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Consider:

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

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

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

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"







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Friday, 3 June 2005

Topic: The Media

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

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

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

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

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

Bob is disappointed.

No verdict? Who cares?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earlier we had discussed this ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

It?s corporate coverage ? as Rick notes.

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

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

Thursday, 2 June 2005

Topic: God and US

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shall we stop teaching science so they feel better?

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

__

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Topic: Couldn't be so...

Military Matters: Are Our Leaders Slyly Anti-War?

We have enough troops in Iraq?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is going to say different?

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe. Who are you to believe?

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

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

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

But defining the problem is tricky.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those some sayers are right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


___

Related items of interest ?

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

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

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

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

__

Footnote:

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

Case in point ?

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 1 June 2005

Topic: The Media

Paying Attention: What’s News and What Isn’t

So now we know who Deep Throat was. Fine. So?

And what is there to say about the massive landslide out here, just down the coast, with up to twenty multimillion dollar houses sliding down toward the Pacific? Such things happen. This is California.

The Michael Jackson trial goes to the jury – but there will be no comment here.

And what is there to say about the American Family Association urging a boycott of Ford cars and trucks – they say Ford has given thousands of dollars to gay rights groups, offers benefits to same-sex couples and actively recruits gay employees - just after their call for a boycott of Kraft macaroni and cheese in a box (the one will the picture of SpongeBob SquarePants on the cover). Oh, it wasn’t just the cartoon character. Kraft authorized its company logo to be placed on the official website of the 2006 Gay Olympic Games in Chicago as a major corporate sponsor. Boycott all Kraft products? Even Tang with its new mango flavor? Oh my!

This is news? What about the war?

Some of us are still thinking about what the vice president, Dick Cheney, said on CNN a day or two ago -
I think we may well have some kind of presence there over a period of time. The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline. I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.
As Andrew Sullivan comments -
You'll either be relieved or terrified by this statement by Mr Cheney. Relieved if you think he has a grip on the situation; terrified if you think it shows he has no idea what is going on in Iraq (or in the military's own detention facilities, for that matter). But at least he has given us a clear marker for the future that we can hold him to.
Yeah, it is a marker, just like the other one Sullivan points to -
They will do everything they can to disrupt the process up to those elections in January because they know that once you've got a democratically elected government in place that has legitimacy in the eyes of the people of Iraq, they're out of business. That will be the end of the insurgency.
That one was from October 28, 2004.

I think Herbert Hoover said prosperity was just around the corner. To repeat?. When someone tries to sell you something by opening with "Trust us ? this is not what it seems," one is naturally a bit skeptical. If that is followed with, "Have we ever lied to your before?" One steps back. If that is followed by, "I know you THINK we lied, but you weren?t listening carefully," then one steps back even more. These guys need some marketing advice.

Our own marketing guru, who this week asked why aren't we acting as if we understood moral authority and, in the same item, discussed how to exterminate swarms (perhaps you should read the item), suggested I ought to look at something other than the fluff stories in the news. He suggested I pop up the New York Times before it goes behind the subscription wall and only those who pay big bucks can read it and comment on it.

His suggestions from the June 1 issue?

Item one: Patriot Act Redux, and in the Dark

He says the editorial is scary ? and that what's emerging AGAIN in DC and why it's NOT just about what THEY do to others outside our borders.
The Patriot Act was passed in haste, in the angst-filled days after the Sept. 11 attacks, with some lawmakers candidly admitting they never read the details. That was one of the reasons key sections included expiration dates, so calmer heads of the future would have an opportunity to fix mistakes. Now that opportunity is here, and far from removing obvious threats to civil liberties in the law, the White House and eager Senate Republicans seem bent on making it worse.
He says - "Why should we believe these guys? They treat their own constituents as if WE were terrorists..."

Yep. Let?s see ? there the proposal to let FBI agents write their own "administrative subpoenas," without the need to consult prosecutors or judges, and demand of all manner of records, from business to medical and tax data. Yep. And there?s that library provision that lets the government seize entire databases at libraries, hospitals and other institutions when just one person is under investigation. And there?s that part of the act that makes it a crime for record holders to let the public know when a government data sweep has occurred.

But we worry about Michael Jackson and SpongeBob SquarePants. Was your Ford Explorer assembled by some gay guy?

Item two: America's DNA

This is Thomas Friedman's opinion column, explaining why he's worried that in fits and starts we are eroding everything we've inherited as our heritage ? what he calls our DNA. Freidman recalls a conversation with a friend in London ?
In part it was a recent chat with the folks at Intel about the obstacles they met trying to get visas for Muslim youths from Pakistan and South Africa who were finalists for this year's Intel science contest. And in part it was a conversation with M.I.T. scientists about the new restrictions on Pentagon research contracts - in terms of the nationalities of the researchers who could be involved and the secrecy required - that were constricting their ability to do cutting-edge work in some areas and forcing intellectual capital offshore. The advisory committee of the World Wide Web recently shifted its semiannual meeting from Boston to Montreal so as not to put members through the hassle of getting visas to the U.S.
As our business school professor of marketing comments - "This is our new American Product - along with war on foreign soil - that NO AMOUNT OF PR can overcome. People's experience IS the product and it's far greater than any packaging we call PR!"

