Pat Tillman, the former pro football player, was killed by other American troops in a "friendly fire" episode in Afghanistan last month and not by enemy bullets, according to a U.S. investigation of the incident.
New details released yesterday about Tillman's death indicate that he was gunned down by members of his elite Army Ranger platoon who mistakenly shot in his direction when the unit was ambushed. According to a summary of the Army investigation, a Ranger squad leader mistook an allied Afghan Militia Force soldier standing near Tillman as the enemy, and he and other U.S. soldiers opened fire, killing both men.
... it appears Tillman's bravery in battle led him to become a victim of a series of errors as he was trying to protect part of his stranded platoon, which Army officials say was attacked while hampered by a disabled vehicle it had in tow. The report said Tillman got out of his vehicle and shot at the enemy during a 20-minute firefight before he was killed when members of his unit opened fire after returning to the scene to help.
Pat Tillman's brother has already made the point that it does not matter how his brother died. Yet, I cannot help but think now that he has become a more perfect symbol for our current military situation. He was a brave man, but died senselessly due the ignorance of others. It's certainly debatable how to dole out responsibility here. How much to assign to the kids who accidently shot him, and how much to assign to George Bush for invading Iraq and in the process short-changing the troops levels, supplies, and money available in Afghanistan, the real front on terror.
I've been meaning to post this for some time, this is a wonderful little tool for bloggers, Bugmenot. No more having to register for those pesky newspapers. That's the chief concern for me. Though it's doublegrand if you're concerned about anonymity.
TalkLeft provokes this interesting question, when you join the army under false pretenses (the idea that you're joining the glorious good guys), and it turns out you've been misled by propoganda (turns out we torture, and the President lied to us, and no one knows why we're in Iraq anyway), and you're not allowed to quit or consciousteously object, are you a slave? If not, what differentiates you from a slave? Of course, one obvious point is that no one physically forces any of these kids to sign up. However, this is not a real object. Slavery is slavery, whether you enter it willingly or are tricked into it. Remember the problem of indentured servents early in this country's history. Or the fight against sweatshops wherein illegal immigrants are forced to work long hours for low pay in inhumane conditions (already sounds like the Army). Anyway, the point is that we have a precedent against allowing people to be exploited and abused in an extremely unfair manner.
But then again, we already make exceptions for the armed services in this regard. Serving in the armed forces isn't your typical day job; your typical day job doesn't include the chance of being bombed. So there's a different standard. But why is there this standard?
This seperate standard exists because it makes sense in a utilitarian way of understanding. The expenditure of a number of young men (and now women) can save the lives of a much greater population. Thus when a war is reasonably defensive, as in WWII, then there is no argument that the double standard is in effect, and we'll go ahead for now and leave it at that. (we're not writing a thesis here)
In other instances in which we are not engaged in a defensive action, the double standard comes into question. Why should our soldiers die. if not to save the lives of those in their home country? Some arguments have been made for endangering them for the lives of others in the world community. The Bosnian war is one such example. Nothing exceptionally controversial there.
But now we're in Iraq, and the double standard is losing legitimacy. I believe that there is some point at which it is right and acceptable for soldiers to throw off the commands of their superiors and to refuse orders. Some soldiers apparantly think that point has been reached. Now that they have done so, they have in their minds decided that the actions of their government and the orders of their superiors are not legitimate, then they must see any directive and coercion for force them to act against their wills as tyranny.
I can see no argument that supports throwing these conscientiously objecting soldiers into prison. We were led into this war by a leader who did not win a pluarality, much less a majority, of the popular vote. This man in turn misled the American people and Congress about the reasons behind this war. He has never given a consistent reason for being there. We the people have never voted on this war. This is a war waged by the Administration, not by the American people. As such, I conclude that our soldiers have the right to object.
SO now that the veil has been torn, and the soldiers see the situation with clearer vision and decry their part in it, do they also rightwise see themselves as slaves? Unresevedly I say yes, though perhaps better to see them as indentured servents, duped into dangerous and binding servitude. If the double standard of military servitude does not hold, if the war waged is not democratic, and our soldiers are coerced into fulfilling the unpopular wishes of an unpopular administration, then they are not being accorded the just rights of men from a democratic nation.
Thought I'd drop an advisory here in case you haven't noticed. Billmon also expresses something that partially explains my laxness in posts the last couple of weeks:
It’s almost as if the mainstream media abruptly awoke from a coma and realized their doctors had been slipping them sedatives and going through their wallets...Suddenly, the outrages the left side of the blogosphere has been screaming about for months – the crimes, the corruption, and, above all, the sheer incompetence of the “war effort” – are being splashed all over the tube. For the first time since I started Whiskey Bar, I've actually felt redundant.
