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

Friday, February 28, 2003
Who defanged "London Calling"?

Sunday, for the first time in my life, I watched the Grammy Awards. O.k. I didn't watch the whole telecast. I consider awards for artistic endeavors that have more than one judge to be pointless since tastes are so different between people. And I certainly didn't watch it to see the likes of Eminem or Kid Rock perform. Instead I watched a few minutes of it for the expected tribute to the late great Clash frontman Joey Strummer.

Near the end of the show, the screen was filled with the names and pictures of important people in the music business who passed away in the last year. The very last fallen individual was Strummer, which cued nicely to the unmistakable opening riffs of the Mick Jones/Strummer classic "London Calling."

"This one's for Joe," said Bruce Springsteen before he, Elvis Costello, David Grohl and Steven Van Zandt traded verses on a ferocious version of "London Calling" that also featured Tony Kanal of No Doubt on bass and drummer Pete Thomas. This wasn’t a time for a reworking and this version was true to the original, which wasn't a given due to the undeniable temptation for sentiment over anger. Yet the song here had all of the power of the original. Van Zandt's sloppy snarling of the line "An' you know what they said? Well, some of it was true!" perfectly conveyed the message. In a better world, this performance would have sparked far more discussion than the Michael Jackson freak and joke show.

But in this world the song barely registered. If Matt Drudge is to be believed, CBS -the television network broadcasting the Grammys- was worried that that ceremony would turn into a festival of artists condemning the escalation of the U.S.’ war with Iraq and Sheryl Crow says she was warned by the Grammys to not make anti-war statements. All of this and yet the an anti-militarist song like "London Calling" didn't register as such. Robert A. George of The National Review, for instance, covered the ceremony and noted the performance of "London Calling" yet didn't include it in his round-up of the anti-war sentiments expressed on the show.

It would be easy to blame this on the fact that "London Calling" was, with Strummer's permission, recently farmed out for automobile commercials where the context was hardly clear. How, after all, is it possible to take a political message seriously from an artist shilling a product unrelated to their art? "You do a commercial, you're off the artistic roll call forever," Bill Hicks, who passed away nine years ago Wednesday, once said. "If you do a commercial, there's a price on your head, everything you say is suspect."

I was tempted to go along with this explanation until I remembered reading another Clash song, "Rock The Casbah," being interpreted as pro-U.S. military intervention in the Middle East merely because it was critical of the policies of Arab governments. The public often does not grapple with the obvious meanings of the songs they like. The most notable example where this happened is Springsteen's "Born in the USA." Perhaps it is possible that those who didn't see anything political about the performance of "London Calling" at the Grammys just didn't understand what the song was about.

But the more I think about this matter, the more I have to believe a third explanation is most accurate. Despite the politics involved with Strummer's public persona, he was still very much a musician and that is how the public reacted to his death this past December. It wasn't seen as a loss from the world of politics but rather from the world of music. It thus should come as not surprise that this performance of "London Calling" was not viewed as tribute to a musical figure, which of course does not necessarily bring up the issue of politics.

Still, this fate is more than a touch tad. Music surely can't spur revolution but it should at least be able to convey a specific message. If it doesn't do that, it is nothing but mere "entertainment."

(For another look at the "London Calling" Strummer tribute, read this post by Steven Rubio.)

Wednesday, February 26, 2003
Michigan State pulled off a 71-61 win over Minnesota tonight in East Lansing. The Spartans ended up with one fewer rebound than Minnesota, which 39 for the game, but MSU made up for that by giving up only seven turnovers.

Michigan State is now 15-11 on the season and 7-6 in the Big Ten. They play Purdue on Saturday in East Lansing.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

--Right now I'm listening to Roscoe Mitchell's Sound Songs (Delmark, 1997), which is a two-disc collection of music performed by Mitchell. Some of the cuts feature Mitchell as a solo blower while others feature overdub combos between that and Mitchell playing small percussion instruments like bells. The line between composition and improve is difficult to discern but the quality of this minimalist yet generally very pleasant music is undeniable.

-Click here for a discussion about U.S. policy towards Iraq that I took part in.

-Here I got into something of exchange about something but I don't want to think about it enough to figure out what.

-And here are some useful but hardly all encompassing notes on "Rebel Music."

-No piece of writing should ever sink low enough to actually be titled "Why guys chase trophy girls" and attempt to answer that question. Now asking why "trophy girls" are "trophy girls" is a perfectly good topic that doesn't have an obvious answer but explaining, "Why guys chase trophy girls" makes as much sense as asking, "Why guys like girls that they find physically attractive."

-Brendan O'Neill's "Save us from the warbloggers" and "Don't mention the U-word" are worth reading.

-Somebody should tell John Naughton and The Observer that Google has been around for more than a "little over two years" and that Google already indexes material on blogspot.com They should also be informed that it is far from accurate that “the blogging community refuses to accept the news 'agenda' as determined by mainstream media” with regards to U.S. policy towards Iraq. A look at the more popular political blogs will show that most of them readily accept the Bush Administration’s premise that the U.S. should be preventing Iraq from developing and possessing weapons of mass destruction, which just happens to be an assumption of the “mainstream media.”

-It really shouldn't bring me pleasure to see that Douglas Anders has shoveled a fair amount of snow, but it does.

-"How I Learned to Love the War" by Greg Beato has to be the most entertainingly written pieces I have seen in a while.

- I try to be tolerant but nostalgia for Jeane Kirkpatrick goes too far.

-Simon Reynolds consider himself to be one of the "Rock Critics 4 Peace."

-Kudos to Toni Smith!

"Can I get your swastika number?" sometimes comedian Randy Credico reportedly asked a thuggish police officer at the February 15 ant-iwar protest in New York City. According to Cynthia True's book American Scream: The Bill Hicks Story, Credico was influential in politicizing the late Bill Hicks. Credico is now head of the the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice.

You know the hawks could blame Indonesia's treatment of East Timor on Muslims. It wasn't as if the U.S. was involved or anything.

-Somebody needs to tell Students for War that I did think "September 11th could happen." In fact I think it was almost certain to happen given U.S. foreign policy.

-A country preparing to strike back if it is attacked. Where do the Iraqis get these crazy ideas?

-It appears safe to say that the U.S. and Great Britain will soon be conquering Iraq for whatever the reason of the moment ends up being. The threat of Iraq is very real and immediate attention but not so real and immediate so that there isn’t time for another U.N. resolution. Apparently Saddam will be just about ready to strike us whenever Bush and Blair get around to escalating the war with Iraq.

-For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed the product of a snack mix recipe that my mom clipped off a box of one variety of Chex or another. The recipe is titled “Traditional Snack Mix.” Sunday I was making a batch and noticed that the Chex boxes had a similar but different recipe on them. It was titled “Original Snack Mix.” The recipe for the "Original" variety is on chex.com. The recipe for the "Traditional" isn't. That’s capitalism for you.

Sunday, February 23, 2003
This season sure isn’t going according to plan

MSU fell to 14-11 on the season with a 76-75 a loss to Syracuse today in East Lansing. However, it should be noted that Syracuse was allowed to slap and knock down Spartans with whistles. Don't ask me. It was ridiculous. Of course giving up 76 points didn't help either.

