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A story not found on Lou Dobbs

There was a period last year for about two weeks where I was watching Lou Dobbs regularly and was sort of / kind of guardedly liking him.

Those days are long gone. I’m now at a point where I have gotten well and truly tired of his three talking points.

One: there is a war being waged on the middle class.
Two: our southern border is a myth and nobody seems to care.
Three: this is a know nothing/do nothing corrupt congress.

I grant him all three of his points but jesus christos, could you hammer me about the head and shoulders some more, please? And could you pretty please yammer on in the sort of tone that family patriarchs reserve for the particularly slow and willfully ignorant.

And the viewer response poll questions are insulting.

But not half as insulting as the conversational talking-point “closers” to his “co-anchor”, Kitty Pilgrim. Which sounds like a pornstar name, which is apt, except pornstars usually don’t have to swallow so much.

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Where this is going is that Lou is constantly talking about how Latino culture is this tide that is going to wash over Western culture until… until, I dunno, TV LAND stops showing Leave It To Beaver I suppose.

And I’m down here posting a box of books to Amazon pretty evenly divided between Japanese culture and Latino culture. First, I learned (or rather was reminded) that many MANY books about Japanese culture – particularly those about Japanese business and education practices (guys like Ezra Vogel) are “no-price” and must be tossed or shredded for mulch while any book about latin/latino culture in English or Spanish is usually $6.00 and up. I did about 30 books and averaged about $12.00 each.

So, with Lou Dobbs babbling away in the background I’m down here in my basement bookstore, the whitest of white guys, selling Spanish culture back to Lou’s nemesis while the success of the Rising Sun culture is quickly being forgotten. Go figure.

– Barney Dannelke

Currently reading :
Network Movie Script Screenplay
By Paddy Chayesky
Release date: By 1976

Nine Paradoxes of a Lost War By Michael Schwartz

Thanks to “Dav|d” for bringing this article to my attention. While a number of “bad news from Iraq” articles have a brief half-life the issues in this one are going to be with us for some time yet.

– Dannelke
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Nine Paradoxes of a Lost War
By Michael Schwartz
TomDispatch.com

The more force you use, the less effective you are.

Recently, the New York Times broke a story suggesting that the U.S. Army and the Marines were about to turn the conceptual tide of war in Iraq. The two services, reported correspondent Michael R. Gordon, “were finishing work on a new counterinsurgency doctrine” that would, according to retired Lt. Gen. Jack Keane, “change [the military’s] entire culture as it transitions to irregular warfare.”

Such strategic eureka moments have been fairly common since the Bush administration invaded Iraq in March 2003, and this one – news coverage of it died away in less than a week – will probably drop into the dustbin of history along with other times when the tactical or strategic tide of war was supposed to change. These would include the November 2004 assault on the city of Falluja, various elections, the “standing up” of the Iraqi army, and the trench that, it was briefly reported, the Iraqis were planning to dig around their vast capital, Baghdad.

But this plan had one ingenious section, derived from an article by four military experts published in the quasi-official Military Review and entitled “The Paradoxes of Counterinsurgency.” The nine paradoxes the experts lay out are eye-catching, to say the least, and so make vivid reading; but they are more than so many titillating puzzles of counterinsurgency warfare. Each of them contains an implied criticism of American strategy in Iraq. Seen in this light, they become an instructive lesson from insiders in why the American presence in that country has been such a disaster, and why this (or any other) new counterinsurgency strategy has little chance of ameliorating it.

Paradox 1: The More You Protect Your Force, the Less Secure You Are

The military experts offer this explanation: “[The] counterinsurgent gains ultimate success by protecting the populace, not himself.” It may seem like a bland comment, but don’t be fooled. It conceals a devastating criticism of the cardinal principle of the American military in Iraq: that above all else they must minimize the risk to American troops by setting rules of engagement that essentially boil down to “shoot first, make excuses later.” Applications of this principle are found in the by-now familiar policies of annihilating any car that passes the restraint line at checkpoints (because it might be a car bomber); shooting at pedestrians who get in the path of any American convoy (because they might be trying to stop the vehicles to activate an ambush); and calling in artillery or air power against any house that might be an insurgent hiding place (because the insurgents might otherwise escape and/or snipe at an American patrol).

This “shoot first” policy has guaranteed that large numbers of civilians (including a remarkable number of children) have been killed, maimed, or left homeless. For most of us, killing this many innocent people would be reason enough to abandon a policy, but from a military point of view it is not in itself sufficient. These tactics only become anathema when you can no longer ignore the way they have made it ever more difficult for the occupying army to “maintain contact” with the local population in order “to obtain the intelligence to drive operations and to reinforce the connections with the people who establish legitimacy.”

