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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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Sunday, 10 July 2005

Topic: In these times...

This isn't funny anymore. But it never was.

I was out of town today, down south in the San Diego area, and didn't get a chance to see much of what was being said here and there in the world of those who try to make sense of the current events. And I've been distracted by the purely personal - as the Hollywood cat, Harriet, is quite seriously ill and tomorrow she's off to the veterinarian. The news I heard on the long drive south and the log drive back seemed to be all about Hurricane Dennis. What's to say about that? It will blow itself out as it moves up the Mississippi river valley and finally disappears somewhere over Cincinnati. The nation's news resources were consumed with that. Fine. That's what people want to hear about. I got home, walked in the door, and the cat, marginally better from a day of sleep in the shade on the cool concrete floor of the balcony, mewed pitifully and then ate a bit, and flopped down for some more sleep.

Time to see what's up – beside the hurricane. So while she was sleeping I scanned the Monday papers in the eastern time zone, and I see Bob Herbert in the New York Times is telling me this: It Just Gets Worse.

Thanks, Bob.

In his usual pedestrian prose he explains, as he's writing about the war -
Back in March 2004 President Bush had a great time displaying what he felt was a hilarious set of photos showing him searching the Oval Office for the weapons of mass destruction that hadn't been found in Iraq. It was a spoof he performed at the annual dinner of the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association.

The photos showed the president peering behind curtains and looking under furniture for the missing weapons. Mr. Bush offered mock captions for the photos, saying, "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere" and "Nope, no weapons over there ... maybe under here?"

If there's something funny about Mr. Bush's misbegotten war, I've yet to see it.
And he covers the usual. We had lost six hundred guys when Bush was making those jokes to the National Press Club. We're well over seventeen hundred now. He mentions the London bombings last week and quotes Larry Johnson, the former CIA analyst who served as deputy director of the State Department's counterterrorism office, who said on National Public Radio last week: "You now in Iraq have a recruiting ground in which jihadists, people who previously were not willing to go out and embrace the vision of bin Laden and Al Qaeda, are now aligning themselves with elements that have declared allegiance to him. And in the course of that, they're learning how to build bombs. They're learning how to conduct military operations."


And he ends with this:
Whatever one's views on the war, thoughtful Americans need to consider the damage it is doing to the United States, and the bitter anger that it has provoked among Muslims around the world. That anger is spreading like an unchecked fire in an incredibly vast field.

The immediate challenge to President Bush is to dispense with the destructive fantasies of the true believers in his administration and to begin to see America's current predicament clearly. New voices with new approaches and new ideas need to be heard. The hole we're in is deep enough. We need to stop digging.
This is what you call belaboring the obvious.

As a diversion I scanned what was on television, as there are lots of cable options. Let's see. "The Mummy Returns." "Legally Blond." A rerun of Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes in the Abbey Grange story. "Airplane" - dated, but a movie always good for a laugh. And on Showtime, Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" of all things. Ten minutes of that convinced me the film may do more good now that it did back then. Fewer and fewer folks will see it as foolish nonsense now. Events in the last several weeks make it seem almost prescient. Sometimes you have to wait. What's up with the folks at Showtime? (Other movie news is that Oliver Stone, the master of conspiracy theory, is planning a movie on the September 11th attacks of 2001 - and the right side of the world is up in arms.)

The business with Karl Rove is heating up - David Corn says this:
Yet tonight I received this as-solid-as-it-gets tip: on Sunday Newsweek is posting a story that nails Rove. The newsmagazine has obtained documentary evidence that Rove was indeed a key source for Time magazine's Matt Cooper and that Rove - prior to the publication of the Bob Novak column that first publicly disclosed Valerie Wilson/Plame as a CIA official - told Cooper that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife apparently worked at the CIA and was involved in Joseph Wilson's now-controversial trip to Niger.
Well, there's tons of discussion about that, mostly speculation. (You can find a survey of that here.) But it will all play out. Harriet-the-Cat is something I can actually do something about by carting her off to the vet in the morning.

And Sunday was time with the mother of the fellow just transferred from Mosul to Baghdad, to a staff job in the Green Zone. Yeah, I'm worried about him. What Bush says is nonsense, and most people know it. Folks say it doesn't matter, but I don't feel like cutting Bush any slack because he's a good old boy. I want my honorable, decent and thoughtful nephew back in one piece. There actually are real drawbacks to having a smirking frat boy who doesn't like to think things through in charge of it all. It's not funny anymore.

And it's not funny that the Catholic Church under the new pope is saying evolution is incompatible with Catholic faith. (Good discussion here and here.) But being of little faith why does this matter to me?