Michigan State has now lost three of their last four games. They return to Big Ten play this Wednesday against Minnesota in East Lansing.

Friday, February 21, 2003

By now you have no doubt heard about the Rhode Island nightclub deaths from last night and the deaths in a Chicago nightclub on Sunday. These are of course sad events and I feel uneasy joking about them in any way, but I can't help but observe:

-A bet a lot of nightclub goers are making jokes about such incidents and will continue to make them in the immediate future.

-I wouldn't be surprised if Great White gets a Behind the Music now if the band is willing to participate.

-You have to "score one" for white people on this matter.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Country singer Johnny PayCheck passed away on Tuesday at the age of 64.

It would be a mistake to regard PayCheck as one of the greats in his genre, or me as one of his bigger fans, but the level of energy to the best of his music compares favorably to much of the best of any genre. The 1970 hit "(Don't Take Her) She's All I Got" is better than almost anything you can now hear on commercial radio, for instance.

PayCheck is of course best known for his 1977 version of "Take This Job and Shove It," a song written by David Allen Coe. What is interesting about this song is that the lyrics become more abivalent as the song goes. The song first lets listeners believe that the character quitting his job is a done deal, but as it moves on it becomes clear that it is his wish but not his immediate plan. The song hooks listeners in with a simple message and then expands on the story in a realistic fashion. Not bad for what Dan Cooper of All Music Guide calls a novelty song."

Wednesday, February 19, 2003
It feels good to be blogging less

I am a little over one week into taking this blog less seriously and loving the experience. It feels liberating to be able to read that supporting Bush’s “war on terror” is dissent, that opposing war with country X means supporting the government of X in all things and that the U.S. doesn’t really care about democracy in Iraq and not be compelled to write an 11-point response.

One of the pitfalls of blogs is that there is a tendency to respond to every little detail and miss the larger issues that take time to think through. I’m not going to name names as just about every blogger, most certainly including me, has done this at some point in time.

Just so it is clear, I do think there is value to people who post a lot and respond to all of the major developments of the day. I also think there is more value for less frequent but more thought out and better researched posts. It is the latter that I want to put more effort into, at least for a little while.

By the way, if you would like a message every week or so alerting you to the more significant posts on this blog, just send an email asking for the update to micahth@hotmail.com.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003
If there is something positive to say about MSU’s 70-40 loss to Illinois tonight in Champaign, I don’t know what it is.

MSU is now 6-6 in the Big Ten and 14-10 overall. They play Syracuse on Sunday in East Lansing.

Monday, February 17, 2003
An observation on authenticity

I attended an exhibit of some of the Dead Sea Scrolls today at the Public Museum of Grand Rapids in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was an educational experience, although perhaps only because I knew very little about the Dead Sea Scrolls before today.

What I find interesting is how the exhibit is attractive because of artifacts that are in no way essential to the exhibit. Quite frankly I could have learned as much if I hadn’t see a single scrap of scroll. And yet, since I could learn even more by reading a book or visiting some websites on the topic, where would the fun in be in that?

For most humans there is some illogical seemingly magical quality involved in artifacts that probably is related to the desire to eat “authentic” food and listen to “real” music. Maybe it isn’t the best quality, but it certainly isn’t one of our worst.

Sunday, February 16, 2003
The 300th or 302nd, depending on how you do the counting, of The Simpsons airs tonight.

I wish I had something profound to say but I don't. So just read my entries "The Value of The Simpsons" and "Unorganized comments about The Simpsons," if you haven't already.

In unrelated news I wish I had something interesting to say about google buying blogger, but I don't. I probably never will.

Saturday, February 15, 2003
My beloved Spartans rebounded from Tuesday's road loss to Wisconsin with 64-51 thumping of Northwestern that ended moments ago in East Lansing. The game was close till the second half.

The team is now 14-9 on the season and 6-5 in the Big Ten, having won four of their last five games. On Tuesday they play Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

I was just south of Reed City, Michigan on US 131 at around 3:45 p.m. today when I spotted a red early 1990s model Escort by the side of the road and a child playing out in the snow. It looked odd so I stopped the Civic and checked on the situation.

I found a boy who couldn’t have been older than 10. I asked him how he was doing and told him my name was Micah but didn’t ask any more questions for fear of coming across badly. He told me that he had been riding with his mom when their car ran out and gas and his mom told him to wait there while she went to get fuel. The boy only had tennis shoes on and I tried to coax him to get out of the snow but he wouldn’t leave. We talked for a few minutes about nothing in particular, as I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t comfortable leaving but our conversation was also awkward since quite reasonably the boy was leery of me.

Finally a pick-up truck pulled up and the boy’s mom was dropped off. She was carrying a contained of gasoline.

“What are you doing?” she asked me.

“Uh…” I stuttered without really answering.

“Todd is safe,” she blurted out before opening the nozzle on her gas tank.

I walked to my vehicle and went about my way.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003
A note about this blog

Maybe February is to blame and maybe the fault lies with the fact that I feel powerless over the state of Bush’s “war on terror,” but I am feeling burned out on blogging, which as of late has seemed more like a compulsion than an enjoyable activity. So I am going to start taking blogging a little less seriously and hope to spend far less time on it. This doesn't mean that I will be stepping away from it entirely as there will still be regular posts, just less than there has been as of late.

I don't know if there is any interest in this, but if you send an email to micahth@hotmail.com and ask to get an update every seven days or so on what has happened on the blog, I will send you such messages.

As Frank Bartles would say, "And thank you for your support."

Momentum killer

My beloved Spartans lost to Wisconsin, 64-53, tonight in Madison. Despite the final score the game was competitive and was 48 all with a little under six minutes left. Then MSU collapsed.

That said, you could say except Michigan State played well save for offense, and even there the primary problem the team had was turnovers, offensive fouls and the lack of consistent three point shooting.

In his post-game show, Tom Izzo sounded mad at his players, the officials and Wisconsin.

Unfortunately MSU doesn’t have another game scheduled with Wisconsin. The blame for this should go to Penn State and the conference tournament. Hopefully, however, they will blame in the conference tournament.

MSU needs to figure out a way to win close games down the stretch on a more consistent basis. If they do that, and that’s a very big if, they could do well in March.

The Spartans are now 13-9 on the season and 5-5 in the Big Ten. Their next game is Saturday against Northwestern in East Lansing.

An audio recording that is believed to be of Osama bin Laden urges Muslims to defend Iraq and fight Israel and the United States, reports Samia Nakhoul of Reuters. Nakhoul also reports the speaker on the tape says, "The fighting should be in the name of God only, not in the name of national ideologies, nor to seek victory for the ignorant governments that rule all Arab states, including Iraq."

While this doesn't strengthen the argument that al Qaeda and Iraq are working together, it is important to keep in mind that strange bedfellows do happen. After all, Donald Rumsfeld has had some business dealings with communists.

"Saudi Arabia's leaders have made far-reaching decisions to prepare for an era of military disengagement from the United States, to enact what Saudi officials call the first significant democratic reforms at home, and to rein in the conservative clergy that has shared power in the kingdom," writes Patrick E. Tyler of The New York Times.

"Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists,” President George W. Bush said on September 20, 2001.

Defense Secretarys apparently don't have to make a choice.

Click here and here for some interesting development the NYC and the peace rally/protest permit issue from Jim Henley.

