"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Only The High Points

I simply must bring the comment by Frank in the post below up to the fore here. It almost made me spit coffee all over my damn computer. Talking of new US Iraq Czar L. Paul Bremmer:

Fer god's sake, put Koffi back on the speed dial. I don't think we're going to get any "I don't know who he was, but he sure cleaned up this town" from any Iraqis.

Hoo! If you're in the mood for another laugh, check out what happens when a Faux News anchor tries to dis my American Idol, Paul Krugman. Here's the whole rant from Neil Cavuto. An excerpt:

First off, Mr. Krugman, let me correct you: I'm a host and a commentator, just like you no doubt call yourself a journalist and a columnist. So my sharing my opinions is a bad thing, but you spouting off yours is not?

The tenor of the whole this is like that, shrill/macho "you call yourself a journalist?" This serves nicely to highlight Cavuto's jerkof status. Earth to Neil: Paul Krugman isn't a journalist. He's an economist who writes an opinion column for the Times. The precise point he was making is that Faux News dangerously blurs the lines between news and opinion by having so many anchor/commentators.

Emerging from Murdoch's sewer, try taking a back in sheer inspired brilliance with this piece by Kurt Vonnegut, which is all about great Americans like Twain and Lincoln. Here's a hot Lincoln quote:

"Trusting to escape scrutiny by fixing the public gaze upon the exceeding brightness of military glory, that attractive rainbow that rises in showers of blood -- that serpent's eye, that charms to destroy, he plunged into war."

He was talking about James K. Polk (the Napoleon of the stump), but it seems awfully timely to me. Speaking of our current Chimp in Cheif, my buddie Robbie had this to say in an email today:

People seem not to have seen through or grown tired of GWB and his automaton-style telepromter reading skills. He reads to where the line break on the prompter is and pauses for the next line to come up, and somehow people have confused this with passion, commitment and an informed point of view.

Zang! In a final roundup, the increasingly irrellevant Democratic Leadership Council has been circulating a memo dissing my man Howard Dean on highly fatuous grounds. For those of you not qute at slavishly political as I, the DLC made a name for itself by powering Clinton's 1992 candidacy. Since then they've grown even more screw-balled; today they're convinced that Leiberman fever can sweep the nation. Too bad for the DLC that Clinton isn't with them on the Dean-bashing tip.

If this pisses you off, you can write the DLC or (even quicker) sign this letter. I did both.

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Breakfast in Iraq

If you want to make a big Iraqi omlette, you have to shoot a few eggs on sight so that the word gets around.

Seriously. In case you havn't heard, our new tactic to bring order to the tumultuous streets of Iraq is summary execution. Under a change in policy from the new overseer, L. Paul Bremmer, G.I.s are authorized to use deadly force on looters or people committing violent crimes. According to Bremmer, "They are going to start shooting a few looters so that the word gets around." Kind of speaks to the new bigman's attitude. Sounds almost Saddamesque.

The whole Iraqi debacle has been marked reapeatedly by comic-book flourishes -- evil-dooers, deadly poisons, underground laboratories, righteous crusade -- so I suppose no one should be surprised at this Judge Dredd turn of events. Still, this is a terrible idea. First of all, anyone shot by US Forces will become an insta-martyr for anti-American agitators, regardless of the circumstances. Secondly, few Army personnel understand the Iraqi language or culture; as such it's only a matter of time before some misunderstanding turns deadly.

Due to the lack of a local authority, I'm afraid heavy-handed measures like this will create more instability and violence than they supress. Moreover, one has to wonder, how are the decisions made? Is it just up to the individual solder or squad leader to decide, and if so, what kinds of solders will make the choice to fire in what kinds of situations? How will uses of deadly force be reviewed, if at all? How will this affect the relationship between the G.I.s and the people? Seems like a big can of worms to me. Unless we're prepared to go all the way with this iron-fist routine (and I sincerely hope we're not), we aught not to set off down that road.

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Bizy Times

Well, I emailed everyone I know my Howard Dean Endorsement, then I bought a ticket to Burning Man (which should cap my West Coast summer nicely), and now I'm cramming in a little more work before going to watch a taping of the Daily Show and then paint some opera sets into the night. Just another Outlandish Tuesday.

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Signs of the Times

Here's the billboard that's gone up across the expressway from my house:

PBA Billboard

While I realize this is an attempt by the PBA to cash in on the war for donations, the overall message here -- linking the NYPD with the military -- gives me the creeps. Cops with shotguns and guys in cammo with M-1s, just what we need more of in the city. It wasn't too long ago people were talking about cops who live on Long Island and patrolling in NYC as part of an "occupying army." They meant that in a bad way at the time. The times, they are a changin'.

But which way? For all the doom and gloom and emptyheaded emperial patriotism that's around, I still see glimmers of hope. The NY Review of Books has two scathing articles on the coverage of the war in the US media, one short, one long. Also, Democrats in TX have been on the run (in a good way) after abandoning the legeslature to prevent a vote that would re-district them into oblivion (7 years before redistricting is required and at the beheist of GOP puppetmaster Karl Rove, I might add). They're literally fugatives. That takes some spine.

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I need to sublet my apartment for July and August. Here's the relavent Craigslisting. Drop me a line if you have any questions.

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Are We Family?

I'm going to go off on politics and foreign policy in a second, but while I'm on the topic in general, here's some required viewing. Please forward this to anyone and everyone: a chart showing the distribution of benefits for the presidents dividend tax cut. Please also note, the notion that a dividend tax is some form of "double taxation" is simply wrong. It's a language game -- like "death tax" or "evil doer" -- designed to generate political support. But enough of that. On to the main issue.