More interesting is this post on the origin of the name al Qaeda, and the connection Isaac Asimov's 1951 science fiction trilogy "Foundation" - which was translated into Arabic under the title "al-Qaida". Odd. I remember the books. Very depressing.

But the post to read is this: Bush's War on the American Soldiers - not only has the Veterans Administration been underfunded as the Republicans have successfully blocked all increases for care for the returning wounded, it seems advances in body armor have meant that far fewer of our guys than ever before die in combat, but as the new armor only protects the torso (magnificently) those injured who now survive usually have multiple amputations and massive brain damage. This takes enormous new resources. They aren't there.

Why aren't they there? Try this -
Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson says he warned President Bush before U.S. troops invaded Iraq that the United States would sustain casualties but that Bush responded, "Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties."

White House and campaign advisers denied Bush made the comment, with adviser Karen Hughes saying, "I don't believe that happened. He must have misunderstood or misheard it."

... Robertson, in an interview with CNN that aired Tuesday night, said God had told him the war would be messy and a disaster. When he met with Bush in Nashville, Tenn., before the war Bush did not listen to his advice, Robertson said, and believed Saddam Hussein was an evil tyrant who needed to be removed.

"He was just sitting there, like, 'I'm on top of the world,' and I warned him about this war," Robertson said.

"I had deep misgivings about this war, deep misgivings. And I was trying to say, 'Mr. President, you better prepare the American people for casualties.' 'Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties.' 'Well,' I said, 'it's the way it's going to be.' And so, it was messy. The Lord told me it was going to be, A, a disaster and, B, messy."
The power of positive thinking - if you believe it isn't so you can make so that is isn't so.

This isn't funny anymore. But it never was.

Ah well, I'll worry about the cat.

Posted by Alan at 23:02 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 10 July 2005 23:11 PDT home

Saturday, 9 July 2005

Topic: Photos


The new issue of Just Above Sunset, the parent "magazine format" weekly of this daily web log, has just been posted. That would be Volume 3, Number 28 - for the week of July 10, 2005 - and it was posted a tad early this week as some other matters have come up.

This issue? The London bombings were the big news of the week and it seemed everyone wanted to spin the events there one way or another, and that effort is analyzed here. Another focus of the news this week concerned two women - one who resigned from the Supreme Court, another a New York Times reporter who was led off to jail - and just who said what about what all that all means is in the item that uses the word "farce" in its title. A separate section is devoted to a survey of futile, callous, humorous and just strange observations that had washed up on the media beach by the weekend, along with observations from some of our readers. But there's more. "Our Man in Paris," Ric Erickson, is on the scene as Paris loses the Olympics bid, and provides Saturday night photos from the City of Light. And the decline of America industry is noted, as it seems Canada is just a far better place to do business.

Features this week? Returning to an old topic – Americans who see taking vacation time as something highly suspicious - a topic that exploded in the world of commentary this week, again. It's that time, of course. The quotes are all about London and England and the British, and there's a new link to a new photo album.

Bob Patterson is back, with some starting ideas on political strategies and, in his Book Wrangler column, with some notes on books that might be for children, but might not be.

Photography this week? Return to the Ice Age with a visit to the world famous La Brea Tar Pits (they must be famous as they are in so many movies), or go the other way and visit the world of science fiction, as seen here in Hollywood, with a side trip to Toronto.

Note last week's Paris photographs from Don Smith have been reformatted so you don't miss a thing.

Here are direct links to each page.

Current Events _____________

London: What to Say?
Politics: If I Want a Farce I'll Read Feydeau
Staying Informed: No End of Futile Analysis Available
Business Notes: Oh, Canada!
Our Man in Paris: Paris battu par Londres (with new photographs)

Features _____________

Summer Vacations: Immoral, Anti-American, or Just Too French?
Quotes for the week of July 10, 2005 - London Calling
Links and Recommendations: New Photo Gallery Available

Bob Patterson _____________

WLJ Weekly: from the desk of the World's Laziest Journalist - What Democrats Could Learn From a Rape Prevention Program
Book Wrangler: Bangers and Mash Trump Truffles

Photography _____________

Local Photography: The La Brea Tar Pits
SCI FI Corner: Watching the Skies (Hollywood and Toronto)

Held Over and Reformatted _____________

Left Bank Lens: Pas tout l'art à Paris est dans les musées
Left Bank Lens (2): Les périls étonnants de Paris

And a teaser for the SCI FI section - Gort, Klaatu's robot from Robert Wise's 1951 movie The Day the Earth Stood Still, standing in a window on La Brea here in Hollywood. Colin Powell said this film had a big influence on Ronald Reagan, who was a big time sci-fi fan. As you recall Reagan proposed to Gorbachev at their first summit meeting in Geneva that the US and USSR should cooperate if the earth were to be invaded by aliens from outer space. Gorbachev was no doubt a bit taken aback. Much more in the SCI FI section.

