“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Bollettino

Wow. An answering spirit. A man who gets it. LI is frankly amazed.

In Slate, there�s an article by one Daniel Benjamin. Benjamin analyzes a fact that we have referred to obsessively: the unsecured military dumps around Iraq. In particular, the transfer of anti-aircraft weaponry to unknown, and probably unfriendly, hands. This, we believe, might be the worst thing the Bush administration, in its unblemished record of calamitous and stupid acts, has done so far. A sin of omission indicating the omission is between the ears of the President:
�Given the growing intensity of the combat in Iraq, the downing of two helicopters and the resulting deaths of 22 soldiers in the last week comes as little surprise. The destruction of a Black Hawk today, reportedly by a rocket-propelled grenade, and a Chinook on Sunday by a shoulder-fired missile were all but statistical inevitabilities in a country with a deepening insurgence and 600,000 or more tons of largely unsecured armaments.

But the attacks should also send a shudder through anyone who flies, even if they never board anything but commercial wide-body airliners and never venture within 5,000 miles of Iraq. By removing the locks from Iraq's enormous stores of armaments, including "vast, unknown" quantities of anti-aircraft weapons, as Air Force Gen. John Handy, commander of U.S. Transportation Command, put it several months ago, the fighting in Iraq has virtually ensured that some of these arms will wind up in the hands of terrorists who will want to use them outside the current war zone.�
/

There�s an absolutely hilarious defense of Bush�s record on terrorism going the rounds � that the lack of an attack in the U.S. is evidence of success. The same conservatives who spout this nonsense segue, without hesitation, into denunciations of Clinton�s slackness � a segue that calmly bypasses the almost nine year interval between the first and the second attempts on the WTC. The Bushies don�t even have that inactivity to excuse their comedy cop routine, since earlier this year, in a band reaching from Morocco to Java, the network � that loosely connected, intrastate and informal structure that supports Al Qaeda influenced operatives � was able to hit a number of targets. Discussions about the deployment of more U.S. troops or less miss, largely, the point: what are the troops supposed to be doing in Iraq? One major objective should certainly be to destroy the weaponry that Saddam�s and the previous guvs were able to lavish on the country in extended shopping expeditions that surely benefited the good workers of Lille, Nashville, Tennessee, and Kiev for a good twenty years before 1991.

Here�s what we have said in various recent posts about this. Notice, this was written by a poor man in Austin, Texas, a good 7,000 miles from the conflict, with only newspapers to supply him with information, and that information, too, in English. In other words, this isn�t rocket science. It was easy to foresee, before November 2, that a helicopter was going to go down. What was not easy to foresee would be three hits in one and a half weeks.

September 21:

Here we have a presidency that has utterly failed. One that has amassed a five hundred billion dollar deficit on� nothing. One that has gotten us enmeshed in one war, in Iraq, that not only has nothing to do with our interests, but is actually harmful to them. Meanwhile, we have incompletely dealt with a group that really has physically attacked us � al Qaeda. By cautiously never pronouncing the name, Osama bin Laden, Bush attempts to exorcize the man. What is the result? In Morocco, Bali, Jakarta and Saudi Arabia the organization, or its allies, have attacked. The pretence that they are crippled makes sense only to people who cannot see what is in front of their nose. Here�s something in front of our noses: the people who hijacked the four planes three years ago did not have chemical weapons. They didn�t have Uzis. They used credit cards, airplane tickets, and hobby shop paraphernalia to wipe out three thousand lives. And so far, nothing that has happened tells us that this can�t happen again. Meanwhile, the Democrats act as if calling the President a �miserable failure� is some kind of logomachical triumph.

