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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

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

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

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Wednesday, 12 April 2006
The New Master Narrative: The Hits Keep Coming
Topic: Chasing the Zeitgeist

The New Master Narrative: The Hits Keep Coming

As anyone who follows sports knows, there's something self-reinforcing in a losing streak, or in the baseball subset, a batting slump. First one thing goes wrong, then another, and you try changing things, or you try to get back to what was going right before, but you don't exactly know what it was. Things once just felt right, but now everything you do is over-compensation. Everything just feels wrong. Some say it's like being caught in quicksand (as it's popularly depicted) - the harder you struggle to get free the deeper you sink, and you die. And in sports it seems your luck runs out. You get bad calls from the referee, umpire or line judge. Before you shrugged them off. Now they really hurt, and make things even worse.

This happens in politics too. The Democrats have been on a losing streak since the Supreme Court stopped the recount of the Florida votes in January 2000 and decided the best thing for the country, really, was to rule that George Bush should be the new president, not Al Gore. Since then the Democrats can't win for losing, as they say. Push back on policies or specific decisions and people think you're somewhere between stupidly obstructionist and out of touch, or more malevolently, you hate America and want us to "lose" the big struggle of the moment. Decide to agree with anything and you're seen as lacking in principle, or at least original thought - thus the Republican Party endless saying they are the "party of ideas," even if the ideas are recycled simple-minded catch phrases from the Reagan years or economic supply-side theory from decades ago that just does work, like the famous Laffer Curve (cut taxes and government revenue will grow). And the other side reinforces it all, building a sort of "loser" narrative that is, in itself, self-reinforcing. All mistakes, even the small ones, are magnified. Internal disagreement is lack of principle. Enthusiasm is pathological behavior, as with Howard Dean's famous "scream" that proved he was so bat-shit crazy he should never hold any office, not even dogcatcher. What you get right is an accident. You said the war was a really, really bad idea? Lucky guess. And so on and so forth.

But narratives change, and batting slumps end. And suddenly Reggie Jackson can't hit the curve, or gets struck out on three screaming fastballs, right over the plate, from an impossibly young rookie pitcher in a key game (some of us saw that happen out here on Los Angeles many years ago). But what changes?

For the Bush administration, with its dismal polling and the word "incompetent" floating around, the narrative changed in September of 2005, with the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. That didn't go well. Michael Brown was shamed out of his post running FEMA, then all the talk about "no one thought the levees would fail" was exposed as not quite so, and Brown turned out to actually have done his best. There was a lot of talk about a wondrous rebuilding program for New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, but there's nothing much happening. And then the "incompetent" narrative started to snowball. It was self-reinforcing. Just what was that business about privatizing Social Security? And if the economy is doing so fine, why are wages flat or falling? What was that business about that Harriet woman nominated to the Supreme Court, that odd little woman, massively unqualified but a personal friend? And you think the folks from the United Arab Emirates would be fine running operations at our major ports?

And then, to support the new narrative, in the same manner the media and commentators had "investigated" the "loser" Democrats, they turned to "proving" the new narrative is a pretty nifty way to explain things - "It's true, it's true, it's really true!" Of course the news and opinion media, commercial enterprises, sustain themselves, and prosper if they can, by providing documentation of what people believe is so. The idea is to sense what the narrative is and give people what they want. That's the business model.

So what no one wanted to know about before became what people wanted to see, and they got it, with looks back on the war that seems to have actually been a major bone-headed idea. So now it's safe to look back - no one will be miffed at things like the Downing Street memos being discussed, or examining the CIA leak story, including the delicious detail of the president and vice president secretly declassifying carefully selected data and having one of their guys provide it on the sly to their plant at the New York Times. Now over sixty percent of Americans think that was either illegal or unethical. The narrative changed. And that certainly makes all this talk of nuking Iran so they don't spend the next eight or ten years building "the bomb" harder to make sound reasonable. Before the narrative changed people would have said, well, that would be bad thing, but the "grownups" in the White House knows what's best.

Those days are gone. And gone are the days when the American public stoically accepted this war in Iraq would cost a lot of lives and that ten thousand would return badly maimed, because it was worth it. The WMD thing was a bummer, and the administration (all but Cheney) admitted Iraq had nothing much to do with 9/11, and it would have been nice to have killed or at least captured that Osama fellow, and we do seem to be creating a hundred new terrorists for every one we kill over there, but, because the previous narrative was strong, the core of supporters hung on. We were doing some good. The "if we make them create a democracy in that particular place at this particular time the world will be better and safer" was sort of working. But those elected in Iraq cannot seem to form a government and they seem to have a civil war going on now. Not good, and when the narrative changes, words like "we're making progress" and "they will build a secular unity government, just wait" just don't work. The push-back from the administration and those who don't sense the new narrative - that the media is purposefully only reporting the bad news and all that - is met with anger from the press and scorn from most of the public.

Now you can think of that as people "finally waking up" and the truth prevailing, but it's more like a shift in the prevailing and accepted narrative. Not so long ago "the truth" was something quite different. On the other hand, the previous narrative required a lot of self-deception - one had to ignore a lot of unpleasant information and cling to "larger truths" and some pretty odd ideas, like democracies are inherently peaceful, and "they hate us for our freedoms" not our policies, not to mention minor odd ideas, like we'll be greeted as liberators, the war and reconstruction will pay for itself, we'll be out of there in six months and our buddy, Ahmed Chalabi, will run the joint just fine. Narratives aligned with reality work better. Idealism is fine, of course, but has only vague connections to the real world. That's how it got its name.

So we're in the new narrative, the one that centers on "incompetence" and deception - sometime lies and sometimes just blindness.

The addition to the new narrative, on Wednesday, April 12th, the talk of the day, was this item on the front page of the Washington Post - Joby Warrick reporting that a team of private-sector scientists hired by the Pentagon in 2003 to inspect Iraqi trailers suspected of being mobile weapons labs came up empty. They weren't any such things. The Pentagon guys said they were pretty much "sand toilets." They sent their report in. Two days later the president said we'd found the weapons of mass destruction. It was these trailers. The administration kept saying that for months.

They didn't read the report? They read the report and decided it was something inconvenient they shouldn't mention, as that would make them look incompetent? They decided to lie to the American people? Or in good faith they decided the report could be wrong and later evidence would surely show these really were what they said they were (optimism and idealism mixed)? They ignored the report they commissioned because they believed this just couldn't be so (self-delusion)?

Who knows? But the story fits the new narrative, so it was page one.

