Sunday, January 29, 2006

Real War vs. Horror Movie

What Digby says:
I don't see a society that is truly fearful. I've been to countries that were at war. And life always goes on to some extent. But this country does not feature the psychological traits of a country that is really at war or one that really fears terrorism in any palpable way. It features the psychological traits of a country watching a horror movie, which is not the same thing at all. You certainly see this in the fevered one-handed war blogging and the endless evocations of pre-9/11 and post 9/11 thinking reminds me of nothing so much as people who are hooked on a stimulating drug.

Of course we all felt real fear in the early days, none so much as those who lived in New York and DC. It was almost unbelievable to see those scenes. But there was a sense of spectacle and drama about it that was literally unreal to those of us who watched it on television. This was fear put to music, with dramatic title treatments and a soaring voice-over. Because of that, on some level, 9/11 was a thrill for many people, even some Democrats. It was sad and horrifying, of course, but it was also stimulating, exciting and memorable because of the way it was presented on television. (When we were talking about this, Jane described it as if "the whole country was watching porn together every time the rerun of the towers falling was broadcast.") And we subsequently fetishized the "war on terrorism" to the point where some people become inexplicably excited whenever it is mentioned. They want that big group grope again, that sense of shared sensation. That is the "fear" that people say they have. And it's why they want to vote for the guy who keeps pumping it into the body politic.

It's why the "war on terrorism" still has some potency for the Republicans that the very ugly, very real war in Iraq does not. We can't lose the "war on terrorism" because it isn't a real war. Unfortunately, because we have allowed those words to be used, we have opened the door for authoritarian Republicans to assume the powers of a dictator under its auspices.

Greenwald and Ellis both argue very persuasively that islamic fundamentalist terrorism does not present an existential threat to our country. I think that idea is beginning to get some traction in the national security debates. I don't know how long it might take to break this country out of its shared fetish for the "war on terrorism" but perhaps it's time to start addressing that as well. Until we finally admit that we aren't "at war" by any real definition of that term, we are going to be hamstrung in addressing the very real national security challenges we do face.

Thrill Ride - Read it all...
Islamic fundamentalist nut cases are dangerous, but they do not in and of themselves threaten the existence of the US. They have, however, created the conditions under which home-grown authoritarian fundamentalists have launched a wholesale culture and political war against moderate citizens, people who are part of the liberal democratic spectrum.


Because He Can

Andrew Sullivan has wasted many column inches being a medacious prick. But, maybe not so much now. A strange change has been coming over Mr. Andy in recent months. He says things that sound almost, well, normal, like he shares the concerns of ordinary people. Concerns about the abuse of dictatorial power. Huh, whooda thunk it?
You may have heard of the tactic. As a way to leverage information or capture an enemy, terrorists sometimes kidnap innocent women and children in order to put pressure on their husbands or relatives. It's called kidnapping and blackmail. Except that in Rumsfeld's military, the United States now uses the tactic. Sure, it's against the Geneva Conventions. Sure, those Conventions are supposed to apply in Iraq. But this is the Bush administration. King George doesn't have to obey the law; and his military can do anything they want. The Pentagon has gotten used to denying hard evidence of abuse - and no one, of course, has been disciplined for following the instructions given ultimately in Washington. "It's very hard, obviously, from some of these documents to determine what, if anything, actually happened," says the Pentagon spokesman. No, it isn't. And so we slowly descend toward the level of the enemy. Because King George can.

Getting Their Wives
Because he can. That's the lesson that we decadent fifth-columnists of the coasts have been saying all along, Mr. Andy - King George's War has never had anything to do with keeping America safe and everything to do with expanding the operation of arbitrary power. The Alito nomination is part of this as well, by putting people on the court who are already down on paper as supporting a monarchial style executive and a strong-man state. BushCo has had fun running the experiment in Iraq, and is now trying to extend it in the US itself.

What are the tactics that King George and his cronies think appropriate to use? Just look at Iraq. Kidnap. Rape. Torture. Murder. Disappearing people. And lying about it. But also kickbacks, payola, bribes, white collar theft, insider contracts, and slush funds. Oh, and for the men and women of the armed forces, inadequate supplies, inadequate weaponry, inadequate troop strength, reduced pay, reduced support services, reduced medical care, and being sent home in the dead of night. Dead.

