seeking knowledge and laughter, putting a bullseye on inaccuracy

Politics & Religion

Thoughts on the two - frequently both.

I Agree with Wolfowitz??

Mark Bowden interviews Paul Wolfowitz in the current Atlantic (subscription required). I have long agreed with those who find Wolfowitz a possibly brilliant but definitely deluded man. I change my opinion little on the first page of the interview as it turns out Wolfowitz still believes the insurgency to be the work of brutal Hussein loyalists rather than a hodge-podge of nationalists, jihadists, people just generally pissed at the occupation, and perhaps a sprinkling of the aforementioned loyalists.

Turning to page 2, I find an Wolfowitz making an observation I have long danced around without ever finding a way to put it succinctly.

When a Polish interviewer suggested that his policy was about "exporting democracy," Wolfowitz objected. "'Export of democracy' isn't really a good phrase," he said. "We're trying to remove the shackles on democracy."

Democracy is not a Western invention - I believe all people have wanted more power/control over their own lives perhaps since the beginning of civilization and definitely since the birth of tyranny.

It's odd to get major insights from a person with whom you could not disagree more (although I might be willing to try).

In other "War on Terror" related news, an Italian Judge is looking for some CIA folks who abducted a Muslim as part of the CIA's rendition program. I have discussed this program in the past.

In Iraq, it seems that the CIA now believes Iraq is creating more jihadists than Afghanistan -- and more brutal ones. Duh. I have no doubt we will soon see a book by Regnery Press that explains why Democrats / liberals / Hollywood is to blame.

Another Fallows Coup

It seems like each issue of The Atlantic is better than the previous. Fallows has an article in the current issue (subscribers only) which does a better job of explaining the current and future problems of the American economy in easily accessible ways. His explanation of the problems between U.S. / China trade relations simplify the concepts to such an extent, I have to wonder why others complicate it so. Perhaps he has oversimplified, I am in no position to make a judgement on that. Here is a sample:

In normal circumstances economic markets have a way of dealing with families, companies, or countries that chronically overspend. For families or companies that way is bankruptcy. For countries it is a declining currency. By normal economic measures the American public was significantly overspending in the early 2000s. For every $100 worth of products and services it consumed, it produced only about $95 worth within our borders. The other $5 worth came from overseas. Normally an imbalance like this would push the dollar steadily down as foreigners with surplus dollars from selling oil or cars or clothes in America traded them for euros, yuan, or yen. As demand for dollars fell and their value decreased, foreign goods would become more expensive; Americans wouldn't be able to afford as many of them; and ultimately Americans would be forced to live within the nation's means.

He goes on to say that China has gone out of its way to make sure Americans are not forced to live within our means - and explains why. I think this article alone is worth the year's subscription.

Take That

From the May/June Issue of Columbia Journalism Review comes an exchange between the Newsweek Baghdad Bureau chief during an online chat.

Q: Do you mean "F---ing Murderers" when you say "insurgents" and "fighters" in your STUPIDITY? I've grown sick and tired of you "politically incorrect" reporters. Why don't you have the gumption to call a spade a spade?

A: OK, you're an idiot. How's that?


I had never heard of the PBS television show Frontline until a few days ago when I read about their coverage of the situation in Iraq. CJR recommended a couple of the episodes and I am watching one now. You can watch these episodes online for free.

A Company of Soldiers follows a company in Iraq during November, 2004. Most of the news I have seen from Iraq tends to be confusing and not give a sense of what it is like to be a soldier serving in Iraq. I think this series does a good job of that.

I think it does a good job of showing why U.S. forces are struggling. One night, the company gets ambushed by insurgents. No troops are hurt, one civilian dies from an unknown bullet, and the insurgents escape cleanly. U.S. troops sweep the area trying to find the insurgents - asking the local people about "bad people" (ali baba in broken Arabic). The troops lose no lives, no damage to equipment - but can not have gained any friends among locals. If anything, the dead civilian and their intrusion into the lives of the locals will only piss off the locals.

Watching their encounters with local leaders in the community, I am struck that the soldiers wear reflective sunglasses while having important discussions via translators with locals. I would think that alone would be a major annoyance for a local Sheik or Mayor that has to deal with these young men, armed to the teeth, without seeing their eyes.

Friedman Counterpoint

Ted Rall offers a counterpoint to Friedman's worries about the low number of engineers and scientists among American students. Rall basically says we should let the rest of the world have them.

