Tuesday, October 28, 2003
Another American legend, moved offshore.
Thursday, October 23, 2003
I'm way behind this story, but it seems to me that this memo of Donald Rumsfelds isn't nearly as big a deal as USA Today, among others, has made it out to be. Now I'm all for a good feeding frenzy against this administration, and, I'll admit it, anything that makes Bush look bad I'm pretty much in favor of, even if it is a frivolous cheap shot. But I have to say, the memo demonstrated that Rumsfeld is aware, as he should be, of the significant logistical and real-world problems confronted by the military as it tries to deal with a distributed threat like terrorism. I can't say that I am in any way disappointed to learn that Rumsfeld does not actually believe the "We're winning and everything's great!" line the Administration has been pimping:
Are we winning or losing the Global War on Terror?
-We are having mixed results with Al Qaida, although we have put
considerable pressure on them-nonetheless, a great many remain at
- USG [U.S. Government] has made reasonable progress in capturing or killing the top 55 Iraqis.
- USG has made somewhat slower progress tracking down the Taliban-
Omar, Hekmatyar, etc .
-With respect to the Ansar Al-Islam, we are just getting started.
[ . . . ]
Today we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on
terror. [ . . . ]The US is putting relatively little effort into a long-range plan, but we
are putting a great deal of effort into trying to stop terrorists. The cost-benefit
ratio is against us! Our cost is billions against the terrorists' costs of millions .
[ . . . ]It is pretty clear that the coalition can win in Afghanistan and Iraq in one way or another, but it will be a long, hard slog . [ . . . ]
What else should we be considering?
So, all of that is pretty much what you want from an executive; rational evaluation of the situation as it is, not only in the world outside, but within the organization.
But the real mindbending bullshit to be found here isn't in the fact that Rumsfeld is critical of his own organization and government. That's fine. Hell, that's good. The amazing thing about the memo is its call for yet another specialized government agency created in reaction to the war on terrorism:
Is DoD changing fast enough to deal with the new 21" century security environment? Can a big institution change fast enough? Is the USG changing fast enough? [ . . . ]DoD has been organized, trained and equipped to fight big armies, navies and air forces. It is not possible to change DoD fast enough to successfully fight the global war on terror; an alternative might be to try to fashion a new institution, either within DoD or elsewhere-one that seamlessly focuses the capabilities of several departments and agencies on this key problem.
[ . . . ]
Are the changes we have and are making too modest and incremental? My impression is that we have not yet made truly bold moves, although we have made many sensible, logical moves in the right direction, but are they enough?
[ . . . ]
Do we need a new organization?
Jeez. these guys are just addicted to new organizations. Got a problem? Throw a new organization at it. Failed tests at Kwajalein slowing the push for national missile defense? We got a new organization for that. Intelligence not coming out quite like you planned? Shoot, let's form a new organization! Unable to efficiently monitor all the email traffic in the country? Try some of our new organization! Progress in rebuilding occupied countries got you down? Our new organization will put you back in the pink! To say nothing of our flagship product, Original SuperSize Organization! Just apply to the affected area for Instant Results!
Between the Department of Homeland Security, the Office of Special Plans, the Iraq Stabilization Group, and whatever this new superspecial stripped-down, mission-oriented, clusterfuck of a boondoggle this new dog of Rumsfeld's turns out to be, these guys are more besotted with the benefits of new committees and organizational charts than a roomful of Japanese executives on Ecstasy.
So that's what I think about that. I'm travelling for a couple of days, so the light posting will get even lighter. Yeah, I know what you're saying: "Think you got problems? Look at this guy".
Monday, October 20, 2003
Fresh reportage from Salam Pax: He's got a bunch of new posts up today, including this about the coming U.S. elections:
My cousin,after his 3rd beer, is the smartest person on this planet.
For some reason we started talking about whether Bush will have another term on the big chair in the White House. I thought he's out because of all the trouble in Iraq. My cousin puts down his beer and tells me that I am a fool, because:
"Bush is the Devil himself, and you can't beat a Shaitan. Saddam will magically appear in cuffs two months before the elections and American soldiers will be at their homes partying by New Year's. The ground will start spitting up WMD's and al-Qaeda links the moment he touches the ground with his nose, and he will be the next american president".
he puts his beer down and tells me my tuna salad is the worst ever.
