Saturday, January 03, 2004

Oh Yeah, We're in a War There Too

So, why can't the press focus on the "good news" coming out of Afghanistan? Uh--perhaps because they're mostly ignoring the country in general. Well, at least they are here in the US.

But, for those enquiring minds, Kop's Blog came across this article via NorBizness from the New Zealand Herald:

Excerpts: So the southern, Pashtun-speaking provinces that were once the Taleban's heartland are falling back into the hands of the resurgent fundamentalists.

Most of Zabul and Oruzgan provinces and half of the Kandahar region are once again Taleban-controlled by night, and US troops and those of the International Security Assistance Force have come under fire more often in the past three months than in all of the previous 15.

More than two dozen American and ISAF troops have been killed this year, a proportional loss rate worse than Iraq because of the far smaller number of foreign troops in Afghanistan.

US officials claim to be inflicting vastly greater casualties on their opponents - more than 400 Taleban fighters killed in September - but the fact that most of these casualties are caused by American airstrikes or by local militias leaves much room for doubt.

The militias have a habit of furthering their private interests by labelling their opponents Taleban, and the airstrikes are often inaccurate because the intelligence is so bad...

Senior UN officials have publicly doubted whether the elections scheduled for June will happen at all.

"There is a palpable risk that Afghanistan will again turn into a failed state, this time in the hands of drug cartels and narco-terrorists," warns Antonio Maria Costa, director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime...
Three predictions:

* No internationally recognised free elections will take place in Afghanistan next year (but some sort of charade may be arranged).

* US forces will pull out within three years.

* The Taleban will be back in power within five.

Under these circumstances, I suppose we COULD maybe focus on so-called "good news:" anyone wishing to invest in rubble and gravel futures should have plenty of opportunity, although there could be some snags both getting in country and moving the rubble and gravel out...

Cuppa Joe Loserman

I've seen this teaser several times now:

Coming Up Sunday, Jan. 4
Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., on why Howard Dean must not be the Democratic nominee for president.

Great...nothing like fighting within the ranks.

Dean, to his credit, has said that any of the candidates could defeat Bush in 2004--maybe that isn't true to the letter, but it's a good sentiment to have--especially considering that Rove will go negative early and often. But the other side of the coin is tired old snots like Joe droning on about the Vermont governor somehow being "unelectable." Josh Marshall, to his discredit, has likewise been piling on of late.

The rules seem to be: if it's the DLC attacking Howard Dean, then it's ok. If Dean, on the other hand, outlines a strategy that isn't Republican Lite, then he's attacking the core values of the party. Hmmn.

If the DLC wants to whine a little bit, fine. Their candidate of choice, the aforementioned Cuppa Joe, has been abysmal on the campaign trail. In fact, calling him Cuppa Joe is an insult to a good strong cup of coffee. Joe L. is more of a bottled decaf frappucino (or however StarChucks spells it)--watery, weak, tasteless, and ineffective. So I can see why his supporters are a little upset. But that doesn't mean they should burn the house down.

I'd like to think, regardless of who becomes the nominee--and right now, it would take a sea change of hurricane force to knock Dean out of the catbird seat--that the Democrats would unite in defeating George W. Bush. But the DLCers seem to be hedging their bets.

DLCers--HELLO!!! If you recall, your Prez., Bill Clinton, played this game for most of his eight years in the Big House. His reward was an impeachment trial, that, fifty years from now, will be a case study in hypocrisy. Clinton played ball with the neo-cons, and they, in return, publicized the most ludicrous charges against himself and Hillary (Vince Foster, anyone?).

The fact is that the neo-con movement will chew up and spit out ANY Democrat who plays by their rules. They aren't interested in compromise, because they know their agenda is extreme. So it's time the opposition did JUST THAT--oppose. It's not like we don't have issues. On the contrary, WE'VE GOT the issues that the general public considers important. It's simply a question of maing sure the lower life form also known as the mainstream media is forced into covering these issues, as opposed to getting lost in the artificial fog that Rove will be spending untold millions of dollars generating. And, with new media becoming gaining in importance daily, this is a real possibility. And, no, I'm not including myself in the new media--at best I'm sort of the equivalent of a vanity candidate. But there are plenty of folks doing solid work. And they can definitely keep the pressure on the idiot journalists which pass for the free press.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Why Wait for the Future to Happen?

When Fanatical Apathy tells us all we need to know...
Ah, Diplomacy

I forget where I saw this, but recently I came across a citation from Claude Cockburn, father of Andrew, Leslie, Alexander, and Patrick, journalists all.

"Never believe anything until it is officially denied."

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A U.S. military commander defended coalition troops Friday against allegations they defiled the Koran during a raid on a Sunni Muslim mosque in Baghdad...

Mosque leaders invited a CNN crew into the mosque Friday to show what they said American soldiers had done, including a damaged copy of the Koran, a gift to the mosque from former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser.

"They tore up the book of God," one mosque leader said. "God will tear them up. They trampled the book of God with their feet. They had the pretext of weapons, but they have found no weapons but found the Koran and tore up the Koran."

[Brig. Gen. Mark] Kimmitt said the Army investigated the allegations and found them unfounded.

To be honest, it doesn't matter at this point whether or not the allegations are true. Those who wish to believe them will believe. And it is Iraqis who believe. Iraqis who we desperately need the support of in order to make the occupation work. In other words, this is yet another sign that the ship isn't merely sinking, but has grounded itself pretty badly on a reef.

