It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey
the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog,
passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.
To those who have come to trust
The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial
tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped
lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects
and interest categories where others feared to tread.
Please keep Steve's friends and family in your
thoughts and prayers.
It’s a gorgeous day here in my city and I’m going to pack up my laptop and find a lovely place to eat. So in lieu of a Sunday sermon, here’s my version:
The Republican Party walks into the American people’s living rooms, and says, "We're the Family Value’s Party, and we'd like to represent you."
The American People say, "Sorry, but we’re a little leery of Family Values parties. They tend to be scams run by demagogues.”
Republican Party says, "But this is really special."
The American People says, "Okay, well what's the act?"
The Republican Party replies, "Well after the worst attack on American soil in history, we hijack the nation's grief and rage to plunge us into a war with entirely the wrong country.
“Then we let the actual terrorist responsible for the attack to sit in a comfy chair on the edge of the stage and laugh and laugh and laugh for the duration of the performance.
“The Mainstream Press then comes out, bends over and we take them violently and repeatedly from behind by jamming giant lies up their poop chutes, which come spurting out of their mouths the next day as 'authoritative reporting'. Then we cite our own regurgitated lies as independent ‘proof’ that we're right.
“Meanwhile Fox News and Hate Radio will peel the flesh from the fallen soldiers (whose flag-draped coffins are to be kept strictly hidden during the entire act. Out of, y’know, respect), wrap themselves in their skin, the Flag and the Bible and spend the rest of the act as a kind of Rich White Greek Chorus, screaming that anyone who is not in the act is a traitor.
“They will also hypnotically repeat ‘9/11/Iraq/Saddam Hussein/Osama bin Laden’ over and over and over again until any distinctions between them become magically invisible.
“We then wheel a brain-dead body on the stage named Terri Schiavo, and proceed to use it to defile both the institution of marriage and the sanctity of life…in the name of the Jesus. And then the President himself will interrupt one of his many vacations to make a special guest appearance and sign a special law to do this.
“Our ‘maverick’ candidates then come out, set fire to their remaining principles, and slither though their own shit to kiss Jerry Falwell’s pasty, pestilent ass.
“Then a kick-line of severely wounded veterans of our illegal war hobble across the stage, are locked into tiny rooms crawling with rats and roaches, and are left to sit in their own waste.
“The stage will be ringed by White Male Conservative Fundamentalist Evangelical on tall pulpits who will repetitively rant about the feminists, queers, Darwin and the ACLU oppressing and destroying Christian America while urinating continuously on the proceedings. To spice it up a little, every now and then one of the White Male Conservative Fundamentalist Evangelical preachers will smoke meth and/or orally pleasure some young gentleman volunteer from the audience.
“The daughter of the Vice President will stand under the shower of Conservative urine and sing a merry song about her great love of the Family Values of her Father and her Party.
”Then ‐ live and on stage -- she and her lesbian lover will then give birth to a child out of wedlock.
“Every six minutes a voice will shout from offstage ‘Who is to blame for this horror show?’ and everyone on stage will shout back ‘Slick Willie!’ in unison.
“Every four minutes a spotlight will pick out various Family Values leaders in the wings engaged in various acts of including but not limited to sex with a gay prostitute, sex as a gay prostitute, attempting to solicit gay sex from young boys, embezzling funds from disabled veterans, stealing from native Americans, looting and then busting out various massive corporations, rigging elections, selling soldiers tainted food and toilet water at premium prices, attacking senior citizens for hating soldiers and loving “teh gay”
(Or did you forget?)
“And so forth…”
The American People look very uncomfortable, but the Republican Party continues…
“This will be followed by a series of what we call Ironic Soliloquies.
“First, one of our Faith Based 'scientists' will sodomize a baby polar bear with the worlds 'Global Warming' painted on its fur.
“Second, the head of the agency in charge of responding to national emergencies will let an entire American city die. No expense will be spared in making this as realistic as possible, including the mocking of the dead, the dying and the devastated as being 'lazy and stupid'...
“Third, the top Law Enforcement Officer in the country will torture a series of bound prisoners live, soak the writ of Habeas Corpus in kerosene and set in alight, smash the machinery of democracy, all while singing a rockin’ cover of 'I Don’t Remember'.
“The Secretary of Defense will then fuck an entire country into the ground, destroy the military, lie until his ass actually falls off, and mock anyone who asks honest questions.
“Then, for laughs, the Vice President will shoot a guy. An old guy. In the face.
“The old guy will then profusely apologize for getting in the way of the Vice President’s buckshot.”
The Republican Party pauses, smiling, and then continues:
"This is the best part: the President of the United States then comes back onstage in a flight suit and a massive codpiece, struts over the dead and wounded, over our ruined national reputation, over our failing schools, over our crippling debt, and praises every one of us for the brilliant job we have done, and passes out Presidential Medal’s of Freedom.
“Then a giant banner reading ‘Mission Accomplished’ drops out the ceiling, and 29% of the audience applauds wildly as we all get up and take a bow."
The Republican Party looks at the American People and says, "Well, that's the act. What do you think?"
The American People just sit there stunned for a long time. Finally they say, "That's a hell of an act. What do you call yourselves?"
By DAVID GERMAIN, AP Movie Writer Fri Apr 27, 3:10 AM ET
LOS ANGELES - Jack Valenti was not just Hollywood's top lobbyist. He was one of its biggest stars. The 85-year-old Valenti, who died Thursday of complications from a stroke in March, led the movie industry out of the prudishness of old Hollywood and into an age of freer expression with the creation of the film rating system that has endured nearly 40 years.
The former White House aide went from politics to show business, overseeing the Motion Picture Association of America with eloquence, bullheadedness and flair.
Valenti was a passionate envoy, deflecting criticism of Hollywood with wit and humility, fostering its interests overseas and fiercely combating threats to the industry such as film piracy.
"In a very real sense, he was the ultimate leading man," said Dan Glickman, Valenti's successor as head of the MPAA.
A former aide to Lyndon Johnson who was in the motorcade the day President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, Valenti went from Beltway insider to Hollywood baron when he took over the MPAA in 1966.
His impact on American culture was almost immediate. Recognizing that the industry had outgrown the morality code regulating movie content since the 1930s, Valenti replaced it with a ratings system that survives today with its G, PG, PG-13 and R designations.
Valenti's ratings system "enabled the industry to give parents the information they need to make appropriate decisions for their children while at the same time eliminating the possibility of government censorship from the content of the movies," said John Fithian, who heads the National Association of Theatre Owners.
The ratings system has its critics, but Valenti always defended it as an example of democracy in action.
Without it, films might have been subject to government censorship, so it ensured freedom of expression for moviemakers, Valenti said. And, he said, the ratings designations gave fair warning to audiences about content they might prefer to skip.
"While I believe that every director, studio has the right to make the movies they want to make, everybody else has a right not to watch it," Valenti told The Associated Press shortly before his retirement in 2004. "All we do is give advance cautionary warnings and say this is what we think is in this movie."
More than anyone, this man was responsible for the entrenchment of the existing distribution system that now exists to promote major product to the exclusion of all others. He and his team used the MPAA to shore up the studios at the expense of independent producers. They did it using the cover of dopey housewives and petulant industry washouts as "reviewers" while always being overseen and manipulated by studio / industry tentacles.
According to those early 21st century poets--Three-Six Mafia--it's supposedly "Hard Out Here For A Pimp".
I beg to differ with these latter-day Bards. Nowadays you see, it's actually much, much harder out here for a Wingnut. But just like in the movie "Hustle & Flow", the root cause of the trouble...
Is those pesky "Hos", of course.
