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 email@example.com.
Holmquist's full archives are listed here.
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)
Blogs that for one reason or another Holmquist would like to read on at least something of a regular basis (always in development)
Tuesday, September 30, 2003
Notes on weapons of mass destruction and other things
John Pilger made some news last week with a report on how two senior members of the Bush Administration, Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, made statements in 2001 about how then Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was not a threat to the United States.
Since Pilger's largely engrossing 2002 collection of essays The News Rulers of the World featured a mistake or two, I figured it might be good to look at some of the key quotes that Pilger uses and whether or not they can be verified by searching the web.
Before doing that I think a word is necessary on Pilger calling Rice "[U.S.] President [George W.] Bush's closest adviser." While Rice is an important advisor to Bush, saying that she is his closest advisor is probably a stretch.
Now on with the quotes:
In Cairo, on February 24 2001, Powell said: "He (Saddam Hussein) has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbours."This checks with the State Department transcript of those comments:
...the sanctions exist -- not for the purpose of hurting the Iraqi people, but for the purpose of keeping in check Saddam Hussein's ambitions toward developing weapons of mass destruction. We should constantly be reviewing our policies, constantly be looking at those sanctions to make sure that they are directed toward that purpose. That purpose is every bit as important now as it was ten years ago when we began it. And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors. So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbors of Iraq, and these are policies that we are going to keep in place, but we are always willing to review them to make sure that they are being carried out in a way that does not affect the Iraqi people but does affect the Iraqi regime's ambitions and the ability to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and we had a good conversation on this issue.Pilger also writes:
Powell even boasted that it was the US policy of "containment" that had effectively disarmed the Iraqi dictator - again the very opposite of what Blair said time and again. On May 15 2001, Powell went further and said that Saddam Hussein had not been able to "build his military back up or to develop weapons of mass destruction" for "the last 10 years". America, he said, had been successful in keeping him "in a box".These exact words don't show up in any of the official transcripts from May 2001, but Powell apparently was testifying before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations on that day, so I will assume that the comments happened there. (Why the full transcript rarely, if ever, appears in State Department transcripts is something I do wonder about.)
Pilger also writes:
Two months later, Condoleezza Rice also described a weak, divided and militarily defenceless Iraq. "Saddam does not control the northern part of the country," she said. "We are able to keep his arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt."Neither a search on whitehouse.gov -where the comments would most likely be archived- nor a similar search on google turns up this speech, so make of that what you will.
Assuming that all of the quotes are correct, Pilger is still making a leap when he says:
So here were two of Bush's most important officials putting the lie to their own propaganda, and the Blair government's propaganda that subsequently provided the justification for an unprovoked, illegal attack on Iraq.It is possible, although perhaps not probable, that intelligence changed and by the time the Bush Administration started talking about the threat posed by Iraq, they had reason to believe such a threat existed.
Of course Powell didn't help his case last Thursday in the following exchange:
QUESTION: Secretary Powell, in February 2001, you said that Saddam has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. What caused you to change your assessment?Well he didn't say the weapons of mass destruction weren't associated with "any significant capability." But I guess that is a mute point because of "9/11."
Pilger goes on to argue that the Bush Administration decided to invade Iraq shortly after September 11, 2001. This is something that I can neither confirm or deny, which is also the case for this:
[Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security John] BOLTON boasted to me that the killing of as many as 10,000 Iraqi civilians in the invasion was "quite low if you look at the size of the military operation."If true, this is huge.
In a story from Sunday's Washington Post Dana Priest writes:
Leaders of the House intelligence committee have criticized the U.S. intelligence community for using largely outdated, "circumstantial" and "fragmentary" information with "too many uncertainties" to conclude that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and ties to al Qaeda.
I suspect the new Doctor Who will be awful, if it ever comes to fruition.
Monday, September 29, 2003
Rummy, Wolfowitz and targets
"[W]e are not in Iraq to engage in nation building our mission is to help the Iraqi so that they can build their own nation," United States Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday. (Thanks to Tapped for alerting me to the quote.)
"Iraq is in many ways a kind of special case that was sort of forced on us to use military force, because of the threat it posed," Wolfowitz said without clarifying what the threat was. "I certainly wouldn’t have advocated it. I don’t know that I know many people who would have advocated using military force simply to create a democracy in Iraq."
Court Schuett recently criticized me for saying that generosity was not the motivation for the U.S. taking over Iraq. Fortunately Wolfowitz has responded for me. Of course he could be lying about the motivation but if that is the case, I suspect that "democracy" isn't really what they are after.
Also in the interview, Zacharia and Wolfowitz got into the following exchange:
Q: Getting back to the Iraq question, the question of Syria and sort of what the –I'd say Zacharia should have tried to get a clarification with regard to what Syria is doing with regard to Iraq, but I don't want to look like I missed the revealing nature of the exchange.
Of course I have a hard time seeing why Syria isn't a threat by Team Bush's standards.
Sunday, September 28, 2003
Answer the question and other notes
As I pointed out last month, the Bush Administration doesn't seem too concerned about former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein or "the terrorists" attacking with weapons of mass destruction even though the purported threat still exists. On Thursday some reporter actually asked White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan about this, prompting the following exchange:
Q Since the President -- since it's pretty clear the task force, the Kaye task force can't find any weapons of mass destruction, why did the President invade Iraq?McCellan refused to answer the question but not by saying, "I won't answer the question." No, he just gave non-answers.
