Thursday, August 31, 2006

Det. Sgt. Dave Bannion: American Hero

Let’s put aside his midlife conversion from Democrat to Republican (he was a longtime friend of Ronald Reagan), and just take a minute to reflect on the great movie acting of Gwyllyn “Glenn” Ford, who died Wednesday at the age of 90.

Then take another minute to reflect on the slipshod obit written by Richard Severo in the New York Times. Not only does it omit any reference to Ford’s very public political leanings, it fails to mention his best performance.

To my mind, The Big Heat is one of the very best films ever made, and Ford’s portrayal of the wounded and driven police detective Dave Bannion is more compelling and nuanced than his work in Gilda or Blackboard Jungle (to take nothing away from the two films most often mentioned in remembrances). Maybe I just think Fritz Lang is a better director than Charles Vidor or Richard Brooks. . . or maybe it’s just that playing opposite Gloria Grahame can only make a man better.

Whatever the reason, the Times omission still leaves a gaping hole, as does Ford’s death in the firmament of movie stars.

in his own words

President Bush was interviewed down in New Orleans by Brian Williams for NBC’s 8/29 edition of the Nightly News (there is a summary and a video link here; the transcript comes from the “conservative” Media Research Center by way of the politically similar NewsBusters), and, well, I think I’ll just let the Boy King speak for himself:

Brian Williams: "President Bush was here today and again admitted that the government response fell short at all levels, in his words. He spoke at the city's oldest high school. He visited local music legend Fats Domino. He covered a lot of ground, and in the blazing mid-afternoon sun, he took time for a wide-ranging and exclusive conversation with us. And we started with the topic at hand: his handling of the disaster that started with the storm that came ashore here a year ago today."

Williams, to Bush: "You have apologized for the damage, but what about the damage to your presidency? And, Mr. President, here's what I mean. Most of the analysts call it your low point. A lot of Americans are always going to believe that that weekend, that week, you were watching something on television other than what they were seeing, and Professor Dyson from the University of Pennsylvania said on our broadcast last night it was because of your patrician upbringing, that it's a class issue."

George W. Bush: "Dyson doesn't know, I don't know Dyson, and Dyson doesn't know me, but I will tell you this, when it's all said and done, the people down here know that I stood in Jackson Square, and I said we're going to help you, and we delivered."

Williams: "When you take a tour of the world, a lot of Americans e-mail me with their fears that, you know, some days they wake up and it just feels to them like the end of the world is near, and you go from North Korea to Iran to Iraq to Afghanistan, and you look at how things have changed, how Americans are viewed overseas, if that is important to you, do you have any moments of doubt that we fought the wrong war, that there's something wrong with the perception of America overseas?"

Bush: "Well, those are two different questions. Did we fight the wrong war? And absolutely I have no doubt. The war came to our shores, remember that. We had a foreign policy that basically said let's hope calm works. And we were attacked."

Williams: "But those weren't Iraqis."

Bush: "No, they weren't, they weren't, no, I agree they weren't Iraqis, nor did I ever say that Iraq ordered that attack, but they are part of, Iraq is part of the struggle against the terrorists. Now, in terms of image, of course I worry about American image. We're great at TV, and yet we're getting crushed in the PR front."

Bush: "I personally do not believe Saddam Hussein picked up the phone and said to al-Qaeda, 'Attack America.'"

Williams: "The folks who say you should have asked for some sort of sacrifice from all of us after 9/11, do they have a case, looking back on it?"

Bush: "Americans are sacrificing. I mean, we are, we are, you know, we pay a lot of taxes. Americans sacrificed when they, you know, when the economy went in the tank. Americans sacrificed when, you know, air travel was disrupted. American taxpayers have paid a lot to help this nation recover. I think Americans have sacrificed."

To recap:

No connection between al Qaeda and Iraq.

US has a lousy image throughout the world—but it’s due to bad PR.

American sacrifice = disrupted air travel and paying a lot of taxes.

Not a patrician.

update: MSNBC has now posted a transcript, and Crooks and Liars has the video. Hat tip to Bob Cesca, who posts over at HufPo on Bush’s tone and body language.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Bush admin’s word-a-day calendar

In separate speeches Monday, Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld used the “A” word—appeasement—to malign critics of the Bush Administration’s “same shit, different day” Iraq war strategy. Rumsfeld reiterated these attacks on Tuesday.

While this is hardly the first instance of such phraseology—President Bush used similar in the run up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003—Rumsfeld’s most recent references are especially egregious. Speaking Tuesday before an American Legion Convention in Salt Lake City, Don of the Dead referred to the “rising threat of a new type of fascism,” and made it very clear that he equated those that questioned White House Iraq policy with those that advocated a negotiated settlement with Adolph Hitler.

