the watch
bush lied, people died. escalate nonviolence.

Evict Bush!

Saturday, April 19, 2003  

With Apologies...

Mac Diva will no longer be joining us here at the watch. I'm very disappointed, as I've often enjoyed her comments on other blogs, and her posts here on this site and on her own sites.

With 'thanks' to a website that I find distasteful in the extreme, I was unhappy to find this comment left at a discussion forum:

Original Post (Excerpt): I am taking a weekend break from the blog. I will be spending the time with my Korean-American wife and our Korean-Jewish son. My personal debt to the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is for his efforts that helped lead to the repeal of laws that would have made my family illegal in some states...

Mac Diva's response: And Stefan wants to further damage the lives of people who were Americans long before he ordered his 'wife' from Korea. Telling. (BTW, which catalog was she in, Stefan, 'Cherry Blossoms'?)

Posted by: Mac Diva on January 18, 2003 12:39 PM

I found the site of this Richard Poe through my webstats, and couldn't believe as I read down the page that this person would have any conceivable reason to link to the watch. I was furious when I read his description of Mac Diva, and I was mentally composing a lengthy takedown of the post. Until I clicked on the link and read the above comment.

I don't agree with Mr. Poe, and I don't agree with Mr. Sharkansky's conclusion on affirmative action as presented. But I also don't agree with the extremely personal and condescending insult against another member of Mr. Sharkansky's family. It's quite simply beyond the pale, no matter the actual circumstances of their family. (For the record, the lady in question is an American born "attorney with degrees from Princeton and UC Berkeley," as per Mr. Sharkansky's response.)

We are not amused. I would never have noticed this, or felt compelled to remark on it, if I hadn't invited her to post here. But I feel responsible for the company this blog keeps, and even according to my extremely loose accounting of what's proper to say, this sort of comment can't pass. I'm no online saint, yet I'm really floored to think that something like this was said by someone whose opinions and insights I've come to have a good measure of respect for.

PS - But, proving that every dark cloud has a silver lining, through Poe's site I found a link to what has got to be the wackiest thing I've heard all day. The WorldNetDaily take on blogging. Now that's entertainment.

posted by Natasha at 11:15 PM | PERMALINK |

Laundry Tips for Landless Peasants

Well, it's laundry time here at the watch headquarters. I'm surely spoiled, but I hate doing my wash in a communal laundry room. And I'm too wiped out today to come up with anything better to post about, so I'll share my tedium reduction practices.

First, buy new underthings. If you have to do laundry more than once every two weeks, you have a sock and underwear shortage which needs urgent correction. If you're female, stop buying underthings that shred after a single washing, it saves a bundle.

Second, save your cash on fabric freshener, extra washings, and hotter wash cycles. White vinegar is as cheap or cheaper than bottled water. Throw a half cup to a cup in with each load at the beginning. It kills germs, kills odors, and washes completely away in the rinse cycle. Washing clothes and towels only in the warm or cold cycles helps them last longer, and with the addition of a little vinegar, that's all you need. It's also a good pre-wash, having been known to completely dissolve tomato stains when left to soak overnight. If you use it as a pre-wash, don't mix it with anything else, might be hazardous to the fabric dye. In low temperatures, it's never caused anything I own to run or fade.

Third, stop hauling your detergent with you. Pre-separate your clothes, and lay out 2-3 larger items at the bottom of the pile; preferably a combination of pants, t-shirts, or long sleeved shirts. Pile everything else on top, measure out your laundry detergent (and vinegar, if you like) and pour slowly into more absorbent items at the top of the pile. Wrap everything up in the larger items on the bottom, and pack into your laundry basket/bag, just like that. If you're careful, the outside of the bundle should be completely dry. If you only do the wash every 2-3 weeks, any given pile should be easily large enough to get away with it.

Happy laundry day!

posted by Natasha at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK |

Around the Web:

Steve Gilliard is on a streak at Daily Kos. Read the post asking the all-too-rare question of why no one ever makes a coherent defense of government services. And this one, talking about our slow motion foreign policy disaster in Iraq. But of course, certain elements of society have a tendency to think that if the world doesn't end five minutes after taking an ill-advised action, then you've got an unalloyed victory on your hands.

Electrolite reminds us that all this looting in Iraq was deliberately encouraged as a matter of policy by both British and American forces. Good job, guys. Making Light explains why caring about the looting isn't a valuation of things over people. In very small part:

...I’m not saying Saddam was a good guy in any way, shape, or form—and what a contemptible piece of calumny it is, to claim that anyone who criticizes our leaders and their war must needs be pro-Saddam. I’m saying that before, Baghdad and Mosul had libraries, museums, hospitals, stores, banks, social services, and a thousand and one other essential institutions. Now they don’t. There’s a world of suffering in that. It will go on, as will the pillaging.

Another line I’ve been hearing is that this is something the Iraqi people have done to themselves; so I’m going to talk now about rioters, looters, vandals, and arsonists.

Are the pillagers to blame? Yes, of course they are. They’ve wrecked and stolen and burned. It was wicked, and they are at fault. But in any society, ours included, there are people whose good behavior is wholly conditional on their estimate of the odds that they’ll be caught and punished. Part of the work of civilization is to help citizens grow up with a better sense of responsibility and cooperation than that; but I suspect we’re always going to have some people who’ll do whatever they can get away with...

Digby says: There's nothing wrong with the Democratic party.

Back To Iraq is in Baghdad. Go read.

ReachM High has a good round up of postings.

Estimated Prophet points out that not only are our troops called on to make that generic sort of 'sacrifice' conjured up by the idea of military service, but the very specific sort of sacrifice entailed in being dirt poor.

Developing nations lose out over textiles at the WTO. This is a major trade issue, as textiles (and their twin, agriculture) are major exports of the less developed economies.

The Better Rhetor tells us What We Need To Know, and why we need to know it.


Al-Muhajabah talks about the Constitution of Medina as set up by the Prophet Mohammad, and what it says about the rights of the Jewish citizenry.

Plucky Punk takes the question why do they hate us out of its rhetorical limbo.

posted by Natasha at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK |

Pax Americana, indeed

Laura has some thoughts on trigger-happy American troops at Interesting Monstah. She says something I have been thinking: Why do Americans believe they belong everywhere in a 'police' capacity? Sometimes, it seems the imperial British have been reborn in Milwaukee, Nashville and Seattle.

Rummy gets around

My young libertarian friend Julian Sanchez is intrigued about how the same names involved in 'rebuilding' Iraq were lucratively hanging around the Middle East 20, even 40-something years ago. He isn't sounding very philosophical at Notes from the Lounge.

A Dem who has made up her mind?

Julia may have decided who she will support for President. Go to Sisyphus Shrugged to see her spill the beans. Me? I haven't a clue, except for knowing some of the candidates I won't back.

Grass rubs it in

Richard Einhorn at Tristero is quoting Gunter Grass about national pride:

We Germans often are asked if we are proud of our country. To answer this question has always been a burden. There were reasons for our doubts. But now I can say that the rejection of this preemptive war on the part of a majority in my country has made me proud of Germany. After having been largely responsible for two world wars and their criminal consequences, we seem to have made a difficult step. We seem to have learned from history.

Take that, Americans. And, truth be told, Grass is right.

John Lott, nice white guy?

As I mentioned previously, gun research fraud John Lott, Jr. is back in the news. I decided to look at Lott's 'research' beyond the gun advocacy issue. I've concluded Lott has also been a source of material that is anti-women and some that is rather racist. Why do I believe that? Read "John Lott's woman problem" at Mac-a-ro-nies. There are also entries about the return of POW Shoshana Johnson and the digital divide in the pantry.

