Wednesday, January 31, 2007

'Two Americas' Hires 'Too Angry'

[posted by Callimachus]

Serious presidential (and even Congressional) candidates nowadays have to have a recognizable Internet presence, which means bloggers get the call. John Edwards has chosen his.

It's the woman who has written, among other similar things, this profanity-laced tirade in support of looters after the Gulf Hurricane, that rose to this crescendo of bile:

And as for the racist fucks behind this foot-dragging and lying and all those that support them, I hope that when you get to hell, after you’ve been greeted nicely by Satan and checked in by Ronald Reagan, your punishment is to be drowned over and over and over again until you fucking realize that suffering is suffering, no matter what race or class or ethnicity the people suffering are.

Now, it's going to be hard to find a blogger anywhere in the political spectrum who gets more than 1,000 hits a day who hasn't written like that at one time or another. Sad fact is, with the exception of Instapundit or Juan Cole, that kind of writing is what brings on the traffic, which brings the name recognition, which is what gets you hired by John Edwards.

Her words and thoughts are not his words and thoughts. But we all know how this works. Politics. Perception. Does John Edwards really want to be associated with that? Does it persuade you to vote for him if he hires people to speak for him without knowing or caring what they have said in the past?

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How Dare They?

[posted by Callimachus]

In reference to this news segment on soldiers' perception of the war they are waging, and the discussion here about some dissenters' attitude toward the men and women in uniform, kindly see this. But you might want to take your blood pressure medicine first.

So, we pay the soldiers a decent wage, take care of their families, provide them with housing and medical care and vast social support systems and ship obscene amenities into the war zone for them, we support them in every possible way, and their attitude is that we should in addition roll over and play dead, defer to the military and the generals and let them fight their war, and give up our rights and responsibilities to speak up because they are above society?

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Ummm ... No.

[posted by Callimachus]

The new must-have: Leggings for "we fellows."

That said, I know a lot of guys who wear leggings around the home to watch DVDs, lounge around before Premiership games or surf the Internet. But actually on the street, never mind into a nightclub or bar? Yet, the truth is that leggings are way more comfortable than pants and that if we fellows were not all so uptight and worried about our status we would have all begun wearing them a long time ago.

[Hat tip: Manolo]


Let the Spitting Begin

[posted by Callimachus]

Greyhawk explains:

...most low ranking military members currently serving joined after the invasion of Iraq, virtually all people serving at this time have either enlisted or re-enlisted in a military at war. One obvious conclusion from this that I didn't put in writing is that this eliminates the "anti-war" crowd's treasured canard that the troops are victims who thought they were signing up for a college financial aid program and were shocked to be handed a weapon and taught how to shoot.

The death of this claim necessitates a new attack - a predictable evolution of the old. To put it in simplest and honest terms it goes like this: the folks that are joining now are lowlifes...

An individual soldier's decision to re-enlist is going to be a complicated thing involving many factors. The anti-Bush/anti-Iraq movement is generally incapable of interpreting anyone's anything without exclusive reference to its own manichaean politics. How ironic that they denigrate the re-enlisting men and women as the simplistic ones.

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Let's Talk About Bush

[posted by Callimachus]

People love to talk about Bush. Love it like a babe, love it like it was all that mattered on earth. Being able to talk disgustedly, mockingly about Bush is the only bona fide that will pass muster with half of America and nine-tenths of the world. Otherwise, you're a "fascist." Global warming? All Bush's fault! He single-handedly started the industrial revolution, you see. Alternate answer: Nothing contributed to climate change that didn't happen in America AND after January 2001.

Pretty good work, wouldn't you say, for a "failed businessman?" That was one of the few things I knew about him in 2000. I wasn't studying him closely then. I had seen enough to know I thought he'd be a terrible president, and I had no inclination to cast a vote for him, even though I was a registered Republican.

Not that "failed businessman" was one of those reasons. American history features a long list of private-life mediocrities and failures who became wonderful presidents and statesmen. Ditto men who don't read a lot of books. Of course, failing with your own money and failing with other people's are two different things.

Now I know more about him. Now I think I see what kind of failed businessman he is. He's the kind of boss you'd love to have -- if you don't really care about your job. He's loyal to his people, not matter how bad they screw up.

He reminds me of Ernie, the amiable rotund Peruvian immigrant who managed the books-and-electronics department of an Abraham & Strauss store where I took a job in the early 1980s. It was all about the workday. You came in, you were cheerful, you tried to not screw up, but if you did, oh well, we'll fix it somehow. Tomorrow's another workday. It was great if you were only in it for the dope money, not a career, and you knew you were moving on eventually to something better. Abraham & Strauss is long gone.

There were, and are, many aspects of my dislike of George W. Bush as a president. In retrospect, the ones I weighted most in deciding whom to vote for in 2000 turned out to be the least important. His scary social conservative qualities turn out to not amount to a hill of beans, and were about as authentic as Reagan's -- thank God. Who would have thought his biggest positive legacy so far would be "spent more money on AIDS in Africa than Clinton did"?

But those qualities, if taken sincerely into the brain, might have served him better. So many social conservatives shuddered to their core when they saw what had happened at Abu Ghraib. They did it quietly, as is their way in such matters, and they didn't pour out of their homes to pick up the picket signs and slogans that International A.N.S.W.E.R. was ready to hand them, as some fools did. But they felt it, and they felt it as a betrayal of something essential. Would that Bush had felt that, too, when he had the chance to prevent it.

In retrospect, I should have paid less attention to how he prayed and more attention to his business history. And in retrospect, Bush wasn't too much of a Christian patriot: He wasn't enough of one.

What else did I know about him then? The Bushes were ruthess campaigners. They won, and they won dirty, and they surrounded themselves with the sort of characters -- Roger Ailes, Lee Atwater, Karl Rove -- who fight ruthless, scorched-earth wars against their opponents and bring them down hard.

I hated that quality in American politics, and it might have been the biggest reason I rejected Bush as a candidate. But in part that helped turn me around on the notion of toppling Saddam in 2002. I knew Bush was going to war for a different mix of reasons than I would use to justify it. But it seemed if there was one thing he knew how to do it was win, at all costs, with the help of an intense and creative team of generals. Paradoxically, one of the reasons I didn't want him as president in 2000 became one of the reasons I assented to his leading the country into a risky war.

Perhaps I should have paid more attention to Bush the First, and 1992. How, in spite of the aggressive team, he seemed to just lack the will to win. His fire was gone and he waged a desultory campaign, whose few sparks were nasty but feeble ones.

Yet there it was, in early 2003: The chance I had been waiting all my adult life for: To see America use its power and good will to clear a path for millions of people who had done nothing to earn the suffering that had been visited on them as a side-effect of the Cold War. To give them a chance to take hold of part of our lucky legacy of wealth of freedom. I had watched the grimy experience of Carter and Reagan's late Cold War policies around the world, seen and read the results of Kissingerite realism. I had traveled behind the Iron Curtain and had no illusions about our enemies. Yet I never resigned myself to a lifetime of simply backing our bastards, with guns and money and from a safe distance, just because I knew theirs were worse.

We ought to be better than that, or give up the notion and name of "America" and just settle for being Belgium or something. I don't think I'll see the chance again in my life. How that came about and how I feel about it is a matter between me and a great many people -- including Bush. How much I choose to say about it in public is my choice; it's not a sign of how I think you ought to live, it's how I choose to live.

But turn my back on all I've stood for, since I first followed the fall of Saigon in the "Inquirer" at age 13? Since I heard Desmond Tutu, then little known outside South Africa, speak at a college graduation? Since I saw the crosses at the Berlin Wall and drank with Kurdish refugees hiding out and waiting for black market passports? Just because some fool president also embodies the other great American virtue of mental laziness and screwing up a lot?

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[posted by Callimachus]

Nice to know the evil, hegemonistic United States isn't the only nation in the world with an immigration problem. Here, China has one, too.

Except it seems China's problem isn't keeping people out. It's the old Soviet problem of keeping its own miserable, repressed minorities in.

75 Tibetans ... were making their way over a 19,000-foot-high Himalayan pass on Sept. 30 when Chinese border guards opened fire, killing a 25-year-old Buddhist nun and another person.

The incident was filmed by a mountaineering expedition and broadcast by a Romanian television station, prompting an international outcry.

And, if this boy's story is right, they were tortured afterward.

No doubt the Romanians were really an evil, hegemonistic contingent from "Faux News," though. No doubt the boy is a Rove plant. No doubt this will be said by the people who eagerly look forward to the rising star of Internet-loving, anti-genocide, satellite-enabling, pacifist, non-dictator-coddling China replacing the evil hegemonistic United States, and whose European and Pacific Rim governments are falling over themselves to cut trade deals with and sell high technology to Beijing.

