Freedom from Blog

Don't call it a comeback . . . .

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Another Turning Point II

Sorry to crash the Ford party here and here, but another turning point, or milestone, or watershed event, or whatever cliché you want to use, was just reached in Iraq. 3000 American dead. Of course this figure does not include all the maimed, both physically and mentally nor the number of Iraqi dead. The application of the epithet tragic to this war is an understatement.

If You Strike Me Down Now, Darth . . .

Just a quick note on the execution of "the Butcher of Baghdad." Like most everything in the Iraq fiasco, this was badly botched. I never quite understood what the multiple-but-selective trials of Saddam were supposed to accomplish. (When I asked one of the experts on this subject, who I'm sure was consulted along the way, he couldn't explain the purpose, either.) If the trials were about making a record of Saddam's atrocities, then cherry picking a few atrocities, but omitting others that might be politically embarrassing to the Bush administration or to the United States, undercut a complete accounting. Also, if you want to make a historical record, you don't let Saddam take over the trial. He doesn't even have to be there. Today, I heard General Kristol saying that the trial was about "justice" and "due process." But critics of the execution point out that the Kurds were denied justice, because they never got their day in court. The irregularity of the proceeding itself undercuts "due process," in my opinion, although I won't belabor the point.

This isn't to say that Saddam didn't deserve execution. He certainly did. But . . .

Executing Saddam for the murder of less than 200 people, which is what he was convicted of, means that his supporters can always say that Saddam was never convicted of all his "so-called crimes." That means, they will say, that he was not really so bad, that his reputation has been attacked by his enemies, Shia and Kurd and American, but they couldn't really make the case that he was a "war criminal" or whatever, so they killed him on a much lesser charge.

The thing to remember is that political loyalty is durable. I've been reading Tony Judt's Postwar history of Europe, and Judt makes the point that public support for Nazism remained strong into the 1950s. Indeed, a sizeable percentage of Germans (West Germans) agreed with the statement that "Nazism was a good idea, poorly implemented," even in the 1950s. (I've been pondering that for a few days, and I'm not sure what it would mean to agree with that statement, in practice.) Hitler still had supporters among the German people, folks with a "positive" view of him, into the 1950s and beyond.

Part of the reason for this, of course, was the Allies short-circuiting of de-Nazification. But even a more comprehensive effort at this would have come with a cost--even greater resentment against the Allied powers. That seems to have been the result of Bremer's de-Baathification order. Reading Chandrasekaran's Imperial Life in the Emerald City, my sense is that the de-Baathification order, coupled with the disbanding of the Iraqi army, led directly to the creation of the Sunni insurgency. Instead of coopting these folks, like the Allies did, we rejected them. That was a much bigger error than the Allies' in 1945-46 (btw, the Communists were much more aggressive in coopting Nazis; they found that Nazis made great Communists). In other words, I think that there was, once, a chance to win the support of some of Saddam's former supporters. Not now.

At this point, the execution of Saddam would seem to make any reconciliation with his (former) supporters impossible.

I know that the argument is that, once fear of Saddam's return is eliminated (with Saddam's death), that reconciliation becomes more, not less likely. But if I'm right, and a large percentage of the Sunni insurgency already resents the American occupation and the trial of Saddam, then the execution makes this worse, not better.

I should add that Chandrasekaran makes the point that, for most Iraqis, almost all of them but certainly the Sunnis, life was much better under Saddam than it is now. So his supporters have that argument, too.

But why would you expect anything else from the gang that can't shoot straight, despite the fact that they're all straight shooters.

A Ford, Not a Lincoln

Like TMcD, I've had enough Ford memories. But the one point I would like to make is Vietnam. If that is a point. Vietnam is the missing part of the Ford memories--rarely raised, rarely discussed in the discussions of Ford's legacy. Ford was president on the day that Saigon fell; he had not been president for the build up of the war, or for the Paris peace talks. So Vietnam is not Ford's war. But he was president on the day that the war ended, so to speak. An unpopular, hopeless war in Asia . . . maybe that story is too close to home for the Beltway pundits. The Nixon pardon story, with the healing aspect, is more to their liking.