This reminds of me of the forum by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz from seven days ago that I watched on C-SPAN last night. Many in the audience were quite rude, which won't lead to a good intellectual exchange but seems appropriate. The Bush Administration refuses to answer a valid question during the designated time when they are supposed to be answering questions because, I can't help but conclude, acknowledging it would be too damaging to the credibility of their "war on terror."
If that's the way they are going to act, they deserve no respect. None.
Time's story on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is well-worth reading, as is this NBC News story on the CIA's desire to for a probe to determine if the White House revealed the identity of a CIA informant.
Saturday, September 27, 2003
"I love this game!"
Last year the first indication that Michigan State’s football team would be terrible, as opposed to just mediocre, came when they lost a road game to Iowa, 44-16, on October 12. Iowa won all of but one of their games after that. Michigan State would win one of their remaining six.
Today, playing in East Lansing, the Spartans scored on their first two possessions, via two tosses by Jeff Smoker, to go up 14-0.
It was 17-7 at half-time and when all was finished MSU came out ahead, 20-10, to move to 4-1 on the season -that's as many wins as they got all last year- and 1-0 in the Big Ten.
As the score should indicate, it was the defense that came up big. Despite some costly penalties, a problem that the Spartans' offense was not immune to, giving up one touchdown and one field goal to a team ranked as high as ninth in the country and which had been averaging 34.5 points a game isn't bad. The most important stats are that the Spartans gave up zero turnovers, recovered two of Iowa's fumbles, intercepted one Iowa pass and prevented the Hawkeyes from converting on two fourth downs in the fourth quarter.
Could this be the start of something big this year? Perhaps, but I suspect this is only a possibility if the offense finds a way to score more. This team isn't quite on the level of Ohio State.
Friday, September 26, 2003
The NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee announced yesterday that it was rescinding a postseason ban on the University of Michigan men's basketball team for the upcoming 2003-2004 season.
Thursday, September 25, 2003
I’m saddened by the deaths of Arthur Kinoy, Frank Lowe and Edward Said, particularly the latter two who I found out about through Phil Freeman. I will try to write Lowe and Said soon.
Wednesday, September 24, 2003
Leaving Springfield: 'The Simpsons' and the Possibility of Oppositional Culture, a collection of essays edited by John Alberti, comes out next month on Wayne State University Press and looks like it will deal with some of the same issues I briefly touched upon in last November's "The Value of The Simpsons."
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
By Max Standard
I was most impressed with American President George W. Bush's speech before the United Nations today, even though by my calculations the U.N. is now "irrelevant." Most pleasing was when Bush said, "Our coalition has made sure that Iraq's former dictator will never again use weapons of mass destruction."
It is impossible to argue with that logic.
Similarly the news that Let America Laugh is coming out on November 4 saddens me.
Max Standard is an important intellectual who always tells the pro-American truth.
Notes from the Iraqi colony
Iraqi Minister of Finance Kamel Al-Gailani announced a number of economic reforms in Iraq Sunday, including allowing foreign interests to own up to 100% of businesses in all sectors sans natural resources, the implementation of 5% tarrif on imports other than broadly defined "humanitarian goods" and a 15% income and corporate profit tax rate to begin in 2004.
Monday, September 22, 2003
In Friday's Wall Street Journal Daniel Henninger argues that the lesser countries of the world need to either acquiesce to the United States or face the consequences. (Thanks to Tapped for the link to the original piece as well as to this post by Holly Martins on how it appears that Henninger used a racial slur in it.)
For worse not better, I suspect that Henninger is right about the choices faces by less powerful countries but it is worthy of Sullivan and Zakaria when he writes:
…from Germany and Japan after World War II and on up to Kosovo, Afghanistan and now Iraq, I am aware of only one "value" America has tried to impose and it's not Mickey Mouse. It is democracy, or at a minimum, liberty.The U.S. supported all sorts of thugs and during that period and even did its best to install and/or assist a few. Denying this is denying reality and in any country that valued logic in its popular political discourse(s) Henninger would be laughed at for not being "aware" of more.
Of course in the U.S. Henninger's thinking is widely considered normal and logical. Today I had the misfortune of hearing Live's "Heaven," a bland pop song performed in a manner that suggests that those behind it don't realize that it is pop. A sample of the lyrics:
I don't need no one to tell me about heavenThe song is the perfect backdrop for supporters of the "war on terror."
Sullivan and such
In a post from Tuesday, Andrew Sullivan writes:
A NEW MARSHALL PLAN?: I was struck by an aside in Fareed Zakaria's typically sane op-ed in today's Washington Post. he says that the $20 billion to be spent on Iraqi infrastructure in the next year amounts to one half of that country's GNP. The scale of generosity boggles the mind - especially since the lion's share of the damage was done by Saddam Hussein, not by the war.The funny thing is if one actually believes Sullivan's argument about the "war on terror" then this spending is self-preservation, not "generosity" that the United States deserves a pat on the back for.
I suspect that Sullivan doesn't actually think about these things and instead just writes down whatever justifications and defenses of the "war on terror" that come to his mind with no regard for internal consistency.
And why shouldn't he? Sullivan's just following his leader.
”We can ignore logic,” Uncle Sam just said, “because we are right.”
