Saturday, May 08, 2004

It's Worth Reading 

The Old Grey Lady came out against Rummy in an editorial yesterday. There is so much more to his negligence than the ignoring of widespread human rights violations: he shortchanged the military, uselessly endangered the soldiers, and allowed the private sector to creep in on its activities, firther eroding structure, discipline and effectiveness. Get out now, while you still can, Don.

If he is not to blame then who is? Some general? Some colonel? No. Rumsfeld is in charge of the military and it's time to take responsibility and, if he truly loves America, do something to restore our standing. Here's the piece.
There was a moment about a year ago, in the days of "Mission Accomplished," when Donald Rumsfeld looked like a brilliant tactician. American troops — the lean, mean fighting machine Mr. Rumsfeld assembled — swept into Baghdad with a speed that surprised even the most optimistic hawks. It was crystal clear that the Defense Department, not State and certainly not the United Nations, would control the start of nation-building. Mr. Rumsfeld, with his steely grin and tell-it-like-it-is press conferences, was the closest thing to a rock star the Bush cabinet would ever see.

That was then.

It is time now for Mr. Rumsfeld to go, and not only because he bears personal responsibility for the scandal of Abu Ghraib. That would certainly have been enough. The United States has been humiliated to a point where government officials could not release this year's international human rights report this week for fear of being scoffed at by the rest of the world. The reputation of its brave soldiers has been tarred, and the job of its diplomats made immeasurably harder because members of the American military tortured and humiliated Arab prisoners in ways guaranteed to inflame Muslim hearts everywhere. And this abuse was not an isolated event, as we know now and as Mr. Rumsfeld should have known, given the flood of complaints and reports directed to his office over the last year.

The world is waiting now for a sign that President Bush understands the seriousness of what has happened. It needs to be more than his repeated statements that he is sorry the rest of the world does not "understand the true nature and heart of America." Mr. Bush should start showing the state of his own heart by demanding the resignation of his secretary of defense.

This is far from a case of a fine cabinet official undone by the actions of a few obscure bad apples in the military police. Donald Rumsfeld has morphed, over the last two years, from a man of supreme confidence to arrogance, then to almost willful blindness. With the approval of the president, he sent American troops into a place whose nature and dangers he had apparently never bothered to examine.

We now know that no one with any power in the Defense Department had a clue about what the administration was getting the coalition forces into. Mr. Rumsfeld's blithe confidence that he could run his war on the cheap has also seriously harmed the Army and the National Guard.

This page has argued that the United States, having toppled Saddam Hussein, has an obligation to do everything it can to usher in a stable Iraqi government. But the country is not obliged to continue struggling through this quagmire with the secretary of defense who took us into the swamp. Mr. Rumsfeld's second in command, Paul Wolfowitz, is certainly not an acceptable replacement because he was one of the prime architects of the invasion strategy. It is long past time for a new team and new thinking at the Department of Defense.


The Real American Tragedy 

Forget what is going on in Iraqi prisons. Never mind about our refusal to do something about global warming. And please, do not harp any longer on the millions of people put in prison on drug charges, or the hundreds of executions that take place every year. Because now, America is committing the worst kind of crime, the destruction of good television.

Many of you have witnessed first hand the brilliance of the BBC's The Office, and those of you who have not, get Netflix. Now, artistically-minded TV execs here in the USA are offering their own for-profit version of the programme (a deferential Brisitch spelling there) to not rave reviews. Read on with misty eyes.
Yesterday it emerged that a screening of the US remake received a cool response from viewers, who apparently sat stony-faced. "It was painfully clear that nobody was liking it. The lady next to me said she found it depressing," wrote one reviewer on the showbiz website imdb.com.

In the words of one contributor to a talkboard about The Office this week: "I'm an American, so how am I supposed to understand British? It's practically another language."

These fears now seem to have been realised. It is not clear whether the problem is that the show loses a great deal in translation, or whether the translation is faithful and Americans do not like that kind of humour - or both.

The American television industry has an unfortunate record of adapting British successes into US flops. A recent adaptation of Coupling lasted only a few weeks.

Travesty! Office fans may be fervent but this is for a reason. It is brilliant. Like life, it is hilarious and dull and grey and full of egos and mania, all whirring away almost silently yet producing something of enormous substance and understatement. It's truly one of the best things I've ever seen; a real testament to what television can be.

Then the Americans came.

Like those wary Iraqis, the show's creators must hold great resentment that their Red White and Blue liberators have the audacity to think they can do it better; moreover, that we Yankees will do anything to make a buck on their backs.

The parallels are too much! Just buy the DVD. And have some liquor handy when you watch it.


Friday, May 07, 2004

Yet Another Gem From Dad 

My dad rules. He found irrefutable proof (ahem) for what all of us good guys already suspected.
(Until I get a good screen capture program, a link will have to suffice.)

How'd they get this statistic?!

PS. I'm from New Hampshire. And voted for Nader.


Things Are WAY Out Of Hand 

First off, I got my arse handed to me last night in a game of high-stakes poker. Man. Oh, man. I was doing well until the Anaconda, a game involving something like 174 rounds of betting, came around. I dropped more money there than I care to say, not quite realizing that you need an AWESOME hand to win that one. So from then on I played too aggressively, and those boys from Texas kept roping me back in. Thirty bucks, folks. Thirty bucks. But I got some humble pie, and now I know how to play Low Shuck, so it about evens out.

Second. BushCo is screwed like a screwy thingy. Bush actually apologized for something.
A week after the release of photographs showing American soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners, President Bush apologized for the abuse for the first time yesterday and called the revelations "a stain on our country's honor and our country's reputation."

A wide variety of officials in the administration had advised Bush to apologize on Wednesday when he gave interviews to two Arab television channels and were puzzled when he did not, senior U.S. officials said. An apology had been recommended in the talking points Bush received from the State Department and elsewhere, the officials said. Senior administration aides then made a push overnight for him to say he was sorry during his news conference with Abdullah, the officials said.

Bush's decision to personally ratify an apology that his subordinates had previously offered, and to do so next to an Arab leader and in language designed to resonate in Muslim culture, reflected growing concern among his advisers that the widening scandal could imperil the outcome of the Iraq occupation and his reelection campaign.

Still rings a bit hollow, don't it? Too little too late, perhaps. Who will believe it? Who will care? He did more damage by not apolopgizing in the first place, so appearing with the King of Jordan in front of the White House will do little good. What they don't get is that this is confirmation of much of the world's worst fears, and most of the world sees no excuse for invading Iraq in the first place do this is like salt in the wounds.

Bush's refusal (thus far) to do something with Rumsfeld is an awful mistake. As marc rios points out, several major media outlets are calling for Rummy's resignation. I think it may actually happen, though part of BushCo's success has been their cabalistic method of governance: no one breaks rank or speaks out of turn, and everybody gets to keep their jobs. Bush is, as always, appealing to the fears and idealism of about 30 million Americans, while ignoring a) what's good for the country b) what's good for the world c) what the majority of us probably want. But no surprise there.

Marc rios also points out that a Rummy resignation would mean new confirmation hearings for Defense Secretary, and that would turn into a referendum on Iraq: sort of like Bush's rationale for the war -- fighting terror in Iraq so we don't have to fight it on the streets of America -- any confirmation hearings in the senate would be a proxy war over the direction of the country. Rios thinks it would be bad, but I'd like to see some blood on the snow (another damn poker term). Because Bush is clearly grasping desperately to their plan. BushCo did a fantastic job of organizing the right people and orchestrating an election so they could get into power and carry out their evil designs, granted. But their program is so radical, so out of touch with reality, that the center cannot hold, so to speak. Entropy has begun and will continue, unless there's a miracle. And no matter what he does with Rumsfeld, Bush is damaged. Letting him go will disappoint the base (although many of them oare smart enough to recognize a liability when they see one) and holding on to him is like tearing flesh slowly from a wound.

Kerry's people are circulating this petition to boot Rummy, though I haven't heard much from Kerry himself. It's a douible-edged sword, in a way, all this bad press: while there's a negative effect, the media saturation leaves little room for anything else.


Wednesday, May 05, 2004

I -- I -- I Have Nothing To Say 

George goes to the well again, as everything falls down around him. A long, long sigh gets inserted here.
President Bush will ask Congress for an additional $25 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, breaking a pledge not to seek more money before the November election, congressional aides said on Wednesday.

Bush's fiscal 2005 budget request did not include any money for ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, drawing fire from lawmakers.

The White House has long insisted that it would not need to ask for additional funds until early next year.

At least he's including some money for Afghanistan, you know, the place where terrorists come from? I can't wait to retire.


In Case You Want to See Something Awesome 

The two awesomest aliens in cinema history are going to go at it this summer. Every dork and college student has fantacized about this. We had the video game and the comic book, but now we get the movie. Alien v. Predator. Now, I'm not extremely excited, and I expect the film to be blase at best, but I'm excited at the idea of being excited about this. Movie events excite me in theory, though I rarely get out to them. I'd like to see the alien fight the predator, though. You know? I mean, come on!