George Bush does what he does because he can. The question remains, dear readers - do you consider yourself one of the insiders or one of the scum people? Hint - all the insider slots are taken.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Top Ten Mistakes of the Bush Administration in Reacting to Al-Qaeda

An extended cite from a recent post by Juan Cole. He nails it pretty well.

Usamah Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri murdered 3,000 Americans, and they both issued tapes in the past week, blustering and threatening us with more of the same. Most of us aren't wild about paying for the Bush administration with our taxes, but one thing we have a right to expect is that our government would protect us from mass murderers and would chase them down and arrest them. It has not done that. When asked why he hasn't caught Bin Laden, Bush replies, "Because he's hidin'." Is Bush laughing at us?

On September 11, 2001, the question was whether we had underestimated al-Qaeda. It appeared to be a Muslim version of the radical seventies groups like the Baader Meinhoff gang or the Japanese Red Army. It was small, only a few hundred really committed members who had sworn fealty to Bin Laden and would actually kill themselves in suicide attacks. There were a few thousand close sympathizers, who had passed through the Afghanistan training camps or otherwise been inducted into the world view. But could a small terrorist group commit mayhem on that scale? Might there be something more to it? Was this the beginning of a new political force in the Middle East that could hope to roll in and take over, the way the Taliban had taken over Afghanistan in the 1990s? People asked such questions.

Over four years later, there is no doubt. Al-Qaeda is a small terrorist network that has spawned a few copy-cats and wannabes. Its breakthrough was to recruit some high-powered engineers in Hamburg, which it immediately used up. Most al-Qaeda recruits are marginal people, people like Zacarias Moussawi and Richard Reid, who would be mere cranks if they hadn't been manipulated into trying something dangerous. Muhammad al-Amir (a.k.a Atta) and Ziad Jarrah were highly competent scientists, who could figure the kinetic energy of a jet plane loaded with fuel. There don't seem to be significant numbers of such people in the organization. They are left mostly with cranks, petty thieves, drug smugglers, bored bank tellers, shopkeepers, and so forth, persons who could pull off a bombing of trains in Madrid or London, but who could not for the life of them do a really big operation.

The Bush administration and the American Right generally has refused to acknowledge what we now know. Al-Qaeda is dangerous. All small terrorist groups can do damage. But it is not an epochal threat to the United States or its allies of the sort the Soviet Union was (and that threat was consistently exaggerated, as well).

In fact, the United States invaded a major Muslim country, occupied it militarily, tortured its citizens, killed tens of thousands, tinkered with the economy-- did all those things that Muslim nationalists had feared and warned against, and there hasn't even been much of a reaction from the Muslim world. Only a few thousand volunteers went to fight. Most people just seem worried that the US will destabilize their region and leave a lot of trouble behind them. People are used to seeing Great Powers do as they will. A Syrian official before the war told a journalist friend of mine that people in the Middle East had been seeing these sorts of invasions since Napoleon took Egypt in 1798. "Well," he shrugged, "usually they leave behind a few good things when they finally leave."

Because they exaggerate the scale of the conflict, and because they use it cynically, Bush and Cheney have grossly mismanaged the struggle against al-Qaeda and Muslim radicalism after September 11. Here are their chief errors:
Read more....
There's two big take away messages here. First, al-Qaeda is not a mortal threat to the United States, and it is ridiculous to think so. Police work is exactly what is needed to clean up this gang, just as they cleaned up the European terrorists of the 70s. Second, the Bush administration has utterly botched up dealing with this band of bozos, and has probably aided bin Laden in recruiting people and gaining monetary support. Further, his actions have crippled the US on the international scene exactly when Russia and China are gaining power. We cannot rally allies to our side as we once could, and our military is grossly misused.

BushCo has made the US more vulnerable to both terrorists and major state actors, while gaining nothing for the nation. He has enriched his own social class obscenely. Insofar as that is the true policy objective of his administration, it has all worked out very well for him.


Sunday, January 22, 2006

Karl Rove Has Zero Cred on National Security

What the good doctor says, and how:

Karl Rove only has a White House job and a security clearance because President Bush has refused to keep his promise to fire anyone involved in revealing the identity of an undercover CIA operative... Rove's political standing gets him an invitation to address Republicans in Washington, DC today, but it doesn't give him the credibility to question Democrats' commitment to national security. The truth is, Karl Rove breached our national security for partisan gain and that is both unpatriotic and wrong.

