Saturday, April 12, 2003
The story about the military's glib decision to put the Iraqi most wanted on a deck of 55 cards reminded me of another set related to the other gulf war:
My mom has the entire set of Desert Storm trading cards. At the time my uncle was fighting over there, and I remember that my mom was pretty intense about it - my Uncle was in an Apache, so I understand better why. She's a big collecting nut so it doesn't surprise me at all that she's still got 'em, carefully protected in binders.
I was a young during the first gulf war, too young to be very politically aware, but I can still remember the yellow ribbons, that damned Lee Greenwood song. Still, when I think of these insane war cards, I don't really see propoganda. Certainly I was in the demographic then that this kind of stuff was aimed at, but even looking at them now they seem neutral, almost objective, possessed of the general naiveté that partially explains why we're there again.
No holograms, but they came with bubble-gum. They only sometimes came with stickers.
posted by kriston at 12:55 PM........
My blog was noted at The Talking Dog! He asked me what kind of dog "designation" I wanted, and you better believe that I specified Chow/Australian Setter mix. Total Wreck-age! (If you want to see the blurb, go to TD and look around for the Gs.) Someone help me get to a scanner so I can put up a picture of Wreck (our hound) posthaste.
posted by kriston at 10:06 AM........
Friday, April 11, 2003
This Volokh post makes me miss Adam.
posted by kriston at 1:34 PM........
Fillibuster, motherf*ers, fillibuster!
Concerning the Bush administration's absurd judicial nominations, a commenter at Talk Left:
I've served as staff counsel to a state appellate court for almost 20 years. I know from personal experience that there are many, many judges at all levels of the state and federal bench who have republican ties, who are judicially conservative, and who are also decent, honorable and fair people. And I say this from a very far left perspective. This cynical attempt to pack/trash the federal courts with an entirely different group, these hard right, mean-spirited not even particularly competent ideologues, is really despicable. I'm hoping the Democratic Senators will continue to fight this as the outrage it is.
I mean, the quality of these two characters (judges Pryor and Holmes) shows the Bush administration to be either brutally negligent or fundamentally opposed to women having even a measure of equality. It all comes down to abortion. I honestly believe that the Bush administration will spend the next 2 to 6 years tirelessly pushing these judges, because disapproving of abortion has come to be a state of catatonia, a zombie dedication to ending abortion by any means necessary, regardless of the rights trampled, conventions flaunted, issues sidelined. The hope of hopes is that the Dems filibuster their asses off and then make a *campaign issue* out of it, make these assholes stand up with their stone tablets and pronounce! pronounce! pronounce! as the ancient patriarchs they fancy themselves to be. I'd be willing to bet that more than 51% of American women do not consider themselves to be the subordinant bitches of these zealots!
posted by kriston at 1:08 PM........
Leave it to the economists to leave the party first. Jane Galt is wasting no time in asking what to do about Iraq's tremendous debts. Jane wonders if oppressed peoples should be asked to pay for "odiuos" debts incurred by their totalitarian rulers:
[I]n this case, I think it's justified. Asking the Iraqi people to pay the bill for the armaments used to oppress them is abhorrent. Most other people I've read agree. Excepting the French, Germans, and Russians, who appear to hold most of the debt that will be repudiated.
I only wish I had the economic grits to jump into this; judging from the comments section, I don't. My irk is that there doesn't seem to be a body established to go to with these questions. The IMF? The WTO? Greenspan, the UN, Wall Street, the bank? Maybe there is and I'm just ignorant, but again, from looking around, it seems to be subjective, which is terribly unfortunate for the helpless people in question.
posted by kriston at 12:30 PM........
Salon writer Gary Kamiya allows himself some indulgent, flourishy celebration, but also confesses to some mixed feelings:
If you have a conscience and a brain, this war is slowly but surely driving you off the deep end. In this most morally complex and ambiguous of conflicts, every judgment, attitude or emotion quickly turns into its opposite. Everything is conditional: from the beginning, long before the first bomb fell, what one should think about this war, from its concept to its reality, has been predicated not on the present, but on the future. This is a strained and frustrating and agnostic and deeply odd state of affairs. And for many of us who oppose the war, it has induced what almost might be called a kind of moral schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia indeed! This emotion sounds very reminiscent of what a lot of Americans felt during Vietnam, and it is as complex and natural as it is disturbing. Hell, like when you wish your parents would go ahead and drop off. There are darker things than political bile.
posted by kriston at 12:07 PM........