China, since it is not evil, hegemonistic America, can be relied on to tell the truth:

Shortly after the shooting, the Chinese government, in a statement that appeared to describe the same incident, said its border forces killed one person when they clashed with some 70 people trying to leave the country illegally. It said a second person died later. But it said Chinese forces were attacked and acted in self-defense.

Yes, the nuns can lay down a withering crossfire, can't they? Not since Alexander Haig ... and of course his foolish blunder was roundly mocked by the same self-procliamed anti-imperialists who can't seem to get "no blood for oil" out of their mouths long enough to have a word to say about this.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Turning and Turning

[posted by Callimachus]

From one who turned:

[T]he Republican Party and their supporters have got to start matching their actions to their rhetoric. It is hard to take continued invocations of an "existential war" and a "war of survival" seriously in the face how both the Administration and the Republican Congress has acted over the past 3 years.

We have a President and Commander-in-Chief who allows Congress to insult our war-time allies (the United Arab Emirates) while publicly embracing those dedicated to the subversion of our nation's purpose (CAIR). We have a President, having decided on the boldest of strategies for this war, who has decided to fight it in the most timid manner possible… as if warfare can be conducted in a manner that will not offend. So we have left our enemies in the field, to fight and kill again, because George W. Bush doesn't want to use rules of engagement that might garner him criticism from some Imam in Saudi Arabia.

But most galling to me personally is the fact that the President has refused, at every turn, to trust the seriousness or the resolve of the American people. He has demonstrated, over and over again, that the last people on Earth he trusts are the American People. So rather than put forth the sort of proposals one would expect from the leader of a nation in a war of survival, we have been asked to do little more than step to the sidelines and keep our mouths shut.

Probably a quarter of the bloggers who I had on my original site's blogroll when I started it in 2003 or so -- people who were there in rough agreement with me -- now write more or less like this, if they write at all.

Another quarter write exactly like DKos or MyDD. This one, however, still is on the roll, in part because he also writes like this:

... I am far from denying that there are citizens who, for whatever reason, wish to see the United States suffer a humiliating defeat in the Iraq War. Far from it. Lots of them were in Washington D.C. this weekend. I am forever amused by the fact that when my views come into alignment with their own, some of the Left's more dimwitted denizens feel the need to hold me up as an example as a right-thinking Conservative and/or Republican … as if superficial agreement on a single issue will somehow lessen my contempt for them.

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Tragedy by Numbers

[posted by Callimachus]

If you're white or Hispanic in America and you get sent to state prison, your life expectancy goes down -- you're more likely to die in the slammer.

If you're black in America, however, prison is statistically safer than home. According to "the first truly detailed analysis of death in U.S. prisons," released earlier this month, "Black Americans are significantly more likely to survive in prison than in their own neighborhoods ...."[1]

While white and Hispanic inmates were slightly more likely to die from disease or violence behind bars, the mortality rate among black state prison inmates was 57 percent lower than their counterparts of similar age on the outside, the study found.

Julian Bond has some pointed comments on it: "It doesn't say anything good about prison. It says everything bad about the neighborhoods." But later he does say, "It's also about the fact these guys have access to health care in prison that they don't have at home."

Typically he focuses on failing schools and lack of jobs, rather than social and cultural factors, or even the pop culture glamorization of drugs and violence in the ghetto from a safe distance (I've seen "Hustle and Flow" showered with accolades and awards, and I've seen the reality around me, which could make a movie called "Rot and Die"). Really its pointless to try to disentangle them, and the conservative and liberal views of why life is so routinely awful for black Americans don't conflict so much as describe different aspects of the same disaster.

[1] "The study examined the deaths of 12,129 inmates over four years, but did not include data from federal prisons or local jails."

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Even Her Blogad Buys Stir Controversy

[Posted by reader_iam]

I found this post on Sen. Clinton's Blogad buys to be oddly fascinating in an "inside baseball" sort of way, and also because of its rather revealing look at how some appear to view themselves and, I guess, the supposed obligations of candidates even with regard to advertising decisions.

Sometimes it's real nice to just be on the sidelines, watching the parade go by.

(I know this is a few days old, but I'm just now getting around to following up on some things that I noted but then put aside. And no, this blog isn't going to go all Hillary all of sudden. It's just the way things worked out.)

One final, trivial note: I really wish the name was "BlogAds," not "Blogads." The latter, as a word, makes me think of some sort of eccentric little rodent species that would be the preferred pet of ruling characters on some obscure SciFi series. You know--the kind that would be all sweet and cuddly before being sicced on unsuspecting, accidental visitors to the pod, or something.

Taxing Life, Morning To Night

[Posted by reader_iam]

With the method depicted in this political ad, you'd at least know what you're paying for, and when. Very nice--and more important, funny--debut of a promised weekly series (to be designed and chosen by viewers) from 18 Doughty Street.

(Hat tip.)

Would You Blog For $76,622 A Year?

[Posted by reader_iam]

My jaw is in the awe position, like that of HouStoned's:
Anyway, we here at HouStoned are a nosy bunch, so we sent a message to METRO a couple of weeks ago to find out just how much its “communications Web log specialist” was pulling in. We’re old friends, so we were a little surprised when the transit authority made us file the request under the Texas Public Information Act.

Ten days later – wait for it, wait for it – we got the goods.

METRO’s blogger makes $76,622 a year. Yep, that’s right: Seventy-six thousand, six hundred and twenty two dollars a year. One more time, for the English-impaired: Setenta seis mil, seiscientos veinte dos dólares.

Here's the mass trans blog in question: Write On Metro.

From HouStoned, an excerpt of the job description (you can download a pdf of the full job description from there, if you like):
– Plans, prepares and disseminates information regarding the organization through blog-based communication network.

– Manages the research and development of content for publication of product, services and public information.

– Writes, edits, proofreads, and copyedits material being presented to the public via the blog-based communication network.

– Works in conjunction with IT to develop and maintain standards for the blog-based communication network.

Now, unlike HouStoned, I don't think whether a position is taxpayer-funded or not should have anything to do with how the pay is set: "A (wo)man is worthy of his (in this case, her) hire," or not. The job demands that pay or not. Most important, the worker insists on getting that, or not, and the hiring party agrees, or not.

No, what I am struck by is that the job description, as outlined in the pdf and certainly including the items highlighted here, is stunningly close to the one I have for just ONE (the biggest, true, in terms of amount and scope of work) of my current clients. Except that I also have things like press releases, and monthly newletters, and PowerPoint presentations, and flyers and other stuff written in mine. Oh--and along with "the IT guy" I am actually involved in designing the whole portal website, building and loading the content, and ... oh, you get the drift.

I make nowhere NEAR that amount. Granted, there's a certain personal commitment component, because we're talking non-profit. And it's not everyday you get the opportunity to bring something into the 20th (not a typo) century. But still, the bottom line is:


(And I need to get a real job, it is clear. LOL.)

Fair And Balanced

[Posted by reader_iam]

SteveH does Franken AND O'Reilly within 24 hours! Man, he's the man:
I don’t know why no one listens. I guess America doesn’t want to listen to good radio. I guess they’d rather listen to O’Reilly, lyin’ big fat lies out of his big fat lyin’ liar face.

I talked to Leaf and Rajneesh. I told them I wanted to have a meeting with them in the intern office. I said I wanted to rap about some heavy stuff, so I would appreciate it if they would meet me in their crib so I could lay the 911 on them.

I went in there and sat down, and they seemed really nice. They were quiet, and they listened, and they even offered me some gum. I told them I didn’t want to come off like a big paternalistic Eurocentric white male bloviator. Like O’Reilly. I said I knew they were just showing that they were important and valid, too, and that that was…okay. But it wasn’t cool that I kept sittin’ in fudge and Rice Krispies treats. And they needed to knock that stuff off.
Talking Points isn’t a mean guy. But I will not stand for a popinjay like Napolitano, trying to tell me I can’t sue Stuart Smalley’s bloviating parents. If you disagree, I’ll give you the last word. Then I’ll sue YOU.

Talking Points doesn’t deserve to be treated like this. Talking Points is the highest-paid, highest-rated cable news host in the history of this universe or, I might add, any universe that could possibly be imagined. You can read more about how highly rated Talking Points is in the premium area at It only costs seventy-five dollars a week, and you get a free sweatband, and soon I’ll have a twenty-four-hour-a-day roving Factorcam so you can see me bashing liberal pinheads not just here, but in stores and restaurants and even while I sleep. Many people talk in their sleep. Only Talking Points has also trained himself to interrupt.
We link, YOU decide: Which one made you laugh hardest?