The Fareed Zakaria piece that Sullivan cites is an argument for the U.S. not turning over Iraq to the Iraqis or establishing popular sovereignty too soon:
Iraq may not be a failed state, but it is a highly dysfunctional one. It has been through three decades of totalitarian rule, three wars, 13 years of economic sanctions and massive internal repression. Its ministries are organized along Stalinist lines. Its people have been cowed into submission for decades. It will take some time to reform the Iraqi state and heal Iraq's political culture. An immediate transfer of power would retard and perhaps even reverse this process of reform. New political leaders would seek to use the Iraqi state to consolidate their power, not limit its reach. That is what happened in Bosnia. Once elected, ethnic thugs didn't want to build the rule of law; they wanted to use the law to stay in office...Since no "democracy" is perfectly democratic, I'll concede that the U.S. was a "genuine democracy" from at least the time of the Constitution, but it is absurd to claim that the U.S. is the same democracy today that it was in 1789, 1790 or 1791. To do so requires ignoring the abolition of slavery which was accomplished via a civil war, the numerous struggles for what Marxists call "democratic rights" and the gradual increase in the power of the Federal Government.
(It should be noted that France turned out fairly well according to Zakaria. So, I feel the need to ask, why is it so important that Iraqis not be allowed to go through the various stages that lead to democracy?)
”America is perfect so we can ignore facts,” Uncle Sam is now telling me.
In a September 11 post, Sullivan writes:
POSEUR ALERT: "One you've never heard of. 'Jaspora' by Wyclef Jean." - Howard Dean, when asked what his favorite song was. Here are the lyrics, from the lead singer/rapper for the Fugees. Is this some sort of Jamaican slang? Can someone translate for me? It could be really interesting. I'm sure Joe Lieberman would love to find out what "Yo pa respekte Izrayèl" might mean.O.K. if Sullivan read the Rolling Stone review he linked to, he would find out that the lyrics are in Creole. And Sullivan lives in a weird world if he actually thinks that someone would name check Wyclef Jean in an effort to be hip.
”WE ARE AMERICA! WE CAN SAY WHATEVER WE WANT AND BE RIGHT!” Uncle Sam just yelled.
Here's a mildly interesting piece on former Michigan State football coach Bobby Williams by Vaughn McClure and from Saturday's South Bend Tribune.
Sunday, September 21, 2003
Why I usually regret visiting instapundit.com
Glenn Reynolds writes:
I have no idea if the story is true or not -there is certainly some reason to doubt it, even if it does seem unlikely that the U.S. would admit to ongoing negotiations with former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein at this point in time- and I don't actually believe "quagmire" is an accurate appraisal of the situation the U.S. faces in Iraq, but nothing in the story would prove that the U.S. is not facing a "quagmire.”
Disagreement (for lack of a better title)
In a Spiked column from last Tuesday entitled "Pre-emptive inaction?", Brendan O'Neill labels the argument that Great Britain, the United States and/or whomever should not go to war because such a war will increase the threats to that country or group of countries as "cowardly" and "deeply prejudiced, buying into the argument that the real problem is the terrorists 'over there' who might be stirred up if we take irresponsible, risky action. It is an anti-war argument concerned more with saving ourselves than anybody else."
O'Neill is correct on this, although it would be nice for him to acknowledge that other people have other reasons for doing things that he may disagree with but are nonetheless reasons.
That said, O'Neill goes significantly off-track at two points. The first:
According to a report published by the Intelligence and Security Committee on 12 September 2003, Blair was told in February that the collapse of Saddam's regime might allow terrorists to get their hands on Iraq's chemical and biological weapons and to launch assaults on 'Western interests'. For the anti-war lobby, this shows that Blair took us into war, not only against our wishes, but against our 'best interests' and 'safety' (1).Actually it is a perfectly legitimate line of reasoning to say that Government X lied about Matter Y but if they had been telling the truth about Matter Y then Outcome Z would be a possibility that they should be concerned about since they still claim to have told the truth about Matter Y.
And then there's this about how these prejudicial self-interests:
...were much in evidence at the anti-war protests against the Arms Trade Fair in London last week, where protesters pointed the finger at Britain and America for selling arms to 'irresponsible' regimes, some of whom have 'ties with terrorists' (5). Comedian Mark Thomas argues that Britain has helped to arm just about every 'crazy fucker' in the third world. The anti-war demand is clear: Western elites should behave more cautiously, and avoid arming and antagonising those crazy natives...I can't vouch for the politics of Thomas or any of the protesters in question but there is nothing cowardly or illegitimate about pointing out that "Western Elites" are inconsistent about their application of the principles they purport to hold in the "war on terror." In fact this is an excellent way of saying that if you actually believe what the likes of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush say about the threats in the world, then you shouldn't have any faith in their ability to protect you from those threats.
More importantly, criticizing the fact that Great Britian is willing to sell weaponry to oppressive governments does not necessarily mean that one, in O'Neill's words, "accepts that the main problem on the world stage is 'over there', in the shape of crazy terrorists and ruthless regimes waiting for an excuse to attack London and Washington." It could just as easily be a demand that Great Britian and the U.S. stop aiding and abetting others as they harm people in other countries.
O'Neill often rails against how anti-war activists advocate some form of Western interventionism so it is a bit disappointing to see him needing to criticize activists when they are advocating that Great Britain not sell weapons to other countries, an act that is nothing if not an intervention.
I agree with much of what O'Neill writes and am glad that his voice is out there, but sometimes I get the sense that his primary position is disagreement.
Weapons of mass destruction and/or related programs have yet to be found in Iraq and the team looking for them, the Iraq Survey Group,- doesn't appear to be doing a whole lot, Raymond Whitaker and Glen Rangwala report in today's Independent.
Whitaker and Rangwala also report that the Iraq Survey Group is known as "the searchers," a name I find most amusing.