I agree with the tenacious one that accountability is as important as "healing." But don't count on the current administration being held any more accountable by the chattering class. The Ford nostalgia has made me wonder, what will the posthumous retrospectives on Bush 43's presidency be in thirty years? 9/11? That he was a decisive leader on that dark day? A complete fabrication, but that doesn't seem to matter.

Crashing the Ford

Have you had enough of the orgy of adoring Gerald Ford memorials yet? Ack. I feel like a kid on Halloween who just ate his entire bag of candy.

Don't get me wrong. I think Ford was an OK guy, a portrait of decency in both senses of that word, i.e., "where have all the decent men gone?", and "yeah, I guess, as a president, he was decent." And decency has been in short supply among more recent GOP administrations, for whom shit-sucking adequacy would be an improvement. What annoys me is how the MSM seems to have latched onto Ford at this particular moment as a nostalgia trip on the glory of "healing."

Not that healing is bad. Just that the vision of healing Ford symbolizes is a particularly dubious one in light of present circumstances. It's the "moderate" Republican as healer trope, combined with the conventional wisdom that Ford did the noble and selfless thing in pardoning Nixon and saving the nation from a long, bitter, drawn-out trial and its recriminations. In other words, it's the kind of healing that pretends there was no serious and gaping wound, no consuming cancer, no underlying crime that cried out for justice. "Yeah, Nixon was bad, but thankfully we had a moderate Republican on a white horse who rode in to save the day by sentencing Tricky to the author circuit."

As we now know, via Bob Woodward, Ford may not have done the "selfless" thing after all. Turns out he and Nixon had a sort of implied "deal" on pardons after all. Whatever his personal loyalties to Nixon, Ford may still have done the right thing. The existence of such an understanding between the men doesn't diminish the nation's need to heal and move on after Nixon's crimes. The business of governing went on, and Nixon was surely a distraction.

That said, sometimes you need to pay a price for doing the "right" thing. Human goods are often incommensuarble, and when Ford chose to pardon Nixon he also did something truly awful: he denied the American people justice for a criminal betrayal of their sacred trust and abridged the normal operations of the "rule of law." As a Nixon ally and a member of his political party, Ford was in no position to "forgive" Nixon, as Dick Cheney mendaciously claimed at Ford's funeral. The public reaction to Ford's pardon was absolutely correct. His support in the polls plummeted, and the pardon cost him the 1976 election. Damn straight. Should have been a landslide. Someone needed to pay a price for Nixon's criminality, and, by pardoning his buddy Nixon, Ford placed that burden on himself, knowing full well that his own punishment (losing an election to resume an office for which he had never been a serious contender anyway) was a faint shadow of that which Nixon himself would have faced.

There have been negative public consequences as well. Republicans have never had to fully grapple with the criminality at the heart of the "conservative" movement. They still agree with Tricky's famous apologia tyrannis that "if the president does it, it's not illegal." Scratch that: if a Republican president does it, it's not illegal. So the wound has not healed. We just accepted the superficial disappearance of outward symptoms of disease and agreed not to discuss the cancer in polite company. Nixon led to Bush. We got all the arrogance and illegality but without any of Nixon's policy moderation or twisted sense of guilt.

Surely it is no coincidence that the Ford love-fest coincides with Bush's fall from public grace. The MSM, complicit in Bush's treachery from the beginning, would like us all to forgive, forget, and move on. Let's just find a moderate Republican on a white horse to save the day, chant the Broders, the Gergens and the Brookses. You know. A McCain or a Lieberman.

Well, now's not the time to heal. Now's the time to punish. These bastards will never learn until they bleed. Metaphorically, that is. There will be a time for forgiveness. And there wil be men capable of offering that forgiveness. But that time is not now, and those men are not the "moderate" Republicans who abetted the original crimes. First we need some justice.

Another Turning Point?

Here I am watching Mike Wallace on Fox News Sunday engage in what could only be called a softball interview with Richard Lugar, who just said he doesn't know if he supports sending new troops to Iraq or not. At any rate, Wallace opened up the interview with a series of questions designed to frame the execution of Saddam as yet another, you guessed it, "turning point" that "sends a message to Saddam's dead-enders" that he's not coming back and the insurgency is going no where. I'm not sure who first noted this, but if you keep having turning points, then pretty soon you're just going in circles.


Saturday, December 30, 2006

Number One

Paul reminds me that I posted the WWII photo. OK, Number One is, front row, middle.

So nobody guessed that, but that's because I favor my mother's side. Big time favor my mother's side. But I have my dad's temperament. Also--Grandpa Emery was a truckdriver, and I am one hell of a driver.

Awfully Long Hiatus; New Years Cheer?

Sorry, FFB readers, if there are any of you left. But I'm back from my Christmas travels and ready to start a new year of blogging. There's a whole lot to blog about. But just as an opening thought, I find myself looking forward to the New Year with a fair amount of dread. It's pretty clear, at this point, that 2007 will almost certainly see an escalation of the Iraq war, and it's a real possibility that we will be approaching 4000 U.S. dead in that war by this time next year. The number of Iraqis who will die violently, in the next year, will be much, much greater. This escalation, or the folly of this escalation, is the story of the year.

And yet, our news media will continue to cover the Duke rape case, missing Mt. Hood climbers, and any missing white woman as though they are stories of national import.

2007 will be a year without progress on a range of important issues. Climate change, widespread environmental degradation, health care, rising inequality--all these things will get a little bit worse in the coming year. "A little bit," if we're lucky.

But that's enough doom and gloom. More later. I promise.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

0 for 5

If after repeatedly saying that you would adjust troop levels in Iraq based on the recommendations of the "commanders on the ground," what do you do when your new plan to surge troop levels there goes 0 for 5 with the Joint Chiefs of Staff? Naturally, you then bypass the commanders and stage photo-ops with lower level soldiers who endorse your idea of sending more troops.


Who's "Serious"?

George Will ups his narcissism ante in his column today criticizing Time magazine's person of the year. Now I won't defend Time's choice, which is obviously nothing other than craven pandering. But Will's column is, if anything, even stupider. Even by the editorial standards of the Washington Post, Will gives us one of the worst non sequiturs I've seen in a few weeks:

"There are expected to be 100 million bloggers worldwide by the middle of 2007, which is why none will be like Franklin or Paine. Both were geniuses; genius is scarce."

Everyone with the slightest familiarity with the world of political blogs knows that there are geniuses out there, and in far greater proportion than provided to us by our elite newspapers. Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum, Billmon (when he's writing), Digby, Glenn Greenwald, and Publius all offer progressive-leaning commentary superior to anything available from establishment-approved outlets. Atrios is a great editor and has an eagle eye for news. I could go on. Even though genius is scarce, if you have 100 million bloggers writing, there will be some geniuses among them. And the blogging marketplace outperforms the Washington Post editors and their ilk in identifying and granting them influence.

Will then approvingly quotes a self-serving article by Brian Willams who expresses concern that blogging narcissism will lead us to "miss the next great book or the next great idea, or . . . [to] fail to meet the next great challenge because we are too busy celebrating ourselves and listening to the same tune we already know by heart."

Who is going to miss the next great idea? Who? How about the people who ignored and botched the biggest news story of the past 4 years? Will and the "serious" people and institutions he praises are the same people and institutions who ignored questions about the Iraq war before it was launched, who kept questions off the front pages, who parroted administration stories that couldn't hold up under the slightest skepticism. The blogs were almost the only place where there was serious dialogue about the war in 2002 and 2003. Meanwhile the "serious" news media were too busy looking for the the missing white women and groveling at the feet of Commander Codpiece and his "sexy" Secretary of Defense.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Contest: Number One?

So, one of these G.I.s, circa 1943, is my paternal grandfather. In other words, one of these G.I.s is "Number One." Which one?

