Maybe. I felt a small flutter of affection today, a slight stirring of a spark that I thought was cold and dead. Hold onto your hats, because this involves saying something nice about CNN. Actually, it's probably just a cheap thrill, but I'm going with it. Someone at CNN has a sense of humor. In today's Entertainment section, there was a blurb in the showbuzz section about Al Franken's proposal that he and Bill O'Reilly face each other as part of the Great American Bowl Off. Now, I could give two, uh, wait, uh, I could care less about Franken or O'Reilly, but the title, oh the title of the paragraph. C'mon, reach back into the 80s with me, you can do it. The title of the paragraph is "Take the Fox Man Bowling." If you can't figure out why this is funny, click on "continue reading."Remember the tune? You can listen to a snip at Amazon if you can't.
Take the Skinheads Bowling - Camper Van Beethoven
Every day, I wake up and pray to Jah And he increases the number of clocks by exactly one Everybody's comin' home for lunch these days Last night there were skinheads on my lawn Take the skinheads bowling Take them bowling Take the skinheads bowling Take them bowling Some people say that bowling alleys got big lanes Some people say that bowling alleys all look the same There's not a line that goes here that rhymes with anything I had a dream last night, but I forget what it was I had a dream last night about you, my friend I had a dream--I wanted to sleep next to plastic I had a dream--I wanted to lick your knees I had a dream--it was about nothingSo, now, thanks to CNN, I have "Take the Fox Man bowling, take him bowling" in my head, a la Camper Van Beethoven.
Helena Cobban has the details. This is sort of a dog-bites-man story, but it's probably useful to be reminded occasionally of the kinds of things the settlers often get away with.
A blog devoted to judicial appointments! If, like me, you can never get enough information on this topic you should definitely take a look at this post from Sunday.
I know that CBS's stupidity has resulted in the president getting a free-pass on this as a campaign issue, but I still find this galling.
You better sit down for this. Sitting down yet? Ok. Read on.
“I even take the position that sexual orgies eliminate social tensions and ought to be encouraged,” Scalia said.
And as if that wasn't weird enough, on the same night he talked about the 17th Amendment to the US Constitution being a bad idea. First Alan Keyes, now Scalia - why exactly do prominent voices of the American right-wing want senators elected by state legislators? Have they seen state legislators (particularly legislators of the part-time, non-professional variety)? It's scary enough that we trust them with ... well, anything really.
And as to his question, “Would you rather have the president of the United States decided by the Supreme Court of Florida?” Personally, I'd rather have the presidency (and the choice of US senators for that matter) decided by the voting citizenry. But maybe that's just me.
So a lot of Bush voters love his stands on foreign policy. But it turns out he doesn't stand for what many of them think he stands for. You'd think there would be an opening for Kerry here ... but I think it is probably too late in the race for most voters to change their impressions of Bush, whether or not they match reality.
As anyone who reads blogs has likely seen by now, there are lots of people having a (justified) fit over an open letter by Martin Kozloff, a professor at University of North Carolina (Wilmington). Prof. Kozloff advocates a number of interesting political positions:
I've worked hard all my adult life to provide for my family, to be useful, and not go out of my way to injure anyone. Like most Americans, I knew little about arab-muslim culture and believed that the developed nations were partly responsible for the poverty and authoritarian regimes that infest the middle east.
Things changed on 9/11/01 when you ruined the lives of at least 10,000 Americans.
These people instantly became my countrymen and you became my mortal enemy.
Ordinary Americans are arming themselves for war with you. I and many of my friends have closets full of handguns, rifles, shotguns and thousands of cartridges. If we had enough ammunition and time, we would kill every last one of you.
One day soon, our planes and missiles will begin turning your mosques, your madrasses, your hotels, your government offices, your hideouts, and your neighborhoods into rubble. And then our soldiers will enter your cities and begin the work of killing you, roaches, as you crawl from the debris.
We will burn your mosques.
We will invade the offices of pro-arab-muslim organizations, destroy them, and drag their officers outside.
We will tell the chancellors of universities either to muzzle or remove anti American professors, whose hatred for their own country we have tolerated only because we place a higher value on freedom of speech. But we will no longer tolerate treason. We will muzzle and remove them.
We will transport arab-muslims to our deserts, where they can pray to scorpions under the blazing sun. You have fucked with the wrong people. We will rid the world of your foul breath. Your caliphate will be your grave.
Boy, I'll bet he's fun at parties. There has been lots written on other blogs to point out the boundless issues and problems with Prof. Kozloff's language and ideas. Go and read them. Given the original insanity of Kozloff's letter, it almost makes one heartened about the state of dissent in this country (almost).
I'll only pick out one point to harp on. Perhaps it is not a trait only of Americans, but I continue to be amazed at the number of people who do not credit people from other cultures and states as capable of having the same feelings and responses as we do. Kozloff reflects the vast well of anger that American's feel at an (undefined) "them" that have done us harm on September 11th. And, as Americans, we want to lash out and destroy or damage "them", and we seem relatively unimpressed and indifferent to the collateral damage and civilian casualties that amount over time (as many as 15,000 to date in Iraq). Yet we fail to consider what effect that has on the Iraqis. Shouldn't they, like we, get angry when attacked unreasonably? Shouldn't they, like we, act on that anger and strike out against those that are responsible? Unless we want to make the argument that they, as a people, feel and think vastly differently than we do (an argument that starts down the path to a racist end), why shouldn't we expect their basic instinctive reactions to violence and chaos to be similar to ours? Is it any wonder that we see escalating violence in Iraq as our own violent attempts to subdue the insurrection go on and on?
The vast majority of Muslims, while they don't particularly like us, are not actively opposed to the US or taking up arms against us. What does Prof. Kozloff expect to happen when his suggested strategy is implemented?
Sometimes I really think I shouldn't get out of bed. This is so appalling. He's approving of torture of SUSPECTED terrorists (and lately the government's ability to tell suspected from actual isn't great), wants to do it in my name and yours, and he's seeking to do this by ramming the change through in the legislative package implementing the 9/11 Commission. Ugh.
No, I'm not talking about our country's shocking indifferrence to what happens in our prisons, I'm referring to the title of this troubling Nick Kristof column. I wish we were doing more to try and stop this kind of thing, but sadly it's not a priority.
Things I wish for in tomorrow’s Presidential Debate:
I wish the candidates had spent more time discussing substantive issues, and less time discussing the Texas Air National Guard and Swiftboats.
I wish their campaigns had spent less time negotiating the temperature of the rooms and more time finding ways to actually answer questions.
I wish the news media would spend less time pointing out all the behind the scenes maneuvering and backroom politics, and more time listing all the questions that we would really like answered from both candidates.
I wish the debate commission had a backbone, and had forced the candidates to have a real debate where they would have to answer questions and engage each other.
I wish that both candidates would recognize that there are serious issues and questions surrounding both sides, and that the people want answers, not political posturing.
I wish that neither side had a pre-determined “message” that they will stick to relentlessly, and instead would just answer the questions as best they can.
I wish that the news media would analyze the debate in terms of who answers questions more completely and accurately, rather than who projects a better image or aura.
I wish that the news media would actually listen to the candidates answers, and then tell us if any of them are either practical, possible or both or not.
I wish the news media wouldn’t put on anybody from either camp where they already know how the person is going to answer the question “Who won the debate?” Don’t we already know how Dick Cheney and John Edwards are going to answer that question? That’s not news.
I’m sure I’ll think of some others, but I really hope for that last one.
This story has me wondering. No, not about Bush's tendencies to exaggerate, nor about these actions being at the very least extremely unseemly at a time when we're asking huge numbers of the Guard to put their lives on the line in Iraq. More than anything else I'm wondering 1) why stories like this don't get more news coverage and 2) why the White House would run the risk of the huge PR disaster stories like this could be if the mass media covered them more extensively.
Jack Balkin, the Knight Professor of Constitutional Law at Yale, has a post linking to a number of things he's written in the past on this subject. Balkin stresses that for him the most disturbing part of the whole episode wasn't the rulings by the US Supreme Court or the Florida Supreme Court, but instead actions taken by the Republican Party to block the voting rights of black Americans, actions that seem to be in full swing again. That this hasn't and isn't getting more attention is disgraceful, but sadly it's not entirely surprising given the political and social context in which these events are occurring.
For those of you interested in the 2000 election and Bush v. Gore, you may want to see if you can find the most recent issue of Perspectives on Politics (one of the publications of the American Political Science Association). That issue contains several articles dealing with issues tied to the cases and the vote counting, one of the interesting topics being variation in the counting of ballots that arrived after election day. Without even getting into recounts, overvotes, hanging chads or any of that, Gore actually received more votes in Florida on (and before) election day. President Bush won (among other reasons) because of votes that came in during the following weeks in November. One of the articles discusses how various counties counted those ballots and the considerable success of Republican lobbyists in trying to get some of those votes counted and others not.
Today there was a story in the NYT about the backlog of translations of intelligence tapes, and the fact that the FBI maybe have accidentally but systematically deleted taped material from Al Quaeda sources. That we are still in this mess, even after similar mistakes were clearly identified in the 9/11 attacks, is mind boggling. However, I'll let someone else rant about that.
The issue that strikes me is that there was - and is - the potential here for the government to do a great deal of good for itself and for young people in this country, by applying resources to this problem. What do I mean? Scholarships for students. Funding for state universities' foreign language programs. Support for programs that train students in international cultural affairs. Then track these students into government service. Of course it takes time, and in some cases the native level fluency in language required for some aspects of what the government needs would require recruiting already bilingual students to these programs. That could be an aspect of such a program too, in order to get short term movement while the longer-term investment is maturing. Even in the less than "internationalist" home base of bloodlesscoup, there has been an upsurge in young people interested in studying international affairs and languages relevant to US foreign policy. Some of those young people have an interest sparked by their own or a relative's service in the National Guard or other branch of the service. However there aren't enough programs, or even shorter term courses to meet their needs.
