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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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Friday, 3 June 2005

Topic: Making Use of History

The Uses of The Past: Who Cares?

Wednesday in Paying Attention: What’s News and What Isn’t you would find this:

So now we know who Deep Throat was.



And nothing more was said. You can watch all the commentary on the cable news shows, and read the web logs and newspaper and magazine analyses, but really, does this matter?

Yes and no. You might drop by Whiskey Bar where Billmon offers us all this - Sore Throat - which is good.

Anonymous whistleblowers have become little more than curious anachronisms, as likely to turn out to be bumbling fools or cynical disinformation artists (paging Michael Isikoff) as dedicated civil servants wiling to risk their careers to save the Republic.

The Republic is rather obviously beyond saving now -- even George Lucas understands that. Which is why the self-outing of Mark Felt had about as much relevance to our current slow motion coup d'etat as a late-night cable rerun of All the President's Men.

But this cheered me up -
… reading all the liberal pundits and bloggers moaning and groaning about the death of investigative reporting, and the pusillanimity of the corporate media, and the pure Nixonian evil of the Bush administration, and the crying need for more hero-patriots like Mark Felt, made me feel like screaming Buster Keaton's anti-nostalgia line from Limelight: "If one more person tells me this is just like ol' times, I swear I'll jump out the window."

The truth is that we do have heroic whistleblowers such as Mark Felt today. Their names are Richard Clarke and Sibel Edmonds and Ray McGovern and Scott Ritter -- and even Paul O'Neill, the former Treasury Secretary.

You want well-placed anonymous sources? How about the military officers who fed CBS and Sy Hersh their Abu Ghraib scoops, or the lawyers in the Judge Advocate General's office who spilled the beans on the torture memos, or whoever leaked the Downing Street memo.

You want ordinary Joes and Janes willing to risk the wrath of the powers to do what's right? How about the enlisted man who walked into the Army IG's office in Baghdad and told them the Marquis de Sade was making house calls at Abu Ghraib prison, or the Pentagon auditors who refused to sign off on the Halliburton payola, or the former detainees and the families in Afghanistan who risked their lives -- not just their careers -- by talking to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

You say we need indefatigable investigators, willing to follow the truth no matter where it leads? How about General Taguba or the International Red Cross or the ACLU lawyers who've been using the Freedom of Information Act to pry out far more information than I thought we would ever know about the inner workings of the Guantanamo gulag. you could even throw in David Kay -- the WMD true believer who tried mightly to prove Bush's case, but finally accepted and admitted that the primary rationale for the Iraq invasion was completely false.
So, the age of heroes – or some people doing the right thing - is not over. It is nice to be reminded of that.

But Billmon – just to be clear - does say justice has not been done, and isn't likely to be done in our lifetimes. Why?
- Bush's crimes are more deeply embedded in his presidential war powers than Nixon's were (although heaven knows Nixon also tried to hide behind those same powers.)

-One party rule has choked off investigations armed with the subpoena power to go where journalists and the ACLU cannot tread.

- The administration's cunning use of extra-territoriality and military secrecy has made it vastly harder for any would-be Judge Siricas to pierce the veil of executive privilege.

- Last but hardly least, the weapons of information warfare in the Bush White House propaganda armory are infinitely more subtle, powerful and effective than the Nixon stonewall. Or, as Salon puts it: The Bush administration has developed so many ways of manipulating information that anonymous sourcing would now be of little use. Secret "military" tribunals, indefinite detention without charge, torture, kidnapping, dressing up official press releases as news stories for complicit publishers -- these all make the Watergate coverup seem quaint.
Well, all you can do is keep plugging away.

Go read the whole thing.

And consider this –

Federal Court Orders Government to Turn Over Videos and Photos Showing Detainee Abuse
ACLU Press Release, June 2, 2005
NEW YORK -- A federal judge has ordered the Defense Department to turn over dozens of photographs and four movies depicting detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq as part of an ongoing lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.

"These images may be ugly and shocking, but they depict how the torture was more than the actions of a few rogue soldiers," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "The American public deserves to know what is being done in our name. Perhaps after these and other photos are forced into the light of day, the government will at long last appoint an outside special counsel to investigate the torture and abuse of detainees."

The court order came in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the ACLU, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights to obtain documents and materials pertaining to the treatment of detainees held by American forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.

Attorneys for the government had argued that turning over visual evidence of abuse would violate the United States’ obligations under the Geneva Conventions, but the ACLU said that obscuring the faces and identifiable features of the detainees would erase any potential privacy concerns. The court agreed.

"It is indeed ironic that the government invoked the Geneva Conventions as a basis for withholding these photographs," said Amrit Singh, a staff attorney at the ACLU. "Had the government genuinely adhered to its obligations under these Conventions, it could have prevented the widespread abuse of detainees held in its custody in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay." …
It is indeed ironic?

Irony is all we have left these days.


Late comment ?

From Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta -
These times, I fear, will not be looked back upon as "the good old days."