And this about the plight of the Iraqi policement that are fighting the Jihadi resistance in Baghdad:
This is another thing I would like people to pay some respect to. Iraqi Police kick major ass. Much respect. Wherever you go now and open up that subject you will see a lot of sympathy with those brave men and women and a total incomprehension to what this so called resistance is doing. They are killing Iraqis now. They say Jihad against the Infidel Occupier and they go kill those Iraqi police men. The Baghdad Hotel, the Turkish embassy and many more. It is not the Infidel the attackers are killing but Iraqis and this just might be good because the general sentiment now is “what the fuck do the Jihadis think they are doing?”. I wrote or said some time ago that most Iraqis are just sitting on the fence, well the last couple of attacks are tipping the balance against the Jihadis because they are killing all those Iraqis, they are putting bombs in streets and in front of schools, threatening to bomb banks where Iraqis are standing in line waiting to get their new Iraqi Dinars. So as we say here [biha saleh – something good will come out of it] maybe the people who are dying in those attacks are helping us understand that what those saboteurs are doing is just pure evil, telling people they are Muslim Jihadis doesn’t cut it anymore because they are killing civilians indiscriminately.
Pax has an inimitable style, and his accounts still have (to me) the ring of the genuine. It is surely to be hoped that the future of Iraq belongs to people like him.
Friday, October 17, 2003
You have probably read about the comments of Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin, U.S. Army (Ret.), a top antiterrorism official at the Pentagon, who explicitly casts the war against terrorism as a conflict of faiths, a religious war of Christians against Muslims, which the Muslims started. But this fellow is not a one-trick whacko. Bask in the glory of his views upon the utility of U.S. elections:
Boykin also routinely tells audiences that God, not the voters, chose President Bush: “Why is this man in the White House? The majority of Americans did not vote for him. Why is he there? And I tell you this morning that he’s in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this.”
Boykin, when asked about these...erm...nontraditional positions, indicated that he would probably cut back on his call-for-a-new-Crusade and democracy-is-bollocks-we-all-live-in-the-immutable-clockwork-of-God's-great-Plan speaking duties while serving as a senior administration official. “I don’t want … to be misconstrued." said Boykin. "I don’t want to come across as a right-wing radical.” Heaven forfend.
Via Alicublog. And it's William, not Curtis as I originally wrote. Post has been corrected.
"Uh, no, Ray, can't nobody be allergic to chicken. It's one of the Basic meats; Of no offense to anybody."
I do not understand it, yet I cannot look away.
Wednesday, October 15, 2003
Looks like we will get the blue hats after all. According to this Post article, France, Russia, and Germany have "dropped their demands that the United States grant the United Nations a central role in Iraq's reconstruction and yield power to a provisional Iraqi government in the coming months."
This is a victory I'm happy to see Bush win - the fact is that we need a third party in Iraq that is viewed as even nominally neutral, if only to interpose between the parties and lessen the constant confrontation that results from invader and invaded standing face to face for months on end.
Don't get me wrong, I think that the U.S. troops are doing the best job they can in a role they were neither trained for nor warned of. But in such a clearly volatile environment, the presence of anyone to mediate the tension will be a great improvement, and may accelerate the schedule towards Iraqi self-government even if the resolution doesn't promise to do so on its face. While Don Rumsfeld dishonestly criticizes the U.N. record on nation building, a more objective view demonstrates that the record is mixed, but the recent past has brought relative success in Kosovo (2001-present), East Timor (1999-2001), and Sierra Leone (1998-present), in contrast with several high-profile failures in the early- to -mid-1990's: Cambodia (1990-1997), Haiti (1993-1995), Somalia (1993).
But, honestly, we've got to get somebody else in there now, to take the focus off the confrontation between the Iraqi guerillas and the U.S. forces. At this point I think the introduction of the halberd-wielding, particolored Swiss Guard as a third party into the situation would probably help.
UPDATE: Maybe no blue hats after all. Oh, well.
Monday, October 13, 2003
God exists, and he's American. Evidence is found here, here, here, and here. Not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach.
Via Kos, and thirdparty in comments to the linked post.
Light posting, but not for lack of material. Not likely to let up for a few days, but in the meantime, if you haven't been able to fully ramp up on the Valerie Plame - White House leak story, the Parks Department has posted a comprehensive chronology of links that pretty much sets out the whole thing, from the statute that may have been violated to this weekend's latest contribution from the Post. Via Calpundit.
I saw School of Rock this weekend, as well as Intolerable Cruelty, the latest Coen brothers offering. Honestly, I liked School of Rock better, but The Death of Wheezy Joe was one of the funniest things I've seen at the movies in a long time.
