Wednesday, December 31, 2003
Saddam did not have WMD. He was not an imminent threat. The likelihood of a mushroom cloud caused from his hands nil. Not before he was captured, and not before we went to war. Now, the chaos of Iraq is a welcome development for the likes of Al Qaeda and Islamicist terrorists. They never liked Saddam, and they know that the likelihood of the next Iraqi regime, or at least its people, being more sympathetic and available to them is a real possibility, since the challenge we have before us to establish security, freedom and liberal democratic capitalism in Iraq is very, very daunting.
Saddam was a threat to his people. He tortured people. Sponsored rape rooms. He did this as an ally of ours, and under our watch. Since he wasn't a threat to us, but served as an effective counter-balance against, guess what, radical Islam in the form of Iran, we tolerated him. He was never a threat to us, but definitely was to his own people and to other peoples in his region.
How does suddenly capturing him now make us safer? Maybe if he had WMD, and was enabling Al Qaeda with support, but none of this seems to be panning out. So, talk about the rape rooms all you want - the fact that a scumbag like Saddam Hussein is out of power is an unquestioned positive development, but that's no justification for war, or, though it gives the people of Iraq the potential for a safer future, any reason for us to feel any safer.
Indeed, our actions in shamefully justifying this war and ignoring overwhelming world opinion, not to mention slandering our own allies, has hurt the war against international terrorists set to strike us, and these are the people we need to feel safer from, since they are an imminent threat. By our bumbling in regards to Iraq, we've greatly expanded their recruitment base, and stirred up unprecedented anti-American feelings, even in the free world, and even after unprecedented consensus on the war in Afghanistan. All in all, our ratings worldwide are at epic lows, and this when we admit that in order to prevail against the threat of Islamicist terror we must win the "battle for hearts and minds".
We are not winning this battle, and, in reality, don't even seem to be rationally fighting it. Don't ask yourself, as many Americans did in the wake of 9/11, "why do they hate us"? That's old news. It's time to ask yourself "why do they really hate us now, even in free societies, and this after an unprecedented showing of support and solidarity, at least in the free world, in the wake of 9/11"?
If you don't ask, they won't tell. If you don't listen, they won't raise their voices. Does anyone remember when the French claimed that "we are all Americans"? I hope so. And while we smile smugly about how we "saved" Iraq and made ourselves safer by getting rid of the bogeyman in the form of Saddam Hussein, more and more suicidal terrorists are preparing themselves for martyrdom, while our traditional allies are slipping away (or, better yet, as we are pushing them away), becoming more and more reluctant to be associated with us, with the danger we ignore, as we magnify rather than diminish the terrorist threat before us, and as hearts and minds become filled with fear at the prospect of what we will do next.
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
...luxury goods are up around Christmas Time because of the tax cuts, but everything else seems depressed, and the Republican leadership in Congress, prompted by Bush, refuses to extend unemployment benefits before disbursing for the holidays, after voting themselves a raise, during times of epic joblessness, when the rich are proclaiming the greatness of the productivity revolution and profits amidst a jobless recovery.
and let's not forget cut veteran benefits while exhorting the people to "support the troops", while dodging the question of how much the war would cost until we were on the ground already and supporting the troops, cutting taxes mainly for the rich, and insinuating those not "supporting the troops" who opposed the war were traitors, then later exposing a clandestine CIA agent because her husband called your lies on the war...
(to be continued)
Andrew Cline, who has an excellent blog, Rhetorica Network, focusing on rhetoric and politics, asks how voters are supposed to make up their mind who the best candidate is...on the substance and issues, and not insider political perceptions, which seem to be the obsession of the media.
"I cannot find a single sentence in this long article that is politically useful for voters, i.e. any statement that helps voters make a political choice based on civic concerns. This article represents what political coverage has become: entertainment. The job, then, of a political reporter is to chronicle the inside action of a campaign for the entertainment of readers who watch politics as a sport.
For example, [Washington Post reporter] Balz writes:The questions surrounding Dean's candidacy include his experience and temperament, whether he has political appeal beyond the core of party activists, whether he can win votes in the South, his ability to handle tough scrutiny and whether he can bring together Democrats after what is turning into a tough battle with his rivals.
If we're talking political coverage as entertainment, this outlines the central narrative of the Dean campaign as political insiders see it, or as political insiders want the public to see it. But notice that with the exception of questions about Dean's experience, none of these insider questions are politically useful. What does Dean's ability to win votes in the South have to do with the cost of health care, problems in education, security at home and abroad, or the environment?
Exactly what information are voters using to make up their minds?
Lester: Well, Edna, who ya gonna vote fer in the primary?
Edna: Well, I 'spect I'll be votin' fer Howard Dean.
Lester: How come?
Edna: 'Cuz the newspaper sez he appeals to core party activists.
I'm sure Lester and Edna find it difficult to participate in politics when it is portrayed as so far removed from their lives. The rhetoric of political journalism tells them that their role is spectator, not participant.
What if it were the job of a reporter to report on political experience, past performance (i.e. governance), issues of character, and (especially!) specifics of proposed policies? What if it were the job of a political reporter to be aware of voters' concerns and put such questions to candidates so that these concerns are addressed?"
I'm wondering the same thing. But the obsession with Dean's "electability", independent of the issues, seems to be the going "entertainment".
Monday, December 29, 2003
Is this some kind of game?
Israeli intelligence officials say militant groups are planning a major "non-conventional" attack on New Year's Eve
Possible targets are holy sites, nursery schools, apartment buildings and hospitals.
Police have been told to prepare for three possible scenarios: an air or sea-based attack or a ground assault involving several simultaneous suicide bombings, the officials said.
Senior [Israeli] intelligence officials know which of the three scenarios is most likely, but are reluctant to share the information with police officers to prevent leaks, the officials said.
Let me get this straight. They are either so certain about the planning behind the attacks, and in their confidence in being able to stop them, that they don't care to prevent the attacks from being attempted in the first place (since they fear leaks more than having precise preparation), or they're really not as sure as they claim, and covering all bases.
Another intriguing possibility is a spontaneous, unannounced test of terror threat mobilization, which would explain not leaking the actual details to the police, since it would be a readiness simulation.
If this is for real though, and I'll assume it is, what I don't get is that by leaking this announcing the Israelis are tipping their hand to the terrorists, so they can't be that certain. "We know you're coming, but we're not going to tell you where." Either way, the terrorists could decide to wait for another less obvious day, and just let the Israelis waste a bunch of money on a phantom threat.
Speaking of the "obvious day" aspect of New Years Eve, what's not obvious are the choice of targets on New Years Eve. The only reason I can think of for them to strike on New Years Eve would be because masses of people are partying together, which would be parades and New Years parties, i.e. big public gatherings, and not hospitals, holy sites, nursery schools, and apartment buildings.
They can hit those sites anytime, so why on New Years Eve? Because of the overall chaos of the New Years revelling scene?
Sunday, December 28, 2003
Ouch. Just wrote a post on-the-fly elaborating on the previous post and it just disappeared when I pressed "Post". Gone. This is the first time Blogger has actually lost something for me, and, if they don't find it, it will be the last. Normally, I wouldn't care that much. But I didn't have another copy, just sort of wrote on the fly. Blogger has wasted my time, and caused me higher blood pressure, at least temporarily. Hopefully, they find that post, but in the meantime, I'll just explain what I was writing about.
I've been reading Lester Brown's Eco-Economy, and he makes a great point about the value of "natural" goods and services. A good example of this is a forest's ability to forestall soil erosion on adjacent arable land by controlling groundwater flow.
When forests are removed, the adjacent land areas then become subject to changed groundwater flow and the resulting threat of soil erosion. To prevent this, human activities must step in the breach, and these have definite value as figured by our economic system. Therefore, if there is value to these services, irregardless of who performs them, then we have a new agent in the free market, and it's nature.
If we don't factor in these prices, which is not rocket science but by nature imperfect (though the ideas behind this show the price mechanism in our current economy to be even more imperfect), then economic goods and services will not be properly valued, i.e. will be underpriced, and the result will be costs taken on by other economic goods and services that will be adversely affected.