This “new type of fascism” is, of course, a stone’s throw from another word in heavy rotation inside the right-wing echo chamber, “Islamo-fascists.” (In fact, Rummy borrowed another phrase from his pals in talk-show land, referring to those that proposed an alternative to his leadership as having a “blame America first mentality.”) And, many recent Administration emanations are attempts to somehow recast their “Global War on Terror” as the 21st Century equivalent of WWII. Of course, what remains to be revealed is if anyone—beyond the Boy King—really believes this.

It’s hard to decide which would be worse. If Rumsfeld and friends know that this comparison is utter horseshit, then this is cynical fear-mongering and mudslinging at its most base. But, if the man in charge of the Pentagon actually believes that a loose amalgam of non-state actors is the same thing as Nazi Germany, then he is nothing short of an idiot, and everything that follows—strategically and tactically—can only prove a complete disaster.

But why leave it there? Let’s take it a step further. In the Salt Lake City speech, Rumsfeld also warned that “moral or intellectual confusion” can “weaken the ability of free societies to persevere.” This sounds, to my ear, so close to Nazi critiques of Liberal Democracy—dismissing the Reichstag during the Weimar era as a “debating society”—that I am left to wonder who is really most comfortable with the foundations of fascist ideology.

Or, to sum up the Don’s remarks, I leave it to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV):

Secretary Rumsfeld's reckless comments show why America is not as safe as it can or should be five years after 9/11. If there's one person who has failed to learn the lessons of history, it's Donald Rumsfeld.

Me thinks Rumsfeld’s calendar is missing a few pages.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

this is why it matters

While some readers have shared my sense of revulsion at the racist structure of the new season of Survivor, others thought I was overreacting, and that the show even sounded like trashy fun. (Alas, these comments were offered in private. How about putting it in the comments section so we can all join in the discussion?) While I’m aware that the producers of the show did this to get tongues wagging—and I guess I stand guilty as charged on that one—I still think you can’t simply write this off as just a publicity stunt, and/or as “good clean fun.”

And here’s why:

In the August 23 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio program, Rush Limbaugh suggested that the competition in a new season of CBS' reality TV program Survivor, in which contestants are reportedly divided into competing "tribes" by ethnicity, "is not going to be fair if there's a lot of water events."

Here’s more of Rush’s handy handicap:

. . . our early money is on [the Hispanics] anyway, because these people have shown a remarkable ability, ladies and gentlemen, to cross borders, boundaries -- they get anywhere they want to go. They can do it without water for a long time. They don't get apprehended, and they will do things other people won't do.

. . . .

The Asian -- the Asian-American tribe probably will outsmart everybody, but will that help them in the ultimate survival contest? Intelligence is one thing, but raw, native understanding of the land and so forth -- this is probably why the Native Americans were excluded, because they were at one with the land here, and they probably would have an unfair advantage.

There’s more of this crap over at Media Matters, but the point I want to make with this is that if Limbaugh is talking this way, then you know plenty of others are having similar discussions. Is this a healthy way to approach race? Does this conversation bring us closer as a nation? Does structuring a debate around stereotypes help redress the wrongs of past discrimination?

I don’t know if CBS execs have managed to talk themselves into believing that their show ever intended to do any of that—maybe they still just think “this is a good way to make more money”—but intended or not, this edition of Survivor is making a kind of conversation happen more than it otherwise would, and I think that the Rushian archetype, rather than bringing us together, seeks to drive us apart.

As we commemorate the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall, wouldn’t it be better to contemplate how a history of segregation and other racist policies helped perpetuate a cycle of poverty that consigned thousands of poor, predominantly African American New Orleanians to horrible deaths in the rising flood waters, instead of wondering if they would have faired better had they been genetically superior swimmers?

(hat tip for the Rush content goes to Think Progress)

Friday, August 25, 2006

timing is everything

Remember how funny (funny-odd, not funny-ha-ha) I found the scheduling of the August 23 hearing for the Atlantic Yards project? (You don’t have to remember—here’s the link.) Well, the competing hearing for the NYPD’s anti-protest rules didn’t happen because their proposal was pulled, but the AY hearing did happen in the dog days of August, and plenty funny (again, funny-odd) went down.

There is much good writing about the evening, and you can find excerpts and links over at Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. I put in my two cents over at capitoilette, but I will add this here: if you thought the timing for this meeting was a tad conspiratorial, the next one is Warren Commission quality.

After seven hours of speeches on Wednesday, the ESDC announced that the next (and likely last) public forum for the Atlantic Yards project would be held on September 12.