So how do we want to be seen? How do we want to be known in the world?
In New Delhi, the Indian writer Gurcharan Das remarked to me that with each visit to the U.S. lately, he has been forced by border officials to explain why he is coming to America. They "make you feel so unwanted now," said Mr. Das. America was a country "that was always reinventing itself," he added, because it was a country that always welcomed "all kinds of oddballs" and had "this wonderful spirit of openness." American openness has always been an inspiration for the whole world, he concluded. "If you go dark, the world goes dark."
It seems it is okay of the world goes dark.

Our market friend comments - "These are not SMALL issues!"

No, they are not small issues. There was some comment on this on the leftie blogs today ? but generally a collective national yawn. Oh well.

Item three: The Peacemaker

This is about Rudolf Giuliani ? with the subtitle "Olle Wastberg nominates Rudy G for the Nobel Peace Prize."

What?
Mr. Giuliani took office in 1994, when the city was rife with gang violence, rundown neighborhoods, robbery, graffiti and litter. The police had lost the daily battle against serious crime. The mayor brought with him a policy of rethinking the fight against crime... in human terms, it would appear that over the last 12 years the policies Mr. Giuliani put in place have spared New York perhaps 10,000 murders, 15,000 rapes and 800,000 robberies. This is clearly a humanitarian accomplishment of great magnitude.
Our friend comments - "Now here's a man, that acts in the best interests of his constituents. Despite party and politics, I'd vote for Rudy in the White House, because in moments of crisis he's been shown to be true to human moral instinct. I can respect that in a person, especially in a politician! We really need a new style of American leadership! And if he could unite red and blue states, more power to the guy... (quite literally)"

The problem with this man with the "human moral instinct" is clear. He?s pro-choice. And a Republican. That party is now firmly evangelical Christian and Frist and Dobson will not allow Giuliani any chance for any nomination to any office, unless he embraces what the call the "culture of life" ? and comes out for embryo rights, the death penalty for most felonies, and an expansion of the war of Jesus against the heathen terrorists, to Syria, Iran and Korea. I suspect Giuliani is not so much pro-abortion as he simply feels the decision is not the government?s to make, on Southern Baptist theological grounds. Too bad. The party to which he belongs now believes they have the mandate to make these decision for women.

Giuliani is toast. And he won?t get the Nobel Peace Prize either. Besides, his divorce was messy and offended a lot of the evangelical Christians who are working so hard to protect marriage, particularly from gay men who want the same legal rights as married heterosexual folks in Alabama.

Item Four: Beyond Viagra Politics

As our friend puts it, this is Matt Miller's fantasy appeal for leaders of both parties to take truth serum instead of Viagra for a day - "Miller includes the thought that we ALL must be held accountable for what our leaders do!"
... how different our politics would sound if we moved beyond Viagra politics and got serious about our problems. All it would take is enough of us rebelling against a perverse culture in which "political courage" is oddly defined as "telling the truth." After all, if we don't make the world safe for our leaders to do the right thing, who will?
Indeed.

After point to these our friend says - "These are all four taken way out of context and each deserves a full read. But taken together they reflect the angst and concern I feel for our national malaise - our lapse of moral responsibility - that got me started on this whole writing kick this morning."

And then he went back to work.

Angst and concern?.

I came this on the site Tacitus where in a discussion of bringing back the draft the anonymous writer, a right-wing conservative to the core, suggests we?re all in this together -
If you reject the very idea of a democracy or a republic, in which the people at large are the state, and its acts are hence their acts, then it becomes sensible to speak of a war of that state in which the citizenry have no moral part. This being America, corporate media and Diebold machines and paranoid theorizing notwithstanding, one assumes that reasonable persons do not reject that idea. We are a republic, and our state and its actions are therefore reflections and extensions of ourselves. Every citizen is the co-equal of every other under law, governance, and the responsibilities and consequences thereof. This is basic civics, but it clearly needs restating: America's wars are Americans' wars. The failure to grasp this is, to be sure, a bipartisan moral idiocy?.
The war is our war. What happens at Guantanamo Bay is what we did. Shutting down our borders to the best and the brightest is what we are doing. Giving up our rights to be safe is what we are doing. Allowing the evangelical right to define, by their rules, what is moral and allowable is what we allow. Assuming no one does the right thing as a matter of course ? just the way life is - is what we assume.

So what are "we" going to do?

We're going to wonder if Michael Jackson will be convicted.

Posted by Alan at 19:16 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 1 June 2005 22:23 PDT home


Topic: World View

Updates – France

In the last two days, since the original posting of Geopolitics: Fallout from the French Kiss of Death, much has been added to that item, from the BBC comment on orthography to clarifications from Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis on what the term liberal means in France, to an analysis from Ric of the newly rearranged government there.

Click on the link and the item will pop up in a new window. Scroll down and you’ll see new reporting from Our Man in Paris.

Where else will you get immediate updates on the situation, with commentary?

The latest analysis from Paris is dated Wednesday, June 01, 2005 at 3:45 in the afternoon, Pacific Time. That’s almost one in the morning on June 2nd in Paris. Let’s assume Ric got some sleep after he explained the situation to us here on the other side of the world.

Posted by Alan at 16:10 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
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