My man Robbie Everett, who generously provided the big map for my party this weekend, emailed me this morning asking me as a favor in return to track down the hoax/truth status of the "Robin Williams Peace Plan" that's been circulating. Your answer is here (hoax, but click to read the "plan").

What strikes me as most quixotic -- or depressing, depending on my mood -- about the "Robin Williams Peace Plan" is just how bad a peace plan it. I understand that it's intended to be humorous, but only Faux News devotees would find any of the "zingers" within it even worthy of a chuckle. I would do a point-by-point breakdown, but that would require a second cup of coffee. Maybe later.

Reminds me, though, of Metaphor and War, Again, that very interesting essay from alternet which explored why and how people become misinformed about things -- e.g. Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11 -- and why giving them "the facts" is usually not enough to adjust their world view. The author, correctly insofar as I can tell, asserts that the metaphorical framework that surrounds an issue is far more important in terms of how the public receives it than the actual substantive details themselves. He talks about how the nations-as-people metaphor is used to tell stories with heroes and villains in order to sell war.

The connection for me is that the main (or meta) problem with the "peace plan" is its foundation in the binary, zero-sum meme of "us right, you wrong" which is so prevalent in the conservative media and bathroom graffiti these days. It would seem that any sober analysis of history and current international relationships would conclude that as far as nations are concerned, everyone is wrong. Certainly some nations are more wrong than others, but I can't think of a single nation that's above reproach. Even the Canadians persecuted the Innuit people at one point, if I recall.

I've been mulling over this for quite some time, trying to think of an alternative to the hero/villain story which still makes use of the nations-as-people basis (which is with us, for better or worse). The other night after reading Joe Sacco's "Palestine" -- you should check out Sacco if you haven't already: he's the brilliant cartoonist equivalent of an intrepid photojournalist -- I thought maybe the family might work. Not the fantasy nuclear family, but rather the extended, sprawling, fractured, step/in-law, dysfunctional post-modern reality.

Families are messed up, and most of all they have history, good and bad. In real families, while there are leaders and black sheep, no one is "good" and no one else is "evil." There are times when people are right and people are wrong, but there is no unshakable blanket statement, no "evil--doers" or crusading saviors. Real families are complex, and the solutions to their problems require humility, communication, compromise. I don't know. Maybe, this is a completely half-baked idea (I know it's not original), but maybe it's worth elaborating on a touch in the future.

Finally, in case you've missed it in the past week. Things are going bad in Iraq. A number of US solders were killed, some in accidents, some by snipers, some just gunned down in broad daylight. The occupation team is being shuffled -- all the top people, Gardner, Bodine, etc -- are being replaced, as nearly a month after the end of major combat the country is continuing to disintigrate. Rumsfeld is trying to limit visits to the region by Congresspeople to 2 hours in-and-out. Looting continues. No WMD have been found, and the Army Expiditionary Force that's in charge of searching for them is being dismantled. Bad news all around. There are stll some causes for hope, but the current trend is far from encouraging.

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Rattle them Bones

I'm an old man now. What a great party last night. We had booze, we had music, we drew on a giant map. My sister gave me a haircut so I look boyish once more. Many friends were there, and I'll post some pictures soon. I got a little cranky at the end -- still a bit sick -- when I felt it was time to go to bed and there were still dertermined beer-drinkers about. In any case, it was a grand old time, and I felt the birthday love.

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Today is my Birthday

Happy birthday to me. Today I'm 24, and I'm having a party.

Also, here's Billbo Baggens' photo tribute.

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Open Antagonism

As part of our new "open antagonism towards FoxNews and all it's instruments," here's this tidbit: the staunchly pro-us network my be banned in the UK for falling afoul of impartiality rules, as The Guardian reports. Fair and balanced indeed.

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He's really f'in something, this Blogger from Baghdad. Describing a more militarized area of the Iraqi capital, where hand grenades sell for $0.25 on the street:

The streets markets look like something out of a William Gibson novel. Heaps of cheap RAM (stolen of course) is being sold beside broken monitors beside falafel stands and weapons are all available. Fights break out justlikethat and knives come out from nowhere, knives just bought 5 minutes ago. There are army sighting thingys, Weird looking things with lenses. And people selling you computer cases who tell you these are electric warmers, never having seen a computer case before. Really truly surreal.

American civil administration in Iraq is having a shortage of Bright ideas. I keep wondering what happened to the months of "preparation" for a "post-saddam" Iraq. What happened to all these 100-page reports, where is that Dick Cheney report? Why is every single issue treated like they have never thought it would come up?

Salam Pax is an international treasure. I can't stress enough how amazing and unique an opportunity it is for a worldwide audience to read the candid observations of even one actual Iraqi citizen. Gives me the good feeling, even when the picture he paints is less than sunny. That's something I can agree on with most of my conservative netizen bretheren: information is a good thing.

You know, I don't think of myself as a doom and gloom lefty, one who's always complaining and seeing the end of the world in the cards. Though things look bleak at times, and I'll admit I've frankly considered expatriating -- counting on Canada or my Dutch connections -- if we get four more years of Team Bush, I'm always on the lookout for silver linings. Salam Pax, Chris Albritton's Back to Iraq and The Agonist (esp. at its wartime peak of a post about every two minutes) all point to the possiblity of a brighter, equitably global, citizen-centric future. It seems at least possible, if less than certain, that the information revolution and seemingly unstoppable metamorphosis of globalization can make the world a better place for the people who live here.

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