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Saturday, 31 July, 2004
Presenting... the present danger

Slipping quietly into the policy mix last week was a resurrected Committee on the Present Danger. This was a name that goes back before my time. Initially it comes from the McCarthy era. The group founded itself to declare the communist red peril to the citizens of our free land. Wake up America, there are bolsheviks under your bed. This Committee is actually the third to hold that name, call it CPD version iii. There is a legacy of wing nut-ism holding them all together. Why let a good name with such cachet go to waste. Media Transparency picked up on this and provide a link to a brief history of this group through its i and ii versions IRC | RightWeb | Group Watch: Committee on the Present Danger , describing the origins of the second incarnation this site clams: revitalization of the CPD grew out of an independent group called Team B. Team B was authorized in 1976 by President Gerald Ford and organized by then-CIA chief, George Bush. The purpose of Team B was to develop an independent judgment of Soviet capabilities and intentions.. Its worth noting that Paul D. Wolfowitz was part of the B Team who were dedicated to proving the Soviet Union was on the very threshold of world domination.

With this third incarnation it's worth asking what this group does that American Enterprise Inst., or Bill Kristol's favored group the Project for the New American Century doesn't do. A recent piece in the American Prospect answers this by perceiving a split among the neocons due to fallout over the Iraq affair and relative assessments of Bremmer, the adminstration, Mr. Chalabi, and other principles Matthew Yglesias, "Present Dangers", The American Prospect Online, Jul 27, 2004. After reading through that I went back and reread David Brooks' Op-ed in the NYT from last week that left me shaking my head at the time War of Ideology He thinks he sees something in the 9/11 commission's report that he can get behind:

It seems like a small distinction - emphasizing ideology instead of terror - but it makes all the difference, because if you don't define your problem correctly, you can't contemplate a strategy for victory. When you see that our enemies are primarily an intellectual movement, not a terrorist army, you see why they are in no hurry. With their extensive indoctrination infrastructure of madrassas and mosques, they're still building strength, laying the groundwork for decades of struggle... As an ideological movement rather than a national or military one, they can play by different rules. There is no territory they must protect. They never have to win a battle but can instead profit in the realm of public opinion from the glorious martyrdom entailed in their defeats.
Brooks longs for the 'x' factor - referring to George Keneens post world war ii declaration of a generations long multi faceted battle that he saw opening against the steely implacible ideology of international communism.
the bigger fight is with a hostile belief system that can't be reasoned with but can only be "destroyed or utterly isolated. The commissioners don't say it, but the implication is clear... scholars who really know the Islamic world are often blind to its pathologies. They are so obsessed with the sins of the West, they are incapable of grappling with threats to the West...We also need to mount our own ideological counteroffensive...We need to set up the sort of intellectual mobilization we had during the cold war

A statement one actually finds in the 9/11 report -

Vague goals match an amorphous picture of the enemy. Al Qaeda and other groups are popularly described as being all over the world, adaptable, resilient, needing little higher-level organization, and capable of anything. It is an image of an omnipotent hydra of destruction.That image lowers expectations of government effectiveness. It lowers them too far. Our report shows a determined and capable group of plotters.Yet the group was fragile and occasionally left vulnerable by the marginal, unstable people often attracted to such causes.The enemy made mistakes. The U.S. government was not able to capitalize on them. (p. 17 911 report executive summary)
This notion that a call to arms has been sounded that a new war is being brought forth. An existential ideologic conflict to give us direction and purpose. An enemy to disperse all our unbeliefs upon especially those we fear to see in ourselves. It seems to be a willful stretch of the situation . There was an article in the Washington Post's Sunday Opinion pages a couple of months ago - itself a reprint from the Boston Review Endgame: Conservatives after the cold war. In this article Corey Robins interviewed elder members of the neoconservative guard, (William Buckley, Irving Kristol), and found them dissatisfied with the nineties and the self-absorbed petty pleasures of the business and consuming class. Yearning for the frisson of empire, acquiring it, keeping it. To save themselves from boredom and listless slumber. It is a perfect characture of the possiblities of human life driven by a ghastly and false view of history .

Another article by Stefen Halper and Jonathan Clarke Neoconservativism and the American Future (also at Alternet as Axis of Disorder) looks at the Neoconservativism and see a movement larger and more powerful than a single affair. From this view it is likely it will adjust and cleave this failure from itself and continue to dominate the dialogue of America's foreign dealings. This article draws on a recent book by Walter Russell Mead Power, Terror, Peace, and War: America's Grand Strategy in a World at Risk which examines in detail the historical demographic and intellectual roots of the missionary zeal the Wilsonian idealists that are the neoconservative vanguard express (I read a few chapters of this book when it came to the library last month). The authors of the Open Democracy piece, conservatives, regard this as a problematic cyclical tendency of American foreign policy.

