Friday, September 16, 2005

Josh Marshall Fortune Cookie

Last night, President Bush said:

"It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces."

Josh Marshall, producer of the gold-standard of liberal blogs, Talking Points Memo, responded to that scary thought with this outstanding gem:

"You don't repair disorganized or incompetent government by granting it more power. You fix it by making it more organized and more competent. If conservatism can't grasp that point, what is it good for?"

There is genuine fraticide going down with the GOP. From Delay saying there is no more fat to cut, to Lott saying, “You are a fiscal conservative until you get hit by a natural disaster." And the NYTimes quotes GOP Senator Tom Coburn, "I don't believe that everything that should happen in Louisiana should be paid for by the rest of the country. I believe there are certain responsibilities that are due the people of Louisiana."

Out of Katrina, we may well get the political makeovers that are long overdue. The Democratic Party may finally find its voice. And fiscal conservatism and accountability may overtake the cronyism that infects both parties but which has totally debilitated the Republican Party.

What say you RINO's?

A Visit from the SoCal Pundit

Kevin Korenthal, Los Angelos city chairman of the Bush/Cheney 2004 campaign, and owner/operator of the SoCal Pundit (which offers "conservative news and views from Southern California") has taken issue with my post below on the blameworthiness of Louisina Governor Blanco.

Kevin writes:

"Too bad this report looking only at what Blanco did leading up to Katrina hitting landfall. You guys should study these HIGHLY PARTISAN investigations that Mr. Conyers has become famous for launching before you pretend to know what the findings represent. If you are interested in a more candid examination of the report, click here."

The more candid examination was Kevin's. And because Kevin's a conservative, he's more"candid" than either me or the Congressional Research Service which performed the investigation at Congressman Conyer's behest.

Kevin concludes:

"Let’s assume for a second that everything in this report is true and correct. In this cheesy attempt to stall off a real investigation, Conyers succeeded in identifying only that, prior to the hurricane, the Gov. of Louisiana called a state of emergency as per the law. This of course is not, as Conyer’s (sic) claims, the extent of Gov. Blanco’s duties as they relate to what happened after the hurricane hit land. It proves only that she completed the only task that would have been necessary if this had been a straight hurricane w/out the subsequent flooding.
Nice try Conyer’s (sic) but no cigar."

OK. A couple of things.

(1) Are you suggesting, Kevin, that Congressman Conyers doesn't want a real, INDEPENDENT investigation? Because, brother, I gotta tell you, ALL us lefties want one, bad. We want another 9/11 style investigation in the worst way, because the verdict is a done deal. If Evan Thomas's piece in Newsweek is even close, if Knight-Ridder is close to the mark on Chertoff, then we're coming close to negligent homicide for the Bush Administration.

(2) "It proves only that she completed the only task that would have been necessary if this had been a straight hurricane w/out the subsequent flooding." Is that opposed to a queer hurricane? Seriously, once the request has been made for federal assistance, once a State of Emergency has been declared by the Governor, the whole ball of wax sits in the hands of the federal government, per a law signed last year, which went into effect March 1, 2005. Quoting straight from the Dept. of Homeland Security website:

Preparing America
In the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility on March 1st for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation. This will entail providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort.

Bush's response? From the White House website: (8/27)

"White House declares impending disaster area and orders DHS and FEMA to prepare "to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures"

You'll notice that there's no caveat in neither the DHS edict nor the disaster declaration that flooding isn't included. Neither DHS nor FEMA were expected to behave like Allstate and say "Well madam, the policy only covers hurricane damage and not flood damage, so those folks in the Convention Center and Superdome are SOL."

And Kevin, are you seriously suggesting that there was an intelligent soul on the planet that didn't expect catastrophic flooding from a Category 5 hurricane aimed straight at New Orleans? Did that have to be spelled out in any event?

One more piece of the timeline and we'll call this response done. Take a look at the parishes the White House declared as disaster areas (hat tip: Bob Harris):

The further the parish was from the potential area of disaster, the more likely it made W's list of declared disaster areas.

Bring that independent commission on, baby!

And Kevin, come back anytime.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

President Cartman "Takes Responsibility"

Popularity ratings in freefall, the White House spin team decided to kinda go for broke and apply the Mea Culpa Tourniquet yesterday, providing the President with this script:

"Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government," Bush said at joint White House news conference with the president of Iraq.
"To the extent the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility," Bush said."

Such heartfelt, soul-searching words reminded me of a far more entertaining faux apology, from a faux Christian to a wronged African American.....

"I'm sorrrrry, Token"

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Necessary & Timely Baby!

Conyers Releases Non-Partisan Congressional Research Service Report on Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Report Confirms that Louisiana Took Necessary and Timely Steps.

9/13/2005 2:52:00 PM


WASHINGTON, Sept. 13 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Pursuant to a September 7 request by Representative John Conyers to review the law and legal accountability relating to Federal action in response to Hurricane Katrina, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) issued a report today about whether the Governor of Louisiana took the necessary and timely steps needed to secure disaster relief from the federal government. The report unequivocally concludes that she did. (FUCK YOU Karl!!)

Congressman Conyers issued the following statement:

"This report closes the book on the Bush Administration's attempts to evade accountability by shifting the blame to the Governor of Louisiana for the Administration's tragically sluggish response to Katrina. It confirms that the Governor did everything she could to secure relief for the people of Louisiana and the Bush Administration was caught napping at a critical time."
In addition to finding that " would appear that the Governor did take the steps necessary to request emergency and major disaster declarations for the State of Louisiana in anticipation of Hurricane Katrina. (p.11)" The report found that:

-- All necessary conditions for federal relief were met on August 28. Pursuant to Section 502 of the Stafford Act, "(t)he declaration of an emergency by the President makes Federal emergency assistance available," and the President made such a declaration on August 28. The public record indicates that several additional days passed before such assistance was actually made available to the State;

-- The Governor must make a timely request for such assistance, which meets the requirements of federal law. The report states that "(e)xcept to the extent that an emergency involves primarily Federal interests, both declarations of major disaster and declarations of emergency must be triggered by a request to the President from the Governor of the affected state";

-- The Governor did indeed make such a request, which was both timely and in compliance with federal law. The report finds that "Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco requested by letter dated August 27, 2005...that the President declare an emergency for the State of Louisiana due to Hurricane Katrina for the time period from August 26, 2005 and continuing pursuant to (applicable Federal statute)" and "Governor Blanco's August 27, 2005 request for an emergency declaration also included her determination...that 'the incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments and that supplementary Federal assistance is necessary to save lives, protect property, public health, and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of disaster."

Monday, September 12, 2005

Magic Bullets & Big Whoppers

Yesterday, September 12, the President did what all razor-sharp 3rd graders do when caught telling an unmitigated whopper -- offer up an even bigger whooper to in a desperate attempt to cover the first one, usually eliciting a hearty chuckle from the adults in earshot.

Consider the first whopper, here in all its glory and context, three days after Katrina hit:

Bush: "Well, I fully understand people wanting things to have happened yesterday. I mean, I understand the anxiety of people on the ground. I can imagine -- I just can't imagine what it is like to be waving a sign saying 'come and get me now'. So there is frustration. But I want people to know there is a lot of help coming.
"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. They did anticipate a serious storm. But these levees got breached. And as a result, much of New Orleans is flooded. And now we are having to deal with it and will."