Finally, there is this:
In counterterrorism cases, more than 123,000 hours of audio recordings in languages commonly associated with terrorism have not been translated since the Sept. 11 attacks, amounting to 20 percent of the total material, the report found. For all languages, nearly half a million hours of audio tapes, or 30 percent of the material collected, was not reviewed, it said. The data reflected material gathered under foreign intelligence surveillance warrants in operations within the United States.
The 120,000+ hours are only in languages that are "commonly associated" with terrorism. There are another 500,000 hours of languages not commonly associated with terrorism. I am curious...what are those languages? If they are Spanish, French, or German, I would seriously question that separation of groups of languages, given the evidence and suspicion of terrorist activity in Europe and South America.
Well, as if getting the Pentagon to fly Chalabi's private army into the area and picking the IGC and the new Prime Minister weren't enough (and of course there are plenty of other examples of us affecting the "choice" of the Iraqi leadership), our dear leader on Pennsylvania Ave. apparently wanted to FUND OUTRIGHT Iraqi candidates he liked through a covert CIA operation. Yeah, another example of Team Bush's firm commitement to democracy in action. But like the attempt by some in the administration to install the Iran-funded Ahmed Chalabi as the new center of power in Baghdad, this plan to shape Iraqi "democracy" has also been abandoned. Time has the details.
Yeah, I know - dog bites man, film at 11. But this latest column of his is pretty funny. Of course there's the real chuckle part where he feels the need to inform us that one agency official he is writing about is not a covert operative (so after outing one operative in his service to Team Bush is he going to have to do that every time he writes about people who work for the Agency?). And that very last line in which he shakes his finger at the CIA for criticizing the president is cute (in a sick, sad way). But overall this column suffers from 2 breathtaking assumptions: 1) it seems to imply that the CIA should never present information critical of White House policies (which would of course entail an egregious failure of duty on its part) and 2) that the "war" between the White House and the CIA is "news". The latter has been going on throughout most of the Bush presidency. Go back and read the press stories from 2001 (when the CIA thought the White House should care about terrorism) and 2002 (when they thought the White House was greatly exaggerating the Iraqi threat, and seeing a post-war Iraq in unrealistic, wildly-rosy-scenario terms).
Publius has a long, troubling report on this topic. As he admits, there is no smoking gun in the evidence he gathers that proves Republicans have acted to suppress the black vote in a way that would violate the Voting Rights Act - but there's plenty there that would seem to call for further investigation. And given the other actions the party has taken of late - the "interviews" with black voters, the problems black voters had with being allowed to vote in Florida in 2002 and 2000 ... well, there are an awful lot of coincidences going on, and I'd feel much more comfortable with this if I trusted the Justice Department to take this seriously. But I haven't seen much happen over the last 4 years of Bush/Ashcroft to make me think that will occur. Since we are sending our troops abroad to fight for the right to vote, it would be comforting to be sure that the rights of Americans to vote weren't being imperiled.
As an aside I'll briefly note that the Vanity Fair story on Bush v. Gore that is getting so much mention of late is really only partially about the court case. It also covers a variety of other troubling matters tied to that election. And to my reading, none of what's covered in that article, including the behavior of the Supreme Court, is as disturbing as the treatment of black voters in that election.
Well, as long as you ignore little tidbits like this: "On Wednesday, there were 28 separate hostile incidents in Baghdad, including five rocket-propelled grenade attacks, six roadside bombings and a suicide bombing in which a car exploded at a National Guard recruiting station, killing at least 11 people and wounding more than 50." Oh, and on a typical day in Iraq there are 70 attacks against US and Iraqi forces, a number that is dramatically higher than it was just a few months ago.
I just finished reading John Lamberton Harper’s American Machiavelli: Alexander Hamilton and the Origins of U.S. Foreign Policy. I recommend it for those interested in Hamilton, but beyond that it sheds a good deal of light on foreign policy and national security issues concerning the United States during the presidencies of George Washington and John Adams. For those of you who don’t know much about the Jay Treaty, the role of foreign interests and affiliations in early party politics, or the various proposals dealing with the conduct of the undeclared war with France, there is a wealth of knowledge here on those subjects. And certain more obscure but still intriguing issues are flushed out as well, for example, the politics and policies associated with Major General Hamilton’s role in the army in the late 1790’s. In addition, for those of you interested in the public figures of the first years of the republic, Harper paints vivid pictures. James Monroe comes off worse than I’ve seen him in other works, and as to John Adams, the word that comes to mind is “egads”. The Adams of this history is a prim, elitist, ugly, unyielding, nasty nativist of the first order, and as an extra bonus – not much of a politician. The portrait of Hamilton himself is not glowing, but it is generally positive. Whether or not you are inclined to agree with his foreign policy views during this period, this work makes clear that Hamilton was an extremely influential force during the Founding period, and it is a valuable addition to the literature investigating that influence.
"Operations by U.S. and multinational forces and Iraqi police are killing twice as many Iraqis - most of them civilians - as attacks by insurgents, according to statistics compiled by the Iraqi Health Ministry and obtained exclusively by Knight Ridder. According to the ministry, the interim Iraqi government recorded 3,487 Iraqi deaths in 15 of the country's 18 provinces from April 5 - when the ministry began compiling the data - until Sept. 19. Of those, 328 were women and children. Another 13,720 Iraqis were injured, the ministry said."
Read the whole sad, sobering Knight-Ridder report.
I’ve wondered about this surrealist classic ever since hearing Charlie Black’s condemnation of it in Metropolitan. Given Charlie’s appreciation of the bourgeoisie, I can understand why he was appalled at the film’s representation of the class. Still, it’s probably worth noting that Charlie was far too serious for his own good, and his moralistic tendencies probably prevented him from enjoying the film’s considerable silliness. Yes, it has a point that it makes with all the subtlety of a nuclear bomb, but it has some charms along the way.
That said, I didn’t love this movie, and I think that its standing in the film pantheon is probably exaggerated. It’s very much the product of its era, and I’m not sure it’ll hold up well over time. But if you’re really interested in French cinema, the films of the anti-elite Europeans of that era, Bunuel, or caricatures of randy, sexy, upper-middle-class French ladies (I’ll confess to a strong liking for the ever-gracious and often-drinking ones seen here), the movie has a lot to offer.
This map is both amusing and highly troubling. People who have followed foreign policy decision making in this administration know that the autumn of 2001 is when planning for a war against Iraq really heated up. Given that, and the map, it's painfully obvious that al-Qaeda (the people who'd attacked the United States just months before) had very little to do with our decision to invade Iraq.
First they give the president a true gift from above (or if the conspiracy theorists are right, possibly Karl Rove) in sending out the impression to millions of Americans that the president completed his Guard service (as has been noted here and elsewhere, as it currently stands it appears that he did not), and now comes this. They don't want to run a report that may be critical of the administration because it is so close to the election (which of course is still several weeks away). I'm truly flabbergasted at this reasoning. I'm really at a loss for words. If that's really their criteria they should probably get out of the news business altogether.
Remember back when many of the country’s finest weeklies regularly included top-drawer short fiction? Neither do I, but at least The New Yorker still provides this valuable service. And as to their recent offerings, Joyce Carol Oates’ “Spider Boy” (in the September 20 issue) is one of the better short stories they have included in some time.
Dahlia Lithwick comments on the end of it all - and the appalling things it says about the way Bush and Ashcroft look at the law and the system of justice in the United States.
The Air Force Times joins the list of news organizations that want to know, and wonder why the president isn't answering other key questions about his Guard duty.
The Senate race in Louisiana is not getting much attention at the moment, and that's perfectly understandable since it's likely not going to be decided until a December run-off between Republican Congressman David Vitter and a Democrat to be named in November primary (yes, Vitter could win the seat in November if he gets over 50% of the vote, but most observors doubt that will happen). Still, it's likely to be one of the closest races in the country (as all the Senate races in Louisiana not involving John Breaux have been lately), and it's certainly plausible that the projected December run-off will decide which party controls in the US Senate next January. Those factors mean that it should be near the top of the list of key races this fall.
Most observors seem to think Congressman John (D) will defeat Congressman Vitter (R) in a December run-off. I think that's rather unlikely for a few reasons, most prominent among them being that I think Vitter is a much more appealing candidate than the Republicans put up in 2002 (and even that dog of a candidate almost beat incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu), the December race will likely see lower turnout than the Novembr election (and we all know which party tends to benefit from low turnout in Louisiana), and I do not consider John to be as appealing as Breaux. Lots of people who look at the state see similarities between the two, and there are some - Breaux's endorsed John, John holds Breaux's old House seat, John is, like Breaux, on the right-wing of the Democratic party in Congress (for example John is pro-gun and anti-gay). But I remain unconvinced that John has a similar level of political charm, and of course he doesn't have Breaux's long record of bringing home all sorts of goodies to Louisiana. I have felt from the start that State Treasurer John Kennedy should be the Democratic nominee for this seat (I understand the appeal of State Rep. Arthur Morrell who is also running, but Morrell is far more liberal than John and Kennedy, plus he's black - and I don't think he has a serious chance to be elected), and I'm pleased to see that Kennedy has won the backing of Congressman Bill Jefferson (the lone Democray in Louisiana's US House delegation other than John). Endorsements don't always mean a great deal - but this one should strengthen Kennedy's campaign in New Orleans.
Of course Vitter will be very difficult to defeat irrespective of whom the Democratic candidate is.
Assisting in the relief work in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan, or directing traffic at the Auburn game? Where do you think the Alabama State Police were last weekend?
Well, this clears things up:
"Celebrity or unknown, our job is to act on information that others have given us," Ridge said.
Can I be one of the others? Because I would really like to pass on the information that my house needs to be painted. Then would it be their job to act?
Seriously, there is a need to screen for terrorists, but the system seems more than a little "buggy" or "glitchy" when it is catching prominent artists and scholars for which the government can't supply a good reason for tagging.
Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said his organization wanted a better explanation for why the singer was denied entry into the country. "We are getting a little tired of this kind of Kafkaesque treatment of people, where vague allegations are made and actions are taken against individuals and organizations," Hooper said. He said American Muslim leaders "need to know where the allegations are coming from." "I don't think we want to be in a situation where people are denounced by anonymous government officials and labeled as terrorists and that's it -- everybody says 'Okay, we don't need any more information.' We need more information," he said. (from CNN)
And in the final dose of the surreal, Ridge went on to say that Stevens/Islam is "one of my favorite artists." As if that has anything to do with anything (other than being a line that sounds like "really, I can't be prejudiced because I have black friends").
This is the kind of campaign George Bush is running - and it's not just in Arkansas. Friends of mine in West Virginia have gotten this too, and apparently they've been sent out in other states.
Doesn't it make you proud that George Bush is the leader of our nation? He's such a fine, upstanding man. That's what I hear anyway. I guess I'm just a little confused as to how spreading complete, malicious lies about one's opponents and gay-bashing were the best ways to restore honor, integrity and dignity to the White House.
Juan Cole has a thought provoking post comparing what the US would look like if it had the level of violence and insurgency that Iraq has today. Basically, he takes all of the figures for violence and multiplies everything by 11 (the population difference between Iraq and the US).
His basic point is that Bush is insane for saying that Iraq is making progress, because (converting Iraqi statistics over to US based ones), if our country had this level of violence we would not be optimistic about anything at all.
I'm not sure that just multiplying everything by 11 is a valid way to compare countries and societies, but it is an interesting exercise. Certainly, it does make you wonder how they are going to have real elections there, given the scope of violence across the country, much less rebuild the place.
Obsidian Wings has a similar post up, with some interesting discussion, if anyone is interested.
This rebuke of Leo's latest idiocy, uh, columm, has reminded me of his existence and two things I used to wonder many years ago when I read US News regularly - 1) why was he hired? and 2) why has he been kept under contract? He's not an especially good writer. He doesn't typically have anything remotely resembling original ideas. Are his pontifications, which come off as things a blustery but supposedly kind-hearted uncle would say after Thanksgiving dinner, really that popular? I am rather perplexed at how he's lasted so long.
Well, this isn't encouraging. And Brazil? Who knew? How will we deal with these threats? Well according to the article, this is our approach: "This administration's nonproliferation strategy consists of flailing around with a two-by-four," says one disgusted Republican elder statesman. Great. That makes me feel safe.
Merriam-Webster defines strident as:
characterized by harsh, insistent, and discordant sound; also : commanding attention by a loud or obtrusive quality
Drudge has a link up to a Christian Science Monitor story about Kerry-supporting troops in Iraq, the title of which is "A strident minority." There are a couple of things about this story that are interesting.
First, I find the use of the word "strident" to be one of those uh-oh signals. Like when a woman is called "shrill." You know, it usually means someone wants to call her a "bitch" but she might just be vehement ((1) : deeply felt (2) : forcibly expressed) or outspoken (1 : to excel in speaking 2 : to declare openly or boldly). Strident usually connotes irrationality, extremism, or strained control.
Second, it is interesting that this story leads off with a link between Michael Moore and these attitudes, but not necessarily as a definitive causal factor in either the development of those attitudes or the supposed demoralization of the troops. Contrary to a lot of the media coverage I've read on Fahrenheit 9/11 and the military, the CSM piece looks at it as much as a symptom as a cause.
The film's prevalence is one sign of a discernible countercurrent among US troops in Iraq...
This is a bit more nuanced perception of what the relationship between media and opinion is among the troops.
Third, once you get past the title and first couple of paragraphs, an even more complicated picture emerges. There is a quote from a soldier that is representative of what one would likely call a vehement and partisan flavor:
"[For] 9 out of 10 of the people I talk to, it wouldn't matter who ran against Bush - they'd vote for them," said a US soldier in the southern city of Najaf, seeking out a reporter to make his views known. "People are so fed up with Iraq, and fed up with Bush."
However there is also information that suggests no one really has a good idea of the size of the "minority" referred to in the headline, and that the ratio could range from quite small to quite significant depending on whether the group is split into officers and enlisted personnel.
A Military Times survey last December of 933 subscribers, about 30 percent of whom had deployed for the Iraq war, found that 56 percent considered themselves Republican - about the same percentage who approved of Bush's handling of Iraq. Half of those responding were officers, who as a group tend to be more conservative than their enlisted counterparts.
Equally intriguing is the mention of a study done by a Duke University researcher: "about one third of enlisted troops are Republicans, one third Democrats, and the rest independents, with the latter group growing." As a student of a world region where rampant praetorianism had significant negative effects (to put it mildly) I am in no way suggesting that we politicize the armed forces. However, I find it very interesting that we know so little (or, that what we know gets so little coverage) about the political preferences of those in uniform. Politicians, pundits - heck, we - spend a lot of time implicitly or explicity "speaking for" people in the military (see the guard unit thread, for example), but we don't really know. I have to say, that as a social scientist, I'm really curious about this trend they cite towards independence, as well as the proportions of party membership. From looking at the papers, not to mention listening to re-election rhetoric, one could easily gather the impression that the military is much more Republican than the numbers reported in the CSM story suggest.
Fourth, there is some - and I note that these are anecdotal interviews, not studies conforming to statistical validity and reliabity - very articulate criticism coming from the pro-Kerry soldiers that does not sound like parroting of F 9/11 or campaign propaganda, but more like a good assessment of the complicated position in which servicemen and women find themselves.
"The military as a whole supports the Iraq war," Mr. Feaver says, noting a historical tendency of troops to back the commander in chief in wartime. "But you can go across the military and find pockets where they are more ambivalent," he says, especially among the National Guard and Reserve. "The war has not gone as swimmingly as they thought, and that has caused disaffection. Whether representing pockets of opposition to Bush or something bigger, soldiers and marines on Iraq's front lines can be impassioned in their criticism. One Marine officer in Ramadi who had lost several men said he was thinking about throwing his medals over the White House wall. "Nobody I know wants Bush," says an enlisted soldier in Najaf, adding, "This whole war was based on lies." Like several others interviewed, his animosity centered on a belief that the war lacked a clear purpose even as it took a tremendous toll on US troops, many of whom are in Iraq involuntarily under "stop loss" orders that keep them in the service for months beyond their scheduled exit in order to keep units together during deployments. "There's no clear definition of why we came here," says Army Spc. Nathan Swink, of Quincy, Ill. "First they said they have WMD and nuclear weapons, then it was to get Saddam Hussein out of office, and then to rebuild Iraq. I want to fight for my nation and for my family, to protect the United States against enemies foreign and domestic, not to protect Iraqi civilians or deal with Sadr's militia," he said.and
Another marine, Sgt. Christopher Wallace of Pataskala, Ohio, agreed that the film was making an impression on troops. "Marines nowadays want to know stuff. They want to be informed, because we'll be voting out here soon," he said. " 'Fahrenheit 9/11' opened our eyes to things we hadn't seen before." But, he added after a pause, "We still have full faith and confidence in our commander-in-chief. And if John Kerry is elected, he will be our commander in chief."
That doesn't sound very strident at all.
Matt Yglesias rightly notes that George Will's latest column shows that not even all fervent Republicans can continually lie about the charade that Iraq is not, at this time, "sovereign". But I think there are two other parts of that column that also warrant attention - one for substance, one for humor.
Most importantly, it's clear that Will is among those who see serious problems with the conduct of the war so far and are very pessimistic about its future. Consider this:
When President Bush proclaims, as he regularly does, that "freedom is on the march," he cannot be thinking of Russia. Across its 11 time zones, freedom is in retreat, again.
When Allawi addresses a joint session of Congress Thursday, he will stand where British Prime Minister Tony Blair stood in July 2003 to proclaim that it is a "myth" that American and British "attachment to freedom is a product of our culture" -- a myth that "freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law" are Western rather than universal values. Allawi will not say anything less plausible to an audience that is sadder, and perhaps wiser, than it was 14 months ago.
But if that gets you too depressed or sad and you think he's just a big meanie who refuses to recognize the bravery and vision of W - or if you just need a nice little chuckle - Will also writes this: "Time will tell whether Allawi will ride the whirlwind or be consumed by it -- whether he will be Iraq's Alexander Kerensky. Allawi certainly seems tougher than that mild Russian who briefly held power in Russia in 1917". Stating that a thug like Allawi is tougher than Kerensky is one of the understatements of the year.
Here's Senator Kerry's speech from Monday on the the war in Iraq. I think it's a very strong speech.
Am I the only person who's incensed by the cover of today's USA Today? There, splashed across the top of the page is "CBS backs off Guard story". Given the tendency of many of the people who see newspapers to simply glance over the headline isn't it a problem when a headline could easily give viewers the wrong impression? Obviously CBS is backing off the Killian documents and that part of the story. But they are hardly backing off the as yet untold story of what the president was actually doing in 1972 and whether or not he deserved his honorable discharge. As I've mentioned before, the fact that these particular documents may have a questionable past doesn't affect the broad outline of what we know and don't know about the president's service in the Guard. So I certainly hope (and presume) CBS isn't backing off the real story here - the one dealing with the president of the United States (as opposed to the in-house issue of their own ethics and standards). The editors at USA Today are either really pro-Bush or lacking any appreciation whatsoever for the implications of their sloppy wording.
You just have to love him.
That's what Robert Novak's saying. And while one should generally take his commentary and insights about Democrats with a grain of salt, he has long-standing relationships with many supposedly in-the-know GOP sources. Maybe the president is planning one last big battle (AFTER the election), then he will declare victory and leave the Iraqis to fend for themselves in a highly unstable security situation. According to Novak, that seems to be what at least some senior administration people hope to do in 2005.
UPDATE: Josh Marshall has some thoughts about what this means here: http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/week_2004_09_19.php#003496
If he's right, it's a clever play.
A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America’s Intelligence Agencies by James Bamford. (Amazon link: Pretext for War (2004))
Brief Review: Nothing anyone hasn’t seen before. Neo-cons push US into war, force intel community to go along. Other authors have done this better. Skip this book and read his other ones.
