Wednesday, August 06, 2003
Peace is not easily experienced in this forum of the web. Especially when you're here for war. To oppose it. The reasoning behind it. That mission has run its course, and for every period of activity, there must be a period of rest. Otherwise, personal involvement may become too great, and insight, along with compassion, increasingly become lost.
For who am I to accuse our president, George W. Bush, of being a liar or self-deceiver, as I did several days ago? Or on the eve of the war? Just as soon should I accuse myself. For these are trying times that we live in, and staying true to oneself, indeed being aware of this truth at all, is hard enough, without having the burden of your fellows, and the world, also upon your shoulders.
So, for my part, I'm leaving to take some time to reflect. To listen. To tend to the things closer to home. Closer to the heart. As the president is himself on such a leave, I can only hope that he takes the time to do the same. To evaluate, and to appreciate, and to enjoy some quiet. Some peace. As much as is possible. Before the inevitable return.
There is always the moment of return. Of reengagement. When we see with fresh eyes, and hear with fresh ears, the tumult of experience which at once we had taken leave.
With that, I bid my adieu.
It's time that journalism gets real. Gives up this pretense of objectivity. Not for good. But for change. For the times always change, as does the people, their leaders, and the going zeitgist. To feign objectivity within this flow is a deception. Only in enduring, and unchanging, principles can journalism find an objectivity that will stand the test of time.
This standard should be the ideals of our nation. The understood, spoken ideals. Embodied in our Constitution, and in our hearts. Our culture. In America, we understand these to be freedom, liberty, justice, and community. Thus, these should be our journalistic standard bearers.
The measure of objectivity should be thus. American ideals, rather than the going reality. If you examine our history, it's not hard to see a steady movement towards the realization of these ideals. It would not be shameful, or unfair, for our media to adopt these as its basis for objectivity. To drop the pretenses, and actually embrace the mission and movement of our people.
By reporting through this lens, we will always have a standard for the journalistic profession, and a measure of just how far we are from reaching our deepest and most precious goals. As set down in the Declaration of Independence, and embodied in our magnificent, enduring Constitution.
Tuesday, August 05, 2003
After we've spent $100 billion on the less-than-direct threat from Saddam, will we stop and do a cost-benefit analysis?
Well, let's see...our economy is in ruins, our states are going broke, our seaports are going unprotected, our borders are still not adequately monitored, our cities are still not prepared for an anomalous WMD event, Al Qaeda is still issuing threats and causing us to raise our alert level, but we got Saddam!
Well thanks, but no thanks. This has been a colossal waste and mismanagement of time, effort, and resources. We should have kept the Delta Forces on AQ and Bin Laden, and spent much less money on a Marshall Plan here at home, to prepare the Homeland. To secure America.
Not to mention that this money would have been better spent here in America, put into American workers' hands, who we could have hired by the bushel to help out with the security effort. Instead, most of the money we spend goes into the hands of military and arms merchants, to resupply our arsenal after we expend it all, and for various other war supporting efforts, not to mention rebuilding Iraq.
These companies are few in number, much fewer than able-bodied Americans out of work, and invariably in the majority connected to the wanderings and former clients of some of the Administration's key players.
Not to mention we've ruined the global consensus backing us up after 9/11 and during Afghanistan. But I don't want to go on and on and on.
Just remember...cost-benefit analysis. Utilization of resources, choices made in the face of the known threats. Which threats were imminent, and direct, and which were only falsely stated to be so, pretended to be so?
What national security policy?
remember, this ongoing section of the blog is a stream-of-consciousness (as thought, then written) record of stuff I'm thinking about while on the daily commute. enjoy! and remember, it's largely unedited. in this particular case, totally so.
seaports and the rest
we should have
1) stayed focused on AQ and BL, kept the Deltas on them
2) spent our money wisely - not invading Iraq and spending $100 billion but assuring that 9/11 did not result in any adverse effects on our economy, their target in a lot of ways, and spending money to shore up our seaports and to assist our cities and airports in their efforts to gear up on security
if there is increasing danger of another terrorist attack, imminently, how has the war in Iraq helped us with that?
or has the war actually just diverted attention and money away from where it should have been - hunting down those terrorists who are an immediate and direct threat to us, and investing in security here at home, in all the likely and poorly secured places, to make us safer against those immediate and direct threats.