-- Mac Diva

posted by J. at 12:57 AM | PERMALINK |

Friday, April 18, 2003  


James R. MacLean has been studying the subject of falangism for a while now. And I'm so pleased that he has offered to provide more articles for our edification. If you haven't done so, read the original post. And Benedict Spinoza had a good question regarding that article, "How well are we are we served by introducing a new term (foreign to most Americans) into the discussion at this point?" to which James answered:

At first I favored this, but then I realized there were two problems:
(a) "American fascism" sounds to many as if the speaker is extremely radical and thinks the United States (rather than latin America) is the prototype. It sounds like--not that it is, it just sounds that way--the speaker has lost it and is slamming the United States as an actual, fascist state.
(b) The reason why I wanted another term was that I saw that a lot of conservatives could point out important differences between far-right ideology here, and the fascists of Europe. These differences do exist, and they are so profound that the right has (as Orcinus points out) been able to score points with it.

With no further ado, here is James' next article.

What do I mean by techno-falangism? Let me define my terms: falangism is a type of authoritarian society, which is comfortable with neo-liberal, unregulated capitalism. Technocratic governments seek to impose austere market policies on countries that are likely to suffer pain from them; the evidence suggests that technocratic regimes are not terribly successful at managing the economy. Technocracies, however, can hoe this line for decades like Salazar's government in Portugal. They are boring affairs, lacking the macabre bombast of fascism.

But I made up "techno-falangism" myself to describe a disturbing trend: the way in which technological improvements may sometimes favor aggressive, authoritarian regimes. Improved methods of surveillance, better propaganda, and new production functions can definitely undermine freedom. Is this inevitable?

Let me now turn to Whittier, the birthplace of yours truly as well as Pres. Nixon. Whittier is an attractive city of about 110,000 people, now demographically mixed. In the late '70's it was a WASP outpost in the Hispanic and African American tide, and we had a very prominent John Birch Society; my parents were members of an austere Calvinist denomination of Protestantism (a pastor of which later murdered a gynecologist as part of his crusade against abortion). My parents were, in one sense, very progressive. Christian Fundamentalism was, for them, a sort of Malthusian path to a productive, robust society. My father is very strongly oriented to duty and patriotism, and I think he would love to live in an austere socialist society provided we didn't use the s-word. Say, for example, we had an American de Gaulle...

I noticed there was a certain type of personality which loved the clean, moral clarity of the high desert: the gleaming aluminum jewels to the sky, the mastery of reason over chaos, the joy of new machines and the unembarrassed indulgence in excess. To such people there was no questioning of progress. The Vietnam War had been doomed by sloppiness and corruptly liberal Democrats; I see now that my parents, in their approval of the Reagan Revolution, were radical in a way that shocked my innately conservative sensibilities. The radicalism lay in the revolutionary vision of a society machine-tooled to clean, hygienic efficiency; a society machine-tooled to clean odorless, Sunset-Magazine mastery of order over barbaric looseness. I was struck by the way they seemed to worship not Jesus so much as Paul. Their messiah Paul, I visualized as the dapper retired Northrop engineer who was the pastor at the OPC. To me Jesus was -- and is -- the irreversible moral authority who tormented me with his stare.

How could he look on this and approve? I wondered; and yet I knew my future was bound up in being a good exponent of the modern, unquestioning virtue of progress.

The developers who practically ran Whittier as a Protestant Israeli settlement in the midst of a Roman Catholic Palestine (yes, this is a cartoon) were market fundamentalists; but they were enthusiasts of the gracile metal insects that Los Angeles spawned, the Phantoms and Voodoos, the Corsairs and the Crusaders that could carry 1000 kilos of ordnance under each wing at mach 2. The Minutemen whose SRB's were manufactured in Downey could each commit ten 9-11 massacres in milliseconds, but the John Birch Society relished the prospect of their use. Decades later I am driving in another gleaming beetle on a smooth ribbon of tarmac, fiddling with the radio tuner. AM ghetto; a voice declares, "Most Muslims are rational people; only 20% are haters and the only thing you can do with them is kill them...which you have to do..." Hitler without the rage; Genghis without the risk.

It's a cheap shot, perhaps, but think of the ease and impunity with which our weapons probe the earth. And as for sacrifice: most policymakers are Keynesians even when they deny it vociferously, and war is publicly said to stimulate the economy. Most of us believe that building and deploying another wing of F-22 Raptors has negative net cost. In contrast, our enemies are reduced to the epitome of pathos, kamikaze bombing. They do this because we are busily looting their homes, seizing their water, and sneering at their poverty. Our enemies are men with war in their hearts; we fight them with robots and sanctions. Their ideologies stink but they make the ultimate sacrifice for them.

Now, I look at this state of affairs and I feel a little as King Lear must have felt when Goneril and Regan shut him out in the rain. You know... "I will go mad!" But I'm also trained as an economist. We all understand that it was our production function, which brought us here; that, while individuals have free will to challenge this wickedness, whole economies do not and require strong institutions to do so.

(Economists can be very dishonest as professional experts, but I'm a not one of those...yet).

America represents a cross section of the human race, and we are long accustomed to personal, individual responsibility. But our institutions are running amok, hyped up on enormous potential provided by technology. We developed democratic institutions, and some of them were excellent. But many, as I hope to discuss in the future, have lost their ability to check the power of unaccountable corporations. Business enterprise colludes politically, over our heads as it were -- the topic of yet another post-- to end "forever" our hope of checking them, and is becoming a confident client of a state that wishes to ignore us.

Well, I have to say that so much that James talks about here pulls together a number of my own inchoate thoughts into a more coherent form. The world envisioned by the people of Whittier is the same as the antiseptic and well-groomed world that comes out of Walt Disney's dream for a perfect community which resulted in Celebration, Florida. It's the same faith in technology that says we can seed the oceans with iron in order to reduce the problem of too much carbon dioxide in the air. [The build-up of carbon in the atmosphere is considered the major culprit of global warming these days. The technological fix is that seeding the ocean with iron will lead to lots more plankton production, which in turn "eats" the carbon in the atmosphere and thus, stops the problem of global warming.] The technological approach is suppose to make it possible that we won't have to reduce our use of resources that produces so much carbon -- a proposition that I question. (As a firm believer in Murphy's law, I always wonder what unintended consequence will arise if we apply a totally technological fix to a problem. I'd like to do some experiments first and at the same time address to some of the root causes so it doesn't get worse.)

Another point that James raises is again one that I too am deeply concerned about. The way war is conducted these days is so risk-free for Americans that it makes it way too easy to rely on violence to solve our problems. Gulf War 2 had some moments of anxiety and fear for the Americans watching it at home, but was portrayed as a highly antiseptic and low cost war. When we can completely deny that wars are ugly things and real people are injured or die, we cheapen the lives of those who get caught in the cross-fire. George Lakoff wrote about the metaphors used to bring about Gulf War 1, but warned:

It is important to distinguish what is metaphorical from what is not. Pain, dismemberment, death, starvation, and the death and injury of loved ones are not metaphorical. They are real and in this war, they could afflict hundreds of thousands of real human beings, whether Iraqi, Kuwaiti, or American.

It is just as true today. And if we forget this or ignore it, we lose our ability to weigh the costs appropriately. James' essay makes it clear that one of the real moral questions we have as Americans is how do we maintain our humanity when our institutions (especially those in our military-industrial complex) run amuck?

Update: James also has been corresponding with David Neiwert, and you can find more on this subject at Orcinus.

posted by Mary at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK |


Much has been said about the supposed paranoia of Arabic Muslims. Oh, say the pundits, how can they believe that it's part of some twisted western plot to stick them with oppressive regimes? Let's take Iran, just for one example. And so as not to be accused of digging up the past, because all reasonable people know that nothing that happened in the distant past (say, over 5 years ago) affects the present, let's confine ourselves for at least a while to two incidents that have occurred since I started this blog last September (it seems much longer).

The Revolt That Almost Was

As recently as December, there was a huge furor in Iran over the death sentence of Hashem Aghajari. A maimed veteran of the Iran-Iraq war who held a university professorship, and made some controversial remarks critical of the government while speaking to a group of students. First, the students protested. Then the protests spread, widely. It stopped being a student protest, and became a mass uprising with thousands of people in the streets daily from every walk of life. The sentence was so unpopular that even members of the government were emboldened to criticize it.

Indeed, it looked like the verge of a popular revolt.

Now anyone who attended the recent peace marches is aware that a lot of organizing is involved in getting even one protest off the ground, letting people know when, where, what, etc. How were they pulling it off? Courtesy of a US sponsored radio station called Radio Freedom, which had a live DJ who suspended regular programming for the occasion. Students ard organizers would call in on their cellphones from the demonstrations, have live reporting and discussion, and feeling so generally bold that people were giving their full names over the radio.

But three weeks into the protests, Radio Freedom was shut down. Two weeks later, it was replaced with 24/7 American pop music and a few minutes of canned news every hour. The White House hailed it as a triumph of information access for the Iranian people. The demonstrations continued gamely for a while, but as the numbers thinned out, the hardline Basij marchers were finally able to intimidate everyone into staying away.

At present, Aghajari himself is in a legal limbo, after Ayatollah Khamenei himself stepped in to order a review. The protests are history.

The Latest Installment

And now courtesy of Magpie, we find that this Thursday, April 17th, an Iranian resistance group based in Iraq was bombed by US forces. The Mujahideen-e Khalq were formerly falsely accused of belonging to Al Qaida (part of the 'support' for the claims about the Saddam-Bin Laden connection), but as the article she links to revealed, many in congress were aware of the true nature of the group. Even the State Department was aware, describing them as follows:

...MEK insurgent activities in Tehran constitute the biggest security concern for the Iranian leadership. In February 2000, for example, the MEK attacked the leadership complex in Tehran that houses the offices of the Supreme Leader and President. Strength Several thousand fighters located on bases scattered throughout Iraq and armed with tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and artillery. The MEK also has an overseas support structure. Most of the fighters are organized in the MEK’s National Liberation Army (NLA)...

So, the government knew who they were, and where they were. And if they'd been attacking our troops during the last couple weeks, surely they would have warranted an air strike long before this. What happened to that 'enemy of my enemy' approach, anyway?

Twice Is Coincidence, Three Times...

Indeed, there are more examples, but they fall beyond the immediate time-frame. Which means that surely, the people of the region will have forgotten all about it.

Though if we were to go back to the ancient days of twenty four years ago, some would even consider the Iran-Iraq war (instigated by the US) to have strengthened the regime at a crucial time before they had consolidated their power. It didn't take very long after the revolution for people to get thoroughly fed up with a government that represented the religious leanings of what was (at the time) barely 10% of the population. But as can be demonstrated, in a crisis, countries pull together under whatever leaders seem ready to hand.

But maybe they haven't forgotten at all. If we were to look closely at the article about the start of the student protests, as linked above, we'd note that the marchers were carrying a picture of Mohammad Mossadegh. Who, some might be asking, is this guy? Well, he was picked in 2000 as the most important figure in Iran in the last century.

Dr. Mossadegh was ousted in a CIA coup about 50 years ago, a year before a similar coup plunged Guatemala into over three decades of indiscriminate bloodshed. (Go here for a CS Monitor timeline of some US led coups.) Mossadegh remains the most popular government figure in living memory in Iran, and you can bet that they haven't forgotten why he didn't get to finish his duly elected term.

Get The Message?

Apparently, Iran has got it loud and clear. The people know that they have a choice between these lousy, universally despised mullahs who require foreign mercenaries to enforce their edicts, and a US puppet. The government knows that they have no reason whatever to trust that we will negotiate in good faith, even if we keep saving their hides in the very most backhanded way possible.

And having absorbed the lessons of history, the Islamic Republic of Iran has declared that they will not remain neutral if Syria is attacked. Must have read that quote about no one being left to speak up when the stormtroopers finally come for you. Too bad our leaders don't seem to have read far enough back to even know 'why they hate us'. Which is surprising, considering that Bush II reanimated half the Ford administration for his current gig.

posted by Natasha at 1:55 AM | PERMALINK |

Thursday, April 17, 2003  

Around the Web

Thanks to Daily Kos, all you Wesley Clark fans can go sign the petition to Draft Clark for 2004.

Go over to rantavation, and scroll down to see two open letters where Big Air Fred casts a pox on both their houses, which is to say, the leadership of both the Democrats and the Greens.

Lisa English talks about FCC deregulation, and one commissioner's drive to stop it.

Different Strings finds some moving words from Tim Robbins.

Syria seeks a region-wide arms ban through the UN, and promises to sign it if everyone else will. The other Arab nations are mainly in favor of the proposal.But what did our former Contra-era felon serving as UN ambassador think?

...Mr Negroponte said any country could propose a resolution for consideration, but that did not mean the US was prepared to adopt it...

To The Barricades finds the gruesome horror story of the most dangerous president ever.

Talk left points out that Republicans are trying to make the Patriot Act permanent, and that corporations get off with a slap for trading with the enemy.

Sisyphus finds that in Arizona, homosexuality is being lumped in with "bestiality, cannibalism and human sacrifice". You don't hear that every day, and thank goodness. Let's hope this virulent little attitude isn't as contagious as compassionate conservatism.

From the Guardian: China's economic boom. And Andrew Green tackles the subject of America's surprise diplomatic offensive against Syria. Kristin Aune on feminism: Not Dead Yet. And she explains why:

...Women do two-thirds of the world's work, earn a tenth of the world's income and own a hundredth of the world's property. Two-thirds of illiterate people are women. Three hundred million women in developing countries have no access to contraception. More than 80% of the world's 50 million refugees and displaced people are women and children. Every year, two million girls between five and 15 are coerced, abducted, sold or trafficked into the sex market. There is, of course, no supply without demand. Convince the 5% of men who use prostitutes that sex on tap isn't a human right or a way to prove their power, and sex trafficking wouldn't exist...

posted by Natasha at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK |

Right demands Moore be stripped of Oscar

Someone has started a drive to revoke filmmaker Michael Moore's Oscar. According to the site set up to convince the Academy to snatch the sucker back, Moore is guilty of some rather quaint incursions.

The 75th Academy Awards handed the Oscar® for "Best Documentary" to Michael Moore for Bowling for Columbine. Bowling is a nasty bit of anti-American propaganda. Viewers are taught that:

America was founded on violence and fear, as quarrelsome pilgrims fled to the new world, where their paranoia led them to massacre the Indians, then the British, and then each other;

The Columbine murderers' violence might have its roots in the fact that one had a father in our military (American soldiers are presumably murderers, and it must rub off on their kids) or that there was a defense contractor in the area;

Charlton Heston (one of Hollywood's few upstanding men) is a callous fool;

The terrorist attack on 9/11 is related to past American foreign policy -- in short, America's own fault;

(No need to go farther, you get the drift. No wonder it got a standing ovation at France's Cannes Film Festival.)

I can't help but wonder who this person thinks the upstanding men in Hollywood, in addition to Charlton Heston, are.

One supporter of the campaign to revoke Moore's Oscar well-known in the blogosphere is Dave Kopel, the gun enthusiast currently embroiled in a scandal over apparently helping fellow Right Winger John Lott falsify information in his new book. Kopel says Bowling for Columbine was not really eligible for the Oscar because it isn't a documentary, but a 'mockumentary.'

. . .The fact is that a mockumentary larded with untruths and brazen self-contradiction is gobbling up documentary prizes: a special award at the Cannes Film Festival, the National Board of Review's "Best Documentary," the International Documentary Association's choice for best documentary ever, and the Academy Award for Best Documentary.

Kopel's complaint is unconvincing since the persons awarding those prizes know much more about filmmaking than he does. But, I do like his rhyme. Doc-u-ment-a-ry. Mock-u-ment-a-ry. Not bad for a gun nut.

The Wall Street Journal's web zine, the Opinion Journal, may have initiated the cause. In fact, it would be difficult to find a far Right cause it hasn't taken up. John Fund began the drumbeat before the Oscars, claiming Moore would win because of political correctness in Hollywood. (Yes, that John Fund. The same fellow with a scandalous reputation for sexually exploiting women.)

With Hollywood in a fever pitch against the war in Iraq, Michael Moore is likely to win the Oscar for Best Documentary at Sunday's Academy Awards. Bowling for Columbine, Mr. Moore's work of anti-American propaganda, has grossed over $15 million, an amazing sum for a film billed as a documentary. But the film, a merry dissection of America's "culture of fear" and love of guns, is filled with so many inaccuracies and distortions that it ought to be classed as a work of fiction.

InstaPundit Glenn Reynolds has mentioned the revocation drive on his blog, which attracts the attention of thousands. Like Kopel, he has questions to answer in regard to the latest John Lott scandal.

So far, the revocation drive is a creature of the Web and, seemingly, fellows with troubles of their own. Time will tell whether it spreads to mainstream media and the hoi polloi. I would consider it ridiculous for the Academy to seriously consider taking back an Oscar because of a political attack on the recipient. But then, I never thought Shrub would be appointed president or Anne Coulter would have a book on the New York Times Bestseller List, either. Sometimes, I overestimate people.

Moore is either oblivious or undeterred. He again stated his opposition to Pres. George W. (Shrub) Bush and his plans for the country in Texas, the state Bush claims as home, Tuesday.

The filmmaker told students at the University of Texas that the United States was at war with Iraq because Bush was trying to direct attention away from his domestic failures.

"It's not about the weapons of mass destruction; it's about the weapons of mass distraction," he told 4,400 students and guests.

Moore says he mainly receives messages of support and jokes about Right Wingers who target him for boycotts -- or worse.

Moore told the Austin American-Statesman before his lecture that 90 percent of the response he's gotten has been positive and that, despite having investigated the roots of violence in his most recent documentary, he hasn't received any threats.

"Should I be getting death threats?" he said, jokingly. "It is pretty risky of me to be coming to Texas, don't you think?"

Note: Elsewhere in the blogosphere. A round-up of blog essays by moi at Mac-a-ro-nies. The latest on sneaky gun research fraud John Lott, same channel, different time. All you ever wanted to know about hermaphroditism and a couple sexual fetishes at Silver Rights.

-- Mac Diva

posted by J. at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK |

Framing the message

One of the more challenging things that we have confronting us these days is finding a way to talk to people who are not necessarily receptive to our message. I had mentioned Chris Mooney's article in the American Prospect last week as a resource to start to explore this topic. Since then, I've run into the work of George Lakoff who has done some tremendous research in this area from three different and independent sources. The first mention of Lakoff was in that article by Mooney:

University of California, Berkeley cognitive linguist George Lakoff, author of the book Moral Politics: What Conservatives Know That Liberals Don't, has worked closely with FrameWorks in the past but believes that, in some ways, it doesn't go far enough. In particular, Lakoff doubts whether FrameWorks' project-by-project approach can unify progressives behind a "common moral vision" capable of rivaling the sense of shared purpose on the right. Nor can FrameWorks fight back. "They have to be positive. What that means is, you can't attack the conservatives," says Lakoff. "But oftentimes you have to."

Next someone posted this article by George Lakoff on a dKos thread this past weekend: Metaphor and War, Again.

Then on Monday, I received an email answer to my questions about the Commonweal Institute with the following:

This is what Commonweal will do - framing and shaping of arguments, including looking into the metaphorical use of framing (See the writings of George Lakoff). Framing is essential to winning people over. Metaphorical analysis involves the psychology on the cognitive process that people use. For example, Republicans follow a "strict father" model which outlines for them how to look at authority, things like that...

My thought was, wow, another mention of this guy three times in a week! It seems like even if it was just a coincidence, it sounds like it might be good to get to know more about George Lakoff and his work.

So, I've done some research and here is some more information on Lakoff and his work: an interview with him and this article: Metaphor, Morality and Politics.

Also, if you haven't yet reviewed these these pieces on Seeing the Forest (here and here) about the Commonweal Institute, I recommend that you do so. And if you have some spare cash, think about making a donation to them. We definitely need strong voices like the Commonweal Institute to help us to regain our country.

posted by Mary at 12:38 AM | PERMALINK |

Wednesday, April 16, 2003  

While searching Google for a couple items for the last post, I noticed that the very top ad spot on Iraq related searches shows up as an ad for the Iraqi 'Most-Wanted' Deck of Playing Cards. The same one given to soldiers in Iraq. Searches for 'Iraq news', 'Iraq museum', 'International Bible Society Iraq', and several others, all brought up this ad.

I have no idea of the relevance of this, but it was kind of interesting.

posted by Natasha at 11:53 PM | PERMALINK |

The Millenium Crusade

While flipping to News World International this evening, I caught the tail end of an interview with Donald Brooker, of the International Bible Society. The IBS are the brilliant folks who've been working for nearly a century to bring frontline US troops what they need the most. Bibles.

Mr. Brooker said that they were in the process of printing up 300,000 pieces of literature to bring into Iraq, including a special booklet for those who are out of work. Arabic bibles are also on the way, and as I discovered at their website, something whipped up specially for the Iraqi people. Lucky duckies.

They've also dubbed a 'popular' video about the life of Jesus in Arabic. He explained that the region had an extremely high VCR ownership ratio, and that the videos were effective even in places where people can't read. The literacy rate in the country is about 60%, but still, it sounded pretty darned condescending put the way he said it.

And then, the interviewer asked Mr. Brooker why they were doing this in a country that's 97% Islamic. The reply was that "Islam is based on law and duty... but christianity is based on forgiveness and love." He explained that forgiveness and love would be of great comfort to the Iraqis right now.

I imagine that forgiveness and love would be of great comfort to Mr. Brooker, Mr. Falwell, Mr. Bush, and all the rest of their cronies. Yes, we encouraged and/or brought about a rain of fire and destruction on your country, now let's teach you how to turn the other cheek. But some kind of law or duty would be the only thing keeping me, were I an Iraqi, from rounding up American missionaries in a van and shipping them off to Kuwait the minute they set foot in my neighborhood. Or to Jordan. Really, anywhere they'd be willing to put up with the useless buggers.

In the meantime, the IBS would like $20 to send the bombed out, starved out, thirsty, no-pain-medication-or-proper-medical-care-having Iraqi people a few words of comfort from the faith of their enemies. Hey, at least the people that got their homes destroyed will have fuel for the campfires they'll be setting up in the rubble of their cities. Isn't that thoughtful?

posted by Natasha at 11:46 PM | PERMALINK |

Compassion for the Iraqis?

Body and Soul has a post that discusses the censorship of war photos, but which I think also exposes the lie about how much the pro-war gang really care about the Iraqi people. Remember, Bush repeatedly said that we were not at war with the Iraqi people; it was just that nasty Saddam and his henchmen we were after and we were going to liberate the innocent Iraqis and magnimously bring them democracy.

dKos's threads have been full of freepers who love to say that we liberals don't care about the people of Iraq and if it was up to us, we'd let them suffer under Saddam's horrible regime. Yeah, sure. And they are active members of Amnesty International and have been working for years to free the Iraqis from that brutal regime.

Well, one thing I know is that this war has created opportunities for some strange and callous statements and actions. I found the following comment from "Jeff" under the piece I did last week on What About Aid: I am glad its finally over, but the U.S should have wiped Iraq,and Afganistan off the face of the Earth.

I cannot help but wonder where this wellspring of hate and anger for the Iraqi people arises. Is it because people refuse to see the consequences of the war? Or they would just rather the Iraqis simply disappear so they wouldn't have to consider them (it's just so messy)? Or perhaps because if we see that they suffer we might have to acknowledge our own guilt?

Body & Soul's entry talked about the reaction people had to a front page picture in the Oregonian where an Iraqi man was shown mourning over the coffins of his family who were all killed by an American bomb. The reaction to the picture was largely negative (10 to 1). Many of the complaints expressed anger because it didn't glorify our troops and was not sufficiently rah-rah. But perhaps for some the picture was a rude interruption to their war-induced fantasy, because somehow to show that our bombs kill civilians caused their conscience to cry out and so is wrong and must be denied, especially when this war was supposed to be about saving the Iraqis.

Recently I heard someone talk about how one of the worst things that will come from this war is the coarsening of the hearts and souls of the American public as they revel in how easy this war was and how little it cost. I fear for the soul of our country when war seems so easy. And as Jefferson said, "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just."

posted by Mary at 11:11 PM | PERMALINK |

Supporting The Troops

Yesterday, I blogged a link to the story about the imminent cuts in VA funding, a story which also mentioned the cuts in education funding for the children of military personnel. And of course, left blogistan has been near uniformly outraged. But what are we going to do about it?

What about getting up another Virtual March on Washington? For opposition to the war, we tied up the phone lines at the capital for two days. What about doing it for the soldiers? Tell the government that if they're going to wrap their agenda in some kind of concern for people in uniform, they better show some serious concern for people in uniform.

Let's make them put their money where their mouths are. I propose the date of Thursday, May Ist. Any takers?

posted by Natasha at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK |

From BuzzFlash

The Fundies are already licking their chops over Iraq. If there's anything more creepy than starving people, preventing them from getting basic medical supplies, bombing them, letting their cultural history get wrecked, and then preaching to them when they're down, I can't think of it off hand. Thank god we no longer feel inclined to napalm people in the hundreds of thousands, I guess.

In other Fundy Watch news, Franklin Graham has been called to give the Good Friday sermon at the Defense Department. Pentagon muslims are less than pleased.

This country's already thin support for the Veterans Administration is targeted for billions in cuts. This is the 'tough love' approach, we've come to expect from our compassionate conservatives. The last president to increase funding for the VA? Why, Clinton, of course.

Our boy in Iraq, Ahmed Chalabi, says that the UN is an ally of Saddam Hussein.

Britain packs up it's field hospitals, says Iraq doesn't need to import healthcare, as Iraqi hospitals are pushed past the breaking point. This compassionate conservatism is catching.

Doctrine of preemption spreads to Kashmir

Bill O'Reilly's chronic foot-in-mouth condition flares up at inner city benefit dinner.

Bush thinks war wounds are just fascinating.

Michael Moore explains the full extent of the oscar backlash. Hint: He's more popular than ever, and so are the Dixie Chicks.

Ten dead in Mosul, where troops tried to prevent the media from covering a third day of anti-American protests.

US will not clean up DU munitions.

Baghdad's cemetaries are overflowing. And in response to that last item, I'd like to share something from the book "Zen Speaks", translated with wonderful illustrations from the Tsai Chih Chung by Brian Bruya:

The Order Of Life And Death

There was once a wealthy man who asked the Zen monk Sengai to create a work of calligraphy for him... [And this is what he got:]

"Father Dies. Son Dies. Grandson Dies." - Sengai

[The man said,] "I wanted you to write something auspicious! What are you trying to pull?

[Sengai replied,] "This is auspicious. If your sons were to die before you, or if your grandsons were to die before your sons, you would be extremely unhappy. If the people in your family live generation after generation and die according to this order, what is more auspicious than that?...

And in that spirit, nothing could be more appalling than the many Iraqi families where parents and grandparents are burying the remains of their recently whole and healthy children in fly-infested, overcrowded cemetaries. All their future hopes for those who would continue after them rotting away in pits they had to dig themselves, sometimes two generations at once. Not through some random accident or sudden illness, but because of the intentional actions of foreign invaders.

Selfishly, I hope they don't attach blame to every US citizen they see. But really, I couldn't bring myself to judge them harshly if they did so, I'm just furious that we couldn't do more to stop it. If there is a God/dess, there's 24 million people in Iraq who could really use some grace right about now. We'll be fine over here for a while, the bitching and moaning notwithstanding.

posted by Natasha at 2:00 AM | PERMALINK |

Blogging Research Study

Holy cannoli, Batman, people are researching blogging in college! So, here it is, your chance to further the beleaguered institution of American higher learning, one college student at a time. Specifically a college student who needs your help, dear reader, to complete a study on blogging. If you have time to speak up by torturing Wolf Blitzer on a daily basis, you have time to help the Media Studies Dept. at Syracuse get a wider portrait of Blogistan than Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Reynolds. Here's the request:

Help out a Media Studies graduate student -- answer a questionnaire on blog readership. Email* rbreynol(at) if you wish to participate.

* Remember to substitute @ for the (at) in the given email address. What kind of warm welcome is a mailbox full of spam, anyway?

posted by Natasha at 12:22 AM | PERMALINK |

What is Falangism?

Recently I’ve run across the term falangism. It is describes a type of government I’d never heard of, although it seems that it has been a form of governance that has been widely used during the 20th century. It refers to the type of government that we’ve seen operate in a number of countries in Latin America during the last century. Falangism is most closely with associated with Franco of Spain, but a number of the military dictatorships in South America during the 50s through the 80s also exhibit falangistic characteristics.

James R. MacLean has posted a number of comments to Digby’s posts that expands on what falangism is and how it might relate to the right wing politics we are encountering today. James believes that the radical right's goal is not necessarily fascistic (see Orincus’s series to get comprehensive writeup on fascism), but what he's seeing looks more like those forms of governments found in Latin America during the past few decades. James has a economics background but he’s interested in history and comparative political systems and has studied falangism from an economics perspective. And he thinks that the real problem we face in this country has characteristics of falangism rather than fascism. It seems to me that what James has to say is important, because we really need to know who are our radical right opponents. And we should understand what characterizes fascism and what would be different if they had motives that lead to falangism. I’ve asked James to provide more information and observations for us as things progress.

Here is what James has to say:

Perhaps it would be helpful to explain the distinction between falangism and fascism. In North America (in particular), the political right is in favor of devolving power to states or to firms; we are all, I'm sure, familiar with conservative politicians insisting they are the party of freedom because thye're opposed to federal control (except that that federal control they're opposed to is nearly always control over firms, or over states, controlling individuals).

In Europe, the extreme right is always in favor of centralizing control. The leftists--e.g., Karl Marx and the Paris Commune--actually wanted to see Europe run by cooperatives of cooperatives, not states. In the USA, in contrast, our own traditions of repressive violence have traditionally been checked by a strong federal government. This is not said to absolve the the federal government of terrible crimes--there have been many of them--but it must be said that crimes such as the Indian genocide, the importation of Chinese as virtual indentured servants (and redneck violence against them), the entire episode of slavery and barbaric savagery against African Americans, pogroms against Latinos--these are usually "do-it-yourselfer" atrocities.

So fascism is a type of tyranny in which the state is at war with the nation; the state is militarized, and the elites (viz., the owners of capital) are sufficiently frightened of the masses that they are willing to cede control to a junta. The fascist state is a praetorian state which exacts a stiff price from the traditional elites for its protection.

Compare this to the falangist state of Gen. Franco (in Spain) and those of Latin America since 1930. The falangist state is in many respects very different from a fascist state, because the elites in a falangist state are much more self-confident and are prepared to administer repression directly. Society is not militarized under a falangist state because the elites simply hire recruits from an underclass.

Another distinction: under a fascist state, laws simply are in abeyance. If you ever get a chance to read about the trial of members of The White Rose (dissidents in 3rd Reich) it's very illuminating: the tribunal tries them without any reference to any legal framework at all. Nazi Germany was a society where laws, in a sense, were meaningless: the state excluded any theoretical bounds on its own power. Whereas under a falangiast state, such as the juntas of Latin America, there were laws and they did restrain the state; so the junta would have criminal gangs (or the elites would have criminal gangs) who murdered or assaulted people willy-nilly. My point is, the falangist would carry out ITS violence through selectively tolerated criminality. Falangism, in essence, is class warfare by a state which is assuredly devoted to a particular elite and which remains subordinated to that elite.

Now, there's a reason I'm explaining this: it's a distinction which I think is really worth noting. On the one hand, the current administration is horrible; but it's horrible in a way which is very different from the horrible-ness of the European fascist regimes. And it will be noted that sometimes people who accuse the administration of being fascist are tripped up by this distinction, because in many respects a society degenerating towards falangism does the opposite things from one plunging into the hell of fascism. Both are horrid, butapologists for American rightists--or ordinary skeptics--can point to the fact that the GOP's supporters defend the 2nd amendment , tax cuts, deregulation, devolution of power to the states and so forth. And they haven't quite "militarized the state," either.

My point is, since our problem is falangism (and not fascism) the GOP behavior described here DOES NOT refute the drift towards an authoritarian rightwing regime. But it is inconsistent with fascism.

Digby's post on the Dyncorp cops provides further evidence that the trends we see within our society are more likely signs of falangism according to James:

After reading about the "groupuscular" patriot movement I still feel that this movement doesn't really seem to threaten us with a fascist movement such as what was seen in Europe between the wars. On the other hand, I do think falangism is a far more urgent and likely risk; while it is not implicated in monstrosities such as Hitler's Final Solution, it is more ubiquitous and has been implicated in a large number of large-scale terrors (Latin America).

It also lends itself well to being privatized. You cannot really drift into fascism administered by companies like Dyncorp. But you can with falangism--as the links indicate, Dyncorp already has lots of experience in this regard.

While fascist regimes are characterized by a boundless praetorian state, falangist states are actually limited in scope and action; and they remain subordinated to a coalition of class interests (in the future, say corporate). I don't mean by this to imply that fascist states are disinterested and non-ideological--but the fascist state really attempts to subordinate all classes and interests to a total state. Civil association outside of the state is impossible and there is no meaningful legal frame of reference.

In contrast, the falangist state has the same rightist character, but there are elites who are above the state, enjoy the protection of its laws, and the ability at times to act separately from it. A fascinating case of this in Indonesia, where geography and demographics (and economics) probably prevent true fascism from emerging. Indonesia used to be terribly violent, authoritarian, and had soldiers' associations routinely violating the law on behalf of the state. There was a weird situation where some elements of law enforcement in the islands were trying to investigate the routine homicides of workers, and of course they were stymied by the very government they were working for. Indonesia's pro-state insurgencies are actually just an extreme example of the contorted violence of falangist states.

So why is this relevent to the US? Because I don't think the US is really vulnerable to fascism at this time. Notice how the "patriot movement" abets business nationalists & other comercial beneficiaries of the far right.

But there is another feature still. Falangism flourishes when there is right-wing distrust of the state, and scorn for the regime's laxness with crime. And falangism is very simpatico with technocratic administration of a stagnant economy. (See Argentina, Brazil,...)

After seeing James’ posts, I went out on the net to see what else I could find out about falangism and found that we have an active Falangist party.

I think we need to understand who is driving the right wing agenda and how to overcome their arguments. If what is driving the right-wing agenda is falangism, this requires a different response than if their agenda has a more fascistic face. Understanding the goals and techniques is important as we go about finding ways to confront our opponents and how to do so without alienating our potential allies who are distrustful of hearing concerns about fascism because it seems so extreme.

posted by Mary at 12:13 AM | PERMALINK |

Tuesday, April 15, 2003  

Lynch lore appears to be untrue

We've heard all kinds of things about Pfc. Jessica Lynch and that Iraqi hospital. (Military headquarters, according to some on the Right.) That she was being held in a torture chamber. Armed Darth Vader-like Feyadeen supposedly guarded her. A car battery was said to be next to her bed, supposedly to to be used in torture sessions. Then, there was the Loyal Iraqi story in which she was rescued by an Iraqi lawyer who loves the United States. And, the one about how Pfc. Lynch fought until her ammunition was exhausted, being shot several times herself. Each of those claims has turned out to be untrue, or exaggerated at best. Today's Washington Post further debunks of the Legend of Little Jessie Lynch.

NASIRIYAH, Iraq, April 14 -- Accounts of the U.S. military's dramatic rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch from Saddam Hospital here two weeks ago read like the stuff of a Hollywood script. For Iraqi doctors working in the hospital that night, it was exactly that -- Hollywood dazzle, with little need for real action.

"They made a big show," said Haitham Gizzy, a physician at the public hospital here who treated Lynch for her injuries. "It was just a drama," he said. "A big, dramatic show."

Gizzy and other doctors said no Iraqi soldiers or militiamen were at the hospital that night, April 1, when the U.S. Special Operations forces came in helicopters to carry out the midnight rescue. Most of the Saddam's Fedayeen fighters, and the entire Baath Party leadership, including the governor of the province, had come to the hospital earlier in the day, changed into civilian clothes and fled, the doctors said.

The evidence suggests the evaporation of the Iraqi forces in Nasiriyah and other cities was pre-planned. The Iraqi leadership seems to have decided to put up a defense, but not to endanger their own lives. According to medical personnel at the hospital, the Ba'athist changed into civilian attire and walked away, blending into the general population. That process may have been repeated hundreds of times.

As for Lynch, the claim 'Mohammed' saw her being tortured and went to great lengths to save her appears apocryphal. At most, a tipster may have been involved. Her injuries seem to have occurred in in an automobile accident.

Lynch, 19, a supply clerk with the Army's 507th Maintenance Company, was captured March 23 when her unit made a wrong turn near Nasiriyah and was ambushed. Initial accounts reported how she was shot and stabbed and continued battling Iraqi fighters until she ran out of ammunition. But the doctors here who treated her said she suffered fractures to her arms and lower limbs and a "small skull wound," sustained when her vehicle overturned.

That does not mean there hasn't been a great deal of suffering in Nasiriyah.

The doctors at Nasiriyah's public hospital said they welcomed the U.S. and British invasion for having toppled Hussein's government. But that support is tempered by the high number of civilian casualties in Nasiriyah. Many of them, including women and children, remain in the crowded wards, suffering from severed limbs and deep lacerations the doctors said were caused by U.S. tank fire and bombs during the first week of the war.

Many injured civilians are nearly helpless in a city in which basic services such as water, lights and sanitation have been interrupted or destroyed. Medical supplies are also in short supply.

Note: I have written about my expectations for post-war Iraq at Mac-a-ro-nies.

-- Mac Diva

posted by J. at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK |

Around the Web:

Apparently, I'm not the only person who sees a resemblance between the rhetoric surrounding the early days of what we now know was the groundwork for this war, and the stepped up hostility towards Syria. Today we learn that an oil pipeline that ran from Iraq to Syria has been shut down. (Which is perfectly reasonable, because after all, no one ever interprets cutting off fuel supplies as a hostile act.) Allegations of chemical weapons testing and the harboring of wanted Iraqis are already flying thick and fast.

Mars Or Bust. NASA selects Mars landing & exploration sites.

New York's Mayor Bloomberg will have to cut $1 billion from the city budget, unless they receive help from the state or federal government. Think Bush will notice when all of his firefighting 'buddies' are put out of their jobs:

...Bloomberg's "contingency" plan includes laying off 10,000 city employees, touching almost every city agency including the fire department, which could see up to 40 firehouses shut down. ...

From the Arab News: Thousands of Iraqi demonstrators chanted "No to Saddam, and No to America" near the talks on the future of an Iraqi government. A discussion of the dowry custom and photo IDs for women in Saudi Arabia. What's the world afraid of today? Us. And an embedded journalist talks about the touching experiences she had while living with US Marines in Iraq. Too bad such a fine bunch of people are being commanded by the Bush cabal.

Over at Body and Soul, start here and scroll down for several good posts covering the looting and mayhem in Iraq. She links to this post on Making Light, in which no light can be made over the tremendous loss of world history that has occurred right under our noses. Read the comments. (Update: Noticed somewhere down this very long thread that I'm not the alone in having actually cried when I learned about the burning of the Library of Alexandria. It'll be a while before I can digest the loss of cultural treasures that I spent hours reading about, poring over pictures of as a child, and dreaming of someday visiting. Dead and dying people are an immediate, and wrenching source of pain. But the loss of history just kind of gnaws at the mind without ever really going away, presuming you're the kind of person who cares. It's like a second death for the work and lives of generations of people.)

Ampersand posts a passage from Barbara Ehrenreich that disagrees with the premise that men are inherently war-like.

The Angry Bear finds that even the Republicans are starting to get concerned about civil liberties protections. It seems they figured that the Democrats would take care of that for them.

posted by Natasha at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK |

Living It Up At The Hotel Baghdad

One of the email lists I'm on circulated a link to the story about the hotel bombing that killed two journalists in Baghdad. A French station caught the whole thing on film, including the fact that there was no gunfire at the time of the attack, and that the tank took it's time aiming. This column from another reporter staying at the hotel indicates that at least one primary purpose of the hotel was as a house arrest facility for foreigners that the government wanted to keep an eye on.

This morning, I was watching NewsWorld International (mmm, digital cable) and saw footage of what US soldiers were doing in Baghdad today. One of those things included looking for armed militia. Where were they looking? Why, the Palestine Hotel, of course. The footage showed a long hallway with a kneeling person, hands up & facing the wall, stationed outside every door.

But that isn't the only thing they had time to do, of course. There were also scenes of the inventory process of one of Hussein's son's weapons caches, found at his home. I didn't even know there was such a thing as a gold-plated AK-47, though there were several crates of more functional looking equipment. And this leads to some serious questions about what exactly is going on over there.

First, this cache of weapons wasn't touched in the looting. Now surely there must be a lot of people in Baghdad who know where the Hussein family's various residences were. So, sinks were stolen from clinics, but gold-plated AK-47s (and other more useful looking munitions) were just left for the Americans to find. Not a single person wanted even a souvenir?

In a city with widespread rioting breaking out, this would seem to indicate to me that the house in question was probably guarded. When the two national libraries, one containing the oldest known copy of the Koran, were burned down, I guess we were just too busy too notice. In fact, the US still won't spare troops to guard what's left at the looted national museum. What with taking vanity shots for the world press while undertaking bold looking but inessential duties, they must be very busy.

Second, why were these weapons not used? This can't be the only cache, and it looked like enough firepower to make some trouble with all by itself. Where are the people who were supposed to be firing them to defend the city? This is sort of a rhetorical question, but it's really getting under my skin lately. It's like the Iraqi military put up just enough resistance to slow us down, and then vanished. WTF?

He may have been a homicidal maniac, but no one has ever accused Hussein of being light in the planning and survival skills departments. Yet none of the actions that would be completely reasonable to assume would be undertaken in defense of a city ever materialized. No bridges were really blown, no booby traps, no serious defense. Even non-military minded folks like myself can think of ways to make life heck for an invader, but practically nothing more than mild stalling was in evidence.

I have a really hard time buying that they gave up just like that. It doesn't add up. And in the meantime, our troops are looking for militia members among the international press, pulling statues down, breaking up murals, and oohing and aahing over moderate (though impressive on film) stashes of fairly conventional weapons. It's damn creepy.

posted by Natasha at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK |

Monday, April 14, 2003  

Around the Web:

Courtesy of the always relevant Eschaton, we find that CalPundit has explained why there is no net benefit to mortgage deductions. And also, that a Republican has uttered the "I" word.

The Mahablog reviews the Orwellian 'jobs and growth' plan.

From the Guardian: Maybe they won't invade Syria. Arafat rejects the new prime minister's cabinet picks. and Matthew Engel writes about America's fascination with war.

Robert Fisk writes from Saddam Sadr City

Talk Left finds the goods on the role DynCorp may play in post-war Iraq. The company has previously been involved in sex-trafficking in Bosnia, but no prosecutions resulted due to a grant of immunity. Digby has more.

What now for the peace movement?

posted by Natasha at 8:56 PM | PERMALINK |

Into The Breach

I talked to my mom yesterday, deciding that I was up to the inevitable sermonizing. (Bear with me, there's actually a point at the bottom of all this.) For those of you that haven't been following along, which is probably darn near everyone, my immediate family are rabidly fundamentalist Christian. My only consolation for that is their belief that voting is a sin. Political Darwinism at its finest.

The Setup

As backdrop, they believe that any day now, God will wipe the wicked ones off the face of the earth in a massive fiery cataclysm which will selectively spare the righteous. While they're certain that all of those individuals will either be members of their denomination, or the rare individual that hasn't had a chance to be harassed by a member of their denomination, they are not absolutely assured that they'll be worthy to survive. Oh yeah, and everybody who dies will be resurrected in the perfect earthly paradise that will follow Judgement Day where no one will ever die again.

If the world situation is peaceful, then they're sure it will happen at any moment, because the End will come suddenly at a time when everyone thinks they're safe. If the world situation is dangerous, then they're sure it will happen at any moment, because surely God won't put up with all this for too much longer. And wasn't there a point a couple years ago when we all thought we were safe, anyway? Further, not to get caught by changing times, every few years they update their interpretation of the book of Revelations to fit current events. This is always followed by general awe that the Word of God, as interpreted by their in-house prognosticators, is so accurate. In short, they've got End Times paranoia to spare.

So, inevitably, talk turns to the war. Mom is delighted that we've liberated Iraq. To any alternative solution to the problem, she says, well Saddam was bad. (Holy sh*t! Thanks for the newsflash.) When I raise the point that the handling of the situation might make us all less safe, or that Iraq might end up like Afghanistan, she says that it isn't 'in man who is walking even to direct his step.' When talking about peopIe who might die as a result of the war or ensuing conflict, she said that they would all be resurrected in paradise. In response to other problems, I was assured that God would fix it all soon anyway.

For her, the present is the metaphysical equivalent of standing in line at the bank. You wait around, don't make any trouble, and at the end you get handed the reward for your patience. Fifty years from now, they believe, everyone now living will either have died in Armageddon or be claiming their eternal forty acres in a newly spacious paradise planet. My sisters, for instance, have (I am not making this up) decided that they'll abstain from having children until they reach the New World.

The Consequences

Now, except for the voting aspect, my family is pretty aligned with the intellectual groove of fundies everywhere. And the thing that really gets me about all this is the utter incapacity to think about the future in a meaningful way. To think in terms of consequences, of reactions, of the inevitable results of actions that may take years to fully play out.

So I'd like you to ponder, if you will, the political outcome of the absolute belief that at any moment God is going to wipe the slate clean of all His enemies. Even better, because you're such a righteous person, chances are that your enemies are included in the category of people to vaporize. And then you will be given (insert denominationally appropriate reward), and an eternal life at the right hand of God.

Nothing therefore needs to be done about pollution. The grandkids will be born into paradise. Nothing effective really needs to be done to correct global inequality, because the poor will get their reward as well. Endemic institutional corruption? Well, it says right here that the vast majority of people are wicked, and there's nothing that can be done about it.

Ya' Been Hoodwinked

And it occurs to me that if I were a powerful person whose goal was to commit larceny on a grand scale, I'd want as many people to believe some version of this claptrap as humanly possible. I'm not the first person to make this case, and it won't be the last time I bring it up, but it seems that the implications of it haven't managed to seep into the consciousness of mainstream society. Why not?

Probably because if you didn't grow up with it, it's seems hard to understand that so many perfectly ordinary seeming people are keenly looking forward to the end of the world. In the present, the only issues that matter are those framed as moral issues that could bump them out of line for their reward. And they genuinely believe that any long term problems are irrelevant because God will sort it all out. When?

