Thursday, March 23


I'm amused at the brouhaha surrounding the Bushies' attempt to blame the media for declining support for the war in Iraq. The media, say Bush, Cheney and their mouthpieces, only broadcast the bad news from Iraq and neglect to cover hospital openings, soldiers giving chocolate to children, etc.

It's the issue of the moment, getting extraordinary coverage because the media themselves are the story. Journalists are seething at the criticism (perhaps in part because they feel betrayed, considering that they took a big hit to their credibility by their cheerleading for the administration for so long). Talking heads bemoan the graphic scenes of violence we see beaming from Iraq to our TV screens, pretty much agreeing that with images like that every day, it's inevitable that public sentiment would turn against

Has everyone forgotten '66 - '72?

In my adolescence it was a family routine to have supper every evening after the 5:00 network news. My dad, a retired Air Force officer who had a second career in the Social Security Administration, was vitally interested in politics, and we'd spend about half the meal talking about family and local stuff and the other half discussing the news and current events.

Night after night after night a portion of the TV news was given over to the Vietnam War. Correspondents reported from the heart of the jungle as American soldiers crept about on missions, engaged in firefights with the Cong and were carried off, wounded or dead, on stretchers. Cameras came in close enough to identify the soldiers' faces, so families with boys in country glued themselves to the set every night to try and get a glimpse of their loved one, praying that he wouldn't be one of the ones wrapped in bloody bandages. We watched the self-immolation of monks in the streets of Saigon and followed Vietnamese villagers down endless narrow roads that seemed like mere paths worn through a jungle of high grass and bamboo. We saw countless mothers carrying bleeding children, the effects of napalm on children, we saw a South Vietnamese general put a bullet through the head of a bound, kneeling Vietcong. I can run memories of those images through my mind like a newsreel, they are still so vivid. Sometimes they come in full color. Sometimes, as in the film Sin City, they're in black and white ... except for the blood, which in my memory is always bright red.

That was the face of war, it was death and pain and suffering and it was thrust in ours every single day and night. And yes, it was finally enough to diminish public support for the war.

What violent images do we see of the Iraq war on TV? We see clouds of smoke, which we're told are the result of bombs. We see on the streets of Baghdad mangled metal that we're told are the effects of a suicide bomb. We see soldiers on patrol in crumbling cities. We see grainy footage of hostages but if it wasn't for the Internets we'd never see the really grisly stuff like Nick Berg's beheading and the Abu Ghraib abuse photos and videos. But what's obviously omitted from television news are the images of bleeding wounded troops and the coffins of the dead. We don't see piled-up bodies and corpses laid out on the ground in nice neat lines.

The media has bent over backwards to provide "balanced" coverage of this war, and while they could hardly be expected not to report on the security situation they have routinely followed those reports by repeating the Pentagon's official statement of the day. It's undeniable that the principal media aggressively promoted the Bush line in the runup to the war and offered scant exposure to opposition views.

Nearly all broadcast (radio as well as television) news-related shows have devoted endless hours to the issue of bias in the media throughout the entire tenure of the Bush administration. This is not a new issue, it's a time-honored basic Republican tactic to accuse the media of liberal bias, and I'm not sure why it's taken such dramatic hold this week. But I suspect that journalists, having guilty consciences for carrying water for the Bush agenda for so long, feel betrayed that BushCo seems to have made a tactical decision to divert attention from their utter failure in foreign policy with a blame-the-media campaign. Their indignation is useful because it's resulting in the airing of reviews of some of the more unpleasant moments of the Bush Era -- America needs reminding! -- and an increased tendency to fact check the administration. But it also seems misplaced. It makes me think of a criminal who, guilty of murder but not charged with the crime, is incensed at being accused of a robbery he didn't commit.

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Wednesday, March 22


I'm going to go on record right now in saying that I don't believe for one minute that Ben Domenech wrote this.

Domenech is the Republican Party operative who has been hired by the Washington Post as its right-wing "balance" (as if they needed any) blogger.

I'm going to guess that jung Ben turned in something he'd penned and the WaPo editors were appalled (though why should they be? His blog (RedState), which they surely (!) must have reviewed extensively before hiring him (!), is not exactly teeming with erudition or original thought. But if, as I suspect, it was heavily edited ... can it be considered a blog?

UPDATE: Seems jung Ben is a plagiarist. That works.


Interesting interview with Kevin Phillips, author of American Theocracy. Here's the fun part:

AMY GOODMAN: You don't think he [Dubya] is smart?