we just heard another threat. we are still very insecure. saddam was not an immediate, or direct, threat to the U.S., or to our allies. we exaggerated that, and in the process lost sight of what we all know is a definite and immediate threat. to do that, at a time when we were closing in on them and had unprecedented global support, is incompetence and bungling of the highest magnitude, and nearly criminal. especially should we get hit again, in the near future, through a means which we could have anticipated and secured against, through a hole which we could have plugged, or at least greatly filled in order to add risk to any operation to strike us through it.
so you have to ask yourself, "what could we have done with the money we spent invading Iraq unnecessarily?"
how much to get the seaports secured? the cities? the airlines and airports?
how much to keep the pressure on in afghanistan, to bribe pakistan with enough money to help us, or allow us into their country?
also, all of this money that was being spent would be going to domestic spending, investment and infrastructure, rather than going into the hands of private corporations who will need to rearm us, and rebuild Iraq, and who help with the overall war effort.
sort of like a Marshall Plan, a security plan, for us. The Bush Plan. And bush would have been remembered into posterity for such far-sighted and crucial effort, while also likely defeating our enemies in Afghanistan.
the world would still be with us, and Saddam would be so contained it would be ridiculous.
invading Iraq was a gambit. a risk of investing resources here rather than there. and the peculiar thing, in this instance, is that we moved the resources, and attention, to something that clearly seemed like less of a threat, an immediate threat, than AQ, and securing our borders, seaports, airports, food and water supplies, and cities.
there has to be accountability. there has to be a process, at some point, and hopefully not after another incident here in the homeland, or a failure abroad in Iraq, where we review the decisions that were made, with the available resources, and the results, along with the status, and risks, that remains from those things that were not addressed, those paths that were known but not taken with the available resources, including time.
the economy must be a part of this. our enemies hit us where it hurt, and have expressed hopes of dragging us down by our economy. thus, we should have always had an eye on this. instead of cutting taxes, perhaps.
ultimately, we must look at and review the whole strategy, step back and take in the big picture of the past few years, and ask ourselves if we could have done better, if we could have expected better, if we have done everything we could, if we have missed things we should have done, if we have really taken a wise and enlightened course. a prudent course. that ensures our security while at the same time protecting the very things that make us America, and the home of the brave, land of the free.
puncturing the groupthink - if guys like larry king start seeing the arguments, listening, seeing the evidence, and start talking about it, in their circles, will this puncture the groupthink? even the top demos seem to be drawn into the groupthink at least with the "iraq is a just war meme".
is this possibly because of potential ramnifications, either political or larger in the world at large. if the war would be found unjust, unjustified, and based upon lies and deception. it wouldn't just be an american political issue, but a global one. a serious one. is this why the top demo politicos are defending the action?
does this endanger us in a different way though? the final crossover into hubris and official fiction? lies? in order not to expose oneself for a crime committed, forever to embrace the flight from reality, the unconcern with the obvious facts in front of you, in favor of the politically correct. safe.
only it's not safe. it's very dangerous.
Monday, August 04, 2003
John, over at Hellblazer, has posted a dazzling collection of posts and links today. I encourage anyone to go check him out. A bakers dozen. Posts. With great material.
I just saw Bay Buchanan say "It doesn't matter what the reality is, because perception is reality" on CrossFire. She was saying this as a response to the statement that "The reality is Dean is strong on National defense, he is questioning the notion of preemptive war."
Hiding weak information caged in persuasive arguments is one thing. Completely distorting reality to confuse the judges is simply another.
Winning any particular game isn't everything. Because sometimes how you play the game is what wins in the long run - in the real game.
But then an Administration which has admittedly "inflated" or "mis-emphasized" (love that word) the whole WMD argument - while hiding the "real" reasons - simply to get us whipped up to go to war might not understand that distinction.
That's just a taste, and you'll have to scroll down for that one. Enjoy.
Sunday, August 03, 2003
Events just keep getting stranger over in Great Britain.
Tony Blair knows it is one of the most delicate of subjects. When asked about it he squirms and tries to change to a more comfortable line of inquiry. But quietly the Prime Minister is putting religion at the centre of the New Labour project, reflecting his own deeply felt beliefs that answers to most questions can be found in the Bible.