Those stuck in the old narrative said things like this - "The Pentagon didn't send one team of experts to review the trailers; they sent three, presumably to get a diverse analysis of the evidence, especially since the pre-war intel on WMD had come up remarkably short. That sounds like a prudent strategy to me, having competing teams research the same equipment and evidence to develop independent analyses to present to the Pentagon. They did so, and two of the three teams provided conclusions that fit the pre-war intel, while one did not."

The reply was this - "Nice try, but cutesy advertising jingles to the contrary, this episode fits the usual MO of the Bush administration perfectly: a flat statement of fact about intelligence matters that's made with great fanfare even though they know there's significant dissent within the intelligence community. ... So: Intent to deceive? Check. Unreasonable decision? Check. Deliberate lie? Check."

That's the new narrative. It's hard to see how it will change back.

There's more here.

The Slow-Motion Trap
His presidency was built on secrecy and, we now know, on lies. The more Bush struggles to free himself, the more his past deceptions bind him.
Sidney Blumenthal, SALON.COM, Thursday, April 16, 2006

This is long and detailed, and about the whole CIA leak scandal, but it comes down to this -
Bush is entangled in his own past. His explanations compound his troubles and point to the original falsehoods. Through his first term, Bush was able to escape by blaming the Democrats, casting aspersions on the motives of his critics and changing the subject. But his methods have become self-defeating. When he utters the word "truth" now most of the public is mistrustful. His accumulated history overshadows what he might say.

The collapse of trust was cemented into his presidency from the start. A compulsion for secrecy undergirds the Bush White House. Power, as Bush and Cheney see it, thrives by excluding diverse points of view. Bush's presidency operates on the notion that the fewer the questions, the better the decision. The State Department has been treated like a foreign country; the closest associates of the elder President Bush, Brent Scowcroft and James Baker, have been excluded; the career professional staff have been bullied and quashed; the Republican-dominated Congress has abdicated oversight; and influential elements of the press have been complicit.

Inside the administration, the breakdown of the national security process has produced a vacuum filled by dogmatic fixations that become more rigid as reality increasingly fails to cooperate. But the conceit that executive fiat can substitute for fact has not sustained the illusion of omnipotence.

The precipitating event of the investigation of the Bush White House - Wilson's disclosure about his Niger mission - was an effort by a lifelong Foreign Service officer to set the record straight and force a debate on the reasons for going to war. Wilson stood for the public discussion that had been suppressed. The Bush White House's "concerted action" against him therefore involved an attempt to poison the wellsprings of democracy.
That's putting the new narrative pretty bluntly, and it adds the element of "reality increasingly failing to cooperate" with the story line.

So who is having the losing streak now?

But wait! There's more!

Fred Kaplan offers this -
It's an odd thought, but a military coup in this country right now would probably have a moderating influence. Not that an actual coup is pending; still less is one desirable. But we are witnessing the rumblings of an officers' revolt, and things could get ugly if it were to take hold and roar.

The revolt is a reluctant one, aimed specifically at the personage of Donald Rumsfeld and the way he is conducting the war in Iraq.

It is startling to hear, in private conversations, how widely and deeply the U.S. officer corps despises this secretary of defense. The joke in some Pentagon circles is that if Rumsfeld were meeting with the service chiefs and commanders and a group of terrorists barged into the room and kidnapped him, not a single general would lift a finger to help him.

Some of the most respected retired generals are publicly criticizing Rumsfeld and his policies in a manner that's nearly unprecedented in the United States, where civilian control of the military is accepted as a hallowed principle.
Well, there are three big guns so far.

The first is General Anthony Zinni who last month called for Rumsfeld to resign, and he's been on all the talks shows chatting up his new book, The Battle for Peace. You can catch him on video here, on Meet the Press saying this -
I saw the - what this town is known for, spin, cherry-picking facts, using metaphors to evoke certain emotional responses or shading the context. We know the mushroom clouds and the other things that were all described that the media has covered well. I saw on the ground a sort of walking away from 10 years' worth of planning. You know, ever since the end of the first Gulf War, there's been planning by serious officers and planners and others, and policies put in place - 10 years' worth of planning were thrown away. Troop levels dismissed out of hand. Gen. Shinseki basically insulted for speaking the truth and giving an honest opinion.

The lack of cohesive approach to how we deal with the aftermath, the political, economic, social reconstruction of a nation, which is no small task. A belief in these exiles that anyone in the region, anyone that had any knowledge, would tell you were not credible on the ground. And on and on and on, decisions to disband the army that were not in the initial plans. There's a series of disastrous mistakes. We just heard the Secretary of State say these were tactical mistakes. These were not tactical mistakes. These were strategic mistakes, mistakes of policies made back here. Don't blame the troops. They've been magnificent. If anything saves us, it will be them.
So who's he? He's the Marine general whose last job was heading up Central Command, running military operations in the Persian Gulf and South Asia.

A second was Army Major General Paul Eaton, letting fly in the New York Times with this, calling Rumsfeld "incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically," and a man who "has put the Pentagon at the mercy of his ego, his Cold Warrior's view of the world, and his unrealistic confidence in technology to replace manpower." Eaton ran the program to train the Iraqi military.

Then there is Lieutenant General Greg Newbold, the former operations director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in Time Magazine here.

Kaplan summarizes Newbold saying he -
... not only slams the secretary and what he calls "the unnecessary war" but also urges active-duty officers who share his views to speak up. Newbold resigned his position in late 2002 - quite a gesture, since he was widely regarded as a candidate for the next Marine Corps commandant. His fellow officers knew he resigned over the coming war in Iraq. The public and the president did not. He writes in Time: I now regret that I did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat - al Qaeda. ... [T]he Pentagon's military leaders ... with few exceptions, acted timidly when their voices urgently needed to be heard. When they knew the plan was flawed, saw intelligence distorted to justify a rationale for war, or witnessed arrogant micromanagement that at times crippled the military's effectiveness, many leaders who wore the uniform chose inaction. ... It is time for senior military leaders to discard caution in expressing their views and ensure that the President hears them clearly. And that we won't be fooled again.

Newbold isn't urging active-duty senior officers to go public, just to speak out directly to the president (whose handlers famously filter the bad news from official reports before they hit the Oval Office). Still, in a climate where the secretary of defense hammers three-star generals for daring to suggest that our troops in Iraq are fighting "insurgents" and not just "terrorists," Newbold's invocation reads like a revolutionary manifesto. Generals of the Pentagon, unite! You have nothing to lose but your stars!

