Friday, November 07, 2003
No Further Questions, ThanksI'm in the habit now of buying a newspaper in the morning and reading it while I read to work, and during lunch. It's good because had I not the tangible print in front of me, I don't think I could believe this story:
The director of the White House Office of Administration, Timothy A. Campen, sent an e-mail titled "congressional questions" to majority and minority staff on the House and Senate Appropriations panels. Expressing "the need to add a bit of structure to the Q&A process," he wrote: "Given the increase in the number and types of requests we are beginning to receive from the House and Senate, and in deference to the various committee chairmen and our desire to better coordinate these requests, I am asking that all requests for information and materials be coordinated through the committee chairmen and be put in writing from the committee."There has been a lot of bellyachin' from the Democrats lately: mumblings about Valerie Plame, the constant whine over Halliburton, whispering about the absence of WMDs, the babble over Bush's handling of the environment, the spatterings about the military's ban of photographs of flag-draped coffins, the chatter over the Bush's handling of the press... High time we pulled our elected representatives out of that chorus!
UPDATE: Okay, so that was a bit snarky of me—but even the American Enterprise Institute knows this whole gig stinks:
Norman Ornstein, a congressional specialist at the American Enterprise Institute, agreed. "I have not heard of anything like that happening before," he said. "This is obviously an excuse to avoid providing information about some of the things the Democrats are asking for."Or, at least he recognizes it... I guess it's possible that Ornstein might applaud this turnabout...
And thank the Lord for Dana Milbank, eh? No one does White House press like that guy.
If I'm going to spit my coffee I'd rather it hit the print than my computer screen.
posted by kriston at 1:30 PM........
To TortureAfter reading Seth's post on Maher Arar's statement—declaring that the US extradited him to Syria, where he was tortured—I feel like I should revisit the subject. Other bloggers have picked up on the story as well, and I feel like my spot came off a bit callous.
I agree with the obvious—torture is bad. I think this story has garnered a natural "fuck torture" response from the folks who've picked it up so far. I'm in that camp as well but I think there's more difficult questions involved with extranational renditions. A national dialogue on the propriety of torture—a broad field of investigation tactics—may not at all palatable to most people, regardless of whether torture is defined as harsh investigation techniques or Spanish Inquisition racks. But it's no easier to stomach, I think, Seth's response from the opposite end of the dialogue:
You know what? Fuck security. Beef up the ports, put in some more metal detectors, dump some cash into the intelligence services (and for the love of god, unify them), and then--fuck it. I'm not about to be lowered to the level of those I would fight against. If that minimal risk is the cost of living in a place I can be proud of, so be it.The problem with asymmetrical warfare is that the abstract, principled high ground may lead to a lot more deaths than compromise. I don' t think Seth is saying we ought to kill them with kindness—his main complaint is with our intelligence agencies, and it's valid. I just want to respond to this charge about honor: Generally, and I probably can't put this sensitively enough, in the wake of September 11th many people would willingly entertain seemingly un-American notions to ensure that another September 11th never came about. Those were headstrong feelings, but to an extent, they're uncomfortably correct.
It's clear that our intelligence was not prepared for that terrorist attacks; couldn't it be possible that our investigators are not prepared for terrorists, either? Here I'm drawing a lot from Mark Bowden's torture review I mentioned earlier; in the defense of torture he presents (but doesn't necessarily endorse), he suggests that American investigation approaches—good cop, bad cop, for instance—aren't likely to produce results from your typical jihad-bearing Islamofascist. Irish investigators, though, may have better results because of their history of terrorism and the harder investigation techniques they learned to employ. And we haven't even mentioned Israel.
A balance must be struck between the rights of the accused and national security. Had Osama bin Laden been captured before in early 2001, and had the CIA felt twitchy about his goings-on, then I'd hope to God that we'd send him to Israel to pummel the 9/11 plans out of him. (If you're sent back in time with a gun to Germany, for the love of Christ, shoot Adolph Hitler.) On the other hand, the Bush administration doesn't seem to be proving itself worthy of this authority—probably no administration could. Maybe no impending crisis would warrant the chance of mistreating an innocent, or God forbid torturing him (whatever that might entail). And still... September 11th. It's a debate worth having.
I'm somewhat surprised that this isn't a national argument—it seems far more germane than the somewhat similar debate about the death penalty. I guess because all of this stuff is swept under the rug.
posted by kriston at 1:02 PM........