What this country had going for it back in the Golden Age of Watergate was a pack of politicians inside the beltway who were -- probably through rampant naivete, I suspect -- afraid that if they got caught on the obviously wrong side of scandal, the public would "throw the bums out". Today, unfortunately for the rest of us, those who strut through those hallowed halls of power in Washington are much more sophisticated than that about what they can get away with.

Back then, if you had irony on your side, you also had hope. But nowadays, if all you got is irony, you ain't got jack.
Perhaps so.

Irony? a sense of the absurd?.

Note that Peggy Noonan here and Pat Buchanan here and Rush Limbaugh here and Ben Stein here each blame Mark Felt for the genocide in Cambodia - because he assisted those investigating Watergate.

Had Nixon remained president? No killing fields. That?s obvious, isn?t it?

I myself think if it were not for Mark Felt undermining Nixon, Roberto Clemente would still be alive today. Damn that "Deep Throat" guy!

The gods of irony are smiling.



Henry Porter is the London editor of Vanity Fair, the publication that revealed who this Deep Throat person actually was. In the June 4 issue of the Guardian (UK) you will find his comments on this business and on the press over here - A study in emasculation: In the US media, a mission to explain has been replaced by a mission to avoid. The title says it all.

? I visit the States three or four times a year, and watching the television news in hotel rooms in the last three years has been like witnessing a time-lapse study of emasculation. It's not just the unbearable lightness of purpose in most news shows; it's the sense that everyone is rather too mindful of the backstairs influence of the White House in companies such as Viacom and News Corporation that own the TV news. The anchorman Dan Rather, for example, was eased out by Viacom - CBS's owner - after he wrongly made allegations about the president's time in the Texas Air National Guard. It was not a mistake that required his head on a platter.

The result of this climate of fear and caution is that few Americans have any idea of the circumstances in which 1,600 of their countrymen have lost their lives in Iraq, the hideous injuries suffered by both Iraqi and American victims of suicide bombers, or even the profound responsibility that lies with Rumsfeld for mishandling practically every facet of the occupation. The mission to explain has been replaced by the mission to avoid. If today there was a whistleblower as well-placed, heroically brave and strategic as Mark Felt, one wonders whether he would now find the outlet that Felt did at the Washington Post between 1972 and 1974.
Of course, Porter is right, and the item contrasts what Felt and Woodward and Bernstein did with the new policy at Newsweek in the aftermath of the Koran-was-really-not-in-the-toilet scandal. Newsweek will now not use confidential sources - especially those "reliable" confidential sources that after you publish say that now they are no longer sure of the information they gave you ? except in extraordinary circumstances and with the approval of the managing editor and the corporation that owns the publication and is responsible for profit or loss - that is, responsible for shareholder value.

No more of this Deep Throat business.

Porter suggests no one now seems to possess "an elementary understanding of the sacred duty of the press, which, however dishonored and ignored, is to watch government and make it answerable when the processes of democracy are corrupted by politics and the self-interest of politicians."

Putting aside this "sacred duty" business ? the word "sacred" may be a stretch ? and whether or not Felt was "heroically brave and strategic" or merely ticked off at being passed over for promotion ? the point is investigative journalism has become bad business. It involves far too much risk to the shareholders.

So that?s where we are now.

Posted by Alan at 19:25 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 4 June 2005 08:00 PDT home

Topic: Announcements

National Hunger Awareness Day

The Laugh Factory in Hollywood will open its doors for 24 consecutive hours Tuesday, June 7th to collect canned foods and non-perishable foods for its National Hunger Awareness Day. The food collected will be distributed to various shelters. To find out more call (323) 656-1336 ext. 1.

Received from Vicky Hammond - Friday, June 03, 2005
We just wanted to let you know that this Tuesday, June 7, is National Hunger Awareness Day. We thought your blog readers would be interested in donating to the cause.

On Tuesday, The Laugh Factory is hosting a 24-hour food drive in Hollywood. The L.A. Regional Foodbank and UCLA Center for Health Policy Research will also be hosting a press conference at the Foodbank to discuss new statistics about hunger in Los Angeles.

Help us spread the word and let us know if you need any more details on the events.
More details will follow.

Any readers who want to contribute become among those who do – not those who just comment.

The Laugh Factory is short block down the street from what our columnist Bob Patterson calls The World Headquarters of Just Above Sunset.

See you there.

Posted by Alan at 18:37 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: The Media

Press Notes - "Maybe a little less of the pervert of the day…"

As Friday began I sat down to with another cup of coffee to check my emails and noticed this from Bob, our columnist for the weekly Just Above Sunset, the parent site to this web log -
I think that if there is a quick decision, it will mean MJ (Michael Jackson) walks.

Any thoughts?
No. I hadn’t thought much about the Michael Jackson trial. And I do not wish to speak of it, for reasons laid out here and much earlier (November 2003) here. I maintain the whole business is not so much fascinating to some of us as it is... well... distasteful. Something you turn away from, or at least politely ignore. Like a guest at a formal party mistakenly making a really off-color remark, or your host inadvertently breaking wind - best to be polite and ignore it.