James Bamford is a very good writer, and one who writes about an area that is covered rarely: the bureaucratic operations and activities of the nations intelligence services, specifically the National Security Agency. The NSA is the agency charged mostly with securing our own communications (making sure no one can read our mail) and penetrating other state’s communications (making sure we can read their mail). The NSA operates under the Pentagon (the head of the NSA is always a military general, who rotates back to active duty when his tour is finished), and has the largest budget of any intelligence agency (far larger than the CIA’s). Bamford has written two books on this subject before: Puzzle Palace (1983) and Body of Secrets (2002). These two books lay out in great detail how the NSA works, what it does, and what its successes and failures were/are. They are very good books, describing how the NSA fits into the overall intelligence community, who it reports to and where the money goes. Both of those books are far superior to Pretext for War.
As I noted, Bamford is a good writer, who clearly has sources in this (fairly closed) community. When I heard he was writing about this topic, I figured I would get as close to the real story as someone could come up with. Bamford's facts may be right, but his writing suffers in this book (it feels rushed - maybe he pushed to get it out before the election? I'm speculating.) This is a short, somewhat disconnected book. It begins with a long story of what happened on the morning of Sept. 11th, 2001 (a story told in greater detail by the 9/11 commission). The book then fills us in on how we missed the hijackers as they moved into this country (again, something the 9/11 commission report details). Finally, Bamford describes the shift in emphasis away from Al Qaeda/Afghanistan to Hussein/Iraq. He argues that the leadership of the defense department pushed the intelligence towards the idea that Iraq was a clear and present danger when in reality the intelligence said nothing of the sort. Bamford is very angry, and while anger can help some authors speak with a clearer voice, I do not think that is the case here. The book is short, and contains no real detail (not already known from other sources) about the failure of the intelligence community to accurately portray the state of Iraq. Bamford thinks this is because of a deliberate deception on the part of various neocons in the administration (partisans of the right, or course, would disagree). His anger shines through, but the story does not. Skip. (Though, as noted, if you have an interest in this subject, read his other books, which are very good.)
Generally, bad ideas that potential allies think are doomed to fail aren't a good place to start.
Read this Matt Yglesias post. It gets at a key point dealing with situations in which coalitions are NOT likely to form, and argues that this affected the direction of French foreign policy in 2002 and 2003. While it may come as a shock to some, the French weren't disagreeing with American foreign policy because they hate freedom.
Phil Carter analyzes a story by Tom Ricks of the Washington Post (linked to in Carter's piece) on some of the troops who are due to be sent to Iraq. It's yet more evidence that we are over-stretched that this is even being considered, and if we do send them I think it would be fair to accuse of the US government of negligence for the reasons Carter notes. Beyond that, I think it would also be fair to call us a bunch of dumbasses. Generally speaking our troops are not trained for nation-building, and it couldn't be more obvious that these members of the Guard in particular are probably not up to the tasks that will be required of them.
As someone who's never been a big fan of hate crime laws I found this post from Orcinus really interesting. He makes a very strong case in favor of them, and after reading it I'm much more supportive of them than I was 5 minutes ago. For me, that's a sign of a highly effective argument.
OK, obviously this is a subjective observation, but I spent last night at a New Wave Dance Party at our town's leading music venue and I've got to say that out of all the music played (and ok, in reality it was more of a 1980's Dance Music night, some of the music didn't fit into even a broad definition of "New Wave") that New Order's Blue Monday was pretty clearly the most danceable song of the era. There were other good ones, and some that were certainly more fun, but for basic dance music it's very hard to top that song.
"Hmmm, that's quite a choice. On the one hand, Miller could cave in and we'd learn more about who outed Plame. On the other hand, she could stick to her guns and end up in jail. Which would I prefer? Choices, choices...."
I agree with Kevin, that's a hard choice. Is there any way we could get both!
For a year or two this Daniel Handler (better known as Lemony Snicket, in his musical moments he’s the accordianist for The Magnetic Fields) work was one of my favorite novels. My love of it may have faded a tiny bit, and it’s certainly not a “great book”, but it remains clever, funny and highly entertaining. So if you’re looking for a black comedy to pick up this weekend, this book is probably still one of the best things out there.
The format allows for all types of games and catty dialogue. It is structured as the day-to-day journal of a teenager written some time after said teenager commits a heinous crime. So you get, simultaneously, an exposition of events and an inner monologue about them. This enables the author to include all sorts of scathing parentheticals about the various players, while also throwing in fun little extras like vocabulary words and study questions at the end of certain entries.
The story deals with the lives of the members of Roewer High School’s Grand Opera Breakfast Club and, in particular, the events leading up to the death of Mr. Adam State. It captures a lot of high school clique behavior with considerable panache, and the murderous heroine is quite the storyteller. In addition, it’s treatment of the TV shows and TV psychologists that are always bemoaning and decrying the latest supposedly negative trend affecting the lives of the young people of the United States are (quite deservedly) torn limb from limb in riotous fashion. So if you are feeling an urge to immerse yourself in a bit of evil fun in a high school setting I think there’s a good chance you’d find this book to be worth your time.
In a mere twelve lines Nick Confessore hits on some of the key structural phenomena that affect what types of candidates are advantaged and disadvantaged in today's political environment in the US.
Oklahoma being Oklahoma I still expect this guy to get elected to the US Senate. But news stories like this one and these in the last few days suggest that Congressman Carson might just be able to win in November. I really hope that happens, not because I love Carson or because I'm committed to supporting every Democrat but because Tom Coburn is simply very scary, and we don't need to add another member to the unofficial scary reactionary caucus.
Eugene Volokh responds to mail complaining that his earlier post dealing with the marriage rights of sadomasochists fails to acknowledge the threat that these people pose to our way of life. Or something like that - this bit of righteous indignation is very heavy on indignation, but very weak on argument, and Volokh quite rightly skewers it.
And on a lighter note than other recent bloodless fare....for those who are unaware, September 19 is international Talk Like a Pirate Day. There is a website where you can find all kinds of pirate-y goodness, including several name generators. C'mon join me, Commodore Esmerelda the Burly Wench, in a hearty round of "aaarrrrghhhhhh!!!"As if this and this weren't reason enough to be pro-pirate.
The first National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq since the infamous (both for its content and for who didn't read it) October 2002 document has apparently been completed, and the findings are not encouraging.
I haven't seen any graphics on this for awhile, so if you haven't either and are interested this post has a graphic of the number of American wounded in Iraq by month, and the post also contains a link to another graphic showing the number of coalition fatalities by day. The trendlines on both graphics are harrowing.
I know I shouldn't be disgusted with anything either the Republicans or the Democrats do, and I suppose its a good sign that I'm still not completely jaded when their actions still piss me off.
Bush has failed to declare a disaster in Alabama, even though it is clearly worse off than Florida. That couldn't have anything to do with Florida's electoral votes, could it?
And, of course, another hurricane has caused such a logistical nightmare in Florida that they are forced, forced, to put Nader on the ballot before the courts can sort out if he really deserves to be there. (Another link here).
It's almost enough to make you think that God is a Republican.
Who knew? Dave Sirota for one.
A well-educated moron I'll grant you. A serious moron. A plain moron who dresses in such boring attire that it's obvious you're supposed to look at him for deep, insightful, solid thoughts. He's possibly even at some level a very smart moron. But he's a moron nonetheless. Why? Because he writes pointless claptrap like this:
"Judicial philosophy explains nine-tenths of a justice’s votes. Time and custom have come to accept three discrete brands as legitimate. The first searches for the original meaning of the Constitution. The second searches for a political compromise between contesting interpretations. The third searches for a construction that corresponds with contemporary standards of decency that flourish among intellectuals. At present, Chief Justice Rehnquist and Associate Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas espouse the first brand, Associate Justices O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy the second, and Associate Justices Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Breyer the third. Constitutionally incoherent rulings that sow more doubts than they resolve have been the result, with Justices O’Connor and Kennedy characteristically casting the tipping votes. Exemplary was the 5-4 affirmative action opinion in Grutter vs. Bollinger (2003) by Justice O’Connor, which sustained racial preferences in university admissions, but plucked a 25-year limit from the sky as a political compromise for ending violations of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
I think it's extremely easy to critize both Grutter and Justice O'Connor and I'm certainly not hitting him for doing either one of those things. Nor am I criticizing his concern that we're not paying enough attention to Supreme Court appointments as a political issue (though it seems pretty clear most voters don't care). What bugs me is this continually trumpeted description of the Court as a 3-2-4 split composed of the "real" conservatives, the "no back-bone" conservatives and the flaming liberals who are apparently judging cases on the basis of faxes they get from Barbra Streisand and Cornel West. Judicial philosophy doesn't fit into the neat little boxes that characterize our political debate (consider the Apprendi and Apprendi-related coalitions). For example, Thomas and Rehnquist are both arch-conservatives, but of notably different stripes. Kennedy is pretty damn conservative, but his belief in individual liberties and the freedom of speech places him on the "wrong" side of some issues from the perspective of the FRC and the Christian Coalition, so therefore he's less "conservative". From the last few terms if anyone's like O'Connor it's Breyer. And the idea that Souter, Stevens and Ginsburg are a cabal meeting in the night seeking ways to force the cultural preferences of Manhattan on Wisconsin - it is to laugh. Yes, there are some big divides on the Court that match Republican/Democratic "conservative"/"liberal" divides (Bush v. Gore leaps to mind). But the idea that there are these 3 basic approaches to judicial philopsohy and that these are the camps - save if for the fund-raising letters folks.
I'll start this by noting that personally whether or not he fulfilled his Guard obligations has nothing to do with how I'll vote on November 2nd. I'm much more interested in 21st century events than events that went on before I was born. But for those of you who feel the need to discuss this matter, here's a thread in which to do it.
Want some articles on get you started? Here are some from US News, the Boston Globe, and the Nation. Whether or not the CBS documents are forgeries has pretty much nothing to do with the facts at hand (thearticles I linked to are based on other documents). As Mark Kleiman says, being guilty of a frame isn't the same thing as being innocent.
I'll repeat that to me this isn't a vitally important story, and I hope the comments thread on this isn't terribly long - but since despite my best efforts our comments section tends to run along the lines of "Bush is bad! No, Bush is good!" I figured I'd give ya'll a place to post your thoughts and screeds on this matter.
UPDATE: Oh, and here's a run-down on what's known and not known from Kevin Drum.
Eugene Volokh (in a quite humorous post) points out that all kinds of people can marry, including lots and lots of people that lots and lots of other people consider icky - just not gays. Oh, and he doubts that the fact that sadists can marry has anything to do with that powerful sadist lobby. Who knew? Oh, and he has another news flash - this has been going on for ages! Whatever will we tell the children?
I think Jonathan's take on this is pretty much on target. That said, I'm very troubled by the fact that if the Israeli government is setting this as the initial bar it's not hard to look into the future and see any peace settlement as fantastically expensive. I mean anyone who's paid attention to this has long known that, but the scale of these numbers really shines a blinding light on that fact. And if the US eventually gets corralled into an international group that facilitates this kind of thing I'm going to be more than a little unhappy at subsidizing (albeit long after the fact) right-wing settlement policies. Still, if it can move the peace process forward and help change attitudes in the region ... well, this might be the best step in the right direction we can hope for.
The precise number of people executed for all crimes in China is a state secret. Reports range from 5,000 to 10,000 a year, many for murder, but they have also been killed for corruption and crimes as minor as bottom-pinching. Legal experts have proposed what they call a "kill fewer, kill carefully" policy for nonviolent crimes."Bottom-pinching." Clearly they want to show that the penalty is unjustly and disproportionately applied, but bottom-pinching? Just had to have that one, little, slightly salacious detail.
Big government, big deficits - brought to you by the Bush administration, but paid for by you, your children, your children's children ...
This isn't even a fraction of the damning case that can be made against the administration on this issue. And worse yet, it discusses a song that I'd be happy to never again be reminded of. But nonetheless, it addresses what to me is an issue of vital national importance that's too rarely in the public eye, so I figured I might as well link to it.
UPDATE: We should post the Obsidian Wings piece that Baltar mentions in the comments on the front page. It covers some different material that's highly relevant to this subject.
At a certain level this is very funny. At another level, it's definitely not.
At the moment, I'm thinking so. Check out this lead from Reuters on Secretary of State Hood placing Ralph Nader's name on the Florida ballot: "Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader's name can appear on Florida ballots for the election, despite a court order to the contrary, Florida's elections chief told officials on Monday in a move that could help President Bush in the key swing state."
Despite a court order to the contrary.
As is rather too frequently the case, the Republicans are looking like the party of order, but there are much less clearly the party of law - or at least less like the party of those who follow the law. And of course this isn't even the only questionable move the Florida Secretary of State's office has made this month. There's also this matter.
Anyway, you can read the whole story on Hood's actions regarding the Nader candidacy here.
I loved the Ferragamo advertisement that was on the back of last week’s edition of The New Yorker. That was probably my favorite thing about the issue. It was a really lovely photograph, plus it managed to present a surprising number of products in an elegant and alluring way.
And speaking of great photos of pretty things that present a product in an entirely appropriate and appealing light, the photo of Sufjan Stevens in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine was great.
But while lovely and fun and clever things abound in our surroundings, so do the noxious, mundane and downright appalling. As to the latter category, am I the only person who’s been ready to throw things at the screen every time I see the trailer for that J. Lo as dance muse (well, not Terpsichore herself) movie? It seems like that ad has been running for the better part of the year, and it gets more tired and cloying every time I see it. And then to throw on what sounds like a cover of The Magnetic Fields’ “Book of Love” at the end that is vastly inferior to the original … it’s trailers like that that remind me why the development of the “indie” movie phenomenon was necessary in the first place.
Also in the realm of bad movies, I was reminded of the fact that I like two Ben Stiller performances, not just one (The Royal Tenenbaums, not just Zoolander). So I tip my hat to Mr. Stiller for that. Though it should be said that having finally made it through the end of Starsky and Hutch Mr. Stiller owes the viewing public about 5 or 6 good performances to offset the pain and anguish brought on by that cinematic atrocity. And that’s before he could even begin to compensate us for the rest of his awful body of work.
OK, so below I noted the high level of bloodshed in Iraq over the weekend. I think I should highlight part of that story - the fact that one of the dead was an al-Arabiya reporter who was killed while he was on the air. This gets at something that I think not enought people acknowledge. The images of the war that Americans see are often much less jarring than those seen abroad. I mean the networks don't want anyone to toss their Cheetos, or create too much cognitive dissonace between the presentation of the news stories and the ads for Depends that are coming up during the break, and heavens knows they wouldn't want to offend anyone, so we get a cleaned up picture of the war. I finally saw the Michael Moore movie yesterday and was really surprised at how surprised a lot of the audience was at the relatively graphic images. We just aren't exposed to most of them - whereas other populations are. I think this has a lot to do with why different populations view this conflict differently.
And of course that's before we even bring up the possibilty that in this instance the helicopter might have been mowing down a largely peaceful crowd. If that's what happened - well, others are getting a REALLY different look at the American presence in Iraq.
OK, hands up - who here thinks the president should give the American people a list of the terrorists he likes and the terrorists he doesn't before the election? It would seem to clarify things, and would save him from any future charges of false advertising. I would have hardly thought that such a list was necessary, but given actions like this one, I think it's not only fair to ask him - an answer should be required.
Atrios has this exchange from The Capitol Gang in which Bob Novak (not merely a White House apologist, but a central figure in the Plame investigation himself) shows his usual high degree of moral fiber and rectitude.
I should note that while I'm somewhat sympathetic to what he actually says here, the idea that this case demands disclosure but the Plame case does not - well, just saying the first few syllables of that thought aloud would shatter a laugh meter.
Yet another miserable failure brought to you by the Bush White House. Big time. There are certainly times when the civilian leadership should over-rule military recommendations. But when that happens and things go horribly wrong ... I think it's hard not to consider them to bear a fair amount of responsibility for such a disaster. And the ending to this appears disasterous.
One of the other good things in yesterday's Times was this story by Adam Liptak that points out that the Federal Sentencing Guidelines themselves may not be as big a problem in today's legal system as our continual adoption of mandatory minimum laws. The possible sentences allowed in the case Liptak focuses on show that these can end up being nonsensical, and I think it's important that this story is framed in a way that shows this is not a partisan issue. People on both sides of the aisle are worried that in today's environment too often the punishment does not fit the crime. Or if it does, we've developed some really unexpected priorities about what are the worst offenses in our society.
Yesterday's edition of The New York Times is one of those issues of the Times that you can curl up with for hours. Why? It contained the seasonal run-downs of the coming season in the arts (film, theater, music, dance, etc.), and if you are fortunate enough to live in New York there is much to eagerly anticipate. Just in the realm of theater alone you've got Peter Dinklage starring in Richard III (how cool is that?), a new Neil LaBute play (one titled Fat Pig no less - I guess he's finally getting over his subtle period), the very last performance by Kiki and Herb (terribly sad that, but it's exciting that they'll be playing in Carnegie Hall - who saw that coming 10 years ago?), and what I expect may be the most respected serious play of the season, Michael Frayn's Democracy. Oh, and for you fans of the Catholic hierarchy, don't worry - Sin: A Cardinal Deposed is not about one of my favorite cardinals being tossed out of office. It's just one of a plethora of planned plays focusing on sexual abuse committed by religious figures. And if you've already got your eye on 2005 ... Christina Applegate will be starring in a revival of Sweet Charity! So if you are into plays and musicals and have a chance to go to New York in the next several months, there will (as usual) be several entertaining things worth your time.
Are Republicans riven by internal divisions? Are they becoming the party of a centralized big-government "daddy state"? Do the NeoCons really stand for much of anything? I found this column by Alex Gourevitch and this response to it by Arthur Silber to be interesting reading.
The Council on Foreign Relations has this comparison. Looking back on the previous 4 years it doesn't look like that there was much that the president did that Kerry would not have done, nor is there much that Kerry would undo that the president has done (the implementation and renewal of the PATRIOT Act being a prominent exception). As to things that a Kerry presidency might have done that the Bush presidency has not - perhaps the best source for figuring that out is to look at the Democratic proposals to increase funding for various security measures that were voted down in Congress in 2002 and 2003. I'm talking about, for instance, the Democrats desire to greatly increase port security funding far above the amount funded by the Republicans, and Senator Boxer's proposal to outfit airliners with anti-missile counter-measures (I don't know how John Kerry voted on that specific proposal; a majority composed of Republicans, Jeffords and Zell voted it down).
To sum, given their campaign statements and their respective actions since 9/11 I'd actually expect Kerry to probably fund Homeland Security at a higher level than President Bush. But I would expect Bush to be more likely to insist on legal changes that strengthen the hand of the executive branch (and to go on ignoring Supreme Court orders to change the way he's fought the war on terrorism, as he has since the Supreme Court essentially gave him, the White House, the Pentagon and the Ashcroft Justice Department a pretty severe slap across the face and order to change their ways this summer). There is a fair amount of overlap in terms of what the two candidates will do, but there are also things one and not the other would do as well, and appears that in terms of adding new programs and focii to this fight that Kerry has more specific proposals.
This story in Haaretz is interesting, particularly since Armitage is generally considered to be firmly ensconced as Colin Powell's closest ally in the US government (so presumably not on Jim Woolsey or Richard Perle's holiday card mailing lists).
In an interview to Egyptian television, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said that Syria does bear some responsibility for the Be'er Sheva suicide attacks, in which 16 people were killed. The connection is not unreasonable given Syria's ties with Hamas and Hezbollah, Armitage said.
"Syria holds and houses Hamas. Syria is a conduit of weapons from Iran to Hezbollah. It seems to me that Syria does bear some responsibility," Armitage told the interviewer, according to a U.S. Department of State transcript.
When asked to clarify, Armitage said: "President [Bashar] Assad should take a careful look at what his nation is doing and what his government is doing in supporting territory - in supporting violence in the territories and decide whether this is in the long-term interest of Syria."
Syria's decision to expel Al-Qaida from Damascus does not compensate for a lack of action against other terrorist groups, Armitage said.