If Rumsfeld is in less danger than these calls for his head might suggest, it's in part because not many generals want to lose those stars - and quite a lot of colonels would like to earn some. (Remember: Zinni, Eaton, and Newbold are retired generals; they have no more promotions to risk.)
Maybe so, but they're moving the new narrative along.

And Kaplan was writing before the fourth retired general weighed in, and the Post carried that on page one, Thursday, April 13, with this -
The retired commander of key forces in Iraq called yesterday for Donald H. Rumsfeld to step down, joining several other former top military commanders who have harshly criticized the defense secretary's authoritarian style for making the military's job more difficult.

"I think we need a fresh start" at the top of the Pentagon, retired Army Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq in 2004-2005, said in an interview. "We need leadership up there that respects the military as they expect the military to respect them. And that leadership needs to understand teamwork."

Batiste noted that many of his peers feel the same way. "It speaks volumes that guys like me are speaking out from retirement about the leadership climate in the Department of Defense," he said earlier yesterday on CNN.

Batiste's comments resonate especially within the Army: It is widely known there that he was offered a promotion to three-star rank to return to Iraq and be the No. 2 U.S. military officer there but he declined because he no longer wished to serve under Rumsfeld. Also, before going to Iraq, he worked at the highest level of the Pentagon, serving as the senior military assistant to Paul D. Wolfowitz, then the deputy secretary of defense.

Batiste said he believes that the administration's handling of the Iraq war has violated fundamental military principles, such as unity of command and unity of effort. In other interviews, Batiste has said he thinks the violation of another military principle - ensuring there are enough forces - helped create the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal by putting too much responsibility on incompetent officers and undertrained troops.

... Other retired generals said they think it is unlikely that the denunciations of Rumsfeld and his aides will cease.

"A lot of them are hugely frustrated," in part because Rumsfeld gave the impression that "military advice was neither required nor desired" in the planning for the Iraq war, said retired Lt. Gen. Wallace Gregson, who until last year commanded Marine forces in the Pacific Theater. He said he is sensing much anger among Americans over the administration's handling of the war and thinks the continuing criticism from military professionals will fuel that anger as the November elections approach. He declined to discuss his own views.

Another retired officer, Army Maj. Gen. John Riggs, said he believes that his peer group is "a pretty closemouthed bunch" but that, even so, his sense is "everyone pretty much thinks Rumsfeld and the bunch around him should be cleared out."

He emphatically agrees, Riggs said, explaining that he believes Rumsfeld and his advisers have "made fools of themselves, and totally underestimated what would be needed for a sustained conflict."
The narrative sure has changed, and freed up a lot of people. They're saying off things, and with Batiste there goes Big Red - "No Mission Too Difficult, No Sacrifice Too Great - Duty First."

This is a losing streak with no possible recovery. If Bush fired Rumsfeld? That would just make things worse, confirming a key person you lauded was, well, incompetent. So you keep him and let him prove it further?

It's the trap of the self-reinforcing losing streak. What to do? Cut taxes again? Nuke Iran? Say everyone is wrong about everything?

What was that about quicksand?

Posted by Alan at 23:35 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 13 April 2006 06:22 PDT home

On the Scene: Somebody Believes in America!
Topic: Dissent

On the Scene: Somebody Believes in America!
Our Man in Paris, Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, isn't in Paris. If you visit his site you'll discover he's visiting New York at the moment, getting a feel for the five boroughs, not the usual twenty or so arrondissement et communes de banlieue. And what should he run into Monday, 10 April? The day's massive rally in lower Manhattan of all the immigrants, legal and not, and their supporters, saying it sure would be nice to be real Americans. There are two photos below.
Three weeks spent in New York not doing any of the expected tours.

Instead of seeking the top lookout on the Empire State Building the toothpick sculptures in the lobby were closely examined and found to be lacking in fundamental craziness. On this trip Radio Ric managed to visit all five boroughs, with a blitz trip to Staten Island on the free ferry, and a mini tour of the Bronx, to see its Little Italy, closed alas, on account of Palm Sunday. Junior's in Brooklyn discovered - it wasn't lost - and Junior's in Grand Central tested and found to be a midtown best - if eating in a vaulted, stone train station is your thing.

But the high point of the excursion was the mass protest manif in lower Manhattan on Monday, when the washers and dish dryers, landscape artists and cleaning ladies variados turned out en masse to acclaim their belief in the American Way of Life, by waving flags of the United States, Mexico, Columbia, Peru and other well-known countries that supply America with the essential manpower, to keep the Upper East and West sides in gravy. For Americans who took part, it was a true tear-jerker. Somebody believes in America!

News reports fell far short of telling the story and fell shorter on the turnout count. Folks were pouring out of the subway exits all over lower Manhattan, filling all the spaces allowed by the police - later said to fill fifteen downtown blocks. But there were more than that. All in all, somewhat thrilling. Where there's so much hope it wouldn't hurt if the Anglos joined.

Immigrant Rights Rally, lower Manhattan, Monday 10 April, 2006

Immigrant Rights Rally, lower Manhattan, Monday 10 April, 2006

Text and Photos Copyright © 2006 - Ric Erickson, MetropoleParis

Posted by Alan at 19:02 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 12 April 2006 19:04 PDT home

Tuesday, 11 April 2006
Thought Experiment -
Topic: Chasing the Zeitgeist

Thought Experiment - 'When a culture is as historically clueless and morally desensitized as this one appears to be...'

The story hit the wires over the weekend and was the buzz on Monday the 10th - Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker reporting that his many sources developed over many decades of reporting in Washington told him the administration was planning a nuclear first strike on Iran to significantly slow down their progress at developing nuclear weapons (no one believes we can eliminate forever their ability to develop them). The Hersh item is here, saying these are not contingency plans, but operational plans. The Washington Post on its front page Sunday had this, offering independent confirmation. This was discussed in these pages here over the weekend, and again on Monday here.

The details are fascinating, if beyond depressing - top brass at the Pentagon threatening to resign if the administration doesn't take the "nuclear first strike" off the table, the idea the president wants to make taking out Iran's nukes his legacy, as the Iraq thing didn't go so well, the idea his poll numbers are so low he has nothing really to lose, and he's got this "messianic" thing going, and there's the current neoconservative theory that the nuclear blasts and the wide-spread deadly fallout will create a popular uprising in Iran and everyone there will throw out their current leaders for creating the conditions where the United States had no choice but to nuke their country. (The New York Times says this - "An American bombing campaign would surely rally the Iranian people behind the radical Islamic government and the nuclear program, with those effects multiplied exponentially if the Pentagon itself resorted to nuclear weapons in the name of trying to stop Iran from building nuclear bombs" - but what do they know?)