It kicked off with Don "But Jeezy/Cool J/Pick-a-Rapper, any rapper did It!" Imus, and his career self-immolation of calling a bunch of Black female college student/athletes he'd never met and knew nothing of--"nappy-headed hos". Rough as f*ck, but it went down just like that, and wingers rushed to the "I" (as in 'Ignorant as f*ck')-man's defense, spouting all manner of "Give me the right to call you n*gger with no consequences, or give me death--n*gger!"-speak. It hasn't gone well, with the likes of O'Reilly and Limbaugh freaking out and running scared ever since Imus' thankfully being being put down like the withered, brain-shriveled, old dog he was. Never mind their own peccadilloes (or pecca-dildoes in O'Reilly's case) of a misogynist nature--i.e Bill-O dialing 1-900-FALAFEL on those lonely nights, and Limbaugh's cheap-as-all-f*ck Caribbean Sex Tours. In the end it was a case of the worm turning. Man biting dog. So-called "Hos" delivering the pimp-slap to the gutter. "PYOOOOOOWWW!
The Score: Hos:1, Wingers: 0
Then Michelle "Take me seriously as I flounce about spastically in a 'marital aids store'-bought Catholic schoolgirl/cheerleader costume" Malkin, in one of her rare chances to shine (but in this case, dull) in a prime time host capacity, found herself debating a one-legged man in a jumping-jack contest. Namely, --Malik Shabazz, "leader" of the "New" Black Panther Party. "New", as in "New Coke", and its relation to the quality of the original. The debate issue? The dropping of all charges against the Duke Lacrosse players. Even a loopy, frothing git like Malkin should have been able to handle this guy...an intentionally chosen "D'-level player on the charlatan board. The deck was stacked. The magnet set under the roulette wheel. Every cheat mirror in place. And then...when Malkin pulled a Hannity-esque "Are you gonna apologize for what someone else said" routine, Shabazz spazzed, saying to Malkin:
"Will you apologize for being a political prostitute for Bill O'Reilly, a white male chauvinist racist, as a woman of color?"
Malkin of course handled it perfectly. As perfectly f*cked up as she could, that is. 'Cause she spazzed and emptied her bag of tics. Eye bugs, splutters, bleats, and enough fifth-grader squinchy faces to do Nellie Olesen proud. She let her knuckle-headed, tomato-can of an opponent get lucky and land a Mike Weaver 15th round bomb upside her head. His words, harsh and mean, yet...hanging in the air on a skeleton of truth. She? Finger wagging and nyah-nyah-ing herself into a deeper pit of not-ready-for-prime-time ignominy than previously plumbed by her idiocy. A f*cking embarrassment. Which is saying an awful lot, considering who we're talking about.
Aaaaaaand the tote board says... Hos: 2, Wingers: 0
The sordid game of "Tic-Tac-Ho" reached its diagonal "swoosh" denouement with the Friday news dump revelation of the first casualty of the "D.C. Madam's" client list. Randall Tobias, Director of Foreign Aid Programs as the State Dept. and top Condi bootlicker ('all the way to the knee, daddy...all the way to the knee') resigned Friday after his private celly number turned up repeatedly in the call records of D.C. Madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey's "Escort Service".
As the we used to say on the playground, "Oooooooooooooooooooh!"
You see, this hypocrite--around number four hundred and ninety-one on the Bush hit parade of installed, duplicitous toadies, was a champion of abstinence as the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator. Mr. Anti-Promiscuity to the third world if you please, promoting the Bush adminstration's silly, draconian, Hercule Poirot--"Touch nothing!" message of sexual health to the planet's dusky lessers. Until that is, his number came up on the bunny ranch's speed dial. He claims um...how do you say it...
"That he never got a dinner?" No. That ain't it.
"Old Faithful never erupted?" Hmmm...too National Geographic.
"He didn't stick around for the happy ending." Yeah, yeah...that's the one I was lookin' for.
Oh...and homey's married, too. But evidently has that mega, *ss kicking sciatica that 'll drive a fella to an escort service for pain alleviation...and then switch to another escort service using "Central Americans"--you know, to foster that whole NAFTA thing I guess. Or for the tension-busting, Guatemalan Gonad Grip. Take yer cherce.
Hey, did you know that D.C.'s reknowned Four Seasons Hotel on Pennsylvania Ave. offers world-class Aromatherapy, Hot Stone, and Deep Tissue massages?
Or that the Capital Hilton's Spa, the Cap City Club and Spa offers all of the above-- including Japanese Reiki! Goddamn Japanese REI-KI, YA'LL! My wife and I actually got a day package at this place as a wedding gift for a couple we know who moved there. Fabulous establishment, we were told by the happy couple.
And of course, there's always this professional's deft touch at getting those nasty old kinks out.
Bottom line is that there was a slew of perfectly legal places Tobias could have gone to get rubbed the right way, all within a mile of work. That by the way includes dear wifey with a tube of Icy Hot at the crib. But instead, brother man called the "Hos". And thus called down yet another *ss-stinking embarrassment around the Bush Admin's ears.
"Can I have the latest tally, Marion?" It's Hos: 3, Wingers: 0 "B*tches done set them up!
What to say here? The dice rolled sevens and elevens every f*cking time it seemed for almost six years for this crew. And ever since? Snake eyes, snake eyes, SNAKE EYES, b*tches. Every day now for the GOP, it's like being the backup band for Patty Smythe... f*ckin' Scandal, dude! :) As Palfrey's turned over chunks of her D.C. freak-list to ABC for a special exclusive next week, the mind fairly reels with anticipation of who else is in the phone logs. Tobias was offered up late Friday amidst another Friday doc dump, a GOP Rep on the verge of booking up due to the Abramoff scandal, and another DOJ investigator F*cked to hell because of a conflict-of-interest bed-sh*t. What's been hilarious is how initially, the usually swarming wingnutosphere laid back--cat quiet Friday night as the news broke, and then as the sex angle swelled it to shuddering tumescence, the next day whined about the madam's partisanship, and then moaned "woe is we" about how this "ho"-riffic story's probably got legs and will hurt the GOP further.
Which begs the question; With all the gloom and doom they're oozing, has a little birdie hipped the leading meme spreaders over there to prepare for other big names to come on that list? It's an overwhelming moroseness settling over that bunch today...like a big, p*ss-drenched blanket. Instaf*ckwit of course tried feebly to Clintonize it, and then failing that, grumpily calls for the legalization of prostitution. Over one poor john's getting caught out there? Hmm. I didn't get a "Heh." outta that guy. Malkin blames the rapacious "MSM"--surprise!--and pulls phantom anti-GOP bias out of her stiff, pom-pom flailing *ss. PowerLine...issued an actual, f*cking "No comment."
All I know is Christmas has come eight months early this year with the crocuses blooming, and Santa's fat *ss is handing out gifts...all the while bellowing with a twinkle in his eye, yeah...you guessed the words...
Since the Moyers show, I have been thinking of many things that happened during that intense period in 2002 and 2003 when the political and media establishment seemed to lose its collective mind (again) and took this country into an inexplicable and unnecessary war. As tristero notes below, the story is long and complicated and it will take years to put it all together, if it ever happens.
I was reminded of one episod, after the invasion, that came as big surprise to me because it came from an unexpected source. And it was one of those stories that was clearly a cautionary tale for any up and coming members of the media who valued their jobs.
On September 11, 2001, Ashleigh Banfield was reporting from the streets of Manhattan, where she was nearly suffocated from the debris cloud from the collapsing World Trade Center. Banfield continued reporting, even as she rescued a NYPD officer, and with him, fled to safety into a streetside shop. After the initial reporting of the tragedy had ended, Banfield received a promotion, as MSNBC sent her around the world as the producer of a new program, A Region in Conflict.