New Get Your War On strips always entertain me.

Monday, February 10, 2003
Three thoughts on the Bushiest Empire

Over at Hector Rottweiller Jr's Web Log, in a post from Friday, Peter comes out in favor of the United States removing Saddam Hussein from power, which effectively means escalating the current war with Iraq. Peter doesn't reach this conclusion because he feels Iraq is a threat to the U.S. but rather only so that the U.S. can save face:

I'm anti-war in the general case, but I think we have to get rid of Saddam. Why? Because he's a dangerous scud-tossing menace? No. Because he's stock-piling WMDs and has used them? No. Because He gives to the Al-Qaeda boy's club? No.

The reason is that like a fool, our President invested so much political capital (both foreign and domestic)into this war after 9/11 that if we don't follow up, the rest of the world will laugh at us for years.

To repeat one of the arguments made in "The U.S. shouldn’t be preventing Iraq from possessing or developing weapons of mass destruction," the main problem with this line of thinking is that it assumes the U.S. is going to back away from future unprovoked interventions once it gets done conquering Iraq. Nothing could be further from the case as President George W. Bush and friends have a long list of additional targets they want to go after in the name of the "war on terror." Once they can focus on some country other than Iraq, there is every reason to think that they plan to conquer additional countries.

Although those who identify primarily with U.S. interests may find this idea to be the antithesis of comforting, it appears likely that the U.S. is going to have to be humbled in someway if it is ever going to back off from this "war on terror." I don't know what form exactly this humbling would have to take but there needs to be something that instructs people in the U.S. that trying to run the world is not just and/or smart. Just admitting that a terrible miscalculation about Iraq has been made and backing away might, as Peter says, creates a situation where "the world will laugh at us for years" but it sounds like a far better option to me than incurring the wrath of enraged people who want revenge against the U.S. because of what this country's military has done somewhere.

Another interesting element of Peter's entry is that he says he wasn’t impressed with Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation at the United Nations last Wednesday but that he likes Powell:

It upset my stomach watching Colin Powell's speech to the U.N. Like Curtiss, I agree that the evidence was underwhelming, though it is enough IMHO to hold Iraq in material violation. Seemed to me that Powell has bent over to pick up the soap for the administration and his integrity is the first casualty of this war. Too bad - I always liked him.
Leaving aside the perhaps homophobic comment on the part of Peter, it is notable how much he does speak for many who are at least somewhat skeptical of the Bush Administration's drive to escalate the war with Iraq. For reasons relating to political correctness -it would be nice to know that the highest ranking person of color in Team Bush doesn't go along with all of the white boys- and the sheer desire to think that there is some voice of reason in the White House, many opponents of at least some of the foreign goals of the "war on terror" have come to think that Powell is really on their [our] side. I don't claim to immune from wanting to believe this, hence a post like this one from September 2, but if you look at the situation honestly, it is clear that Powell is on the side the Bush Administration -of which he is a key member of-, even if things would be done differently if he were president. Wednesday was just the latest example of Powell going to bat for the Bushiest Empire. (Feel free to quote me on that.)

To transpose an argument that Michael Novick of People Against Racist Terror has often made, Powell gains his strength from being perceived, for the reasons described in the previous paragraph as well as his military background, as a "good cop" to the more bellicose “bad cops” like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He isn't seen as cowboy itching for a fight but rather as a deliberate warrior who will fight when a fight is necessary. In other words, and to borrow from a movie, he is closer to being Shane than Jack Wilson. As such, Powell serves as a great spokesperson for the most hawkish elements of the Bush Administration because he can put forward their policies while still looking like he wants peace. The result, at least so far, is that the Bush Administration has quite successfully used "September 11" as the justification for a period of open intentions to dominate the world. Because of his role in this, Powell is one of those most responsible for whatever results the imperial actions of the U.S. bring.

One element that I find striking about the "war on terror" is that U.S. citizens don't seem particularly worried about an attack on the U.S. I could make a joke out of this, as I did in December, but that would only distract from the oddity of the situation. Whatever Americans do or don't feel about the possibility of escalating the war with Iraq on the "terror alert" level being on "highest," very few are acting as if another terrorist attack is imminent. Now maybe this is because they don't feel they are likely to be effected by such an attack and/or they don't see anything they can do about it, but there is still something quite odd about it. The U.S. government is spending more resources on what it deems to be the threat than anything else and the public seems to see this as smart. Yet, when it comes to actually believing that a threat is forthcoming, the commitment just isn’t there.

Sunday, February 09, 2003
I just finished watching the 1960 masterpiece G.I. Blues, which of course starred Elivis Presley, on AMC. How did Marlon Brando ever find work?

Saturday, February 08, 2003

My beloved Spartans go their first road win since December 14 in their first overtime game of the season tonight with a 67-62 over Indiana. MSU is now 13-8 on the season and 5-4 in Big Ten play. Their next game is Tuesday against Wisconsin in Madison.

"Total C-o-n control - that means you!"

This entry by Glenn Reynolds is too idiotic to bother responding to in a point by point fashion but it should be noted that he practices the bad form of making it appear like he quoting himself when in fact he is quoting a piece by Judith Shulevitz that appeared on/in/at Slate and also includes this zinger:

...there's something about the artist's desire for total control over his or her work of art that seems to find resonance with the dictator's desire for total control over society. Indeed, some dictators seem to regard themselves as artists, artists who work with people and nations.
This is coming from a guy who supports a war against a country because the country could be a threat to somebody at some point in the future.

Notes on repression

One pleasant surprise of the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks is that, despite repressive legislation, the public has largely not clamored for imprisoning or any other way infringing on the rights of those who speak out against Bush’s “war on terror.”

This Thursday editorial by The New York Sun represents an exception to this pattern as it applauds attempts to make it more difficult to publicly express opposition to the U.S. escalating the current war with Iraq because such opposition could be effective, even as it acknowledges that those attempts are not in accordance with the Constitution. The New York Sun makes a point of saying that another major terrorist attack are likely to lead to a much greater clampdown on civil liberties than the mere prevention of an anti-war protest. On this point, it is not at all clear what they are talking about. It is ludicrous to think that a terrorist attack will decrease the right of the average apolitical U.S. citizen to rent My Big Fat Greek Wedding or drive a snowmobile. Any curtailment of civil liberties will be targeted at those deemed to be on the fringes of society -Arabs, Muslims and/or critics of one aspect or another of the "war on terror." This doesn't mean that restrictions won't ever reach farther into the general population, only that they will start at the margins.

Justin Raimondo and Jesse Walker are two anti-war writers who have criticized this editorial. More importantly, as Jim Henley has noted, a number of proponents of further war with Iraq have come out against the editorial.

On October 12, 2001 I wrote about how the level of racism in the U.S. after the September 11 terrorist attacks was much less than I expected but added:

Would the situation be different if George W. Bush was urging “Real Americans” to attack Arabs, people mistaken for Arabs and Muslims? Would anybody in this country give a damn if Bush was constantly on the television talking about how “we” were at war with the Afghans?

If this is as long of a war as the Masters seem to be alluding to, my hunch is that such a cruel inverse of concern will appear and then we will see how hateful this country can become in a hurry.

I still have that hunch.