Any day now.

posted by Natasha at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK |

Sunday, April 13, 2003  

About the week that was

Oh what a week for news! As a former and intermittent reporter, I am used to complaining about slow news days and weeks. Now, it looks like I might have to reverse my plaint.


Among today's most prominent stories was the release of seven American POWs by the Iraqis. All seven are in good health and spirits. This confirms my suspicion that the Iraqis are being demonized without proof. I took some flak from Right Wing bloggers for saying that, but am glad I spoke up. Read why at Mac-a-ro-nies.


Jeralyn Merritt has the goods on several important legal stories at Talkleft. These two are among them.

•John Muhammed, the accused D.C. area sniper, may claim a medical condition as part of his defense.

His lawyer told the Judge Friday he may have been the victim of a nerve gas or chemical attack.

In Muhammad's case, attorney Jonathan Shapiro said after a court hearing Friday that the defense has specific information that indicates possible exposure to chemical or nerve agents, but he declined to elaborate. "It's not wild conjecture," Shapiro said.

I am glad to hear that about conjecture, but believe this is a very long shot. There has to be some empathy for a defendant for jurors to care about a diminished capacity defense. It also helps if the crimes involved are not too heinous. Muhammad will be a beneficiary of neither of these factors.

•One of the intriguing aspects of the Portland Six terrorism case here in Puddletown is how flaky the government's informant is. Not only was he on their payroll, he seems to have suggested much of the reckless talk and actions by two of the defendants that is the best evidence the feds have. Something similar seems to have occurred in Detroit, where the informant is being described as a liar and thief.

The defense laced into the credibility of the Government's star witness at the Detroit terrorism trial today. First, they attacked his history of credit card scams and other misdeeds. Then,

The lawyers tried to paint Hmimssa, an illegal immigrant from Morocco, as trying to get a shorter sentence on fraud charges he pleaded guilty to last week in exchange for his cooperation. They said he was concocting stories about the men, three of whom were once his roommates.

Don't get me wrong. The nature of paid informants is that they are often not Eagle Scouts. However, because of the high stakes in terrorism cases, I believe using better than usual informants would make sense. I guess John Ashcroft disagrees.


Consider a woman who carries on with several men for two decades in order to supply classified information to the country she loves. If the accusations are true, that is the situation of Katrina Leung, 'the spy they loved.'

Leung was charged Wednesday with illegal copying of national defense documents to distribute them to officials of the People's Republic of China with the intent to harm the United States.

In addition to two FBI agents, Leung is known to have had a sexual relationship with the head of Lawrence Livermore Labs, a major nuclear weapons research facility. That is what the Diva calls loyalty. Katrina + China. Many marriages don't last that long.

-- Mac Diva

posted by J. at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK |

Bush decides, the rest follow

Digby comments on a story in Saturday's WaPo about how policy making in the White House these days is being fought out at the very highest levels until Bush decides the course he wants to take.

It seems that the State Department is finding itself increasingly irrelevant.

For the moment, the war may have given the Pentagon a prominence in foreign policymaking that is likely to provide ammunition for policy battles yet to come. "The Defense Department should wage war if necessary and defend our security; the State Department . . . should make foreign policy," Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, said on John McLaughlin's "One on One" this weekend. "But in bureaucratic games, you can't beat something with nothing.

"The fact is that in the Defense Department you have a cluster of people . . . who have a strategic viewpoint that's strongly held and well-refined, and you don't have its equivalent in the State Department," Brzezinski said. "The State Department doesn't like the fact that the Defense Department takes the lead strategically, but it hasn't really formulated some alternative concept of how American foreign policy should be conducted. And that is weakness."

This seems to be somewhat reminicent of the quandray the Democrats are experiencing when trying to propose alternatives to the Republican ideologically driven policies since standing for policies based on maintaining a social safety net or participating in an international forum as a partner and not as a dictator are not considered valid policy compared to the exciting policies being dreamt up by the guys ready to break apart the world to bring about Pax Americana.

How Bush makes decisions continues to be a source of concern for me since I don't see him making decisions based on a broad and comprehensive set of inputs. In the Atlantic Monthly, an interview with David Frum shows that Bush makes decisions easily (must be that MBA training).

Asked by a student whether he found it hard to make decisions, he replied:

"If you're one of these types of people that are always trying to figure out which way the wind is blowing, decision making can be difficult. But I find that I know who I am. I know what I believe in, and I know where I want to lead the country. And most of the time, decisions come pretty easily for me, to be frank with you. I realize sometimes people don't like the decisions. That's okay. I've never been one to try to please everybody all the time. I just do what I think is right."

More from Frum:

Mr Bush's mind is not crammed with facts and figures. But he has tremendous focus. He can instantly separate the essential from the inessential. And he has the presidential temperament, the moral courage to make decisions and stick to them.

His war leadership is defined by three characteristics that you would not normally expect to see together: boldness, moderation, and persistence.

Whenever Mr Bush has had to make a wartime decision, he has opted for the boldest choice. He decided to fight Hezbollah as well as al Qaeda and Iraq as well as the organised terrorist groups. He sought the overthrow of not only the Taliban but also Saddam. He is pushing not for any Palestinian state, but for a democratic Palestinian state.

Some may regard these choices as over-ambitious. But they bespeak a president who is willing to take risks and who is mindful of a fact that some more articulate presidents never absorbed: doing nothing or doing too little is often the riskiest choice of all. While Mr Bush sets big goals, he is willing to advance on them by a slow and careful route.

Somehow it just doesn't make me feel better knowing that Bush is out there making decisions that tend to the boldest, most risky ones. Combined with his total lack of regard for anyone who is not with him, it feels like we will all be in for a rough time while Bush battles terrorism and evil.

Update: The interview with Kurt Vonnegut earlier this year provides some insight into my own discomfort. His description of psychopatic personalities (PPs) certainly again says why it is not reassuring to hear how easily Bush makes decisions.

The classic medical text on PPs is The Mask of Sanity by Dr. Hervey Cleckley. Read it! PPs are presentable, they know full well the suffering their actions may cause others, but they do not care. They cannot care because they are nuts. They have a screw loose!

What has allowed so many PPs to rise so high in corporations, and now in government, is that they are so decisive. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with doubts, for the simple reason that they cannot care what happens next. Simply can't. Do this! Do that! Mobilize the reserves! Privatize the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybody’s telephone! Cut taxes on the rich! Build a trillion-dollar missile shield! Fuck habeas corpus and the Sierra Club and In These Times, and kiss my ass!

As one of those who is decidedly not with Bush in supporting his war or goals, my opposition comes down to his callous lack of concern about the people he is supposed to be leading -- both Americans and as "Leader of the Free World", the people of the world. We are only pawns in his bold great game, just like in the Greek myths, humans were pawns in the battle of the gods.

posted by Mary at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK |

Morning In Iraq

First the German embassy, then the Iranian embassy, now the Chinese embassy falls prey to looting in Baghdad. Nothing to see here folks, move along.

The US has magnanimously suggested that the rest of the G7 forgive Iraq's debts in order to help the country rebuild faster. No suggestion has been made thus far by the US foreign policy team that Kuwait, who would like to bill Iraq for the $500 million per month they were charged by British and American companies to rebuild after GWI, should give up its claims. Nor have they suggested that any countries which owe them money, in some cases so much that the interest payments are nearly the same as GDP, should be relieved of similarly crushing burdens.

This story smells pretty fishy. A report is conveniently discovered in the bombed out headquarters of Iraqi intelligence which details that Russia was involved in connecting Iraq to Bin Laden, and that Iraq had nuclear weapons. The alleged items cover a span of at least two years. A squadron of flying pigs can't be far behind this little gem.

Deutsche-Welle has an update on progress in Tikrit, the first anti-US rally in Iraq, the discovery of the missing US troops, and several other items.

And Iraq's neighbor, Syria, gets a fresh warning from Colin Powell this morning. What's that line about misery loving company...

posted by Natasha at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK |