Friday, September 28, 2007

Round-a-view with destiny

Slate's Fred Kaplan uses a recently released transcript of a pre-Iraq invasion conversation between President Bush and Spain's then-Prime Minister José María Aznar to give advise on picking the next president. The critical exchange is:

AZNAR: The only thing that worries me about you is your optimism.

BUSH: I'm an optimist because I believe that I'm right. I'm a person at peace with myself. It was our turn to face a serious threat to peace.

Here, in three sentences, is the first lesson on how to assess the current crop of presidential candidates: Don't pick anyone who utters, or seems capable of believing, those three sentences.

"Beware the politician who sees his life as an appointment with destiny," Kaplan writes. "Ditto a president who thinks it's his 'turn' to do anything, much less to go to war and save civilization."

Amen to that.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Holding up a mirror, Pt. 2

Rick Perlstein and I seem to be on the same page. He shows how far we've come. We once welcomed the leader of the USSR with salutes and state dinners -- back when the US of A's "manliness" wasn't so easily threatened.

I'm working on an op-ed on a very similar topic: the over-the-top reaction to dissenting voices and the hair-trigger on the use of force. This atmosphere is coming from the top down. Can you tell?

A cascade of recent events showed how far things have deteriorated. At the recent B-52s concert at the Biltmore House, security guards manhandled some concert-goers in front of the stage. A prankster creating a scene at an appearance by John Kerry was dragged to the ground and tasered by campus police, as he yelled, “Don’t tase me, bro!” When another protestor (a woman) began yelling at an NRA event (according to Roll Call), members of the crowd began chanting, “Tase her! Tase her!”

And a flake like Ahmadinejad? Nuke him before he calls us names again.

But it's hi-ho, hi-ho time, so Perlstein speaks. You listen:
Bed-wetter Nation

Here's a big question that I want to start addressing in upcoming posts: what is conservative rule doing to our nation's soul? How is it rewiring our hearts and minds? What kind of damage are they doing to the American character? And can we ever recover?

[. . .]

But look now what we have lost. Now when a bad guy crosses our threshhold, America becomes a pants-piddling mess.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Holding up a mirror

Reading Slate this morning, it seems this guy has a future in our office of faith-based initiatives:
Most of the papers front Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's appearance at Columbia University, where he was met by protesters and an audience that was anything but friendly. Having faced lots of criticism for even inviting Ahmadinejad, Columbia's president, Lee Bollinger, gave Ahmadinejad a strongly worded introduction where he said, "Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator." He went on to criticize several of Ahmadinejad's views, "You are either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated." The Iranian smiled during the introduction but then called it "an insult to the knowledge of the audience here." Ahmadinejad then "offered evidence of why he is widely admired in the developing world" as he criticized the Western world, and especially the United States, says the NYT. Everyone notes the biggest laugh of the day came when Ahmadinejad said that "in Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country."
Like others we could mention, Ahmadinejad too is not stuck in the reality-based community.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Now even God hates America!

Still locked in my lab-or-a-tory working on "Project X."

Meanwhile, Digby wonders why the GOP can hop about the media altar, slashing themselves and crying out like the prophets of Baal over MoveOn's "Betray-us" ad. Their own America-loving (hating?) acolytes from "Faith to Action" who sponsored a debate for second-tier GOP presidential candidates wonder aloud why God should give a rat's patootie for America.

Why should God bless America?
She’s forgotten he exists
And has turned her back
On everything that made her what she is

Why should God stand beside her
Through the night with the light from his hand?
God have mercy on America
Forgive her sin and heal our land

The courts ruled prayer out of our schools
In June of ‘62
Told the children “you are your own God now
So you can make the rules”
O say can you see what that choice
Has cost us to this day
America, one nation under God, has gone astray

Why should God bless America?
Shes’s forgotten he exists
And has turned her back on everything
That made her what she is

Why should God stand beside her
Through the night with the light from his hand?
God have mercy on America
Forgive her sins and heal our land

In ‘73 the Courts said we
Could take the unborn lives
The choice is yours don’t worry now
It’s not a wrong, it’s your right

But just because they made it law
Does not change God’s command
The most that we can hope for is
God’s mercy on our land

Why should God bless America?
She’s forgotten he exists
And has turned her back on everything
That made her what she is

Why should God stand beside her
Through the night with the light from his hand?
God have mercy on America
Forgive her sins and heal our land

(Reading from 2nd Chronicles 7:14) If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land

God have mercy on America forgive her sins and heal our land
So does that make George Bush into Job, and Osama bin Laden into Satan's agent? Was Al Qaeda doing the smiting so Satan could win his bet with God, all the while doing God's work in imparting a lesson in humility to America?