"The chief U.N. arms inspectors landed in Baghdad on Saturday for a new round of crucial talks with Iraqi officials. As global pressure mounted, they demanded more evidence that Iraq has destroyed all of its weapons of mass destruction," writes the AP.

" The Joint Chiefs of Staff are expected to raise security measures at military bases across the United States by the end of the day, military officials told CNN on Friday," CNN writes.

It is beginning to look like Gulf War
Everywhere we go

Why doesn't Michael Jackson just go away? Because the public still cares.

Over at The Lansing State Journal's greenandwhite.com Joe Rexrode has taken a look at Tom Izzo's "scrambled brain" as it relates to coming up with a lineup that works:
He will set a permanent starting lineup soon, and try to find a designated sixth man to bring offense off the bench - a la Morris Peterson in 1999. Hill and Ager are the most likely candidates to fill that position.
And hopefully it will work. Right now nobody is shooting well enough to be relied on consistently.
Then Izzo wants his seventh, eighth and ninth spots set. Wolfe and Andreas, both juniors, likely will see little more than spot duty the rest of the season.
As unexciting as that sounds they don't really have any other options.
Then comes the toughest question: Tap Johnson for substantial minutes at the point, or hold off and stick with Anderson and Hill? Johnson would be MSU's 10th regular.
It seems to me you just try him out and if it turns out badly, figure the team was bound to go three or four minutes without scoring anyway.

As always, there is no reason to fear the loss of freedom. (Thanks to Jim Henley for the link.)

Friday, February 07, 2003
More on the connection between Iraq and al Qaeda.

If you head over to HorowitzWatch, you can read my entry "Refusing to deal with real arguments."

A lesson that hawks should learn

Yesterday's final post, "Dominating the world," was my intellectual response to President George W. Bush's wail for war. My response yesterday afternoon when I heard Bush's comments live on the radio was "Shut the fuck up!"

I linked to this post by Jim Henley in "Dominating the world" but I feel the need to emphasize this section:

I have two letters in my in-box that I've been meaning to get to. Both say, in similar words, "But we have to do something. What's your alternative?" But "we have to do something" is precisely what I'm not convinced of.

Because they lie. Routinely and often and deliberately. They said there were 100,000 people in mass graves in Kosovo. That was a lie. They said Iraqi soldiers were tossing babies out of incubators. That was a lie. They said Iraqi troops in 1991 were massing on the Saudi border. That was a lie. They said Saddam's attack on Kuwait was a total surprise. That was a lie. They said US troops had no combat role in Central America in the 1980s. That was a lie.

Right through the Gulf War, I believed that shit. By the time of Kosovo, I knew better. I'm 42 years old, I knew the Middle East existed before September 11, 2001, and if today's bunch sounds a lot like previous bunches that turned out to be full of crap, my conclusion is that this bunch is full of crap too.

I have no doubt that at least some of what the Bush Administration is telling us about Iraq is not true -and I would add the Iraqi plot to assassinate George H.W. Bush to the list of lies- but what strikes me about the situation, and what I argued in "Dominating the world," is that even if everything the Bush Administration says about Iraq is true, that they have not provided us with anything approaching a good reason to escalate the war with Iraq. What they have done successfully, if the poll results such as these are accurate, is play on the public's ignorance about the fact that weapons of mass destruction are already in the hands of a number of countries that the U.S. doesn't get along with and that there are logical reasons why countries would want weapons of mass destruction that do not involved attacking the United States. The entire debate has been focused on to keep Iraq from having weapons of mass destruction. Even liberals, or perhaps especially liberals, have bought into this.

When I hear people assuming that Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction amounts to Iraq using weapons of mass destruction, I recall the moment in the fall of 1988 when an 11-year old Micah Holmquist realized that both the U.S. and the Soviet Union possessed nuclear weapons that could destroy all humans many times over. Believing the propaganda that the Soviet Union was out to kill all Americans, I assumed that it was only a matter of time before the world ended. I told as many people, including adults, about this as I could but nobody agreed with my assessment, although to be honest nobody explained why this wasn't going to happen either. The adults knew it was wrong to assume that all humans would die from nuclear war because they knew nuclear weapons has long existed side by side with humans. (The kids I told thought I was crazy, just as they had before my big announcement.) At the same time, it seems they didn't want to deny the dangerous aspect of nuclear weapons. The implicit message, which admittedly I didn't figure out for quite a number of years, was that the world was a dangerous place but that doesn't mean assuming that the worst possible outcome is a sure thing.

I wonder what the adults I talked to about this think of the plans to escalate the war with Iraq. Some no doubt oppose the drive to a heightened war but probably others have bought into it. Regression can be quite sad.

Thursday, February 06, 2003
Dominating the world

"The game is over," President George W. Bush said today in an attempt to let everyone know that he is the Dirty Harry of the world. "Saddam Hussein will be stopped."

It appears almost certain that the United States will soon be escalating its current war with Iraq. What's interesting is that no argument presented by the Bush Administration for furthering the war stands up to scrutiny.

We are told war is necessary to prevent Saddam Hussein from using weapons of mass destruction and/or giving them to terrorists such al Qaeda. But no evidence has been presented that Saddam intends to use such weapons and he certainly hasn't shown much interest in using them over the last 12 years. And the U.S. has been talking about invading Iraq for over a year now. During that time, Saddam could have given weapons of mass destruction to terrorists but the Bush Administration doesn't profess any concern about this possibility. It appears Bush doesn't take this risk seriously.

We are told war with Iraq is the only way the United Nations will remain strong. But by withholding intelligence the U.S. is violating clause 10 of the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 that Bush says Iraq must fully comply with. Furthermore the Bush Administration had no previous lover for international institutions such as the U.S. and most likely it will Bush and friends happy if they can soon say the U.N. is irrelevant.

And we are told this war is about human rights. But it is impossible to think that this is much of a concern give the administration's interest in economically controlling Iraq.

In short, if the Bush Administration is to be believed -a big if since, as Jim Henley and Chalmers Johnson have pointed out, presidents have a tendency to lie when it comes to justifying wars-, there is no reason to escalate the war with Iraq.

But this war is not without purpose. It is about power. It is about control. It is about showing the world that the U.S. can and will do whatever it wants whenever it wants.

I wonder, why isn't Bush honest about this?

The U.S. Central Command build-up continues to grow, reports Jim Garamone of the American Forces Press Service.

"...the greatest gift you can give anybody, is to pray on their behalf," President George W. Bush said this morning. "I especially feel that because I believe in prayer. I pray. I pray for strength, I pray for guidance, I pray for forgiveness. And I pray to offer my thanks for a kind and generous Almighty God."

Click here for a transcript of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's prepared remarks for the House Armed Services Committee yesterday.

Looks like somebody needs to explain to North Korea that the lesser countries of the world -which is to say all countries but the United States of America- do not have the right to respond to U.S. attacks with military force and are just supposed to take it like Iraq does, or at least has so far.

The North Korean commies also need to get the crazy idea of a preemptive strike against the U.S. out of their heads. As George Carlin has said in a similar situation, "Bullshit! That's our fucking job!"

Susumu Tachi of Tokyo University has reportedly created an invisibility cloak. "The picture on the coat is made by a viewfinder which puts together the moving images which are behind the wearer," writes BBC News in a sentence that somewhat diminishes the coolness of the invention.