UPDATE: I've altered this post to better differentiate between what was in the Independent story and my comment about the name. 5:24 p.m. 09/21/03
Saturday, September 20, 2003
Friday, September 19, 2003
"At the helm as executive producer of International Investigators Incorporated (Triple I), the action hero is spearheading a new action adventure TV show to be filmed (for the first time in Hollywood history) on location in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East," Ashraf Helmi of Egypt Today writes about Sylvester Stallone. "Dubbed a cross between Miami Vice and CSI, Triple I will also feature a cast and crew drawn mostly from the region itself."
Then there's this:
At Triple I, filming and casting dates change from week to week. While Stallone and company were keen to announce that agreements with media cities in both Egypt and Dubai have been finalized, Stallone himself has promised to be in the U.S. in September and October - the very time during which filming is supposed to start here. The fading action hero is set to begin shooting Rampart Scandal about police corruption in Los Angeles during the murders of rap stars Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. The story was huge and Stallone will probably reap far greater rewards from that than Triple I. Stallone is also working on the scripts of Rocky VI and Rambo VI, both potential box-office hits with tentative filming dates set for 2004.Somebody buy Hollywood a nail, and do so quickly.
Thursday, September 18, 2003
During a break in the Hurricane Isabel drinking game I found time to write this entry
I love monkeys.
On a related topic, Blow Up The Moon but still remember the heroism of Galileo.
"A senior official in Iraq's new science ministry says the country never revived its nuclear program after U.N. inspectors dismantled it in the 1990's," Voice of America News writes in a story from yesterday. "Abbas Balasem, an official of the new U.S.-backed administration in Baghdad, said Tuesday Iraqi scientists had no way to re-start the program because the inspectors took away all the necessary resources."
Wednesday, September 17, 2003
"Sometimes I overstate for emphasis"
Part of an exchange between National Press Club President Tammy Lytle and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from seven days ago:
Lytle: On March 30th you said, referring to Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, quote, "We know where they are." Do you know where they are now? And will they be found?When Rumsfeld takes questions from reporters he isn't engaging in an artistic exercise; the defense secretary is supposed to be giving honest answers to questions. It isn't an example of an "overstate[ment]" to say you know where something for certain when you in fact don't. It is a lie.
But even beyond that, Rumsfeld's story reveals that Team Bush didn't take the "threat" of weapons of mass destruction seriously. They were "being pressed to find them while the war was still in its earliest, earliest days" because to not find them was assumed to mean that the brave and great and wonderful U.S. military would continue to potentially face a threat from them. Why? Because the Bush Administration said they were a threat, a claim that appears to be false. Either that or the Bush Administration is incompetent.
Rummy says he has no reason to believe that Iraq was involved in "September 11"
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was involved in the following exchange yesterday:
Q: There have been a number of public opinion polls that show a fairly sizable percentage of the public believes that Saddam Hussein was involved in the September 11 attacks. Do you believe that?I'm sure U.S. President George W. Bush keeps info from Rumsfeld.
Seriously, I wouldn't put a whole lot of faith in public opinion polls suggesting that people in the U.S. believe Iraq was involved in the attacks of September 11, 2001 since I supsect that many, if not most, who answer yes to a question like "Do you believe that Iraq was involved in the September 11 terrorist attacks?" would also answer yes to "Since there is no publicly known evidence of Iraqi involvement in the September 11 terrorist attacks, do you believe that Saddam Hussein's now deposed government was not involved in the attacks?" In other words, they don't have a strong opinion on the matter.
Bush said something similar on Wednesday:
We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11th. What the Vice President said was, is that he has been involved with al Qaeda. And al Zarqawi, al Qaeda operative, was in Baghdad. He's the guy that ordered the killing of a U.S. diplomat. He's a man who is still running loose, involved with the poisons network, involved with Ansar al-Islam. There's no question that Saddam Hussein had al Qaeda ties.5:29 p.m. 09/21/03
Tuesday, September 16, 2003
Yesterday I listened to about an hour of Michael Savage. I learned that lawyers with Jewish sounding names are destroying the U.S., the European Union is the "new Soviet Union" and anti-WTO protesters are the "street thugs of international communism." It was a most informative hour.
Laura Ingraham has a new book entitled Shut Up and Sing: How Elites from Hollywood, Politics, and the UN are Subverting America, which should be good since I am sick of Shakira telling me what soda to drink.
Two, or maybe three, weeks ago I saw a television program where John Hagee explained that the rapture could happen as early as "before sundown" and that it certainly wasn't more than a few years away. At the end or the program Rev. Hagee invited viewers to tune in for next episode, which was to be about how to let God give you a happy and "long" life.
Monday, September 15, 2003
Writing in disbelief
The Sunday Times reported yesterday that the publication David Kay's full report on weapons of mass destruction and related programs in Iraq has been delayed indefinitely because no evidence of such weapons has been found. (Unfortunately readers will have to pay for The Sunday Times but Press Trust of India, Sify News and the Xinhua News Agency have all written about the story.)
There can be no disputing that fear of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was one of the reasons the Bush Administration publicly gave for starting Operation Iraqi Freedom in March. "I believe Saddam Hussein is a threat to the American people. I believe he's a threat to the neighborhood in which he lives," U.S. President George W. Bush said 13 days before beginning the offensive. "And I've got a good evidence to believe that. He has weapons of mass destruction, and he has used weapons of mass destruction, in his neighborhood and on his own people."
If former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's government did not have weapons of mass destruction when invaded, it would important to try to figure if bad evaluations, bad intelligence, incompetence, mendacity and/or some other factor lead to Bush claiming that he had reason to believe that Saddam had such weapons. But before that can be done in full, Kay's report needs to be released. There is no excuse for not doing so, at least in part, once it has been completed.