Do Lord, O do Lord, O do it in the Hay

A new government report was just released that says that some 97% of Americans have sex before marriage and that this percentage has not changed much since the golden age of morality (1950s). Today, 75% of young people have premarital sex before they are 20 years old. Let's just say for argument's sake that 50% of Americans are either Protestant/Evangelical or Catholic. If this report's figures are accurate (and they seem plusible to me) and we assume that all 3% who refrain from Aphrodite's pleasures are Christians (which is a ridiculous assumption, but stick with me), this would mean that a minimum of 94% of Christians in the US have had pre-marital sex. In other words, Christians aren't just at church or on hay rides singing Do, Lord, O do, Lord; rather, O Lordy, they're busy in the hay doin' it. No big surprise there; evolutionary urges will trump social engineering any day of the week and twice on Sunday. It's just so absurd that Christian leaders today are dictating our public policies on sex and health (i.e., abstinence programs) based on religious mores that few people have actually ever followed.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Would It Be Wrong?

Would it be wrong to list my most recent honor on my c.v.? I mean, I was announced as Time's Person of the Year this weekend.


Monday, December 18, 2006

Sunday Shows

Two funnies on the Sunday shows this week. First, on "This Week," George F. Will objected to Time magazine's "Person of the Year" (congratulations, btw) by complaining that the Internet, blogging, YouTube, etc., brings out "narcissism." Ahem. Any grown man who always wears bowties and likes to quote Churchill, I mean quotes Churchill a lot--has no room to criticize narcissism in others. What a f**king panty-waist.

Second, and this one blows my mind: the Moustache of Understanding, still residing on Tom Friedman's face, says that the coming danger in the Middle East is the collapsed state. Not so bad? How about when he referred to "the collapse of the Iraqi state," as though, um, it's hard for a state not to collapse when it's invaded by the United States. (If you watched, did you notice that Friedman took every position on the Iraq war in his remarks?)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

This Week in the Middle East

Here's a run down of some of the news on, or out of, the Middle East. Let's begin in Britain, where more evidence was unveiled that strongly suggests, if not proves, that Tony Blair knew before the invasion of Iraq that Saddam Hussein had no WMDs, certainly none that threatened the UK or the US, so he sexed up the pre-war dossier. Tony decided to make a surprise visit to Iraq this weekend, and was greeted by the normal spate of mass kidnappings. It's no wonder why Tony's advisers privately think his Labour Party has no chance of winning in the next election.

Meanwhile over in Gaza, there was an assasination attempt on the Foreign Minster of the democratically elected Hamas party, Mahmoud Zahar, which triggered more violence and a call by the leader of the Fatah party, Mahmoud Abbas, for new elections, which call itself has triggered even more violence and the threat of civil war.

At the same time, Lebanon crept ever closer to another civil war, when mass demonstrations by pro-Hezbollah supporters attempted to bring down the pro-US, Christian/Sunni/Druze government as a consequence of the Israeli bombings earlier this year.

In Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad informed the delegates at an international conference questioning the Holocaust that Israel's days were numbered.

The oil-rich nation of Saudi Arabia warned that it might back the Sunnis against the Shiites were the US to pull out of Iraq.

Of course, the big news in the US this week was how it seems all but certain that a "stubborn or stalwart" Bush will ignore the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group and instead double the country's gambling loses in Iraq by a surge of somewhere between 20K and 40K US troops, thus insuring there will be "no graceful exit from Iraq." The primary target of this surge in troops will most assuredly be the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr, the latest antagoniste du jour of the American army. As a part of our democratization project in Iraq, some unknown external entity is now flooding Iraq with anti-Sadr Robo calls, thus preparing the people of Baghdad for the upcoming epic struggle between good and evil. But to quote Bush, "Don't worry, it's not as bad as it looks."

I don't know about you, but I sure do feel assured.



That's Brett Favre's career record against the D-troit Lions at home. After today, likely to be a "perfect" career "season," 16-0. I would describe this as "dominance," except it's more a case of the Lions sucking, especially outdoors, than of Favre's brilliance.