Of course, as I do a lot of meta-blogging, this site has always already been built on redundancy. But let's add to Billmon's observation of the media the observation that the blogging the last couple of weeks has been outstanding. So not only has there been less need for meta-blogging, but I haven't so much felt the need to utilize this cathartic outlet as I normally do. So that's two of the reasons the posts have slowed to a trickle. The other is I think my brain took a hiatus from creativity to rest and recuperate after the end of the semster. Oh, and my parents came to visit for a few days. Getting back into the swing of things.
Have I mentioned how much I like that the button on the new blooger GUI to start a new post is simply "Create"? I love that.
Featuring Hulkmania, Mr T, Fat-Ass He-Man, Voltron, Howard Stern, Howard Dern, Super Stem Cell Christopher Reeves, and more. You know you want to play. Super informative (also at times very vulgar) And long. I had to quit before the end, but still, it's like michael moore made a video game.
Oil's becoming a fashionable topic. Krugman had a couple articles not long ago, and now Kevin jumps in with some analysis. I think this is great; the Impending World Oil Shortage has always been a pet rant of mine.
I'll run down that rant in as orderly a fashion as possible. First let me introduce you to a book, Hubbert's Peak : The Impending World Oil Shortage. It's an interesting book, about a lot of aspecs of oil. But what the title refers to is a famous prediction for the total world output capacity of oil. It was also famously wrong, for reasons the author, Deffeyes, goes into. But Deffeyes, with better information and a more extensive analysis, wants to make the prediction again. Along the way, we learn some interesting things.
First, oil fields range in sizes, and this is very important. Currently, we're mostly extracting oil from supergiant fields. The fields are relatively easy to pump, which keeps prices low. Unfortunatly, Deffeyes doesn't believe there are any more of these fields to be found.
Meanwhile, these fields are being used up. We'll have to resort to smaller fields. This means slower extraction.
In addition, it is nigh impossible to guess the shape of an oil field or the direction in which it runs except by drilling a few holes. Drilling dry holes, however, is expensive. And the smaller the field, the greater the liklihood of drilling dry holes.
We're gonna have to drill more holes, and also, inevitably, many dry holes. This means that the price of extracting oil is going to increase just at the same time as oil production slows down.
So yeah, we may have 50-60 years of oil left, as the auto industry likes to tell you, but as Kevin duly notes, this isn't the right way to think about it. Most of those years will see slow oil production. There are other ways of extracting oil other than drilling, such as squeezing it from shale, but it's not a cheap process. Any way you look at it, we're probably doomed to high oil prices. Kevin seems to think we have about 10 years. Possibly. I suppose it'll depend on when we see a definite trendline of this year's production being lower than last year's, which was lower than the year before. This could happen in 5 years, not ten. I think Kevin's prediction is on the outside. Certainly we'll be seeing this by 2015, and quite possibly earlier.
Say thank-you to everyone who own's a gas guzzling SUV, and a double thank-you to those self-centered Hummer drivers. My toilet paper, of all places, contains some pertinent words of wisdom. (It's the environmentally-friendly kind.) "In our every deliberation, we must think of the impact of our actions on the next seven generations." (allegedly an Iriquois law)
So, I didn't graduate. I was doing this little "honors thesis" thing, and didn't finish. Moreover, because all of my professors have gone to Europe for the summer, it seems I may not be able to defend in time for summer graduation, and I will continue to be LSU Student till December. No big deal, really. My plan for next year was to take time off and a sit in a few fun classes. So, I'll pretty much be doing the same thing. Just the ceremony is held off. I blame the blogs.
The Daily Show's coverage of Louisiana House Bill 1626 which ban's low rider pants is here. Wherein we learn that showing crack can lead to crack.
On a more serious note, how sexist is this bill? (which, we find out via Timshel, passed was rejected in the House) I and most other guys from my generation wore saggy pants for years. But when the girls do it, the response is to pass a law. Let's not pretend that this is anything other than sexist, patriarchal culture, men controlling women (or even women controlling women) so that they will be coerced to conform to these legislators' ideas of how women should act.
Abdel-Zahraa Othman, also known as Izzadine Saleem, was killed along with three other Iraqis by a bomb blast as they were entering the green zone. He was the second member of the governing council to be killed.
This really makes America looks weak. They can target our top puppets right on our very doorstep. How much control do we actually have anymore? On June 30th when we hand over "sovreingty" to whomever-it-will-be, does that group stand any chance of survivng the month? We're moving 4,000 troops from South Korea to Iraq. Kind of like using water balloons to put out a house fire.
There are, as far as I can see, three ways for a large nation to fight a war. We'll illustrate these three ways using three examples. First, there's the Troy way. You send a large and powerful force that's committed to doing what it takes. If that means slogging it out for 10 years while your best buddies die, then so be it - you're committed. America obviously doesn't have that kind of committment.
Then there's the Rome model. You send in an overwhelming force of professional soldiers who are better trained and equipped than your enemy. You stomp them like grass. This is the type of war the Powell doctrine calls for. Obviously, we haven't tried this yet. A variation on the Rome model is the Pyrrhic model, which similarly invokes overwhelming force, but is hampered by comparatively undertrained troops. This possibility is unlikely.
Third, there's the Vietnam model. You steadfastly refuse to committ what's necessary to win, but nevertheless maintain insufficient troop levels and baseless optimism by those who support the war. The war, however, isn't widely popular, and faces a lot of opposition at home. Hope doesn't win wars, so this strategy is a loss. This is the war we are currently engaged in. I suppose you could call it playing politics with war.
I unfortunately think we're going to stick with model #3. Model #2 requires the draft, and politics prevents the administration from pursuing that possibility. Dawn is nowhere to be seen.
Drudge prominently displays Kerry's daughter in her see-through dress:
Another reason to vote for Kerry! I myself am a fan of tasteful see-through dresses, on the condition that the woman has nice boobs. I can't deny the sexual quality of it, but I want to emphasize that there's an aesthetic quality as well. Obviously our culture has a tradition (Rush might say a homoerotic one) of showing off and appreciating well-formed male chests. Professional wresting anyone? It's harder to find, in America, open appreciation of the form of the upper half of the female body. We need a President who encourages this! Sure it may not be as high a priority as the Iraq War or medicare, but let's not marginalize the importance of confronting the boob-hating portion of America. Remember how much Janet Jackson's boob was hated on? We cannot allow this to happen again!
At the least, having a first daughter who promotes the natural beauty of the human body is certainly better than two first daughters who only know how to promote partying. Boob-hating America does love a good party, however. Enough booze and pills, and they can admit their love for boobs for a few hours, before the fear takes over again once they sober up.
As the night wears on, another difference between attendees at this event and the journo-types who dominated the others (WHCD, RTCA) emerges. . . how to put this delicately? Hmmm. OK: I have not had my rack checked out so brazenly and so often since I stopped going to Cozumel for Spring Break. What is it with the cultural conservatives? They're all Ken-Starring me and shit.
UPDATE: Ogged brings new information to bear on the subject of transparant dresses and flash photgraphy.
Watching SNL last night, I may have been one of the last people to be clued in that it was Jimmy Fallon's last show. What a bummer. People are usually at odds about whether SNL is going through a funny or sucky phase. As for me, right now I think they have (or maybe had) a number of good bits and a few really good ones, but also a number of bad ones. Overall, I'd say it's decently funny. If I could make one suggestion, it wouldn't be to the players, it would be to Lorne, of whoever's in charge, to get better guests. I'm not saying all of the guests are bad, but at least half of them. I could only watch part of tonight, even with it being Jimmy's last show, because it was hosted by the Olsen Twins. I don't think they even bother trying to act. They ended the show shouting "we'll be legal in X weeks!!" I suppose it is a certain kind of wisdom to play to one's strengths.
I can't imagine but that this is a blow to SNL. Jimmy frequently cracked up in his skits, which might seem a flaw, but I perceived it as adding more personality to the show. That, plus his ad libbing (often necessitated by the cracking up) gave SNL a much-needed atmosphere of sponteneity. So that's what I'll miss, the atmosphere of energy and youth he brought to the show.
Who do you think is the funniest cast member? I'm not sure if or how much Horatio Sanz will suffer without Jimmy Fallon to play off of. I think I will say Maya Rudolph, and I think I'll also opine that she's underused. Keenan Thompson would also be a good answer.
ABC Reporter: What would you say to let’s say Phil to a ten year old child who maybe caught a glimpse of it or maybe heard another child in his or her school discussing it, how would you make sense of for example the Iraqi prisoner abuse?
“Dr.” Phil: I would try to tie it to their experiences in their own life.
The Poor Man puts up a list of quotes by popular conservative pundits. The worst is from Michael Savage:
And I think there should be no mercy shown to these sub-humans. I believe that a thousand of them should be killed tomorrow. I think a thousand of them held in the Iraqi prison should be given 24 hour -- a trial and executed. I think they need to be shown that we are not going to roll over to them. It won't happen. It won't happen because of the CBS Communists. It won't happen because of the CNN traitors. I won't happen because of the MSNBC empty heads. And we the people are the ones who are going to suffer today. ...
Instead of putting joysticks, I would have liked to have seen dynamite put in their orifices and they should be dropped from airplanes. How's that? You like that one? Go call somebody that you want to report me to, see if I care. They should put dynamite in their behinds and drop them from 35,000 feet, the whole pack of scum out of that jail.
Hey, Michael Savage. I think you should be "exterminated." "Cleansed" even. You like that, you racist pig? Go call someone you want to report me to, see if I care you ignorant asshole.