Sunday, September 14, 2003
I mentioned last month's get your war on strips on Wednesday, but this stands out for me:
[no more words needed]
Saturday, September 13, 2003
The Michigan State football team fell to 2-1 with a 20-19 loss to Louisiana Tech today. MSU gave up 13 points in the final two minutes.
[Quarterback Luke] McCown pulled Louisiana Tech (2-1) within 19-14 with a four-yard TD pass to Julius Cosby with 1:09 to go. The Bulldogs failed on the two-point conversion attempt but recovered an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff.Not that it matters, but it was 19-7 before Louisiana Tech scored a touchdown and got the extra point to make it 19-14. After the next touchdown they did not even attempt to kick an extra point or score a two-point conversion.
On a completely unrelated subject, it is sad to see publications like The Economist ignoring the discrepancy between the amount of additional money U.S. President George W. Bush said he was asking Congress to cough up on Sunday and the amount his White House said they were asking for on Monday.
It appears that I am the only blogger to point the difference out so maybe it is fitting that at the moment this blog comes up ninth when you do a google search for "critiquing president bush's speeches."
"A federal judge called upon District Mayor Anthony A. Williams and Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey yesterday to publicly admit that police wrongfully arrested as many as 400 people during demonstrations at a downtown park last year," Carol D. Leonnig writes in yesterday's Washington Post.
On some level I find it funny that Israel now says it wants to expell Yasser Arafat after spending the last 17 or 18 months confining him to his compound. 8:15 p.m. 09/13/03
Friday, September 12, 2003
Black absorbs all
If you had asked me yesterday I would have said that Johnny Cash was a Christian, an outlaw, a rebel and a sinner who played the music of the United States for audiences that, while mostly white, wouldn’t otherwise mix.
Now, given the news of his death, I would add “dead” to that list.
Somehow the news seems less sad because his life was so filled with so many of the complexities that make up totality.
Drive on/It don’t mean nothing/Drive on
Thursday, September 11, 2003
Amidst celebrating freedom and somberly remembering the beginning of Pinochet’s reign of terror 30 years ago, I hope you are able to remember the events of two years past. For it was on that day that day -a day that could be called 911- that 3,016 brave souls died in terrorist attacks against the United States. They left behind families and friends that were every bit as real as those in Chile that you hear so much about. Many of them had yet to massacre surrendered Iraqi soldiers or bomb a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory.
Christopher Hitchens says something interesting in a Slate column from Monday:
I didn't at all mind what some critics loftily dismissed as "flag-waving." Indeed I was surprised that there wasn't more of it than there was. But I never displayed a flag myself and argued quietly against putting one up over the entrance to the building where I live. This was for a simple reason: How will it look when the effort tapers off? There's nothing more dispiriting than a drooping and neglected flag and nothing more lame than the sudden realization that the number of them so proudly flourished has somehow diminished.I wrote entries on this general topic on at least two occasions in the year that followed "September 11." Now, with a little more time for reflection, but going almost exclusively by what I have physically seen, I have come to the conclusion that people treat Old Glory with about as much respect as they treat their vehicle, house or lawn, which is to say that they don't treat it with any more importance than the everyday details of their lives despite its greater value in the realm of symbolism.
Natalie Davis, who recently suffered the loss of her father, has reminded me of protest records, a site featuring good stencils, good [and generally non-trite] music and good fun that is run by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth.
SY's first period -up to 1988's Daydream Nation (Enigma), that is- is interesting because the group was producing what I would term pre-post-rock. The instrumentation was straight rock –bass, drums, guitar and vocals- and a pop feel is an integral part of the structure. Yet there is nothing “pop” about the final result and very little “rock” in it. Those genres, even in the best cases, generally rely on a common denominator that can’t accept that which is outside and, unlike Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s Empire, enjoys being non-universal. The music of SY doesn’t do that at any point in this period, a quality quite apparent on Daydream Nation where pop and rock influences on the same footing as those of avant stylings. The band regularly seems like it is about to unleash an anthem that will get the fists pumping or a ballad to get the lighters lit, but they always pulls back at the last moment so as to preserve a cliché free exercise.
Clocking in at a little over 70 minutes and full of unconventional tunings, Daydream Nation alternates between meditative passages and aural explosions so seamlessly that the recording feel more like a single track than a collection of 14. (The final three tracks are list as a trio but I don’t see how they are any more connected than any of the other tracks.) Tone is form and pacing has little effect on mood. And it is all beautiful.
Moore appears on DJ Spooky's 1999 ep Sublimal Minded: The E.P. (Outpost Recordings), a disc I've been listening to a lot lately. A mix of dub, rap, rock and trip-hop, the release meanders greatly and seems to exist merely as a collection of what could easily otherwise be unrelated recordings that when collected as a single volume create, in a manner not unlike what is heard on Daydream Nation, an even playing field for each and all of the styles used. “Rappers Relight” may feature Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine but it would be plenty funky if it wasn’t so fucked up (in a decidedly non-rock way.) “Dialectical Transformation III Peace in Rwanda Mix” is a duet between DJ Spooky’s beats, electronic effects and samples and the distorted guitar of Moore. The two work around each other, with DJ Spooky generally leading, during the roughly seven and a half minutes of turbulence nirvana that is the track.
Although recorded long before the beginning of the “war on terror,” Sublimal Minded: The E.P. seems like a perfect fit for this on-going period where the ending is far from clear. Universality screams from the ideology of the “war on terror” no more and no less than it does the e.p. Tragedy appears in both but it easy to ignore since what the Bush Administration deems will be the inevitable final product in the “war on terror” is as enticing as the music of Sublimal Minded: The E.P. is entrancing. The latter may exist in reality but not in a form that can change the lives on a social level while the former does nothing if not change societies.
