Observations on the world today.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Ahh Unity 

Here's an odd bit of synchronicity. Yesterday, Pandagon posted a blog berating Peggy Noonan for writing a commentary which was basically a conservative wish-list presented as an alternate-reality real-world event. Ezra said:
I'm serious. That is her column. She got paid to write the political equivalent of a child's Christmas list. Sorry, let me rephrase: She got paid to write George W. Bush's Christmas list. And here I am writing this blog, groping for original thoughts and trenchant analysis, for nothing. Nada. Am I jealous?

You're damn right I am.
Then today, Mark Noonan (any relationship I wonder?) posted a blog quoting this New Republic article by Easterbrook which was also an alternate-reality presentation of a real-world event. M. Noonan wrote:
and this bit of alternative history shows in microcosm how entirely perverse, insipid and spurious are the complaints about President Bush's actions and policies. Its not that there aren't criticism to make - any action may be criticized - but that the criticisms leveled against the President are entirely worthless, being entirely motivated by jealousy of political opponents who cannot stand the thought of a man they dislike being a success.
So here we have the right defending alternate histories while the left is attacking them. The question is, is there a difference between a right-wing pundit writing a tongue-in-cheek in-your-face alternate history news story, and a left wing commentator writing one? One could argue the difference between satire and bellicosity, but the difference would depend on the side you are looking at it from.

I agree that P. Noonan's piece was a cop-out, but it wasn't over any lines. And Easterbrook's was insipid and delusional, but also within the relm of allowable tastefulness. True, Paul Krugman would never do such a thing, but I wouldn't put it past Maureen Dowd (and I happen to like Maureen Dowd.) Besides, I wonder if they might not have leveled the same criticism on me for this piece, which was one of my earliest posts on this blog.
I had a strange dream last night. I dreamed it was March of 2005 and a new Attorney General to the United States had just been confirmed. I can't really say how I knew that. It was a dream. In dreams, you just know some things. The dream started in the living room of our current Attorney General, John Ashcroft. Again, I just knew that was where I was. I don't know how I knew. I don't know why I knew. I just did. Maybe it was by the life-size cutout of Janet Jackson from the Super Bowl with a drape over her right breast like the one Ashcroft had put over that statue of Blind Justice.

Mr. Ashcroft was reading from the bible -- something about bearing false witness -- when suddenly there was a knock at his door, and when he answered it there were two identical Secret Service agents standing in the entry. "Tony, Mick," Ashcroft said. "What brings you guys here at this late hour?"

"John Ashcroft?" Tony said questioningly yet stern.

"You guys know it's me," Ashcroft said. "We've worked together often this past few years; locking up community college sociology professors and rousting Green party candidates and such."

"John Ashcroft," Mick said, "you are hereby placed under arrest pursuant to the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act."

"Otherwise known as the USA PATRIOT Act," Tony clarified.

"On what charge?" Ashcroft demanded, and Tony held back a chuckle. "Oh, yeah, that's right, I forgot," Ashcroft said. "Well, where are you taking me?"

At that point the dream shifted locals. Tony and Mick were gone, and Ashcroft was alone in a jail cell. Well, actually, it was more like a cage. It had a concrete floor, and all four walls were made of cyclone fencing. The cage itself was sparse. There was nothing inside other than Ashcroft and a pot to piss in, a blanket, a bible and some spilled Cheerios. I realized that some time had passed. At least three months. I also realized (in that omniscient dreamlike way) that Ashcroft had never been told what he was charged with. He also hadn't seen his family or consulted a lawyer or even been told if his family knew where he was.

Then from nowhere a chaplain appeared. "John," the holy man said, "I have something I want you to see." Ashcroft turned and there beside him in the cell was a television set. It was turned on to CNN and a live picture showed the new Attorney General. His name appeared on the screen below his picture. "Adnan Adoum" it said.

"Hey," Ashcroft said. "Isn't that a Lebanese name? How did an Arab ever become Attorney General?"

The chaplain did not dignify the question. Instead he slowly stretched out his arm and pointed to the screen. Sometimes my dreams are a little Dickensian.

Attorney General Adoum cleared his throat and began to speak. "Today marks a momentous day in the history of American justice. Today, we have repealed the USA PATRIOT Act." As flashbulbs popped and applause lilted in the background, Adoum smiled and waited for the crowd to calm, a broad and satisfied smile on his face. "All personal records of America's citizens which were immorally gathered over the past few horrible years have been destroyed. In addition, we have released all suspects illegally held, and officially charged all suspects who warranted prosecution. Well, all but one who we saved for last. Today, pursuant to actual patriotic American legal procedure, we will officially charge former Attorney General John Ashcroft with aiding and abetting terrorism. He will then be moved to a secure but more humane federal facility where he will join the general prison population. At that point, it will be my pleasure to read him his rights, and charge him for his crime. 'John Ashcroft,' I will say, 'I hereby charge you with the crime of dereliction of duty, treason against the United States government, interfering with a lawful investigation and suborning terrorist acts for the December 6, 2001 act of forbidding the Federal Bureau of Investigation from looking at background-check information on suspects detained in connection with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.'"

Ashcroft curled into a ball on the floor of his cell and began to weep, and I woke up. Oddly though, I didn't have the panicky anxious feelings that usually accompany a nightmare. Quite to the contrary, I actually felt energies. But the feeling soon faded.

After all, dreams that good never really do come true.

Okay, I didn't REALLY dream that. So sue me for the artistic license.

Faulty Intelligence - Not the Spanish, the Republicans 

The New York Times > International > Europe > Blast Suspects in Madrid Were Plotting Second Attack:
The group believed to be responsible for the Madrid train bombings in March had been planning another major attack, an Interior Ministry official said Thursday.
The official said the plot was uncovered by police officers searching the ruins of an apartment destroyed last Saturday when at least six of the suspected bombers blew themselves up to avoid capture by the police.
"They were planning to commit an attack, although we are just speculating about the target," the official, who declined to be identified, said in a telephone interview. "They were clearly seeking to kill large numbers of people in a place like a shopping center."
Wait, how can that be? I thought the terrorists had been appeased by the election which removed the PP from power and installed an administration less sympathetic to Bush and the war in Iraq?

Hmmm? Could it be that the rightwing analysis was wrong again? Why, yes. Yes, I believe that might be exactly it.

The Incredible Incredibilty Defense 

Kos found an observation on Sibel Edmonds and the fact that the US press is ignoring her while the foreign press has embraced her story in the WaPo
Clearly, what we have here are two different standards of journalism: one American, one nearly global. The question is where does this difference come from?

One possible explanation is that the heart of Edmonds' story remains unconfirmed. Edmonds did work as a translator for the FBI for six months after the Sept. 11 attacks, but she was fired from her post for unspecified reasons. The documents that she says will corroborate her story have not yet surfaced and may not exist.
Interesting observation. But I think it's bullshit. Even the Bush loving Washington Times quoted Edmonds saying:
"I gave (the commission) details of specific investigation files, the specific dates, specific target information, specific managers in charge of the investigation. I gave them everything so that they could go back and follow up. This is not hearsay. These are things that are documented. These things can be established very easily."
One way they might have been established is if one of the 9/11 commissioners had asked Condaleezza Rice about it. But I will give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they will ask her about it if they get a chance to talk to her again behind closed doors.

Not that that does us any good.


Thursday, April 08, 2004

Bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside US 

Just finished watching the Condi Files. We need a new word in the English language. War has been corrupted too much.

Actual war is an engagement between two geographically defined groups. The republicans changed the definition somewhat back in the eighties with the war on drugs. Although - to be fair - the democrats may have started that with the war on poverty. But the fact is that these were meant as abstractions. So this war on terror is neither a war in the traditional sense (since terrorists are not geographically defined) nor in the abstract sense since we have a military engagement under way.

Now Condi says that we were not at war on terror prior to 9/11. But, Condi, there had been military engagements. And many had called for military action in retaliation for the Cole, but you were too tired of swatting flies to oblige. It took 9/11 to convince your people to re-start the war.

Also, another aspect of war is the covert activity. And prior to 9/11, our efforts to thwart terrorism were pretty opaque compared to now. So I suppose that the argument could be made that it was the passage of the Patriot Act and the classification of every single aspect of our efforts to see justice victory over the criminals enemy. In this sense, the war really did not begin until after 9/11. But because of these efforts to make the "war" less opaque, the tactics of the war are completely out of the hands of the American people.

Frankly, I don't even know who is fighting the war. The military is engaged in occupation in both Iraq and Afghanistan, but they are not part of the "war on terror" in this new abstract/covert sense. So who is fighting it? Anyone? The CIA? The administration? And since we as a geographic and national body still exist as a specific target while our enemy is still only a movement interspersed throughout the inhabitable world, declaring a war and championing it as a new approach seems pretty meaningless to me.

Is Shorthand Permitted? 

Two reporters ordered to erase tapes while covering Scalia speech
Two reporters were ordered Wednesday to erase their tape recordings of a speech by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at a Mississippi high school.
This guy is just outright nuts. What could possibly be the harm of reporters taping a speech that they are going to report on? Unless Scalia is terrified of being caught in a contradiction and being made to look like a hypocrite with no ability to claim that he was misquoted, this makes no sense.