That felt good. But, let me level some more substansive abuse at these sissies. If they had such low tolerance for this kind of stuff, they shouldn't be supporting this goddamed war. I have low tolerance too, but I don't contradict myself by supporting the war. "But we were there to help! We're humanitarians!" Fuck off, we invaded. And ther's no "nice" way to do that. Nick Berg was a noncombatant who died. That's awful, but he's hardly the first. What do you call a person who expects the other side to take all the casualties, and throws a mean hissyfit if just a little of the same is returned? That's pretty much the situation where I think of employing the term "evil," because asshole just doesn't seem strong enough.
So now I'm at an ethical conundrum. Who is morally worse, given that murder is an evil, Michal Savage or those that killed Nick Berg. One on hand, the guys in the video, or one guy, actually did commit a murder. Michael Savage, to the best of my knowledge, hasn't yet. However, he has advocated racism and genocide. We can assume that if he had the power, he would commit genocide. You know, murder I can understand. I don't sympathize with it, but, as a human action, it's very familiar. We all know a hundred different motivations for murder. It's even fairly ubiquitous, in literature, television and movies. Many of us even know someone who has been murdered, either directly or by extension. It's an evil, but it's not alien. Genocide, however, is different. We all know of instances of genocide of course, but they're fairly rare. And the thing about genocide is that we just don't understand it. At least I don't. It's the type of thing you read of as a kid, and assume that it was a problem that occured before your time. You assume it's a thing of the past, like pharohs and knights in armor. It's hard to reconcile genocide with being human. So for someone to desire it, to advocate it, that's less understandable than someone who commits a murder. In fact, it's not understandable at all. The more I think about this, the more alien it seems.
Just because of the mood I'm in, I'm going to reiterate the implication of that paragraph: I find it easier to sympathize, in the literal sense of the word, with the murderer of Nick Berg than with Michael Savage. I dare you to contradict me.
64% believe the Iraq war was not worth it, only 29% believe it was
unsurprisingly 49% still believe that military action against Iraq was the right thing to do. When are we going to firmly establish among voters the nonconnection between Saddam and 9/11? Kerry, I'm looking to you.
39% approve of the President's handling of Iraq. Still too high, but that's fallen 18% since December.
46% to 37%, Americans believe the soldiers at Abu Ghraib were following orders
Take these numbers with a grain of salt; the margin of error is plus or minus five percentage points.
The outcome of the three-week elections marks a dramatic and unexpected reversal for Vajpayee and the BJP-led coalition, which only a few weeks ago had been expected to coast to victory on the strength of India's booming economy, Vajpayee's personal appeal and a popular peace initiative with neighboring Pakistan.
The prospect of an Indian government led by the Congress Party and its left-leaning allies is likely to cause some apprehension in Washington.
The Bush administration has enjoyed warm relations with Vajpayee's government, with which it shares common views on Islamic extremism and economic policy.
Congress Party leaders have been critical of the BJP's closeness to Washington and have blamed its economic policies for neglecting the poor.
I really know nothing about Indian politics, but I'll tentatively say the sound of a lefty government sounds good. More important is this (can we call it a trend yet?) pattern of support for the Bush America equating political disaster at home. Even if Bush gets the boot come November, I don't think that alone will be enough to repair the damage to America's reputation. People living abroad are bound to be more wary of the American public than they have been before. Shortly before the Iraq war began, I went to an anti-war speech given by Kathy Kelly (a terrific, powerful speech). She and others told anecdotes of their visits to Iraq. One really exemplified the theme they were pushing, and I'll re-tell it at the risk of being Friendman-esque. The anecdote was by a lawyer from New Orleans, who had been in Iraq the December of '02. At one point he was in a remote place, a highway perhaps, and there was an Iraqi guard nearby armed with a machine gun. The guard motioned him over. He was not a little intimidated, but he didn't have much of a choice. "You are American?" "yes." The guard grinned, "America good," and a thumbs-up gesture. "Bush bad," and a thumbs down. I'm afraid of the loss of this sentiment. And I think the polls are showing that my fears are being confirmed, at least in Iraq. What would happen if major world opinion started giving America, not our officials but Americans, a giant thumbs-down?
Understanding the proper function of an occupying military
Michael brings up even more evidence of American misconduct in Iraq. Apparantly, the calls for genocide have made arisen once more in response to the Nick Berg murder. I haven't the heart to look. I think what Michael is arguing is that we destroyed our possibility for righteous anger long ago. This is something conflicting groups, Jews and Palestinians, Irish protestants and Catholics, never learn. A real state cannot demand revenge. A state can punish with the idea of preventing further crimes, but it is actually the function of the state to prevent retaliation. Prisons keep the mob out as much as they keep prisoners in.
One of the scariest things for right now is that Iraq is a dangerous departure from this model. The nature of the war was retaliatory, although it was at least partially veiled to be a preventively war. It was pitched to the public explicitly as prevention and implicitly as retaliation, but, as Billmon records, many of the soldiers were focused on retaliation; they saw it as "payback." This policy was explicit in Fallujah, which was a retaliatory strike.