By the NumbersRuy Teixeira, in Washington Monthly:
As nonpartisan analyst Charlie Cook has pointed out, "A swing of 94,000 votes out of 75,723,756 cast nationally would have resulted in the Democrats capturing control of the House and retaining a majority in the Senate on Nov. 5. If that had occurred, obituaries would have been written--inevitably and prematurely--about the presidency of George W. Bush. Instead, we are entertained by predictions that the Democratic Party, as we know it, may cease to exist."I guess that's more Charlie Cook than Teix. A great article about a subject close to my Gore-afflicted heart: How Republicans are taking the barest wins and building a New York Yankees-like image around their party. Ruy Teixeira also runs a fine weblog, Donkey Rising—check out his posts on how Clark could win the nomination (1, 2). Ruy Teixeira is also pretty close to Mark Texeira, a comic-book artist that I like but (if I recall correctly) Kevin hates.
I can work a comic reference into anything. Fact: So can Jacob Levy over at Volokh.
posted by kriston at 9:48 AM........
More MusicSo while we're talking about music, I'll recommend Juana Molina. Her album, Segundo—her second album, which as far as I can tell is her only work released outside of her native Argentina—is both guitar- and electronic-oriented. She's a very good songwriter, but she's more Bjork than Giberto (or whatever "Argentinian" conjures in your ears). Segundo might remind you of that good Notwist album, minus the posturing. Minimalist in production, relaxed, worth your time.
Juana Molina, Segundo
That's of course for the Sunday lounge, amnesia, exam preparation. Friday nights spent deep in the laboratory: You need MF Doom. Like Kool Keith, he releases albums both with and without the vox—Operation Doomsday and Vaudeville Villain are + rap, the Special Herbs series (I think up to three or so volumes now) is - rap. (Unlike Kool Keith's Octagynacologist, MF Doom's instrumental albums are listenable.) Nod your head while he destroys Reed Richards.
MF Doom, Special Herbs, Vol. 1 & 2
posted by kriston at 8:45 AM........
Thursday, November 06, 2003
KC|DC|CDSo I wanna go buy some music today, and it's been a while since I've shelled out some scrilla at DC|CD, the only halfway decent record shop in town. God, this store makes me miss Austin: 33 Degrees, with their employees' near-Spiderhousian levels of inscrutability; the late Sound Exchange, which always made me feel like I was dripping with pathetic emo-tiveness; even Waterloo Records, where, well, I didn't go there much. DC|CD is under some bizarre mismanagement hex, because it's obviously an indie store, but they still try to cater to the popular fetishes—the effect is that they're understocked on both Beyonce and Beulah.
So I probably won't find whatever I'm looking for anyway, but I'm asking for recs from y'all. Right now I'm thinking about the new Broadcast, Broken Social Scene, something by the Shins, something by My Morning Jacket, or maybe the Books. I know there's a lot of "the" bands in there, but it gets worse, because I'm also shamefully susceptible to "electro____" stuff, and I kind of wanted to get the Ladytron cover album, and God help me—combining "the" with "electrowhatever"—the Rapture. You can prevent this orgyistic spending spree on A) premeditated 80s synth-vox revival or B) regurgitated emo caterwauling by reminding me that 1) I don't have any money, 2) I should be buying that Television or Sun Ra album, or 3) I owe you $45 or so... or by telling me if any of the above isn't worth checking out.
ICE COLD: Danced with Broadcast, Rapture, Shins, and Scene—but left with Outkast. Shake it like a Polaroid.
Hipster guilt + cheapskate guilt + debt guilt... ah, but no guilt about wasting time online.
posted by kriston at 2:29 PM........
Wednesday, November 05, 2003
Some Dare Call It TortureOne of the reasons that it's a bad thing that the American citizenry deeply distrusts its intelligence community is that reports of "extraordinary renditions" and such practices don't provoke a lot of confidence that our team is on the side of angels:
A senior U.S. intelligence official discussed the case in terms of the secret rendition policy. There have been "a lot of rendition activities" since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, the official said. "We are doing a number of them, and they have been very productive."Torture isn't without precedent in any nation in the history of civilizations, but a Canadian? And Jesus Christ, Syria? As in the nation that would be the next stop after Iraq had Iraq not become all muddy?
The moral calculus over state-sponsored torture is complex and nasty. 'To torture?' is nearly a tautological question faced by any war-waging nation. If it indeed happens, I'm glad the United States doesn't do it in house; still, there is a good case to be made for outsourcing severe investigation practices, and Mark Bowden makes that case in an older Atlantic Monthly article, "The Dark Art of Investigation." (Link goes to interview—article not available online.) Having some indication about how the White House manhandled the CIA preceeding the war in Iraq, I have no confidence that this administration would judiciously apply secret renditions, so the hope beyond hopes is that this accusation is untrue.
But it's an easy leap to say that if the US were to ever condone such practices, it would be after 9/11.
posted by kriston at 2:49 PM........
Dean's Direct I must shamefully admit that I delete most emails I get from candidates—but today I opened one from Dean, curious to see if there was any news. (You know, get the latest about cousin Madison, see if ol' Buck's 4x4 is still running, find out if Jeb made All-County Defense...) What the email actually said was interesting: