligence in Iraq, which could tell us, in a timely manner, what is actually going on in the country. Dr. Wolfowitz, if we were able to establish sources of intelligence in the former Soviet Union, a far more powerful country, then we could readily do the same in Iraq. Most of all, Dr. Wolfowitz, we should additionally apologize publicly for our shameful policy of support for Hussein during the 1980s, when, among other things, we sold him weapons and interpreted satellite data, which assisted in his use of chemical weapons.
Dr. Wolfowitz, my question is: When your intelligence sources told you that we could expect consistent, violent opposition to our occupation of Iraq, why didn't you level with the public? If your intelligence sources did NOT tell you to expect opposition, why didn't you fire them on the spot, as ANYONE with half a brain could realize the following: By deposing Hussein, you also eliminated the primary source of employment for millions of soldiers and bureaucrats, you eliminated the primary source of sustenance for millions more whose survival depended on the system of food rationing, and you most of all completely ignored the fact that, for as long as most Iraqis remember, they've been seeing, on their state run television, images of Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation. Did you somehow think that those images WOULDN'T resonate in their minds? The plight of Palestinians has been cynically manipulated by goons like Hussein, but the fact is that Iraqis, and millions of other Middle Easterners, are understandably upset by the Israeli occupation, as you've pointed out this very evening. Today, I'm certain, many Iraqis now feel that it is their turn to stand tall against occupation. And, Dr. Wolfowitz, while I'm not privy to all your intel data, even I could see that. Why, sir, as a public servant, did you let the political aims of the Bush Administration subsume the moral duty you have to serve the interests of the entire country, and not just those who stand to profit from the war mongering aims of Project for a New American Century?
Since I couldn't make it to the talk, please feel free to comment at my web log, Dr. Wolfowitz....

Friday, October 31, 2003

Pie, who makes regular comments on Atrios threads, concluded one with the statement: "pot, meet kettle."
In that vein:
"Iraqis are the world's best dodgers and thieves - they are descended from a direct line of Ali Babas," says Corporal Kevin Harnley of the Royal Engineers, bemoaning the black market in British-issue police uniforms. The irony, that he himself has been an accomplice to one of the most audacious smash-and-grab enterprises in the history of thievery, seems to have been lost on him.

Here's the rest of the article.

Getting So Much Better All the Time,

Here are some choice paragraphs from the featured Counterpunch story of the day, written by Patrick Cockburn:

There is a horrible desperation in the hunt for work. A Russian company asked a
man who was trying to get a job as a driver about his qualifications.
He said he felt he should get the job because, quite apart from his great experience as a driver, he had a live grenade in his pocket. He then showed the grenade to the Russian interviewing him and threatened to remove the pin unless he was immediately taken on.


Iraqis jokingly call those who have done well out of the collapse and occupation hawasimi or 'finalists'. This is a reference to Saddam's prewar claim that Iraqis were about to witness 'a final battle with the Americans'. Newly recruited policemen are hawasimi, said with a slight sneer. (The same word is used about those who are obviously much better off since the looting of Baghdad.) The US is hopeful that the new police force will be the front line against resistance attacks, but when I asked a policeman, who had just caught a car thief in al-Masbah Street, if he was doing anything to stop assaults on Americans, he replied: 'That isn't really our job. What we do is provide security for ordinary Iraqis.' When police in the town of Hawaija, west of Kirkuk, shot dead a Fedayeen they were warned by local tribesmen to stick to their policing duties if they wanted to stay alive.

The US has the military strength to retake a town like Baiji easily enough. But the friction points between occupation forces and Iraqis are so numerous and diverse that there will always be fresh crises. The US lacks allies not seen as its pawns. In Baiji, the local office of the Iraqi National Accord, one of the members of the Governing Council, had been set on fire. There is a self-defeating crudity about the occupation's methods. US troops routinely tie up those they detain, force them to lie on the ground and put bags over their heads.

Saddam Hussein should not have been a hard act to follow. Iraqis know that he ruined their country with his disastrous wars against Iran and Kuwait. But in Baiji a clerk at the local registration office for births and deaths said he noticed that over the last couple of months parents of newborn babies had started to name them 'Saddam'.


The only question now is whether or not the United States public decides that they too, like George Bush, prefer to have their perceptions of Iraq filtered through the looking glass.

I've spoken with a number of people regarding Son of Gulf War, and often they tell me things like, "well, we have to get revenge for 9/11." This argument is starting to really make me seethe, as it smacks of a level of racism that's astounding. I don't know if people realize it, but lumping all Middle Easterners (Middle Easterner can be Arab, Jewish, Kurd, Persian, Pashtun, Turk, Azeri, Armenian, and more than I can think of offhand)--anyway, to assume all Middle Easterners harbor terrorist aims towards the United States is like assuming all white males want to blow up Federal Buildings a la Timothy McViegh. It's like assuming that all folks in St. Francisville are serial killers because that is the home town of Derrick Todd Lee. It also belies at least one of the Bush Administration's spin points--the one about wanting to "liberate the Iraqi people." Liberate them for what? So we can kill them or be killed ourselves in some sort of insane reaction to "potential terror?" Unbelievable...

Old news again, but I recall emailing a friend right after the war began--I told this person that it looked like the US policy was "we'll liberate the Iraqis even if it means we have to kill every last one of them to do it." Not long after that, some web sites began to publish pictures of dead Iraqi civillians, sadly legitimizing my assertion. Those who we don't kill are often humiliated in some way shape or form, which wins over hearts and minds the same way a burning bag of shit on a porch wins over neighbors. For the life of me, I can't fathom the level of ignorance, cynicism, and evil that has gone into the Iraq debacle.

Years from now, historians will be scratching their heads, wondering why the hell we let it happen. Of course, the fact that corporations have essentially taken over the political process is one reason. In addition, the present Administration has further taken the step of thuggery in dealing with its political enemies...

Which is yet another reason to write this web log, and to give a thumbs up to web logs in general. Sure, I'm on the low end of readership, numbering in the low single digits (mainly just me), but web loggers have taken back at least some of the political process, namely, the role of the press--actually, the so called free press gave up their freedom, just like The Grand Inquisitor's flock did in The Brothers Karamazov.
Sure, it may all get lost in the ether--though I expect some folks make occasional print outs--but if this web log does make it to the future, it and others will let the historians of that era know that not all of us are completely nuts, nor are we all drug addicts.
The road to hell is paved with cell phones.
From Billmon:
(about the wildfires in California):
Now suppose Arnie were a Democrat, instead of a Republican and a pretend action hero. Given his, um, personal issues, his ties to the Kennedy family and his views on abortion, don't you think it's a safe bet that Pat Robertson and/or Jerry Falwell would be telling us the fires are a sign from God? Evidence of his heavenly wrath against the heathen voters of California?

Let's see. Blackouts in the Northeast, fires in California--what's next? Locusts in the midwest next spring? More yahoos, NASCAR races, and boudin balls here in the south?



In other news, the sky is blue and the grass is green.

I wonder how much of the economic "boom" is the result of massive deficit spending--including the money already allocated for Iraq. Sure, with a $370 billion dollar line of credit, the economy will grow.

But at some point, the borrowed money has to be paid back. If the bill comes due during a time of economic slowdown, the "boom" goes boom (or bust, if you prefer). Hell, even if economic times are GOOD, paying back the debt will create a downward drag on the economy.

When that happens, guess what? Idiots like Grover Norquist will then argue that we MUST get rid of Social Security, Medicare, and other entitlements--funny word, entitlement--the rest of the developed world considers what we call entitlements to be simply a basic benefit of civilized society. Consider Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security--a pension and health benefit for senior citizens, and health care for the disabled. Sorry, but in my book, anyone opposing these should have their sense of humanity questioned, if not their actual humanity.

Norquist tries to avoid the limelight--probably because when he does crawl out from under his rock, he's fond of comparing taxation to the holocaust or saying he want to shrink government down to the point that he can drown it in the bathtub. If you ask me, Norquist needs to be locked up in a 6x8 foot cell--permanently.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

All in Favor, Say Aye
Molly Ivins gets my vote. She and Barbara Ehrenreich would be my dream ticket for President/Vice-President. They can work out on their own who would take which job.

Maybe they already are in one of the alternate universes.
UPDATE FROM A PREVIOUS POST
WAFB put a summary of the broadcast report from yesterday's newscast (US recruiting effort in Louisiana for oilfield jobs in Iraq). Short, and easy to read, if not real informative.

Begs the question, "Your money or your life."

Nightline reported on the wildfires in California last night. There is no summary/transcript up on their home page yet, but if/when it gets there, it might be worth a glance. The opening report had me thinking "hey, this looks a lot like the devastation in Iraq," and, sure enough, one of the reporters noted later that he felt like he was back in Iraq, embedded with the troops.

I don't wish any ill will towards the people of Southern California, and it is my hope that the fires will subside ASAP. Still, the irony. This summer the Northeast had a major power blackout, and now the Southwest experiences property destruction on a par with what you'd get during a fire-bombing run.

Thank heavens the loss of life has not been greater, although reports say as many as 20 people have been killed.

A large segment of Nightline focused on how thinly stretched the firefighting force is. This is probably the result of years of budget trimming without regard as to the jobs that are actually cut. Sure, firefighters might not have to work on any given day, but, when the fire does come, you're damn well glad they're there, and in this case folks in SoCal probably wish they had a few more firefighters.

Meanwhile, although I can't recall the web log where I saw this, some wingnuts are trying to blame it on Clinton, of course. I presume the nuts will come up with some way to trash his forest policy--and, I will be honest, I do not know precisely what the policy was. However, he's been out of office for almost three years.

Again, from Nightline, it appears that extended drought killed a number of trees which now provide tinder for the conflagration. I expect the lunatic right will blame the drought on Clinton, while the "moderate" right will offer the opinion that Clinton should have cut all the trees down--personally, with a non-motorized saw--before the drought manifested itself.

Forest policy is something I have a casual interest in, but don't know enough about. From mostly Public Television shows, I've heard that the seventy-year policy of fire prevention at all costs was not the right thing to do, although I'll bet clearcutting isn't either. I can't recall what PBS show it was, but I vaguely remember seeing/hearing that modern scientists report Native Americans were practicing a much greater degree of forest management than was previously considered. Sustainable forest management was a way of life for those Native Americans who lived in an arboreal environment.

Uh--I usually don't take moderate stances, but I guess my position makes me somewhat of a moderate. Odd.

More to follow, maybe on this topic, but probably about something else.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Poor and Stupid, Indeed

From CrawlingWestward
Donald Luskin's lawyers are threatening to sue Atrios over at Eschaton for calling him a Krugman stalker. Now he wants the post removed or he will reveal Atrios' secret identity to the world by subpoenaing (sp?) blogger.

The middle "c" in the mighty Casio is in trouble, so go show him your support.


Check out the headline on this article (this is my first link to a right-wingnut site):

Looks like Luskin, or at least his web site designers, call him--a "Stalker," although they don't use quotes.

Thanks to Merriam-Webster online, I came across the following definition of "stalk:"
1 : to pursue quarry or prey stealthily
2 : to walk stiffly or haughtily
transitive senses
1 : to pursue by stalking
2 : to go through (an area) in search of prey or quarry
- stalk·er noun

I'll let anyone reading this go to Luskin's Poor and Stupid site to judge for themselves. I don't think there is a more fitting title for Luskin's page.



Got home just in time to catch an interesting report on WAFB television. The US government is actively trying to recruit oilfield workers for Iraq here in Louisiana. The report focused on efforts in Morgan City, and noted that the effort has met with little success, in spite of the large sums of money offered--up to $2,000 a day.

The report was interspersed with shots of buring oil wells, but it looked more like footage from Gulf War I. It also did not make clear if the big bucks would go to anyone, or just to folks with specialized skills like putting out well fires.

Reporter Jennifer Hale found one person who seemed to say he was heading over. He noted his father was an Iraqi national who is deceased (the cause of death was not reported, but it would have been a number of years ago--the person said that his father died when he was nine years old--and he looked to be in his thirties). At least one other person said that while the offer was tempting, his concerns for family and safety outweighed any financial gain. Interesting.

Nothing on Channel 9's web site--if I see anything I'll post it.

Hey, did Tom Daschle read my web log? Here's what he had to say about Iraq:
On Capitol Hill, South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle, the Senate's top Democrat, mocked Bush's refrain that the increasing attacks are desperation in the face of American successes.

"If this is progress, I don't know how much more progress we can take," Daschle said.

Credit should go, though, to Robert M. Jeffers, who was the first person I read who noted this...Jeffers commented in Atrios.

Back a little later....
A correction to a post:
One of the Robert Fisk articles I cited is not on Counterpunch after all. Here it is.
From Billmon:
Shrub still needs to work on those non sequiturs:

Bush showed the most emotion while urging allies to contribute troops to Iraq despite the dangers.
Thumping the lectern with his finger, Bush said, "We should never forget the lessons of Sept. 11. The terrorists will strike." They will not only strike targets in Baghdad, he added, saying "they will strike America, too."


So our "allies" are supposed to throw their kids into the Iraqi meat grinder because the terrorists might attack America again?

This isn't exactly Bush's strongest selling point. Too many "allied" leaders (especially in the Islamic world) understand that after the next big terrorist attack on America, a significant fraction of their populations are going to be out in the streets cheering.

Check the link--but my interest in the Bush quote is that it flies in the face of the Administration's insane position that the occupation of Iraq will cause "the terrorists" to focus their efforts in the Middle East...this position is as insanely stupid as the childish assertion made by Bush over and over regarding terrorists: They hate freedom. They hate America. They want to destroy freedom, blah blah blah.

I personally think that while Bush himself might be stupid enough to believe this, his policy makers certainly must realize it's utterly simplistic (in a bad sense) nature. Terrorists, or, to use Bush-speak, trrists, all have definite aims, agendas, goals, and tactics. If you want to do more than flail away and alienate the crap out of everyone, it would be a good idea to understand their goals--for the same reason that a good lawyer learns his opponents case--you can't defeat what you don't understand...

Recently, on NPR, I heard a report that noted the State Department has exactly FIVE fluent Arabic speakers. FIVE. Count 'em on one hand. Sure, there might be a few more in the Defense Department, the CIA, DIA, and so on, but no one can deny our dearth of people with any familiarity of the language. How the HELL can we expect to do anyting on the ground in Iraq when we lack the capability of understanding the opposition's basic communication? Those opposing us might not even have to speak in code, although they probably do, given the Iraqis who've been hired as interpreters...

Aside: When I visited Morocco, I was with a group of US folks. We visited the home of a Moroccan-American friend whose sister was getting married, and stayed with the family in Rabat. I recall one of the US folks--a guy--realizing that no one spoke ANY English at the table, so he proceeded to make a number of, uh, graphic remarks as to the good looks of one of the servants (this was really weird--a family living in what was for all practical purposes a middle class house had three young women who worked full time--cleaning, cooking, etc.)--sorry to digress. But I recall feeling my face getting flushed when this guy spoke, until I realized that no one else understood or cared what he said--the young woman included. Not that this gave me opportunity to likewise be crude--that's not my style--but I think that's when it really sunk in....we were foreign, which gave us some liberty, although it also meant that we too were likely subject to all sorts of remarks, crude or not. And we were clueless as to what they were saying...

Our soldiers in Iraq are likewise out of the loop--especially if Chalabi, as it now seems, was our major source of "intelligence." Unbelievable.

And to hear Bush drone on about how much he cares for the lives and health of our soldiers rubs salt into the wound. That is so full of shit that, to paraphrase a line from Apocalypse Now, you need wings to stay above it...


From the John Chuckman article, linked to below:

"A general military action against terror is an insane concept, too destructive and unfocused to have predictable results. You cannot fight beliefs or grievances with armored divisions. You can only have vengeance that way, but vengeance can hardly be called policy and is unworthy of a great power claiming high ideals."

I'll link to it again, because it is THAT important.

I can't agree more. Later today I'll try to post some links to William Lind, who also believes conventional forces opposing what he calls "4th Generation Conflict" is insane. In conversation/debate with folks, I liken it to burning the house down to solve a termite problem.

Looks like Trent Lott is ready to douse the building with gasoline. Maybe he'll ask Tom "Bug Man" DeLay to light the match. (From Atrios, full story here).

From Slate online
The vast majority of Iraqis want to live in a peaceful, free world. And we will find these people and we will bring them to justice." -- George Bush

I now know why he's seen so rarely: he's been living in a different dimension. Finally, I understand what's going on--in the midst of the quote Bush underwent a phase shift and the Dubya of another dimension clearly phased out while our Dubya phased back into our realm...

Of course, the only part I don't understand is why Dubya from the other dimension would be saying anything about Iraq, given his criminal record, his history of failed business ventures, and the fact that his embarassing personal history cost his father a chance to be elected president of his local trailer park neighborhood association. But I guess it's a free country over there, and everyone has a right to say what they want, although no one really understands the Bushes obsession with Iraq in the alternate universe. I've heard vague rumors that Dubya and his Dad were the only two oil men who couldn't find oil in Iraq--odd, since coincidentally, alternate universe Iraq is likewise sitting on a sea of crude...

Then again, oil in the alternate universe is so passe, now that they've gone completely solar, thanks to a long-range plan by the various alternate universe governments to heavily subsidize non polluting sources of energy....

In retrospect, yesterday's non post might have been for the best. Ah, retrospection. Throughout a rambling and lengthy piece, I kept noting that NOVA was running a 2 hour program on physics--and I subsequently allowed my inner quantum self to take over...

Still catching up from yesterday. As I expected, the two servers that needed to be ready "by yesterday" will now sit for a week or two before the folks who will be using them figure out what they want to do with them...hurry up so you can wait.

Started this morning with Timshel, who has posts about health care (shocking story regarding the number of women in Lafayette, Louisiana who are uninsured), public smoking ordinances, a good post on a potential Blanco strategy (I hope someone from Blanco's campaign decides to take a look), and so on...

But I also want to note three articles, all from Counterpunch, that should be required reading for ANYONE interested in present US policy in Iraq. The articles are here, here, and here. Sure, the Chuckman article is about Vietnam, but it is completely appropriate to the conditions in Iraq at present, while Robert Fisk's pieces ably make the comparison and contrasting points. If I wasn't awake before looking at them, I am now.

Quick note about Fisk: one of my tangents from last night that is lost was in defense of Fisk, and the crude attempts to smear him by those who've coined the term "fisking." Fisk wrote a not-entirely-hostile account of a situation where he was nearly killed by a mob in Afghanistan. The mob saw a Westerner, and decided to vent a little rage. Fisk narrowly escaped with his life, thank god, but didn't immediately call Afghans ignorant savages while calling for increased bombing. This appears to make him some sort of wimp in the eyes of idiots like Instapundit (IMHO, Instapundit isn't worth a steaming pile of pig shit).

Fisk is one of the few sane Western voices reporting on Middle East issues. He has lived in Beirut for over 20 years (as a Westerner, this itself has been remarkable, although I hear Beirut today is a LOT better than in the 80's. Alas, though, I don't think I'll ever be able to visit this amazing city). I regularly check a website devoted to his articles, and I encourage anyone interested to do the same.

But, work calls, so I'll post now--tonight, I will try to recreate yesterday's missing post from the "backup" I kept in my head...

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Setting up two Windows 2000 servers from scratch takes plenty of time.

And things get really frustrating when you spend an hour ranting out a long post, but find that it's been lost in the ether....

Shit.

Will make it up tomorrow. Check out Timshel. Managed to post a few comments there--was expanding on them, but, when I went to post, my page long series of tangents was gone. Tomorrow: public transit, Clinton/Dole on CSPAN, Why Baton Rouge should use as it's slogan "We are BR-----549," and quick notes on the Democratic debate from Sunday night.

Monday, October 27, 2003

An appreciative nod to Timshel--if you happen to see this, no rush on the blogroll update. It's going to take me some time to get up to speed. Also, I'm still more comfortable reading blogs, not posting to my own. Hopefully, I'll be able to get things organized as time goes on.

If I win the blogger lottery, and someone ambles to this page, check out Timshel's posts today--one, a solid analysis of Jaff Sadow's unbelievably patronizing piece that appeared on www.politicsla.com, and another on the nature of Republican political strategy (originally posted at talkingpointsmemo.com). Better yet, bookmark his site, which I've added to my links--I will be gathering the vast majority of Louisiana Political news from Mr. Prado's web log.

On another front: I thought I was being generous in calling this site 2millionthweblog. Looks like I underestimated, or, in the non-words of our president, misunderestimated.

And, on that note, I wouldn't mind making several initial remarks regarding what I hope to accomplish with my page--well, aside from some minor ego gratification...One, I will be following a LOT of political news. I might have a technical job (network analyst), but my degree is in political science (University of Wisconsin, 1998--but most of my coursework was done at Louisiana State University--that a long story). My job has restrictions on how I can participate in the political process, i.e., I'm a classified civil servant, and I don't want to push the envelope--but it shouldn't be difficult for folks to figure out where I stand on most things. I agree very strongly with opinions expressed years ago by Jacques Ellul, namely, that ideology has limited effect, especially in the modern age, i.e., the elites might be able to make some use of ideology, but the vast majority of issues are decided on the basis of attitude--something to consider when debating talking points...and, when I feel like it, I'll go completely off topic and write about whatever I feel like.