And they're still pushing science fiction films these days of course, as seen on this billboard next to Gort.

Posted by Alan at 21:19 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 9 July 2005 21:26 PDT home

Friday, 8 July 2005

Topic: The Economy

Business Notes: Oh, Canada!

Note this item from July 1 -
Toyota confirmed Thursday it will build its seventh North American assembly plant in Ontario, but analysts don't expect it to be the automaker's last on this continent.

"I think they're already thinking about their eighth and ninth plants,'' said Kim Hill, assistant director of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Hill said there is already speculation Toyota, whose North American manufacturing operations are coordinated out of Erlanger, might eventually build assembly plants in Arkansas and even Michigan, home of Detroit's Big Three.
Dream on. There's a problem here structurally as CBC reports. American states offered twice the subsidies, and the Toyota folks decided, no, that didn't matter.

The factory will cost $800 million to build, with the federal and provincial governments kicking in $125 million of that to help cover research, training and infrastructure costs.

Several U.S. states were reportedly prepared to offer more than double that amount of subsidy. But Fedchun said much of that extra money would have been eaten away by higher training costs than are necessary for the Woodstock project.

He said Nissan and Honda have encountered difficulties getting new plants up to full production in recent years in Mississippi and Alabama due to an untrained - and often illiterate - workforce. In Alabama, trainers had to use "pictorials" to teach some illiterate workers how to use high-tech plant equipment.

"The educational level and the skill level of the people down there is so much lower than it is in Ontario," Fedchun said.
Okay, okay, but what about northern states with, presumably, better educational systems?

Well, its seems that there is a second factor.
In addition to lower training costs, Canadian workers are also $4 to $5 cheaper to employ partly thanks to the taxpayer-funded health-care system in Canada, said federal Industry Minister David Emmerson.

"Most people don't think of our health-care system as being a competitive advantage," he said.

Tanguay said Toyota's decision on where to build its seventh North American plant was "not only about money."

"It's about being in the right place," he said, noting the company can rely on the expertise of experienced Cambridge workers to help get Woodstock up and running.
So when did the United States stop being the right place?

A long time ago.

In the late nineties I spent two years in London, Ontario, managing the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive plant there. When I arrived I faced the task of building a staff, from scratch, to manage the business and manufacturing systems there. I recruited from the local auto plants. There are a few. Toyota already produces the Corolla and Matrix at the old Cambridge plant (they start preproduction of the Lexus RX330 SUV soon). Chrysler was down the way in Windsor. Every Ford Crown Victoria - the US police car - is produced down in Saint Thomas, just south of London. Honda builds its cars in Alliston. Oshawa? That's GM building the Chevrolet Malibu, Buick Regal and Pontiac Grand Prix - and the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado pickups. Ford builds most of its engines at its Essex engine plant in Windsor.

What is going on here?

We don't want a healthcare system like Canada's, or the one in France, or the one in the UK - or any of those in Europe, or the far east, or wherever. Yes, discussed that has been discussed in these pages before, as it comes down to our holding true to the idea that that would be "socialized medicine" (oh no!) and the government should stay out of the whole thing. The marketplace will take care of it all - the invisible hand of competition lowering costs and assuring everyone gets what they need. That, and pigs will fly. The price for our steadfast purity in these matters of unregulated capitalism? That's pretty obvious. Forty-four million uninsured, hoping they don't get sick. And the Republican mantra of "keep government out of it" will keep us happy as the jobs go north, or south. Better purity than jobs.

And I left teaching for many reasons, but one of them was it paid crap. My first industry job, at entry level, paid more than twice what I earned after a decade of teaching. And I recall being a guest lecturer at the UCLA Extension seminars on "Alternative Careers for Teachers" back then, looking out at the sea of faces, thinking that the best want out and to have a relatively prosperous life, while those who can't get out - who don't have the skills or ambition - are the ones left to teach the kids. The losers have to stay. They wanted to know how I made the transition. I felt as if I was then contributing, in my own small way, to the disintegration of the educational system. But then again, I was not part of the crowd railing against higher taxes for schools, nor ranting that the teachers unions where a bunch of whining crybabies being greedy. And I'm still not part of the crowd who want to make science classes more Christian and true to the Bible, and who want this book or that banned because it makes kids learn what could make some parents uncomfortable and open some kid's eyes. I only did a little harm. The no-tax-increases and keep-our-children-pure party has done far more harm than I, in my small way, ever did.