In addition, these additional costs are not always internalized by affected economic actors, but are often shunted off to state and taxpayer intervention. So the logging industry, for example, implicitly operates on the assumption that the price of its product will be picked up by other industries and the state (taxpayers). Whether this is out of ignorance, ambivalence, greed, or avarice is not important - the reality is clear and documentable.
This is a danger to free markets, since these can only operate with greatest efficiency, and true to promise, by the price mechanism accurately reflecting the value of economic goods and services. Since this is not the case currently, free market defenders should advocate that we take steps to begin measuring natural goods and services, as a recognition that we need to measure all good and services, irregardless of who is performing them, or change the theory to fit the facts and reality.
No altruism, or allegiance to environmentalism, is necessary. This is a matter of free markets and information determining accurate prices. Nothing more, and nothing less.
stream-of-consciousness flow, reading Eco-Economy, from December 13, raw, unedited
Information, Agency, Service
Determine goods and services by nature as if performed by man. Determine value. If this is done, then can be adequately (and imperfectly) reflected in market prices.
Our current conceit is that we can't see this, and overestimate our own activities while underestimating their impact on natural capital and services.
Thus, we end up with either religious faith in the free market and capitalism to solve problems in a timely and adequate way, or we are implicitly relying on government intervention.
Abuse of reason. Reliance on faith, or Big Government. By ignoring and disrespecting Big Nature, drawing it down. To be replaced with what? Superman or Big Government?
The free market.
One life's waste is another's sustenance.
What would this mean in terms of the new chemicals we are releasing into the environment, the new forms of waste, radioactivity, new genetic life forms, and nanotechnology, and in the dramatic amounts we are adding them?
Would there be a deficit or a slack in evolution providing a life form to dine on this waste? If so, what would be impact of this waste recycling void?
Or is there nothing we can create that doesn't have a life form prepared to eat it? If so, then in the drastic changes of waste distribution we are causing, how long would it take the life forms to catch up? Again, in this intervening period, what would be the impact of the waste recycling void?
What would be the possible positive and negative impacts on the human species by this buildup of hitherto innocuous and less plentiful life forms? The resulting faunal balance? The bacteria and such, the rapid evolution, the effect on overall evolution, and on health and vitality of the current balance of species?
Saturday, December 27, 2003
One group of technocrats purposely ignored the post-war plans drawn up by another group of technocrats. In retrospect, these plans anticipated much of the problems that ensued. There is no need to attribute it to "epistemological modesty". It should be attributed to ignorance, arrogance, and incompetence on the part of the technocrat group that thought they had all the answers.
David Brooks waxes philosophic (not!) in the New York Times (see Cal Pundit and Talking Points Memo).
But ours is the one revolution that worked, and it did precisely because our founders were epistemologically modest too, and didn't pretend to know what is the good life, only that people should be free to figure it out for themselves.
Because of that legacy, we stink at social engineering. Our government couldn't even come up with a plan for postwar Iraq — thank goodness, too, because any "plan" hatched by technocrats in Washington would have been unfit for Iraqi reality.
First, we did have a plan for managing the post-war situation in Iraq, but it was ignored and disappeared by the ideological faction in charge of the war. This faction largely has been spouting off about bringing freedom and liberal democracy to Iraq, which is hardly a form of modesty in any sense of the word. Indeed, modesty is something noone will accuse our new foreign policy of being.
Second, we've been damn good at social engineering here in America, after fits and starts when those who seek to forestall reforms used their advantage to do so. The Marshall Plan seemed to work pretty good in Europe, and Japan seemed to bounce back great after WWII as well, after we wrote their Constitution. I'm not advocating social engineering as one of our highest goals, or that it's always gone well, but when we've been forced to do it, we've succeeded on at least a few occasions.
Third, the "reality" in Iraq, and the situation and chaos that occurred after the war, were largely predicted and planned for in the very plans that were thrown away and/or ignored by the "modest" fanction running the war. It's safe to say that had these plans been studied and implemented, the task of winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, and thus giving less quarter to the resistance, would have been more effective.
Last, there are plenty of nations in the world today that have freedom and liberal democracy. They are mostly our friends, or at least were until the "modest" guys and gals started calling the shots. They may or may not call it a revolution, but surely that isn't what the Iraqis will call our war with Saddam. There has been lots of success in implementing liberal democracy in the world, and, though we deserve some credit for it, we have also on many occasions worked drastically against it. We are not the only successful liberal democracy and free society.
David Brooks should be given no quarter. His brand of nonsense is the worst I've ever read in a major newspaper. He gets everything wrong, and does it by twisting and deforming sound philosophical reasoning in regards to "epistemological modesty". It is truly Orwellian in some ways to describe a war and occupation that insists on liberal democracy and separation of church and state to a people whose vision of the good life may not separate the two as "epistemological modesty".
There is a deep conflict in the world today between Islamicism and liberalism, and the basis of it is differing conceptions of the "good life", and differing conceptions of how you achieve the "good life". It is not modesty that says what's good for me is good for you, and we're going to push it on you whether you like it or not, but we know you're going to love it so please don't resist.
And if only that were the case. Instead, we're doing this war for our own interests, for our own security, and "epistemological modesty" or Iraqi self-determination is not even a factor. Due diligence would have assured that adequate plans for post-war Iraq were studied and implemented.
To sum up, one group of technocrats purposely ignored the post-war plans drawn up by another group of technocrats. In retrospect, these plans anticipated much of the problems that ensued. There is no need to attribute it to "epistemological modesty". It should be attributed to ignorance, arrogance, and incompetence on the part of the technocrat group that thought they had all the answers.
Friday, December 26, 2003
"The greenies have led us into the crisis in the Middle East... The rabid environmentalists felt it was more important to jeopardize the lives of our brave American servicemen than risk the death of a single snail darter."
All you have to do is take DeLay's reasoning, but choose a separate premise, or frame, that doesn't automatically assume a reliance on oil, an industry in which DeLay is deeply enmeshed in, and you get a surprising admission.
For, what DeLay is really saying here is that we are sacrificing American servicemen, their lives, because of dependency on foreign oil, and blaming the environmentalists for not allowing further oil exploration in protected domestic areas (the impact on dependency, by the way, in opening up exploration as DeLay suggests isn't so great as to avert war in the first place).
Choosing our own frame, a serious and pioneering investment and effort to move away from a primary emphasis on oil, and towards more sustainable and localized forms of energy production, would truly bring energy independence, and thus, according to DeLay's logic, have the immediate effects of saving American lives.
In essence, what DeLay is saying is that military campaigns in the Middle East are a cost-of-business for our oil-based economy. In essence, a tax that is not reflected in the price of oil-based products, but that is instead paid by the American taxpayer without a true accounting. This is just mentioning the financial element, and not the lives lost, which are priceless.
It's "Greenies" like Lester Brown (founder of the WorldWatch Institute) who are trying to convince us that, in our interests, and in the interests and integrity of free markets, these costs need to be accounted for in the price of products. Whether it's human lives and wealth that is sacrificed to maintain supply lines, or deforestation leading to soil erosion, there are goods, services, and costs we either don't acknowledge or properly acknowledge in the appropriate measure.
This following are the words of the de facto leader of our House of Representatives, Tom DeLay, on the subject of his lack of service in the Vietnam War.
He and [Dan] Quayle, DeLay explained to the assembled media in New Orleans, were victims of an unusual phenomenon back in the days of the undeclared Southeast Asian war. So many minority youths had volunteered for the well-paying military positions to escape poverty and the ghetto that there was literally no room for patriotic folks like himself. Satisfied with the pronouncement, which dumbfounded more than a few of his listeners who had lived the sixties, DeLay marched off to the convention.
Is he saying that the good military jobs, the best officer positions, weren't available, and that the other positions were not worthy of his patriotism, or is he saying that the military has well-paying jobs as a rule, and that there just wasn't a spot for him?
As for him being the de facto leader of the House, ask yourself...why? What does this tell us about ourselves as a nation?