HRC's Davenport Food Connections

[Posted by reader_iam]

Who knew? Now you do, thanks to a local newspaper columnist. (Don't stop skimming until the very end.)

Other local coverage about various events on Sunday:

General wrap-up. Note that Sen. Clinton is now pro-ethanol (natch!):
In the interview with the Times she said she is now an ethanol booster, despite her vote less than two years ago against a measure requiring 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol be mixed with the nation’s fuel system by 2012.

The mandate has created a greater market for the corn-based fuel.

Clinton said she opposed the measure because there were worries in 2005 that ethanol would drive up the price of gasoline in New York, as well as other concerns. She said Sunday those concerns have been alleviated.

“I am a very avid promoter of ethanol,” she said. “Balancing what my obligations to New York were and what the situation is now, I have no reservations at all.”
"A woman named Hillary" does church.
The service had a few more people than usual, maybe because word leaked out that she was going to be there, despite no official public announcement from the campaign and no press crews to see whether she dropped money in the collection basket, whether she sang.
I heard that "rumor" early Saturday evening from my husband, who had heard it a couple of hours before that, and I even mentioned it in my early Sunday morning post. Davenport (and the Quad-Cities, of which it is the largest) is not a small town, but it can indeed be a small world.

About that joke at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds ...
Which bad man?

Sen. Clinton tackled the gender issue head on with a pointed quip that drew laughs but befuddled some in the national press corps. At the fairgrounds event, Clinton talked about her credentials for global peace keeping. Some wonder, she mused, “what in my background equips me for dealing with evil and bad men?” She paused, letting the provocative line sink in. Her audience waited with her. Then Clinton smiled broadly, and the crowd let loose with a laugh. Most folks I spoke with afterward thought it a funny, pointed reference to her famous philandering husband. Two hours later at the Davenport Central press conference, three reporters tried to get her to identify the specific “evil and bad men” she’s dealt with. But the senator wouldn’t bite. She gave a standard answer implicating the usual international suspects. After the third inquiry,the senator brushed it off with a laugh. “You guys tell me to lighten up. So I do... and now I get psychoanalyzed.“
Though I don't "know him," I have run into Mark Ridolfi at a number of events and spoken to him once or twice. Based on what he wrote after those events, and what I've read of his work more generally, he tends to get the facts and impressions right. Also, the people with whom I've spoken with personally who were at the fairgrounds likewise thought it was a reference to President Clinton. So I think Sen. Clinton was quite mistaken if she really thought people in the MVFG crowd were thinking she meant anyone other than her husband.

That said, I personally tend to think that Sen. Clinton herself was, somewhat snarkily, making a joking reference to some of the powerful men/forces whom she feels have been out to get her and her husband, and perhaps other men she opposes more generally (...). That just plain makes more sense to me, politically and otherwise, and has since I first heard the story. I noted that last evening, on Brit Hume's show on Fox (the one program I try to catch fairly regularly there), that while Fred Barnes and Morton Kondracke seemed to think that Sen. Clinton was referring to her husband, Mara Liasson had the same take as I, with regard to a discrepancy between what Clinton meant and how it was taken. Of course, what anyone thinks is going on in someone else's mind is always nothing more than speculation, and therefore is unreliable.

A learning experience for the Clinton campaign, in any case. These are still very early days indeed.

Monday, January 29, 2007

A Cold War Life

[posted by Callimachus]

Howard Hunt had lived outside the law in the service first of his country, subsequently of President Nixon. The way things had worked for him, in Mexico, in Uruguay, in Japan, was the way he expected them to work now. You break the law in pursuit of your country's interest as prescribed by your superior or by your cognitive intelligence of political reality. You get caught; and, if feasible, your government looks after you. If it's bail that's needed, it materializes. If it's looking after your widow and children, that is done. If you are in Washington, D.C., having committed a crime on the authority of the attorney general or the president, why — Howard Hunt was saying — somebody … does something. And the charge against you for trespass, or burglary, or whatever, washes away.

William F. Buckley Jr. on his former boss and former friend Howard Hunt.

The further we get from that age, and the men it forced on us, the more freely we can breathe.

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Scenes from the Protest

[posted by Callimachus]

... and the counter-protest ...

Good question, cigar-man.

More pics and appropriate commentary here.



[posted by Callimachus]

Rosie the Riveter in living color, red socks and all. Amazing what a difference it makes in perception. We've seen similar images of the Great Depression and World War II in black and white hundreds of times. Now they're real. You feel you know something more about her in seeing the color she chose to bind up her hair, dressing by lamplight before the swing shift bus pulled up.

Not just the posed and dramatic scenes. But the way the world would look if you woke up on a Saturday morning in 1941 and walked out the door:

For my Southern friends, who fondly recall such places:

The whole stack here.

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So Soon Forgotten

[posted by Callimachus]

First, without a strong inspection system, Iraq would be free to retain and begin to rebuild its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs in months, not years.

Second, if Saddam can crippled the weapons inspection system and get away with it, he would conclude that the international community -- led by the United States -- has simply lost its will. He will surmise that he has free rein to rebuild his arsenal of destruction, and someday -- make no mistake -- he will use it again as he has in the past.

Third, in halting our air strikes in November, I gave Saddam a chance, not a license. If we turn our backs on his defiance, the credibility of U.S. power as a check against Saddam will be destroyed. We will not only have allowed Saddam to shatter the inspection system that controls his weapons of mass destruction program; we also will have fatally undercut the fear of force that stops Saddam from acting to gain domination in the region.

That is why, on the unanimous recommendation of my national security team -- including the vice president, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the secretary of state and the national security adviser -- I have ordered a strong, sustained series of air strikes against Iraq.

They are designed to degrade Saddam's capacity to develop and deliver weapons of mass destruction, and to degrade his ability to threaten his neighbors.

At the same time, we are delivering a powerful message to Saddam. If you act recklessly, you will pay a heavy price. We acted today because, in the judgment of my military advisers, a swift response would provide the most surprise and the least opportunity for Saddam to prepare.

If we had delayed for even a matter of days from Chairman Butler's report, we would have given Saddam more time to disperse his forces and protect his weapons.

President Bill Clinton, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 1998.

He also said:

The hard fact is that so long as Saddam remains in power, he threatens the well-being of his people, the peace of his region, the security of the world.

The best way to end that threat once and for all is with a new Iraqi government -- a government ready to live in peace with its neighbors, a government that respects the rights of its people. Bringing change in Baghdad will take time and effort. We will strengthen our engagement with the full range of Iraqi opposition forces and work with them effectively and prudently.

The decision to use force is never cost-free. Whenever American forces are placed in harm's way, we risk the loss of life. And while our strikes are focused on Iraq's military capabilities, there will be unintended Iraqi casualties.

Indeed, in the past, Saddam has intentionally placed Iraqi civilians in harm's way in a cynical bid to sway international opinion.

... Heavy as they are, the costs of action must be weighed against the price of inaction. If Saddam defies the world and we fail to respond, we will face a far greater threat in the future. Saddam will strike again at his neighbors. He will make war on his own people.

And mark my words, he will develop weapons of mass destruction. He will deploy them, and he will use them.

... In the century we're leaving, America has often made the difference between chaos and community, fear and hope. Now, in the new century, we'll have a remarkable opportunity to shape a future more peaceful than the past, but only if we stand strong against the enemies of peace.

Tonight, the United States is doing just that. May God bless and protect the brave men and women who are carrying out this vital mission and their families. And may God bless America.

Imagine that! He said "God bless America!" Some people act like only George W. Bush says that. What they really mean is, they only hate it when George W. Bush says it.

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Why We Fight

[posted by Callimachus]

“My instant reaction to the 9/11 attacks was that they were a nuisance that got in the way of more pressing concerns. Throughout the 1990s, I had been writing about the overweening power of big business and how it could corrupt democratic governments. I had lambasted new Labour for its love of conservative crime policies and attacks on civil liberties for years. Attacking Tony Blair was what I liked doing — what got me out of bed in the morning. Accepting that fascism is worse than western democracy, even western democracies governed by George W Bush and Tony Blair, sounds very easy in theory, but it is very difficult to do in practice when you are a habitual enemy of the status quo in your own country.”

“I wanted anything associated with Tony Blair to fail, because that would allow me to return to the easy life of attacking him.”

Nick Cohen, writing in "What's Left? How the Liberals Lost Their Way," quoted by Christopher Hitchens in this review. He adds:

Cohen has no problem with those who are upset about state-sponsored exaggerations of the causes of war, or furious about the bungled occupation of Iraq that has ensued. People who think this is the problem are not his problem. Here’s his problem: the people who would die before they would applaud the squaddies and grunts who removed hideous regimes from Afghanistan and Iraq, yet who happily describe Islamist video-butchers and suicide-murderers as a “resistance”. Those who do this are not “anti-war” at all, but are shadily taking the other side in a conflict where the moral and civilisational stakes are extremely high.