Ahh, wait, yes. I get it. Okay, never mind.


Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Ask Not For Whom Sibel Tolls 

Sibel's back in the news again:
TheStar.com - Ex-FBI worker challenges 9/11 `lie': Sitting in the hearing room as Rice testifies will be a 33-year-old former FBI translator who may yet hold the key to the question now engulfing this nation ? did an indifferent Bush administration ignore specific warnings that Al Qaeda was about to launch horrific attacks in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001?
But once again, it's not the American press. So far, the only American press I have seen do a story on this woman is CBS, and as I noted before, they emphasized the wrong focus.

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm telling you, THIS woman is Bush's John Dean.


Courtesy of Josh Marshall we get this story: MSNBC - White House withholds Rice speech
The White House has refused to provide the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks with a speech that national security adviser Condoleezza Rice was to have delivered on the night of the attacks touting missile defense as a priority rather than al-Qaida, sources close to the commission said Tuesday.
So now speeches that were written expressly to be publicly read are confidential national security? What the hell?

But the rightwing pundits will find a way to rationalize this. They always do.


Monday, April 05, 2004

THE Question 

If ever there is a Bush/Kerry debate, here is the question I want somebody to ask.
Gentlemen, supposing you lose the election, do you feel that your opponent will do a sufficient job in continuing the war on terror?
When the question goes to Kerry, he can afford to be gracious. He can say something like:
My opponent has tried very hard in the war on terror. Polls show that a majority of Americans feel that he has done a satisfactory job. Who am I to dispute that?
And then the question goes to Bush. What's a boy to do? Does he say that Kerry would not keep America safe? A three-time purple heart winner? A man who two republican congressmen have said cannot be called weak on defense? Or does he admit that Kerry would probably do at least as good a job as he did, thus contradicting his own campaign ads?

Either way, the press the next day would have a field day with the answer finally stirring a national discussion which can only debunk the central focus of Bush's platform. Kerry is better on all domestic issues, he's better at foreign relations, and he is at least as good or better on national defense.

Kerry in a landslide.


Sunday, April 04, 2004

Not Unforgiving Enough Maybe? 

Blogs for Bush: Comment on Rotten Tomatoes: The Kerry / Kos Connection Oh, the hypocricy of the right. If you look at this thread of comments from the Blogs for Bush website, you will see a deleted post at 10:06 pm. That was my post. Now, look at the bottom of the page and you will see this disclaimer:
Comments are moderated.

Blogs For Bush reserves the right to delete comments we deem inappropriate. Please keep comments on-topic. Remember, varying opinions are welcome, and no comment will be deleted solely for presenting an opposing view. {Ed. note: emphasis mine.}
Here is what I wrote - word for word and completely unedited:
kos was wrong, but he does not speak for the entire liberal world on this issue - or any issue for that matter. And despite his having been wrong, he is entitled to this one mistake.

Other bloggers on the left have criticized him, and he has lost a few advertisers. But to say that his opinion on this demonstrates that he has no regard for the military men and women at risk in Iraq is to totally misunderstand the point that he was making. Close to 600 American soldiers are dead and thousands have been injured. Thousands more Iraqi civilians have paid the ultimate price for Bush's folly. Kos was distressed that so much more attention was being paid to the deaths of four highly paid mercenaries who were there because they wanted to be.

Does that make their deaths okay? Of course not. Does it make Kos' choice of words all right? Absolutely not. Should kos come forward with a sincere and complete apology? You bet. But should he be snubbed by liberals to appease conservative PC? No!
There is a bulleted list of reasons for deletion in the FAQ.
• Anonymous comments, and/or comments posted without a valid e-mail address. {Ed. note: I used a pseudonym, but does anyone really think "Oak Leaf" is his real name?}
• Demeaning comments towards a member of the Blogs For Bush Team or another person leaving a comment.
• Deliberately off-topic or nonsensical comments.
• Multiple postings of the same comment in various comment threads.
• Comments with a gratuitous amount of objectionable words or that constitute flaming.
• Comments containing links to objectionable material.
• Comments made questioning the comment policy or the moderators for enforcing the policy. All questions on the comment policy should be sent to the Moderator.
• Comments reported to a member of Blogs for Bush as being inappropriate or offensive.
• Unnecessary contiguous comments in the same thread will either be edited or deleted.
• Comments considered libelous or offensive.
• Any comments considered to be troll activity.
• ...and other comments we deem inappropriate for the site.
Those were reasonable enough. So which one was I in violation of? They called me a troll, but come on - what trolling? Do they want a discussion or just a ditto-head reunion?


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