It promises to be a very pleasant weekend. The weather this morning is gorgeous -- sunny yet cool -- portending a perfect Autumn day. This morning, The Girls and I watched a Saturday Morning Daikaiju Movie, inthis case Godzilla vs Megalon (reviews at Stomp Tokyo and Teleport City). They're now playing in their playroom as I take this brief break to post.
We'll be visiting my crew in my home town of Louisville for a belated birthday celebration -- dinner at the ultra-kitschy Lynn's Paradise Cafe. Posting will therefore be sparse for the rest of the weekend.
Here's some pre-weekend clearance of links that I've collected but not blogged yet:
Bret emailed me this column decrying the fact that Bush basically wants to tax people who work for their money, not people whose money works for them.
Mark Kleiman is outraged that "The Administration threatening to employ the extraordinarily intrusive investigations permitted under the Patriot Act to figure out which Air marshals complained to the press about leaving key flights unprotected." Of course, everyone should be.
Here's more about the rising number of US wounded in Iraq. The fact that we're taking casualties there every day means any claims of having secured the country are a joke, and not a funny one at that.
Open Source Politics has a good summary of the Valerie Plame affair. As the saying goes, if you aren't outraged, you aren't paying attention.
Mark Kleiman sums up the debunking of the so-called "Bustamante-is-a-racist" story certain right wingers are tyring to push.
Morat has had it with Republicans trying to change the rules of the game in mid-play.
The Left Coaster says: "If two senior Department of Labor managers in the Clinton Administration had left to join unions after the agency issued two favorable regulatory actions, the GOP would be screaming. But to the GOP, this outrageous action at the EPA is business as usual for their corrupt mindset, where government exists to hand out benefits to campaign contributors."
Speaking of the Iraq war, one of the things that upset me about both prewar policy and the war itself was its toll on innocent children. One would hope that four months after the war, everything would be hunky dory. One would be wrong. (via Body and Soul)
But hey, never mind global security, Bush's real strength is the economy, right? (Um, whatever...nice try!) Whoops: Employers Unexpectedly Slash Jobs in Aug.; Jobless Claims Show Labor Market Weak. Yes, the economy is bleeding jobs at more than 400,000 a week again, indicating a continued labor market. Realistically, the figure was never far away from that "magic" number even when it was below it. Unemployment dipped slightly, to 6.1 percent, but "[n]early 2 million people in August were unemployed for 27 weeks or more, representing nearly 22 percent of all jobless workers."
Americans may be the most productive workers, but it's because employers are making fewer workers do more work, working as hard as (gasp!) the Japanese. But workers in Norway, France and Belgium (darned Old Europe!) actually are more productive per hour worked. (via General Glut). But hey, Bush cares about the economy, right?
The Washington Post's Richard Cohen weighs in on the so-called "Texas miracle." Actual facts: The Republican administration (Under Dubya and now Education Secretary Rod Paige) cooked the books. Surprise, surprise.
A funny thing happened this week: the Bush administration, with its aggressive unilateralism, and its contempt for diplomacy and international institutions, suddenly staked its fortunes on the kindness of foreigners.
All the world knows about the Iraq about-face: having squandered our military strength in a war he felt like fighting even though it had nothing to do with terrorism, President Bush is now begging the cheese-eaters and chocolate-makers to rescue him. What may not be equally obvious is that he's doing the same thing on the economic front. Having squandered his room for economic maneuver on tax cuts that pleased his party base but had nothing to do with job creation, Mr. Bush is now asking China to help him out.
Not, of course, that Mr. Bush admits to having made any mistakes. Indeed, Mr. Bush seems to have a serious case of "l'état, c'est moi": he impugns the patriotism of anyone who questions his decisions.
If you ask why he diverted resources away from hunting Al Qaeda, which attacked us, to invading Iraq, which didn't, he suggests that you're weak on national security. And it's the same for anyone who questions his economic record: "They tell me it was a shallow recession," he said Monday. "It was a shallow recession because of the tax relief. Some say, well, maybe the recession should have been deeper. That bothers me when people say that."
That is, if you ask why he pushed long-term tax cuts rather than focusing on job creation, he says you wanted a deeper recession. It bothers me when he says that.
Of course, nobody says the recession should have been deeper. What critics argued — correctly — was that Mr. Bush's economic strategy of tax cuts for the rich, with a few token breaks for the middle class, would generate maximum deficits but minimum stimulus. "They" may tell him it was a shallow recession, but the long-term unemployed won't agree.
And the fact that even with all that red ink the recovery is still jobless should lead him to wonder whether he's running the wrong kind of deficits.
Instead, however, he's decided to plead with the Chinese for help.
Admittedly, it didn't sound like pleading. It sounded as if he was being tough: "We expect there to be a fair playing field when it comes to trade. . . . And we intend to keep the rules fair." Everyone understood this to be a reference to the yuan, China's supposedly undervalued currency, which some business groups claim is a major problem for American companies.