The Observer can reveal that Blair is to allow Christian organisations and other 'faith groups' a central role in policy-making in a decisive break with British traditions that religion and government should not mix.
Let me state this pretty clearly. Answers to most of the problems we face in the modern world cannot be answered by the Bible. There is no definitive answer to a lot of questions in the Bible anyway. Do you examine the Old Testament, the New Testament, and how do you deal with conflicting answers, of which there are many?
Further, it is exactly individuals like Tony Blair, immersed in politics, who are the worst to advocate biblical rules. How about the golden rule? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you? Since when has the West, America, or Great Britain followed such a policy? We don't. We act in our interests, irrespective of the interests of the oppressed peoples of the world. For instance, we prop up elites in the Middle East, so we can get our oil, and care little of the fate, or the conditions, of the vast majority of the people in these regions who see little of the benefits or wealth.
Blair is turning into the village idiot. He should be the first to go. Just resign. This madness is going too far. About Iraq. And war.
And this false claim of righteousness is even worse. Start obeying the golden rule, and at the very least the 1st commandment, and perhaps such aims may begin to be legitimate. Otherwise, they're just foolishness. And cynical realism clothed in idealistic righteousness.
Friday, August 01, 2003
As I was perusing over at Billmon, I couldn't help meditating on this George W. Bush quote.
"I'm confident that our search will yield that which I strongly believe, that Saddam had a weapons program."
What is the basis of this confidence? Is it based on facts at all? If he was so confident before the war, what were the facts then that formed and sustained it? Hasn't it shaken his confidence at all that he is in a mad scramble to find such evidence now? After the fact? So much so that they are putting a tight lid on any information until such time a solid case can actually be made?
In other words, there never was a case. A solid one. As we've been saying all along, many of us here in the blogosphere, the case was a fraud. A bait and switch. The mainstream media has finally latched on to this, even though all the evidence was there to figure this out before the war. It's nice to have the mainstream media actually noticing the obvious again, but what took them so long? What was the nature of the mass denial and repression that took place before the war? The trauma of 9/11? Anthrax? The continuing scares related to the constant and highly publicized color-code terrorist watch system?
I still want to know what the basis of President Bush's faith, and confidence, was and is. Before the war and now. It doesn't make sense. Is this a religious kind of faith, which needs no facts and only revelation? How can President Bush possibly be so assured? So confident? The guy was the first to tell you a few years back he was no foreign policy guru, and in fact was quite ignorant about the in's and out's of the world, and now he's got crystal vision on events and conspiracies for which he has no evidence?
He's lying. Or he's a self-deceiver. Neither is honest, or prudent in a president and leader of a chaotic and dynamic nation and world. It's time the administration comes clean, and at least acknowledges some doubts. Self-doubts. Because there is no reason for absolute confidence. None. No certainty whatsoever. Otherwise, there would be no mad scramble now to find the evidence. And no effort to keep everything under wraps, in order to temper criticism, in the meantime.
The critical moments are ahead of us. Will our leadership come clean, and admit the obvious? Or will this farce continue, steadily eroding our good name and real faith in the defense of deception?
Israel has a lot of explaining to do. Why? They are leading us down a dark alley. A crumbling plank. We keep defending Israel, and supporting them, while the rest of the world refuses to do the same. So we ask for some concessions from the Israelis, to grease the wheels of the peace process. Sharon tells Bush to forget it, they're going to build their wall, and then they go and pass a law that disallows any Palestinian who marries an Israeli to become a citizen. Or even to live in Israel. Why? For security reasons, and to preserve the Jewish character of the state. You can almost hear the footsteps of the world continuing to distance themselves from us and the Israelis. Who can blame them?
"I think this bill is simply a disgrace to the state of Israel," said Michael Melchior, a rabbi who heads a liberal religious parliamentary faction. "This will tear families apart. . . ."
Yuri Stern, who heads the parliamentary panel that pushed the measure forward, described it as a contingency made necessary by the brutality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"This is merely a law that for one year restricts the right of Palestinians to settle in our midst," he said. "We are at war. I hope the war will end during this year, but I am not optimistic."
What goes unmentioned is that the Israeli government has been denying this recognition of marriages between Israelis and Palestinians, along with residency and/or citizenship, for years. Long before the latest intifada.
The bill enshrines in law years of foot-dragging by the Interior Ministry which has systematically denied requests from Israeli citizens, most of them from the country's Arab minority, to grant citizenship or residency for their Palestinian spouses.
The most disturbing aspect is that this has solely been focused on Israeli marriages to Palestinians. Solely. Any other race or ethnicity is not treated in the same way. This is unacceptable in the age of enlightened democracy, and creates a true conundrum for the die-hard supporters of Israel. What great principle sustains you, and Israel, that anyone else in the world should care about? It's not freedom. Not democracy. If the state of Israel is only about being Jewish, above and beyond everything else, what example does that set?
"This law takes away constitutionally protected rights explicitly on the basis of ethnic or national affiliation," said Hassan Jabareen, the director-general Adalah, a human rights group active on behalf of Israeli Arabs. "That is not only discriminatory, it is racist."
Israel does not ban any other nationality from joining spouses in the country and seeking citizenship.
No other nationality. Just the Palestinians. Imagine such a policy here in America, initiated by whites in reaction to increasing minority population numbers. Imagine.
"You have an Israeli citizen who is an Arab, and you won't allow him to live with his spouse?" she said. "If this is not racism, then perhaps we need to have a new definition."
In reality, there is no justifiable, enlightened defense for this action. It is clearly racist, and against the values and vision of the free world.
"This bill blatantly discriminates against Israelis of Palestinian origin and their Palestinian spouses," said Hanny Megally of Human Rights Watch. "It's scandalous that the Government has presented this bill, and it's shocking that the Knesset is rushing it through."
Human rights groups plan to petition the Supreme Court to overturn the law, which they contend violates Israel's unofficial constitution protecting ''human dignity and liberty'' and a gamut of international conventions the country has signed.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch sent a joint letter to the Knesset, Israel's parliament, urging members to reject the bill. "The draft law barring family reunification for Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens is profoundly discriminatory," Amnesty said in a statement. "A law permitting such blatant racial discrimination, on grounds of ethnicity or nationality, would clearly violate international human rights law and treaties which Israel has ratified and pledged to uphold."
B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights organisation, joined in the criticism of the law. Yael Stein, a spokesman, said: "This is a racist law that decides who can live here according to racist criteria."
Some Israelis believe they are sitting on a demographic time bomb, with an Israeli Arab community, already 20 per cent of the population, growing faster than the Jewish population.
I am not an anti-Semite, but an American, and a lover of freedom. This is not just about Israel. It would be wrong for anyone to do this. Any country.
And going beyond the issue of racism, this is also about the disturbing trend of citing security as a reason to suspend our most cherished ideals. Of this trend gaining too much traction in the post-9/11 world, and probably just making things worse.
Perhaps we all should become more comfortable with the idea of living with some risk for awhile, as a condition for freedom and democracy. These calls for security are becoming tiresome, and the overall conditions of such security, as a result of such focus and policy, never seems to get any better.
It's time we implement something that works, and that is reflective of our stated ideals and beliefs. Freedom and respect. Equal rights and dignity. Who would the terrorists appeal to then? A shrinking congregation.
Thursday, July 31, 2003
There's no sense in being angry with the mainstream media. Now that they seemingly have regained their footing, and good sense, spirited public debate seems to have returned to the land, along with reason and hope.
We shouldn't forget to thank our wayward Congress either, missing in action for so much of the Bush Administration, for the media revival. Clearly 9/11 marked a new sort of challenge, the kind that Congress was not ready for. Thankfully, the men and women in our halls of democracy have emerged from their trauma, and realized that they were not eliminated by anthrax attacks, that they in fact are still around, and in power, and may still contribute.
All kidding aside, it really is good to see American public life reinvigorated. Contentious. For this is the stuff of democracy, and for too long we've shucked freedom and democracy aside in the crusade to defend or install freedom and democracy elsewhere. Thankfully, the time for this foolishness has nearly run its course. Freedom and democracy are means, not ends. The ends are love, happiness, good feeling, good will, satisfaction, and the like.