Yes, that would be the same day as New York’s primary election.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

what part of this “reality” am I supposed to enjoy?

File under: Worst. Idea. Ever.

Is it possible to take something I care not at all about and turn in into something that disgusts me to my core? Just ask Survivor host Jeff Probst:

Our original idea was simply to have the most ethnically diverse group of people on TV. It wasn’t until we got to casting and started noticing this theme of ethnic pride that you’re alluding to that we started thinking, wow, if culture is still playing such a big part in these people’s lives, that’s our idea. Let’s divide them based on ethnicity. So, yes, I think it’s very natural to assume that certain groups are going to have audience members rooting for them simply because they share ethnicity.

Yes, in case you missed the CBS early morning hoopla, the who-the-hell-cares-what-number-it-is season of Survivor is going to have a cast of mostly recruits who have been selected for their color so that they can be segregated into four racially homogenous teams—oh I’m sorry, “tribes”—so that the races can compete against each other. Why? Because in this time of growing racial strife, Probst, CBS Commandant Les Moonves, and the whole fun-loving bunch of eugenicists over at SSurvivor, thought this would be a really great way to personally enrich themselves through the use of hatred.

Now, I don’t watch much of this show (not because I’m above reality TV; just because I find this show unbelievably dull), but I do know things get kind of heated in the middle of artificially contextualized nowhere, and people tend to say some not very nice things about one another—right into the camera. Won’t it be so very much better when those invectives include racial slurs?

And won’t it be great when those of us who find this so offensive are just labeled as being “too PC,” or something equally as dismissive (you know, like “liberal”)?

Well, to that, I would just like to preemptively say, “Hmm, too PC, or an exploiter of racism—which is worse? Tough call.”

Regular readers should know that I don’t go in much for the scatology or sophomoric calls to violence, but this just has me so fuckin’ appalled that I am thinking we should all have a few too many beers and go on over to Black Rock and accidentally mistake it for one of those modernist urinals they have at those fancy hotels nearby.

Mistaking Moonves and Probst for receptacles for human waste would just be too easy.

(I don’t know if I should spare the show's other producers my wrath, but none of them were mentioned in the few stories I could find about this.)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

NYT assigns separate coffee breaks to prevent staff coming to blows

OK, that’s not my reporting, it’s just a suggestion. Reading the body of articles generated by the New York Times’ December 2005 uncovering of the Bush Administration’s warrantless NSA wiretap program, you have to imagine there are at least some uncomfortable silences and unpleasant looks.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Bob knows Dick

Well, it’s been revealed this morning that it is likely. . . more than likely. . . OK, basically a fact that WaPo institution Bob Woodward’s Plamegate Deep Throat was none other than then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

Does this add anything to what we already know (basically, that everyone from Libby and Rove to Cheney and Bush knew about and pursued a plan to out Valerie Plame in order to intimidate and punish her husband)? Probably not. Will this have a major affect on the Fitzpatrick investigation or the Libby trial? I don’t know.

Do I have anything unique to say about this revelation? No.

I just wanted to use the headline.

. . . .

Here’s some more non-news:

Bush like fart jokes, and our country is run by GW Gumby.

Monday, August 21, 2006

in other words: don’t believe anything I say

CAMP DAVID, Md. (AP) — President Bush acknowledged Friday that it could take time for the people of Lebanon and the world to view the war between Israel and Hezbollah as a loss for the militant group.

"The first reaction of course of Hezbollah and its supporters is to declare victory. I guess I would have done the same thing if I were them," Bush said after a meeting with his economic advisers.

We know. You did.

(Or, as Rudyard Kipling put it after WWI, “If any question why we died / Tell them, because our fathers lied.” And that reminds me of another
little ditty.)

Friday, August 18, 2006

killing an arab

When I first heard that President Bush’s summer reading included Albert Camus’ The Stranger, my first thought was, “Yeah, right.”

My second thought was, “He chose it because it’s really short.”

But it didn’t hit me until last evening—when I was at the Loser’s Lounge battle of the bands: The Smiths vs. The Cure—what the most ridiculously obvious reason was: it’s a story about a guy who kills an Arab for no reason!

(And no, the Losers didn’t have the guts to perform that song—wimps!)

And, yes, that should have occurred to me without a musical cue except. . . except. . . except I still don’t believe Bush really read The Stranger! And what good does it serve to have his spinners tell us that the Prez’s summer reading included a book about an empty soul who frittered away his youth, picks a fight with Arab strangers, and later callously shoots one of them for the heck of it? To continue the sad metaphor, while sitting, devoid of remorse, in a prison cell, awaiting execution, he can think of little else beyond the cheers he might receive as he’s led to the gallows. Is this what the White House wants us to think about? Is this the image of George W. Bush we are supposed to take to bed at night?

