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Tuesday, June 29, 2004

We need to start asking difficult questions of ourselves and of the results of our policies. Our political leadership does not seem willing to address such questions, but instead tries to finds ways to change the terms of the debate. If you've been able to stomach President Bush's attempts at stringing together sentences publicly lately, you've probably noticed him frequently declaring to the world that, despite evidence that American soldiers have systematically humiliated and tortured prisoners, "Americans do not behave this way," and despite the fact that his administration's lawyers wrote memoranda approving torture of suspects that "Americans do not engage in torture," since such actions are contrary to American values. Apparently, we stop being Americans when we do something wrong.

Such statements remind me of what we do when a juvenile commits a horrible crime: we declare that the child is not a child and try the juvenile as an adult. While a desire for punishment and retribution against people who commit terrible crimes should be a part of our criminal justice system, declaring juveniles adults represents more an unwillingness to address the screwed up society that creates youthful offenders than it does a legitimate desire for retribution. Transforming a juvenile into an adult allows us to shift the focus from what caused the crime to the person who did it, meaning that we never have to think about how we got where we are.

In the same way, saying that the abuses in Iraqi and Afghan prisons do not represent the values that Americans hold dear may on some level be true, but declaring the perpetrators of those crimes un-American and disconnected from the values and policies of the nation serves as a convenient means of obscuring how closely connected the abuses in those prisons are to American policy and American criminal justice practices. Can anyone doubt, after all, that the President's frequent declarations that Americans were fighting evil from the side of goodness, helped soldiers to excuse their abusive behavior? Isn't hubristic self-righteousness a contemporary and pervasive American value (it certainly explains how we thought that we could blow up and rebuild a country in less time than it took to dig a tunnel across Boston harbor)? We need to stop accepting the banalaties that have replaced analysis in our political discourse and demand that our leaders examine how our policies lead to our failures.
Steve is in the woods until Saturday. He's given me (Rich Lindstrom) the keys to the car until then. I hope I don't smash it up.

My first item is not political, but musical. As some of you may know, Wilco just came out with a new album, to widespread praise. Jeff Tweedy has become a visionary, able stitch together sheets of sonic innovation (I'd link to a Salon article about this if I understood how to do it, but trust me or go look at it yourself)into records of wrenching beauty. This album is supposed to be even better than Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, their previous, and instantly legendary, effort. Now, I think Wilco is really good; sometimes they've been nearly brilliant. I must admit, however, that I found Yankee Hotel Foxtrot rather boring, too atmospheric, and more about making a set of sounds and moods than about making great music. I guess I just wasn't bright enough to get it. This was not the first time, however, that a record which garnered great critical acclaim did very little for me. I've never understood why people think Pet Sounds can change your life, for example, and I like Milestones better than A Love Supreme. I therefore have a two part question for people out there: 1) Why is Pet Sounds such a great record (please answer this question without using the words "groundbreaking," "experimental," or "visionary")?; and 2) What albums do you loathe that you are supposed to like (or what albums do you love that you'd rather not admit to liking)? Any refrences to Steve Perry and Journey will get extra credit.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Kabulians for Kerry

"I think that people working in the expat community are often very savvy about foreign affairs and I think that a lot of us here understand that the policies of the Bush administration has done nothing but alienate us from the rest of the world and it's time to reconnect."

-Karen Hirschfeld, an aid worker in Afghanistan

Dems in Afghanistan Article

The Only Way We'll Win

...Convince our allies in NATO and other nations to help us restore order in Iraq.

What chance does the Bush administration have of pulling this off?

Slim and none.

The reasons for this are too many to count, but I'll mention a few.