We must never forget what it means to be human, what this has always meant. In this age, freedom and democracy are our birthrights, as best expounded in the Declaration of Independence. These are the ways and means by which we pursue happiness and our dreams. We must never relinquish them, as Ben Franklin has so eloquently stated on a previous occasion, in the face of fear or insecurity. Certainly not without due and diligent consideration should we suspend any aspect of our birthright, and then and only then, after such consideration, with a determination and precise explanation of the effectiveness of such suspension, and its proscribed, and definite, duration.
Welcome back members of the mainstream media. Of Congress. Let this be a reminder to you of the dangers of democracy. The contingency. A new community has joined you, right here in cyberspace. On the Internet. Use it as a tool, and have no doubt of engagement. Listen. The people have found a voice, and, as such, your job has become that much easier.
Thinking about campaign finance reform. About limiting dollars citizens can spend on advertising and media. For this to be fair, since political speech involves spending to some extent, similar limits would seemingly have to extend to government, to be fair.
For, if the government, as in the military sphere, gains non-competitive dominance in media access and influence, then what's to keep them in line, and in order? 500,000 people on the streets of New York is still effective, but for how long? Give the state utter and complete dominance both of military means and media penetration and what is to stop an effective and ruthless leadership from successfully rendering democracy moot?
Meditating on the power of markets to solve all problems - it's a lie, because these market defenders only believe in free markets selectively, for economic benefit, and not for political and cultural markets (exchange). They overemphasize the economic sphere, underemphasizing or denigrating the political, cultural and spiritual, and in the process end up with a skewed worldview that inevitably greatly favors those with more economic capital.
Thus, economic capital is power, and the bigger the better. This favors corporate governance of the world, not just America, and since the nature of corporate charters is highly authoritarian and has very little to do with the stuff of democracy, and America, these market philosophers are not patriots, and are not defenders of humanity, human values, self-government, inalienable rights, or the American Dream.
Fundamentalism and free markets do not mix, of any variety. Be it religious fundamentalism, or economic fundamentalism, the results will be the same. Skewed markets, and overemphasis in one sphere over another. We need a separation of human powers - cultural, political and economic - in order to duly respect the full sense and experience of humanity, and ensure life and happiness, liberty and justice, security and decency, to everyone.
Tuesday, July 29, 2003
...as President Bush asserts as a justification for keeping some of the 9/11 report secret, then why is it so unimportant to investigate who in his administration leaked the name of Valerie Plame to a journalist? After all, Plame is a covert intelligence operative, presumably dealing with intelligence sources, and specifically in the realm of WMD. Am I missing something here?
Has the war on terrorism already gone the way of the war on drugs, more a cover story for unaccountable military expenditure and operations? The war on drugs has always been an abject failure, costing millions upon billions of dollars, and never amounting to much. But it sure justified a lot, and made for excellent political capital.
Will the war on terrorism be the same? Less a fact than a charade, used as a justification for anything and everything politically desired? Or will we really build a global coalition, and root out and defeat these terrorists, along with examining and changing our own destructive actions that feed them?
We are not without responsibility for the state of the world today. We are not innocent. And not perfect. If we never address our own shortcomings, we will not engage the whole struggle. The enemy and evil is not only outside, they are also within. If we ignore our own shadows, we will only fight an enemy that continues to exist into perpetuity, as long as we ourselves exist.
Ultimately, the technological shadow will also have to be engaged. What is the vision of the world in which we are not threatened by WMD, and yet we continue to respect freedom, sovereignty and conscience, individual and national? These are tough questions, and they are not answered by the Project For A New American Century. Catastrophes may happen by natural means, and by indirect means of humanity, such as ecological catastrophes. We must engage all of the emerging threats, all of which are shrouded in uncertainty.
I leave the blogosphere for awhile and all hell breaks loose. The latest scandal going the blogger rounds is the "flypaper" strategy. Let me explain why this is such a crock...
Al Qaeda, and other terrorist organizations, are not stupid. They have outsmarted us on a number of occasions. It is safe to assume, from our reaction after the 9/11 tragedy, that we are not racking up more victories over them. Thus, we go public with our efforts to defeat them, pushing aside the wise adage not to give legitimacy to terrorist groups. Yes, you can't ignore the 9/11 tragedy, but you don't have to declare war on terror either.