This opens the possiblity that the revived Committee on the Present Danger may represent a pragmatic adjustment to neo-conservativism, which while not incompatible with a vehicle to continue the call for regime change across the axis of evil, may be more inclined to choose courses that are as amicable to America's interests in result, as they are in intent. Which cannot be said of the war in Iraq

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Thursday, 29 July, 2004
Destroy all Documents

Via Metafilter an odd story about the Department of Justice and Federal Depositary Libraries. It seems that the DOJ let the government printing office get a hold of a series of pamphlets detailing legal strategies and rulings on asset forfeiture which they decided were really for internal use only / News / Nation / Libraries ordered to destroy US pamphlets. The GPO distributed them as a routine part of their general program.

McKeldin is a Federal depositary Library. I turned to the Government Documents cataloging clerk, Cheryl who sits behind me, and show her the Boston globe article. "I think we got that e-mail", she says, "They had to pull some stuff a couple of weeks ago." I check one of the titles the Globe article mentions in PAC (I love all this library talk...Tim Conway's running line in McHales' Navy: "Gee I love all this Navy talk"). It still seems to be on the shelf:

United States. Dept. of Justice. Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section. Civil and criminal forfeiture procedure   [microform] : compilation of recent federal cases /   [prepared by Stefan D. Cassella].     Washington, D.C. : U.S. Dept. of Justice, Criminal Division, Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, [2004] UMCP McKeldin Library : Government Documents Microfiche - J 1.2:C 49/17 Non-Circulating / On shelf.
Boston Globe article also adds that the American Library Association is dubious of this recall and is considering fighting it.

The Metafilter thread goes off on a partial tangent. Mostly trying to nail down why the DOJ would be so intent on getting this pamphlets back. I'd like to say I had never heard of these forfeiture stuatues before or after their expansion under the Patriot act, but I recall being vaguely aware of them. I can only assume I initially responded with the general moral shrug that "it will only effect bad guys". That is always a weak, bad faith reaction. Allowing property to be arrested is only an invitation to mass corruption at some point, if not already. This can't be responsible policy, but something that can only survive in shadows.
I'll have to take this up with my sister to see what lawyers make of all this. On preview; though, it's a bad thing.
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Tuesday, 27 July, 2004
A brief note on national intelligence and its uses

There is a bit of a scrum going on currently about the recently released reports from the U.S. Senate Committee on Intelligence and, particularly the report from the 9-11 Commission. There are questions about what it really says, and what it doesn't (take names). What it all means, and whether in contains any recommendations that ought to be implemented. It is a season of a national election so both reports are out there with a loose ball feel to them Response builds over 9/11 report | One of the current questions is whether the commission should stay around formally or informally (Guardian) to advocate for change. They feel and obligation to see through 9/11 Families to Track Congress on Reforms (AP).. The SCI has only issued an interim report; after November they will release another portion on the uses inadequate national intelligence was put to in the decisions to prosecute the war on terror Even now there are attempts to spin the perception of what these reports say. To fight this debate out along the established lines (which include ad homin attacks and well timed leaks). In the last few weeks there was an odd second round of the Nigerian yellowcake affair (Plame/Wilson et al). William Safire tried to declare the administrations claims exonerated New York Times Op-Ed: Sixteen Truthful Words. The message of the day drumbeat swept up the Washington Post too The Sixteen Words, Again.

PBS took the issue up in a segment by Margaret Warner with Joseph Wilson and Sen. Kit Bond. Online NewsHour: Dispute Continues Over Whether Iraq Sought Uranium from Niger -- July 20, 2004 The end result of all this is just a replay of this same debate from earlier in the year with no real new information involved. The British Inquiry Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction (Butler Review) simply restated their initial information which the CIA at the time found weak, and from a single source. Joe Wilson's trip to Niger turned up that a Iraqi delegation approached some Nigerian officials at a conference and stated they were interested in trade with Niger, but never met with them again to pursue it further. This would almost cover: the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa, without the intensifier 'significant'.

Disingenuously they claim they would have behaved differently to more direct presentation of Cautionary intelligence (when they still had this information under wraps and the press not asking questions) while continuing to ignore and fight the tale of the evidence on Iraq's relations with Weapons of Mass Destruction and Al Qaeda now in the full light of its inadequacy.