There's a ton of analysis and speculation bubbling around all over, all centered on whether we'll really do this. No one knows, but the British foreign minister says the idea of using nuclear weapons is just crazy. The president himself called it all "wild speculation." And it could be the idea was just to get the story out there to scare the Iranians into stopping their development programs, because if they don't stop they'd be dead, or glowing with a nice green sheen, or both.

Think of Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry in the move where he says, fondling his Magnum in a phallic sort of way, "Do you feel lucky, punk?" It's that sort of thing, maybe. (The full quote - I know what you're thinking. "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself a question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?)

Well, instead of Iran cowering like the bad guy in the movie, Tuesday, April 11, we get this - "Iran announced a technological breakthrough yesterday that could lead to the development of a nuclear bomb, in a move that appeared to catch the west off guard."

And this - "Iran's hard-line president said Tuesday that the country 'has joined the club of nuclear countries' by successfully enriching uranium for the first time - a key process in what Iran maintains is a peaceful energy program."

It seems Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president, isn't familiar with the Eastwood films. He doesn't understand his role, a fairly conventional one in our collective pop mythology - the cowardly bad guy who gives it up when the alpha-male gets all squinty-eyed and deadly calm. He seems to think he's not the bad guy, or if he is, he's just not doing the "blustering bully now trembling in fear" thing. So there does seem to be a problem with using Hollywood movies as a template for how we manage difficult international relations. Not everyone has seen the movie, and they sure don't know the script.

But would we do this?

Our reaction to the news from Iran was muted and diplomatic - Iran is "going down the wrong road." And there was this - Talk of US military strikes on Iran are 'fantasyland': Rumsfeld.

We say we'll talk, but there was our position on North Korea, no one-on-one talks with them because that would be rewarding bad behavior. So the talks had to be multilateral, with lots of other countries at the table - otherwise we'd be giving "evil" equal footing with us. So we're also delaying any talks at all with Iran, even on lesser matters, and the North Korean discussions are dead, as in this - "Chances of a breakthrough in stalled six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear arms program faded on Wednesday after diplomatic efforts failed to narrow gaps between the two main protagonists, Washington and Pyongyang."

We say we'll talk this time. But we're not talking, and the idea that the administration has to do something dramatic, and perhaps nuclear, in reaction to bad news, is not so far-fetched.

Bad news? Maybe this, as Tuesday the 11th we lose five more of our guys, and this AP item notes that makes thirty-one this month so far - and that was the total for all of March so we will have a new record in April. And there's this - three Marine officers relieved of command, one a brigade commander - the three officers were relieved of their command "due to lack of confidence in their leadership abilities stemming from their performance during a recent deployment to Iraq." This seems to have something to do with marines from the 3rd Battalion perhaps deliberately killing fifteen Iraqi civilians in Haditha in November after a Marine was killed in a roadside bombing (discussed in these pages a few weeks ago here and mentioned again here).

It's time for a diversion. A change of subject. A nuclear attack to stop Iran from doing what they might do might be just the thing.

But then, as a thought experiment, forget all this stuff about whether we really will launch an unprovoked nuclear attack against Iran. The question of "if we will" will work itself out.

The more interesting question whether anyone in the United States will really care. As Digby at Hullabaloo notes here, nuking Iran "might serve everybody's interests quite ably." And he adds this - "Damn if it won't be a heckuva show, the kind we really love with handsome flyboys taking off from aircraft carriers and big beautiful explosions that make us all feel good about how our high tech 'surgical' weaponry only kills the bad guys."

The whole question is worked out by Bill Montgomery in Mutually Assured Dementia, a "thought experiment" that opens with this -
Maybe it's just me, but I've been at least a little bit surprised by the relatively muted reaction to the news that the Cheney Administration and its Pentagon underlings are racing to put the finishing touches on plans for attacking Iran - plans which may include the first wartime use of nuclear weapons since Nagasaki.

I mean, what exactly does it take to get a rise out of the media industrial complex these days? A nuclear first strike against a major Middle Eastern oil producer doesn't ring the bell? Must every story have a missing white woman in it before the cable news guys will start taking it seriously?
And it is not being taken as more than another news story -
Even by the corrupt and debased standards of our times, this is a remarkable thing. The U.S. government is planning aggressive nuclear war (the neocons can give it whatever doublespeak name they like, but it is what it is); those plans have been described in some detail in a major magazine and on the front page of the Washington Post; the most the President of the United States is willing to say about it is that the reports are "speculative" (which is not a synonym for "untrue") ...
But we get more missing white women story, so -
It appears our long national journey towards complete idiocy is over. We've arrived.

Idiots, of course, don't need a reason to be idiots. But to the extent there is a rational excuse for treating a nuclear strike on Iran as the journalistic equivalent of a seasonal story about people washing their cars, it must be the cynical conviction that the Cheneyites aren't serious - they're just doing their little Gen. Jack Ripper impression to let the Iranians know they really mean business.

This may seem plausible - that is, if you were in a catatonic stupor throughout 2002 and the early months of 2003 (which is just another way of saying: if you were a member in good standing of the corporate media elite.) But the rest of us have learned that when Dick Cheney starts muttering about precious bodily fluids, you'd better pay attention. He really does mean business, and when Dick Cheney means business, bombs are likely to start falling sooner rather than later.
But the main point is this -
Maybe the idea of the United States would launch a nuclear first strike - albeit a "surgical" one - is too hard for most Americans, including most American journalists, to process. ... It's even harder to square with our national self-image than the invasion of Iraq. We're the global sheriff, after all - Gary Cooper in a big white hat. And while Gary Cooper might shoot an outlaw down in a fair fight at High Noon, he wouldn't sneak into their camp in the middle of the night and incinerate them with nuclear weapons. That's not how the Code of the West is supposed to work.

Even my own hyperactive imagination is having a hard time wrapping itself around the idea. I'm familiar enough with Cold War history to know the United States has at least considered the first use of nuclear weapons before - in Korea and even in Vietnam - and I know it was long-standing U.S. strategic doctrine never to rule out a nuclear response to a Soviet conventional attack on Western Europe. But the current nuclear war gaming strikes me as much more likely to end in the real thing - partly because the neocons appear to have convinced themselves a "tactical" strike doesn't really count, partly because of what Hersh politely refers to as Bush's "messianic vision" (Cheney may have his finger on the bureaucracy, but Shrub is still the one with his finger on the button) but mostly because I think these guys really think they can get away with it. And they might be right.

