Friday, April 30, 2004

Everywhere in LA does NOT take 20 minutes . . . .


I still hold that the 20 minute rule is true except when you really, really have to be on a schedule. Then you realize that it's just you and your car staring down the 405 at 3:45pm on a Friday.

This isn't going to be a pleasant drive. Sometimes a party asks too much . . . .

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Here - I'll leave you with this

One of my favorite themes: humor as political weapon . . . .

A Chron article on comics and the war.

"I've often said I'd rather be a poor guy making a stand than a rich guy who never says a word," he said. "There is so much injustice in this administration, so much lying and really dangerous politics. It's impossible to be a thinking, creative person right now and not comment."

The article isn't really as in-depth, issue wise, as it could be - but this should prompt you to google Boondocks, Doonesbury, etc, to catch up on how pop responds to an increasingly uncomfortable world situation.

It's also another opportunity to see that no matter what you're doing, if you have the smallest bit of microphone in front of you, use it to be heard. Eventually people will listen. We can only hope it will be in time.

So long and thanks for the fish

The last day of any job is bittersweet. You'll miss your friends, but there's usually a healthy vacation built in between gigs.

To my Capitol readers, I'll miss you all, but you know I won't stop posting. And while you can take the girl out of the building . . . .

The next few days are for working on the Democratic Party - which they need. It's Spring Conference time in San Diego, if you're in the area - send in your registration to now! If you aren't in the area - you're missing out. Or not, I'll let you know how it goes.

At any rate - there was no news blogging today, one ding on me. But starting next week I'll be back on the ball and blogging again. In the meantime, please use the email link in the side bar to send me articles or notes.

Keep reading!

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

'Stooping Low to Smear Kerry'

Sing it, E.J. Dionne, what they're doing is disgusting. It's so hard when the shoes keep changing feet on the Reeps, isn't it?

And this gem from Cheney, which I've seen before, but bears repeating and spreading: Cheney said in 1989 that he didn't go to Vietnam because "I had other priorities in the '60s than military service."

Clinical but truthful, is the highest praise you could give that statement. Of course, in what meaning you read those words is up to you.

My sole policy area

It's so seldom in the news - so when there are decisions on redistricting, they deserve to be blogged and discussed. Here's the blog part - the discussion will come later . . .

WMD Found!

in Playa del Rey?


Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Why I love my job.

I just met with the Free Speech Coaltion. Great name, right?

Do they represent ACLU type interests? Noooo.

Do they represent radio broadcasters, MTV, or would be flag burners? Noooo.

The Free Speech Coalition represents a rather specific part of the entertainment industry.

That was the funnest meeting I've had yet.

No, not like that, damn, phoblogs, get your minds out of the gutter.

On Leadership and being pro-troop and anti-war

I said I'd return to this point yesterday, and lest I make a liar out of myself:

The Sunday NYT article on Kerry's anti-Nam activism quoted him as saying: "'We are here to say that it is not patriotism to ask Americans to die for a mistake.'"

Which brings me back to a conversation I had the other night on citizen armies, the draft, and current troop rhetoric.

Why is it, asked my friend, that we're poor-trooping this, and this-is-wrong-ing that when they signed up to go? He's right, 100%. I remember getting made at a woman interviewed during the first gulf war for saying "My son signed up for the army to get an education, not to go to war." Wonder what brochure he read?

It's very true that because we have a volunteer military right now, most people should've been prepared to have to use all that heavy metal stuff they played with in basic. I get that. It's the reason I haven't turned in my JAG papers - I'm not sure I'm willing to answer that call. Not because I am not a patriot - I love this country. But because I disagree with the commander-in-chief so fundamentally that I don't think I could serve well. And I have the luxury of refusing a command because, well, I'm not in a position to receive one.

So should we reinstate the draft? I'm not sure. I would like to believe the arguments that say: were congressional kiddies in play, maybe we'd be more deliberative - but I'm not so sure. My friend says there's no way we'd have another Vietnam because we already had one. We've learned. We won't and can't cross that river instead.

I'm not so sure. But I'm working on a Iraq v. Vietnam Celebrity Deathmatch post.

Either way - at this point, there is no draft (incidently, though, my dad is on the Selective Service Board, so maybe we'll ask him to guest post on the process and what he thinks of the various proposals floating around out there - especially with respect to drafting certain needs - scientists, engineers, etc. Look out Mudders!). So there's no draft - what do we do about the volunteer army question. Who are we to argue with where they go - they signed the forms?

Well, the answer lies in leadership. And followership.

Though I almost minored in comedy (no, I'm not joking - and yes, CMCers, I know we don't have "minors" but try explaining "sequences" to outsiders), I ended up minoring in Leadership instead. That involved spending many classes trying to define leadership. Of course, you can't, otherwise it would only take one, very short class to get the degree.

In short, a good leader should not take advantage of his followers' willingness - or contractual obligation - to follow orders. So on a certain level, the troops are doing the right thing - what they agreed to do. The wrong here lies in Bush's having asked.

He asked under false pretenses. What a fancy phrase for "lies." That permeates all action after the order.

Part of leadership studies, however, involves examining the followers. This point can be made most succinctly by using the following line: "We were just following orders."

No, stop, close the comments window. I don't think our boys and girls in blue, khaki, and white are committing war crimes. But as I've said before, lately, why don't people just put down the weapons - on a grand scale. I get why they don't - but on another level - you can see it too, right? If everyone just said, "you know war sucks . . ."

So, we have followers who would be hard put to stand up against bad orders at this point. We have a leader who doesn't seem to get it. But there's more voices here.

Right, that would be us, the voters. Democrats specifically, of course, have a chance, if not an obligation, to object. Our voices are here to be used while soldiers - the followers with the most to lose right now - are abroad.

Demand more.

"Because they signed up," isn't a rational reason to blindly support our troops or the policy that sent them there. Conscientious support requires examining the means and the motivations and deciding accordingly.

I'm glad they signed up and were willing to serve. More than glad - I'm fortunate and grateful. But I will take responsibility for making sure they are following justly motivated, truthful orders. Their lives are not to be taken advantage of because they wear the uniform. They deserve more.

I pledge allegiance

To some flag . . .

Thanks to LJ for this . . . (and this is attempt THREE on this post. F-ing cheap equipement . . . )

So - there seems to be some disagreement over the new Iraqi flag:

Apparently, all the other Arab flags are red, green, and black. Like the old Iraqi flag:

Who has the other blue flag in the area? Here's a hint:

Whoops! Hey, they're a Democracy, you want to be a Democracy, c'mon Iraq, what's the big deal?

The other problem? The removal of Arabic wording that said "Under God." No, wait, that's not on their flag. What it did say was "God is Greatest." But in this case, I have to agree with the Iraqi interim government. After all, endorsing monotheism on a state symbol is a bad idea. At least when God is spelled A-l-l-a-h and not G-o-d or J-e-s-u-s.

The explanation given for the flag's design is actually pretty good. There's an Islamic Crescent, the two Israeli blue bars represent the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and the yellow bar represents the Kurdish people. For all I know, it's the most brilliant flag design ever created. I've never made a flag before - It can't be easy.

Of course, the bigger problem here is that this new official flag comes from what many Iraqis - or at least many vocal Iraqis - see as an illegitimate source. Symbolism is no small thing in that part of the world (nor, might I point out, is it any longer a less important part of American culture. Throw up an image of a burning tower and the people will support anything). At any rate, since many vocal Iraqis still see the interim government as inherently American, western, and evil, nothing coming from that government will be seen favorably. I don't see how this will ever be a unifying symbol.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Pomp under what circumstance?

So, did he or didn't he? That's today's question, following up on the Medal-tossing almost nominee John Kerry.

Here's another question, to what extent does it matter? Ah - but we all know the answer to that. In this, as in nearly every presidential/nominee controversy of the past some-odd years, the answer is: we don't care, it's the fact that you botched your story that matters.

Less is more people, from accessorizing to explaining 30 year old actions. Running for office is like playing dizzy-bat, you know, that retarded game that usually comes as a part of or in addition to my other personal favorite, slosh ball. You stick your forehead down on a baseball bat, spin around a requisite number of times, then stand up and try to run the bases. Usually, the person stands up, looks in the direction he/she wants to head, but veers off somewhere nutty before taking more than a step.

Get it?


Well, I suppose we still tag "alleged" to everything until she's convicted, but they've charged the visiting professor with filing a false hate-crime report.

Thanks for delegitimizing a whole truckload of things, Prof. Dunn . . .

Why I like cutting to the chase

It's just so much easier to tell it like it is:

Indeed, what defines Bush as a leader is that he repeatedly put Tenet’s case to the American people as the reason we had to go to war, though he was personally unconvinced by it. What defines Cheney is that he was the one guy in the room who thought that Tenet had connected the dots. Which is to say, the president is only a liar. The vice president is a lunatic.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

'How do you ask a man to be last man to die for a mistake?'

So Kerry has to balance his pasts now, at once a hero and a critic.

The article describes the organization to which Kerry belonged after he returned from Vietnam, and some of the questions surrounding Kerry's involvement in it. One veteran questions Kerry's motives, arguing that it was "dress rehersal" for public office later. Give his Meet the Press performance last week, during which he backed off some of his youthful indiscretions, well, it's easier to view his actions cynically.

But maybe that's not it. Maybe the truth lies closer to an evaluation I heard over dinner in New Hampshire a few days before Kerry clinched the title. A former Clinton White House-er said it was simply that John Kerry used up all his courage in Vietnam.

Which, in the grand scheme of what he's gone through in life, probably wasn't the worst place to use it.

But as a Democrat, I do wish he had some left. And because things can't get much worse for my side, I'll go ahead and hope that he does . . . .

[Update] - Now that I've finished reading this article (having started it at 3am Sunday and not getting back to it until now) - here are my other impressions:

The article begins and ends by being about a story that Kerry was at a meeting once where the killing of pro-war Senators was discussed. Just him being there. Not that the idea was his. But it doesn't matter, because it's just a set up to talk about his anti-Vietnam activities and the various intra-Veterans groups factions that supported or opposed him. It's not a wholly positive piece.

A major theme here is legitimacy. Was Kerry a legitimate voice for the veterans? Did he legitimize them? There are two sides:

To many others, the high point was Mr. Kerry's testimony. "It legitimized us in the eyes of people who saw us as a bunch of dope-smoking hippies," Lenny Rotman of Boston said. "They didn't see John that way. Even my mother was saying, `If you stick with John Kerry, there'll be opportunities for you.' "


Mr. Kerry's fame, wealth and rank were all making him a lightning rod. Several men accused him of hogging the limelight. "There was a great deal of resentment about that," said Michael McCusker of Portland, Ore. "I felt some of it. Suddenly, he's the one speaking for us, and we didn't choose him necessarily."

Of course, that second bit could apply today - if you add up Iowans, the media, and NH choosing Kerry for us and the fact that he isn't always representing my views - or even the views that I'd like to think were once his own (as the article also calls into question, and I discussed above).

There's plenty in the article to support the idea that Kerry saw the chance to make his mark in a particularly public way, took it, and has ridden that and a fortunate family heritage to the nomination. But there's also a bit of a danger in that. It's possibly revisionist to see his actions then through who he is now.

If he did just use up all his courage in Vietnam and immediately afterward, then it's important to separate the truth of his actions then from the truth of his actions now.

