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Saturday, March 22, 2003

Uh Oh.

He's into the Viagra and Makers Mark again. How much do you want to bet he's been listening to that CD of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing "Battle Hymn of the Republic," too. The fog of war (and bourbon) is making even him believe that 9/11 and Iraq are connected.

And the French should be embarrassed?

Update: Maybe this is what he's been swilling.

Practical Politics

Mary at the Watch posts some useful advice on how to deal with bullies. Considering that liberals like to deal in actual information it would seem obvious that we consult the experts. What they say is very interesting.


So what do we do? Orincus advocates shining a light on those that use intimidation to advocate violence. Some others say that if you keep your head down and don't disturb your neighbors, then you shouldn't have to worry about bullying. Others advocate noisily rallying against bullies. So what really does work?

One of the world's experts on bullying in schools can help as we try to find a way to counter the bullies in the White House. Dr. Ken Rigby has been studying bullying for a long time and has come up with a thesis that says the success of stopping bullying is based on the level of commitment that teachers (or adults) bring to that goal. He recommends that people who are serious about trying to counteract bullying begin by understanding how to get a commitment on what approach the group thinks will work. He says a concerted approach is more effective than a more ad-hoc, everyone do their own way approach. And he provides a worksheet that can be used by schools to help decide on tactics to confront bullies. I suggest we study the techniques and find ones that we think will work.


It would be very interesting to hear what people think is the right way to deal with it.


Thank you Kevin. Sometimes I think Americans are under the impression that California is a region of France or something.

Bad signs

From Tacitus

ABC News just aired a very troubling report from John Donvan, who was able to travel unescorted today in Safwan and other areas already overrun by Allied forces. He reports general hostility and suspicion among the locals (apparently they wanted to know if the Israelis were coming to take over), demands for immediate aid, and, disturbingly, active Iraqi irregulars still mounting attacks along the Kuwaiti border. (One wonders whether they had anything to do with today's attack on Camp Pennsylvania.)

Going on Donvan's anecdotal evidence, it seems that the local hostility stemmed mostly from a fear that self-government would be denied, and that aid would not be forthcoming. Three countermeasures immediately spring to mind:

Whatever reorganization of the civil administration is planned needs to follow as soon as possible behind the advancing Allied armies. If it does not include a strong component of local self-rule, it should. Whatever administration (and American administrator) is set up on high in Baghdad, the people of Safwan and every other hamlet in Iraq ought to feel in reason control of their own governance.

Civil affairs and psyops units have to do a much better job if Shi'as (who ought to welcome us) in Safwan think we're the leading edge of an Israeli occupation. Granted, they're probably concentrating on coaxing surrenders from conscript units on the front, but this is a task that cannot be ignored.

CA and psyops won't be able to do much of a job, though, unless aid -- lots of aid -- is delivered ASAP. Why we didn't have container ships loaded with pharmaceuticals ready to offload at Umm Qasr as soon as we took it, I'll never know. The Iraqis probably aren't starving, but they have lacked for decent medical care for over a decade. American aid personnel curing childhood ailments, conducting vaccinations, and rendering assistance to those wounded in the crossfire would go a long way toward establishing goodwill.

All in all, a rather discouraging development. This isn't going to be over this time next week. Not by a long shot.

UPDATE: This NYT piece has a surrendering Iraqi colonel who hates Hussein because -- get this -- he's almost certainly a secret American agent.

Building a civil society here is going to take a while.

All I can say is good luck. The Bush administration doesn't do nice and it doesn't do smart. It does bully. Look what they do to their fellow Republicans if they don't get with the program. Does anyone think they are going to futz around with a bunch of villagers?

All of you irrelevant anti-war protesters out there get out your pens and papers right now and writea firm but polite note to your congressman telling him that you want him to make Bush stop cutting taxes for his rich friends and spend some time getting the world stop hating us. Insist that he demand that George W. Bush allow us to be in on the planning for post war Iraq so that it can be done right. Stomp your little feet and threaten to hold your breath and turn blue if he refuses to do it.

Oh, and be sure and tell him you are a Republican. Democrats are best seen and not heard.

slightly edited for clarity.


Minneapolis, Minn

So, where did the signs come from?


What will we tell the children?

Doing Iraq Right

I am reading more earnest advice about how the war protestors should stop their bellyaching and get to work holding the Bush administration’s feet to the fire on its promises to build a democratic paradise in Iraq.

First, this assumes that war protestors even think it’s possible for such a thing to happen under current circumstances. I, for one, don’t think the analogies to post WWII Japan and Germany have ever made any sense. Aside from all the obvious arguments about the different cultural environments, the most salient issue is that the people of Germany and Japan were completely conquered, with no hope of any future allies and living in world that was totally in ruins. Both countries had been engaged in full out, nonstop war for many years.

Despite the public relations value of the term “shock and awe,” even if the United States completely levels Iraq in the next week, it will not have the same effect. Throughout the Middle East are excited and outraged young Muslims animated by the idea of fighting the foreign “occupiers.” Does anyone seriously believe that the al-Jazeera pictures of massive bombardment and American ground invasion are not being seen in the exact same context as Israeli troops in Gaza? And the pictures in the coming days, of American troops rolling through cities– even if many of them are being greeted with smiles – are far more likely to evoke the more recent images of Lebanon rather than scenes of European liberation in WWII. (This should have been one very good reason to have engaged in the Israeli Palestinian crisis before last Friday.)

By invading Iraq, virtually alone and with the disapprobation of the vast majority of the world, we have emboldened these jihadists to step up the fight. It should not be forgotten that al-Qaeda believe they were responsible in large part for destroying the Soviet Union.

From an interview with Dr. Ayman aL Zawaahri:

Here in Afghanistan, the course of history changed, when the Soviet Union, the largest land-based military force in the world, was dashed to pieces on the boulders of the Afghan Jihad. The Afghan nomads, villagers and their young comrades from the Arab and Islamic world, who destroyed the empire of the Soviet tyrant, were, Praise be to Allah, not affected by these opinions. For if they had, then the Soviet forces would today be in the Arabian Peninsula. The defeated Soviet Union fled from Afghanistan, turning their back only to face their own political break-up and intellectual collapse.

Clearly, they have a deluded view of their own potency and this operation, even if militarily successful, is unlikely to change it because of the fact that most of the world remained opposed, particularly the populations of the Arab world. He undoubtedly believes that he is isolating us, and in some ways he is right.

Unless one indulges in wishful thinking and believes that a miraculous democratic domino effect is likely, “doing Iraq right” is simply not possible as a unilateral American endeavor because no matter how many seeds of democracy are planted in Iraq, there is a much stronger and growing backlash against unchecked American power. “Doing Iraq right” really means that we must reverse the course of this administration’s foreign policy and it has to be done very, very quickly and unambiguously.

Under these circumstances, not to mention the obvious political realities in Washington, I simply don’t see how working the system can possibly accomplish much in the short term. The Democratic leadership, particularly the presidential candidates, threw away their ability to have any real effect when, in spite of receiving an unprecedented number of letters and phone calls from constituents begging them to vote no, they opted to give George W. Bush a blank check. (They may be in the process of doing the same with their capitulation on yet more tax cuts, ridiculously pretending that enacting 350 rather than 750 billion more is really a big win for our side.) Since the Democratic Party is too impotent to institutionally challenge the GOP’s radical policy agenda, you can’t blame people for thinking that the only way they can make their voices heard is though large public protests.

This grassroots public opposition to the Bush administration may be the only way that Americans of all stripes, and elected Democrats in particular, can see with their own eyes that Bush’s policies are not universally supported. Combined with the continued protests in the rest of the world, it may be the only way to actually stop Bush’s wider global plans at least until after the election.

Whether we can keep Iraq from disintegrating into chaos or being the ongoing catalyst for more anti-American terrorism is largely a matter of good luck until we can replace the current administration and begin the hard task of rebuilding trust with our allies. Only then will we be able to confront the terrorist threat and the dangers of proliferation with any hope of long term success.

William Saleton is joking here, isn’t he?

Friday, March 21, 2003

Going To The Mattresses

Bill Keller believes that Colin Powell should resign because Bush and his cronies are slightly mad and dangerously ambitious and he is the only sane one of the bunch.

For a time he managed to keep a lid on the new American exuberance. Our relations with Russia and China weathered the early roughhousing over missile defense and other disputes, in large part because Mr. Powell was such a calming figure. Old-fashioned diplomacy helped line up the world's support for our war in Afghanistan and the broader war on terror. Thanks to Mr. Powell we (belatedly) framed our grievance against Iraq as a United Nations grievance; that 15 to nothing vote on Resolution 1441 was probably the high-water mark of his diplomacy. Mr. Powell also, I am told, helped beat back the idea of fighting the war in Iraq on the cheap — with fewer troops, more high-tech dazzle, a little experiment with American lives. So he has won some big ones.

But that is exactly the problem. His formidable skills have been too much engaged in a kind of guerrilla war for the soul of the president, and it has shown. Critics in the administration and colleagues on this page have unfavorably compared his performance in the buildup to war with James Baker's whirlwind of global coalition-building before the gulf war in 1991. But Mr. Baker was operating as his president's right arm; Mr. Powell was busy protecting his right flank


The most important reason the secretary of state should go is that the president has chosen a course that repudiates much of what Mr. Powell has stood for — notably his deep suspicion of arrogant idealism. I don't mean that Mr. Bush is bent on a series of pre-emptive wars — surely the president would like to take the country into the election year at peace — but this is about how we throw our weight around in peacetime, too.

Critics of the Bush administration talk about the breach in the Atlantic alliance and the division at the United Nations as "collateral damage," as if, in the rush to get Iraq, the administration has blundered. That assumes it was an accident. It seems more plausible that this was not an attempt to put spine in the United Nations and NATO, but to discredit them. The global engineers talk with such contempt of these organizations, it is difficult to believe they want to salvage them as anything but appendages of American power.


Gosh Bill. Are you seriously suggesting that we would be better off if Bush hires another crazyass Cheney crony like the rest of his cuckoo's nest?

The non-borg war supporters are having quite a difficult time figuring out what to do about all this. They sincerely believed in the concept of freeing the Iraqi people and changing the repressive dynamic in the middle east, but they also have been slapped by the realization that Bush is so outrageously reckless that it is a mistake to hand him the means to unleash hell. This is a big lesson for some people, apparently. Yes, it's satisfying when somebody defies all the naysayers and growls, "Just Do It." Unfortunately, these same people are usually hot headed idiots who create far more problems than they solve. Sonny Corleone may be filled with righteous indignation and thoroughly justified in his outrage, but he's a dumbshit. He gets himself killed and makes everything worse, not better.

But, Keller's answer to the problem that Bush is out of control is bizarre. He seems to believe that Powell is the only one trying (and yes, mostly failing) to keep these guys from spinning out of control. But, he should resign in favor of someone who the President "trusts" and therefore, will help him to spin out of control.

Taken at face value, that's either deeply cynical or completely incoherent. But, there is the possibility that this is some kind of shot across the bow by Powell, who would cause a huge problem for Bush if he resigns. The word is that the Bush loyalists are pulling out the long knives and blaming him --- which Keller does too but only by saying that he is too good for such cretins, hardly a ringing indictment.

And he gets Powell on the record saying that he disagrees with the administration's view of America's role in the world. That's a big disagreement and he's gone public with it:

When I put the question of resigning to Mr. Powell yesterday, he was, characteristically, showing no signs of surrender. He has no intention of leaving, he said. He has the president's full confidence. He has been written off before. And Iraq is just Iraq — not the first in a series of military adventures.

"I think it's a bit of an overstatement to say that now this one's pocketed, on to the next place," Mr. Powell said. The larger question of America's role in the world, he said, "isn't answered yet."

Such a loyal and optimistic man would make some president a great secretary of state. Just not this president.

Who does he have in mind? Tony Blair?

Powell's not resigning. He's going to try to repair his tattered reputation (and maybe hold the line, if we're lucky.) And considering that his replacement would likely be some nut like John Bolton, it's just as well. An ineffectual Powell is still better than a wild-eyed neocon insisting on going to the mattresses. But, if this is Powell's way of making that statement, Keller sure did write it in the strangest form possible.


Gorilla-go-go points out that the brass ball House Republicans just slashed veterans benefits to the tune of almost 10 billion. Today. A-Day.

Forgetting the fact that it is being done so that the multi-millionaire Bush administration can cut their own taxes, and setting aside that it is the most blatently unpatriotic act I've heard of since 9/11, I have to wonder where these people get the sheer chutzpah to do this on the second day of our very first unilateral preventive invasion? I know they have no problem screwing the military personnel in favor of rich defense contractors, but this seems obtuse even by their standards.

Is it possible that the flaccid Democrats will even try to make these people explain themselves?

Update: Apparently this legislation actually passed on March 13th. Which answers my question. The Democrats are completely impotent.

From citizen k in the comment section:

Here's the quote [from Tacitus]:
"The crowd's loud cheers and shouts of applause were typical of the flatterer, excessive and insincere. Men vied with each other in their enthusiasm and prayers for his success, much as though they were sending off the dictator Ceasar or the Emperor Augustus. Their motive was neither fear nor affection, but a sheer passion for servility"
See the Republicans are right. Read the Dead White Males and learn about the Congressional Democrats. Zell, your master is calling. Oh, Congressman Gephart, it's goveling time.

Comment of the day:

by Hart


They left out "...that will live in infamy."

Grueling Schedule

TBOGG reports on President Skeepytime's week-end getaway.

The Commander In Chief takes his first R&R.


Could somebody tell Wolf Blitzer to take a cold shower? He has done nothing but rhapsodise all day long about how "never in 30 years of journalism have I experienced such a bombardment, such a loud, nonstop, pounding cacophony of relentless American power, ogawdohgawdohgawd!"

This is why they are called media whores folks. Blitzer is in Kuwait City. He was responding to the same pictures that we all saw this morning. He didn't see anything we didn't see. But, like a good soldier he reported it as if he were live on the scene at Armageddon.

In theory, I don't object to this psy-ops campaign. If people give up before a lot of blood is shed, I couldn't be happier. But, Wolf Blitzer isn't faking it. He's a whore who loves his job.

(And, I would greatly enjoy seeing Wesley Clark grab Aaron Brown's toupe and shove it in his mouth the next time he makes some unctuous comment about the great job the troops are doing and then calls him Colonel. That's Supreme Allied Commander to you, Oprah.)

*The term "wargasm" stolen shamelessly from Atrios, who links to some excited little Freeper boyz.

You Want A Piece 'O Me?

White House political adviser Karl Rove tracked down the president of a conservative group at a friend's house and subjected him to a telephone tirade over perceived disloyalty. (Steve Pope -- AP)

Julia points out this article in the Washington Post that clearly reveals the Bush administration's only governing principles are loyalty to the President and strong arm tactics. Period.


As the United States wages war this week following a pair of ultimatums to the United Nations and Iraq, the airwaves and editorial pages of the world have been full of accusations that President Bush and his administration are guilty of coercive and harrying behavior. Even in typically friendly countries, Bush and the United States have been given such labels this week as "arrogant bully" (Britain), "bully boys" (Australia), "big bully" (Russia), "bully Bush" (Kenya), "arrogant" (Turkey) and "capricious" (Canada). Diplomats have accused the administration of "hardball" tactics, "jungle justice" and acting "like thugs."

At home, where support for the war on Iraq is strong and growing, such complaints of strong-arm tactics by the Bush administration nonetheless have a certain resonance -- even among Bush supporters. Though the issues are vastly different, Republican lawmakers and conservative interest groups report similar pressure on allies at home to conform to Bush's policy wishes.

Although all administrations use political muscle on the opposition, GOP lawmakers and lobbyists say the tactics the Bush administration uses on friends and allies have been uniquely fierce and vindictive. Just as the administration used unbending tactics before the U.N. Security Council with normally allied countries such as Mexico, Germany and France, the Bush White House has calculated that it can overcome domestic adversaries if it tolerates no dissent from its friends.

In recent weeks, the White House has been pushing GOP governors to oust the leadership of the National Governors Association to make the bipartisan group endorse Bush's views. Interest groups report pressure from the administration -- sometimes on groups' donors -- to conform to Bush's policy views and even to fire dissenters.

Often, companies and their K Street lobbyists endorse ideas they privately oppose or question, according to several longtime Republican lobbyists. The fear is that Bush will either freeze them out of key meetings or hold a grudge that might deprive them of help in other areas, the lobbyists said. When the Electronic Industries Alliance declined to back Bush's dividend tax cut, the group was frozen out when the White House called its "friends" in the industry to discuss the tax cut, according to White House and business sources.


Conservative interest groups get similar pressure. When the free-market Club for Growth sent a public letter to the White House to protest White House intervention in GOP primaries for "liberal-leaning Republicans," the group's president, Stephen Moore, picked up the phone at a friend's one evening to receive a screaming tirade from Rove, who had tracked him down. On another occasion when Moore objected to a Bush policy, Rove called Richard Gilder, the Club for Growth's chairman and a major contributor, to protest.

"I think this monomaniacal call for loyalty is unhealthy," Moore said. "It's dangerous to declare anybody who crosses you an enemy for life. It's shortsighted." Leaders of three other conservative groups report that their objections to Bush policies have been followed by snubs and, in at least one case, phone calls suggesting the replacement of a critical scholar. "They want sycophants rather than allies," said the head of one think tank.

