Sunday, March 25, 2007

War Porn

On the Media, had a report on a new military program which posts videos of the occupation in Iraq. They are using professionally shot videos and putting them on YouTube. As one might expect, the videos always show the US and Iraqi forces in a good light and while I do take issue with the military for posting these videos, I was more frustrated with the interviewer, Bob Garfield, for these reasons:
  1. At no point did Garfield bring up the fact that the Pentagon prevents the press from showing military funerals or bodies returning from Iraq. I know that the officer in charge of the program is not responsible for this decision, but the audience deserves to hear about it.
  2. Garfield never established why this program was started, when it is fairly clear that this acts as a recruitment tool. This is incredibly problematic, as the target for these videos are young kids who will fall in love with the action.
These are substantive criticisms, I wish Garfield had made them.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Show Must Go On

The New York Times has an article about a drama class in Wilton, CT that wrote a play about the war in Iraq. Unfortunately, the principal is not letting the students show the play:

But even as 15 student actors were polishing the script and perfecting their accents for a planned April performance, the school principal last week canceled the play, titled “Voices in Conflict,” citing questions of political balance and context.

The principal, Timothy H. Canty, who has tangled with students before over free speech, said in an interview he was worried the play might hurt Wilton families “who had lost loved ones or who had individuals serving as we speak,” and that there was not enough classroom and rehearsal time to ensure it would provide “a legitimate instructional experience for our students.”

“It would be easy to look at this case on first glance and decide this is a question of censorship or academic freedom,” said Mr. Canty, who attended Wilton High himself in the 1970s and has been its principal for three years. “In some minds, I can see how they would react this way. But quite frankly, it’s a false argument.”

I doubt the same thing would be happening if this were a play that celebrated the war in Iraq. And if it were, I would guarantee that the Right Wing nutjobs would be all over this story and would take it on as a pet project. Hell, John Gibson and Bill O'Reilly would both write books about it.
Yet, even after 4 years of this failed war, we cannot really talk about it. No one is allowed to talk about the damage it has caused or its horrors. We are all left to sit on our hands and kindly shut the hell up. Any honest assessments are thought to demoralize the troops or offend the delicate sensibilities of the supports for this war.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Powerful Media Effects

This quote is up at Daily Kos, but I think it bears repeating here:
Fox News viewers supported George Bush over John Kerry by 88 percent to 7 percent. No demographic segment, other than Republicans, was as united in supporting Bush. Conservatives, white evangelical Christians, gun owners, and supporters of the Iraq war all gave Bush fewer votes than did regular Fox News viewers.
I know Fox tilts conservative, but wow.

Night at the movies

My lovely wife and I went to the 'talkies' this evening and saw The Lives of Others. I highly recommend catching this movie. As opposed to most movies which make a cliche out of humanity, this one makes an earnest attempt to explore it.

btw, apparently the old East Germany was REALLY BAD, who knew?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I don't like being right about this

As noted in my post below, I am doubtful that the press will do a very good job of reporting on the US attorney scandal. Unfortunately, the New York Times provides some evidence for my point. What is even worse is that they provide some political cover for the Bush administration, by making this about attorneys who weren't doing their job:

As the months passed and the list was refined, a broad range of parties provided comment, either by directly naming prosecutors or raising an issue that touched on them.

J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, then speaker of the House, for example, appeared in one exchange among Bush administration officials inquiring why the United States attorney’s office in Arizona was apparently not prosecuting marijuana possession cases involving less than 500 pounds.

Representative Lamar Smith, Republican of Texas, also asked a White House official to explain why prosecutors were pursuing charges against illegal immigrants only if they had been counted entering the country illegally eight or more times.

Nowhere in the article, do the reporters mention why this is such a problem. Namely, the Bush administration was using a little noticed clause in the PATRIOT Act which allowed for the replacement of vacant US Attorney posts.

This is the entire reason why so many folks are up in arms about this. They used this provision to play a political game, by doing this secretively they were able to circumvent Congressional approval. This is about the executive branch taking more and more power.


I have been trying to follow the US Attorney mess and if you have the time, I really recommend getting up to speed on it (here). Details are coming out, almost hourly, which indicate that the Bush administration was very very bad. Here is the newest:

The e-mails released Tuesday revealed that the firings were considered and discussed for two years by Justice Department and White House officials. The issue first arose in a February 2005 discussion between Sampson and Miers, officials said. At the time, Miers suggested the possibility of firing all 93 U.S. attorneys. Such purges of the political appointees often come at the beginning of a new president's administration, not midway through.