It’s like some Nietzschean homeopathic cure (no pun intended). Tired of George Bush, true believer? Try George Bush, existentialist hero.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

crap on the map

Prescott denies anti-Bush remark

John Prescott has denied a report he said the Bush administration had been "crap" on the Middle East road map.

The Independent newspaper claimed the deputy prime minister made the remark during a private meeting on Tuesday with a number of Labour MPs.

It also said he called the US President a "cowboy with his Stetson on".

Mr Prescott issued a statement in which he said: "This is an inaccurate report of a private conversation and it is not my view."

Really, John, is that the best you can do? If it’s a private conversation, I think you could use more brightly colored (I’m sorry, “brightly coloured”) language than “crap” and the so five years ago “cowboy.”

Or maybe that’s what you meant when you said the report of the private conversation was “inaccurate.” Maybe you’re just annoyed that one of your colleagues cleaned you up for the front pages.

Until I hear otherwise, that’s going to be my reading.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

hell freezes over

And I thought it was a big deal when Tom Friedman admitted that, after two and a half years of “just wait six months,” just maybe things weren’t going so well in Iraq. That’s nothing. This is George Will—yes, that George Will—quoting John Kerry—yes, that John Kerry—in today’s Washington Post:

The London plot against civil aviation confirmed a theme of an illuminating new book, Lawrence Wright's "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11." The theme is that better law enforcement, which probably could have prevented Sept. 11, is central to combating terrorism. F-16s are not useful tools against terrorism that issues from places such as Hamburg (where Mohamed Atta lived before dying in the North Tower of the World Trade Center) and High Wycombe, England.

Cooperation between Pakistani and British law enforcement (the British draw upon useful experience combating IRA terrorism) has validated John Kerry's belief (as paraphrased by the New York Times Magazine of Oct. 10, 2004) that "many of the interdiction tactics that cripple drug lords, including governments working jointly to share intelligence, patrol borders and force banks to identify suspicious customers, can also be some of the most useful tools in the war on terror." In a candidates' debate in South Carolina (Jan. 29, 2004), Kerry said that although the war on terror will be "occasionally military," it is "primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world."

Immediately after the London plot was disrupted, a "senior administration official," insisting on anonymity for his or her splenetic words, denied the obvious, that Kerry had a point. The official told The Weekly Standard:

"The idea that the jihadists would all be peaceful, warm, lovable, God-fearing people if it weren't for U.S. policies strikes me as not a valid idea. [Democrats] do not have the understanding or the commitment to take on these forces. It's like John Kerry. The law enforcement approach doesn't work."

This farrago of caricature and non sequitur makes the administration seem eager to repel all but the delusional. But perhaps such rhetoric reflects the intellectual contortions required to sustain the illusion that the war in Iraq is central to the war on terrorism, and that the war, unlike "the law enforcement approach," does "work."

Less surprising, this is me quoting Paul Krugman at capitoilette.

Monday, August 14, 2006

it’s 0500 GMT; do you know where your ceasefire is?

In accordance with the deal brokered in the UN Security Council, a truce between Israel and Hezbollah was due to come into effect at 1:00 AM EDT. In an attempt to cram in a little extra enmity-encouraging bloodshed, both sides in the conflict made sure to keep the bombs flying right up to the deadline.

Well, it seems they might have rushed all that mayhem for no reason. The BBC is reporting:

Crucial Lebanese cabinet talks on disarming Hezbollah fighters in southern Lebanon under a UN-brokered ceasefire have been put off.

. . . .

The postponement, amid reported divisions, seriously complicates the establishment of a stable ceasefire, the BBC's Nick Childs in Beirut says.

. . . .

After five hours of discussions on Saturday, it had agreed to accept a UN Security Council ceasefire resolution with reservations.

. . . .

However, the issue of Hezbollah's disarmament and its military presence in southern Lebanon continues to cause major tensions within the fragile government, our correspondent reports.

He says that without a meeting and an agreed plan, it seems that the deployment of 15,000 Lebanese army troops to the south is unlikely to go ahead.

Since Beirut is no closer to sending the 15,000 troops to join UN peacekeepers, the United Nations force is now in limbo. Given that Israel has said that it will stay in southern Lebanon until it can hand over control to the UN, it seems we can now add one more disastrous and counterproductive consequence of Israel’s strategy to the list that I posted two weeks ago: an open-ended reoccupation of Southern Lebanon by the Israeli military—something Israel swore would never happen again.