There are many reasons that a state should not be engaged in retaliotory actions against individuals (it's different concerning other states). One of them we're seeing in spades right now; the slippery-slope of justifications for all of these retaliatory actions. There's a mindset of "they deserve it." It doesn't matter that such an opinion is poorly reasoned, if it is even reasoned at all. Individual soldiers are caught up in a greater mass phantasy such that it becomes difficult for a lone individual to object, and much less rebel. Again, we saw this in Abu Ghraib. Some objected morally to what their fellow soliders were doing, but what could they do? It is difficult if not impossible to buck a desire that has taken hold of an entire mass of people.
In response to the Nick Berger murder, we should do what a state is supposed to do. Deflate violent passions, conduct an investigation, and punish who is responsible or punish no one at all. I think in the current climate this will probably take place, so I am hopeful. However, a bigger problem will be containing vigilantism in the military. Soldiers are not the mob. The kinds of things we are seeing, such as the ones Michael highlights, should not be happening. The personal desires of our soldiers are out of control. I know I'm souding fascist, but the military is a fascist institution, at least in the sense of top-down strict hierarchical control. Right now, my opinion is that what it takes to run an occupation. I would hope this problem is recognized and treated with better training, higher expectations as to the conduct of soldiers, stricter rules, and disciplinary actions for those who deviate from them.
Man, I'm kind of famous today. At least, by the standards of this blog. Thank you Atrios through Jesus' General. I am one step closer to reaching blog-Nirvana. Now on to being just one step closer to graduating..
Under pressure from Congress, President Bush slapped sanctions on Syria yesterday for supporting terrorism and interfering with U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq.The White House said the sanctions include banning U.S. exports to Syria except for food and medicine, prohibiting Syrian aircraft from flying to and from the United States, freezing certain Syrian assets and cutting off relations with a Syrian bank because of money laundering concerns.
But what the sanctions don't block are imports from Syria:
Syrian exports to the United States totaled nearly $260 million last year, much of it fuel oil and other petroleum products. While exports from Syria are not barred, U.S. companies may find it difficult to continue working there under the sanctions.
In Damascus, Syrian Prime Minister Mohammed Naji Otari told reporters that the sanctions are "unjust and unjustified," but he said "these sanctions will not have any effect on Syria." He called on Washington to "reverse its decision and not provoke problems between the two countries."
Turns out there's also a little backstory to this:
In December, US President George Bush signed the Syria Accountability Act, which aims to punish Syria for alleged ties to terrorists, tacit support for resistance fighters in Iraq, and efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction.
The bill also demands that Syria withdraw the roughly 20,000 troops it has deployed in Lebanon and calls on the governments of Lebanon and Syria to "enter into serious unconditional bilateral negotiations" with Israel in order to secure "a full and permanent peace".
The legislation directs the president to prohibit US exports to Syria of weaponry and so-called "dual-use" technology with both civilian and military applications.
And it directs the president to choose two sanctions from a range that includes restricting US exports and business investment, downgrading US-Syrian diplomatic ties, imposing travel restrictions on Syrian diplomats in the United States, freezing Syria's assets in the United States, and restricting over-flight rights for Syrian aircraft inside US airspace.
Our top 5 exports to Syria are cereal, machinery, tobacco, vehicles, and manmade staple fibers. It does not appear to me that it would be vital for Syria to buy any of these items from the US. So I think the Prime Minister is essentially right; this is a symbolic action more than anything.
It would, of course, be much more harmful to Syria were we to impose a sanction on imports. But the cynic in me doesn't believe we'll put an import ban on an oil rich nation. At least, not until Iraq's oil fields are more secure.
But NBC News has learned that long before the war the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself — but never pulled the trigger.
In June 2002, U.S. officials say intelligence had revealed that Zarqawi and members of al-Qaida had set up a weapons lab at Kirma, in northern Iraq, producing deadly ricin and cyanide.
The Pentagon quickly drafted plans to attack the camp with cruise missiles and airstrikes and sent it to the White House, where, according to U.S. government sources, the plan was debated to death in the National Security Council.
“Here we had targets, we had opportunities, we had a country willing to support casualties, or risk casualties after 9/11 and we still didn’t do it,” said Michael O’Hanlon, military analyst with the Brookings Institution.
Four months later, intelligence showed Zarqawi was planning to use ricin in terrorist attacks in Europe.
The Pentagon drew up a second strike plan, and the White House again killed it. By then the administration had set its course for war with Iraq.
“People were more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam than to execute the president’s policy of preemption against terrorists,” according to terrorism expert and former National Security Council member Roger Cressey.
In January 2003, the threat turned real. Police in London arrested six terror suspects and discovered a ricin lab connected to the camp in Iraq.
The Pentagon drew up still another attack plan, and for the third time, the National Security Council killed it.