Click here to see what passes for logic in the world of Andrew Sullivan.

Eric Alterman writes:
Like the men who ran the Johnson, Nixon and Reagan administrations, the men and women who run this administration are not honest and therefore not to be trusted on this most crucial of questions.
I agree with everything Alterman says here but it is absurd to act as if there has been a administration that anybody still living can remember -if ever- that has been honest on all important matters. It is beyond me how he can imply with a straight face that the Bill Clinton and friends were keepers of the first point of the Boy Scout Law. (Then again, maybe Alterman was smirking when he wrote it.)

Click here and here for some news on the Spartan football recruiting class.

Bomb France!

"France is no longer the ally it once was," Pentagon's Policy Advisory Board chairman Richard Perle recently said, according to a report by Martin Walker of the UPI. Since France has nuclear as well as chemical and biological weapons, I say we should go after the frogs as we as we are done with Iraq.

Despite what Mao said, the world is not best viewed in bianary terms

The fascists of Stormfront have been throwing some shots at Glenn Reynolds, as this post indicates. In the first update to that post Reynolds quotes one of his readers, James Foster:

They would also probably hate that most of your readers are pro-Second Amendment. Just like Condoleezza Rice's pastor father, who organized shotgun brigades to protect his church and community from their hooded brethren during the dark days of civil rights protests in Birmingham.
Actually the evidence is pretty clear that at this point in time the Stormfront milieu is opposed to gun control and view it as a plot by communists and Jews.

"We are supposed to believe that 'they hate us because we're free' – except, we aren't," Justin Raimondo writes in his February 5 column for antiwar.com. I don't know enough about the topic to comment so you should just read what Raimondo has to say.

Speaking of the London Review of Books, Robert Brenner's essay on the U.S. economy in the current issue, "Towards the Precipice," is worth reading even if the conclusions are a bit dramatic.

Today's Guardian features "The disquieted American," a review of Daniel Ellsberg's excellent book Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers by Chalmers Johnson that first appeared in the London Review of Books.

Johnson points out similarities between the Vietnam conflict and the current war on terror and attempts to answer if presidential lies about war are isolated incidents or a systematic problem. He decides the latter is more likely. "I believe that the advance of militarism in the United States is irreversible,'" Johnson writes. "If I am wrong, I will be forgiven because people will be so glad I was wrong."

"The chief UN weapons inspector yesterday dismissed what has been billed as a central claim of the speech the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, will make today to the UN security council," writes Dan Plesch of The Guardian. "Hans Blix said there was no evidence of mobile biological weapons laboratories or of Iraq trying to foil inspectors by moving equipment before his teams arrived."

Wednesday, February 05, 2003
Analysis and resistance are good

Opponents of escalating the war with Iraq need to sharpen their arguments, argues Matthew Parris in "A dove's guide: how to be an honest critic of the war," which appeared in last Saturday's edition of The Times

Parris contends that many of the arguments that opponents of escalating the war have been relying on might not hold up. The piece suggests Saddam Hussein may turn out to have been developing weapons of mass destruction, France and Germany (and thus the United Nations) might get behind a war, the war might go smoothly, Iraq might be easy to govern after the U.S. and friends takes over and the public may see only as a legitimate reason to fight a war. If all of these things happen, many if not most of the arguments made against escalating the war will turn out to be invalid and opponents of the war might look foolish.

Instead Parris, who I have previously critiqued and who appears to have lived an interesting life, suggests focusing on the concern that the Bush Administration is building an empire:

I am not afraid that this war will fail. I am afraid that it will succeed.

I am afraid that it will prove to be the first in an indefinite series of American interventions. I am afraid that it is the beginning of a new empire: an empire that I am afraid Britain may have little choice but to join.

As I argued in "Stop Debating Iraq," too much focus on the specifics of Iraq is likely to cause many people to ignore the larger goals of Bush and friends.

That said, my position differs from Parris' in two important ways. I think there is nothing wrong is bringing up possible negative outcomes that might result from escalating the war with Iraq, or just continuing the present war for that matter. Not all of them may come true but nobody can predict the future with 100% accuracy. This shouldn't stop people from talking about what is possible or is likely to happen. Furthermore it is bothersome that Parris, an individual who is clearly concerned about the growth of an American Empire, falls for the most significant flaw in the arguments of the anti-war activists he criticizes -accepting the Bush Doctrine on Iraq.

Fourteen days ago I wrote that the Bush Doctrine on Iraq amounts to, "If there is any possibility that Iraq could acquire weapons of mass destruction or is even trying to get them, and deceit by Iraq on this matter is assumed to imply guilt, then a war to remove Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is necessary." Nothing in this doctrine has anything to do with whether or not Saddam intends to use any weapons of mass destruction, which is the real matter since weapons that won't be used are hardly something to war about. Nonetheless the Bush Administration as presented the Bush Doctrine on Iraq as fact and gotten away with doing so since most arguments have not focused on whether or not Iraq is a threat but rather whether or not the country is developing weapons of mass destruction. (Earlier today I noted that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld feels no pressure to argue that Iraq is a threat and neither did Secretary of State Colin Powell when he spoke to the U.N. today.)

Parris doesn't challenge the logical hegemony of the Bush Doctrine on Iraq in "A dove's guide," and thus leaves room for those such as Glenn Reynolds who feel that an American Empire is far less bothersome than Iraq or some other country attacking the U.S. By challenging the idea that Iraq is a threat, opponents of the U.S. war with Iraq are able to focus the argument on whether or not the U.S. should be in the business or running the affairs of other countries for reasons connected only to matters of power. Parris might respond that Iraq might turn out to be a threat and that opponents of the war should refrain from that argument. In time this might turn out to be true -I certainly don't understand why Iraq doesn't retaliate against the U.S.-, but as it stands there is no reason to think Iraq is a threat and therefore no reason not to use that argument.

Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke to the United Nations today and it was a neat speech with cool visual aids that left me absolutely convinced. Absolutely convinced the Bush Administration has no proof that Iraq is a threat to anybody at the present.

Maybe the only interesting part of the speech was the charge that the Iraqi government is working with Al Qaeda but the details given by Powell are far from convincing.

The best that they can do

"In our country, in courts of law it has been customary to seek evidence that could prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That approach, of course, is appropriate when the objective is to protect the rights of the accused," Defense Secretary Donald Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday. "But in an age of weapons of mass destruction and weapons that can kill tens of thousands of innocent people, our goal has to be to take all reasonable steps to protect the lives of our citizens. That is a quite different task. What is being tested during this period is not whether the inspectors can discover something that the Iraqi regime is determined to hide; quite the contrary."

"What is being tested," Rumsfeld continued, "is whether or not, after more than a decade, Saddam Hussein will finally cooperate with the U.N. resolutions requiring his cooperation. Regrettably, the answer is more apparent every day as he continues to deceive and deny and reject those U.N. resolutions."

Translation: we have no proof that Iraq is a threat hence we haven't even tried to argue that point. Iraqi civilains do not deserve any protection.

"The president's nominee to become DoD's chief liaison to the Department of Homeland Security told U.S. lawmakers during a recent confirmation hearing that he sees the Guard and Reserve assuming more homeland defense duties," writes Gerry J. Gilmore of the American Forces Press Service. "Paul McHale, former Pennsylvania congressman and Marine, met Jan. 30 with Senate Armed Services Committee members to discuss his nomination to become the assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense."