1. It would be political suicide for any head of state to show support for the Bush Regime.
2. The U.S. has already squandered its bargaining chips in the process of convincing other nations to join the "coalition of the willing".
3. The men of the Bush cabal are ideologically opposed to the constraints imposed by multilateralism. They want to call all the shots.
4. Oil revenues and no-bid contracts. There is a contractual obligation to 'keep it in the family'.
5. Our current cozy relationship with the Ariel Sharon Regime in Israel. As long as we're so clearly in bed with Israeli conservatives, we'll have a hard time getting Arab nations on board in regards to Iraq.
6. Prominent Republicans continue to defect from the Bush ranks. The first was Paul O'Neil, the latest was Lee Iacocca. If you can't lead your own party, you can't lead the nation in a time of war.
7. Show me a world leader other than Tony Blair that isn't openly skeptical about Bush's justification for starting the war.
8. Abu Ghraib.
9. Guantanamo.
10. The Bush Administration's open disdain for the Geneva convention. They don't want to see their soliders tortured by insurgents the way we torture Iraqis.

The President is positioning himself for the election. He wants to convey the image of a strong, resolute president--"someone who means what he says and says what he means". Some might call it "predictable stupidity", but it is the right track to take politically.

In the next few months, his tactic will be to co-opt the more unilateral approach from Kerry prior to the election. He'll attempt to convey himself as a leader willing to work with Iraqi authorities and other nations to bring the war to a swift conclusion.

It's the only way to "win", but it's pretty clear that this man couldn't pull it off.

Friday, June 25, 2004

If You Love Something, Make It Better

Critics of the Bush Administration are becoming more and more vocal in their protests against the hamfisted leadership of our country, and many are questioning, once again, some of the philosophy undergirding the policies of our country.

The response to criticism of economic, social, or military policy is inevitably some variation of the following:

"Why do you hate America"?

How is it that hoping to improve America through asking pointed questions is a bad thing? We wouldn't have the same attitude with our own chidren or in our professional lives.

Stephen Jobs never asked Bill Gates "Why do you hate the Commodore 64"?

The chairman of Samsung never asked his employees why they hated landline telephones.

Daycare workers never chide parents for being anti-crawling.

Car Dealers never ask customers why they hate their 94 Ford Windstar, they try to sell them a new car!

America needs a new set of wheels, not to drive faster off a cliff with the same old tired policies.

If Liberals can be faulted for anything, it's not offering up a clearly deliniated alternative for the status quo...But then again, when they do, it's ignored by the media.


Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Chri$ Hitchen$ for Rent

It's time for Ad Hominem attacks on Michael Moore, and Chri$topher Hitchen$ responds with self-righteous, bitter invective that shot to the top of blogdex within a day. He writes,

It must be evident to anyone, despite the rapid-fire way in which Moore's direction eases the audience hastily past the contradictions, that these discrepant scatter shots do not cohere at any point. Either the Saudis run U.S. policy (through family ties or overwhelming economic interest), or they do not. As allies and patrons of the Taliban regime, they either opposed Bush's removal of it, or they did not. (They opposed the removal, all right: They wouldn't even let Tony Blair land his own plane on their soil at the time of the operation.) Either we sent too many troops, or were wrong to send any at all—the latter was Moore's view as late as 2002—or we sent too few. If we were going to make sure no Taliban or al-Qaida forces survived or escaped, we would have had to be more ruthless than I suspect that Mr. Moore is really recommending. And these are simply observations on what is "in" the film.

Chris, you used to be quite a journalist. What happened? Have you started eating paint chips off the wall? Are the two brain cells you have left after all those three martini lunches in Washington playing freeze tag?

Your writing indicates that your psychological processes have regressed to the point where I wonder if you're able to exhibit object permanance. Does "Peekaboo" endlessly fascinate you?

It's time for you to receive some remedial education welcome to Shameless A's

Principles of thinking #101

I: Grey Areas Exist

Either the Saudis run U.S. policy (through family ties or overwhelming economic interest), or they do not.

What kind of wuss argument is that?

No, Chris, there is a middle ground. No one disputes that they have tremendous influence--oh, except you...If they don't "run" the government the only other option is that they have no influence at all. Brilliant.