Ultimately, I tend not to be swayed by people who try to sway big-picture arguments with anecdotes and personal experiences. Not that one should discount personal experiences and such, but I personally am not going to believe that all scientific jobs suck because Ted Rall had some bad experiences.

Downing Street Memo Stuff

Liberals have been talking about the smoking gun with the release of the Downing Street Memo. This memo, as well as these British Briefing Papers strongly suggest what many of us have taken for granted for years now. Bush ignored the advice of not only the British, but also critical areas of his own government [see my post of this last year]. Bush rushed to war against Iraq for reasons that had nothing to do with the so-called "War on Terror."

Now we have more evidence to back this case.

"U.S. scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and al-Qaida is so far frankly unconvincing," Ricketts says in the memo. "For Iraq, `regime change' does not stack up. It sounds like a grudge between Bush and Saddam."

The question I keep asking is whether these memos will change the mind of any of Bush's supporters and I suspect they do not. Many will be unwilling to believe anything bad about Bush regardless of what evidence they see. New Patriot blogger Luke sums this sentiment up nicely.

Conservatives combine a toxic mixture of historical blindness and unlimited faith in their leaders. Mitch and his pals at Power Line show this to a fault. No amount of evidence (or lack of evidence) will ever convince them they were wrong about Iraq. No civilian body count will ever convince them that it was wrong to overthrow a horrible, but stable, dictatorship that was not a threat to us. No level of abuse by US soldiers at Abu Ghraib, Bagran, or Guantanamo will ever convince them that we have lost the moral high ground. No recruiting failure will ever convince them that this war has lost its support. No terrorist attack anywhere in the world will be seen as a failure to combat Al Qaeda. No future civil war or theocratic regime in Iraq will ever be blamed on Bush's failed policy.

Finally. Omigod. If you know anything about the Story of Job, read this updated version using events in Iraq. If you do not know about the book of Job, you'll have lots of time to read it while rotting in hell. Tee heee

Bush V Jesus

What would a Bush campaign against Jesus look like? Mad Magazine offers an idea - you can find the graphic over at the New Patriot blog. This is well worth the click.

Here and There

Another article detailing British warnings that SOP in Iraq is creating worse problems. The British encourage the American military to adopt stricter rules for using force. They worry that U.S. actions are causing too many Iraqis to support the insurgents. Duh. They seem to know a bit about this stuff from experience in North Ireland. We should know it also from Vietnam. But we learned all the wrong lessons from that situation it seems. That is what happens when you can do no wrong and you are being guided by a higher power.

Meanwhile, the House of Reps voted to edit the Patriot Act so the gov can't spy on Americans via library and bookstore records. Not sure what it will amount to. In some ways, I think removing the most heinous aspects of the Patriot Act is a bad idea because it will allow the rest of it to continue - which should be intolerable to anyone who values the rhetoric of the Founding Fathers. Does reforming the Patriot Act make removing it more difficult? I dunno but I suspect it does.

Pulse offers an interview with Iraqi labor organizers who discuss the situation in Iraq. Some interesting information in there - some of which dovetails nicely with the writings of John Perkins in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. The corporations doing business in Iraq are not helping Iraq so much as they are helping themselves. On instance of this is the way they tend to not employ Iraqis - ensuring a high unemployment rate and keeping money flowing out of Iraq.

Citizen Journalism

Dan Gillmor's blog had an interesting post regarding citizen journalism in which he highlights 4 principles of journalistic ideals. I think this is something that bears repeating.

First is thoroughness. When I was writing news for a living, I was always happiest when I wrote 10 percent of what I'd learned: the most important 10 percent.

Second, accuracy. Check facts. Attribute to credible sources what you can't check yourself. And tell your readers what you don't know, if it's important, not just what you do.

Third, fairness. This is more ambiguous, but we all know when we're being fair and when we are not.

Finally, transparency. I'm not saying journalists should necessarily reveal everything about themselves, but if they bring any bias to the story it should be disclosed.

Nothin New

I just read a really good article which could have been directed at me. It totally refutes the view that I and many others hold regarding fundamentalist relgious types (especially the Christian kind) -- namely that we can just ignore them and they will slowly disappear over time because their position is so absurd. In the long run, reason wins ... right? Not necessarily it seems. Or maybe I'm not willing to wait for the end of the long term.

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