"The foreign secretary Jack Straw insisted today that Iraq was linked to al-Qaida, saying that Saddam Hussein allowed a 'permissive environment' in which Osama bin Laden's organisation was able to operate," writes The Guardian, which is of course based in Great Britain.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003
Lisa English compares the Bush Administration to the Fascists of the Spanish Civil War in "FASCISTS REDUX." Actually she comes right out and says the Bush Administration is fascist, which is something of a stretch on the administration's better days. More importantly, however, English includes a jpeg of Pablo Picasso's Guernica, which understandably doesn't fit in well with Team Bush's war plans.

I'm not sure if efforts to keep art from influencing political debate are any worse than when the political message of art is ignored.

"John Ashcroft and Academic Freedom" by Douglas Anders is worth reading.

Mark W. Anderson has posted some thoughts on Comiskey Park.

Christopher Allbritton has some notes on Ahmed Chalabi.

"On Wednesday, I will present to the Security Council U.S. intelligence showing further evidence of Iraq's pattern of deception. Our evidence will reinforce what the inspectors told the Security Council last week--that they are not getting the cooperation they need, that their requests are being blocked, and that their questions are going unanswered. While there will be no 'smoking gun,' we will provide evidence concerning the weapons programs that Iraq is working so hard to hide," Secretary of State Colin Powell wrote in yesterday's Wall Street Journal.

"NASA investigators said today that a piece of insulation that broke off the shuttle's external fuel tank about 80 seconds after liftoff was now a prime suspect in the cascading series of failures that destroyed the shuttle Columbia 16 days later," John M. Broder writes in February 3 New York Times story. "Engineers had dismissed the impact of the debris on the shuttle as 'inconsequential' in a report issued 11 days into the shuttle mission. But Ron D. Dittemore, the shuttle program manager, said today that the engineers might have been wrong and that the space agency was 'redoing the analysis from scratch.'"

"Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has put 24 long-range bombers on alert for possible deployment within range of North Korea, both to deter 'opportunism' at a moment when Washington is focused on Iraq and to give President Bush military options if diplomacy fails to halt North Korea's effort to produce nuclear weapons, officials said today," David E. Sanger and Thom Shanker write in a New York Times story dated February 3.

Minor note: Sanger and Shanker include the following paragraph:

The White House insisted today that Mr. Bush was still committed to a diplomatic solution to the crisis. Any decision to bolster the considerable American military presence near North Korea was simply what Ari Fleischer, the president's spokesman, called making "certain our contingencies are viable." [Italics added]
Fleischer's official transcript -which I am sure he will need to present if he ever wants to go to college- reads:
...what the President has said to you is ongoing and valid, that the President continues to believe that the matter with North Korea can be resolved through diplomatic means, but that does not mean that the United States will always have contingencies and make certain that the contingencies are viable. [Italics added}
Either could be right. Fleischer did not want to get pinned down on whether or not President George W. Bush considered invading North Korea to be an option, FWIW.

"President Bush sent Congress a $2.23 trillion budget today — with record deficits — that would speed up billions of dollars in income tax cuts, provide huge increases for the Pentagon and offer a modest jump in spending for NASA," writes Elisabeth Bumiller in a New York Times story dated February 3. "Mr. Bush's budget forecasts a deficit of $304 billion in the current fiscal year, and projects a deficit of $307 billion for the 2004 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. Over the next five years the total projected deficit would be more than $1 trillion, a potentially problematic number for Mr. Bush, who as a presidential candidate vowed that he could both cut taxes and eliminate the national debt."

Also note:

The budget included no projection of the cost of any war with Iraq, which administration officials have said could be as low as $50 billion and as high as $200 billion. If there is a conflict, officials said, Mr. Bush would ask Congress for the money as an emergency supplement.
Of course, it isn't as if a budget for the current fiscal year has been finalized or anything.

Yep the conquest is going to happen

Tom Allard of The Sydney Morning Herald writes:

The United States has chosen a successor to Saddam Hussein from Iraq's notoriously fractious opposition groups, according to a former Iraqi diplomat who lives in Sydney.

Mohamed al-Jabiri, who has just returned from in talks with Washington, said the White House has given its "blessing" to the head of the Iraqi National Congress, Ahmed Chalabi, to lead a transitional coalition government in Iraq once Saddam has been deposed.

(Thanks to antiwar.com for the link.)

"THE US faces a dramatically increased risk of terrorist attacks if it invades Iraq, American officials have calculated," writes Roy Eccleston of The Australian. The entire story is worth reading. (Thanks to antiwar.com for the link.)

Peter Turnley's photo essay "The Unseen Gulf War" is an important work for all interested in whether or not the U.S. is going to escalate its war with Iraq.

Monday, February 03, 2003
"The Pentagon has launched a fast-track program to develop computers that would help decide when nuclear weapons might be used to destroy deep underground bunkers harboring weapons of mass destruction or other critical targets, documents show," writes Richard T. Cooper in today's Los Angeles Times.

"Legendary rock producer Phil Spector, who changed the course of pop music in the 1960s with his lush 'Wall of Sound' recordings, was arrested for murder on Monday in the shooting death of a woman at his hilltop mansion," writes Dan Whitcomb of Reuters.

Attacking a country that has not attacked you or any other counry in over a decade in "self-defense," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said today in a statement to members of the U.S. military.

Click here for the Defense Department's press release on on the President George W. Bush's proposed budget for the military.

"President Bush's fiscal 2004 budget request includes $6 billion for Project BioShield, a plan to quickly make available safer and more effective vaccines and treatments against biological agents such as smallpox, anthrax, botulinum toxin, ebola and plague," writes Linda D. Kozaryn of the American Forces Press Service.

"Is independent cinema dead in the United States -- or, is it just playing possum?" Manohla Dargis asks but doesn't quite answer in a piece in yesterday's Los Angeles Times. (Thanks to Matt Welch for the link.)

Dargis' biggest point is that the words "independent" and "indy" have lost a lot of their meaning as they relate to films. If anybody doubts that, click here and see that the top two "independent-film searches for past 30 days" on imdb.com are Gangs of New York (which I think works quite well symbolically) and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Thought provoking films made on small and relatively small budgets just do not seem to be exciting the public.

Dargis does praise American Splendor, which is based on a series of autobiographical comic books written by Harvey Pekar. As a big fan of Pekar's work, I look forward to seeing this film through one means or another but I am doubtful about how well it is going to work since one of the strongest features of Pekar's cannon is that the stories fall into a larger body of work. I consider Our Cancer Year, which Pekar wrote with his wife Joyce Brabner and which Frank Stack illustrated, to be the greatest comic book story ever told and yet it nonetheless works best as an add-on to Pekar's other works as such a perspective allows readers to better understand and appreciate the emotions of the characters involved.

Then again, maybe I am wrong as American Splendor won the Grand Jury Prize at the most recent Sundance Film Festival.

"Fact Sheet: Strengthening Intelligence to Better Protect America" is an interesting document by the Bush Administration on the developments they want bring to law enforcement for the purpose of waging on the "war on terror."

A new set of David Rees' get your war on strips came out a couple weeks ago.

"The Ministry of Defence yesterday admitted the electricity system that powers water and sanitation for the Iraqi people could be a military target, despite warnings that its destruction would cause a humanitarian tragedy," writes Jo Dillon of the British newspaper The Independent.

The Herald Sun writes:
SADDAM Hussein's senior bodyguard has fled with details of Iraq's secret arsenal...

Abu Hamdi Mahmoud has provided Israeli intelligence with a list of sites that the inspectors have not visited.

They include:

AN underground chemical weapons facility at the southern end of the Jadray Peninsula in Baghdad;

A SCUD assembly area near Ramadi. The missiles come from North Korea;

TWO underground bunkers in Iraq's Western Desert. These contain biological weapons.

William Tierney, a former UN weapons inspector who has continued to gather information on Saddam's arsenal, said Mahmoud's information is "the smoking gun".

This should be enough for the Bush Amdinistration to justify war unless...

Something for Mr. and Mrs. Patriotic American to consider

The amount of news coverage that should be devoted to the Challenger space shuttle accident is not easy to determine. There should be coverage since this is a major story but it also seems that the coverage is way out of line with the significance of the story.

A search on news.google.com turns up well over 1,300 stories calling what happened a “disaster.” The two primary definitions for “disaster” are, according to dictionary.com, “An occurrence causing widespread destruction and distress; a catastrophe” and “A grave misfortune.” The death of seven people, however saddening, does not seem to fit either definition.

And for those who want to say that the coverage is appropriate because these people died in “serving their country,” I ask you, how much attention and concern you will give to Iraqi soldiers who die when the U.S. escalates its war with their country in the near future? How much attention and concern will you give to the U.S. soldiers who die in the escalation of the war?

"At least Andrew Sullivan has yet to use the Columbia shuttle tragedy to justify the 'war on terror' without end," I wrote Saturday evening. To his credit and my surprise, Sullivan still hasn't.

Less than a million a minute

"The president is asking Congress for $379.9 billion for defense in fiscal 2004, which begins Oct. 1, 2003. That breaks down to spending $42 million an hour, said a senior defense official who briefed reporters Jan. 31 on the 2004 request," writes Jim Garamone of the American Forces Press Service.

MSU beat Illinois yesterday because the team made key plays towards the end of the game, Joe Rexrode notes in today's Lansing State Journal.

"United States officials said on Friday that satellite images showed North Korea could be moving towards making nuclear warheads," writes The Sydney Morning Herald in a February 3 story that could afford to include some more details. (Thanks to antiwar.com for the link.)

Over at antiwar.com, "An Iraqi Dissident Speaks Out Against War" by Joe Quandt is very much worth reading.

A "massive assault" is planned on Iraq, reports BBC News.

"'Paradise' has been fatwa'ed in Cincinnati, at least the playwright Glyn O'Malley says so. His latest play, 'Paradise' deals with suicide bombers and the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. As a work in progress it was 'killed before it was finished,' he said," writes Mel Gussow in today's New York Times.

"Commissioned by the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, that city's principal institutional theater, the 50-minute play was to tour high schools beginning in March, but the tour was canceled after a protest by local Muslims. (The executive director of the Ohio Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Jad Humeidan, said there are 15,000 Muslims in the area.) As a result there has been a windstorm of controversy in Cincinnati," the story goes on to say.

If the presentation of facts in the piece is accurate, this is a real case of a play being squashed because it expresses ideas that probably a majority of U.S. citizens agree with.

The escalation of the war with Iraq marches on

"White House officials said today that the space shuttle disaster would not slow or alter President Bush's plans to confront Iraq and that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell would appear as scheduled before the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday to make the case for quick action to disarm Saddam Hussein," writes Richard W. Steenson in a New York Times story dated February 2.

The following paragraph is particularly interesting:

"The president views this as a tragedy that has touched the lives of the American people and as a reminder of the risks of space flight," said Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman. "The president does not see it as connected to other events around the world."
While that makes sense, it represents a change in logic for the Bush Administration, which has previously tried to use the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks as the justification for escalating the war against a country, Iraq, that by all accounts had nothing to do with those attacks. (Click here for an example of this.)

Oddly, a search on whitehouse.gov turns up no record of this Fleischer's comments and the "Press Secretary Briefings" page doesn't indicate that any briefings took place over the weekend.

"Investigators looking into Saturday's high-altitude disintegration of the shuttle Columbia are starting to focus on a handful of critical systems within the spacecraft whose failure could most easily have led to the catastrophe, NASA officials and aeronautical engineers said yesterday," write Rick Weiss and Rob Stein in today's Washington Post. "Those systems range in complexity from some with no moving parts, such as the heat-protecting tiles, to the highly sophisticated computer, sensor and rocket-control systems that comprise the brains and "inner ear" of the spacecraft, detecting and at times compensating for changes in gravitational or inertial pull."

Sunday, February 02, 2003

The Michigan State mens basketball team beat Illinois, 68-65, earlier this afternoon in East Lansing. The Spartans were down by as many 14 points but came back to win their second straight game.

MSU is now 12-8 on the season and 4-4 in the Big Ten. This is their first winning streak since December 28.

Next up is a road game against Indiana on Saturday.

Saturday, February 01, 2003
I think right now I'm going to go listen to Bill Hicks' "The Elephant is Dead" and wonder when exactly this current war elephant is going to die.

All Hail Our Glorious Leaders

At least Andrew Sullivan has yet to use the Columbia shuttle tragedy to justify the "war on terror" without end

I both complimented and mildly criticized Glenn Reynolds earlier today for his blogging on the Columbia incident but this implicitly jingoistic entry for MSNBC on the topic is way out of line even for him:

Like all Americans I was saddened by the report that the space shuttle Columbia was lost. (Iraq — whose rocketry program aims not at the stars, but at lobbing anthrax toward Tel Aviv — felt differently,expressing pleasure that many Americans may decide to hold against them later.)
Yes, the world is divided between evil Iraqis who should just learn that the United States should be allowed to do whatever it wants to their country without any sort of response, even angry statements, and wonderful Americans who only want to go to the stars for peaceful purposes and would never dare attack another country from the sky.

In an influential piece for Reason last year, Matt Welch conservatively estimated that sanctions on Iraq have "at the least, contributed to more than 100,000 deaths since 1990." Does Reynolds feel anywhere near as much sadness for the deaths of those people? Does the average American? When the war with Iraq escalates, will Reynolds and his fellow "patriots" care about the Iraqi civilains who die as much as they want to wave those flags?If no is the answer to these questions, and I believe it is to all of them, why the hell should any Iraqi care about the deaths of six Americans and one Israeli?

Jim Henley has posted some thoughts on the Columbia shuttle loss.

If the best the Bush Administration can do is provide intelligence indicating that Iraq has lied to United Nations weapons inspectors, it appears far more likely than not that they have no evidence indicating Iraq is a threat to the U.S. or anybody else. Actually, I already believed that but this development furthers the argument. (Thanks to Court Schuett for the link.)

Click here for a profile Kelvin Torbert by Joe Rexrode of The Lansing State Journal.

". One other thing: you'll have noticed the Book Club in suspension. Until this war subsides again, I'm going to concentrate on the Dish [blog]," Andrew Sullivan wrote today.