Governor Howard Dean
George Bush is a liar. His administration is loaded with anti-American criminals who claim to be protecting the country while looting it. His illegal war is crippling our military. Real wages are declining and health care coverage contracting. Osama bin Laden is still running around, thumbing his nose at us.

Just what mission has been accomplished?


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Payback Time

Well, well, well, BushCo's prescription drug blowjob for the pharmaceutical industry just took effect. I'll let Carpet Bagger explain:

If we took foreign and defense policy out of the picture entirely, what's Bush's worst domestic policy initiative? The tax cuts were a disaster, the faith-based initiative was outrageous, No Child Left Behind ended up flopping, and there is no coherent energy policy to speak of. But for my money, Bush's Medicare scheme tops 'em all.

The program was passed in 2003 under unusual circumstances that included bribes on the House floor. Before lawmakers agreed to the plan, the administration went to great lengths to deceive Congress about the cost estimates for the plan. Once it became law, and seniors started to learn about the new program, everyone was completely confused and couldn't figure out what to do.

That was then. About two weeks ago, on Jan. 1, the Medicare prescription drug benefit took effect. That's when the real problems started.

Worst. Domestic.Policy. Ever.

Now, as is the way of such things, in a few days, the Good Puppy Press will get bored with reporting this, and the states that give a rat's ass about their citizens will step in and do what BushCo hoped they would do all along - take on the burden at a state level to free up more federal money for giving away to their rich friends. That is the MO of this administration - take the money and run.

Until there is a new government in DC, there is no true remedy for this utter fuck-up. My only consolation is this: That some of the people who will die or end up with terrible complications voted for Bush and the Republicans. Now they get to experience what they thought they wanted. Yes, Democrats and non-voters are going to die, too, but the utter ethical zeros who trotted out to the polls to vote for the giggling murderer are now going to get murdered by their precious leader.

I want each and every Bush voter on Medicare to suffer terribly, lose all of their life savings, beggar their families, and die anyway. That is exactly what you voted for and it is right that you should pay the ultimate price. You'll keep making excuses, but a good number of you will be dead come next election time. Since you tend to live in states with wretched social services, the more your region voted Bush, the more likely you are to die. You don't even have the excuse that you voted against it; you brought it on yourself.

No, I really have no symapthy for anyone who voted for Bush and who is physically or economically suffering due to Bush policies. YOU ASKED FOR IT.

BushCo has fought hard to pass legislation that puts your physical survival in peril. I think it's a wake up call to vote in your rational self-interest next time. Assuming you're around, of course.


We have become Numenor

Ivo Dalder on TPM Cafe:

America's power and influence in the previous century was built not just on its military and economic prowess, but especially on the belief of many that it would use its power to the benefit of all rather than of the United States alone. But that view of the United States as a benevolent power is now gone. America's image in the world has been tarnished by launching an unnecessary war of choice, flouting international law, and its appalling abuse of detainees. Polls indicate that large majorities in Europe have an unfavorable opinion of America and, shockingly, that a majority of Europeans now believes the United States poses the greatest threat to international security.

When trust is broken, a commitment to diplomacy can only do so much. When an American secretary of state has to spend an entire week in Europe to argue that the United States does not torture people -- and leave without having convinced anyone that she's speaking the truth -- you know something profound has changed in America's relations with the world. In such circumstances, a willingness to talk, to negotiate, even to compromise is not enough. It will take a new administration, fully committed to restoring trust in an America rededicated to the rule of law, to begin to reverse the damage that has been done.

The Limits of Rice's Diplomacy

The isolated giant enjoying a period of Enlightenment while the rest of the known world staggered under the burden of its war-caused blight has been made to encounter the world again, a world no longer so abject, without the benefit of isolation, without even a veil of wishing to do what is right. We don't even need Sauron.

And the King's Men are once more beating the war drum, trying to stir up support for an attack upon Iran. It would be just desserts if the movement brought to power by Iran is finally defeated by the same.