Corporations are coming under increasing pressure not just to back Bush, but to hire his allies to represent them in meetings with Republicans. As part of the "K Street Project," top GOP officials, lawmakers and lobbyists track the political affiliation and contributions of people seeking lobbying jobs.

In a private meeting last week, chief executives from several leading technology firms told Rep. Calvin M. Dooley (Calif.) and other moderate Democrats that they were under heavy pressure to back the Bush tax plan, even though many of them had reservations about it. "There is a perception among some business interests there could be retribution if you don't play ball on almost every issue that comes up," Dooley said.

Read the whole thing. (And the editor's note at the beginning.) It is now out in the open. No excuses. Any real libertarian or conservative who continues to back these Mafiosi is complicit. These people are undemocratic and intolerant of dissent. They openly use threats to intimidate their allies and strike fear into their enemies. This is not business as usual. We are seeing more elements every day of a new and unique American form of totalitarianism

Refers to systems of government not representative in fact, characterized by the existence of a single political party, organized on a dictatorial basis, with so close an identity between such party and its policies and the governmental policies of the country in which it exists, that the party and the government constitute an indistinguishable unit, and the forcible suppression of opposition to such party.

There have been signs of this coming for the last 10 years. The propaganda machine, the intense partisanship, the trumped up impeachment (in collusion with the "independent" investigators and the courts), an unelected court deciding a presidential election and now an illegitimate and illegal war being pursued under a doctrine of preventive war in pursuit of American hegemony. And, we are operating under de facto one-party rule within which no dissent is tolerated.

What exactly do these people have to do to convince the Democrats that George W. Bush isn't running his Daddy's GOP? We are looking at something new here that is more than just the sum of it's parts.

Again, I urge everyone to read David Niewert's seminal series on Rush, Newspeak and Fascism. It isn't being hysterical or conspiracist to recognize that something has gone very, very wrong when virtually every country in the world and even many of his own political allies are saying that the President of the United States is a thug.


Armageddon Day?

I'm watching the Al Jazeera feed on CNN. So are millions of people throughout the middle east.

I feel sick to my stomach.

What do you suppose people watching in Riyadh, Cairo, Amman, Beirut, Islamabad, Damascus and Gaza and elsewhere are feeling?

"The Constitution just sets minimums. Most of the rights that you enjoy go way beyond what the Constitution requires.''

Courtesy The Propaganda Remix Project

edited 3/21 -- corrected stupid error

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Oh Fergawdsake

But the government also consulted Parisoula Lampsos, who the Defense Department believes has passed a polygraph examination in support of her claim that she was Hussein's mistress in Iraq for many years. Lampsos has previously distinguished Hussein from his doubles in more than a dozen cases, one official said, and this time she said he was not the man in the broadcast.

This via Sean-Paul, the hardest working man in Blogtopia. His blog is the place to be for minute by minute analysis. (And here's to his lovely, understanding wife, the Russian beauty and her cat Barsik.)

Strange Bedfellows

We all know that Michael Kinsley is objectively pro-Saddam so there is no doubt that he deserves to be called a traitor for writing the following today in Slate:

Putting all this together, Bush is asserting the right of the United States to attack any country that may be a threat to it in five years. And the right of the United States to evaluate that risk and respond in its sole discretion. And the right of the president to make that decision on behalf of the United States in his sole discretion. In short, the president can start a war against anyone at any time, and no one has the right to stop him. And presumably other nations and future presidents have that same right. All formal constraints on war-making are officially defunct.

Well, so what? Isn't this the way the world works anyway? Isn't it naive and ultimately dangerous to deny that might makes right? Actually, no. Might is important, probably most important, but there are good, practical reasons for even might and right together to defer sometimes to procedure, law, and the judgment of others. Uncertainty is one. If we knew which babies would turn out to be murderous dictators, we could smother them in their cribs. If we knew which babies would turn out to be wise and judicious leaders, we could crown them dictator. In terms of the power he now claims, without significant challenge, George W. Bush is now the closest thing in a long time to dictator of the world. He claims to see the future as clearly as the past. Let's hope he's right.

I wonder though, if anyone asked the libertarian warmongers or the Republican patriot police about Joe Conason's post today pointing out that Charles V. Pena, director of defense policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, is also giving aid and comfort to the enemy when he says:

Ultimately, the path Bush has led the United States down is not about weapons of mass destruction, Security Council Resolution 1441, weapons inspections, or disarmament. It has always been about regime change and using America's military power to enforce a world order deemed favorable to U.S. interests. Further, the United States is setting a potentially dangerous precedent by engaging in preventative war -- not a pre-emptive strike against an imminent threat -- based on the uncertainty of not knowing whether a threat might materialize at some point in the future. Now that the administration is where it wanted to be all along and war seems certain, we must hope for a swift and decisive war with a minimum of casualties on both sides.

Anybody have a problem with that? Andy? Glenn?

All American Boys

Salon has a new column called "Homefront" collecting stories from around the land of the free during wartime. The first one is a doozy:

Windham, N.Y., is a ski town, nestled in the Catskills, about two and a half hours from New York City. Main Street, a short, quaint strip that cuts across the bottom of Windham Mountain, is where you can find everything you really need: a post office, a school, a deli, a diner, a gas station, and toward the end, an old restaurant and bar called Madison's.

Last Sunday, my friend Dawn and I found ourselves at this local haunt after a day of skiing. The place was dead. A lottery game and a golf tournament quietly flickered on the two TV sets. So we started making polite conversation with the bartender, and then the two men sitting next to us.

One was a 40-something, recently laid-off businessman from Little Silver, N.J., a town that's 15 minutes from where I grew up at the Jersey Shore. The father of two young girls, he had spent the day skiing with his family. His friend was a lawyer, a local, and the father of four, including three girls. They seemed amused to be sitting next to two young, single women from Manhattan, who were both journalists. After they gave us a tip about tax evasion at a local nightclub, they asked us what we thought of the war.

When Dawn and I said we were against the war, the men's expressions tightened and they looked down at their steaks. They were huge supporters of the war. They argued that if America didn't disarm Saddam Hussein, no one would, and that America usually acts alone anyway, so who cares what those European bastards think. I'd encountered opinions like theirs many times before. Their attitudes reminded me of many of the men I grew up with -- fiercely patriotic, desperate to protect their families from terrorism, bursting with faith in the president.

But when we suggested that Sept. 11 had nothing to do with Iraq, the conversation immediately shifted. Their faces reddened, and they began to talk quickly at the same time, the businessman slapping his hand against the bar to punctuate his outbursts:

"At some point, you have to trust your president! You have to believe that he knows something we don't!"

"They attacked our country. Now we have to get them!"

"I was down there at the Trade Center. I had a burning piece of paper on my face! Burning. Piece. Of. Paper. On. My. Face!"

The businessman seemed to have forgotten that thousands had perished at the towers -- he didn't mention them, anyway -- so consumed was he with his personal vendetta against the Sept. 11 terrorists, I mean, Saddam. In fact, our increasingly irate new friends accused us of supporting Saddam over Bush. When we explained that nobody "supports" Saddam, they went ballistic.

"You know what? You two are the reason why this country's going down the fucking toilet."

"This is why I hate you city folks. Fucking city folks. Why don't you go back to New York? The fucking toilet."

"Communists. That's what you are. Communist feminists. Fucking liberals."

As disturbed as we were, at that point all we could do was laugh. They were behaving so preposterously, each yelling louder than the other one, slamming the bar and sweating. A couple who'd arrived halfway through the conversation looked at them and shook their heads at us sympathetically. We shrugged.

They didn't appreciate our indifference to their anger. The calmer we were the more enraged they became.

The businessman slowly turned to face us directly.

"How 'bout this. You like those people so much? You like those fuckers so much? How 'bout I throw a veil over your head and drag you by your ponytail out the door? Veil. Over your head. Drag you. By your ponytail," he said, dissolving into a bizarre, almost tribal chant.

As I said before, these men had seemed familiar to me in some way. But their vitriol genuinely surprised me, especially since the prospect of gagging us with lace and pulling our hair really seemed to turn them on. Their excitement, as much as their hatred, was palpable. We grabbed our coats to leave.

"Hey, so I guess this means we don't get a kiss, huh!" the lawyer called after us, cackling ecstatically as we slammed the door.

I heard something similar not too long ago here in Southern California. Goose stepping to Rush isn't confined to the backwoods.