Is it just me or does it sound like Sullivan takes himself way too seriously, as if the world would be significantly different if his voice was unheard? Does he actually believe that if he doesn't continue to support the "war on terror" in all its forms that support for the war will decrease?

And, for the record, I am very much aware that I have no influence on the "war on terror." I just sound like I believe I should.

"CBS News has learned that the top U.S. military commander in the Pacific is seeking the deployment of more troops and warplanes in response to provocative new moves by North Korea," CBS News writes. "The request for additional troops comes as satellite photos show North Korea could be about to start reprocessing spent uranium fuel rods into weapons grade plutonium..." (Thanks to antiwar.com for the link.)

"Secretary of State Colin Powell is not bringing 'a smoking gun' against Iraq to the United Nations next week but will have circumstantial evidence to make a convincing case that Iraq is hiding weapons of mass destruction, a U.S. official said Thursday," writes Edith M. Lederer of the AP. (Thanks to antiwar.com for the link.)

"Police in Nacogdoches, Texas, reported 'numerous pieces of debris' both inside the city limits and in Nacogdoches County" from the Columbia space shuttle, CNN reports.

Tom Ames was from Nacogdoches.

"The US weapons industry is an equal opportunity death merchant. It supplies weapons to totalitarian and democratic regimes of all flavors, all over the world. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is a customer as is King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz, custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and Head of State of Saudi Arabia. Tony Blair of the United Kingdom is an eager customer as is Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. China, Cambodia, Kazakstan and Laos receive military assistance. Need weapons to quell that pesky domestic rebellion? The US weapons industry is there for you. For years it supplied weapons and gear to Indonesia to assist it in the killing of at least 100,000 East Timorese. Protestors all over the US have been subjected to weaponry and tactics developed by the US weapons industry and the US military. Need landmines? Human Rights Watch estimates that the US has stockpiled 11.2 million landmines for use in conflict. The Bush Regime has indicated it will use them in Iraq if necessary," writes John Stanton in a piece for The News Insider

"Bush administration officials said they had no immediate information Saturday that terrorism was involved as NASA lost contact with the space shuttle Columbia," writes the AP.

Glenn Reynolds has been posting a lot about the space shuttle Columbia. The links are generally quite interesting but Reynolds, and at least one of his readers, can't help but engage in some France bashing:
It's a big deal in India, but not in France:

Just thought you might be interested in knowing that none of the major French channels (TF1, A2, FR3, M6) have, as of this moment, even bothered to interrupt programming to announce the Columbia news. I live in Switzerland and have been zapping back and forth between CNN, MSNBC, BBC and various Swiss, German and French channels. The French apparently haven't noticed yet (or don't care?)

Best regards from Lausanne,

James Wade

Hmm. That's representative, too.

I know that this involves Americans and an Israeli so it is automatically deemed as something the rest of the world needs to care about to avoid being anti-American and anti-Semitic in the minds of those like Reynolds, but let's be honest and just say that this involves the deaths of no more than seven people so it probably isn't going to be the biggest bit of news this year, nor is it something that should necessairly prompt people to watch t.v. without end because there could be a "breaking development."

But maybe that is just me. I was eight years old when the Challenger accident happened and I remember thinking and talking about it as if was one of the greatest disasters ever. My dad informed that while it was an tragic accident, that many far worse things had happened in the past and were likely to happen in the future.

Now that I think about it, I bet this exchange impacted my outlook on the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the "war on terror" that has followed.

"The space shuttle Columbia, traveling 12,500 miles per hour as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere after a 16-day science mission, disintegrated in flames 200,000 feet above north central Texas today with seven astronauts aboard," write Guy Gugliotta and William Harwood of The Washington Post. All of the seven astronauts are believed to be dead.

I have changed the colors on this blog significantly, Not sure if I actually like the new ones all that much but I was beyond being tired of the old ones.

It is off to war we go

"Saddam Hussein is not disarming. He is a danger to the world. He must disarm. And that's why I have constantly said and the Prime Minister has constantly said this issue will come to a head in a matter of weeks, not months," President George W. Bush said yesterday during a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

This exchange with an unidentified reporter is interesting:

Q Thank you, sir. First, quickly to the Prime Minister, did you ask President Bush to secure a second U.N. resolution and to give the inspectors more time? And, President Bush, the U.N. says -- the U.N. inspectors say Saddam is not complying, you say Saddam is not complying, why wait a matter of weeks? What's -- why hold up on the decision?

THE PRESIDENT: First of all, you violated the two-question rule -- as usual. He's had a bad habit of this. I'll start.

Saddam Hussein is not disarming. He is a danger to the world. He must disarm. And that's why I have constantly said and the Prime Minister has constantly said this issue will come to a head in a matter of weeks, not months.

THE PRIME MINISTER: The whole point about the present situation is that when President Bush made his speech to the United Nations, when we went down the United Nations route, we passed Resolution 1441. And I think it really repays reading that, because we said very clearly that Saddam had what we said was a final opportunity to disarm, and that he had to cooperate fully in every respect with the U.N. weapons inspectors.

As Dr. Blix said in his report to the Security Council earlier this week, he's not doing that. And therefore, what is important is that the international community comes together again and makes it absolutely clear that this is unacceptable. And the reason why I believe that it will do that is precisely because in the original Resolution 1441, we made it clear that failure to disarm would lead to serious consequences.

So this is a test for the international community. It's not just a test for the United States or for Britain. It's a test for the international community, too. And the judgment has to be, at the present time, that Saddam Hussein is not cooperating with the inspectors, and therefore is in breach of the U.N. resolution. And that's why time is running out.

Limiting reporters to two questions is not mentioned in the text itself so I will have to assume that ground rule appears elsewhere, and I will of course ignore Bush's rude behavoir of answering a question that was not first addressed to him.. Still it is interesting to note that neither Bush nor Blair answered why they are so willing to drag this process out. As I have pointed out here, for all the talk of Iraq being an immediate and dangerous threat, the Bush-Blair Axis of War Without End doesn't appear to be in a hurry to deal with Saddam Hussein. It appears that, despite their rhetoric, they do not regard him as a threat in at least the near future.

I wonder how much Bush and Blair have privately discussed what they are going to do after Iraq. The Bush Administration is set on further military actions and Blair is set on being Bush's lapdog -he had a similar relationship with Bill Clinton, FWIW-, so they have to have further plans but they also have to be worried about pulling them off. If going after Iraq is this much work, the potential difficulties of getting support for war on a country with a leader who hasn't been demonzed for over a decade are huge.

"NASA declared an emergency after losing communication with space shuttle Columbia as the ship soared over Texas several minutes before its expected landing time Saturday morning," writes Marcia Dunn of the AP in a story filed at 9:49 a.m.

Another AP story says:

NASA declared an emergency and feared the worst after losing communication with space shuttle Columbia as the ship and its seven astronauts soared over Texas several minutes before its expected landing Saturday.

As the minutes wore on, there appeared to be no hope for their survival.

Television stations showed what appeared to be debris falling, and NASA warned Texas residents to beware of any falling objects. NASA also announced that search and rescue teams were being mobilized in the Dallas and Fort Worth areas.

Reuters is reporting that President George W. Bush is monitoring the situation.