Paradox 2: The More Force You Use, the Less Effective You Are

Times’ reporter Gordon summarizes the logic here nicely: “Substantial force increases the risk of collateral damage and mistakes, and increases the opportunity for insurgent propaganda.” Considering the levels of devastation achieved in the Sunni city of Falluja (where 70% of structures were estimated to be damaged and close to 50% destroyed in the U.S. assault of November 2004) and in other Sunni cities (where whole neighborhoods have been devastated), or even in Shiite Najaf (where entire neighborhoods and major parts of its old city were destroyed in 2004), the word “substantial” has to be considered a euphemism. And the use of the word “propaganda” betrays the bias of the military authors, since many people would consider such levels of devastation a legitimate reason for joining groups that aim to expel the occupiers.

Here again, the striking logic of the American military is at work. These levels of destruction are not, in themselves, considered a problem – at least not until someone realizes that they are facilitating recruitment by the opposition.

Paradox 3: The More Successful Counterinsurgency Is, the Less Force That Can Be Used and the More Risk That Must Be Accepted

Though not presented this way, this paradox is actually a direct criticism of the American military strategy in the months after the fall of the Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003. In those early days, active resistance to the occupation was modest indeed, an average of only six violent engagements each day (compared to 90 three years later.) But American military policy in the country was still based on overwhelming force. American commanders sought to deter a larger insurgency by ferociously repressing any signs of resistance. This strategy included house-to-house searches witnessed by embedded reporter Nir Rosen and described in his vivid book, In the Belly of the Green Bird. These missions, repeated hundreds of times each day across Iraq, included home invasions of suspected insurgents, brutal treatment of their families and often their property, and the indefinite detention of men found in just about any house searched, even when U.S. troops knew that their intelligence was unreliable. Relatively peaceful demonstrations were forcibly suppressed, most agonizingly when, in late April 2003, American troops killed 13 demonstrators in Falluja who were demanding that the U.S. military vacate a school commandeered as a local headquarters. This incident became a cause célèbre around which Fallujans organized themselves into a central role in the insurgency that soon was born.

The new counterinsurgency strategy acknowledges that the very idea of overwhelming demonstrations of force producing respectful obedience has backfired, producing instead an explosion of rebellion. And now that a significant majority of Iraqis are determined to expel the Americans, promises of more humane treatment next time will not get the genie of the insurgency back in the bottle.

Paradox 4: Sometimes Doing Nothing Is the Best Reaction

This paradox is, in fact, a criticism of another cardinal principle of the occupation: the application of overwhelming force in order to teach insurgents (and prospective insurgents) that opposition of any sort will not be tolerated and, in any case, is hopeless. A typical illustration of this principle in practice was a January 2006 U.S. military report that went in part: “An unmanned U.S. drone detected three men digging a hole in a road in the area. Insurgents regularly bury bombs along roads in the area to target U.S. or Iraqi convoys. The three men were tracked to a building, which U.S. forces then hit with precision-guided munitions.” As it turned out, the attack killed 12 members of a family living in that house, severely damaged six neighboring houses, and consolidated local opposition to the American presence.

This example (multiplied many times over) makes it clear why, in so many instances over these last years, doing nothing might have been better: fewer enemies in the “hood.” But the developers of the new military strategy have a more cold-blooded view of the issue, preferring to characterize the principle in this way: “If a careful analysis of the effects of a response reveals that more negatives than positives might result, soldiers should consider an alternative.” That is, while this incident might well be an example of a time when “doing nothing is the best reaction,” the multiple civilian deaths that resulted could, under at least some circumstances, be outweighed by the “positives.” Take, for a counter example, the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of al-Qaeda-in-Mesopotamia, in an air strike that also caused multiple civilian deaths.

Paradox 5: The Best Weapons for Counterinsurgency Do Not Shoot

The Times’ Gordon offers the following translation of this paradox: “Often dollars and ballots have more impact than bombs and bullets.” Given the $18 billion U.S. reconstruction budget for Iraq and the three well-attended elections since January 2005, it might seem that, in this one area, Bush administration efforts actually anticipated the new counterinsurgency doctrine.

But in their original article the military strategists were actually far more precise in describing what they meant by this – and that precision makes it clear how far from effective American “reconstruction” was. Money and elections, they claim, are not enough: “Lasting victory will come from a vibrant economy, political participation and restored hope.” As it happened, the American officials responsible for Iraq policy were only willing to deliver that vibrant economy, along with political participation and restored hope, under quite precise and narrow conditions that suited the larger fantasies of the Bush administration. Iraq’s new government was to be an American ally, hostile to that axis-of-evil regional power Iran, and it was to embrace the “opening” of the Iraqi economy to American multinationals. Given Iraqi realities and this hopeless list of priorities (or inside-the-Beltway day-dreams), it is not surprising that the country’s economy has sunk ever deeper into depression, that elected officials have neither the power nor the inclination to deliver on their campaign promises, and that the principle hopes of the majority of Iraqis are focused on the departure of American troops because of, as one pollster concluded, “the American failure to do basically anything for Iraqis.”

Paradox 6: The Host Nation Doing Something Tolerably Is Sometimes Better Than Our Doing It Well

Here is a paradoxical principle that the occupation has sought to apply fully. The presidential slogan, “as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down,” has been an expression of Bush administration determination to transfer the front-line struggle against the insurgents – the patrols, the convoys, the home invasions, any house-to-house fighting – to Iraqi units, even if their job performance proved even less than “tolerable” compared to the rigorous execution of American troops.

It is this effort that has also proved the administration’s most consistent and glaring failure. In a country where 80% of the people want the Americans to leave, it is very difficult to find soldiers willing to fight against the insurgents who are seeking to expel them. This was evident when the first group of American-trained soldiers and police deserted the field of battle during the fights for Falluja, Najaf, Mosul, and Tal Afar back in 2004. This led eventually to the current American strategy of using Shia soldiers against Sunni insurgents, and utilizing Kurds against both Shia and Sunni rebels. (Sunnis, by and large, have refused to fight with the Americans.) This policy, in turn, has contributed substantially to the still-escalating sectarian violence within Iraq.

Even today, after the infusion of enormous amounts of money and years of effort, a substantial proportion of newly recruited soldiers desert or mutiny when faced with the prospect of fighting against anti-American insurgents. According to Solomon Moore and Louise Roug of the Los Angeles Times, in Anbar province, the scene of the heaviest fighting, “half the Iraqi soldiers are on leave at any given time, and many don’t return to duty. In May, desertion rates in some Iraqi units reached 40%.” In September, fully three-quarters of the 4,000 Iraqi troops ordered to Baghdad to help in the American operation to reclaim the capital and suppress internecine violence there, refused deployment. American officials told the LA Times that such refusals were based on an unwillingness to fight outside their home regions and a reluctance to “be thrust into uncomfortable sectarian confrontations.”

As the failed attempts to “stand up” Iraqi forces suggest, the goal of getting Iraqis to fight “tolerably” well depends upon giving them a reason to fight that they actually support. As long as Iraqis are asked to fight on the side of occupation troops whose presence they despise, we cannot expect the quality of their performance to be “tolerable” from the Bush Administration point of view.

Paradox 7: If a Tactic Works This Week, It Will Not Work Next Week; If It Works in This Province, It Will Not Work in the Next

The clearest expression of this principle lies in the history of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the anti-occupation weapon of choice among Iraqi resistance fighters. Throughout the war, the occupation military has conducted hundreds of armed patrols each week designed to capture suspected insurgents through house-to-house searches. The insurgency, in turn, has focused on deterring and derailing these patrols, using sniper attacks, rocket propelled grenades, and IEDs. At first, sniper attacks were the favored weapon of the insurgents, but the typical American response – artillery and air attacks – proved effective enough to set them looking for other ways to respond. IEDs then gained in popularity, since they could be detonated from a relatively safe distance. When the Americans developed devices to detect the electronic detonators, the insurgents developed a variety of non-electronic trigger devices. When the Americans upgraded their armor to resist the typical IED, the insurgents developed “shaped” charges that could pierce American armor.

One solution not under consideration might work very well: abandoning the military patrols themselves. But such a tactic would also require abandoning counterinsurgency and ultimately leaving Iraq.

Paradox 8: Tactical Success Guarantees Nothing

This point is summarized by Gordon of the Times this way: “[M]ilitary actions by themselves cannot achieve success.” But this is the smallest part of the paradox. It is true enough that the insurgency in Iraq hopes to win “politically,” by waiting for the American people to force our government to withdraw, or for the cost of the war to outweigh its potential benefits, or for world pressure to make the war diplomatically unviable.

But there is a much more encompassing element to this dictum: that guerrilla fighters do not expect to win any military battles with the occupation. In the military strategists’ article, they quote an interchange between American Colonel Harry Summers and his North Vietnamese counterpart after the U.S. had withdrawn from Vietnam. When Summers said, “You know you never defeated us on the battlefield,” his adversary replied, “That may be so, but it is also irrelevant.”

A tactical victory occurs when the enemy is killed or retreats, leaving the battlefield to the victor. In guerrilla war, therefore, the guerrillas never win since they always melt away and leave their adversary in charge.

But in Iraq, as in other successful guerrilla wars, the occupation army cannot remain indefinitely at the scene of its tactical victories – in each community, town, or city that it conquers. It must move on to quell the rebellion elsewhere. And when it does, if the guerrillas have successfully melted away, they will reoccupy the community, town, or city, thus winning a strategic victory and ruling the local area until their next tactical defeat.