October 30:

1. End the p.r. aspect of the war. In Vietnam, the army would take a hill simply to have it reported on the news that they took a hill. That soon demoralized troops, and eventually corrupted the whole military effort in that war. In this war, we are hearing all about troops building schools. Meanwhile, on the side, we are also hearing that the guerillas are supplying themselves from huge dumps of conventional weapons, including surface to air missiles, because we don�t have enough military personnel on the ground to destroy these things. This is, to put it bluntly, lunatic. If you don�t prioritize military missions for the army in a hostile situation, you shouldn�t have any responsibility for the army. Be a man, pull the school builders, cut off the enemy�s ability to acquire weapons. Period.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Bollettino

Notes on unemployment. LI's was not one of the figures that got slotted into the employment column this month. We are happy to see that one hundred thousand more people did get jobs. Ourselves, it will now be six months, and, we estimate, seventy some applications, resumes, and cover letters since we started our quest. In September, we even went to some employment agencies. Kelly's, and one that specialized in secretarial work. Employment agencies used to be bread and butter. In New Haven, LI really did work for a year for a temp agency. Around that experience, in retrospect, we have woven a rosy glow. Back in those days, we could manfully go out on a Friday and pay for our drinks and eats. Something we haven't been able to do, now, for a year.

Today the job we had scared up lately -- painting -- was cancelled. Bad news, as we haven't paid a bill this month, and they are all hanging over our head. There is this much to be said for poverty -- it makes you very, very aware. For instance, I am very aware of opening the front door. I take a deep breath when I do it. I expect something to be hanging there -- a notice from the landlady or the power company. The telephone company isn't as client friendly -- they just cut you off.

So, rather glumly, we decided to take advantage of our "free day" to apply for something. Surely the employment numbers ought to nudge retail stores in Austin gearing up for holiday sales. Happy, newly employed people will want to buy gifts for all the people who floated them when they were down, n'est-ce pas? We went to our two most visited sites -- Monster and Statesman jobs. Ah, Statesman jobs had a nice one -- the liquor store we pass almost every day wants help! Well, from consumer to advisor -- trust me for the higher zones of drunkenness. I put on a nice shirt and my nice black shoes, the blunt nosed one, and ventured out. The woman behind the counter didn't exactly seem overjoyed to see me -- although surely she's rung up my 1.39 Buds before? No matter. I went to the Lotto machine, which had a surface on which I could write, and scribbled down my history, at least as the makers of job applications view the salient points of it. In the meantime, two customers came in, both of whom seemed to be living on the street. The had the street aura attachng to their gimme caps and jeans and backpacks. That sense that the long, strange trip has been way too long -- in fact, it looks like it is going to go on until you die. The one with the big curly beard was determined to cash a check, while the younger one, blonde, a little abashed, hung back. The woman at the counter couldn't cash the check because there wasn't enough money in the cash register. The big curly beard just wanted, though, to cash a check. And so, for about six times, the woman at the counter re-iterated the fund deficit problem, and the man in the beard re-iterated his check situation. The beard was already a little wasted, but it was a friendly, morning glow. His buddy caught on the first time, and when the woman explained the fund deficiency problem, the blonde would also explain the problem, until the beard finally achieved a puddled satori and said, hey, why am I in here so early?

I think my future is with the beard.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Bollettino



As we numerously, and numbingly pointed out in the pre-war buildup, Christopher Hitchens, one of the most showcased of the Bush apologists in the media, argued for a war that diverged significantly from the one the Bush administration said it wanted to fight. Hitchens�s war was never fought. Bush�s was. We have been wondering what effect this might have had on Hitchens. Does his heart still belong to Daddy? Or has he crawled off Paul Wolfowitz�s knee and become a finger-pointer?