Eason Jordan writes about his self-censoring role in CNN's Baghdad bureau, but Volokh digs a little deeper and hears a different tune. I'm sypathetic with Jordan (as is Volokh). I don't think it's incompatible for the man to take a sigh of relief now with the same breath he used then to do his job, which, at the end of the day, was to promote good journalism and CNN. His comments are frustrating because American journalism should be transparent, and when journalists can't maintain their standards, their compromises sound and look like deep ethical violations. Maybe this generation of journalists, exposed now twice to total hostility, will be teaching a few classes on journalistic ethics when they return....
posted by kriston at 11:27 AM........
OK - nothing, nothing, and nothing irritates me more than a bar where you can't smoke. A bar where you can't smoke may as well feature treadmills and no beer. A ban on public smoking in Austin would be an attack on the foundations of sin itself. But that's the direction we're heading, it seems, after Tuesday's city council meeting. (Couldn't track down a related article, so the link is to an older cover story from my alma mater. -ed.)
Still, you would basically have to hate modern science to not support such a ban. People arguing against the ban, by and large, are either profiteers or tobacco addicts (and occasionally the liberal--arguing about the "right" to smoke in public--who is actually a closet or social smoker.) On the side of the ban are those "conservatives" who believe they have a "right" to healthy pulmonary systems (prudes!) and, well, all of modern science.
That being said, the hope beyond hope is that the ban will utterly fail. This will prevent the inevitable carnage that'd occur when you try to pry the cigarette from Austin's cold, dead lips. Austin (and Texas) have aesthetic cores, and public health takes the back seat to our spirit. Real Texans understand this, and Austinites will fight for it--none of us want to end up looking like some east coast health-conscious wheat-grass eating (drinking?) city where they live all stacked up on top of each other like insects. The free range and a pack of Marlboros! God help us if Austin ever became Boston!
Besides, if you meet me on a Saturday night at the kind of bars I go to, the last thing you need to worry about is the cigarette this hombre's smoking...
posted by kriston at 10:51 AM........
Start the day with something light, from a site that calls itself "the black Onion."
posted by kriston at 9:34 AM........
Thursday, April 10, 2003
I've been watching this point float around all day, first at Yglesias, then with Calpundit, and here at Healey. Sounds about right to me. Funny thing is that just the other night I was making the liberal Nature claim at the Posse with Reid, so I guess I'm just as guilty as the next guy.
Still I think these partisan points may be relevant at the end of the day; interpretation of this kind of nature/nurture evidence is what the legal arguments are made of, and the court's where the battle is, right?
posted by kriston at 2:24 PM........
The only detail this Salon article on neoconservatives leaves unclear is which one you're supposed to call Darth Vader. Come on. I don't like them either but it's all too easy and frankly stupid to call the 2000 election a coup and the Bush administration a junta. As much as I disapprove of Bush, I can resist the dark side of the truth.
On another note: Republicans had it so much easier. They hated Clinton. I have to distribute my ire between Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft, Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Bolton, and Libby, at the very least. To lift from Chris Rock: Democrats don't hate neoconservatives. Democrats hate Republicans. We don't have time to dice y'all up into little groups!
posted by kriston at 2:01 PM........
Check out this Salon interview with Paul Berman if you're at all curious as to why I keep talking about him. Here he's a little off-target: "We ought to keep an eye on Halliburton and the Bechtel Corp. and the other American pirates whose interests are not those of the US." (Problem being that Halliburton/Bechtel is at the heart of the Bush administration's interests!) For the most part, the interview is a good indication of his ideas.
posted by kriston at 1:34 PM........
An Yglesias post that makes me wonder if there's any reliable way to differentiate between a Christian fundamentalist and an Islamic fundamentalist, other than by the name of his god. (Setting aside that whole suicide terror thing and the shape of their steeples.)
That Yglesias is a bright kid.
posted by kriston at 12:39 PM........
From a Tapped article on Wolfowitz's doctrine:
In this project, two heroic premises are taken for granted. First, democracy will flower in these nations that have never had Western-style civil societies. Second, the shift to more-democratic rule will coincide with greater friendship for the United States.
I would add a third: that a decline in Islamism will follow the spread of democracy. I know that the worry is if we slip up somehow, the terrorist urge will flower: this may be a given. The converse notion--we be good, they play nice--is hardly so applicable. Osama bin Laden, the Egyptian-based Muslim Brotherhood (from which al Qaeda developed), Sayyid Qutb, and other Islamists point to the Western notion of separating Church and State as so infuriating. All of them cite Turkey's Ataturk, who disbanded the ancient Muslim Caliphate and embraced the West (in 1921), as the straw that broke the camel's back. (Don't ask how they describe Israel....) Liberal democracy may hinder or reverse Pan-Arabist terrorism (like Saddam's), but there's reason to believe that as things get better they may necessarily get worse as far as Islamist terrorism is concerned.
What to do? I remember a War on Terror, but I think it was restrained to the borders of Kabul.
posted by kriston at 12:17 PM........
Assassinations are the greatest threat to stability in the Middle East and now that threat is imminent. I admit to having apocalyptic feelings about this news: mainly because it is so terrible, and also because I've been reading about World War I. Who will be able to say if our presence provoked this? I think that we lack every part of the finesse necessary for the project--the hope has to be with the Iraqis alone. (Or with Tony Blair. Where is he?)
posted by kriston at 11:24 AM........
A funny Bookslut post about the novel/movie Holes, by Austin's own Louis Sachar. I haven't read the book or anything - the only reason that this is funny to me is that every time the commerical for the "Holes" movie comes on tv, Kevin yells, "Fuck them!"
posted by kriston at 10:47 AM........
Unlearned Hand discussing Yglesias discussing nation building in Iraq. There are a lot of reasons to compare what we intend to do in Iraq with what we did with Japan and to some extent Germany, but this nation building enterprise will be fundamentally different. I'm thinking of one reason specifically, and that's because we have not yet won the War on Terror.
Paul Berman points out in Terror and Liberalism (and I'm drastically summarizing) that Islamism and Pan-Arabism are at root "cult of death" psychoses inspired by the fascisms and communisms of the 20th century. (The linkage is not flimsy pet theory - look at the glut of assassinations that got the ball rolling for Europe as well as the Middle East; widespread academic study of Lenin-Stalinism in Egypt and Saudi Arabia; the influential writing of Sayyid Qutb; other factors as well.) Considering how completely either Pan-Arabism or Islamism is rooted in nearly every Muslim country, the problem is a little worse than a "hornet's nest." I've said it a couple of times, but I think the difficuly democracy faces in the Middle East is similar to the difficulty democracy would have faced post-WWII had the Nazis not been crushed.
posted by kriston at 10:26 AM........
This has nothing to do with anything else I've written recently--just an article I came across that Stephanie sent me a while ago. After reading it a few times, I'm not sure what to make of it... there's a certain bizarre tone to the writer's voice that seems detached in just the Russian way. It gave me a vivid impression of certain days and events from the time I spent in Moscow.
Sorokin's story is particularly compelling to me. While I was in Moscow I looked hard for different versions of his books. I was trying to find a nice version of Blue Lard for Susan since she had written about him in her thesis. (Ah, I wish I could load a cyrillic font! The translation looks a lot less elegant.) Most of the copies I found of his work weren't quite what I was looking for--the books were either censored, or pieces I wasn't familiar with, or generally unattractive copies. At more than one bookstand I did find some resistance when I asked about Sorokin. One man lectured me for a while on Russian literature and how I needed to pursue Bulgakov, not pornography--didn't matter much that I was carrying Master and Margarita with me.
On another day I read that Sorokin had been jailed and that there was a large student protest in central Moscow. I skipped school and irritated my UT chaperones, the Drs Garza, in hopes to attend or just witness. The weather was miserable--at the time, choking smoke as thick as fog lay on the city, as peat fires circled Moscow--and the protest didn't take place where advertised in the newspaper. However I did find a copy of Morning Sniper (a charming book featuring an infant eating a rat on the cover) for my girlfriend.
It is probably inadvisable to leave for another country with preset national heroes in mind. At least, it was unproductive for me. I had even less luck finding any trace of my other Russian hero, Andrei Sakharov. I wanted to find a picture of him for my wall or for a frame, but everyone I spoke to felt pretty indifferent about him. Maybe if I'd found those students for Sorokin.... There is a Sakharov museum, and I took an incredible journey to find it, hoping to see a gallery dedicated to the unfathomable efforts of the man who labored untiringly for human rights, with Solzhenitsyn the only other man in all Russia he could call a colleague and contributor to that cause. It's only fitting that the gallery was not that tribute, but instead exhibited a few meager junior art pieces themed around the Euro in a living-room sized space. That it was vandalized in January by religious objectors--it's only fitting for a man of whose life was marked by perpetual sighs that after all of it he would not be gratefully recalled. The roses, you know, are for Stalin....