By the way, even if the Chinese did accede to U.S. demands to increase the value of the yuan, it wouldn't have much effect unless it was a huge revaluation. And China won't agree to a huge revaluation because its huge trade surplus with the U.S. is largely offset by trade deficits with other countries.
Still, even a modest currency shift by Beijing would allow Mr. Bush to say that he was doing something about the loss of manufacturing jobs other than appointing a "jobs czar." And so John Snow, the Treasury secretary, went off to Beijing to request an increase in the yuan's value.
But he got no satisfaction. A quick look at the situation reveals one reason why: the U.S. currently has very little leverage over China. Mr. Bush needs China's help to deal with North Korea — another crisis that was allowed to fester while the administration focused on Iraq. Furthermore, purchases of Treasury bills by China's central bank are one of the main ways the U.S. finances its trade deficit.
Nobody is quite sure what would happen if the Chinese suddenly switched to, say, euros — a two-point jump in mortgage rates? — but it's not an experiment anyone wants to try.
There may also be another reason. The Chinese remember very well that in Mr. Bush's first few months in office, his officials described China as a "strategic competitor" — indeed, they seemed to be seeking a new cold war until terrorism came along as a better issue. So Mr. Bush may find it as hard to get help from China as from the nations those same officials ridiculed as "old Europe."
Sic transit and all that. Just four months after Operation Flight Suit, the superpower has become a supplicant to nations it used to insult. Mission accomplished! [Emphasis added]
The Columbia Journalism Review has an interesting article on how the press handles politicians who lie. The article contends -- correctly, in my view -- that journalists don't mind tackling biographical fibs, but shy away from delving into prevarication about policy. Not at all surprisingly, Republicans in general and George W. Bush in particular have benefited from this reluctance.
As part of its reverence for objectivity, journalism esteems balance. A reporter can demonstrate objectivity by quoting two opposing sides of an issue equally. In America's two-party system, the Republican and Democratic positions conveniently serve to demarcate those sides. Democratic claims receive every bit as much credence as Republican claims, and vice versa, and for a reporter to suggest otherwise is seen as joining the partisan fray.
In discussing which party's policies are preferable, this evenhandedness makes sense. But in reporting which party's claims are true, sometimes there's one right answer. Often, however, that truth isn't apparent to the lay person or the average reporter but only to experts — scientists, doctors, economists, or scholars. Reporters must themselves work through the numbers or diligently mine the experts' research to ferret out the truth — or, more likely, they fall back on presenting both sides' claims equally. Bound by professional strictures, news reporters can wind up giving a lie the same weight as the truth, while it falls to opinion writers to note when a president has lied about his tax cuts or stem-cell research policy.
Getting away with such policy prevarications has grown easier because of one last factor: the rise of the party message machines. In the 1970s and '80s, Republican leaders set out to coordinate their public arguments; under Clinton, the Democrats learned to do the same. Loyalty has come to mean not just voting with your party leader but mouthing the line on TV, to reporters, or in press releases. Faithful pundits, too, will parrot the official message. Thus, when a president lies about policy, so does a chorus of members of Congress, columnists, and commentators — and try calling every Republican or Democrat in Washington a liar.
I'd add bloggers to that list, too.
I think that the media's reluctance to appear "partisan" by calling a certain political camp -- and its think tanks, talk radio, and other media outlets -- on their prevarications is a result of consirvatives having so consistently "worked the refs" with their whining. But it's hight time the so-called "liberal media" started doing its job: Quit playing "he said, she said" and at least shed light on the more egregious falsehoods of the right. Of course, I'm not holding my breath.
Democrats said all along that in order to prevent the re-emergence of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in central Asia we needed to pay more attention to Afghanistan and allocate more money to its reconstruction. Apparently, the Bush administration now agrees.
Now, tell me again about how Democrats have no worthwhile foreign policy ideas and can't be trusted with national security?
You know, if you're going to run a Democratic foreign policy anyway, but do it a day late and a dollar short, why not just elect a Democrat to run it in the first place?
National security from at least the Cold War forward has been supported by both Republicans and Democrats, both of whom have made mistakes along the way and both of whom share credit for the triumphs as well. This ridiculous notion that only Republicans want to defend the United States, and that Democrats don't is, frankly, insulting, and a sad example of how certain conservaties are willing to mouth the most digsusting and odious lies to advance their agenda.
In his five questions interview, Jaquandor pointed out that I don't blog about books very much. I recently treated myself to a slew of books for my birthday, and received other fine tomes as gifts, and I'd like to take the opportunity to mention them.
My mother got me two excellent books just prior to our trip to Florida.