This is what you get. But it's only one new auto assembly plant we've lost. We lost the main battle long ago.

Posted by Alan at 23:25 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 8 July 2005 23:34 PDT home

Topic: In these times...

Staying Informed: No End of Futile Analysis Available

As the week ended the London bombings were the sole topic of debate in the chattering class. Whatever did they mean to us all? What about the GWOT (Global War on Terror)? Does it need to be redefined? Should we revise the objectives? What about its efficacy - is it working?

Who knows? You can always check on the status of the debate over at The Daou Report where Peter Daou provides the most current comment on the left in excerpts in the left column, with links to the source item. The most current comment on the right are shown in, of course, the right column, with links to the sources. The middle-of-the-road comments are lower left, and comment on the media lower right. It's convenient, and disheartening.

At the end of the week this is the divide as he sees it.
From Captain's Quarters: "We, Brit and American, will finish the job. There is a reason that English-speaking people have dominated the world for centuries: there is something noble in our culture that will not allow us to give up or give in, an idealistic fever to "let justice be done, though Heaven should fall."

Digby is fed up with false bravado: "The [British] helped us gin up phony evidence to invade Iraq and were with us all the way. They helped us invade Afghanistan to topple the government that supports al Qaeda. They have turned a blind eye to abduction, rendition, imprisonment and torture of suspected terrorists. What exactly is the macho, codpiece wielding "roaring back" plan this time? What, pray tell, is our next military move in the global war on terror?"
That about captures the debate, although not everyone one the right is so overtly claiming the superiority of the White Man, who has dominated the world because he deserves to dominate the world.

Did these events in London change everything, or anything? Kevin Drum over at the Washington Monthly thinks not:
… here's a very brief history of major Islamist terror attacks over the past five years:

- 2001: New York City
- 2002: Bali
- 2003: Casablanca, Istanbul
- 2004: Madrid
- 2005: London

I only want to make the point that as horrific as the London bombing was, it doesn't "teach" us anything. It doesn't represent a new phase, a new tactic, or a new target for al-Qaeda. Quite the opposite, in fact. We know perfectly well that this is what they do, we can expect similar bombings to happen again, and we need to do everything we can to stop them.

It's perfectly appropriate to discuss - loudly, passionately - what the best way to deal with al-Qaeda is. But despite the vast amount of windbaggery this attack has spawned, there's no new lesson here just because we feel closer to the British than, perhaps, we did to the Turks or Indonesians or Spaniards. The war we're fighting today is the same one we were fighting on Wednesday.
Same old same old.

Of course, speaking of "windbaggery," Fox News, which I suspect Ric and my friends in Paris don't see over there, has been saying, in their rotation of commentary, that we Americans all agree it's too bad the bombings weren't in Paris.

John Gibson, the day before, on why Paris should have got the Olympic bid - then they'd have been bombed - "So it would have been a treat, actually, to watch the French dealing with the problem of their own homegrown Islamist terrorists living in France already."

John Gibson, the day of the London bombings - "The bombings in London: This is why I thought the Brits should let the French have the Olympics -- let somebody else be worried about guys with backpack bombs for a while."

And the other hand, Fox anchor Brian Kilmeade argued that now the Brits, who really knew nothing about terrorism and such, will "get it" - and this happening with the G8 leaders nearby was a great day for us all - "And that was the first time since 9-11 when they should know, and they do know now, that terrorism should be Number 1. But it's important for them all to be together. I think that works to our advantage, in the Western world's advantage, for people to experience something like this together, just 500 miles from where the attacks have happened."

But classic on Fox News was Shepard Smith and Brit Hume just after the bombings - note Hume's first thought -
From Fox News' July 7 breaking news coverage between 1 and 2 p.m. ET:
SMITH: Some of the things you might expect to happen, for instance, a drop in the stock market and some degree of uncertainty across this country -- none of that really seen today, and I wonder if the timing of it - that it happened in the middle of the night and we were able to get a sense of the grander scheme of things - wasn't helpful in all this.

