micah holmquist's irregular thoughts and links

Welcome to the musings and notes of a Cadillac, Michigan based writer named Micah Holmquist, who is bothered by his own sarcasm.

Please send him email at micahth@chartermi.net.

Holmquist's full archives are listed here.

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Sites Holmquist trys, and often fails, to go no more than a couple of days without visiting (some of which Holmquist regularly swipes links from without attribution)

Aljazeera.Net English
AlterNet (War on Iraq)
Alternative Press Review
Always Low Prices -- Always
Another Irani online
antiwar.com (blog)
Asia Times Online
Axis of Logic
Baghdad Burning (riverbend)
BBC News
blogdex.net ("track this weblog")
The Christian Science Monitor (Daily Update)
Common Dreams
Daily Rotten
Democracy Now
The Drudge Report
Eat the Press (Harry Shearer, The Huffington Post)
Empire Notes (Rahul Mahajan)
frontpagemag.com (HorowitzWatch)
Guardian Unlimited
The Independent
Information Clearing House
Informed Comment (Juan Cole)
Iranians for Peace

Iraq Dispatches (Dahr Jamail)
Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation
Iraq Occupation and Resistance Report (Psychoanalysts for Peace and Justice)
Mr. Show and Other Comedy
The Narco News Bulletin (blog)
The New York Times
Occupation Watch
Political Theory Daily Review
Press Action
Project Syndicate
Raed in the Middle (Raed Jarrar)
The Simpsons Archive
Simpsons Collector Sector
Technorati ("search for mth.blogspot.com")
United States Central Command
U.S. Embassy Baghdad, Iraq
War Report (Project on Defense Alternatives)
The Washington Post
Wildfire (Jo Wilding)
wood s lot
www.mnftiu.cc (David Rees)

Blogs that for one reason or another Holmquist would like to read on at least something of a regular basis (always in development)

Thivai Abhor
As'ad AbuKhalil
Ken Adrian
Christopher Allbritton
Douglas Anders
Mark W. Anderson
Aziz Ansari
Atomic Archive
James Benjamin
Elton Beard
Charlie Bertsch
alister black
Blame India Watch
Blog Left: Critical Interventions Warblog / war blog
Igor Boog
Martin Butler
Chris Campbell
James M. Capozzola
Avedon Carol
Elaine Cassel
cats blog
Jeff Chang
Margaret Cho
Citizens Of Upright Moral Character
Louis CK
Les Dabney
Natalie Davis
Scoobie Davis
The Day Job
Jodi Dean
Dominic Duval
Steve Earle
Daniel Ellsberg
Tom Engelhardt
Lisa English
Barbara Flaska
Brian Flemming
Joe Foster
Yoshie Furuhashi
Al Giordano
Rob Goodspeed
Grand Puba
Guardian Unlimited Weblog
Pete Guither
The Hairy Eyeball
Ray Hanania
Mark Hand
Hector Rottweiller Jr's Web Log Jim Henley Arvin Hill Hit & Run (Reason) Hugo Clark Humphrey Indri The Iraqi Agora Dru Oja Jay Jeff Lynne d Johnson Dallas Jones Julia Kane Blues Benjamin Kepple Ken Layne Phil Leggiere Brian Linse Adam Magazine Majority Report Radio Marc Maron Josh Marshall Jeralyn Merritt J.R. Mooneyham Michael Scott Moore Bob Morris Bob Mould Mr. Show and Tell Muslims For Nader/Camejo David Neiwert NewPages Weblog Aimee Nezhukumatathil Sean O'Brien Patton Oswalt The Panda's Thumb Randy Paul Rodger A. Payne Ian Penman politx Neal Pollack Greg Proops Pro-War.com Pure Polemics Seyed Razavi Rayne Simon Reynolds richardpryor.com Clay Richards Mike Rogers Yuval Rubinstein
Steven Rubio
Saragon Noah Shachtman Court Schuett The Simpsons Archive Amardeep Singh Sam Smith Soundbitten Jack Sparks Ian Spiers Morgan Spurlock Stand Down: The Left-Right Blog Opposing an Invasion of Iraq Aaron Stark Morgaine Swann Tapped (The American Prospect) tex Matthew Tobey Annie Tomlin Tom Tomorrow The University Without Condition Jesse Walker Warblogger Watch Diane Warth The Watchful Babbler The Weblog we have brains Matt Welch
Alex Whalen
Jon Wiener
Lizz Winstead
James Wolcott
Wooster Collective
Mickey Z

Saturday, November 30, 2002
Speaking of the iconography "Star Wars" story being used to comment on the "war on terror," check out this poster, which a group called OMF is using to promote a speech by Justin Raimondo of antiwar.com. (Thanks to Raimondo for the link.) The poster is a play on one of the main posters for Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace and implies that President George W. Bush is either now or is in the process of becoming Darth Vader. So chalk this one up as seeing Bush as representing the Empire.

While I find all of these posters interesting, they are at best limited means of describing the situation since by using the "Star Wars" story as a model they accept that their is absolute good and absolute evil in the real world just as there is in that story. This isn't the case at all, and I think goups like OMF would have to acknowledge this as I highly doubt they see those like Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden who Bush has in his propogandistic cross hairs as being on the side of good. Furtheremore it is hard to think of anybody in this situation who is absolutely good. The Iraqi population outside of the Kurdish controlled areas has suffered under the many methods of the war that the U.S. has waged against them but that hardly makes them "good." Being a victim does not make somebody into being automatically just. It merely means that they shouldn't be treated in the way that they have been treated.

If we bomb it, it should stay bombed, the U.S. military has told Iraq, reports Nick Childs of BBC News.

The Michigan State men's basketball team fell to 2-1 on the season with a 81-73 loss to Villanova. They play Oklahoma State tonight.

Friday, November 29, 2002
herobuilders.com doesn't have any doubt over who's a hero and who's a villain.

And if the "war on terror" doesn't lend itself to action figures IYHO, go to trainupachild.com in both dark and light skin.

If you haven't yet click here to see the poster for Gulf Wars: Episode II - Clone of the Attack from the usual gang of idiots. The poster is even better in the magazine, although for better or worse the movie isn't actually coming out as instead of something that could actually be good George Lucas has given the world Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones.

As a consistent reader of MAD who rarely finds much in it funny, I have mixed feelings about this poster. When I first saw I found it very funny but the more I think about it the more confused I am about the message. Team Bush is portrayed as bing the position of the "Good Guys" while the "Bad Guys" are presented as Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. This isn't at all removed from how Bush and friends, and many if not most Americans, see the situation so is it meant to be a parody of this perception? I'm not sure what the answer is and so the point becomes far less clear.

By just doing a poster MAD dances around the issue. It would be far more convincing if they did a segment on the war, then we would know hor far they are really willing to go.

For the record, back in May, I noted two appropriations of the Star Wars story for purposes of commentary on the "war on terror."

The AP is saying:
The latest audiotape statement attributed to accused terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden is not authentic, a Swiss research institute said.

The Lausanne-based Dalle Molle Institute for Perceptual Artificial Intelligence said it is 95-per-cent certain the tape does not feature the voice of the long-absent terrorist leader.

The review of the tape was commissioned by France-2 television and its findings were presented by the institute's Professor Herve Boulard in a special TV report shown late Thursday.


Steal Something Day

"[Victoria, British Columbia] City police say they fear Buy Nothing Day scheduled for Friday [November 29] may degenerate into Steal Something Day," writes the Canadian Press.

At the end of the piece, "'They're trying to make theft a political statement instead of a crime,' he [Sgt. Cochrane] said."

The MSU men's basketball team moved to 2-0 on the season and to the second round of the Great Alaska Shootout tournament with a 80-60 win over Montana in a game that ended a few minutes ago. They play Villanova tomorrow.

Thursday, November 28, 2002
Douglas Anders' "The Trouble with Normal" is a look at the power imbalance in the federal government of the U.S. that is well worth reading.

Worst Thanksgiving Ever

The squash wasn't good and the dressing had sausage in it.

The most interesting part of the day was hearing a cousing of mine talk about going to see the Detroit Lions plays the Kansas City Chiefs in 1981. My cousin didn't remember but the Lions won according to this page. What he did remember was a sign that one of the fans brought which he said read, "The Chiefs are the Lions' Thanksgiving Day Feast."

No comment needed.

Am I the only one who longs for the good old days when Panda's didn't need a computer and panda porn to date and mate? They'd just meet at the normal places -bars, clubs, parties, dances, newspaper personal ads, Temple socials- and then begin courtship. Sometimes it would work out and sometimes it wouldn't but nobody seemed to complain and it was all done panda-to-panda. It was a much more innocent time.

After reading this, I have to wonder why "Heavenly Father" even created countries other than the U.S. of A?