A Region in Conflict was broadcast mainly from Pakistan and Afghanistan, generally considered locations unfriendly to Westerners. To report day-to-day local stories in that area of the world, she sometimes used her Canadian citizenship to provide access where Americans might not be welcome. She would read viewer e-mails on-air, sometimes without reviewing them beforehand, to avoid bias.
During the conflict in Afghanistan, Banfield interviewed Taliban prisoners, and visited a hospital in Kabul. Later entries covered her travels from Jalalabad to Kabul, as well as other experiences in Afghanistan. In Pakistan, she interviewed Father Gregory Rice, a Catholic priest in Pakistan, and an Iraqi woman aiding refugees. While in Afghanistan, Banfield darkened her blonde hair in order to be less obviously a foreigner.
I made terrible fun of Banfield. She seemed to me to be the personification of the infotainment industrial complex, a reporter better known for her stylish spectacles and blond highlights than her journalistic skills. She was their girl hero, a Jessica Lynch of TV news, constructed out of whole cloth in the marketing department of MSNBC. But I was wrong about her. It's true that she was a cable news star who was created out of the rubble of 9/11, but her reporting that day really was pretty riveting. Her stories from Afghanistan were often shallow, but no more than any of the other blow dried hunks they dispatched over there, and they were sometimes better. Still, she symbolized for me the media exploitation of 9/11 and the War on Terror Show and I was unforgiving.
But very shortly after the invasion of Iraq --- even before Codpiece Day --- Banfield delivered a speech that destroyed her career. She was instantly demoted by MSNBC and fired less than a year later.
Ashleigh Banfield Landon Lecture Kansas State University Manhattan, Kansas April 24, 2003
...I suppose you watch enough television to know that the big TV show is over and that the war is now over essentially -- the major combat operations are over anyway, according to the Pentagon and defense officials -- but there is so much that is left behind. And I'm not just talking about the most important thing, which is, of course, the leadership of a Middle Eastern country that could possibly become an enormous foothold for American and foreign interests. But also what Americans find themselves deciding upon when it comes to news, and when it comes to coverage, and when it comes to war, and when it comes to what's appropriate and what's not appropriate any longer.
I think we all were very excited about the beginnings of this conflict in terms of what we could see for the first time on television. The embedded process, which I'll get into a little bit more in a few moments, was something that we've never experienced before, neither as reporters nor as viewers. The kinds of pictures that we were able to see from the front lines in real time on a video phone, and sometimes by a real satellite link-up, was something we'd never seen before and were witness to for the first time.
And there are all sorts of good things that come from that, and there are all sorts of terrible things that come from that. The good things are the obvious. This is one more perspective that we all got when it comes to warfare, how it's fought and how tough these soldiers are, what the conditions are like and what it really looks like when they're firing those M-16s rapidly across a river, or across a bridge, or into a building.
So for that element alone it was a wonderful new arm of access that journalists got to warfare. Perhaps not that new, because we all knew what it looked like at Vietnam and what a disaster that was for the government, but this did put us in a very, very close line of sight to the unfolding disasters.
That said, what didn't you see? You didn't see where those bullets landed. You didn't see what happened when the mortar landed. A puff of smoke is not what a mortar looks like when it explodes, believe me. There are horrors that were completely left out of this war. So was this journalism or was this coverage-? There is a grand difference between journalism and coverage, and getting access does not mean you're getting the story, it just means you're getting one more arm or leg of the story. And that's what we got, and it was a glorious, wonderful picture that had a lot of people watching and a lot of advertisers excited about cable news. But it wasn't journalism, because I'm not so sure that we in America are hesitant to do this again, to fight another war, because it looked like a glorious and courageous and so successful terrific endeavor, and we got rid oaf horrible leader: We got rid of a dictator, we got rid of a monster, but we didn't see what it took to do that.
I can't tell you how bad the civilian casualties were. I saw a couple of pictures. I saw French television pictures, I saw a few things here and there, but to truly understand what war is all about you've got to be on both sides. You've got to be a unilateral, someone who's able to cover from outside of both front lines, which, by the way, is the most dangerous way to cover a war, which is the way most of us covered Afghanistan. There were no front lines, they were all over the place. They were caves, they were mountains, they were cobbled, they were everything. But we really don't know from this latest adventure from the American military what this thing looked like and why perhaps we should never do it again. The other thing is that so many voices were silent in this war. We all know what happened to Susan Sarandon for speaking out, and her husband, and we all know that this is not the way Americans truly want to be. Free speech is a wonderful thing, it's what we fight for, but the minute it's unpalatable we fight against it for some reason.
That just seems to be a trend of late, and l am worried that it may be a reflection of what the news was and how the news coverage was coming across. This was a success, it was a charge it took only three weeks. We did wonderful things and we freed the Iraqi people, many of them by the way, who are quite thankless about this. There's got to be a reason for that. And the reason for it is because we don't have a very good image right now overseas, and a lot of Americans aren't quite sure why, given the fact that we sacrificed over a hundred soldiers to give them freedom.
All they know is that we're crusaders. All they know is that we're imperialists. All they know is that we want their oil. They don't know otherwise. And I'll tell you, a lot of the people I spoke with in Afghanistan had never heard of the Twin Towers and most of them couldn't recognize a picture of George Bush.
That will be a very interesting story to follow in the coming weeks and months, as to how this vacuum is filled and how we go about presenting a democracy to these people when -- if we give them democracy they probably will ask us to get out, which is exactly what many of them want.
As a journalist I'm often ostracized just for saying these messages, just for going on television and saying, "Here's what the leaders of Hezbullah are telling me and here's what the Lebanese are telling me and here's what the Syrians have said about Hezbullah. Here's what they have to say about the Golan Heights." Like it or lump it, don't shoot the messenger, but invariably the messenger gets shot.
We hired somebody on MSNBC recently named Michael Savage. Some of you may know his name already from his radio program. He was so taken aback by my dare to speak with Al -Aqsa Martyrs Brigade about why they do what they do, why they're prepared to sacrifice themselves for what they call a freedom fight and we call terrorism. He was so taken aback that he chose to label me as a slut on the air. And that's not all, as a porn star. And that's not all, as an accomplice to the murder of Jewish children. So these are the ramifications for simply being the messenger in the Arab world.
How can you discuss, how can you solve anything when attacks from a mere radio flak is what America hears on a regular basis, let alone at the government level? I mean, if this kind of attitude is prevailing, forget discussion, forget diplomacy, diplomacy is becoming a bad word.
When I said the war was over I kind of mean that in the sense that cards are being pulled from this famous deck now of the 55 most wanted, and they're sort of falling out of the deck as quickly as the numbers are falling off the rating chart for the cable news stations. We have plummeted into the basement in the last week. We went from millions of viewers to just a few hundred thousand in the course of a couple of days.
Did our broadcasting change? Did we get boring? Did we all a sudden lose our flair? Did we start using language that people didn't want to hear? No, I think you've just had enough. I think you've seen the story, you've' seen how it ended, it ended pretty well in most American's view; it's time to move on.
What's the next big story? Is it Laci Peterson? Because Laci Peterson got a whole lot more minutes' worth of coverage on the cable news channels in the last week than we'd have ever expected just a few days after a regime fell, like Saddam Hussein.
I don't want to suggest for a minute that we are shallow people, we Americans. At times we are, but I do think that the phenomenon of our attention deficit disorder when it comes to watching television news and watching stories and then just being finished with them, I think it might come from the saturation that you have nowadays. You cannot walk by an airport monitor, you can't walk by most televisions in offices these days, in the public, without it being on a cable news channel. And if you're not in front of a TV you're probably in front of your monitor, where there is Internet news available as well.
You have had more minutes of news on the Iraq war in just the three-week campaign than you likely ever got in the years and years of network news coverage of Vietnam. You were forced to wait for it till six o'clock every night and the likelihood that you got more than about eight minutes of coverage in that half hour show, you probably didn't get a whole lot more than that, and it was about two weeks old, some of that footage, having been shipped back. Now it's real time and it is blanketed to the extent that we could see this one arm of the advance, but not where the bullets landed.
But I think the saturation point is reached faster because you just get so much so fast, so absolutely in real time that it is time to move on. And that makes our job very difficult, because we tend to leave behind these vacuums that are left uncovered. When was the last time you saw a story about Afghanistan? It's only been a year, you know. Only since the major combat ended, you were still in Operation Anaconda in not much more than 11 or 12 months ago, and here we are not touching Afghanistan at all on cable news.
There was just a memorandum that came through saying we're closing the Kabul bureau. The Kabul bureau has only been staffed by one person for the last several months, Maria Fasal, she's Afghan and she wanted to be there, otherwise I don't think anyone would have taken that assignment. There's just been no allotment of TV minutes for Afghanistan.
And I am very concerned that the same thing is about to happen with Iraq, because we're going to have another Gary Condit, and we're going to have another Chandra Levy and we're going to have another Jon Benet, and we're going to have another Elizabeth Smart, and here we are in Laci Peterson, and these stories will dominate. They're easy to cover, they're cheap, they're fast, you don't have to send somebody overseas, you don't have to put them up in a hotel that's expensive overseas, and you don't have to set up satellite time overseas. Very cheap to cover domestic news. Domestic news is music news to directors' ears.
But is that what you need to know? Don't you need to know what our personality is overseas and what the ramifications of these campaigns are? Because we went to Iraq, according to the President, to make sure that we were going to be safe from weapons of mass destruction, that no one would attack us. Well, did everything all of a sudden change? The terror alert went down. All of a sudden everything seems to be better, but I can tell you from living over there, it's not.
There was a reporter in the New York Times a couple days ago at the Pentagon. It was a report on the ground in Iraq that the Americans were going to have four bases that they would continue to use possibly on a permanent basis inside Iraq, kind of in a star formation, the north, the south, Baghdad and out west. Nobody was able to actually say what these bases would be used for, whether it was forward operations, whether it was simple access, but it did speak volumes to the Arab world who said, "You see, we told you the Americans were coming for their imperialistic need. They needed a foothold, they needed to control something in central and west Asia to make sure that we all next door come into line."
And these reports about Syria, well, they may have been breezed over fairly quickly here, but they are ringing loud still over there. Syria's next. And then Lebanon. And look out lran.
So whether we think it's plausible or whether the government even has any designs like that, the Arabs all think it's happening and they think it's for religious purposes for the most part.
I think there were a lot of dissenting voices before this war about the horrors of war, but I'm very concerned about this three-week TV show and how it may have changed people's opinions. It was very sanitized.
It had a very brief respite from the sanitation when Terry Lloyd was killed, the ITN, and when David Bloom was killed and when Michael Kelley was killed. We all sort of sat back for a moment and realized, "God, this is ugly. This is hitting us at home now. This is hitting the noncombatants." But that went away quickly too.
This TV show that we just gave you was extraordinarily entertaining, and I really hope that the legacy that it leaves behind is not one that shows war as glorious, because there's nothing more dangerous than a democracy that thinks this is a glorious thing to do.
War is ugly and it's dangerous, and in this world the way we are discussed on the Arab street, it feeds and fuels their hatred and their desire to kill themselves to take out Americans. It's a dangerous thing to propagate.
There is another whole phenomenon that's come about from this war. Many talk about it as the Fox effect, the Fox news effect. I know everyone of you has watched it. It's not a dirty little secret. A lot of people describe Fox as having streamers and banners coming out of the television as you're watching it cover a war. But the Fox effect is very concerning to me.
I'm a journalist and I like to be able to tell the story as I see it, and I hate it when someone tells me I'm one-sided. It's the worst I can hear. Fox has taken so many viewers away from CNN and MSNBC because of their agenda and because of their targeting the market of cable news viewership, that I'm afraid there's not a really big place in cable for news. Cable is for entertainment, as it's turning out, but not news.
I'm hoping that I will have a future in news in cable, but not the way some cable news operators wrap themselves in the American flag and patriotism and go after a certain target demographic, which is very lucrative. You can already see the effects, you can already see the big hires on other networks, right wing hires to chase after this effect, and you can already see that flag waving in the corners of those cable news stations where they have exciting American music to go along with their war coverage.
Well, all of this has to do with what you've seen on Fox and its successes. So I do urge you to be very discerning as you continue to watch the development of cable news, and it is changing like lightning. Be very discerning because it behooves you like it never did before to watch with a grain of salt and to choose responsibly, and to demand what you should know.
That's it. I know that there's probably a couple questions. No one's allowed to ask about my hair color, okay? I'm kidding, if you want to ask you can. It's a pretty boring story. But I just wanted to say thank you, and let's all pray and hope in any way that you pray or hope for peace and for democracy around the world, and for more rain this summer in Manhattan. Thank you all.
She may have been hoping for a future in able news, but you can't help but feel she knew she wouldn't after delivering those remarks. (Read the whole thing at the link if you're interested in a further scathing critique of the government.)
Perhaps someone with more stature than Banfield could have gotten away with that speech and maybe it might have even been taken seriously, who knows? But the object lesson could not have been missed by any of the ambitious up and comers in the news business. If a TV journalist publicly spoke the truth anywhere about war, the news, even their competitors --- and Banfield spoke the truth in that speech --- their career was dead in the water. Even the girl hero of 9/11 (maybe especially the girl hero of 9/11) could not get away with breaking the CW code of omerta and she had to pay.
WASHINGTON, April 28 — No foreign diplomat has been closer or had more access to President Bush, his family and his administration than the magnetic and fabulously wealthy Prince Bandar bin Sultan of Saudi Arabia.
Prince Bandar has mentored Mr. Bush and his father through three wars and the broader campaign against terrorism, reliably delivering — sometimes in the Oval Office — his nation’s support for crucial Middle East initiatives dependent on the regional legitimacy the Saudis could bring, as well as timely warnings of Saudi regional priorities that might put it into apparent conflict with the United States. Even after his 22-year term as Saudi ambassador ended in 2005, he still seemed the insider’s insider. But now, current and former Bush administration officials are wondering if the longtime reliance on him has begun to outlive its usefulness.
Bush administration officials have been scratching their heads over steps taken by Prince Bandar’s uncle, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, that have surprised them by going against the American playbook, after receiving assurances to the contrary from Prince Bandar during secret trips he made to Washington.
For instance, in February, King Abdullah effectively torpedoed plans by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for a high-profile peace summit meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, by brokering a power-sharing agreement with Mr. Abbas’s Fatah and Hamas that did not require Hamas to recognize Israel or forswear violence. The Americans had believed, after discussions with Prince Bandar, that the Saudis were on board with the strategy of isolating Hamas.
American officials also believed, again after speaking with Prince Bandar, that the Saudis might agree to direct engagement with Israel as part of a broad American plan to jump-start Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. King Abdullah countermanded that plan.
Most bitingly, during a speech before Arab heads of state in Riyadh three weeks ago, the king condemned the American invasion of Iraq as “an illegal foreign occupation.” The Bush administration, caught off guard, was infuriated, and administration officials have found Prince Bandar hard to reach since.
Mr. Bandar, son of one of the powerful seven sons born to the favorite wife of Saudi Arabia’s founding king, “needs to personally regroup and figure out how to put Humpty Dumpty together again,” one associate said.
Robert Jordan, a former Bush administration ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said the Saudis’ mixed signals have come at a time when King Abdullah — who has ruled the country since 1995 but became king only in 2005 after the death of his brother, Fahd — has said he does not want to go down in history as Mr. Bush’s Arab Tony Blair. “I think he feels the need as a kind of emerging leader of the Arab world right now to maintain a distance,” he said.
Thanks to Jesse Wendel who's keeping us up to date on his documentary work
Some of you have asked how my trip this last weekend down to the Bay Area went. I've answered one of you personally; said answer was all garbled, as I was sleep-deprived and still not quite back to normal from the trip. So last night I took another shot at writing down what happened in shorter form, and sent that off to a good friend of mine, an activist Priest in South Tucson whom mostly works with immigrants and people coming across the desert into this country.
Here is what I sent Ricardo (with some mild edits to make it shorter.) Hopefully this will answer the questions people have.
I'd also like to publicly thank -- this email is going to a number of people -- DrBopperTHP of The News Blog -- for covering for me while I was gone. He's a wise man who listens to people deeply and his sitting in for me is appreciated. I'm also thankful to Hubris Sonic of The News Blog for being such a good friend.
Best wishes to all, Jesse
---------- Forwarded message ---------- From: Jesse Wendel Date: Apr 24, 2007 9:46 PM Subject: Re: Being present with Death or Paying attention To: Ricardo
I wrote another friend earlier today that I am "bone weary" and thought of you as I wrote and your workload. Not drinking enough -- and Red Bull, not water, which only serves to give false energy, nothing real. Not remembering at all to breathe, and my sleep is fitful and filled with bad dreams.
My trip to the Bay Area was a mixed bag. While I did not land an Executive Producer (someone to raise money for the film) for What's Your Pattern?, my documentary, everyone -- it takes about five to ten minutes of me talking for them to fully grasp the whole concept -- just gasps and you watch their face light up. It's really the most amazing thing to see. People want desperately to have relationships which work. When they truly get lit up inside with the hope of a world in which everyone has the possibility from childhood of knowing how to make their relationships work, of being able to rebuild trust when it is damaged, of not confusing Hollywood romance with genuine intimacy and love... they come alive, they start pouring out their hopes and dreams as if someone lit a fire in their heart.
People want this movie Ricardo. People believe in the hope of relationships working. And, the woman I made the offer to Executive Produce, legitimately didn't want to spend the next year of her life raising money. No problem. When I get the prospectus done, she'll likely invest. I believe I could have raised 50k this weekend if I'd had the prospectus ready and filed with the SEC.
In the meantime, what I have to do next is raise 20k quickly -- probably most of it from myself, the balance from one or a few close friends -- so I can buy the Red Digital Cinema Camera body which is set for delivery to me in August. (I have Camera #346 reserved.) From this one step, all else follows.
The Advaita part of the weekend left me shaken up considerable. I'd thought it would be like other weekends I'd been to; nice, fun, and enjoyable. It was none of these. More like a spiritual surgery without anesthesia. Not a peak experience or any such silliness. Those are all interesting and I've had them many times; pointers along the way, but not the way itself. No, while typically these weekends are not used to do individual work in a personal development sense -- Advaita denies the very existence of an individual self -- in this case, considerable time was spent doing just that (we're not bogged down by petty inconsistencies either -- *smiles*) and I and the group leader ended up doing massive work on personal crap which has blocked the full expression of myself with people for most of my life. Painful, but probably worth it in the long run. After I finish working through it. Which will take some time and hard work.
Drove home in a daze. 900 miles.
Am so glad to be home. With my children. Really don't like being away from them. Now I can concentrate on what matters.
Whenever I find myself tired and confused, it always comes down to my having lost sight of what matters or failing to communicate.
So I communicate what is unsaid or hidden. And focus on that which is key, not simply important. When I'm focused on what is key and do complete work which is on point, I find I get my strength and energy back very quickly, especially when I'm communicating completely and not withholding. That's as close as I come to a secret anyway -- do complete work on what is key while staying in communication.
So I'll use the opportunity of the Bay Area trip to say what I'm currently about:
KEY: 20K for Red Camera body by August (I've already got roughly 13K of this) Children: train for August 4 long bicycle ride; teach how to drive car; high school stuff Sort out Advaita insights from weekend; less ego, more open to other's contributions
Secondary: Prospectus for SEC, other paperwork for documentary Blogging The News Blog Designing new website for 501c (turn over quickly) Do good job at work
That's it for me. Going to rest by doing silly stuff for a little bit, then go to bed and rest for work tomorrow.
Hope you're doing well.
Best always, Jesse
- posted by Jesse "Doc" Wendel
Its always interesting on the weekends in the blogosphere nowadays. Always people resigning or getting investigated or named in an indictment. ah... and... they are ALL republicans. Oh and with all the Honduran 'Massage' stories, lets not lose site of the fact that the guy who was investigating Abramoff resigned because he was well... he was working for Abramoff, and of course by Massage i mean sex.
From beachmom at dailykos we hear the Riverbend is packing it in. This Baghdad blogger has been giving us a crucial glimpse into the chaotic lifestyle in Iraq filled with danger, inconvience, hyprocisy and great sadness.
Beachmom points us also to another blogger, Nabil, who is dealing with people moving in not out. Al Qaeda. So lets all clap for 'the surge', excellent results. Sadly predicitable by all concerned except for people like John McCain, Joe Lieberman, George Bush, and Dick Cheney who no more care about the Iraqi people than then do about the American people.
Now this long lonely voice will disappear into the vast group of refugees. Mission accomplished.
People want to criticize Harry Reid for his statement that the war is lost. But exactly what metric do you want to use to show that this is not lost? As a counter insurgency we have rewritten the field manual to coincide with our strategies. We are editing the news to eliminate facts. We have created reality excluded fantasy zones more bizarre than Disneyworld. The flood of refugees is too much for neighboring countries. We are conducting training for the insurgents, they're attending the U.S. military trainings in country. We are cutting benefits for our veterans. We are being bilked out of billions by global corporations and hundreds of thousands are dead. Someone please tell me what in Gods name are we winning?
Renzi could soon resign U.S. House seat
U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz., could soon step down in the wake of a federal investigation into his involvement in a federal land swap deal and FBI raids of an insurance agency owned by his wife.
His resignation could come as early as Friday or soon after, according to sources familiar with the matter. Business Journal Phoenix
Republican leaders also are starting to encourage Renzi to resign, saying a prolonged investigation will hurt the party's chances of holding onto his Arizona seat, according to knowledgeable sources.
Nice characterzation of that, 'encourage' him to resign.... better than 'convince'
It must be Neocon Thursday: From David Broder the "dick" of the washington press corp.
The Democrats' Gonzales
By David S. Broder Thursday, April 26, 2007; Page A29
blah blah blah blah Harry Reid blah blah blah Bill Clinton blah blah blah Harry Reid blah blah blah
What a sorry stupid old fool.
*hat tip to jprs
Fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth
Thats what General Tommy Franks called Doug Feith former necon dark lord at the pentagon. Now, it appears that in the DOD budget of 2005 one of the largest earmarks was by Doug Feith for $90 million bucks, what for? nobody knows. Its classified. You might not have noticed that the "fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth" was mentioned last week in the nytimes, to wit:
a spokeswoman for SAIC said the company was told to contract with Ms. Riza by an official in the office of the under secretary of defense for policy, then headed by Douglas J. Feith.
Feith resigned from the post of Undersecretary of Defense in 2005. But apparently he was taken care of people, if you know what i mean.
I have been reading BAGnewsNotes.com since probably its inception. The visual analysis of news photographs is a fascinating aspect of the media war we are currently in. For you newsblog fans who dont regularly go to BAGnewsNotes.com I strongly reccommend you do. Michael Shaw the proprietor over there has provided us with an original post, enjoy. -- Hubris Sonic update: i screwed up the order, now they are right. gomen nasai.
For a couple years now (I'm sorry to say), I've been tracking images of U.S. soldiers conducting searches and raids in Iraq. What bothers me most about these scenes (here's one from October 17, 2005) is how they violate the Iraqi's domestic space.
I've taken heat for focusing on these types of images. "It's a war, don't you know!" "Where do you thing 'they' stash their weapons??" The thing is, if I felt that these raids were effective, or if I had seen how this cat-and-mouse business cumulatively added up to something over the years, I would have backed off.
That said, I hadn't done a "raid" search for a while. What "inspired" me last week, however, was just one more shot of our guys busting through gates, going up what appears like the samestaircase, and putting heat on the same Iraqi women left to deal. ... See the NYT slideshow here (with article).
On my latest "raid tour," I turned up the two images above. If the whole Iraqi debacle wasn't so sick, I would push harder on the analogy of "the game." Still, to the extent that war -- especially an asymmetrical one -- is a match of wits, the metaphor doesn't seem off base.
In the first shot, the fact that U.S. soldiers are poking around a basketball court (which actually is America's game, right?) conveys to me the complete incongruity of us still being over there.
It's the second shot, however -- with the pool table -- that seems emblematic of our current military circumstances. These guys, the Iraqi's, with all the complexity of their factions, actions and inactions, hold down the table, while we, fully dressed for our own style of combat, sit off at the periphery, looking like aliens, because we really don't know the game.
(image 1: Bob Strong/Reuters. April 4, 2007. image 2: Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway, U.S. Air Force Photo/A.P. April 10, 2007. Both photos from Baghdad/Mansour district via YahooNews)
Claysburg meat processing plant issues recall after illnesses of Hoss’s customers By Mark Leberfinger, firstname.lastname@example.org
Five customers at Hoss’s Steak & Sea House, including two people in Centre County [Pennsylvania], were sickened by E. coli bacteria last month, events that triggered a voluntary recall by a Claysburg meat processing plant, federal and state officials said late Friday.
The illnesses were linked to steak products produced at HFX Inc., a company related to Hoss’s Steak & Sea House, which voluntarily recalled about 260,000 pounds of beef products because of possible contamination. The beef was pulled off shelves after a test from eastern Pennsylvania came back positive for E. coli.
“The bottom line is that food safety is very important, and the well-being of our customers comes first,” Hoss’s spokesman David Fuscus said.
The recall follows E. coli-related illnesses of five people at Hoss’s locations in Centre, Dauphin, Venango and York counties between March 24 and 29, state Health Department spokesman Richard McGarvey said.
E. coli is a potentially deadly bacteria that can cause bloody diarrhea and dehydration.
The very young, seniors and people with compromised immune systems are the most suspectible to foodborne illness.
Helena Hunt feeds her family a lot of fresh vegetables. She does so knowing they’re nutritious, but not always knowing if they’re safe.
‘‘I’m pretty careful about what I eat,’’ said the Brockton mother, who was having lunch in the food court at the South Shore Plaza in Braintree last week. ‘‘I’m very aware of (food safety) and I do take extra steps.’’
Hunt threw out bags of spinach last year when news came of an E. coli outbreak that killed three people, and she washes her produce carefully. Still, she worries.
Hunt has reason for concern, according to consumer advocates and government watchdogs who point to the nation’s system for inspecting food and other products and pronounce it to be woefully inadequate.
Recalls, more than 5,000 last year, are symptoms of a system that is overtaxed, overworked and under staffed, those critics say.
Some of the particulars the critics point to:
- The federal Food and Drug Administration, responsible for overseeing more than 126,000 domestic food producers, according to one consumer group, has fewer than 1,300 inspectors to do that job, and has long been inadequately funded.
i've always had the problem, when arguing with staunch conservatives or when watching/listening to them spout off, of thinking it's an unfair fight. Liberals are always willing to concede that they might be wrong, that things could change, that they are sometimes uncertain. Conservatives are NEVER uncertain. Dick Cheney's rule was what, "5%" or something? if there were just that much of a possibility that the evildoers were going to nuke us or mail anthrax to us or rig the futures market on duct tape, then it was worth going to war. me, i'm relatively sure that i wouldn't start a war unless there were at least a passing (60 or 65%, depending on the school) certainty of massive death and destruction. but what do i know? i'll get back to this point but, first...
ok. i've had it with the fucking hypocrisy and idiocy of the analysts covering the VTech tragedy. Most specifically (right now) some guy named Jack Thompson, an attorney, presumably, who "represented Paducah shooting victim's families" who is explaining that Cho and several other murderous young men (here and abroad... GERMANY!) regularly played a violent, shoot-em-up video game called "Counter Strike". and it made them do it. it taught them how and made it possible for them to be expert rampagers on their very first tries.
Meanwhile, Olbermann's worse, worser and worsest people last night were all right-wingers who bemoaned the wussiness of all those young men (no disparagement of the self-centered young women, i noticed) who scrambled to save themselves. What do these authoritarian assholes want from us?! Do they want everyone packing concealed heat? If so, then it seems to me that this brilliant teaching tool, "Counter Strike," should be required viewing in every high school (first period, English; second period, survivalism; third period, creationism; fourth period, math; fifth period,lunch; sixth period, abstinence). Or, do we NOT want our kids playing violent video games so much that we're willing to BAN THEM? in which case won't we be upping the wuss demographic? make up your minds.
Not to mention, aren't the skills mastered by playing "Counter Strike" just the ones which our under-trained military need to adopt? In fact, doesn't the Army offer very realistic video games for free as a come-on for recruitment?!
just shut the fuck up and, instead of trying to explain EVERYTHING to EVERYBODY in the simplest possible terms, why not discuss how many things there are that we can't control, no matter how much we may want to control everything all the time. If people (let alone pundits) could understand that nothing will ever enable sane people to make sense of what happened - no matter how much they try to assign blame, even THEY won't be able to make a simple and convincing case out of this tragedy - then maybe that's the first baby step toward accepting that we can no better control much of anything else.
the vast majority of people sign on to some social compact, but there are those, like Cho, apparently, who don't. who, quite simply, don't play by ANY of the same rules. It's hard to believe since these rules are the most fundamental building blocks of social existence, so it's not difficult to understand how so many people just figured he was "very shy" or something. But, if those who are babbling on and on would just acknowledge the "mysterious ways" of reality (this is a concept that is utterly ecumenical, after all), perhaps a shudder of doubt might make its way through masses of heretofore arrogantly positive folks.
and doubt is really all i ask of anyone. doubt is healthy. doubt makes people think. i've come to understand that there's no way on earth to make anyone think what i want him/her to think (my divorce taught me that much!), but maybe there IS a chance to make folks, at the very least, think SOMETHING. anything. And, if they think about things, I'm fairly sure that many will become less certain about the things they believe. And then, we can have a fair fight.
It is time to withdraw...the contractors and mercenaries.
There are hundreds of thousands of them. They have cost the US government, meaning the US taxpayers, tens of billions of dollars. They have exacerbated the cultural and political conflict through improper behavior and improper training. They have participated in massive fraud - losing billions of dollars in government allotted contract money, extorting and cheating on critical deliveries of necessary items and supplies.
They perform (actually they DON'T!) tasks that could and should be performed by the Iraqi people; tasks that could and should be performed by the US military. The Iraqi people have the expertise, know-how, and connections to do construction, rebuilding, maintenance, and security - cheaper, more efficiently, and with a better eye for their own peoples' needs. The US military can (and up until this conflict, always has) provide meals, shelter, water, and logistical support for the troops and forward bases.
Halliburton, KBR, Bechtel, Blackwater and all the other corporate leeches getting fat off of taxpayer dollars and FAILING to deliver on the promised critical supplies and support, need to go. We do not need to keep paying them to do the job: 1) Because the job cannot be done by them, and 2) Because they have patently failed to do that job, even with billions of dollars of cash, the support of the US military, and a free hand to do as they please in Iraq, regardless of the consequences of their actions.
Let's begin the immediate drawdown of the estimated 100,000 to 150,000 private contractors in Iraq. Let congress legislate the removal of the estimated 40,000 mercenaries in Iraq. I dont think Americans should be paying for the Iraqi PM's security and certainly not at the rates Blackwater charges - Iraqis can do that.
We do not think the US taxpayer should pay for overpriced, poor quality construction projects in Iraq - Iraqis can build schools, bridges, and power plants! If we want to pay for it, we should be paying the Iraqi construction companies, not the contractors. Besides, Bechtel is the same company that completely fucked up the Big Dig in Boston - how can we expect that they would be able to complete anything in a war zone, in a foreign nation?? They have not delivered on ANY of their promises...but the profits keep rolling in.
We think calling for the withdrawal of all non-essential personnel from Iraq would be a prudent thing at this stage. Democrats in the House and Senate can point to the billions we are paying these people without oversight. It's time to take these men and women out of harms way.
Using mercenaries and outsourcing war was never a good idea. Nor was it ever, by any stretch of the imagination, cost effective. There were only 10,000 civilian contractors used in the first gulf war. This is 10- or 20-fold increase, all at the expense of the American taxpayer, with reduced results...and one could argue exceptionally bad, negative results. Remember Fallujah? That area blew up in large part due to the actions of "contractors"...and it has been these same "contractors" (read mercenaries) who have been at the "forefront" of cultural estrangement, shooting up houses, strong-arming the locals, and even worse, on a regular basis.
We call for the immediate withdrawal of all non essential personnel, which would mean all private contractors and mercenaries in the employ of the Bush administration.
Time to stop pouring money into the (offshore) accounts of the big multinationals; time to stop letting them run roughshod over the locals, over our soldiers, and exacerbating a conflict that they had a big hand in bungling; time to remove that particular bit of salt from the wounds. Bring those "contractors" home, save a bundle of money, remove a serious irritant, and use the savings to fully protect our troops.
Nearby on the same base, a staff sergeant was in his tent when a captain walked in and told him to burn Tillman's bloody clothing.
"He wanted me alone to burn what was in the bag to prevent security violations, leaks and rumors," the staff sergeant testified. The superior "put a lock on communications" in the tent, he testified. Other Army officers said this was probably a directive to the staff sergeant to keep the conversation to himself.
Then he left the staff sergeant to his work: placing Tillman's uniform, socks, gloves and body armor into a 55-gallon drum and burning them.
We knew before that his clothes had been burned, but Is this standard Army procedure? I have a hard time believing this, but even this report seems to leave that possibility open.
Two other sergeants who examined Tillman's vest noticed the bullet holes appeared to be from 5.56-caliber bullets - signature American ammunition. An awful realization dawned on the sergeants, whose names, like those of others who testified in the investigation, were deleted from the recently released testimony.
The redactionss won't prevent the Tillman family from finding them.
Ranger Spc. Russell Baer had witnessed Rangers shooting at Rangers. Afterward, he was directed to travel from Afghanistan to the United States with his friend Kevin Tillman. But he was ordered not to tell Pat Tillman's brother and fellow Ranger that friendly fire was the likely cause of the former football player's death.
He kept the secret, fearing he did not know the whole story. But in a personal protest, Baer later went AWOL and was demoted as punishment.
"I lost respect for the people in charge of me," Baer testified in an earlier Tillman investigation. He had gleaned "part of the puzzle" of Tillman's death, but lamented that "I couldn't tell them about it."
If anyone you know considers volunteering for George W. Bush's military, show them this article. This is what will happens to a valued celebrity recruit and hero when he dies; imagine what happens to the "nobodies."
It is time to say it unequivocally: We are winning in Iraq.
If current trends continue, our counter-insurgent campaign in Iraq will be fit to be mentioned in the same breath as the British victory over a Communist insurgency in Malaysia in the 1950s, a textbook example of this form of war. Our counterinsurgency has gone through the same stages as that of the Brits five decades ago: confusion in the initial reaction to the insurgency, followed by a long period of adjustment, and finally the slow but steady erosion of the insurgency's military and political base. Even as there has been a steady diet of bad news about Iraq in the media over the last year, even as some hawks have bailed on the war in despair, even as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has become everyone's whipping boy, the U.S. military has been regaining the strategic upper hand.
That was Rich Lowry, who if he was paid at all, IS VASTLY OVERPAID, then.
I make no claims to even above-average intelligence. I'm just some guy in Iowa that Brian Williams sneers at. I do this blog at its actual retail value -- I let the market decide, and the market clearly hates my fucking guts. Consequently this blog makes me, literally dozens of dollars a year! Yet, I bet the loss-leader in conservative publications grosses (and I mean grosses) Rich Lowry in the low six-figures.
Yet, look at my wisdom in April 2005 in comparison:
Sadly, given their track record, a bloodier Civil War is all but guaranteed.
And what has Rich Lowry been saying lately?
ABC News on Iraq [Rich Lowry]
Here's the YouTube of that encouraging ABC report on the surge, mentioned by Jonah earlier today.
04/04 05:14 PM
And then here, we see Commandante Lowry, "General Clownsewitz" approvingly link to this from the NY Post on March 20, 2007 about how the "surge" is working:
Another change: an emphasis on protecting of gathering places like mosques and marketplaces. "We initiated Operation Safe Markets," Petraeus said, "and have placed ordinary concrete highway barriers around the vulnerable targets." Car bombings have dropped precipitately - the limited access thwarts them.
As a result, "The marketplaces, including the book market that was targeted for an especially vicious attack, are rebuilding and doing great business. It is helping the local economy enormously to have this kind of protection in place." With jobs plentiful and demand growing, the appeal of militia armies declines proportionally.
Normally, I'd say oops, but I think the more appropriate "why the fuck are you able to leave your bed in the morning?" works better for me.
Worst single US loss on the ground in a year Some 20 troops and an Iraqi civilian were injured in the attack, which happened in the volatile province of Diyala, to the north-east of Baghdad. - bbc news link
LowerManhattanite: "Iraq...By The Numbers"
Count Cheney gleefully crunches the numbers Over There
Thanks to LowerManhattanite for this fantastic piece
"Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas." —Albert Einstein, 1935
"Math class is tough!" —Teen Talk Barbie, 1992
"You may end up with a different math, but you're entitled to your math. I'm entitled to 'THE' math." —Karl Rove, 2006
In my school-going years, I was a pretty good student. I half-studied/half-coasted my way into the National Honor Society. I could rock the sh*t outta History and Science. Language Arts? Eh...I could work that a little bit, too.
But Math. Ohhhhh, Math. Math was the deaf dominatrix who could never hear me scream the "safe" word. I could do the damn thang...but not with the efficacy I had with other subjects. I could halfway bend it to my will--up until the middle of High School, where I hit the nail-studded wall of "the crazy, elliptical, John Forbes Nash/A Beautiful Mind-y math that I was never gonna use in life, ever. Log and Trig--postulates and theorems? "Just f*cking kill me", I'd mutter heavenward in Ms. Scavone's classroom of numerical horrors. I could never get a Goddamned fire drill when I needed one, then.