The comment received widespread, legitimate derision. It bespoke of the President's generally disengaged posture and attitude. The comment was part of the continuing narrative that he is an unabashed "save-ass" -- nothing, nothing is ever his fault. The self-described CEO President did what the worst American CEOs have done, and get away with: pass the buck, lying through their privileged teeth in the process while retaining their golden parachutes and outrageous bonuses. Bush learned well as exemplified by his ├╝berpatron "Kenny-Boy" Lay of the Enron debacle.

But absolutely no one bought Bush's most recent lie. It was so blatant, so over-the-top, even by the subterranean standards of national politics, the lie was unforgivable. People were dead because of the failure of the levees which had been foreseen for years. News that the Army Corps of Engineers concluded that even if Bush budget cuts hadn't been made and the levees had been strengthened, they still would not have provided a guarantee of protection from storm surge and intense winds, yielded lousy political cover, as the pictures of the disaster were a mainstay for over a week. The lie and the floating bodies remained. And they constituted a big part of the stench of a presidency that is increasingly seen as a failure in the wake of his lies about Social Security and his more consequential lies about how well everything is going in Iraq.

So the lie had to be covered-up. And so when the President faced the press Monday morning he did his dance:

THE PRESIDENT:...And so when I come into a briefing, I don't tell them what to do. They tell me the facts on the ground, and my question to them is, do you have what you need.

Q Did they misinform you when you said that no one anticipated the breach of the levees?

THE PRESIDENT: No, what I was referring to is this. When that storm came by, a lot of people said we dodged a bullet. When that storm came through at first, people said, whew. There was a sense of relaxation, and that's what I was referring to. And I, myself, thought we had dodged a bullet. You know why? Because I was listening to people, probably over the airways, say, the bullet has been dodged. And that was what I was referring to.Of course, there were plans in case the levee had been breached. There was a sense of relaxation in the moment, a critical moment. And thank you for giving me a chance to clarify that."

New Orleans natives in a state of relaxation Monday, August 29th

But that can't be what he was "referring to." Again, his earlier lie: "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. They did anticipate a serious storm. "

So, "they" anticipated a storm. That, of course, meant that they thought a storm was coming. BEFORE the storm hit, experts thought Katrina would hit New Orleans. When he says that he meant, that nobody "anticipated the breach of the levees", he, of course, meant those same experts during the same moment in time -- BEFORE the storm hit. But now he wants us to believe he meant no one anticipated the breach AFTER landfall, after the levees had successfully dodged the magic category 4 bullet. And he wants us to believe that everyone was breathing a collective sigh of relief right after landfall, that the worst has passed. Citations Mr. President? Where are the tapes of meteorolgists broadcasting "all is well" over the "airways" in the hours right after landfall?

We all know better. For a lie to work, at the very least, it has to describe the possible. And the cover-up lie demands we believe the impossible.

We all became meteorological experts as we were glued to Katrina's progress. We learned that the moment which the most vulnerable levees would be under the greatest stress would indeed be AFTER landfall. It would be as Katrina moved slightly to the north and to the east of Lake Ponchetrain. It would be when Katrina's category 4 winds would be slamming water and wind into the lake levees in a 12 o'clock to 9 o'clock, counterclockwise, north-to-south motion. And that is indeed when they failed.

But now the President wants the American people to believe that his comment was referring to the brief moment in time AFTER the storm hit yet still BEFORE the levees failed. And while we can concede that there indeed was a moment that did indeed exist AFTER landfall and yet BEFORE the failure of the levees, there was no discernible moment in the timeline that had people breathing the sigh of relief he now attempts to insinuate to cover his own pathetic and culpable ass.

The President wants us to believe that he was quite attuned to the situation, as he kept abreast of the latest developments listening to the "airways." When was he listening? Who could have been telling him what?

Consider the President's schedule during the fateful day:

"President Bush hits the road to promote prescription-drug plan. His first stop is Arizona, where he eats birthday cake with Senator John McCain and talks to senior citizens in Phoenix at a golf resort. In late afternoon, there are early reports of broken levees. The National Weather Service reported that a levee broke on the Industrial Canal near the St. Bernard-Orleans parish line. President Bush travels to Southern California to talk to more seniors about changes to Medicare. He also plays golf. He spends the evening in San Diego to prepare for a Tuesday speech commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the end of World War Two."

The first levees actually failed BEFORE NOON on Monday though the news might not have been on the "airways" yet - but one might expect that the President might be better informed than those who only rely on mere "airways". Did the President interrupt his schedule, did he do anything to reflect that the long-predicted apocalypse had occurred? No. He played golf.

And then he lied three days later to Diane Sawyer about what was "expected" to provide cover and political absolution for his insularity during the crucial early hours, and for his now-unseemly budget cuts of the vital levees. Two weeks later, after the political shitstorm of the 21st century, he lied about the lie.

And he kept on lying....

Q Mr. President, where were you when you realized the severity of the storm?

THE PRESIDENT: I was -- I knew that a big storm was coming on Monday, so I spoke to the country on Monday* morning about it. I said, there's a big storm coming. I had pre-signed emergency declarations in anticipation of a big storm coming.

Q Mr. President --

THE PRESIDENT: -- which is, by the way, extraordinary. Most emergencies the President signs after the storm has hit. It's a rare occasion for the President to anticipate the severity of a storm and sign the documentation prior to the storm hitting. So, in other words, we anticipated a serious storm coming. But as the man's question said, basically implied, wasn't there a moment where everybody said, well, gosh, we dodged the bullet, and yet the bullet hadn't been dodged."

So, we get the "dodge the bullet" lie repeated as if that would enhance that insane statement's credibility. But most outrageous insult to our collective intelligence and patience is delivered as the President chides us about not being appreciative enough of his stellar management.

We, the mere peons of the American electorate, are to be in awe of the man's prescience, a character trait of which he is so clearly bereft: "It's a rare occasion for the President to anticipate the severity of a storm and sign the documentation prior to the storm hitting."

What's rare is a President to have the gall to demand we kiss his ass after such a colossal fuck-up.

The contempt this President has for his fellow Americans is gross, historic, and irredeemable.

Do-It-Yourself Rescue Kits

In keeping with the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) mania that has swept the country the past years, Fafblog has put together three truly outstanding DIY projects for self-rescue, including the helicopter blueprints above, a make-your-own-national-guardsman, and a make-your-own-levee kit. Go see them for yourself and get on down to your local Hobby Shack before the next natural disaster hits your town.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Why They Couldn't Get Out -- The Edmund Pettus Bridge Part II

Forty years ago, civil rights protestors in a peaceful march from Selma to Montgomery, were attacked a mere six blocks into their march at the now historical, Edmund Pettus Bridge. They were attacked with billy clubs and tear gas by 600 local law enforcement officers because they wanted the right to vote. The televised pictures of the incident scandalized the entire nation and pushed LBJ into getting the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed. Legislation which allowed the federal goverment to ensure that the voting rights of African Americans in the south, trampled upon since 1876 (the end of Reconstruction), would finally be respected and guaranteed. As a sidenote, the Bush Administration maintains that it is an open question as to whether the Voting Rights Act should be renewed, in much the same way Ronald Reagan did before the Congressional Democrats won renewal in the early 1980s.

Last week, there was another bridge for mostly black people to cross in the South. And the immediate stakes were higher -- the issue wasn't voting but survival. I had asked my sister who follows the news closely, "Why didn't they just walk out, why didn't they just leave the Superdome on foot rather than waiting for buses?" We've heard that the National Guard was holding people in. And now I read this sickening account where the police chief of Gretna, Louisiana blocked hurricane victims from entering his city over the bridge from the demolished New Orleans:

"As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander's assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move. We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City. "

"In an interview with UPI, Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson confirmed that his department shut down the bridge to pedestrians: "If we had opened the bridge, our city would have looked like New Orleans does now: looted, burned and pillaged." "

This is George Bush's and his fellow compassionate conservative's "Christian Nation."