Soon, I hope to have a much larger number of links, but, for now, I just want to get in the habit of making regular posts--and I want to get a little more comfortable with blogger's interface, and, I guess by extension, http (funny how that is--I can configure network cards, set up servers, fix printers, troubleshoot workstations--but my weak link, no pun intended, is hypertext).

Meanwhile, I'll be spending whatever free time I can come up with looking at Crawlingwestward, Counterpunch, Steve Perry (not the Journey singer), Eschaton, TalkLeft, and so on.

As I noted in my initial post, these, other web logs (I don't really like the term "blog"--it sounds like something a caveman would say), and the sites they link to are now an essential part of my daily reading. Even though I link to CNN in this post, I'm more comfortable these days looking over what others have to say or what they link to--THIS IS DEMOCRACY. Technology itself is neutral, but the use of technology can be a net benefit or detriment, depending on how it is used. Web log posts are on the plus side--and yeah, I'll even say that about the right wing bloggers (ok, I'll use blog with right-wingnuts)--but yeah, I'm willing to give them their due. It's amusing watching them try to justify the more sinister tendencies that this country has come under since--well, I was about to say 9/11, but the tendency was evident as of December 2000--when the election was decided by one vote...

Later, if I feel like it: comments on what I watched on C-SPAN last night. Interesting interview with Howard Dean--ok, I wasn't too impressed with him at first--his stump speech seemed a little wooden, and he resembled Dan Quayle just enough physically that I was worried that he'd adopt a deer-in-the-headlights demeanor if he actually made the big time...but it looks like Dean is for real--the fundraising success probably helps as well. Also, I managed to not throw a brick through my television during the time I spent enduring a talk by Ed Gillepsie to what I think was a gathering of Delaware Republicans--the talking point of late amongst the Republicans seems to be one of condensation at the "tone" of the Democratic challengers. Why, they actually refer to George W. Bush as "the enemy." Whod've thunk it? This from an organization that managed to question the patriotism of former Senator Max Cleland of Georgia--who only lost three of his limbs, and almost his life, fighting in the last generation's quagmire--the war in Vietnam...
Ed will probably get upset when we call folks like Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perle, Gingrich, et al, chickenhawks.

Meanwhile, the "remnants of Baathist rule" are practicing their version of "tough love" in Iraq (subscription required, but subscription is free). What did Phyrrus (spelling?) say? One more victory like this and we are doomed? Well, that's going a little far, but the fact is that, no, this is not a sign of desperation by the Iraq opposition--it is a sign of strength. It looks more and more like Team Bush was totally under the spell of Ahmed Chalabi, convicted embezzler and, it seems, con man extraordinaire. I've never been to Iraq--though, for sake of full disclosure, I did visit Morocco once, as a tourist--but even I could see what was going to happen...sure, you can holler all you want about "Baathist remnants," and you might even be right (Riverbend, the Iraqi woman who runs a weblog kindly responded to an email I wrote her a couple of weeks ago--more on that in a subsequent post--anyway, she noted that the police are mostly the same police that were there during Saddam's reign. My guess is that they will go about obtaining "confessions" in the same manner as before)--anyway, to finish this tangent: WHOEVER is opposing the United States has been living in the region (yeah, some of them might be Syrians, or Saudis, or WHOEVER)--and, if they've been living in the Middle East all this time, guess what? Night after night, on their state-run television, THEIR news has shown the occupation of Palestine from a decidedly different perspective from ours. In other words, they've not been seeing acts of terrorism or suicide bombings, but the daily grind of a people who've had "the man" sticking a boot into their back since--well, you can go back to 1948, but AT LEAST since 1967, when the West Bank and Gaza were occupied...cynical use of Palestinian suffering, you say? Duh--but it doesn't make it any less real to those who suffered. And now, it is Iraq that is experiencing this. And, remember, Middle Easterners associate the United States with Israel...

OK--I've ranted long enough. Back to reading instead of writing.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Weekend Project
I spent a good bit of time this weekend on a satire project that is indebted to the children's game "Where's Waldo?" I'm calling it "Where's WMD?" Because I'm going the cheap route, I can't post it here, but if I get around to adding an email link, anyone wanting to search for Weapons of Mass Destruction--and, uh, some of the principles involved--can request a copy. I am assuming that because it is satire that there will be no legal issues involved. And, anyone who wants can modify it, or create their own Where's WMD? picture. Disclaimer: I'm not much of a Photoshopper, and the version I have is pretty old, but I had some fun and will probably send it around to a few trusted critics before offering it up. It's not large, but neither is it a small file (462K .jpeg). See how many policy makers you can find, while searching for yellowcake (nuclear), Clorox (chemical), and a Petri Dish of Anthrax (biological). Osama even makes an appearance...
Old news, but why not?
Son of Gulf War began a lot like College (American) Football season. A large school like LSU takes on a creampuff like North Texas State and proceeds to beat the stuffing out of them for the entertainment of the assembled masses. There are many reasons behind this ritual, including a big payout for the small school, a quick "W" on the schedule for the powerhouse (which keeps up the all important ranking), and the chance for area businesses like hotels, restaurants, and taverns to make some money. Everyone wins, right?

Except, on occasion, the small school doesn't play along--sometimes just for a quarter, but sometimes for the whole game, the opponent doesn't realize that they're supposed to "take their buttwhipping" and go home. If you hear the game broadcast on the radio, the announcer usually notes something like "well, the Tigers look a little out of rhythm--the North Texas Iraqis are surprisingly hanging in, down by only a touchdown--but it is still early in the second quarter. LSU missed an extra point, I hope it doesn't come back to haunt them."

And that's what I saw at the beginning of the war--the US was oddly stalled as the winds picked up, the resistance was stronger than expected, the high tech equipment was jammed, and the fuel ran low. Then, of course, the second half came along, and it was like most American Football games--a big win for the Shockers and Awers.

But, now what? Because, funny enough, it's usually the winners that tear down the goalposts, not the losers. But tear down the goalposts is exactly what the North Texas Iraqis did, looting every public building that wasn't protected, which turned out to be EVERY public building--except, of course, the Ministry of Oil. Ah, but freedom is a messy thing, according to Don Rumsfeld, and I don't think he'd appreciate messy things happening in DC--or, for that matter, anywhere in this country. And that's simply the beginning of what has truly become an utter tragedy.

Because, football analogies aside, murder and mayhem are no joke. Neither is being caught in a vise if you happen to be a young man or woman who enlisted for college money or even for serving the public good. Now these folks are stuck in a foreign country with little or no knowlege of the local language, customs, or habits. Given that on any given day or night, a soldier there could be caught in an ambush--well, I imagine that has a way of making someone pretty edgy. Edgy enough to shoot first and ask questions later--not exactly the best way to win hearts and minds.

I'm going to cut this post short, but I will end with one other football analogy--remember, in Iraq, FOOTBALL is what we call SOCCER. Ever heard reports about how soccer fans behave after a match? OK, I know it's mainly ENGLISH fans, but most folks in the US barely know anything about soccer, and what they do know is usually filtered via the Brit Premier League, I expect. But I don't think it's such a bad allusion, i.e., until we begin to understand the customs, habits, cultures, and, yes, languages of the rest of the world, we stand a damn good chance of getting stuck in ugly wars like Son of Gulf War has become....
2 Millionth Web Log--It seems that everyone and their grandmother has a web log these days. My initial post reflects this. It is also intended with all due irony--this summer the United States prison population passed the two million mark. I'm guessing that this did not generate quite the same level of celebration as, uh, a store celebrating its two millionth customer, but I'm hoping to draw a cartoon with this theme sometime soon.

What did the two millionth prisoner get? A brand new set of shackles? And what was his/her crime? Drug use, maybe? Rush Limbaugh should have been the "lucky" one.

I also use 2 Millionth with a note of pessimism, as it is my hope that I don't become prisoner to this, even as I now use web logs constantly--for talking points, for political news, more political news, legal news, and so on. Web logs provide an eyewitness view of the Iraq tragedy, they help me get to articles I might not see, and they generate debate in a way that only the internet can. Also, in a what the hell attitude, why not add my voice? Sure, the likelihood of anyone reading this approaches lotto odds--but stranger things have happened. So, in this spirit, let's get started....more to come.