KEVIN PHILLIPS: No. He's got a certain smart sort of fraternity boy, towel-snapping, would make a good second vice president of the First National Bank of Amarillo, but, you know, nothing particularly for heavy lifting.

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Blogging will be sporadic during the next couple of weeks. Big deadlines for major projects at work, such as producing and directing a new marketing video while simultaneously launching a redesigned web site that historically receives more than ten million visitors per month. I had to laugh at myself just now, writing this, thinking how I spend as much time on this little-noticed blog of mine as I do managing the giant Oh well, everyone needs a hobby!

Monday, March 20


I heard Paul Begala mention this on CNN to Wolf Blitzer, so I googled and found a gem. Read the whole thing. You'll learn something.

For misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C sent his legions into Germany and lost them, Bush deserves to be impeached and, once he has been removed from office, put on trial along with the rest of the president's men. If convicted, they'll have plenty of time to mull over their sins.

-- Martin van Creveld, a professor of military history at the Hebrew University, is author of "Transformation of War" (Free Press, 1991). He is the only non-American author on the U.S. Army's required reading list for officers.

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Sunday, March 19


John McCain positions himself as Bush's heir, hires political director of Bush-Cheney '04.

Take note, Democrats and Independents who admire the opportunistic Arizona senator. Contrary to many Rethug Congresspersons these days, McCain's primary activity seems to be to reduce any space between himself and Dubya.

UPDATE: TPM Muckraker has more:

But there's one crucial, telling detail about Terry Nelson that the Post leaves out. And that's his role in the money laundering scheme for which Tom DeLay is being prosecuted down in Texas.

Nelson was the deputy chief of staff of the Republican National Committee in 2002 when the alleged crime occurred. His role was crucial, although he hasn't been charged. He's named right there in the indictment.

DeLay and his money men, John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, are accused of trying to get around a Texas law against using corporate money to fund candidates. To do that, they wrote a check to the RNC and had the RNC bounce the money back to the Texas candidates they wanted to fund. According to the indictment, the scheme was laid out to Terry Nelson, and he made sure the RNC carried it out.

So what gives? Sen. McCain, Mr. Campaign Finance Reform, has just hired a man who (allegedly) played a key role in breaking a campaign finance law to advise him on how to spend his PAC's money. Anything to win in '08?

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General George Casey just told Timmeh a nice third-Iraq-war-anniversary story. Last week, he said, he drove around Baghdad one day for about three hours just to see for himself how things were going among the Iraqis. "There's a lot of bustle here," he said, a lot of economic activity, stores busy, people moving around on the streets. The traffic cops, he said, are wearing white shirts and neckties! It's sights like these that make Gen. Casey feel so positive about the progress of the war.

Riverbend has a different take. According to her, Iraqis are frantically stocking up on food and other needs in anticipation of much more ugliness to come. But hey, to the Bushies economic activity is economic activity! If profits are being made, it's a definite sign that the USA is having a positive influence!

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I was looking over some random postings I wrote around the time of the first anniversary of the Iraq war. It's discouraging that three years after the U.S. invaded Iraq, how little has changed in our policy or its results. We're still retaking territory we've taken two, three, four, five times before. There's still no trained Iraqi national army or police that can operate independently of the U.S. -- that is, unfiltrated by competing militias and loyal to the central government rather than religious sects, and in sufficient numbers to claim any significant progress in that effort.

Bush is still set on "staying the course" and thinks this pre-emptive war was such a good idea we ought to think about applying it to Iran, Syria, and anyone else that strikes our fancy.

The world has been shocked at the disintegration of the United States as a nation that has historically championed human rights, the rule of law, and international cooperation. From the sentiment "We're all Americans now!" post-9/11, we've descended in global world opinion to the likes of the saber-rattling Soviet Union under Nikita Khrushchev. As for awe, I think it's more the kind of "Aw!!" you cry when your favorite team fumbles the ball or your quarterback is sacked.

DOESN'T ANYONE REMEMBER what it was like in the later years of the VietNam War? Very similar to the current conflict in Iraq in these respects:

(1) politicians were running the war instead of the generals;
(2) politicians were lying to the nation about the progress of the war;
(3) our fighting men were mostly boys drafted because they couldn't afford or gain entry to college, National Guard duty and other deferments that saved the hides of the more affluent;
(4) these young men were ordered or encouraged to exhibit animalistic behavior;
(5) lower-echelon officers such as Calley and Medina were crucified for such behavior while their masters went unpunished;
(6) these young men died for nothing. VietNam today is a united country, and communism has been pretty much discredited in most of the world.
(7) we didn't take much better care of our wounded than we're doing today -- soldiers just don't seem to count to some people unless they're on the front line -- and judging by how poorly equipped our men and women are in this conflict, not even then. When I was a teen, the best surfer in our town came back from Nam with no legs -- and the military wouldn't provide prosthetic ones for some reason that escapes me now. Our city threw a fit and eventually he got those prosthetics, but I penned a poem at the time that included the line, "The surfer man returned to town but with a certain lack; the government took his legs from him and wouldn't give them back."

Where John Kerrey is going wrong is in not remembering what he felt when he said, "How do you ask a man to be the last one to die for a mistake?" The invasion of Iraq was a criminal mistake, and I don't want one more American soldier to die for that mistake -- Bush's mistake, Cheney's mistake, Rumsfeld's mistake, Rice's mistake -- and yes, Colin Powell's mistake. Say what you will, Colin, about "good soldiering" -- that's the same excuse the Nuremberg defendants used.

Here's another:

Take it from a Dallas gal, the group supporting Bush 43 is just a group of intellectually deficit cowboys. They really think you can deliver democracy at the point of a gun. Brooks, for example, thinks that "It was U.S. inaction against Al Qaeda that got us into this mess in the first place. It was our tolerance of Arab autocracies that contributed to the madness in the Middle East." What got us into this mess, if you go back, was a fundamental refusal on the part of our brave leaders to understand the root causes of Islamic anger -- the huge gaps in economic opportunity between Arab countries and those of the West; the fear that Western values would corrupt their own women and diminish the power of their men; the belief that an American [infidel] presence in Arab countries (e.g., Saudi Arabia) was an insult to Islam; the perception that the US is unfair in its heavy support for Israel vs. our seemingly contemptuous attitude toward the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world, and yes, our tolerance of Arab autocracies.

This is, of course, an oversimplification. Nonetheless, it points us to some of the solutions (and there must be multiple efforts, multiple fronts): massive humanitarian aid to countries with significant Islamic populations (i.e., not just Arab countries; Malaysis and the Philippines are breeding grounds for Islamic terrorists); a pledge that we will only use our military in their world for strategic strikes against terrorists or as a part of NATO or UN forces; a more even-handed approach to Israeli-Palestinian issues; a visible withdrawal of support to tyrants and autocrats. There's nothing much we can do about their attitudes towards women at the moment -- while I'm sure many right-wing Repugs (the true American Taliban) would be delighted to see American women sporting veils and walking behind their men by three paces, it isn't likely to happen (God help us).

But the truest solution to the problem is the same solution that REALLY brought down the Iron Curtain. I've never believed that the fall of Eastern European communism was solely the result of Reagan's arms race, though it did come close to bankrupting the Soviet Union. On the contrary, it began with the grass-roots Polish Solidarity movement and was significantly enhanced by the example of a living, breathing, prosperous and free American democratic republic. BushCo thinks that the way you win wars is by doing back to the enemy what you THINK he has done to you (or "to his own people"). As a Christian and a rational thinking human being, I'm assured that the way to win a war (spiritual or physical) is to heap kindness ("like coals upon their heads") upon the enemy. That kindness in this case can be defined as the steps I've just outlined.

Bringing representative government to the countries of the world sounds like a lofty and noble goal. But this administration can't seem to understand that it can't be delivered like a gift. If the indigenous people don't support that goal and if they don't LEAD the movement themselves (sure we can help if asked), it is not likely to "take."

Brooks is right about one thing: we must "embody democrative ideals" -- and the actions at Abu Ghraib and similar ones elsewhere, the Patriot Act and Guantanamo, the move in the USA to blur lines between church and state, etc. are not reassuring anyone that the US the Bushies envision for the future will embody democratic ideals.

Bush panders to the Christian right in his rhetoric, but he just comes off sounding like any other religiously fundamentalist fanatic -- and between that and the CR's move to create our own madrassas, backtrack on women's rights, and extend autocratic power to our current (and hopefully soon, former) administration, we look more like we're adopting Islamic values than encouraging them to adopt our own.

That was in early 2004. Two years later, unbelievably, we still have a mess of journalists, pundits, politicos and plain voters who don't get it. Dumb as paint. We have three more years to go with this administration. Any bets that we'll be out of Iraq before Bush is out of the White House?

I have better things to do with my money.

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