But Bob is hot for this story. In ways subtle and not so subtle he urges that we cover it in the web log and weekly – and I resist. He had previously suggested, several times, that I charge up the Nikon and we hop in the Mini and haul off to Santa Maria to, at least, cover the coverage. It’s a long drive. I said no, although it might be fun to interview some press people and find out what the hell they think they’re doing.

In any event, as Friday ended there was no quick decision, as the Associated Press reported: "SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The child molestation case against Michael Jackson went to the jury Friday after the defense begged the panel to acquit the singer, portraying Jackson as a victim of grifters trying to pull "the biggest con of their careers." Jurors spent about two hours deliberating before going home for the weekend. … "

Bob is disappointed.

No verdict? Who cares?

Of course the reason I wanted to chat up some of the press people is that I do want to ask them why they are covering this. The news media has pretty much ignored a number of stories some of us think merit attention ? the Downing Street Memo for example.

Well, journalists, George Bernard Shaw once said, "are unable, seemingly, to discriminate between a bicycle accident and the collapse of civilization." And the role of the press has come up here before. April 10, 2005 it was CNN and the Death of Serious TV News - The Inside Story featuring a column from Rick Brown, the News Guy in Atlanta, who was one of the founders of CNN. (And among the other items on the role of the press see this, this and this.)

Rick and I have been trading emails on and on about this, and I recently sent him this item, on what Jonathan Klein has done to CNN in the last few months, and what the founder thinks.

Turner: CNN Focuses Too Much on Perverts
Kristen Wyatt, Associated Press - Wed Jun 1, 6:12 PM ET
CNN should cover international news and the environment, not the "pervert of the day," network founder Ted Turner said Wednesday as the first 24-hour news network turned 25.

Turner, an outspoken media mogul who started CNN in 1980 but no longer controls the network, said he envisioned CNN as a place where rapes and murders that dominated local news wouldn't be emphasized, but he's seeing too much of that "trivial news" on the network he created, now second in ratings to Fox News Channel.

"I would like to see us to return to a little more international coverage on the domestic feed and a little more environmental coverage, and, maybe, maybe a little less of the pervert of the day," he said in a speech to CNN employees outside the old Atlanta mansion where the network first aired.

"You know, we have a lot of perverts on today, and I know that, but is that really news? I mean, come on. I guess you've got to cover Michael Jackson, but not three stories about perversion that we do every day as well."

His remarks won applause and laughter from CNN employees, but the moderator for Turner's remarks, CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour, said: "But everyone else is doing that. Why do you think it's important not to?"

Turner replied: "Somebody's got to be a serious news person. Somebody's got to be the most respected name in television news, and I wanted that position for CNN.

"I wanted to be The New York Times of the airwaves. Not the New York Post, but The New York Times. And that's what we set out to do, and we did it."

The brash Turner acknowledged that CNN wasn't all highbrow when he was in charge, either. "We followed O.J. Simpson ... It was pretty trivial, but high-interest."

As usual, the 65-year-old Turner made his remarks with a roguish smile.

The media pioneer called CNN his greatest professional achievement?.
And now it is pretty crappy.

Well, Rick and I have had this discussion before ? see June 27, 2004: What journalism is and what it is not. A dialog. - and that covers his discussions with Christiane Amanpour when they worked together.

Rick?s latest response is this ?
Good point about Jon Klein. Interesting that nobody's asked Ted about him -- or more to the point, about Klein's boss, Jim Walton. But Ted did stress, when Wolf Blitzer interviewed him live on CNN Tuesday, the fact that he was no longer running things "wasn't by my choice."

And yeah, he said these same things in an interview in this month's Atlanta magazine, specifically that "CNN would be different if it still reported to me." He also said those same other things during that article, except instead of "perverts," he said "murder of the day":

"It's not just the murder of the day - now there are several of them. I don't like turning it on and seeing a bunch of murder stories in a row. With what's going on in Iraq and the Middle East and the economy, there are a lot of more important issues. There are six and a half billion people in the world, obviously someone's going to get murdered every day, but that doesn't need to be the lead story." (Still, he did add, "I think CNN's doing a pretty good job.")

When I read all of that, I was proud of him. If he ever started a new network -- contrary to the way I felt about him when I first signed on in 1980 (I thought he was pretty much a drunken sailor) -- I'd even consider seriously helping him set one up all over again.

As I've said before, my theory is that we suffer from too much democracy in corporate ownership in this world nowadays. When I went to work for Turner in 1980, he owned 83% of his own company, which gave him the power to do things his way, no matter how weird his way may have seemed to Wall Street at the time. His big mistake was ever giving up control, first to TMC and Time-Warner when he got them to back up his purchase of the MGM film library in 1985, and later when he signed on to allowing Time-Warner to "merge" (buy) the company named after him. I think he reckoned he could eventually outsmart Jerry Levin and end up running the place, but at some point, (my guess is) he changed his meds and let it all slip through his fingers, especially when the combined company was later swallowed by AOL.