That aside, let's stay on focus. Flypaper. The idea is that we will lure all of the terrorists into Iraq, where we will be able to engage them with full firepower. If they were stupid. Unfortunately, they're not. Yes, we have stirred up a hornet's nest over there, and certainly there are more terrorists today than there were pre-9/11, but as far as we know terrorists are not our scourge in Iraq, it is Iraqi resisters of various varieties. There may be some terrorists over there, but nothing substantial.
Rather, as overextended as we are militarily, and with North Korea rattling up tensions, the terrorists, including AQ, are probably extending their operations, the idea being that they can cause us trouble all over the globe, and make us do something about it. They can start cutting deals with other resistance forces, and taking matters into their own hands, in their strategy to disrupt key economic flows, like oil pipelines. Thus, wherever there are oil pipelines, or other such key economic infrastructure, we will be forced to defend it, to provide security, which raises uncertainty and costs a lot of money.
There is no reason to believe the flypaper bit at all. Why would the terrorists flock en masse into Iraq? Exclusively? It may be one site among many, and certainly an attractive target for economic disruption, but only one among many. As always, their strategy likely continues to be global in scope, with quick hit-and-run missions with small cadres of operatives. Such a strategy is not flypaper but liquid, as is readily acknowledged by the real planners and strategists of the West. Sending in Special Forces after the fact won't help. Only intelligence, and global cooperation, will.
Iraq should not be the center of the war against terrorism. It never should have been. It was a secular, Arab nationalist state, and not even remotely linked to the Taliban or Al Qaeda. Having the same enemies does not ipso facto mean cooperation, especially when the two so-called allies consider each other enemies, though perhaps enemies of a different magnitude.
The only reason Iraq is the center of the war on terrorism is because we desperately want it to be so. We've spent all of this money, and essentially for nothing as far as fighting Al Qaeda and other terrorists goes. It was the Project For A New American Century all along, and eventually this will be acknowledged by the administration's defenders, such as the Wall Street Journal, which is almost to that point already of disavowing the publicized reasons in favor of the actual reasons, and explaining it away by postulating a need for misdirection in order to win support for the war.
When this happens, the American people should stand up, and make the administration, and their defenders, walk on flypaper. Barefoot. Heated to 120 degrees. Why? They deceived everyone, spent billions of dollars rushing into a war that didn't have to happen yet, if at all, and have lined the pockets of the corporations they previously worked for (whether it's about that or not doesn't matter, the facts speak for themselves). It's time for a full accounting, so that this nation can get back on track, regain faith in global relations and the economy, and reinvigorate the war on terrorism.
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
Michael Powell cannot say he wasn't warned. Why wait to step down? He should do so immediately. Today, the House of Reps put a stop to the 45% rule, and this is just the beginning.
Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., chief sponsor of the provision that would derail the liberalized FCC rules, acknowledged in an interview that a tough fight lay ahead over keeping the language intact in the bill's final version. But he declared victory, for now.
"It's extremely rare to be able to reverse a regulatory decision that gives away the store to the big boys," Obey said.
Not that there isn't mischief afoot. The Bush Administration is threatening to veto any bill that tinkers with the FCC's media decisions, but I've yet to hear a good argument why. President Bush hasn't made this a crucial item for himself, and for good reason. America doesn't want it.
Despite GOP control of the White House, Congress and the FCC, the House vote set the stage for what may ultimately be an unraveling of a regulatory policy that the party strongly favors. The fight now moves to the Senate, where several lawmakers of both parties want to include a similar provision in their version of the bill.
Top Republicans are hoping that, with leverage from the threat of a first-ever veto by President Bush, the final House-Senate compromise bill later this year will drop the provision thwarting the FCC.
President Bush won't speak out on it, and he won't follow through with his veto. That would be the depth of idiocy. How will he explain such a veto? "I will not tolerate reversal of decisions made by my appointed bureaucrats, especially by the elected representatives of the people." Somehow, I don't see him saying that.
So the Senate should get on with it and send it along to President Bush's desk. Double-dare him. He's full of hot air, and everyone knows it. He's not going to veto anything, or it will shine a light on this tawdry affair that was not meant to be broadly noticed. The Internet blog community dispelled that fantasy, and more surprises are to come. The American people speak for themselves now, along with our representatives, and we want more information, and more media diversity, not less. It's time our leaders get with the new program, or move aside.