Great Martial Arts Movies: From Bruce Lee to Jackie Chan and More is an update of a 1985 book on chop-socky movies that I've owned for some time. The new edition takes into account the rising popularity and recent films of such start as Jackie Chan, Michelle Yeoh, and Jet Li. Reading the book made me realize just how popular and even mainstream kung fu flicks have become since I was a kid watching Five Deadly Venoms and Half a Loaf of Kung Fu Saturday afternoons on WDRB-TV 41 in Louisville.
Kingdom of Fear, Hunter S. Thompson's combination autobiography and collection of recent essays. Hunter Thompson had, in my opinion, become something of a self-parody; his book on the 1996 election seemed to me to be a collection of faxes pestering George Stephanopoulos. But with this latest offering, Thompson gets the old magic back. For starters, it's interesting hearing the story of his growing up in my home town of Louisville, Kentucky, in his own words.
Thompson also illustrates in his unique style how America seemed to go out of its mind with fear in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, and how a certain unscrupulous President capitalized on that fear to advance his own agenda. As we approach the second anniversary of that tragedy, we need to look around and see where the policies of this Administration, sold on fear, have placed us, and resolve to abandon cowardice and repudiate those cowards who would have the rest of us join them in their cringing, if blustering, madness.
My passion for movies also led me to select Bruce Campbell's autobiography If Chins Could Kill -- I found a secondhand copy that's autographed, no less! w00t! -- and Roger Ebert's collection of reviews of Bad Movies, I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie. Ebert notes that among the mindless dreck there are some Bad Movies that have a certain charm, and I love those kinds of flicks.
I haven't bought a book of poetry since college, but an NPR profile of Edna St. Vincent Millay made me put one of her collections on my wish list, and for my birthday, I went ahead and got the slim volume. I've only had a brief moment to leaf through it, but she's as talented as I remember her being from college.
Combined with the books I picked up at our farewell visit to Hawley-Cook, I have plenty of reading to do that should last me clear through Xmas. I plan to discuss the books as I form impressions of them. Stay tuned.
I stepped outside this morning to bright and gloriously cool autumn weather. After a relatively mild summer that got somewhat hotter in August, the advent of this cool weather is like someone flipped a switch. The week leading up to Labor Day was sunny and hot (although not as much as when we were in Florida the weekend before, of course, nor as humid). The heavy rains over the Labor Day weekend cooled things off a bit, but it was still warm, and in the begining of the week there was, of course, massive humidity. But yesterday as I left work, it was still very sunny but very cool; temperatures remained low all evening -- and despite it all, we kept the windows open to enjoy the glorious, natural coolness -- and this morning promises to be a delightful fall day.
Fall is probably my favorite season. I love when the weather starts to get crisp and chill, yet becomes warm and sunny in the afternoons. Even a couple of grey and rainy days are good. Fall in Indiana is usually quite pretty; the trees turn glorious colors.
And of course, with fall comes my High Holy Days, Halloween. I've already been making mental lists of horror movies to watch, buy or rent.
Confessions of a G33k links to this Web site analyzer. According to it, I need to simplify this blog's code and reduce the number of objects. I've been considering an overhaul, but I doubt I'll do anything that radical right now.
ISLAMIC JIHAD are in Haiti recruiting a zombie army to invade the United States in a nightmarish reprise of 9/11, intelligence sources in Washington have learned. The plot hatched by the notoriously ruthless Islamic Jihad terror organization is to invade the east coast of Florida with the undead: Troops who don't have to be fed, obey mindlessly, and are extremely hard to kill.
There are no plans yet to ratchet up the terror alert level in the U.S.
But sources say intelligence chatter 'strongly suggests' a 1,200-strong zombie army led by a few suicidal terrorists could invade our shores on or around the second anniversary of the terror attacks on the World Trade Centers and Pentagon, leaving death and horror in their wake.
Prime targets may be nuclear power plants in Miami and Fort Pierce, football stadiums in Tampa and Jacksonville, and NASA operations at Cape Canaveral, the sources say.
"The threat is disturbing and real," Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said in an alarming memo to President George W. Bush dated August 6.
I so love the Weekly World News. Always have, since studying journalism in high school. If this were a movie, the screenplay would practically write itself -- I should get right on it.
Actually, the original screenplay to George Romero's Day of the Dead did in fact envision a zombie army. The idea was that the beleaguered and outnumbered humans would train zombies to be docile and use them as grunts against other zombies. Unfortunately, budget constraints reduced the trained zombies to the solitary -- but still momorable -- "Bub."
Courtesy of Byzantium's Shores' archives, I found Jaquandor's takedown of Dead Poets Society. I've never liked the film much either, and I agree that the suicide of one of the characters rings incredibly false (If I was writing it, I'd have had the bohemian character nip off to Greenwich Village and take up residence with Allen Ginsberg or something -- a still-genuine scandal that would have been much more in character).
I recently got a check for some freelance writing, and spent part of it on a swell 1959 Hong Kong flick called Air Hostess. I was utterly unaware of this fine flick until I read a review at Teleport City several weeks ago, and I knew it'd be a perfect addition to my DVD collection. As a bonus, it's less than 20 bucks at HKFlix.com.