Whoever runs CNN News Group these days reports to whomever runs Turner Broadcasting, who in turn reports to whomever runs (AOL) Time-Warner, who in turn reports to whomever OWNS Time-Warner, who in turn happens to be -- me!

Well, not just me -- if it were just me, things would be different -- but me and everyone else who owns a mutual fund or runs a pension fund in this country, folks (like me) who don't really look very closely to see if their fund invests in companies that "do the right thing" but only companies that "enhance shareholder value" -- that is, make me money for my eventual retirement.
Which is to say, alas, Pogo was right about where the guilt belongs: "He is us!"

I keep wondering if Ted might ever somehow regain control of the genie and put it back in his bottle. First of all, maybe he'd have to go off his meds to even consider it.

But second of all, no. The way things are today? Probably not even then.
Too bad. I?d sign up if there was anything I could do to help out.

Earlier we had discussed this ?

CNN Seeks New Ways to Battle Fox News
Jacques Steinberg, The New York Times, March 23, 2005

This was an analysis of what Klein has done to CNN ? and it?s not pretty.
One of Mr. Klein's mantras - a version of the same one he invoked when announcing in January that he intended to cancel the afternoon shout-fest "Crossfire" - is that the network's prime-time programs should spend less time reporting the news of the day and more time spinning out what he hopes are emotionally gripping, character-driven narratives pegged to recent events.

But he has also sought to take a page from the playbook of local television news and encourage some reporters to put more of their personalities in their reports. It is not insignificant that he is being advised in this effort by Joel Cheatwood, a former news executive in Miami and Chicago who is well known for using loud sound effects to amplify crime stories and for the failed effort to make Jerry Springer a commentator in Chicago in the late 1990's.
Rick replied with some comments that he said I could not publish ? involving conversations with folks who would not want to be quoted. So use you imagination.

I told Rick I don?t watch CNN much any more - I go to CNN for news but more and more if find myself wandering over to MSNBC - as their association with the Washington Post and Newsweek gets me Milbank and Myerson and first-rate analysis of facts and events, without the false "narrative." They dumped Michael Savage two years ago and Frank Luntz late last year - and seem to be building something respectable now. They do less and less "compelling and heartwarming" crap - and get down to what's going on. And Keith Olbermann just gets better and better. CNN is going the opposite way. So they'll lose me but gain many other viewers. Go figure.

Nancy Grace? I find I cannot watch her - and Larry King? I'm just not interested in that stuff. Others are, it seems. I used to flip on CNN Headline News for basic events - and sports scores in the crawl. But now whole half-hour blocks are given to Grace and to that entertainment thing - so I don't do that any longer. Maybe they'll rename it eventually. It was Rick?s baby, I believe. All things change.

But it is not just CNN ? everyone in all over the "pervert trial" this weekend. Oh, to be fair, this is the trial of an "alleged pervert." No one has been convicted of anything.

It?s corporate coverage ? as Rick notes.

I guess I?ll scan the foreign press. I?ll leave the Jackson trial to Bob.

Posted by Alan at 18:05 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 3 June 2005 18:09 PDT home

Thursday, 2 June 2005

Topic: God and US

Imposing One’s Values on Others: Does Teaching Science in Public Schools Violate the First Amendment?

My conservative friend mentions now and then that the one conservative columnist he really likes is Charles Krauthammer. I think I’m supposed to be impressed that Krauthammer is an MD of the psychiatrist kind.

A bit from Krauthammer’s biography -
Charles Krauthammer was born in 1950 in New York City. He grew up in Montreal and was educated at McGill University (B A. with First Class Honors in Political Science and Economics, 1970), Oxford University (Commonwealth Scholar in Politics at Balliol College, 1970-71), and Harvard University (MD, Harvard Medical School, 1975).

From 1975-78 he practiced medicine as a Resident and then Chief Resident in Psychiatry at the Massachusetts General Hospital. His scientific papers, including his co-discovery of a form of manic-depressive illness, are still frequently cited in the psychiatric literature.

In 1978, he quit psychiatry and came to Washington to serve as a science adviser in the Carter Administration and, later, speechwriter to Vice President Walter Mondale. In 1981, he joined the staff of The New Republic where he was an essayist and editor from 1981 -88. In the mid-eighties he began writing a weekly syndicated column for The Washington Post, which now appears in more than 100 newspapers, and a monthly essay for Time magazine. …
But the problem is that every time I read on of his columns in the Post or Time I do wonder a bit about his mental health. No, not that. I question his judgment.

His days with Carter and Mondale are in the distant past. He’s now a contributing editor to the neoconservative publication of record, The Weekly Standard. He’s firmly in the reality-doesn’t-matter-because-we-make-our-own camp – those idealists out to remake the world the way it should be. That would be unregulated free-market American – where the invisible hand of competition weeds out the weak and foolish and each and every person is alone with his or her keenly active sense of personal responsibility and no one gets any help that in any way might undermine that sense of personal responsibility (unless they happen to be an embryo). People change over time.