[repair - for the first 30 minutes or so this was posted there was an ill formed anchor which caused a paragraph and a half to disappear ["9/11 Families to Track Congress on Reforms" through the Safire oped link]. It is slightly more intelligible with this block intact.
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Monday, 26 July, 2004
Nostrum Ersatz Rostrum

A couple of weeks ago as I was browsing through my links list. I came across the author of psuedopodium railing against a song that was stuck in his head "Party Time" which he described as A really lame 1978 British punk band attempt at ska sort of thing, or a really lame garage band attempt at a Joe "King" Carrasco polka. Hardly an endorsement. But this is what that observation did for me. It dredged up from the swamps of my past a similarly title song by 45 Grave which has come back to me at some point in the course of days, every day since.
Its party time
Do you wanna party, its party time
we gotta party, its party time
Lets party
Its party time
its party time
its party time...
Every good turn deserves another.
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the New Journalism in Russia

It demonstrates a lack of objectivity to represent minority opinion in the media or cover the views of political candidates who will not win elections. This is according to the new Manager of the last independant television network in Russia. This comes from a terse, but open eyed op ed in last Saturdays Washington Post by Masha Lipman editor of the Carnegie Moscow Center's Pro et Contra Journal In Russia, No TV Time for Dissent (

After watching that Wide Angle piece which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago through the lookinglasnost. I seem to have become sensitive to this. Putin may say that he has to rein in centrifigal forces which threaten to rip Russia apart. The last statement in Lipman's piece has the best response to that line that can be made
Once those in the government elite have opted to dump democratic institutions and liberal freedoms, there is no way to stop: The fear of losing power drives them to crack down ever more.
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Sunday, 25 July, 2004
My War, or that Chuck Dukowsky frame of mind

Excuse me; I was caught up in the reality bending expanse of another David Brooks op-ed in the New York Times and I forgot I was supposed to be writing a post tackeling something Robert Bratton sent my way last Sunday.

What he sent was a link to Library Juice, a librarians E-zine: Issue 7.15 Item No. 6 A Burger King Bill of Rights Document of NeoTotalitarianism by Rory Litwin. Robert sent this under the subject line: Taking things a little too seriously? The piece procedes firmly tongue in cheek , to be sure, but satire always has a target. Litwins has something deliberately in his crosshairs. His analysis in part :

more than a joke. At the deeper level it is a cold announcement, from the seat of corporate power, of the limitation of our rights and freedoms in consumer society. It is an assertion that our rights do not really go beyond what defines us as consumers. As American citizens, the right to "hold the pickles and hold the lettuce" and "mix coke and sprite," which Americans gleefully accept as the pursuit of happiness are here asserted to be the only kind of rights we really have.

I laughed and accepted the joke on the level intended. but then I began to think of this automobile commercial I had seen a night or two earlier. I watch too much television and see too many advertisments that is good for me . The car commercial seemed to go beyond the "did you always like to scribble outside the lines as a kid - well this car lets, heck demands, you take a right turn off the road - right now! And go way outside the lines (available in silver and blue, w/ABS stanadard)." It went beyond the "Haven't you reached reached the station in life where you need to sit in the fine well appointed coach of the Chevy Ulterior motor vehicle". It didn't take the approach of those car commercials which show blissed out 40, or 50 somethings zipping solitary, serene thorough some empty wilderness of sparse trees, mountain coasts, and tiny winding roads. Which cannot exist in the real world, but has been photoshopped in from somebody's private orchard or a national park. I am mystified by this last type of commercial, the enormous popularity of video games like the grandtheft auto francise indicate that most peoples real car fantasies involve driving down a sidewalk in south central LA at 88 mph, bouncing calcium deficient pedestrians off their windshield. The H2 commericials seem, at least, to be aware of this. Now that's self actualization! The commercial I saw - I can't remember brand it was for or even what kind of automobile; though I think it was aimed at the younger end of the market - was quite adamant you couldn't be the type of person you wanted to be seen as unless you bought this car, and it made you that person. Pick-up truck commercials refuse to admit you can assume a stable gender catagory unless you buy their "big, load haulin' vehicles

Rather than testing our credulity against the notion that burger king is tring to get us to equate freedom with menu driven choice. Let's ask the other question that can be asked about this. Is there any normal mode of being in this culture that doesn't involve a deliberate move towards a defining set of of product catagorys that make us visible and understandable to the rest? It's not just a case of marketeers noting down a description of what they find in society and writing to it . They actively seek to define us. They may be unaware of the power they have to restrict or channel our potential - they may be very aware of it. While writing this I watched a 60 minutes segment on guerilla marketing, another term for the phenomenon of astroturf" marketing that has come up (and come up) in sites like Metafilter from time to time. When outright deception raises no red flags, don't count on their being any point at which marketers will stop. It may be unlikey that a truly successful consumer culture, one that creates indentity through the act of consuming, could operate without such narrowing. What we can be must conform with what can be mass manufactured. Fall into one niche market too many, and you will simply cease to exist.

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Thursday, 22 July, 2004
Bobby Fischer, or My Favorite Martian

My friend Robert who is the video/film cataloger for Univ. of Maryland libraries - a real librarian asked me to try to write about Bobby Fischer in the wake of Fischer's arrest in Tokyo last Friday/Thursday. Robert had a punk rock band in high school (Roanoke, VA), with some friends, named after Bobby Fischer. Named after? What was the name exactly. Dunno, That detail seems not to be in my notes, but I would have picked the Bobby Fischer five. Their encore song, of course, would be: "Breaking rocks in the hot sun, I fought the law and the law won! Bobby Fischer is Robert's obsession not mine, but as I'm the one with a scribble box...

Assignment accepted, but I allow myself a dissent in a future post from another observation he made at the start of the week. Also he has provided me with a short set of links to Fischer stuff on the web

My personal recollections of Bobby Fischer involve a car radio, a small black and white television. Various towns in the lower cape: Pocassett where my grandfather had a cottage, Woods Hole - a small annual garden show off a (very) small winding road, where we ran the car battery low listening to chess match commentary on the radio as my mother shopped for flowers. And somebody named Shelby Lyman. The Guardian story above mentions Lyman and describes his PBS show World Chess Championship, but they don't add his analysis catch phrase "but, and it is a big but..." After Reykjavik like most people I lost track of Fischer particulary when he declined to defend his championship passing it over to Anatoly Karpov.

Robert figured it was a true mystery were Fischer had dropped out of the world to. Sad, but in a damaged romantic sort of way (Roberts theory on Fischer is that when he dropped out of highschool to devote himself to chess and his mother and sister moved out of the apartment, he was able to indulge intoxicatingly in a adolescent fixation and never broke free). Turns out he has been holed up in the Philippines, since the Yugoslavian match. The 17 radio interviews he's given for a Baguio radio station were sort of a clue. Baguio! If only I could drop out the world to Baguio, twist my arm.

I never played chess much, only when people forced me, because they figured they could beat me. It was nice the rare occaisions when they were wrong and I beat them, but not that nice. A couple of years ago I saw in a childrens' games catalog a chess version called Quick Chess with 10 pieces per side and 30 squares to the board. I placed a cardboard mask over a chess set I have and figured out what the general rules would have to be and have played a game with my niece. This game is fun and is as much chess as I need.
As Jonathan Richman has previously observed "Pablo Picasso never got called an asshole - not like me", and not like Bobby Fischer.

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Wednesday, 21 July, 2004
I blame it on the University, they blame it on the Dell server

It takes me until Tuesday to post the fairly inconsequential piece on trial lawyers (I know, but my aim is to have fun) It never seemed quite done - it was though. Makes it seem like I don't care about this web Log , but I do.

And then I got caught up trying to make make sense of the Sandy Berger story, which is really the 9-11 commision story. Berger certaintly has written himself off the map with this. There is a lot of Hyperbole going on about this story, much of it not supported by the facts and extending beyond libel by those saying it. I have tried to figure out what his motavation was for removing higly classified documents (albiet copies only) from the National Archives. My own feelings on this is that when I worked in Naval Intelligence I had to follow strict formal document-handling protocols, and I respected it. Berger sure as hell can too! What was he trying to accompish though? I suspect that the answer lies in handwritten comments in the margin of one of those copies, his or someone elses. Short pithy arch and dismissive comments in the margins of such documents is a Washington art form from way back. Something perhaps that would not play in Peroria. Who knows I'll let this one play out a little more

addendum: Then all day Wednesday the server hosting all the UMd Homespaces and student e-mail goes belly up. OIT our campus network technology dept. didn't get around to admitting things weren't really up and running until around 5 pm. They fixed it and today I was able to test out my new airport card around campus. cool! Nearly the whole campus indoors and out is a wifi zone

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Saturday, 17 July, 2004
And Ye shall know trial lawyers and tribulations

I wanted to say something briefly about my boy John Edwards, specifically it was raised that in his previous civilian life he was a trial lawyer. This has been trumpeted about as though it had been revealed that Edwards was a practicing druid. In fact given the current state of the republican party I suspect they would have viewed druidism with more favor. Trial lawyers are an a priori evil. They constitute an active terrorism in the midst of our good, behaved, civil society. There is no such thing as a civil law suit in a civil society. Tort is short for torture.

I have nothing against lawyers myself. My sister is a lawyer. Of course she started out as a corporate lawyer - defending the redoubts of America inc. from the circling hyenas in the shadows beyond. Now as AT&T cowers in the corner while the baby bells eat it alive, they thank my sister and her fellow S & A attorneys for having survived to see this day. The deputized classes among the Republican now take pains to show us that lawsuits are nuisances and frivolous. A million dollars for a cup of coffee that turned out to be hot. There oughta be a a law... against, whatever law allowed a suit like that to come forward in the first place. Or maybe no laws at all. The White House sent the Treasury secretary around recently to tell us all this legality is bad for America Treasury Secretary: Lawsuits hurt economy.

Previously we were lead to the view that regulations were bad for economy. I've handled undergraduate economics textbooks that state that it is a fallacy that the Market Failures that regulations purport to correct exist. The real purpose of regulations is a disguised tax. So de-regulate was the command and not to worry because the rigour of our courts and legal system are there to protect the interest of the comman man. Republicans are a Panglossian tribe. The world is as it is is as good as it gets, nothing further can or need be done to protect the powerless from the powerful. We neded no protection from manufacturers of defective products, none from providers of unsatisfactory services, because these things do not exist, perhaps, a small firmly ceilinged damage award as a gentle reminder when things go awry. Nothing that would show up in an annual report, someting that funds from petty cash could cover. The Free Market of pure theory exists robust among us, capable of organizing and extemporariously ordering all things to perfection. Quite utopian, really, except that it can bear no human interference, which breaks it. There are no lawyers in a utopia. All a Utopia needs is hope.

George Springston was my best friend growing up. His father was a mechanical engineer who designed high speed weaving looms for a company called Drapers in a town named Hopedale Ma. Drapers sold looms all over the world even Iran. Hopedale was originally a Utopian socialist commune in the mid nineteenth century. George and his family lived in my town Holliston, on Courtland Street, an original Holliston street from the 1690's not like the manufactured-in-1965 street I lived on. George moved to Inman South Carolina at the end of his junior year because North American Rockwell Industries bought Drapers and they transfered his father from Hopedale to Spartenburg where they had him work on aerospace and military contracts for Rockwell's facility there until he retired.

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Wednesday, 14 July, 2004
We'll hold Elections When the Crisis is Over

"Such guidelines do not currently exist" Dr. DeForest B. Soaries Jr. Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens, Somerset, New Jersey & Chair, United States Election Assistance Commission

Guidelines for postponing the November Presidential election that is. It never has occurred to any one to think along those lines before in the history of this country, but It occured to the Rev. Soaries. I came across this story Sunday. A Yahoo U.S. Mulling How to Delay Nov. Vote in Case of Attack Reuters wire story and a MetaFilter post Scary pointing to the former, both stemming from a story Michael Isikoff (of all people) MSNBC - Exclusive: Election Day Worries was breaking for Newsweek. It seemed out of the box (or do I say "on preview") to be a two round story so I pulled down these pages but didn't read them. I then made a little note for myself which went something like this:

    What is the Argument:
  • elections can be held but might invite a terorist attack
  • an attack has occured and the physical infrastructure of upcoming national election has been damaged
  • an attack has occurred, elections can be held as they were as in Spain, but atmosphere of reaction is perceived and some view it prejudicial to right choice and outcome (as in Spain)
Then yesterday and today I looked around for more stories and sat down and read through the lot If the third possiblity of my scope note above, seems uncharitable, for you I dug out one of my favorite Justice Scalia quotes to illustrate: [from] GEORGE W. BUSH ET AL. v. ALBERT GORE, JR. ET AL.ON APPLICATION FOR STAY [December 9, 2000] [531 U.S. 2000] The counting of votes that are of questionable legality does in my view threaten irreparable harm to petitioner, and to the country, by casting a cloud upon what he claims to be the legitimacy of his election. In other words continueing to deal with this issue only serves to cast doubt on one parties assumption of victory. However in just the previous sentence he admits that the question before them is whether these votes are legitimately questionable precisely whether either party is entitled to an presumption of victory. One of the principal issues in the appeal we have accepted is precisely whether the votes that have been ordered to be counted are, under a reasonable interpretation of Florida law, legally cast vote[s]." Voting is a pregnant and highly suspect activity that can cast clouds on the legitimacy of his election.