When you consider that Hezbollah has reserved the right to fight on until every Israeli soldier has cleared out of Lebanon, and when you consider that Israel has sworn of offensive actions but reserves the right to attack for defensive purposes, you have to wonder how long this US-French compromise of a ceasefire can actually hold.

And you have to wonder if the western half of that compromise didn’t foresee such problems all along. Will a prolonged Israeli presence in the south of Lebanon “inspire” a Hezbollah rocket or two? Will that provoke a “defensive” response from the IDF? Will that induce Hezbollah to fire off another couple hundred Katushyas? And will that cause a certain mustachioed UN ambassador, or his boss, to say, “You see, there’s just no speaking with those terrorists” (or “Islamic fascists”)?

Only GMTime will tell.

Friday, August 11, 2006

move over rosé

I know what all the cool kids will be drinking this weekend.

On a more serious note: I have been watching this story develop for the last 24 hours (one of the “advantages” of being a night owl), and when it broke, the Brits, talking on the BBC, were incredibly tight-lipped about the racy details of the “terror plot.” Once the sun came up on the east coast of the United States however, suddenly there was a wealth of insider information for the media to breathlessly blab about. I find it fascinating, for instance, to read this “developing story” story on, and see bullet points added over the course of the day, and all of them are attributed to unnamed US officials—none seem to be linked to anonymous British sources.

This explosive cocktail, for example. We learn how to mix it up thanks to a “senior congressional source.” Any guesses? I nominate Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, who was on every channel—seemingly at once—bragging about how often he’d been briefed on this case. I swear, the guy could barely keep it in his pants. (I’m really not impressed. Are you?)

But why? Why is there such a torrent of leaks from the US side of the Bush-Blair axis? It couldn’t be that somebody thinks they could actually profit from this news. . . .



Fresh from his definitive loss in Connecticut’s Democratic primary, Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Lieberman Party nominee for Senator, hit the campaign trail, happy to have the newly thwarted British bomb plot to use as a political talking point.

“I'm worried that too many people, both in politics and out, don't appreciate the seriousness of the threat to American security and the evil of the enemy that faces us - more evil or as evil as Nazism and probably more dangerous than the Soviet communists we fought during the long Cold War,” Lieberman said.

“If we just pick up like Ned Lamont wants us to do, get out by a date certain, it will be taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England. It will strengthen them and they will strike again.”

That’s classy stuff, Joe. You write it yourself?

Yeah, I didn’t think so. . . .

Well, after shaming yourself, and anyone who still supports you (Mark Pryor, Ken Salazar), by comparing the democratically nominated Democratic nominee to terrorists who are worse than Nazis, I guess it’s good to know you still have friends.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Michael Chertoff’s kingdom of the air

First, I thought we were phasing out this color-coded bullshit. . . .

But, second:

Secretary Michael Chertoff announced that DHS is raising the threat status to Red on flights from Great Britain to the United States. Other flights only get to be the Orange that I believe they’ve been all along.

So, what does that mean? Well, it means ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

You see, flights FROM Great Britain originate in—you guessed it—Great Britain! And who’s in charge of the security at airports in Great Britain? Is it Michael Chertoff? The United States TSA? The Port Authority Police?

No, no, and no. British authorities are in charge of security for flights that leave Great Britain.

So, Michael Chertoff’s Red Alert is, at best, metaphysical. At worst, well, it is exactly what it is: propaganda.

shit by any other name. . . .

Losing elections? Losing lives? Losing hearts and minds? Losing the war? Then just rename the war!

Listen to New York Times monologist David Brooks stutter: “The war against Ir. . . the war against Islamic extremism.”

NPR’s Michelle Norris catches Brooks, and asks him about it—it’s amazing she didn’t burst out laughing.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Joe lies. . . .

First, Joe lies bleeding. For an 18-year incumbent with his party’s backing to blow a 45-point lead in four months is stunning. Forget the spin about the race tightening in the last week because one poll had Lamont up by double digits last week. Joe Lieberman lost a giant lead to a political unknown—bottom line.

Second, Joe lies like a rug. To actually reiterate the stupid “my website was hacked” accusation during his “concession” speech last night—a speech carried on national news networks—just shows that nothing comes before Joe. Not party. Not country. Not state. Not even the truth.

That this hacking story has even been allowed to run for 24 hours is a testament both to Lieberman’s vindictive nature and his campaign’s utter incompetence.

It’s also, sadly, a testament to the establishment media’s incompetence. Surely, most of these news organizations have a tech geek working somewhere in the building—why not go ask him or her how these things work instead of just repeating the Lieberman camp’s baseless whining? Or, just go check out the serious work done by some interested parties in the blogosphere. Or maybe publicly note that the Lamont camp posted a cached version of Lieberman’s site on the challenger’s website as a goodwill gesture, and also offered one of their techies to help get Joe’s site back up.