If they keep this up long enough and do it in enough places, they will eventually make the war too costly to pursue – and thus conceivably win the war without winning a battle.

Paradox 9: Most of the Important Decisions Are Not Made by Generals

Because guerrilla war is decentralized, with local bands deciding where to place IEDs, when to use snipers, and which patrols or bases to attack, the struggle in different communities, provinces, or regions takes very different forms. Many insurgents in Falluja chose to stand and fight, while those in Tal Afar, near the Syrian border, decided to evacuate the city with its civilian population when the American military approached in strength. In Shia areas, members of Muktada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army chose to join the local police and turn it to their purposes; but Sunni insurgents have tried, instead, to disarm the local police and then disband the force. In every city and town, the strategy of the resistance has been different.

The latest American military strategists are arguing that what they call the “mosaic nature of an insurgency” implies the necessity of giving autonomy to local American commanders to “adapt as quickly as the insurgents.” But such decentralization cannot work if the local population supports the insurgent goal of expelling the occupiers. Given autonomy under such circumstances, lower level U.S. military officers may decide that annihilating a home suspected of sheltering an insurgent is indeed counterproductive; such decisions, however, humane, would now come far too late to convince a local population that it should abandon its support of a campaign seen as essential to national independence.

There may have been a time, back when the invasion began, that the U.S. could have adopted a strategy that would have made it welcome – for a time, anyway – in Iraq. Such a strategy, as the military theorists flatly state, would have had to deliver a “vibrant economy, political participation, and restored hope.” Instead, the occupation delivered economic stagnation or degradation, a powerless government, and the promise of endless violence. Given this reality, no new military strategy – however humane, canny, or well designed – could reverse the occupation’s terminal unpopularity. Only a U.S. departure might do that.

Paradoxically, the policies these military strategists are now trying to reform have ensured that, however much most Iraqis may want such a departure, it would be, at best, bittersweet. The legacy of sectarian violence and the near-irreversible destruction wrought by the American presence make it unlikely that they would have the time or inclination to take much satisfaction in the end of the American occupation.

——–

Michael Schwartz, Professor of Sociology and Faculty Director of the Undergraduate College of Global Studies at Stony Brook University, has written extensively on popular protest and insurgency, as well as on American business and government dynamics. His work on Iraq has appeared on numerous internet sites including Tomdispatch.com, Asia Times, Mother Jones.com, and ZNet; and in print in Contexts, Against the Current, and Z Magazine. His books include Radical Protest and Social Structure, and Social Policy and the Conservative Agenda (edited, with Clarence Lo). His email address is Ms42@optonline.net.

Currently watching :
Syriana (Widescreen Edition)
Release date: By 20 June, 2006

 

“We Have Not Forgotten, Mr. President.”

The introduction paragraph to the Olbermann piece was written by someone else but I have no issues with it at all. None.

Most folks on MySpace didn’t know me in September of 2001 but my
sentiment at the time – perhaps my ONLY clear and focused thought  that whole week – is that we

HAD TO BUILD

something there and we had to do it ASAP.

I really don’t care if we GIVE the offices away via obscene govt.
subsidies. I really don’t. All I knew then and all I know now is that
there should be something standing there and that it should be

TALLER

[Damn, I wish I had caps for my CAPS]

***TA ll ER**

than what was there before.

Freedom Tower

I know there are limits to what a President can do, or force the
private sector to do. Or, at least I thought that six years ago. I’ve certainly learned hard lessons about the definitions of Presidential powers since then. But then there are structures in this country such as the Hoover Dam where Presidential leadership and a huge government push got the job done and… , well, I just know that if building something there tomorrow meant everyone in America reaching around for their wallet and pulling out another $20 (on top of the fist half-Trillion) well, how many floors and reflecting pools does 275 million times $20.00 buy Mr. President?

And I’ll spot the first four people standing next to me.

Bastards.

– Barney Dannelke

********************************************

The Nation Monday – Sep 11, 9:49 PM ET

Keith Olbermann is without a doubt the best news anchor on television today. Two weeks ago, echoing the spirit of the legendary Edward R. Murrow, Olbermann took Donald Rumsfeld to task for comparing critics of the Iraq war to Nazi appeasers. Tonight, broadcasting live from above a desolate and still demolished Ground Zero, Olbermann delivered a stirring eight minute commentary indicting the Bush Administration’s shameful and tragic response to 9/11. The entire speech is worth watching and reading, so I’m posting the full text below.

****************************************************

“We Have Not Forgotten, Mr. President.”