The good news is, Hitchens is a loyal soldier. In his latest column for Slate, he shows that he, and Tony Blair, are perhaps the only Brits left who believe the Saddam and the WMD fairytale. But Hitchens was never along on the weapons case. He was, emotionally, tugged by the idea that Saddam was a terrorist, and he still clings to that. Here�s an all too typical passage:

�And it [the peace of 91] left Saddam free to continue to threaten his neighbors and to give support and encouragement to jihad forces around the world. (The man most wanted in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, Abdul Rahman Yasin, fled straight from New Jersey to Baghdad, though there are still those in our "intelligence" services who prefer to grant Saddam the presumption of innocence in this and many other matters.).�

Perhaps the intelligence services remembered that they helped Klaus Barbie escape Europe in the late 1940s � and they perhaps remembered that that did not imply that the U.S. was pro-Hitler. States make all kind of alliances, for all kinds of reasons. As for the threats to his neighbors, Hitchens truly must be joking. This is a man who didn�t even effectually threaten Northern Iraq, split off by the Coalition No-Fly zone. Since Hitchens loves to put in unsupported French bashing statesments (�Not only was he able to defy the United Nations, but with French and Russian collusion, he was also increasingly able to circumvent sanctions�), perhaps we should add that the No Fly zone was initiated by the French, who moved a reluctant Bush I to implement it.

Hitchens loves to battle straw men; but as the Iraq situation worsens, he doesn�t have that luxury as much as he used to. So as he moves to shape his argument for the war in his customary, and purely meretricious, terms (�The continuation of this regime was indeed an imminent threat, at least in the sense that it was a permanent threat. The question then, becomes this: Should the date or timing of this unpostponable confrontation have been left to Saddam Hussein to pick? The two chief justifications offered by the Bush administration (which did mention human rights and genocide at its first presentation to the United Nations, an appeal that fell on cold as well as deaf ears) were WMDs and terrorism. Here, it is simply astonishing how many people remain willing to give Saddam Hussein the benefit of the doubt.�), you can feel him starting to come to grips with the argument that the planning up to the war was flawed, even if one bought the case for belligerence � that instead of having the obnoxious Rumsfeld shooting off his mouth, it would have been far better to have the oily Baker jetting around, holding the hands of the allies. Hitchens, as an ideologue, hates the idea that sometimes, extremism isn�t necessary in the defense of liberty. It is interesting that Lefty types, when they migrate right, don�t stop until they are as far over as possible. Hitchens pairing with Newt Gingrich is much like Horowitz�s pairing with a varied and unsavory crew of racists. Hitchens, however, is a brighter man than the never too 100 watt-ish Horowitz. That said, he is still inclined to that laughable gesture of the self-important insider, the personal assurance from a Very Important Person:

�More to the point, one has to be prepared to support a campaign�or a cause�that is going badly. The president has been widely lampooned by many a glib columnist for saying that increased violence is not necessarily a cause for despair and may even be evidence of traction. He is, in fact, quite right to take this view, which was first expressed, to my knowledge, by Gen. John Abizaid. Those who murder the officials of the United Nations and the Red Cross, set fire to oil pipelines and blow up water mains, and shoot down respected clerics outside places of worship are indeed making our point for us. There is no justifiable way that a country as populous and important as Iraq can be left at the mercy of such people.�

With the last, of course, we can agree. Iraq was never going to have avoid the historic pattern that usually precedes liberation � that is, internal strife. The idea that the U.S. was, or is, going to impose its own form of liberation on the country was the whole reason to oppose the war, from a Burkean standpoint. Hitchens� war was one fought against an absolute evil by an entity without its own interests. A fairy tale war. Luckily, in the real war, the Coalition is reluctantly starting to rethink its screw-ups � for instance, trusting Chalabi as the voice of the Iraqi people; or disbanding the Iraqi army. No thanks, one must add, to Hitchens, whose miserable invectives before the war have not been enriched by any particular ingenuity since Daddy declared the major hostilities over. If Hitchens really wanted to justify this war, perhaps he would have chose this week to write about something a little more timely � for instance, the bonehead gesture of imposing a Grover Norquist approved flat tax on the country. Since nobody in Iraq is much used to paying taxes, this is a non-issue for the nonce � but in combination with selling off Iraq�s private industry, it could soon become a very hot, and very fraught one. We leave Iraqis to the �mercy of such people� as the guerillas when we give them such rally-able objects to resist.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Bollettino

"We mourn every loss, we honour every name, we grieve with every family, and we will always be grateful that liberty has found such brave defenders� � George Bush, November 3

�Bring em on� � George Bush, July 3

Ten names of the 16 that were killed Sunday in Fallujah.