Well at least there's stuffing

"In 2001, U.S. consumption of turkey was 17.5 pounds per person," says the National Turkey Federation, which is either a misnamed organization if ever there was one. The National Humans who Promote the Eating of Turkey Federation would be more on the mark.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002
I don't know about you but I fully trust Henry Kissinger . I mean it isn't as if anybody has ever said he is guilty of crimes against humanity or anything.

Politics not media criticism explain Al Gore’s comments

It is a mistake to treat Al Gore’s recent claim that certain media outlets are biased to the right as media criticism because Gore’s comments aren’t going to have any effect in media change and he has to know it. What the comments could do, and what the calculating Al Gore presumably is attempting to do, is start a change in the public’s perception of the media that is favorable to Democrats.

It has been an article of faith amongst Republicans for quite some time that the “mainstream media” is biased to the left, hence the catch phrase “liberal media.” Regardless of whether or not they are right on the matter, this belief is a powerful tool for the GOP since it gives their members and supporters a convenient all-purpose excuse to ignore information they don’t like.

Nothing makes this clearer than a look at the site of the Media Research Center. If Andy Rooney says he’s surprised at how well the Republicans did on November 5, it must be because he is a leftist according to them. Peter Jennings acknowledges that many Saudi Arabians oppose further escalation of the U.S. war against Iraq and the MRC implies that this represents “hostility toward Bush’s Iraq policy.” The November 25 edition of the group’s “Notable Quotables” features a number of left and liberal quotes from the mainstream media. The MRC doesn’t bother to respond or debunk any of these quotes but rather just puts them out there with the understanding that their readers will know that such statements being to the left and in the mainstream media already makes them something to discarded as propaganda. Of course it the “mainstream media” reports something Republicans like, such as opinion polls showing that a majority of Americans disapprove of how the media has covered President George W. Bush’s “war on terror,” then it is true and to be believed.

This is a case of only acknowledging information that they like and disregarded the rest for reasons that have nothing to do with facts. It must pain flawed Democrats like Bill Clinton and Gore that their base is less likely to do this. But if the Democrats could alter this, it would change things dramatically and undoubtedly help Democrats win elections and get legislation passed. It is my belief that Gore’s comments about media outlets tilting to the right is an attempt to move things in this direction. Admittedly I don’t have any insider information that indicates this is the case but it is hardly worth saying that the Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and The Washington Times tilt to the right. Everybody who has thought about this issue and is honest will have to conclude that those outlets don’t lean to the left and are not, as Fox News claims so often that it becomes clear they are trying to convince themselves, “fair and balanced.” They lean to the right and, even more noticeably, to Republicans. Gore it appears is just trying to demonize these outlets so as to fire up his base and get them to only acknowledge information that they like just as the Republican’s do.

I’m doubtful that it will work but who knows? A recent discussion I was in about Bush, Democrats, Gore, Nader and Greens shows that there are some Democrats and people who lean to the Democrats who just accept as a matter of faith that Republicans are evil and Democrats are good, and that's exactly the type of logic needed to pull off such a leap of logic.

Glenn Reynolds apparently doesn't understand that there is a difference between believing in post-modernism as a theory to understand how the world works and acting in a post-modern way. Of course, given Reynolds' record, I'm not suprised by this.

And for the record, if the comment by Al Gore that Reynolds quotes is any indication, Gore doesn't understand post-modernism either.

I don't necesairly fault people for not understanding pomo theory but at this point in time if you are going to talk about it, there is no excuse for not knowing what it is.

Confusion between incompetency and deceit

ESPN's Beano Cook says, "Michigan State is the Enron of college football.''

Bush's buddies in the Axis of Evil

You may recall President Bush saying back in January that Iran, Iraq and North Korea "constitute an axis of evil" of states who support terrorism.

It seemed perfectly logical at the time since it is well known that all three countries are close friends and that there has never ever been a war between two of them.

Now in what good citizens should see as an act of our brilliance, the Bush Administration is trying to get Iraqi exile Ayatollah Muhammad Bakir al-Hakim, who is backed by the evil government of Iran, to support U.S. military action against Iraq.

You may also recall last year on September 20, Bush saying, “Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”

But what if you are “us” and “with the terrorists”?

Be known to hold "anti-American views" and have the luck of being born in a country that the President doesn't like and you can be investigated.

(Thanks to Douglas Anders for the link.)

Tuesday, November 26, 2002
Spartan receiver Charles Rogers is leaving for the NFL.

One could nitpick his playing here or there but the truth is that he was about as impressive of an individual player as you can find in college. If I had to pick one play to remember him for, it would be from the Notre Dame game earlier this year when in the second quarter he caught a ball that was behind the head of Notre Dame defender and came down with not only the ball but also his arms around the defender's helmet.

A few thoughts on Bonnie and Clyde

When I first saw Bonnie and Clyde one afternoon in June of 1994, I wasn’t too impressed. The night before I’d watched Easy Rider and I believe I was still engulfed in that film’s blast of energy, energy that unfortunately become more tedious with each additional viewing.

I watched Bonnie and Clyde –a fictionalized account of a famous string of bank robberies in the 1930s- for the second time this past Thursday and was most impressed. It has great directing by Arthur Penn, great music and great acting by all of the starts, most notably Warren Beatty, who also produced the movie. Despite his reputation Beatty is believable as a man afraid of sex. Credit should also go to script writers David Newman, Robert Benton and Robert Towne for creating complex and flawed personalities for Clyde Barrow (Beatty) and Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) who find joy, satisfaction and meaning in destructive acts.

As this 1967 movie approached its climax I realized that what really made the film stand out was how the titular characters were presented as full and compelling people but neither in a sympathetic nor an unsympathetic manner. Such a balancing act has rarely been achieved in art form.

Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader has criticized the film because “the issue of violence is displayed more than it's examined.” I don’t disagree with this technically but I didn’t see the film as an exploration of violence but rather as a look at how people find meaning in their lives. The characters played by Beatty and Dunaway do this by violence but only because violence brings fame. The two don’t seem pleased when they have killed somebody so much as they are pleased by the fame that their robberies bring. In fact it is very clear from the aftermath of the first attempted heist we see of something other than a car that the two pull off that Barrow would prefer to not hurt anybody. But in the end both he and Parker do harm many people but doing so was mean of survival to enjoy the fruits of fame.

But what I really want to know is why isn’t the phrase “Get your pants on Boy! We’re taking pictures” a part of the American lexicon?

Monday, November 25, 2002
Some tough questions need to be asked

President Bush is siding with Secretary of State Colin Powell over Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, reports Robert Novak in today's Chicago Sun-Times.

Novack suggests that this means the escalation of the war with Iraq is less likely:

If Saddam opposes or stalls the inspectors, he surely faces multinational military action to seal his fate. But what if he cooperates and no cache of weapons is found? The calm and collected George W. Bush who talked with Powell on the way to Prague seems ready to accept that outcome.
The referance to a conversation on the way to Prague refers to an earlier part of the story where Novak implies that Bush and Powell talking for hours last week reflects agreement on their part.

I'm not convinced that Novak is correct on Bush's mood swing since he cites nothing but unnamed sources which can be a recipe for misunderstandings. Furthermore I think it is unlikely that Saddam Hussein will cooperate in Bush's eyes and even if he does Bush can always change his mind once again.

But let's just say that Saddam does cooperate, no weapons are found and Bush decides that war is the correct course of action. Will the public accept this without realizing that this means a hell of a lot of what Bush has said about the threat posted by Iraq -including my favorite, "we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud"- has been nothing war propoganda? Will they not think that the President is full of shit on this "war on terror"?

Althought I don't know the answer for sure and I'd love to see the general public come to see Bush as the dishonest authoritarian that I see him as, I just don't think that the public is likely to come over to that view in the event that Bush decides not to go to war. What's missing is a media that could hold Bush's feat to the fire the fire. As veteran journalist and foreign affairs columnist for The San Diego Union-Tribune James O. Goldsborough explained last Thursday in a piece entitled "An asleep media and an unjustified war," the media has been highly largely been uncritical of the idea that the United States should install a new government in Iraq and has not made a point of emphasizing the risks that such an action entails.

Without a media asking tough questions like "Mr. President, did you lie when you said Iraq was a threat or are you now endangering the lives of Americans in not militarily confronting the threat?" I fear that too many Americans are likely to give Bush a pass in whatever he does or doesn't do in the name of the terrorist attacks of September 11.

Sunday, November 24, 2002
Michael Fry and T Lewis' Over the Hedge comic strip isn't usually very funny but today's comic is as funny as any strip I've seen in over a year.

Fry and Lewis make a pointed observation not just of how Thanksgiving is celebrated but about how and why the political culture of the U.S. of A. is so limited and pitiful.

Definitely one I'm going to clip out.

Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart Live in Concert
November 23, 2002
Elk’s Club, Cadillac, Michigan

Although singer and songwriter Stacey Earle denied it when I talked to her briefly last night, there can be no doubt that being the brother of Steve Earle is a mixed blessing for her. On one hand her association with Steve brought her some of her first recording and touring opportunities and has resulted in many people –including this writer- checking out her music when we otherwise would not have. But on the other hand having to be constantly compared to someone like Earle who’s music and life story are both as large as life can be is not an easy task.

While Stacey Earle might never completely get out of her brother’s shadow, it would be a mistake to ignore both her life story and her music. After marrying in the late 1970s at the age of 17 and doing the domestic mothering gig exclusively for a while, Earle moved to Nashville with the kids in 1990, got a divorce and became a performer and songwriter. Soon after she met and married fellow singer-songwriter Mark Stuart. A record contract was hard to come by until she hooked with brother Steve’s E Squared label to release Simple Gearle in 1998 and Dancin' With Them That Brung Me in 2000. Both were excellent showcases for her songs about life, love and motherhood as well as her unique laid back vocals. The music is probably best described as folk but country and pop influences are undeniable. Her most recent release, Must Be Live features lives recordings by Earle and Stuart and came out last year on Gearle Records, a label that the two founded.

The married duo with one guitar each took the stage last just minutes after the 8:00 p.m. start time that Gopherwood Concerts had advertised before a crowd of 60-70 people in the Elk’s Club, which dates back to the 1920s and is in the third floor of a building in downtown Cadillac, Michigan. (Buildings don’t get much higher than three floors in Cadillac, FWIW.) Save for a 20-minute intermission, the two performed non-stop till 10:15 with songs coming both Earle’s and Stuart’s songbooks as well as collaborations from the two. The music was light and folky and most certainly crowd pleasing. Most of all Earle stood out for the unreconstructed giddiness that she brought to the stage, giddiness that would force most adults to shake their heads if exhibited in a teenager. If her mannerisms and stage comparisons can be compared to any other performer it would have to be Emmylou Harris at about 14 years old. But that really doesn’t give an accurate description because mixed with this stage presence were songs like “Makes Me Happy” and “Weekend Runaways” that are thoroughly about growth and experience. Perhaps the ultimate message is that growing as a person and experiencing pull’s on one’s time don’t have to be drudgery but can in fact lead to joy.

I don’t know much about Stuart’s music and unfortunately nothing I heard from him yesterday was impressive. The songs of his that the two performed could charitably be described as genre exercises as there didn’t seem to be much point to them. He did say an appropriate line for the night, however. “I don’t know why we bother retuning our guitars. Really, I mean who wants to sound like everybody else,” Stuart said before the duo has even played one song.

Nobody should ever accuse the combined efforts of Earle and Stuart as sounding like those of anybody else.

Saturday, November 23, 2002
The Disaster is Over

My beloved Spartans ended this year's football season with a 61-7 loss to Penn State.

MSU finished the season 4-8 with a 3-5 record at home and a 1-3 record on the road. They were 3-6 under Bobby Williams and 1-2 under Morris Watts. The team was 0-2 in games decided by less than 10 points. In what may or may not be a good thing the team was 3-0 in games not played on television.

"The Season was as hard to believe as anybody I've been through... There's always another fall and more football," said George Blaha after the game. Blaha has been the play by play radio announcer of Spartan football since 1977.

Friday, November 22, 2002
Michigan State opened up the men's basketball season earlier tonight with a 66-52 victory over UNC-Asheville.

Who's Hitler?

President George W. Bush’s speech in Prague, Czechoslovakia on Wednesday was effectively the White House’s version of The War on Terror for Beginners.

The President explained that the war is a globalist undertaking:

We're making progress on this, the first war of the 21st century. Today more than 90 nations are joined in a global coalition to defeat terror. We're sharing intelligence. We're freezing the assets of terror groups. We're pursuing the terrorists wherever they plot and train. And we're finding them and bringing them to justice, one person at a time.
Other countries are invited to participate in the war but as "The National Security Strategy of the United States of America" makes clear they will always be junior partners and will have to submit to the economic, military and political dictates of the U.S.

Bush also noted that the United States is a force for peace always even when waging war:

America's goal, the world's goal is more than the return of inspectors to Iraq. Our goal is to secure the peace through the comprehensive and verified disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Voluntary, or by force, that goal will be achieved.
In Newspeak Version 6.0 a country designated as a member of the “Axis of Evil” merely having weapons of mass destruction is a breach of the peace while the United States is peaceful for bombing and sanctioning Iraq to the point where a conservative estimate says 100,000 Iraqis have died prematurely since 1990 as a result.

Because the U.S. is a force for peace there is no way that it could have ever foreseen threats against it, Bush said during this speech before the Prague Atlantic Student Summit in a passage that also connected the war to earlier wars:

Great evil is stirring in the world. Many of the young here are coming up in a different world, different era, a different time, a different series of threats. We face perils we've never thought about, perils we've never seen before. But they're dangerous. They're just as dangerous as those perils that your fathers and mothers and grandfathers and grandmothers faced.
This clear allusion to Nazism prompted The Sydney Morning Herald to write, “Saddam the new Hitler, Bush tells Europeans.”

This may be going a bit far. Bush’s dad first likened Saddam to Hitler in 1990 so there wouldn’t be anything “new” about him. More importantly it is unclear who is more likely to try to commit genocide. Over at Warblogger Watch Amir Butler noted yesterday that University of Tennessee law professor and blogger extradinare Glenn Reynolds has recently been talking about genocide against Arabs. On Tuesday Reynolds wrote:

Civilized societies have found it harder, though, to beat the barbarians without killing all, or nearly all, of them. Were it really to become all-out war of the sort that Osama and his ilk want, the likely result would be genocide -- unavoidable, and provoked, perhaps, but genocide nonetheless, akin to what Rome did to Carthage, or to what Americans did to American Indians. That's what happens when two societies can't live together, and the weaker one won't stop fighting -- especially when the weaker one targets the civilians and children of the stronger. This is why I think it's important to pursue a vigorous military strategy now. Because if we don't, the military strategy we'll have to follow in five or ten years will be light-years beyond "vigorous."
If America doesn’t get its way with the savages now Reynolds says it will have to follow the example that lead to the formation of the country we now know as the U.S.

Now tell me, who’d be Hitler?

Thursday, November 21, 2002
Yesterday's Lansing State Journal featured a preview for NCAA men's basketball season that I enjoyed reading. It mainly focuses on Michigan State, who begin their season tomorrow night against UNC Asheville, so you can see why I enjoyed it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002
The logic behind gun control and preemptive strikes is very similar

Proponents of gun control may promote their agenda as a means of eliminating gun violence but gun control in practice has never been about eliminating guns but rather controlling who possesses them. Despite some scattered and deliberately provocative calls to “disarm the police,” nobody close to make decisions about gun ownership has ever called for preventing the police and military from having guns. At the very least it is assumed that arms of the state will have guns no matter what restrictions are placed on the rights of citizens to possesses firearms. Guns in the hands of the “wrong” people lead to bad results, the argument goes.

President George W. Bush is just one of many who use the same logic to justify the U.S. military striking Iraq. If Bush is to be believed at his word, Saddam Hussein is a threat because he possesses and continues to develop additional weapons of mass destruction. That in and of itself isn’t the full reason, however, as a number of countries, including the U.S. and its allies Great Britain and Israel, possess weapons of mass destruction and that hasn’t lead to war. Behind Bush’s rhetoric there is the assumption that Saddam will strike soon. He is the type of a person who is denied guns.

One of the primary arguments against gun control is that it doesn’t penalize the act of using a gun in a harmful way but rather the simple possession of a gun no matter how the gun is used. The response to this is that if a person does not have a gun they cannot use one in a harmful manner and after the fact is often too late to prevent a violent crime.

A similar phenomenon plays in the debate over attacking Iraq. Lacking any evidence that Iraq is a direct threat to the U.S. now, Bush says after the fact could be too late. In an October 7 speech in Cincinnati, Ohio, the President said:

Some citizens wonder, after 11 years of living with this problem [or Iraq having weapons of mass destruction], why do we need to confront it now? And there's a reason. We've experienced the horror of September the 11th. We have seen that those who hate America are willing to crash airplanes into buildings full of innocent people. Our enemies would be no less willing, in fact, they would be eager, to use biological or chemical, or a nuclear weapon.

Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.

Bush substantiated the threat coming from Iraq as resulting from Americans having seen the damage that other individuals had done

Advocates for gun control responded in much the same way to a series high profile school shootings in the late 1990s. "After tragedies like Columbine [high school in Littleton, Colorado] and Jonesboro [, Arkansas], why do some Members of Congress still want to make it easy for juveniles and criminals to get guns?" asked Sarah Brady in June 10, 1999 press release by Handgun Control.

