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Tuesday, September 28, 2004
 
Desperate Times

When discussion of a possible draft comes up, it is commonly
dismissed as something which simply couldn't happen, because
it's nothing that anybody wants to happen. Admittedly, the
whole thing does still have the feel of an urban legend about it.


I agree that nobody wants to live through the conscription
nightmare
again; but that misses the point. A draft is not
an opt-out system, neither for the young people who get caught up in
the sweep of it ... nor for the nation that finds itself backed up
against the wall enough to implement it.


We are a Nation at War ...
or so the Powers
That Be
keep pounding into our skulls, and there is no defined
end in sight.


Such a perpetual warfare doctrine is, however, incompatible with that of
an all-volunteer military. Joining up for the fight is one thing; but once
any sane person becomes party to the dismembered limbs, reeking
flames, starving dogs, rotting corpses, stagnant pools of
God-knows-what, and biting flies that are all the intimate companions
to war, he will want to walk away from it as soon as he can. And if
he can walk away, he will.


At some point a nation has to decide: is it better to surrender
the war, or send out the induction notices?


For the record, I've
never heard of a nation-state opting for the former without first
giving the latter a try.


Cue the
Newsweek article
:


... the world is a strange and
unpredictable place. While Bush has no plans to reinstate a draft, he
could be forced into it by events. Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, a
likely presidential candidate in 2008, says that a draft “might
become necessary” in the years ahead. The threshold question
before the election is this: which candidate is more likely to have
so few international friends amid a crisis that he would have to move
beyond the all-volunteer force?
This question takes the seemingly
arcane issue of burden-sharing and brings it home to the American
heartland. If we need, God forbid, to occupy another country that
truly threatens the United States, we will either do it with the help
of our allies or with the conscription of our kids.


I agree with that assessment of Senator
Hagel's long-term
ambitions
, by the way. The amount of time and energy he's spent
this year distancing himself from the President's policies are most
definitely early signs of a flowering of the next great anti-Bush
Republican ... a position which I predict will look astonishingly
prescient by 2008, should we be afflicted with four more years of
Dubya-misrule.


If only the Good Senator from Nebraska didn't
own
the damn voting
machine company
that counts nearly
every vote
in his state, I
might actually trust him
even an iota.


But I digress ... back to the Newsweek
article for a moment:


Every military expert agrees that
the Army is already badly overstretched (the Air Force and Navy are
fine). The National Guard and Reserves are in trouble. Guard
recruitment is down 12 percent, and Reservists as old as their late
40s are being mobilized. Some heavy-duty arm-twisting is underway.
According to the Rocky Mountain News, soldiers at Fort
Carson, Colo., for instance, have been told that if they don't re-up
to 2007 they will be shipped out pronto for Iraq.


The pseudo-conscription of Fort Carson soldiers is certainly not
an urban legend. You can read the particular
article
right here. At least one member of the Colorado
Congressional delegation is annoyed
enough by the tactic
to call for an investigation of the Army's
latest “recruiting” method.


And a
related article
from mid-July of this year (and also from the
Rocky Mountain News) makes the reason for such desperate
maneuvers abundantly clear:


Army re-enlistments have dropped
suddenly and dramatically at Fort Carson and several other posts
where combat units have recently returned from Iraq.


The surprising decline within
the past 21/2 months has jolted recruiters and military analysts and
provoked questions about the war's effect on the Army's recruiting
ability.


Since Fort Carson units began
coming home in April, post recruiters have met only 57 percent of
their quota for re-enlisting first-term soldiers for a second hitch,
according to an Army report.


More disturbing, recruiters say, is
they're re-enlisting only 46 percent of the quota for “mid-career”
noncommissioned officers. These are the young sergeants with four to
10 years of experience who are the backbone of the Army - its skilled
soldiers, mentors and future senior NCOs.


That's a lot lower than
where we want to be, especially on mid-careers,” said Master
Sgt. Scott Leeling, a Fort Carson recruiter.


But I don't see this as
being a trend,” he said. “Last quarter, we were
unbelievably successful. I look to see a dramatic increase in the
next 30 to 45 days.


Boy, that last line was rich. The blackmail
plans
were clearly in the works at the time Sgt. Leeling made his
“dramatic increase” prediction; I wonder if he was aware
of them at the time he spoke up?


Sharp-eyed readers might notice also that the “2½
months” figure mentioned in the above article places the
beginning of the decline right around April of this year. As I
recall, this coincides
with the exact time
that the initial “Operation
Iraqi Freedom
” combat units were finally allowed to rotate
out of Iraq.


On one issue then, to paraphrase Lenin,
it appears as if our soldiers have already begun “voting with
their feet.” Thus, the decision discussed in the beginning of
this post — to surrender, or conscript — may be even
closer than we think.


 
Just A Mirage

From the BBC website:

Jordan's King Abdullah says in an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro that holding elections whose outcome would not be disputed is "impossible" in the current climate of chaos in Iraq

What King Abdullah doesn't realize is that the Iraqi elections are a mirage: once we get past our own election, the need for an Iraqi election will simply disappear.


Monday, September 27, 2004
 
The Monkey's Paw

Anyone who watches a lot of C-SPAN knows that America still has a big problem with the Vietnam war. One minute it's 1971 and we're watching John Kerry and John O'Neill slugging it out over Vietnamization and free-fire zones; the next minute we're watching the same guys talking about the same issues in 2004.

Vietnam is turning into a socio-political version of the Monkey's Paw -- just when we think we're rid of it, it keeps coming back. So let's do what Americans always do when faced with a thorny, insoluble problem: let's go to the movies.

After all, Americans don't consider an issue settled until they've made a movie about it, right? The problem is that Vietnam movies are as schizophrenic as the rest of our social discourse about that war.

Everyone knows that the only Vietnam war movie made during the war was 1968's The Green Berets. It was wartime propaganda, a throwback to WWII movies, and the carelessness of its approach was emphasized by the fact that it was shot in Alabama and Georgia, and ended with the sun setting in the east. It's one of the only pro-Vietnam war movies from that time, but it seems anachronistic; if you didn't know better, you'd swear you were watching something that was made in the 50's.

More common for that era were stories about soldiers who are sickened by the carnage of war. Billy Jack (1971) was an ex-Green Beret who returns home to defend a "Freedom School" (whatever that is) from the evil machinations of the Establishment. Disillusioned by what he'd seen in Nam, Billy Jack just wants to be a man of peace. However, that doesn't stop him from opening a can of Ishinru-flavored whoop-ass whenever the enemies of peace and love annoy him.

As the 70's wore on, America didn't want to be reminded of Vietnam, and when the subject came up again in the latter part of the decade, the zeitgeist had changed. Instead of the noble, disillusioned warrior, the Vietnam vet had become the wild-eyed Bruce Dern in "Black Sunday"(1977), the psychologically scarred survivors of "The Deer Hunter" (1978), the mentally unstable worm farmer in "Heroes" (1977), or the hollowed-out assassin in "Apocalypse Now" (1979).

But by the early 1980s, Ronald Reagan was giving the whole country a series of locker-room pep talks; it was less a presidential administration than it was a feel-good infomercial. It was around this time that the zeitgeist changed once again: now the war was seen as good and noble, a war we could have won -- if only "they" had "let us win". Who "they" were was kept deliberately vague, but was generally understood to be the fifth columnist anti-war protesters and hand-wringing sob sisters in Congress. "First Blood" (1982) and its sequel, "Rambo: First Blood Part 2" (1985) featured an angry Vietnam vet, but this time he was angry not because of what his government had asked him to do, but because his government had "set him up to fail" in Vietnam and had not allowed him to "finish the job". We all know, of course, that in the second movie Rambo essentially fights the Vietnam war over again, and freed from the constraints of a paternalistic government he single-handedly decimates the Vietcong.

In the latter part of the '80s, filmmakers like Oliver Stone tried to embrace the country's ambiguous feelings about the war; in "Platoon" (1986), Private Taylor finds it difficult to choose between the noble Sgt. Elias and the amoral Sgt. Barnes, and in "Born on the Fourth of July" (1989) Ron Kovic fights heroically in the war, then later turns against it.

By the end of the 80's, Kovic's journey seemed the ideal path for anyone who fought in the war; Kovic seemed to embody our nation's struggle in coming to grips with Vietnam. No doubt John Kerry thought so when he launched his 2004 presidential bid. He figured he would be running against a man who wouldn't dare question his military service. But as we're seeing, draft-dodging was only a bad thing if you're a Democrat.


Saturday, September 25, 2004
 
Samizdat Nation, Part II

Some folks inherit star spangled
eyes,
Ooh, they send you down to war, Lord,
And when you ask
them, how much should we give,
Oh, they only answer, more, more,
more ...



Sorry for the dearth in posting. It's been a hectic week for me;
between contracting one of those
let's-kick-off-the-schoolyear-with-a-bang viruses (aching and
shaking), helping my sister and her family move out of their house
(heavy lifting), and work (working), I haven't been home alone long
enough to put much of anything together.


I did notice another piece of samizdat the other day,
however, and I wanted to make sure I shared it before too long.


While driving down the interstate with my brother-in-law, I
noticed a sign that had been hung from the fence of a pedestrian
overpass. It had been professionally printed, and although we were
moving along too fast to read the entire wording of the sign (note to
freeway protesters: wordiness is not a virtue in this environment),
the main title was easy enough to understand:


LIBERATE AMERICA


This is a play on a local sign that sprang up in yards throughout
this metro area in the months preceding the Iraq War. Anyone who's
lived here knows that I'm talking about those ubiquitous “LIBERATE
IRAQ
” signs that were once as common as lawn mushrooms
around here.


You can still see a few of them to this day. I don't know if they
were in other cities, but I know they were produced locally, because
the local papers have run stories about the area
lunkhead
who first came up with the idea.


His name is Joe Repya. He is a decorated veteran of both Vietnam
and the First Gulf War, clearly a patriot,
and something
of a reactionary
buffoon
.



And, as of sometime this upcoming January, Lt. Col. Joe Repya will
be a veteran of this war ... for Joe Repya, at 58 years of
age, has been called
up to serve in Iraq
:


I'm worried about the
kidding I'll get from those young soldiers,” said Repya, who
will give up his post as co-chairman of Minnesota
Veterans for Bush-Cheney
. “I'm sure the Army will give me
an extra set of bifocals.”

A return to active duty at
Repya's age is “very rare,” said Col. Denny Shields, a
spokesman for the Minnesota National Guard.

The Bush campaign
called his response to the call-up an extraordinary display of
patriotism. “He's an American hero who has worked tirelessly on
behalf of our president,” said Tracey Schmitt, the campaign's
regional spokeswoman.


[...]


Of the war, Repya said, “No
football game always goes the way the coach maps it out. ... It's not
as bad as John Kerry has made it out. This is not a quagmire, this is
not a Vietnam, and it's disgraceful that Democrats say this president
has gotten us into a quagmire.”


Don't forget to bring your own shoulderpads, Joe. Looks like
someone
forgot
to pack
them on the team bus
before the trip.


Thursday, September 23, 2004
 
Education Policy Fit For The Devonian Age

I once greatly annoyed my evolutionary biology prof by asking this question: was the Creature From the Black Lagoon descended from the same hominid family as homo sapiens, or was he an example of convergent evolution?

I admit that I still lay awake nights trying to figure out such questions, but don't you think for a minute that it's an idle exercise. Convergent evolution happens, and not always in the realm of evolutionary biology.

Case in point: the Serbian government, led by gentle pro-west reformer Vojislav Kostunica (remember him?), is engaging in some state-sponsored yahoo-ism which startlingly mimics what's been going on lately in Kansas and Georgia.

Seeking to improve his standing with the Orthodox Church, Kostunica allowed his Education Minister, Ljiljana Colic, to mandate the teaching of creationism in Serbian schools. Colic insists that evolution and creationism are both scientific theories that carry equal weight.

“Both theories exist in parallel and legitimately," Colic said. "The evolutionist, which says man is descended from the ape, and the one which says God Almighty created man and the entire world.” Sound familiar?

Of course, creationism doesn't qualify as science for all kinds of reasons, primarily because it lacks the principle of falsifiability. That is, any number of discoveries could invalidate the theory of evolution, but there is no discovery you could make that would invalidate the idea of creationism.

But when science gets in the way of politics, it's always science that has to step off the sidewalk.

UPDATE: Well, not always. Since I drafted this post, I learned that Colic was forced to resign in the face of widespread protest over the creationism mandate. The yahoos have grudgingly returned to the Black Lagoon. But they'll be back for the sequel.

There's always a sequel, you know.



Wednesday, September 22, 2004
 
A Visit From The Ghost Of Polities Past

In that case,” said
the Dodo solemnly, rising to its feet, “I move that the meeting
adjourn, for the immediate adoption of more energetic remedies--”



Once upon a time, they dominated a political ecosphere, fanning out from the American northeast and ruling a nation from the safety of their vast, thundering herds. Now, alas, the Great Northern Progressive Republican is almost extinct, having been driven to the brink through the introduction of an aggressive invader species (Stromthurmondius Nixoniae — the Southern Reactionary Snarlhawk), and overhunting at the hands of starved refugee Democrats.


Thus has the once-mighty Progressive Republican all
but ceased to exist
in the wild. And now the last known bull in
captivity, Lincoln Chafee, is once again making noises about changing
his stripes.


This time, it sounds serious. Could this be the final death-knell of the species?


Republican Sen.
Lincoln Chafee said Monday he plans to support his party in November
but may write in a candidate instead of voting for President Bush.





[...]


Chafee has opposed the
administration's push to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
and has criticized Bush's handling of the postwar reconstruction of
Iraq. He was the only Republican senator to vote against the October
2002 resolution that gave Bush the authority to invade Iraq.


The Republican said the party's
direction in the future will determine his political career as well.
He said he's “not OK” with the conservative platform from
the Republican convention, but would not say if he'd consider
switching parties in his next election in 2006.


It wasn't that long ago that
moderates had more of a voice,” Chafee said. “It's a
cycle that I hope will come back.”


Yes, politics tends to move in cycles, Linc — but you'll be
a long time a-mouldering in the grave before any such transformation
returns to your party. For one thing, the Baby
Boomers
are going to have to be dead
(or at least decently
senile
) before they'll surrender the ideological stranglehold
they have on this country.


The Republicans have won race after race fueled by the irrational,
reactionary fears of middlebrow
white people
; they're certainly not going to give up now when,
paradoxically, time
is running out
for them even while Total Domination seems so
tantalizingly within their sight.


So really, Senator Chafee, you should just switch and be
done with it. After all, considering the temperament
of your home state
, I hardly think that it would be all that
damaging to your political career. If you convinced Olympia
to go along with your plan, perhaps you two could gain some national
notoriety by staging a dark-of-the-night, Checkpoint Charlie-style
run for the border.


In fact, it's too bad that Zell
Miller
is retiring; the two parties could have staged a nice
prisoner exchange, and everybody could have gone away happy.


Tuesday, September 21, 2004
 
Romulus & Uncle Remus

Yes, it's true; the Lost City is no longer a Fortress of Solitude.
There is a second Lost Citizen staggering around the hoary old
remains of the metropolis. And, bless him, I see by the nature of his
initial
post
that he's gotten into the spirit of things right off the
bat.




Because knowledge
is power!”

Uncle Mike takes in some light reading on the
Fall of Civilizations.


This addition has actually been in the works for a couple of
months. I invited “Uncle Mike” to throw in some posts of
his own way back in July, as I recall; and we finally got around to
dealing with the logistics of it all just this last week.


Frankly, I could use the help.


From the start, this weblog has always been information-dense. Its
intent is not merely to showcase the bits of information that
sprinkle fitfully down upon us from day to day, but to indicate how
interrelated they can be, as well. Think of it as conspiracy
theorizing for the sober-minded.


Such an approach is both rewarding and frustrating. I really enjoy
collecting all the nails, plaster and plywood of raw information and
assembling it into a more refined (and usually coherent) structure.
That's the rewarding part.


The frustration, however, comes by the lack of breadth that
this approach necessarily entails. I would like to take on more
topics at a time (and have been able to do it, on occasion), but when
one's rhetorical approach requires spending untold lost minutes
squirreling around obscure cul-de-sacs of the internet for that last
perfect capstone of weird, but relevant, data, it becomes hard to
keep up with everything else that is going on.


And that's where Uncle Mike comes in (who is not, to dispell any
future confusions, my uncle). I'd ask you all to make him feel
welcome, but I see by the number of comments on his first post that
you already have.


And one final note: if you look way back to the Jurassic
Era
of this weblog, you'll see that the very first post was
actually written by Uncle Mike! This is because he, in a desperate
attempt to free his mailbox from the onslaught of my
politically-charged e-missives, is the one who initially set this
site up, and then handed it off to me.


So, in fact, it is actually he who is the City Founder, and
not me.


Monday, September 20, 2004
 
Hello, Democracy, And Welcome To The Dustbin Of History

The University of Minnesota's unreconstructed lefty physics prof Erwin Marquit once said, "The misapplication of the scientific method is not limited to Marxist systems". You were right, Doc, but is anybody paying attention anymore?


Looking back from the blighted political moonscape of 2004, it seems incredible that for a few short months in 1989 it really seemed possible that history might have a happy ending. In that long-gone, sun-dappled year, the West was astonished to find the bogeyman of Communism simply evaporating, and democracy -- lovable, innocent, buck-toothed, little-D democracy -- was now ready to remake the world.


But the spread of democracy is no longer seen as inevitable. In fact, it now seems as inevitable as the proletariat overthrowing the bourgeoisie. Fred Hiatt writes a cool piece in today's Post about the creepy but seemingly inexorable retreat of democracy around the world.


These days, talking optimistically about democractic ideals gets you the kind of tolerant smiles usually awarded small children putting on cabaret shows for their parents. Or the smiles politely dispensed to the dreamers still pushing Communism, Objectivism, Free Love, or the Phlogiston theory.




Saturday, September 18, 2004
 
Vietnamization

This piece in the Los Angeles Times really startled me. Can
it be really true, with the month just barely over halfway done, that
we've already suffered 52
combat deaths in September
over there?


Iraqi insurgents pressed their
assault on U.S. and allied forces Thursday as two Americans and a
Briton were kidnapped from their Baghdad house and three Marines were
killed, bringing the number of U.S. military deaths in the country
this month to at least 52.


Actually, we lost
another one
on Friday, so it's up to 53. But the gist of the
Times opening paragraph is true;
we are currently on a pace to have our worst month, casualty-wise,
since April of this year. And the spike in April, you will recall,
was due to our ill-conceived
— and ultimately
aborted
Fallujah
assault
.


When
adjusted
for relative
troop levels
, a monthly casualty rate of about 100 deaths is
easily comparable to what the US sustained in Vietnam throughout most
of 1966
(in fact, it would just about equal the monthly average);
and a casualty rate at that April level (we lost 135 soldiers that
month), when adjusted, is actually more than those we
sustained at any month in 1966, except one (December).


In other words, as a percentage of combat deaths to
in-theater personnel, we are already uncomfortably close to Vietnam
levels.


In a related story, Editor
& Publisher
is publicising a UPI story claiming
that the official US nonfatal
casualty rate, currently sitting at somewhere around 7,000, is
actually short.


Very
short
, in fact:


Nearly 17,000 service members
medically evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan are absent from public
Pentagon casualty reports commonly cited by newspapers, according to
military data reviewed by United Press International. Most
don't fit the definition of casualties, according to the Pentagon,
but a veterans' advocate said they should all be counted.


[...]


The Pentagon's public casualty
reports, available at www.defenselink.mil, list only service members
who died or were wounded in action. The Pentagon's own definition of
a war casualty provided to UPI in December describes a casualty as,
“Any person who is lost to the organization by having been
declared dead, duty status/whereabouts unknown, missing, ill, or
injured.”


[...]


Among veterans from Iraq seeking
help from the VA, 5,375 have been diagnosed with a mental problem,
making it the third-leading diagnosis after bone problems and
digestive problems. Among the mental problems were 800 soldiers who
became psychotic.


Ummm ... yeah. If you come out of combat in a state of psychosis,
I think you should be considered an honest-to-God Casualty of War.


And while it's possible, I understand, to doctor statistics in
order to argue both sides of an issue, it's clear by this (and other
circumstantial
evidence
) that our military is intentionally lowballing its
injury numbers for political purposes.


If an American Civil War soldier could die of dysentry,
typhoid, or food poisoning
and still be counted as a casualty of
that war (and the
vast majority of them
did), then at the very least the 5,000 or
so Iraq War soldiers under psychological pain deserve to be counted
too.


 
It Ain't The Size Of The Rock ...

Scientists have recently uncovered evidence of a massive
series of meteor and/or cometary strikes
in the southern
hemisphere. There's nothing surprising about that; in the geological
sense, our Earth gets whacked upside by giant falling rocks on a
depressingly regular basis.


Rather, the shocking news is not that the asteroid storm
hit, but
when it did
:


Scientists using satellites have
mapped huge craters under the Antarctic ice sheet caused by an
asteroid as big as the one believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs
65m years ago.


Professor Frans van der Hoeven,
from Delft University in the Netherlands, told the conference that
the evidence showed that an asteroid measuring between three and
seven miles across
had broken up in the atmosphere and five large
pieces had hit the Earth, creating multiple craters over an area
measuring 1,300 by 2,400 miles.


The effect would have been to melt
all the ice in the path of the pieces, as well as the crust
underneath. The biggest single strike caused a hole in the ice sheet
roughly 200 by 200 miles, which would have melted about 1% of the ice
sheet, raising water levels worldwide by 60cm (2ft).


But the climatic conditions were
different at the time of the strike — about 780,000 years
ago
— from when the asteroid that is believed to have wiped
out the dinosaurs struck Yucatan in Mexico.


Despite the fact that the collective mass of this extraplanetary
material is comparable to that of the infamous “dinosaur
killer” Rock of Doom, this particular event obviously didn't
have nearly the global impact. Nobody's noticed any mass extinction
event coming out of the fossil record of the time, and nothing in the
rock strata indicates that any great conflagration was visited upon
the planet then, either.


Although human evolution appears to have bumped ahead a bit right
around 780,000 years ago (from homo
erectus
to heidelbergensis).
That's also the same time as the earliest
fossil evidence
we have of tool-using hominids (homo
antecessor
) showing up in western
Europe
.


And those guys were quite voracious cannibals,
too. All of which, to me, is at least circumstantial evidence that
the ecosphere may have been unusually stressed right around then. But
only circumstantial.


As it turns out, scientists know a bit more than usual about what
was going on around the planet 780,000 years ago; the last time
Earth's
magnetic poles shifted
(i.e from south to north) was at
that time
, allowing for a handy
way
for us modern hominids to collate anything that happened on
that moment in prehistory. As the first article points out, the two
events (the meteor strike and the pole shift) happening at the same
time is probably not a coincidence.


Nevertheless, it's remarkable to consider that this stellar drama
was unfolding right over the sloping foreheads of our immediate
hominid predecessors
. Who knows what would have happened to those
poor, lumpish little hairy fellers had the meteor held itself
together right up until deep impact, or hit the earth at a different
angle, or hurled itself into another — perhaps more vulnerable
— section of our planet?


If, as recent evidence suggests, a mere
volcanic eruption
was enough to nearly wipe
our species
off the face of the Earth just
70,000 years ago
, I imagine that the effects of a Yucatan-style
impact would be quite a bit more final. Which, by the way, helps to
explain why we are such a freakishly inbred
species
when compared to other
mammals
.


Then again, nothing that's happened since the rise of life on
Earth compares to
the monster rock
that may
have caused
the great
Permian
Extinction
. Anything that could blow
a hole in the planet
the size of Scandinavia must have been
friggin' huge.


Thursday, September 16, 2004
 
When Worlds Divide

You know, every step of the
way in Iraq there have been pessimists and hand-wringers who said it
can't be done. And every step of the way, the Iraqi leadership and
the Iraqi people have proven them wrong because they are determined
to have a free and peaceful future.”



I want to go live on your planet, Mr. McClellan, because clearly
things are much better there than they are over here. Tell me, do
gumdrops and marshmallow peeps fall from the sky over there when it
rains, and does everybody ride fluffy white bunnies on their way to
work, too?


Seriously, why should I bother with the whole dumb-show of
wringing my hands and telling McClellan that it can't be done, when
it's much more accurate (and reasonable) to just jab my finger in his
eye and tell him that it isn't being done. In all honesty,
what
has gone right
in that country since
we took it over
?


Type “explosion”
and “iraq”
into the Google prompt, for
instance, and you'll get a fresh result every day — or even
every hour, to be more honest about it. How is this chaos supposed to
represent progress of any sort?


Let's look, for instance, at what McClellan was responding to in
the first place ... information recently leaked from a July, 2004
National Intelligence Estimate of the current and future state of
affairs in that beleagered
failure of a country
:


A classified National Intelligence
Estimate prepared for
President
Bush
in late July spells out a dark assessment of
prospects for Iraq, government officials said Wednesday.


The estimate outlines three
possibilities for Iraq through the end of 2005, with the worst case
being developments that could lead to civil war
, the officials said.
The most favorable outcome described is an Iraq whose stability would
remain tenuous in political, economic and security terms.


There's a significant amount
of pessimism,” said one government official who has read the
document, which runs about 50 pages
. The officials declined to
discuss the key judgments — concise, carefully written
statements of intelligence analysts' conclusions — included in
the document.


So what we have here is Bad and Ugly, but no Good. Let's be frank,
after all: a politically “tenuous” Iraq is hardly a
pleasant outcome, even if it is the “good” scenario.


We can also assumed that the stuff coming out of the NEI is leaked
information. The Times never explicitly says that it is, but
it does include a comment from an Official Administration Stooge to
the effect that the report itself remains classified. And if it's
classified, that would mean that anything in it — especially
the conclusions — would be classified as well.


Not
that its that big a secret
that Iraq
is
the drunk-drivin',
methed-up dynamite trucker
weaving and barrelling its way down
the freeway of international geopolitics. The findings of this
National Intelligence Estimate mirror precisely the very public
conclusions published by a highly respected British think-tank just a
few weeks ago
:


Iraq will be lucky if it manages
to avoid a breakup and civil war
, and the country risks becoming
the spark for a vortex of regional upheaval, concludes a report
released Wednesday by Britain's highly regarded Royal Institute of
International Affairs.


[...]


At most, the report suggests,
the United States and its allies can hope for a “muddle-through”
scenario
, holding the country together but falling short of their
original goal: the creation of a full-fledged democracy friendly to
the West. The U.S. will have to keep all of Iraq's factions “more
or less on board” through a combination of clever diplomacy and
military restraint, it says. The fragmentation of Iraq is the
“default” scenario, the report says, and will occur if
American-led forces pull out of the country too quickly or if the
U.S. government imposes its vision on the country too rigidly.


Great. Even the bellus interruptus scenario is too dire to
contemplate. If we leave, the entire country goes boom; but if we
stay (and are very, very lucky), the entire country gradually
consumes itself at a slow burn.


And
us with it
:


An increasingly bold and organized
insurgency seized the offensive again on Tuesday as a suicide car
bomb packed with artillery shells exploded outside police
headquarters here, ripping into a crowd of hundreds of young men
seeking to join the Iraqi police force and killing at least 47 people
and wounding 114 others, police and health officials said.


[...]


Perhaps as disturbing as the attack
itself, though, was the reaction of the crowd at the scene. Gripped
by an anti-American fervor, dozens of men rushed at a Western
cameraman and chanted, “Bush is a dog, Bush is a dog!”


[...]


... At the bomb scene, a woman in
black robes knelt by a pool of blood and began wailing, almost
collapsing to the ground.


Where are our sons?”
she said. “What have the Americans done to us? What have our
sons done to the Americans?”


At Karama Hospital, another woman
threw a shoe at a car carrying an American reporter and photographer
as it left the area. “Kill the Americans,” she said.
“Slaughter them one by one!”


We're only in year two of this insurgency. According to the
professionals, this thing could go on for ten
years or more
... with or without our direct
participation
.


History
agrees
. Guerrilla
campaigns,
once
started
, never
burn
themselves
out
overnight.


 
News So Accurate, It Precedes The Event It Describes

While I was paging through the freshly-published local edition of
The
Onion
yesterday evening, I saw an advertisement in it that
carried the fake headline: “Last Surviving Ramone Hopes To Die
Of Natural Causes.”


I was amused and confused. Sure, it was a funny headline (macabre,
yes, but I'm certain the
Ramones
wouldn't care about that) ... but weren't there two
surviving Ramones?


Well, that's all a matter of timing, as it turns out. At the time
of this issue's publication, there had been indeed two of the original Ramones alive;
but by the time I had seen it, there was only one.


It happened mere
hours before I read it
, in fact:


Johnny Ramone, the co-founder of
seminal punk band the Ramones, has died at the age of 55, it was
announced today.


The guitarist, who had fought a
five-year battle against prostate cancer, died in his sleep at his
Los Angeles home yesterday afternoon. He was surrounded by family and
friends, Arturo Vega, the band's artistic director, said.


Very creepy, Onion. Not as prophetic as this
headline
, to be sure ... but creepy nonetheless.


It's hard to believe that barely three years ago the entire band
was still alive; and now three out of four of the original members
are dead. Statistically, they've already reached a milestone the
Beatles
aren't scheduled
to hit until December 2022!


But then, they always did play their licks fast.


Tuesday, September 14, 2004
 
Samizdat Nation

I had a lengthy post on the legal scramblings and allegations involving Trinity Broadcasting Network founder Paul Crouch, but when I was almost done, OpenOffice let out a great big belch and suddenly wiped it off the face of my screen.


Most of it was lost; only the first few paragraphs ever got around to being saved.


Aggravating. Or Divine Retribution. I suppose it depends on whether or not you're a fan of TBN.


Since it was such a lengthy piece (and it is so late right now), I'll have to put that one off for later. Instead, here's a quick little observation I made yesterday.


In the restroom at the place where I work, someone surreptitiously posted a small sticker in the space between the hinges that connect the lid to the toilet bowl. It read:


DUMP BUSH


HE IS A LIAR AND A IDIOT


As much as I agree with the sentiment, I do wish whoever had slapped that sticker together had thought his grammar through a little more carefully.


There seems to be a samizdat phenomenon building up in this country — a proliferation of whispered critiques, underground writing, and guerrilla marketing techniques. It is much more prevalent than in previous years, and appears to be aimed exclusively against the current regime.


That's both heartening, and worrying. Heartening because it shows that dissent is out there, and in greater force than is officially acknowledged; worrying because such underground movements are usually only reactions to repressive, oligarchical political systems.


Monday, September 13, 2004
 
Over The Weekend

The BBC ran a story yesterday which included footage of
that missile attack on the crowd of people on top of the abandoned
Bradley. It includes that infamous al-Arabiya footage I
mentioned in the previous post — the one which shows their
correspondent receive his mortal wounds.


You can catch the report here
(courtesy of the Blah3
weblog) in RealAudio format. I suggest you watch it; and don't
worry ... it's dramatic (in a less visually cluttered time, it would
even be historic), but not terribly graphic.


All in all, it was a pretty violent weekend in Iraq. Hundreds
of Iraqis
were killed or wounded, some Americans too, and the
Green
Zone
sustained the lengthiest artillery barrage anyone there has
ever seen since — well, perhaps since ever.


At the end of it all, the quietest places in Iraq were Samarra
and Tal Afar. Unfortunately, these were the two
places
in the whole country in which the US forces were actually
spoiling
for a fight
:


The U.S. military launched a major
pre-dawn assault Sunday to wrest the northern city of Tall Afar from
insurgents but encountered almost no resistance, leaving uncertain
the whereabouts of fighters who have battled U.S.-led forces for
months.


About 2,000 men — two
battalions from the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, and a
battalion from the Iraqi National Guard — pushed into Tall Afar
at 3:15 a.m. to confront what U.S. military officials had expected
would be about 200 insurgents who had taken over the local
government.


Instead, the U.S. forces, backed by
F-16 fighter jets, encountered only brief fire from small arms, U.S.
military officials said.


Why do they always act surprised when this happens? Melting away into
the shadows when the superior force comes out to play is Guerrilla
Warfare 101
. If the insurgents had stayed to fight it out (at
well over 10 to 1 odds against them, by our military's own
reckoning), I would have figured them for undisciplined morons.


It's been said that the guerrilla's strategy is one in which no
successful military solution has ever been concocted. With Iraq as
our current laboratory on the subject, it's easy to see how true this
is.


As maddening and as frustrating as it may seem, the only permanent
solution to guerrilla warfare is a political one; unfortunately, I
can't think of any political solution these guerrillas will accept
that would be of benefit to our side.


And so the
war will go on
. And on. And
on
.


Sunday, September 12, 2004
 
Reality Blights

I'm surprised that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz aren't crowing
themselves hoarse over this — proof positive that Western
cultural values are finally seeping in to the Iraqi mainstream.


Iraq has its own home-grown reality
television program
:


Umm Hussein stands near the rubble
and wearily waves off the perky woman thrusting a microphone in her
face. She is tired of telling reporters how American troops blew up
her house.


Wait, the Iraqi TV crew tells the
black-veiled widow. An orange dump truck lumbers up the street,
followed by workers with picks and sledgehammers. The camera zooms in
on Umm Hussein's bewildered face as the host declares, “We're
going to rebuild your house.”


Ah-ha! So that
explains
where all
that plywood went
.


But see? We are doing some good over there. If we hadn't
blown up that old lady's house, the perky Iraqi TV crew would never
have been given the chance to rebuild it.


Frankly, however, the appearance of reality programming in Iraq
comes as something of a surprise to me; I would figure them to be
pretty heavily into escapist
television
by now ... when they even have
any television
to watch, that is.


And at any rate, it's hard to come up with any reality TV that is
as real as this:


Jubilant fighters and young boys
swarmed around the burning vehicle, dancing, cheering and hurling
firebombs. Several young men placed a black banner of al-Qaida-backed
Tawhid and Jihad, led by terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in
the barrel of the Bradley's main gun.


Suddenly, a U.S. Kiowa helicopter
fired on the Bradley, trying to destroy it to prevent insurgents from
looting weapons and ammunition on board, the military said.


[...]


Al-Arabiya
[a Dubai-based Arab-language
news channel]
broadcast videotape showing its employee,
Mazen al-Tumeizi, preparing to make a report. Suddenly, an
explosion occurred behind him. He doubled-over and began screaming
“I'm dying, I'm dying” and colleagues tried to help him.


He did die,
along with about a dozen other people. Blown up on live TV —
with a big, fat, “Made In USA” sticker slapped right
across the front of the screen.


And — holy crap! Did we just fire
a missile
into a crowd of people?! On the street?! On live
television?!
I realize that some ... probably even a good, solid
portion ... of the men and boys doing the Lindy on the Bradley were
Bush-Certified Enemies of Freedom, and maybe even Democrats to boot; but does that
mean we just blow them up on sight?


And if we do ... how is that arranged, exactly? Are there name
tags
involved? Hand
signals
? Funny
hats
? Or has it all just boiled down to one, big, live-action version of Doom
over there?


I'm not going to bother using this episode as an example of why we
never should have tossed ourselves into this moronic meat grinder in
the first place. I'm not even going to use it to point out the
inevitable moral decay that infects a society that chooses to play
the role of Maximum Overlord in a guerrilla conflict. These things
should be so obvious that only a dull-witted
chimp
, a Russian,
or — as of now, I guess — your
average American
wouldn't be able to figure it out.


But for the record, my fellow dull-witted chimpanzees and
Americans, whacking a journalist in broad daylight while the camera
is rolling is no way to win the hearts and minds of the Arab people.


Thursday, September 09, 2004
 
The Wind Egg And I

... all we are dealing with
is letters to and from detainees. If Mommy from Saudi Arabia is
writing to her son, how can that be a threat to national security?”



The Pentagon
employees
accused of funneling
sensitive data to Israel
are still walking free. This is as it
should be, for now; after all, no official charges have been leveled
against anybody yet.


This case has, however, lead some to fret about whether or not a
double
standard
is being applied to the accused; specifically, where
would these same people be today if it had turned out that they had
been spying for an Arab government?


That's a valid question — made even more so by the fact that
we already know
what would happen if an Arab or Muslim came under the same suspicions
that the Pentagon Cabal is currently under.


It's simply this: if you are an Arab
and/or Muslim
and the US government suspects you of trafficking in secret
documents, you will be summarily
grabbed
, publicly
humiliated
, deprived
of your freedom
, humiliated
some more
... and then put on trial — where you will be
publicly
humiliated
ad infinitum until you cry uncle and accept
your punishment.


Or, if you can stand the waiting (and the humiliation), the entire case against you will fall apart, and you will
be exonerated.


Speaking of which, it looks like yet another member of the
so-called Guantanamo “spy ring” is about to walk free ...
or at least have the charges against him dramatically
reduced
:


... the case against the second man
charged in the spy ring, Air Force translator Ahmad Al Halabi,
appears to be foundering as well — just six days before his
court martial is set to begin in California.


Prosecutors who accused Al Halabi
of trying to pass more than 200 secret documents to U.S. enemies have
not produced evidence that he tried to pass secrets to anyone. And
now, they say that all but one of the documents Al Halabi had are
not, in fact, “classified.”


So where once there stood an olive-toned
Dr. No
, there stands once again one thoroughly screwed GI. Al
Halabi's lawyers claim that the documents (classified or otherwise)
that he had in his possession when he was apprehended were related to
his translation work at Gitmo (as well as personal letters from
detainees to their families); it would be easy to make the case, I
would think, that the one naughty piece of paper that he was carrying
was in there by mistake.


Ordinarily, that would not be enough to call off the government
dogs; but there is something else about this case that might make the
military want to close it up as quickly and quietly as they can.


Back to the article:


The defense attorneys, led by
Don Rehkopf of Rochester, N.Y., suggest in a 59-page brief that Yee,
Al Halabi and others were targeted because they complained that the
military was mistreating prisoners at Guantanamo.
The attorneys
argue that Yee and Al Halabi were punished for raising questions
about conditions at Guantanamo that have since become public in the
wake of the scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, where U.S.
soldiers abused Iraqi prisoners.


[...]


The document did not elaborate on
what Yee and Al Halabi complained about. When the two arrived at
Guantanamo Bay in November 2002, the base was commanded by Maj. Gen.
Geoffrey Miller, a proponent of aggressive interrogation techniques
who later was in charge of Abu Ghraib.
Since Guantanamo's prison
for foreign detainees in the war on terrorism opened in January 2002,
at least 34 prisoners have attempted suicide. The Pentagon is
investigating eight incidents of alleged abuse.


But last year, before any of that
became public, complaints by Yee and Al Halabi were viewed as
“anti-American” by some at Guantanamo, court papers say.
Witnesses say Al Halabi was known to some non-Muslims at the base as
a “detainee lover.”


Detainee
lover
?” Boy, that takes me back. The grunt who invented
that term must've had to really dig into his old civil
rights movement history lessons
to come up with that one, didn't
he?


Of course, a truly clever bigot would've simply added the word
“sand” to the original
term
, leaned smugly back in his chair, and enjoyed the peals of
laughter echoing throughout the base mess hall ... but then again,
“clever” and “bigot” are rarely words that
you're ever going to see very close together, and I rightly suppose
that any use of the “n” word in today's military (even by
a clever bigot) would award said Gomer a prompt and thorough
ass-pounding. Or worse.


But if it's an Arab — heck, that's
no problem
. They're hardly
even people
, anyway.


As a side note, the government
is releasing
one of the Gitmo detainees, after determining that
he never
should have been detained
in the first place.


The term, under the quaint
old rules
of the pre-9/11 era, would have been “innocent.”
As in: “It took the US government over
two years
to determine that the prisoner in their possession was
an innocent man.”


Which might mean, under the quaint old rules of the pre-9/11 era,
that the person in question was a “hostage.” But lets not
run away with ourselves here.


Wednesday, September 08, 2004
 
Kids Say The Darndest Things

Oh, this is just so darn cute. I tell ya, you kids today
... you're just a buncha scamps, you
are
:


Another survey done for the Vietnam
Veterans of America Foundation of 1,028 people found that 32
percent of young people said they wouldn't serve if the draft were
reinstated, while 20 percent said they would seek deferments.

Forty-three percent said they would serve.


Silly rabbits. Participation in a draft isn't optional —
that's why they call it conscription.


When the Little
Man From The Draft Board
shows up at your house with his letter
for you from the President, you currently have three basic options:



  1. Take your physical, get fitted for your uniform, tote your
    gun off to the beach, and kill
    yourself some Arabs
    ;


  2. Undergo a rigorous and highly detailed vetting process,
    whereupon you prove (and I mean prove)
    that you have no business being anywhere near anyplace where you
    might have to act violently towards anyone in the name of your
    country; or


  3. Profess your deep, abiding — and sexual — love
    for your fellow man.



I didn't include skipping the country as an option because, let's
face it, that's really not an option for most of you, is it? Nor do I
regard jail
as a serious lifestyle choice for you, even though it is one of the
most consistently
mentioned alternatives
to serving.


And some
deferments
are still available, but not nearly as many as there
were in the past, and hardly enough for all twenty percent of you.
This ain't 1966, kiddies; y'all can't just run off to college and
declare
yourselves ineligible
for the fight, like so
many of your parents
did.


You could try proving that you're a woman to get out of it,
but that might be rather difficult (if you're not one) or fruitless
(even if you happen to be one). As I've mentioned
before
, all draft legislation currently idling away on the
Congressional onramp are explicitly co-ed by nature.


And for the record: achieving Conscientious
Objector
status (i.e. Draftee Option #2) doesn't mean that you
get to walk away from your Uncle Sam scott-free, and resume your
regularly scheduled life. Quite simply, once you've been drafted,
it's either surrender yourself to them, or go to jail.


The most likely thing that will happen to you as a CO is that the
military will still take you in, just not in any combat capacity.
Barring that, believe it or not, the government will actually assign
you a job. Under the Selective Service Alternate Service Program, the
government will hand you over to a local employer, where you will be
expected to “make
a meaningful contribution to the safety and maintenance of the
Nation.


So you'll still have to serve — it's just that you'll be
doing it stateside, with all the rest of the girlie-men.



Tuesday, September 07, 2004
 
Indiana Bush And The Lost Senator Of Connecticut

Most of the time, when we are shocked by something, it is because
we are hit with some new or hidden piece of information that reveals
a facet of our reality that we had previously not considered.


That's mostly how it's done; but not all the time. Sometimes it's
not new information that's shocking, but something which is
really common knowledge — blatantly obvious, even — and
yet repackaged in a way which turns that previously unconsidered
facet of reality into a more revealing light.


Consider this startling (to me) piece of repackaged information,
culled from a recent post on the Daily
Kos
weblog
:


... you don't need Euclid on your
campaign staff to recognize that somebody named George Bush has been
on six of the last seven Republican national tickets. I repeat:
that's six of seven, every year since 1980 but 1996
(aka, The
Kennebunkport Regroup Year).
[...] The president's dad was on
the ticket in 1980, 1984, 1988 and 1992. After taking a brief family
hiatus, George W. Bush was on the ticket in 2000 and again this year.
And if you think the reason Jeb Bush was quiet at this year's
convention means the mantle is going to be passed next to Rudy
Giuliani or John McCain, folks, you're not paying attention to how
the Bushes run the family monarchy.
Maybe George Bush slept
through his American history classes at Yale, but I seem to recall
that we fought a war 200 years ago to free ourselves from a monarchy
led by a guy named George.


Since 1980. That pretty much includes every
election I've been allowed to vote in, plus one.


Like I said: it's something I always
knew, just never considered in that way before. My entire political
adulthood has been dominated by that family, the Bushes.


I do not agree with the Republicans on
many points, but the main reason I do not like them is because
of how beholden they have become to that family. I mean, what
the hell is the GOP's schtick these days? Are they a political party?
A personality cult? A religion? What?


And that cuts to the main reason I do
not like that family ... because of the dynasticism that they
represent. There are other reasons, true; but on the main they, too,
are wrapped up in the corrupting influence of nepotic, inbred
plutocrats and the idiot princes who spring from their loins.


They're not the only ones, mind you ... and Democratic
dynastic families
hardly give me the warm fuzzies. But
undoubtedly, the Bushes are the worst we have ever seen in this
country.


Few note the fact, or even remember it, that the Bush family's
modern
political career
was initiated by the sudden
death
of a good
and decent
man — a brilliant,
highly-regarded,
and popular Democratic
Senator
, who could have even become President some day if fate
hadn't conveniently intervened, rendering him into merely a pleasant
footnote for mid-twentieth-century American political almanacs.


I do not know what kind of America we would be living in today had
the Senator lived, but I do wonder about it from time to time. At the
very least, I think the Lost Senator would have made quite
a fine President
.


I do note that a disturbing
historical arc
appears to have begun about then, when the first
Bush
was elected to national office. And I also know that it was
this same Prescott Bush (the winner of the Senator's empty seat) who
begot George H.W. Bush (who almost won the Presidency eight years
early by
default
), who begot George W. Bush (who did
win it
by
default
).


And somewhere down the line, JEB Bush
is waiting
for his chance
, too. Scoff all you want, but don't
think for a moment
that he isn't.


Sunday, September 05, 2004
 
Nuances

In Britain, you may recall that I
recently wrote
, the Conservatives have come out of the closet and
exposed themselves as Bush-haters, while the semi-leftist Labour
Party finds itself backed into the closet, in the
uncomfortable position of defender of a President they should very
well loathe. Strange times we live in, indeed.


Well, not quite so strange, it seems. Labour may be running with a
bad crowd these days, but that doesn't mean they don't remember who
their true friends are. From the UK
Guardian
:


John Kerry supporters in America
have been told by Peter Hain that Downing Street is hoping the
Democratic candidate wins the US presidential election in November.


Mr Hain, who sits in the cabinet as
Leader of the Commons, has been in the US on a near-private visit. He
met Labour supporters in New York, as well as members of the Kerry
team. He has declined to discuss the visit, and his public remarks at
a party thrown by the former Sunday Times editor Harold Evans were
largely bland. But in private discussions with guests, his tone was
markedly different.


Those who met him had the strong
impression that he was acting with No 10's support, and that a
Democratic victory was clearly sought
...


The British magazine New Statesman is a
bit more blunt
:


The next time Downing Street lets
it be known that Tony Blair is sanguine about a second term for
George W Bush, do not believe a word of it. The Prime Minister wants
a transfer of power at the White House not because he admires John
Kerry — he has yet to meet him — but because he has
finally understood what others have been telling him for a long time:
association with Bush is bad for his own political health.


[...]


There is no question he
would rather Kerry win than Bush,” says one senior government
member. “Working with the neo-cons has been a millstone for
him.” Asked which policies were causing the problems, he
replied: “Just about everything in sight.” Of growing
concern at the moment is US policy on Iran. The increasingly
belligerent talk from the Bush camp fills Whitehall officials with
dread.

Blair, according to aides, only now understands the
extent of Bush's unpopularity in the UK. “We've been trying
to tell him that even Tory voters detest Bush,
” says one
official.


With British national policy being almost reflexively
pro-American, I suppose it fell upon the controlling Labour majority
to be the stewards of the Brit/Bush axis this time around. Unlucky
for them, their lot was more The
Ransom of Red Chief
than Henry
the Fifth
. The only real surprise is how hard and fast they
ran with their football, once it was handed off to them.


As for the Tories, I believe their trans-Atlantic mutual
antagonism pact with the Bushies makes sense when seen as another
facet of the Paleo/Neo-Con
schism
that is subtly clabbering
away among the right-wingers on our shores. It's possible, then, this
is an early signal of a coming tectonic shift in the current
left/right political coalitions.


This would be much more obscured to us if the Tories were the
party in power; in some parallel universe, no doubt PM
Michael Howard
is delivering a half-hearted pro-war broadside
before the Commons even as we speak, whilst taking whithering fire
from a hotspur Labour backbench.


The one great luxury of being the party out of power is that it
grants you the leeway to apply suspension of disbelief to your policy
positions. The Tories should certainly be grateful for that little
favour, if nothing else.


Saturday, September 04, 2004
 
Still Here!

I've just been a little busy with a couple of other projects, as well as an unexpectedly heavy work schedule.


I've got a couple of things in the editing room right now, but won't be able to publish them until this weekend (either tonight, or early Saturday).


I did manage to catch Dubya's speech the other night. Watched it all the way through ... which, I gotta tell ya, was a mighty ennervating experience. I wish somebody had taken the time to warn us ahead of time that Lord Moron's big moment in the sun was going to be just another one of his standard stump-speeches.


The pundits are right about one thing, though; the final ten minutes or so of his presentation was fairly strong. It's possible he could have really connected with some undecided voters there.


Assuming, of course, that they were willing to sit through the first 45 minutes of droning, dumbed-down wonk-speak in order to get to it. And that's a pretty tall order.


I was there, man. I know.


Wednesday, September 01, 2004
 
Back To The Future

Sometimes I suspect that the Bush Administration is secretly
riddled with closet Marxists — people who believe that since
the Revolution is inevitable anyway, they might as well do everything
in their power to manifest
its arrival
that much faster:


The federal government is poised to
dramatically reduce the value of publicly-funded housing vouchers in
Boston and other Massachusetts cities, a move that would force many
low-income families out of their apartments and might prompt some
landlords to withdraw from the program.


In a state already starved for
affordable housing, the prospect of federal payments dropping by as
much as a third has united housing advocates, landlords, and city and
state officials, all of whom are planning to petition the US
Department of Housing and Urban Development to scrap the change. In
Boston alone, there are 9,000 households using the federal vouchers
to pay part of their rent.


[...]


Voucher values for a two-bedroom
apartment in Boston would drop 15 percent, from $1,409 to $1,203;
vouchers for four-bedroom apartments would plunge 27 percent, from
$2,084 to $1,516.


So landlords who participate in this program are faced with either
taking a $200-$500 per month divot in their real incomes, or be
forced to put on their best Simon
Legree
imitations and tell their pecuniarily-challenged tenants
to look for cheaper digs. Which probably don't exist ... unless they
start cramming themselves into what could charitably be called
“extended family” arrangements.


And barring that, I guess it's the
street
.


This is going on in my town, too. I remember reading an article
about a week ago outlining a slightly different strategy launched by
HUD, but with effectively the
same results
:


St. Paul landlords who accept
federally subsidized housing vouchers for low-income renters will
receive less rent starting Sept. 1, when a 7 percent rent reduction
approved by the St. Paul Public Housing Agency goes into effect.


So far, the agency, which
administers the Housing Choice Voucher program, formerly known as
Section 8, has received at least 17 cancellation notices from
landlords unwilling to accept the lower payments. That means renters
in those housing units are being forced to move.


But the full fallout of the rent
reduction, the result of a federal funding cut, won't be known for
months. The agency administers 4,000 vouchers that help house 10,000
low-income, elderly and disabled people.


Around the turn of the last century or so, some philosophers
of the radical left
used to fret that a sufficiently established
welfare state could delay — or even prevent — the coming
of their beloved Revolution. Their fear was that these social
programs would provide just
enough of a safety valve
in the system to prevent the whole
Capitalist apparatus from exploding, thus keeping the workers in the
condition of an underclass indefinitely.


They were of course correct, but only so much as the elites were
capable of realizing the necessity of these social programs enough to
keep them around. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the best
friend Capitalism ever had
, and the monied
classes
still hate him for it.


It's arguable, then, that since the elimination of Communism as an
economic threat, the elites no longer regard these “safety
valve” programs as having any use to them at all. The benefits
are simply too
far beyond
their horizon of expectations for them to comprehend.


The irony of this is that if you leave the safety valves removed
long enough, you'll recreate the very social conditions that made
revolution so attractive in the first place. Society is never
static; and history never
ends.


We're still quite a ways from anything like that, however. Even
so, it's a good idea consider all those newly-minted homeless people
coming up, as you consider the day's officially
mandated theme
at the Republican Party Convention.


 
Virginia Reels

That didn't take long. The Virginia GOP has already
picked
a replacement for Ed Schrock; she's Thelma
Drake
, a prominent member of the Virginia House of Delegates (and
a Re/Max agent).


In the meantime, the Washington Post travels down to Ed
Schrock's district, and manages to catch some remarkably obtuse
observations from the locals regarding their Congressman's
sudden resignation
:


Many of the nearly 20 people
interviewed in Virginia Beach and Norfolk said they were disappointed
with the way Schrock was forced out. Many said that they refused to
believe the rumors and that there was no proof behind the allegations
— audio clips or not. But they said Schrock did the right
thing for the local and national GOP by dropping out immediately to
forestall any partisan attack.


[...]


I'm disappointed because
it's obvious that this guy doesn't have any proof,” [Lenny]
Ransdell said, referring to Rogers's Web site. “This is not the
way that politics should be played. But then you have Schrock who
did the honorable thing by stepping aside and thinking about the
party first.


[...]


He did the right thing,
even if they couldn't prove it
,” said Bob Brunner, 82, who
was sipping a beer at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4809 in Norfolk.
He added that he was a Schrock supporter, had voted for him and would
have voted for him again. “It's just a shame,” he said,
shaking his head.


All that counts is whether
he performs his job,” said Rodney Spenser, 60, who added that
he thought the congressman should have fought off the allegations and
stayed in office. “This guy didn't have any proof, right? Let
him put some hard facts out there and then I might believe it. Until
then: Forget it.


Yeah, sure Virginians ...
y'all nailed it. The only reason Schrock resigned was to protect his
party's honor against the squalid accusations of a seedy
little blog
. Because, y'know, those soft, fawnlike Republicans
are such hothouse flowers 'n all.


I mean, holy crap — if all it takes to knock out a Fundo
Congressman is a simple allegation of sexual impropriety, then why
hasn't anybody taken this to the next logical level? By the mincing Ghost of Oscar
Wilde, somebody — anybody — should be out there
right now, carpet-bombing the web with whole-cloth stories of
Republican Party bathhouse swingfests!


The way this
past year
has been
going
, you'd
be
right half
the time
, anyway. And yeah ... let's not forget about the token
Democrat
too (although there appear to be far more serious
corruption
issues
piled on
top of that scandal
).


I guess I don't understand what it's like to be so homophobic that
you can't think straight; because if I ever get to Congress, and some
clown starts spouting off romper room stories about me, I'd just
laugh and tell them to put up or shut up.



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