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Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Federal Cartel Commission

 I have some more  lawn clippings to share via Ars Technica  More astroturfing on net neutrality issue. Broadband Reports calls out American Consumer Institute a public interest group  almost one step removed from Bell Atlantic, for proferring advice on what 'consumers' think . Network neutrality - Wikipedia is a confusing enough issue, Traffic shaping - Wikipedia, without extra helpings of fear uncertaintly and doubt. I'm not even exactly sure where I line up on net neutrality. Broadly my response is: there is already television. Thorougly gate kept and owned; broadcast, narrowcast and encabled. And there is radio before it which is like television but without pictures. Cellular telephones bear a resembalance of sorts to the telephone network that preceded it, and even interacts with it! There was nothing like Gopher or the WW Web when it started and I do not wish for the protocols, rules and laws which make it all up, to be rejiggered just so that the various parts of the telecommunication industry can have another version of telephone and television, captured and controlled (with no technological innovation being allowed to interfer with existing arragements and modes of profit). Particularly if this happens at the expense of what was unique.

The bigger item in the news was the on then off DSL fee  FCC upset over Verizon, BellSouth fees; expect formal inquiries. Verizon and Bell South decided the lost revenue of the old Universal Service Fund (USF) was too much to bear so the announced as if in tandem new charges to replace it. This struck some as being a classic, textbook, even an artfully executed example of cartel behavior Net Neutrality Platitudes from the FTC | TPMCafe. Causing even the FCC chair to roll his eyes (but apparently not the FTC). Both Bell Atlantic and Verizon have now decided to rethink this Verizon Drops DSL Fee After FCC Query.

 The FCC is in the midst right now of organizing the sale of $14 billion dollars worth electromagnetic spectrum FCC spectrum auction moves to higher gear. Its not the first of these nor will it be the last. Some have played this game before NextWave Telecommunications Inc. Returns. I guess in a highly abstract technical sense they are acting as agents of the American people when they do this. Though I'm not sure everyone sees it this way Down To Business: FCC Rakes In More Billions, But At What Cost? - Hardware News by InformationWeek.

 I saw another book coming into the library recently, Dedicated to the proposition that monopolys are not really harmfully to the market or the economy. Monopolys duopolys and oligopys fit the modern mercantile class like a comfortable old sweater. They snap their fingers and 100 nimrod lapdogs from the institutes leap to their feet spin their theory, against which mere rationality and logic measures itself, onto its head and rush such books into print.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Lebanon Fallout

Another post I've been writing away at for a while. Hesitating to finish it because I didn't like a sentence here or a paragraph there. Waiting for some clarity to arrive that would give me something to say. While the Lebanon border war was still ongoing, there began some talk - based on the administration's attitude that some within it regarded this turn of events as a sort of double or nothing proposition Doubling Two Bad Bets?. This views the swirling rhetoric as describing one last chance (or one more chance) to develop an obtaining middle east policy (pull a successful middle east policy out of a hat) by re-centering the "war on terror" on Hamas, Hizbollah, Syria and Iran. Putting everything on Iran and spinning the wheel again. This was the thrust of Sydney Blumenthal's article in Salon | The neocons' next war early in the month and certainly part of Sy Hersh's piece at mid month New Yorker: WATCHING LEBANON. Hersh's article describes sources telling him the U S at various levels may have been involved in early - stage planning of this conflict, encouraged it and viewed the war as a proxy / In depth - Bush believes conflict is a US-Iran proxy war, as precursor (eliminating a threat axis), stalking horse, as practice for a strike against Iran.

What does this accomplish for the administration? The rhetorical conflation turns U S military policy in to an infinite loop. They may have the idea that all the middle east and anti US/western reaction The Guns Of August are actually interrelated and the best way to fight it is to roll it all up into one big ball Cheney accused of politicizing terrorism - Yahoo! News, one big critter fight. This probably represents mistaken and unfortunate anthropomorphic thinking, but they already have a St. George Why Bush embraces Israel's hard line | They may also have had the idea that with the war on terror equaling many disparate wars - things will always be going better (in a relative sense) in one area than another. The heart of the struggle, will always be there, and the struggle will go round and around. Jockeying for an electoral position has its place too There is only 'us' and 'them'. In the places beyond lie terror-able things. The republican dichotomy will not attempt to be more sophisticated than that. Criticizing any part of the administration, doubting its policies is to invite the terror home. The right blogospheres current fixation with what they term fauxtography - no more than so much blowing smoke In Defense of War Photographers . What do they think they are proving with this gambit and to whom. That no image that shows what you do not wish to see needs to be real? They are merely blinding themselves to prevent the slightest doubt from engaging their minds. They confirm their bystander status, they have the luxury of having an attitude toward an image.