Btw, I'm grading finals right now, but I hope to post later.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


For those of you on this blog still interested in the news from the former western reserve lands of Connecticut, the Board of Trustees at CWRU just announced this week that they have hired a new president for the University -- Barbara Snyder. The current interim president, Greg Eastwood, after having been appointed dictator last spring under dire financial circumstances, seems to have fended off the worst of the barbarians at the gates and will now return to his plough next July. One of the smarter things Eastwood did was reinstate the CWRU brand (sunrise), which once again graces my P-card. Hopefully Snyder will approve Cyrus Taylor to be the Dean of Arts and Sciences, as he is doing a superb job in his interim capacity.


Friday, December 15, 2006

If Nominated, I Will Not Run. If Elected, I Will Not Serve.

If You're Looking for a Football Blog

During my blog hiatus, I noticed that TMcD and Paul like football. Really? Do you mean that an anti-war lyricist and classicist follows the crushing running game of the San Diego SuperChargers? No, just kidding. Paul is a Renaissance man, truly. I mean, he even speaks Italian, which is, you know, where the Renaissance happened. Isn't it? I mean, Italy, not Italian, which isn't a place, but . . . hey, I'm losing my train of thought here.

It must be a Night Train. Like Bobby Lane.

But, OK, OK. I just wanted to post a link to Kissing Suzy Kolber, which is, in my opinion, one of the funniest blogs I've read in awhile. Spencer thinks so, too. Check it out. [Warning: KSK may offend some feminist-oriented readers with cheerleader-related content.]


Too Late for ISG

So, I lost that blogging mojo for a short while. Partly because I had a lot of difficulty trying to write a Graham's passing post, which I eventually determined was impossible, at this time. (Let me say that George's passing did affect me, deeply. But nothing that I feel all that comfortable sharing, right now.) And then there was so much going on, politically, that I didn't have time to focus on one target.

Oh, well. One of those targets is now, officially kaput. The ISG went from the frontpage to nowhere in just about a week. So I guess it's a good thing that I didn't waste my time posting on it.

Stupid f**king Washington Establishment. Bush is going to do what the f**k Bush wants to do, and he ain't gonna listen to Poppy, or Poppy's friends, and he's sure as hell not going to listen to a bipartisan panel. He doesn't listen to the generals--except the ambitious ones who will say what it takes to get promoted, or made Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. (How much of the "war planning" is done by bird colonels, do you think? Come up with the right answers, and there's a star in it for you, boys.) The man. Just. Doesn't. Listen.

Which must have made his faux listening tour last week really pleasant. I really like that most of the sessions lasted 45 minutes. Hell, I can't remember a meeting at my current or former or former former job that lasted only that long. And I haven't been running a war to end evil, or a global struggle against violent extremists, or a long war, or a global war on terror, or Crusade. Not to put too fine a point on it.

OK, that should put the last nail in the ISG coffin. It's one upside: It made it OK for D.C. types and media whores to actually address how shitty things are in Iraq. I guess that that is something. But it's not a change in policy.


Double or Nothing

There's lots of commentary about the wisdom or efficacy of sending more troops to Baghdad. In terms of military strategy, this action is doomed to failure. But regardless of the prospects for success, President Bush must do it for domestic political reasons. He has lost nearly everybody--Democrats, independents, moderates, even the establishment chattering class (represented by Broder)--and he's in danger of losing his right flank, which is all he has left. They are loudly calling for more troops. It is the basis of the John McCain candidacy. The war architects at the The Weekly Standard and the American Enterprise Institute demand it. If these people are disappointed in Bush, he will have no one left. Bush's entire presidency has so far been based on never alienating the base. Remember, these are the Mayberry Machiavellis. So "double or nothing" it will be.

--Post by Number Three (as dictated)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

God Rebukes American Voters, Smites SD Senator

Washington Post

Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) suffered a debilitating brain hemorrhage yesterday while meeting with reporters in Washington. He is currently in critical condition following surgery, and it is unlikely that he will be able to resume his full responsibilities in the Senate. The hemorrhage is a clear sign that God is angry with American voters for having delivered Congress to the Democrats in November's elections.

According to a senior White House official, God could not stomach the prospect of Harry Reid (D-Sin City) controlling the Senate agenda. "Reid once went to a boxing match in Las Vegas while voting on legislation concerning the sport," said the official. "I imagine there were prostitutes present. God disapproved, so he opened up a can of whoop-ass on Johnson. It's the only reasonable explanation."

Other officials and some independent analysts disputed that theory, however. William Kristol, writing for the Weekly Standard, held that it was more likely God was calling for America to increase its troop presence in Iraq: "G-d saw that our strategy in Iraq was working, and He wanted to send a message to both the defeatists in the Baker-Hamilton commission and to the American people, who have been stabbing themselves in the back ever since the November elections." Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) echoed Kristol's view. "Now is not the time to retreat. I hope that Sen. Johnson has now learned his lesson so that God can spare him further public humiliations."

Whatever God's motives for smiting Johnson, both sides agreed that it would be a violation of God's will for South Dakota's Republican governor to nominate a Democrat to replace Johnson. According to the senior White House official, "God has made his preference known, and the American people need to accept His judgment. The Senate was meant to be controlled by Dick Cheney. Anything less would usher in the Apocalypse, which would surely mean fire, death and destruction in Babylon for which the American people would be to blame. Or maybe the Iraqis. I'll get back to you on that."

The smiting has placed much of Washington, D.C. in a state of panic and confusion. Reached for comment, John Boehner, the House Majority Leader added, "It really is staggering. If God would send His wrath upon a South Dakota Democrat, imagine what he's got in store for Nancy Pelosi."


Greatest Democracy on Earth

Yesterday afternoon Sen. Tim Johnson was hospitalized apparently suffering symptoms of a stroke. He was in brain surgery into the early morning hours today. No physician or surgeon has been authorized to speak to the press about Johnson's condition or the procedure he underwent. No one from Johnson's office, including his taxpayer-paid press secretary, has offered any information since yesteray afternoon. So far, the whole process has been about as transparent as Fidel Castro's health crisis this past summer.

So control of the United States Senate now depends on the health of a single low-profile backbench senator. On a senator whose entire political career has been focused on the well-being of South Dakota, a state of less than 3/4 of a million people (in a country of 300 million). On a senator last elected with less than 170 thousand votes and only 524 more than his major opponent.

The butterfly effect may not determine the weather or any other large-scale system in the physical world, but clearly our politics rests on it.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The President's Instincts

The LA Times rounds up the conflicting advice that the president is receiving on how to proceed in Iraq. Among those recommendations is:

"Some military officers believe that Iraq has become a test of wills, and that the U.S. needs to show insurgents and sectarian militias that it is willing to stay and fight. 'I've come to the realization we need to go in, in a big way,' said an Army officer. 'You have to have an increase in troops…. We have to convince the enemy we are serious and we are coming in harder.'"

In predicting what the president will do, the best bet is just to assume that he will believe whatever he most wants to be true. Increasing troops on the theory that the U.S. needs to display superior "will" fits perfectly into his simplistic worldview. He would want to believe this, even if not one Pentagon sycophant could be found to recommend it. He must make some kind of policy change, just to put to rest the charges that he is merely "staying the course." Therefore, increased troops it is.

Bush is still the same man whom hard line conservative activist Bruce Bartlett once described (at eventual cost of his job) as "dispensing with people who confront him with inconvenient facts." Clearly, he has already dispensed with the Iraq Study Group report. The Bartlett quote, incidentally, comes from the same important 2004 article by Ron Suskind (worth rereading) that recounted the following exchange between Sen. Joe Biden and the President.

''I was in the Oval Office a few months after we swept into Baghdad,'' [Biden] began, ''and I was telling the president of my many concerns'' -- concerns about growing problems winning the peace, the explosive mix of Shiite and Sunni, the disbanding of the Iraqi Army and problems securing the oil fields. Bush, Biden recalled, just looked at him, unflappably sure that the United States was on the right course and that all was well. '''Mr. President,' I finally said, 'How can you be so sure when you know you don't know the facts?'''

Biden said that Bush stood up and put his hand on the senator's shoulder. ''My instincts,'' he said. ''My instincts.''

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

An Echo, not a Voice

Buried deep in today's Washington Post is this eyebrow raising line:

"Young Saudi men have joined the Sunni insurgency as foreign fighters, while there have been persistent reports that Saudi citizens have provided financial aid to the Sunni insurgency."

We constantly hear about Iran's involvement in Iraq, but almost nothing about Saudi Arabia's. The Saudis sympathize with the deposed Sunni minority and are fearful of Shiite power in Iraq, and Saudi Arabia's interests are to some extent aligned with the anti-American insurgency. By contrast, Iran has good relations with the government that the U.S. installed in Iraq's Green Zone and undoubtedly wants it to consolidate its power over the country. Why, one wonders, would Iran's involvement in Iraq get so much more news coverage and spark so much more "alarm"? Why is there so much more concern about the unguarded Iranian border? Saudia Arabia shares 500 miles of border with Iraq and its citizens infiltrate Iraq for the specific purpose of fighting Americans. Why is there so much more interest in Iran on today's news, editorial, and opinion pages?

The answer is blindingly obvious. The powers-that-be in Washington have more interest in news stories demonizing Iran. And the news media echo and accommodate the priorities of those powers that be. Media attention thus is strategically directed to advance that agenda. The voice of the U.S. news media today is little more than an echo chamber for powerful interests and public officials.

Monday, December 11, 2006

An Unsinkable Titan-ic

Vince Young. What can I say that hasn't been said already? Those of you living in other parts of the country (or world) may not have gotten to see the young QB play, at least not since he took the Texas Longhorns to the NCAA national championship last year.

Holy cow. The Titans started this year 0-5, featuring some dramatic drubbings at the hands of Dallas, San Diego and others. The ship was taking on water and sinking fast, with new locker-room feuds and off-field arrests popping up every week. So they turned the reins over to the rookie in week 4, after which he lost his first two games. Since then, he's been a man possessed and getting better every week. The Titans have won 6 of their last 8, including four in a row: a whipping of the Eagles in Philly, then last second wins against the Giants, the Colts, and the Texans. Against the Giants, Young led the Titans back from a 21-0 deficit in the fourth quarter; the Colts win was also a come-from-behinder, capped by a 60-yard field goal. And Young ended the Texans game yesterday with a 39-yard TD run in overtime, giving him 86 yards rushing for the game to go along with more than 200 passing yards.

Young has some bad throwing mechanics, and he scared some teams away before the draft with his rock bottom score on the Wunderlik intelligence test. But the man is a natural leader and unflappable under pressure. He looks like a man among boys, quite a feat for a rookie. Right now, at least, he looks like a future Hall of Famer.

Baker Report

The following is sung to the tune of Gerry Rafferty's Baker Street.

Readin' your way through the Baker Report,
Light in your head and attention span short
Well another crazy day
Daydream more meetings away
And then forget about everything.
That city in the desert makes you feel so cold
You've got so many plans but you've got no goal
And it's taking you so long
To find out you were wrong
When you thought you’ld outsmart your dad.

You used to think that it would be so easy
You used to say that it would be so easy
But your polls are sinkin'
Your polls are sinkin' low.
Another year and then you’ll still be losin’,
Just two more years and then you'll still be losin’,
And they'll be cryin',
They'll be dyin' like now.

Way down in Jordan al-Maliki’s at the king’s place
He closes the door he's got that look on his face
And he tells you where to go
And with you he can’t be seen
Nor will he talk talk to you about anything.

He's got this dream about rulin’ those lands,
But you’re gonna make him give up the reins over his death-squad bands
And then you’ll push al-Hakim to settle down that crazy explodin’ town
And he’ll fail at everything.

But you know you’ve always gotta keep stayin'
You know you’re never gonna stop stayin’,
Cuz you’re the Decider,
You’re the Decider-in-Chief.

And when you wake up it’s a new mornin'
The bombs are burstin’ it's a new morning
And more civilians are cryin’
More soldiers dyin’ for what?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

In Memoriam: George J. Graham, Jr.

Marxo-Straussianism has lost its greatest advocate. OK, its only advocate. As most of you have heard by now, the eminent political theorist, Vandy's George Graham, died on Thursday after a battle with lung cancer. He had kept teaching all the way up to Thanksgiving break, and few people knew he had taken a dramatic turn for the worse. He was 66.