Organizations favoring gun control have long sought what they believe are achievable measures with the hopes of getting stricter laws in the future. (Which isn’t to say that all proponents of gun control want to eliminate private gun ownership all together.)
Similarly Bush hopes that a strike against Iraq because of what it could do will set a precedent for future military actions. In a June 1 speech before graduating cadets at the United States Military Academy West Point, New York, Bush made it clear:

[T]he war on terror will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge. In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act.
In effect this is gun control amongst nation states with the US. being in charge of determining who gets to have the “guns” and who doesn’t. Other countries that lack the necessary weapons of mass destruction to credibly defend themselves against the U.S. are effectively disenfranchised from the process.

The similarities between the justifications for gun control and striking Iraq are perhaps most interesting in the area of assigning responsibility for violence. In short both have a tendency to blame factors outside of the control of those who actually shoot high school students or order the bombing of Baghdad for those acts of violence. Brendan O’Neill noted on Sunday that Michael Moore’s current movie Bowling for Columbine blames many factors but not personal decisions for gun violence:

What was missing was any sense of the [Columbine] killers' personal responsibility, or any idea that they must have had specific (and big) problems to do what they did. Hundreds of thousands of children in America get bullied, live near weapons factories, have access to guns and have miserable teenage experiences - but they don't shoot people dead. Using every social problem to explain something so rare and bizarre as the Columbine killings risks overlooking the specifics of the case.
On Monday Tech Central Station published a piece by Howard Fienberg that denied the U.S. was in any way responsible for the war it has waged and continues to wage against Iraq. Fienberg believes Saddam is solely to blame:
...If Iraqis' ill health, poverty and environment are merely the results of "war" and "sanctions," then it becomes the United States' fault, since they imposed these twin boogeymen on Iraq. But what if the boogeymen were just resulting from the actions of one person (whose last name does not end in Bush). Well, that would be too simple, wouldn't it?

And yet, it is that simple. Sadaam [sic] Hussein invaded Kuwait and prompted the Gulf War. He set the oil wells of Kuwait ablaze. He invited sanctions by continuing to build weapons of mass destruction and foiling the efforts of weapons inspectors. He frittered away money on himself and his military, which could have been spent to rebuild and improve his country and his people. He paid cash rewards to suicide bombers who killed innocent Israelis.

Fienberg presents the U.S. as a passive observer who bears none of the responsibility for, amongst other things, using to sanctions to kill 100,000 Iraqis according to a conservative estimate.

Such a suggestion should sound as ridiculous as thinking that a high schooler who shoots some classmates is merely reacting to social factors. The shooter and the sanctioner played an active role in their actions and yet it would be a mistake to think that factors outside of their control don't happen within a larger context. A culture less violent in nature than the U.S. would likely have fewer shootings and an Iraq that did whatever the U.S. told it to do at all times would probably be a well petted lapdog. What the student of society and the world needs to do is find different levels of responsibility in a variety of factors that cause events to happen.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002
Ted Koppel believes American victory in war is more important than reporting truth

Last Wednesday Ted Koppel of Nightline said that believe the U.S. military should censor journalists from reporting information if that information could jeopardize U.S. troops, reports Cynthia Cotts in this week’s Village Voice.

Although Cotts doesn’t point it out, what Koppel is really saying is that successful war campaigns by the U.S. military are more important than getting facts out to the public and that efforts in these two endeavors come into conflict that the success of the military should come first.

I’m not so naïve as to think that the biases of reporters can ever be completely neutralized and given how popular the “war on terror” is amongst Americans it should come as no surprise that some journalists want to report in ways that support that war. Still I think if Koppel and others feel this way that they should be honest with their audiences and say something to the effect of, “I support the United States of America in its war. I do not want my reporting or those I work with to weaken war campaigns and if I feel that it could in any way, I would not want to share this reporting with you."

Monday, November 18, 2002
Might Makes Right

The British group Medact caused a stir last week when it released a report, “Collateral Damage: The Health and Environmental Costs of War on Iraq,” that detailed what war by the United States and its allies against Iraq had done to that country since 1990 and what could happen if the U.S. escalates that war in the near future. The group looks at the deaths caused not only by actual combat but also from the health and economic problems that war might bring.

Much of the attention comes from the report saying that up to 500,000 Iraqis could die if the war is escalated. While the report does say that, it should be pointed out that this is the high end of what the group predicts. The report goes through numerous scenarios and looks at past actions and causalities totals to come up with various estimates on how many people would die in a conventional war, a conventional war followed by a conventional civil or regional war and a nuclear war. The numbers aren’t pretty as Medact says between 375,000 and 3,900,000 could die if nuclear weapons are used and a civil war breaks out.

Any estimates of this kind are bound to be rough and end up as less than perfectly accurate. And Medact is a group that is open about being generally anti-war, although they make it clear they do not believe Iraq has the right to make weapons of mass destruction. Still this study is important, well researched and should be read by those interested in this topic. (And if you live in the U.S., you should be interested in it.)

Howard Fienberg of Tech Central Station has written a response to the study that is interesting only in what it reveals about many hawks. Fienberg doesn’t dispute any of the study’s finding other than to say they are wrong for unstated reasons and instead argues that Saddam Hussein deserves all of the blame for what has happened and will happen:

...If Iraqis' ill health, poverty and environment are merely the results of "war" and "sanctions," then it becomes the United States' fault, since they imposed these twin boogeymen on Iraq. But what if the boogeymen were just resulting from the actions of one person (whose last name does not end in Bush). Well, that would be too simple, wouldn't it?

And yet, it is that simple. Sadaam [sic] Hussein invaded Kuwait and prompted the Gulf War. He set the oil wells of Kuwait ablaze. He invited sanctions by continuing to build weapons of mass destruction and foiling the efforts of weapons inspectors. He frittered away money on himself and his military, which could have been spent to rebuild and improve his country and his people. He paid cash rewards to suicide bombers who killed innocent Israelis.

First of all, none of the things Fienberg says Saddam did to deserve what has happened and what will happen is qualitatively different from the U.S. and its allies current and past have done at some point or another. The U.S. hasn’t attacked most of its allies who commit similar actions and no country has ever treated the U.S. like the U.S. treats Iraq. Unless Fienberg believes the U.S. deserved to have its economy shattered for taking over Puerto Rico and building weapons of mass destruction, he is being hypocritical.

More importantly, the basic message of this argument is that Saddam did some bad things so the U.S. is justified in doing whatever it has done, is doing and will do against Iraq. This is the same type of mindset that says the U.S. has a right to start overthrowing any government that could plausibly at some point in the future if not the present pose a threat to the U.S. because a few thousand Americans died in terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Yeah it’s the same mindset that President George W. Bush is using to justify the building of a new empire.

This outlook doesn’t make any sense at all. There is nothing unique about U.S. suffering. Haiti has suffered greatly at the hands of U.S. and French military actions at various points in the last hundred or so years. (Haiti is hardly unique in being on receiving end of the U.S. military.) It would be ridiculous if Haiti started attacking Canada because they feared Canada could attack Haiti. Iraq might be a slightly larger threat to the U.S. than Canada is to Haiti but that is only because the U.S. has spent over 12 years making enemies by bombing and sanctioning Iraq. The U.S. is allowed to do this while Haiti isn’t because the U.S. is a much greater military power.

There is a phrase for this – might makes right.

Sunday, November 17, 2002
line of the night

"Bart vs. Lisa vs. the Third Grade," tonight's new episode of The Simpsons was decent. Bart and Lisa get put in the same third grade class but don't get along. Finally Bart and Lisa reach an understanding and go back to fourth and second grade respectively. There's a reason it sounds formulaic.

Line of the night goes to third grade teacher Audrey for "If the buddy system can fail, I don't know what to believe in."

Douglas Anders on requiring students to say the Pledge of Allegiance:
Just how can a forced "Pledge of Allegiance" be anything but meaningless? How can you teach children to critically weigh what they are told when the first act of they school day is a mandated promise? What about the children of Jehovah Witnesses? Or parents like like me who teach their children children that the principals found in the gospels ought to be paramount in their lives?

Ill-thought extremism in defense of liberty can be a vice.

Anders has also recently linked to Back to Iraq, an interesting blog by former AP and New York Daily News reporter Christopher Allbritton. Allbritton has reported from Iraq before and is trying to raise money to go and do it again. In the meantime he is providing some great commentary.

Saturday, November 16, 2002
more proof that Micah lets relatively trivial things anger him

My beloved Spartans lost to Purdue, 45-42, in a game played at East Lansing that ended a few minutes ago.

MSU is now 4-7 with one game remaining.