The critical question for most is who won. The mere fact that this was pursued so ardently in public relations campaign in recent weeks is a sign that the military conflict did not produce a clear result. Did Hizbollah win? Well the Israeli's never managed to shut the TV station al Manar down, not in Beruit at least just New York  New York Man Charged With Enabling Hezbollah Television Broadcasts. All the articles on Hizbollah's victory - on their prowess during the fighting Tactics that have kept the Middle East's most powerful army at bay - World - Times Online don't involve regiments of Hizbollah marching in victory, but closed area's, posters announcing the victory, Nasrallah posturing. Fighting the post conflict with Iranian cash Hezbollah wins hearts and minds amid devastation - World - Times Online. Did all Hizbollah, or just Hassan Nasrallah come out ahead from this (trading military for political power, the politics of personal glory In war's dust, a new Arab 'lion' emerges |

Israel for its part has shown vulnerabilities. That years of being an occupation force slowed them down. But the weight of Israeli arms did seem to have torn up the caves, bunkers and neutralized the larger missiles, though it took weeks that in a serious war they will not have On balance, Israel won this round | High tech warfare can bankrupt a nation. This war cost billions in munitions, and lost civilian opportunity. The Israeli air force now has a generation of planes and helicopters much closer to their system replacement point. With no obvious security gain. It was not the budget debate they were set on having previously | The coming earthquake. If one takes Seymour Hersh's assertions at face value the way the war proceeded did little to advance U S interests either.

Secretary Rice's performance in this crises looked on the verge of being self destructing during her initial trip to the region Critics taking aim at the Condi Rice show - World - Times Online . She probably did need to make a trip in advance of a ceasefire, but other than underscore Washington's concern, it was not going to produce instant dramatic results. Even so a number of articles appeared suggesting that the Neoconservative elements (more properly thought of perhaps as crypto-realists not only for their pretense at Wilsonian idealism, but also for the murky nature of their realist objectives) in the administration were sidelining Condeleeza Rice In Mideast, It's Condi's Fight Now I would suspend judgement for the time being and suggest that despite heroic levels of foot dragging on the part of France and Italy, they are committing troops to over see the cease fire. This points to behind scene effectiveness on someone's part in American foreign policy. President Bush placed himself on record as saying the Israelis won this conflict Bush Says Hezbollah Has Been Defeated by Israel. Given that someone in this government was going to go out a say this, the president was the one. He's the only person in the world who could have said that with a straight face. At the same time it is a loss for US prestige that outside the confines of his xenophobic base, no one thinks he understands much Another 'Mission Accomplished' Moment?.

The discussion now turns to whether the the cease fire will hold - in Gaza as well as the Lebanon border. Currently Israel seems more dubious of the cease fire For Israelis, truce with Hizbullah is unrealistic | feeling all that was unaccomplished by conflict Israel Committed to Block Arms and Kill Nasrallah - New York Times. What does the cease fire commit everyone to? In the first place UN Resolution 1701 "[which] says there should be "no sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon except as authorized by its government," but it does not provide for enforcement of that tenet." I imagine that much of the discussion within in the UN is that the peace keeping forces not be seen as being an Israeli buffer army. And that they are not made to interpret Resolution 1701 as requiring them to disarm Hizbollah at gunpoint Analysis: why Hezbollah will not be disarmed - World - Times Online. There is some indication Hizbollah's concern in the near term is rearming and rebuilding, before other Lebanese militias form The Globe and Mail: In widening Lebanese rift, some see return to abyss, and EU peacekeeping forces arrive. They may be relatively unarmed at the moment in the wake of the conflict, shifting the emphasis to abandoning comprehensive rearming. Curiously the cease fire agreement also calls for resolving a dispute on a patch of mountain side (mount Herman) overlooking south Lebanon that both sides for their own reasons may desire not to resolve Behind the dispute over Shebaa Farms | .

Periodically the relationship between Israel and its neighbors grabs the worlds attention, and some seek an immediate comprehensive solution where simply a period of living without killing, if obtainable, will suffice. Israel may need to reflect on what nation is Israel. A secular nation of the Jewish people it must control its polity according to religious identity without becoming a theocracy. It is a balancing act. It precludes classes of solution, there can be no 'right of return' for Arabs, there must be settlements of land ownership, resettlement of land dwellers, adjudicated complex borders - borders with maximum squiggle. Israel must increasing take a hard look at the future abandoning a present that consists of living in the past - in the victory of 1967 and the dogged occupation it brought Israel. If there really a two-state solution in this. Israel's neighbors must accept the Jewish state. There must be a genuine representation of their people in this acceptance. There is nothing to be gained trying to arrange substitutes for entities like Hamas and Hizbollah. Leaving them rebels with or without a cause. It is better to put responsibility for governing on them, bind them to their people and press them for clear positions. If not there are no solutions at all

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Revision Monkey

I'm a fleabit peanut monkey
All my friends are junkies
That's not really true
...I was bitten by a boar
I was gouged and I was gored
But I pulled on through
-- Stones 'Monkey Man'

I recall a few years ago there was a brief period when it was trendy to have monkey mascots for various activities. I don't really know how widespread this was, I wasn't paying attention. I rarely do. But there was a 'rally monkey' for Wall Street, there was a 'sales monkey' for a local auto dealer. There were other monkeys as well, for various enterprises, campaigns. And much talk of monkeys and memes. I think the White Stripes song 'Jimmy the Exploder' has a monkey in it, though that may be different. Generally monkeys are fun.

So at this time the end-processing unit down at the other end of the floor from me at my work place is full of monkeys, monkeying around with each other, chattering away the day. Rolling playfully with the notion. One day as I leave work, I come in and leave much latter than most - I prefer the relative quite of a mostly empty office. I see a cart of books; on the cart is a cardboard sign "for the Revision Monkey". Revision is one of their quality control steps and they are in the habit of leaving signs on carts to indicate what step a set of work is in. I paused and looked at it for a moment before passing on. The next day I saw that sign in the trash and never saw another like it again. Always good clean fun, until...

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Sunday, August 20, 2006
Wolves Lower

The FCC currently has a notice for public comment out on the issue of media ownership Media Ownership Proceeding for Public Comment. I wrote about this a month ago. They were interested in collecting a wide range of opinion and information on this topic. I'm told the period they allowed, 120 days, is much longer than usual. The other week there was a metafilter post up Conspiracy Theory Rock | MetaFilter centering around one of Robert Smigel's TV Funhouse shorts "Media-opoly" YouTube - Cartoon Song about Disney NBC and others (RARE). It's up on You Tube (my nephew Lucas' current seal-of-approval site). One of many hommages to Schoolhouse Rock. The apparent story is that it was broadcast in March of 1998, then cut when that SNL episode came around for its summer re-run. Some people didn't find it funny, and explained to Lorne Micheals he shouldn't either I don't watch SNL regularly so all this happened without my being aware. As far as whether its funny, I thought it was hilarious. It gets funnier every time I watch it. It is satire, direct and sarcastic. Satire seems to bother some people, it seems so indecorous. But as the poet says...
when Crispinus, a blob of nilotic scum, bred in Canopus, hitchs a cloak of tyrian purple onto his shoulder and flutters a simple ring of gold (in summer he cannot bear the weight of heavy stone), It is hard not to write satire.
Crispinus hitches that cloak daily. It is a small suggestion I make that the FCC not overlook this film in their effort to fully triangulate the issue.

Similarly entertaining and yet informative is this Ars Technica piece on the neu plasticine turf Web 2.0, meet Astroturf 2.0. They write of a set of Common Cause reports, Wolves in Sheep's Clothing, Part 2 - Common Cause (part 1 also) which unveil the fake peoples-interest organizations hands off the internet and TV4us, which pulverised the Washington DC print and television market in recent months, to be creatures of ATT or cable TV interests. Only a moron would not have guessed this, but the Common Cause reports detail not only the tightness of the relationships but also the extent with which they tried to obscure it. ATT's motto seems to have been hands off the internet and fingerprints off the monopoly-minded plutocrat pressure campaign. I especially like the singer Moby done as "mo-bee" in the ersatz-amatuer You-Tube video they reference (WolvesII, p.9) thats high quality comedy there.
At least these campaigns have existed within the realm of advertising or the vaguely unworldly confines of the world wide web. The Washington Post notes  FCC Queries TV Stations On Video News Releases that the FCC In response to a study by the group Center for Media and Democracy (which has spawned the site by the telcom lobby deditcated to the damning proposition that the pennys CMD spends against the thousands of dollars they spend means something) sent out 77 letters to broadcast news organizations for the practice of airing spots produced by industry groups - generally designed to appear to be authentic news without labeling them as such. Currently The FCC is committed to regulations requiring disclosure. Look for that quietly to change. It's such a hassle for the man.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Jet Paint Jobs

I got an email the other day from Kent Dotson, one of the people I knew in the Navy - in Rvah 7. Kent was Mark's roommate along with a guy we called Smithy. He sent a picture he had of an Ra5c on the flight deck. What you see here is a Vigilante on the far waist catapult about to be launched. And indications (the trail of steam) that one has just gone off from the near cat. A picture named e0568_ranger-ra5c.jpg Not knowing anything about the provenance of the picture there are a few things that struck me about that picture from what I can make out of the squadron insignia it is RVAH-7. The ship is the USS Ranger (NE), which is painted on the A-4 in the foreground. The USS Ranger had A-7's and A-3's [ed. note: well we did have sky pigs at one point I got a picture to prove it - but what I really meant to say here was "A-6"] the year I was on it, as memory serves, but it serves only so well. The paint scheme of the Vigi - white nose cone no star on the tail differs from what we used for the cruise as you can see this in the picture below, which I took  quay side probably in Subic bay, the Philippines . I'm guessing the picture above is from work-ups before the WestPac deployment.A picture named Vigi_parked_CV_61.jpg This whole post here is an example of why it is bad to start new projects late in the evening. I took both pictures here duplicated them, cropped the duplicates tighter, resized them and compressed them to reduce the file size. And then I went- uploaded the original of Kent's and an intermediate variant of mine before I compressed it. Kent's picture if you copy it out of the page is much larger than I've set it to display here at 378 pixels width. I am going to swap these out for the smaller versions in a day or so. I am still on dial-up here. {One last note; Kent, I assume you have Mark's email address, if not ask me for it. }

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006
There may be oil, under RockAll.

 I was messing around on Google earth the other day (did you know Google earth has a  high detailed ten square mile patch of water photographed somewhere out on Georges Bank?). I saw an island where I did not recall there to be an island. It had one of those blue information 'i's so I zoomed in to take a look. Not so much an island as a terrible rock fifty feet wide rising some eighty or ninety feet out of the angry and unforgiving North Atlantic Ocean. Several hundred miles from anywhere else. It is called Rockall which is a victory of description. The peak of a dark and ancient volcano. I looked at the snapshot attached in the popup. This is that place, I thought, the place in that novel. Good Lord it's a real place, that's a disturbing thought. If there was ever a book I wish I hadn't read it would be that one. Google Earth had a link to the Wiki page Rockall - Wikipedia. Yes it confirms that this is where William Golding (who wrote lord of the flies) set Pincher Martin.
After that I swiveled google earth around and looked at St. Helena, then I turned on iTunes and listened to the Kinks song Waterloo sunset and thought about trains.

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Monday, August 14, 2006
Radio Birdman up above

 I had a hit on my referer logs a week or so ago, someone searching on the term "radio birdman" and "Aloha Steve and Dano". Radio Birdman was the the wonderful Australian Band from the late seventies and 'Aloha' their reputation setting song Radio Birdman - Wikipedia.  They named themselves after an (apparently misheard) line from the Stooges song 'I feel allright'. Atomized got a hit for that search because I had mentioned them a year ago. Coincidentally: the last time I was possessed of the need to thank radio for being like I did last week. I like hearing them on radio, even with having the record, because well - who has a working turntable anymore. I bought their record Radios Appear out a used bin at some record store for $2.99 It has 'promotional copy not for sale' embossed on it it gold letters. No wonder they never get played on the radio.

 Something about this hung about in the back of my mind and eventually I fired up Google to settle the question. They are on tour Radio Birdman Announces U.S. Tour - I had a suspicion thats why some might be searching for them. Deniz Tek, Rob Younger, the real band. They have a new record out Zeno Beach -- They'll even be in the U S this autumn. They're playing at the Black Cat in Washington DC on 6 September. One part of their story I'd like to nail down is that Deniz Tek was a Navy pilot. (trivia section of the wikpedia article). I assume that would be the U S Navy; Tek was the lone American in the band. A friend of mine forwarded to me an email he had been forwarded, a number of years ago, which because I would never delete anything like that, I still have. It seems to have been between (the late) Greg Shaw of Bomp! records and Deniz Tek sorting out what Radio Birdman material was going to be reissued. This was around the time of their first reunion tour. The last paragraph is interesting.

 BTW two things of possible interest: Sonically superior versions of  both albums with previously unreleased extra tracks were released in
Australia on RedEye / Polydor last Nov. (REDCD49 and REDCD53) Also, we  just finished mixes on a new live album which the band DOES own outright. We recorded it on our recent reformation tour. At least that  oneshould see the light of day in America before too long.
Deniz Tek
  The live record he alludes to is not on iTunes but ought to be. The Australia reissues may have formed the basis of the Essential Radio Birdman CD released in 2001 on Sub Pop (which makes sense) but I'd have to look at one to be sure.

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Wednesday, August 9, 2006
Hollow Victory

At this point it seems that Senator Lieberman is not going to win his primary (He didn't) Lieberman Defeated in Democratic Primary. This is too bad. In many ways Joe Lieberman is the sort of democrat I like, You can't have a entire party of Joe Liebermans, but its best for the democrats to have some Democratic Leadership Welcomes Lamont. I also don't like elections that settle around single issues and become little toy referendums Jury Out on Lieberman Effect. The thing is done and Connecticut is its own state. I have Maryland to contend with.
Joe Lieberman seemed to take the tack of deliberately not getting what was going on. His explanation of his Iraq war convictions Lieberman Explains His Stance on Iraq - New York Times came too little too late. a trite phrase for a trite approach. He had plenty of advocates of the right-stripe at the end the reactionary blog contingent, nevermind that these same people were calling him 'loserman' as in Sore-Loserman a few short years ago (and will someday again). As well he had friends in assorted members of the neo-conservative camp like Robert Kagan. They were desperate not to lose the few remaining voices outside their own camp.
The Iraq war was a miasma of bad faith, it has nothing to do with firm foreign policy, necessary national security. I realize that it was politicaly difficult to be against it a few years ago - I lay that against those who made it difficult. Having the courage of ones convictions also calls for being able to tell good from bad, not just staying the course. I do not trust the current administration to prosecute the 'war on terror'. I do not see that they have the comprehension and competency to do so successfully. Do not war things war will not repair. All that happens is that you gain the intoxication of making things worse. It is like enabling a drunkard.
- - -
11Aug06. I expected him to at least make a show at running as an independant, which does little more than demonstrate his sense of entitlement to his office, but seizing upon the latest incident as validation Lieberman Seizes on Terror Arrests to Attack Rival - New York Times is enormously wrong.

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Monday, August 7, 2006

A letter to the editor in Mondays Washington Post caught my eye. The writer had seen a column by Harold Meyerson Minimum Wage, Maximum Gall the week before and felt the need to be his critic "Blinded by partisain hatred and fixated by the liberal talisman of increases in the minimum wage." and further added the estate tax was a 'red herring.' Well it might have been if the Democrats had put it in the bill, but it was written in by the Republicans who were quite sincere about it. I had read Meyerson's column at the time and it seemed fairly restrained. Aside from a tone of exasperation - his phrase Dickensian grotesques - describing the republican party engineering a bill that combines raising the minimum wage with repealing the estates tax comes to mind here.  But this was in direct reaction to what he relates from congress in a further passage:
"Their tone was best captured by Tennessee Rep. Zach Wamp, a Mayberry Machiavelli if ever there was one, who could not restrain himself from telling House Democrats, "You have seen us really outfox you on this issue tonight."" Meyerson probably would have read David Broder's column from the week before Simmering Rage Within the GOP also. In decision theory the phrase minimax exists for the strategy of minimizing the maximum possible loss. The current congress is nothing if not strategic. In the end the Senate declines to vote for combined minimum wage estate tax bill GOP Bid On Wages, Estate Tax Is Blocked though some seem amused by the faux role reversals An Estate Tax Twist Reverses Party Roles On Minimum Wage.

Having dodged any progress on the issue, they all left on a well deserved vacation. I caught up on my email newsletters from the UCC's Just Peace Action Center. Last weeks topic was wage justice they point you off to the Let Justice roll site Let Justice Roll - Raise the State and Federal Minimum Wage. There is a small table just off the top of the page illustrating the eroding purchasing power of the minimum wage that tells you most of what you need to know here. They have a slogan too (of course they do): Our bottom line is this: A job should keep you out of poverty, not keep you in it. I image there is countering data that will show that a significantly smaller percentage of the american work force is earning at or near the minimum wage - particularly the primary wage earner in a household. That what is therefore being argued about is the wage level of second jobs and the idea of classes of jobs which are second-income jobs. I incline to a rejection of distinction between 'primary' and 'secondary' household income. This web site provides some reasons for thinking that:

Contrary to stereotype, the typical worker paid minimum wage is an adult, not a teenager living with parents. Most have high school degrees or more."...
By 2005, family health coverage cost $10,880, and a full-time minimum wage was just$10,712.4 ...
a $5.15 minimum wage $10,712 a yearójust doesnít add up. A single parent with one child would need to work more than two full-time minimum wage jobs to make ends meet. It takes more than three jobs at minimum wage to support a family of four. "A Just Minimum Wage: Good for Workers, Business and Our Future_(pdf).