I've been trying to picture what the world might look like the day after a U.S. nuclear strike on Iran, but I'm essentially drawing a blank. There simply isn't a precedent for the world's dominant superpower turning into a rogue state - much less a rogue state willing to wage nuclear war against potential, even hypothetical, security threats. At that point, we'd truly be through the looking glass.

One can assume (or at least hope) that first use of nuclear weapons would turn America into an international pariah, at least in the eyes of global public opinion. It would certainly mark the definitive end of the system of collective security - and the laws and institutions supporting that system - established in the wake of World War II. The UN Security Council would be rendered as pointless as the old League of Nations. The Nuremberg Principles would be as moot as the Geneva Conventions. (To the neocons, of course, these are all pluses.)

Nuclear first use would also shatter (or at least, radically transform) the political alliances that defined America's leadership role in the old postwar order. To the extent any of these relationships survived, they'd be placed on roughly the same basis as the current U.S. protectorate over Saudi Arabia - or, even worse, brought down to the level of the old Warsaw Pact. They would be coalitions of the weak, the vulnerable and the easily intimidated.

In other words, the current hegemony of American influence and ideas (backed by overwhelming military force) would be replaced by an overt dictatorship based - more or less explicitly - on fear of nuclear annihilation. U.S. foreign policy would become nothing more than a variation on the ancient Roman warning: For every one of our dead; 100 of yours. Never again would American rulers (or their foreign counterparts) be able to hide behind the comfortable fiction that the United States is just primus inter pares - first among equals. A country that nukes other countries merely on the suspicion that they may pose a future security threat isn't the equal of anybody. America would stand completely alone: hated by many, feared by all, admired only by the world's other tyrants. To call that a watershed event seems a ridiculous understatement.
But the idea is being bandied about. And the would be more immediate consequences, the price of oil through the roof and perhaps financial turmoil. Or not.

But as for most Americas, consider this -
... the initial impact of war with Iran could play out in the same theatre of the absurd as the first Gulf War and the opening phases of the Iraq invasion - that is to say, on their living room TVs. And if there's one place where a nuclear first strike could be made to appear almost normal, or even a good thing, it's on the boob tube.

After all, the corporate media complex has already shown a remarkable willingness to ignore or rationalize conduct that once would have been considered grossly illegal, if not outright war crimes. And the right-wing propaganda machine is happy to paint any atrocity as another glorious success in the battle for democracy (that is, when it's not trying to deny it ever happened.) Why should we expect something as transitory as a nuclear strike to change the pattern?

Let's be honest about it: For both the corporate and the conservative media, as well as for their audiences, an air campaign against Iran would make for great TV - a welcome return to the good old days of Desert Storm and Shock and Awe. All those jets soaring off into the desert twilight; the overexposed glare of cruise missiles streaking from their launch ships; the video game shots of exploding aircraft hangers and government buildings, the anti-aircraft tracers arcing into the night sky over Tehran - it would be war just the way we like it, far removed from the dull brown dust, raw sewage and multiple amputees of the Iraqi quagmire.

And to keep things interesting, we'd have the added frisson of nuclear weapons - a plot twist that would allow blow-dried correspondents to pose in borrowed radiation suits, give Pentagon flacks the opportunity to try out new euphemisms for killing people, and encourage retired generals to spice up their on-air military patter with knowing references to blast effects, kilotons, roentgens and fallout patterns.

What I'm suggesting here is that it is probably naive to expect the American public to react with horror, remorse or even shock to a U.S. nuclear sneak attack on Iran, even though it would be one of the most heinous war crimes imaginable, short of mass genocide. Iran has been demonized too successfully - thanks in no small part to the messianic delusions of its own end-times president - for most Americans to see it as a victim of aggression, even if they were inclined to admit that the United States could ever be an aggressor. And we know a not-so-small and extremely vocal minority of Americans would be cheering all the way, and lusting for more.
Sure, we can rationalize most anything, because we have to be the good guys. That's the way it is. And we can trivialize and dispose of most things -
We've already seen a lengthy list of war crimes and dictatorial power grabs sink into that electronic compost heap: the WMD disinformation campaign, Abu Ghraib, the torture memos, the de facto repeal of the 4th amendment. Again, why should a nuclear strike be any different? I can easily imagine the same rabid talk show hosts spouting the same jingoistic hate speech, the same bow-tied conservative pundits offering the same recycled talking points, and the same timid Beltway liberals complaining that while nuking Iran was the right thing to do, the White House went about it the wrong way. And I can already hear the same media critics chiding those of us in left Blogostan for blowing the whole thing out of proportion. It's just a little bunker buster, after all.

Why should anyone or anything change? When a culture is as historically clueless and morally desensitized as this one appears to be, I don't think it's absurd to suppose that even an enormous war crime - the worst imaginable, short of outright genocide - could get lost in the endless babble of the talking heads. When everything is just a matter of opinion, anything - literally anything - can be justified. It's only a matter of framing things so people can believe what they want to believe.
And he's probably right - historically clueless and morally desensitized is about it. A few generals, who know their history and still believe that stuff about duty honor and country, may be resigning? Like that matters?

Note this, after Montgomery admits he could be wrong about the long and short term effects of launching a "preventative" nuclear war against a nation that doesn't yet have nukes -
But my thought exercise - What if we started a nuclear war and nobody noticed? - is still useful, if only as a reminder of how easy it can be to lead gullible people down a path that ends in a place no sane human being would ever want to go. A nation that can live with the idea of launching a nuclear first strike isn't likely to have much trouble with the rest of the program - particularly when its people, like their leader, are convinced they've been chosen to save the world.

What's truly scary, though, is the possibility that even though the other members of what we jokingly refer to as the international community don't share Bush's delusions, they may be willing to humor them as long as it is in their own narrow self-interest to do so (in other words, as long as they're not the ones being nuked.) Maybe power really is all the justification that power needs. In which case the downhill path for America - the most powerful country that ever was - is likely to be very steep indeed.
And that's just a few excerpts. You might want to read the whole thing. It seems the real cost of doing such a thing is, in many nasty ways, quite low.

Expect the announcement it's underway one of these days now.

Posted by Alan at 22:10 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 11 April 2006 22:13 PDT home

Monday, 10 April 2006
Stormy Monday: Too Much News
Topic: Couldn't be so...

Stormy Monday: Too Much News

Monday, April 10, 2006 - following the news and all the dialog about the news, thinking about what to say about it all, trying to sense some patterns, but doing other things. Why? Because what isn't confusing is disheartening. That probably explains the postings on the daily photography site, three nature shots, and, when you really need to be elsewhere, previously unpublished shots of Paris, Rouen and Arles. The day was a good day to avoid the turmoil of the political.