I could say that MSU deserved to lose because the defense gave up three turnovers and the defense couldn't stop Purdue without forcing a turnover. (They did force five.) I could say that while I would have preferred a win but that if they had to lose, it was nice that at least it was a competitive loss, their first since the Notre Dame game eight weeks ago. And I suppose I could say I should reread a certain essay that would once again remind me of how irrational sports fandom is.


Thank you for letting me vent my rage.

Friday, November 15, 2002
Firebrand rapper Paris' "What Would You Do?"

I don't much about the rapper Paris other than what I found on allmusic.com but he has recently come out with a song called "What Would You Do?" that insinuates that the Bush Administration was behind the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and has used the attacks as a justification for imperialist adventures and basically doesn’t give a damn about the lives of people in and outside of the U.S. You can read the lyrics here and get an mp3 of the track by going to http://www.daveyd.com/paristrack.mp3. (Warning certain words used regularly in the real world have been bleeped out.) TX has done an interesting interview with Paris about this song and related topics for daveyd.com.

I thought the song was pretty cool musically –with the laid back r&b groove- and I also believe that the Bush Administration has used the attacks to justify an imperial agenda -it seems hard to imagine this now but Bush could very well have responded to the attacks by saying the U.S. would eliminate al Qaeda but not getting into the idea of eliminating those deemed “evil”- and I certainly think Bush couldn’t care less about killing a few people. At the same time, I have yet to see any evidence that seriously suggests Bush was behind was behind the attacks and such a charge is so incendiary that it is a mistake to make it sans evidence.

Thursday, November 14, 2002
here is a star for doing what you were told to do

"[Last week's] resolution is a clear demonstration of the United Nations at its best -- relevant, decisive, focused. It meant a lot to the United Nations, it meant a lot to the Security Council, for this vote to be unanimous. It shows that when the cause is clear, when we are united, when we are willing to listen to all sides, when we take the time, when we show the patience to come together, we can come together, and in a unanimous way, to meet this threat," said Secretary of State Colin Powell in speech Tuesday at a dinner honoring United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002
The Joy of Reynolds

"...I don't think the American academy is in a position to offer much moral leadership nowadays, on the war or anything else," writes Glenn Reynolds.

This may suprise some people but I agree with Reynolds. The academy has gone too far! I even hear that there is a Professor of Law at The University of Tennessee who believes "“Those who take anti-American stances should realize that there's a price to pay," does not know the difference between a correlation and a causal link, who hopes Saudi Arabia's government will soon "fall to factions sympathetic to Al Qaeda" because that will provide a better justification for taking over Saudia Arabia, who believes harassing people who comment on “arab sites” is a “Bugs Bunny-like prank”, who wants to humiliate the Islamic world and who just has some basic problems with logic.

In other words, for entertainment in the accident kind of way you should go to instapundit.com.

Pat Robertson says Muslims are "worse than the Nazis."

Somehow I think I could have guessed that Pat felt that way. What I somewhat would like to know is how he feels Muslims compares to gays and lesbians, feminists and secularists as well as what he thinks should be done about all of these unfortunate groups.

For more on the former reverand click here, here and here.

Iraq has accepted the U.N. Security Resolution so weapons inspectors will theoretically soon be entering the country.

Is Sullivan Speachless?

In light of a certain tape indicating that Osama bin Laden is alive I went to andrewsullivan.com expecting to read why these tapes show the urgent necesity of the U.S. killing Iraqis but I find that Sullivan has completely ignored this news and instead is writing about a political category of people he calls "eagles" but who are actually just socially liberal hawks.

The fact that Sullivan is ignoring this major piece of news supports what I said in "briefly ranting about that Al Qaeda training camp footage" about for people of Sullivan's ilk the "war on terror" is about protecting the U.S. but rather about creating a new world. He doesn't mention this news about bin Laden because it makes no difference to him if bin Laden is dead or alive since the war against whatever Bush says is the enemy of the moment would continue either way.

My six favorite entries so far at mth.blogspot.com

The first entry on mth.blogspot.com was dated May 13, 2002, which is just another way of saying this blog is six months old. Prior to May 13, I had blogged at micahth.diaryland.com from April 20, 2001 to May 13.

My 6 favorite entries at mth.blogspot.com are as follows:

-"By fiat President Bush creates Homeland Security Department:-)

-"Return of the FReepers"

-"Andrew Sullivan’s Attack Iraq Pool of Paranoia"

-"Propaganda Acceptance and Rejectance"

-"All Nations –including Iraq- want Nuclear Weapons"


Tuesday, November 12, 2002
"Daily patrols of no-fly zones over Iraq by U.S. and British aircraft have become a dress rehearsal for war and a chance to dent Baghdad's military in the run-up to battle, pilots say," writes Peter Graff of Reuters.

Veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas doesn't particularly like President Bush's plan for war against Iraq, reports Sarah H. Wright of MIT Tech Talk.

Andrew Sullivan writes that last Tuesday's elections have created a situation where "There is a lull now, while the anti-war camp regroups."

How did he get the memo? We really have to stop these leaks if we don't want to look like the Pentagon.

from the no comment needed dept.

I feel the need to note that, according to CNN, George W. Bush said on December 2000:

If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator.
What can I say?

Yesterday's speech by President Bush at Arlington National Cemetery had exactly one paragraph that was notable:
This new kind of war also requires us to confront outlaw regimes that seek and possess the tools of mass murder. We will not permit a dictator who has used weapons of mass destruction to threaten America with chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. This great nation -- (applause) -- this great nation will not live at the mercy of any foreign plot or power. The dictator of Iraq will fully disarm, or the United States will lead a coalition and disarm him. (Applause.)
You have to love how Bush's language excluded countries like China and Pakistan and how he all but acknowledges that the U.S. wants other countries to live at its "mercy."

from the interesting blogs dept.

nowarblog.org is a group blog that, according to their "Unity Statement," brings together people from a "wide variety of different and, indeed, conflicting political positions, but all are in agreement on a single proposition: that the use of military force to effect "regime change" in Iraq is ill advised and unjustified." Lisa English is one of the contributors.

progressivegoldbeta.blogspot.com aims to present "The Best of the Left," or at least the of the left that blogs. It is the project of Martin Wisse.

Monday, November 11, 2002
I have a feeling that a lot of hateful mail is being sent to udaysaddamhussein@yahoo.com, babil@uruklink.net and ama_72@yahoo.com.

"The Bush administration yesterday said it would not wait for the UN security council to approve an attack on Iraq if it fails to comply with weapons inspections, casting new light on leaked battlefield scenarios," writes Suzanne Goldenberg in today's edition of The Guardian

Just about anything that makes President George W. Bush look dumb will be believed

Brendan O'Neill has recently written in the "War watch" section of his blog:

Apparently Bush can't tell the difference between bin Laden and Saddam: 'I can't distinguish between the two, because they're both equally as bad, and equally as evil and equally as destructive.' Let's help him out: bin Laden is the mad Islamic fundamentalist who carries out the occasional terrorist attack against American interests, while Saddam is the head of Iraq's pseudo-socialist government that sees Islamic terrorists as a threat and has no links with the likes of al-Qaeda. Does that help?
The link O'Neill includes will take you to a September 25 story by Ron Hutcheson and Diego Ibarguen of Knight Ridder Newspapers which supports O'Neill's interpretation of the quote:
Hoping to build support for tough action against Iraq, the Bush administration on Wednesday highlighted possible ties between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida, without producing any public evidence of such links.

"I can't distinguish between the two, because they're both equally as bad, and equally as evil and equally as destructive," President Bush told reporters, expressing concerns that al-Qaida terrorists could become "an extension of Saddam's madness and his hatred."

However, the actual transcript of Bush's comments refutes this interpretation. Patti Wilson of Reuters asked Bush, "Mr. President, do you believe that Saddam Hussein is a bigger threat to the United States than al Qaeda?" Bush responded:
That's a -- that is an interesting question. I'm trying to think of something humorous to say. (Laughter.) But I can't when I think about al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. They're both risks, they're both dangerous. The difference, of course, is that al Qaeda likes to hijack governments. Saddam Hussein is a dictator of a government. Al Qaeda hides, Saddam doesn't, but the danger is, is that they work in concert. The danger is, is that al Qaeda becomes an extension of Saddam's madness and his hatred and his capacity to extend weapons of mass destruction around the world.

Both of them need to be dealt with. The war on terror, you can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror. And so it's a comparison that is -- I can't make because I can't distinguish between the two, because they're both equally as bad, and equally as evil, and equally as destructive.

Bush's actual comments are hardly what Hutcheson and Ibarguen would have you believe they were.

(None of this should be understood as saying that the President doesn't say some odd things from time to time. For some recent examples, see my entry "How many corporate Americans does it take to screw in a light bulb?")