It's not that he didn't fight, or serve - it's that he gets away with such absurd self-serving statements without public humiliation.
stream-of-consciousness flow, on the commute, from December 15, raw, unedited
the bogeyman is dead! the bogeyman is dead!
dark cloud lifted
saddam the key to war spirit
war marketed by hatred of saddam, his evil, his threat
indeed, it would seem the administration, without having to go through the UN process, would be in really good shape
resistance forced the mission statement to change - for Iraqi democracy, winning hearts and minds in war on terror
so this must be where we gain victory
only now, with the bogeyman gone, how long will that mission statement remain popular among Americans?
now we hit a time of authenticity
the shroud of saddam is lifted over the american people
what do we really think about iraqis now?
also, now we must inevitably focus again on the real war on terror
through eyes of secure reason, and not fear
Thursday, December 25, 2003
Since my time will be very limited on offline work projects, if I get a run of ideas, I will just post them as I took notes on them in real-time (similar to the Stream of Commute, but not always, as in this case, on the commute).
deeply opposed war. on principle. on the justifications, or lack of them.
when looking at the key points, you see there is little closure, and tons of speculation and obfuscation. this is used against those still making the case that the war is unjustified, as if the burden of proof is on those who begged the question of the wisdom of the action proposed (ostensibly in favor of other actions with the available resources), and not those who took action.
in reality, the administration generated enough fear, out of the fear of 9/11, to go ahead with the action, knowing full well that once the action was under way, they could rely on the human penchant to justify what is already done. This is exactly what happened. Once the action was committed to and ongoing, the nation was too, as the poll numbers drastically swayed, based upon nothing other than taking action itself.
it is here that the burden of proof seemingly changed. if I raise my objections to the war, I have to juxtapose them against charges that I don't think capturing Saddam was a good thing, that we are more secure now.
indeed, the whole point of the objection to the war was that Saddam was not clearly an imminent threat to us, to which we should devote our national life and resources, blood and treasure, to eliminating.
and is this really the rationale behind the war? that we are "more secure" now that Saddam is deposed? wasn't it more than that, that not only was he a source of insecurity, but that he was an imminent threat, or danger, to us?
if so, being "more secure" isn't good enough. for there's plenty of ways we can make ourselves more secure. in an odd way, we act as if the vagaries of the world economy and market are eminently predictable, and thus not a great threat if we cause international discord, while the actions of Saddam are clearly fuzzy and random, prone to unexpected and irrational novelty, leaving us a vague sense of anxiety and fear we cannot tolerate.
to be frank, it wasn't framed like this anyway. if I propose an action, and whether or not everyone is convinced or not undertake it, and then a year later look back and say, "you see, after our historic investment in alternative and sustainable energy, we have not only made ourselves, but our economy and the interlinked world economy more secure by being dramatically less dependent on Middle Eastern oil."
this would be frame, proposal, evidence, and proof lining up consistently. on the other hand, with Iraq, we have more than a handful of reasons, alternately used and emphasized, and end up with a success that does not follow from any of the legitimate justifications for the war.
can we morally justify going to war just to feel more secure, in a world that is inherently insecure, with international relations essentially being predicated on this fact (insecurity) throughout the modern era?
I hope not. it's less than rational, and not cooperative. not that there weren't rational reasons (though radical) for deposing Saddam, but these were not championed as justifications for the war, and obviously not so because of international backlash and conflict that would ensue.
so which was it that led to the war? duplicitous and visionary rationalism (pnac), or reactionary and well-meaning irrationalism?
also, obsession with an action, or behavior, once underway, as if the only action that could have been taken, instead of other actions, in which a better case could have been made, using American values and tangible benefits to American citizens.
the fears of Saddam were largely phantom, but our dependency on foreign oil, and the insecurity of Americans in a period of unprecedented unemployment (i.e. dependency on jobs, something that should be recognized by those opposed to the welfare state), are real, tangible things, and not phantoms.
stages. once underway (war), opposing is treason, hurts the troops, even if advocating they come home, along with a wiser course of action involving life and resources. as if once committed, must win, no matter the cost, or sanity or wisdom.
after, at least psychologically, with saddam captured, not about troops, but about questioning "success".
we can see real reason for war here. saddam. scary. get saddam. mission accomplished. we feel safer, more secure.
I respond, ok, why didn't you just say so in the beginning (rhetorical question), what did it cost, in life and prosperity (rather than measured in the more "romantic" blood and treasure)? Here's what we could have done...
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
For various reasons, including security, I'll be offline for awhile. I'll be back at some point, and I apologize to Atrios and others who were treated unfairly in posts that have been removed.
Monday, December 22, 2003
Richard Myers, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, told America's Fox television yesterday: "There is no doubt, from all the intelligence we pick up from al-Qaida, that they want to do away with our way of life.
"And if they could cause another catastrophic event, a tragedy like 9/11, if they could do that again, if they could get their hands on weapons of mass destruction and make it 10,000, not 3,000, they would do that, and not just in the United States but in any of the free world or any peoples that treasure their freedom. So we take all these intelligence tips very, very seriously."
I get very annoyed when I hear this. There is much more to our quarrel with Bin Laden and Al Qaeda than "hatred of our freedom". Of the free world. This kind of simplification does noone credit, and only serves to infantilize the American people.
We are being targeted by these groups not because we are free, but because by the exercise of our freedom we have become dependent on foreign oil. Our economy needs oil. We were in Saudi Arabia to secure oil. We got hit on 9/11 because we were in Saudi Arabia, where Bin Laden cannot bear our presence, because we needed to secure oil.
Saudi Arabia is not free. Neither we or Bin Laden have any intentions of forcing Saudi Arabia to truly become a freer land. If we exercised wisdom along with our freedom, we would hardly even care, since we would have long ago invested in energy independence, and be giving Saudi Arabia about as much thought as Burma.
Instead, our poor choices and faulty leadership have led us to where we stand today. Our material interests are forcing us to become the world's policeman, in order to secure the supply lines of oil, upon which the economy depends, and the job is near high impossible. These interests have also put us in conflict with Islamicists, who have differing visions of who should be controlling Islamic lands. As different as they may be from us, and our values, it's not our freedom, in and of itself, that has brought us to conflict. It's our presence and undue influence in their (perceived) territory.
We should never forget our own responsibility in this matter either. By adventuring around the world getting rich off of resources from other peoples' lands, and in the process supporting brutal elites who assured these resources were delivered undisturbed while the vast majority of the people did not enjoy the benefits, we have made enemies we didn't have to make, and given freedom a bad name. It's hearts and minds we have to win, and it's not clear how we do that now, given the limits of what we actually can do and contribute, and the damage we've already done to our brand (freedom).
History we cannot undo, however, or what was done on 9/11, and the threat of WMD and radicals ready to use them is a terrible reality that cannot be ignored. We share responsibility for this development as well, at the very least for hastening it, both by our actions and inaction, including irresponsible promotion of weaponry, nuclear power, biological and chemical munitions, corrupt authoritarian leaders, and globally unsustainable standards of living.
Regardless of responsibility, we must go forward and face the challenge before us, which is to defeat Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and suicidal Islamic terrorism. To do this, we must ultimately win the battle for hearts and minds. This means acknowledging that our enemies, and their sympathizers, do not hate freedom, per se, they hate us. Somehow, we need to turn the tide, and win the hearts and minds of those who would sympathize with them over to the universal benefits of freedom, democracy and capitalism, or at the very least to an image of a reformed and benevolent America that doesn't walk all over them and their dreams of the good life.
This effort to win hearts and minds is an acknowledgement that we can only win by minimizing terrorist sympathizers and their recruitment base. With this in mind, we must remember that they hate us for what we're doing with our freedom, for what we've done with it, and this is what our enemies are promoting over there. They're claiming that the Islamicist way is better, more righteous and just. We need to be able to counter this with more than military might, and with honest acknowledgement of our choices in the past, and whether they are wise enough to continue into the future. There is no reason for us to be locked in. If our way of life isn't working in our best interest, we can fine tune it, irrespective of whether we are currently defending it. We are free to do both.
In the end, if we don't honestly examine the real costs of our energy dependence, and at least acknowledge that, being imperfect, changes may be in order and beneficial for all parties, then we will likely fall victim to the infantilism that goes for dishonest analysis and retrenchment in the mainstream media cited at the beginning of this essay.