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How My Son Nearly Lost His Mother Today

[Posted by reader_iam]

I had just taken an overly large bite of pizza when I clicked over to Maggie's Farm from StatCounter, causing an ill-timed, sharp intake of breath (...).

Won't that be a unique addition to this year's photo album! (It's also a cautionary note, one that reminds me of why certain policies I'm supposedly adhering to should, indeed, be adhered to. Pardon my clunky writing, but you know what I mean.)

I have to report that my father-in-law had a similar reaction, as did, sort of, Pooh.

In life, a sense of humor is indispensable--that's what we always tell our son, along with this gem: You can control what you do, but not always the consequences of what you do. I hope he remembers both of those things, someday, when I show him this.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Pyrrhonic Question

[posted by Callimachus]

Given the Arab-Muslim world's historical propensity for vicious feuds, personal jealousies, assassination, and general self-inflicted chaos when left to itself; given the state of the world on Sept. 12, 2001; given the iron rule of unforeseen consequences; can you say America is certainly in a better position today with regard to its mortal enemies than it would have been if it had done nothing?

[Yes, the goal of policies isn't "today."]


Hell Freezes Over

[posted by Callimachus]

News report:

(AP) Hundreds of people still without health insurance in areas hard-hit by Hurricane Katrina lined up before dawn Sunday for the start of a weeklong event offering free medical care.

Bundled up against the chilly wind, people began arriving at 2 a.m. outside the tents and doublewide trailers offering free care in eastern New Orleans. By the time the first 50 had been called into the registration tent, they numbered in the hundreds.

Penny Anderson, her daughter, and three small grandchildren came to see a dentist. "My daughter went online to try to get health insurance for me and my husband," she said. "It was $799 a month! That's a house note!"

The health fair is open to anyone from the greater New Orleans area, but is specifically aimed at those who no longer have insurance, are unemployed or who otherwise cannot pay for regular health care. By the end of the week, 10,000 patients are expected to be seen.

Read it like they write it. If you get this far into a news story and one of the "Ws" is still missing, there's something they're embarrassed to tell you. If we're running a story tomorrow about a court ruling that we missed last week, we're sure going to bury the "when" down in the text. No sense saying "last Tuesday" in the lede and tipping off the reader that we were asleep at the switch.

What's missing above is the "who" -- who is running this much-needed health clinic?

The project is a collaboration by Pat Robertson's Operation Blessing International and Remote Area Medical, which organizes volunteer medical treatment in remote parts of the United States and the world.

I've probably never written a good word about Pat Robertson in my life. But I'm about to. Good job, Pat, and everyone involved. And shame on President Bush for not finding room in his State of the Union speech for a word about the Gulf Coast. It's a perfect issue for the bully pulpit.

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Help Me! The Song My Son Just Requested

[Posted by reader_iam]


Oh, Lord. I've met my match. God laughs.

(And my mother, were she to know this, would be smiling ear to ear, now and forever--Amen!!!)

Update: Perhaps I really should get better about explaining. (Scroll all the way down, and then read the comments.)

Update II: Here are the lyrics to that Kinks song (though of course the linked video is to a performance by "Young Fresh Fellows").

For my son, of course, the "Young Fresh Fellows" version will one day seem far away and ancient. As for "The Kinks"?--well, do I hear a chuckle from anyone out there?

To Air is Human

[posted by Callimachus]

MTak is not minding his anti-war overlords. He wants to "set aside Mr. Bush," along with a lot of other straw dummies he likes to punch up without naming (who is this "Rightosphere" guy who says all these stupid things?) and "give [the surge] a couple of months."

Mr. Bush's enablers did their best to keep us on the path to defeat. We, the rational and patriotic war critics of all parties, can claim credit for this change ....

[Oh, dear, can I assume, based on what he writes, that I'm irrational, unpatriotic, and determined to chauffeur America to defeat?]

What M. Talk doesn't seem to realize is that, since he once supported the war against Saddam and derided its opponents, and he now derides the war against Saddam and supports its opponents, that doesn't entitle him to an opinion. In the eyes of his new allies, it entitles him to a long stay in a political re-education camp.

Just consider some of the comments Dan Drezner got when he recently issued his own mea cupla for his opinions in 2003:

So, dear readers, I definitely erred in the arguments I made in 2002 and 2003. I have and will try to do better. Bear in mind, however, that when it comes to foreign policy prognostications, better is a relative term.

He, and any who sympathized with him, were told:

You all need to go back to school and take some philosophy and literature courses.

... You played fast and cheap with life, and now you need to do penance.

How you can start: look in the mirror and say, "Bush, Cheney, etc. are cynical, selfish criminals, and I abetted them, and I will never be so sloppy and careless again."

Penance! MTak, Penance! Down on your knees, sinner. Your new snark-and-rage commissars will tell you when you are fit to stand again, much less to speak and be heeded. Until then, giving "a chance" to anything Bushco. does, and urging others to do so, is not going to shorten your suffering.

[And you wonder why some people are just not so eager to admit mistakes, even if they know perfectly well they've made them.]

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Life of Bryan

[posted by Callimachus]

Bob Moser of The Nation, who often has written perceptively of the new Democrats' problems in the New South, does it again.

The South has long amounted to little more than a swirl of stereotypes in the national mind (see Gone With the Wind; please do not see Forrest Gump). Many non-Southern progressives still see the region as a dank, magnolia-scented Otherworld where the cultural obsessions of race, religion and rifles hold white voters together in an unbreakable sway, making it hopeless terrain for planting any politics to the left of Jefferson Davis or Jerry Falwell.

He homes in on one of the moments when Howard Dean got it exactly right, and the week or so when I thought I wanted him to be the next president:

Stating his intention of competing for the votes of "guys with Confederate flags on their pickup trucks" in November 2003, Dean set off howls of protest among party leaders and his rivals for the presidential nomination, who said he was simultaneously stereotyping white Southerners and offending blacks. But few of the complaints originated in Dixie. As they "stand on their soapboxes to castigate Dr. Dean's remarks," wrote the Rev. Joe Darby, vice president of the Charleston NAACP, "Democratic candidates and party leadership should bear in mind that black voters think for themselves." The previous February at a hamburger stand in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Dean had been applauded by black listeners when he said, "You know all those white guys riding around with Confederate flags in the back of their pickup trucks? Well, their kids don't have health insurance either."

The way Dean's campaign derailed after that may be proof that God is real and he does, in fact, love Republicans. Because Dean had hit on a winning formula before he fell over in the swamp and sank.

Moser even hits on the right historical antecedent, the Southern Farmers' Alliance led by Georgia's Tom Watson in the 1890s, which forged -- for a time -- a common cause between poor whites and blacks.

Though the Populists had their share of two-faced politicians and race-baiters, the movement as a whole made a remarkable call for trans-racial solidarity, based on an equality of want and poverty, a common grievance and a common oppressor. "They are in the ditch just like we are," as a white Texas Populist put it. Watson had the vision of "presenting a platform immensely beneficial to both races and injurious to neither," and "making it in the interest of both races to act together for the success of the platform." The success of the party overall hinged on black cooperation, and Watson promised blacks that, if they succeeded at the ballot box, the Populists would "wipe out the color line and put every man on his citizenship irrespective of color."

In its short life the movement produced scene after scene that is simply not supposed to be possible in the conventional political-liberal narrative of Southern, and American history: In the 1892 campaign, for instance, a black Populist had made 63 speeches for Watson. He was threatened in one town and fled to Watson for protection. Watson called for aid, and some 2,000 white farmers showed up, some of them after riding all night, and remained on armed guard for two nights at his home to prevent violence to this man.

[Always a great introduction to this topic is C. Vann Woodward's "The Strange Career of Jim Crow," first edition 1955, which is still in print. Martin Luther King Jr. called it "The historical Bible of the civil rights movement."]

I'm not surprised, though that many of Moser's intended readers would be made uncomfortable by his argument. They have married themselves to a historical view that Southerners are historically incapable of achieving racial harmony without Northern intervention. And it gives the lie in a big way to the notion that Southerners are historically incapable of achieving racial harmony without Northern intervention, that federal pressure on conservative cultural bigotry is the only agent of positive social change in the nation, and that the dinosaurs of the Civil Rights era must never relax their iron vigilance. The received wisdom is that Southern whites (if not American whites overall) are incapable of lifting their benighted selves out of the crudest collective racism without the Better Angels of the elite Democratic judiciary to guide them.