On the last day, Jesus will say to those on His right hand, "Come, enter the Kingdom. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was sick and you visited me." Then Jesus will turn to those on His left hand and say, "Depart from me because I was hungry and you did not feed me, I was thirsty and you did not give me to drink, I was sick and you did not visit me." These will ask Him, "When did we see You hungry, or thirsty or sick and did not come to Your help?" And Jesus will answer them, "Whatever you neglected to do unto one of these least of these, you neglected to do unto Me!"

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Blame Game

The Bushies and their kin are bleating this week that we should all avoid the "blame game" when it comes to assigning who screwed up the most when it came to disaster relief.

The Bushies only want accountability and assignment of culpability when it comes to the peons. Teachers must be held accountable, enlisted soldiers shall be court-martialed.

But if you screw up royally, you're a Bush loyalist, and you're closer to the top of the food chain than the bottom -- then you get rewarded, promoted, and festooned with medals. Everyone else gets the firing squad.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Thank God for Billmon and the BBC

The rightwing blogosphere is falling all over itself today with three essential explanations as to what went wrong last week.

(1) Blacks and women can't ask for help properly. At least the ones who haven't hung around tough white guys and learned how.

(2) Tough white guys kick ass. They would have had that shit in the Superdome and Convention Center straight. Amuse yourself by reading Chris Whittle's white spittle on tribes. Especially amusing is how sharp and tough he thinks Rumsfeld is. Is there a self-help group somewhere for insecure white males? Or could we have a fund for blowjobs or reacharounds or something? Read the comments -- these guys gotta shoot something or their day is wasted and/or the enemy encroaches further.

(3) FEMA is incredibly competent. But the black guys and women didn't ask FEMA the right way at the right time.

And thank God for Billmon and the BBC. Birds-eye and historical coverage which you can't find anywhere else.

To support George W. Bush is to support a guy who thinks:
(1) "The jury is out" on the matter of evolution.
(2) An embryo is a person
(3) The Voting Rights Act doesn't need to be renewed (but, of course, he's not racist)
(4) Global Warming needs more study
(5) The creation of a twin-state and ally of Iran in the form of Shiite Iraq was the reason to go to war in 2003.
(6) No Child Left Behind can work without the money he promised the program.
(7) It's OK to torture people.
(8) Playing golf and the guitar the day after a category 4 hurricane hits New Orleans is the best use of his time, demonstrating stellar leadership and concern for potential and actual victims.
(9) That the American people, and especially the people of New Orleans will buy the lie: "I don’t think anyone anticipated breach of the levees."

Why the Bushies Hate PBS

"Yer doin' a GREAT job Brownie."

Boy, I can see why the Bushies hate PBS, and especially that communist Bill Moyers with his ultra-communist PBS NOW.

From the September 2, 2002 broadcast: (more here)

DANIEL ZWERDLING: The American Red Cross lists the worst natural disasters that might strike America. They worry about earthquakes in California, and tropical storms in Florida. But they say the biggest catastrophe could be a hurricane hitting New Orleans.
WALTER MAESTRI: It's going to look like a massive shipwreck. There's going to be-- there's going to be, you know-- everything that that the water has carried in is going to be there. Alligators, moccasins, you know every kind of rodent that you could think of.
All of your sewage treatment plants are under water. And of course the material is flowing free in the community. Disease becomes a distinct possibility now. The petrochemicals that are produced all up and down the Mississippi River --much of that has floated into this bowl. I mean this has become, you know, the biggest toxic waste dump in the world now. Is the city of New Orleans because of what has happened.
DANIEL ZWERDLING: Do you think that the President of the United States and Congress understand that people like you and the scientists studying this think the city of New Orleans could very possibly disappear?
WALTER MAESTRI: I think they know that, I think that they've been told that. I don't know that anybody, though, psychologically, you know has come to grips with that as-- as a-- a potential real situation. Just like none of us could possibly come to grips with the loss of the World Trade Center. And it's still hard for me to envision that it's gone. You know and it's impossible for someone like me to think that the French Quarter of New Orleans could be gone.

Bush: "I don’t think anyone anticipated breach of the levees …Now we’re having to deal with it, and will." has a nice rundown here.

Friday, September 02, 2005

The Baghdadization of New Orleans Part V

Well, I guess Rove broke the meeting with his attorneys long enough to tell His Majesty that he was appearing too disconnected from the plight of the serfs. I watched some of this pitiful performance this morning. Lots of nodding. The governors all tried to see which one could get his tongue the deepest up W's ass, while W nodded vigorously.

He didn't ask a single question. Not a goddamn one.

Jack Kennedy would have asked one tough, penetrating, pertinent question after another. So would Harry Truman, so would Ike and Nixon. LBJ would have called a special session of Congress BEFORE the storm hit -- it would have been a cold day in hell before he passed up a chance to save the day on camera.

But if you live in a bubble, if you have absolutely no imagination, if you have a freakish tendency to giggle and snicker every time the issue of death comes up, then this is what we get.

People who are starving, dehydrating, being shot at and getting a good case of typhoid could give two shits whether pseudo-macho man is "proud of the Coast Guard." Is THAT the issue, whether the efforts of the Coast Guard are in question, whether the Coast Guard is getting enough strokes?

James Buchanan, Warren G. Harding, U. S. Grant -- get out of the way -- there is no longer any doubt: WORST PRESIDENT EVER.

The Baghdadization of New Orleans Part IV

Tim Russert says:

"But the fact is that, when there was now evacuation and no pre-positioning of supplies within the city, that led to the current situation.President George W. Bush said the other day that no one expected the levees to break.Well, with all respect, study after study, including FEMA's own tabletop exercises last year, all included the breaking or the giving of the levees. Everyone who had studied the issue knew that with a Category 3, 4 or 5 storm, that was a very strong likelihood."

You got it, Tim. It's just like the State Department telling the Pentagon and W that all hell was gonna break loose in Baghdad after Sadaam was toppled. But you don't have to think about the future, you don't have to pre-position, if it isn't you, your kin, your class, your color, your religion at risk --- fuck all those people.

I wonder if the reaction would have been different if Jenna and Barbara were stranded in a flooding attic or in the Convention Center being raped. Of course, if we see the lack of love extended to his niece by his brother Jeb, he might say fuck them as well.

The Baghdadization of New Orleans Part III

From the NYTimes:

"Col. Terry Ebbert, director of homeland security for New Orleans, concurred and he was particularly pungent in his criticism. Asserting that the whole recovery operation had been "carried on the backs of the little guys for four goddamn days," he said "the rest of the goddamn nation can't get us any resources for security."

That's an eeire echo. He continues:

"We are like little birds with our mouths open and you don't have to be very smart to know where to drop the worm," Colonel Ebbert said. "It's criminal within the confines of the United States that within one hour of the hurricane they weren't force-feeding us. It's like FEMA has never been to a hurricane." FEMA is the Federal Emergency Management Agency."

Why does the President Hate Our Relief Workers? The Baghdadization of New Orleans Part II

I can't believe it. President Bush doesn't support the relief efforts nor our relief workers!!

"President Bush, facing blistering criticism for his administration's response to Hurricane Katrina, said Friday "the results are not acceptable"

I'm sure he'll start criticizing the war and our troops in Iraq any day now, given the similiar lack of success reported by the Iraqi people.