"It doesn't work like that. If you oppose terrorism, you oppose all terrorism," he said.
Of course in a sense Deputy Secretary Armitage is simply repeating the long-held opinion of the US government - Syria harbors terrorists (as it has for decades). But given how the president is campaigning, broader regional events, the UN action against Syria on fixing Lebanon's presidential election, and the fact that Syria would be relatively easy to defeat (in the sense of invading, occupying Damascus, and knocking down some statues of the president and his late father and saying "mission accomplished" - I'm not saying anything about what would happen after that), I think that directly linking Syria to a recent deadly terror-attack may be significant, as is the "just because they help us on some terrorism issues" line. I wouldn't start wagering on when Bush will invade just yet (if he's reelected that is), but statements like this seem to point to that being a very real possibility if the president is reelected to a second term.
So after failing in 3 attempts to start watching Starsky and Hutch (even putting aside my long-standing dislike for Ben Stiller – I don’t think he’s very funny, and he’s starred in a lot of over-rated dogs, the side-splitting Zoolander being the saving grace of his too successful career – Starsky is painfully, almost-incomprehensibly awful) I turned my attention to a horse of a very different color, Visconti’s adaptation of Death in Venice. I’ve already praised Visconti at length on this site for The Damned and The Leopard, two superior films made in the 1960’s. I was really hoping to see Rocco and His Brothers next, but apparently that has not been released on DVD, so I opted instead for this adaptation of Thomas Mann’s famous novel. I’ve never read the book, so I can’t compare it to that. But compared to the other Visconti films I’ve seen, this one was disappointing.
Visconti is known for creating breath-taking visual scenes, and this movie certainly doesn’t disappoint on that front. His attention to period details has probably never been matched by another major director, and having the light, water and scenery of Venice to work with it’s not surprising that he creates pictures that capture moments perfectly and look stunningly beautiful too. And in terms of the art design, this film is marvelous: everything from the picture frames, to Aschenbach’s art noveau bed, to what are, bar none, the most beautiful and amazing hats I’ve ever seen anywhere. The problem is that Visconti, who values images far above words, is telling a relatively minor story with all these arresting tableaux. While I assume the book is much more complex and nuanced, the plot of the film is quite straight-forward, and Visconti’s grand flourishes just make the whole thing seem too obvious and over-the-top (and this is coming for someone who can fully appreciate his operatic tendencies). This is never more true than in the final scene unfortunately. I still hope I get a chance to see Rocco, and I still greatly admire Visconti’s craft. But to me, this is not his best work.
Waaaaaaaay lowered. I presume even Secretary Rumsfeld will agree that that's not the standard we should use to judge the actions of our government.
Kevin Drum writes the following: "Israel has infinitely better intelligence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip than we do in Iraq, and even so they haven't been able to halt the guerrilla warfare and suicide bombings there in 30 years of trying. Increasingly, it looks like my worst fears are coming true and Iraq is becoming America's version of the West Bank: intractable, deadly, and accomplishing little except acting as a breeding ground for ever more terrorists."
Thoughts? Comments? It strikes me that this is more on target than a lot of Americans would like to think. I don't think there's any question that we're creating more terrorists, and that our presence and actions in Iraq have created ties between a variety of terrorist organizations that did not previously exist. That's pretty well established.
But what I think makes this an interesting comparison is that Israelis have been murdered for decades for holding onto land that their government was firmly committed to keeping. The United States on the other hand is losing soldiers daily to stay in a land that ... we want to leave? John Kerry has said that he wants to pull the US military out of Iraq (though not immediately). George Bush hasn't been nearly as clear on the matter, but I think the perception of most voters is that he is planning to pull (at least most) US troops out eventually too (though exactly when and exactly why remains murky). Given what we know about the way democracies respond to terrorism (see Robert Pape's seminal article in the August 2003 issue of the American Political Science Review) doesn't this suggest we are in a vastly weaker position to fight the fight in Fallujah than the Israelis are in Ramallah, even before we get into issues like who has the better intelligence (and in this comparison it's clearly the Israelis)? It appears to me that we committed to a fight that invites attacks and is doomed to entail high casualties.
Honestly, I'm not so sure sometimes. Typically, most of its foreign-policy coverage involves repeating what government officials say about particular situations. There are many correspondents assigned to cover the White House, Pentagon, State Department, etc., so it is not exactly surprising that the opinions espoused by organizations like these are typically the stories around which news stories are framed.
I don't know how it would be possible to change that, and as a practical matter I don't really see any possible way, but posts like this one by Matt Yglesias really make me wonder if we are not in dire need of a way of rethinking the nature of political "news" in this country. It's standard procedure for most outlets to go ahead and reprint outrageous charges, and then offer little in the way of a critique of such statements, or to bury and obfuscate the critiques they do offer. Frequently this is done in the he-said, she-said idiotic style that most of cable "news" has adopted as model behavior. Is this really informing the American people in a meaningful way?
Wow. Drew is nobody's idea of a screed-writer. She's been in the business of writing on Washington's decision makers and the decision-making process for decades, and while the quality of her work tends to be very high, it is also fairly dry. Drawing vigorous conclusions (be they positive or negative) is rarely her style. But her review of the 9/11 Report in the New York Review of Books is positively scathing (of course this has a fair amount to do with the report itself). Atrios has published a several-paragraph excerpt that contains many damning findings against the Bush administration (both in terms of its behavior before and after the 9/11 catastrophe). That bit is well-worth reading, but really you'll be far better served by reading the entire review.
There are topics that merit everyone's attention in this piece, but I'll simply point out one - the extraordinary lengths to which the executive branch went to try to scuttle the commission and its work. If you don't know that story yet, you really should read the review. But this is a piece that's well worth the time of anyone who's interested in learning what happened that day, and in the government's responses to the attack - both in terms of the government's immediate responses and in terms of how we've tried to learn (or haven't tried to learn) from the events of that day.
Yeah I understand he's a comedian, and it's not like I think most people should turn to him or Bernie Mac or Chris Rock to get their political information. But it does continue to surprise me that thoughts like these aren't more frequently expressed:
You can't run on a mistake. Franklin Roosevelt didn't run for re-election claiming Pearl Harbor was his finest hour. Abe Lincoln was a great president, but the high point of his second term wasn't theater security. 9/11 wasn't a triumph of the human spirit. It was a fuck-up by a guy on vacation. Now, don't get me wrong, Mr. President. I'm not blaming you for 9/11. We have blue-ribbon commissions to do that. And I'm not saying there was anything improper about your immediate response to the attacks. Someone had to stay in that classroom and protect those kids from Chechen rebels. But by the looks of your convention, you'd think that the worst thing that ever happened to us was the best thing that ever happened to you. You just can't keep celebrating the deadliest attack ever as if it's your personal rendezvous with greatness.
And of course as a general matter this relates to what I find one of the oddest things about what Republicans are willing to accept from Mr. Bush - the complete lack of accountability for any sort of governmental mistake or error. No one ever says they're sorry, and no one is expected to. And no one ever gets fired for anything, other than publicly questioning Karl Rove's talking points. The degree to which the party has united behind the my-president-right-or-wrong line is truly startling.
Franz Ferdinand is playing tonight at the Roseland Ballroom. In its blurb noting tonight's show The New Yorker describes them as "like the Strokes after a few semesters at the Sorbonne". I'm filing that away as the oddest bit of music criticism I've seen so far this month.
Oh, and as I understand it tonight's show has been sold out for ages. If you want to see them in New York there might still be tickets for their show on October 3rd.
I make no claims that I know the right answer, but I think I know the wrong answer when I see it. The New York Times reported yesterday that the US/Iraqi government/puppets had ceded control over Ramadi, Falluja, Baquba and Samarra (and I would add Najaf), allowing the insurgents to govern themselves (more technically, fail to govern themselves) in those areas. In addition, notice the chart on the first page of the NYT story. Attacks against US forces have gone from 500 a month (back in March) through 1600 a month (the approximate average of April through July) to over 2600 in August alone. And, of course, the 1000th US soldier died just a few days ago.
I would not say we are losing, but I do not think we can make the case that we are winning. How do we start winning? In the long run, we need to win the "hearts and minds." This means a successful reconstruction, jobs, and democracy (at least letting them vote on what sort of government they want) at a minimum. However, none of that, NONE, can be accomplished until the security situation begins to stabilize. And we are losing that battle.
We need more soldiers on the ground. We cannot cede control of any territory to the insurgents - we at least must challenge them. The US is going to have to dig deep and find more military to send. We have three choices:
First, we can empty the arsenal here, and send more active-duty troops. This will significantly degrade (or eliminate) our ability to respond to other international crises (North Korea, Iran, Sudan, etc.) as well as degrade the US military (no rest and refit, a very long ops-tempo for the troops, etc.). The advantages are that very good soldiers will produce real results.
Second, we can reduce our control over Iraq in general, and make international concessions to entice other countries to send troops. If we invite them nicely enough (and make enough concession) they will come. They see the problems in Iraq, and recognize that a failed state there will make life worse in Europe, Asia and elsewhere. We have alienated them through our actions and demands, but self-interest will bring them back to us if we allow our own self-interest to temper our policy.
Third, we can start the draft again. Domestically, I don't think this would fly, but it is a solution to the lack of soldiers to send to Iraq. It solves the Iraqi problem while creating a huge political storm here. However, it may be necessary if #1 and #2 are unacceptable/unworkable.
That's it. The situation in Iraq, I believe, has gotten grave enough to warrant a significant change in policy. The momentum is going the wrong way, and Iraqi elections (which are crucial for the long term stability of the country) are soon. My own solution is a combination of #1 and #2. We can sustain a reduction in US readiness/response for a few months to allow time for diplomacy to get some foreign soldiers into Iraq. This is risky, in the sense that a real crisis could flair up somewhere, but we must take risks to try to find success in Iraq.
"Stay the course" is not working. The time for political solutions is in the past (we missed the opportunity) or in the future (after the security situation is stabilized), not now. We need more soldiers, its as simple as that.
This post is a little old, but I think it's a nice dissection of an important part of the Bush convention speech.