Sunday, November 10, 2002
It once again appears that Blogging King Glenn Reynolds needs a refresher course in logic. Click here to see him make the mistake of thinking that because he opposes anti-war demonstrators and one group that organizes anti-war demonstrators has other politics that he opposes, that the said group is automatically supported by all anti-war demonstrators. This is laughable stuff.

Worst Post Ever!

I don't want to explain how this came about but someone has recently said that "The Value of The Simpsons" might mean "The Comic Book Guy has a blog."

Combine that with this and I think it is pretty clear I am Comic Book Guy.

"How I Spent My Strummer Vacation," tonights new episode of The Simpsons, was o.k. After a series of events that would only make sense on a show involving Our Favorite Family, Homer ends up at the "The Rolling Stone's Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp." From there moderate hillarity ensues. Line of the night has to go to The Great Homer J. Simpson for "My dream has been shattered into the shards of a broken dream.”

Rykodisc is releasing two discs -Flying Saucer Tour Vol. 1 - The Funny Bone, Pittsburgh 6/20/91 and Love, Laughter, And Truth- of previously commercially unavailable material from the late very great Bill Hicks.

To quote from the left bar of this blog:

Holmquist wishes he were as funny as the late Bill Hicks was.
If you want an idea of the type of humor am I shooting for but failing to reach in pieces in like "[satirical] remarks from an American who recently visited Canada" and"briefly ranting about that Al Qaeda training camp footage," you should check out Hicks by perusing the files found here, here and here.

While I will one day write the definitive critical look at Bill Hicks, in the meantime you should read the still living great Harvey Pekar's "A Tale of Two Comics."

The Surveillance State is Coming Along Nicely

In yesterday's New York Times John Markoff writes:

The Pentagon is constructing a computer system that could create a vast electronic dragnet, searching for personal information as part of the hunt for terrorists around the globe — including the United States.

As the director of the effort, Vice Adm. John M. Poindexter, has described the system in Pentagon documents and in speeches, it will provide intelligence analysts and law enforcement officials with instant access to information from Internet mail and calling records to credit card and banking transactions and travel documents, without a search warrant.

Historically, military and intelligence agencies have not been permitted to spy on Americans without extraordinary legal authorization. But Admiral Poindexter, the former national security adviser in the Reagan administration, has argued that the government needs broad new powers to process, store and mine billions of minute details of electronic life in the United States.

Admiral Poindexter, who has described the plan in public documents and speeches but declined to be interviewed, has said that the government needs to "break down the stovepipes" that separate commercial and government databases, allowing teams of intelligence agency analysts to hunt for hidden patterns of activity with powerful computers.

If you have any interest in this topic at all you really should read the whole story. Last month the AP did a story on this entitled "This is one real life Truman Show."

Poindexter, it should be noted, was a participant in the activities that lead to the Iran Contra scandal. hereinreality.com has an interesting page on him.

The technological specifics of surveillance are constantly changing but for good overviews of the philosophical and political issues involved you should read David Lyon's The Electronic Eye: The Rise of Surveillance Society (University of Minnesote Press, 1994) and Reg Whitaker's The End of Privacy: How Total Surveillance Is Becoming a Reality (The New Press, 1999).

I'm not sure what to think of the fact that during college I probably spent more time listening to music and reading books such as these that I had checked out from the library than I did reading assigned texts and doing other homework.

briefly ranting about that Al Qaeda training camp footage

I don’t watch a lot of t.v. that doesn’t involve cartoons or “student athletes” but I do watch enough to be sick of that Al Qaeda training camp footage that always pops up.

What I find really strange is that the same three short bits are always shown. There is the guy shooting a machine gun and some people on the monkey bars. Finally there is a bunch of them marching behind a guy waving a big black flag in a scene reminiscent of the John Phillip Sousa choreographed version of Mad Max.

Put together the footage is strange and tad creepy but hardly scary. Rather it just seems like Al Qaeda members long for an all-American childhood full of target shooting, recesses and marching bands.

What is really strange is that the television networks that for one year after September 11, 2001 successfully scared most Americans into thinking they were about to be killed Osama –as I have recently noted, they have scaled back on this as of late- can’t edit whatever raw footage exists into anything more terrifying than this. They seem to have really lost their sense of direction and skills. If they keep this up for much longer, the public might actually start to see the idiocy of President George W. Bush’s “war on terror.”

What is interesting to note is how the pro-war spin of the t.v. differs from that of people like David Horowitz or Andrew Sullivan. On the t.v. the war is a battle to defeat forces that cause fear while to Horowitz and Sullivan it is a heroic struggle against evil and to create a new and better world and not one, but even in the current world they present Al Qaeda as a group that can easily be rolled. In short the t.v. generally has tried to promote fear while the Horowitz/Sullivan camp promotes optimism. Both lead to undconditionally supporting Bush's war against concepts, entities and people that are said to be bad and so the differences shouldn't be overstated but the motivations are quite different.

Saturday, November 09, 2002
In today's Wall Street Journal Michael Barone compares George W. Bush to John F. Kennedy. There is a glaring omission in it as Barone doesn't discuss whether we will soon see "the chickens come home to roost."

In yesterday's edition of The Independent, Robert Fisk wrote a piece entitled "Bush fights for another clean shot in his war" that is well worth reading.

For a good collection of Fisk's articles and columns head over to robert-fisk.com.

The Brick Testament is well worth checking out if you have an interesting the Bible, Legos and/or the combination of the Bible and Legos.

This is just too cliched.

Bill Berkowitz's "Weapons for the 'New American Century'" over at workingforchange.com is well worth reading.

"President Bush has settled on a war plan for Iraq that would begin with an air campaign shorter than the one for the Persian Gulf war, senior administration officials say. It would feature swift ground actions to seize footholds in the country and strikes to cut off the leadership in Baghdad," write David E. Sanger, Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker in today's New York Times. You should read the whole article.

I wish I had the moeny for a MIG 21.

(Thanks to Igor Boog for the link.)

I'm flattered that Jim Henley has quoted part of "that election thing" but after reading Henley's I do wish I'd paid a bit more attention to my prose.

On another note, do read his "Neolibertarianism, Take 1" entry.

In an unexpected development my beloved Spartans defeated Indiana in football earlier today, 56-21.

MSU is now 4-6 with at least two games remaining. It was their first victory since September 28.

Charles Rogers caught his 24th and 25th career toudhdown passes to tie and break Kirk Gibson's record for the most tds by a Spartan receiver. The real significance of this is the effect it will have on television announcers covering MSU games. For as long as I've been watching nearly every game one of them brings up Gibson holding the record in an attempt to look smart while the second person in the booth acts amazed that the former baseball star could hold the record. Now I assume they will bring up that Gibson used to hold the record so the prattle can remain the same.

"It's all smiles in the Spartan broadcasting booth," longtime MSU football play-by-play radio announcer George Blaha said in the final seconds of today's game. I assume the same thing could be said of the Spartan sideline.

Sky News writes:
A British documentary claims to have proof that American troops watched as Northern Alliance soldiers allegedly slaughtered thousands of captured Taliban fighters during the Afghan war.

The makers of Channel Five's Afghan Massacre say they have evidence that US special forces were present during the alleged atrocities - in which 3,000 are said to have died - but did nothing to stop it.

The US has denied the allegations and said no Americans were ever present.

But the documentary's producer, James Doran, believes witness statements and photographs in the documentary will leave the US authorities with no choice but to investigate.
Immediately at least this won’t have the resonance of the My Lai massacre for a variety of reasons but if this evidence pans out it is further proof that President Bush’s “war on terror” isn’t the clean game we are supposed to believe it is.

I just pulled this out from my bag of jokes

Q: What is the main difference between the Democrats and the Republicans?

A: Democrats think the Republicans are evil while the Republicans think the Democrats are evil.

Friday, November 08, 2002
Douglas Anders has the right attitude.

"The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Friday giving weapons inspectors the muscle they need to hunt for illicit weapons in Iraq. The vote was a major victory for the United States and started a countdown toward disarmament or war," writes Dafna Linzer of the AP.

Les Dabney has recently updated his very enjoyable blog. He also has some fun things to say about the Democrats.

How many corporate Americans does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Thursday afternoon President George W. Bush gave a formal press conference where he said nothing of merit but did include the following gem:

[Harvey Pitt] has done a lot to make it clear to corporate Americans that think they can -- don't have to be responsible in their positions -- a lot of enforcement, more so than ever in the history; he's enforced the corporate responsibility ethos.
I've been searching around census.gov but I can't seem to find how many "corporate Americans" there are in this country.