But there were significant events left and right.

As in this - "Hundreds of thousands of people demanding U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrants took to the streets in dozens of cities from New York to San Diego on Monday in some of the most widespread demonstrations since the mass protests began around the country last month."

The issues surrounding the proposed legislation to change the immigration law have been discussed in these pages (as here) but with the congress in a two-week recess there will be no resolution. The House bill - making anyone here without papers a felon, and those who help them in any way felons too, sending them all home, building a giant wall at the Mexican border - is quite incompatible with the Senate thinking - a staged way to let those here, under specific conditions, become citizens if they jump though this hoop or that - and quite different from the president's thinking (set up a guest worker program and ship them home when they complete their work). The labor of these people is vital to the economy, but they use services paid for by others, and all this cheap labor may drive down wages. Yeah, and it drives down prices - and no one want to pay three hundred dollars for a head of lettuce. There's principle - "They broke the law and they have to go!" And we need them. "Don't give lawbreakers Amnesty!" But let's have cheap labor to do the grunt work in the cities and the mindless labor on the farms, so the price of everything doesn't skyrocket. And the border should be secure, as who knows who comes in, maybe even terrorists, although none seem to have come in, just people who want to make some money for their families back home.

No marches will resolve the obvious conflicts here. We should be humane, but not foolish, and not reward lawbreakers, and not screw the economy. Here an idea - grant them all full amnesty and give them full citizenship now, and at the same time, close the border tight. The eleven million here can then get social security numbers, pay taxes, get drivers licenses and be gouged by the insurance companies with high premiums, and be as financially assaulted as most full citizens now are. And with the border suddenly locked tight, keep all others out for a time, or as long as you'd like. We get the labor, at a slightly higher cost as minimum wage law now apply to jobs not regulated before, but nothing terribly disruptive. Do it once. Or come up with your own idea - one radio host suggests everyone get a rifle and go to the border and just shoot anyone you see coming across the border (he later said he was just kidding).

But marching? Impressive. But is doesn't untangle the knot of conflicting demand and needs. And the government won't even get back to it for two weeks.

Other significant events? Maybe Chirac Will Rescind Labor Law That Caused Wide French Riots - the "pressure from students, unions, business executives and even some of his own party leaders" was too much.

On the right there was much glee - lots of items on the French "surrendering" from those who have been using the French as a whipping boy ever since de Villepin outclassed Colin Powell at the UN a few years ago, when the French, told we had to go to war NOW, gave the Gallic shrug and decided panic was not cool, and reason and thoughtfulness were more appropriate. Cowards, not buying into our fervor.

And too, there was a flurry of items on how out of touch the French were, giving up on the "fire anyone at anytime" Anglo-Saxon employment model when the world has really changed - no worker is guaranteed anything in this world, as corporations and those who own them are having a tough time. What's wrong with these people? Those who employ others to make money owe their shareholders, not the workers. And so on.

For Americans all this in France has little significance, except to remind them there are economies where the idea is that everyone is in this together and we owe each other consideration. That doesn't work so well in France, although it seems to be working just fine in the Scandinavian countries. Here? Everyone is fine with our form of "economic Darwinism" - no one owes anyone anything, and if wages for most Americans are flat or declining, just as your boss can fire you "at will" you can walk out for a better job this afternoon. It's dog-eat-dog and your real job, for your lifetime, is, daily, selling yourself - we're all slick salesmen. We love it. Spin and hype, the essence of salesmanship. We swim in it.

Of course it's not very "French." They seem to think it's unseemly. So the news is just, once again, we're different.

In Italy? The government is a mess (but so is their economy and they drive crazy in cars that break down far too often). Bush's friend, Silvio Berlusconi, seems to either have lost the election there, or won only part of the battle, as his center-left opponent late Monday was claiming victory - but this may takes a week or two to settle out.

Why would we over here follow this story? Silvio Berlusconi is a lovable buffoon with ties to the Fascists from the old days up Turin way, always saying very odd things (sometimes that he's Christ and sometime Napoleon), in and out of various legal problems that could get him thrown in jail - but he owns most of the press, radio and television in Italy. Think of him as a sort of Rupert Murdoch with an even funnier accent, and running a whole country, not just Fox News. His fall from power, if it works out that way, is a cautionary fable - once in a while all the spin you can get out there in the media, so carefully managed an crafted, just doesn't work. Sometime people actually do see through the spin, even Italians, or maybe particularly Italians.

Could that happen here? Probably not. We trust our press, and Fox News is "Fair and Balanced." And the network that started with Murrow, then Cronkite, will now have as its "anchor," and editor of what stories get covered and in what order, the perky and impish Katie Couric. She wears killer shoes and will lighten things up, and convince America we take things far too seriously.

Event in Italy then, as a parable about the media or whatever, may not apply here. But you never know.

Of course there was the scandal of the day, the new one - Phone-Jamming Records Point to White House - "WASHINGTON - Key figures in a phone-jamming scheme designed to keep New Hampshire Democrats from voting in 2002 had regular contact with the White House and Republican Party as the plan was unfolding, phone records introduced in criminal court show."

Key players in the White House, one of the president key men, involved in something like voter fraud? Yeah, like anyone is surprised. You play to win.

But then, you don't get caught, and you don't implicate the White House. Sloppy work here.

And they don't need the heat, as earlier in the day the New York Times reported this regarding the whole business about who was leaking what to the press back when there was an effort to "get" the pesky critic of the administration and his CIA wife - the president really did order certain parts of the classified National Intelligence Estimate be released.

The Times got the word from a real insider - "But the official said that Mr. Bush did not designate Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby Jr., or anyone else, to release the information to reporters."

What? Throw Cheney under the bus?

The new line is don't blame the president - Cheney was clearly out of control here, doing this thing where his guy takes one key reporter out to lunch, shows her the formerly secret stuff, urges her to use it, maybe says a few other things, but makes sure she doesn't say where she got the good stuff, the real scoop. But the president just never imaged Cheney and his would do such a thing.

Well, it is a defense of the president, of a sort. He should just say no if Cheney invites him for a little quail hunting.

This is a mess, and Eric Alterman, the NYU journalism professor and author, puts it bluntly -
It's this simple. They are even worse than we've allowed ourselves to imagine. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney use classified information about vital national security matters for naked political purposes - often character assassination - and when they do so, they feel free to lie about it.
Well, yes. That's politics. But after linking to the news items regarding the new filings of Special Counsel Fitzgerald, saying "Mr. Libby, on behalf of Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, provided an exaggerated account of the intelligence conclusions," and there was a "concerted action" by "multiple people in the White House" - using classified information - to "discredit, punish or seek revenge against" a critic of President Bush's war in Iraq, Alterman points to former Federal Prosecutor Elizabeth De la Vega suggesting the typical media questions of the moment - "Is what the President did legal?" or "Does the President have authority to declassify information at will?" aren't the right ones to ask.

Elizabeth De la Vega says the real question is this -
Is a President, on the eve of his reelection campaign, legally entitled to ward off political embarrassment and conceal past failures in the exercise of his office by unilaterally and informally declassifying selected - as well as false and misleading - portions of a classified National Intelligence Estimate that he has previously refused to declassify, in order to cause such information to be secretly disclosed under false pretenses in the name of a "former Hill staffer" to a single reporter, intending that reporter to publish such false and misleading information in a prominent national newspaper?
That's an interesting bit of framing. And the hard to answer in the affirmative.

And here the matter is covered in far more detail. The prosecutor's files clearly show Libby says he was under specific instructions to say some minor items were key findings when they we're, not to mention the parts that said half the government decided the claims about Saddam Hussein seeking uranium and the "aluminum tubes of death" were bogus, but just say that Iraq was "vigorously trying to procure" uranium.

So his defense is he was told to distort and lie by the man above him. The president's defense is he just declassified some stuff and trusted his subordinate, Vice President Cheney, to do the right thing and handle the details. Think of it as musical chairs, with two chairs left. Libby and Bush just sat down. Cheney is screwed. Not nice.

This happens when things go bad, like the polls on the 10th, as this, the lowest approval rating for the presidency ever.

Yep, they are low, but much like the others in the last weeks. But Andrew Sullivan notes a difference with this with this set of disapproval numbers, and with the implications -
What's stunning is that almost half the sample - 47 percent - strongly disapproves. I came to the conclusion that Bush was an incompetent abetting something much more dangerous before the last election, hence my reluctant endorsement of the pathetic Kerry. But the broad middle of American opinion has taken longer to see what this administration is and what Republicanism has become. These are pretty stunning numbers given the relatively strong economy - strong in part because it's been propped up by an unsustainable Keynesian stimulus.

Historians will figure this out, but my own view is that Katrina did it. Katrina was the equivalent of Toto pulling back the curtain. Once Bush's passivity, indolence and arrogance were put on full display, once it was apparent that the government was not working, and that Bush was the reason, people figured out why the war in Iraq was such a shambles. And so the mystique required to sustain patriarchal authority was shattered. I think this is largely irreparable because it's about a basic assessment of a single man. What worries me is that we have almost three more years. If we face a confrontation or a crisis, this president will not be able to carry Americans with him. Our enemies will take comfort from this. Which is why re-electing him was such a terrible risk.
Sullivan is one disenchanted conservative Republican. He's of the old school.

What about the "new conservatives" - the neoconservatives at the National Review? Well, there's George Conway there at their website on the 10th saying this -
I voted for President Bush twice, and contributed to his campaign twice, but held my nose when I did it the second time. I don't consider myself a Republican any longer. Thanks to this Administration and the Republicans in Congress, the Republican Party today is the party of pork-barrel spending, Congressional corruption and, I know folks on this web site don't want to hear it, but deep down they know it's true - foreign and military policy incompetence. Frankly, speaking of incompetence, I think this Administration is the most politically and substantively inept that the nation has had in over a quarter of a century. The good news about it, as far as I'm concerned, is that it's almost over.
That's Bush supporter? Geez, he sounds like Eric Alterman riffing on the leak business -
... these dishonest and dishonorable liars take these nefarious actions of policies that, inevitably, prove disastrous, owing to their incompetence. And when, on those rare occasions, reporters are willing and able to address the truth of their actions, they can find their loyalty and patriotism under attack and have even been faced with criminal investigations over the reporting of exactly the same sort of leaks Bush, Cheney and company feel free to employ - except that these sometimes turn out to be true. And yet, somehow, the men and women who run our media establishment, think none of this is as bad as Bill Clinton fooling around with an intern. Even worse, they continue to report the things they say stenographically, rather than employing the skepticism they have so richly earned, over and over, and over. Even more terrifying, these very same dishonest incompetents are planning another war even as the world continues to pay the price for their dangerous and irresponsible failure in the current one.
Oh, other than that they're fine. But planning another war?

Yeah, it's the item that hit the newsstands Monday, Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker reporting our plans to nuke the underground facilities in Iran so they won't be able to build nukes of their own. That was discussed here in Necessity: Sometimes You Have To Do What You Have To Do.

In reaction to that, on reader, Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, has this to say -
I'm surprised there's no mention in any of this of what was my own "Oh Shit" moment (and I imagined a similar moment for folks in the administration when they first heard about it) when I saw last week, in back pages of the New York Times, that Iran was bragging about having successfully tested a super-fast "torpedo" missile that could cut any warship in half and kill any submarine, no matter how deep. Later, they claimed to have successfully tested another. [The item is here.]

This could lead some in Washington to believe we have to nip the emerging Iran threat in the bud, no matter what the political consequences.

And yes, although I was sure the apparent-to-all failure in Iraq would have surely taken any other war plans off the table, I've been assuming this from my "cause-and-effect" world-view, while the folks who launch the wars are operating in a world of "steadfast resolve." Scary.

So is it possible that a war-weary Republican congress will look for ways to distance itself from Bush just in time for upcoming elections by calling itself into special session to try to rein in the administration?

Either way, we seem to be living in dangerous times.
We do, and as for the lessons of the first war, well, it wasn't the first one.

Eric Alterman quotes Arthur Schlesinger Jr. in the New York Review, Volume 53, Number 7 April 27, 2006: "Sometimes, when I am particularly depressed, I ascribe our behavior to stupidity - the stupidity of our leadership, the stupidity of our culture. Thirty years ago we suffered military defeat - fighting an unwinnable war against a country about which we knew nothing and in which we had no vital interests at stake. Vietnam was bad enough, but to repeat the same experiment thirty years later in Iraq is a strong argument for a case of national stupidity."

The hits just keep on coming.

But should we worry? The military has contingency plans for everything, probably even for invading Portugal and taking over the sardine industry. This all may be a planned leak, a bluff.

But there's a problem with that, as James Fallows writing in The Atlantic notes here - "By giving public warnings, the United States and Israel create 'excess demand' for military action,' as our war-game leader Sam Gardiner recently put it, and constrain their own negotiating choices."