-- Remember Afghanistan?
-- I'm trying to forget it.


...And the Seven Dwarfs Were Gay 

Apparently it's okay to make movies about boys turning into donkeys, submissive Indian women, and bestiality, but Disney doesn't have room for criticism of our Dear Leader. Michael Moore hates Bambi.
Walt Disney Co. has barred its Miramax film studio from distributing a documentary by Oscar-winning director Michael Moore that is critical of President Bush, Moore said on Wednesday.

The film, "Fahrenheit 9/11," focuses on how the Bush administration responded to the hijacking attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and on ties between the Bush family and prominent Saudis, including the family of Osama bin Laden.

"Yesterday I was told that Disney, the studio that owns Miramax, has officially decided to prohibit our producer, Miramax, from distributing my new film, 'Fahrenheit 9/11,"' Moore, known for confrontational documentaries offering sharp political commentary, said in a letter posted on his Web site.

Maybe if the movie were animated, and George Bush flew on a carpet and fought an octopus, and Osama was portrayed as a feckless but lovable big-nosed A-rab who falls in a vat of mayonaise at the end, then Disney would say okay. But for the time being the word is out: the world of Disney is definitely not the real world.

Moore may be a blowhard and his films may not be completely objective, but he is effective and he don't take no guff. I've heard people complain about how partisan Moore is and that he's trying to get the movie out in time to affect the Election. Well, duh! We certainly can't affect anything through Congress, and advertising against BushCo is a no-no, and now they say we can't watch movies that portray him in a bad (realistic) light?! Maybe if the things Moore were saying were not true, but - without having seen the movie -- they are. The Bushes and bin Ladens and Sauds are all old buddies, while the rest of us fools consider those who support terrorism to be enemies. It's really too bad Miramax won't release it; they probably would have won another Acadamy Award. But that isn't worth it, is it? Not if you risk pissing off MIchael Powell and the FCC. Only in America. And China.


Tuesday, May 04, 2004

William Wallace Does Breathe Fire 

Apparently those fiesty broguing kilt-wearers in the North Atlantic have the toughest time breathing of any people in the world. And it's no laughing matterrrrrrr-rrrrrr.
Scotland has the highest level of asthma in the world, according to a report by the Global Initiative for Asthma (Gina) published today.

The report, released to coincide with World Asthma Day, revealed that 18.4% of Scots are or have been asthma sufferers. By comparison, Wales is ranked fourth with 16.8% of the population showing asthma symptoms at some stage, while England came in sixth with 15.3%.

The Scottish Green Party called on the Scottish executive to reinstate its commitment to curb road traffic levels in an attempt to reduce air pollution, which, along with urbanisation, is commonly seen as the main reason for increases in asthma.

The lowest rates in the world: Indonesia with 1.1% suffering from asthma and Macau, with only 0.7%. This reminds me of a story that came out last year, I think, that found children in Harlem to be astronomically more likely that others in the USA to have asthma. Yet another result of urban blight and economic disparity.


It's getting Drafty In Here... 

in case we'd forgotten, Atrios reminds us that the Fat Cats are still trying to find ways to send us off to war whether we enlist or not.
WASHINGTON - The chief of the U.S. Selective Service System has proposed registering women for the military draft and requiring that young Americans regularly inform the government about whether they have training in niche specialties needed in the armed services.
The proposal, which the agency's acting director Lewis Brodsky presented to senior Pentagon officials just before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, also seeks to extend the age of draft registration to 34, up from 25.
Because 35 year-olds are just as capable of getting their legs blown off as some naive twenty-somethings!

It's amazing that this has gotten such little press. I think, like electronic voting and outright Presidential lying, that people either do not want to or cannot believe that such a thing is possible. But it is. It most certainly is. How else will the staff the perpetual war? And honestly, once a nation declares war on an Emotion, how short a conflict can it be?


Mission Accomplished! 

Even though Iraq will be a thriving Jeffersonian democracy in 57 days, just to be safe, the US is planning to keep some soldiers there for a bit -- presumably so they can prance around naked Iraqis and take Polaroids that will then be broadcast across the Arab world!
The United States, faced with growing military casualties in Iraq, announced on Tuesday that it was scrapping a plan to reduce its forces and would keep about 138,000 troops in that country through at least the end of 2005Reuters Photo

The Pentagon said 10,000 active-duty Army and Marine troops and 37,000 Reserve and National Guard troops are being told they will go to Iraq this year as it puts on indefinite hold an earlier plan to cut the U.S. force there to 115,000 in coming months.