Power To The People

Yglesias approvingly quotes this TAPPED piece about the antiwar movement:

One of the problems with these big marches -- impressive as they may be as shows of strength -- is that they have little lasting value. The broad anti-globalization/anti-war movement has tended to disdain actual electoral politics, believing it to be corrupt beyond repair (which is, in its way, the ultimate kind of cynicism). But in the long run, the way you win in a democracy is by winning elections, and you win elections by organizing for candidates and helping them raise money.[...]If the people who spend their time organizing and marching would spend even a fraction of that energy and time involving themselves in real electoral politics -- not futile, Naderite third-party runs, another form of political narcissism -- they could actually punish Bush for what he's done

Well, yes. The organizers should all work to make sure that Bush is not elected in 2004. Everyone should get involved in electoral politics and try their damnedest to nominate the best possible candidate and they should give money and time to make that happen. Who can argue with that?

But, this isn't a zero sum game. In fact, for the average citizen, protests often serve as a catalyst for more general political involvement. It is very disheartening to read all these admonitions to this nascent antiwar movement saying that the participants are somehow being unserious.

We have spent years bemoaning the fact that people are politically disinterested, that voters are apathetic, that they don't feel they have a voice. Now, when rather large numbers of Americans have left the comfort of their homes and their shopping malls to make a sincere statement alongside a bunch of strangers, liberals behave as if it is nothing. Outside of college campuses, the fact is that street protests don't happen very often in America. Unlike in Europe, general strikes and large political protests are not a big part of our civic life. So, when it happens we should really take a good hard look at why. And we should pay special attention when the people who are protesting are average Joes and Janes who work for a living and have kids and own houses. Because that means that Americans are waking up and starting to pay attention.

Telling these awakened liberals that what they are doing makes no difference and that they should instead volunteer for a candidate and write a check is not exactly inspiring. But, getting citizens involved through a feeling of solidarity with millions of people all around the globe just might have the salutory effect of making a percentage of those protesters decide that they will write a check and walk a precinct in order to elect a candidate they believe in --- or to stop the war --- or to punish Bush.

People need to feel part of something in order to get involved in politics. And as someone who has volunteered in many a campaign I can tell you that for the last decade it has had all the uplifting inspiration of the Bataan death march. It is work with no satisfaction in the soul or spirit and without that politics becomes nothing more than a duty.

The Republicans have a base of committed true believers and we desperately need some of that too. Telling these newly galvanized Democrats that the only way they can legitimately express themselves is through the ballot box --- particularly in this day of manufactured, pre-fab campaigning --- is a very self-defeating idea.

We need to get our blood up if we expect to beat back the flag-waving cavaliers of the Republican party. This kind of tepid advice isn't going to cut it.

Post Script:
Tim Dunlop, erudite as always, on this topic.

Memo To The Democratic Presidential Candidates:

Do not fall for this bullshit:

While Democrats and Republicans closed ranks last night behind the troops, leaders of both parties have shown a willingness to seize on war issues to score political points. Many Republicans hope to chill criticism of Bush and his Iraq policy by sending a clear and early message that they will come down hard on vocal Democratic dissenters, especially those in positions of national prominence, GOP lawmakers said. These Republicans worry that France, Russia and other critics will seize on comments from high-profile Democrats to buttress their case internationally that a preemptive war is unwise and unwarranted.


Some Republicans see a longer-term political advantage in such applause. They believe Daschle and other Democrats will suffer in the 2004 elections, which may be dominated by themes of national security and terrorism, if voters view them as unpatriotic or soft on defense.

Most national polls show that about two-thirds of Americans back the war against Iraq. "When you are constantly criticizing the president, you are also criticizing the 70 percent of people supporting him," DeLay said.

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Thomas M. Reynolds (R-N.Y.) said Democrats will likely "pay a political price" for feeding the perception they opposed disarming and deposing Hussein. That is why most of the Democrats running for president have backed Bush in the conflict, Reynolds said.

Reynolds warned that politicians, such as Daschle, who hail from states Bush won in 2000 are particularly at risk in 2004 if they criticize the president's Iraq policy. This proves that attacks on Daschle are "so brazenly political and over the top and politically motivated," said Daschle's spokeswoman Ranit Schmelzer.

It should be obvious by now that there is no margin in playing Neville Chamberlain to Tom DeLay. Max Cleland proved that nothing will stop them from lying about your record and assassinating your character, no matter what you do. It will gain you nothing to worry about quelling Republican attacks on your patriotism.

If a Democrat wins, he will win despite being smeared as an unpatriotic coward by the Republican Party. Whether he supports the President or doesn't he will be portrayed as having tried to foil him at every turn. It is pointless to pretend otherwise. Put your head down and barrel along on your own terms.

Remember also, that the entire strategy is designed for only two reasons. The first and foremost is to get Bush legitimately elected, if possible (illegitimately, if not.) The second is to use his wartime popularity to pass their radical domestic agenda under threat of retaliation to moderates who stray. I doubt seriously that they have ever really understood that their bullying and hectoring is what drove Jeffords from the party, but they will likely not be quite as obvious about it as they were with him. It is in the Democratic Party's interest for Daschle and Pelosi to take some heat right now to give the GOP moderates some cover. This administration may very well overplay their hand (they're not good at sausage making and Frist is a virgin) so it is worth the Party's while to hang tough, really tough, on this budget. The presidential candidates can help by giving Daschle and Pelosi some cover as well. It's going to get bumpy and it would be nice if the Democrats could show a little bit of solidarity here. It would certainly be good for the country.

The Republicans have the strange habit of getting manic and agitated just after they win a battle. They become enraged when they find that winning didn't result in unconditional surrender by the political opposition. On the day the Washington Post revealed that the president had rallied 71% of the American public, George Will wrote:

Speaking of indiscriminate chaos, many elements of the Democratic Party, including most of its base and many of its most conspicuous leaders, seem deranged, unhinged by the toxic fumes of hatred and contempt they emit for the president. From what does this arise? It cannot just be Florida, the grievance that Democrats, assiduous cultivators of victimhood, love to nurse. No, many Democrats' problem, which threatens to disqualify their party from presidential responsibilities for a generation, is their incontinent love of snobbery and nostalgia -- condescension toward a president they consider ignorant, and a longing for the fun of antiwar days of yore

I don’t know why Republicans have such an overwhelming need for their opponents to cry Uncle and completely capitulate. I suspect it may be from frustration at fighting for an aggressive policy against Soviet communism but never being allowed a final, mano-a-mano battle from which they could derive the masculine satisfaction of dominance and victory. I don’t know. But, it is never enough that they win, they want the Democrats to grovel.

It is more and more clear that those who hated it the most developed a sort of Stockholm Syndrome in which they came to admire many facets of Soviet totalitarianism, one of the most obvious being the efficiency and power offered by the one party state. These people do not believe there is such a thing as the loyal opposition. Opposition is, by definition, disloyal.

Rush has been known to say, “I’d like to keep one liberal around in a museum so every body could see what they look like.” Republicans believe we are the enemy. We cannot win unless we understand this.

The War Show

CNN has it goin' on. Baghdad Under Seige, Part I put them on the map and they own the sequel, too, so far. Nic Robertson is the only guy worth watching. Aaron Brown's trying to be Dan Rather, but Dan Rather is still here and he does this verbose sanctimony so much better.

FoxNews proves what we always knew. It is to real news as professional wrestling is to boxing. Fake. They have nothing to offer when something real is happening. Colonel Ollie is unintentionally hilarious.

CBS has the insignia of the military unit in which their correspondent is "embedded" up as a huge logo on the side of the screen, while said correspondent, all dressed up like big grown-up soldier, broadcasts by video phone which delivers its images in an otherwoldly green.

Brokaw suddenly and shockingly looks old and Ted Koppel looks uncomfortably like Dukakis in a tank. Big hair just doesn't work with the military thing.

And, according to Strangefeld, the war hasn't even started. When "Shock and Awe" does start, it will be "something we have never seen before." Cool. Maybe phasers and lasers and MOABS. So, there is still time to get the show together. Tom Friedman's poppin' up the Reddenbacher as we speak, rootin' for president Quarterback's Hail Mary to hit Saddam right between the eyes. I'll bet he's got that CD of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" playing on a loop..

We're at blinking, neon orange. Tents are being pitched all over Washington as we speak. Atrios calls it "War Porn."

Wednesday, March 19, 2003


Who said that? I can't find the quote in the story.

Isn't it strange that this quote, "the evil one will run in defeat" is completely believable coming from either Saddam or Bush? ?

Resistance Is Futile

The United States knows all and sees all. Schwartzkopf said he's never seen anything like this "awesome" technology. The BBC said "it's as if the US has a 3 dimensional picture of every single thing that is happening in Baghdad." No need to tell the Brits about the strike, though. Gotta move fast. They may represent 70% of the coalition 'o the willin', but Blair is still a limey twit, always making Bush sound stupid. Killing Saddam's like swatting a fly. We have X-Ray vision and he's probably dead. We think. Like Osama.

Oh wait.

We got to watch Bush putting on his make-up on the BBC feed for about 5 minutes before the speech. He looked psyched. I believe he mouthed the words "what, me worry?"

Aaron Brown may cry at any moment with all this "exquisite tension." I believe he soiled his trousers when Nic Roberts said the word "anti-aircraft." Brian Williams needs some of that white stuff under his eyes but his shirt is mighty crisp. Oliver North is "embeded" with the Army and can't stop himself from screaming "charge, you cowards, charge!" The troops smile indulgently.

The war show is, so far, very disappointing. When Bernie and Peter were hiding under their beds back in '91 at the Baghdad Hilton, and a handsome gas masked Bibi spoke calmly from Tel Aviv in his mellifluous American accent, it was new and exciting. The Patriot missiles were faster than a speeding scud and could pluck that baby right out of the sky. Cool fireworks. (Of course, we later found out they couldn't hit water if they were pushed over the side of a boat.)

Still, it all was new and so post-pac man. I'm not seeing it now, no matter how they rhapsodise about the technology. I wonder if people are still watching. Especially since there's nothing to watch. We just turned on "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

But, I imagine it's pretty darned exciting in Baghdad this morning. I imagine it feels pretty real and stimulating to them.

In fact, I would imagine that in a day or two all those men and women and kids in Baghdad are going to feel like New Yorkers on the morning of September 11th .

They deserve it just as much as we did.

The opening stages of the "disarmament" of Iraq has begun.The President will speak to the nation at 10:15.

Fasten your seatbelt and start praying. Human beings are on the other end of those bombs.

I Can See Clearly Now

Real life has unfortunately intruded, so blogging is light at the moment. I hope to find some time later today.

Meanwhile, I find that my earlier post, "where'd they get all those flags?" has been answered.

Jesse links to the Chicago tribune article reporting that Clear Channel "sponsored" all those pro-war rallies of the last few days.

Now, why do you suppose they did that?

Clear Channel is by far the largest owner of radio stations in the nation. The company owned only 43 in 1995, but when Congress removed many of the ownership limits in 1996, Clear Channel was quickly on the highway to radio dominance. The company owns and operates 1,233 radio stations (including six in Chicago) and claims 100 million listeners. Clear Channel generated about 20 percent of the radio industry's $16 billion in 2001 revenues.

The media giant's size also has generated criticism. Some recording artists have charged that Clear Channel's dominance in radio and concert promotions is hurting the recording industry. Congress is investigating the effects of radio consolidation. And the FCC is considering ownership rule changes, among them changes that could allow Clear Channel to expand its reach.

Now, let me get this straight. Celebrities are stepping out of bounds when they express political views opposing the President. But, large media companies sponsoring phony pro-military "rallies" replete with free flag swag is perfectly a-ok. Just trying to get the rules straight.

"I think this is pretty extraordinary," said former Federal Communications Commissioner Glen Robinson, who teaches law at the University of Virginia. "I can't say that this violates any of a broadcaster's obligations, but it sounds like borderline manufacturing of the news."

No kidding. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this story is the fact that while rallies were extremely well covered this past week-end, they were presented as spontaneously growing up out of the pro-military grassroots. They were not portrayed as having corporate sponsorship and they certainly were not reported as being a product of a concerted talk radio campaign of right wing nut jobs and their GOP corporate masters.

And I didn't hear one journalist ask the obvious question of where they got all those damned flags! Somebody was handing them out and nobody asked who paid for them. More good work from the DeVry Institute School of spokesmodel journalism

Clear Channel stations are still banning the Dixie Chicks, as well, with the full support of their parent company. Since they own vast numbers of radio stations, and already practise a form of legal payola that is rivaled only by the Mafia, we can consider this a "Luca Brazzi sleeps with the fishes" kind of message to the beleagered recording industry. Of course, the fact that the Dixie Chicks' next tour is sponsored by Clear Channel may explain why they dragged poor Natalie out to make one of those SOS eye-blinking POW statements. They've got those girls by their black-roots.

Clear Channel plays Mighty Wurlitzer music only. And they are more than happy to pay for the privilege.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Crony Hegemony

Seeing The Forest quotes Drudge today :

THE BLITZ, THEN SIEGE OF BAGHDAD STARTS IN FOUR DAYS: Troops hope to have Saddam Hussein surrounded in Baghdad within four days after an unprecedented aerial blitz which will obliterate one in 10 major buildings in Iraq... Developing...

He then comments:

This fits with one of these rumors we have been hearing -- that the Iraq war is happening because the right wingers want to demonstrate America's superior power to the world. They want to show the world what we can do to anyone that opposes us.

Destroying one of every ten major buildings in Iraq? Because we think Iraq might attack us someday? Because, as Bush said in his speech last night, they might attack us in five years?

I might add that there now appears to be several other very important reasons to destroy one in ten buildings in Baghdad:


These are American owned international construction firms. In a move so cynical and so audacious that it is hard to wrap your arms around, it would appear that the Bush administration is preparing to destroy the infrastructure of an entire country and then repay their largest campaign contributors with huge no-bid contracts to rebuild it.

And, happily for all concerned, these companies --- operating outside the onerous regulatory climate of the United States --- can cut corners to their hearts content while obscenely overbilling the government by the billions, all under the fog of war. And nobody pays any taxes at all!

This is not unprecedented, of course. There is a long history of war profiteering on the part of major players in this administration going all the way back to the 30's. Crony capitalism is nothing new. National corporatism has been seen before (notably Nazi Germany.) Colonialism is the oldest story in the book. But, this takes it to a new audacious level.

It's not all about oil. It's simpler than that. It's just all about money. Big Business spent over 100 million dollars installing the idiot sock-puppet to do its bidding and he is doing it --- not that he, or even many of those surrounding him probably know it explicitly. He thinks he's been ordained by God and some others are sincere, if deluded, in their belief that the best thing for the world is American "benevolent hegemony," however oxymoronic that is in the context of "Shock and Awe." Being generous one could say that those neocon idealists like William Kristol, who laid out the positive vision for the Pax Americana, are the most useful idiots the corporatists could have ever dreamed of.

The real question now is whether the businesses who own the Bush administration are thinking long term or short term. Do they value stability and predictablity to protect their long term investments or are they modern quick hit artists? If it is the latter then we are led back to the corporate scandals and find that the scariest aspect of this is that Bush's single most enthusiastic big money supporter was a company built on a foundation of quicksand --- Enron.

It's bad enough that the powers behind the throne are ruthless enterprises that care nothing for democratic institutions. What if the truth is that the modern American crony-run operations that really call the shots are not only undemocratic but incompetent as well? It's literally the worst of all possible worlds.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Corporate Welfare Queens

Yglesias posts this shocker via Marshall:

The Bush administration's audacious plan to rebuild Iraq envisions a sweeping overhaul of Iraqi society within a year of a war's end, but leaves much of the work to private U.S. companies.

The Bush plan, as detailed in more than 100 pages of confidential contract documents, would sideline United Nations (news - web sites) development agencies and other multilateral organizations that have long directed reconstruction efforts in places such as Afghanistan (news - web sites) and Kosovo. The plan also would leave big nongovernmental organizations largely in the lurch: With more than $1.5 billion in Iraq work being offered to private U.S. companies under the plan, just $50 million is so far earmarked for a small number of groups such as CARE and Save the Children.


European officials, and even some prominent Iraqi dissidents, have reacted to the current U.S. plans with disbelief. They charge that efforts to keep the U.N. and non-U.S. contractors on the sidelines will delay reconstruction in Iraq and stir deeper ill will toward Washington. Some U.S. humanitarian groups charge the Bush administration has downplayed the difficulty of the postwar work in the hopes of scoring some quick public-relations points.


Much of the heaviest work will fall to U.S. companies through a growing web of contracts with the Pentagon and the U.S. Agency for International Development. USAID is expected this week to pick the prime contractor for a $900 million job rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure, including highways, bridges, airports and government buildings. The agency is also contracting for five other large jobs, worth a total of between $300 million and $500 million, administering Iraq's seaport and international airports, revamping its schools and health-care system, and handling large scale logistics such as water transport. The Army Corps of Engineers is also taking bids for work worth up to $500 million for building projects such as roadways and military barracks. Additional contracts to refurbish Iraq's neglected oil industry would likely be handled through the U.N., which currently administers Iraq's oil exports.

Four groups of U.S. companies are competing for the $900 million contract, which was put out for bids in secret last month. The companies were picked under rules that allow U.S. agencies to skirt open and competitive bidding procedures to meet emergency needs. All have done government work for years and have deep political ties to Washington. Vice President Dick Cheney once served as head of Halliburton Co., whose subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root is part of one bidding consortium.