Now I might be wrong, but it occurs to me that Zell Miller might really like this movie. Oh he'd be offended by it, no question. Playing "Young Americans" over the end credits would likely wake him up to the fact that it's supposed to be a critique of American society. But in what comes before, I think he'd love a lot of it. The setting of course - a small American town of yesteryear where people were hard working, marked with a certain level of optimism and rectitude, but also inclined to keep to themselves and their traditional ways. But also the faith in a greater morality and the need for a harsh judgement. Because while a wide variety of evils, furies and types of violence come to this small town - they all come in the guise of the creation of better, just society. The message seems to be that sometimes deep and horrific violence is necessary for the triumph of what's right, moral and just. Harmful things must be wiped away, and the world cleansed.
Actually from a philosophical standpoint I found this to be an interesting movie (albeit heavy-handed). And it's extremely well-acted by a truly high caliber cast. And it's staged in a really interesting way (and yes, all the comparisons to "Our Town" and Brecht are very much on target). If suffers from being far too long, and frankly rather dull during the first half of the film. And perhaps the compaints by some that it's rather pedantic aren't without some justification. But all in all I found it to be an interesting and moving film. There's nothing like a von Trier film to make you feel for the desperate plight of a woman tortured by society. It's certainly not for everyone, but nonetheless I recommend it - and I recommend it pretty highly.
The Head Heeb has this interesting analysis of the decision of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the PFLP to take part in Palestinian elections that are planned for next spring.
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has announced plans to outlaw adultery (though supposedly charges would only be filed if the wife or husband filed a complaint). This is presumably being proposed to please Erdogan's AKP party (the main Islamist party in the country), but the timing strikes me as somewhat odd - bright-lining a major cultural split between Turkey and several members of the EU just 3 month's before the EU's decision on whether or not to open talks with Turkey about it becoming a member state. It's also interesting to note that this kind of law is being passed in what many Western observers point to as the model Islamic democracy. Is this really what we're shooting for in wanting to transform the Middle East?
In some ways Lebanon would seem the Arab state most conducive to the establishment of an independent democracy. But given actions like this one by their foreign minister, they obviously remain far from independent at this time.
Lebanon asked the Arab League on Monday to support it in countering a UN Security Council resolution aimed at limiting Syria's influence on the country, according to sources at the Foreign Ministry.
For a view of this from inside Lebanon, The Daily Star has details.
Personally, I think the notion of a "flip-flop" is a pretty flimsy attack, but if the president is against them so much how does he explain this (hardly all-inclusive) list.
I don't want to say too much about Garden State. It's the kind of movie you should just walk into and experience on your own terms. If you want plot points - it deals with meeting up again with old friends, making new friends, dealing with your family, basically choosing to confront life. The supporting cast is superb, and if it occassional veers into being painfully expected and obvious ... well, thankfully that only happens a few times. Plus it's got a great soundtrack (the script explicitly praises The Shins, and among the other highlights are a pretty cover of The Postal Service's "Such Great Heights, and Frou Frou's "Let Go"). Don't walk into it with unrealistic expectations. It's not the greatest thing ever. But all in all, it's a very good little movie that a lot of people can probably relate to.
I received my copy of the October issue of The Atlantic this week, and it's well worth checking out. I'll probably discuss some of the weighter political pieces on the blog in a later posts. Among the highlights are Jonathan Rauch discussing whether definitely having a Republican Congress in '05 should affect our vote for president in '04, Graham Allison on Pakistan's loose nukes, James Fallows on the opportunities we lost in Afghanistan, Pakistan and North Korea by going to war against Iraq, Peter Bergin on the hunt for Osama, and Sridhar Pappu on Eliot Spitzer. And then in the books and culture section you've got Cullen Murphy on Hawking's big oops!, Mark Steyn with a humorous and insightful obituary for Francis Crick, and Christopher Hitchens with a really interesting review of Orhan Pamuk's widely-discussed new novel, Snow. And it's the insightful Hitchens, not the snarling Hitchens (not that some of his snarls don't contain interesting gems of thought). So if you're looking for something to thumb through at your leisure that'll give you a sense of today's world, both politically, culturally and scientifically - this issue is well worth your time.
The Republican convention really depressed Jacob Sullum.
Graydon Carter has this extremely lengthy list. Some of the "highlights":
Vacations: 13 Number of vacation days the average American receives each Year; 28 Number of vacation days Bush took in August 2001, the month he received a 6 August Presidential Daily Briefing headed "Osama bin Laden Determined to Strike US Targets."; 500 Number of days Bush has spent all or part of his time away from the White House at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, his parents' retreat in Kennebunkport, Maine, or Camp David as of 1 April 2004.
Terrorism and Iraq: 1 Number of Bush administration public statements on National security issued between 20 January 2001 and 10 September 2001 that mentioned al-Qa'ida; 104 Number of Bush administration public statements on National security and defence in the same period that mentioned Iraq or Saddam Hussein; $3m Amount the White House was willing to grant the 9/11 Commission to investigate the 11 September attacks; $50m Amount granted to the commission that looked into the Columbia space shuttle crash; $5m Amount a 1996 federal commission was given to study legalised gambling; 2.5 Number of hours after Rumsfeld learnt that Osama bin Laden was a suspect in the 11 September attacks that he brought up reasons to "hit" Iraq.
And how about these on our knowledge of the world: 69 Percentage of Americans who believed the White House's claims in September 2003 that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 11 September attacks; 34 Percentage of Americans who believed in June 2003 that Saddam's "weapons of mass destruction" had been found; 22 Percentage of Americans who believed in May 2003 that Saddam had used his WMDs on US forces; 85 Percentage of American young adults who cannot find Afghanistan, Iraq, or Israel on a map; 30 Percentage of American young adults who cannot find the Pacific Ocean on a map.
There's much more listed.
That's a long title for a post, I realize. But this deserves attention. President "I'll keep America safe" (at least AFTER 9/11) Bush scuttles one of the best prospects we have for keeping tabs on nuclear proliferation so that he can please the Israelis (ok, no surpsise there, though getting all cuddly with Sharon has hardly been in our best interest) and Pakistan. That's right, that lovely regime that set up the Taliban, dealt nuclear secrets and technology to many of our favorite people (including Kim Il Sung and Gaddafi), maintains precious little security of the nukes it has scattered around its countryside (see Graham Allison's piece in the October Atlantic Monthly for the chilling details), is presumed to be the current home to Osama bin Laden, is most definitely the home to many of the world's most fearsome terrorists, operates thousands of religious schools that preach hatred of the West and the United States in particular ... well, I could go on and on.
But no, nothing to see here folks. We don't invade nuclear proliferators that house men who've killed thousands of Americans (we save that for other countries) - we carry out favors for them, making it harder for us to prevent the spread of nuclear arms around the globe, thereby helping unstable regimes build more nukes in the process. But nothing to worry about. This is just another example of George Bush keeping you "safer" and showing you his courage and convictions.
To those of you who visit this blog and think that the economy led by President Bush is in fine shape, I am interested in your response to these numbers. #1 The net job losses under this president are the worst since Herbert Hoover was president. That's a good economy? #2 The president has moved us from a time of $100 billion+ surpluses to $400 billion+ deficits, and his budgets show that he doesn't plan to present a single balanced budget if he's elected for a second term. And of course it should be noted that those deficits numbers would be even higher if he wasn't currently counting the Social Security surpluses (you know, those things that Al Gore wanted to put away in a lockbox so they there would actually be some way to pay for the impending retirement of the Baby Boom generation, but that George Bush has instead chosen to spend) in his budgets. #3 Any president who MIGHT want to get back to proposing balanced budgets is going to be in a serious fix after Bush's budget "leadership" since the conditions that allowed us to overcome the deficits of the 1980's (tax increases, cuts in military spending, and the biggest boom in the American economy in decades) aren't likely to exist again in the near future. Plus the deficits are likely to get vastly worse if the president follows through with his current plans (making his tax cuts permanent, "reforming" the Alternative Minimum Tax), though how bad things will get is hard to tell. For one thing we only budget 5 years in advance, and the president is interested in further slashing the taxes we'd be taking in starting in 2010. Secondly, the administration has continually acted to change the way the government measures economic indicators if it thinks the numbers that come out using those measures will damage the administration. As one example (there are a number of others) check out this from Andrew Tobias:
BUSH TO ALTER ECONOMIC STATS AGAIN :Not that the Bush team won’t do its best to persuade us otherwise. According to The Daily Mislead (click to see the full version, with sourcing):
Last week, the Census Bureau released statistics showing that for the first time in years, poverty had increased for three straight years, while the number of Americans without health care increased to a record level. But instead of changing its economic and health care policies, the Bush administration today is announcing plans to change the way the statistics are compiled. The move is just the latest in a series of actions by the White House to doctor or eliminate longstanding and nonpartisan economic data collection methods.
In a Bush administration press release yesterday, the Census Bureau said next week it “will announce a new economic indicator" as "an additional tool to better understand" the economy. The change in statistics is being directed by Bush political appointees and comes just 60 days from the election. It will be the first modification of Census data in 40 years.
This is not the first time the White House has tried to doctor or manipulate economic data that exposed President Bush's failed policies. In the face of serious job losses last year, the Associated Press reported "the Bush administration has dropped the government's monthly report on mass layoffs, which also had been eliminated when President Bush's father was in office." Similarly, Business Week reported that the White House this year "unilaterally changed the start date of the last recession to benefit Bush's reelection bid." For almost 75 years, the start and end dates of recessions have been set by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a private nonpartisan research group. But the Bush administration decided to toss aside the NBER, and simply declare that the recession started under President Clinton.
There are a host of other economic numbers that show terrible backsliding under this presidency. Consider these (cited in the Tobias post linked to above): Change in real median household income (2003 adjusted dollars): Bush II: – $1,535; Clinton: + $5,489; Bush I: – $1,314. Change in number of Americans living in poverty: Bush II: + 4,280,000; Clinton: – 6,433,000; Bush I: + 6,269,000.
Are there some economic indicators that show that Bush's economic record has been more successful than these numbers indicate? Sure. And I'm not saying that the sitation is analogous to the early 1930's. But I do think that these numbers show that under the president's stewardship our economy, the most powerful in the world, has underperformed and that has substantially hurt the lives of many Americans, particularly those who are most vulnerable. Furthermore, I think the fundamental priorities of the administration seem pointed in the direction of making our economy resemble that of a mid-twentieth century Latin American dictatorship (ever more massive debts and deficit spending, plus policies that heighten differences between the haves and the have nots). You see the this in the nature of the Bush team's tax preferences, their desire to move in a second term to a flat tax or a national sales tax, their profligate spending, their interest in increasing the size of the state and funneling ever more money to their allies (be it the Halliburtons of the world or Pat Robertson's religious "charities"), their unwillingness to put their money where their mouth is on education spending ... and all that doesn't even begin to touch on major economic problems tied to their foreign policy, from little interest in reforming the nation's energy sector to their pro-tariff policies. And I haven't yet brought up the economic time-bomb that the president is choosing to ignore - Medicare. Is this what we should expect in a leader? And is this the direction we want our country to go in?
A country's economy is in many ways its back-bone, and we benefit greatly from the fact that over our history the United States has built a mighty economy. But looking back at the last four years I think it's very hard to argue that the president has strengthened our economy (or at the very least that it couldn't have been notably stronger under different stewardship). And given what we've seen of his policy preferences so far, 4 more years of George W. Bush could greatly weaken many of the fundamentals that have powered and enriched this nation and its people. That is extremely troubling, as is the fact that many of the have-nots, and even some of the haves, could easily slip into poverty and despair. Sadly, many already have.
I don't really have much interest in harping on most of the president's speech. Obviously I think he's been a failure and doesn't deserve reelection. Nothing he said changed that view. Though it's clear that if you want to ban abortion, marginalize gay Americans, and send federal tax dollars (as the Republicans say "your money") into the hands of church leaders like those ever-pleasant Messrs. Falwell and Robertson - Bush is the candidate for you. But if you're not voting on those issues, well, here's what I noticed most.
The lack of specifics all-night long was striking, but never more so than in his reference to tax policy. He wants taxes "reformed and simplified". That sure clears that up. Actually, out of all the things he said last night, this is arguably the top reason not to vote for him. Why? It sets up a push for the adoption of a national sales tax or a flat tax. Either one of those measures would seriously screw low and middle-income Americans. We already know who he favors when it comes to tax policy. I second Bush term could reditribute the tax base onto the back of the middle class. How thrilling is that!
He wants local people to be in charge of their schools? That certainly hasn't been his policy for the last four years. Do I smell a flip-flop? Oh, I suppose it's just his typical insistence on talking the talk even when it's abundantly clear he's not walking the walk.
The anti-Kerry straw-men were so obvious and boring. Kerry opposes Medicare reform? Uh, no. He opposes some of the minor moves you want to make on that topic. And when it comes to big Medicare reform you're just as terrified of proposing it as he is Mr. President. We're on track to have debts of a size we've never seen if we don't do something about that. So where have you been on that for the last 4 years?
He attacks Kerry for proposing spending increases and says expanding government is the politics of the past? Ummm, Mr. President has anyone told you what's been in your laws and budgets for the last four years? You've been spending money hand-over-fist (and promised to not propose a single balanced budget in the next four years or leave your successor in 5 years in a position to do so!) and your interest in big government is positively Nixonian.
Activist judges are bad? Really? Does that include 5 people who were wearing black robes in December of 2000? Huh. I'm suddenly seeing the last four years in an entirely different light.
And as to his line that "we must confront threats to America before it is too late" I have my usual response - North Korea. Though I suppose it would have been nice if he'd confronted al Qaeda in the winter, spring or summer of 2001 as well.
All of which isn't to say it wasn't an effective speech. For a lying failure trying to cover his ass he did a swell job.
I think this issue is definitely a winner for Kerry and it's in his best interest to keep hitting it and hitting it hard. It frames both national security and the economy in ways that don't favor the president, and it implicitly reminds Americans of cronyism, corporate favoritism, and an oily business as usual approach to politics that voters don't like.
Jon Rowe has this interesting history of Keyes and his most admired mentor, Allan Bloom. Keyes' admiration for someone he'd call a "selfish hedonist" is probably unusual in and of itself, but there's more to the story than that.
And Archpundit has these reactions - from Republicans mind you - to Keyes' comments on Mary Cheney.
And remember the Republican leadership picked this guy - brought him all the way from Maryland to be their Senate candidate. I really wonder who was smoking what or who had incriminating pictures of whom when that decision was made. I'm hard pressed to think of another instance of a party engaging in this level of political suicide.
Well, I for one am shocked. You mean he's not a kitten-killing surrender monkey? The Washington Post details some of the low points of this week's misinformation fest.
Are we sure these are the people we want running the war on terrorism? Yet another story of incompetence.
Will Saletan wonders why Bush hasn't done all these things he promises to do in the next four years during the last four years.
So my two latest DVD rentals were both very much worth the time I took to watch them, though they will likely appeal to very different audiences. Probably my favorite Roger Ebert moment of the last year was his tirade against The Princess Diaries II in which he took the time out to note that there were vastly superior movies that should appeal to the same demographic, notably Ella Enchanted. Ebert was lauding movies in which the themes were more interesting, probably more appropriate for today’s girls and young women, and made with much more style and imagination. Given that, I thought I’d give this less commercially successful Anne Hathaway vehicle a look. Ebert’s praise was very much on the mark. This is a fairy tale, but one with a resourceful and strong heroine. It’s probably one of the best “girl power” movies I’ve ever seen. And it is quite funny in parts, albeit sometimes in ways that are designed to appeal to viewers much younger than I am. Though for people my age, and older than me, it is filled with 1970’s and 1980’s standards. The visual look of the movie is outstanding (both the CGI stuff – apparently the first minute of the movie took over half a year to put together – and the lovely photography), and it has some highly amusing villains (including a scenery-chomping Cary Elwes). And, being a Miramax movie directed by Tommy O’Haver, it ends in a rousing musical number.
Wonderland is a very different animal. I rented it on the strength of the cast, not expecting much more than some potentially interesting performances. But really it’s a very well-crafted crime thriller. It’s tightly directed and suspenseful, told in sort of a Rashomon style. While the topic might be worthy of VH1 or Unsolved Mysteries (the Wonderland murders in L.A. in 1981 that purportedly involved porn star John Holmes), this is a first-rate when-celebrities-go-bad film. It might be a bit grisly for some (and the DVD actually includes a LAPD video of the crime scene including the battered bodies), but if you’re into true-crime stories you’ll probably enjoy this. It also features some great period music.
"For more than twenty years, on every one of the great issues of freedom and security, John Kerry has been more wrong, more weak and more wobbly than any other national figure."
Senator Zell Miller, D-Georgia, September 1st, 2004.
I don't know that much about Kerry's voting record, but I'll bet any amount of money that someone feels like wagering that Kerry has not been "more wrong, more weak,
Thanks, Zell. I think you singlehandedly set back the tone and reasonableness of political debate in this country for, oh, twenty years. Nice job!
First, a site note that is actually about language. Initially, we at Bloodless Coup thought that there would be a fairly equal amount of discussion in all of our issue areas and that our comments on politics would likely stick to the international variety. Despite Armand's best efforts to get us thinking about culture, we are still much overloaded on posts to the "politics" category, and we've done a lot of blurring of the lines between international and domestic politics at that. This is not a bad thing in itself, but as the (sort of) editor of this bunch I've created a new category: International Affairs. There will still be overlap, and the category is deliberately somewhat vague so as not to mean "only foreign policy," but hopefully this will help us sort out our election-year extravaganza from more internationally focused posts.
Second, on both language and international affairs (and I suppose, as a welcome to Stalin), I wanted to post about the hostage crisis at the school in North Ossetia, Russia. A school has been seized, with as many or more than (depending on the news source) 100 children and adults held and a demand made for the release of Chechen prisoners and the removal of all Russian forces from Chechnya. I read several stories and engaged in a few conversations about the situation today, and something that struck me was the lack of agreement on the words used to described the hostage-takers. The Russian government has been pretty consistent in describing Chechens involved in similar events as "terrorists" and the plane bombings a few days ago were no exception. However, in reading accounts of the hostage crisis, I have seen the words insurgents, attackers, hostage-takers and even guerrillas, the last of which struck me a quite a departure from other recent reports.
I know that the Russian government has sought to paint the Chechen crisis as another part of the "war on terror" in order to get external support for its policies, and to cast the Chechen insurgents/guerrillas/etc. in the least attractive way possible. The Russian Defense Minister called these recent attacks a "declaration of war" and said it was a "different kind of war, where you cannot see your enemy and where there is no front line, but nonetheless this is an entirely real threat." But he also called it a "terrorist act." The NY Times refers to an interview with Turkish journalists in which "Putin said Russia would never negotiate with terrorists or separatists in Chechnya." Terrorists or separatists. It sounds like the hard line of language is breaking down...or is this just something that seems in sharper relief today?
So CNN won't air an ad produced by the Log Cabin Republicans because it features one of the Fred Phelps brigade holding a sign saying "God Hates Fags". Apparently that's too offensive/controversial for them (Fox News is airing the ad). So if those big scary words (one is even 5 letters long) are sure to spark indignation from sea to shining sea (and that's highly debateable), that makes an ad unfit for broadcast? That strikes me as a ridiculous standard - even coming from a network that puts its "news" coverage in the hands of uber-idiots Wolf, Judy and Larry King. What, the Swiftie ads aren't offensive to many Americans? Or some of the news stories that the network supposedly exists to cover? Of course they are, but apparently the network isn't seeking consistency. I can understand a network's reluctance to broadcast ads featuring, for example, a sliced-up fetus during the dinner hour. But if the network's standard of what's offensive has been reduced to protestors with placards you'd think CNN would be going to black during most of the day. I mean it's supposedly a NEWS channel for heavens sake. But apparently deep in its corporate heart it seeks to be just a good news channel.