It seems like the Master would understand; it seems like Bulgakov was thinking of both Sorokin and Sakharov the whole time.
posted by kriston at 12:34 AM........
Wednesday, April 09, 2003
A very decent piece by Maureen Dowd, actually, on the death of Atlantic Monthly editor and Washington Post columnist Michael Kelly, killed in Iraq.
[Apologies for the backlog posts.]
posted by kriston at 2:15 PM........
John Kerry provoked some ire with his comments regarding "regime change" in the US. It's obvious to me that vociferous Republicans are not responding to Kerry's suggestion that he be President instead of Bush--a natural intent for a Presidential candidate--but to Kerry's coy use of the euphemism. "Regime change" here does not refer to its literal meaning, a redistribution of power (as in an election), but instead to the physical disposal of a leader by whatever means necessary. Kerry's smart-ass enough to call Bush out on what he, the Republicans, and everyone else in the world understands about "regime change." Plus he's immune to allegations of anti-troop-ness, if that even applied.
Reminds me of the long forgotten "compassionate conservatism," which logically suggested that conservatism as otherwise or normally practiced was malevolent. Little did we know the compassion caveat meant, "Let them eat cake!"
If Bush's mouth is going to write checks that his ass can't cash, I'm following Kerry all the way to the bank! Or something!
posted by kriston at 1:50 PM........
My roommate jumped all over my shit for using the word "disconnect" last night in conversation. I think the word's perfectly viable, even superior in many situations, but I admit that in Academese it's one more obfuscatory perversion. And that I use it a lot. He also gives "random" and "literal" (read, "literally") as two words that need retirement from the everyday. I'll go on record and say that "robust" and "quagmire" are pretty much done after this war. And that "sociopolitical" doesn't refer to a set body of knowledge or theory (but I swear, it's still used, especially in journalism--I just saw it today.) Here's your chance to gripe about how those sunomabitches are ruining the English language.
posted by kriston at 11:10 AM........
Is the war finished? Right now I'd set the criteria for exit as wide distribution of humanitarian aid; a period of time without any strong, organized attacks lasting at least as long as the war has; and resolution of the Turkish/Kurdish dilemma in the north. By my standards the war isn't over if Baghdad is calmed and the Kurds are still moving. What's interesting to me is that everyone has different standards, largely reflecting their stance on the war in general, and that everyone has a reason why they believe that the war will or should spread from Iraq into other countries. Both of those variables makes postwar Iraq (ie, the postwar period) a foggy suggestion, even as the main fighting wraps up today.
Of course, I'd say that the war in Iraq is done the day we invade Syria.
posted by kriston at 10:40 AM........
So, over my long hiatus from Blogoslovakia, I flew to Washington DC, and along the way I met General Wesley Clark. He was a gracious man, allowed me to take a picture with him, even asked me a little about myself. Sure, I was intimidated. I mean, he's on CNN every night, he's a big Democratic hopeful, and he's a four-star general--making him just slightly more imposing than, say, this guy.
He asked me if I'd ever considered joining the military, and even went so far as to suggest that the military needs more degree-holding officer candidates. I felt that feeling you get when you're around your Grandpa who served--you just feel silly telling him that you plan to study art or whatever--only magnified, since Wesley Clark commanded a whole hell of a lot of soldiers. Wesley Clark has made a life out of selflessness, and my bravery so far has extended to killing roaches on behalf of my roommate and my girlfriend. Had he the papers with him and had he simply suggested I do it, I'd be in the Navy right now.
Anyway, I'm not going to get into my feelings about military duty and patriotism, because they're pretty complicated and I don't have them all sorted out. Two interesting finds on Gen. Clark, though: one, for Serbs and Albanians, this man is one imposing and complicated figure. I imagine he's at least as revered/despised as MacArthur was in Japan. A man named Jussuame, for instance, had this to say: "Wesley Clark is not out of the game yet. I suspect him of being the mastermind of the 9/11/01 attacks, as well as the current sniper siege of the East Coast." (This is one cracked out forum. Worth the read if you get your jollies from other people being lunatics.)
Two, Gen. Clark is not a hothead. I saw Gen. Schwarzkopf on TV a few days after Sept. 11, and he looked ready to destroy everything. Clark's analysis seems altogether too fair for one week after the attack. As the 9/11 Mastermind, of course, he had to act cool or blow his cover.
posted by kriston at 9:53 AM........