The Baghdadization of New Orleans Part I

One statistic I want to see is this: yes, "only" about 33% of the southeastern Nat. Guard is in the other shithole, but, (1) how much of their EQUIPMENT did they leave behind -- are there any big trucks, boats, etc? (2) How many of the men they left behind have field capabilities -- how many of the men who are stateside have the physical capacity to genuinely assist -- how many can only drive a desk (and that job is important too -- logistics). As I was watching CNN late last night with my Dad, the newsflash was that several of the buses which had just shown up from the Superdome to the new Astrodome WERE BEING DIVERTED TO BUMFUCK -- and more buses were on the way.

In a related note, Rummy was quoted as saying: "OK, this whole looting thing has been blown totally out of proportion. You see a black guy carrying bread in waist-deep water. And then they show it again, and again, and again. We know it's the same guy with the same bread -- how many black guys do they have in New Orleans, and how many loaves of bread? We need to get serious. The important thing is that these people will now live in a democracy."

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

"Diagnose me properly and I'll sue your ass!"

I am overweight. I know that. I know that it can negatively impact my health. I am a grownup. When I visit professionals, be they car mechanics, lawyers, tarot card readers, or physicians, I expect the unvarnished truth as best as they can observe and relate it. That's what I pay them for.

Apparently, not all grownups desire candor from their health care professional. They prefer the truth to be skirted. Furthermore, if a candid comment should slip from said physician's mouth such as:

"I told a fat woman she was obese," Bennett says. "I tried to get her attention. I told her, 'You need to get on a program, join a group of like-minded people and peel off the weight that is going to kill you.' "

it is deemed worthy, in at least in this one case, of a lawsuit. Which is fine, because we have a right to be silly and I lean to supporting the right to file a "frivolous lawsuit" because it can generally be kicked in a nanosecond.

The woman in question had several options other than the lawsuit. She could have:
(a) Told her doctor that he was a dumbass, exercising her inner child without detriment to anyone since the doctor would have blown off the comment.
(b) Contested the diagnosis or simply have walked out, never to return again, exercising her inner adult which maintains the right to disagree without detriment to others.

But the lawsuit is NOT the insane part. The insane part is the idiotic state board which has disciplinary authority over Dr. Bennett, which is planning to, well, discipline him. So, now the patient is not only possibly endangering her own health, she's quite possibly on the road, again with the State Board's complicity, to endangering other people's health.

This is scary. We are muzzling the truth because the truth hurts, is emotionally painful to deal with.

"Physicians have to be professional with patients and remember everyone is an individual. You should not be inflammatory or degrading to anyone," said board member Kevin Costin.

I'm surprised that Mr. Costin didn't go on to list other potential transgressions:

"Hey, if that cancer's left untreated, you're probably not gonna see Christmas."
"If you persist in not eating any vitamin C, you're gonna get scurvy."
"Smoking three packs a day, and swilling half a quart a vodka might increase your baby's chances of suffering some sort of birth defect."

Apparently, the Hippocratic Oath's first line has now been changed, "In any event, do not offend."

We are a nation of spoiled children in so many respects.

Should Dr. Bennett ever have occasion to see Mr. Costin bleeding from the femoral artery, I hope he has the decency to not embarass him in front of morbid onlookers by applying a tourniquet. He should just walk on by, mentioning that the blood looks quite healthy and full of hemoglobin.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Another Cindy Sheehan Analogy

Chap has taken issue with my analogies (below), inspired by his post and Edmund Morris's recent column describing Cindy Sheehan as an "emotional predator." He prefers the comparisons offered by Carl Stephenson's 1938 short story, Leiningen versus the Ants.

Leiningen is the decidedly Anglo-Saxon master of a sizable Brazilian plantation who is warned that he, his Indian laborers, and his plantation are about to meet a certain and horrible doom at the hands of a twenty-square mile regiment of army ants. Leiningen refuses to yield his calm to panic and his plantation to the "elementals" and sets out to win the impending battle with the insects through his superior intellect and fortifications, including a moat and a ring of fire. Leiningen further relies on his calm deportment to lead his emotional "peons" to victory.

Leiningen and his workers fight the army ants valiantly and creatively. They hurl their efforts into keeping the moat current swift to prevent the equally wily ants from crossing in mini-rafts made from tamarind leaves. They use petrol sprinklers to soak and drown the ants in oil as well as using the oil to create a fire wall. But the ants keep on coming. In one last brave attempt, Leiningen dons knee-high boats, gators, and other protective clothing soaked in oil and an ant-repelling salve in order to make a dash for a dam valve, which, if turned by the heroic Leiningen, will flood the plantation, kill the entire company of ants, and save the remaining workers, as well as saving himself. As he makes his way to and from the valve release, the ants tear into his flesh, "etching acid into his eye", and other nastiness, but Leiningen succeeds in his rescue mission and just makes it back to the plantation house, bones exposed from the carnivorous ant attack. Bloodied, as it were, but unbowed by "acts of God" and the "elementals" offered by the jungle.

I guess we are to take from this fascinating analogy, that Cindy Sheehan is the lead army ant in this story, with other lieutenant ants (say Michael Moore) providing discipline in the ranks and George W. Bush is Leiningen at the plantation in Crawford, with the "Mainstream Media" playing the role of the alarmist Brazilian District commissioner. I find all this weird but entirely illuminating. Illuminating, because I believe that so many of W's supporters do in fact, view him as a protector of the plantation and Cindy Sheehan as an opportunistic carnivore who has legions of nasty co-conspirators, and the MSM as enabling said carnivores and/or providing unnecessarily alarmist and negative portrayals of the situation in Iraq. Some passages from the story are in order:

"The Brazilian official threw up lean and lanky arms and clawed the air with wildly distended fingers. "Leiningen!" he shouted. "You're insane! They're not creatures you can fight--they're an elemental--an 'act of God!' Ten miles long, two miles wide--ants, nothing but ants! And every single one of them a fiend from hell; before you can spit three times they'll eat a full-grown buffalo to the bones. I tell you if you don't clear out at once there'll he nothing left of you but a skeleton picked as clean as your own plantation."

"Leiningen grinned. "Act of God, my eye! Anyway, I'm not an old woman; I'rn not going to run for it just because an elemental's on the way. And don't think I'm the kind of fathead who tries to fend off lightning with his fists either. I use my intelligence, old man. With me, the brain isn't a second blindgut; I know what it's there for. When I began this model farm and plantation three years ago, I took into account all that could conceivably happen to it. And now I'm ready for anything and everything--including your ants."


" Moreover, during his three years as a planter, Leiningen had met and defeated drought, Hood, plague and all other "acts of God" which had come against him-unlike his fellow-settlers in the district, who had made little or no resistance. This unbroken success he attributed solely to the observance of his lifelong motto: The human brain needs only to become fully aware of its powers to conquer even the elements. Dullards reeled senselessly and aimlessly into the abyss; cranks, however brilliant, lost their heads when circumstances suddenly altered or accelerated and ran into stone walls, sluggards drifted with the current until they were caught in whirlpools and dragged under. But such disasters, Leiningen contended, merely strengthened his argument that intelligence, directed aright, invariably makes man the master of his fate.

Yes, Leiningen had always known how to grapple with life. Even here, in this Brazilian wilderness, his brain had triumphed over every difliculty and danger it had so far encountered. First he had vanquished primal forces by cunning and organization, then he had enlisted the resources of modern science to increase miraculously the yield of his plantation. And now he was sure he would prove more than a match for the "irresistible" ants."