The e-mails show Sampson discouraged the across-the-board housecleaning but began a review to weed out prosecutors whom the administration deemed to be performing poorly.

In a Sept 13, 2006, e-mail to Miers, Sampson listed one prosecutor, Bud Cummins in Little Rock, as "in the process of being pushed out." Five others — in Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, San Diego and Seattle — were listed as U.S attorneys "we should now consider pushing out."

Four days later, Miers responded: "Kyle, thanks for this. I have not forgotten I need to follow up on the info but things have been crazy."

Sampson then drew up an elaborate five-step plan to replace the targeted prosecutors with as little political fallout as possible, which he sent in a Nov. 15, 2006, e-mail to Miers, deputy White House counsel William K. Kelley and McNulty.

"We'll stand by for a green light from you," Sampson wrote to Miers and Kelley. Upon getting their approval, Sampson wrote, he asked that they "circulate it to Karl's shop" — which officials confirmed was a reference to Karl Rove, Bush's top political adviser and deputy chief of staff.

White House approval came a month later.

"We're a go for the US Atty plan," Kelley wrote in a Dec. 4, 2006, e-mail to Sampson and Miers. "WH leg, political, communications have signed off and acknowledged that we have to be committed to following through once the pressure comes."

I am not exactly sure what is going to come of this. There is lots of talk about Alberto Gonzales resigning, but I am inclined to believe that this White House will keep him in office unless something even more ridiculous comes out. Part of the reason for this is, that the press does not cover stories like this very well, I expect that this will be minimized and will allow for some coverage for the Bush team.

We'll see what happens...

Monday, March 05, 2007

I own geography

I got all 50 states in 2 minutes and 56 seconds.

I am awesome.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Maybe it's like the whole N word thing

I don't think I am going to shock anyone when I say that Ann Coulter is a horrible person. But in case you were looking for more evidence there is this:
I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word ‘faggot,’ so I — so kind of an impasse, can’t really talk about Edwards.
In most cases, there would be some kind of uproar about Coulter's language. Unfortunately, there is none. My only alternative explanation for the silence is that Coulter is part of the in-group which makes her language usage okay (how else do you explain the Adam's Apple?).

Thursday, March 01, 2007

David Broder is never right

Two weeks ago David Broder had the following to say:
It may seem perverse to suggest that, at the very moment the House of Representatives is repudiating his policy in Iraq, President Bush is poised for a political comeback. But don't be astonished if that is the case.
Well, let's see what the polls have to say...
Over all, Mr. Bush’s job approval remains at one of its lowest points, with 29 percent of all Americans saying they approve of the way he is doing his job, compared with 34 percent at the end of October. Sixty-one percent disapproved, compared with 58 percent in October, within the margin of sampling error.
So what evidence did Broder have for his astute observation? None. Broder is following the script for President Bush, which is that no matter what the polls say- the American people love the President. For those in the Beltway, they think the President is an authentic American. He is the supposed embodiment of middle American values. We know better.

Incompetence is a hobby for them

After reading Josh Marshall, I am certain that the Bush administration does these things because they think making horrible mistakes is fun. As Josh details, the Bush administration practically went out of their way to get the North Koreans an atomic weapon.

In 1994 the Clinton administration struck a deal with North Korea to get them to stop processing plutonium in exchange for some energy assistance. This deal stayed in place until 2002 when the Bush administration scrapped the deal because they thought the North Koreans were beginning to process uranium instead. turns out the Bush intelligence was wrong and that North Korea was not processing uranium. Yet, in halting the deal the North Koreans were able to restart the processing of plutonium. Which is where they got the material for their current arsenal of nuclear weapons.

As noted in the Frontline episode that I posted about below, this administration believes that any problem can be fixed without referencing an external reality. They completely mismanaged post war Iraq because they believed that a long brutalized people would magically learn to govern themselves. They messed up the North Korean situation because they believed that the right amount of posturing would get the results they needed.

UPDATE: Matt Yglesias offers a nice timeline:
  • The 1994 Agreed Framework froze the DPRK efforts to build a nuclear weapon using plutonium.
  • In 2002, the Bush administration pulled out of the Agreed Framework, arguing that the DPRK was cheating by running a secret parallel uranium program.
  • In the intervening years, the DPRK has succeeded in using its now-unfrozen plutonium program to build some bombs.
  • They have not, however, had any success in building uranium bombs.
  • This looked like pretty shitty policymaking for the Bush administration.
  • It looks much worse, however, after we learn today that the uranium program may never have existed.