HUME: Well, maybe. The other thing is, of course, people have - you know, the market was down. It was down yesterday, and you know, you may have had some bargain-hunting going on. I mean, my first thought when I heard - just on a personal basis, when I heard there had been this attack and I saw the futures this morning, which were really in the tank, I thought, "Hmmm, time to buy." Others may have thought that as well. But you never know about the markets. But obviously, if the markets had behaved badly, that would obviously add to people's sense of alarm about it. But there has been a lot of reassurance coming, particularly in the way that - partly in the way the Brits handled all this, but also in the way that officials here handled it. There seems to be no great fear that something like that is going to happen here, although there's no indication that we here had any advance warning.
Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta - who, in spite of his connection to CNN as one of its first employees also worked twice for Roger Ailes, the fellow who runs Fox News - was amused:
Hey, I always figured that if you're looking for someone who's bullish on terrorism, you'll probably find him at Fox News! I mean, none of your namby-pamby liberal pessimism over there, no sirree; Fox News Channel employs only folks who have the savvy to pinpoint that tiny ray of hope on any cloudy day!
That about nails it, but you might want to check out James Wolcott's discussion here as it is even more detailed and snarky. (Wolcott argues as callous as the statement was, it was also lousy investment advice.)

Minor gossip item - on Wednesday last, Roger Ailes, head of Fox News, had lunch with Jonathan Klein, the new head of CNN, at the famous Michael's (of course, New Yorkers know all about the place). The day before the London bombings. A conspiracy-minded friend of mine is working on a column for these pages proving that what Brit Hume said above - "there's no indication that we here had any advance warning " - is a lie. He contends key people knew about these London bombings - time and place and all that. He says there's something fishy here. Ah, perhaps Klein and Ailes were planning their coverage together over seared ahi and a flinty French Chablis - how to drive the American public into a new pro-Bush panic. Perhaps they were discussing how to play the market the next day, for maximum profit. Spin your own theory.

Is there a master plan? Over at Fafblog (don't ask) you can find one - which is also one of the better summaries of the Bush speech on the war last week -
Your Guide to The Plan

Q: So what's the plan?
A: The plan is to stick with the plan! If it ain't broke don't fix it.
Q: Why do we need the plan?
A: To stop terrorists like Saddam bin Laden from building another World Trade Center in Iraq - just so they can blow it up again.
Q: That would be horrible! How is the plan stopping them?
A: The plan is the central front in the war against terror! We invaded Iraq to get Iraqis to fight us in Iraq so they wouldn't fight us at home.
Q: The plan has cleverly lured them to where they already were, only in terrorist form!
A: Now you're catchin on!
Q: Hey, I know! We should invade like a small cardboard box. When all the terrorists attack there, we'll jump out of the way, tape up the box, and throw it in the ocean! No more terrorists!
A: Hey! No peeking ahead at the plan!

Q: Do we have enough troops for the plan?
A: The plan hasn't asked for any more troops. Why would it ask for more troops?
Q: Well I just heard...
A: We got tons a troops! Wooo! We're in a whole room fulla troops! Can't swing a stick without hittin a troop.
Q: Oh well that is a big relief! I was hearin alllll this crazy talk about "we don't got any troops" an I was all...
A: But you should sign up and become a troop.
Q: I thought you didn't need troops.
A: We don't! Nope, don't need troops at all.
Q: Okay, whew, that's good!
A: Pleeeeennnty a troops.
Q: Okay well if that's all -
A: But sign up anyway! Just for shits n giggles.

Q: How can I help the plan?
A: The best thing you can do to help the plan is support our troops, like with one a those car ribbons that says "Support Our Troops."
Q: Oh no - I do not own a car! How can I properly use it to help the plan?
A: Quick! Stick it to your head! Your head!
Q: Oh no, it is magnetic! It will not stay on!
A: Use the tape, the TAPE!
Q: It's falling off! It's FALLING OFF!
A: Thirty-one to base, we have a ribbon down! Repeat, we have a ribbon down!

Q: How long will the plan take?
A: The plan will be finished when there is no more terror. All around the world terror will cease to exist. When you are about to feel terrified you will feel something else, like sleepy or ticklish or hungry.
Q: Like you'll get attacked by a bear and go "Man I could go for a pizza"! What will happen to terrorists?
A: Terrorists will still pop up but because there's no more terror they will just have to work through the political process like everybody else. Hezbollah will threaten massive leafleting campaigns. ETA will make frequent appearances on Special Report with Brit Hume. Al Qaeda will run a third-party candidate for town council on a platform of zoning reform and school choice.
Q: What happens if the plan fails?
A: Then the world is eaten. By terror.
Q: Noooooooo!
A: Yes. Eaten by terror. What's something you like?
Q: Puppies?
A: All eaten. By terror.
Q: Noooooooo! Unless... we stick with the plan!
A: Smart thinking! And that's the plan.
I don't know why I like this stuff, but it's kind of cool. And I keep hearing Tony Orlando and Dawn singing, "Hang another ribbon on the SUV..." (Well, it scans right.)