Defending ourselves against aggression we must do, but the wisest strategy is not always the one focused on the sword. We must not limit our vision, and thus our available choices. We must win the hearts and minds of Islamic peoples to our way of life, or at least to an image of us that is not in conflict with their sense of the good life. It's that simple.
jd: (the alternatives - violence, repression, and the like - are quite frankly not worthy of our name, our values, our brand, or our way of life, and never have been)
Sunday, December 21, 2003
Washington's claims that brilliant US intelligence work led to the capture of Saddam Hussein are being challenged by reports sourced in Iraq's Kurdish media claiming that its militia set the circumstances in which the US merely had to go to a farm identified by the Kurds to bag the fugitive former president.
US officials said that they had extracted the vital piece of information on Saddam's whereabouts from one of the 20 suspects around 5.30pm on December 13 and had immediately assembled a 600-strong force to surround the farm on which he was captured at al-Dwar, south of Tikrit.
Little attention was paid to a line in Pentagon briefings that some of the Kurdish militia might have been in on what was described as a "joint operation"; or to a statement by Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraq National Congress, which said that Qusrat and his PUK forces had provided vital information and more.
Wow. This would sure be just a little embarassing if true, don't you think? This would be on the level of "Mission Accomplished" even, if not worse. Bragging about a great intelligence victory, and software, when it was the Kurds who did the dirty work. Of course, the media jumps on stories like this, so it's certainly possible that the talk of innovative software and all that was never really meant to be spun as the impetus behind the capture.
In any event, I'm not buying the story just yet, as it's always possible that the Kurds on the expedition let it slip that Saddam was captured, and, while we sat on Saddam before announcing the capture, the Kurdish celebration and self-serving spin began. I'm sure we'll soon find out, one way or the other, but it's surprising that we (the U.S.) haven't commented on this yet, especially since other elements of the story do seem to point to signifigant Kurdish involvement, and these claims can't just be dismissed out-of-hand.
An intriguing question is why Kurdish forces were allowed to join what the US desperately needed to present as an American intelligence success - unless the Kurds had something vital to contribute to the operation so far south of their usual area of activity.
A report from the PUK's northern stronghold, Suliymaniah, early last week claimed a vital intelligence breakthrough after a telephone conversation between Qusrat and Saddam's second wife, Samirah.
Again, the story's not complete on this one yet. Did the Kurds make the breakthrough independently, were we working together (which would leave open the possibility that we suggested they interview, or worse, Saddam's second wife), did we do most of it and the Kurds just happened to be along for the (distant joy) ride, or can we thank the new powers given John Ashcroft in pursuing terrorism for this arrest?
Inquiring minds want to know. I'd also like to know if Saddam was drugged. It's not that I would necessarily disagree with a strategy of discrediting and humiliating Saddam, the man and symbol, upon capture, but to do so in a reckless way, that everybody finds out about after the fact, could do more damage than good. In a way, I'm beginning to wonder why I just don't expect our current leadership to bungle and muck things up. But I'll withhold judgement until until we get a response, and this matter gets more fully sorted out.
"If I could do anything I wanted and have campaign finance reform, here's what I would do. I would have small donations allowed, $100 or less. I would have public financing of everybody's campaign. And I would limit people's spending, so nobody could go outside the public financing system. And I would have instant run-off voting, so, when you had more candidates than just two, the person with a majority of votes would win. Now, that's what I would like to do. I believe in campaign finance reform. But I don't believe in campaign finance reform that gives a significant advantage to the Republican Party. And that's what we have now" ("NewsNight," CNN, 11-12).
Last January, Dean had more to say on IRV, which, according to the Center For Voting And Democracy, is a popular issue in Vermont.
"If you want real campaign finance reform, here's what you've got to do, and you have to do all three at once. You have to do public financing of campaigns, you have to have instant runoff voting, so Ralph Nader doesn't take the election away from Al Gore, although we know it was really the Supreme Court that did that, and you've got to have either a constitutional amendment or a better court that will say free speech and political contributions are not the same thing. We can do better than the FEC is doing right now, which is busy gutting McCain/Feingold, which a lot of people right here worked very hard for."
Over at the Howard Dean website, there is also another notable reference to IRV, in addition to several other electoral reform proposals.
9. A National Commission to Strengthen American Democracy. There are many other important ideas to explore. I would establish a commission of ordinary Americans â€” not politicians â€” to consider such cutting edge ideas as instant runoff voting, Internet voting, nonpartisan primaries, an Election Day holiday and abolition of the Electoral College. American patriots established our democracy and American patriots can reinvigorate it.
Saturday, December 20, 2003
"In the next one to two years I think the `wake-up call` is going to come, in the shape of sharply increasing food prices. Because of one factor, China is draining its water supply, namely its giant fossilised aquifer that sits underneath its farming regions. As it drains its aquifer for irrigation the water cannot be replaced. As it has less water, and as global temperatures rise, it is getting less and less harvest. It takes around 1000 tonnes of water to make one tonne of grain, so in effect the futures market in grain has become a futures market in water.
So in one or two years it is going to start importing grain, for the very first time. This will be from the United States. Now in the past the idea that the United States would sell huge amounts of grain to China in its hour of need would have been laughed at, even ten years ago. But now America has a trade deficit with China, of $100bn a year. China can buy all America's grain...twice over."
What happens if food prices rise sharply? How will the poor people eat? In the old days, before industrialization and globalization, you relied on your immediate environment for food, and, for the most part, that was probably good enough.
With globalization, less and less emphasis has been placed on local sufficiency, on subsistence farming, in favor of exporting staple crops for raw income. If there is a sharp rise in the price of food, there is little opportunity to assure that everyone gets enough by temporary and local political manipulation of food production and distribution. Instead, political leaders will have to raise taxes in order to subsidize food, as only money will assure that a suitable selection of food is available.
Poorer countries will be hit the hardest, as the tax base is less, and the proportion of income needed for the consumption of essentials, like food, so much greater. In America, we may not even really acknowledge the problem, seeking instead to avoid raising taxes or seriously considering reducing consumption.
In a world of increasing scarcity, a nation of the obese is a revolting image. We need to wake up and recognize that our lifestyles are not sustainable, and that change should begin at home, with the individual and family, by eating less. It's that simple.
Recent studies have shown that one in five Americans are obese. Those numbers will probably swell in the coming years given American kids seemingly insatiable palette for French fries, pizza, hot dogs and other fattening fast food.
One of the tragic ironies in all this is that, while one in five Americans are obese, millions of children are going hungry every day in the wealthiest nation the world has ever known.
Not to mention so many more millions of children worldwide going hungry. The weirdest part of it all is that one could probably make a case that many of our seemingly overnourished are in many ways malnourished in terms of getting the essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Eating a bunch of junk isn't good nutrition.
One of the major problems for low-income children is hunger and, paradoxically, families who experience periodic hunger--when small paychecks or food stamps run out--have high rates of obesity. They fill up on high-fat, high-calorie (but lower-nutrient) food when they can. Nutritionists call the phenomenon food insecurity. Ironically, says nutritionist Fern Gale Estrow, "malnourishment and obesity may go hand in hand."
Go figure. The poor kids are fat? And there's more to the obesity story than meets the eye.
Eating less and exercising more isn't the solution to avoiding obesity, according to an ABC News special that airs Monday night. That's because government subsidies and food industry practices are designed to place the "least healthy" foods on grocery shelves, reducing the ability of Americans to avoid getting fat, the program alleges.
"Physical activity and eating prudently are both essential to weight control," said Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at the Yale University School of Medicine. "The reason we're getting fat is on both sides of the energy balance equation: We're eating too much and doing too little. That is the answer."
Looking at the world, and growing scarcity of food and water, we don't need to start exercising a lot more in order to maintain our level of consumption, we need to eat less. What would Jesus do? Say? He would share. And probably recommend we make do with less.
More about the design of and placement of products in grocery stores another day...
According to the Centers for Disease Control Web site, obesity accounts for at least 300,000 deaths in the United States alone a year.
In 1999-2000, 15% of people age 6-19 were overweight. ...The only thing that causes more deaths than obesity is the use of tobacco.
Obesity in America's youth is becoming a big problem. According to an article in Public Opinion, one out of every five children between the ages of 6 and 12 in the United States is overweight. It also said it is estimated that almost every American will be obese by 2040 if we continue to live the way we are now.
In a world of increasing scarcity, we are having an epidemic of obesity in America. God have mercy on us.