Kevin Drum explains that here -
In other words, if the PR campaign is too successful, then Bush will have boxed himself in. Eventually he'll feel obligated to bomb Iran solely because he's now under pressure to make good on his threats and doesn't want to look like he's backing down. World Wars have started over less.

Who knows? A subtle and well orchestrated game of chicken might be appropriate here. But please raise your hands if you trust this crew to play a subtle and well orchestrated game of anything.
But the president Monday the 10th did come out and say these reports of White House plans to attack Iran "wild speculation."

Tricky fellow.

Two comments from Josh Marshall.

This -
... let's just put down for the record that when President Bush calls recent reports of White House plans to attack Iran "wild speculation" that means absolutely nothing.

It's not just that the president has now earned a well-deserved reputation for lying. It is because he and his chief aides lied to the country about a more or less parallel situation - the build up to war on Iraq - only four years ago. We now know that the fix was in on the Iraq War as early as September/October 2001. And the president and his crew kept up the charade that no decisions had been made long after those claims became laughable.

Yes, I know, President Bush gets called a liar on center-left and left-wing blogs all the time.

But I think those more genial sorts in the press and policy community in DC need to be honest enough with themselves to recognize that on this issue of all issues President Bush is unquestionably a liar.

It is also not too early to point out that the evidence is there for the confluence of two destructive and disastrous forces - hawks in the administration's Cheney faction whose instinctive bellicosity is only matched by their actual incompetence (a fatal mixture if there ever was one), and the president's chief political aides who see the build up to an Iran confrontation as the most promising way to contest the mid-term elections. Both those groups are strongly motivated for war. And who is naive enough to imagine a contrary force within the administration strong enough to put on the brakes?
And this to a reader (AB) who says this wouldn't really be a new "war" - just a bit of selective bombing -
I don't see the logic of reserving the noun 'war' for full-scale invasion and regime change. A bombing campaign to seriously degrade or eliminate the Iranian nuclear facilities would mean bunker-busting bombs to destroy buried and heavily reinforced facilities. It would hit a lot of places. Something of that caliber amounts to war. And not just by some rhetorical definition. It's something that wouldn't end after a few days or after the last US bombers and fighters return to their bases and ships.

Second, AB suggests that what's going on here is not actually preparations for war, but saber-rattling to keep the Iranians off balance and give them an added incentive to reach a diplomatic compromise.

With any other administration, I'd agree with that. Hinting at a potential military option would actually make sense as a backdrop to serious diplomatic discussions. It would make sense for an administration that wanted a diplomatic solution.

But this isn't any administration. This is an administration that demonstrated in a fairly analogous situation a preference for war over diplomatic solutions. So the 'threats as a way to spur diplomatic flexibility' argument makes perfect sense in the abstract. But there's no reason to assume it applies to this situation.

For myself, I still find it really, really hard to believe that the administration is seriously considering military action against Iran. At one level, I don't believe it. But I've thought the same thing with these guys too many times and been wrong. It's a situation where I set logical analysis aside and rely on experience and the administration's track record.

We know these guys. Why get fooled again?
They'd fool us? No.

But it happened again, as in this: "The U.S. military is conducting a propaganda campaign to magnify the role of the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, according to internal military documents and officers familiar with the program. The effort has raised his profile in a way that some military intelligence officials believe may have overstated his importance and helped the Bush administration tie the war to the organization responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks."

In short, the baddest of the bad guys, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is relatively unimportant, but according to internal military documents and "officers familiar with the program" it was really useful to hype him. He was al Qaeda, and he was there. It makes the case, or some case, that the Iraq war had to do with the 9/11 attacks, until the PR program (or is that psy-ops?) unravels. They fooled us. The joke is on us. In war you fool the enemy, even if it's the American public, or the guys fighting for us all. It worked.

Or did it? A minor story in the New York Times 0n the 10th was this - "Young Army officers, including growing numbers of captains who leave as soon as their initial commitment is fulfilled, are bailing out of active-duty service at rates that have alarmed senior officers. Last year, more than a third of the West Point class of 2000 left active duty at the earliest possible moment, after completing their five-year obligation."

Enough is enough. And this was only the Monday news items.

This is enough to make one a bit jumpy. The pattern to it all?

Things falling apart. When that happens those who thought they had thing under control can do dangerous things.

Heads up.

Posted by Alan at 23:38 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 10 April 2006 23:46 PDT home

Sunday, 9 April 2006
Hot of the Virtual Press
Topic: Announcements

Hot of the Virtual Press

Just Above Sunset logoThe new issue of Just Above Sunset, the weekly magazine-format site that is parent to this daily web log, is now online. This is Volume 4, Number 15 for the week of April 9, 2006.

This week it's six and six, and two more, and two extras. That is, six extended commentaries on current events, six pages filled with high-resolution photography, along with the weekly news of the weird and odd quotes, and something extra - links to two external pages of additional photographs.

The current events items cover the death penalty for the man who will die for what he didn't say that would have maybe caused things that didn't happen, the fall of that odd master politician from Texas that was the surprise early in the week, a mediation on the relationship of a form of drama known as farce to political events (the leak business and the immigration mess in the Senate), a discussion, a wide-ranging review of public nastiness and deceit, a column on the news items that didn't make it to the front pages, but may have been more important than what did, and this weekend breaking stories about our plans to nuke that bad guys, maybe.

The photography is Hollywood and more - images of the core of Hollywood where two major studios meet, and of a place called Hollywood Forever where the famous rest forever, a bit of illustrated history regarding the days when the labor wars meant blowing up buildings, a visual notes on the heart of Rock and Rock, Laurel Canyon, in the rain, and then the extra stuff - a Buddha and botanicals. It's been a busy week.

Direct links to specific pages -

Extended Observations on Current Events ______________________

Fantasy and Avoidance
Instant Oblivion, Texas Style
Hypocrites, Thugs and the Ineffectual
Decisions: All the News That Fits, and Doesn't
Necessity: Sometimes You Have To Do What You Have To Do

Southern California Photography ______________________

Fan Stuff: The Movie Industry in One Block - Melrose at Bronson
Morbid Hollywood
History: The Labor Movement in Images
Laurel Canyon: Rock's Answer to Jazz Age Paris, in the Rain
Far East


Quotes for the week of April 9, 2006 - Illusions

Extra - At the daily Just Above Sunset Photography - ______________________

Getting Along (Life in Los Angeles)
Movie References: Superman in Southern California

Posted by Alan at 08:14 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

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