As soon as I said that Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, shot back -
Although I suppose if you wanted to get technical about it, that should read "TIE a another ribbon ROUND the SUV..."

But whatever.

(Oh great, now I'm going to have that damn song in my head all day.)
Actually I was thinking of the magnetic yellow ribbons one sees on SUV's that say "Support Our Troops" - and note this is a demand that you so something the other person assumes you are not doing, rather than a self-declaration like "I Support Our Troops" - and since these are magnetic yellow ribbons the verb should be neither "hang" nor "tie," but rather "slap."

Rick shot this back -
"Slap" is good! Yes, I can hear the song more clearly now ... "SLAAAAP a yellow ribbon on your SUV..."
Yep, events in London caused a whole lot of slapping. Harmless enough.

But Rick did take exception to something else I said regarding the Karl Rove business (did he commit a felony by revealing the name of a CIA agent for petty political reasons?) and how it wasn't getting much press attention -
If ever Rove is charged with this, or with only perjury or obstruction of justice, or let off the hook, then you might see a news story here and there. News is events - not allegations, as I think Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, would agree. For example, the news didn't say one single thing about the allegations of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth about John Kerry - alleging Kerry was a coward, a liar, and perhaps a war criminal - until the Swift Boat guys proved it was so - just like they said. Then it was a story. No, wait...
Rick's response -
No, actually, he wouldn't.

Allegations, depending on where they come from, can also be events in themselves, even if the claims will later turn out to be untrue.
That set off our business school professor in upstate New York -
Which is the whole Republican game - Yes? No?

Any allegation that catches fire is better than letting people on accurate allegations of misdeeds in process - so they fire allegations - that's the ENTIRE Rove strategy in a nutshell - isn't it?
Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, responds -
I would say this is largely true that the Republicans do this.

But I would also argue that people who sit around waiting for the so-called "mainstream media" to stir things up and chase after someone or other would be better advised to get their elected representatives to keep the fires hot by making allegations of their own, at which point the MSM will be forced to cover these as news.

But instead, what we see is a Democrat being shouted down by Republicans and forced to apologize for accurately quoting an FBI account of prison abuse, with nary a peep of defense from his fellow democrats, but also a storm of protest from fellow democrats criticizing Howard Dean when he takes a few mild swipes at Republicans.

For example, was there anything approaching a Democratic firestorm that surrounded Karl Rove, demanding he apologize or maybe even resign, following his recent remarks in New York?
From upstate New York -
Which all reminds me that in college (when we were living in different forms of altered states - different from the political ones that bear down on us today) in college we had a simplification of persona that you were either a buffalo or a duck (that being a required observation, because due to "alterations" too many of us lay around being indecisive ducks). Now four decades later I see in Rick's commentary that "buffalos and ducks" have become new political behavioral icons. Talk about full closure, or life repeating itself... whichever you prefer.
From Atlanta -
In other words, instead of Elephants and Donkeys?

Hmm. Maybe.

But I'm not sure the imagery works for me. My immediate picture is of a buffalo lazily grazing on prairie grass, maybe swatting flies with his tail, and then I see a duck slapping loudly around a barber shop, yelling "Aflac!"
From upstate New York -
See what media does to you? Buffalos USED to stampede... and ducks did once just sit around quacking. Not sure Aflac is that far off...
Buffalos. Ducks. It's been an odd week.

Posted by Alan at 19:44 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 8 July 2005 19:59 PDT home

Thursday, 7 July 2005

Topic: Breaking News

London: What to Say?

The only news Thursday was from London -
Four blasts rocked the London subway and tore open a packed double-decker bus during the morning rush hour Thursday, killing dozens in well-coordinated attacks that experts and British officials said bore the signature of al-Qaida. …
The first real hurricane of the season is moving in, sharks are still biting people, that pretty blond girl is still missing in Aruba, oil is staying above sixty dollars a barrel and the chief economist at Goldman Sachs sees over a hundred dollars a barrel as likely (December options are running around eighty), that New York Times reporter is now in jail for not saying who knows what, the reporter who printed the name of the CIA agent and destroyed her cover and her career is still a star on CNN, the man who master-minded the deal to "get" a fellow who embarrassed the president with the truth is still somewhere in the administration, and may be the presdient's top advisor - but the story Thursday is London.

Following the London story is easiest using the BBC News Front Page as it has maps and all, and a link to their live television feed.

What is being said about all this? Peter Daou sums it up:
LEFT: So much for "We're winning the war on terror," and "Let's fight the terrorists in Iraq so we don't fight them at home."