"For beleaguered Southern liberals ...," Moser writes, "the Democrats' misunderstanding of what appeals to the South and to Middle America falls somewhere between a bad joke and a tragedy--and Kerry's win looked like the perfect example." After 2004, however, he writes, things only got worse. He quotes Thomas Schaller's 2005 book, "Whistling Past Dixie": "[T]he Democrats should be able to run outside the South by running against the conservative South." In essence reduplicating Lincoln's 1860 strategy. But this time the numbers are against them.

And more than numbers. To forge a new Southern Democratic progressive majority, Moser advocates an "emphasis on the "value" of economic fairness (along with other Democratic issues popular with moderate evangelicals, including environmental stewardship)." He goes on to quote William Jennings Bryan, the great champion of Watson-style populism on the national scale.

"Today the Democratic Party stands between two great forces. On one side stand the corporate interests of the nation, its moneyed institutions, its aggregations of wealth and capital, imperious, arrogant, compassionless .... On the other side stands the unnumbered throng which gave a name to the Democratic Party and for which it has presumed to speak. Work-worn and dust-begrimed, they make their mute appeal, and too often find their cry for help beat in vain against the outer walls."

Can't you just feel the power in it? "When they heeded Bryan's populist call," Moser writes, "the party began its transformation into the progressive force behind Woodrow Wilson's New Freedom and Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal--both more enthusiastically supported in the South than anywhere else."

Ah, well. Until my co-workers stop citing "Inherit the Wind" as their favorite movie and "the only thing that got [them] through the Reagan years" I don't think Bryan is going to be back up on the pedestal. Even The Nation devotes half its mentions to him to painting him as a George W. Bush-style anti-scientific Christian fundamentalist bully.

But his deep-rooted Christianity was one reason his progressivism worked so well in the nation (if not "The Nation"). Can you have one without the other and still turn in a performance on election day? Perhaps. Can you have one while actively despising and disparaging the other? I doubt it.

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Iowa Gives Hillary Clinton A Cold Greeting [Updated]

[Posted by reader_iam]

Literally, I mean: It's 2 degrees outside, and I sure as heck wouldn't want to be at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds on West Locust Street, which is where Sen. Clinton is staging a rally this morning, starting right this very minute (8:30 a.m., Central). I debated taking my son in the interest of political education, but since I suspect Davenport will be infested with presidential candidates and politicians over the next year, I'll wait for a warmer opportunity.

I'm curious: Do you think the use of "surge" in the lead of that article was accidental, or was someone having fun?
A surge of interest in U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s visit to Davenport this weekend has forced the campaign to change venues.

Clinton’s appearance has now been scheduled for the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds.

It will still be held at 8:30 a.m. Sunday.

Officials stressed Friday night that the event is open to the public.

Clinton, who is in her second term in the Senate representing New York, declared last weekend that she is a 2008 presidential candidate.

She had been slated to appear at the Hickory Garden Family Restaurant on Sunday morning, but a spokesperson said Friday that it proved to be too small for the number of people who wanted to attend.

“We had so many people and so much interest,” Lorraine Voles said.
I can't help wondering: Was that "last-minute" change somewhat designed to get more attention--she's so popular, there was such an outpouring, we had to change the venue!!--rather than someone failing to anticipate whether a restaurant could accommodate the crowds for Clinton? It's hard not to raise my eyebrow just a little bit. And if there are that many people coming, isn't it going to be a bit difficult to hold "a conversation" with people, in any meaningful sense of that word?

I'd share some more of my observations, but I have to get out the door a bit earlier this morning, since rumor has that Clinton will be popping in for a service at a church down the street from my own this morning, and who knows how that will affect the traffic situation. Then there's the press conference just a few hours hence, which a girlfriend and I are considering strolling over to watch with our kids, if we're allowed to be there. I worked yesterday and will be working all day today as well: What better way to spend my lunch time?

Stay warm, folks, wherever you are today.

Update: Of course I'm assuming that Sen. Clinton is appearing inside one of the buildings at the Fairgrounds, and not in the outside performance venue there. That really would be impressive, today.

Update II: No idea how things went earlier in the morning, but the greeting was pretty warm at the public stop-by before the press conference.



Saturday, January 27, 2007

Google 'n Yahoo 'n Ilk & Free Info/Speech

[Posted by reader_iam]

What we would we do without principles and focus groups?

(Thanks, Tak, for going straight to the salient quote, the exact impetus for the original post.)

"Not At The Moment, Please, But Thank You For Asking"

[Posted by reader_iam]

My son, in response to my asking in passing if he was thirsty and wanted something to drink. (I was pouring myself a glass of pomegranate juice, which I've come to think as The New Prune Juice, so much is its virtues extolled by proponents. But that's a different post.) Man, sometimes that boy shows signs of becoming well and truly housebroken.

It all goes by, so fast, so fast.

Not That It Was Actually Wrong, Mind You

[Posted by reader_iam]

But a Google founder says it was a "a net negative" to co-censor with the Chinese government Google's search-engine use in China. On, you know, a business level.
Asked whether he regretted the decision, Mr Brin admitted yesterday: "On a business level, that decision to censor... was a net negative."

The company has only once expressed any regret and never in as strong terms as yesterday. Mr Brin said the company had suffered because of the damage to its reputation in the US and Europe.

Last year in a speech in Washington Mr Brin admitted the company had been forced to compromise its principles to operate in China. At the time, he also hinted at a potential reversal of its stance in the country, saying "perhaps now the principled approach makes more sense".

From what was said yesterday a policy change seemed unlikely in the near future. Co-founder Larry Page said: "We always consider what to do. But I don't think we as a company should be making decisions based on too much perception."

Much of the harm had come from newspaper headlines, he said, which affected perception for most people, who then did not read the actual articles.

Ah. All right then.

Friday, January 26, 2007


[Posted by reader_iam]

To blogfriend Internet Ronin, on the loss of his father. He, his mother and the rest of his family are in my thoughts.

Council Winners

[posted by Callimachus]

This week's Watchers Council winners have been posted.

First place within the council went to On the Possibility of an Embargo of Iranian Oil by American Future, which describes in detail an intriguing alternative for confronting Iran over its nuclear policies. My reaction? It could be an excellent short-term tool for pressuring the government in Tehran, but the longer it goes on, the more the Iranians will sap it, as Saddam did the Iraq embargo.

Votes also went to Teacher Merit Pay, an excellent and thorough argument against teacher merit pay by The Colossus of Rhodey.

Other votes went to Iraqi Refugees by Done With Mirrors; ‘Moderate’ Abbas: “Aim the Guns Against Israel!” by Joshuapundit; and A Mandatory Disaggregation by Eternity Road.

Two other runners-up struck me as excellent and made me wish I had more than one vote. Alas, though, this is not North Philadelphia. One was Too Much Munich? by Soccer Dad, part of a large-scale reassessment of the hostile reaction many friends of Israel had to Stephen Spielberg's "Munich" (a discussion also represented here).

The other was D'Souza and the Illiberality of Criticism by Right Wing Nut House, who in the best spirit of blogging, despite not having read the book has a strong opinion nonetheless about "The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11."

D'Souza has been drifting toward this argument for a few years, and I'm actually glad he made it; it gets something out in the open that needs to be hashed. He'll get no thanks from the left for effectively confirming their blunt guess that there's not an inch of daylight between an Islamic fundamentalist and a Protestant one. But the differences are worth learning, and maybe this is the only way it can be done.

At any rate, we're looking again at Qutb, which is not at all a bad thing; not because he's all that important on his own, but because his encounter with America can be a good, manageable small-stage version of the big conflict between Us and Them.

Sullivan, for instance, says Qutb, so far from being dogmatically aligned with the Christian right in America, was "a liberal snob, condescending to small-town American life." (more on Qutb in America here and here).

I have read one book of his, Basic Principles of the Islamic Worldview. I wanted to read his thoughts in whole and sympathetic presentations, not just as fortune cookie blurbs plucked by his enemies. But it was disappointing. Instead of telling me anything about Islam as he sees it or how the world should be, he can't stop railing about everything he hates about everyone else's worldview.

First- and second-place finishers outside the council were two worthy examples of Weblog journalism: “Because the Language They Use Is Killing,” Bill's interview with an anonymous Fallujah police officer at INDC Journal; and The Blitzing of Haret Hreik, Michael J. Totten's reporting from the lair of the Hezbollah beast in Lebanon.

Also getting votes were Make the Child Pay by Baytown Bert's Blog -- The Way I See It; and To the Shores of Tripoli by The Belmont Club.


Calling All Punsters

[Posted by reader_iam]

The Maternal Optimist turns two, and Ruth Anne is looking for your best shots. (She promises: No groans from her!)

I'm fried, myself, this day, having just walked in from another v-e-e-r-r-r-y long day, and I haven't an ounce of creativity left in me at present. (I did actually and accidentally pun once today, but it'd take too long to set it up--I need dinner!) So I hope these will do.

Best to you on your second blogiversary, RAA.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Sweet Intoxication

[Posted by reader_iam]

Update: Did you catch the "... the truth is what it ought to be ... " part?

Only checkin'.

Think Twice, Post Once

[posted by Callimachus]

If you're peeved by the legal shenanigans in the Duke (non)-rape case, because "three college boys are (possibly) falsely accused of sexual assault," that could well be because you're a "garden-variety racis[t]".

Because I know you were wondering about that.

So if you're peeved about the improper detention of (possibly) non-terrorists in Camp X-Ray, that could make you ....

Why not just send your resume to Ann Coulter? If you're already constructing her arguments for free, that is.

There's an other half to the poster's "you might be a racist if ..." equation. Which is, in addition to being aroused by potential prosecutorial malfeasance in North Carolina, you also think "It's okay to falsely accuse an entire country, try it and convict it." I confess I don't recognize what that refers to. Perhaps because I don't live in that particular bubble where the overthrow of Saddam was always and only ever about the WMD and it's OK that our intelligence on that topic was wrong. Who does live there? [And here the cassandra chorus shrieks: "Shrubbie McChimplerburton the Death Merchant!"]

Allow it, then, for the sake of the argument, then reverse it: If you were assertively opposed to the overthrow of Saddam in 2003, even though you, like everyone else (including possibly Saddam), weren't sure at the time whether he had WMD in defiance of the 1991 terms or not, yet you are more irked by the people who are all worked up over potential prosecutorial malfeasance at Duke than you are by the miscarriage of justice itself, doesn't that make you just a garden-variety enabler of totalitarianism?

Straw men who live in rhetorical bubbles shouldn't throw stones.

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Smells Like Teen Dispirit

[posted by Callimachus]

Courtesy of Neo I find this Daniel Henninger WSJ op-ed on the new spirit of defeatism.

We needn't squabble (but probably will) over whether this is a simple case of acknowledging reality vs. clinging to pollyanna visions. Accept that our plight is as dire as the most virulent Huffington Post commenter claims it is (when he's not making up new insulting names for people who disagree, or firing off the next "chickenhawk" taunt). You still have a choice of how to react to that.

Give up? Embrace the defeat? That just boggles me. As the most American movie ever made puts it:

Now remember, things look bad and it looks like you're not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. I mean plumb, mad-dog mean. 'Cause if you lose your head and you give up then you neither live nor win. That's just the way it is.

Do I have to go find examples? Or do most of us know what I'm talking about? The people who seem to enjoy the way it feels to say "America failed ... defeat in Iraq ... losing the war ...." Not every administration critic or anti-war voice is a vulture. But some are. And it seems to me more and more are.

I can understand it in someone from, say, Germany or China or New Zealand -- to an extent. Old-fashioned nationalism can take a ghoulish satisfaction in believing such a thing.

I also can understand it, to some extent, in the growing ranks of people who supported the war, but have since turned against it. Converts, for whatever reason, are the most zealous practitioners of any religion.

As for the rest, I think the Australian foreign minister hit one nail on the head in the WSJ article:

"What concerns me about this," he said, "is that it's sort of an isolationist sentiment, subconsciously, not consciously, and that would be an enormous problem for the world. I hope the American people understand the importance of not retreating and thinking the world's problems aren't theirs."

Right. Republicans or Democrats, we've never stopped being isolationists at heart. Back in October I was writing this:

Ever since 1914 a large chunk of the American people, including political leaders, have been yearning for the old European imperial order and balance of power -- or some successor -- to restore itself, so that we can go back to ignoring the rest of the world and basking in George Washington's commandment against foreign entanglements.

It's amazing to read today the degree to which Americans, as late as 1945 -- as recently as 1989 -- still clung to that happy dream. A few in the corridors of power always have been seduced by the sirens of empire. But the rest of us really don't want this job. And will deny, deny, deny that we've reached the point where we can no longer behave as innocents, and where our inaction is as potentially lethal and morally compromised as our action.

But even though I can explain this one or that one, there's still a residue. What I can't stomach or quite explain is the people who have been here all along, saying this. That list includes a lot of those who now are up on the roost, crowing that they were right about Iraq when all they did was predict at every step America was going to fail, which always is what they predict. They didn't get the specifics right: in fact, they got more things wrong than we neo-cons did -- the re-group in the sandstorm outside Nasiriyah was a "quagmire;" Saddam was going to drop WMDs on Israel; the U.S. was going to set up another dictator in Baghdad; Bush was going to cancel the '04 elections, etc., etc.

But why do they seem to so much enjoy saying this? For some, it's clearly Bush, who has the same ability to unhinge some people that Bill Clinton had on Bob Barr. But for some, America itself is the Dubya. And has been all their adult lives, seemingly. It has a feeling of catharsis to it. I can speculate (and that "adult lives" is probably a hint of what direction I'd go). But I'm in a listening mood right now. Anyone?

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Idle Question

[posted by Callimachus]

Even if you have an hour and nothing else to do, is it worth it to try to respond to people like this, meaning blogger/commenters? I'm inclined to think not.

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That'll Be The Day

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Kerbala Attack

[posted by Callimachus]

Omar smells a rat:

No Iraqi soldiers, policemen or officials were hurt in the attack. The attackers knew about the timing and location of the meeting and they were certainly not al-Qaeda fighters or Sunni insurgents. I mean why would al-Qaeda or Sunni insurgents risk making the very dangerous trip to the heart of Kerbala to kill American soldiers while they could’ve inflicted more casualties by planting a few IED’s in the streets of places they control? Plus, they wouldn’t have spared the lives of the Iraqis in the building.

I'd say he's got a pretty good sense of smell. Money quote from the MSM coverage: "When asked why Iraqi police did not intervene to stop the gunmen from fleeing, al-Mishawi said 'they assumed it was American-on-American violence and wanted to stay out of it.' "

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Best Japanese All-Girl Rockabilly-Surf Band Evah!

[posted by Callimachus]

Hat tip Irish Elk

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China Missiles

[posted by Callimachus]

Trying to figure out the heft and drift behind the headline about China testing a satellite-buster? So am I. Arms Control Wonk has some helpful commentary and links. What comes clear at once is that this is a new arms race, and it has been brewing for some time. And that the Chinese feel provoked, and this was a shot across the bow. It's a tat, and where there's a tat, there's a tit.

As one combative Chinese military voice put it:

This overweening country [the USA] began to regard space as its own back yard. The national space policy it announced in 2006 nonchalantly regarded space as its private property. At the same time, when China at the United Nations proposed a special international organization to resolve the actual problems of a space arms race that were being faced, the United States, acting as a country far in the lead in space, vehemently opposed, saying that there was no arms race in space...

We hope... [this] will smack the American carnivores back to reason. History shows us that if you don't hit Americans, they aren't willing to sit down at the negotiation table.

Yes, folk, after you get done fretting about Iraq and Iran and the Taliban, the real 800-pound gorilla is still over there waiting to meet you.

But what about this U.S. policy? The Bush Administration is quite blunt about it. In this earlier piece on the China test an anonymous State Department official lays it out in certain terms:

"Arms control is not a viable solution for space. For example, there is no agreement on how to define space weapon. Without a definition you are left with loopholes and meaningless limitations that endanger national security. No arms control is better than bad arms control."

Emphasis added.

This unfriendly assessment casts the dispute in unilateral/multilateral terms:

While the Clinton policy aimed to highlight international cooperation and collective security in space, the Bush NSP takes a go–it-alone stance, using strong language that asserts U.S. unilateral rights in space while possibly also being intended to "negate" the rights of other space-faring nations. In ominous tones, the document threatens in one section to "dissuade or deter others from either impeding [U.S.] rights or developing capabilities intended to do so" – raising the specter of preemptive action against other nations’ dual-use space technology.

Indeed, even as the Bush policy emphasizes the importance of space security, it goes out of its way to make clear that this security may not, under any circumstances, come from (shudder) international law: "The United States will oppose the development of new legal regimes or other restrictions that seek to prohibit or limit U.S. access to or use of space. Proposed arms control agreements or restrictions must not impair the rights of the United States to conduce research, development, testing and operations or other activities in space for U.S. national interests ...."

Ah, well; some of us did learn something in the Cold War after all.

Quote of the Day

“In free governments, dangerous precedents are to be dreaded from good and popular characters only.”