Adding, subtracting, multiplication and dividing came natural, though. And through grasping those basics, I could figure percentages and do all the stuff a person really needed Math for. But I didn't enjoy it, if you know what I mean. Because Math...is immutable. I couldn't play with it. Not like Language Arts--where you can craft a two letter sentence.
Or a sixty-word one. And history, well, the joy of history is that it's constantly being made, re-made, and re-contextualized--and can be linked by names, or era, or all manner of subjective arcana--depending on who's presenting it and why--as long as you hold to the facts. Science changes with time. Fluidly. From flat earth, to round earth--phrenology to brain scans--alchemy to nanotechnology.
But Math? Two plus two is always four. Numbers never fail. Abuse them and you will pay. Put twenty gallons of gas in a ten-gallon tank and you'll have a dangerous mess. Math don't play. Which is why I find attempts to f*ck with it as funny as a Old Grand Dad-lubricated, presidential Segway fall. Screwing with Math makes you the Coyote--and Math, the Road Runner, and the Road Runner hasn't had sh*t happen to him yet. The Coyote? Well... um...not so much. :)
One such mathematical anvil drop-turned-anvil-rebound-to-the--grille-of-the-idiot-anvil-dropper is this misbegotten Iraq War.
You see, wars have always told fascinating, odd tales of numbers. Movies have recently brought us "300", the tale of how a force of 300 Spartans--in a force of 7000 Greeks faced down a rolling, Persian army of 300,000 and fought valiantly before eventually being mowed under. We wince at the reality of having lost 600,000 lives in our own ghastly and stupid Civil War a century and a half ago. 1200 soldiers went down in one brutal pop with the still-leaking-oil-today U.S.S. Arizona at Pearl Harbor. And I still find myself shaking my head at the Soviet loss numbers of WWII. Imagine losing every single person in New York's five boroughs--and then throw Philadelphia on top. That's how many Soviet soldiers died fighting the Nazis. 33,000 here, 70,000, there, 360,000 some f*cking place else. Eleven million in total. Rough, awful numbers.
Dare we even touch on VietNam, and the evil number-finagling of General William Westmoreland? Let's not, and say we did, shall we?
But let's go back to Iraq's numbers--and ugly numbers they are. Look past if you can for a moment at the simple U.S. forces casualty number of 3,317 dead and the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi dead. Hard as that may be, let's focus on some of the other hard numbers of this war.
25,000,000. That's the approximate number of Iraq's population.
150,000. That's the approximate number of U.S. forces presently in Iraq.
Now, in spite of my aversion to hard math, I do enjoy the minutiae of statistics. It's probably from the sports nut in me. But in all seriousness, some of the numericals involving Iraq are plain, old riveting. The above numbers are examples of it. A few years ago, I sat with a cousin of mine, a former (as of now) NYPD Internal Affairs Detective. It was around the time of the trial for the cops involved in the Amadou Diallo shooting, and I noticed an oddly ramped-up police presence as we rode around. "They're getting ready for people to spazz the f*ck out, huh?", I opined. "Total waste of time.", my cousin said ruefully. "If things really got stupid, we couldn't do a Goddamned thing to stop it. It's a show. An expensive, overtime-sucking show."
"That's kinda rough.", I said.
"It's f*cking reality. Eight million people versus 35,000 cops?", he mused. "Please. You saw what happened in L.A. LAPD couldn't do sh*t. They booked. The numbers couldn't work. And it ain't like they actually had everybody in town in the streets buggin'. You can't really police a big number like that when they wanna tear sh*t up. What's it? Ten million people over there? Say five percent get froggy and jumped--that's like...half a million people--versus 10,000 officers--maybe 6,000 on call at any given moment. 6,000 versus half a million. You see why that sh*t went down the way it did? That's why Five-O couldn't do a damn thing when stuff blew up in the 60's. Or even now. Yeah, 35,000 NYPD's gonna stop eight million people. Or let's keep it real--20-25,000 cops--real cops on peak call are gonna shut down half-a-million people out for blood. It's cosmetic. Fighting the numbers is f*cking cosmetic."
I remember my cousin's blunt realism whenever I think about the numbers in Iraq. A population of 25,000,000 against an invading force of 150,000. Baaaaaaaaad numbers on the face of it. Break it down on the straight-up and it remains awful. Say you do the hard-core, actively angry five percent of the population thing, and boil it down to...maybe 1.2 million angry-enough-to-toss-a-bomb for nationalism. That's damn-near a 10:1 ratio against the in-country U.S. forces. Then figure in the passive-aggressive portion of the populace, who while not necessarily willing to chuck a molotov, will gladly allow the angry hands-on-ers to store their weapons and war implements with them, and deploy from their homes. What's that number--maybe a few hundred thousand more? Stir in the backstabbing Iraqi forces the U.S. is "training" and you get a few thousand more...and sh*tfire, the math goes totally, f*cking Hatchet-Face on you. It's twenty pounds of sh*t in a five pound box. Unworkable no matter how you move the numbers around. Which is why all the "Give us six months more...and then another six months...and uh-another six months, please" sh*t-talkery rings so hollow these days. Sprinkle in a boatload of benign anger at the invading force from an otherwise jaded population--an anger at third-rail sh*t like Abu Gharaib, Haditha, and various other ugly indignities of war and it becomes Algebra on crack--with a big, fat hovering unknown, an x- factor of opposition no one wants to see the sum of.
Rove's delusional, pre-election day, "math" quote bubbles up through the quick-sh*t again. "You may end up with a different math, but you're entitled to your math. I'm entitled to 'THE' math." There has been a disingenuous spinning of the Iraq numbers that smacks of Rove's "Bugs Bunny" ("One for you, one for me. Two for you, one, TWO for me...") counting method. Except it hasn't worked out all Bugs Bunny crafty. It's gone more like the previously cited Wile E. Coyote--waving a quiver-lipped goodbye as his body drops ravine-ward, dragging the rubber face shortly afterward.
Now, back to the U.S. casualty numbers I bypassed before. Here are the post-surge figures from the last three months. 83 Deaths in January. 80 Deaths in February. 81 Deaths in March. 69 Deaths thus far in April (20 Days) UPDATE: 85 Deaths thus far in April (23 Days)
U.S. troop deaths are up 21% since the "surge". 21% since the surge has begun. Failing upwards, people. Mission accomplished redux. Immutable f*cking math. A-gain.
Let's go a little futrther. We've had days recently--last week actually, where a couple hundred Iraqis have been blown to smithereens since the vaunted security crackdown.
25,000,000 Iraqis. 150,000 troops. 150-180 attacks per day on coalition forces. 3317 American Troops Dead. As of 4/20/07. This figure will change. Only upwards. The same for hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis. Countless mathematical Friedman Units having come and gone. Come and f*cking gone. Fourteen hundred and forty nine (1449!) days since the declaration of "Mission Accomplished", and the claim of the end of major combat operations in Iraq.
Move a decimal, slide a comma over. Accommodate the ugly, new sums. Publicly, they obfuscate. Politically, they masturbate. And in quiet...on fingers and toes, flag-draped casket, after flag-draped casket...they tabulate.
Because as I said before, "Math...is immutable. You can't play with it."
But you can use it in art. You can measure a canvas. Figure up the ingredient proportions of papier maché. Suss out vanishing points and perspective using basic geometry.
"And it's one, two, three, What are we fighting for ? Don't ask me, I don't give a damn, Next stop is Vietnam. And it's five, six, seven, Open up the pearly gates, Well there ain't no time to wonder why, Whoopee! we're all gonna die."
Country Joe & The Fish--circa Spring 1967
Son of a bitch--willya look at that? Almost forty years to the month.