Bush also made John Lennon spin in his grave saying:

Well, I think most people around the world realize that Saddam Hussein is a threat. And they -- no one likes war, but they also don't like the idea of Saddam Hussein having a nuclear weapon. Imagine what would happen. And by the way, we don't know how close he is to a nuclear weapon right now. We know he wants one. But we don't know. We know he was close to one at one point in time; we have no idea today. Imagine Saddam Hussein with a nuclear weapon. Imagine how the Israeli citizens would feel. Imagine how the citizens in Saudi Arabia would feel. Imagine how the world would change, how he could alter diplomacy by the very presence of a nuclear weapon.
For the record I don't like the idea of the U.S. having a nuclear weapon (or a couple thousand of them). Should I advocate that Iraq commit some "regime change" in the U.S. of A?

Thursday, November 07, 2002
Bobby Williams Speaks!

In short, he says he wishes he hadn't been fired and was allowed to finish his contract -which included two more seasons after this one- and he refused to rule out racism as a factor leading to his firing.

South Dakota voters overwhelmingly rejected the jury nullification amendment I first noted on September 23.

Worst Quiz Ever!

Thanks to a link from Yuval Rubinstein -who by the way has some interesting thoughts on the election- a nice quiz has told me:

lesser-known Simpsons character are you?

Brought to you by the good folks at sacwriters.com.
I guess I'm just not cool enough to be Ralph.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002
Speaking of Andrew Sullivan, head over to smarterandrewsullivan.blogspot.com for some good laughs.

I don't read Sullivan all that much but every time I do I find the unspoken assumptions that guide his site to be strange. For instance on October 23 he used the following quote from Mary McGrory:

But as we barrel down the road to war with Iraq, maybe we ought to quiz our unilateralist president about why it is necessary for us to bomb, invade and occupy Iraq while North Korea gets the striped-pants treatment. Is it because North Korea has a million men under arms? Is it because Kim Jong Il never threatened to kill Bush's father, or because he has no oil, or is not a Muslim?
Seems like a reasonable question to me but Sullivan in a matter of fact fashion calls it a "SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE," which in his lexicon is an award for which:
Nominees are solicited for statements by public figures uttered in the same spirit as Susan Sontag's post-9/11 preference for the "courage" of Islamist mass murderers as opposed to the "cowardice" of NATO air-pilots over the skies in Iraq. Glib moral equivalence in the war on terror and visceral anti-Americanism are qualities most admired by the judges in this category.
Is it just me or is there a disconnect between the awards description and the contents of the McGory quote? Or could it be that Sullivan's real message is something to the effect of "thou shall not criticize Bush's war making"?

Andrew Sullivan has picked "THE BEST LEFT POST-MORTEM."

Does this mean he has declared the left to be dead? I think the answer is yes and I now assume that Sullivan will never speak of the left in the present tense again.

And people are complaining about yesterday's results...

"Candidates from the Green, Libertarian, Constitution, Progressive, Working Families, Independence and Mountain parties were running strong races for state House and Senate seats from Maine to Oregon. Victories would put minor party candidates in as many as eight state legislatures," writes Tom Squitieri of USA TODAY.

that election thing

To repeat what everyone has already heard, read, said and written, Republicans won big yesterday and will soon be in control of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

Some may be suprised to hear me say this but I think David Horowitz got it right in "Republican Surge" by giving credit to Bush:

It’s the war, stupid; and the leader. No one should underestimate the transformation that George Bush is working on the American electorate and on the fortunes of Republicans. This is a leader who has opened up new electoral horizons for his party.
That said I wonder if Horowitz is engaging in a bit of wishful thinking when he writes:
The consequence of the defeat for Democrats is likely to be an internal battle royal, a lurch to the left, and a push for the presidential candidacy of “populist,” anti-war Gore. This could provide an historic opportunity for the Republican Party to become the party of an American majority.
Horowitz has a tendency to always see the Democrats heading leftward so it is no suprise that he sees it likely to happen here. The idea that the "internal battle royal" might turn out like it did in 1992 with the rightward side winning is never really considered. I tend to think Douglas Anders is more realistic:
Hopefully, these losses will make the Democrats more courageous rather than less (really, what's left to loose? New Jersey?). But I won't believe that until I see it.
Despite what Eric Alterman, Andrew Sullivan and The Wall Street Journal like to believe, the Democrats aren't an anti-war party and anti-war activists tend not to be Democrats. It will be a big deal if any of this changes.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I think it is very unclear what is going to happen within the mainstream of politics in the U.S. but my 25 year old self is bold enough to say that the Democrats aren't going to become an anti-war party without a fight unless of course the "war on terror" becomes disastrous for people in the U.S. between now and 2004, something I see as a very real possibility.

Regardless of what else happens, it would be interesting to see some independent or third party presidential candidate make his or her campaign about opposing Bush's "war on terror." The candidate I envision would make it clear that he or she has very specific reasons for this position and has very specific opinions on other issues but would welcome all who genuinely oppose the war in an attempt to make such voices heard and respected. I don't know how such a candidate would do. He or she might do really well two years from now and get a fairly large chunk of the vote or he or she might start to gain a following and wind up imprisoned. I see either as legitimate possibilities.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002
I just got back from participating in the electoral democratic process of the United States and it is a fine process that I do not want to discourage my U.S. readers from participating in.

Monday, November 04, 2002
Spartan Football Coach Bobby Williams Fired

I was debating whether or not to go over to The Lansing State Journal as I didn't want to read more bad news about the MSU football team but I figured nothing else was likely to happen and so I did. It turns out head coach Bobby Williams has been fired and Offensive coordinator Morris Watts is taking the helm on an interm basis.

Michigan State Athletic Director Ron Mason made the decision and in a statement said:

When I was named athletics director, I promised decisive leadership. I assured the administration that I would make the decisions I thought were in the best interests of the athletics department and the entire university. I knew some of them would be difficult ones, and didn't expect one this early.

Tonight I announce one of those decisions. I have terminated Bobby Williams as our head football coach, effective immediately. This was even more difficult because I respect Bobby as a person and he is a colleague. Morris Watts will serve as interim coach for the remainder of the season. Morris has no intentions to be permanent coach.

It became clear to me that the direction of the football program required this decision. There was no one incident, event, episode, or game that determined my conclusion. Therefore, I don't think it wise or helpful to publicly analyze any single event or incident. I made the decision today. There was no reason to prolong what I had determined was inevitable.

Bobby Williams' career record can be found here.

Especially interesting is school trustee Joel Ferguson's statement, which implies that Ferguson believes racism is a factor in the firing.

To me an issue that needs to be remembered is how Williams got the job. Nick Saban left to go to LSU in 1999 after MSU finished 9-2 in the regular season and was heading to the Citrus Bowl. Williams became the interm coach because well they needed a coach and for some reason that escapes me the running backs coach got the call. The players particularly liked Williams and campaigned for him and got Williams made into the permanent (for the forseeable future, at least) head coach even before the Citrus Bowl. Since MSU beat Florida, 37-34, in that game, in all liklihood Williams would have been named head coach shortly afterwards if only because he was part of the system and it is hard to turn away a guy with a perfect record as head coach at your school.

All of this seemed normal and logical at the time and, because nobody ever knows for sure what the future holds, it was probably the right course of action to take. At the same time it should be apparent that this was far from an ideal way to pick a coach and maintain the momentum the program had built up in 1999. As I said on Friday, picking a coach is always a risk and picking Williams didn't work out for one reason or a couple.

Hopefully the team's meltdown will allow somebody fresh to come in at the end of the season and build the program up again. Yesterday I wrote that any prospective coach should be asked, "In your mind what would constitute sucess for this program?" In my mind the right answer is to be a top 10 or top 20 team consistently in years when with a loss to Michigan.

As far as the speculation about Williams, Jeff Smoker, the program and what not that is no doubt stoked by the firing, I would encourage anybody who wants to try to do some indepedent reporting on the topic. But if you don't do that, to not speculate with abandon about the situation. That doesn't do anybody any good.

And I guess I also feel the need to say that it will be interesting to see what impact this has on a certain website.

Terrorism and the Election

Why aren’t more people worried about terrorism tomorrow at some polling place? The “they hate us because we are free” crowd should be having a field day but a search for "terrorism" "elections” on news.google.com suggests that such concerns aren’t making their way into news stories if they exist at all.

There are several plausible explanations for this. It could be that people in the United States have given up believing that a terrorist attack will always be just around the corner and it could be that voting is such an infrequent activity that –high school civics classes be damned- it just isn’t widely seen as an activity that defines the U.S. (The latter of which might explain why some who study voting trends expect a very low turnout tomorrow.)

But the most likely explanation is probably just that the Bush Administration has not pushed awareness of the possibility of terrorists attacking tomorrow and (please excuse my cynicism) a public that accepts the unending “war on terror” as justified and logical isn’t going to think of this stuff on their own. If this is the case, it is interesting that Bush has not warned the public and told people that they should vote in order to defy the terrorists. “If you don’t vote, Osama and Saddam win,” the slogan could go. If such a gambit worked, and I’d be surprise if it didn’t, it would do wonders for the Republicans since they are usually seen as tougher on defense matters whereas the party of JFK, LBJ and Clinton is oddly seen as rarely if ever having been a part of the U.S. military actions.