As the obesity epidemic continues unchecked in America, hospitals are being forced to retool everything from beds to operating rooms to treat severely overweight people.
Hospital officials say patients' expanding sizes require larger gowns, wider blood pressure cuffs, reinforced chairs, larger beds, stronger toilet mounts, bigger room and bathroom doorways, expanded showers and even longer syringes and surgical tools.
All that, including room supersizing, comes with a price tag and comes at a time when health care costs are soaring.
Friday, December 19, 2003
I have been asked to talk about what I consider the most important challenge facing [hu]mankind, and I have a fundamental answer. The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda. Perceiving the truth has always been a challenge to mankind, but in the information age (or as I think of it, the disinformation age) it takes on a special urgency and importance.
We must daily decide whether the threats we face are real, whether the solutions we are offered will do any good, whether the problems we're told exist are in fact real problems, or non-problems. Every one of us has a sense of the world, and we all know that this sense is in part given to us by what other people and society tell us; in part generated by our emotional state, which we project outward; and in part by our genuine perceptions of reality. In short, our struggle to determine what is true is the struggle to decide which of our perceptions are genuine, and which are false because they are handed down, or sold to us, or generated by our own hopes and fears.
We can only do this with assurances of the freedom of information.
Thursday, December 18, 2003
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, administration Web sites have been scrubbed for anything vaguely sensitive, and passwords are now required to access even much unclassified information. Though it is not clear whether the White House is directing the changes, several agencies have been following a similar pattern.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and USAID have removed or revised fact sheets on condoms, excising information about their effectiveness in disease prevention, and promoting abstinence instead. The National Cancer Institute, meanwhile, scrapped claims on its Web site that there was no association between abortion and breast cancer.
Um, what exactly do these changes have to do with 9/11, let alone scientific consensus? I'll let this speak for itself.
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
Did Howard Dean every say, or imply, that we wouldn't capture Saddam Hussein? Has he asserted anything less that we must succeed in Iraq, and capture of Saddam or not, this success means self-determination, freedom, and Democracy for the people of Iraq.
Let's not give into delusion in the midst of our celebration. The mission in Iraq still hangs in the balance. Howard Dean has been right all along for calling the Bush administration on the carpet for destroying international solidarity in the aftermath of 9/11, lying, shifting and cheating about our case and justification for war with Iraq, and for pushing a radical foreign policy agenda without encouraging a full debate and recognition of its ramnifications.
As far as I'm concerned, Joe Lieberman is dead wrong. His attacks on Howard Dean for standing up on principle against the Bush Administration's maladroit war efforts and world-dividing is absurd and ridiculous. To further paint Howard Dean as now suddenly being discredited because Saddam was captured, which all of us expected to happen at some point or other, is disingenuous.
Joe and the other Democrats' desperate attacks (they know who they are) almost make me want to endorse Howard Dean right now. Almost. Though I must say that Howard Dean has by far the most impressive platform, message, and spine.
The glow from the capture of Saddam will soon fade, as we turn to the difficult and possibly embarassing task of determining how he will be tried. In the meantime, the resistance in Iraq will continue, and Americans and Iraqi civilians will continue to die. We will continue to spend vast amounts of money, much promised in no-bid contracts to Bush political cronies, or illegally to coalition partners at the misfortune of other excluded countries, while Congress cannot even find the will to extend unemployment benefits to those Americans without jobs, during the Christmas season, with joblessness at epic levels.
President Bush has done nothing about this, and indeed has limited his options in addressing it by moving when and how he did against Saddam Hussein. Instead of immediately deposing Saddam, we could have put people to work securing the homeland. The will was there. People were jobless, and the homeland, cities, and infrastructure were wanting and/or vulnerable. A vast army of Americans could have gone to work on these problems, and our government could have funded it, ensuring an expanding economy and more jobs.
Instead we lowered taxes, went to war, and left the homeland, to this day, still very vulnerable. Cheney loves reminding us about that, about how terrible it would be if we get hit by a chemical or nuclear weapon. Well please do something about it Dick, or shut up already.
As for Joe Lieberman, and the other Democratic candidates, are they actually defending George W. Bush and Dick Cheney by attacking Howard Dean in the manner they are doing so? Sounds to me like they want it both ways, especially Lieberman - they want to criticize Bush for going about Iraq the way he did, but also criticize Dean because acting on that very criticism would mean Saddam would still be ruling.
You can't have it both ways. Think about that.
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
The arguments for trying Saddam by international tribunal are too good to deny. To avoid the appearance of impropriety, Saddam should be tried by the world, but the only suitable location, barring total catastrophe, should be Iraq. In fact, Iraqi citizens should be allowed lead council positions on the matter.
Reviewing the pre-war posturing, the proper course today seems simple. Since we made the case that war against Saddam would be a just course because he violated whatever UN Resolutions, though the UN did not agree and we went to war without their approval, this does not remove the fact that our justifications for the use of force were oriented towards Saddam's violation of international law and UN resolutions.
With this in mind, it would be clearly against international law and established UN Resolutions, not to mention hypocritical in light of our stance in justifying our case, to have gone to war with Iraq solely for regime change. We made a case that Saddam had violated the UN Resolutions, and, whether anyone agreed with us or not, went ahead and forcibly removed him. Independent of the UN process, "liberating the Iraqi people" was a means to win over the hearts and minds of the people of the world behind the effort, not a legal justification.
Therefore, we should remain true to our case, to our stated justification, consistent with our claims of law and justice (rather than our war marketing effort), and assure that Saddam is tried not only for his crimes against Iraq, which would be only fair to the Iraqi people, but for the crimes by which we justified our war to remove him.
This can only be done by international tribunal.
Monday, December 15, 2003
Saddam Hussein should be tried in an Iraqi court. His crimes, heinous as they are, were committed largely against the Iraqi people. Unlike Hitler, Saddam did not range across international borders committing atrocities (Kuwait excepted). He is accused of mass executions, numerous other human rights violations, and of using chemical weapons against rebelling Iraqi domestic forces.
Though one could argue that the human rights violations would implicate an international tribunal, the vast number of these violations were against the people of Iraq, and in its jurisdiction. The people of Iraq should try him, and only after their new government and Constitution is created.
This would also give us plenty of time to debrief Hussein, while allowing the course of Iraqi sovereignty to play itself out. Until then, there is no rule of law acceptable enough to try Hussein. And there certainly is no military tribunal, Iraqi or American, fit for the cause, as the once respected and now growingly pathetic Joe Lieberman has suggested.
I can't ignore this either. Mr. Lieberman has no right to demand the terms of Saddam Hussein's trial on the basis of the death penalty. The man (Lieberman) is a loose cannon, and should be summarily dismissed, by whatever means, from the considerations of any reasonable American voter for the election of 2004.
Meanwhile, we need to assure that we obtain a full and lengthy interrogation of Saddam Hussein, and that he is eventually tried by the new democratic state of Iraq.
First, I've changed my mind, and explain why above. Though I still believe that Iraqis should have lead positions in the trial, and that the trial should be situated in Iraq, this trial should be an international tribunal because we justified this war by Saddam's defiance of UN resolutions and international law.
Second, Saddam has also stormed across the border of Iran, using chemical weapons, and this shouldn't be discounted. Likewise, and also not to be forgotten, Saddam bombed Israel with Scud missiles in 1991. Still, the damage done to Iraqis is so much greater.
Sunday, December 14, 2003
I'd like to congratulate our forces on today's great catch. Capturing Saddam alive and thereby enabling the Iraqi people to try him is a welcome development. Hopefully, this will also cause a dent in the resistance, but it's hard to tell at this point. All I can say is that this is a great moment, and I hope it leads to an immediate reduction in deaths and violence in the days ahead.
Saturday, December 13, 2003
For the past three years, the Bush administration has quietly but efficiently dropped a shroud of secrecy across many critical operations of the federal government--cloaking its own affairs from scrutiny and removing from the public domain important information on health, safety, and environmental matters. The result has been a reversal of a decades-long trend of openness in government while making increasing amounts of information unavailable to the taxpayers who pay for its collection and analysis.
