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Thursday, 26 June, 2003
Thin Grey Line of Neo-Conservatives

The Vanity fair interview raised enough eyebrows that fellow traveler William Kristol felt the necessity to reach in and give the ball an additional spin. Writing in his own magazine, the Weekly Standard, he presented not so much a defense of what was said but tried to play up minor differences in the phrasing that appears in Vanity Fair and the DOD's transcript to muddy the clarity of the waters (Kristol, Weekly Standard, 09Jun03). Kristol's efforts aside, the differences between the two do not affect the meaning of the statement. Tanenhaus - being interviewed concerning his interview - (Lappin, Times London. 2; 21 20Jun03) indicated that he believes that Wolfowitz intended to say exactly what he said. Kristol, of course, is the man not only responsible for initiating the Project for the New American Century, to which Wolfowitz and others signed on, but he also is man who stated on Nightline that in his opinion the last twenty years of bipartisan foreign policy had achieved only failure and it was time for it to end. This is not a man who will ever admit that any part of the neoconservative agenda is wrong or mistaken in any way.

The next week a column appeared in Newsweek Zakaria, Exaggerating the threats marking the not only increased scrutiny but increased focus on the leaders of the circle of ardent neoconservatives. Fareed Zakaria points out that Paul Wolfowitz has a history of association with over estimating since his membership with the "b-team" that second guessed the CIA's assessment of the Soviet Union in the late 1970's. A similarly alarmist and misleading report on the Chinese was done in the 1990's. A link back to a potential Straussian feel to the Neo-conservatives outlook, is a belief that no apparent fact offered, discovered or not discovered should trump a pre-assignment of evil to a regime presumed hostile.

When Secretary of State Powell briefed the UN on what results of American and British intelligence they were wiling to share, it was fairly clear that this data did not support the statements being made about it. Even less so now that objects on the ground do not corrollate with the labels assigned to photographs of them in poster-board political briefings. The four years I spent as a photo interpretor for the Navy didn't make me an expert, but I am aware the state of the art has progressed beyond that level. There were points before the war where some questioned why the professional intelligence community acquiesced to such stretching of the data and did not find a way to release more if they had it to dress its thinness. The Intelligence assessments being trumpeted were not primarily coming from the professional intelligence community, but from ad hoc groups assembled from within the political levels of the Defense department. Such programmatic assessments and the pressure their advocates put on the community placed great stress on human collected intelligence over data centric means as photography or signal intelligence. These have to analyzed and measured before being interpreted. Human intelligence will come straight through the door, or over the transom with a wink, and have a ready narrative with it. The primary problem with information of this nature; is that the world of intrigue and spies, and the personality types attracted to it are very prone to being played. Played like a game of three card monte by more professional, more purposeful organizations. If they are not being played, they are playing: in the salons of Washington and Pentagon caves to an eager neo-conned audience.

The Washington Post ran an analysis piece about a month ago (Schrage, No weapons no matter, Wash. Post 11May03; B2) which outline the probable manner in which Iraq was playing the weapons of mass destruction gambit. The key is to make it superficially likely you have a large capacity, place all your bluster and swagger in that direction. Make conformation of this capacity murky and byzantine, and set all your official mea culpas in the direction of abiding by international agreements. Behind this maintain a small, probably quite small, and extremely well hidden capacity in chemical and biological weapons. Keep a nuclear program, if desired, distributed and poised on the brink between academic and production. The military and political advantage lies in the appearance of holding such weapons, less in holding them, at least for Iraq. The seed of actuality is simply to maintain the front. Schrage's take on the situation is that we successfully called Hussiens bluff with this war, finding weapons is moot. The point he tells us is that Iraq can no longer have, have not, or pretend to have WMD's. This is standing on a slippery slope in teflon tretorns. This is to champion the inadequacy of your ability to engage in or even comprehend diplomacy, To declare a principle of resorting to force of arms, to violence and violation of sovereignty in the face of any ambiguity and hostility. To reduce all international law and agreement to the singularity of might. Some among the neo-conservative contingent would have us believe that is is the state of nature we find ourselves in, but there was more common sense and common law between nations than they are willing to see.

Stanley Hoffman writing in the New York review of books (America goes backwards, NY Rev Bks, 50: 10 12jun03) provides a good review of what is lost and what problems have been created. The Neo-conservatives have been slow to realize that with the mantle of unilateralism they have assumed, they have taken hold of a bilateral reality where resentment and cold measure of delivered power return for what this administration imposes on those who resist, and expects of those that would not be against us. But of course as we learn in the following issue of Newsweek Paul Wolfowitz isn't really a neo-conservative (Hirsh, Neocons on the line, 23Jun03) at all. He's the pragmatic son of a mathematician, and a great believer in evolutionary change.
9:49:53 AM    comment [];

Friday, 20 June, 2003
Ocean of desire, Sea of love...Wolfowitz in the press

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz has had two quotes echoing through press and the presses' general admission seating the other week. He's had a lot of press recently, largely due to becoming the administrations latest lighting rod. A bad thing to be, given how rainy its been here in the mid-atlantic region recently. The first quote got the British newspaper Co. Guardian in a peck of trouble. This is because they inexplicably translated American from German into English to put on their web site. This piece was repeated extensively under the headline/banner: Wolfowitz admits [' war was about oil' ]. The Guardian pulled that story off their site within the day - before I got a chance to read it - eventually replacing with a somewhat murky column by their ombudsman. By the time I read this I was already familiar with context estranged words he did speak which I know as the Iraq Swims on a Sea of Oil statement. The slightly fuller version of that statement indicates that he was trying to say that iraq's vast real wealth meant that attempting to discipline or shape the iraqi regime through sanctions was doomed to failure. Implicitly even the portion of oil and return revenue that gets through would have kept the regime afloat. There would always be a buyer for smuggled oil. I guess: though, that would be our jones there [beats me why this same crowd thinks the war on drugs is going to work]. Wolfowitz was contrasting Iraq with North Korea at the time, who's desperate straits and thin cash flow he seems to believe will bring them right around. These are people you have to argue with for half a year before they will allow a ship of free grain to dock during a famine. The Neoconservatives are a little inconsistant with their application of the Rational Operator theory in foreign policy, they will assume it in the face of all contrary evidence, but abandon negotiations for bombs at other times, after declaring their opponents insane. The guardian says Wolfowitz's quote is on the DOD's Website from the context and timing I figured it was from his trip to Japan at the begining of the month. I looked through all the press statements an media opportunity moments they had up for that and didn't see this quote. I did come across this exchange though:
Baker (amb. to Japan): I think they want us here, Paul, in these two chairs.
Wolfowitz: Is that where MacArthur used to sit? (Laughter.)

There is something about a phrase like "sea of oil" - which he did utter which is reducible beyond a statement of frustration or comparison of sanction efficacy to a pointer towards the primacy of oil in international relations. The poetry of the phrase, a freudian glance towards the neoconservatives obsession with oil. and strategies for bringing it entirely within the fold of the global economy, the first world, American extraction companies, and dollar-based trade.

Wolfowitz's other mis-spake was to suggest in a interview with Vanity Fair that the play weapons of mass destruction, the administration other obscure object of desire, received before the war was just a bureaucratic necessity. One thing that everybody could get behind so that a solid front could be shown. Only the natively uncharitable would suggest that speaks more to the desire of some to have a war, than the actual critical need to invade another nation by force of arms at exhaustion of all other avenues. Similarly only a cad would suggest that all those that remember the impassioned statements about Weapons of Mass Destruction, and a vast network of Terrorist Ties, are guilty of revisionist history for their remembering (& lexus/nexus-ing).

Next: Wolfowitz tells Newsweek he's not really a neoconservative.
9:56:26 AM    comment [];

Wednesday, 18 June, 2003

There is an article that appeared in the New York Times Magazine Sunday, about the proposed wind turbine project on Nantucket shoals. It's about the reaction of a coalition of homeowners, and vacationeers out there. They don't like it. It dosen't burn oil, it doesn't burn coal, it doesn't require coal or oil to be dug or sucked out of the ground, it doesn't damn up the Hetch Hetchy. It doesn't need field operations by the third armored division.

It doesn't matter, they don't like it. It's in their back yard and it would spoil the view. The article itself does a fairly good job of outlining the irony involved, and it provides notes on the players. I especially like the line from hikers, who opposed a set of windmills because they could be seen from the appalachian trail.

I don't see life from quite the same angle as the people in this article, even perhaps its writer. I live and have lived in neighborhoods where things "get put", where its already been agreed they aren't going elsewhere. I see things in sympathy for all those who live next to half a mountain because the other half has been torn down to get at coal. I hear things in sympathy with those whose homes are under an over overflight lane so the capacity of an airport can been increased. I'm sure that this turbine project will work just as well if they build it off of Lynn or in Worcester maybe. As for the electrical cable that goes off the mainland to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket -- that can be cut.
9:28:12 AM    comment [];

Friday, 13 June, 2003
Texas Statehouse Wranglin' Posse (legend of)

I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago. The more details that emerge on this story the worse it seems. The Washington Post wrote a fair sized one last Saturday. I like the part about how the investigators are having to identify the individuals who concocted this impromptu varmint hunt in Tom Craddick's (R. Texas-State leg)conference room, from a video camera tape because they're having trouble getting an idea of who was involved. I can't shake the feeling that to people like Tom DeLay there is little difference that they can see between terrorists and uncompliant democrats. This crowd reached fast and hard for the special surveillance power of the Patriot Act and the Federal Government to police a state political dispute. It makes me wonder what DeLay understands about any of it.
9:24:30 AM    comment [];
Women vs. Men

A curious story, Women in College, appeared on the Newshour last Wednesday. The story came from Oregon Public Television and was reported by Lee Hochberg. Focus of the story was the large imbalance now occurring, apparently across the entire U.S., in female enrollment in college over that of men. The situation has been developing long enough that the point things are at now involves people trying to figure out what to do about this gender gap. Which can also be viewed as a large drop in white male enrollment. A lot of very different attitudes in play on this. Some people seem to think this is a good thing more or less. Something that might serve to even out the wage differential, or adjust the height of glass ceilings. Other people regarded it as a call to arms, a thing that must be addressed immediately by whatever means necessary. I had the feeling listening to the report that for as many institutions and advocates that have actually tried or publicly suggested quotas and firm pro-active schemes to solve this problem, a lot more thought about it. At least until the irony of such direct action in a current atmosphere that roundly disparages affirmative action - for minorities - set in. Regardless, the problem seems to extend backward through secondary and primary education. There was a line in the aired version about what lumpen societal dropouts uneducated men become. I'd think about this more, but I got to go pound dirt with a rock and watch Fox.
9:17:50 AM    comment [];

Monday, 9 June, 2003
Anti-Americanism lite?

In this months online Foreign Policy there is a commentary column entitled Perils of Lite Anti-Americanism. I was not inspired to read it at first. Political discussions with Budweiser spellings are usually tiresome. Also the theme his title suggested reminded me too much of the all too easy charges of desiring-America's-downfall, which were lobbed about like so many balls at a tennis camp in the previous season. I clicked through the link anyway to glance it, noting that the biography squib at the bottom indicated the author, Moises Naim, was the editor of FP I committed to reading it. Afterward I read through it again. I sometimes have a hard time understanding what people are trying to say.

He is, he says, talking about two things: murderous anti-americans -- "terrorists who hate the U.S. - its power, values, & policies", and "those who take to the streets and media to rant against the country, but not seek its destruction." Both Lite Anti-Americans, and U.S. Policy makers (and here he is introducing a third category) share the illusion that his activity carries few costs. Even that global pushback serves to inhibit unilateral excess. Somewhere along the line though as the specific gives way to broad denunciations and strident attacks, deeper animosities and suspicions allow assumptions of dark motivations and hidden agenda's [all these lovely phrases are his, I've quoted him only where I feared to distort him]. With an earlier line that reads "...they will tell you that they love the us, but despise its policies and the that criticizing its government is indeed healthy." Naim creates a further distinction between a democratic critical voice in an open society, and simple antagonism. It is a problem that he offers little in the way of distinguishing the two; though he seems to believe that earnest criticism will be more particular in nature. Otherwise it takes a destructive form and serves to undermine the values (the values structure) they profess to share.

Now in a bit of a turn, he arrives at the reason he has written this column. Several months ago a bipartisan group of foreign policy experts gathered to discuss this emergent anti Americanism and draft a letter to the President it. The cabinet officer they desired to present this letter to the president reviewed it and largely responded - what concern is this to us. To this Naim responds the use of political power depends on a certain good will.

Good will depends heavily on the mood and attitudes of domestic constituencies at home and around the globe... legitimacy flows from the acceptance of others who not only allow, but welcome the use of that influence.
Military prowess may be a necessary condition for radical regime change, but good will is the sufficient condition.

Even in today's news I see commentators remarking on how disinclined this administration is to acknowledge those disagreeing with them, let alone listen. It is the hallmark of this Whitehouse to maintain they are never wrong, to spin and continue to spin even when others have stopped. To control information to such degree that they are rarely confronted with ambiguities for long. Except for a few patches the American press has given them a pass on this.

At the beginning of the war I had written up some observations on this, largely due to my dissatisfaction with the Washington Post - the big city daily I spend my quarters on. This was in March and April, the center of it was some columns written by the Post's Ombudsman. By the time I had written much , the war was over, the anti war protests stopped, and the media pitched themselves into a wholly triumphant mode. I shelved what I had written, and turned back to making the donuts. I'm going to place it up in a essay page now which is radio userland's place for such things. It represents too much furrowed discontent not too. The links to news articles probably lead to articles that have scampered behind the Posts pay for view archives, but the Ombudsman columns remain public I believe.
2:11:25 AM    comment [];

Wednesday, 4 June, 2003
A man, a room full of Ampex, and a record store owner.

There was a nice segment on NPR's Morning Edition yesterday. It was about a guy, Leon Kagarsie, now in his sixties, who as a teenager in Maryland lugged around a tape recorder to music festivals across the state recording country, bluegrass and rockabilly acts. This was no clandestine pirate taping exercise. Not with a 1950's reel to reel ampex it wasn't. He apparently set his mike right up on stage and started rolling when the music began. He's got an archive of such breadth and quality that folks would chew through drywall to get to hear it. He's got a partner too, now, the guy who owns the record store where he works part time fixing old equipment, Joe Lee. This is where I woke a little (hey the show's called morning edition - I'm usually trying to remember whether I put milk in my cereal or raisin bran in my coffee) Joe Lee, Joe's Record Paradise. I remember that guy, I knew him when he had a store (the eponymous JRP) at the Plaza del Marcado, Prince Georges County MD. I had friends who worked there, Logan Perkins. It's where we went to spend our money. When we weren't at Skip Grof's place or Vinyl Ink . It's where you'd go to get your fabulous thunderbirds record. Those years lay across an ocean of time and being for me now

Joe was what you might call a character. He was one of those people unable to deal with anybody straight, or simply. I guess if you knew him and were one of his folk, you'd be ok. Otherwise you were a mark - a target and he existed to test your knowledge, your endurance, and torment your ignorance. I remember him particularly from a party I attended. I believe our host was a women named Marcia, a few years out of U. VA and working at Goddard. Also there, was a guy named Alex Heard who was then writing a humor column for the new Washington Post magazine, which I always gathered he didn't really want to write. Joe circled about this guy the way a wolf might circle around a herd of sheep in a forest glen trying to spot the weakest member. His mission that night seemed to be to make Alex understand that he was no hipster and and never would be . My recollection is that Alex left early and Joe Lee was pleasant, and pleased with himself for the rest of the evening. He reminded me of the father of one of my friends from my home town who once regaled me at considerable length with a shaggy dog story about the time, when as a tech sergeant, he met Curtis LeMay. My friend, Noel looked like he wanted to die, my other friend George just looked stunned, but on he went unable to turn away from the fortune of running across one of the few kids in that town who had any idea who LeMay was. And who would sit and listen dutifully to a man recollecting [Me: "wow, you met Curtis Lemay." Him: "Well, let me tell you about it..."].

Well now Joe Lee has Leon Kagarsie, and his sweet million dollar tape collection, and they've got record labels calling, and the Smithsonian knocking. If any of those guys want to get anywhere, they had better find the best chair in the room, and be prepared to sit a spell.
10:05:36 PM    comment [];

Monday, 2 June, 2003
And now the news on Channel Only1, Wone news ltd.

NPR, Lawrence Lessig, and Dave Winer all want you to know that today is the day: the day that the FCC announces its Media Consolidation Rules. Hang on to your copies of Manufacturing Consent and your hats people the ride is starting. Last week FC Comminisioner Michael Powell did an interview on NPR's morning edition (after declining to appear on the Newshour w/jim lehrer the night before before. The extra few hours were worth it, because the way he put it that morning made it all seen like it made sense and was the reasonable thing, and even good for us - gol darn it. Except it isn't, it will not promote or aid true diversity of the media, but only apparent or what can only be called psuedo diversity. One voice speaking with a number of cheesy fake accents. "It will be like when we adjusted the rules for radio ownership ten or so years ago - remember that." Oh yes, I remember that. What it will do is help a few well positioned media owners to successfully implement vertically intergrated corporate stuctures and become even more immensely rich and powerfull.

I'd go on and say more, but I've gradually come to learn that when you only understand something from one aspect, you can do no good overstating your opinion. Ironically I have a sister who is an anti-trust lawyer, even an telecommunications anti-trust lawyer who understands the issues here very well. But I don't talk to her about this all that much - she works for a office in large federal agency whose work will be, affected somewhat by this ruling [project: "Sherman, Sherman who"] . pb

FCC Set to Vote on Media Ownership Rules [NPR News (Audio)
10:03:22 AM    comment [];

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Last update: 6/27/03; 09:19:27.