(There are too many stories on this to choose one. I recommend going over to Daily Kos, and clicking back in time to about 6pm EDT, Tuesday, 8/8, and work down from there. You will find how bloggers found the source of all of Lieberman’s technical woes. . . basically, Lieberman’s campaign bought the cheapest hosting service they could find. . . . Like many a lobbyist has said about Joe, you get what you pay for.)

Oh, but, Joe, to repeat the hacking lie for a national audience after you had lost your party’s super-heavy turnout primary—god, Fox News (your future employer, Joe) and the rightwing blogs are going to run this thing into the ground! Surely you knew that. But what do you care, it’s Joe first, party second. . . probably not even, it’s just Joe first.

But, lest we forget, Tuesday night in Connecticut was also a testament to a really well run campaign by Ned Lamont. A campaign that was not just about Iraq, but was not afraid to talk about it, either. To talk about how truly bad Iraq is—as a war, as a strategy in the “war on terror, and as a drain on domestic priorities. It is a testament to the voters of Connecticut, who came out in record numbers to say enough already to making nice with Bush and his rubberstamp Republicans.

And, finally, it is a testament to a strategy that I have been espousing for nearly twenty years (maybe more). Don’t try to outflank the Republicans on he right to re-capture “Reagan Democrats.” Instead, find issues that inspire all those voters that have stopped voting or have never registered. The ones who feel left out or cast aside by the right. The ones who would be traditional Democratic voters if they just had something to vote for. The ones whose bounteous numbers make those lost Reaganites look like a few grains of sand on the vast electoral landscape.

I think the Lamont campaign did that. I think the rest of the Democratic Party should do the same.

Go team!

(And there’s no Joe in TEAM.)

(Hat tip to Lili Taylor)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

WH strategy: make hay while the sons (and daughters) die

With the 9/11 anniversary and midterm elections looming, Bush used a question about the crisis in Lebanon to trot out old lies and attempt to make political hay. During a press conference/PR event form Crawford, President Bush, with his wife Secretary Rice by his side, once again conflated 9/11 with the crisis du jour in the Middle East. . . and blamed his predecessor for it, to boot.

In a ridiculously long-winded non-answer to a question about what might entice Hezbollah to the negotiation table, Bush said:

Not only do terrorists try to stop the advance of democracy through killing innocent people within the countries, they also try to shake the will of the Western world by killing innocent Westerners. They try to spread their jihadist message, a message I call—it's totalitarian in nature—Islamic radicalism, Islamic fascism. They try to spread it as well by taking the attack to those of us who love freedom.

And as far as this administration is concerned, we clearly see the problem and we're going to continue to work to advance, stable, free countries.

We don't expect every country to look like the United States, but we do want countries to accept some basic conditions for a vibrant society: human rights, human decency, the power of the people to determine the fate of their governments.

And admittedly, this is hard work because it flies in the face of previous policy, which basically said stability is more important than form of government.

And as a result of that policy, anger and resentment bubbled forth with an attack—with a series of attacks, the most dramatic of which was on September the 11th.

And your question is, Can we get people—a terrorist group to change their attitude?

Well, what we can do is we can get state sponsors of terror to understand this behavior is unacceptable and that we can convince some people in terrorist groups that there is a better way forward for them and their families.

Let me see here. . . Hezbollah, Iran. . . Shi’a. Al Qaeda, 9/11 hijackers. . . Wahhabist Sunni. Syria. . . Ba’athist. . . supported the Maronites in the Lebanese civil war. . . crushed a Sunni Moslem Brotherhood uprising at home. Which, Mr. President, are the Islamic radicals? Which are the fascists? Do you even know which are the Star-Belly Sneetches anymore?

And which state was the “state sponsor” of the 9/11 attacks? Or the other al Qaeda attacks?

And who was president on 9/11/01. . . and for the ten months prior?

And how many more innocent people are going to die while you mouth off about things you don’t understand while trying to score partisan points?

I call bullshit. Big, heaping piles. Why won’t the establishment media?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Bush thinks war is funny

President Bush, “vacationing” (like he isn’t always on vacation) in Crawford, took a bike ride in the 100-degree Texas heat. During the ride, he reportedly climbed a steep hill, and, when he got to the top, exclaimed, “air attack!” (I heard it on the NPR hourly newscast—still looking for a text link.)

On a day when his “diplomatic” corps are reportedly working overtime to put a stop to Israeli bombing raids and Hezbollah rocket attacks, is there a way to measure how idiotic, rude, out of touch, and insensitive the President’s remarks are?