"Leiningen mounted his horse, which at the feel of its master seemed to forget its uneasiness, and rode leisurely in the direction of the threatening offensive. The southern stretch of ditch--the upper side of the quadrilateral--was nearly three miles long; from its center one could survey the entire countryside. This was destined to be the scene of the outbreak of war between Leiningen's brain and twenty square miles of life-destroying ants."


"Hadn't this brain for once taken on more than it could manage? If the blighters decided to rush the ditch, fill it to the brim with their corpses, there'd still be more than enough to destroy every trace of that cranium of his. The planter's chin jutted; they hadn't got him yet, and he'd see to it they never would. While he could think at all, he'd flout both death and the devil."

Even as it was, it could hardly be described as rosy, though the planter seemed quite unaware that death in a gruesome form was drawing closer and closer. As the war between his brain and the "act of God'' reached its climax, the very shadow of annihilation began to pale to Leiningen, who now felt like a champion in a new Olympic game, a gigantic and thrilling contest, from which he was determined to emerge victor. Such, indeed, was his aura of confidence that the Indians forgot their stupefied fear of the peril only a yard or two away; under the planter's supervision, they began fervidly digging up to the edge of the bank and throwing clods of earth and spadefuls of sand into the midst of the hostile fleet."


"No, there was only one thing for it, he'd have to make the attempt himself; he might just as well be running as sitting still, anyway, when the ants finally got him. Besides, there was a bit of a chance. Perhaps the ants weren't so almighty, after all; perhaps he had allowed the mass suggestion of that evil black throng to hypnotize him, just as a snake fascinates and overpowers. The ants were building their bridges. Leiningen got up on a chair. "Hey, lads, listen to me!" he cried. Slowly and listlessly, from all sides of the trench, the men began to shuffle towards him, the apathy of death already stamped on their faces.

"Listen, lads!" he shouted. "You're frightened of those beggars, but you're a damn sight more frightened of me, and I'm proud of you. There's still a chance to save our lives--by flooding the plantation from the river. Now one of you might manage to get as far as the weir--but he'd never come back. Well, I'm not going to let you try it; if I did I'd be worse than one of those ants. No, I called the tune, and now I'm going to pay the piper."


"Leiningen lay on his bed, his body swathed from head to foot in bandages. With fomentations and salves, they had managed to stop the bleeding, and had dressed his many wounds. Now they thronged around him, one question in every face. Would he recover? "He won't die," said the old man who had bandaged him, "if he doesn't want to.''
The planter opened his eyes. "Everything in order?'' he asked.
"They're gone,'' said his nurse. "To hell." He held out to his master a gourd full of a powerful sleeping draught. Leiningen gulped it down.
"I told you I'd come back," he murmured, "even if I am a bit streamlined." He grinned and shut his eyes. He slept."

As far a W being the latter day Leiningen, I don't think it works. I don't think he's experienced a scintilla of self-doubt and he certainly has never played the role of a latter-day George Washington, who put not only his fortune, but put his life on the line for his country. I don't think you have to put either on the line to demonstrate your patriotism but you do have to put them on the line if you want the legitimate respect due Washington and the fictional Leiningen.

And Cindy Sheehan as an army ant who wants to metaphorical destroy the Bush fortune and tear into his flesh....? No sale. She was one of many grieving mothers of the fallen, who several months ago started to make her views on the war known in a loud way. She originally received very little attention -- the Nation magazine put her face on their March 28th issue, four months before there was an inkling of Camp Cindy. But then the zeitgeist changed. There were the 27 fallen servicemen in the first three days of this month. And the President wasn't offering any reason not to expect 27 casulties in the first three days of next August and the August after that. And he wasn't offering an explanation as to why the present and future sacrifice was needed. How did offering young men to Mars, the God of War protect their families and fellow citizens. Was Iraq truly flypaper for Al Qaida? How so? When will our soldiers come home -- you said this war would be short -- you declared "major combat operations" were completed over two years ago?

Those questions, the changed zeitgeist, an anti-war movement with no spokesman, an opposition party with no leader possessing a spine, and a press corps with no missing white woman nor sex scandal to cover, all congealed around the person of Cindy Sheehan -- the personification of the Reagan Democrat/Irish Catholic if ever there was one. The mother of an altar boy, Eagle Scout, a soldier who re-enlisted -- a mother whose son demonstrated the bravery of Leiningen.

Where did that bravery come from?
Did any of that bravery, that courage, come from his mother? The easy thing for Cindy Sheehan to have done, would be proclaiming unflagging support for the President and his policies. She wouldn't be the object of ridicule, she wouldn't be in Crawford, in a ditch, having to deal with the likes of David Duke on one hand and Michelle Malkin on the other. She wouldn't have her personal life splashed on Drudge and cable news. But she believes in the righteousness of her cause every bit as her son did the cause he died for and she shows the same tenacity he apparently demonstrated his whole life. And so she stayed in the ditch until her mother's stroke and shows every sign of returning to the ditch or the White House. The tree lies not far from the apple.

Cindy Sheehan seeks not to tear the flesh from the President, nor destroy his fortune. She seeks answers, explanations, and promises of an exit strategy. That is the request of 60% of the electorate, some of whom, tangentially, may wish to tear the flesh from W's bones and see his financial and political fortunes come to ruin. But the dominant point of overlap, the critical mass, is asking, "When can the soldiers come home?"

And the supposed Leiningen, President Bush's response: "I need to get on with my life", and the cryptic, "When Iraqis stand up, America will stand down." Now, Leiningen did sleep soundly in between rounds with the ants, but he was back at the ants the next morning. He rallied his workers with his calm demeanor, forceful exhortations, and promises of higher wages (rather than privatizing their pensions). But most importantly, he rallied them with his plan, his vision.

He had a plan for dealing with the ants. And the plan was transparent, detailed, and logical. And there was a fallback plan. And, Leiningen's ingenuity was so obvious, so present, that if those plans were circumnavigated by the ants, the workers knew that he would come up with a third one (which he did). Leiningen never said things were going well when they weren't. He didn't announce to his workers on the evening after the first round, "Mission Accomplished."

This was the first I had read the Leiningen story. It was adapted into a radio play and in 1954 it was made into the Charlton Heston movie The Naked Jungle which I recall watching (quite terrified of the ants) on a Sunday afternoon as a child. The plot summary:

"Joanna Selby travels deep inside the South American jungle to meet for the first time Carl Leiningen, a man she has married by mail order and the owner of a vast plantation that covers 200,000 acres. But once there she is shocked at the savagery of life among the Indians that work on the plantation. And then Leiningen rejects her when he finds that she has been married before, not wanting to take "another man's pickings." But they are forced together in the face of an army of marabunta ants that enters the estate, devouring everything in their path."

I did a little more Googling and found this surprise -- apparently the former chairman of the Pentagon's
Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, Richard Perle, is working on a remake of The Naked Jungle, tentatively titled The Naked Jungle II: Leiningen versus Gold Star Mothers & Fat Leftists. The buzz on the internets is that Perle has approached filmmaker Mel Gibson to both produce and direct this movie. Details are still sketchy but one cult site provided me with this plot summary as well as the poster Perle used in the pitch meeting with Gibson:

"Ahmed Chalabi travels deep inside the Washington bureaucracy to meet for the first time, George W. Leiningen, a man he would like to marry but whom the local customs forbid to do so. He convinces Leiningen to invade his homeland to displace the ruling thug. But he is disappointed that he doesn't immediately get to take the thug's place as Leiningen had originally assured him. Heart-broken, he cultivates al-Sadr, the Shia clergyman whose militia the US Army was trying to destroy in an ironic plot twist. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Leiningen is confronted by scores of protesting ants who are in legion with a crazed driver ant named Cindy who has a fat ant friend named Michael. All these ants are unable to do any real harm to Leiningen's person, but he is determined to demonstrate his courage by going to Idaho."

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Most Emailed

Checking out today's (August 18th) list of "most emailed" articles from the New York Times, one finds that the top three articles all have to do with the war and all are critical of it from different vantage points. Recommend them all.

1. Maureen Dowd: Biking Toward Nowhere
2.Bob Herbert: Blood Runs Red, Not Blue
3.Op-Ed Contributor: Left Behind
4. Many Going to College Are Not Ready, Report Says
5. Being a Patient: In the Hospital, a Degrading Shift From Person to Patient

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Cindy Sheehan: "Emotional Predator"

Cindy Sheehan's Neural Neutralizer

{Alas, the trip is done. Still have many more pics and more travelogue -- will catch that up eventually, but the moment is begging to be philosophized. In one sense, nothing's changed - back to dueling with Mr. Chap over at Chapomatic. We've got one pissing contest going over whether the US is weaker and Iran stronger in the Middle East (my position, duh) and another one going on over Cindy Sheehan (huge surprise). This is slightly adapted from a comment I made earlier today at Chap's. You may want to read Reagan biographer Edmund Morris's column first, but do it on an empty stomach.)

Morris writes: “A president has to protect himself from emotional predators, or he’d be sucked dry within a week of taking office.”

Thanks to Edmund Morris’s counseling, it’s all clear now. Cindy Sheehan was the former assistant to Dr. Adams on Tantalus Five, home to the Tantalus Penal Colony, which viciously used the neural neutralizer on its inmates, destroying their minds in the process. “Dammit, Jim, if we let the President talk to her, he’ll having nothing left for his bike ride with Lance Armstrong; we don't dare leave him alone with her!”

Cindy Sheehan warming up her neural neutralizer technique on Capt. James T. Kirk before moving on to President Bush.

Or maybe she’s one of those space vampires depicted in LifeForce, who sought victims to drain of, well, their “lifeforce.”

Or maybe she’s a Skeksis from Dark Crystal who wants to drain the essence from the G. (Gelfling) W. Bush.

Skeksis Cindy Sheehan

G. (Gelfling) W. Bush

If Morris has W pegged as someone who is truly at high risk from consorting with the likes of Cindy Sheehan, then the wimp factor rears its ugly head.

While we’re on the sucking metaphor, I’m reminded of Lincoln’s wry observation when inundated by thousands of office seekers: “There’s too many pigs for the teats.” This from a President who faced a far more dire situation than the current occupant, who, nevertheless, found time to speak to the applicants as well as dealing with a wife and cabinet who were far more emotionally predatory than W’s complement.

It’s noteworthy that Morris was easily able to catalog the connection with emotion and the average American of past Presidents but did not cite a single example of the current President doing the same. I do remember one, W’s speech at the National Cathedral in the wake of 9/11. For me, it was his finest moment as President. I don’t think Bush is unable to emote or connect -- it’s that he chooses not to. It’s especially the case that he chooses not to connect with the emotion or the person who challenges his view of the world. He keeps all such persons at a distance, and when they intrude on either his physical or psychological space, they are physically and metaphysically dismissed. Classic dry drunk behavior -- the list includes:

  • Pomposity

  • Exaggerated self-importance

  • A rigidly judgmental outlook

  • Impatience

  • Childish behavior

  • Irresponsible behavior

  • Irrational rationalization

  • Projection

  • Overreaction

Bush's psychological space is so fragile, his grip on reality so tenuous, that potential challenges cannot be countenanced.

It’s no secret that W has earned the nickname Bubble Boy. He has prided himself on his isolation from American opinion – he doesn’t read newspapers. As his campaign rallies and Social Security "Town Hall Meetings" attest, he can only attend events where the guests are carefully vetted, and prefers to appear in front of crowds of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines whose fealty (at least on camera) is automatic. He hasn’t attended one single military funeral. And the one time he did meet with Cindy Sheehan, he said, upon entering the room with his usual aplomb and decorum, “So who are we honoring here?”

The President hasn’t only protected himself from “emotional predators”, he’s protected himself from ANYTHING that challenges in the remotest sense, his view of reality, a view which is a wholesale construct of an inner dialogue between his Id and his Ego, whom he calls “God.”


Sunday, July 17, 2005

Hiatus & Adventure

There will be little or no posting here at Mtn. Philosopher until Aug 13th. Genna and I are taking a 25 day road trip out west and to DC. You can follow our adventures here - We hope to post every other day or so.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Better Than Viagra

Full Text at ThinkProgress

QUESTION: Scott, can I ask you this: Did Karl Rove commit a crime?

MCCLELLAN: Again, David, this is a question relating to a ongoing investigation, and you have my response related to the investigation. And I don't think you should read anything into it other than: We're going to continue not to comment on it while it's ongoing.

QUESTION: Do you stand by your statement from the fall of 2003, when you were asked specifically about Karl and Elliot Abrams and Scooter Libby, and you said, "I've gone to each of those gentlemen, and they have told me they are not involved in this"?

QUESTION: Do you stand by that statement?

MCCLELLAN: And if you will recall, I said that, as part of helping the investigators move forward on the investigation, we're not going to get into commenting on it. That was something I stated back near that time as well.

QUESTION: Scott, this is ridiculous. The notion that you're going to stand before us, after having commented with that level of detail, and tell people watching this that somehow you've decided not to talk. You've got a public record out there. Do you stand by your remarks from that podium or not?

MCCLELLAN: I'm well aware, like you, of what was previously said. And I will be glad to talk about it at the appropriate time. The appropriate time is when the investigation...

QUESTION: (inaudible) when it's appropriate and when it's inappropriate?
MCCLELLAN: If you'll let me finish.

QUESTION: No, you're not finishing. You're not saying anything.
You stood at that podium and said that Karl Rove was not involved. And now we find out that he spoke about Joseph Wilson's wife. So don't you owe the American public a fuller explanation. Was he involved or was he not? Because contrary to what you told the American people, he did indeed talk about his wife, didn't he?

MCCLELLAN: There will be a time to talk about this, but now is not the time to talk about it.

QUESTION: Do you think people will accept that, what you're saying today?

MCCLELLAN: Again, I've responded to the question.

QUESTION: You're in a bad spot here, Scott...
... because after the investigation began -- after the criminal investigation was under way -- you said, October 10th, 2003, "I spoke with those individuals, Rove, Abrams and Libby. As I pointed out, those individuals assured me they were not involved in this," from that podium. That's after the criminal investigation began.
Now that Rove has essentially been caught red-handed peddling this information, all of a sudden you have respect for the sanctity of the criminal investigation.

MCCLELLAN: No, that's not a correct characterization. And I think you are well aware of that.
We know each other very well. And it was after that period that the investigators had requested that we not get into commenting on an ongoing criminal investigation.
And we want to be helpful so that they can get to the bottom of this. Because no one wants to get to the bottom of it more than the president of the United States.
I am well aware of what was said previously. I remember well what was said previously. And at some point I look forward to talking about it. But until the investigation is complete, I'm just not going to do that.

QUESTION: So you're now saying that after you cleared Rove and the others from that podium, then the prosecutors asked you not to speak anymore and since then you haven't.

MCCLELLAN: Again, you're continuing to ask questions relating to an ongoing criminal investigation and I'm just not going to respond to them. QUESTION: When did they ask you to stop commenting on it, Scott? Can you pin down a date?

MCCLELLAN: Back in that time period.