Can they both be beautiful?
Wednesday, September 10, 2003
New get your war on strips came out last month.
If you like to read my "they are all a bunch a corrupt and despicable assholes so there is no point in caring about anything that could happen in the immediate future" commentary, please check out the exchange that followed this post by Saragon.
Tuesday, September 09, 2003
"Who writes this stuff?"
-Krusty the Clown
"Iraq, if it is prosperous and stable, in a different kind of Middle East, is going to be the death knell for terrorism," National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice reportedly said yesterday.
What's interesting about this comment is that it breaks rank and suggests that victory in the "war on terror" is within sight, even if it isn't close.
"... I would just remind people, when you're dealing with a society like Saddam Hussein's, you're not going to know very much about it," Rice said on Sunday. (Thanks to Josh Marshall for pointing this quote out.)
Criticism of U.S. President George W. Bush encourages the enemies in the "war on terror," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld reportedly said yesterday. Strangely he did not then say that statements like the one he had just made add fuel to the conspiracy theorist fire.
Monday, September 08, 2003
More of the same
Bush didn't back down last night. In fact, George W. President of Some County was nearly John F. Kennedyesque in evincing a desire to lead the "civilized world" to victory over "the terrorists." (Hey, where's Lee?)
Bush's demeanor came across like that of a guy who wants to be trusted, so it is interesting to note just how much dishonesty there was in speech.
First of all, there is the budget:
Our strategy in Iraq will require new resources. We have conducted a thorough assessment of our military and reconstruction needs in Iraq, and also in Afghanistan. I will soon submit to Congress a request for $87 billion. The request will cover ongoing military and intelligence operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, which we expect will cost $66 billion over the next year. This budget request will also support our commitment to helping the Iraqi and Afghan people rebuild their own nations, after decades of oppression and mismanagement.Sounds good but the White House's own "Fact Sheet: Request for Additional Fy 2004 Funding for the War on Terror" (dated September 8, 2003) says that the request for additional funds for Iraq alone is $87 billion. ("$51 billion to support ongoing military operations in Iraq," "$20 billion to help secure Iraq's transition to self-government and create the conditions necessary for economic investment and investment," "roughly $5 billion to improve security immediately by training border and customs enforcement personnel, a new Iraqi army, police force and local civilian defense corps. The request will also support building a judicial and penal system" and "$11 billion to support continuing U.S. efforts to track down terrorists and provide stability.") Then there is an additional request of over $1.5 billion for Afghanistan. ("$800 million to address some of the most critical remaining security and reconstruction needs," "over $400 million to train and support the Afghan National Army and national police, border and highway patrol" and "over $300 million to accelerate the construction of roads, schools, health clinics, and local, small-scale projects.")
Bush said the war has been "one of the swiftest and most humane military campaigns in history," which ignores the fact that arguably the war is still ongoing as well as the bombings and sanctions that for over decade softened Iraq up.
Those, however, are just minor complaints compared to what else Bush had to say.
As seems to be the policy of Team Bush, Bush implicitly said that attacking the occupying troops amounted to terrorism, something that is at odds with his own government's definition. Bush also talked about "the terrorists" as if they are a unified group, when the truth is quite different.
Then there is this bit about additional troops:
Our military commanders in Iraq advise me that the current number of American troops -- nearly 130,000 -- is appropriate to their mission. They are joined by over 20,000 service members from 29 other countries. Two multinational divisions, led by the British and the Poles, are serving alongside our forces -- and in order to share the burden more broadly, our commanders have requested a third multinational division to serve in Iraq.Since Bush did say that one of the Uncle Sam's goals in Iraq was to increase "international cooperation in the reconstruction and security of Iraq," it is possible that the this additional division is just for show and not really necessary. But if it is actually desired by military commanders, it becomes an issue of whether or not these other troops that would come, if they come at all, from yet to be determined countries are known to be able to accomplish something that the same number of U.S. troops could not accomplish. Obviously the question is ridiculous, so, unless these troops are just for show, Bush should have said, "a small number of additional troops are needed. We are going to try to get them from other countries."
Last but not least there are the weapons of mass destruction and related programs that have disappeared from Bush's agenda. Bush correctly said that Saddam Hussein's now deposed regime "possessed and used weapons of mass destruction" but made no mention of the efforts to find the weapons of mass destruction and related programs that the Bush Administration said were a threat to the U.S. and other countries before the war started. Has Team Bush found out that they were wrong to emphasize that threat? If so, Bush should have been honest about this. If the threat still exists, Bush should have explained what they are doing to track down the weapons of mass destruction and programs to build such weapons. And if that has been taken care of, Bush should come out and say that as a way of calming people who believed him in March. (It is hard to believe that if the threat had indeed been neutralized, that Bush wouldn't have bragged about doing so.)
Of course, expecting Bush to be honest at this point in the game is a bit delusional.
Sunday, September 07, 2003
The "war on terror" live!
Stephen F. Hayes has two main arguments in "Saddam's al Qaeda Connection," an article in the September 1-8 edition of The Weekly Standard. (Thanks to Saragon for the link.) The first is that those who have said that a link between former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime and al Qaeda has been disproved are wrong to do so. The second, and related, argument is that evidence suggesting a link has been discovered since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March.
Hayes is on solid ground with the first point. Former Vice President Al Gore and others who have said that proof that a link did not exist have been wrong to do so.