Teleport City describes the film as "the 36th Chamber of Shaolin for stewardess movies," and that's a perfect assessment of the first half, as the new air hostesses -- led by the luminous Grace Chang -- undergo rigorous training (walking around with books on their heads, that sort of thing) under the watchful eye of a senior stewardess. The latter half of the flick, though, is essentially a Doris Day movie. Ultra-competent and free spirited Chang doesn't want to be a stay-at-home wife, as her mother advises, so she becomes an air hostess with International Airlines. After the aforementioned training, she tends to passengers on flights from Hong Kong to Bangkok and Singapore. She also locks horns with handsome copilot Roy Chiao; their mutual attraction is sidetracked as the no-nonsense airman criticizes any small error. But the two nevertheless find time to tour exotic locales filled with gorgeous scenery. There are even several songs by Chang. I was utterly entertained by this glamorous and stylish flick.
I've also, for the first time, corrected information on a film at the IMDb. Its listing for this film claimed it was in black and white; rather, it's in gloriously saturated color (a fact celebrated by the opening shot of a bunch of brightly hued balloons).
The popular jpop group Morning Musume has been recruited to promote enlistment in the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, according to the Japan Times.
The Self-Defense Forces, chronically shorthanded due to the nation's shrinking population and a general dislike of physical hardship among the young, have gone pop.
A new recruitment poster commissioned by the Defense Agency features the 15-member all-girl pop group Morning Musume.
Rather than openly urging young people to join the all-volunteer military, the poster punctuates a pacifist-sounding message with exclamation points.
"Doing one's best feels good," it proclaims in Japanese, followed by "GO! GO! PEACE!" in English.
Remove the slogans, and the ad looks just like any pop-idol poster without military undertones. The pop stars are not even wearing SDF uniforms.
The image is a radical departure for the SDF. A typical recruitment poster used to show good-looking men and women clad in uniforms, their shining eyes set on the horizon.
The Defense Agency has used pop idols in the past -- but in uniform.
Defense Agency officials say the idea behind the Morning Musume poster is to eliminate images associated with the military.
Shinichi Udagawa, former head of the Defense Agency's Bureau of Personnel and Education and now the official in charge of agency contracts, said he would consider the recruitment poster a "big success" if high-school students find it attractive enough to pin up in their bedrooms.
The first rule in publicity, he said, is "to make people talk about it."
The 130,000 Morning Musume posters are scheduled to debut Sunday. The Defense Agency has shipped them to local SDF liaison offices and local government offices around the country.
The Defense Agency has set the ideal number of uniformed SDF personnel at 258,000, but the actual figure in March 2002 was about 240,000.
Among the three SDF branches, the Ground Self-Defense Force has the largest personnel shortage, falling 11 percent shy of its optimum level in fiscal 2002.
The Morning Musume poster appears to underscore the tough demographic battle the Defense Agency faces in trying to fill up the SDF ranks.
The recruitment drive is primarily targeted at the 18-to-27 age group, whose numbers peaked in 1991 and have been declining since.
Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has has written seven love songs that will appear on an upcoming album. Berlusconi, who once worked as a cruise ship singer, didn't perform on the album, though.
Despite increasing demands from Congress for details of the costs of postwar Iraq, the Bush administration is likely to wait two months before submitting its first rebuilding estimate, administration officials say.
Internal estimates for rebuilding Iraq put the price for the coming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, between $40 billion and $60 billion, according to two administration officials. That would be in addition to the cost of keeping U.S. military forces there currently about $3.9 billion a month.
Officials stress that only broad estimates are available, and their funding request won't be complete because of uncertainty about Iraq's future needs. Much of the money would go toward repairs to the electrical grid, water supply and oil-production facilities.
The decision to wait until November to present Congress with a comprehensive overview of expenses is likely to upset some lawmakers. With the federal deficit expected to hit a record $480 billion in 2004, members of Congress will be asked to approve a budget for next year without knowing how much the Iraq mission will cost.
Just before the outbreak of war, then-Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki told a Senate committee that he thought "something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers" would be necessary to pacify and stabilize post-war Iraq.
He had some experience. He'd led the peace-keeping operation in Bosnia. And he'd dedicated much of his tenure as Chief of Staff to preparing the Army for peace-keeping and other non-traditional and low-intensity combat deployments.
A few days later Paul Wolfowitz went up to the Hill and said Shinseki had no idea what he was talking about. His estimate was "wildly off the mark," Wolfowitz said.
Obviously it was Wolfowitz who had no clue what he was talking about.
Steven den Beste reviews Spirited Away. I have been a Miyazaki fan for some time, so it's especially interesting to see the reactions of den Beste (and an email correspondent he quotes), who were experiencing the master's work for the first time. In case you missed my own take on the film at Destroy All Monsters, here it is.