But I read him nonetheless. And Krauthammer’s latest essay, a web only item in Time is really startling - In Defense of Certainty. This has the subtitle "It's trendy to be suspicious of people with 'deeply held views.' And it's wrong."

No, it isn’t. The suspicion is warranted, even if perhaps trendy.

Krauthammer is working on that "fair and balanced" thing of course ? that there are really two forms of "imposition of values" on society. One is by secularists and one by Christians. They are, in his mind, equivalent -
It seems perfectly O.K. for secularists to impose their secular views on America, such as, say, legalized abortion or gay marriage. But when someone takes the contrary view, all of a sudden he is trying to impose his view on you. And if that contrary view happens to be rooted in Scripture or some kind of religious belief system, the very public advocacy of that view becomes a violation of the U.S. constitutional order.
And that really ticks him off. Evangelical Christians who have a view that the words in the Bible are the only truth in the world deserve protection.

I caught a bit of that on CNN today ? a woman lamenting that in Sunday School her children were taught that homosexuality is a choice some people made, and thus a sin these people choose to commit, for which they deserved the punishment of God and the condemnation of society. Then in science class on Monday her kids heard a review of the scientific literature that homosexuality is most probably a biological condition and there may be no choice involved. Why, she asked, was the government out to destroy her religion, and her family? She was in tears. She wanted freedom of religion ? not a state that actively attempts to destroy hers.

One wonders, if her children were taught on a Sunday that in the nineteenth century one Bishop Usher proved, by a close reading of the Bible, that the earth could be no more than 6,300 years old at this moment ? then would geology and biology class on Monday morning be another government assault on her freedom of religion?

Would Krauthammer leap to her defense? It would seem so. This is all an imposition of values. And if her religion claimed, as a matter of faith, that the earth was flat?

The columnist Andrew Sullivan comments on Krauthammer?s no-one-should-impose-any-values essay here - and forgive him as he is gay, and a conservative Republican, and born in Britain, and going bald, and whatever (and those are my emphases below) -
It seems to me that this is the wrong formulation, and already concedes something that should not be conceded.

Christianism - politicized Christianity - argues for the imposition of one religion's values over the entire society. So, in this context, it would forbid gay couples from getting civil marriages or unions and prevent pregnant women from seeking an abortion.

Secularism is not the polar opposite. Secularism allows Christians, and any other religious faith, to affirm religious values, live exactly as they see fit, and avoid such moral outrages as abortion and gay civil unions in their own lives, if they so wish.

All secularism does is say that as a political matter, there will be as much government neutrality as possible because the government should represent all citizens; that the Church and the state shall coexist, but independently of each other.

Secularism is not only compatible with aggressive and proud Christian faith; in practice, secularism has fostered that faith.

The polar opposite of Christianism, in contrast, would be a government that actively suppresses religious faith, discriminates against Christianity and forbids Christians from practicing their way of life. No one is proposing that.

I'm really concerned that secularism is slowly becoming tainted with the same brush as "liberalism." But secularism is the great modern achievement of Christianity and of Western freedom. It is an honorable tradition, integral to the entire concept of Western liberty. The difference between secularism and Christianism, to put it bluntly, is that one side is happy to let people make their own moral choices; and one side isn't.

So who exactly is imposing on whom?
The answer is obvious. But the evangelical literalists whine ? and Krauthammer stands by them.

Shall we stop teaching science so they feel better?

That?s what they say is their right. Deal with it.


But, as a humorous sally into what people believe, Amanda Marcotte over at Pandagon points to this ?

Women's Suffrage Opponent Seeks Office
John Hanna, Associated Press - Wednesday Jun 1, 2005 - 8:13 PM ET
A state senator who once said that giving women the vote was a symptom of weakness in the American family now wants to be Kansas' top elections official.

Sen. Kay O'Connor announced Wednesday that she is seeking the GOP nomination for secretary of state next year. O'Connor, 63, has served in the Legislature since 1993.

In 2001, O'Connor received national attention for her remarks about the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1920, which gave women the right to vote.

"I think the 19th Amendment, while it's not an evil in and of itself, is a symptom of something I don't approve of," she said at the time. "The 19th Amendment is around because men weren't doing their jobs, and I think that's sad. I believe the man should be the head of the family. The woman should be the heart of the family."

On Wednesday, she dismissed the controversy ? which included an unsuccessful drive to recall her from office ? as "silliness." She said she does not believe voters will consider it a significant issue.

"I am who I am. You don't have to agree with everything I say," O'Connor said.

But Caroline McKnight, executive director of a group devoted to fighting conservatives in politics, said: "If she thinks it's going to go away because she's on a statewide ballot, she's living on another planet." ?
Amanda Marcotte -
She now wants to be secretary of the state in Kansas, in charge of elections, no less. Granted, it's completely logical that anti-feminists would be against the vote for women. What's illogical is how conservatives immediately adopt all progressive views as their own once the legislation passes. Is there any doubt that if we had the same Congress but the year was 1915 we'd have Tom DeLay and Bill Frist holding forth on why the vote for women is wrong?
Oh, put her in charge of elections. Maybe she would bring back the poll tax and keep those black folks from voting too.