I was going to say that it is as if we were governed by the schoolyard bully, but that’s not quite it. It’s more like we are governed by the schoolyard bully’s punk friend. He likes hanging out with the tough kids, laughs nervously at their jokes, makes awkward idle threats, but runs away the minute he’s challenged. . . or just uses family connections to get out of trouble. . . .

OK, the analogy is a work in progress.

Friday, August 04, 2006

US vows to do for Lebanon what it did for Iraq

You think that’s a sarcastic headline, don’t you?

Well, read this:

Rice, Rumsfeld OK plan for Lebanese army

Earlier Thursday, the State Department said the United States plans to help train and equip the Lebanese army so it can take control of all of the nation’s territory when warfare between Israel and Hezbollah eases.

The program was approved by Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the program was to take effect “once we have conditions on the ground permitting.”

McCormack provided no details on what equipment the United States might provide, the training that would be conducted, how many U.S. personnel would be involved, or possible costs.

Besides the pesky issue of “track record” (as Sen. Clinton put it), anybody want to calculate the level of credibility that a Lebanese soldier will have after he’s been outfitted and trained by the US? Considering that the Bush Administration’s bellicose stance during the first three weeks of the Israel-Hezbollah conflict has driven approval ratings of America among Lebanese into the single digits (a 30% drop), and delivered tens of thousands of hearts and minds right to Hezbollah’s doorstep, you can imagine what it will be like if Rummy and Rice actually deliver on their promise.

Check that—you don’t have to imagine.

“the sound of one domino falling”

File under: I couldn’t have said it better myself.

You see, I started writing a post (OK, another post) on yesterday’s testimony by Don of the Dead, and I went looking for the exact quote about—well, you’ll see what it’s about, let’s just say that my jaw dropped when I heard it—and I came across today’s editorial in the New York Times. It says everything I was going to say, only maybe a little better.

So, I’m going to do something I usually don’t do, and just give it to you wholesale:

August 4, 2006

The Sound of One Domino Falling

It’s been obvious for years that Donald Rumsfeld is in denial of reality, but the defense secretary now also seems stuck in a time warp. You could practically hear the dominoes falling as he told the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday that it was dangerous for Americans to even talk about how to end the war in Iraq.

“If we left Iraq prematurely,” he said, “the enemy would tell us to leave Afghanistan and then withdraw from the Middle East. And if we left the Middle East, they’d order us and all those who don’t share their militant ideology to leave what they call the occupied Muslim lands from Spain to the Philippines.” And finally, he intoned, America will be forced “to make a stand nearer home.”

No one in charge of American foreign affairs has talked like that in decades. After Vietnam, of course, the communist empire did not swarm all over Asia as predicted; it tottered and collapsed. And the new “enemy” that Mr. Rumsfeld is worried about is not a worldwide conspiracy but a collection of disparate political and religious groups, now united mainly by American action in Iraq.

Americans are frightened by the growing chaos in the Mideast, and the last thing they needed to hear this week was Mr. Rumsfeld laying blame for sectarian violence on a few Al Qaeda schemers. What they want is some assurance that the administration has a firm grasp on reality and has sensible, achievable goals that could lead to an end to the American involvement in Iraq with as little long-term damage as possible. Instead, Mr. Rumsfeld offered the same old exhortation to stay the course, without the slightest hint of what the course is, other than the rather obvious point that the Iraqis have to learn to run their own country.

By contrast, the generals flanking him were pillars of candor and practicality. Gen. John Abizaid, the U.S. commander in the Middle East, said “Iraq could move toward civil war” if the sectarian violence — which he said “is probably as bad as I’ve seen it” — is not contained. The generals tried to be optimistic about the state of the Iraqi security forces, but it was hard. They had to acknowledge that a militia controls Basra, that powerful Iraqi government officials run armed bands that the Pentagon considers terrorist organizations financed by Iran, and that about a third of the Iraqi police force can’t be trusted to fight on the right side.

As for Mr. Rumsfeld, he suggested that lawmakers just leave everything up to him and the military command and stop talking about leaving Iraq. “We should consider how our words can be used by our deadly enemy,” he said.

Americans who once expected the Pentagon to win the war in Iraq have now been reduced to waiting for an indication that at least someone is minding the store. They won’t be comforted to hear Mr. Rumsfeld fretting about protecting Spain from Muslim occupation.

Rumsfeld’s inconvenient truth

(Alternate headline: but never at dusk.)

OK, I literally burst out laughing when I read this:

Last month, Lt. Gen. David Richards, head of NATO’s Afghan security force, said the country was “close to anarchy.”

