Friday, April 09, 2004

As Bremer's ill-conceived and ill-timed crackdown on Muqtada al-Sadr has the whole occupation threatening to spin out of control, Mona Charen has the courage and the guts to place the blame for this setback squarely where it properly belongs: with Spanish voters.

And the application of this principle at home is even clearer: if we don't want our soldiers to die, we must uncritically endorse the guy who put them in harm's way...

And now, for variety, a reminder that no matter how well things are going, you still really can't have everything. Hear the sad tale of the matzo princess:

"I tell people, 'I wish I'd been an Entenmann,' " Ms. Heilbrun said recently. "Chocolate doughnuts are so much more exciting then egg matzos."

I once knew a European studying in America who got really excited about Passover every year. He claimed it was the only time American supermarkets stocked any edible form of bread...

Thursday, April 08, 2004

More news from the city whose ongoing chaos threatens to completely disrupt our efforts regarding Iraq:

United States forces are confronting a broad-based Shiite uprising that goes well beyond supporters of one militant Islamic cleric who has been the focus of American counterinsurgency efforts, United States intelligence officials said Wednesday.

That assertion contradicts repeated statements by the Bush administration and American officials in Iraq. On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that they did not believe the United States was facing a broad-based Shiite insurgency.

Some military experts hold out little hope that the chaos in Washington, D.C. will be put down anytime soon. But Rumsfeld and his acolytes are working hard on the problem, and believe that they can bring it under control, and restore an orderly, leak-free environment favorable to near term elections, with lots of people in the Western media saying shiny happy things about Iraq.

What's happening in Iraq itself remains a secondary matter...

Shorter Tom Friedman: "We can still win in Iraq because the Iraqi lurkers support us in email".

More: To be more exact, Friedman goes on for a while about the "silent majority" of Iraqi who agree with American goals and aims. As it happens, those folks are not all silent. Take, for instance, Riverbend, the nom-de-blog of a young Iraqi woman from Baghdad who used to be a computer programmer, but isn't any longer because now that we've started improving her life, women are unemployable there. Here's a little of what she has to say about the country she's living in, on a blog whose title, "Baghdad Burning", is once again literal fact:

If the situation weren't so frightening, it would almost be amusing to see Al-Hakeem and Bahr Ul Iloom describe Al-Sadr as an 'extremist' and a 'threat'. Muqtada Al-Sadr is no better and no worse than several extremists we have sitting on the Governing Council. He's just as willing to ingratiate himself to Bremer as Al-Hakeem and Bahr Ul Iloom. The only difference is that he wasn't given the opportunity, so now he's a revolutionary. Apparently, someone didn't give Bremer the memo about how when you pander to one extremist, you have to pander to them all. Hearing Abdul Aziz Al-Hakeem and Bahr Ul Iloom claim that Al-Sadr is a threat to security and stability brings about visions of the teapot and the kettle…

Then Bremer makes an appearance on tv and says that armed militias will *not* be a part of the New Iraq… where has that declaration been the last 12 months while Badir's Brigade has been wreaking havoc all over the country? Why not just solve the problem of Al-Sadr's armed militia by having them join the police force and army, like the Bayshmarga and Badir's Brigade?! Al-Sadr's militia is old news. No one was bothering them while they were terrorizing civilians in the south. They wore badges, carried Klashnikovs and roamed the streets freely… now that they've become a threat to the 'Coalition', they suddenly become 'terrorists' and 'agitators'. ...

Over the last three days, over 150 Iraqis have been killed by troops all over Iraq and it's maddening. At times I feel like a caged animal- there's so much frustration and anger. The only people still raving about 'liberation' are the Iraqis affiliated with the Governing Council and the Puppets, and even they are getting impatient with the mess.

Our foreign minister Hoshyar Zibari was being interviewed by some British journalist yesterday, making excuses for Tony Blair and commending him on the war. At one point someone asked him about the current situation in Iraq. He mumbled something about how there were 'problems' but it wasn't a big deal because Iraq was 'stable'… what Iraq is he living in?

And as I blog this, all the mosques, Sunni and Shi’a alike, are calling for Jihad...

She also describes secondhand reports from Faluja that already sound like accounts of a medieval siege -- she says we've bombed the hospital, and bodies are rotting in the street. A good end to that is hard to imagine...

Yet more: Well, so much for that metaphor. The siege has already been broken, by convoys of Iraqi civilians, as the American forces were unwilling to create another highway of death to block their entrance...

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

And now a word from Secretary Rumsfeld:

This much is certain: Those who oppose the Iraqi people's transition to freedom and self-rule will not be permitted to derail it.

Evidently, the forces that have, at the most recent report as I write, seized control of Kut, Najaf and Kufa are fighting to keep Iraq submissive and dependant...

It's not that I think that Moqtada al-Sadr is a great guy, but for Rumsfeld to paint him as a 2-d cardboard villain like this instead of the smart, determined, 3-d villain that he actually is demonstrates Rumsfeld's unwonted contempt both for him and for us...

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Shorter corporate boards on CEO pay: they realize it's excessive, and they're working on it. They've formed committees to revisit options structure. They've hired consultants to revisit incentives. They know stockholders' concerns, and they're doing every damn thing they can think of to deal with them. Except writing smaller checks...

The New York Times covers the treatment of Jesus in a recent book of note:

With all the gruesome detail of a Hollywood horror movie, Jesus eviscerates the flesh of millions of unbelievers merely by speaking.

"Men and women soldiers and horses seemed to explode where they stood," Dr. LaHaye and Mr. Jenkins write. "It was as if the very words of the Lord had superheated their blood, causing it to burst through their veins and skin.'' The authors add, "Even as they struggled, their own flesh dissolved, their eyes melted and their tongues disintegrated."

That's from the LaHaye and Jenkins "Left Behind" series, a paint-by-numbers transplant of the Book of Revelation into something superficially resembling the modern world, in which the antichrist turns out to be a guy who talks a lot, at least initially, about organizing relief efforts and feeding people. (You can't trust people who talk like that. They're always insincere).

In sum: the message of the books is don't trust people who talk about helping their fellow men; they're insincere, and worse, weak. Worship our guy because he's predestined to kick the other guy's butt.

But since they name names, we know that they're Christians, and not, as you might otherwise think, fans of the other guy...

Monday, April 05, 2004

You don't hear so much from the Silicon Valley crowd lately about how the Internet is a transformative force that will make conventional politics and conventional governments obsolete. They spend more time these days adapting themselves to conventional governments -- like the one in China, where the local conventions of governance include pervasive surveillance, censorship, and violent suppression of dissent.

Every once in a while you see a story about how the leading companies of the American technosphere are happily adding bricks to the collection of technical measures collectively known as the "great firewall of China". But while this one goes soft on the likes of Cisco and Yahoo, it has a new twist:

In 2002, [China]'s leading Web entrepreneurs signed a pledge vowing to promote self-discipline in Web usage and encourage "the elimination of deleterious information [on] the Internet." Some of these Internet entrepreneurs are former dissidents who fled China after the 1989 Tiananmen uprising but have since abandoned their political activism, returning to China seeking Web fortune. In fact, as Kalathil and Boas note, "Many of China's up-and-coming Internet entrepreneurs see a substantial ... role for the government in the Internet sector. ... [They] have visions for Chinese Internet development that are inherently pragmatic and complementary to state strategy." So much for Barlow's idea that technology workers will reject the "tyrannies" of government.

Of course, that's just the Chinese. In America, with our two hundred year history of self-government and vigorous rough-and-tumble politics, it's inconceivable that once-dedicated social activists would make themselves tools of authoritarian troglodytes just because someone promised them a little cash. Right?

So, is it a quagmire yet?
Two brief comments on l'affaire Kos.

First off, one of the mornings I listened to Howard Stern, he commented that he hadn't heard much from the Kerry campaign, at least not lately, and that was absolutely fine with him -- he understood that the guy needs to play it safe. Which makes Howard Stern just a bit more mature than a lot of the net lefties who are bitching about recent edits to the Kerry campaign's blogroll.

As to the guys on the other side, I think it's just astounding how many of them have never fired off a stupid, offensive and bogus remark in a fit of temper, which they later came to regret...

"Remember, Evil will always triumph over Good because Good is stupid"
      -- Dark Helmet, Spaceballs.

Which may explain why the ACLU has launched a prominent ad campaign which features its prominent supporters proclaiming boldly, "I am not an American". The statement is qualified in much smaller type ("... who believes that civil liberties can be neglected, bla bla ...") which some people may actually read, but one suspects those people will mostly be the ones who were already inclined to support the ACLU.

Which brings me to Air America, which I've heard a bit of on rebroadcasts over the weekend. Herewith, a bit of unsolicited advice: there is stuff that belongs on the air, and stuff that does not. For example:

  • If you want someone's comment on, say, a new jobs report, but you don't know if they're available, have a producer make the call off the air. Nobody's tuning in to hear Bob Reich's answering machine.
  • Trying to find le mot juste is a fine, writerly instinct, but introducing the same clip five different ways, resulting in an intro longer than the clip, is taking it too far. Say your piece once, and be finished.
  • If you want to call your friend the dittohead to prove that you can be nice to dittoheads, just place the damn call, talk to the guy, and be nice. Don't spend five minutes of airtime beforehand explaining how you're going to place this phone call to prove that you can be nice to dittoheads.
  • Why exactly do you need to prove to America that you can be nice to dittoheads?

That said, Randi Rhodes is damn good.