What is the story here? The story on Sunday was that this Soaries person who was appointed to the United States Election Assistance Commission by President Bush last year after losing a run for a New Jersey Congressional seat the previous year (and was appointed chair on their first meeting), approached Ridge via a letter (sent in April- AP) who in turn asked DOJ Office of Legal Council to give guidence last week. In one of those articles I recall that Rice was 'cc'd' on that original letter. The story on Monday was Dr. Rices line. In a interview for CNN she said: No one[base ']s thinking about postponing the election.... That[base ']s the view of the president, that[base ']s the view of the administration . Similarly DeForest B. Soaries Jr. denied having a plan to postpone November elections. Though he admitted seeking to establish a process to do so (MSNBC in a follow up article) Officials to meet on election plans

This same article quotes AEI "Scholar" Norman Orenstien to the effect that if just one area were not able to hold elections on the same day as all others this "distorts the results of the election". Yet Fox will declare victors before all votes are cast. By Tuesday the Administration was backing away from even this position. Reuters has Soaries saying Individual states may suspend or reschedule elections if disaster strikes, but that would not change voting in other states after a meeting of his commision Tuesday U.S. Won't Delay November Elections, Official Says. Adding We should get the word out that if something happens in a state that is not yours, you should vote. Another commission member in the same Reuters report helpfully adds he believes the constitution gives the states power to reschedule elections and/or switch to electors rather than direct vote if needed

This story surfaced on the weekend after Ridge held a press conference to say the chatter was whispering of Al Queda attacks to disrupt Fall elections. An Alternet story on this angle AlterNet: Terrorism Threatens the Ballot Box quotes officials hinting strongly that they think the attack will occur in or around Washington. I can't tell if the Rev. Soaries is just an over eager member of an semi independent bi-partisian committe who accidently sandbagged the administration on this, or whether this was a planned flagpole ceremony so they could get a quick headcount of who might salute. At least I'll be able to get a seat on the subway the week of the election, I have a feeling a lot of folk will be out-of-town. Hey Al Queda I'll be at Adelphi Elementary - Riggs road, just you, me, and a Diebold touch screen. When you think about it; though, if God has already chosen GWB, why hold an election? It just seems so unnecessary.
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Monday, 12 July, 2004
Through the Looking Glasnost

Last Thursday I watched a difficult episode of PBS's Wide Angle series Wide Angle. The Russian Newspaper Murders | PBS. As the title hints it was about the murder of newspaper editor Alexei Sidorov in the Russian city Togliatti, and his immediate predecessor as well. The two days later I read that the Russian-American editor of the Russian edition of Forbes, Paul Khlebnikov, was shot to death on his office door step in Moscow BBC NEWS | Editor shot dead in Moscow street (the Guardian, New York Times , and Washington Post American Journalist Shot Dead in Moscow all covered this too. The details are somewhat sparse in these stories, after all who's going to cover this? As Nick Cave once asked rhetorically in a Birthday Party song "Hands up, who wants to die?" (Sunny's Burning) . When asked, people say "its like the nineties", or "it might had to do with his work". That's more then the police in Togliatti seemed willing to admit about Sidorov since they seemed to go out of their way to label that murder a ordinary mugging gone awry. The earlier murder they seem simply not to have investigated at all. The accounts of Paul Khlebnikov's activities point to an article he ran last month right after arriving in Russia from New York, listing Russia's new billionaires as his one unforgivable sin. They are shy people apparently.

A Reuters wire piece by a Russian journalist Moscow murder, TV rows expose risks for journalists points out that this happened in a temporal conjunction with an official crackdown on the media, especially the NTV network. He quotes a director of an independent radio station as saying: If a journalist does not behave in appropriate fashion, he is either dismissed ... or promoted and therefore taken off the air. If this proves impossible -- as in the case of an American publication -- he gets killed and the rest are intimidated.. There being no other way of sending him a message that suggested itself. The Wide Angle episode made the point that most Russians seem willing to give Vladimir Putin a pass on the New Authoritarianism - as long as he brings a semblance of order back to Russia. This disorder at the same time many lay at the feet of the ultra oligarchs. One question is whether Putin, as we see him take apart a company like Yukos oil, is really engaged in this struggle to tame the oligarchs - or is he merely answering to a subset of the new wealth (re)building a national socialist Russia. Another consideration made apparent here is that few societies are as dangerous as those that have been held in check by police state and censorship when that power slips or is interrupted. There is neither deepness of memory of law and ethics whether in a person or an institution that can stand against fear and greed.

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Sunday, 11 July, 2004
Ready Reserve

The activating of the individual ready reserve caught my attention DefenseLINK News: Army to Call up 5,600 Individual Ready . I've been following stories on it for a couple of weeks now - Army to recall former military members - Jun 29, 2004, just to see what sort of reaction it seems to be getting. One thing stands out from the Google Search: Individual Ready Reserve i've done on it: the commentary is coming more from local media outlets or specialized media ( European and Pacific Stars & Stripes) - particularly local TV news and papers - Ready Reserve: Call-up shows Iraq war has stretched Army too thin, and not national media.