By the way, if memory serves me right, anime characters have big, round eyes due to the indirect influence of Walt Disney (whose characters have bigger and rounder eyes due to the influence of anime...), and their hair is multi colored so the characters can be told apart easily, which would be difficult if everyone's hair is black. Musashi wrote on the subject here.
You may remember something about a projected $1.4 trillion deficit over the next 10 years and dismissive remarks from the White House about how the numbers are unreliable. And there were reassurances from various gurus that these deficits aren't very big relative to the size of our economy. A fiscal food fight that seems strictly Yawn City. Pass the suntan lotion, dear, let's roll over and bake our other side.
But I've been back at work for more than a week now. So I read the whole report instead of just the summary. By law, the budget office has to assume that existing laws expire as planned, and that no new programs are added or subtracted. This report, however, includes numbers that you can use to adjust for political reality. Which I did. First, I counted the $2.4 trillion Social Security surplus, which the Treasury uses to offset its cash shortfall. Then I figured that the last three years of tax cuts will become permanent and that Congress will pass a Medicare prescription-drug package and stop the dreaded alternative minimum tax from hitting 30 million taxpayers. These changes add $3.6 trillion to the deficit. So by the time you're done, the total projected deficit is more than five times the aforementioned $1.4 trillion. Call it $7.4 trillion [Emphasis added]. And I'm being generous, assuming we spend nothing in Iraq starting Oct. 1, 2005.
Wall Street has been growing restive about the deficit since the White House number crunchers at the Office of Management and Budget said in July that they expected a $455 billion deficit (after subtracting Social Security's surplus) for fiscal 2004. That's one of the reasons interest rates have begun moving up after their long decline. The Street will probably get even more restive when it returns from the beach and takes a close look at the higher CBO numbers.
What's especially distressing is how the government would presumably cover this deficit. As I said, about a third of the money -- $2.4 trillion -- comes from the Treasury's borrowing the Social Security surplus, spending the money and replacing it with IOUs. So a decade from now, the government will owe Social Security about $4 trillion, just as baby boomers begin retiring en masse. I don't see how that debt can be honored without huge borrowings from outside investors that would send rates to the moon, or huge cuts in other programs.
...Normally, it's easy to dismiss long-term budget projections because the biggest deficits (or surpluses) come in the last years of the forecast, when the predictions are the most unreliable. But here, the scariest numbers are the closest ones -- the ones most likely to be reasonably accurate. For fiscal 2004, which starts in about four weeks, the budget office projects a $644 billion deficit. This would be 5.8 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, which approaches the 6 percent record set by Ronald Reagan's 1983 budget deficit. Reagan's deficits set off alarm bells in Washington, he signed on to a huge tax increase and fiscal sanity made a comeback in Washington. Nothing of the sort seems likely these days, given the current administration and Congress.
These numbers once again fit the pattern of the Bush Administration being -- perhaps -- technically accurate but substantively misleading.
Bush likes to call letting the tax cuts expire a tax increase -- and let it be shouted from the rooftops that, if so, it's a tax increased he himself signed. But it's no less true that running these massive structural deficits are a tax increase of their own -- just one postponed until Bush is safely out of office. Bush's partisans like to cite him as brave and eager to fight for what he believes in. Let him, then, declare his intention to bankrupt the Federal government, or chart a path out of this mess with either tax increases or spending cuts. As it is, his reality-challenged economic policies of those of a con man, a coward, and a crook.
As I believe I've indicated before with some of my postings, I find amusing the fact that she receives much more attention for her babe-hood than her tennis play. The fact remains, of course, that even in her present injured state Kournikova's much, much better at tennis than I could ever be.
I also learn that Kournikova has dropped out of an arranged gig to be a roving reporter for USA Network's coverage of the US Open.
George W. Bush has a forthright speaking style which convinces many people that he's telling the truth even when he's lying. ...His style of deception is also unique. When Reagan said he didn't trade arms for hostages, or Clinton insisted he didn't have sex with "that woman," the falsity of the claims was readily provable--by an Oliver North memo or a stained blue dress. Bush and his administration, however, specialize in a particular form of deception: The confidently expressed, but currently undisprovable assertion. In his State of the Union address last January, the president claimed that Saddam Hussein had ties to al Qaeda and a robust nuclear weapons program, and that therefore we needed to invade Iraq. Even at the time, many military and intelligence experts said that the president's assertions probably weren't true and were based on at best fragmentary evidence. But there was no way to know for sure unless we did what Bush wanted. When the president said on numerous occasions that his tax cuts--which were essentially long-term rate reductions for the wealthy--would spur growth without causing structural deficits, most experts, again, cried foul, pointing out that both past experience and accepted economic theory said otherwise. But in point of fact nobody could say for sure that maybe this time the cuts might not work.