George was a large man, both in terms of his physical presence and the long shadow he cast over the Vandy Political Science Department. Although he always seemed to be working on three projects simultaneously (e.g., a book on "consensus," a James Wilson biography, a critique of deconstruction based on Hungarian political culture, etc.), he never published much, a fact attributable partly to his perfectionism and partly to the string of painful medical conditions that hampered his scholarly activity in his prime. But he never faltered in devotion to his students, his department, and his university. Strangely, for a cultivated cynic, he was a unflinching institutionalist, a team player, and a respecter of human difference. For a cranky curmudgeon, he spoke as a voice of optimism and reconciliation in a department that was frequently riven by factional bitterness. A walking, talking paradox of a man.

Could a Marxo-Straussian be anything else? Sure, a lot of Straussian neo-cons were former Marxists, but only George tried to be a fellow traveler to Karl and Leo simultaneously. Before the workers can revolt, they have to count up the number of chapters in the Das Kapital, divide by 13, and look for the hidden code found in the middle of the text. Difficult, pompous, smirking, gregarious, joyous, and welcoming. I'll never really understand him, but I'll certainly miss him.

I Smell a Terrorist!

The Nashville Tennessean reports today that American Airlines Flight 1053 made an emergency landing at Nashville International Airport on Monday morning after passangers smelled matches burning. Apparently that's not all they detected:

Bomb sniffing dogs found spent matches. The FBI questioned a passanger who admitted she struck the matches in an attempt to conceal body odor.

The woman had a medical condition that made her exceptionally gassy. She was removed from the plane and has now been banned from flying. And, no, I'm not making this up.

Strange Bedfellows, Islamic Revolution Edition

Is it just me, or was it terribly strange for the president of the United States to hold a White House meeting with, um, the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) yesterday? The photo of Bush sitting next to Hakim, dressed in his Ayatollah Khomeini garb, was pretty shocking. I mean, here's a president who won't talk to actual Iranian officials, but he's more than willing to roll out the red carpet for a close, close ally of Iran. This guy might not be in the Axis of Evil, but he's a fellow traveller, at least, no?

Don't get me wrong. I think that we should have direct talks with Iran. But the president ordinarily doesn't, right? And where was the wingnut outrage? Did I miss it?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

You say you want a revolution?

On March 20, 2003 the US invasion of Iraq began. Five days later George Bush stated, "Yes, if you heard the bombs falling, you'll know that democracy is on the march in the Middle East." This was dubya-ed the Purple Revolution. Later that same year in November, we had the Rose Revolution in Georgia with some US support. A year later, in November of 2004 to January of 2005, democratic forces with the support of the US took to the streets of Ukraine and brought about the Orange Revolution. A month later, again with US support, we had the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, which brought to power the US-backed government of Siniora and kicked out the Syrians (and also limited Hezbollah, and thus fully representative Muslim participation). At the end of 2005, the new Iraqi government was voted in and the world awaited the impending Palestinian election a month later. Throughout this period we heard a lot about how democracy was on the march and the real solution.

But then in January of 2006 something funny happened on the way to the bazaar. The Hamas government was actually elected by a majority of Palestinians and the US and Israel refused to recognize it. Evidently democracy is OK, so long as the party you support wins. One month later on February 22, the gilded dome of one of Iraq's holiest Shiite mosques was attacked and what wheels were left on the Iraqi democratic bus fell off. Meanwhile, Russia hit back at Ukraine and Georgia by manipulating energy prices and Putin has begun assassinating his enemies. And then in July Israel bombed, invaded, and withdrew from Lebanon to rid it of what remained of Hezbollah's and Iranian/Syrian influence. Since then, more anti-Syrian politicians and reporters have been assassinated and Lebanon has fractured. The result of this fracturing has reached a critical juncture this week with Hezbollah supporters pouring into the streets to take down the Siniora government and to garner a more representative number of seats in any newly formed "unity government." Sort of funny that we no longer hear politicians and pundits touting how democracy is on the march in the Middle East. Or was the only thing that was really ever on the march there the American military?