RIGHT: "Bush is right, this is a full blown war and liberals just don't know how to fight it."
That's about it. But Kevin Drum over at the Washington Monthly, in a post with a photo of the Union Jack at half-mast is a bit put off -
If I could have one small wish for today, it would be for the blogosphere on both left and right to refrain from political point scoring over the London attacks. Just for a day. Isn't tomorrow soon enough to return to our usual arguments?
No. Apparently not.

Digby over at Hullabaloo replies with this -
So, we're fighting the terrorists in Iraq - and London - so we won't have to fight them here?

I think the flypaper's lost its stick.

... Kevin wishes that the blogosphere could not politicize this for just one day, out of respect for the dead, which I understand. I struggled with whether I should write this post for those very reasons.

But I don't think we have the luxury of doing that, sadly, because the Bush administration has made exploiting terrorism their primary mode of governance and because of that we continue to see horrific scenes like today. Bush and his spokesmen are wasting no time is spinning this terrible event to their advantage once again.

I would like to see this as simple tit-for-tat political oneupsmanship because it would mean that it wasn't all that important. But Bush's incompetence IS all that important and we can't afford to let him crawl over the backs of any more dead people to boost his political fortunes.
Harsh? Well, Bush did say, "We are fighting these terrorists with our military in Afghanistan and Iraq and beyond so we do not have to face them in the streets of our own cities."

Question. Is London one of our own cities, or doesn't it count? If it does, Kos has a question. "Well, that didn't work out quite as planned, did it?"

He elaborates here in Flypaper:
Bush's latest rationale for maintaining the course in Iraq adventure has been the "flypaper strategy" - it's better to fight the terrorists over there than at home.

Nevermind that the Iraqis never asked to have their country turned into a dangerous den of terrorism, insurgency, violence and death. For war supporters looking for an excuse, any excuse, to justify the continued disastrous American presence in Iraq, the flypaper rationale was as good as any.

Except that it's not working. The war isn't making the West any safer. In fact, it's creating a whole new class of terrorists. Today it was London. Next time it could easily be the United States. And waging the war in Iraq, rather than make us safer, is further motivating Islamic terrorists to strike at the West.

Five of the London fatalities were killed by a bomb in the Edgware Road Tube station. Elisa and I have friends that use that stop every morning and we're both sick with worry. Every one of those deaths today sickens me. Those committing these attacks, like those committing any terrorist attack, need to be brought down.

But Bush (and Blair) took their eyes off the prize - neglected to finish the job in Afghanistan, let Al Qaida off the hook to rebuild and reorganize, and helped swell its ranks with an unnecessary and inept campaign in Iraq.

There are consequences to the mess in Iraq. And today, we're seeing one of them. Unfortunately, it won't be the last.
Disclaimer: I too have used Edgware Road Tube station - five years ago when off to the West End to see Ralph Fiennes do Richard II - and those were different days. It was a twinge to see it today on television.

But to the main point, that this war has made things worse. Has it?

The short answer? It seems so.

Reuters a few months ago (April) - Major terror attacks triple in '04 by U.S. count: Intelligence briefing renews debate over war on terrorism -
The U.S. count of major world terrorist attacks more than tripled in 2004, a rise that may revive debate about whether the Bush administration is winning the war on terrorism, congressional aides said Tuesday.

The number of "significant" international terrorist attacks rose to about 650 last year from about 175 in 2003, according to congressional aides briefed Monday on the numbers by U.S. State Department and intelligence officials.
And then the Financial Times the day before the bombs went off in London -US Raises figures for terror attacks to 3,200 -
The Bush administration on Tuesday released new figures for global terrorism that showed there were almost 3,200 terrorist incidents worldwide in 2004.

In April the US State Department had said there were 651 "international" terrorism incidents last year. But using a broader definition to include attacks that "deliberately hit civilians or non-combatants" the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) on Tuesday raised that number to 3,192. The incidents resulted in the deaths, injury or kidnapping of almost 28,500 people.
But who's counting? Is this "flypaper" idea just not working out, or could the Bush administration argue that there would have been even more of these attacks if we hadn't invaded and occupied Iraq?

You decide.

The endlessly acerbic - and hero to contrarians everywhere - Christopher Hitchens argues that the London bombing had nothing to do with Iraq.

The Anticipated Attack
Christopher Hitchens - Thursday, July 7, 2005, at 10:39 AM PT ? SLATE.COM

The idea here all this could have to do with this:
... the impending trial of Abu Hamza al Mazri, a one-eyed and hook-handed mullah who isn't as nice as he looks and who preaches Bin-Ladinism from a shabby mosque in North London. He is currently awaiting extradition to the United States, and his supporters might have wanted to make a loving gesture in his favor.