Other big bidders are Bechtel Group Inc.; Parsons Corp., which has allied with Brown & Root; and Louis Berger Group and Fluor Corp., which are bidding as a team. These companies made political contributions of a combined $2.8 million between 1999 and 2002, more than two-thirds of which went to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group. Bechtel was the largest single donor, having given $1.3 million in political contributions.


The U.S. postwar plans for Iraq, being directed by the new Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance in the Pentagon, are striking in their scope and intended speed. The administration's plan to rehabilitate the Iraqi school system, for example, envisions the chosen contractor sending in teams to obtain payroll lists and assess teacher salaries just as U.S. military forces secure parts of Iraq, according to a 10-page USAID contract proposal that went out to companies last month. The contract, officials say, could total $100 million, and will cover five pilot programs for "accelerated learning" to be launched within three months, and then rolled out nationwide within 10 months. Only a third of Iraqi children now enroll in secondary school, but within a year the contractor will have "all children back in school.

I see. Sure. Piece of cake.

I hear there are quite a few former Enron executives who are "at liberty." They should be brought in immediately to show some of that good ole Murikan know-how. Lord knows we have oodles of Americans who have the requisite knowledge of Iraqi culture. We should be able to bring this one in under budget and ahead of schedule, no problema.

I'm awfully relieved, though, that President GI Joe is eradicating evil and terror because it sure seems like it would be a teensy weensy bit dangerous for all those American targets there in Iraq if he doesn't. It's damned lucky that he has the whole world on our side so we won't have to keep hundreds of thousands of troops there to protect the corporate welfare queens from those pesky suicide bombers.

Jesus. This just keeps getting better and better...

A River Of Refugees

Seth D. Michaels has a very good post up about the possible scenarios facing American troops within the next week or so.


Picture this scenario: a war some decades in the future between the U.S. and Canada. Canada informs us that in three days, Chicago will be no more, so people had best evacuate. How would they all get out? Cars would be clogging the roads, people would leave on foot, panic would set in. Where would these people go? Stay in hotels? Stay with friends? Imagine the impact of three million people, proud owners only the possessions they can carry, suddenly thrust into the suburbs and countryside. What would they eat? Where would they sleep? How many would have no choice but to stay and be killed?

Now, consider that Baghdad is bigger than Chicago, and that the area around has less infrastructure - no motels, no ATMs, no supermarkets. This is the humanitarian crisis the U.S. will be faced with - not at some unknown hypothetical future point, but in a matter of ten days or so.

Again, despite the unprecedented incompetence that defines this administration so far, we have to hope against hope that they achieve virtual perfection in this military operation. If they screw this up as badly as they have screwed up the federal budget, national security and world opinion we are in big trouble. We must place our faith in the professional military and hope they are less bloodthirsty and more competent than their civilian bosses --- and that they are allowed to run the show once the fighting begins.

The thought of Junior, Newt and Rummy in the war room scares the living shit out of me.

Let Me Introduce To You...

The one and only "Compassionate Conservatives!"


Where did all those exact same sized flags come from, anyway? Who paid for them?

Collateral Damage

British and American military commanders in the Gulf insisted yesterday that Saddam Hussein could not hide his elite forces inside Baghdad with impunity, saying they would target military units with "precision" while seeking to minimise civilian deaths.

The warning to the Baghdad regime will be seen as preparation of world public opinion for potential heavy loss of life among the Iraqi population in the event of US and British troops having to fight house-to-house in urban areas.


Gen Franks told ABC News: "The one who holds the key to civilian casualties . . inside Iraq is Saddam Hussein. We continue to see examples of the placement of military command and control, and military weapons, close to hospitals and close to schools and close to mosques and that sort of thing."

He said that targets where civilian lives were at risk were not "off-limits" but "one takes a very careful look at that and balances cost and reward."

Since Newtie and Strangefeld have apparently been fine tuning the battle plans, (they both watched "The Longest Day" more than 6 times, so they are experts) I have the sickening, sinking feeling that the actual war may end up being as fucked up as the non-diplomacy leading up to it.

God, I hope not. The only thing we can hope for at this point is that it is short and successful with a minimal loss of life. A unilateral preventive war waged by the most powerful military the world has ever known against a weakened dictatorship has almost no legitimacy as it is. If it requires a massive loss of life it will likely be looked upon by history as a war crime.

If you are a praying type, pray for a very quick victory.

Commander In Chief

Our Supreme Omniscient Commander of Good went out of his way after 9/11 to tamp down any vigilantism against American Muslims. But French people in America should not expect that he will show the same forbearance. In fact, just last week he spoke to regional reporters and made it clear that he endorsed the backlash against the French:

With the Mexican press full of a debate over the ramifications of a vote against the resolution, Bush added, “But, nevertheless, I don’t expect for there to be significant retribution from the government.”
His emphasis was on the word “government,” raising the possibility of adverse reaction to Mexico from the American business community and average citizens.

Making that point, he cited what he called “an interesting phenomena taking place here in America about the French.”

With many Americans unhappy at French resistance to a war in Iraq, the president said there has developed “a backlash against the French, not stirred up by anybody except by the people.”

Anyone who says the man doesn’t have leadership qualities isn’t looking in the right place. Atrios found this article from Houston:

For Francoise Thomas, the anger against France for its continuing opposition to military action against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein hadn't hit home until she read about it on one of her doors.

When Thomas took out the garbage Saturday morning, she saw red letters spray-painted on the garage door of her townhouse.

"Scum go back to France," it read.

I guess Karl isn’t worried about the “French” vote.

Here's More:

THE message scrawled on the side of an American bunker-busting bomb being wheeled out into the desert was blunt: “Fuque the French” had been scrawled on the side by a member of the US Air Force.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

Under Siege

Calpundit highly recommends this piece by Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek and it is very good. In fact, even for someone as deeply mistrustful of the Bush administration as I it is shocking to read that every single country that has had dealings with the United States in the last year (except Britain and Israel who are probably lying) has been left feeling humiliated. Yowza.

Kevin then makes the following comment:

Zakaria's observation that the most powerful nation in the world somehow feels as if it is "besieged" is a telling one. Time and again, when I try to figure out what is happening in America, I keep coming back to the palpable sense of fear that seems to envelop us. We are seemingly afraid of everything: child molesters, terrorists, street crime, sharks — in a way that is wildly out of proportion to the actual danger they present.


Our reaction to 9/11 has been the same. Instead of making use of the outpouring of support that we got in its aftermath, we have turned in on ourselves, and in the process we have changed from the flawed but generous nation that we are into a mean and paranoid country that lashes out at friends and enemies alike.

I have thought a lot about this question as well. I spent some of my grade school years in Kansas, where my father worked on the missile silos. Every single day at school we practiced diving under our desks in anticipation of a nuclear attack. When JFK was killed, the town I lived in went on nuclear alert. The assumption was that the Soviets had to be behind it.

But, I do not think there was the kind of pervasive paranoia and sense of fear that we see today. Maybe it was that many people had recent memories of war so they had a more philosophical perspective, I don’t know. Paradoxically, despite the fact that nuclear annihilation was an everyday concern, people didn’t seem to be afraid.

I think this current sense of being besieged stems in large part from the emergence over the last 10-20 years of the tabloid TV news media. In our insular society, where many people experience their community by watching the local news, the “if it bleeds it leads” directive makes people believe that they are inundated by crime and pestilence and deviant sex and everything else that a tabloid press has always used to sell advertising. I have seen polls that indicate that even when crime has gone down significantly, as it did during the late 90’s, people are still convinced that their community is drowning in crime. If you watch the 11 o’clock news here in LA, you are easily convinced that you are living in post-modern anarchy and that it is relentless and escalating even though statistics show otherwise. Fear is stimulating and stimulation is what gets people to pay attention in a sea of white noise and talking heads. It's very hard to look away.

But, there is more to it than that. We are in one of those periods in which the paranoid style in American politics has become dominant. Listen to talk radio or watch cable news, the two most explicitly political forums in the electronic media, and the paranoia is palpable. This sense of being under siege is fed daily by the likes of Rush and the rest, who mercilessly pound home to their devoted listeners the idea that they are victims of a liberal, permissive culture that is trying to undermine their values and a bloated, consuming government that is trying to steal their money. Everything they care about is in danger of being invaded, overtaken and eliminated by the political opposition. Even those who do not listen are subtly influenced by the conversation in the background. It drifts through the body politic like smoke.

Strangely then, it’s within the safety of their living rooms and their cars that the profitable message of paranoia is drummed into the minds of the free people of the United States over and over and over again. America’s insularity is the instrument of its fear.

Convincing Evidence

Bill Schneider on CNN just justified the US defying the UN on Iraq by showing a list of other wars that were fought without UN approval. He summed up by saying something like It may be better to defy the UN than to seek its approval. The list?

