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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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)
Friday, October 31, 2003
God Bless Trent Lott
By Max Standard
Asked whether he favored any policy changes in Iraq, Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) responded: “We need to have a different mix of troops, is the key. We may need to move some troops around.”What we need to do is pull all the troops out and just use some of our weapons of mass destruction, maybe even a cool new virus, on the country. That way we get rid of the problem -dead people can't commit terrorism, or at least generally don't- and get to test out our weapons to make sure they are all in working order for possible use on some place on Syria.
Max Standard is an important intellectual who always tells the pro-American truth. "Max Standard’s Guide to Being Cool" appeared in the August 29 edition of this blog.
Thursday, October 30, 2003
Nuke notes (and other things)
Up to 40 countries are believed to be capable of manufacturing nuclear weapons, underlining the need to reinforce and update the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei told a French newspaper.I have trouble sleeping every night.
In yesterday's Los Angeles Times, Sonni Efron and Greg Miller write:
The newly retired head of the State Department's intelligence arm said Tuesday that the U.S. intelligence community "badly underperformed" for years in assessing Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and should accept responsibility for its failure.I wonder if Ford was asked what he thought about the efforts to find the alleged weapons.
Fox News threatened to sue Fox Broadcasting for a parody that The Simpsons did of the Fox News Channel and that Fox Broadcasting has banned the use of news crawls in their entertainment programming, Simpsons creator Matt Groening said on the October 23 edition of the NPR program Fresh Air.
Fox News has denied the claim. Andrew Buncombe writes in yesterday's Independent:
Yesterday, Robert Zimmerman, a spokesman for Fox News Channel, denied that the news channel had ever threatened a lawsuit.Yeah that makes sense.
UPDATE: The Simpsons apparently has said Fox News didn't threaten to sue, which is interesting because it adds support to the idea that Fox News was actually amused by the parody. That is interesting because it suggests that maybe they understand their is something absurd about their effort to put forth the obviously false notion that they are "fair and balanced." 11:37 p.m. 11/01/03
Wednesday, October 29, 2003
I've posted at least one entry to this blog every day since June 1. That's 151 straight days and 51 days longer than my previous record (June 30, 2002-October 7, 2002).
During this period I believe I've produced a number of entries that stand up as essays even though they often involve blockquotations that wouldn't work in traditional prose pieces. So perhaps blog essays is the correct term. (I have not intention of creating a combo word.) Posts like "Laughter," "Blair and Shock and Awe" and "More of the same" are amongst those I put in that category.
At the same time I feel the need to mention that I regularly wonder if blogging is the most effective use of my time, or even an effective use of my time so it certainly zaps many hours and I often think I would like to pursue other things with more energy. Does this mean that I plan to quit blogging or even cut back significantly? No, but you might see some changes.
"[O]ur analysis suggests that as few as 11,000 Iraqis may have been killed in the war or as many as 15,000. It is likely that approximately 30 percent of the fatalities were noncombatants -- that is: civilians who did not take up arms," writes Carl Conetta of the Project on Defense Alternatives in an October 20 report. The "Iraqi Combatant and Noncombatant Fatalities in the 1991 Gulf War" is also worth reading.
In an October 23 story entitled "What does the Bible actually say about being gay?" the BBC writes about contested verses from the Bible:
The most famous of them is probably from Leviticus: "You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; that is an abomination."What I want to know is how the "PRO-GAY"S are able to say that the Bible shouldn't be understood as forbidding sex with a woman who is having a period.
UPDATE: In today's Telegraph, David Rennie writes:
The United States is failing in its mission to create a secular, overtly pro-Western Iraq, a leading adviser to the American administrator Paul Bremer said yesterday.The story also quotes Feldman as saying, "Any democratically elected Iraqi government is unlikely to be secular, and unlikely to be pro-Israel. And frankly, moderately unlikely to be pro-American."
No changes are planned for the Iraq Survey Group a Department of Defense official said today, Kathleen T. Rhem of the American Forces Press Service reports today. 6:53 p.m. 10/29/03
On a similar topic, Mike Wazowski has alerted me to this interesting press release from the Barna Research Group on a survey they conducted about the religious beliefs of people in the U.S. I'd be interested in knowing what actual quetions were asked because of grafs like this:
The California-based researcher indicated that born again Christians are not the only ones confused about what happens after death. Many of those who describe themselves as either atheistic or agnostic also harbor contradictions in their thinking. “Half of all atheists and agnostics say that every person has a soul, that Heaven and Hell exist, and that there is life after death. One out of every eight atheists and agnostics even believe that accepting Jesus Christ as savior probably makes life after death possible. These contradictions are further evidence that many Americans adopt simplistic views of life and the afterlife based upon ideas drawn from disparate sources, such as movies, music and novels, without carefully considering those beliefs. Consequently, the labels attached to people – whether it be ‘born again’ or ‘atheist’ may not give us as much insight into the person’s beliefs as we might assume.”It isn't clear how someone gets to be included in these categories and since it is very possible for a Buddhist to say they don't believe in "God" and yet to also believe in reincarnation, which is, for most intents and purposes, life after death. That isn't something that could be seen as a "contradiction" but is part of a very historic belief system. Maybe part of the problem is that "religion" is too broad of a term for the wide variety of "faiths" that are put in that group. 8:18 p.m. 10/29/03
Tuesday, October 28, 2003
Time for a counter-narrative part II
U.S. President George W. Bush announced today that U.S. troops would be leaving Iraq by midnight tonight, although he failed to clarify what time zone he was talking about. "Every brave man and woman who dies in the service of their country," Bush said in the finest speech of his presidency yet, "is a person who can't buy one of my W'04 Western Hats and I won't sit by and let that happen."
Or maybe he said something else. I've yet to read the comments due to my infuriation at this exchange from yesterday:
THE PRESIDENT: ... Deb, you've got a question?Laughable. It really shouldn't be too much work to answer a simple question but I guess it is. And as far as these actions being "terrorist" some of them no doubt fit the U.S. government's own ostensible definition of terrorism but others don't since are most certainly directed at combatant targets, not that you should expect Bush to do any better on this than U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. This may seem like nit-picking but so long as Team Bush is going to talk about "the terrorists" as if they are some sort of cohesive group, they ought to explain how they are defining this group, especially if their working answer amounts to "terrorism is violence that we don't like and which we label as such" as I suspect it does.
"ur war on terror will continue until every enemy who plots against the American people is confronted and defeated," U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney said on Friday without explaining what any of that claim had to do with Iraq.
Cheney also said, "I've never been prouder of the United States military. These young men and women deserve our wholehearted support. They deserve to have their bravery in battle recognized and to have us acknowledge, as well, the progress they've made in helping the people of Iraq emerge into a new era of self-rule and stability" but did not run down the criteria that have to be met first.
As you may have surmised, I get great joy out of ridiculing Team Bush. At the same time I don't think it does much to change their course of action, and I believe that it wouldn't have much impact even if I were reaching a much larger audience. The problem, as I first sketched out in July 8's "Time for a counter-narrative," is that the Bush Administration's "war on terror" rhetoric makes people feel good about themselves and their country. It positions them as the modern day incarnation of those who first said, "Don't tread on me." They are the victim but resilient in that role because they aren't going to let it happen again. In contrast, a pure critique -however intellectually justifiable- feels cold and cynical.
An alternative vision -a "narrative" if you will is needed- is bolster a critique of the "war on terror." I don't have the answer(s), and I’m pessimistic about the possibility of discovery, but the search for it or them is something that desperately needs to be done by every person who is concerned, for one reason or another, by the current direction of this war.
That said, the value of critiquing the war on terror should not be underestimated. I'm doubtful that any alternative narrative will be as attractive as the "war on terror," one is and thus the playing field would not be a tabla rasa, due to a desire for historical inertia or, to be more precise, the desire to have the best narrative be a narrative that requires little change. Critiquing the "war on terror" is therefore an essential, but by no means self-sufficient, part of promoting an oppositionist vision.
Monday, October 27, 2003
Michigan State is 10th in this week's BCS rankings.
More importantly, MSU plays their second to last home game of the season on Saturday against Michigan. Prediction: If Michigan State leads by more than 14 points at the start of the fourth quarter, they win. If not, they lose since I see Michigan taking full advantage of the exhausted state MSU usually ends up in by the fourth quarter.
Sunday, October 26, 2003
Going into the war against Iraq, we had very strong intelligence," National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said on July 31, referring to Operation Iraqi Freedom. "I've been in this business for 20 years. And some of the strongest intelligence cases that I've seen, key judgments by our intelligence community that Saddam Hussein could have a nuclear weapon by the end of the decade, if left unchecked; that he had biological and chemical weapons; that he was trying to reconstitute his nuclear program. We had very strong intelligence going in."
"Among the closely held internal judgments of the Iraq Survey Group, overseen by David Kay as special representative of CIA Director George J. Tenet, are that Iraq's nuclear weapons scientists did no significant arms-related work after 1991, that facilities with suspicious new construction proved benign, and that equipment of potential use to a nuclear program remained under seal or in civilian industrial use," Barton Gellman writes in today's Washington Post.
This doesn't necessarily prove dishonesty on the part of the Bush Administration. They could have just made a mistake, with the possibilities in that category ranging from an honest mistake to one that stems from badly structured analysis, but there does appear to be a great gap between what the administration said was true about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs and what was in fact true.
Saturday, October 25, 2003
Culture and war notes
Matt Drudge filled in for Rush Limbaugh yesterday and it was an exciting three hours of radio. Or, to be more specific, I can’t say with absolute certainty that the roughly two hours and 45 minutes that I didn’t hear weren’t exciting. Although I may have gotten the words wrong, in the time I heard him, Drudge said something like, “I’m an old-time journalist, which means I give you information and don’t tell you what to think. I won’t tell you what to think about those evil CBS executives out there on Hollywood who are defaming a great president. I won’t tell you to complain to them. Nor will I tell you what to think about the excessive taxes that you pay or those Democratic presidential candidates who want to turn over America’s nuclear weapons to the United Nations, the European Union or maybe even Germany. No I will let you decide how to respond to those who want America to be run by global elites.”
Via rushlimbaugh.com I see that Jimmie Walker -yes that Jimmie Walker- writes a political column for the conservative jewishworldreview.com site.
Limbaugh's been know to bash "Hollywood" players for voicing political opinions, but, at least on the web, seems to have silent about Walker. This just goes to support my theory that most of those who complain about how they don't want "entertainers" to voice political opinions in fact actually just don't want those people to voice opinions that they disagree with.
Team Bush may complain about the media but apparently they don't want to get too far removed from the group of hacks who refuse to put them on the spot.
The ending of this post from Saragon is great.
Via this absolutely brillant post from Sgt. Styker, which I found through a link from Saragon, I found a March 12 interview that Newsweek did with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Speaking about why there is opposition amongst countries that are allies of the U.S. to the invasion or Iraq that would come to be known as Operation Iraq Freedom -which, if the makers of Desert Storm II: Back to Baghdad know their stuff, wasn't the first invasion- Rumsfeld says, "I think another part is that they're not threatened directly the way we are. They didn't experience September 11th. They're not the target of Saddam's threats the way we are."
Friday, October 24, 2003
"The U.S. military is failing to conduct proper investigations into civilian deaths resulting from the excessive or indiscriminate use of force in Baghdad, Human Rights Watch charged in a new report released today," Human Rights Watch wrote on Tuesday. "The 56-page report, Hearts and Minds: Post-War Civilian Casualties in Baghdad by U.S. Forces, confirms twenty deaths in the Iraqi capital alone between May 1 and September 30. In total, Human Rights Watch collected credible reports of 94 civilian deaths in Baghdad, involving questionable legal circumstances that warrant investigation. This number does not include civilians wounded by U.S. troops. The precise number of Iraqi civilians killed by U.S. soldiers since the end of major military operations is unknown, and the U.S. military told Human Rights Watch that it keeps no statistics on civilian deaths."
Thursday, October 23, 2003
That "Movies. They're worth it" commercial that runs before movies is ridiculous but not because of the message. I'll leave you to evaluate the merits of piracy since have very mixed feelings. I'm more than happy to pay for films like Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003) and think you should feel the same way. At the same time a film industry that has taught the public to treat Lost in Translation as an "art film" and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Marcus Nispel, 2003) as mainstream fare shouldn't be shocked when the public treats their films as something to bargain hunt for.
No the commercial is ridiculous because it features set painter David Goldstein talking about how it is people like him, not studio executives, who are most hurt by piracy. Since the as is put out by the Motion Picture Association of America -an organization whose "board of directors are the Chairmen and Presidents of the seven major producers and distributors of motion picture and television programs in the United States," the message apparently is "don't hurt us because we aren't going to crimp on our lifestyle or bank account. It'll be the working stiff who pays!"
I'm not saying that this isn't true, just that it is certainly funny and a message I doubt many public relations specialists would advocate.
Wednesday, October 22, 2003
Anger, hope and a bit of joy
Contrary to what Lewis Black says on the generally excellent Rules of Enragement (Comedy Central Records, 2003), U.S. President George W. Bush and friends did give plenty of reasons for invading Iraq. Although I may not have got them all, by my count their reasons included freedom, self-defense, democracy, human rights, somebody and country, ensuring that taxidermy remains legal in Dover and helping Burger King maintain revenues despite any explosion in popularity that may ever be experienced by Soul Veg -a great chain of restaurants even if the group behind them isn't my cup of tea. And those were just the stated reasons. Many suspected there were others such as a desire to obtain Iraq’s electric car research and/or something that Jonah Goldberg of nationalreview.com pointed out on Monday in a piece entitled "The Case for War":
Matthew Yglesias has written a brief critique of Goldberg's argument -which isn't new for him- over at Tapped but unfortunately misses the larger issues of how Goldberg's position is probably every bit as much about making people like him feel good about themselves because of Uncle Sam's wars as it is about scaring others and that Goldberg deserves credit for stating his position. Sure there's a distasteful quality to it but I suspect that attitude he displays influenced the decision to wage war against Iraq for over a decade far more than anybody in an official position is likely to admit and it is only when an idea is made public that it can be fairly discussed. Otherwise apologists can respond with some variation of "He didn't say that word and I'm not going to fall into the trap of defining terms or engaging in addition."
Of course, by "discussed," I mean ridiculed since it is hard to have a debate with somebody who thinks actions that will kill innocent civilians are acceptable to reinforce and get others to bow down to you. Proponents of this effort to show that the U.S. is a Shaft who doesn't have to watch his mouth are effectively the non-identical twins of most despicable of "the terrorists."
Then there is the issue of being a "peaceful" country. Somehow you lose that quality when start wars because there isn't a reason not to.
I wish I found this type of thing amusing but the idea that somebody gets paid to stuff like this, which isn't even fun to read, is about as pleasant as watching William Bennett do his impression of Marlon Brando playing Al Gore at the first debate with Bush in 2000, although I guess somebody likes to watch that. Writing predicated on the notion that the Antichrist would never call an audible on the assumption that there isn’t anything to lose entertains me. This doesn’t.
That said, there is still hope for the future. Writing about his son, Douglas Anders writes:
Just before dinner tonight, Gabe was playing with a little musical piano that plays "Pop Goes the Weasel." It stoped mid-tune when the batteries gave out.Meanwhile I just realized that four of my all-time favorite episodes -"The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons,"Lisa the Skeptic," "All Singing, All Dancing" and "This Little Wiggy"- were from season nine.
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
The Bowl Championship Series came out with its first rankings of the year a few hours ago with their interesting system -that I think anybody with a computer, the right program and the raw data could put together- producing:
1 OklahomaHere's the deal... if MSU wins its four remaining games they go to a BCS game, maybe even the Rose Bowl. If they win three contests, they might go to a BCS bowl. If they have two or fewer wins, they will go to a lesser contest.
Monday, October 20, 2003
"We don't torture people in America. And people who make that claim just don't know anything about our country," U.S. President George W. Bush said last Tuesday in response to a question about the treatment of two Australians held at Guantanamo Bay despite the little detail of the facts saying something quite different.
Yep that's what he must have meant.
Sunday, October 19, 2003
While nowhere near as exciting or important as a United Nations non-resolving resolution on Iraq or events in the entity that may or may not come to be known as "The Kobe Trial" just as the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and their immediate aftermath have come to be known as "September 11,", Wednesday’s bombing in Israel deserves consideration. The BBC writes:
United States diplomatic convoy has been hit by a massive bomb blast in the Gaza Strip which killed three American security personnel and injured one.The attack came one day after Pentagon advisor Richard Perle reportedly attacked current efforts for "peace."
Cameron W. Bar of The Christian Science Monitor repoted on Thursday about how this bombing might represent shift in the strategies employed by Palestinian militants.
Palestinians feared this attack would lead to anti-Palestinian actions on the part of the United States, according to Nidal al-Mughrabi of Reuters.
A recent survey conducted by Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research found that a majority of "Palestinians" -the group is not defined- support a recent suicide bombing, which is slightly different than what Reuters said, but that "# 85%... support a mutual cessation of violence while only14 % oppose it."
While this bombing has lead to visciously anti-Palestinian rhetoric, I'm doubtful that it will lead to any dramatic change since it is unclear how this gives Israel any greater incentive to move dramatically and the Palestinians are unable to do much at all except submit or continue the status quo, which, however bloody, is going nowhere.
Outside forces could step in but why would they want to now? Bush could tell the Israelis to have them Palestinians but that would cause all sorts of political problems in the Middle East by fulfilling the worst expectations of many in the region at a time when Bush is trying to place nice. A move to violently repel Israel and establish a Palestinian state would go against everything Bush stands for, take away resources from other areas that the U.S. is committed to, possibly have a tremendous cost in terms of the lives of U.S. soldiers, offend some of his strongest supporters and just might end in disaster since Israel has what used be known as "the bomb," which is perhaps all the proof needed to say that there is pro-militarist angle to the video for Doctor Dre's "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang." O.k. Not really. (That said, it would be fun to hear Bush justify it. "Across the world and in every part of America, people of goodwill are wondering why we have attacked one of our closest and most historic allies at a time when they, like us and the rest of the civilized world, are in a struggle to make sure that the terrorists are defeated and evil does not prevail," he could say. "Well I don't have a good answer other than that you watch Paul D. Miller's 'Rebirth of a Nation.'") A coalition of Arab and/or Muslim nations could fulfill John Hagee's wildest fantasies... I mean prophecies and intervene but why would they want to risk war with Israel, if not Israel and the United States, especially when victory is far from certain. In one section of Welcome to the Desert of the Real philosopher Slavoj Zizek calls on a "unified Europe" to make its presence known and engage in a "new political initiative, which is the only thing that can break the present deadlock." While Zizek has IMHO correctly analyzed the present situation, he neither accounts for the problems that could result, which is especially disappointing given how his valuable critique of how Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's Empire fails to account for some of the likely real world consequences of the baby steps they propose towards utopia, nor for how it is unrealistic to think that any sort of "unified Europe" would want to devote the resources and lives to the goal of a solution even if success was expected when it probably shouldn't be. Thus, even though it is part of a very serious larger call for "'Eurocentrism'," here the point comes across as rather silly.
In the end, I suspect that hope should not be lost but fixes that do not involve ideological changes where the majority of both Israelis and Palestinians come to accept each other are far less likely to succeed than they are to end in ruin.
If the situation often referred to "Mid-East Peace," as if countries like Iraq didn't exist and Peter Tosh had never sung "Equal Rights," looks hopeless, and it does, it is good to know that things might be different in other places.
Bolivia was the scene for several weeks of what Andrea Arenas Alípaz and Luis Gómez of Narco News call a "popular revolt" over that country's pro-free market and pro-U.S. policies. On Friday President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada's responded by turning in his resignation. Vice President and acting President Carlos Mesa has said the country will hold early elections. Don't worry about Sanchez de Lozada, however. He's in the U.S., a country that did nothing to support his regime or to harm Bolivians. (Thanks to Al Giordano for the first link.)
This "revolt" is just latest manifestation of what has been termed the "new Latin American left," one of the most interesting developments of the post-Cold War era even if it is far from clear if the movement has much in the way of new ideas. The most common call is for an end to the "war on drugs," which would be humane and just but not do much to break free of the trap of the reigning economic, military and political systems. Bringing a tear to Rosa Luxemburg, such a move would be reform not revolution. Beyond that all they seem to have is the restoration of the systems that once produced Stalinism. Hardly a new way.
Of course part of me suspects that, for better or worse, reform is the only available means of not worsening the present. That part is both frightened and heartened by this "new left."
Saturday, October 18, 2003
After three possessions Michigan State had a 17-0 lead over Minnesota at the Metrodome in Minneapolis today. It was 34-17 at halftime after Deandra Cobb of Michigan State returned a kickoff the length of the field and the defense picked up a Minnesota fumble that allowed Dave Rayner to kick a 50 yard field goal to end the half.
All those points came in handy because even though Michigan State would lead by as many as 20 points in the second half, the Spartans ended up winning by only 6, 44-38.
The offense and special teams deserve the bulk of the credit for the win, both for the points they scored and the fact that they didn’t make any mistakes –Michigan State didn’t turn the ball over and the “hands team” successfully fielded two onsides kicks in the game’s final minutes. The defense gave up a lot of points and yards –although they did hold Minnesota to about half as many rushing yards as the Golden Gophers normally get. (I love the idea of a team being the “Gophers,” by the way. So much more whimsical and less problematic than most nicknames.)
Still a victory is a victory and a victory over a good team is a victory over a good team, and MSU is now 7-1 overall and 4-0 in the Big Ten. They have next week off and then seven days later play Michigan in East Lansing. Michigan beat Illinois 56-14 in Ann Arbor today to go to 6-1 and 3-1. They play Purdue next week in Ann Arbor. Purdue is only Big Ten team besides Michigan State that undefeated in conference play at 6-1 and 3-0. They prevailed on the road today, 26-23 over Wisconsin.
Yee-Ha or something.
Friday, October 17, 2003
On Monday U.S. President George W. Bush said:
...for the contribution the Italian Americans have made to America, I say, thank you, we are grateful. But most of all, I ask God's blessings, not only of those of Italian descent, but ask God's blessings for all of us who are fortunate enough to live in the United States of America.Damn those coalition partners to hell! Damn them to hell!
UPDATE: And while we're at, how about the Army? 10:19 p.m. 10/17/03
UPDATE #2: Three more things that amuse and/or enrage me...
1) In an American Forces Press Service story from Tuesday filed from Bagram, Afghanistan, Kelly Hunt writes:
In the hidden back trails of Bagram Air Base stands an Afghan compound, made by hand out of mud by local citizens -- a training site used by Bagram troops to prepare for urban combat.2) The current issue of Imprimis reprints a speech entitled "What's Wrong with the CIA?" that Herbert E. Meyer gave last month as Hillsdale College. Meyer's answer is that the Central Intelligence Agency needs more people who read enough to think in the appropriate ways. Speaking about the C.I.A. analysts he worked with during his stints as the special assistant to the director of the C.I.A. and the vice chairman of the C.I.A.'s National Intelligence Council during about the Reagan Administration, Meyer says:
They read the Washington Post, the New York Times, Time or Newsweek, perhaps U.S. News & World Report, and occasionally the Economist. I rarely met anyone who read Commentary, National Review, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, or any other cutting-edge publication where the world’s leading thinkers expound their ideas and perceptions about the world.3) Mike Szymanski of Zap2it.com says the new version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Marcus Nispel) is better than the original, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974), which is possible if unlikely since Hooper's picture wasn't all that good save for its unique look –something that is difficult to equal in a Hollywood production and context –something that can not be duplicated in 2003-, but Szymanski loses credibility by concluding with:
It's not for the squeamish, and it's not as bloody as "Kill Bill," but if you enjoyed that one, then go see one of the originals that inspired Quentin Tarantino and lots of other action and horror directors around today.I'd say Szymanski probably also suggests seeing Battle Beyond the Stars (Jimmy T. Murakami, 1980) to get a better understanding of the inspiration for The Magnificent Seven (John Sturges, 1960) but that makes a bit too much sense. 5:03 p.m. 10/18/03
UPDATE #3: One more...
In today's Guardian, Julie Burchill perhaps makes an argument of some kind in "White girl with attitude," but then again maybe she doesn't as I'm not sure what it was. Still there was this bit:
...any culture - be that gangsta rap or the Ku Klux Klan - that needs to use the word nigger fully to express itself is worthless. Lenny Bruce was the first alleged non-racist to insist that it was OK to use the word - his stand-up act in the 1950s featured a routine in which he repeated it over and over, in order to "remove" its power. I have always found this suspect, on many levels - first, the unbelievable arrogance of the man, believing that 15 minutes of drug-addled babble could wipe out centuries of pain; second, how many blacks were in his typical audience? Barely any, I'd wager, and the idea of a group of conceited, "cultured" whites tittering at this taboo-breaking is not an attractive one. Let's not forget, either, that Bruce was a total screw-up - he was a junkie, and I'd no more trust a junkie to make a reasonable judgment about what is appropriate than I would a slug.Is it worth responding? No. 5:29 p.m. 10/18/03
UPDATE #4: Here are a few more...
"Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, commander of the Army's 3rd Corps, has told reporters American troops would be in Iraq for another troop rotation or even two. At the current pace of a turnover of troops every year, that could mean U.S. forces would be in Iraq until 2006," CBS News writes in a story from yesterday.
I have a hard time believing there are people who actually think the U.S. is going to leave on its own any time soon.
Bush got into the following exchange on Thursday:
Q Yes. Indonesia is a moderate country, but the campaign against terrorism has invited much controversy between a small minority of militant groups and the more dominant militant groups -- moderate groups.LOL 3:23 p.m. 10/19/03
Thursday, October 16, 2003
In today's Stars and Stripes, Ward Sanderson writes:
Stars and Stripes sent a team of reporters to Iraq to try to ascertain the states of both conditions and morale. Troops were asked about morale, among many other issues, in a 17-point questionnaire, which was filled out and returned by nearly 2,000 persons.Here are the full results.
Wednesday, October 15, 2003
CBS News writes:
The person responsible for analyzing the Iraqi weapons threat for Colin Powell says the Secretary of State misinformed Americans during his speech at the U.N. last winter.***
Saudi Arabia says it will hold elections at some point in the future. It will be interesting to see who is allowed to participate, what powers the elected body will have and if other traditional democratic rights come in the process.
Tuesday, October 14, 2003
U.S. President George W. Bush reportedly criticized the media's coverage of Iraq yesterday.
The idea that "the media" has been too negative in its coverage of Iraq, by putting to much emphasis on the deaths of a few soldiers while most of Iraq is peaceful, has taken hold and appears to be, rightly or wrongly, the current conventional wisdom, which I suppose is only fair. Last year at this time you couldn't turn on the t.v. without hearing, "Yeah these sniper deaths are bad, but most of you are not affected by them and have no reason to fear." And then two years ago, this entire country quickly got over its shock and by September 13 was saying, "There's no reason to cancel tomorrow's football game. I didn't know anyone who did two days ago and the number dead is pretty small given the size of America."
Monday, October 13, 2003
The war on logic continues
Bill O’Reilly was ranting on his radio program last Wednesday. Within two or three minutes he praised the recall of California Governor Gray Davis and the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a great democratic act, concluded that Schwarzenegger may or may not have abused women but the real issue is that the Los Angeles Times was trying to destroy his political career, bashed Davis for appearing with former U.S. President Bill Clinton and explained that the “far left” hates democracy because they want to recall Schwarzenegger.
"I acted because I was not about to leave the security of the American people in the hands of a madman. I was not about to stand by and wait and trust in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein... It is undeniable that Saddam Hussein was a.. danger," U.S. President George W. Bush said on Thursday.
"All of you are serious observers of public affairs, especially in matters of national security. And that's why I've come here this morning to discuss the war on terror, the choices America has made in that war, and the choices still before us," U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney said on Friday at an event held by the Heritage Foundation.
Later in the speech Cheney said, "In the post-9/11 era, certain risks are unacceptable. The United States made our position clear: We could not accept the grave danger of Saddam Hussein and his terrorist allies turning weapons of mass destruction against us or our friends and allies."
Speaking on David Kay's report, Cheney says, "He notes: 'Iraq's WMD programs spanned more than two, involved thousands of people, billions of dollars and were elaborately shielded by security and deception operations that continued even beyond the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom'" and later adds, "If Saddam Hussein were in power today... this ally of terrorists would still have a hidden biological weapons program capable of producing deadly agents on short notice. There would be today, as there was six months ago, the prospect of the Iraqi dictator providing weapons of mass destruction, or the means to make them, to terrorists for the purpose of attacking America."
Sunday, October 12, 2003
In a speech from Friday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld spoke on the legacy of Ronald Reagan and the "war on terror" in a manner that seemingly ignored any possibility that the United States ever did anything for reasons that do not support the proposition that the U.S. never does anything with an alterior motive.
I laughed out loud at this part:
Like President Reagan, President Bush has not shied from calling evil by its name or declaring his intention to defeat its latest incarnation -- terrorism -- just as free men and women of all political persuasions, here and abroad, defeated fascism and communism before.I doubt that the Bush Administration has any consistent definition of "terrorism" for explicit public consumption but if they did, it is hard to imagine that would be anything "new." That said, here Rumsfeld appears to say that "terrorism" is the umbrella term for violence against the U.S. in the post-Soviet period. In other words, in the present tense, it is violence that the U.S. doesn't like.
When President Reagan came to office, Soviet Communism was on the march and our country was still weakened by the experience of the Vietnam War, and a lingering fear of the projection of American power. President Reagan saw the danger. He knew that weakness is provocative. One of his most important strategic innovations was the idea that to roll back the communist expansion, America need not send a half a million U.S. troops to every trouble spot where freedom was threatened. In many cases, there were people in those countries who were willing to fight and die for their own freedom. It was Ronald Reagan's genius to make common cause with those freedom fighters, providing them with arms, training, intelligence and other support.Yeah getting local support for interventions is an act of "genius" and had nothing to do with a political need to keep U.S. casualties low.
Rumsfeld also said, "it would have been impossible for Iraqis to overthrow that regime without significant numbers of coalition forces. Still, we've kept our footprint relatively modest" as if the U.S. isn't running Iraq and keeping U.S. control in only certain areas didn't provide any advantages for Team Bush in their "war on terror."
There's also this brilliance from Rumsfeld:
One in particular is worth mentioning here. It's a letter he [Reagan] wrote by hand in April of 1981 to Soviet leader Brezhnev. Brezhnev had sent him a letter accusing the United States of destabilizing the world with its territorial ambitions and imperialistic designs. President Reagan replied, quote, "There's not only no evidence to support such a charge; there's solid evidence that the United States, when it could have dominated the world, at no risk to itself, made no effort whatsoever to do so.Reagan's response doesn't deal with the actual question at hand, which was U.S. intentions in 1981. At the same time Reagan, and apparently Rumsfeld, seem to be suggesting that nuclear bombings of numerous other countries as a means of pacifying them didn't propose some serious problems and was a way of getting around costly occupations. It is left to your imagination to figure out what exactly the point of controlling a world that you have obliterated is.