Marcotte also provides links to other comments ? my favorite being this open letter to Kay O'Connor -
I'm very conflicted about your decision to run for the office of Secretary of State. Your proven record of defending Blastocyst-Americans and your opposition to the Nineteenth Amendment make me want to scream hallelujah, but I'm repulsed by your willingness to reject your traditional role as homemaker in order to pursue a position more suited for a man.

I have to wonder just how committed you really are to ending women's suffrage. After all, if you're unfit to vote, how can you possibly be fit to serve in public office? Have you considered serving the people of Kansas in some other way? Perhaps your time would be better spent if you stood at the polls on election days and screamed the word "harlot" at every woman standing in line. Heck, I bet you'd end suffrage for more women that way. It's what the French call thinking globally but acting locally.

Heterosexually yours, Gen. JC Christian, patriot
Yes, that?s sarcasm.

Posted by Alan at 21:16 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 2 June 2005 21:21 PDT home

Topic: Couldn't be so...

Military Matters: Are Our Leaders Slyly Anti-War?

We have enough troops in Iraq?

Paul Krugman in the New York Times ticked off a lot of Bush supporters with a column on Monday, May 30 - Too few, yet too many - that opened with this:
One of the more bizarre aspects of the Iraq war has been President George W. Bush's repeated insistence that his generals tell him they have enough troops. Even more bizarrely, it may be true - I mean, that his generals tell him that they have enough troops, not that they actually have enough. An article in Sunday's Baltimore Sun explains why.

The article tells the tale of John Riggs, a former U.S. Army commander, who "publicly contradicted Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld by arguing that the army was overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan" - then abruptly found himself forced into retirement at a reduced rank, which normally only happens as a result of a major scandal.

The truth, of course, is that there aren't nearly enough troops. "Basically, we've got all the toys, but not enough boys," a Marine major in Anbar Province told The Los Angeles Times.
Oddly enough, having a close family member serving is Mosul (see his photos of Mosul here) one does tend to follow such items in the press.

Krugman cites a CBO (Congressional Budget Office) report from September of 2003 saying we had better start reducing the number of troops in Iraq soon. Why? We need to "maintain training and readiness levels, limit family separation and involuntary mobilization, and retain high-quality personnel." The CBO has this idea that the rule of thumb is this: no more than one third of the full-time forces overseas - except during emergencies.

What we have now?
… the Bush administration, which was ready neither to look for a way out of Iraq nor to admit that staying there would require a much bigger army, simply threw out the rulebook. Regular soldiers are spending a lot more than a third of their time overseas, and many reservists are finding their civilian lives destroyed by repeated, long-term call-ups.
Yes, and there is, as Krugman notes, the foot-dragging on armoring Humvees and the apparent policy of denying long-term disability payments to as many of the wounded as possible. He suggests these guys "seem almost pathologically determined to nickel-and-dime those who put their lives on the line for their country."

Well, calling the president and his subordinates pathological is not the way to effect change, as we all know. Calling people names just gets them to harden their positions.

So is this just one more liberal Times guy sputtering at the administration?

Tom Lasseter of Knight-Ridder Newspapers reports this two days later - U.S. Army officers in northwest Iraq say they don't have enough troops - and offers these details:
U.S. Army officers in northwest Iraq, near the Syrian border, say they don't have enough troops to hold the ground they take from insurgents in this transit point for weapons, money and foreign fighters.

From last October to the end of April, there were about 400 soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division patrolling the northwest region, which covers about 10,000 square miles, an area about the size of Maryland.

"Resources are everything in combat ... there's no way 400 people can cover that much ground," said Maj. John Wilwerding, of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR), which is responsible for the tract that includes Tal Afar.

"Because there weren't enough troops on the ground to do what you needed to do, the (insurgency) was able to get a toehold." said Wilwerding, 37, of Chaska, Minn.

During the past two months, Army commanders, trying to pacify the area, have had to move in some 4,000 Iraqi soldiers; about 2,000 more are on the way. About 3,500 troops from the 3rd ACR took control of the area this month, but officers said they were still understaffed for the mission.

"There's simply not enough forces here," said a high-ranking U.S. officer with knowledge of the 3rd ACR. "There are not enough to do anything right; everybody's got their finger in a dike."
Of course that officer spoke on the condition of anonymity. He said he was concerned he'd be reprimanded for questioning military policy. Yes, Bush?s generals tell him they have enough troops.

Who is going to say different?

For the record, we learn this ?
? three battalions of Marines are stationed in the western part of the province, down from four a few months ago. Marine officials in western Anbar say each of those battalions is smaller by one company than last year, meaning there are approximately 2,100 Marines there now, compared with about 3,600 last year.

Some U.S. military officers in Anbar province say commanders in Baghdad and the Pentagon have denied their repeated requests for more troops.

"(Commanders) can't use the word, but we're withdrawing," said one U.S. military official in Anbar province, who asked not to be identified because it is the Pentagon that usually speaks publicly about troop levels. "Slowly, that's what we're doing."
So? Don?t use the word.