Friday, October 10, 2003
Lessons in Civility
By PAUL KRUGMAN
It's the season of the angry liberal. Books like Al Franken's "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them," Joe Conason's "Big Lies" and Molly Ivins's "Bushwhacked" have become best sellers. (Yes, I've got one out there, too.) But conservatives are distressed because those liberals are so angry and rude. O.K., they admit, they themselves were a bit rude during the Clinton years — that seven-year, $70 million investigation of a tiny money-losing land deal, all that fuss about the president's private life — but they're sorry, and now it's time for everyone to be civil.
Indeed, angry liberals can take some lessons in civility from today's right.
Consider, for example, Fox News's genteel response to Christiane Amanpour, the CNN correspondent. Ms. Amanpour recently expressed some regret over CNN's prewar reporting: "Perhaps, to a certain extent, my station was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News." A Fox spokeswoman replied, "It's better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than as a spokeswoman for Al Qaeda."
And liberal pundits who may be tempted to cast personal aspersions can take lessons in courtesy from conservatives like Charles Krauthammer, who last December reminded TV viewers of his previous career as a psychiatrist, then said of Al Gore, "He could use a little help."
What's really important, of course, is that political figures stick to the issues, like the Bush adviser who told The New York Times that the problem with Senator John Kerry is that "he looks French."
Some say that the right, having engaged in name-calling and smear tactics when Bill Clinton was president, now wants to change the rules so such behavior is no longer allowed. In fact, the right is still calling names and smearing; it wants to prohibit rude behavior only by liberals.
But there's more going on than a simple attempt to impose a double standard. All this fuss about the rudeness of the Bush administration's critics is an attempt to preclude serious discussion of that administration's policies. For there is no way to be both honest and polite about what has happened in these past three years.
On the fiscal front, this administration has used deceptive accounting to ram through repeated long-run tax cuts in the face of mounting deficits. And it continues to push for more tax cuts, when even the most sober observers now talk starkly about the risk to our solvency. It's impolite to say that George W. Bush is the most fiscally irresponsible president in American history, but it would be dishonest to pretend otherwise.
On the foreign policy front, this administration hyped the threat from Iraq, ignoring warnings from military professionals that a prolonged postwar occupation would tie down much of our Army and undermine our military readiness. (Joseph Galloway, co-author of "We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young," says that "we have perhaps the finest Army in history," but that "Donald H. Rumsfeld and his civilian aides have done just about everything they could to destroy that Army.") It's impolite to say that Mr. Bush has damaged our national security with his military adventurism, but it would be dishonest to pretend otherwise.
Still, some would say that criticism should focus only on Mr. Bush's policies, not on his person. But no administration in memory has made paeans to the president's character — his "honor and integrity" — so central to its political strategy. Nor has any previous administration been so determined to portray the president as a hero, going so far as to pose him in line with the heads on Mount Rushmore, or arrange that landing on the aircraft carrier. Surely, then, Mr. Bush's critics have the right to point out that the life story of the man inside the flight suit isn't particularly heroic — that he has never taken a risk or made a sacrifice for the sake of his country, and that his business career is a story of murky deals and insider privilege.
In the months after 9/11, a shocked nation wanted to believe the best of its leader, and Mr. Bush was treated with reverence. But he abused the trust placed in him, pushing a partisan agenda that has left the nation weakened and divided. Yes, I know that's a rude thing to say. But it's also the truth.
Thursday, October 09, 2003
A progressive income tax is the moral equivalent of the Holocaust. Or so says Grover Norquist, the uber-connected head of the Americans for Tax Reform, NRA board member, and leading proponent of the "starve the beast" theory of tax reduction. On the NPR interview show Fresh Air, Mr. Norquist observed that both a progressive U.S. income tax and and the Holocaust select minorities within society (the American rich, and European Jewry), and do . . . something to them:
the morality that says it's okay to do something to a group because they're a small percentage of the population is the morality that says that the Holocaust is okay because they didn't target everybody. "It's just a small percentage, what are you worried about? It's not you. It's not you. It's them." And arguing that it's okay to loot some group because it's them, or kill some group because it's them -- and because it's a small number -- has no place in a democratic society that treats people equally.
Okay. Let's put aside for a moment the mind-fracturing suspension of reason required to equate taking a slightly higher percentage of someone's already-massive income with herding them into a train car and gassing them. Actually, let's not put that aside. Let's put it front and fucking center. This is NUTS.
There's some more I want to write about this, but no time right now. More later. Norquist quote via Josh Marshall.
Monday, October 06, 2003
The defenses are up. Uggabugga does what Uggabugga does by helpfully cataloguing and matrixing the current right-wing defenses of the indefensible Plame revelations. Worth a look, if only to confirm that if this is the best the other side can do, there is probably somebody's blood in the water.
Oh, and Josh Marshall sums up the simple rebuttal to all of that static here. His very interesting interview with General Wesley Clark is here.
And, from the knew it all along, but nice to see it on paper department, is this post from the Beltway Bandit, reproduced in full:
IGNORANCE = SUPPORT FOR IRAQ WAR -- You may have suspected it. You may have thought it. You might have even said it to yourself once or twice. Are these people support the war just stupid or what? Well, maybe not stupid. [Not all of them anyway.] But ignorant? Yes. An expansive new study by the Program on International Policy Attitudes, based at the University of Maryland in College Park, and the polling firm, Knowledge Networks based in Menlo Park, California reveals that most Americans were badly misinformed about the circumstances surrounding the Iraq War and that the more misinformed a person was, the more likely he or she was to support the Iraq War.
The three common mistaken impressions are that:
--U.S. forces found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
--There's clear evidence that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein worked closely with the Sept. 11 terrorists.
--People in foreign countries generally either backed the U.S.-led war or were evenly split between supporting and opposing it.
Overall, 60 percent of Americans held at least one of those views in polls reported between January and September by the Program on International Policy Attitudes, based at the University of Maryland in College Park, and the polling firm, Knowledge Networks based in Menlo Park, Calif.
"While we cannot assert that these misperceptions created the support for going to war with Iraq, it does appear likely that support for the war would be substantially lower if fewer members of the public had these misperceptions," said Steven Kull, who directs Maryland's program.
In fact, no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq. U.S. intelligence has found no clear evidence that Saddam was working closely with al-Qaida or was involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Gallup polls found large majorities opposed to the war in most countries.
The analysis released Thursday also correlated the misperceptions with the primary news source of the mistaken respondents. For example, 80 percent of those who said they relied on Fox News and 71 percent of those who said they relied on CBS believed at least one of the three misperceptions.
The comparable figures were 47 percent for those who said they relied most on newspapers and magazines and 23 percent for those who said they relied on PBS or National Public Radio.
The reasons for the misperceptions are numerous, Kull and other analysts said.
They noted that the Bush administration had misstated or exaggerated some of the intelligence findings, with Bush himself saying in May: "We found the weapons of mass destruction … and we'll find more as time goes by."
The Bush administration has also been a factor in persistent confusion.
Last month, for example, Bush said there was no evidence that Saddam was involved in the Sept. 11 attack after Vice President Dick Cheney suggested a link. Cheney, in a "Meet the Press" interview, had described Iraq as "the geographic base of the terrorists who had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9-11."
Why some news audiences had more accurate impressions than others was less clear.
Kull cited instances in which TV and newspapers gave prominent coverage to reports that banned weapons might have been found in Iraq, but only modest coverage when those reports turned out to be wrong.
Susan Moeller, a University of Maryland professor, said that much reporting had consisted of "stenographic coverage of government statements," with less attention to whether the government's statements were accurate.
The study found that belief in inaccurate information often persisted, and that misconceptions were much more likely among backers of the war. Last month, as in June, for example, nearly a quarter of those polled thought banned weapons had been found in Iraq. Nearly half thought in September that there was clear evidence that Saddam had worked closely with al-Qaida.
Among those with one of the three misconceptions, 53 percent supported the war. Among those with two, 78 percent supported it. Among those with three, 86 percent backed it. By contrast, less than a quarter of those polled who had none of the misconceptions backed the war.
So there you have it, folks. The ignorant overwhelmingly supported the war. The informed overwhelmingly did not. You know what is really scary? The few peple who were well-informed and still supported the war. Those people freak me out. The good news is that there are not too many of those people. The bad news is that they are mostly concentrated in the Bush White House and the Editorial Board of the Washington Post.
Wednesday, October 01, 2003
Guest Post from Illinois
When I find three things in a short period of time that are funny, I just have to share.
1. Nominee for best photo of suspected criminal. I would definitely give this guy money. No, seriously, but first, I would invite him into my home.
2. Apparently, Texans have a very nuanced version of history.
3. Best opportunity for headline writers to employ dry sense of irony.
From PZ in the C.L.I., boyee.