However, the second point is far less clear. Certainly there is additional reason to think -as if there had once been any doubt- that Saddam's regime was not actively waging a "war" against al Qaeda, but that hardly is proof of a link. Nor are the allegations that members of al Qaeda and representatives of Saddam's regime were in contact -some of which appear quite strong- proof of a link and in some cases they even cast doubt on a link, as Spanish intelligence reportedly also does. What is left are some very valid, but hardly conclusive, reasons to believe such a link existed, although perhaps only time will tell what is truth and what is fiction.
For the sake of the argument, however, let's say that a definitive link did or, to the extent that the regime still exists, does exist. That would undoubtedly do much to justify the recent, and perhaps, depending on your definition, still ongoing war in Iraq, in the minds of many. I, on the other hand, would find it a bit more convincing if the Bush Administration was up in arms about Great Britain inviting Syria -a country that the Central Intelligence Agency says is a sponsor of terrorism- to this year's Defence Systems & Equipment International, where Syria could learn more about military equipment and perhaps even purchase some. (Syria has declined the invitation to attend, according to the Defence Export Services Organisation, which appears to be a branch of the British government.) But it isn't, because Great Britain is an ally and it is best to not think too logically about the "war on terror, a fact borne out by out there isn't even one definition of the enemy amongst those in power.
United States President George W. Bush declared the U.S. had begun a "war against terrorism" in September 11, 2001 speech. This has remained a constant in his administration's rhetoric and actions in the nearly two years since then, but who are the terrorists? Who are the enemy?
—The term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.However, last Wednesday U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell got involved in the following exchange:
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, in some capitals, the countries members of the Security Council, there is still a lot of criticism to the United States that these unilateral action create the instability inside Iraq and the United States has to solve it as unilateral, too; it wasn't any terrorism in Iraq before the war.Since Saddam's regime was clearly not "subnational," one has to conclude that Powell defines terrorism a bit differently -more as a substitute for "evil"- than the State Department, the organization he is in charge of.
Powell, of course, may very well have just been speaking off the top of his head and not realized his faux pas, but that just highlights the problem. No such confusion could have been had in all but possibly one -the Cold War- of the numerous conflicts the U.S. has been part of in the past. In contrast, the "war on terror" will likely need this ambiguity in the future the same way we need oxygen. If it were defined narrowly, victory might be achievable but, a it is currently defined, it can go anywhere, everywhere, take break and be quite successful while continuing to the dominant narrative of the time.
Micah compliments Bush
I used to always hate it when that Reagan guy's speeches would preempt The A-Team.
Speaking of Bush's speech, Paul Harris , Jason Burke and Gaby Hinsliff's Observer report is interesting, but I highly doubt that Bush will announce any concessions in the speech. Far more than not finding weapons of mass destruction and programs for such weapons, Bush would be hurt by such a move as it would make him look weak, which has negative political consequences and makes it more difficult to deal with a country like say Iran. This doesn't mean that Bush won't make any concessions, just that I would shocked if he holds a made for television address to announce them.
Saturday, September 06, 2003
What about the lawn signs?
Giving "support" to the troops isn't an easy task, David Wood reports in an August 18 Newhouse News Service story.
Friday, September 05, 2003
Thursday, September 04, 2003
Although the game had previous been pronounced "over," United States Secretary of State Colin Powell announced yesterday that the U.S. was now circulating a draft resolution to amount to "putting the [United Nations] Security Council into the game," a move that marks of the beginning of "a new effort with respect to our diplomatic efforts to generate international support for Iraq."
The rough translation of this is, "Send money and/or troops."
While working with the Security Council would most likely mean some concessions in terms of control, Powell made it clear that the U.S. would still be in charge, even if has less than specific on the details. "[T]he U.S. will remain the commander of the unified command and there will be an element in the resolution that calls upon the United States as the leader of the military coalition to report on a regular basis to the United Nations, since it is a United Nations-authorized multinational force, if the resolution passes," Powell said. "Certainly, the United States will continue to play a dominant role, a dominant political role through the work of Ambassador Bremer and his coalition colleagues, and a dominant role because of the size of the U.S. force presence that is there and the leadership we are providing to the effort."
The response to this proposal from France and Germany was less than enthusiastic.
Powell also said:
...the draft resolution will invite the Iraqi Governing Council to submit a plan, a program and a timetable, for its political evolution through the writing of a constitution, putting in place the necessary institutions of government and the conduct of free elections so that they can determine how they will be led in the future; and, and at that point, after free elections, you have the conditions for sovereignty so that they can assume sovereignty over their own country once again, and the Coalition Provisional Authority and the military presence would be a matter of partnership between the new Iraqi government, an Iraqi government led by Iraqis for Iraqis, and whatever partners they wish to continue to help them in that process.While the Iraqi Governing Council is likely to compliant to act in this manner, it would be interesting to see what would happen if they did decide to push for Iraqis being in control of Iraq before all of the "Core Principles for a Free Iraq" had been achieved or even were clearly on the way to being achieved. Ultimately, I suspect, the answer would depend on how much the Bush Administration values being able to put forth the case that the “war on terror” is not about the U.S. dominating other countries.
Wednesday, September 03, 2003
The Congressional Budget Office finds that, given current troop commitments and intended terms of deployment, the number of U.S. troops in and around Iraq will have to fall by possibly more than half by March to between 67,000 and 106,000 with costs ranging from 14 to 19 billions dollars per year.