Military officials insist their case for attacking Zarqawi’s operation was airtight, but the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.
I have nothing to add that isn't obvious. Maybe some more thoughts later.
So it's late and I've already forgotten which blog I got this link from. But if you haven't seen it already, there's an excerpt from David Brock's new book in Salon. This is brilliant:
Two years after the election, Gore gave an extraordinary interview to the New York Observer that could be read as an explanation of what happened to his presidential campaign. Gore charged that conservatives in the media, operating under journalistic cover, are loyal not to the standards and conventions of journalism but, rather, to politics and party.
"The media is kind of weird these days on politics, and there are some major institutional voices that are, truthfully speaking, part and parcel of the Republican Party. Fox News Network, the Washington Times, Rush Limbaugh -- there's a bunch of them, and some of them are financed by wealthy ultra-conservative billionaires who make political deals with Republican administrations and the rest of the media.... Most of the media [has] been slow to recognize the pervasive impact of this Fifth Column in their ranks -- that is, day after day, injecting the daily Republican talking points into the definition of what's objective as stated by the news media as a whole....
Something will start at the Republican National Committee, inside the building, and it will explode the next day on the right-wing talk-show network and on Fox News and in the newspapers that play this game, the Washington Times and the others. And then they'll create a little echo chamber, and pretty soon they all start baiting the mainstream media for allegedly ignoring the story they've pushed into the zeitgeist. And then pretty soon the mainstream media goes out and disingenuously takes a so-called objective sampling, and lo and behold, these RNC talking points are woven into the fabric of the zeitgeist...."
True to form, the right-wing media greeted this factual description with yet another frenzy of repetitive messaging portraying Gore as crazy. Speaking of Gore on FOX News, The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes said, "This is nutty. This is along the lines with, you know, President Bush killed Paul Wellstone, and the White House knew before 9/11 that the attacks were going to happen. This is -- I mean, this is conspiratorial stuff." Also on FOX, syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer said of Gore, "I'm a psychiatrist. I don't usually practice on camera. But this is the edge of looniness, this idea that there's a vast conspiracy, it sits in a building, it emanates, it has these tentacles, is really at the edge. He could use a little help." "It could be he's just nuts," Rush Limbaugh said of Gore. "Tipper Gore's issue is what? Mental health. Right? It could be closer to home than we know." "He [Gore] said it's a conspiracy," Tucker Carlson said on CNN's "Crossfire." "I actually think he's coming a little unhinged," The Weekly Standard's David Brooks, now at the New York Times, said of Gore on PBS.
Yup, that's certainly the way to go about disproving a consiparcy, isn't it? It's not that they all say the same thing at the same time because there's a conspiracy; they're just filled with the holy spirit.
POSTSCRIPT: Found it, the link was from Atrios. So I'm sure you've all ready it already.
There's a lot of Kerry bashing going on, and has been going on, in the liberal blogosphere, not to mention the liberal news, a.k.a. the Daily Show. Some of it is well-meaning, but it irks me nonetheless. I realize that people are anxious for a democratic victory, but in that rush to keep our candidate in line, let's not create the meme's to be used against him, shall we? If one does feel inclined to criticize Kerry, how about in a construtive manner, rather than the loud-groan-followed-by-throwing-up-the-hands-in-the-air-followed-by-OH-MY-GOD-HE'S-AWFUL-NOT-AS-BAD-AS-BUSH-BUT-JESUS! that's becoming routine.
Anyway, I'm not here just to admonish. I'm here to ask, "What's going on?" Why is Kerry sucking it up out there, as we all know he is? I have no knowledge at all on this, but that won't stop me from conjecturing and imagining conspiricies. But first let's run down the few things we do know.
Kerry ran a pretty damn good campaign starting about January till about April. He cinched the party nomination and came out swinging against Bush for a few weeks.
Then Fallujah and Richard Clarke and the 9/11 Commission happened. At the same time, Bush started spending an avanlanche of money trying to pigeonhole Kerry.
The result was that Bush's approval rating stayed low, and Kerry dropped only a percenage point, despite lots of unfair negative press. Of course, with the Abu Ghriab story, Bush's approval has dropped once again
The Bush team has stymied their campaign spending, and Kerry has stepped up his. I expect Kerry to slightly advance in the lead. This will help drive his fundraising.
The other thing that it's doing is keeping media frenzy at a fevor pinch. "It's Kerry in the lead! No, Bush! No, Kerry! It's too close to call!!" This stuff is ridiculous, but they love it.
Recently, a Kerry staffer stated, "we're right where we want to be." (no citation, i told you this was an unsourced rant)
So here's where I advance the postulate that Kerry's campaign may be mediocre on purpose. I think right now that Kerry could pound Bush a little; the President is vulnerable, his stomach exposed. But that doesn't mean he should. Keeping the race close 1) drives media coverage, 2) drives funding, 3) drives interest. Moreover, a candidate doesn't want to create an atmosphere of inevitability that he will win. A little uncertainty drives voters to the polls. Kerry is probably hoping for high voter turnout, since, by all indications, a high turnout will favor him. So, look to see if Kerry pulls a Muhammad Ali this summer.