Bush administration officials often cite the September 11 attacks as the reason for the enhanced secrecy. But as the Inauguration Day directive from Card indicates, the initiative to wall off records and information previously in the public domain began from Day 1. Steven Garfinkel, a retired government lawyer and expert on classified information, puts it this way: "I think they have an overreliance on the utility of secrecy. They don't seem to realize secrecy is a two-edge sword that cuts you as well as protects you."
Even supporters of the administration, many of whom agree that security needed to be bolstered after the attacks, say Bush and his inner circle have been unusually assertive in their commitment to increased government secrecy. "Tightly controlling information, from the White House on down, has been the hallmark of this administration," says Roger Pilon, vice president of legal affairs for the Cato Institute.
There is no greater threat to this nation, to the integrity of information, and to our long-term security than the current Bush Administration. This is why we need to do the Freedom of Information Act over again, and make it a full constitutional amendment that clearly defines when information can be secret.
Secrecy leads to abuse. To conspiracy. It undercuts accountability. It casts a shadow over everything, instead of being exposed in the light. And it is a grave threat to free markets and healthy capitalism.
This must stop.
We can only assure it with a constitutional amendment to strengthen the freedom of information and the rights of citizens to hold their public servants accountable, not to mention compete fairly in the market against elites with exclusive national security clearances to increasing amounts of market-relevant information.
Friday, December 12, 2003
One wonders about the professed strategy of winning hearts and minds when you are using cluster munitions in urban areas against an overwhelmed opponent (not to mention initially lying about it). Not only have these bomblets killed upwards of 1,000 Iraqi civilians, but they are also responsible for continuing American troop casualties as well.
Friendly fire by our own careless and destructive litter.
The use of cluster munitions in populated areas caused more civilian casualties than any other factor in the coalition´s conduct of major military operations in March and April, Human Rights Watch said. U.S. and British forces used almost 13,000 cluster munitions, containing nearly 2 million submunitions, that killed or wounded more than 1,000 civilians.
President Bush has brought shame to our nation. Not to mention another snag in our strategy. We really need some adults in charge.
US President George Bush has poured fuel on the flames of the Iraq contracts row with a sneering dismissal of a suggestion by Chancellor Gerhard Schroder that the decision to bar Germany, France, Russia and Canada from bidding might violate international law.
"International law? I'd better call my lawyer," Bush joked in response to a reporter's question at the White House yesterday. Schroder had spoken after a meeting in Berlin with Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General.
Annan called the Pentagon decision unfortunate and likely to damage attempts to rebuild trans-Atlantic ties bruised by disagreement over the Iraq war.
Is our strategy to divide the world?
"International law? I better call my lawyer. I don't know what you're talking about, about international law."
The brilliant words of our president George W. Bush. It's not even the content of what he says...it's the way he mocks the rule of law in his tone and spirit. And this man expects to win the hearts and minds of the world?
Shame on US.
Thursday, December 11, 2003
In the crucial battle for the hearts and minds of Iraqis, some new information should give every American pause.
Nearly 80 percent of Iraqis have little or no trust in the U.S.-led coalition and the forces occupying the country, and the majority place their faith in religious leaders instead.
About 300 of 700 members of the new Iraqi army have resigned, citing unhappiness with terms, conditions and pay and with instructions of commanding officers, a representative of the U.S.-led coalition said Thursday.
"It's a new force, and ... we face some difficulties," the representative said.
The United States continues to look for more troop contributions from other countries to occupy Iraq. But after the recent attacks on non-U.S. troops and civilians, many nations are growing weary. Some are even reconsidering the very limited commitments they had made previously. Our Globalist Chart takes a closer look at countries' troop contributions in Iraq.
4. Taken together, the United States and Britain account for over 90% of all the troops in Iraq.
5. There are only five countries, excluding the United States and Britain, which have contributed more than 1,000 troops each — Italy (2,754), Poland (2,500), Ukraine (1,650), Spain (1,300) and the Netherlands (1,198).
6. The vast majority of coalition countries sent well under 1,000 troops to Iraq. In fact, the remaining 23 countries only sent a total of 5,203 troops to Iraq — averaging 226 troops per country. These 23 countries supplied roughly 3.3% of all the troops in Iraq.
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
If you haven't met the good doctor Robert Jay Lifton yet, please go check out his diagnosis of American foreign policy. Will have much more to say on the substance of his assessment later on, as I'm still poring through his latest book, Superpower Syndrome.
From Hiroshima to Nazi doctors, Vietnam to the apocalyptic cult that sarin-gassed the Tokyo subway system, the psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton has explored many of the most extreme moments of our previous century of excess and the people who lived through or enacted them. Now, in a brief, thoughtful "intervention" of a book, he's brought his experiences together and focused them on the first moments of our new century -- trying to make some sense of al Qaeda, and ourselves.
"The confrontation between Islamist and American versions of planetary excess has unfortunately tended to define a world in which the vast majority of people embrace neither. But apocalyptic excess needs no majority to dominate a landscape. All the more so when, in their mutual zealotry, Islamist and American leaders seem to act in concert. That is, each, in its excess, nurtures the apocalypticism of the other, resulting in a malignant synergy."
Have you visited the National Freedom Of Information Coalition yet?
The National FOI Coalition joins First Amendment and open government organizations from individual states in a self-supporting alliance as they seek to protect the public's right to know through the education of media professionals, attorneys, academics, students and the general public. NFOIC nurtures start-up FOI organizations in other states. It assists its own members through joint fundraising, project planning, and the interchange of ideas and information.
Bringing the noise, as always, is The Center For Public Integrity, in regards to a free and independent media. They've got a great site devoted to these issues - Open Airwaves. The latest edition has reports on Big Radio Rules In Small Markets, FCC Dawdled As Big Media Grew, and 4 or 5 Big Firms Dominate FCC Commissioners' Home Market, among other things. I encourage you to check them out.
Tuesday, December 09, 2003
The always informative Transparency International has the inside scoop on the UN Convention Against Corruption, which, among other things, will designate December 9th as the annual International Anti-Corruption Day.
The UN Convention against Corruption, to open for signature tomorrow in Merida, Mexico, is a milestone for global efforts to combat graft, says Transparency International, the leading international non-governmental organisation devoted to fighting corruption. The Convention's signing ceremony on December 9th, recently designated International Anti-Corruption Day by the UN General Assembly, is the result of a three-year effort by 129 countries to take global action against corruption.
Support the efforts to fight corruption. Push your legislators and elected representatives to champion transparency and accountability, and to fund and institutionalize proper enforcement mechanisms for these anti-corruption measures.
Monday, December 08, 2003
Informed consent is crucial to the evolving project of freedom and liberal democracy. Transparency and the freedom of information its foundations. Accountability its fruits. Nothing less is any longer acceptable. Secrecy has only led to suspicion, conspiracy, and corruption.
I'm serious. No consent without information. Without access to information. Without timely and relevant information regarding the task at hand. Like the old rallying cry, "no taxation without representation", we have a unifying message for this day and age of global angst and transformation.
No consent without information.
Saturday, December 06, 2003
As I was saying yesterday, Edgewise is discussing "eliminationist rhetoric", as a followup to David Neiwert's "The Political and The Personal post from a while back. I will have more to say on this later, as the nature and extent of the Bush Administration's divisiveness brings me to a perfect rage, but in the meantime I'll just drop this.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
Friday, December 05, 2003
Tuesday, December 02, 2003
Let's Not Forget What's At Stake Regarding Big Media
Censorship At The Source: The Worst Kind
Media Post Redirects
All The More Reason Not To Trust The Multinational Corporate Media Business Interest
Separation Of Media And State
You'd Never Guess By Liberal Bloggers Ignoring The Looming FCC Vote...
Italian Prime Minister Owns Or Controls 92% Of Italian Media!
We Want The Airwaves - Ruminate On This
The Senate Shuts Down The FCC 45% Rule
We're Winning The Battle Against Big Media
Response To Cato - Regarding Big Media And FCC
It's refreshing to hear Howard Dean, a major political figure in America, speaking out against Big Media. How many mainstream politicans or commentators have you ever heard citing the ever-diminishing numbers of major media owners, and their ever-expanding reach?
This is one of the biggest issues in America, and one of the most fateful in the continuing story of freedom and liberal democracy. We're nearly down to a handful of corporations being responsible for over 90% of media outreach. This has clear dangers, of which I will not repeat in this post, but have been venting on for awhile (I'll find those posts and link to them a bit later).