There are several possible responses to this. The number of troops could just be reduced, although given the current climate and level of instability in the country that appears unlikely. Military personal could stay in Iraq longer than planned, which seems most likely to me even though there is a political cost involved. Finally, and this would most likely go along with one of the two other options, the U.S. could decide to attempt to boost the number of personal that it has. This could be done through increased recruitment (which would probably be difficult to achieve), keeping people in the service longer, instituting some kind of a draft (a politically unpopular but hardly out of the question idea) and/or getting additional support from other countries. Even if one or more of these methods were successful, I'm not sure if they could have the necessary impact by March and if they were going to, implementation would have to start soon.
A Congressional Budget Office report from last month, "The Army's Bandwidth Bottleneck," finds that the Army's plans for providing digitalized information flows are not sufficient to meet the projected bandwidth demands.
Tuesday, September 02, 2003
Writing this cornucopia of links
When plotting today’s post, I planned to mention how 40 seconds before the first track of the first disc of David Cross' Shut Up, You Fucking Baby (SubPop, 2002) there is a wonderful Cross riff on the homoerotic nature of clothes that are popular in fraternities.
With that in mind, I was then going to point out that Run Ronnie Run! (Troy Miller, 2002), a movie that is based on a character from Mr. Show, a sketch comedy show created by Cross and Bob Odenkirk, is coming out on DVD on September 16, while Odenkirk's directorial debut Melvin Goes to Dinner (2003) will do the same two months to the day later. After doing that, I was going to point out how sad it is that these guys are not better known with better distributed work.
But then, as fate would have it, I did some web surfing and found some more to write about, which I would have done if not for something that I will disclose later, like the asteroid that probably won't hit this planet in 2014. Part of me can't help but wonder if what this planet needs is a good asteroid hit. Then there is this well-meaning but unlikely to be effective call for "cell phone etiquette." Even if the piece was widely read, I doubt many would follow the advice since I suspect that cell phones are a status symbol and when you are taking a call on a cell phone in a public place most people, consciously or unconsciously, are saying to the world, "I am important! So important that anything that needs to be conveyed to me is more important than your ability to avoid hearing me talking more loudly than I would to someone I was actually in the physical presence of!" It is a human desire that can only be quenched by cell phones but oh what the cavemen would have given for it.
In unrelated news from today, CNN writes:
Israel declared "all-out war" against Hamas Monday and said it is freezing diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority unless the Palestinian leadership takes "tangible steps to deal with infrastructures of terror."If was writing about this, I'd make a joke about how it looks like the Road Map is close to being torn up because Israel is mad, whereas Israel killing 13 of its Arab citizens a little less than three years ago -just one small part of what sociologist Baruch Kimmerling has persuasively argued amounts to Ariel Sharon's campaign of "politicide"- is not a big deal.
Next I would joke about how the U.S. of A. has made Afghanistan all wonderful and stuff while protecting Uncle Sam's many offspring before pointing to a Boston Globe report by Bryan Bender about how the U.S. appears willing to deal with North Korea, a charter member of the "Axis of Evil." Then it would be time to laugh at Colbert I. King of The Washington Post for thinking that it is even possible that the Bush Administration was honest about Iraq.
After that I would point out that what Josh Marshall identifies as the "revisionism" of the Bush Administration is in fact the logical outcome of the "first draft" of history after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks where it was identified that "war" had been declared on the U.S. by "the terrorists" as opposed to just a particular group of terrorists. Doing so would be a good set-up for noting the self-justifying framework of the "war on terror."
Finally, if I were doing all of this, I would scornfully chortle in response to Paul Richter's Los Angeles Times report from Sunday and today's Washington Post report by Peter Slevin about how other countries aren't eager to pay for the occupation of Iraq. "Imagine that," I might write, "governments who didn't support the U.S. taking over Iraq don't want to share the financial burden of that conquest. What will those nutty places think of next?"
I would have written all those things if it wasn't for the news that former Michigan State football player Brian Ottney passed away yesterday at the age of 23. Perhaps it isn't admirable that I can laugh at problems in faraway places but feel sad when someone who entertained me died at a very early age.
As I thought about this my mind turned to Andrew Cockburn's article on modern day slavery in the September 2003 National Geographic. It is an excellent but very somber piece that implicitly points out that today's slavery is not an aberration from the most advanced economic structures, but rather part of it.
Doing a bit of searching, I come up with Ronnie Greene's Miami Herald story from yesterday about brutal conditions, including slavery, on some Florida farms. On a somewhat hopeful note, I did come up with a BBC story from Saturday by Jan Rocha on the freeing of slaves in Brazil:
In Brazil, government inspectors from the Ministry of Labour have freed 849 workers being held in conditions of slavery on a coffee farm near Barreiras in the state of Bahia."Freedom" is of course nothing other than what it is commonly agreed upon to be, but any decent definition could not be inclusive of the outright buying and selling of other humans, a fact that, the more I think about it, makes slavery stand out to me amongst all of the possible issues I could concern myself with.
Or at least it should. I can't justify that I don't do more on this issue as, while I may be skeptical of utopian dreams, I do know that slavery is incompatible with either utopia or the desire for it. And when each of us allows the duty of alleviating slavery to fall to the mechanisms of state, we show Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's light and joyful to the point of being giddy call in Empire (Harvard University Press, 2000) for opponents of their titular object to end "big government" to be, at best, a long step removed from reality.
Monday, September 01, 2003
In a nationalreview.com column from last Thursday, Michael Novak argues that the Bush Administration and the media have blown the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks way out of proporition as not too many U.S. citizens died then, or since, when compared to previous wars.
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