Notes on how things seem to me from out here in Hollywood... As seen from Just Above Sunset
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Photos and text, unless otherwise noted, Copyright 2003,2004,2005,2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Wednesday, 14 June 2006
Things Imploding
Topic: NOW WHAT?

Things Imploding

Just a few brief notes, as the day was given over to systems work. Setting up the old stuff on the new computer is getting increasingly Byzantine, or baroque, or whatever adjective you'd like. Tuesday was the eight critical new patches Microsoft released for Windows, and exploring what actually was recovered from the old hard drive and dumped on the new - everything but five years of archived email, and all the addresses and mailing lists. Drat. And today it was setting up the email system again, and a bit of reconstruction - and who knew POP3 and SMTP configurations could be some complex? And that patch to get Outlook to read the old address book in Hotmail was no fun at all. And new hardware arrived, a docking station with all sorts of gizmos - including a wireless keyboard and wireless mouse. It just seems wrong they're not connected to anything, and still work. No wires? That can't be right. But the docking station has good speakers, and the FM jazz station streaming live from Paris, TSF, sounds good - even the newscasts and weather reports where they talk so fast, and the silly commercials for this and that. The time differential is a little disconcerting - nine hours - and their midnight set, of Miles Davis and Toots Thielemans and French guys no one here knows, starts at three in the afternoon Hollywood time. Whatever.

The break today was running a few errands and taking a few photos up on Hollywood Boulevard. Those came out nicely, and are very odd - see five of them here.

But the day had its news, of sorts. The president, back from his five hour Baghdad visit, held a press conference and was crowing about it all, proud as punch, as they say. The narrative in the press was that everything was all better, the White House no longer on the defensive, and the left put in its place, and every Democrat holding his or her head in shame at their foolishness in doubting him. And on Rumsfeld's direct orders the press was tossed out of Guantánamo. No one will report from there now.

That last item generated a great deal of comment all over. But that's the world we live in.

Editor & Publisher broke the story here (Wednesday, June 14, 2006) -
In the aftermath of the three suicides at the notorious Guantanamo prison facility in Cuba last Saturday, reporters with the Los Angeles Times and the Miami Herald were ordered by the office of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to leave the island today ... The Pentagon spokesman told E&P that Rumsfeld's office was overruling any of the permissions from military at the base.
See Donald Rumsfeld, July 18, 2005, here -
I have no doubt that free and well-informed people can and will sift through the increasing volumes of information and over time develop a balanced view of our government, our Armed Forces, and our values and principles.
Bill Montgomery, looking at the two, says this - "That must be what he's afraid of."

Enough said.

On the other matter Montgomery adds this -
We can only guess whether Shrub's secret repeat visit to Iraq was dreamed up before the Abu Zarqawi Hour went off the air, as the White House claims, or whether the trip was actually thrown together on the fly in an effort to milk a little more free publicity from the final episode. Either way, the stunt revealed as much about the depleted state of the Cheney administration's bag of propaganda tricks as it did about the gang's determination to keep pouring blood and treasure into the world's largest hole in the desert.

Sending America's titular head of state to Baghdad the first time, to celebrate Thanksgiving with the troops in 2003, was a clever stroke - just the thing to distract the media from the rapidly deteriorating security situation, which only a few weeks before had sent generals and diplomats (including the current president of the World Bank) scurrying for cover in their underwear.

Of course, simply waving a shiny metal object in front of the White House press corps probably would have been just as effective, not to mention a whole lot cheaper for the taxpayers, but you still can't argue with the results: saturation coverage of the world's biggest Thanksgiving turkey - serving dinner to a bunch of grinning GIs.

But that was then and this is now, and while distracting the media is still child's play (literally) the voters have grown quite a bit more jaded after nearly three years of watching flag-wrapped coffins shipped home COD. At this point, sending Bush to do the grip-and-grin with the new Iraqi prime minister and his cabinet isn't exactly must-see TV.
No, it isn't. Montgomery goes on to discuss how the trip was just a holding action, to stop the hemorrhaging on the war front, while the battle to convince everyone the economy is great will be the main Rove strategy for winning everyone's vote in November, even if those who are doing well are the top two percent of the heap. That'll be tricky, with a lot of pointing to averages in the data, not mean values. But most people think that average and mean values are the same thing. Thank goodness Americans do so badly in math, with our students ranked twenty-eighth in the industrialized world, tied with Latvia. Average wages are rising while eighty percent of all workers have seen their actual earnings decrease a few percentage points each year for the last six years. Point to the former. Hope folks don't pay attention to the latter. It might work. Convince people they're just confused, or among the rare and unusual unlucky chumps, and everyone one else is doing just fine.

But there's no more to do about Iraq, as Montgomery explains -
... politically, it comes down to this: Ever since the war began to go south - say, in the late summer or early fall of 2003 - the Cheneyites have relied on a never-ending string of bogus "turning points" to deflect criticism and create the illusion that victory in Iraq (whatever that means) is creeping closer, despite the mounting chaos and death. But with Zarqawi's elimination, the never-ending string has, for all intents and purposes, ended.

There are no more name-brand dictators or terrorists left to catch or kill: Zarqawi's successor is so obscure nobody seems to know who he is or where he came from - it's not even written into the script yet. The elections are over, so there'll be no more purple fingers to wave in front of the cameras. The "permanent" government has been formed; all of its ministers finally named.

The turning points, in other words, have all been turned, and Iraq is still a killing field. Now that the last few macabre headlines have been squeezed out of Zarqwari's autopsy report, democracy boy and his handlers literally have nothing to look forward to - except a long, hot summer of IEDs, ethnic cleansing and more of those flag-wrapped caskets being Federal Expressed to cemeteries around the country.
So that was it? Could be.

The other issue clouding things is, of course, is the four hundred sixty folks we hold at Guantánamo Bay. We hold them there because that is not in America, so their rights are what we say they are, not what any citizen, visa holder or visitor to, say, Cleveland, could claim. So they don't fall under our laws. And we say they don't fall under the Geneva Conventions, as they are not at all prisoners of war, but somehow a new sort of fighter - "enemy combatants." So they're not criminals - you can't try them, exactly, as there's no crime involved - and they're not prisoners of war, so you don't have to treat them as such, allowing communication with the outside world and monitoring by a neutral third party like International Red Cross. You don't even have to list them, and some outside Cuba are off the books, the famous "ghost detainees."

But it's an embarrassment. The UN and even our allies are calling for us to shut down the Cuba prison. Saying there just are no rules will not do. Most American have had no problem with the "there are no rules anymore" concept, but that's shifting. The three suicides didn't help, and may be where there's been a shift in public opinion in this country. A major spokeswoman in the new Karen Hughes "public diplomacy" department did say, on the BBC World Service, that the suicides were just a publicity stunt and good PR (discussed here), the man in charge of the Guantánamo facility said the suicides were an act of war against us - but the administration is backing away from all that. They know better. People are laughing, bitterly, but laughing just the same. That's very bad politically. It's worse than being wrong. When people just laugh you lose by a massive landslide. It's the kiss of death.

How to deal with that? In the Wednesday, June 14, press conference, the president said, again, that he'd really like to shut down Guantánamo. He seems to know the jig is up. But note how he explains why the facility should be closed - because reports of torture and suicide just give people an "excuse" to criticize the United States.

A reaction here -
We don't need an excuse to criticize your administration, Mr. President. You and your helpers provide fresh cause for alarm every week. Banning the press won't shield you or your administration from warranted criticism. Guantanamo has severely damaged the credibility of the United States, and our elected representatives need to hear us object to misdeeds that tarnish our country's reputation.

As much as he'd like to, the president can't close Guantanamo, he says, because he "needs a plan for trying terror suspects if the U.S. Supreme Court rejects his military tribunals." Is the president worried that judicial activists on the Supreme Court might disagree with his assertion that "enemy combatants" have no right to judicial review of their indefinite detentions? He should worry.

You want a plan, Mr. President? You insist the detainees aren't prisoners of war, so the plan is simple: charge them with crimes and give them a criminal trial, or let them go.
Trapped. Hoist by his own petard, as here -
(pi-TAHRD) To be caught in one's own trap: "The swindler cheated himself out of most of his money, and his victims were satisfied to see him hoist by his own petard." A "petard" was an explosive device used in medieval warfare. To be hoisted, or lifted, by a petard literally means to be blown up.
It blew up. Even if the suicides were, as originally claimed, not desperation at all, as we were treating everyone there just fine, but a very clever way to make George Bush look bad and influence the November election and make the House and Senate go Democratic and make Bill Frist and all the others lose their power to influence legislation on tax cuts and such, the damage had been done. It's over.

There are many things to fix in order that the president not spend his last two years dealing with a hostile congress that might actually want some answers. This should be interesting.

Now back to the systems work.

Posted by Alan at 22:48 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 15 June 2006 06:27 PDT home

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