Saturday, January 14, 2006

Pom-pom Psychology

Rude Pundit, who, along with Fafblog!, is one of the most insightful analysts of the utter fuck-up that is contemporary American politics, has posted a brilliant commentary on George W. Bush and his life-long avocation - cheerleading. Here is the heart of the argument:

The man was a cheerleader back in his days at Andover. Such formative experiences follow a man through his life, where he knows he's not someone who can do, but only someone who can watch and yell support, even when the score is 35 to nothin'. Someone who can shake his groove thing and lead a chant when his team is being squashed. Cheerleaders have to live in a state of unreality for pyramids would fall and waves would flounder if they lost their enthusiasm. And even when their team's defeated, they just come back, again and again, and cheer for lost causes, hoping everyone in the stands goes along. It's what we see in Bush time and again, on Katrina, on Iraq, on the economy: a failure to demonstrate an understanding of reality, just endless smiling and leading a chant of "Defense" whenever the opposition attempts to say differently. The sad delusion of the cheerleader is believing he or she is actually having an effect on the outcome of the game.
Read the whole thing. In fact, do yourself a favor and bookmark the Rude One for daily edification. Not work safe but, then again, neither is the Cheney administration.


Thursday, January 05, 2006

Spying on Journalists

Like, we're surprised?

Andrea Mitchell asked NYT reporter James Risen, the guy who broke the NSA spying story in the Times, if he knew of any spying on CNN International reporter Christiane Amanpour. He said he didn't. Afterwards, NBC expunged that part of the interview from the transcript, then said that they removed it because they were still investigating the claim. More analyis in the links below:

Carpetbagger Report
America Blog
Talking Points Memo

Now, the question for me is - why did Mitchell say this? That the White House would spy on journalists is a no-brainer as far as I'm concerned, particularly on journalists with ties to the Democratic party (Amanpour's husband is Jamie Rubin, foreign policy advisor to many Dem bigwigs) and who has been consistently and publicly critical of the administration's imperial adventures. I would be more surprised to learn they had not tried to spy.

So, what is Mitchell's angle? She's married to Bush ass-kisser Alan Greenspan. She has consistently shown that she will lie her ass off to protect the White House. She is a long-time Nixon partisan. So, I doubt she's doing this out of any feelings of civic obligation, nor any outrage over the Preznit spying on political enemies. A few possibilities occur to me:
  1. She is outraged that her clan is being spied on. This is different than caring if unwashed schmoes like me get spied on, mind you. She sees herself as belonging to the special Kewl Kidz insider group, along with Woodward and Judy Miller, and doesn't like being snooped. After all, doesn't the Preznit know she's loyal?
  2. She's outraged that her personal buddy, Christiane, may have been snooped. Again, this doesn't mean that she opposes illegal spying on ordinary people, just not on her friends. In the end, this perspective probably represents the majority view of the nation - spying on other people is OK, but not on me or my buds.
  3. She is just stupid enough to spill the beans on a scoop NBC is working on. Probably mixed with arrogance.
  4. She wants to spill the beans in a way that will make friends inside the White House back away from a sting.
  5. She is part of a White House sting trying to get reporters to take the bait, the way they did with the almost-but-not-quite-real TANG memos.
  6. She is part of a White House intimidation operation to let reporters know they'd better "watch what you say, watch what you do," by demonstrating that they are being spied on.
  7. She's pissed at whomever has this story and is trying to ruin someone's scoop by exposing things before the story is complete.
It may be some combination of the above. Until I see honesty from a reporter with that many close ties to the White House and a track record of being a willing tool of the Cheney adminsitration, I will assume the worst.

Again, the story is not that a journalist is being spied upon. The story is that an insider toady of the White House let the cat out of the bag.


Monday, January 02, 2006

Opening Another Book

As Digby, among others, points out, good blogging is hard to do. It takes more time and th0ught than most people can spare. You have to choose to do it, which means choosing to not do other things. I'm not going to try to keep all the balls in the air anymore.

The Bush administration is turning my country into a police state, a dictatorship of the venal and well-connected. Either the citizens will rebel, or they won't. That is the state of US politics right now, and any other level of commentary is just presenting a specific case. Arguing with the anti-democrats of the left is even more difficult than arguing with those of the right, as left-wing fascists are usually devoid of any political sense or even any desire for self-preservation. Both sides hate liberal democracy, both sides want dictatorships (of the righteous on the left and of the ruthless on the right, though there isn't a practical difference between the two, as Orwell demonstrated) rather than the messy and dangerous business of self-rule.

As for fandom politics, that's done all the damage it's going to do in my life.

I'm starting a new job next week, and striking out into unknown waters. There may be a few posts here and there. I may get inspired in the future, discovering that other things aren't as important as they once were. But probably not.

To all, friend or not, may you get what you deserve.