Topic: Couldn't be so...
Perspectives: Those Who Tell Us What It All Really Means
Wednesday, January 25th, was a day for mulling things over - everyone was trying to put things in perspective. The news was thin.
Perspectives? Yeah, Gore Vidal lives up the hill here. He sold the villa on the Amalfi coast. So he's stuck here in the Hollywood Hills, and his latest "perspective" piece is here - text and audio. He's rather devastating.
He quotes from the British historian Charles Freeman - The Closing of the Western Mind - and Morris Berman, a professor of sociology at the Catholic University of America in Washington - Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire. Vidal comments - "Mr. Bush, God knows, is no Augustine; but Freeman points to the latter as the epitome of a more general process that was underway in the fourth century: namely, 'the gradual subjection of reason to faith and authority. This is what we are seeing today, and it is a process that no society can undergo and still remain free. Yet it is a process of which administration officials, along with much of the American population, are aggressively proud.'"
Vidal adds that "close observers of this odd presidency note that Bush, like his evangelical base, believes he is on a mission from God and that faith trumps empirical evidence."
Berman of course quotes a senior White House adviser who disdains what he calls the "reality-based" community (see this in these pages for details). Berman - "If a nation is unable to perceive reality correctly, and persists in operating on the basis of faith-based delusions, its ability to hold its own in the world is pretty much foreclosed."
Yeah, yeah - we know all this. We're in a cultural death valley, and it's not just all the fights over not teaching evolution. As Freeman says -
The times are bad indeed, and Vidal adds this -
Perhaps Vidal reads too much. But you might want to check out his central conceit - just how did Jonah end up in that whale? What happened after they tossed him overboard? Didn't the storm stop and the warms become calm? That's the thought here, Bush as Jonah.
It's not going happen. As one reader in Rochester (New York state, top left edge) said - "he is preaching to the choir, and he is too articulate for the people who should listen."
Well, it is long, with references like "the integration of religion, the state, and the apparatus of torture - a troika that was for Voltaire the central horror of the pre-Enlightenment world" and a bit about the Roman emperor Tiberius. Altogether too erudite. Our friend in Rochester suggests Vidal is now the William F. Buckley of the left.
Still, it pulls a lot together, and, for those with a taste for history and scholarly matters, it works.
People are still mulling over that audio tape from Osama bin Laden last week. Christopher Hitchens offered Al-Qaida Is Losing: There's desperation in Osama's voice. Maybe, but why does Hitchens continue to hold that bin Laden did the western world a "big favor" by attacking New York and Washington? Well, yes, this brought things to a head and started the war Hitchens thinks we should fight from now to forever. See also Al-Qaida: Weaker Or Stronger? - a review of those who disagree with Hitchens' assessment of what the tape means about just who is winning or losing, and strength or weakness, or agree, or just don't know. Hitchens is alone, of course, in being grateful to Osama bin Laden. If nothing else, the tape keeps columnists busy.
People are still trying the get their heads around this -
Everyone in the courtroom cheered when the verdict was read. The fellow was ordered to be confined to his base and "place of worship" for sixty days. He had said he was sorry.
Marc Cooper's perspective, after reviewing all the details, is this -
Well, that's one way of looking at it, but Welshofer said he was sorry.
In the local paper out here we get this - "The day after the general's death, prosecutors said, Welshofer asked for another sleeping bag so he could continue using the technique on others."
And in the Washington Monthly Kevin Drum tries to get some perspective on the defense used by Welshofer, asking this - "if the jury bought Welshofer's argument that he was just following orders, whose orders was he following?
Are you supposed to be asking those questions? And why do people refuse to see us as the good guys in all this?
Someone has it wrong. You just have to decide who.
You see, the Associated Press got its hands on a study the Pentagon commissioned - Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer wrote it under a Pentagon contract, and it concluded that the Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to "break the back" of the insurgency. The AP story is here - "Stretched by frequent troop rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan, has become a 'thin green line' that could snap unless relief comes soon." Part of the evidence is the Army's 2005 recruiting slump - they missed the recruiting goal for the first time since 1999 - and the decision to offer much bigger enlistment bonuses and other incentives. And yes, they raised the enlistment age (from 35 to 42) and lowered the standards regarding education and literacy.
Then congressional Democrats released a report Wednesday - same sort of thing, from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Secretary of Defense William Perry. Our ground forces are under "enormous strain" - and "This strain, if not soon relieved, will have highly corrosive and potentially long-term effects on the force." (But Madeleine Albright was born in what used to be Czechoslovakia and she dresses funny - and both these folks worked for Bill Clinton.)
Our current Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, took umbrage with all this. He has plans to reduce forces and buy more high-tech gizmos, all part of his "transformation" of the military.
His views here - "the force is not broken" - such an implication was "almost backward."
- "This armed force is enormously capable. In addition, it's battle hardened. It's not a peacetime force that has been in barracks or garrisons."
- Any report that the military is close to the breaking point "is just not consistent with the facts."
- "It's clear that those comments do not reflect the current situation. They are either out of date or just misdirected."
And then he blamed Clinton for leaving a mess for him to clean up. (And you can be sure he's going to come down hard on whoever leaked the Krepinevich study to the Associated Press.)
Lou Dobbs opened his CNN show on the 25th with this story, and his first words were "somebody's lying."
You just have to decide who.
Berman - "If a nation is unable to perceive reality correctly, and persists in operating on the basis of faith-based delusions, its ability to hold its own in the world is pretty much foreclosed."
Cathy Young here noticed that the International Lesbian and Gay Association recently applied to join the United Nations Economic and Social Council.
Yawn. This is a "niche" news story (here).
The giggle is this...
These countries voted to at least consider the application: Chile, France, Germany, Peru and Romania.
These countries voted to dismiss the application without allowing a hearing: Cameroon, China, Cuba, Iran, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Senegal, Sudan and Zimbabwe - and the United States.
Cathy Young doesn't like the company we keep.
As before, from as Markos Moulitsas Zúniga (aka "Kos," of the most widely-read site on the left), this -
We just voted with Iran.
Vidal was onto something.