QUESTION: Well, then the president commented on it nine months later. So was he not following the White House plan?

MCCLELLAN: I appreciate your questions. You can keep asking them, but you have my response.

QUESTION: Well, we are going to keep asking them.

When did the president learn that Karl Rove had had a conversation with a news reporter about the involvement of Joseph Wilson's wife in the decision to send him to Africa?

MCCLELLAN: I've responded to the questions.

QUESTION: When did the president learn that Karl Rove had been...

MCCLELLAN: I've responded to your questions.

QUESTION: After the investigation is completed, will you then be consistent with your word and the president's word that anybody who was involved will be let go?

MCCLELLAN: Again, after the investigation is complete, I will be glad to talk about it at that point.

QUESTION: Can you walk us through why, given the fact that Rove's lawyer has spoken publicly about this, it is inconsistent with the investigation, that it compromises the investigation to talk about the involvement of Karl Rove, the deputy chief of staff, here?

MCCLELLAN: Well, those overseeing the investigation expressed a preference to us that we not get into commenting on the investigation while it's ongoing. And that was what they requested of the White House. And so I think in order to be helpful to that investigation, we are following their direction.

QUESTION: Scott, there's a difference between commenting on an investigation and taking an action...

MCCLELLAN: (inaudible)

Thursday, July 07, 2005

1,000 Maimed & Dead People "Working to Our Advantage"

Plagiarized from Media Matters
The following exchange between Fox News host Brian Kilmeade and Fox News business contributor and substitute host Stuart Varney occurred during breaking news coverage of the attacks on London subways and buses on the July 7 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

KILMEADE: And he [British Prime Minister Tony Blair] made the statement, clearly shaken, but clearly determined. This is his second address in the last hour. First to the people of London, and now at the G8 summit, where their topic Number 1 --believe it or not-- was global warming, the second was African aid. And that was the first time since 9-11 when they should know, and they do know now, that terrorism should be Number 1. But it's important for them all to be together. I think that works to our advantage, in the Western world's advantage, for people to experience something like this together, just 500 miles from where the attacks have happened.
VARNEY: It puts the Number 1 issue right back on the front burner right at the point where all these world leaders are meeting. It takes global warming off the front burner. It takes African aid off the front burner. It sticks terrorism and the fight on the war on terror, right up front all over again.
What sick, confused people.

A Democratic Republic or a Big Fat Lie

Fellow philosopher. Dennis, who blogs at Spanky's Speculations, writes a nice response to the position in the comments section, which held that the U.S. is a "supposed to be a representive republic, not a democracy." Dennis says:

"A democracy is a form of government in which the public wields the biggest share of political authority, and exercises it either directly or through representatives. We are a republic (a form of government in which representatives lead on behalf of the people) and we are also a democracy. Whenever someone says we are a republic but not a democracy, I cringe, because it means they've missed something crucial to the American way of life. We are, and have always been, a democratic republic, just as the founding fathers intended.

The last sentence in the Gettysburg Address is this: "It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

It is from the "democratic" part of the equation that we have that concept--a government of, by and for the people. A republic that isn't democratic need only be a government for the people. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics demonstrated that the concept of individual freedom isn't crucial to a republican form of government, either. Yes, Virginia, we are a republic, but that can never, ever be all that we are. We're a democratic republic, or we're a big, fat lie."

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

"Not Like the Brazen Giant of Greek Fame..."

From the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty

The ever-eloquent Billmon captures my feelings with this powerful essay. Definitely worth reading the whole thing. Here's your snip:

I'm not a big fan of patriotism, at least not as most Americans understand the word. Patriotism is just another word for nationalism, and nationalism in my book is the modern equivalent of the black plague -- an incubator of xenophobia at its least, a killer of millions at its absolute worst. And we've seen enough of the absolute worst over the past century to understand where nationalism could ultimately lead: the extinction of the entire human race.

Still, there are emotional attachments to home -- to the familiar, the dear, the remembered -- that go deeper than the intellect and pull harder than reason. Tribal loyalty is a powerful thing. On the morning of 9/11, I was as much a patriot as any man or woman alive, and would have greedily torn Bin Ladin to pieces with my own hands to avenge "our" dead.

But hatred and revenge are patriotism's curse, not its justification. When Lincoln spoke of "mystic cords of memory" and urged his countrymen to put their common heritage ahead of their political divisions, he wasn't appealing to their tribal loyalties, but their loyalty to an ideal: democratic government under the law. If American patriotism has any claim to be an exception to the general run of blind national chauvinism, it has to be found in that idea. If America is to be an exceptional nation, one worth glorifying above all others, it has to be because of the quality of her justice and the strength of her democracy -- not because of the language she speaks, or the God she worships or the color of her skin. And not because of her material wealth or military power or imperial ambitions. Least of all those.

Pat Buchanan and I agree on very few things, but he wrote something many years ago that I can endorse wholeheartedly: "America was a great country before she was a rich country." In many ways a greater country, I would probably add -- not because she was poor (if you've seen real poverty, Third World poverty, you know there's nothing to admire about it) but because she stood a little less apart from the rest of humanity, and had to rely a little more heavily on the promises inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, rather than power of her aircraft carriers, to impress the world.

What I saw in Jimmy John's hot dog stand was the ghost of an America I used to know -- a land of little guys looking for a place to build something. Of strong unions and good-paying jobs that didn't require a PhD. Of black and white televisions where you could watch the cheesiest ads imaginable. Of corner drug stores and transistor radios and long evenings spent sitting on the front porch, talking to the neighbors.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Another sign that communism is dead in China...

from Slate
"State media has also highlighted cases of obsessed Internet gamers, some of whom have flunked out of school, committed suicide or murder. Nonetheless, Internet cafes continue to thrive, with outlets found in even the smallest and poorest of villages. Most are usually packed late into the night.

Dr. Kimberly Young, a Bradford, Pa., clinical psychologist whose 1998 book on Internet addiction has been translated into Chinese, says she's not surprised the Chinese would face problems with Internet overuse.

"They are catching up with a lot of our technology, and certainly at that juncture, are now able to run into some of the same difficulties," Young said."

Mistakes re-visited, a Hawk's Perspective

Tony Cordesman, Reality-Based Hawk
Center for Strategic and International Studies scholar and analyst, Tony Cordesman, recently completed a paper, Iraq's Evolving Insurgency, which is essentially a first few chapters/rough draft for a book to be published this fall. The mistakes he chronicles are quite similar to the ones that those of us who opposed the war cite.
His verdict first, followed by the evidence:

"It is perfectly true that foresight is far harder than "20-20 hindsight." Many, if not most, of these problems were, however, brought to the attention of the President, National Security Council, State Department, Department of Defense, and intelligence community in the summer and fall of 2002, and in Interagency forums. No one accurately prophesized all of the future, but many inside and outside government warned what it might be. The problem was not that the system did not work in providing many key elements of an accurate assessment, it was that the most senior political and military decision makers ignored what they felt was negative advice out of a combination of sincere belief, ideological conviction, and political and bureaucratic convenience."

{ed note: This is what happens when you run a war like you ran Arbusto and Harken and there's no Harvard endowment fund to bail you out. Or, more to the point, it's running the war in the same cynical, insular, unilateral, "fuck-you", Mayberry-Machivellian, fashion in which the Bushies do EVERYTHING!}

• A failure to accurately assess the nature of Iraqi nationalism, the true level of culture differences, and the scale of Iraq problems. This failure of strategic assessment included the failure to see the scale of Iraq’s ethnic and sectarian differences, its economic weaknesses and problems, the difficulty of modernizing an infrastructure sized more to 16-17 million than the current population of 25-26 million, unrealistic estimates of "oil wealth," the probable hardcore support for the former regime in Sunni areas, secular versus theocratic tensions, the impact of tribalism, the impact of demographics in a society so young and with so many employment problems, and a host of other real-world problems that became US and Coalition problems the moment Coalition forces crossed the border.

• The failure to plan and execute effective broader information operations before, during and after the invasion to win the "hearts and minds of Iraqis," persuade them that the Coalition came a liberators that would leave rather than occupiers who would stay and exploit Iraq, and that the Coalition would provide aid and support to an truly independent government and state. A secondary failure to anticipate and defuse the flood of conspiracy theories certain to follow Coalition military action.

• The failure to plan and execute efforts to maintain the process of governance at the local, provincial, and central level; to anticipate the risk the structure of government would collapse and the risk of looting, and to create a plan for restructuring the
military, police, and security forces -- all of which needed to be proclaimed and publicized before, during, and immediately after the initial invasion to win the support of Iraqi officials and officers who were not linked to active support of Saddam Hussein and past abuses, and to preserving the core of governance that could lead to the rapid creation of both a legitimate government and security.

• Broad failures by what a leading officer involved in planning operations in Iraq by "quiescent US military and Intelligence community leaders who observed the distortion/cherry picking of data that lead to erroneous conclusions and poor planning," but failed to press their case or force the issue.

• Over-reliance on exile groups with limited credibility and influence in Iraq.

• Miscalculations about UN support, NATO & coalitions, and transit through Turkey.

• Failing to the provided the personnel and skills necessary to secure Iraqi rear areas and urban areas as the Coalition advanced, and to prevent the massive looting of
government offices and facilities, military bases, and arms depots as the during and after the fighting: A process that effectively destroyed the existing structure of governance and security without making any initial effort to replace it.

• The creation of a small cadre of civilians and military in the Office of Reconstruction and Assistance, many initially recruited for only three month tours, that was charged with a largely perfunctory nation building task, given negligible human and financial resources, not allowed meaningful liaison with regional powers, and not integrated with the military command.

• Replacing ORHA after the fall of Saddam Hussein with the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), and then suddenly improvising a vast nation building and stability effort, recruiting and funding such an operation with little time for planning, and then attempting to carry out the resulting mission along heavily ideological lines that attempt to impose American methods and values on Iraq.

• Placing the CPA and US commands in separate areas, creating large, secure zones that isolated the US effort from Iraqis, and carrying out only limited coordination with other Coalition allies.

• Staffing the CPA largely with people recruited for short tours, and often chosen on the basis of political and ideological vetting, rather than experience and competence.

• A failure not only to anticipate the threat of insurgency and outside extremist infiltration, in spite of significant intelligence warning, but to deploy elements of US forces capable of dealing with counterinsurgency, civil-military operations, and nation building as US forces advanced and in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the regime. Creating regional commands based on administrative convenience, rather than need, and leaving most of the initial tasks of stability operations and nation building up to improvisation by individual local commanders who had minimal or no expert civilian support.

• This failure was compounded by a lack of language and area skills and training on the part of most US military forces, and intelligence capabilities designed to provide the human intelligence (HUMINT), technical collection, analytic capabilities, and "fusion" centers necessary for stability, counterterrorist and counterinsurgency operations.

• Planning for premature US military withdrawals from Iraq before the situation was clear or secure, with major reductions initially planned to begin some three months after the fall of Saddam’s regime, rather than planning, training, and equipping for a sustained period of stability operations.

• Failure to anticipate and prepare for Iraqi expectations after the collapse of Saddam’s regime, and for the fact that many Iraqis would oppose the invasion and see any sustained US and coalition presence as a hostile occupation.

• A failure to react to the wartime collapse of Iraqi military, security, and police forces and focus immediately on creating effective Iraqi forces – a failure that placed a major and avoidable burden on US and other coalition forces and compounded the Iraqi feeling that Iraqi had been occupied by hostile forces.

• A failure to honestly assess the nature and size of the Iraqi insurgency as it grew and became steadily more dangerous.

• The failure to provide, or even have available, anything like the civilian elements in the US government, necessary for nation building and stability operations. These problems were particular serious in the State Department and other civilian agencies, and much of the civilian capability the US did have was not recruited or willing to take risks in the field.

• Then creating an occupation authority that planned for several years of occupation, as if a US-led coalition could improves it own values and judgments about the Iraqi people, politics, economy, and social structure for a period of some three years – rather than expedite the transfer of sovereignty back to Iraq as quickly as possible. The record is mixed, but the CPA only seems to have decided to expedite the transfer of sovereignty in October 2003, after the insurgency had already become serious, and its choice of June 2004 for doing so was largely arbitrary. Even then, it failed to make its plans sufficiently convincing to much of the Iraqi people.

I see the Future...

Mahablog calls it right on the impending SC judicial nomination when she writes:

"Liberals are hoping for a not-activist judge who will rule based on law and the facts of the case. The Right is howling for a way-activist judge who will impose a hard right interpretation to everthing, damn the case and damn the Constitution. And this is happening while the Right is snarling that it's the Left who wants to use the Courts to impose its will."

But I disagree with her prediction here:

"If he nominates anyone who displeases the Right, he's likely to lose much of their support, and right now that's pretty much all he has. If he does nominate a troglodyte the Senate confirmation fight will be fierce and nasty and protracted, and he can't count on the GOP Senators to march in lockstep. He's got to find someone moderate enough to keep the Senate GOP together, but enough of a whackjob to please the Right."

I think W wants a "fierce, nasty, and protracted fight." In fact, I think it might well be the only thing that can save his foundering presidency.

If he goes the "troglodyte" route (as I suggested here), here's all the benefits he gets:
*Immediate tightening of his base. The Dobsians will pull out all stops. They will raise money like crazy, run ads, and turn the culture war artillery rate up to "11".

*The base, which is starting to have a doubt or two at the margins, about the war, shifts its focus to a place where the light is much better on W.

*The media's attention also shifts, away from the war, and to the culture wars. W can't win the culture war either but shifting attention away from the far more consequential conflict is a HUGE win.

*If said troglodyte is filibustered/rejected, then the GOP has another fundraising issue for 2006, as well as an issue that distracts from the war. Additionally, W can then "lower his price" and nominate the moderate, playing to a "healing the nation" narrative that the MSM will be all too happy to indulge, and for which the far right will forgive, since he tried mightily to nominate a Child of Jesus first, only to be temporarily thwarted by the Pharisees, uh, liberal Democrats.

*And, if W were to nominate a moderate from the outset, he can kiss off his base, and the rest of his presidency.
Here comes Jabba!

Just Like Paris Hilton....

...we're expensive and stupid.

From Anne:

Let me get this straight. Capitalists want cheap labor. In order to get cheap labor, you need a population pool who is too stupid to fight for better pay. Except a good capitalist doesn't to spend the extra money it takes to train illiterates.

Then you have politicians who want a stupid population so they will keep voting against their own interests and remain life long indentured servants. Except, because they are stupid and poor, they get sick a lot more often because they don't know how to stay well and can't afford preventative medicine, so they go to the ER more often which raises health care costs for everyone, including capitalists. Plus, now that the indentured servants have now shot their wad on ER visits, they can't afford to buy the crap that capitalists make, so the capitalists lose even more money.

So, when Toyota wants to build a plant on this side of the big water, they choose Canada over America. Why? Because building a plant in America costs a lot more money in health care costs and training. So, we're expensive and stupid.

Just like Paris Hilton...