Think I need a tinfoil hat? But if this does actually happen, I will claim to be an unstoppable political prophet. Until the next time that I predict that Wesley Clark will win the Dem nomination, that is.
I haven't yet brought up the issue of George W. Bush as commencement speaker for LSU's graduationg ceremony. This actually does affect me, because, believe it or not, I'm graduating. After some thought, I about a month ago made the ethical decision, which I of course encourage all others to emulate, to not attend. It strikes me as ironic that Bush, who might be thought of as the nation's highest-profile anti-intellectual, is speaking at a university graduation. As Jacob Weisberg says, Bush has embraced ignorance as a philosophy. I wonder if he even respects the accomplishments of those that will be sitting before him. Maybe he thinks we're all losers for not going to Yale. Anyway, his disparagement of knowledge and intelligent discourse is alone reason enough to boycott.
And I think he's the worst president in the history of the US.
And there's the fact that this is blatantly a politically motivated gesture. Louisiana is a swing state, after all. I see no reason to think his motives might be more pure. Simply look to Dick Cheney's speech at Westminster.
And there's the problem that I simply cannot stand listening to Bush talk for more than a few minutes. He speaks at a juvenile level. "Evil doers." "There are those who hate freedom." His speeches must be real exciting to middle schoolers. But I find his vacuous concepts and overblown or inane rhetoric to be grating.
So I've made the decision that this decidedlly is not the right note to end my undergraduate career on. I'll be drinking.
News that American soldiers were mistreating Iraqi prisoners didn't exactly come out of nowhere, although it seems that way.
The New York Times reported last May that two dozen detainees had complained of mistreatment, quoting one man as saying a British soldier kicked him in the ribs and hit him over the head with a gun.
In October, the Los Angeles Times reported on negligent homicide charges against two Marines in the death of a prisoner, and said six others were charged with hitting and kicking prisoners. In December, the paper covered charges against a Marine officer who ordered prisoners to stand for 50 minutes each hour, handcuffed, with burlap bags over their heads.
In October, The Washington Post reported on charges against an Army commander who fired his pistol near a detainee's head. And several news organizations reported in March that six soldiers were criminally charged in the alleged assault and sexual abuse of about 20 Iraqi prisoners. Most of these stories ran on inside pages.
Amazingly, CNN reported in January that, according to a Pentagon official, "U.S. soldiers reportedly posed for photographs with partially unclothed Iraqi prisoners." The story sank without a trace.
Why didn't these reports get what political strategists call "traction"?
There were no horrifying pictures of the kind revealed by "60 Minutes II" and, later, The Post. It was hard to believe such practices were widespread. Politicians were not focusing on the issue, and the press was more concerned with American casualties.
In retrospect, these scattered allegations were missed opportunities for the media. By last week, the three newspapers and others had no trouble finding Iraqis who said they were mistreated in prison -- and playing up these accounts.
It's true, isn't it? Putting a face makes the crime more real. In what respect? One want to say that the crime is real whether we can see it or not, and therefore we're not talking ontology here. On the other hand, in a sense we give reality to these events by the way we treat them. Thus, there is an ontological difference in treating them one way compared to another.
Oh, yeah. It's finals week. Light posting.
Check out today's Boondocks while you're websurfing.
Dr Mustafa al-Bazergan, head of the Iraq Infosearch Centre in London, told Aljazeera.net that he believes, one of the main purposes behind Iraq's occupation is to fight "terrorism" on one front.
"It was not easy for the US to fight terrorism all over the world. One of the main benefits of occupying Iraq, is the country has become an attraction point to all anti-US factions" Bazergan said.
Admittedly it's only a small quote, and I could be misreading him, but I believe the Dr is suggesting that we invaded Iraq so that it would become a target for our terrorist enemies and then we could deal with them there, all together in one place that's not America. This whole war and pissing off the Arab world is just like creating a big flytrap then.
There's a charm to this theory, which is that it suggests that there is an actual rational to the war, something that's a bit lacking these days. I wouldn't believe it however, firstly because there's a lack of evidence. Secondly, if it were true, it hasn't worked thus far. I don't know of anyone reporting thus far that Al Qaeda has up and moved all of its operation to Iraq. Thirdly, while this would put a rational for why everything has been messing up so badly for the last year, it's just too implausable. I just can't picture Bush & Co. thinking of doing something like this.
I should be working on graduating, but all this latest news has me pretty down. I have expressed my shock at the whole Abu Ghrerib situation, to have them reply, "i don't find it surprising." My first instinct was disbelief, and then to think these people were just posing, making a show of being uber-worldly. But these are my friends and relatives, so maybe I'm the one that is naive. What surprises me about the situation is the extent of it. There were numerous "fail-safe" situations in place to prevent just this kind of thing, and not only did they fail, but they joined in. The regular soldiers, private employees, and CIA should have been watching each other. If they had all cooperated together, and it had been just that, I wouldn't be so out of joint about this. But there were the MPs, the military intelligence officials, the officers in charge, all the way up to the General in charge of the prison. It's this massive failure of oversight has me flabbergasted. To just make it worse, people are suggesting that these prisoners weren't even particularly bad guys. Most appear to have been innocent, locked up on cicrcumstancial evidence. Others were guilty, but they don't appear to have been serious offenders.
In other words, this isn't even an issue of torture as we're accustomed to think of it. We typically think of military torture as extreme coercion to extort information. This wasn't that. It was just for kicks. There are a few exceptions here, the Iraqi beaten to death by, apparantly, the CIA and hauled out on a fake gurny seems to have held information. But he was a "ghost prisoner," (see Billmon) and so not the typical prisoner that we're talking about. Most of them were abused for apparantly no reason other than the thrill of it.
What infuiates me more is the people tring to pass this off as something less than it is. Rush and Rumsfeld seem to be in agreement that this isn't "torture" per se. forced fellatio, anal rape, and homicide. Not torture at all. I used to think it was fun to watch Rumsfeld. He's a real asshole, and it was fun to watch him parse words, definitions, and sentences. He'd refer to the logical difficulty of falsifying a statement, thereby preserving his ridiculous assertions. What a dick, I'd laugh. Not anymore. I can't laugh about this.
What are the broader implications for Iraq? I asked myself, if I were a member of a "liberated country," and the "liberators" allowed this, would I want them to stay, no matter how much I knew we needed their money? I'm fairly certain I'd want them to fuck off. Because of this incidence, we owe Iraq more than ever, and yet they're bound to want our help less than ever.
Is it worth it? Well, here's my question: Imagine your child is serving in Iraq. Would you be willing to let that child die there so that we can keep up our perhaps futile efforts to build an Iraqi democracy? If not, how can you ask someone else to make that sacrifice? Because, by advocating that we stay, you're doing just that. I can't ask that. Let's pull out. Iraq will go through its own growing pains. The US had to do the same thing. It still is. So let them sort things out. And then write them a big check. It's not the best of all imaginable worlds, but I think it's the best solution for this one.
Seems like George Will got around to address the President on this already-much-blogged-about gaff:
There's a lot of people in the world who don't believe that people whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern. I reject that. I reject that strongly. I believe that people who practice the Muslim faith can self-govern. I believe that people whose skins aren't necessarily -- are a different color than white can self-govern."
Georgey picks up on the Prez's mispeak in characterizing America as a white nation. How that is different from characterizing America as a Christian nation, I'm not really sure, but the conservative Will knows that this one at least isn't PC. Anyway, that's a digression. I thought to myself as I was reading this, who are these people that Bush is alluding to, the racist ones? I have heard this question brought up, somewhat rarely, among liberals, but not as a racist question. It is brought up as a cultural question, are there necessary preconditions that must be met before a democracy can be established? This is a very important question, and Will, to his credit, thinks so too, although he is rather inarticulate about it. It is not enough merely to say that a democracy can be established, as Bush and Blair do, like this was some a priori fact. One must understand how to do it. And you can't do that without asking said question.
Still, that's not the racist issue? Where oh where might we find inditements that the Iraqis are savages and incapable of democracy? Well, I'm not going to look, because I just can't stand to right now, but I bet you'll find your answer over at conservative chickenhawk and warblogger sites, such as Little Green Footballs, among many others. Cruise all the liberal blogs you want, I doubt you'll find that suggestion. I'm confident you'll find it over on the right.
Now that that is put into perspective, it makes what Bush was saying even funnier, doesn't it?
It's amazing all the fame that an ebay listing can bring. Given the hair, the tattoos, the penchant for beer and ball games, and the references to low class in-laws, the quality of his writing is surprising. Nicely surprising.
You know, there is a lot of criticism of Bush out there. Just to name a few, he started a needless, irresponsible war, he and his Administration are violating civil rights, he illegally stole $700 million from the Afghanistan reconstruction act...we could go on. But lot's not forget that real criticsim's aren't just for Bush, they're also for Kerry:
It is Mrs. Rocket's opinion that the American people will not elect as President a man who wears a vest with a flower power zipper pull.
Whenver I wonder how it is that people actually support Bush, I run into these little reminders. Oh and the blogger's handle is 'hindrocket', so let's not pick on someone else for quasi-homosexual imagery, hmm?
If you click the link, don't forget to check how much time this guy wasted actually checking out that flower-dealy. He must have a lot of free time. But more importantly, it shows how seriously he considers this...