Joe Wilson, Crystal Springs, Mississippi

Sgt. Ernest Bucklew, Enon Valley, Pennsylvania

Sgt. Keelan L. Moss, Houston, Texas

Pfc. Anthony Domenic D'Agostino, Waterbury, Connecticut

Spc Brian Penniston, Fort Wayne, Indiana

Staff Sgt. Daniel Bader, York, Nebraska

Private Karina Lau, Livingstone, California
Spc. Frances M. Vega, San Francisco, California


Darius T. Jennings, Cordova, South Carolina

1st Lt. Brian Slavenas, Genoa, Illinois

Sgt. Steven D. Conover, Wilmington, Ohio

Let these names lie heavy on D.C.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Bollettino

Who are these people? That�s a good question to pose when newspapers quote out of the blue experts, often described with stunning vagueness. This morning, the Washington Post, in a typical D.C. analysis of the helicopter downing � an analysis that sees the deaths of these guys as having no meaning in itself, empty burned ciphers hardly worth a human interest story, but very exciting in terms of polls � maundered on in its brainless way for a while about what the Bushies would do. It wrung its little article hands like this:

�Indeed, the helicopter downing came as two worrisome trends face the Bush administration. In Iraq, there are signs that the anti-U.S. opposition is escalating its attacks both in numbers and sophistication. Even while the U.S. intelligence haul in Iraq is improving, commanders there said, the fighters attacking them also are becoming more effective.

Meanwhile, the American public's support for President Bush's handling of the war is declining, which makes the situation even more volatile.�

The link between being anti-Bush and anti-U.S. isn�t even subtle there, is it? But that is D.C., where the Republican establishment line has long become the default for Post-speak. That the American people would become anti-U.S. has, after all, happened before, when they refused to impeach Clinton. The Post scourged those slackers then, and intends to scourge them now, if they lack resolve. So the article bleets, and slowly loses its air. But not before it rallies around a quote from �retired Marine Col. Gary Anderson, a consultant to the Pentagon on Iraqi security issues.� Now if you guess that Anderson said this will test American resolve, but that we are winning, you win a penny. Although since it is boring simply to repeat the same robot line, he was quoted to the more specific effect of opining �it is clear that the only "exit strategy" available is to develop Iraqi security forces to fight the remnants of Saddam Hussein's government. And he predicted that that approach will succeed.�
The deal is � who the hell is retired Col. Gary Anderson? It turns out that Anderson � as one discovers from Google � was not just walking in a military way down the street, when the Pentagon decided to consult with him. No, Anderson is working for Science Applications International, one of the largest privately held defense contracting firms in the country, with huge stakes in Iraq � for instance, they �hired� the Iraqi exiles that have since been appointed to the Council. Now, would the Post quote an Enron executive about power with the description that he �consulted� for the Energy department? We doubt it. But when it comes to foreign policy � especially a war that the Post editorial board pumped and plumped for � any retired colonel with hawkish views is worth quoting. It�s a wonderful life, in D.C.

In another piece of news � we were alerted to the International Studies in Higher Education Act (H.R. 3077) by the National Review, which is solidly in favor of the little monster. Ping, went the radar. Ping ping. We went to the website of another supporter, Martin Kramer, for details. Kramer, defines the bill in terms of the opposition it has engendered: �The higher education lobby, led by the American Council on Education (ACE), remains determined to gut the bill. Never mind that the board will be advisory, not supervisory. Never mind that the bill doesn't allow the board "to mandate, direct, or control an institution of higher education's specific instructional content, curriculum, or program of instruction.� Why, if it doesn�t do those things, have a monitoring body at all? Cutting to the chase, Kramer quotes with approval one of the bill�s supporters, Howard Berman:

�I am encouraged that the creation of this Advisory Board will help redress a problem which is a great concern of mine, namely, the lack of balance, and indeed the anti-American bias that pervades Title VI-funded Middle East studies programs in particular. To the extent that it advances the national interest to commit taxpayer funds to institutions of higher education for the purpose of fostering expertise with regard to key regions of the world�and I would emphatically affirm that it does�then surely it is troubling when evidence suggests that many of the Middle East regional studies grantees are committed to a narrow point of view at odds with our national interest, a point of view that questions the validity of advancing American ideals of democracy and the rule of law around the world, and in the Middle East in particular.�

The contradiction between descriptions of the bill smells like Ashcroft. How will the Advisory Board �redress� the �problem� here if it is prevented absolutely from impinging on a specific content, curriculum or program of instruction? If it quacks like a cop and wears a uniform like a cop and takes you down to the police station and gives you the fifth degree � it is a cop. I especially like the idea that a professor that questions the validity of advancing American ideals of democracy in the Middle East would run into trouble from the Advisory committee � who are no doubt simply making observations, instead of impinging on content. It is of course an objective fact that all American involvement in the Middle East is nothing more than democracy in action. As for the other side of the coin -- say, the Advisory committee discovering that students at some shoddy rightwing junior college in Marietta, Georgia, are only getting old film clips of Newt Gingrich lectures in their middle eastern studies course � do you think this is something the Advisory committee is going to stamp its foot at? I don't think so. The law simply and purely mandates rightwing activism as an official policy of the U.S. government. No wonder the Kramers of the world love it. This is a laughable extension of the de-fund the left � and fund the right with government money � type of stuff that goes on in D.C. when the Repubs are in power.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Bollettino

Rumsfeld must go. It is tragic but necessary that Rumsfeld must go. It has been a long, hard slog (or is it � what a long, strange trip it�s been?), but Rumsfeld must go. When the signs were obvious that guerillas were arming themselves from military dumps that the U.S. military has claimed it doesn�t have enough soldiers to guard, Rumsfeld must go. When U.S. forces regardless of the knowledge that guerillas were employing surface to air anti-aircraft missiles did nothing to secure a well known hostile area before packing in GIs and taking off, Rumsfeld must go. When the US forces killed 10 policemen in Fallujah and then investigated the incident with less energy than they put into stocking the drinks for Wolfowitz at his Baghdad hotel suite, Rumsfeld must go. When the administration goes on a p.r. offensive about how nice and cheery it is in Iraq, and sends over people who make cheery speeches about progress in the daytime and fly out to the safety of Kuwait in the nighttime, Rumsfeld must go. When Wolfowitz, our Pentagon intellectual, lies through his teeth to get the country into the war and then pretends that he had never said those things, Rumsfeld must go. When the man who planned this �non-hostile� phase of America�s �most successful military campaign� tells us, now, that there are tragic days, but they are necessary � with the necessity seeming to be all in his own thick head � Rumsfeld must go. When the man who, unrestrained by a commander in chief who seemed to regard Iraq as an Oedipal struggle was out front, every day, stirring up dirt in the Atlantic alliance, and now obliges us with the timeless wisdom that soldiers die in war, Rumsfeld must go. When �Military officials and witnesses said the missile that brought down the Chinook was a Russian-made SA-7, a shoulder-fired, heat-seeking device known as a Strela that appeared from witness accounts to have locked onto the helicopter's engines, which are below the rear rotor,� Rumsfeld must go. When the country we invaded is treated as a laboratory for every crazy conservative idea that has come down the pike in the last twenty five years (�The flat tax, long a dream of economic conservatives, is finally getting its day -- not in the United States, but in Iraq�), Rumsfeld must go.

Oh, I forgot. Today�s bolletino is about Donald Rumsfeld. Our secretary of defense. Rumsfeld must go.