Somehow I don't think that question will be resolved in the voting booth on Nov. 4, 2008.

Even more daunting, how is a left-leaning blogger even supposed to be able to see such things in Biblical terms?

I need an Advil.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

This is the last stall

Once again, the last stall in the men's room yields blog fodder. No Bible tracts or printouts from NewsMax this time, but the August 2007 issue of "The Phyllis Schlafly Report."

Along with the conspiracy talk about NAFTA and a North American "union," there was a report on some moves in Congress to bring U.S. patent law into greater "consistency" with Europe and Japan. Schlafly paints the Democrat-sponsored and Bush administration-supported Patent Reform Act of 2007 as another pro-corporate effort by " 'world is flat' globalists" to make it easier for corporations to secure and/or violate patents and tougher on the little guys to secure and defend their intellectual property.
The common thread in the changes to be made by the new Patent bill is that they favor big companies like Microsoft and hurt individuals and small-entity inventors. (emphasis in original)
I must admit this one was below my radar and the blogs are unusually silent on it. One blogger(?) posted the same piece to John Edwards' and Barack Obama's sites raising red flags on this one as well, as did a poster on Daily Kos, joining the AFL-CIO, the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), and the United Steelworkers. Still, the bill passed the House on September 7 (220-175), with Democrats voting 3 to 1 in favor and Republicans voting 2 to 1 against. In NC-11, Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC) voted against the bill.

If what Schlafly wrote was accurate, then I found myself agreeing with her. The anti-corporatist tone coming from an old-line conservative like Schlafly struck me as signaling an area where conservatives and liberals can find common ground. The virtual takeover of the U.S. government by corporate money is something we all have reason to mistrust and oppose. Democracy of, by, and for those able to buy influence is no democracy at all, but something far less wholesome.

In The America Prospect this week Robert Kuttner wrote of Wall Street's partnering with the Chinese government's domestic surveillance operation:
More Like Us, or More Like Them? The New York Times' Keith Bradsher reported today in a fine piece that U.S. hedge funds are bankrolling Chinese high-tech surveillance operations. What a perfect marriage of capitalism and totalitarianism! What a perfect symbol of the weird permutations of globalization. Capitalists, of course, are famous for getting along with almost any brand of dictator. German industry coexisted nicely with Hitler and had many American business partners such as DuPont and Standard Oil, right up until the United States entered World War II. U.S corporate interests likewise had congenial relations with despotic regimes in Iran, Iraq, Cuba, the Dominican Republic -- and often influenced American foreign policy to keep these regimes propped up.

[. . .]

This globalization stuff gets curiouser and curiouser. Not so long ago, many writers were claiming that we would soon see a happy convergence, in which formerly communist nations would become more capitalist. And as they became more market-oriented, they would also become more democratic. However, recent history suggests the possibility of a rather darker convergence. Nations like China remain repressive one-party states, enabled by American multinationals. Far from creating a pro-worker communist society, the current Chinese mandarins actually help foreign capital get access to a cheap and docile workforce. Meanwhile, the western democracies become more despotic themselves, and the convergence is in the direction of a universal security state in league with global finance.
Imagine liberals and conservatives wondering, just what kind of democracy have we become anyway? Think we can put our other differences aside and work together to contain a common antidemocratic foe?

Friday, September 14, 2007

If "victory" has become "success"

what is "dead"?

From today's L.A. Times:
WASHINGTON -- -- For more than four years since the invasion of Iraq, President Bush most often has defined his objective there with a single, stirring word: "Victory."

[. . .]

But this week, the word "victory" disappeared from the president's lexicon. It was replaced by a slightly more ambiguous goal: "Success."
Listen to the last installment of Iraqi dentist Dr. Hassan's journal on NPR's Morning Edition site later this morning and the entire series. It's an unambiguously chilling account of the reality of life in Baghdad.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Profile of Josh Marshall

and Talking Points Memo in the Columbia Journalism Review.

A good read on an important site(s).

[h/t atonemusic]

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Odds & Ends

Glenn Greenwald's Thursday appearance in Asheville, NC has been postponed.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The neocon apporoach to all human interaction

They believed cooperation and compromise signaled weakness . . . they viewed every encounter outside the innermost core of most trusted advisers as a zero-sum game that if they didn't win they would necessarily lose.
And in "power as the absence of constraint," as Jack Goldsmith, former head of the Office of Legal Counsel from October 2003 to July of 2004, writes in The Terror Presidency. Excerpted this week and next in Slate.

Psychologists are going to have years of fun analyzing this administration.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Battle of the statistics

What you'll hear on the Iraq situation depends on who's mining the statistics? Go figure. From this morning's WaPo:
The U.S. military's claim that violence has decreased sharply in Iraq in recent months has come under scrutiny from many experts within and outside the government, who contend that some of the underlying statistics are questionable and selectively ignore negative trends.

Reductions in violence form the centerpiece of the Bush administration's claim that its war strategy is working. In congressional testimony Monday, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, is expected to cite a 75 percent decrease in sectarian attacks. According to senior U.S. military officials in Baghdad, overall attacks in Iraq were down to 960 a week in August, compared with 1,700 a week in June, and civilian casualties had fallen 17 percent between December 2006 and last month. Unofficial Iraqi figures show a similar decrease.

Others who have looked at the full range of U.S. government statistics on violence, however, accuse the military of cherry-picking positive indicators and caution that the numbers -- most of which are classified -- are often confusing and contradictory. "Let's just say that there are several different sources within the administration on violence, and those sources do not agree," Comptroller General David Walker told Congress on Tuesday in releasing a new Government Accountability Office report on Iraq.
NPR's Morning Edition just ran a piece (available online later) on the Iraq lies, damned lies, and, well, you know.
Sometime around February 2004, a top military official in Iraq estimated that there were about 15,000 total insurgents. About a year later, U.S. military leaders in Iraq announced that 15,000 insurgents had been killed or captured in the previous year.

In private, a skeptical military adviser pointed out to commanders that the numbers didn't make sense. "If all the insurgents were killed," he asked, "why are they fighting harder than ever?"
Are we fighting the Un-dead?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

When steadfast goes bad

In the aftermath of the Utah mine disaster, after several more minors died in the rescue, the mine owner halted digging operations, eventually deciding that there was no hope left for rescuing the lost miners.

If President Bush had been in charge, would he have adopted "a failure is not an option" stance and continued throwing men into the effort? Would Fox & Co. called naysayers defeatists. Would Bush have argued that not to continue would be to dishonor the sacrifice of the men who had already lost their lives in the rescue?

Monday, September 03, 2007

That's why the military has Supply Companies

Intermittent blogging continues as my other project consumes my time.

Meanwhile, at the LA Times:
"Is it wise to use civilian contractors in a war zone? Was it wise to send the convoy along the route [to Baghdad airport] on April 9, 2004?" Miller wrote. "Answering either question and the many questions in between would require the court to examine the policies of the executive branch during wartime, a step the court declines to take."
On Good Friday, 2004 KBR, the prime defense contractor in Iraq, sent out a convoy of 19 trucks -- driven by civilians -- to the Baghdad airport with an emergency supply of fuel. Only 6 trucks made it.
The final tally was grim. Six KBR drivers were dead. Most other drivers were wounded. Besides the kidnapped Hamill, another was missing. Tim Bell now is presumed dead. Two soldiers were killed. A third, Matt Maupin, was captured by insurgents and is still listed as missing. Hamill escaped after nearly three weeks and is back in the U.S.

Only six of the 19 KBR trucks reached the airport. Across Iraq, all 122 convoys sent out by KBR on April 9 were attacked, according to KBR.