August, 2006 archive
Demonizing Americans (Updated) 4
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld warned yesterday that “moral and intellectual confusion” over the Iraq war and the broader anti-terrorism effort could sap American willpower and divide the country, and he urged renewed resolve to confront extremists waging “a new type of fascism.”
Drawing parallels to efforts by some nations to appease Adolf Hitler before World War II, Rumsfeld said it would be “folly” for the United States to ignore the rising dangers posed by a new enemy that he called “serious, lethal and relentless.”
In a pointed attack on the news media and critics of President Bush’s war and national security policies, Rumsfeld declared: “Any kind of moral and intellectual confusion about who and what is right or wrong can severely weaken the ability of free societies to persevere.”
Torture is good. Civil liberties are bad. Up is down. Down is up.
Actually, I would guess, having moral confusion sort of implies that one has morals. Let’s forgo that line of reasoning.
There is no confusion.
But Islamo-fascism is not the issue.
By referring to something as “Islamo-fascism,” the current Federal Administration implies that there is some single movement, some single ideology that some manifests itself in Iraq, in Afganistan, in Pakistan, in Lebanon.
Clearly, there is no such single movement. (If there were, why would the Iraqis be so eagerly engaged in killing each other, for heaven’s sake?)
Now, gentle reader, do not twist this into my saying that the United States or, perhaps, Western Civilization, is not threatened. There have been too many attacks for anyone to argue that.
Rather, twist it into this.
The way to defend American and Western values is not to make up phony wars nor to destroy the very values that centuries of struggle and tremendous amounts of blood and treasure have purchased for us. It is to live our values and defend them against their real enemies.
With their policies (and they were, indeed, polices, not acts of rogue corporals and privates) of torture, their intrusion into the personal lives of law-abiding citizens, their determined refusal to obey laws, their continual violation of their own oaths to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America, the current Federal Administration has made itself as much an enemy of American and Western values as any outsider.
Kieth Olbermann said it well. (Yeah, I know this quotation is all over the blogosphere. It deserves to be. Follow the link to see the clip.)
The man who sees absolutes, where all other men see nuances and shades of meaning, is either a prophet, or a quack.
Donald H. Rumsfeld is not a prophet. We end the countdown where we began, our #1 story, with a special comment on Mr. Rumsfeldâ€™s remarkable speech to the American Legion yesterday. It demands the deep analysis – and the sober contemplation – of every
American. For it did not merely serve to impugn the morality or intelligence – indeed, the loyalty – of the majority of Americans who oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land.
Worse, still, it credits those same transient occupants – our employees – with a total omniscience; a total omniscience which neither common sense, nor this administrationâ€™s track record at home or abroad, suggests they deserve.
Dissent and disagreement with government is the lifeâ€™s blood of human freedom; And not merely because it is the first roadblock against the kind of tyranny the men Mr. Rumsfeld likes to think of as “his” troops still fight, this very evening, in Iraq.
It is also essential. Because just every once in awhileâ€¦ it is right – and the power to which it speaks, is wrong. In a small irony, however, Mr. Rumsfeldâ€™s speechwriter was adroit in invoking the memory of the appeasement of the Nazis.
For, in their time, there was another government faced with true peril – with a growing evil – powerful and remorseless. That government, like Mr. Rumsfeldâ€™s, had a monopoly on all the facts. It, too, had the secret information. It alone had the true picture of the threat. It too dismissed and insulted its critics in terms like Mr. Rumsfeldâ€™s – questioning their intellect and their morality.
That government was Englandâ€™s, in the 1930â€™s.
It knew Hitler posed no true threat to Europe, let alone to England.
It knew Germany was not re-arming, in violation of all treaties and accords.
It knew that the hard evidence it had received, which contradicted itâ€™s own policies, itâ€™s own conclusions – itâ€™s own omniscience – needed to be dismissed.
The English government of Neville Chamberlain already knew the truth.
Most relevant of all – it “knew” that its staunchest critics needed to be marginalized and isolated. In fact, it portrayed the foremost of them as a blood-thirsty war-monger who was, if not truly senile – at best morally or intellectually confused.
That criticâ€™s nameâ€¦ was Winston Churchill.
Sadly, we have no Winston Churchills evident among us this evening. We have only Donald Rumsfelds, demonizing disagreement, the way Neville Chamberlain demonized Winston Churchill.
History – and 163 million pounds of Luftwaffe bombs over England – had taught us that all Mr. Chamberlain had was his certainty – and his own confusion. A confusion that suggested that the office can not only make the man, but that the office can also make the facts.
Thus did Mr. Rumsfeld make an apt historical analogy excepting the fact that he has the battery plugged in backwards. His government, absolute and exclusive in its knowledge, is not the modern version of the one which stood up to the Nazis. It is the modern version of the governmentâ€¦ of Neville Chamberlain.
But back to todayâ€™s Omniscient Ones.
That about which Mr. Rumsfeld is confused is simply this: This is a Democracy. Still. Sometimes just barely. And as such, all voices count – not just his. Had he or his president perhaps proven any of their prior claims of omniscience – about Osama Bin Ladenâ€™s plans five years ago – about Saddam Husseinâ€™s weapons four years ago – about Hurricane Katrinaâ€™s impact one year ago – we all might be able to swallow hard, and accept their omniscience as a bearable, even useful recipe, of fact, plus ego.
But, to date, this government has proved little besides its own arrogance, and its own hubris. Mr. Rumsfeld is also personally confused, morally or intellectually, about his own standing in this matter. From Iraq to Katrina, to flu vaccine shortages, to the entire “Fog of Fear” which continues to envelope this nation – he, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and their cronies, have – inadvertently or intentionally – profited and benefited, both personally, and politically.
And yet he can stand up in public, and question the morality and the intellect of those of us who dare ask just for the receipt for the Emporerâ€™s New Clothes.
In what country was Mr. Rumsfeld raised?
As a child, of whose heroism did he read?
On what side of the battle for freedom did he dream one day to fight?
With what country has he confusedâ€¦ the United States of America?
The confusion we – as its citizens – must now address, is stark and forbidding. But variations of it have faced our forefathers, when men like Nixon and McCarthy and Curtis LeMay have darkened our skies and obscured our flag. Note – with hope in your heart – that those earlier Americans always found their way to the light and we can too.
The confusion is about whether this Secretary of Defense, and this Administration, are in fact now accomplishing what they claim the terrorists seek: The destruction of our freedoms, the very ones for which the same veterans Mr. Rumsfeld addressed yesterday in Salt Lake City, so valiantly fought.
And about Mr. Rumsfeldâ€™s other main assertion, that this country faces a “new type of fascism.”
As he was correct to remind us how a government that knew everything could get everything wrong, so too was he right when he said that – though probably not in the way he thought he meant it. This country faces a new type of fascism – indeed.
Although I presumptuously use his sign-off each night, in feeble tributeâ€¦ I have utterly no claim to the words of the exemplary journalist Edward R. Murrow.
But never in the trial of a thousand years of writing could come close to matching how he phrased a warning to an earlier generation of us, at a time when other politicians thought they (and they alone) knew everything, and branded those who disagreed, “confused” or “immoral.”
Thus forgive me for reading Murrow in full:
“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty,” he said, in 1954. “We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear – one, of another. We will not be
driven by fear into an age of un-reason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men; not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were – for the moment – unpopular.”
And so, good night, and good luck.
Has anyone else worried that, if the current Administration lost an election, it might choose to declare the election void under the powers of the “unitary executive“?
That such a thought is even thinkable shows how much damage the current Federal Administration has done to the United States of American and its people.
William Arkin fingers the enemy.
Capitol Hill Blue weighs in.
Phillybits and Suburban Guerrilla on the current Federal Administration’s truthiness.
RawStory on crying wolf.
And Webster’s has its say.
Happy Birthday to Me 4
The last six months have seen much pundit-tifocating about the housing “bubble.”
Is there a bubble?
If there is, is it going to pop, stabilize, or slowly deflate?
One the columnists for the local rag, I forget who, but I think it was Andrew Cassel, wrote a while ago that, once people start wondering whether there’s a bubble, there probably is. (If someone has a better memory or citation than I, please let me know.)
From wondering mode, we now seem to be entering affirmation mode. That is, developers are starting to blame the press.
This morning brought this news:
A major condominium developer put plans for his 30-story Marina View Towers on hold yesterday, complaining that a softening market has made it hard to hold prices high enough to cover rising construction costs.
“It has suddenly become a buyers’ market,” said developer Louis A. Cicalese.
Further down the story, the developer stated that “‘(a)ll deposits will be refunded,’ . . . . Prices for the condos ranged from $300,000 for the smallest one-bedroom unit, about 800 square feet, to $2 million for the larger units.”
And, towards the end, came the “shoot the messenger” portion of the program:
(Tim) Mahoney (another developer–ed.) grumbled that media coverage pondering whether the boom would soon cool has, at least for now, produced a “self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Joanne Davidow, manager of the Rittenhouse Square office of the Prudential Fox & Roach real estate firm, said “the demand is still there” but the market has quickly changed.
“One minute we’re amazingly busy, then there were a lot of articles asking, ‘Is this a boom or bubble?’ I’m not surprised some are taking a step back… to see if prices will go down,” Davidow said.
Davidow and others predicted that the pause would be brief. “Nothing else has happened. I don’t see interest rates going up significantly. My thought is if you are an older baby boomer and you want to do something, how long are you going to wait?” Davidow said. “There is an awful lot of demand out there.”
So, just so I understand:
- People kept buying higher and higher priced real estate thinking that prices will rise forever–recently we passed a development in lower New Castle County, Delaware, USA, where the billboard screamed, in huge letters, “From the low $410s.”
- Developers kept building more expensive properties,
- Interest rates are starting to nudge up, the cost of fuel and building supplies has increased significantly, while personal incomes have not increased significantly for the great majority of persons, so, therefore,
- It’s the press’s fault that the market starts to cool.
Sound and Futility (Updated) 0
I have often wondered, though not at this location, why, when the current Federal Administration announces a “new initiative” on something, that new initiative usually turns out to be a round of speechifying.
Those new initiatives do not include new legislative or policy strategies, new proposals, moves towards inclusion of or compromise with new or different viewpoints.
No, they are speecifying.
Or, if implimented, the result would be the exact opposite of the announced goals.
This, for example, turns into this. And another new initiative turned into this.
Statements promising action lead to . . .
. . . nothing, or, at least, not much of anything.
What brought these thoughts back to me was this post, excerpted below, by Matthew Iglesias:
In particular, the centrality of 9/11 to Bush’s political persona has always struck me as under-analyzed. It’s a strange thing primarily because Bush didn’t really do anything on 9/11 or its immediate aftermath.
Rather, the good vibes about 9/11 Bush all, in essence, relate to a series of speeches he gave in the days following the event (his immediate evening-of speech was poorly receieved). And I think they were good speeches. The rubble/bullhorn event was a good event. The address to a joint session of congress was great, too. But what does that all really amount to?
Not nothing. Providing inspirational rhetorical leadership in a time of panic is legitimately part of the president’s job. But it still doesn’t add up to very much.
The main goal, in essence, is to do things that signify the adoption of an appropriate attitude toward hostile elements in the world rather than to evaluate possible courses of action in terms of their effects.
The debate on Iraq is just awash in this. The war gets discussed as if it’s a metaphor of some kind. A good opportunity to demonstrate resolve or commitment, or else the lack thereof. A place where our stick-to-it-iveness will show how strongly we feel that democracy is good. A shadow theater wherein we send messages to al-Qaeda or Iran or what have you have. But, of course, Iraq is a real place. The soldiers and civilians in that country are real people. They shoot real bullets and detonate real explosives. And so the question has to be, what, actually, is being achieved? What more might realistically be achieved? What are the consequences — not intentions, not desires, not hopes, but consequences — of our policies?
As I have said here in another context, the way to maintain a clear view of the current Federal Administration is to attend to their actions, not their words.
It’s easy to talk the game.
While, on the playing field, losing (or even throwing*) the game.
Addendum, 8/29/2006: I rest my case.
Gasp! I’m a Pundit 2
I file this under my “Comedy around Us” caategory, because it certainly is a laffer.
You Are a Pundit Blogger!
Your blog is smart, insightful, and always a quality read.
Truly appreciated by many, surpassed by only a few.
With a tip to Suburban Guerrilla.
Betraying Abraham Lincoln 4
More lies (emphasis added):
Supporters of President Bush and the war in Iraq often quote Abraham Lincoln as saying members of Congress who act to damage military morale in wartime “are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled or hanged.”
Republican candidate Diana Irey used the “quote” recently in her campaign against Democratic Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, and it has appeared thousands of times on the Internet, in newspaper articles and letters to the editor, and in Republican speeches.
But Lincoln never said that. The conservative author who touched off the misquotation frenzy, J. Michael Waller, concedes that the words are his, not Lincoln’s. Waller says he never meant to put quote marks around them, and blames an editor for the mistake and the failure to correct it. We also note other serious historical errors in the Waller article containing the bogus quote.
Why am I not surprised? The current Federal Administration bases its policies on lies. Why should not its supporters base their support on lies?
Distract and Conquer 0
When you have nothing to say for yourself, attack someone else (how very Rovian): Dick Polman on his emails from the Repub party:
(By the way, this business about the “Democrat” party, a label clearly intended as a pejorative, is getting a little old. Wouldn’t it sound equally dumb for the Democrats to refer to their opponents as the “Repub” party?)
Anyway, the email proceeded, at considerable length, to attack the blog (kos–ed.) proprietor for various alleged financial, political, and ideological sins. The GOP even attacked him for going on vacation in El Salvador, although I was unaware that El Salvador had been deemed by the governing party to be an unacceptable locale for the expenditure of leisure funds.
Whatâ€™s most instructive here is not the bill of particulars amassed against a blogger that most Americans still probably havenâ€™t heard of; rather, itâ€™s the fact that GOP headquarters opted to launch the attack at all. And the reason is clear: at a time when the party is down in the polls, and in danger of losing at least one chamber on Capitol Hill this November, the GOP is casting around for an enemy, any enemy, who might rile up the conservative base voters and get them out to the polls en masse.
Itâ€™s easy to see why the Republicans are worried. The Pew Research Center pollsters report that Democrats are 16 points more likely than Republicans to say that they are pumped up to vote this November; moreover, just 42 percent of Republicans and GOP-friendly independents are feeling good about the partyâ€™s track record in power — and thatâ€™s down nearly 20 points from two years ago.
All the more reason to target somebody who might get the base to forget its beefs with President Bush and the GOP Congress, and instead direct its anger at the other camp. Most recently, the party has tried out a number of prospects: Democratic Senate candidate Ned Lamont (soft on terrorists), Nancy Pelosi (depicted in party emails as a wide-eyed zombie), Howard Dean (depicted in full scream mode), and, of course, the old reliable, Michael Moore (depicted in full scruffy mode). Now theyâ€™re trying out a blogger.
I suppose the big question, however, is whether conservative base voters on the GOP mailing list will now be motivated to forget their grievances about the GOP Congressâ€™ red-ink budgets, as well as the presidentâ€™s record on Katrina and Iraq…and be roused to storm the polls and strike down all Democratic candidates just because a liberal blogger says things like (gasp) “the French are right” and charges advertisers (gasp) $2400 a week for the most visible position on his home page.
One phrase: Enemies List
Drumbeats, II 0
Informed Comment, worth reading so you will recognize the beats of the drums along the Potomac:
Here is what the professionals are saying about the Republican-dominated Subcommittee on Intelligence Policy report on Iran that slams US intelligence professionals for poor intelligence on Iran: The report demonstrates that these Republicans have poor intelligence . . . on Iran. What follows is summaries of things I’ve seen from other experts but I can’t identify them without permission.
Time to get out our copies of Who’s Next and listen to this song once more.
Me: [name, company name] “How can I help you?”
Caller: [Support question, support question.]
Me: [Support answer, support answer.] (I was lucky; I knew the answers. Opie will tell you that half the time I’m winging it.)
Caller: “Shall I hang up on you or do you want to hang up on me?”
Me: [hysterical laughter] “I’ll hang up on you.” [click]
Two hours later:
Me: [name, company name] “How can I help you?”
Caller: “I’m so-and-so.”
Me: “Yes, sir.”
Caller: “You know, the guy you hung up on.”
Me: [hysterical laughter]
And life goes on.
Grass Backwards 2
Just a news clipping:
The supervisor went for a bat. The employee whipped out a weed trimmer. Another worker used a hammer to break up the fight.
That’s the scene St. Johns County authorities described Tuesday after a lawn service supervisor criticized one of his worker’s grass-cutting skills, The Florida Times-Union reported.
Lawyers with Time on Their Hands Dept. 0
A district judge has been asked to decide whether that word is a harmless taunt or grounds for misdemeanor harassment. Jeannette police charged a 14-year-old boy for “meowing” whenever he sees his neighbor, 78-year-old Alexandria Carasia.
The boy’s family and Carasia do not get along. The boy’s mother said the family got rid of their cat after Carasia complained to police that it used her flower garden as a litter box.
The boy testified Tuesday that he only meowed at the woman twice. Carasia testified, “Every time he sees me, he meows.”
“Cell” Phones 3
Grenade or Gonad 2
Madin Azad Amin, 29, of Skokie, was stopped Aug. 16 at O’Hare International Airport after guards found an object in his baggage that resembled a grenade, prosecutors said.
When officers asked him to identify it, Amin said it was a bomb, said Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Lorraine Scaduto.
He later told officials he’d lied about the item because his mother was nearby and he didn’t want her to hear that it was part of a penis pump, Scaduto said.
He’s been charged with felony disorderly conduct, said Andrew Conklin, a spokesman with the Cook County state’s attorney’s office
I predict the charges won’t stand up.
Reuters, but see this. (A tip to Juan Cole.)
Yes, the people who brought you the travesty in Iraq will do it again,
they think that war is the way to get what they want..
And, I do believe that, on some sick level, some of those beating the drums think that war is, in some abstract way, good and virtuous.
From El Reg:
The “Stupid Security” awards aims to highlight the absurdities of so-called security procedures that make little contribution to real security improvements. The international compo aims to unearth the world’s most pointless, intrusive, stupid and self-serving security measures.
I think this one makes the list. In fact, I just submitted it (follow the link above to see how to submit nominations to the contest).
Here’s part of the Local Rag said about this one today:
In its comment on the plan, the city’s Design Advocacy Group – design professionals who rally around good ideas for the urban landscape – nicely captured the incongruity. As the group’s Alan Greenberger wrote, “The sad irony of having to cage the place where American freedom was invented is more than we should all be willing to tolerate.”
And the suspicion remains that the plan is mostly about show and cost; less heavy-handed, but more expensive steps could provide equal security (understanding that no site like this in the middle of bustling, major city will ever be totally secure from threat).
The more you hear about the plan the worse it gets. The Park Service plans to convert much of the Supreme Court building – commonly known as Old City Hall – into a room where visitors are marched through metal detectors. That’s a disgrace. “Serious desecration” is the appropriate description given this plan by IMBARC, the Independence Mall Business and Residents Coalition.
This is the moment – five years after 9/11, with no credible threats to the historic brick structures or the Liberty Bell – to reassess notions about security around Independence Park.
Behind a fence.
To paraphrase Yogi Berra, it’s 1984 all over again.
Why Is “Liberal” a Dirty Word? 2
E. J. Dionne ventures a theory:
But liberalism has also become associated with elitism, arrogance and disdain for the values of average Americans. Think of the consumer preferences tossed at liberals from the right as epithets: brie, chablis (now updated to merlot), Volvos, lattes, vacations on Martha’s Vineyard. Never mind that it’s conservatives who want to eliminate inheritance taxes on those Vineyard mansions.
But reading Brown is also a reminder of where Hofstadter may have misled the very liberal movement to which he was devoted. There was, first, his emphasis on American populists as embodying a “deeply ingrained provincialism” (Brown’s term) whose revolt was as much a reaction to the rise of the cosmopolitan big city as to economic injustices.
The late Christopher Lasch, one of Hofstadter’s students and an admiring critic, noted that by conducting “political criticism in psychiatric categories,” Hofstadter and his intellectual allies excused themselves “from the difficult work of judgment and argumentation.”
Lasch added archly: “Instead of arguing with opponents, they simply dismissed them on psychiatric grounds.”
I trained as a historian. (It was wonderful prepartion for my current career supporting high-tech enterprise level computer software, but that’s another story.) Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life is one of the best works of history I have ever read.
I also read the works of Daniel Bell and visited Bob Jones U. as part of a research project I did (it was scary).
I think Mr. Dionne has a point–by putting down the opposition, rather than engaging it, U. S. political liberals have done a disservice to themselves, to their country, and to the opposition.
But, know what? I’ve never heard of one of them degenerate Liberals having a peeing statue at a birthday party.
Somewhere, somebody missed the point:
The minister of a church that dismissed a female Sunday School teacher after adopting what it called a literal interpretation of the Bible says a woman can perform any job — outside of the church.
The First Baptist Church (of Watertown, NY–ed.) dismissed Mary Lambert on Aug. 9 with a letter explaining that the church had adopted an interpretation that prohibits women from teaching men. She had taught there for 54 years.
The letter quoted the first epistle to Timothy: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.”
My religious roots are with the BGAV. This sort of hate-ful (as in “full of hate”) crap embarasses me to the end of my Baptist roots.
Where, oh where, did the church of my heritage so lose sight of what it used to stand for– the priesthood and equality of the believer?
Honest Politician 2
“Liberal,” “Conservative” 0
The American Conservative magazine (which, despite having been founded by that renowned loose cannon, Pat Buchanan) has some thoughtful and interesting articles.
The current issue has a neat series about whether the terms “liberal” and “conservative” have mutated beyond recognition and whether the “left-right” lens of viewing US politics has any meaning or utility left.
Here’s the introduction to the series and a link to the essays:
Since its inception, The American Conservative has been dealing with questions of what Right and Left mean in the modern context and to what extent the terms even apply anymore. Commentary memorably took up similar issues in a 1976 symposium, and, 30 years later, in a time of renewed ideological flux, we think a reconsideration is in order.
In the interest of hosting a lively discussion, we chose contributors from across the political spectrum and asked for their thoughts on the following questions:
1. Are the designations â€œliberalâ€ and â€œconservativeâ€ still useful? Why or why not?
2. Does a binary Left/Right political spectrum describe the full
range of ideological options? Is it still applicable?
Not all of these authors share TACâ€™s editorial orientation, but we believe there is wisdom in the council of many, and each was chosen as representative of a particular perspective. We leave our readers to decide which insights most accord with their own.
More Lies 0
Dick Polman an exchange in todays
Presid presidential press conference:
. . . Suddenly, a journalist from the reality-based community asked a question. Here’s the exchange:
Q: “What did Iraq have to do with it?”
BUSH: “What did Iraq have to do with what?”
Q: “The attack on the World Trade Center.”
Well, that’s very interesting…given the fact that Dick Cheney and other Bush war planners repeatedly and publicly sought to convince Americans that Iraq was very much involved. Cheney went on Sunday morning TV with his claim (long since disproved by intelligence officials) that one of the terrorists who crashed into the World Trade Center was seen meeting in Prague with a Saddam Hussein agent.
But let’s return to what Bush said today. Here’s his entire answer:
“Nothing. Except itâ€™s part of — and nobody has suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack. Iraq was a — Iraq — the lesson of September 11th is take threats before they fully materialize, Ken. Nobodyâ€™s ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq.”
Nobody’s ever “suggested” it? Another stunner. Bush himself has “suggested” it on many occasions. For instance, during a press conference on the eve of the war, while talking about Saddam, he reportedly invoked Sept. 11 eight times.
The conclusion is inescapable: By accident or design, Bush is now issuing factually-challenged denials about his previous factually-challenged assertions. . . .
They can’t even keep their lies straight.