Say what you will about Howard Dean, his stance against the war in Iraq, his prior record as governor, but his campaign is hitting new strides. For over a decade, respected independent commentators such as Ben Bagdikian have been warning us about massive media consolidation and concentration of ownership (even more enabled now with the innovation of convergence). This has got practically no mainstream press exposure (for obvious reasons).
It's time we do something about it. For all of us in America, for our peace of mind and security of liberty and conscience, for the freedom of information, we should welcome Howard Dean's championing of this issue, and recommend that he go ahead and break up Big Media. No media company should have more than 25% market penetration, let alone the absurd 38-39% that is being tossed around today (as a compromise!).
Also, we should try and determine a way to ensure this media diversity and distributed ownership by how we structure the rules, and not merely by keeping an eye on a magic number like 25% or 39% and assuring none go past. This would mean tax incentives and other measures to ensure greater entrepreneurial investment and ownership in media, especially of the local variety, where possible, and falling back on our magic numbers when we experience natural barriers to that, such as are found in the finite bandwidth of push media in television and radio.
Monday, December 01, 2003
I probably won't be posting this week. The last few posts should suffice for awhile. I've got some deadlines that I absolutely have to hit this week (at work).
Be a lover, not a hater. I am angry (with what's going on in America), envy noone, and respect everyone's right to do their own thing. Including President Bush. If you don't like him, beat him at his own game. Politics. That doesn't mean playing the same way. It doesn't mean not playing the same way. It definitely means playing. As serious as things are, there's a game afoot. Play. To win. There's no other way except political impotence.
Bottom line: you want power. To get power, you need allies. In America, that ultimately means you need a lot of votes. Hate won't get you (enough) votes. If you're angry with the Right, or Bush, that's fine. That's also not enough to win. Express yourselves. Sensibly and in a civil fashion. Promote a message of inclusion, bring more allies to the polls than ever before, convince them your anger is justified (even if they don't have that emotional reaction, but just a shared concern), and win this country back!
I don't want to be angry anymore. Who would? I want to win. And I refuse to hate. Hate is less a form of anger than of envy, of someone having the power to do something that deeply troubles you, but that you did not have the power to stop, or to foresee. You have the power to do something about this in 2004, if not with dissent and demonstration before then. Anger may drive you, but don't let hate blind you. These distinctions are very meaningful, and when the dust settles, whoever can clearly show the other to be irrational and emotionally-driven, if not "haters", will win in 2004.
Sunday, November 30, 2003
President Bush and his cronies should not be allowed to weasel out of Iraq by speeding up the transition while not handing control over to the international community. This should be avoided at all costs. These gentlemen and women should be forced to accept that their intransigence and arrogance in momentous times of war has led them down the wrong path. They need to own up to it.
If we allow the Bush Administration to hand over power to Iraqis without bringing in the UN, we face two likely possibilities. One, that the Bush Administration hopes to end up with another authoritarian regime, another strong man, it can attempt to coopt in the name of our interests. This is unacceptable, and would be an example of extreme lack of moral accountability. Or, two, that we end up with another Iran on our hands, financed by our own tax dollars. Instead of one Ayotollah to deal with, we'd now have two.
Of course, it's possible that democracy in Iraq could go completely hunky dorey, and that Ayotollah Sistani will be a leading light of Islamic democracy, but I doubt it. These people are clearly calling for an Islamic state run by Islamic law, which will mean the subjugation of women, minorities, and conscience.
The best hope for Iraq, and the effort we have put into it at this point, is to accomplish the original (rhetorical) plan. To stay the course, provide security and badgering until a Constitution is formed, that ensures the essential dignity and rights of minorities, women, and conscience (not everyone is Islamic over there), and assures that there is at least a chance that Iraq will not turn into a totalitarian Islamo-fascist state.
The only way this will happen, with legitimacy and security, is to hand the operation over to the UN. This is not Yugoslavia. The factions in Iraq are not fighting each other - they are fighting us. The Americans. They will not fight the UN, for the vast majority of Islamic fundamentalists do not preach hate of the UN. By handing this over, you provide some dissonance as a preemptive absorber of currently expressed dissent and resistance. The enemy is not the UN, unless they are seen as the patsy of the US.
So the UN should be given full control. The Bush Administration should have to hand it over, and admit that they mismanaged things and soured relations without due cause or reason. And the Iraqis should be forced to sit at a table and work things out between the relevant peoples and interests, before they are given full legitimacy and a license on state-sanctioned violence.
Friday, November 28, 2003
You are defeating the terrorists here in Iraq, so that we don't have to face them in our own country.
It's time President Bush makes up his mind. Have we killed upwards of thousands of Iraqi civilians in order to free Iraq, or in order to draw our enemy into Iraq so we can fight them there instead of Peoria?
I'm guessing the answer is both, which, upon analysis, doesn't fit. If we are just fighting Saddam's henchmen, then we are just fighting for Iraq's liberation. Saddam was no direct threat to us in the homeland.
If we are also fighting a cadre of terrorists we've drawn into Iraq by our presence, and who are contributing to the chaos and terror in the Iraqi countryside, then we have greatly raised the ante of our responsibilities, and find ourselves in the odd position of liberating a people we are using as pawns on a chessboard.
As our strategy becomes more and more untenable, and its definition of success, in the face of dire conflicts, more and more diminished, we are left in a very undesirable situation. We have to succeed, to avoid leaving Iraq to a chaotic world of terror and civil war, and to avoid the inevitable moral accounting of our acts in Iraq, in terms of their effects on the innocent civilian, over the past decade.
The number of deaths in Iraq, due not only to this war but to the irresponsible sanctions since 1991, is staggering. We have to ask ourselves why.
Thursday, November 27, 2003
Slightly ill today. Still, would like to wish everyone a day of thanks and appreciation. Also, I'd like to thank our president for visiting the troops today. That means something. Such an action, to my immediate knowledge, is unprecedented, shows great courage, and deserves praise.
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
Congressional leaders are calling for an investigation into price gouging by Halliburton in Iraq. It seems they're charging at minimum $0.90/gallon over the acknowledged average price determined by the Army and over $1.50/gallon more than Iraqis claim to be able to do.
In a letter to the Inspector General of the US Defense Department, Senator Joseph Lieberman and Representatives John Dingell and Henry Waxman alleged that while Halliburton is charging US taxpayers 2.65 dollars per gallon to tranport gasoline from Kuwait to Iraq, the Iraqi state oil company pays only 96 cents per gallon and the Defense Department's own fuel distribution center pays between 1.08 dollars and 1.19 dollars per gallon.
"Transparency and accountability are essential if the efforts to reconstruct Iraq are to succeed," the three lawmakers wrote in their letter to Defense Department Inspector General Joseph Schmitz.
"We hope you will help restore transparency and accountability to this process by undertaking the important investigations described in this letter."
As always, our buzz words are transparency and accountability, and, in the previous post, the freedom of information. By ensuring these we can assure all of the rest of the promises of liberal democracy. Without them, we are left to the mercy of the elites, and the darkness of suspicion and conspiracy.
I'm not sure there's ever been a bigger bunch of crooks and cynical manipulators controlling Congress than the current bunch. If I was a Republican, and a moral individual, I would be ashamed. Ashamed. These guys craft their own compromise against media reform opposition that came from outside of their circles and trumpet it as a win-win for everyone.
How do they plan on getting away with it? Oh, by shifting this "compromise" legislation, with all of the other pork, into the omnibus spending bill which is not going to make it through Congress in its present form. No, it'll have to be picked up again after the Thanksgiving Break, and attempted to be passed before the end of the year, and it better change drastically before that time, or all hell is going to break loose.
This current Congressional session is appalling. Even the conservative groups are up in arms. We can't run our democracy like this. We can't accept our congressional strategists and committees shacking up with special interests and lobbyists to craft legislation, crammed with pork, and then have them drop it on the rest of the legislators with just a few days to evaluate historic and lengthy provisions, as in the case of both the Medicare and Energy bills, before taking a vote.