Half a lifetime ago, I worked in this now-empty space. And for 40 days after the attacks, I worked here again, trying to make sense of what happened, and was yet to happen, as a reporter.

All the time, I knew that the very air I breathed contained the remains of thousands of people, including four of my friends, two in the planes and — as I discovered from those “missing posters” seared still into my soul — two more in the Towers.

And I knew too, that this was the pyre for hundreds of New York policemen and firemen, of whom my family can claim half a dozen or more, as our ancestors.

I belabor this to emphasize that, for me this was, and is, and always shall be, personal.
And anyone who claims that I and others like me are “soft,”or have “forgotten” the lessons of what happened here is at best a grasping, opportunistic, dilettante and at worst, an idiot whether he is a commentator, or a Vice President, or a President.

However, of all the things those of us who were here five years ago could have forecast — of all the nightmares that unfolded before our eyes, and the others that unfolded only in our minds — none of us could have predicted this.

Five years later this space is still empty.
Five years later there is no memorial to the dead.
Five years later there is no building rising to show with proud defiance that we would not have our America wrung from us, by cowards and criminals.

Five years later this country’s wound is still open.
Five years later this country’s mass grave is still unmarked.
Five years later this is still just a background for a photo-op.
It is beyond shameful.

Ground Zero - September 2006
At the dedication of the Gettysburg Memorial –barely four months after the last soldier staggered from another Pennsylvania field — Mr. Lincoln said, “we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.”

Lincoln used those words to immortalize their sacrifice.

Gettysburg
Today our leaders could use those same words to rationalize their reprehensible inaction. “We cannot dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground.” So we won’t.

Instead they bicker and buck pass. They thwart private efforts, and jostle to claim credit for initiatives that go nowhere. They spend the money on irrelevant wars, and elaborate self-congratulations, and buying off columnists to write how good a job they’re doing instead of doing any job at all.

Five years later, Mr. Bush, we are still fighting the terrorists on these streets. And look carefully, sir, on these 16 empty acres. The terrorists are clearly, still winning.

And, in a crime against every victim here and every patriotic sentiment you mouthed but did not enact, you have done nothing about it.

And there is something worse still than this vast gaping hole in this city, and in the fabric of our nation. There is its symbolism of the promise unfulfilled, the urgent oath, reduced to lazy execution.

The only positive on 9/11 and the days and weeks that so slowly and painfully followed it was the unanimous humanity, here, and throughout the country. The government, the President in particular, was given every possible measure of support.

Those who did not belong to his party — tabled that.
Those who doubted the mechanics of his election — ignored that.
Those who wondered of his qualifications — forgot that.
History teaches us that nearly unanimous support of a government cannot be taken away from that government by its critics. It can only be squandered by those who use it not to heal a nation’s wounds, but to take political advantage.

Terrorists did not come and steal our newly-regained sense of being American first, and political, fiftieth. Nor did the Democrats. Nor did the media. Nor did the people.

The President — and those around him — did that.
They promised bi-partisanship, and then showed that to them, “bi-partisanship” meant that their party would rule and the rest would have to follow, or be branded, with ever-escalating hysteria, as morally or intellectually confused, as appeasers, as those who, in the Vice President’s words yesterday, “validate the strategy of the terrorists.”

They promised protection, and then showed that to them “protection” meant going to war against a despot whose hand they had once shaken, a despot who we now learn from our own Senate Intelligence Committee, hated al-Qaida as much as we did.

The polite phrase for how so many of us were duped into supporting a war, on the false premise that it had ‘something to do’ with 9/11 is “lying by implication.”

The impolite phrase is “impeachable offense.”
Not once in now five years has this President ever offered to assume responsibility for the failures that led to this empty space, and to this, the current, curdled, version of our beloved country.

Still, there is a last snapping flame from a final candle of respect and fairness: even his most virulent critics have never suggested he alone bears the full brunt of the blame for 9/11.

Half the time, in fact, this President has been so gently treated, that he has seemed not even to be the man most responsible for anything in his own administration.

Yet what is happening this very night?
A mini-series, created, influenced — possibly financed by — the most radical and cold of domestic political Machiavellis, continues to be televised into our homes.

The documented truths of the last fifteen years are replaced by bald-faced lies; the talking points of the current regime parroted; the whole sorry story blurred, by spin, to make the party out of office seem vacillating and impotent, and the party in office, seem like the only option.

How dare you, Mr. President, after taking cynical advantage of the unanimity and love, and transmuting it into fraudulent war and needless death, after monstrously transforming it into fear and suspicion and turning that fear into the campaign slogan of three elections? How dare you — or those around you — ever “spin” 9/11?

Just as the terrorists have succeeded — are still succeeding — as long as there is no memorial and no construction here at Ground Zero.

So, too, have they succeeded, and are still succeeding as long as this government uses 9/11 as a wedge to pit Americans against Americans.