[François-Xavier Martin, (1762-1846), French-born American jurist and author of a history of New Orleans]. From this fascinating, if selective, tour through Andrew Jackson's mind.

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Patton Medicine

[posted by Callimachus]

Stephen Green noticed it while watching the State of the Union address Tuesday:

All this "surge" talk strikes me as unnecessary and probably unwise. I don't remember any stories about FDR talking up D-Day before the fact, and trying to weasel support out of Congress for it.

Neurotic Iraqi Wife, writing from the Green Zone in Baghdad and hearing the insurgent mortar blasts and the tears of the survivors, noticed essentially the same thing:

One thing I also dont get is why advertise the security plans to the whole world? Word in the Iraqi street is that Muqtada told his followers, the ones high up in the hierarchy to leave to Syria or Iran. Until things calm down. I have also heard from people here, that some militia members are hiding their cache of weapons and moving down South. Hmmm, so basically everyone is gonna be gone. Then reappear once again when the offensive is over. Wowwww. Great planning, I must say.

Many in the U.S. military have noticed it, too. The administration's unseriousness about this whole operation has become so pervasive we hardly notice it anymore. Yes, the political opposition, left intelligentsia, and legacy media are unserious about it, too, if not committed emotionally to American failure (as a necessary tonic to hubris and a rebuke to Republicans). But it's the president who runs the show.

But this goes deeper than the White House. Can open democracies win long and desperate wars against fundamentally undemocratic powers? Do the feet of the war-makers tangle in democracy's freedom and openness and transparency of government? This is not an argument for the opposite -- anything but. I've written a great deal elsewhere damning the Lincoln Administration and its fellow travelers; what they did to the Constitution and the political structure of the republic was worse than what they did to Atlanta, and has never been totally undone. [No doubt I'll be called a "fascist" anyhow.] But just because the question points to a possible ugly answer doesn't mean you shouldn't ask it. It's a question bigger than Iraq.

It also suggests another question. Rumsfeld, if I am to believe the pundits, convinced Bush to fight a "light" war in Iraq and indeed it seems to be the president's tendency to treat the whole response to 9/11 as something that needn't much trouble the popular mind. Go shopping and let the Marines sort it out. Some people have pointed out that this is alarmingly naive (and have been called warmongers for their trouble).

While the administration talks loudly about what it's going to do with troops in the field -- the thing that ought to be kept secret -- it has been quietly retooling the executive branch for a permanent state of shadow war -- the thing that ought to be done deliberately and collectively by the nation, if it is to be done at all.

If you don't like war, good. It's inhuman and illiberal in the extreme. But unless you want to be an outright pacifist, get some muscle by wrestling with the questions this one raises. Don't expect to be taken seriously if all you are capable of is hiding behind funhouse caricatures of Bush.

Would we have, did we ever have, what it would have taken to show up in Iraq with the kind of aggressive force and homefront unity that would have snuffed out every tendency toward insurgency, every temptation of neighborly meddling, every instinctive nationalist instinct to IED the invader? Would it have been endured here at home? (I think we can agree on how it would have been welcomed in foreign capitals.) What price, ultimately, would we have had to pay for the kind of victory that would have allowed a reconstruction a la Germany and Japan? Or Appomattox?

Is that who we are anymore? Osmar White, the Australian journalist who rode into Germany with the U.S. 12th Army group as it smashed up the dying Reich in the last weeks of World War II, foresaw the problem. He was, in many ways, a modern war correspondent: Certainly closer in intellectual style to Peter Arnett than to Ernie Pyle. He disliked the average American soldier's crude self-righteous confidence, as he saw it, and was sympathetic to the Soviet authorities and thus misguessed a great deal of what was going on in 1945.

But he wrote well and saw some things clearly. The Americans already were using their industrial and technological advantages to win the war. At the time, the marriage of hardware and aggression made them unstoppable, but already they were coming to rely on the machinery and on air power to do the old and brutal business of killing and dying in battle.

Patton was the only general who really got the most out of being able to deliver ten shells to the enemy's one. Disliking Patton as I did -- his childish love of notoriety, his foul mouth, his preoccupation at his periodical press briefings with corpses -- it was distasteful to admit that the man's genius as a commander in the field overshadowed that of his fellow generals. Yet the admission had to be made. The lesson seemed to be that to be a good general one must enjoy the corpses as well as Patton did; that if Britain and America ever had to fight a war without an overwhelming industrial 'edge' on the enemy, they would almost certainly lose it. Anglo-Saxon civilization was reluctant, even in dire peril, to give its Pattons their proper stature."

Or, he might have added, had he foreseen it, if they had to fight a war where all the mighty advantage in technology could be effectively neutralized by the enemy's tactics.

White, by the way, wrote that about Patton for a book ("Conqueror's Road") he compiled after the war. He did not write that way in the "Melbourne Herald." In the original introduction to the book, he described his work as a war correspondent during wartime as "that of seeking out the truth, recognizing it, and telling as much of it as could be told without giving aid and comfort to the enemy."

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About That Lipstick And Powder ...

[Posted by reader_iam]

Loaded imaginations tend to blow up, don't they? Gonna be a rough couple o' years, ducking the incoming rhetoric from all sides. Wish the fallout could be measured only in words.

But wishin' ain't gettin'.

Military Against It?

[posted by Callimachus]

Jim Webb's response had some good moments and a few flat ones and a few odd ones. But this one set me a-Googling:

The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military.

Emphasis added. What is that based on? There's plenty of anecdote, but the closest I can come to statistical evidence is this year-end survey by Military Times newspapers.

The survey, mailed to 6,000 active-duty subscribers to Military Times' four newspapers aimed at the military services, showed that 42 percent of those surveyed disapprove of Mr. Bush's handling of the war, compared with 35 percent who support it.

It marks the first time that the president's Iraq war policies failed to gain majority support since the Military Times began its annual survey four years ago.

I'm guessing that's what Webb would cite as his source, given the careful way he worded it (not "the war" but "the way the war is being fought"). But as Military Times itself points out, the poll is hardly scientific. Nor is it necessarily representative of the armed services as a whole.

As with most such surveys, the phrasing of the questions doesn't allow you to learn much from the answer. I can "disapprove" of Bush's handling and think we all ought to just come home and forget about Iraq. I can also "disapprove" it and think we ought to be more committed to Iraq and start throwing around more lead and manpower over there.

Yet only about three paragraphs into the news story someone blows through the stop sign and makes the unwarranted leap from a decline in "support of Mr. Bush's handling of the war" to "decline in support of the war," which is not at all the same thing.

Opinions of military people and their families about a war in process are going to be complex and involve qualities such as honor, personal risk, the military's "can-do" attitude, and their sense of whether their sacrifices are appreciated by the rest of us.

Deep down in the story, Phillip Carter of the blog Intel Dump (and himself "an Army Reserve captain who served in Iraq in 2004") ascribes the negative results in large part to justified "skepticism."

"The real gap is between the expectations of 2002 and the realities of 2007. ... The military has worked its butt off in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they will accept the sacrifice of being in harm's way if it's going to work. If it's not going to work, they're going to ask if it's worth it."

Or, as another commenter puts it, "The management of the war has been consistently problematic, and a lot of troops see the surge as just another [half-baked] policy to wage war on the cheap. There's a lot of concern that we just continue to sacrifice while everyone else goes shopping."

When you go to the poll itself you start to see some of what the newspaper article omitted. Such as:

The poll asked, “How do you think each of these groups view the military?” Respondents overwhelmingly said civilians have a favorable impression of the military (86 percent). They even thought politicians look favorably on the military (57 percent). But they are convinced the media hate them — only 39 percent of military respondents said they think the media have a favorable view of the troops.

Which would be a story of itself, but don't be looking for it in your morning paper.

UPDATE 1/25: Mystery Pollster takes up the topic (and here, too), and seems to find the military Times readership mail survey somewhat more worthy of attention than I thought it would be:

So, to sum up: The use of the Military Times subscriber list as a sample frame gets us to as close to a random sampling of active duty military personnel as we are likely to get. However, it is best to think of the poll as consistent three year sampling of "the military's professional core" (as the Times' lead puts it) than of all the men and women serving on active duty.

Which still, however, leaves it with the same set of problems any such poll would have: "[W]ere the 70% who did not return their survey different from those who did, and if so, how different were they? That question is, of course next to impossible to answer or quantify, since as usual we know nothing about the non-respondents." He's the expert, not me, so I'll defer to him. Read the whole thing, as they say, and the comments are good as well.

Some might think I'm having it both ways by pointing out that the MT poll might not be an accurate representation of the troops' attitude toward the war, while at the same time reveling in what it purports to reveal about their attitude toward the media.

But it doesn't seem to me that that sword cuts both ways. If you assert the survey is an accurate measuring tool (as anti-war types and the media -- yes, I'm aware of the redundancy -- do), then you're stuck with the harsh view of the media. I don't think the poll was good enough to build policy on. Which means maybe the troops on duty are against the war and maybe they're not, but this isn't good evidence for it. Ditto with the troops and the media.

So my observation at the end of the post was for those who have grasped the poll as proof of their worldview, suggesting they grabbed a sword with two blades and no hilt. And journalism, as I always tell you, is the Art of Leaving Things Out. If you want to track biases, you look there.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Future of Newspapers

[posted by Callimachus]

Short version: It ain't pretty.

Longer version:

Nineteen-fifty marks the high point of newspaper penetration in America: 100 percent of American homes took one or more daily papers. Fifty-six years later fewer than half of American homes get one. At the current rate of decline, no homes will get any newspapers in the not-too-distant future. Morning news, once the monopoly province of newspapers (virtually all evening papers, facing competition from network news, folded in the 60s and 70s), is now overwhelmingly the province of the networks, cable, radio, and the Web. Newspaper readers (as well as broadcast-news audiences) are old and growing ever older (on an actuarial table, you can plot the newspaper's last day). There are, effectively, no new newspaper readers. Newspapers have worked best as a direct-marketing medium—introducing seller to buyer—but the Web is better and cheaper. The mainstay of newspaper profits—real-estate, auto, recruitment advertising—accounting for as much as 30 percent of them, is migrating almost entirely online. Shopping itself, that other elemental commerce connection of a newspaper ("The principle of free speech owes at least as much to department stores as to the First Amendment," notes Ken Doctor in passing), is ever more an online activity. While circulation steadily drops, and as online price competition becomes fiercer, newspapers have, nevertheless, continued to charge more for ads—a kind of pyramid scheme, which, sooner rather than later, falls in on itself.

What will the death throes look like? Michael Wolff paints an ugly picture of billionaires buying them for the sheer -- well, vanity of being a big media mogul in the old style.

Newspapers—in rather direct contradiction to the theoretical values of the journalists who worked for them—have classically been about power and influence and settling scores (in the ideal formulation, the proprietor gets the editorial page to exercise his primal needs, while the news pages remain more pure) and, not least of all, gaining advantages in real-estate deals. Newspapers often bullied their way to centrality in a community. They were a kind of Mafia, a kind of protection racket—you don't play nice with me, you don't advertise with me, I mess with you.

Except back then they had genuine commercial heft and might accidentally do good once in a while. Wolff tries to be hopeful, but can't quite manage it. My only hope is that this dying business lives one day longer than it takes for my pension to kick in.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

NPR Effect

[posted by Callimachus]

When Andrew Olmsted wrote about the Fairness Doctrine, he tossed off this line:

Conservatives read conservative web sites and listen to conservative radio. Liberals read liberal web sites and listen to NPR (just kidding).

But I don't think it need be kidding. Certainly there's not an equivalency between Limbaugh and NPR. But Ginny seems to me to get it right here:

As I’ve become more political, I’ve got to admit, NPR irritates me more than it used to and I listen less often. But I suspect that I stayed with a much more leftish take on current affairs for years because I liked the rest of what they did; thus, that was where I got much of my information. And I thought, well, they are a little slanted but surely this is the truth. I have more doubts, but suspect most of the time, it is still the truth. It’s just that there is so much out there & they select truths that fit their patterns - patterns I no longer see as quite so valid (about politics, the war, childraising, religion, etc.).

My wife, at home with the baby, has it on all day, though she's good enough to turn it off when I come home. It's been her main source of news for the past few weeks. I get mine off the unfiltered wires and the Internet. Yet when we talk about "what's in the news" it's interesting to me to see what didn't get through on NPR. Like Cindy Sheehan commandeering the microphone from the Democrats and haranguing them about Iraq after their electoral victory. Which seems not to have made the NPR broadcasts. Yet one can imagine what would have been reported there, and in what tut-tutting tones, had the GOP been coming to power and Pat Robertson or someone like him stolen the show to rant about abortion and evil.

Journalism is not the business of reporting reality. It's the business of choosing what to leave out.

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Dilemma of a Horn

[posted by Callimachus]

Using an Ethiopian proxy, American aims were achieved rather neatly and on the cheap. The financial costs and the investment of American prestige was remarkably low while the gains have been relatively high.

Doesn't that sound familiar? Ethiopundit says it should. Low expectations for democracy and willingness to work with "our S.O.B." in the Horn of Africa -- cold-blooded Cold War tactics don't seem to energize the anti-war activists the way Neo-Con dreams do.

"The US has made great sacrifices in Iraq to see elections held and has put itself in the middle of significant armed civil strife for a vision of long term American interest that is breathtaking in scope.

So there you have it - in Iraq, American policy has been based on the 'audacity of hope' that long term American interests would be served by the establishment of a democratic society in the middle of the Arab world.

In Ethiopia, American policy has been based on 'low expectations' that hold that 'sure Meles is an S.O.B but he is our S.O.B.' This has included US government representatives approaching opposition leaders in prison to drop their struggle for democracy in concern for events in Somali politics.

This is comparable to many other times in modern history where the blood of Ethiopians seemed cheap compared to those of others. Back in the same month in 1977 when Steve Biko was killed in South Africa, literally hundreds if not thousands of Ethiopian students were killed in every Ethiopian city by the Dergue. Does anyone besides the living relatives of those Ethiopian victims know their names? Probably not.

To take the South African example further, imagine if Ethiopia's current regime was made up of ferenjis [foreigners]. The world would be angry about what was happening to those poor Ethiopians but since her tormentors look like their victims and since little is expected of Ethiopians anyway - none of it seems to matter very much."

In the end, he has no choice but to accept an inconsistency:

Islamism is a mortal threat to civilization. However, the way that Islamism is being dealt with in the Horn of Africa will do lasting harm to Ethiopians and ultimately to American interests. Not because the military option was used - sometimes that is the only option.

The harm will come from the mortal threat to Ethiopia of continuing and worsening Meles Inc. rule that such shortsighted American support guarantees. Sometimes there are no simple answers.

[hat tip: Booker Rising]

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Blogger Deploys

[posted by Callimachus]

Andrew Olmsted is shipping out for the sandbox:

The Army has accepted my application to active duty and is sending me to Iraq as commander of a battalion MiTT team. That means I'll embed with an Iraqi battalion and I and my team will attempt to train and assist that battalion to be able to stand on their own and serve the Iraqi government.

Godspeed to him. Send your thoughts, prayers, and devotions as appropriate.

Andrew was a recent addition to the Watchers Council and in his short time there had established a formidable winning streak. Filling his spot there won't be the biggest disruption caused when he deploys, but it's one we can maybe help with. If you have a suggestion for someone to replace him, add it in a comment here. If you want to nominate yourself, click on the link above.

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This War, All War

[posted by Callimachus]

Amba watches "Munich" and makes an observation too little made:

The movie actually says something quite unexceptional: that war, not excluding just war, erodes human decency.

Exactly so. I can't count the number of anti-Iraq War posts I read in blogs that really are anti-war posts. They're really about the horror and brutality of all wars, not this particular one. Here, for instance. As I've said before, you can be anti-war in an overarching sense, and it's a fine and honorable position, if a tad idealistic. I was raised by and among Pennsylvania Quakers, so I know about that.

And I spent a lot of time listening to soldiers' stories, so I can relate to a perhaps fictitious quip from the World War I trenches, translated from French, "fuck all starters of wars up the arse with a handspike dipped in tetanus."

But unless you can honestly stand up and call yourself a pacifist and mean it, you have to do the ugly sifting that separates "this war" from "all war."

"This war is unjust." Very well, then, if the same things that happen in this war also happen in a just war (and they do), does that mean you accept the dead children and tortured prisoners in case B? How do you measure a just war? Can the same war be partly just and partly unjust? Which matters more; motives or outcomes? What if there
is more than one motive, as there always is?

People avoid it because it puts you in the position of the girl in the sophomoric joke: Boy approaches girl and says "will you sleep with me for $10 million?" She says, "Sure, I guess." He then says, "Will you sleep with me for $10?" She says, "Get away, what kind of girl do you think I am?" He says, "I already know what kind of girl you are; we're just haggling over the price."

Everyone will have a different answer on the this-war-vs.-all-war questions, and there are many legitimate answers. But until you begin to try to tell the difference in your head, you don't know enough to make a statement about it that is worth reading.

Since most people in modern America take great care to keep their distance from any war, and have studied only the cleaned-up and glorified versions of historical wars, they have no idea what they think about the hard question at the core of it.

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