Krugman in the Times sees a pathology ? insisting we have enough troop and punishing those who disagree. Knight-Ridder and the Los Angeles Times try to report from the ground.

Last weekend in Press Notes (see Acknowledging the Dispute) we noted the growing conservative claims that the press was, on the whole, anti-military, and by extension anti-American, and by extension on the side of the enemy, and then by extension treasonous. Is that is what is going on here? Anti-American reporters in the field hunting down unhappy low-level commanders and getting them to say these things? Or just making it all up?

Maybe. Who are you to believe?

But we are facing some real shortages. Note that the Financial Times manages here to get the head of Army recruiting to say that "by the end of April the army had attracted only 35,926 soldiers towards its goal of 80,000 for the year ending in October," and then blame it on low unemployment ? and on the war too.

Something is amiss ? and in the June 2 Washington Post you?ll find what comes next - After 30 Years, Draft Fears Rise: Some Youths and Parents Worry Despite Government's Assurances.

Hey, folks aren?t dumb. We have a problem.

But defining the problem is tricky.

And here is one part of it ? we get good people to join and stay ? but not perverts -
Wounded Gay Soldier Discharged From Army
Sergeant Wounded in Iraq Who Wanted to Remain in Army As Openly Gay Soldier Is Discharged
The Associated Press - May 31, 2005

An Army sergeant from Ohio who was wounded in Iraq and wanted to remain in the military as an openly gay soldier was officially discharged Tuesday, according to an advocacy group.

Sgt. Robert Stout, 23, was awarded the Purple Heart after a grenade sent shrapnel into his arm, face and legs while he was using a machine gun on a Humvee in May 2004.

Stout, of Utica in central Ohio, told The Associated Press in April that he wanted to remain in the military and be openly gay, but that would conflict with the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

? "I know a ton of gay men that would be more than willing to stay in the Army if they could just be open," Stout said in April.

Stout said he was openly gay among most of his 26-member platoon, part of the 9th Engineer Battalion based in Germany.

Army officials at the Pentagon could not immediately confirm the discharge. The Army declined to comment earlier on the case other than to say that soldiers discharged under "don't ask, don't tell" typically receive honorable discharges.
Okay, no comments on pathology. The Army Times covered the story earlier here. And we?ve let go of a lot of translators for the same reason, even if they were fluent in Arabic and other useful languages (see this from November of 2002, the first of many such actions).

We may be in trouble ? but if we go down it will be with straight guys, not queers? Okay, no comments on pathology.

But there may be a bigger problem ? a conceptual one. This has to do with Rumsfeld and his efforts to transform our Armed Services into a force of very few actual people and whole lots of whiz-bang technology.

James Wolcott puts in vividly in One-Man Wrecking Crew -
Donald Rumsfeld, whose Steely Resolve more and more resembles aluminum siding, is a man unafraid of confronting the full spectrum of America's enemies from Al Qaeda to Amnesty International. Some say he is too zealous in defending our freedom. Too candid. Too cocksure. Too unwilling to accept counsel and criticism. Too wedded to his overriding vision of military transformation.

Those some sayers are right.

His retirement as Secretary of Defense will leave a trail of ruination as its legacy that will stretch forward into the indeterminate future.
And Wolcott points to this from William Lind on June 2 -
When Rumsfeld leaves office, what will his successor inherit?

A volunteer military without volunteers. The Army missed its active-duty recruiting goal in April by almost half. Guard and Reserve recruiting are collapsing. Retention will do the same as "stop loss" orders are lifted. The reason, obviously, is the war in Iraq. Parents don't want to be the first one on their block to have their kid come home in a box.

The world's largest pile of wrecked and worn-out military equipment (maybe second-largest if we remember the old Soviet Navy). I'm talking about basic stuff here: trucks, Humvees, personnel carriers, crew-served weapons, etc. This is gear the Rumsfeld Pentagon hates to spend money on, because it does not represent 'transformation' to the hi-tech, video-game warfare it wrongly sees as the future. So far, deploying units have made up their deficiencies by robbing units that are not deploying, often National Guard outfits. But that stock has about run out, and some of the stripped units are now facing deployment themselves, minus their gear.

A military tied down in a strategically meaningless backwater, Iraq, to the point where it can't do much else...

Commitments to hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of future weapons programs that are militarily as useful as Zeppelins but less fun to watch...

A world wary of U.S. intentions and skeptical of any American claims about anything. In business, good will is considered a tangible asset. In true 'wreck it and run' fashion, Rumsfeld & Co. have reduced the value of that asset to near zero. A recent survey of the German public found Russia was considered a better friend than the United States.

Finally, the equivalent of an unfavorable ruling by a bankruptcy judge in the form of a lost war. We will be lucky if we can get out of Iraq with anything less than a total loss.
Could it be that bad?

Maybe. Consider this from ABC News -
The Pentagon on Wednesday postponed by more than a week the release of military recruiting figures for May, as the Army and Marine Corps struggle to attract new troops amid the Iraq war.