This was called the inactive reserve in my day. The contract quite clearly spelled out a six year obligation, no one tried to hide that from you. Most Navy enlistments were 3-3 or 4-2, some of the more technical ratings required all six years active because they had to spend the first two years training you. I kept all my uniforms with me for my first few years in college, because until you got that letter at the end of six years, they expected you to. This is not a call-up of civilians but a call up of people who still have residual obligation. As some have pointed out, this isn't unprecedented - it was done in the last gulf war, and while unusual is not bad or even unwise. The Army isn't broken yet - by the civilian fools and amateur hour clowns who are running it. But only because of the deep layers of contingency and redundancy that are built into it.

Related to this is another example of quick thinking to stave more unpleasant options such as a draft or abandoning defense commitments in Asia. Despite what some people are saying the draft has to be a closer at hand option that is let on. The New York Times reports Other Services Eyed by Army for Recruiting. Since the Army has been allotted a temporary enlargement and the Air Force and Navy are undergoing cuts, the army is aiming re-enlistment bonuses to get people to switch

It is worrying that we have arrived at such a deep level of the bag of tricks only a year into this war and with no clear end yet in sight. More worrying is the idea that the real damage to recruitment and especially retention won't be clear for another year. I don't think this call up will be that damaging, simply because it is part of a service members original enlistment, is attached to the end of it and everyone is aware of it. More damaging in the long run is the heavy burden being placed on the active reserves which are disrupting civilian obligations to job and family repeated and extensively into their nominally civilian lives.

3:02:51 PM    comment [];trackback [];

Friday, 9 July, 2004
Liberal Bigotry

I usually don't find myself agreeing with the fiercely republican pundit Michelle Malkin, but something she wrote yesterday I did find myself in tune with Michelle Malkin: THE BUCK-NAKED BIGOTRY OF TED RALL Mind now her web log post title is her choice of words not mine. I had seen the Ted Rall cartoon she questions only a half hour before on the way home from work (Washington CityPaper - what one reads on the bus on Thursdays) and had been very disturbed by it. Normally I like Ted Ralls stuff, even his depictions of George W. as a beady-eyed, wombat-faced tinpot timocrat. Mostly because this is but the other side of the coin of the persona that George Bush has chosen willingly for himself. People who make their livings stewing in pots of their own bile, walk a fine line and occasionally cross it. With the panel on Condelezza Rice, Rall not only crosses that line, he runs over it on one of them little low-riding mini-stylin' motorbikes and rubs it to pieces. I don't understand the point of identifying Rice's one overwhelming crime as "acting white", in Rall's, view for which he must portray an ironic judgment of immanent justice for his peeps. In light of the other panels in this same strip this is odd, ugly, and rather telling. I know other people have approached this theme, even other cartoonists, Aaron MacGruder's Boondocks. MacGruder (a U. Md grad) I remember picked up on Rice's odd reference to Bush As 'her Hus..." at a dinner party, but my memory tells me other he's been more circumspect than to label her an un-repentant race traitor.

There's plenty of room to question her choice to view the job of National Security Advisor as being one of absolute and unquestioned allegiance to the President and official line, which it isn't and ought not be. There are several other staff jobs in a White House where that sort of behavior is more appropriate. In the wake of the Senate Subcommittee on Intelligence releasing its report today, several people have commented on the fact that she never questioned or even it appears to even noticed the weakness of the national security information being collected by the Administration. She seems not to have read further that the executive summery of the last NIE. The President, maybe be the vice president, should be the only ones allowed that luxury. The National Security Advisor should have read the full report - and its footnotes. One commentator noted even in the wake of the President's brief moment of doubt, when George Tenant had to reassure him that it was a slam dunk, she seems to have taken no subsequent action to test the rigor of simple-minded cliche. Here, with this no-bad-news-for-my President attitude, she seems to have failed the one task she set for herself, loyalty.

A final word on this. Michelle Malkin goes on for many paragraphs on this, and the comments that follow are a near infinite chorus. Mostly a diatribe exercise on what liberals think, yet not one of them seems to know any or ever spoken - in their lives - to any. How would they know? They label out of notions derived from within their own psyche. If they were to set pen to paper what would they draw? Do they ever ask themselves that question, ever examine what their hand has written? Michelle has a Blog roll on her site, yet there is no one on it that could or would give her any sort of appreciation of the views and concerns of average democrats (or even average moderate republicans) we who are just not part of her American Opinion. Nothing that allows her to view multiculturalism or diversity as anything but synonyms for liberal racism, Nothing that could allow her to back her assertion that mainstream news editors love this sort of thing. Nothing that would allow the quotation marks she allows herself to place around "mainstream media". Nothing to let her say she really knows who, all, and what are hiding under the hoods of Klan robes. I wouldn't say I knew.

Disagreeing with your friends occasionally is a good way to find out who your friends really are.