...By late July, even a paragon of establishment conservatism like Barron's columnist Alan Abelson was lamenting the president's "regrettable aversion to the truth and reality when the truth and reality aren't lovely or convenient."
The president and his aides don't speak untruths because they are necessarily people of bad character. They do so because their politics and policies demand it.
...Indeed, poll after poll suggest that Bush's policy agenda is not particularly popular. What the public wants is its problems solved: terrorists thwarted, jobs created, prescription drugs made affordable, the environment protected. Almost all of Bush's deceptions have been deployed when he has tried to pass off his preexisting agenda items as solutions to particular problems with which, for the most part, they have no real connection.
...In any White House, there is usually a tension between the political agenda and disinterested experts who might question it. But what's remarkable about this White House is how little tension there seems to be. Expert analysis that isn't politically helpful simply gets ignored.
...[T]he Bush administration's unwillingness to be pushed around by the bureaucratic experts or to have their ideas hemmed in by establishment opinion isn't by itself a bad thing. Nor is this administration the first to ignore or suppress unhelpful data or analyses from experts that runs contrary to its agenda-foolish as such conduct usually proves. But in this administration the mindset of deception runs deeper. If you're a revisionist -- someone pushing for radically changing the status quo -- you're apt to see "the experts" not just as people who may be standing in your way, but whose minds have been corrupted by a wrongheaded ideology whose arguments can therefore be ignored. To many in the Bush administration, 'the experts' look like so many liberals wedded to a philosophy of big government, the welfare state, over-regulation and a pussyfooting role for the nation abroad. The Pentagon civil servant quoted above told me that the standard response to warnings from the Joint Staff about potential difficulties was simply to say: "That's just the Joint Staff being obstructionist." Even if the experts are right in the particulars--the size of the deficit, the number of troops needed in Iraq--their real goal is to get in the way of necessary changes that have to be made.
In that simple, totalizing assumption we find the kernel of almost every problem the administration has faced over recent months--and a foretaste of the troubles the nation may confront in coming years. By disregarding the advice of experts, by shunting aside the cadres of career professionals with on-the-ground experience in these various countries, the administration's hawks cut themselves off from the practical know-how which would have given them some chance of implementing their plans successfully. In a real sense, they cut themselves off from reality.
...Doctrinaire as they may be in the realm of policy, the president's advisors are the most hard-boiled sort of pragmatists when it comes to gaining and holding on to political power. And there's no way they planned to head into their reelection campaign with a half-trillion-dollar deficit looming over their heads and an unpredictable, bleeding guerrilla war in Iraq on their hands. At the level of tactics and execution, the administration's war on expertise has already yielded some very disappointing, indeed dangerous results. And if that gets you worried, just remember that the same folks are in charge of the grand strategy too.
There's so much more...by all means, read the whole thing. How any honest conservative can peruse Marshall's well-researched, well-reasoned catalogue of Bush's blatant baloney and still support the man is genuinely beyond me. His blatant deceptiveness alone -- to say nothing at all of the terrible results of his policies -- disqualify Bush from political office, let alone the Presidency.
Once again, Bush's apologists should take note: it's entirely possible -- as Bush has demonstrated -- to be enormously deceptive using statements that either parse as technically true or at least not disprovable. If that deceptiveness is vital to sell Bush's agenda, it obviously indicates that BushCo knows it isn't really popular.
Over at Crooked Timber, Ted Barlow thoroughly debunks righty criticism of California Lt. Gov Cruz Bustamante's ties with the student group known as MEChA. Orcinus has more. And here's trenchant commentary at Long Story, Short Pier.
I recognize that in every area I can think of, Bill Clinton was a far, far better president than George Bush can dream of being. But honesty compels me to admit that a lot of things that drive me mad about George Bush were also true of Clinton, although to a lesser degree (and Bush has none of Clinton's redeeming values.) And I think it's important to acknowledge that, because if you don't, you get sucked into a game of gotcha where you can't mention some horrible things Bush is doing because your argument is going to get knocked over with "Clinton did it, too."
Angry Bear points to a Slate article that calls attention to some of the, ah, ctrative license in the characterization of postawr Iraq by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
The Rice-Rumsfeld depiction of the Allied occupation of Germany is a farrago of fiction and a few meager facts.
Werwolf tales have been a favorite of schlock novels, but the reality bore no resemblance to Iraq today. As Antony Beevor observes in The Fall of Berlin 1945, the Nazis began creating Werwolf as a resistance organization in September 1944. "In theory, the training programmes covered sabotage using tins of Heinz oxtail soup packed with plastic explosive and detonated with captured British time pencils," Beevor writes. "… Werwolf recruits were taught to kill sentries with a slip-knotted garrotte about a metre long or a Walther pistol with silencer. …"
In practice, Werwolf amounted to next to nothing. The mayor of Aachen was assassinated on March 25, 1945, on Himmler's orders. This was not a nice thing to do, but it happened before the May 7 Nazi surrender at Reims. It's hardly surprising that Berlin sought to undermine the American occupation before the war was over. And as the U.S. Army's official history, The U.S. Army in the Occupation of Germany 1944-1946, points out, the killing was "probably the Werwolf's most sensational achievement."