Meanwhile, even Willie Nelson has had enough--he's got a new song about to come out that condemns the war,
and he's doing fundraisers for Dennis Kucinich. While I doubt the Ohio Congressman will actually get the nomination, this New York Times profile makes it clear that, with the money he's raised, and his frugal ways, Dennis will not flare out right away. Good for him. One day it will be evident that he's been saying the right things all along. He and Al Sharpton are the ONLY candidates who've been outspoken against the war from the beginning.

And, slightly off topic, but the blogosphere has been weighing in on the latest regarding the Valerie Plame scandal: looks like the latest attempt at spin will be "but-is-it-really-wrong-if-we-didn't-EXACTLY-know-how-wrong-it-was?" That will be shopped around the punditsphere for true believers to latch on to--as David Brooks did today on The News Hour. If you happen to make it to their website, don't forget to check this out. Guilty or not, it's pretty shocking:

MARTIN ADLER: This man was found loitering near what was believed to be the mortar launch site.

SOLDIER: Look down! Get down! Sit down! (Speaking Arabic ) ( indistinct conversation )

SOLDIER: Get down! Get down! (Indistinct conversation)

MARTIN ADLER: First Sergeant Mikel can speak Arabic. He can cross the language divide that hampers so many of the missions in Iraq. (Speaking Arabic)

SOLDIER (Translated): Give them your hands!

DETAINEE (Translated): I swear I had nothing to do with it!

SOLDIER (Translated): Give them your hands! If you don't, I swear I will shoot you!

SOLDIER (Translated): I'll take you over there and shoot you in the head!

SOLDIER (Translated): Do you understand me?

MARTIN ADLER: The suspect, bound and hooded, was left in a waste ground for hours before being taken away into detention.

Oh, and one other item that I saw at TalkLeft. Short version: Las Vegas should adopt a new tourism slogan: Las Vegas--What Happens Here, Stays Here--Well, at least until the FBI decides to request the records...

Thursday, January 01, 2004

January 1st

In no particular order, I celebrated New Year's Day by reading away my hangover with the following:

Alexander Cockburn looking back at 2003 and forward to 2004.

Robert Fiskhas two articles about the occupation in Iraq. Both are worth looking at.

Fanatical Apathy once again makes me laugh out loud with posts on a "Democratic Debate" and Mad Cow disease.

Via TalkLeft and Steve Perry (actually Mark Gisleson writing at Perry's site), I found A Tale of Two Cities by Christopher Lydon.

This one hits close to home: Mary Landrieu (and Steve Vitter, of all people) are fighting against the practice of dumping foreign shrimp in the US market. Admission: I consider shrimp the food of the gods, and have guiltily consumed what must have been imported shrimp in the past, although lately I've been careful to read the label before making a purchase. That said, I still buy from the market, and not from roadside vendors--my mom got ripped off pretty badly once, and I'd like to think I learned from her lesson.

Also via TalkLeft: Dubya spent New Year's Day shootin' quail (or was it Quayle)? Either way, he took the time to chow down on some unspecified form and quantity of beef--for lunch--I don't know if "It's What's for Dinner" tonight at the Crawford ranch. Bush might be one of the few people who has nothing to worry about from Creutzfeldt-Jakobs disease. Hell, in his case, it might be an improvement.

And--to conclude for now--I began last evening with a book: Nickel and Dimed to Death, by Barbara Ehrenreich. Meant to start with just the opening chapter, but two hours later I still couldn't put it down. Finally did so just after ten o'clock, having pored over slightly more than half the volume. My fondest wish would be to see Barbara Ehrenreich and Molly Ivins as president and vice-president--I'll let them decide which would be which. Now that I've got a few extra nickels, Ehrenreich will be at the top of my reading list. She has one of the best writing styles I've ever had the pleasure to read.

Finally, I came across this via google news: a New York Times article saying that a declassified British document alleges that Nixon was ready to seize Middle East oil fields by force in 1973, during the embargo. Nixon had what he called "the madman theory" to end the Vietnam War. Sounds like he had a madman theory for the Middle East too.

Here's to an interesting 2004. I hope Blogger doesn't eat this one, but I've already copied it--in case the evil "internal server error" arises again.
Damn You, Blogger, Damn You

Once again, Blogger made this day a celebration of taking. My post, so carefully written, is now lost in the ether.

This time, though, I will attempt to recover and post again--provided my cat will allow me to do so while he takes advantage of a lap to sit in.

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

More in 04

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

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

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

2millionth, More or Less

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

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

Stop the Presses! Newspaper Discovers Blogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let's look at the various campaigns:

Bluster--WWF Mode

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

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

Then this was cancelled, in favor of:

Opening Day, College Football Season

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

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

Reality Show

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

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

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

The Fugitive

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


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

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

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

Tuesday, December 30, 2003


From Truthout, via Wendy's comments in Atrios:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instead, we have this exchange:

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

PRESIDENT BUSH: So what's the difference?

Representatives Wanted--Pay: $5.25/hr.

From Calpundit, via Kos:

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Steve Gilliard:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saw it first on CrawlingWestward.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Josh Marshall has some strong words for Howard Dean today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest here.

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

But that might be merely wishful thinking on my part.

From TalkLeft:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"No, sir."

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

Monday, December 29, 2003

Homeland (In)Security

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest of the Robert Fisk article here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More to follow a little later, but work calls.