An inadequate minimum wage depresses the entire low end of the wage scale for the sake of subjective notions about what type of people are/ought to be doing certain types of work and the needs they have. The ALA is publishing a survey on the salaries of library technical support staff ALA press release : Salary Survey Non-MLS Positions. This is what I do and it is a field often considered the domain of the "second salary" and therefore not critically compensated.

I took an upper level undergraduate class in labor relations, at one point. We spent at least a month on the economic logic and underpinnings of wage structures. The market, bargaining, state compensation boards. It was all a gruesomely rational system, up to a point and then another system seemed to kick in, the priviledged system. The juncture is hinged softly by subtly changing attitudes marked by phrases like "yes but to get the best people into this important job we need to...It's just the market you understand... But the market is not a machine, not a single machine at least. It is a set of attitudes and institutions owned by it's stake holders. They rate their own lives, education, experience, and labor highly. Wage Logic. Increasing it is difficult to get a real sense on what the top quintile of earners actually makes. Working for the state mine is public information, so is the Deans (and the campus newspaper sees fit to publish it every year). But many catagories don't have to be revealed to anyone (both my brothers-in-law). Beyond this even in public traded companies with reports and shareholders executive disclosure is a fairytale of a national legion of bonus babies 3 Charged As Probe Into Options Widens : FBI Pursuing Cases of Illegal Stock Profits.

There is a shifting apart of the highest and lower ends of the American earnings scale that is nearly logarithmic. If it continues another generation - if the upper half gain the right to transmit their wealth intact it will leave two different American populations. Slate ran an article last month on how increased gas prices were affecting the motorboat crowd. The industry people the writer talked to admitted sales to the bulk of the people they sold to, the upper middle class, were down. But sales of the big boats - those hadn't been affected at all. As I watched all the rich and acquired Lebannese flee their country for France and Italy a few weeks ago It struck me that this is America's future. In the struggles of the unfolding century there will be only the working classes left to sort it out while our lawmakers work to further insulate the wealthy from it all.

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Thursday, August 3, 2006
Back to Zero, Now.

Radio was very good to me this week. Why? An interview and a live set of Tommy Keene who has a new record out, on Joe Belocks three chord monte show on WFMU WFMU - Three Chord Monte - Playlist - August 1, 2006. [The other week he had a short phone interview with Susanna Hoffs (Bangles) - the day she and Matthew Sweet played on Conan O'Briens show.] The live set - recorded in Keene's living room in LA - featured Back to Zero Now, a great early song of his, and Nighttime an Alex Chilton Song off the third Big Star record. Anyone who read an earlier post of mine from last year Wither WHFS - a salute to the, at times, great Washington DC radio station WHFS - may recall I wrote that the very first time I tuned to that station they were interviewing Tommy Keene. I saw him play at least once, probably twice, I know I saw him open for the Jam. I thought I remembered that my friend Derrick Hsu had something to do with Tommy Keene at one point, one of the ep's. But looking over the listed discography Tommy Keene - Wikipedia I don't see anything from Derrick's old imprint Fountain of Youth records. The world of indie rock labels can be a little opaque at times.

 While I'm on the subject of small labels first I finally heard the band Boy Racer who someone else I knew (Mike) put out on his Slumberland Label 10 or 12 years ago. I thought they sounded good, just thought I'd mention it. In the present epoch, the label that impresses me the most right now is Jagjaguwar Jagjaguwar record label: Pink Mountaintops (plastic man, you're the devil), Black mountain (don't run our hearts around), Brooklyn NY's Oneida   (up with people -- "You got to get up to get free") Washington City Paper Onieda preview , Okkervil river...  I know some people must be confused because little of Jagjaguwar's stuff sounds like Tommy Keene. But remember that these days Tommy Keene is playing in Bob (Guided by Voices) Pollards band.

WFMU; I need to send them folks their check.

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Wednesday, August 2, 2006
Saving Hizbollah?

Much of the rhetoric from here on will have as a central purpose preventing the significant harming of Hizbollah. Another way of saying this is to say that the status quo worked for a lot of people, in the region and beyond Staying Power Adds To Hezbollah's Appeal. When Hizbollah states that they will win by surviving only, I doubt this. Something about physics, mortality, and this material world we live in. Having fierce war spirit is fine Hezbollah says hi-tech tanks and jets are no match for its fighting spirit - World - Times Online, but they should not doubt that Israel has that as well. Hizbollah can take massively disproportionate casualties, destruction of surrounding infrastructure - homes and towns, but they have to do more than survive merely. Israel has made its mind up that Hizbollah can not be allowed to remain intact Israel Vows to Press Ahead With Offensive - New York Times especially as current perception favors them The Globe and Mail: Farewell to arms for Hezbollah is unlikely, experts say. The question is: At what cost Hezbollah Fires Over 200 Rockets Into Israel - New York Times?

For months there has been low level but continuous and deadly cross border attacks from both sides. Hamas kidnaps an Israeli soldier killing three others during a campaign of rocket attacks. Israel bombs and moves tanks into Gaza. Hizbollah kidnaps two Israeli soldiers, killing several others, apparently just to fork the Israeli effort, open a second front and show solidarity with Hamas. Why is this happening now? When Ariel Sharon had his stroke momentum on his grand vision stalled. The Gaza and West Bank territory trades begin to look like less like an acceptable deal for both sides. Isolated non contiguous enclaves and lack of free air and sea port facilities do not equal a genuine state.

The Palestinian authority is constrained by its commitment to the official peace process. In this vacuum are bids for regional preeminence. Hizbollah strives for the public opinion in Lebanon and the arab world, but this occurs against the growing uniformity in Israeli opinion How ceasefire hopes foundered on rock of Israeli public opinion - World - Times Online. , and in U S opinion in favor of Israel Summary of Findings: Americans' Support for Israel Unchanged by Recent Hostilities. For all it is unclear whether this new rigidity is a short term or long term phenomenon and what things affect this. For Hizbollah there is gain in standing up to the Israelis Israeli strikes may boost Hizbullah base |, but they gain little from standing through repeated rounds and stand to lose greatly the longer the war continues. Someone needs to around at the end to take advantage of it. Lebanese opinion may turn against Hizbollah, if after all this there is little to show for it. Let's say that Hamas and Hizbollah's actions speak for themselves - they believe that the Israelis retreat under pressure. Let's also keep skeptical about whether they really do believe that, despite what they say, despite that this is what others are eager to attribute to them, and recognize that this is merely a variant of "the only thing an arab respects is force" argument Can force fell Hizbullah? | This a cultural and racial prejudice. A hatred not a human insight. [this was conjecture when I wrote it, but I have seen Israeli's interviewed on TV in the last few days state this with considerable conviction.] Not-with-standing this there is room here for a skillful statesman to maneuver, because Hamas and Hizbollah cannot destroy Israel only harass it. There is a gap between their rhetoric and abilities.

Trying to follow the myriad reasons Hizbollah's sponsors Syria and Iran Iran helped cultivate Mideast crisis, US says - The Boston Globe may or may not have encouraged this war Hezbollah - Lebanon - Israel - Middle East - New York Times is too much inside baseball even for me (see especially the graphic the NYT includes with this article). For instance Syria may have egged Hizbollah on just so they could say to Israel, Europe and the U S - 'See, you needed us in Lebanon after all. In Iran's case the more straight forward need for misdirection, drawing the international communities attention away from them, taking our eyes off the ball (bomb) while they work out the kinks in their nuclear program. Israel seems to have been looking for a reason to have this war Israel's goals in the present conflict | It can be seen they had this operation planned for a year or more Israel set war plan more than a year ago / Strategy was put in motion as Hezbollah began gaining military strength in Lebanon (via War and Piece "Matthew Kalman: ". Now that the plan has moved from theory to practice is this fight helping Israel? Probably not; the best outcome after three weeks of war is to put things back in the boxes they came out of Britain fears assault on Hezbollah will backfire - World - Times Online. Stop the rockets and remind the world that Hizbollah can start wars, but can't finish them. Israel needs to reflect on the fact that push-back from Palestinians and allied groups does not occur in a vacuum - the constant desire of the Israeli government to belittle the PA and its leadership to physically demonstrate again and again the PA is Israel's creature is what empowered Hamas and brought them into the government. As well the practice of keeping Gaza and the West bank in virtual lock-down. Keeping them safely in line, but allowing no outlet or recourse for growing discontent. Israel could not act on or deal with Palestine resentment because down that path lay acknowledgment of legitimate reasons for it. In fundamental ways Israel did not accept the existence of a Palestinian state any more that the Arab world accepts Israel. Israel's main line of argument is that sooner or later this was a necessary war. A nation, Palestine, Lebanon, or Iraq, certainly no democratic nation can endure with armed militias within its polity NPR : Analyst: Hezbollah Must be Disarmed (although I know of people who read the 2nd amendment just that way).

The conduct of the conflict has opened Israel up to criticism. It was conceived as an air war. The entire concept of of a campaign of surgical strikes, of degrading the material military capability of the militias only is a misreading of the nature of air power. Air power is a weapon of terror. It always has been. It always will be. Tactical use will be ancillary to broader campaigns. It is imprecise even with precision, ignorant of guilt or innocence, it is prejudicial, it is indeterminate. It is a punishment of peoples from a distance. That is its reason for being, its virtue, its ideal. That is why militaries love air power. When something bad happens; even if you spin and the "leaks" coming out of the Israeli investigation of the Qana incident smell of spin The Qana Conspiracy Theory - World Opinion Roundup -- even if you obscure the circumstances of an occurrence or claim it is managed event. You are either saying the enemy deliberately murdered their own people. Or that these people were not killed by the bombs you are dropping, but somehow in some other way. The entire burden of proof is on you making such claim, either prove it, or live with the facts as they are. Trying to gain in public relations in a situation like Qana is a fools errand, because even if you succeed, tomorrow another plane will drop another bomb, and you may be right back where you started.

War is not (a NYT reporter quoted this phrase and came close to comprehending) a "clash of ignorant armies across the darkling plain" A New Enemy Gains on the U.S - New York Times. Not now, not then, not in the last 20,000 years, it will never be. Our current military and our notions of warfare are an aberration existing in a bubble scarcely over a generation old. Primarily war is the rape and murder of the weak and unarmed by the strong and armed. Nations and tribes make war against each others people. This is what war is, what it will always be. It is not glorious, it does not build character, it does not focus grandly the national resolve, it does not clarify, it does not simplify.

A question at this point is what is the U S lookout. Is this war helping the United States. There has been some commentary that what we are seeing here is the unintended consequence of democracy promotion in the region. An election will not always bring the wisest leaders forward, but I believe that often and regularly held elections will Don't Blame Democracy Promotion. There are also some questions on whether our program is sincere or whether it is "Democracy promotion as a mere technique of political engineering" [Eberhard Kienle off the dust jacket of Democratization and development : new political strategies for the Middle East edited by Dietrich Jung. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire ; New York, N.Y. : Palgrave Macmillan ; [Copenhagen] : Danish Institute for International Studies, 2006.]. There are those who say there is deliberate rhetoric conflating the interests and activities of the regions groups not aligned with U S interests, to try to make this conflict answer for nearly seven years of misguided policy Bush Ties Battle With Hezbollah to War on Terror - New York Times.

The whole enterprise of the war suffers from the problems of militarism. The myth of effectiveness, the conception of the course of war as the path of direct and effective action. Added to this is the myth of the Israeli omnipotence and invincibility in operation and intelligence; however attractive such a image is, it becomes dangerous and problematic to put it to test Israel Is Powerful, Yes. But Not So Invincible. - New York . Even if it proves victorious it is returned to the realm of the real. Having produced a lot of documentation, that, high tech network-aware warfare, and overwhelming preponderance of means will always prevail. Particularly the new generation of high precision air to ground weapons and remote surveillance systems favored by western nations. It must be noted that this is a thesis yet to be proven Reuters AlertNet - ANALYSIS-"Air power" assumptions shot down over Lebanon.

A nod to part of what David Frum said on last fridays Diane Rehm show Diane Rehm Show for Friday July 28, 2006. Neither Hizbollah or Hamas have accepted the existence of the Jewish state and therefore the way forward - the two state solution. On their way to becoming the popular front in their localities both took on certain governmental roles and activities, but there was no concurrent move to true governing responsibilities and state integration - in Lebanon or Palestine. The PLO or at least the PA has tried and failed at both, becoming merely a corrupt gangster-like regime neither leading nor serving its people. Further I would argue that the very basis of the Islamic militias mode of struggle their way of war. The militaristic ethos they champion. Tribal, dehumanizing, denying of innocence, in-distinguishing of noncombatants (all the things they claim Israel is guilty of) forms a powerful force that works to preclude them from ever making the transition to legitimate peaceful government. In Hizbollahs case it must be recognized [whether or not they see this themselves] that is not their purpose. Their paid purpose is to be the tool of Syria and Iran. Their own destiny marginalized and left to chance.

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2006 Paul Bushmiller.
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