Politics ain't pregnancy, boy. You can be corrupt to various degrees. Have you become too stupid to realize that, or are you bending over for some unknown rea$on?

Principle #2: Due to changing circumstances and the passage of time, thinking people can reassess situations and arrive at different opinions.

Either we sent too many troops, or were wrong to send any at all—the latter was Moore's view as late as 2002—or we sent too few.

See Chris, there can be more than one right answer, or in the case of our incompetent leader, more than one wrong answer. The fact is, we were wrong to send troops in the first place, and then we were wrong to dismiss Gen. Shinsheki's assessment that we would need at least 200,000 troops to secure Iraq as "wildly off the mark". See how easy it is to change or modify an opinion!

You can disregard Michael Moore all you want, Chri$, but what's really sad is that you've chosen to disregard 26 former intelligence officials, former generals Zinni, Shinseki, et al., and instead use what small vestige of your mind that remains as an apologist for a corrupt plutocrat. You're a ho, Chri$.


Saturday, June 19, 2004

Coming Home

I'm beginning to see a pattern here:

I left the U.S. for Nigeria, and Newt Ginrich's Conservative Revolution swept congrees.

I left the U.S. for Turkey, and Jesse Ventura was elected Governor of Minnesota.

I left the U.S., and Dubya invaded Iraq.

Coincidence?...I think not.

Don't worry, America. I'm coming back to save you.

Prematurely Extrapolating Conservatives

The bitch-goddess technology is a cruel mistress; what she gives with one hand, she takes away with the other.

If you only read newspapers and websites that reflect your own views, you'll never get the big picture; if you don't have friends whose views are different from your own, you'll never learn tolerance or sharpen the acumen of your arguments. We have the technology to access countless news sources, and the ability to whittle down our choices to the level of our preferences and prejudices.

Today, as I was scanning blogdex, I found that the hot news article amongst conservative chat rooms is Putin's statement that he warned Bush about Iraq-Al Quaeda links following Sept. 11th. If this comment is taken at face value, the Republicans contend, then the democrats have no leg to stand on regarding Iraq.

I felt sad for them. There never was a clearer case of premature extrapolation. This tragic defect results when one draws conclusions based upon only reading the header of an article.

Like so many issues, the phrase "if this is taken at face value" is the operative phrase. A closer look would indicate that this story is a turkey. It's proof of nothing we did not know before, and provided no reliable information to sanction our preemptive attack.

Here are five reasons to dismiss the "premature extrapolations":

1. Putin qualified and clarified his statement:

In his interview yesterday, Putin said: "It is one thing to have information that Hussein's regime was preparing acts of terrorism -- we did have this information, and we handed it over. . . . But we did not have information that they were involved in any terrorist acts whatsoever and, after all, these are two different things."

2. Putin reiterated the point that he still felt the preemptive strive was unjustified.

3. A senior intelligence official seems to contradict Putin's account:

A senior U.S. intelligence official said yesterday that Russia has provided helpful information in the war on terrorism, but that he was "not aware of any specific threat information we were told" about Iraqi activities before the March 2003 invasion.

4. Putin offered no evidence to support his claim:

Putin, who opposed Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq, did not go into detail about the information that was forwarded, and said Russia had no evidence that Hussein was involved in any attacks.

5. Putin was the head of the KGB before the fall of Communism.

There you have it.

Read It

My Next Car Will Be An Old Jetta

Here's why...
Read It

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

How To Make Issues of Faith And Integrity Worthless To Your Child

When I worked in Nigeria, the school I worked at was dominated by Southern Baptist families.

After consolidating power over the school board, they demanded that all students, whether Christian or Muslim, MUST attend chapel and MUST recite the Lord's prayer.

At the time, I felt as though this amounted to ENFORCED INSINCERITY.

Now that the supreme court has upheld "One Nation Under God", I'm sure they've assured that, when your son or daughter sees his/her peers reciting the pledge or confessing to belief in God, they're saying it because they're FORCED TO, not because they really believe it.

We now have a distrubing spiritual precident, in addition to the legal one.

MacBeth, in his despair, said life is "...All sound and fury, signifying nothing".

It doesn't have to be that way.

"Sound and fury signifying nothing" comes from the mouths of children forced into insincerity.

A few months ago, the cover on a popular magazine read "God Bless Athiests". The point was that Athiests, like any other philosophical, moral, political, or ethical bloc in a democratic society, sharpens the acumen of Theists.

In the marketplace of ideas, the best ideology will win out. Are we afraid of Atheism?...If we weren't we wouldn't mind levelling the legal playing field.


Monday, June 14, 2004

It's Over

The Bush Presidency is over.

The L.A. Times, perhaps America's best newspaper over the last few years, is ahead of the curve again.

Over the last year, I've devoted a lot of space to reporting defections from the rank and file Republican ranks. Now you can add 26 to that number. This is the beginning of the end.

This is a must-read hyperlink!

Read The L.A. Times Article

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Reagan: Bin Laden's Role Model

It’s an article of faith amongst conservatives that ‘the greatest president we’ve ever had’, Ronald Wilson Reagan, brought about the demise of the Soviet Union, thereby ushering in a glorious new age of peace and prosperity worldwide. The cornerstone of this policy, they claim, was the brilliant strategy of accelerating the arms race. By doing so, Reagan forced the Soviets to spend more on their already bloated military budget, thereby starving other necessary government programs and driving their economy into the ground. Despite liberal arguments to the contrary, most scholars contribute at least part of communism’s fall to this strategy.

Meanwhile thousands of miles away, the CIA was training the Mujahedeen of Afghanistan in the tactics of Guerilla warfare. They armed and trained Afghanis and others for the war of resistance against Communist rule, and some of the same tactics, weapons, and facilities have undoubtedly been used against our soldiers in Bush’s “War Against Terror”. The same skills that Bin Laden learned from the United States to defeat one “Evil Empire” are being used again to fight what he believes is another.

Osama Bin Laden could very well be the best student the Reagan/Bush Republicans ever had. He is using Reagan’s cornerstone strategy for fighting communism against us. With 18 men and as many boxcutters, Bin Laden has attempted to sow the seeds of our self-destruction. We’ve been duped, and we need to change our approach to dealing with terrorism before it’s too late.

The budget surplus at the time Bill Clinton left office was 300 trillion. After three years of a George W. Bush, we now have a 300 trillion dollar budget deficit. Even a C student at Yale could surmise that the Bush military budget of 415 trillion may have something to do with it. To give you some perspective, this is six times what the next 15 countries spend on their military combined. Could it be, perhaps, the Osama Bin Laden anticipated this response from the likes of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and George Bush? It would be a logical assumption on his part. Wherever Bin Laden is, he must consider it fine entertainment watching Donald Rumsfeld on CNN trying to explain how a missile defense shield could shield us from anthrax spores or terrorists with plastic explosives packed in their shoes. He must also enjoy the fact that Americans are being held without trial by John Ashcroft’s Justice Department, that ex-con John Pointdexter is in charge of the Total Information Awareness program, and that triple amputee war veteran Max Cleland was voted out of office in Georgia because his opponent, Republican Saxby Chambliss labelled him “soft on terrorism”.

The Bush Administration is the Politburo of the new millennium, bungling its way into oblivion and falling into a trap of its own devising. The terrorists are winning because the actions of the Administration are completely and utterly predictable and ultimately self-destructive. Like Bin Laden himself, President Bush is all balls and no bearings. Our government has become a terrorist network’s Judo dummy. It is the duty of all freedom
loving Americans to resist Bin Laden’s manipulation of our own government, whose current misguided policies fan the flames of terrorism rather than douse them.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

The Squid Lady of Jeju-Do

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