France invading Algeria
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
The Falklands

Well now, I don't know about you, but that list doesn't exactly make me feel any better, particularly considering that the first 3 were unequivocal quagmires. Not to mention morally bankrupt.

Great Game

Kevin links approvingly to Emma's interesting post about French motivation in opposing the invasion of Iraq and "how the game of nations is played."

However, I'm afraid I think her assessment is entirely too cynical. Yes, Chirac is a snake and nations act out of their own interests. Much more than principle or morality, by necessity and because we are humans, always goes into foreign policy. Nobody with any brains is arguing that France is acting purely out of altruistic love of the Iraqi children or entirely because they have a moral objection to war. That would be a silly and naive position.

But, neither can it be discounted that France is a democracy and Chirac is responding to the will of his citizens. Perhaps public opinion is irrelevant to him, but one cannot prove it merely by assertion. There is every reason to believe that Chirac would find himself under the kind of pressure that Blair is under and has decided to take a different tack based upon his personal self-interest, which is how the system is actually designed to work. It's hard to see that Chirac was particularly free under those circumstances to decide the issue based solely upon France's oil interests in the mid-east or his ambition to lead the EU, even if he wanted to. If he were acting out of economic self-interest alone, Chirac would have held out for the best deal and then played ball. That is certainly what the Bush administration expected to happen.

I also think she gives short shrift to the notion that the "Old Europe" experience of the last century has left them with a genuine suspicion of grand global plans like the starry-eyed neocon dream of Pax Americana and that assessment does have some basis in morality. (Certainly, the German position is undeniably rooted in its moral culpability for WWII.) They all see their own security in terms defined by two world wars fought on their own soil and they rightly mistrust propagandist phrases like "benevolent hegemony." Yes, that is "self-interest" but it isn't necessarily cynical and it isn't necessarily a hypocritical stance that would change if the players were different.

In other words, it's not naive to believe that there is a mix of genuine democratic principle and hard edged self-interested realism in France's position. That position, after all, is mirrored by far more countries than ours is and most of them do not have interests in Iraq that make it the least bit worth their while to side against the United States. Indeed, it cannot be seen as in the self interest of any individual nation. The U.S. is a powerhouse, both militarily and economically and there is little to be gained by a country like Chile or Mexico defying us on a war in a far off region in the world.

It is not believable to me that this large collection of democratic countries throughout the world are lining up against the US out of calculated individual self-interest alone. There are selfish motives involved in each, to be sure, but they are responding to their people and taking a big gamble that their collective power will serve to check what seems to be a very aggressive U.S. foreign policy doctrine. It's a ballsy move that makes no real sense if there is not a deep seated feeling amongst these players that the US must be put on notice that we do not have unfettered support for these global ambitions.

That global alliance of the unwilling simply cannot be explained as another Great Game.

Show Yer Cards

What a cocky, smirky, son-of-a-bitch.

This guy had a hard-on for war today. He is angry and he is excited and he is babbling incoherantly.

Yee Haw.

"We'll Meet Again Someday....."

Post Script:

It will be interesting to see if Karl's vaunted bandwagon effect will come to pass as it's obviously designed to do. Now that it's on for sure will everybody come scampering to be with the "winners?" We're about to find out.

And somebody should have given Junior a couple of valium before he went out there. He sounded suspiciously like he was about to declare war on France.

Bush aide: Inspections or not, we'll attack Iraq

GEORGE Bush's top security adviser last night admitted the US would attack Iraq even if UN inspectors fail to find weapons.

Dr Richard Perle stunned MPs by insisting a "clean bill of health" from UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix would not halt America's war machine.

Evidence from ONE witness on Saddam Hussein's weapons programme will be enough to trigger a fresh military onslaught, he told an all- party meeting on global security.

Former defence minister and Labour backbencher Peter Kilfoyle said: "America is duping the world into believing it supports these inspections. President Bush intends to go to war even if inspectors find nothing.

"This make a mockery of the whole process and exposes America's real determination to bomb Iraq."

Dr Perle told MPs: "I cannot see how Hans Blix can state more than he can know. All he can know is the results of his own investigations. And that does not prove Saddam does not have weapons of mass destruction."

The chairman of America's defence policy board said: "Suppose we are able to find someone who has been involved in the development of weapons and he says there are stores of nerve agents. But you cannot find them because they are so well hidden.

"Do you actually have to take possession of the nerve agents to convince? We are not dealing with a situation where you can expect co-operation."

Mr Kilfoyle said MPs would be horrified at the admission. He added: "Because Saddam is so hated in Iraq, it would be easy to find someone to say they witnessed weapons building.

"Perle says the Americans would be satisfied with such claims even if no real evidence was produced.

"That's a terrifying prospect."

First of all, why the hell is Richard fucking Perle speaking for this country before members of parliament? Can somebody please explain what position he holds that allows him to go around the world shooting his mouth off as if he has some position of authority?

There can be no good purpose for them to want him telling the Brits at this moment that the entire inspections process has been a sham from the get-go. Why do they let him do this?

He seems to be having a bit of a public meltdown, what with the Hersh nuttiness, and I have to wonder why they don't tell him to shut his piehole.

It's Over?

Jayzuz, that's got to be the shortest "summit" in history.

President Sleepytime must have to get back before "the Wonderful World of Disney" starts tonight.

talk about pointless....

Whaddo I do now, Condi?

I haven't read Woodward's book "Bush at War" because, well, the thought of paying money to Bob Woodward to observe him give George W. Patton a metaphorical blow job smacks a little too much of voyeurism. But, it seems I'm going to have to do it just for the shock and awe value.

Maureen Dowd, in a surprisingly dark and realistic column today (and one which should be shoved into her face the next time she goes all Alpha Bitch Queen and forgets that she's not writing about the entertainment business) says:

And America is not known for its long attention span or talent for empire building. As Bob Woodward reports in his book "Bush at War," a month into the bombing of Afghanistan, when the Taliban stronghold of Majar-i-Sharif fell, Mr Bush turned to Condoleezza Rice, in a moment right out of "The Candidate," and asked: "Well, what next?"

He turned to Condi and asked what next. Has there ever been a more callow, infantile president in history?
President GI Joe likes to play with the toys that go ker-pow, but he's "not into nation building." What do you suppose the chances are that he remains interested in Iraq after Shock and Awe starts to get so, like, boring?

This Summer I Hear The Drumming

Atrios via Roger Ailes points out this nice story of some fine military "security" officers and their off base cross burning antics. These are some of the same military "security" officers who have authorization to use deadly force to protect residents and equipment from protesters on base --- at their discretion

Not all MP's are white supremecists by any means, but it should be remembered that this is why we have a system of justice. We don't let cops shoot to kill except in self-defense. It is impossible to believe that protesters could threaten some sort of vital equipment at Vandenberg Air Force base in California that would threaten the lives of servicement in Iraq. If they can, then somebody needs to take a much harder look at the security of the base overall rather than putting out the word that they are going to shoot first and ask questions later.

Saturday, March 15, 2003

Tin Soldiers And Junior Coming

Vandenberg Air Force Base authorizes 'deadly force' against trespassing protesters

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AP) - Security forces at Vandenberg Air Force Base may use "deadly force" against protesters if they infiltrate the military complex if a war starts, officials said.
Some anti-war activists plan to trespass onto base grounds in hopes of disturbing Vandenberg's mission and to vandalize sensitive equipment they contend helps guide the war effort.

Vandenberg officials revealed Friday that military security police may shoot to kill, if necessary, to protect base residents and machinery.

Anti-war protesters have a habit of threatening "base residents." And protecting "machinery" is a patriotic duty. Shoot the bastards. Where do they think they live, America?


Strangely, I've seen lots of this kind of thing, but I have yet to see any kind of "Down With Saddam" signs. Who, exactly do these people think we are going to war with?

Hesiod links to the following article and explains that this means the "pro-war" rallies are actually "pro-al Qaeda" rallies.

Anger on Iraq Seen as New Qaeda Recruiting Tool

LONDON, March 15 — On three continents, Al Qaeda and other terror organizations have intensified their efforts to recruit young Muslim men, tapping into rising anger about the American campaign for war in Iraq, according to intelligence and law enforcement officials.

In recent weeks, officials in the United States, Europe and Africa say they had seen evidence that militants within Muslim communities are seeking to identify and groom a new generation of terrorist operatives. An invasion of Iraq, the officials worry, is almost certain to produce a groundswell of recruitment for groups committed to attacks in the United States, Europe and Israel.

"An American invasion of Iraq is already being used as a recruitment tool by Al Qaeda and other groups," a senior American counterintelligence official said. "And it is a very effective tool."