Asked about the situation today, Rumsfeld admitted there was a resurgence of the Taliban, admitted Taliban fighters were “occupying safe havens” in Pakistan and other places, and admitted that violence has increased recently. Then he blamed it all on the weather:

Does the violence tend to be up during the summer, in the spring, summer and fall months? Yes it does. And it tends to decline during the winter period. Does that represent failed policy? I don’t know. I would say not.

Thank god for those three months of winter, huh? I mean, you only have to worry about violence for 75% of the year!

Or, maybe not. I mean, with global warming and all, the winters in Afghanistan are bound to get shorter. So, the way I see it, reducing greenhouse gas emissions is crucial to the war on terror. . . Right, Donald?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

dim bulbs can’t read in the dark

Nightline is a shadow of its former self—minus the light source—so imagine my surprise to see a piece about the 9/11 NORAD tapes. . . and imagine my surprise to find that they had bled all the news right out of it.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

not dead yet

Well, Fidel Castro is sick—maybe really sick—and they are dancing in the streets of Miami. I’ll cut short my analysis of this ghoulish behavior, except to say that I am constantly amazed (yes, still) by the right’s (and I am making I think a viable assumption that most anti-Castro celebrants are these days on America’s political right) bloodlust. From “Kill ‘em all, let Allah sort ‘em out” to the calls for Bill Keller’s assassination to the vicious vitriol in the rightwing blogosphere, the right’s lingua franca is the language of violence and death. And yet, when I read "analysis" of political speak, it is usually the left that’s called hate-filled and nasty.

OK, now back to Cuba. . . .

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

bloody congee in the soup

I’m a little confused about the timeline on this. Did Israel tell the US Secretary of State that the IDF would cease air strikes for a 48-hour period and then just renege due to “security concerns,” or have we witnessed the first publicly documented case of female premature ejaculation?

I found it odd that the Sunday announcement of this pause in air attacks was announced first by a US State Department spokesman, but I assumed it was part of some yet-to-be-uncovered piece of the deal that has American smart bombs going to Israel, while the Israelis fight a mistargeted proxy war on the administration’s behalf. Now, it seems that Secretary Rice, completely taken aback by the chilly reception she received in both European and Middle Eastern diplomatic circles, yet compelled by the Qana bombing to prove she was not wholly irrelevant, may have gone off half-cocked and announced a humanitarian-ish semi-cease-fire to which Israel had never really agreed.

As the BBC reported within hours of the State Department announcement, Israeli planes were again bombing southern Lebanon (artillery bombardment had never stopped), leaving several reporters in the region at first confused, and then distressed. Fergal Keane reported from Bint Jbeil (where the IDF had lost nine soldiers last week) that the city had been reduced to rubble. (There is film of reporters trying to rescue the few residents that remain on the BBC website—UN aid cannot get to the city.) Keane said on BBC radio that “most civilians” had now fled the south, leaving only the old, the sick, and those with no means of escape, and turning southern Lebanon “into an effective free-fire zone.”

Meanwhile, in lieu of US “diplomacy,” “old Europe” has stepped up to the plate. As reported in the New York Times, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy has attempted to fill the “diplomatic vacuum” left by the hamstrung/overwhelmed/ideologically blinded Rice. Douste-Blazy called for an immediate cease-fire by both Israel and Hezbollah, while engaging (rather then fecklessly trying to isolate) Iran, acknowledging publicly that they could play a “stabilizing force” in the region (rather than publicly demonizing them)—because that’s what real diplomats do.

The only advantage to be gained from Bloody Condi’s pathetic performance? Well, it’s a selfish and domestic one, but as blueness theorizes, when it comes to her (sometimes disavowed) aspirations for higher office, “Rice is cooked.”

If any good has come from the conflict in southern Lebanon, it is that this unholy mess has forever put an end to the dreams. . . that Condoleezza Rice will emerge as a serious contender for national office.

Rice's hideous non-performance as a peacemaker has embarrassed even the wingnuts. After decades of droning about the fecklessness of Democratic diplomats, these people must now own a woman who first announced, before even reaching the region, that she would not demand that one party cease hostilities, then proceeded to lulu amidst the mayhem, diddling with the piano and yammering about "birth pangs." When an attack by "her team" went badly awry, she stiffed the Lebanese PM, turned her jet around, and went back to the understanding arms of her "husband."

But that is a good that comes two years hence. If any good is to come at present (and I admit I am hard-pressed to think of what that might be), it will likely have nothing to do with the Republican administration in Washington.

Something to think about as we assess our personal safety, our place in the world, and our claim to the moral high ground. Something to think about as we go to the polls this November.