This is an odd point to cite a television program, especially one from March of 1960. But as Disney’s continuing sell-out of the truth (and this country) suggests, even television programs can be powerful things.

And long ago, a series called “The Twilight Zone” broadcast a riveting episode entitled “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street.”

In brief: a meteor sparks rumors of an invasion by extra-terrestrials disguised as humans. The electricity goes out. A neighbor pleads for calm. Suddenly his car — and only his car — starts. Someone suggests he must be the alien. Then another man’s lights go on. As charges and suspicion and panic overtake the street, guns are inevitably produced. An “alien” is shot — but he turns out to be just another neighbor, returning from going for help. The camera pulls back to a near-by hill, where two extra-terrestrials are seen manipulating a small device that can jam electricity. The veteran tells his novice that there’s no need to actually attack, that you just turn off a few of the human machines and then, “they pick the most dangerous enemy they can find, and it’s themselves.”

The Monsters of Maple Street

And then, in perhaps his finest piece of writing, Rod Serling sums it up with words of remarkable prescience, given where we find ourselves tonight: “The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men.

“For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own — for the children, and the children yet unborn.”

When those who dissent are told time and time again — as we will be, if not tonight by the President, then tomorrow by his portable public chorus — that he is preserving our freedom, but that if we use any of it, we are somehow un-American…When we are scolded, that if we merely question, we have “forgotten the lessons of 9/11″… look into this empty space behind me and the bi-partisanship upon which this administration also did not build, and tell me:

Who has left this hole in the ground?
We have not forgotten, Mr. President.
You have.
May this country forgive you.

***************************************************

Statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.

MARK TWAIN – “Chronicle of Young Satan”

Since 4:38AM this morning – when I went to bed – I have had 34
“Sold-Ship now” e-mails from Amazon. That’s about 7 book orders per hour. Between that and squandering my time staring at the inside of my eyelids or tracking down misplaced titles amongst 22,000 books or printing things with my Dymo labeller I haven’t had as much time to think about the subtle nuances of the latest X-Men film as I would have if I were, oh, say, 14 years old.

THEREFORE you will not be receiving a detailed “Ebert-esque”
examination of the 3 X-Men films as a gestalt or even the long review of X-MEN: THE LAST STAND that I had hoped to write. Much of what needed to be said has already been said and the rest I’m just going to take random swings at.

Part of my problem working up the energy to do this at all is that
over the last five years I have written capsule reviews of damned near
every “comic-to-film” that has come down the pike and re-creating some
of my basic premises fills me with boredom. Suffice to say that AS A
RULE comics should not be made into movies.


It’s really NOT needed.

The short form of this theory is that you probably could adapt a Scott
Joplin tune to Hip-hop but really, why effing bother. Neither is
improved by the process and the potential to go wrong in a big way is
always present.

Another way of thinking about these films to consider the umbrage
once taken by Joanna Russ and Ursula K. Le Guin over the term “Female
Author”. It is an artistic process as a “stunt” instead of a sincere
endeavor. It’s a bear riding a bicycle.

Doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad, you are just supposed to be thrilled that a fucking bear is riding a bicycle. I’m pretty sure it’s that sort of contempt [and
greed of course] that fuels these comic-to-film Hollywood projects.

To  my friend Mark’s point about the humor not much being there in the third
film – I have always found humor to be the wrong note for X-Men except
from Wolverine, and then only when used very sparingly. That’s really
Spider-Man’s turf and only thrown in here to please a certain audience
demographic. The “form” of X-MEN is pure opera and we all know what a
laugh riot opera is.

[Insert 75 page doctoral thesis comparing and contrasting all of the
tropes of opera strip-mined by Chris Claremont to make X-Men the
unique comics franchise that it has been for 25 years.]

To anybody complaining about who dies and who comes back and THAT
they come back… shut up. This may or may not be great storytelling
but it is perhaps the thing that Hollywood gets correct in the
adaptive process. It is MOST LIKE what we have been reading all of our
lives if we are talking about Marvel/D.C. style superheroics. Thus has
it EVER been.

I actually thought the set-up for Xavier’s potential return was
nicely done and damned near subtle by Hollywood standards. Of course I
don’t really see them doing the whole Moira McTaggert / Banshee /
Polaris / Muir Isle, etc. stuff but that’s not for me to say. I would
of course, much sooner see them go with the DAYS OF FUTURE PAST story arc “sweet spot” but that’s just me.

We did at least get the head of a Sentinal in the Danger Room
sequence. We may have to console ourselves with that and fill in the
blanks.

Quick notes.

Beast’s fur was the wrong color blue. It’sa tough thing to get right
but that was way too bright.

In this shot here it’s almost correct but they really used chroma-key or something to punch that blue up in the finished film. Otherwise in the Alcatraz night shots he would have completely disappeared.

Unlike all of the rest of you I have NO PROBLEM with Ms. Barry
striking poses and rolling her eyes up in her head. Walk toward the
camera some more, I say. Now walk away. Now saunter back. Oh yeah,
baby… where was I?

What’s his name playing the Juggernaut was wasted and stupid. It was
exactly as badly done as BANE in that BATMAN filmed version. Pathetic.

CGI’ing old actors young again is a bad idea and a VERY slippery
slope. Also, was that vein on Wolverine’s arm achieved in a gym or
CGI’d in place? Maybe we could have a Young non-alcoholic Harrison
Ford as Indiana Jones? This stuff creeps me out.

The ENTIRE SF bridge sequence made NO SENSE whatsover. Bad physics, no plot reason for doing it with Magneto’s powers – and the instant
night time transition ALL served to take me out of the moment. Nothing
“gosh wow” about this sequence at all.

All in all, another mess made of an otherwise wonderful cultural
artifact that needed no help from Hollywood to do what it was already
doing just fine.

– Barney

Department of BAD ideas:

This is just going to be a quickie. I lurk and monitor posts from the Society of Environmental Journalists. I do this for a number of reasons. Mostly because their interests such as the planet we live on…

Eath

tends to dovetail quite often with my own. Also, they’re scientists and often liberals and that also works to their favor in my book. Mostly I like them because they will sometimes “go deep” or bring statistics or an outlook to a story that I wouldn’t think of. Here are a couple of examples of things they were on about last week that caught my eye.

The opening remark was that comedians say something absurd and hope that you’ll laugh whereas lawyers say something absurd and dare you to laugh. The turnabout I suppose would be the tobacco industry suing the Surgeon General for not shouting louder and sooner about the dangers of smoking. It is to laugh. Unless you had the misfortune of being trapped in that awful place underground. Then I suppose in the words of Warren Zevon, “It ain’t that pretty at all.”

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2006_02/008175.php

February 8, 2006

Guest: Stephanie Mencimer

TORT REFORM, CORPORATE STYLE….After the Sago coal mine disaster killed 12
West Virginia miners last month, the Mine Safety and Health Administration
(MSHA) came under widespread criticism for failing to adequately regulate
the coal industry and protect mine workers. Critics blamed the Bush
administration for stocking the agency with coal industry cronies who
wanted a more “cooperative” approach to safety regulations rather than serious
enforcement. Now, one more group has joined the chorus of MSHA critics:
the very coal companies that worked to gut the agency in the first place.

Here’s the story. Back in 2003, West Virginia suffered its worst coal mining
accident in a decade when an explosion in a mine owned by CONSOL Energy
killed three miners and disabled two others. The families of the dead and
injured miners sued CONSOL, alleging that it had demonstrated a willful
disregard for its workers’ safety and was ultimately responsible for the
accident. The trial is set for June. But with all the recent publicity about
MSHA’s failures, CONSOL apparently saw an opportunity for a novel legal defense.

This week, after three years of litigation, CONSOL and the other
defendants filed a motion stating their intention to sue MSHA, which they argue is
really to blame for the mine explosion. “The negligence of CONSOL, if any,
was the result, in whole or in part, of the negligence of the Mine Safety
and Health Administration,” they write, demanding that the federal
government pay any jury award against the companies that might result from
the litigation, along with all their legal fees. …
—————————————————————————

Like I said – Bad idea.

Now here is something that has a few more sides. It sort of ties in with the whole Haliburton Gulag building for big bucks but it’s not so nearly black and white.

VB writes: Has anyone heard of this proposed regulation to close vital records
nationally and yet pool them in a federal database open only to, well,
those who enable us to sleep safe from terrorists? This law would make it a lot
easier to disappear people and send them off to the gulags. Let’s see, I
wonder which states will volunteer to host federal gulags in exchange for
influxes of money from the DoD and DoE? And who will run those gulags?
Halliburton, Blackwater Security?

See “Information Is Power” by Terry J. Allen, February 14, 2006

http://www.inthesetimes.com/site/main/article/2488/

Excerpt:

“Sometimes it’s the small abuses scurrying below radar that reveal how
profoundly the Bush administration has changed America in the name of
national security. Buried within the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism
Prevention Act of 2004 is a regulation that bars most public access to
birth and death certificates for 70 to 100 years. In much of the country, these
records have long been invaluable tools for activists, lawyers, and
reporters to uncover patterns of illness and pollution that officials miss
or ignore.

In These Times has obtained a draft of the proposed regulations now
causing widespread concern among state officials. It reveals plans to create a
vast database of vital records to be centralized in Washington, and details
measures that states must implement-and pay millions for-before next
year’s scheduled implementation.