Another American official, based in Europe, said Iraq had become "a battle cry, in a way," for Qaeda recruiters.

Some of the information about Qaeda recruiting comes from interrogations of captured operatives and from materials found at the house in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, where Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the third-ranking Qaeda leader, was arrested this month, officials say.

Crystal Ball

Matthew Yglesias says:

I've often wondered what, exactly, the UN's critics proposed that we put in its place. Well, David Gelernter has risen to the challenge with results that are a bit ... odd.

The core of the new organization--call it the Big Three--would be a Britain-Russia-America triumvirate. The underlying principle: No credible world organization could include only countries we like. But Russia's fluid condition gives us an unusual opening. Russia is a big country with a vivid history. No organization that includes Russia could possibly be America's cat's-paw. Yet Russia is uncertain of what she wants; she is open to persuasion. Yes, that means money; but international prestige is worth even more, especially to a humbled former champion. Including Russia (but not China or France) in the ruling committee might impart just the right soupçon of anti-Americanism to the new organization, which must be credible yet not intractable

There is much one can say about this, the most obvious being that this ridiculous concept that time is going to stand still and the US, Britain and Russia will always be in the exact positions they are currently in is well...dumb. But, instead of writing a thousand words I'll offer this instead:

Proud To Be An American

I just saw some fair and balanced footage of rallies, with scrupulously equal time given to the story of the hundreds of anti-war rallies thoughout the world and the one "Patriot" rally in Atlanta on CNN. They reported that the pro-war rally had expected 10,000 but were happily surprised to have doubled that number. The organizers finally feel they are "getting their message out."

To the melodic strains of Lee Greenwood, I watched one of the speakers whip the crowd into a frenzy by saying We thought they were the only ones out there...the ones with hairy underarms...lesbians or whatever. (much hooting and laughing from the crowd) We thought we were surrounded by...California. (booooooo) But that's not true. We surround them!"

The commentator said that most of speeches were primarily concerned with criticizing Hollywood and anti-war protesters.

Has anyone heard a lot of speechifying at the anti-war rallies against fellow citizens? I have been to some and watched a bunch on C-Span, and I don't remember anybody saying anything disrespectful of the American people, but instead confined themselves to the politicians who are making war policy -- which, after all, is the traditional way of politics.

I could respond in kind and insult say...the entire red-state region with rude comments about certain rural stereotypes, but that wouldn't be polite.

Hey, TBOGG....


Here's the transcript. I forgot about the "freaks in limousines." Note the fawning CNN commentary:

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, promoters here were predicting a crowd of about 10,000 here at Atlanta, at the Rally for America, but they're now saying on the podium that they have more than doubled that.

Let's take a look at this crowd. People coming out today, decked out in their red, white and blue, thousands of people. Thousands of people carrying banners and signs, offering patriotic sentiments and supporting U.S. troops.

A part of what you're looking at could also be the power of talk radio. Stations across the country have been promoting rallies for America. They've been striking a chord that seems to resonate deeply with people in this crowd. They are pro-U.S., pro-military.

And some of the featured speakers also taking shots at anti-war demonstrators, particularly Hollywood celebrities protesting war in Iraq.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were starting to believe that we were surrounded by them, by the ones that are the freaks in the limousine, the ones with the hairy armpits and the lesbian, whatever that is. We thought we were being surrounded by California.

Today, today, I'm proud to tell you they are clear, we surround them


MATTINGLY: Things wrapping up right now. They just had the song, "Proud to be an American" playing. People singing along with it.

Again quite a few thousand more people than they expected for this rally, particularly with this kind of rain. So promoters very happy with the showing here today and people leaving with a very good feeling that their opinion is being made known across the country.

Back to you.

WHITFIELD: And David, to make it clear, the folks that are assembling there in Atlanta say this is not a pro-war rally but instead, it is one showing patriotism, showing support of the troops, as you mentioned, as well as the president's plans?

MATTINGLY: That is the theme here, support for the troops, for American soldiers right now in the Middle East. They say they don't want a repeat of what they saw after Vietnam, where soldiers came home and were not treated with respect. They want to make sure that does not happen again this time.

But there are some political undercurrents going on. There's a lot of signs here, a very partisan in support of the president, and a lot of signs critical of anti-war protesters, as we showed you before

That's an undercurrent??

Bush must follow in Queen Victoria's footsteps

Conservative Commentator explains it all:

ASTONISHINGLY GOOD COVER STORY from Daniel Kruger in today's Spectator. His thesis is complex, but essentially he argues that the West as a whole is divided fundamentally into foxes and hedgehogs. The foxes, hippy-dippy postmodernist intellectuals who don't believe in objective truth or ethics - the sort of people who can't bring themselves to use the word 'wrong' without speech marks - are represented by France, Russia, Germany, Belgium, the UN and the EU. The hedgehogs, more simple and single-minded in their ideals, comfortable with certainty and moral truths, are represented by the United States, the UK, Israel, Australia and Canada and NATO. These camps have existed side-by-side for a long while, mainly because of hedgehog American military support for fox France. But that cannot go on:

We stand at a parting of the ways. The coming war with Iraq is going to decide which side goes forward to face the next great threat to the West. If it goes badly, the foxes win. If it goes well, the 1990s myth of a post-modern order - beyond power, beyond war - will be finished. The day of the hedgehog will dawn. He compares tomorrow's chief hedgehog - Bush's America - to that of the 19th Century - Queen Victoria's Britain, and sees a similar role for her. This role is the assertion of liberty, democracy and the rule of law - the morally superior values that prevail in the West but are the right of all. Just as the British Empire saw its duty as the enforcement of its ban on slavery, America's role is to fight for these values across the world, exterminating terrorists and stopping rogue states just as Britain used the Royal Navy to smash the slave trade. Neo-colonialism, he says, is America's future.

Hedgehogs good. Foxes bad. Isaiah Berlin could have saved himself some breath, apparently.

And Pootie-Poot and the Russians are hippy dippy postmodernists just like their soul mates the pansy Belgians. Groovy. Who knew?

This fellow does have a little tiny bone to pick with Queen George, though:

A DAY AND A HALF after it was revealed, I still find it hard to believe that the business contracts for the rebuiling of post-war Iraq have all been given to American companies. It isn't that the war itself has not yet begun that concerns me - planning for after it is over is just sensible forward-thinking. It is the blazen disregard for a loyal ally, and indeed for Iraq itself, which surely can be better served by a greater variety of countries bidding to offer the best services. On what authority were such decisions made? Doesn't the next Iraqi government deserve a say?

Such actions are not only indefensible and petty, but they help put skin on the bones of paranoid conspiracy theories about the war being fought for the sake of US business interests. Just as these were finally being shown for the nonsense we knew them to be, every opponent of war is armed with a fresh arsenal of argument and some solid evidence.

I do not doubt for a moment that this war is right, but this incident alone has made me ask myself why Britain should not merely give America what America gave us as we fought the Battle of Britain single-handedly - our best wishes. Certainly, ending the Baathist Socialist regime in Iraq and disarming its weapons of mass destruction is in Britain's national interest. But if the United States is going to do this anyway, why not allow them, support them and stay out?

I suppose part of the answer is Britain's excellent training and special forces, which are of particular use where brute force and military might are not as effective as something more subtle. We can potentially make this war less bloody for the allies and end it more quickly. And by giving our help and making this an international force that is disarming Saddam, we show ourselves again to be the closest friends of the leading world superpower, which can only be a good thing.

But incidents like these do shake me, and make me ask rationally just what we gain from the special relationship. America's support made an immense difference in the Falklands, certainly, but that was over twenty years ago - and if we are going back decades it seems rather to have been cancelled out by Eisenhower's folly at Suez in trying to curry favour with the Arabs by opposing Britain, France and Israel - a ploy that failed miserably.

If the IRA starts up again in a few years time, will the US help us exterminate terrorism in Ulster the way we helped them in Afghanistan? They'll do their bit with regards intelligence, certainly, and it would be unfair to expect America to fight a threat to Britain alone the way Britain treated a threat to all of Western civilisation. So perhaps it would be unreasonable to expect such help. But that still leaves unanswered the question of what we get out of it. I certainly support the United States and the Bush Administration, but active support is another matter altogether. I think if Britain is to engage in active support for the US, it is right to expect some active support in return. Yesterday's revelations shook my confidence that we do receive such a thing. If they are a freak occurrence, they can be forgotten at once. But if, as is possible, they represent a more general trend, some serious questions need to be re-examined.

Was he under the impression that we were going to share in the spoils of post war Iraq? That Queen George feels some sort of loyalty to the United Kingdom?

Piss off you limey loser. The US 'o A is the only right and true true hedgehog on the entire goddam planet and you'd better get used to it.

Thanks to Baskett's Case for the link. Lotsa good stuff there.