Indeed, the organization merits but two passing mentions in Occupation of Germany, which dwells far more on how docile the Germans were once the Americans rolled in—and fraternization between former enemies was a bigger problem for the military than confrontation. Although Gen. Eisenhower had been worrying about guerrilla warfare as early as August 1944, little materialized. There was no major campaign of sabotage. There was no destruction of water mains or energy plants worth noting. In fact, the far greater problem for the occupying forces was the misbehavior of desperate displaced persons, who accounted for much of the crime in the American zone.
...So, how did this fanciful version of the American experience in postwar Germany get into the remarks of a Princeton graduate and former trustee of Stanford's Hoover Institute (Rumsfeld) and the former provost of Stanford and co-author of an acclaimed book on German unification (Rice)? Perhaps the British have some intelligence on the matter that still has not been made public. Of course, as the president himself has noted, there is a lot of revisionist history going around.
But wait a second -- didn't Rice and Rumsfeld used to say that the "liberated" Iraqis would welcome us with open arms? Regardless, what we need from this Administration is less excuses and more security in postwar Iraq, and conjuring Cold War-era fictional scenarios for the benefit of a friendly audience hardly helps.
U.S. battlefield casualties in Iraq are increasing dramatically in the face of continued attacks by remnants of Saddam Hussein's military and other forces, with almost 10 American troops a day now being officially declared "wounded in action."
The number of those wounded in action, which totals 1,124 since the war began in March, has grown so large, and attacks have become so commonplace, that U.S. Central Command usually issues news releases listing injuries only when the attacks kill one or more troops. The result is that many injuries go unreported.
The rising number and quickening pace of soldiers being wounded on the battlefield have been overshadowed by the number of troops killed since President Bush declared an end to major combat operations May 1. But alongside those Americans killed in action, an even greater toll of battlefield wounded continues unabated, with an increasing number being injured through small-arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades, remote-controlled mines and what the Pentagon refers to as "improvised explosive devices."
Indeed, the number of troops wounded in action in Iraq is now more than twice that of the Persian Gulf War in 1991. The total increased more than 35 percent in August -- with an average of almost 10 troops a day injured last month.
Fifty-five Americans were wounded in action last week alone, pushing the number of troops wounded in action since May 1 beyond the number wounded during peak fighting. From March 19 to April 30, 550 U.S. troops were wounded in action in Iraq. Since May 1, the number totals 574. The number of troops killed in Iraq since the beginning of May already has surpassed the total killed during the height of the war.
Pentagon officials point to advances in military medicine as one of the reasons behind the large number of wounded soldiers; many lives are being saved on the battlefield that in past conflicts would have been lost. But the rising number of casualties also reflects the resistance that U.S. forces continue to meet nearly five months after Hussein was ousted from power.
Although Central Command keeps a running total of the wounded, it releases the number only when asked -- making the combat injuries of U.S. troops in Iraq one of the untold stories of the war.
With no fanfare and almost no public notice, giant C-17 transport jets arrive virtually every night at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, on medical evacuation missions. Since the war began, more than 6,000 service members have been flown back to the United States. The number includes the 1,124 wounded in action, 301 who received non-hostile injuries in vehicle accidents and other mishaps, and thousands who became physically or mentally ill.
"Our nation doesn't know that," said Susan Brewer, president and founder of America's Heroes of Freedom, a nonprofit organization that collects clothing and other personal items for the returning troops. "Sort of out of sight and out of mind."
On Thursday night, a C-17 arrived at Andrews with 44 patients from Iraq. Ambulances arrived to take the most seriously wounded to the nation's two premier military hospitals, Water Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. Dozens of others stayed overnight at what the Air Force calls a contingency aeromedical staging facility, which has taken over an indoor tennis club and an adjacent community center.
On Friday morning, smaller C-130 transports began arriving to take the walking wounded and less seriously injured to their home bases, from Fort Bragg in North Carolina to Fort Lewis in Washington state. Another C-17 was due in Friday night from Germany, with 12 patients on stretchers, 24 listed on the flight manifest as ambulatory and nine other passengers, either family members or escorts.
"That's going to fill us right back up by the end of today," said Lt. Col. Allen Delaney, who commands the staging center. Eighty-six members of his reserve unit, the 459th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, based at Andrews, were called up for a year in April to run what is essentially a medical air terminal, the nation's hub, for war wounded from Iraq.
At Walter Reed, a half-hour drive from Andrews, Maj. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, the hospital's commanding general, said there were only two days in July and four in August that the hospital did not admit soldiers injured in Iraq.