Along the same lines, but coming earlier in the speech, Rumsfeld says:
I arrived this morning from Colorado Springs, where the United States hosted a meeting of the NATO defense ministers. At that meeting of the 19 NATO nations were three former Warsaw Pact adversaries: Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, now NATO allies. Also present, interestingly, were seven former East Bloc nations: Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia, nations that have been invited to join NATO and will becoming part of that alliance in the early part of next year. The membership of those recently-free nations is changing the alliance. It is injecting a new energy into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a new love of freedom which can really possibly only come from nations that so recently were enslaved. That's the world that Ronald Reagan left us.I could cite counterexamples of former Soviet Bloc entities that have been less supportive in Iraq or who have done other things that don't mess with some aspect of the "war on terror." That, however, is less important than that it at least appears like assisting the U.S. isn't particularly popular in at least some of the countries Rumsfeld cites, which suggests that another factor could be in play. Could it be that the governments in these countries see lending a hand to the U.S. as a good way to get some carrots and become further part of a U.S. empire along the lines Chalmers Johnson sketches out in Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (Metropolitan Books, 2000)?
Such a possibility deserves consideration that is absent from Rumsfeld speech because, I suspect, even granting a mention or consideration to that idea means acknowledging that something about U.S. policy could be less than the perfect ideal that he has presented. We can't have that, now can we?
By ignoring this possibility Rumsfeld looks like a fool because it also means ignoring U.S. President George W. Bush's famous September 20, 2001 proclamation, "[e]very nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." Since all regimes -save for France, of course- don't like being overthrown -we'd take over France in an instant if we didn't know how happy it'd make them bastards-, one could be excused for thinking that these countries have an alterior motive for helping the U.S. But I guess alterior motives don't exist in Rumsfeld's world.
Truth be told, the "[e]ither you are with us, or you are with the terrorists" was probably macho bluster not meant to be taken as a literal principle except when utilizing it comes in handy...
In today's Independent Patrick Cockburn writes:
US soldiers driving bulldozers, with jazz blaring from loudspeakers, have uprooted ancient groves of date palms as well as orange and lemon trees in central Iraq as part of a new policy of collective punishment of farmers who do not give information about guerrillas attacking US troops.Jazz? Cockburn is a bit loose on where he got that part exactly so I wonder if it is true. Actually, he is a bit loose on all of the details so I am less than completely confident on any of it. Still I have the most difficulty imagining some saying, "put on some Bird, we're fucking with some towel heads."
Saturday, October 11, 2003
Michigan State 49
MSU is now 6-1 on the season and 3-0 in the Big Ten. As much as that makes me happy I must admit that I found today's game to be horribly boring. There wasn't any real tension after MSU took a 21-7 lead in the second quarter and yet they didn't seem to be the dominant team for any given period (other than the game as a whole). Now I'm not saying I want any of their games to be close -they should win every one of them by at least 35 points with my preference being 45-0 scores- but I probably would find such games more exciting. My desire excitement will probably be fulfilled by their remaining games:
Sat 10/18/2003 Minnesota Minneapolis, Minn. ESPN/ESPN212 p.m. EDTI'd be happily shocked if they win them all and the antithesis of that if they lose each game, but it would be reasonable to predict a win or loss in each of the contests.
So we shall see...
Friday, October 10, 2003
The Experimental Jetset Vibraphone, which I found via the "art links" on sonicyouth.com, is one of the coolest things you can find on the web.
Thursday, October 09, 2003
It is good to see that another person, Steven Rubio, is approximately as alienated as I am and yet still uses their powers for good instead of evil.
Seriously, while Rubio is far too easy on the Beatles and Revolver -I can safely say I dislike both-, his blog generally is intelligent fandom directed towards cinema, music, sports and television. In other words, Rubio expresses finding genuine joy in these things without giving up on intelligence and denigrating all but the visceral. At the risk of sounding like a sycophant, I wouldn't mind reading an autobiography by him at all if it was full of opinions on the subjects covered in the blog.
Wednesday, October 08, 2003
Amidst other things, micah holmquist praises the Bush Administration in this entry
One of the great elements of "the internet" is that it allows people to access not just publications and other news sources from all over the world but also many reports, studies and transcripts as they come out. Even the best of libraries couldn't do this in as timely of a manner. Of course, none of this could happen without the material being put on "the net" and on that matter I want to praise the Bush Administration, the Department of Defense and the State Department for the amount of material they publish in a relatively prompt fashion.
Information, of course, is hardly sufficient for critical analysis, a fact that Slavoj Zizek has noted and which is illustrated by reactions of bloggers to David Kay's "Statement on the Interim Progress Report on the Activiteis [sic] of the Iraq Survey Group."
Although there was some variance, the most common response was that the report had backed up the Bush Administration's claims about weapons of mass destruction, a sentiment not limted to bloggers. "WMD claims validated, media not" was a typical response. While the media may or may not have been validated, "WMD claims" certainly weren't. The Bush Administration made a lot of claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and such weapons have yet to be found. The weapons may yet be found and/or the Bush Administration may have made an honest mistake, but the claims have to be proven true.
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, almost all supporters of Team Bush -many, but not all, of whom are shills- fail to see how the Kay's report problematizes something else U.S. President George W. Bush has said.
"Our coalition has made sure that Iraq's former dictator will never again use weapons of mass destruction," Bush said on the 23rd of last month. Sounds good but Kay says in his report that his team is trying to find weapons of mass destruction that it believes could be out there. Given that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is believed to still be alive and at large and the weapons have yet to be accounted for, Bush's statement is at best hyperbole. That may be acceptable to some, but I doubt that many of the same people would find it acceptable for Bush to say, "all threats against America have been removed. Terror and Terrorism are dead. We are safe." Both are exaggerations, so why should one be acceptable but not the other?
UPDATE: From the Department of Who are the Idiots who Think this Makes Sense?, Secretary of State Colin Powell writes in yesterday's Washington Post:
Although Kay and his team have not yet discovered stocks of the weapons themselves, they will press on in the months ahead with their important and painstaking work. All indications are that they will uncover still more evidence of Hussein's dangerous designs...Well we believe that we were right to think there was a threat in the first place, the main reasons for believing that threat existed are still in place and we haven't come up with any new reasons, but we have taken care of the threat.
That italicized musing isn't comedy, by the way. It is Bush Administration’s actual message. 3:09 p.m. 10/08/03
Some clarification is perhaps needed on what I mean when I say the Bush Administration did present Saddam and those around him as an immediate or imminent threat, especially given how this issue is being discussed elsewhere. (None of which is to say they didn't say the threat would grow worse if the U.S. did nothing.) I'm not saying that they said they knew Iraq would attack the U.S. if the U.S. didn't strike first but rather that they said Saddam had the motive, the materials and the connections to do such an attack now if he chose to. As Bush said 366 days ago:
While there are many dangers in the world, the threat from Iraq stands alone -- because it gathers the most serious dangers of our age in one place. Iraq's weapons of mass destruction are controlled by a murderous tyrant who has already used chemical weapons to kill thousands of people. This same tyrant has tried to dominate the Middle East, has invaded and brutally occupied a small neighbor, has struck other nations without warning, and holds an unrelenting hostility toward the United States...This argument would require significant modifications if it was in fact known that Saddam did not have biological or chemical weapons, which is why the search for such weapons is important for political reasons and, assuming that there is still reason to believe that the Bush Administration's claims about Saddam's weapons could be true, for reasons of safety.
This speech wasn't an isolated incident.
Here's Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz on November 15, 2002:
Another question that I’m often asked, is “why act now, why not wait until the threat is imminent?” Again, it seems to me this question has a fairly simple answer. It was expressed very clearly by Senator Joseph Lieberman in the Rose Garden, the day the original Joint Resolution on the Use of Force was introduced. He said, “I have felt for more than a decade now that every additional day that Saddam Hussein is in power in Iraq is an additional day of danger for the Iraqi people, for his neighbors in the region, particularly for the people in the military of the United States, and indeed, for the people of the world.”In a December 2002 article National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice writes:
In fighting global terror, we will work with coalition partners on every continent, using every tool in our arsenal -- from diplomacy and better defenses to law enforcement, intelligence, cutting off terrorist financing, and, if needed, military power.Secretary of State Colin Powell said on January 26, 2003:
We should not underestimate what is at stake here. Saddam Hussein's hidden weapons of mass destruction are meant to intimidate Iraq's neighbors. These illegal weapons threaten international peace and security. These terrible weapons put millions of innocent people at risk...Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld got into the following exchange on January 29, 2003:
Q: Thank you. Do you believe Iraq represents an imminent threat to the United States?If that isn't enough, at the very least this blog entry on Bush's official campaign website makes it clear that the political wing of Team Bush is comfortable with people believing that there was "imminent." 8:42 p.m. 10/08/03
UPDATE #3: I debated how to respond to Tom Maguire’s comments on this post’s second update. Eventually a response wasn’t warranted. All communication involves some shared set of assumptions and when someone wants to ignore context and facts in order to claim to have scored a point, communication seems pointless. 9:29 p.m. 10/12/03
UPDATE #4: If partisans of the "war on terror" are going to insist that the Bush Administration never said Saddam was an "imminent threat" because Bush and friends didn't use that term, they ought to be similarly upset when the political wing of Team Bush distorts what members of the Bush Administration have said to score political points.
For instance, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Condoleezza Rice gave a speech about Iraq on Tuesday, a transcript of which has shown up not only on whitehouse.gov but also Bush's official campaign website. "[R]ight up until the end," Rice says in the speech, "Saddam Hussein continued to harbor ambitions to threaten the world with weapons of mass destruction."
The headline on the campaign site is, "National Security Advisor Rice: Saddam Hussein Threatened the 'World with Weapons of Mass Destruction.'"
Even amongst only those who know about it, there hasn't been much of a demand for a correction. My apologies to Jason Leopold. 1:43 p.m. 10/13/03
UPDATE #5: GeorgeWBush.com writes:
This editorial on Iraq by Robert Kagan and William Kristol should not be missed. Kagan and Kristol outline exactly how our nation knew that Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction were such a danger (for starters, Iraq admitted to producing 3.9 tons of VX nerve gas and 8,500 liters of anthrax -- and never once accounted for these weapons).Actually it doesn't. What it does is just assume that Saddam having weapons of mass destruction was -funny how the tense thing works- a threat. This assumption may have some mert but there are significant problems with it as well and no reasonable person would just accept it as a given.
Kagan and Kristol write:
Kay and his team also discovered a massive effort to destroy evidence of weapons programs, an effort that began before the war and continued during it and even after the war. In the "looting" that followed the fall of Baghdad, computer hard drives were destroyed in government buildings--thus making the computers of no monetary value to actual looters. Kay also found documents burned or shredded. And people whom the Kay team tried to interview were in some cases threatened with retaliation by Saddam loyalists. Indeed, two of the scientists were subsequently shot. Others involved in the weapons programs have refused to talk for fear of eventual prosecution for war crimes.At the risk of beating a dead hawk, it amazes me that ostensibly smart people can say Saddam's weapons of mass destruction were a threat to the U.S. then but not worry about the weapons now. 12:42 p.m. 10/14/03