"You're going to have a period of increased (insurgent) attacks. We just have to expect that," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said as U.S. forces face an upsurge of violence in the run-up to a scheduled June 30 transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis. "This is a difficult period, but our folks are there and are going to stay there," Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon briefing.

Yes, hmm. Well put, Mr. Secretary. This is a difficult period indeed. Especially since all this tragedy and bloodshed is going on for no fucking reason.

Okay, I am not so simple. There is a reason all this bloodshed and tragedy is going on, just not the reason the American public was privy to, and certainly not one I agree with.

I just completed Richard Clarke's tell-all and was astonished by two things: how hawkish Clarke is, and how detailed and reasoned he is in his critiques of four Administrations' handling of the Terror Question, and how much positive and constructive insight he offers. In one chapter Clarke, who spent three decades writing and executing policy, outlines a more cogent, rationale and doable strategy for combatting terrorism than Bush and all his think-tank supporters were able to come up with in a decade. This is because he offers a simple plan, with more nuanced steps, that makes more sense than anything I've even heard muttered about in Big Media in three years. Clarke does not use scare tactics (though he does aggrandize, perhaps a bit, the al Qaeda threat) but he does remind us just how much Bush has screwed everything up. He writes especially well on BushCo's myopia, describing how the Homeland Secutiry Fiasco was (ill-) conceived and then underfunded, and how Bush further eroded our safety by sending money, resources and troops to Iraq, when investment should have gone to states that actually breed terrorism, like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. The whole BushCo program is counter-secure; for instance, the sheer number of National Guardsmen and -women now stationed (indefinitely) in Iraq has strapped the first-responder infrastructure of localities all over the country. Add to this the shortage in funding and outright cuts state and municipal governments have had to make due to the triclke-down from Bush's tax give-away, coupled with the disporportionate dispension of counterterrorism funds to states with little to no risk (Wyoming) and you have a virtual disaster. Clarke's case is solid, even if he is a bit too Hooray America for my tastes, and still thinks of the "victory of Communism" as a great and virtuous thing. I'm glad he got such air time, and I can only hope that America will turn off Survivor for a moment and pick up his book.

(That said, I start working on the Apprentice Thursday. Ahem!)

And through it all, Clarke makes no bones about the danger of Iran and Saudi Arabia, calling them completely out on their negligence and outright culpability in terrorism committed against America. (and he makes a passing though chilling point about North Korea: if this country, which actually acts belligerently toward America, were to launch some sort of attack, our military would be ill-prepared to deal with it -- and who wants to even conceive of what could happen then...) Though he doesn't address any of the geopolitical ills the US has brought on these countries, he makes a case, primarily, for the need to counter the extreme and perverted version of Islam tht is poisoning an entire part of the world. His strategy does not involve merely bombing the piss out of these countries, but combining intelligence, diplomacy and investment to kill the roots of it. Being a smart man, he doesn't think it will be easy; being smart, however, he can see that almost anything is better than the road we're headed down now.


Monday, May 03, 2004

Exactly The Kind of Press We Need! 

Americans may love freedom, but they also love naked Iraqis and a good practical joke! But the military brass doesn't seem to think it's funny -- they're repremanding some officers who abused a few Iraqi prisoners. This should certainly go a long way toward winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.
The U.S. military has reprimanded six senior commissioned and non-commissioned officers in connection with the abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad, a senior U.S. military official said on Monday.

The reprimands -- the most serious written punishment the U.S. army hands down -- are private and no details would be released on the names or ranks of those punished, the U.S. official said. A seventh person received a lesser letter of admonishment in connection with the same incident.

Last week, the U.S. network CBS released pictures of U.S. soldiers abusing and humiliating prisoners inside Abu Ghraib, including piling them up naked and hooded. In one case a prisoner standing on a box had wires attached to his hands and feet and was told he would be electrocuted if he stepped off it.

Sanchez ordered an investigation into possible abuse in January and in March the U.S. military brought charges of assault, cruelty and maltreatment against six soldiers, members of a military police battalion.

The alleged abuses were said to have involved around 20 prisoners and took place in November and December last year.

Now, everyone likes to have a good time, but this is, well, this is against international law. Not that we care to follow international law, but if there is to be "legitimacy" and "integrity" in this little Iraq project, then a place to start would be to not have the occupying force mockingly strut around naked natives and then take pictures of it. I don't agree with the occupation, yet I would rather the Iraqis and Arab world in general have a positive opinion of America -- or at least Americans -- because bombs on subways suck. While I'm sure this incident does not define the entire military (ahem) it certainly points to a brashness and arrogance that Americans could do without.


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