"The orthopedic surgeons are very busy, and the nursing services are very busy, both in the intensive care units and on the wards," he said, explaining that there have been five or six instances in recent months when all of the hospital's 40 intensive care beds have been filled -- mostly with battlefield wounded.
Kiley said rocket-propelled grenades and mines can wound multiple troops at a time and cause "the kind of amputating damage that you don't necessarily see with a bullet wound to the arm or leg."
The result has been large numbers of troops coming back to Walter Reed and National Naval Medical with serious blast wounds and arms and legs that have been amputated, either in Iraq or at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where virtually all battlefield casualties are treated and stabilized.
"A few of us started volunteering [at Walter Reed] as amputees in 1991, and this is the most we've seen ever," said Jim Mayer, a double amputee from the Vietnam War who works at the Veterans Administration. "I've never seen anything like this. But I haven't seen anybody not get good care."
Kiley said that Walter Reed has 600 physicians and 350 physicians in training, plus reservists and the ability to bring in more nurses if necessary. The hospital "could go on from an operational perspective indefinitely -- we have a lot of capacity," he said. The hospital has treated 1,100 patients from the war, including 228 battlefield casualties.
National Naval Medical Center was most severely stressed during the major combat phase of the war, said Capt. Michael J. Krentz, its deputy commander. During that period, 800 of the hospital's medical professionals -- a third of its regular staff and half its military staff -- deployed overseas to the USNS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship. The hospital called up 600 reservists to replace them.
Before the fall of Baghdad in April, the hospital had 40 patients a night -- mostly Marines -- from Iraq. Now the number is down to three, since the Marines have begun departing and will soon hand peacekeeping duties in their area south of Baghdad to multinational forces.
"Taking care of returning casualties is our number one job -- that's why we're here," Krentz said. "That's our sworn duty, and it's our honor to do so."
Kiley and Krentz said high-tech body armor and state-of-the-art battlefield medical procedures are keeping more seriously wounded soldiers alive than ever before.
Krentz said advanced radiological equipment aboard the Comfort enabled doctors to spot internal injuries and operate much sooner than they might have otherwise been able to, preventing fatalities. In fact, he said, patients had been stabilized so well overseas that there were no deaths of returning service members at Bethesda.
Kiley said he had seen several cases in which soldiers had been operated on in the field so quickly that doctors managed to save limbs that might otherwise have been lost. "But it's a long haul even when they do preserve limbs," he said.
Regarding Bush's intransigence in seeking badly needed help in Iraq, CalPundit speaks for many when he asks, "what on earth are the Bushies thinking?"
They started a war no one else wanted, they treated anyone opposed to the war as virtual traitors to humanity, and they are still insisting that America needs to be 100% in charge of everything that goes on in Iraq.
But despite all that they're "puzzled" about how to get the rest of the world to pony up to help us out of our mess? Even though the rest of the world warned us repeatedly about the likely result of our adventure? What planet are they living on?
Part of my opposition to the war -- especially given Bush's insistence on going it alone -- was the likely difficulty in occupying the country, a difficulty foreseen way back in 1991. As it stands, the Bush Administration's failure to achieve security in Iraq overshadows any other achievement the Administration and its defenders might boast of. Without security, a little electricity doesn't really matter, does it?
Happy Labor Day! The family has so far enjoyed a fairly relaxing weekend, after all the activity of the last several weeks. Here are some of the highlights.
Saturday, The Girls and I watched my new DVD of the ultra-cool kaiju flick X from Outer Space (reviews at Teleport City and The Bad Movie Report, which concludes "this movie could definitely be shown to a child with minimal fear of invoking nightmares" -- an assessment with which The girls and I completely agree). We then played with the Bandai Ultraman monster toys I got for my birthday. We built a city out of blocks on the coffee table, and then The Girls had fun knocking them over with the various monsters.
Sunday night we had dinner at our friends' Qing and Lifang's house. Qing cooked a marvelous Chinese feast. We then watched one of the Hong Kong DVDs I recently ordered, the Sammo Hung wuxia pian flick Moon Warriors, which stars Andy Lau, Anita Mui and the lovely Maggie Cheung. I enjoyed it very much.
We just changed the water in Cecilia's fish tank, a process that was both simple and complex. Simple, because there really isn't that much to it -- we're just changing water, after all -- and complex because there's a number of steps that have to be undertaken carefully and in order -- fill buckets, treat the water for chlorine, let stand 24 hours to get to room temperature, scoop the fish out with a net, empty the tank, rinse the tank, gravel, decorations and filters, put in the new water, replace the decorations and filter pump, and return the fish to its home. While we were at the pet store the other day buying the scoop net, Cecilia wanted to get some plastic plants to add to the tank. Neon colored, of course.
It's rainy this Labor Day in Indianapolis -- a fact that may put the kibosh on my plans to celebrate with the last cookout of the summer -- but I'm sure we'll find something to do. Perhaps we'll spin the X From Outer Space DVD again...