10:07:06 PM    comment [];trackback [];

Thursday, 8 July, 2004

A couple of times over the past week or so this news item has poked into portion of the newsphere I pay attention to Mac News: News: Copyright Bill Poses Threat to iPod's Future, There was a similar piece in the register on tuesday Hatch's Induce Act comes under fire | The Register, as well as a piece in PCWorld - Copy Crime and Punishment which was the best of the lot.

What all the fuss is about is a Bill S.2560 in the senate which contains language allowing civil lawsuits (presumably by our good buddies at the RIAA and MPAA) against corporations that Intentionally induce copyright infringement. All those involved are quick to say its meant to target unfiltered P2P networks, that its narrowly designed and narrowly intended. A phrase like intentially induce covers a lot of ground potentially and if released into the wild with no natural native predators, most of whom were killed off in the great hunt to Protect Intellectual Rights Against Theft and Expropriation, will cover that ground pretty fast. Applicability and precedence aside once a concept like this is out there its what an individual judge will buy in a given case and what the people will allow. Each round of RIAA lawsuits is larger than the last as the RIAA gauges the reaction and continues on.

I still remember the "hometaping is killing music/movies" campaign" and am aware the same people who are pushing this didn't want the public to have VHS or audio cassettes either. They'll be damned if they are going to let digital recording technology be released. Since it is already mostly out they are going to effect a rollback if it means they have to sue everyone out there who builds a device that stores electrons in a readable state. Yes, that probably does mean Apple, the iPod, and Steve Jobs; mostly for having the temerity to have ever suggested its your music in the first place. Do you suppose Pop music would make a sound if it were to fall over in an empty forest? What about if it fell over at Fort Reno park?

The Senators behind this grovelling at the feet of this corporate property rights management are Orrin Hatch and Patrick Leahy. Leahy... hmm. I guess VP Cheney could have been on to something.

11:39:18 PM    comment [];trackback [];

Friday, 2 July, 2004
A Minor Alert

The University of Maryland College Park had its own private Terror alert the other day - last Tuesday. It didn't seem to be a big deal, and didn't get a lot of press, but all experience and phenomenon is instructive. They invited the county and state police in to assist the campus police to all check vehicles coming on campus that morning and then lurked about through the day. So people tell me. I actually didn't notice and heard about it on the evening news that night. The Baltimore Sun carried a short and cryptic story about it the next day College Park campus put on 1-day alert. The People who had driven cars on campus early Tuesday then had their first and only bit of information as to what that had been about. Unspecific information from the Dept. of Homeland Security about a specific threat during a specific time period. I didn't care and the writing on the (broadside) wall seemed to indicate we weren't going to hear much else. My immediate supervisor, a senior level clerk, wasn't about to let it go. Newspapers, press releases and official statements, are fine but the institution of the university puts a more powerful medium in her hands, the Prince Georges county old-girls network. She calls up the Dean of Libraries' secretary another PG native, and tells her she "needs to know". Sometime later a spokes women for the campus police calls her as a curtsy and says essentially 'we tell you about all the robberies and assaults on campus that should be good enough for you. We are not telling you about national security matters and have said all we are going to say about this" .

My supervisor experienced a period of cognitive dissonance in the wake of this call akin to a spell of vertigo. She grasped at the usual round of work place issues that usually gets a rise out of people here: worker health, safety, welfare, diversity, team based. I'm not saying that anything gets done when these are invoked, but they usually send folk scurrying about to create the appereance that something is/will be done - moving the cheese back into place. The women on the phone had sounded very firm. Firmer than these gossomers of modern management, firmer than 20 years time-in-grade. Firm and dismissive. What about the Patriot Act?, my supervior asked (rhetorically about 20 minutes later). She had the idea the purpose of the patriot act was to empower citizenry, explain the terror threat to them, inform them like a personal briefing, provide channels of information to the people (if ever desired) so that they may be better armed in the struggle. Why else would such a thing exist?
That's not exactly how it works I told her.

Call this the Ashcroft effect. They enact a police state bushel of measures, and we get Stasi attitudes from the merest law enforcement, trucker junior G-men, and blank faced dismissals of request for public financed information The Seattle Times: Nation & World: Bid for information on lobbyists denied (via Metafilter). If there are any phantoms of lost liberty floating around they're off haunting someone else, some semi-loyal citizen with a compromised conscience. People like my supervisor sleepwalk acceptingly through all this, because they believe that 'we' and our choosen 'us' will always be inside the fold and "in-the-loop". So the fight against the bad guys, the evil terror, can proceed by any, and all, means neccesary. If people had a better idea of what is being given up, they might not be so free to let it go. They might ask: what changes, and who benefits?

11:18:02 PM    comment [];trackback [];

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2004 Paul Bushmiller.
Last update: 8/03/04; 00:18:02.