The military services had routinely provided most recruiting statistics for a given month on the first business day of the next month.

Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said the May numbers for the active-duty and reserve components of the all-volunteer military will be released on June 10.

"Military recruiting is instrumental to our readiness and merits the earliest release of data. But at the same time, this information must be reasonably scrutinized and explained to the public, which deserves the fullest insight into military performance in this important area," Krenke said.
There?s some explaining to do? Got to put some lipstick on this particular pig ? and note June 10 is a Friday. Releasing bad news late in the day on Friday is an old Washington tradition ? you keep it out of the main news cycles. [See the footnote below for an example.]

Too you could consider this from Defense Tech -
Air Combat Command (ACC), the primary provider of combat airpower, is cutting 32,000 flying hours to help compensate for its $825 million operations and maintenance shortfall.

The cuts come as Air Force aircrews are heavily worked, flying missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and over some U.S. cities in an attempt to prevent another terrorist attack.

"Starting early this summer, units may have aviators unable to get required training to maintain full combat-ready status," Col. Jim Dunn, deputy director of flight operations for ACC, said in a written statement. "Overall effectiveness will become a growing challenge."

With this cut, the command now has 21,000 flying hours left of the original 53,000-plus hours programmed for the rest of this fiscal year -- a 60 percent reduction.

? Retired Gen. Hal Hornburg, former ACC commander, said the cuts are "a big deal" and show the military's grim financial situation.

"They're not cutting fat, they're cutting to the bone," Hornburg said, noting the Pentagon has taken large sums of money away from the Air Force to pay for the Army in Iraq.
Well, even to some of us on the anti-war left, this all seems like madness. We may not think this war was a good idea, and see that it has damaged the nation severely in too many ways to count. But to destroy the Army and other services in a slow train-wreck of bad decisions, driven by fear of gay men and a lust for high-tech gizmos, and a refusal to listen to the worries of the guys on the ground? No. We used to chant War is Not the Answer ? but we didn?t have this in mind.


Related items of interest ?

We won't solve the military manpower crisis by retaining our worst soldiers.
By Phillip Carter and Owen West - Thursday, June 2, 2005, at 3:54 PM PT

This is a discussion of a new Army directive that attempts to alleviate the personnel crunch by retaining soldiers who are earmarked for early discharge during their first term of enlistment because of alcohol or drug abuse, unsatisfactory performance, or being overweight, among other reasons. "By retaining these soldiers, the Army lowers the quality of its force and places a heavy burden on commanders who have to take the poor performers into harm's way. This is a quick fix that may create more problems than it solves."

It's the Manpower, Stupid
The president's recent speech about "military transformation" makes no sense.
By Fred Kaplan - Thursday, June 2, 2005, at 2:51 PM PT

"? transformation and high-tech weaponry are no substitutes for manpower. In fact, they require more manpower?especially better-educated, more highly skilled manpower. The new synergy between smart bombs, satellite intelligence, and computerized communications worked as well as it did during the first phase of the Iraq war precisely because the American troops were so highly skilled and educated. About 95 percent of the U.S. military's recruits had graduated from high school. They also scored much higher on aptitude tests than their civilian counterparts. The deterioration of these standards is what the military's real crisis is all about. Even if transformation were really the driving force behind Pentagon planning and spending?even if the weapons envisioned actually existed and worked, even if the concept were wise to begin with?none of it would matter unless the manpower crisis, the military's real crisis, were solved first."



The Pentagon on Wednesday postponed by more than a week the release of military recruiting figures for May and said they would release them Friday, June 10. Releasing bad news late in the day on Friday is an old Washington tradition ? you keep it out of the main news cycles.

Case in point ?

Pentagon Confirms Quran Incident at Gitmo
Robert Burns, Associated Press Military Writer
Friday, June 03, 2005 4:20 pm Pacific Time
The Pentagon on Friday confirmed for the first time that a U.S. soldier deliberately kicked a Guantanamo Bay prisoner's Muslim holy book in violation of the military's rules for handling the Quran.

In other confirmed incidents, prison guards threw water balloons in a cell block, causing an unspecified number of Qurans to get wet; a guard's urine splashed on a detainee and his Quran; an interrogator stepped on a Quran during an interrogation; and a two-word obscenity was written in English on the inside cover of a Quran.

The findings are among the results of an investigation last month by Brig. Gen. Jay Hood, the commander of the detention center in Cuba, that was triggered by a Newsweek magazine report ? later retracted ? that a U.S. soldier had flushed one Guantanamo Bay detainee's Quran down a toilet.

? Last week, Hood disclosed that he had confirmed five cases of mishandling of the Quran, but he refused to provide details. Allegations of Quran desecration at Guantanamo Bay have led to anti-American passions in many Muslim nations, although Pentagon officials have insisted that the problems were relatively minor and that U.S. commanders have gone to great lengths to enable detainees to practice their religion in captivity.

Posted by Alan at 16:14 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 3 June 2005 16:49 PDT home

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