clap clap blog: we have moved
Thursday, April 17, 2003
A brief "why am I still at work again?" post on the UN: the current situation is that Bush reaaaaally wants them to lift their sanctions on Iraq, which is seems obvious that they'd do. Why wouldn't they? Because that's currently the only leverage they have over the US, since as it stands now Iraq can't sell any of its oil to make money, and so the US has to reconstruct at a loss. (Well, more of a loss than we're currently at.) Now, from a purely diplomatic standpoint, I can see the wisdom in this. But politically--and even humanitarianly--it just seems stupid. C'mon, guys, let's get some shit to Iraq and figure this out later, OK? You're looking like the assholes here. Am I wrong?
posted by Mike B. at 6:51 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Guess who got the contract to rebuild Iraq? No, not Halliburton--Betchel! Awesome!
Several Democratic lawmakers have complained the Bush administration did not allow open competitive bidding, but rather invited a small number of firms to submit proposals. USAID has defended the procedure as the only way to get help to Iraq quickly.
Yeah, that or the UN, you evil motherfuckers.
posted by Mike B. at 6:43 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Fairly hilarious worst-case scenario of the results of Mayor Mike's budget. And, of course, by "Mayor Mike's Budget" I mean "the budget we have because Pataki is a fucking coward."
posted by Mike B. at 6:37 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Ah, if only...
The Smoking Gun mirrors some of the now-deleted CNN pages made in case someone likely to die should, in fact, die. Top of the list: Dick Cheney! That would be very, very sad, and it's horrible that CNN could even contemplate such a thing. *cough*
Apparently Gerald Ford is on death's door, too. Wow, who knew?
posted by Mike B. at 6:33 PM 0 comments Links to this post
I was walking down E. 5th street a few nights ago and noticed there was an antiques store called "White Trash."
I'm hoping to open up my own store nearby. I'm unsure whether to call it "Nigger Shack" or "AIDS Is God's Wrath on Faggots" but I assume these will both be acceptable to the community.
posted by Mike B. at 4:41 PM 0 comments Links to this post
I didn't want to be totally mean about it and write a letter, but this sentence from Cary Tennis' Since You Asked... column is, as far as I can tell, the single worst piece of writing ever published.
"The force that through the green fuse drives the flower/ Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees/ Is my destroyer," wrote Dylan Thomas, who drank himself to death the year I was born, the year they lit the fuse on me, a pink little bomb, and I tumbled out the bloody motel with snot in my eyes.
OK, maybe I was exaggerating, but it's pretty bad. A good nomination for the "Worst Sentence of the Year" contest, eh?
posted by Mike B. at 4:00 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Arianna Huffington thankfully takes a break from her corporation bashing (I'm with you, sweetie, but your cause might be undermined by the fact that you seem to be ignoring certain more pressing issues) to point out that, um, if Baghdad fell so easily, doesn't that kind of mean that Sadaam wasn't all that much of a threat? Because we thought you said he was, see.
The whole pretext for our unilateral charge into Iraq was that the American people were in imminent danger from Saddam and his mighty war machine. The threat was so clear and present that we couldn't even give inspectors searching for weapons of mass destruction -- hey, remember those? -- another 30 days, as France had wanted. Well, it turns out that, far from being on the verge of destroying Western civilization, Saddam and his 21st century Gestapo couldn't even muster a halfhearted defense of their own capital. The hawks' cakewalk disproves their own dire warnings. They can't have it both ways.
Well, of course they can, because they run the government as a single-party system right now, the Democrats having obligingly changed into their Washington Generals uniforms and let the opposition taunt them with basketballs spinning just out of their reach and bottles of seltzer in the face. (Metaphorically speaking, you understand.) It's frustrating because, just like when you watch a Globetrotters game (well worth it, by the way) or a Roadrunner cartoon, their errors seem so obvious and the alternatives so clear that you can't understand their actions, unless they're just trying to entertain you, which of course the Generals and Wile E. Coyote are. The Democrats, however, are not, or so I'd hope, although they are providing quite the highlight reel for the entertainment news night after night. Grab the damn ball, yell at the ref to call a foul, and fucking run the fast break, you assholes, or the audience is going to start coming down from the stands and replacing you, as the carnival model dictates.
posted by Mike B. at 3:34 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Ariel Sharon says:
"Because Bush showed real leadership and determination, there is more of a chance to do something. Arabs have less reason to believe that one can overcome Israel by force."
Wait, wait. Why would they think that? America invaded Iraq; Israel had nothing to do with it, right? Why would America's conduct have anything to do with the Arab world's feelings toward Israel? Because the American military would bomb the fuck out of any Arab nations that crossed the line? Are you fucking serious, Ariel? Anyway, doesn't Israel have its own army for that kind of thing? And isn't there a wee bit of difference between suicide bombers and the Iraqi army? I like Israel and all (well, except for the Likud party) but I do hope that we wouldn't insure its security by invading all the countries around it. That's just me.
Ugh. Anyway, let's get started on this peace process, boys, and not by bombing Syria, OK?
posted by Mike B. at 12:31 PM 0 comments Links to this post
In the first "bold policy move" by a Democratic Presidential candidate, Dick Gephart has proposed eliminating Bush's income tax cuts and using the money saved to...pay off the massive debt we're accruing? No, he would use it for "a tax credit to help businesses pay for health care." Which is nice, I guess, but also kind of weird. I mean, what about the dividend tax cut? That's the big issue right now, and I think you could use the money saved to subsidize a free candy truck, people still get real nervous when you talk about raising their taxes back up. And what about the economy? Health care = good, but I think it's a fairly small bit of why the recession makes people nervous right now; if you want to reassure people, maybe rescind the draconian bankruptcy laws passed a few years back. And this is all beside the point that Dick is the fucking House minority leader right now, so if he wanted to do something more about Bush's tax plans, he presumably could. Maybe that's why he's not mentioning the dividend tax cut, eh?
Anyway, I'm unconvinced, but it's going to take a lot to sell me on Dick. (No more Dicks in office!) It would be nice to see these kind of "visionary" proposals from a few other folks, though. Are you listening, John Edwards? Eh, maybe they're still focus-grouping them...
posted by Mike B. at 12:02 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Woke up, got out of bed...
...Circulatory System (ex-Olivia Tremor Control) sleeping on my floor...
...took a shower, brushed teeth, got dressed, left.
Some of us have to go to work in the morning, you goddamn hippies!
In other news, I was listening to Nick Cave's "Babe I'm On Fire" on the train this morning, and I noticed that one of the things he name-checks is "the misunderstood Viking." I don't know what this means, but it's a great image, isn't it? "Damnit, I'm a Viking, but I'm not one of those kind of Vikings!"
posted by Mike B. at 10:30 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Wednesday, April 16, 2003
First Colin Powell expresses regret at America's role in the 1973 coup in Chile that deposed Salvador Allende.
Then the State Department issues a statement saying, basically, "No we don't" and distances itself from Powell's comments as the Secretary of State. This statement is probably coming out because we (and Mr. Kissinger) are currently being sued for damages by some Chileans.
Sorry for the lack of posts today, gang, but there ain't nothing to do at work, and somehow that makes it harder for me to do anything. Damndest thing.
posted by Mike B. at 2:02 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Apparently the terror alert is back down to yellow. Party in the streets! But cautiously!
They say the previous level of orange "may be serving as a deterrent during increased awareness of possible terrorist incidents." Really? (Terrorist: "OK, so now we bomb the...oh shit, they're at orange? We're never gonna sneak by now! The American people are just too damn alert!") Is there any evidence for that?
"We believe that during 'Operation Liberty Shield,' there were individuals in places, at times, where they should not have been," he said. "The investigations continue on those."
Roehrkasse declined to provide specifics.
I don't even know what that means. And "Operation Liberty Shield"?
For a good time, contrast the CNN story with the NYT's take.
posted by Mike B. at 11:52 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Unexpectedly, Simon Reynolds likes the YYY's:
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Y Control” off Fever To Tell
As above, I like the whole record but this is the one that really gets me--something in the way it moves.
posted by Mike B. at 11:41 AM 0 comments Links to this post
So here's my theory on the new Radiohead album: it might actually be a very good thing to leak a highly-anticipated album early, because it gives critics (who will naturally have copies before everyone else) a chance to live with the album for a while, instead of having to turn in a review 3 days after they get it, like they usually do. I say this because I didn't really dig the album at first, except for the last track ("Wolf At the Door") which I'd heard the live version of. Now I likes it, though, and it clearly took a while to grow on me. It's especially hard to differentiate the tracks at first, but when you give it close listenings in little chunks it gets clearer. "Sit Down, Stand Up" is a fucking great song, for instance (love the buildup and the beat it eventually congeals to), as is "We Suck Young Blood" (handclaps are always good). "2+2=5," the opener, is good too, but more importantly, it's where the title of the album comes, "Hail to the Thief." Now, at first this just seems like a needlessly obvious bit of Bush-bashing, but in context (and perhaps I'm not reading the song right), it seems like Thom is directing this epithet at himself (it's immediately followed by "But I'm not!"), so it becomes a more traditional bit of Radiohead self-loathing for a minute, but then it becomes more of a sly bit of self-deprecation, alluding perhaps to the fact that some people responded to the praise of their last two albums with the Jaded Robot-like "Whatever, they just raided the Warp catalog." Of course, that's absurd--if one wanted to have a #1 record in America, avant-garde electronica is probably not the best place to steal from--but it's another nice little instance of Radiohead being (gasp!) happy and/or funny. I've thought this for a while. For instance, despite the Sky TV anchor's reaction to seeing the video for "No Surprises" ("music to slit your wrists to" or something like that) it really is a "nice pop song," as the band called it. I think they meant it in a somewhat negative way, but fuck it, it is a really nice little pop song, and they obviously thought enough of it to record it, put it on OK Computer, and make a video for it, and of course OK Computer was made without any label pressure, so it seems like a genuine decision. Some of the songs on Kid A were genuinely hopeful, and Amnesiac, too, had some very upbeat moments (although I think they totally dropped the ball on "You and Whose Army?" but I'll cover that someday and fix it on up). So people have complained that HTTT has too many slow, ballad-y songs, but these songs all sound generally hopeful, and kind of happy. They're just not as angry as they were before, and that's OK, I think.
posted by Mike B. at 11:32 AM 0 comments Links to this post
office pool time
Anyone want to bet what Pitchfork's grade for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs album will be? I've got my money on 4.3.
Further bets can be made on whether they will actually listen to the album first before panning it, and/or what snarky words they will use to dismiss it, especially if they'll mention Karen O's outfits.
C'mon kids, it's fun!
posted by Mike B. at 11:12 AM 0 comments Links to this post
a wee bit more Syria
The Guardian reports on the Syria situation. The good news: Bush actually had the sense of self-preservation necessary to stop development of war plans. The bad news: the Pentagon was making war plans. You can say, "Oh, but they're only contingency war plans." But what possible contingency could make it necessary for us to go to war with Syria? A rogue commander leading an Abrams brigade into Damascus? What? Anyway, I'm still not entirely convinced, but that's at least a bit of a relief.
Thomas Friedman, meanwhile, says, "Well, you know, Syria..." He does make the valid point that Syria is currently occupying Lebanon, and that maybe we should be using diplomatic means to get it out of there, since "Lebanon is the only Arab country to have had a functioning democracy." Eh, I dunno--when we can't get a country we're partners with (Israel) to get out of the small bits of countries it's currently occupying, it seems unlikely that we're going to get a country we're hostile to out of another country through our current brand of diplomacy. Friedman:
Bush-style military engagement with Syria is not in the cards right now. But French-style constructive engagement, which is just a cover for dancing with dictators, is a fraud. The natural third way is "aggressive engagement." That means getting in Syria's face every day. Reminding the world of its 27-year occupation of Lebanon and how much it has held that country back, and reminding the Syrian people of how much they've been deprived of a better future by their own thuggish regime.
See, OK, but the last time we did that we ended up invading, so that makes all of us just a wee bit nervous.
He also recommends "agressive engagement" for Israel, but it seems unlikely that we're going to be getting in their face and constantly reminding the world of Sharon's atrocities very soon. Oh well. Look, can we all just encourage Bush to sit around and not touch anything until the Democrats get into office?
posted by Mike B. at 11:08 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Tuesday, April 15, 2003
There's a fairly snarky but good article on Reason online about Syria, which is worth reading.
It also links to a discussion of the phrase "immanentizing the eschaton," which comes from Eric Voegelin’s 1952 book, The New Science of Politics. Basically, it's the idea that political leaders shouldn't assume that paradise (or utopia or perfection) is acheivable, because then they will try and acheive it, and use any means necessary to do so, which is bad because paradise isn't really going to happen on earth anytime soon. I will quote the article here because it's basically me, but smarter, and describes a cornerstone of my political faith, I think:
For Voegelin, as least in his role as political scientist, the great dividing line is between certainty and uncertainty. The good thing is uncertainty. Why? Because people who are certain about humanity’s ends often seek to divinize society, to reunite heaven and earth, by establishing within this world the true and final purposes of man. For Voegelin, this form of certainty is the great threat to humanity. For the man who is certain in this way “will not leave the transfiguration of the world to the grace of God beyond history but will do the work of God himself, right here and now, in history.” Cromwell was certain in this way. Lenin and Hitler were, if anything, even more certain. Indeed, leaders and social movements possessed of this type of certainty shaped much of the 20th century, including almost all of its bloodiest and ugliest parts.
Voegelin argues that belief in God makes us, or at least should make us, less certain. If, as Paul puts it, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” then faith is much closer to hope than it is to certainty. It does, or at least should, temper our all-too-human tendency toward pride and lessen the chances that we will transform any of the ideas limited to this world (History, Progress, Patriotism, there are many others) into final answers. At a minimum, belief in God suggests a difference between salvation and self-salvation.
Yes, many terrible things have been done and justified in the name of religion. But I think - okay, I also hope - that Voegelin is right to suggest that, in the modern world, sincere faith reduces rather than increases the risk of excessive existential certitude. Dr. R. Maurice Boyd, the pastor of the City Church, New York, says that Jesus’ ministry can be summed up in two questions. When speaking about the kingdom of God to the powerful and the self-righteous, he always asked: Are you so sure you’re in? And to the weak and the castigated, he always asked: Are you so sure you’re out? Don’t be so certain. To me, that is perfect.
posted by Mike B. at 6:11 PM 0 comments Links to this post
I brought this up in the pre-blog era, but here's a followup on the suggestion that sound techs overdubbed booing on the broadcast of Michael Moore's speech at the Oscars. This one just deals with CNN, although what Mr. Al Nunya suggested before was that there was overdubbing on the original broadcast as well.
posted by Mike B. at 5:35 PM 0 comments Links to this post
A story in the Guardian reveals that Ahmad Chalabi, the neo-cons' choice to lead Iraq (see below), was sentenced in absentia to 21 years in prison in Jordan for "embezzlement, theft, misuse of depositor funds and currency speculation" totalling (US?)$200 million in losses connected to the bank he used to run there, Petra Bank. The losses occurred in 1989 and the Jordanian government repaid the money to depositors, after discovering that the bank had lost the money due to hiding it in, among other places, dummy corporations set up by Chalabi himself. Chalabi fled to Britain. "As Mr Chalabi was eventually tried in a military state security court, he cannot be extradited, though if he became Iraqi leader he would be unable to visit Jordan."
I guess it might be useful for the leader of a mideast country to be familiar with the techniques of graft, bribery, and quid pro quo, but I thought we were trying to install regimes different from the ones there now, and this would just be more of the same. It seems doubtful that he'd get much popular support for screwing over Jordan and fleeing to England, although I could be wrong.
To put it unequivocally: Do not let this guy run Iraq.
posted by Mike B. at 4:44 PM 0 comments Links to this post
- Powell Says 'There Is No War Plan' Against Syria, which, given the history of the administration, means there is definitely a war plan for Syria.
- Still no WMD evidence, but any day now, any day now. "We're not going to find just a smoking gun, but a smoking cannon...It's only a matter of time."
- We killed some civilians in Mosul, but it might be their fault. Great example of military-speak here, as the commander explains what happens after the Marines fired warning shots over a hostile crowd and some failed to disperse: "The marines said `OK, the fight is on. And the marines returned accurate fire." Brr, "accurate fire." In regards to fighter jets buzzing the city, which the Iraqis seem weirdly unhappy about, a Special Forces soldier says: "These are to break up the crowd. It's a show of force, but people don't understand it. They're not grateful." Why in my day, we were grateful for shows of force.
- President Bush spends some political capital pushing his tax cut plan. It's hard to blame him--I guess he genuinely thinks it's going to help the economy--but it's hard to follow his logic.
Only four days ago, the House and Senate voted for tax cuts far below the $726 billion over the next 10 years that the president first proposed.
The House narrowly approved cuts totaling $550 billion. But the Senate agreed to cuts of only $350 billion. And Senator Charles E. Grassley, the Iowa Republican who is chairman of the Finance Committee, pledged on the Senate floor that he would not tolerate tax reductions of more than $350 billion.
Moreover, the Senate approved the $350 billion figure by the narrowest possible margin: with Vice President Dick Cheney casting the tie-breaking vote after the chamber deadlocked at 50-50. So when the lawmakers return, they will have a lot of work to do in bridging the differences.
"I think it's fair to say there's a good fight ahead," said Mr. Fleischer, who formerly worked on Capitol Hill. He said Mr. Bush would not be merely a sideline observer.
Twice today, Mr. Bush emphasized that he wanted tax cuts of "at least" $550 billion. He may have been signaling his willingness to come down from his original figure while still battling for more than the lawmakers are so far willing to back.
I dunno--if they were willing to do this during the goddamn war, it's hard to see how they're going to be upped now. Maybe because he has more time to spend pushing it? Seems like there are still a few pressing matters in Iraq though, doesn't it? Personally, my first political initiative after a controversial war would have been more of a "think about the children," midnight basketball / Amber Alert kind of thing, but I guess that's why he's President and I'm not. Well, that and I'm not 35, or...well, let's not get into it right now, yeah?
ADDENDUM: sophomoric laugh of the day
"Here in Washington, we're now determining the size and the shape of a package...It's not if we have a package, it's how big will the package be. The `if' is over with."
posted by Mike B. at 4:25 PM 0 comments Links to this post
"See, the people love him! They're marching back and forth, yelling, protesting...uh..."
So here's an interesting article on the meeting between principles to determine the transitional government in Iraq. It's clear the US is trying to be careful and even-handed here ("Participants included Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites from inside the country and others who have spent years in exile; American officials invited the groups, but each picked their own representatives") but, as usual, the hawks barrel over everything and put INC leader Ahmad Chalabi out there, which was the cause of the protests in the picture above.
I really hope these protests are an embarassment, because:
- Ahmad Chalabi is a Shiite.
- The protesters are also Shiites.
- The Shiites are the majority group in Iraq and were oppressed under Sadaam's Sunni Baath Party (still active in Syria, incidentally), a fact often brought up to demonstrate our democratic aims.
So if the majority group in the country doesn't like the neo-cons' chosen candidate, democratically speaking, he probably shouldn't be installed, right guys? Uh, guys?
This CBC rundown of the other possibilities for Iraqi leaders might be worth reading, too.
posted by Mike B. at 12:44 PM 0 comments Links to this post
"Why are you liberals so opposed to small government?"
Well, here's one reason. The SCOTUS decided (in 1940!) that everyone is entitled to a lawyer, even if you can't pay for one, but they didn't actually specify that the lawyer had to be good, or spend any time with you, or anything like that. This was a problem in the recent Tulia, TX drug busts wherein the testimony of a single paid informant was enough to convict over 30 (mostly black) defendants: they may well be innocent, but given an apparent choice between taking a compromise deal and fighting it and getting a worse sentence, many poor defendants with inadequate counsel will take the plea bargain, even though they could win in court. It also brings to mind the recently-stayed death sentence of Delma Banks, a black man convicted of killing a white man by an all-white jury, a fact which his lawyer didn't see fit to challenge at the time.
In this case, Quitman County, Mississippi doesn't seem to have enough money to pay its public defenders to actually defend the public. This is manifested in cases like Diana Brown's, whose lawyer told her, "You are guilty, lady," said she should take a plea bargain, and gave her five minutes to decide. And so, feeling this is probably a wee bit injust, they're suing the state for not providing the money. Just how injust is it? Check this:
People who feel they did not receive effective assistance are required to prove not only that the lawyer was incompetent, but also that the incompetence affected the outcome of the case. And they need to typically prove this after conviction in a proceeding in which they are not entitled to a lawyer.
Still wonder why people don't have faith in our criminal justice system?
As always, it's unfortunate when the legislative process results in an unjust, undemocratic outcome and we have to resort to the courts, but until we all get a little less afraid of politics, that's where it's going to have to go. (Why is America such a "litigious society"? Because we can't cure our problems through the legislative process very often.) The fact remains that you can convince people that they shouldn't have to pay money to defend poor people, or pave roads, or pay for libraries, but really, they do, they just don't want to, and it's the responsibility of legislators not to play to that kind of bullshit "populism." Shape the fuck up and be a statesman, not a goddamn local TV reporter.
posted by Mike B. at 12:16 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Monday, April 14, 2003
onion headline or real headline #1
Iraqis take back dignity, palaces
posted by Mike B. at 9:18 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Did these guys watch too many Pink Panther movies or what?
posted by Mike B. at 6:47 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Mr. Al Nunya relates the following story:
"some friends and i had the lovely experience of kirstie alley sitting down
at a table with us in a restaurant (un-asked) to try to serve us some
scientology. for 40 minutes. finally i asked for the check and left them all
Brr. The thought of Kirstie Alley talking to me for 40 minutes about anything is scary, let alone Scientology.
posted by Mike B. at 6:11 PM 0 comments Links to this post
The NYT reports that, predictably, Rumsfeld has chosen to spend the political capital accrued (for now) by the seeming success of the new military configuration in Iraq by pressing for the power to permanently rearrange the armed forces. The story includes this tidbit: "If approved, the legislation would put Mr. Rumsfeld's stamp on personnel practices for years, even decades, to come, powerfully influencing assignments and promotions at the top of the chain of command and refocusing many people lower in the ranks on fighting wars rather than pushing pencils."
Now, neither the writer nor Rummy himself may have meant it this way, but this does call to mind a new paradigm of needing more people fighting wars because there are more wars to fight. Certainly increased militarism is a cornerstone of the National Defense Policy 2k! released last year, which advocated "pre-emptive strikes" and unmatched US military dominance (which maybe sounds like a good idea until you start thinking about the balance of power and the fact that the US is sometimes wrong and like that). The problem for the left right now is that fifty years of effort by the executive branch has resulted in a situation where the President, if he finds a war that's not with a first-world nation and can be won in less than a month, can pretty much do whatever the hell he wants. The only thing standing in his way is the War Powers act, and that's currently a toothless beast that's not a weapon for peace so much as an optional escalator to increased political capital and public / international acceptance.
So we have to start thinking about long-term policy goals, and given the difficulty for the forseeable future of constructing a way to stop Presidents from going to war if they want to, the second-best option may be to invest a lot of effort into finding a way to win the peace for leftist goals. As I mention in my previous post, the most important things now are who profits from the war (corporations or Iraqis) and who runs the country so as to produce the most salutory results within the country, within the region and within the global community. Both now seem to be proceeding in a neo-conservative direction. The former I think can be nudged leftward by, perhaps paradoxically, a greater realization by the left of how the tool of international monetary organizations, hesitatingly embraced rather than opposed, can be used to benefit local populations. As for the latter:
The best indication we have right now of the right's plans for Iraq (and, sort of, the Middle East) comes in this Foreign Affairs article. I can't even get into a detailed critique of it, since between its view of Arabs as an undifferentiated mass with psychological problems to blame for all its difficulties, and its inability to see how being a liberal Arab intellectual might actually dictate being anti-American, this would take all day, but suffice to say its grand plan for using Iraq to democratize the mideast seems to amount to "put an American in charge and everything will be fine." I'm serious--give it a read-through if you like. It's indicative that from a seemingly lengthy debate about what the UN's role in a post-war Iraq should be, Bush and Blair could only come up with a single word ("vital") and no actual policy. In other words, the right doesn't seem to have a policy about how to actually engender modernization in the Arab world, and for that, it's vulnerable.
The problem, of course, is that the left's policy seems to be either "the opposite of whatever the right wants" or "leave 'em alone and it'll all be fine." Neither of these seem inspiring--or, for that matter, accurate. We need to come up with a specific policy about how to democratize nations and/or regions, because that may be the best way to fight militarism. I think the right might be less eager to invade countries willy-nilly if the consensus is that afterwards they're going to have to turn over the country to the UN and allow it to elect anti-American leaders, if that's the way the cookie crumbles. I don't know what this policy should be yet, but I do know that the search needs to be undertaken in a reasonably public way and every effort undertaken to make the conclusion conventional opinion, a la the right's "Sadaam = bin Ladin" slight-of-hand.
The left will sometimes inevitably be caught in a reactive position, but if so, it needs to learn to jump two steps ahead rather than continually playing catch-up.
posted by Mike B. at 6:02 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Bob Herbert discusses the IPS report discussed below (good call, Jason) and comes across reasonably moderately. He concludes:
Their philosophical flights in favor of the war would seem more graceful, and much less unsavory, if they weren't flying with the baggage of Bechtel and other large commercial interests that have so much to gain from the war.
This unilateral war and the ouster of Saddam have given the hawks and their commercial allies carte blanche in Iraq. And the company with perhaps the sleekest and most effective of all the inside tracks, a company that is fairly panting with anticipation over oil and reconstruction contracts worth scores of billions of dollars, is of course the Bechtel Group of San Francisco.
Perhaps the most important battle right now is not only who profits from the victory, but who runs the victory--ex-pat Iraqis, favored by the neo-cons, or those who remained inside the country, favored by Powell and State. The hawks have characteristically jumped the gun by shipping the ex-pats over for a tour without military approval, which looks fishy, and one has to wonder how installing a regime so closely tied to the West is going to play with Iraq's neighbors, or even its citizens. While there are certainly problems with reinstalling former members of the government post-war, consider that if the Allies had refused to let anyone connected with the Nazis run Germany after the war, the country would have become a de facto protectorate of the victors, and Germany, for the record, turned out fairly well.
posted by Mike B. at 3:33 PM 0 comments Links to this post
man, looks like I picked the right day to do syria...
NYT hed: 'We Have Seen Chemical Weapons Tests in Syria in the Past 12 to 15 Months,' Rumsfeld Says
The Prez says:
"I think that we believe there are chemical weapons in Syria, for example. And we will -- each situation will require a different response and, of course, we're -- first things first. We're here in Iraq now. And the second thing about Syria is that we expect cooperation. And I'm hopeful we'll receive cooperation."
Thank god, my war hard-on was beginning to dwindle to a mild tumescence!
posted by Mike B. at 1:05 PM 0 comments Links to this post
syria day begins
Let's check the CIA world factbook on Syria first, and we see a lot of "Golan Heights" stuff, which should ring a few bells if you've been following the justifications for neo-cons' Iraq campaign, i.e. protecting Israel. The jew brigade seems to be doing just fine on this point, however, since they pretty much whaled on Syria after they invaded during the 6 days' war, and the Israeli settlements in the Golan Heights has been a continuing issue, but not as much as the settlements elsewhere in what is less ambiguously Palestinian territory, and Syria doesn't seem to be able to do much about it. This story from last year (sorry for the heavily biased Pravda link, but you can stop after the first few paragraphs if you'd like) sounds oddly familiar, with Israel giving Syria shit for allowing Hezbollah to use it as a base for attacks on Israel's north.
So what's coming out here is that the only reason we'd get mad at Syria is because they threaten Israel, not because they threaten the US in the slightest (good summary here). This makes a weird sort of sense when you consider that the original Syria story o' the day was about the Syrian minister responding to US charges in a press conference with Dominique de Villepin held to encourage the US to get involved in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It's oddly in line with the neo-cons' point of view that the best way to secure peace for Israel is to conquer all their neighbors, but that's probably disingenous to say. Anyway, Powell says we're considering sanctions against Syria, which would be better than war if we hadn't already thought about that last year.
So whassup, Syria? Where are we going with this?
posted by Mike B. at 12:19 PM 0 comments Links to this post
But first, a little goth-emo diversion. The interview in Pitchfork today is with Jamie from Xiu Xiu, and it might be worth reading some reviews, too. Then lemme get into it.
On the second page, the interviewer talks about bands like the Frogs "torturing" their audience and says that, given how "scary" Xiu Xiu are on record (yeah dude, there's nothing scarier than a guy screaming about his mom) if he ever scares people in concert. Jame responds:
I'm just not like that as a guy, so if I did that it would just be totally phony-baloney. I don't know how I can put this, but the most important thing philosophically with what we're doing is to be genuine with what we're singing about. Because the songs are about real things...It would be really, really disingenuous of me to, like, fuck around during one of our shows, or freak people out, because that's the opposite of what we're trying to do musically.
Now, this is all very nod-nod, oh yes it's very authentic and real man, but I think he sort of misses the point. The point is if he ever fucks with people emotionally (the Frogs don't go out into the audience and punch you, after all, they just start songs by screaming "I EAT AFTERBIRTH!" which most people find weird, for some reason), and I think the beginning of the interview is a classic example of trying to fuck with people, except it's done in a way that strokes the egos of people who like you and distances people who don't, which seems like the height of dishonesty to me. I'm going to quote a semi-long section here because I don't see any way around it, but fuck it, that's what blogs are for, right?
Jamie: Any time you're doing something in music that makes you feel kind of uncomfortable, then something actual is happening. And sometimes it's successful, and people can get touched by it, and sometimes people are like, "Is it a joke?" But the times that it's successful never happen unless you go fucking balls-out on something and just rip yourself apart. Personally, too, any creative venture that's ever meant anything to me personally has been really over the top. I mean, shit like, most indie rock, I think, is some of the dumbest fucking music I've ever heard, because it's usually just, listless. Not even the same old stuff, but people being very subtle, and very guarded. I mean, fucking, why? Why?
Pitchfork: I think a lot of people just want to be in a band, or think that they can innovate by just being another band with, like, tape manipulations...
Jamie: People have been doing that since, like, the 40s. Big deal. If somebody can do indie rock with tape manipulations, and then they can tear their fucking heart in half, then they're doing something, hopefully. I don't know. Going over the top in and of itself isn't an end. I don't just mean emotionally. I think that in anything you do-- I mean, just SCREAMING THAT MY LIFE'S HORRIBLE! I'M GOING TO CUT MY OWN FUCKING HEAD OFF! I mean, I don't think that's necessarily going over the top. I think that whether or not we do it successfully, sometimes we do. I think that being incredibly honest with what you're feeling is the most over-the-top that you can go. And if it's really histrionic, and it's really crazy-dramatic, but that's a real expression of somebody's life, then that person, luckily for them, is doing something that can be a real experience for somebody. And if you just sit there and wear a fucking trucker hat and play a Jaguar guitar, you can suck my fucking asshole. Ech, ech! It pisses me off. I'm so fucking tired of that shit.
My initial response to all of this was: huh? What're you talking about, dude? But then the reflexive hipster-bashing reared its head at the end and then I started to notice a few other things and, well...OK, first off, it's nice that in the subsequent question he talks about how stuff can still be honest and true if you're writing about someone else's experience, not just your own. But then everything in this excerpt is so narrow-minded and wrong, it just boggles the mind that a 31-year-old could have said it.
Let's try to answer the "WHY?!?!" of "subtle and guarded" first. Well, people are subtle because subtlety is nice and probably a better reflection of how life is actually lived--slowly, boringly, banally--and people are guarded because they realize that they're doing something in public, and they realize that when you put something out in public, it gives people this weird idea that they know you, or even that they're sort of your friend, and that's a pretty dishonest feeling to be encouraging. People are guarded because maybe they realize that just like Jamie worried (for a good minute or two, seemed like) about exploiting the gay Vietnamese hooker, you can also end up exploiting yourself. Despite his "dude I'm such a rebel" stance toward the standards of art, the reality is that critical opinions as well as the marketplace demand that you show blood, that you expose and confess and emote authentically, that you give up little parts of your life for the voyeuristic impulses of others, instead of doing something weird like being creative and making up stories. It's fair that most people don't go over-the-top when they're confessional, and from that point of view I suppose Xiu Xiu is doing something good, but if you're more of the opinion (as I am) that applying standards of "truth" and "honesty" and "authenticity" to a creative, imaginative medium like art is about as meaningful as applying standards of intelligence to peanut butter, then it's just over-the-top bullshit rather than regular bullshit.
But here's why Jamie thinks that people should be like this, rather than sit around with a jaguar guitar and a trucker hat. (Note to self: do not play Jaguar and wear trucker hat or any music I play will be totally invalidated.) He says "it's doing something that can be a real experience for somebody." Now, seriously, what the fuck is this bullshit? Have we honestly gotten to this point? A "real experience"? What the fuck isn't a real experience? Taking a shit, watching TV, wearing a trucker hat and playing a Jaguar: all real. Not fake. Real. Your whole life is real. The reason we don't need to hear about someone else's life is because we have our own life for real experiences, and really, hearing about your dog dying is a lot less "real" than our own dog dying, isn't it? The only real experience we're having in that case is hearing a song about your dog dying, if you want to go by those standards. Have we honestly gotten to that point where we need to listen to someone else up on stage screaming and playing electro-gongs to have a real experience? Can't we just go mow the lawn or something?
The weird thing about all of this is Jamie's early insistance that only music like Xiu Xiu is valid. I mean, OK, fair enough: some people will like it, and some people will be OK with giving up little bits of their life to pander to those people. That's fine. But no other music is valid? His weird inability to conceive of why people would like electroclash parties (coke and fucking, dude, coke and fucking) seems symtomatic of this, and moreover, seems symptomatic of the worldview of the confessional musician: if I don't feel it, it can't be valid. And that's pretty sad.
 My official position on hipster-bashing is that it's a pretty tired and weak-ass excuse for social commentary. It's fine for hipsters letting off steam by bashing other hipsters in a bar or somewhere, but when you do it in public it's probably not the most productive thing.
posted by Mike B. at 11:29 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Probably not good that Syria is mentioned about as much as Iraq on the NYT front page right now, huh? Oh well. Another day, another war. Time to start shifting the research.
Here's another ref for the "US only guarding Oil Ministry" story. It comes from an embed, in the context of an absolutely heartbreaking report about the looting of the Iraqi national museum.
Well, let's make today Syria day!
posted by Mike B. at 10:43 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Your conspiracy theory of the day: Sadaam's alive and well in Moscow, having cut a deal with the CIA and Condi Rice to hand Baghdad over to the US with minimal resistance! Wow! That's believable!
Get used to these, folks, they're gonna be a cottage industry for the next few years...
posted by Mike B. at 10:07 AM 0 comments Links to this post