Douglas Anders' "America, Love her or Leave Her" is a good look at the civility of political culture in the U.S. The basic message - "Compared to Ancient Greece (hell, compared to modern Greece) modern American politics looks like a Victorian sewing circle."

In "White House proposes security information rules" Jeff Nesmith of Cox Newspapers writes:
The White House is drafting guidelines to define a new category of government information that would be withheld from the public to avoid making it available to terrorists.

Currently being called ''sensitive homeland security information,'' the category could include everything from blueprints of critical government and private buildings to scientific research of potential value to terrorists.

No one knows what it will encompass, because the White House Office of Management and Budget has not released the guidelines.

I would expect more of this "[a}s," to lift a phrase from David Horowitz, "we head deeper into the general war -- in which Iraq is merely one battlefield."

In Saturday's edition of The Los Angeles Times William M. Arkin writes:
In what may well be the largest expansion of covert action by the armed forces since the Vietnam era, the Bush administration has turned to what the Pentagon calls the "black world" to press the war on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

The Defense Department is building up an elite secret army with resources stretching across the full spectrum of covert capabilities. New organizations are being created. The missions of existing units are being revised. Spy planes and ships are being assigned new missions in anti-terror and monitoring the "axis of evil."

The increasingly dominant role of the military, Pentagon officials say, reflects frustration at the highest levels of government with the performance of the intelligence community, law enforcement agencies and much of the burgeoning homeland security apparatus. It also reflects the desire of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to gain greater overall control of the war on terror.

The entire piece is very much worth reading.

It should be noted that Arkin writes the Dot.Mil column for The Washington Post.

"More tax-exempt political groups than ever spent money to air their views on candidates and campaign issues this year, but by Election Day the Internal Revenue Service had yet to make information available on where many of them got their money," writes Sharon Theimer of the AP in a story published today.

a last minute plea to vote your conscience

Tomorrow is the midterm election in the U.S. of A. and this time it is once again the most important election since an election that occurred at some point in the past. If you are eligible to vote in the U.S., there are many organizations that say you should vote but before following or ignoring their advice I hope you read the rest of this entry.

Quite simply, unless you are eligible to vote in an election, primary, referendum, initiative, mileage proposal and/or popularity contest where the difference between the number of votes received by the top two choices ends up being one or fewer votes, it makes absolutely no difference whether or not you vote. And if you do vote but not in a contest where the difference between the number of votes received by the top two choices ends up being one or fewer votes, it makes absolutely no difference who and/or what you vote for.

It should be stated that contests where an individual’s decision to vote or not vote or who or what to vote affects or would have affected the outcome are not unheard of, particularly in contests that receive relatively small numbers of votes and little media attention. Still they are rare and the chance that your vote any particular election will make a difference is roughly zero.

I certainly hope that by saying this I’m not discouraging anybody from voting. I for one will vote tomorrow as I find it to be a relatively satisfying use of my time since there are few other moments when I possess even this small amount of political power. But I think that if you do choose to vote that you should do with the recognition that it is very unlikely that your vote will make any difference and thus your voting is for all intents and purposes and existential act.

So with all of that in mind, I ask you to vote your conscience and not take into consideration who or what is likely to be the winning outcome. If you don’t like the major party candidates or at least prefer an independent or third party candidate, you should go ahead and vote your conscience. If you don’t want to vote for somebody who supported giving President Bush authority to attack Iraq, then don’t vote for such a candidate and pick somebody who opposed giving Bush that authority. Whatever the contest, vote for the candidate or the choice that you would ideally like to see get the most votes.

Of course if you want to vote for the lesser out of two evils in the off chance that your vote will make a difference, then by all means go ahead do so. That is your right. I just have to wonder what the most of a democracy is if you don’t feel empowered to vote for your favorite choice.

Todd Schulz of The Lansing State Journal has correctly summed up the situation facing Spartan football coach Bobby Williams. Notice Schultz doesn't talk much about football.

Jeff Smoker's family has said that the former starting quarterback for Michigan State University is dealing with a substance abuse problem.

Ideally this would cool off speculation but I'm doubtful. A few lines from the Merle Haggard song "Wishing All These Old Things were New" pop into my head:

Watching while some young men go to jail
And they show it all on TV
Just to see somebody fail
It may not be an exact match but it gets to the heart of the issue.

The Value of The Simpsons

Last night’s “Treehouse of Horror XIII” –the first new episode of The Simpsons since last May’s hilarious but misunderstood “Papa’s Got a Brand New Badge” – was very good.

The three segments all were a solid blend of the zany take no prisoners humor that was situated in the real world of ambiguities, uncertainty and problems. The middle segment told the story of how the citizens of Springfield decided to eliminate guns –including the guns of the state- and then quickly found themselves harassed by the gun toting ghosts of outlaw cowboys and one German general. Throw in some witty wordplay and jokes that point out the ridiculousness of the sci-fi concept of time travel and you have great comedy. “I guess guns really are the answer,” said Lisa towards the end.

What made the segment stand out in my mind is that it poked fun both at those who think there is any chance that guns should be eliminated in the real existing world and at those who view firearms as an absolute good. Neither side was left off the hook and because the lack of an answer doesn’t give way to a political program, it rates as some of the more honest cultural satire ever created.

The first segment looked at cloning while the third segment was a parody of H.G. Wells’ novel The Island of Dr. Moreau and the 1996 movie based on the novel and features a minor pro-vegetarian theme, a theme that is by now a staple of the show. I bring this up because it says something very interesting about The Simpsons when considered in light of Burger King’s recent promotion of 10 Chinese made plastic toy statues of characters from The Simpsons in creepy garb or animal/human hybrid appearances.

From nearly the very beginning The Simpsons was a product of corporate culture and the result of a committee process. True Matt Groening had the initial vision but by the first actual episodes it was in the hands of a larger group of people and in the years that have followed the number of people who have left their mark on the series has grown far larger than I care to count. To make a long story short, there is no auteur with a vision behind the series. It is the product of a group process that was designed by the FOX corporation to make money. And if it didn’t make money it would cease to exist or at least be retooled so that it could.

Great art rarely comes from such a process –although it should be said that creating great art within capitalism usually requires not losing too much money and/or having an alternative source of funding- and yet I believe that The Simpsons should be placed in the category of great art for what the episodes routinely say about life, culture, society and the world in a humorous fashion. It is able to make statements about gun control and more importantly guns, vegetarianism and the existence of God that are bold within the context of the show yet which are problematized but the marketing and commercial apparatus the surrounds the show. (And just for the record I collected the Burger King figures and have many toys based on the show.) Burger King may have a veggie burger but it is still a huge part of the corporate kill animals so more advanced animals can eat them process and certainly doesn’t want to see vegetarianism take hold. So, in a way, Burger King was trying to use the popularity of the show even though it hopes that one of the regular messages of the show doesn’t take hold.

It should be said that by using The Simpsons brand Burger King is not promoting The Simpsons so much as they are using the show’s popularity to promote their chain of the restaurants. The popularity and influence of The Simpsons is unlikely to change much in the near future and so its ideas are already as much out there as they are going to get. Burger King doesn’t have to fear the themes of The Simpsons because they, like most successful business enterprises, do not pine for an ideal world but rather try to make a buck within the existing one.

All of this denies that The Simpsons possess anything approaching a “subversive” power, which brings up some interesting questions. Is it possible for a product of corporate culture to change society in a qualitative way that is not directly connected with the further expansion of the productive and profit making power of capitalism? If the answer to the previous question is no, can the producers of the popular culture have any impact not related to entertainment value and the strengthening the current set of economic relations? Does it matter what the producers of culture do? How should people who are critics of the set of economic relationships that currently exist in the U.S. and/or the world relate to popular culture?

I don’t think there is any value to simple answers to the above questions. There too many nuances involved and anybody who answers those questions in a fair manner will have to deal with their own prejudices and desired outcomes. I for one want The Simpsons to have some value beyond entertainment in a world where critical political humor is an endangered species. Maybe this is in fact of the value of the show. In a culture where the late Bill Hicks receives almost no appreciation and a comedian is lauded because he has nothing to say about anything, maybe The Simpsons is valuable because it carries forth the tradition of satire that is mainstream and yet still biting and pointed. If that is the case, then the show’s value will be that it will be looked at as a guidepost for the developing and not yet developed humorists who point out the shortcomings and problems of the conceptually unlimited war that President George W. Bush and his advisors have started.

Maybe it is just my bias but I hope that will be the case.