This would mean that the cell or gang was homegrown, rather than smuggled in from North Africa or elsewhere. Or it could mean coordination between the two. In any event, there are two considerations here. The first is Britain's role as a leading member of the "Coalition" in Iraq and Afghanistan. The second is its role as a host to a large and growing Muslim minority. The first British citizens to be killed in Afghanistan were fighting for the Taliban, which is proof in itself that the Iraq war is not the original motivating force. Last year, two British Muslims pulled off a suicide attack at an Israeli beach resort. In many British cities, there are now demands for sexual segregation in schools and for separate sharia courts to try Muslim defendants. The electoral strength of Muslims is great enough to encourage pandering from all three parties: The most egregious pandering of all has come from Blair himself, who has promised legislation that would outlaw any speech that could be construed as offensive to Islam. Since most British Muslims are of Asian descent, a faint sense exists that criticism of their religion is somehow racist: In practice this weak-mindedness leads to the extension of an antiquated law on blasphemy that ought long ago to have been repealed but is now to cover the wounded feelings of Muslims as well as Christians.
So it could be a local matter, having nothing to do with Bush and flypaper and whatever. That is possible, of course.

And in London now? Andrew Sullivan, another expatriate Brit, has been compiling reactions.

The London News Review -
We've dealt with your sort before. You don't try and pull this on us.

Do you have any idea how many times our city has been attacked? Whatever you're trying to do, it's not going to work.

All you've done is end some of our lives, and ruin some more. How is that going to help you? You don't get rewarded for this kind of crap.

And if, as your MO indicates, you're an al-Qaeda group, then you're out of your tiny minds.

Because if this is a message to Tony Blair, we've got news for you. We don't much like our government ourselves, or what they do in our name. But, listen very clearly. We'll deal with that ourselves. We're London, and we've got our own way of doing things, and it doesn't involve tossing bombs around where innocent people are going about their lives.

And that's because we're better than you. Everyone is better than you. Our city works. We rather like it. And we're going to go about our lives. We're going to take care of the lives you ruined. And then we're going to work. And we're going down the pub.

So you can pack up your bombs, put them in your arseholes, and get the fuck out of our city.
And this email he received -
Work's over but there's little chance of getting home right now. Most of us are just going to go to the pub until the traffic has died down. It's not callousness or indifference to carry on as normal, it's quiet defiance.
And this -
14:05 - I tell you what, if this is an "Islamic" terrorist attack, they're doing a piss-poor job. The pubs are all packed out, people sipping their pints happily, all a tad pissed off, but basically fine with it. Nice one, Al Quaeda - you profess to be from a teetotal religion, and you've given the pub trade a massive mid-week boost.
But then there is this -
"You are right to point out the British stoicism in the face of the attacks; it's quite admirable. However, your expat Brit emailer from London stretches his comparison too far. Perhaps if Westminster Abbey had a plane rammed into its side and over 3,000 people died, the sports commentators might feel the need to make a mention of it. It's wonderful the Brits are going on with their lives as normal and the Americans might indeed do well to take note, but spare us comparisons between the attacks, because they aren't at all comparable."

Point taken. I should add that celebrating British stoicism does not imply that somehow the American response is inferior. It isn't. Americans see a problem and want to fix it; Brits sometimes endure it. Some synthesis of these two approaches may be helpful in dealing with Islamo-fascist terror. I don't see either as somehow better than the other - just different.
So be it.

Other reactions?

This: "... it should be clear to everyone that we are losing the war on terror.... I've grown so weary of listening to the president and his minions pretend as if they are the only adults in the room who have any sense when they castigate liberals for wanting to use police powers in order to catch these people rather than armies."

This: "Let's be clear. The bombings today in London's subway system show how bullshit Bush's priorities are in the war on terror. Even as we pour hundreds of billions of dollars into Iraq and the military, vulnerable infrastructure like the New York City subway is underfunded and left vulnerable."

This: "... people aren't paying attention to how little things have really changed since the War on Terror began."

And on it goes.

A cynical friend just suggested that perhaps the French are behind the London bombings - a fit of pique over losing the 2012 Olympics. I suspect we can reject that theory, but he was calling from lower Manhattan, waiting for a bus home, near his office, at the corner by the big hole where the World Trade Center towers used to stand. He's earned his cynicism.



London in happier days - a swan in Round Pond just north of Royal Albert Hall, June 2000 - not that far from the Edgware Road Tube station -

Posted by Alan at 16:05 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 7 July 2005 22:40 PDT home

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