It's absurd, regrettable, and indicative of who's in charge and the rudder that steers them. There is no moral leadership in America, in the sense of respecting our founding ideals and balanced processes, and the GOP is leading the way. Even their own conservative foundations are sounding off against them. They've given in to the very worst of their greedy conceptions of self-interest as the highest ethic of the land, and are leading us down a dead end.
I don't care if Rupert Murdoch thinks this media reform would be a good compromise. That (in itself) tells me there's something wrong with it. Murdoch is not supposed to get what he wants because he can pay to play, the American people are. We've stated loudly and very clearly that we want diverse and distributed media in America. We want assurances that the freedom of information and the integrity of the press estate will be respected.
Rupert Murdoch is the number one exemplar of how we're moving away from this. His Fox News is a travesty of a news organization, just as our current Congressional leadership is a travesty of our forefathers. It's time to end the madness, and return some sanity and foresightedness to our cherished republic.
Tuesday, November 25, 2003
Howard Dean was right, and not radical, about the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and how we justified it. The facts and reality bear that out.
Howard Dean is a fiscal conservative, who has balanced budgets when not even legally required to do so (unlike every other state governor), and can win the votes of libertarians and fiscal conservatives everywhere who are horrified at the free spending of the Bush Administration and GOP over the past few years.
Howard Dean will promote a winning health care reform platform, and will have the credibility to get people behind it.
Howard Dean will promote electoral reform and IRV on his platform, and thus cement the votes of most independent voters, along with attracting record numbers of nonvoters to get back to the polls. Just the number of new voters he will attract by this alone could possibly make the difference.
Howard Dean will have the money to assure that GOP attack ads and irrationalism are effectively and directly countered. Along with that money, he will have a virtual army of bloggers doing fact checking and spin recycling to assure that the mainstream media honestly and accurately does a fair and balanced job of reporting during the campaign.
Howard Dean will not undermine liberty in the name of liberty, and will succinctly point out how the Bush Administration and GOP hysterics is and are.
Willie Horton won't work.
Howard Dean will win the debates.
Last night, I discovered that Bill Clinton was declaring terrorists the enemies of freedom himself back in 1999. He deserves, at least on this point, equal criticism, should criticism be forthcoming, which it surely ought to be for greatly simplifying, and in many ways mischaracterizing, the (varying) aims of terrorist groups, and their reasons for targetting us.
In the struggle to defend our people and values and to advance them wherever possible, we confront threats both old and new -- open borders and revolutions in technology have spread the message and the gifts of freedom but have also given new opportunities to freedom's enemies. Scientific advances have opened the possibility of longer, better lives. They have also given the enemies of freedom new opportunities.
Last August, at Andrews Air Force Base, I grieved with the families of the brave Americans who lost their lives at our embassy in Kenya. They were in Africa to promote the values America shares with friends of freedom everywhere -- and for that they were murdered by terrorists. So, too, were men and women in Oklahoma City, at the World Trade Center, Khobar Towers, on Pan Am 103.
I came across this passage while reading a book on "superterrorism" (chemical, biological, nuclear) last night. Though this turn of rhetoric is similar, in the sense of characterizing terrorists as "enemies of freedom" (undoubtedly our freedom), there are definitely differences in approach between George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to be noted, and you can begin to see them a bit later in the speech.
Let me say first what we have done so far to meet this challenge. We've been working to create and strengthen the agreement to keep nations from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, because this can help keep these weapons away from terrorists, as well. We're working to ensure the effective implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention; to obtain an accord that will strengthen compliance with the biological weapons convention; to end production of nuclear weapons material. We must ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to end nuclear tests once and for all.
But we cannot rely solely on our efforts to keep weapons from spreading. We have to be ready to act if they do spread. Last year, I obtained from Congress a 39 percent budget increase for chemical and biological weapons preparedness. This is helping to accelerate our ongoing effort to train and equip fire, police and public health personnel all across our country to deal with chemical and biological emergencies. It is helping us to ready armed forces and National Guard units in every region to meet this challenge; and to improve our capacity to detect an outbreak of disease and save lives; to create the first ever civilian stockpile of medicines to treat people exposed to biological and chemical hazards; to increase research and development on new medicines and vaccines to deal with new threats.
So, as we can see, none of what happened in 2001, at least in terms of the anthrax attacks, was unexpected, or even not already being prepared for in concrete plans and initiatives. The question would be how much was initiated under Clinton's watch, and whether that was continued or stymied after W. Bush took office. It's obvious here that Clinton continued to see clearly the wisdom of international treaties against weapons of mass destruction, including an outright condemnation of any further nuclear testing, which the Bush Administration has essentially turned on its tail.
And, as usual in his broader appeals, Clinton peppers his presentation with unexpected details, and seeks to engage all of his ideological constituents, one example being this bone seemingly thrown to unrestrained free market defenders near the close of his speech.
I should say here that I know everybody in this crowd understands this, but everyone in America must understand this: the government has got to fund this. There is no market for the kinds of things we need to develop; and if we are successful, there never will be a market for them. But we have got to do our best to develop them. These cutting-edge efforts will address not only the threat of weapons of mass destruction, but also the equally serious danger of emerging infectious diseases. So we will benefit even if we are successful in avoiding these attacks.
Finally, Clinton wraps up with some passages that, again, set the boundaries with which he intends to act much differently so than George W. Bush seemingly has accepted. Here is where the Democrats, if they really wish to challenge the GOP, need again to lay down the gauntlet - to "not undermine liberty in the name of liberty".
In all our battles, we will be aggressive. At the same time I want you to know that we will remain committed to uphold privacy rights and other constitutional protections, as well as the proprietary rights of American businesses. It is essential that we do not undermine liberty in the name of liberty. We can prevail over terrorism by drawing on the very best in our free society -- the skill and courage of our troops, the genius of our scientists and engineers, the strength of our factory workers, the determination and talents of our public servants, the vision of leaders in every vital sector.
I have tried as hard as I can to create the right frame of mind in America for dealing with this. For too long the problem has been that not enough has been done to recognize the threat and deal with it. And we in government, frankly, weren't as well organized as we should have been for too long. I do not want the pendulum to swing the other way now, and for people to believe that every incident they read about in a novel or every incident they see in a thrilling movie is about to happen to them within the next 24 hours.
I wonder who that sounds like?
Monday, November 24, 2003
I just have to repost this on its own.
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This phenomenon and Internet memefest (apparently circulated in September, but I seem to have missed it), is thoroughly examined and the srouce discovered by Matt Davis of the Cognitive and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge. He really get to the nitty gritty of it, including examples in over a dozen different languages, examples that don't work as suggested, and programming scripts developed, in response to this jumbled paragraph making its rounds, that will automatically scramble words for you.
We are inventive creatures, aren't we?
Being a member of an Ernest Becker newsgroup, it was a proud moment for all of us today when The Denial Of Death was listed as one of Bill Clinton's 21 favorite books (one wonders why it's 21, rather than 20, but the presence of one of Hillary's books makes this fact even more interesting).
I decided to do some checking up on some of the other books, and, at least with the non-fiction, discovered a trend that "history has a purpose", and that purpose is greater complexity, cooperation, and intelligence as embodied by human beings and their culture. This kind of thinking believes, to no surprise, that America is the pinnacle of this development.
Clinton also listed some excellent poets, including Seamus Heaney and William Butler Yeats, and actually represented an impressive array of writers. Others listed range from George Orwell and Ronald Neibuhr to Max Weber and Marcus Aurelius. Bill Clinton is definitely an odd one, in some ways, as no normal person would list Max Weber or any number of historical analysis tomes as their favorite books, or one entitled "Politics As A Vocation".
With this in mind, one wonders and may even grimace (or break out in hysterical laughter) at the prospect of what George W. Bush would list as his favorite 21 books (or 20, has his wife wrote a book?), but I'm willing to listen and keep an open mind about it.
Also, an Amazon reviewer of Carrol Quigley's book (in Clinton's list), redirects a curious peruser to this book, The Illuminati Manifesto, as a related work involving elites and the realization of history's grand plan, and it surely must have been an oversight that Bill left this one off the list (or he expected us to find it through Amazon, as he knows that's the first thing that blog geeks are going to do). I'm going into all of this actually in order to publish this fascinating piece of information gleaned from one of the Amazon reviewers of this book.
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Amazing, isn't it?