The draft lays out how some 60,000 already strapped town and county
offices must keep the birth and death records under lock and key and report all
document requests to Washington. Individuals who show up in person will
still be able to obtain their own birth certificates, and in some cases,
the birth and death records of an immediate relative; and “legitimate”
research institutions may be able to access files. But reporters and activists
won’t be allowed to fish through records; many family members looking for
genetic clues will be out of luck; and people wanting to trace adoptions will
dead-end. If you are homeless and need your own birth certificate, forget
it: no address, no service.” [more]

________________________________________________________________

The article spends a fair amount of time on some 1984 scenarios that I think are a bit unlikely and a few of those are refuted well enough in the comments following that article that I don’t really feel the need to go into them further here but for me the interesting thing is the public health aspect. You start putting all of this information in one place and restricting access to researchers and the potential and temptation to sit on bad news or news that can lead to corporate litigation becomes more than a little problematic.

Making sure this data is secure I can understand and appreciate. Identity theft is a real problem. But putting all of these eggs into one very big government controlled basket has so much potential for curtailing personal freedom that I find very little in the way of upside.

– Barney

p.s. – My father “lost” his middle name when the Milwaukee County Courthouse burned down. His hospital birth certificate and Navy discharge papers don’t list one. My dad told it to me when I was a kid but I’ve forgoten it and my own mother no longer remembers what it was. Another argument for de-centralized databases and some form of open access I suppose. Except my dad told me he hated his middle name and never missed it. Wonder what he would have made of all this.

Ok. I’m not proud of this, but what the hell. Like you never stooped to this level. “Sure sure kid.” as Paul Newman says.

http://www.dropzone.com/cgi-bin/forum/gforum.cgi?post=2058126#2058126

Wow. I can see where hitting your blog stats like some crystal-meth addicted lab rat could become a REAL problem. Watch that curve rise like a roller coaster. Get all excited. Go outdoors and have a life for 24 hours – and watch that thing crash like a brittle diabetic’s blood sugar level. Frowny faces all around. Crap.

So, as a place holder I’m adding/responding to my friend Marc Weidenbaum’s “4 Things” blogroll/list/meme/thingee. I am told this is “everywhere” but since I am not, this was my first time encounter with this internet meme. It’s probably TIRED, but less so than some “trapped on a deserted island with…” discussions. For myself, I always liked the Woody Allen bit in MANHATTAN where he is lying on a couch and making lists of his ALL TIME favorite things in life. On the one hand it’s a sure sign of an unchecked ego and on the other hand, somebody has to point cool stuff out and suggest where the gold and “True Gen” might be found. So, here – The Obligatory Four Things Meme/Lists

FOUR JOBS I’VE HAD

Mainframe Computer Operator

Armored Car Driver

House Framer

Antiquarian Bookseller [currently]

FOUR MOVIES I CAN WATCH OVER AND OVER AGAIN

Harold & Maude

Days of Heaven

The Right Stuff

The Man Who Would Be King

FOUR PLACES I’VE LIVED

Milwaukee, Wisconsin [home of Jeffrey Dahmer]

Appleton, Wisconsin [birthplace of Houdini]

Basement of the Paris Opera House [still waiting for my royalties]

Allentown, Pennsylvania. [A very different place than Billy joel would have it.]

Four tv shows that I love [or, at least think might justify the existence of television]

The Daily Show

The Outer Limits

The Wire

Deadwood

Four places I’ve vacationed

New Orleans

Puerto Rico

Seattle

Do hallucinations count?

Four of my favorite foods

Pop Tarts [sue me]

Cocoa Wheats [with lumps and preferably in the box from my childhood]

Chinese dumplings

The “meat lovers” stuffed slice at Parma Pizza on Cedar Crest Blvd.

Four sites I visit daily

The bathroom [oh, you meant VIRTUAL sites]

Ellison Webderland

New York Times.com

eBay

Amazon.com

[I could name some other REALLY cool sites and be all clever and exotic and shite but I don’t go to them “daily”. And neither would you. Except for the naughty ones. And you should really stop that.]

Four [just two right now] bloggers I am tagging

Marc Weidenbaum

http://www.disquiet.com/log20060122.html#0205meme

Dino Haspiel [Just ignore all the shirtless stuff. It’s a thing with him.]

http://man-size.livejournal.com/

Four places I’d rather be right now.

Canon’s Saloon [voted one of the 10 best “dive” bars in America by MAXIM]

Hava Java in the summertime. [My coffee shoppe]

The Strand [or any good used bookstore in America – or the world for that matter.]

In front of a computer screen where I have just FINISHED something.

– Barney Dannelke

Neverdone, PA.

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