There was truth in his actions then, so far as I can see. And especially in this "theme:" "We are here to say that it is not patriotism to ask Americans to die for a mistake."

More on that point in a bit . . .

Saturday, April 24, 2004


"War is an instrument entirely inefficient toward redressing wrong; and multiplies, instead of indemnifying losses." - Thomas Jefferson

(Thanks, LJ)

Cute, real cute

My former roomie said this reminded him of the blog*

Boondocks - love it:

[we had the actual cartoon here, but it was jacking up the layout . . . we'll see what we can do about that . . ]

Friday, April 23, 2004

1000s of words on 1000s of words

I was wondering when Josh Marshall was going to cover the covered coffins story. He has now and it's characteristically well put. (That one above is new, from the FOIA request, discussed below.)

He also links to the original Seattle Times story that accompanied the photo.

And something I didn't notice until I ran outside to get water just now. See, on everyone's office doorstep are copies of the morning paper. From all over. The photo is on the cover of every paper I've seen this morning - The SF Chron, the San Jose Mercury News, The Sac Bee (though it was much smaller there) . . . And the LA Times runs a different photo of coffins being off-loaded at Dover - a photo obtained through the FOIA that Josh refers to in his post.

Since all the papers have run articles on the controversy this morning - I better read them and then post again . . .

[Update] - Taking things paper by paper -
The Los Angeles Times website doesn't have the photo - just has a small link to the story.

The lede: A website dedicated to publishing censored pictures and documents released dozens of photographs of coffins containing American war dead, which caused the Pentagon on Thursday to renew its ban on releasing such images to the media.

DOD is already protesting the publications, of course, reiterating the "ban" on showing the Dover images. They couch the argument in right-of-privacy terms for the fallen soldier's families. Fair enough. But here's where I run into trouble:

"Quite frankly, we don't want the remains of our service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice to be the subject of any kind of attention that is unwarranted or undignified," said John Molino, a deputy undersecretary of defense.

Now, I'm anti-war, very much so, let me say that upfront - but you know that already. I'm also, however, the daughter of a Vietnam Veteran and fiercely protective of soldiers. Yes, you can be both. Hiding the fallen from sight is undignified. Sorry boys, it is not for the country to honor you now, in full color, because to do so would jeopardize our ability to send more in your wake.

The photos are not undignified. They are certainly warranted. They are powerful images. And DOD knows that - there's even a phrase for it:

In 1999, the then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton, said a decision to use military force was based in part on whether it would pass "the Dover test," as the public witnessed the images of the war dead arriving home.

It's sort of ingeneous if you think about it. If you don't administer the test, there's nothing to pass or fail.

The Sacramento Bee site doesn't even seem to have the story on the front page. On closer inspection of the Bee print edition, however, it's an NY Times story that they're running - so you find it at the Times site. The same story runs on the Chronicle's front page as well.

The lede: The Pentagon's ban on making images of dead soldiers' homecomings at military bases public was briefly relaxed yesterday, as hundreds of photographs of flag-draped coffins at Dover Air Force Base were released on the Internet by a Web site dedicated to combating government secrecy.

I especially like that's it's not a photo ban, but a "ban on making images." There's something almost mystical in that description.

This article, more than the LAT piece, focuses on the military's having taken the photos themselves. There's something to be wondered at there - they recognize the historical value of what's happening, but they are equally mindful of the need to control how that history will be written. There are no first drafts in the Bush Administration, it would seem.

It also touches on the policy's history:

The Pentagon has cited a policy, used during the first Persian Gulf war, as its reason for preventing news organizations from showing images of coffins arriving in the United States. That policy was not consistently followed, however, and President Bill Clinton took part in numerous ceremonies honoring dead servicemen. In March 2003, the Pentagon issued a directive it said was established in November 2000, saying, "There will no be arrival ceremonies of, or media coverage of, deceased military personnel returning to or departing from" air bases.

This nugget from the NYT should give insight to phoblogs on many topics:

Among the national television news organizations, only the Fox News Channel had no plans to use any of the photos or explore the issue of why they had been barred from use in the news media, a channel spokesman said.

Almost enough to make me watch FOX News Watch this weekend just to see them NOT cover one of the biggest media-covering-themselves-covering-the-news stories of the year.


Here are some more photos:

(From the 361 photos the Pentagon released Thursday of military coffins and funeral proceedings at Dover Air Force Base for casualties from Iraq to The Memory Hole website.)

Thursday, April 22, 2004

'Woman fired by military contractor for published photograph of flag-draped U.S. coffins'

Of course.

And here's what the front page looked like.

More on this in a bit . . .

My Cousin Makes Good

New ABC Chief Faces Turnaround Challenge

K, so she's been making good for awhile now, but, hey, this should give her a bump on the Fortune list of most powerful business women.

Finally . . . .

A wingless way for me to get to Europe.


Gwhiz, it's Gmail

So, I mentioned awhile ago that Google was beta testing their new email - or - gmail, of course. And today, while logging into my blogger account, I got a little ad item that invited me to help test the system by signing up for my own gmail account. Sigh - oh happy day!

I'd hoped maybe being an early bird to the scene (relatively speaking, I'm sure) maybe I could snag my own name, but no, that didn't work. But phoblog was there. So I have my five-millionth email account now: Why? Especially when I have an unlimited number of accounts at my disposal? Because it's there! Like a mountain.

But, whoops, there's a glitch. My browser is a wee bit outdated. Rats! Foiled! So I have a gmail account that I can't check.

But it's ONE GIG of space. ONE GIG! Wooweee! 'Course, the first thing my boss said was "yeah, but no privacy." Okay, true. But I don't harbor any delusions that my hotmail accounts are secure anyway.

One gig.

Apparently, it doesn't take much to make me happy these days.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Hometown advantage

This blog, L.A. Observed is linked, along with your very own Phoblographer*, at Around the Capitol. I dig it (because I'm still forever in love with Los Angeles).

In this post (about some slate v. blog writer controversy), the following quotation caught my eye:

In blogging (or at least for this blog): "immediacy is more important than accuracy, and humor is more important than accuracy."

Immediacy is important in this race-to-break climate (which I don't see ever changing - you can't shorten the 24 hour news cycle, can you?). But playing fast and loose with accuracy . . . um . . . I think that's maybe not such a good idea.

But can you stop it? How can you enforce accuracy out here?

Winning Hearts and Minds

The younger brother of Al-Iraqiya television driver Hussein Saleh weeps at his brother's funeral in Baghdad. U.S. troops shot Saleh and correspondent Asaad Kadhim.

How long will it take to reprogram him into liking us and supporting our mission? And before you indict me for trying to be anti-troop, I don't blame the soldier who pulled the trigger. I blame the policy that put him there and the system that asked him to perform a duty for which it didn't train him.

And regardless, this young boy could likely be the next evil doer we have to take out. You don't forget that kind of pain, do you?

[update: it occurs to me (lord, how I abhor that phrase), as I think about this post, how right a former professor/boss of mine was when she exclaimed over my newly-re-liberalized views. She's right. Though it's a simplistic conclusion. I'm still a mix on a lot of issues, and I still think my beloved party botches things left and right and has a dangerous neocon/passify-the-right-and-the-voters streak. But do I sound like a knee-jerking, tree-hugger when it comes to war issues. You bet. Is there a part of me that worries that someday I'll pull a Kerry and try to put a less-emphatic spin on my anti-war rhetoric (as I heard him do re: Vietnam on Meet the Press). A safer bet yet. Someone remind me later, okay? It's easy to turn it all into "not that big a deal," but it shouldn't be. It is a big deal and it is okay to get a little wild-eyed about American lives and the future of our country.]

The Code returns - to screen and life and garden apparently

Decency and morality have returned to the G&L Garden Center in Hartsville, Tenn., after a customer complained that some of the female lawn ornaments were revealing body parts as wantonly as Janet Jackson. And the males displayed a complete disregard for underpants. Thankfully, employees Angie Langford and Pam Gregory and their red sarongs saved the day. (from SF Chron DIP)

Hell, at least we know it's not just war photos. All images must be censored, whether conveyed on a big or small screen, through a camera lens, or even in person.

I'd like to write this off as "hey, it's TN," but I can't. Not when I see networks air commercials starting their favorite faces explaining to parents how to parent less and v-chip more. Not when I hear what I can assume is monolithic Clear Channel air commercials from "your friendly neighborhood radio station," explaining why satellite radio is bad because of all the naughty language and words "my 6 year old daughter could learn that I know I don't use."

Yes, self-censorship will always be preferable to government sponsored or dictated censorship. But they're all just preempting gov action - "no, please please, don't hurt us, we'll be better, we promise!"

Bullshit. People keep watching or listening to the "bad" shows - so no network will cut it. They'll just a) encourage V-chip use, b) attack each other as the "Real Offender," or c) drive viewers to pay cable - which will itself become a target sooner or later.

Yikes, people - let's keep our eye on the ball. There's so much freedom at stake here. I hate to rely on talking-point-ish, data-less arguments (I don't time to look or put a poll in the field), but I imagine there is significant cross over between those who want continued preemptive wars (because they'll keep coming after us - they hate us 'cause we're free!) and those who want statues and breasts covered, Stern off the air, gays not married, and books kept out of the hands of eager readers.

Freedom isn't free, indeed. Neither in cost, nor characteristics, these days.

Kerry's service records

Josh Marshall has a post on Kerry's service records, which are now available online. It seems to be all there from the little I know about such things from my dad's records.

Josh specifically links to a document that begins, "I request duty in Vietnam."

That's pretty easy to distinguish from an air national guard request.

I don't know much about the protocol and practical effect of requests such as Kerry's, but my father has told me a little. He enlisted. It wasn't an uncommon tactic, especially if you knew your draft number meant you didn't have long to wait. By volunteering, apparently, you had a better chance of driving a supply truck well behind the front line, or other, less in-the-line-of-fire assignments.

Not my dad, though.

He signed up and wanted to be right in there. Why? Good question, and one I posed awhile back.

He says he grew up reading about WWII and other wars, battles, heroes, leaders, legends, etc. As a boomer, I suppose that was common since he was born to Greatest Generation parents (my grandfather served in Italy, my other grandfather stormed the beach at Normandy). My dad says he always wanted to know why someone would "take that hill" when ordered. Why do soldiers follow? Go run up that hill in the face of gun and heavy artillery fire, and know that you - and/or many of your friends - are quite likely going to get shot and/or die. Okay, sure - are you nuts?

So he left Gonzaga after his sophomore year and went to Vietnam (9th Infantry).

So what's the answer? Why do they do it?

He doesn't know.

But he was shot several times, earned a purple heart and bronze star himself trying to figure it out.

Why do we fight? I don't mean why in terms of philosophy, paradigms, policies, etc. I mean, why does anyone, singular, and individual, pick up a gun and run in front of other people with guns. When does self-preservation take a holiday? At the start of boot camp? In the adrenaline rush of battle? Is it from playing too many violent video games?

I don't know. And neither does my primary source. I wish I were brave enough to investigate for myself - but right there is part of the answer, I think. "I wish" to go into battle? Curiosity kills a lot. We go up the mountain because it's there - to see if we can - to see what we can see. It applies to everyting in the human experience. War. Love. Actually - if you boil it down, that kind of is the human experience - everything is on the spectrum between the two.

Personally, I just write everything with a blue pencil the first time around

Saves time later.

Pentagon Deleted Rumsfeld Comment

Again I say to you - pay no attention to that man behind the curtain, though he is wearing a lovely new suit of clothes.

(how's that for combining idioms? Cha-ching).

Bad news on my virtual doorstep


Here are the headlines - from big font on down, top to bottom:

"Blasts in Basra Kill Dozens of Iraqis"

"War May Require More Money"

"Bush Cautions on Terrorism"

"Explostions Rock Riyadh"


I think my favorite is that the war "may" require more money. Maybe.

Or the subhead of "Bush Cautions on Terrorism: Expectation of another terror attack is not without reason, president says."

It gets better if you read the article. The lede says:

President Bush warned newspaper editors in Washington today that this "is a hard country to defend" and that he can understand public fears that the nation could face a terrorist attack before the November election.

Hard to defend in deed. I'll leave it to you to ladle on the appropriate amount of pithy sarcasm and meaning.

Then he says:

"Our intelligence is good -- it's just never perfect, is the problem," Bush said. "We are disrupting some cells here in America. We're chasing people down. But it is . . . a big country."

To which I can't help but add: "Michigan, Ohio, Florida, all you other Battleground states, we'll do our best to watch out for you, but you know, like I said, it's a big country . . . "

He has a lot of thought-provoking things to say here. At this point, of course, it's impossible to separate his role as commander in chief and candidate in chief, and in fact, to do so would be intellectually dishonest. Play a little game and sub out the names of foreign places with American locales and see what happens. We're all big countries, aren't we?


He may have a point.

The basic argument here is that we can be as pro-us, pro-Israel as we want - but do we have to be anti-Palestinian at the same time? Why must it be zero-sum?

As soon as I say I agree with this, I'll get a slew of emails reminding me of suicide bombers and death-focused thugs. I understand that as well. But as I've said before, peace requires someone stepping up and laying down arms first. And as we argue the importance of Iraqi autonomy, as we're fully involved in nation building there, seeing - and feeling - what a strong and sudden sense of nationalism brings, how can we continue to be so "huh" when the Palestinians assert the same nationalism?

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Drench now or drench later, the choice is yours

Thanks to for having this image. It should be passed around far and wide. LJ also links to this site which comments on the "shot." That blogger (who's tag line is "I rant, you decide," which I like) says:

Here is the paper's story behind getting the image and publishing. They swear, really, truly, it isn't meant as an anti-war image. Whatever. The woman who took the photo I find far more credible in her motivation: she wants the families to know that at every step of the way their loved ones are always treated with the respect due them.

I understand that motivation on her part, and respect her need to tell her story in that way. But I can't help wondering who she is that she gets to make that decision?

I'm process-writing this, so I'm about to click on that link to the article in question. Pre-reading it, my thought is, we should all get to decide. Who is the President to filter our images? He certainly favors filtering truth, doesn't he?

Okay, now I read the article, and you should too. It's a process story as well from the Seattle Times.

So, having read it, I buy it.

See, the Bush Admin policy of shrouding repatriation in secrecy gives a pallor of inappropriateness to this photo that is undeserved. Men and women have died in Iraq. That is a fact. This picture depicts that - not in a disrespectful, blood soaked, sand caked way, but in an honor draped, carefully attended, somber way. I am anti-war. Do I believe this image helps my cause? Yes and no. But I think it wouldn't be such a major news item were it not for the secrecy Bush forced on the process. This is a beautiful, haunting image that should take its rightful place next to indelible images of falling statues and streaking green lights across a night sky.

By the way, several media watcher-types have commented on most major media outlets refusal to run this image, or anything like it. Doesn't that outrage you? Doesn't your lack of outrage outrage you? They're the press for god's sake - they pester and annoy any number of two-bit celebrities, but they shy away from this? I thought half the fun of America was it's press and their "bring it on" spirit. As it was, the Seattle Times waited almost a week to run the photo so they could put it in proper "context." I wonder why the total of Iraq coverage wasn't sufficient context. And only after they found a way to couch it in the least panty-bunching way possible did they run it. What if the civilian, non-professional's photograph was a product of her feeling that we shouldn't be in Iraq? Would they have run it? Run it with a disclaimer: "Gentle reader, the following image was taken by someone who says she is against the war and therefore should be interpreted as a biased alignment of chemicals on treated paper. Don't blame us, blame user error and molecular changes."

This story is a nice tie in to other discussions I've had on the nature of photography as art, its powerful place in our culture, and its power over history as its being made. You'll note the name of this blog, of course, as well. There's a great debate in literary circles over reader-centered vs. text-centered interpretations. When you read something, should you be figuring out what the author is trying to tell you or what your reaction is to what you're reading? Who's message is more important? This photo is a chance to apply that debate to the visual world. I would argue that with photographs, unlike books, the author (photographer) has less control over the final interpretation. The reader is more important because images are more finite than language (and no, I'm not including digitally enhanced, altered, or otherwise adulterated images). There will, then, always be differing opinions about a photo, different tones of resonance, etc. Bush can only try to stop the spread of images, then. Control their capture and airing. He can't shape it like the news-shaping goons he has at the CPA can spin press releases. His level of fear should incentivize the press and the public to figure out what power he derives from controlling the images.

These images will come out. As voters, as citizens, we need to take every opportunity to evaluate what carried out in our names. This photo is part of that process - an undeniable data point we have to account for in the final analysis.

So scroll up and look again. Take time to think about what it means on every level: What does it mean on its face? What does the capture of this image mean? What does the policy against such images mean? What does this image's publication now mean?

The more we drench now in meaning, the less we will drench later in blood.

I wish this worked . . . .

Cling-on attack: At the Louisiana National Guard Armory in Lafayette, 4-year-old Samantha tries to stop her dad, Maj. Robert Wright, from shipping out to Iraq. (From the SF Chron)

Monday, April 19, 2004

Damned if we do, damned if we don't, damned if we question

Here's FOP Pink on the neocon-undrum.

He cites the flipside to the neocon we-gotta-stay coin that they'll keep passing around. And he indicts the press for their cannibalism:

So it's damned if we stay, damned if we go. And one more thing: damned if we question. If the 9/11 commissioners ask too many questions, they're accused of playing a partisan blame game. Even White House correspondents, who are paid to ask questions, are liable to get whacked, too -- in some cases, by other journalists. Pressies are piranha-ing the president in their "second-guessing eased by hindsight," snipes Joseph Curl of the Washington Times. For Curl, reportorial questions seem not only annoying, but tedious: "False premises. Errors in judgment ... Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes." So much for speaking truth to power.

Of course, I can't help but think of press-whacker number one: Fox News. It would be hard to argue that 90% of what comes out of that network is geared toward belittling and invalidating those who would seek, let alone speak, truth - both from and to power.

Just a thought.

Coke launching mid-calorie cola

I left the headline that came with the article up there just so I could say: no, this isn't a joke, it's legit. I'm posting on it because it gave me a chuckle and I think it satisfies the pop-culture deficiency that some readers were complaining about. (though, for the record, I don't think I have EVER been accused of not giving pop culture its due).

I think we've officially run out of things to consume. MID-calorie coke? Why not fill half the glass with regular and half with unleaded?

Because 8 is too few and twelve is . . . too many.

(name that film!)

Facts schmacts

"The United States was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, by Al Qaeda, not Iraq," writes Bob Herbert in today's Op-Ed.

He also refers to the President's apparent belief, "as he suggested at his press conference last week, that he is carrying out a mission that has been sanctioned by the divine."

This alone, above nearly all other evidence, should ring alarms in the hearts and minds of every American, and inspire head-slapping frustration by those in the Middle East. How can the President, with a straight face, argue this war and his actions based on religious merit? God told you to do what, again? Because "Allah" - also God - told some other guys to do something too, and as I recall, we weren't too happy about it.

There is little evidence in the New Testament, the part of the bible to which Bush should be turning, if he's really the born-again, morally clear guy he claims to be, to suggest that Jesus loves a warrior. There is no love in war. No hope in death. No faith in broken bodies.

The rhetoric is getting as murky as the dessert during a sandstorm. All these swirling words and mixing metaphors have confused our path. I hope the voters use the necessary verbs to get us out of this wasteland.

Kinda makes the Apprentice seem a little fluffy, don't it

What structure built of gray sandstone in 1792 became the source of all oppressive decisions the world over?

This one should be easy: the White House.

Check out this Hezbollah gameshow.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Peace, soon.

From the SF Chron: "A dove for Deryk: At Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, Pamela Hallal kisses a dove before releasing it at a memorial ceremony for her son, Marine Pfc. Deryk Lyell Hallal. Hallal died on duty in Iraq on April 5. "

Your daily reading assignment

I know, I know, so late on the new content today. Hey - we had to save workers' comp or something this morning.

The Vietnam Analogy, part 8567
Read The New York Times > Opinion >Krugman today:

And there's one more parallel: Nixonian politics is back.

What we remember now is Watergate. But equally serious were Nixon's efforts to suppress dissent, like the "Tell It to Hanoi" rallies, where critics of the Vietnam War were accused of undermining the soldiers and encouraging the enemy. On Tuesday George Bush did a meta-Nixon: he declared that anyone who draws analogies between Iraq and Vietnam undermines the soldiers and encourages the enemy.

And Nader - you son of a bitch - how you look in the mirror in the morning:

Seems public enemy number one wants Michael Moore to end his dalliance with the Democratic Party and return to his anti-establishment roots.

Seems Nader sent Moore an open letter calling him out on his support for Clark and welcoming him back to the fold. A Nader aide said "the letter is Nader 'just having a little fun' and should not be viewed as a sign the campaign is having trouble garnering support."

Just having a little fun? Your little fun last time kinda helped lead to this little fun.

And because there just isn't enough Catholic School Girl Wrath covered on the web these days, here's a story on schoolgirls attacking a flasher.

Have a good weekend, phoblogs. Keep reading and commenting . . . and fighting the man.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

New Negative Campaign Ads Blast Voters Directly

"The Medicare drug bill is a triumph of right-wing ideology masquerading as moderate reform. The pharmaceutical-drug and insurance industries are tickled pink. Guess who's paying for it? You. Congratulations, moron. I'm John Kerry and I approved this message."

God bless The Onion, it truly is America's Finest News Source (next to The Daily Show, anyway).

I would never actually launch this kind of negative ad campaign, nor do I see the humor in it since I think every single American voter is a savvy consumer of truth in this open, objective, transparent marketplace of ideas.

Yup. Nope. Not I. Never insult a voter. Ever.

Except maybe a Nader voter.


Warning: foul language below (like I F*cking care, but you might).

Google Search: phoblog

Aww, shucks. Someone's cheeks are red.

So, I'll admit it - I thought I was kinda cool with the whole phoblographer thing. And I am the one and only owner of - so it's mine outright. But the term phoblog, if you google, as I just did, isn't original. It did not spring from my mind alone. Apparently, it didn't take 1000 monkeys 1000 years to come up with it independently. Just a few monkeys with photo web logs. Phoblogs. Sigh.

I'm still the only Phoblographer*, though, dammit! If you google Phoblographer, this puppy is the first hit and the only hit. I rule! Er. Sorta!

Does anyone know a good lawyer? How do I tm this?

Wait, I'm in law school, dammit, I should be able to figure this out. Well, there's 2 years wasted . . . .

Digital Phoblography

I think digital photography is to traditional photography what $1 WalMart Klimt Posters are to an actual Klimt. Nice for college kids, gen-whatever-ers, clever and cutting edge and less work, but not art. That being said I just got a digital camera that I love. Anyway, the labored point I'm making here is that sometimes, you laze-out on something. Like I'm about to do on the recent developments on Israeli-US policy. Though frankly, you can call it lazy, or you can call it refusing to reinvent the wheel. Yes, I know, the whole metaphor has broken completely down at this point - but hey, in most respects, Sylvia Plath I ain't.

My point is - read Josh Marshall on the implications of Bush's actions. I'm still new to this area of foreign policy - so I'd rather let the professionals handle it.

I'll work on that digital photography metaphor . . . . Hey, maybe that can be my pop culture post that Crystal has been waiting for . . .

Today's $640,000 question

Josh Marshall is asking: :Why does CNN report the news like the public is made up of a bunch of circus idiots?"

Uh. Josh? Because we kinda are. I mean sure, maybe you, me, and a few others aren't. Hell, a pre-court-decision majority of the country might not be Barnum Bros. quality. But as it currently stands - until/if Bush is beaten in November . . . .

To be fair, it's chicken and egg, isn't it? Who were the first circus idiots? The press or the people who believed them?

Update: Second best question from Josh: "In the last six weeks, how many documents has the Bush administration declassified for the exclusive and explicit purpose of attacking a political enemy?"

More on Bush's big press conference

I could round up my favorite bits of analysis, but Howard Kurtz does such a great job, why reinvent the wheel?

One of my favorite bits, however, is worth a cut & paste - if for no other reason than it makes me think of frosh Gov (honors, thank you very much) with Jack Pitney and, of course, Strunk & White:

Slate's William Saletan goes further, describing Bush's performance as downright alarming:

"Given the stakes in Iraq and the war against terrorism, it would be petty to poke fun at Bush for calling credibility 'incredibly important.' His routine misuse of the word 'incredible,' while illiterate, is harmless. His misunderstanding of the word 'credible,' however, isn't harmless. It's catastrophic.

To Bush, credibility means that you keep saying today what you said yesterday, and that you do today what you promised yesterday. 'A free Iraq will confirm to a watching world that America's word, once given, can be relied upon,' he argued Tuesday night. When the situation is clear and requires pure courage, this steadfastness is Bush's most useful trait. But when the situation is unclear, Bush's notion of credibility turns out to be dangerously unhinged. The only words and deeds that have to match are his. No correspondence to reality is required. Bush can say today what he said yesterday, and do today what he promised yesterday, even if nothing he believes about the rest of the world is true.
[emphasis added]

He's right, of course. Read the full article.

And one more Kurtz clip, from AndrewSullivan:

"Two friends of mine, one conservative and one liberal, called me after the conference. The conservative said that 'Bush looked like the first year (law student) who didn't do his reading and just wouldn't admit it to the [socratic] prof[essor].' The liberal said 'The sad part about this is that conservatives are going to call it a strong performance. We now have a President whose not much different from a Special Ed student. We clap and cheer every time he has his shoes on the right feet.'"

Poetry, no? And that law student line is for my friends - you know who you are - and you agree, admit it!

And lastly - a nice articulation of Bush's strategy shift from The New Republic's Jonathan Chait:

Bush has sought to change the question from his competence to his intent. 'Had I had any inkling whatsoever that the people were going to fly airplanes into buildings,' he said at his press conference last night, 'we would have moved heaven and earth to save the country.' But of course no serious person is saying Bush deliberately ignored the threat. It's as if former Boston Red Sox manager Grady Little responded to questions about his baffling failure to relieve Pedro Martinez in Game 7 against the Yankees by insisting that of course he wanted to win the game.

Ok, happy reading, Jr.Phoblogs, while I catch up on your comments from yesterday . . . .

Wednesday, April 14, 2004


Yeah - you see a trackback button there - I don't really understand the fabulousness of this technology - but never let it be said I don't deliver on reader requests. Of course, this seems to offer ANOTHER place where people can see a big fat "0" on how popular any given post is. This may be a short lived feature.

That said, I know I have readers because my stats on are the rise. Remember to comment if you want! But also remember I have zero editorial control over what you say, so remember, your mom might log on sometime . . . . Keep reading and letting me know what you'd like to see here on Phoblographer*.

About last night

Already, I'm liking the first lede I read this morning on last night's press conference: "Against a backdrop of widespread violence in Iraq, President Bush insisted Tuesday night that U.S. troops were making progress in restoring order to the country and that "we must not waver" from plans to return sovereignty to the Iraqi people on June 30."

Also, "But he acknowledged no errors in his handling of the war in Iraq or failings related to the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon."

I like the use of "acknowledged." There are subtle angles in stories - there's one now.

Also, as the article points out, Bush said "the country was not on a war footing, and yet the enemy was at war with us. And it's — it didn't take me long to put us on a war footing, and we've been on a war ever since."

I thought, and I may have to go back and check this, but I thought Ms. Rice said Bush had everyone at "Battle stations?" Isn't a battle a subpart of a war. And how are you at your battle stations but still not on a war footing? Fun with Metaphors, by the George Bush Administration.

During the conference, I noted several instances of Bush connecting with Americans over/despite/instead of the press. It's a technique he uses frequently.

The first was in regards to - well, this is still fuzzy for me - I think it was in response to the lack of WMD and the credibility problem that may present for the admin. Bush retorts: "The people know where I stand."

The second one, as the LAT presents it:

The political context of the debate over Iraq surfaced near the end of the news conference, when a reporter asked if Bush was willing to lose the election because of the Iraq war.

The president replied: "I don't plan on losing my job. I plan on telling the American people that I've got a plan to win the war on terror, and I believe they'll stay with me. They understand the stakes."

The none-too-sub-subtext is I know I can't - and haven't - proven anything per se, but I know what I know. And the American people - the REAL Americans out there - they get it too. They know what's up. They're with me. They're on the team. They laughed at the press-dinner where's-the-WMD joke. They get it - you guys are too cynical. This should concern students of rhetoric everywhere.

He also said at one point - and I missed this, but the LAT has it - that "nobody likes to see dead people on their television screens. I don't."

Given what we know of his television viewing habits, I think it's a safe bet that he hasn't seen any on any television screen. Guess you can task out pain as well.

The reaction from this CA-Reep puts it well (again from the LAT):

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-El Cajon) gave Bush high marks for speaking forcefully but said "no speeches, nothing that anyone says, can be as attention-grabbing as a burning Humvee on television, which we've all been seeing plenty of. That's the image that has been placed before millions of American families."

(Hunter then loses my vote later, however when he says: "[the press conference] is not the right time for reporters to try to throw the president down on the analyst's couch and have him try to tell them about all of his failings. He has to spend his time giving a vision of the future for the country."

It has also been placed before Bush - but he won't see it. I mean won't as in "refuses to" and "is factually incapable of processing the image."

I also liked the part where he poo-poo-ed the Vietnam analogy: "I think the analogy is false. I also happen to think that analogy … sends the wrong message to our troops and sends the wrong message to the enemy." That message being: uh, whoops, maybe this wasn't such a good idea. Yup, no good message there.

Other sound bites of note (and some of these are blogged below, but I wanted to give them more attention):

Bush called this, several times, a "historic mission." The word "historic" generally carries positive connotations. However, I don't think I need to point out that, technically, the word historic is qualitatively neutral. You make the call.

Bush's tone and delivery consistently rub me the wrong way - yet I watched the speech with someone who thinks he is calm and sounds trustworthy. I'd say smarmy and condescending. Either way, he subtly emphasizes some words. There is "serious violence in some areas." Some, just some. Okay, fine. The terrorists are out to kill Jews [beat, beat] and Christians. Whether intentional (planned by brilliant advisors) or inadvertent (caused by his fabled difficulty with language), they are there - those tiny indicators on his truth.

Something I'm still mulling over is this statement on America the Liberator v. America the New Imperial Kid on the Block:

"We're not an imperial power as nations such as Germany and Japan can attest. We're a liberating power as nations such as Europe and Asia can attest."

Okay - I know my WWII history enough to know that we liberated France and a lot of other stuff in Europe (though, if I recall, we weren't the first one's marching under the Arc in Paris). I'm not wholly certain who we liberated in Asia. I could just be blocked by the thought of the last Asian country we tried to help out - but that gets us back to Vietnam which of course has nothing, nothing, Nothing! to do with the squabble at hand.

And Germany and Japan? They were imperial, and wanted to be more so - so I guess what he means is we put the kibosh on them but didn't stay there too long. Okay, I guess. I still think it was a labored thought, however.

Every time, however, he spoke decisively about America's commitment to Iraq, to the continuation of the preemptive strategy, to rooting out the evil-doers (and no, he didn't call them that this time), I was struck with the thought that he's writing checks the bodies of young, frequently brown, Americans will cash. Unsettling. He speaks for me because he's my president, unfortunately. But I really gotta ask him to chill on the bravado vibe. Please.

Our tautologically gifted president, who can't offer proof of what he knows, but he knows he knows it, closed by stressing, again, "when I say something, I mean it, and the credibility of the US is essential . . . ." I agree with the importance of credibility. That's why I have a problem with you, Mr. Bush.

Bush says we're safer. That our mission is historic. That we're changing the world.

That we're changing the world is certain. Whether we're safer remains to be seen - and unfortunately - can only be confirmed one way or the other by more blood.

The press conference highlighted beautifully the conflation of issues surrounding American foreign and domestic-security policy since 9/11. The miasma of questions (both raised by Bush's words and asked by reporters) - what about this as it relates to this relates to that draws on stuff over there - didn't help draw better distinctions or clear any air.

As Ron Brownstein put it - Bush, last night and generally, was long on goals and short on means. "Stay the course" was a catch phrase made famous, to me, by Bush I (or more precisely, Dana Carvey's artful depiction of him). More colloquially, if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it is an excellent strategy. But things are broken. Bodies, for the most part, of American soldiers, civilian contractors, and Iraqis.

We need to be fixed badly. Staying this course, no matter how many times and in how many ways Bush suggests it, is not a viable option.

I hope John Kerry can present an alternative. And, to borrow from the President, I believe the American people will get it. The two remaining questions are whether they will get it in time and how much blood will be enough proof.

Golden State's Sterling Guy

I've met Kevin Starr, California's now former State Librarian several times. He's brilliant, enthusiastic, and a rare mix of unapologetic CA booster and pulling-no-punches analyst of CA's current "intellectual impoverishment." In short, he's my kind of guy -here's Peter Schrag on Dr. Starr:

Why, he asked the other day, is there no grand vision? Where are the Clark Kerrs, the Earl Warrens, the Phil Burtons, the scholars, the visionary writers, the people who, in this period of crisis, can "rebuild the California narrative?" Why is "the Democratic Party (his party) brain-dead?" As a poor boy growing up in San Francisco a half-century ago, he "struggled for the optimistic view of life," a view that was nurtured by "the larger California impetus." Now, he says, he's less optimistic about California than he used to be - finds fewer people to share or sustain his optimism.

Yet almost in the same breath, the tone changes. There are the writers Richard Rodriguez and Gregory Rodriguez (no relation), who are thinking about California's new demographics and its emerging culture in new ways. There is the political maturity of a new generation of Latino politicians who - contrary to the warnings of anti-immigration nativists - are not irredentists seeking to retake lost Mexican soil. And, of course, there's Arnold Schwarzenegger. . . .

Now there's a "fatigue among Americans about the cost of programs," a mood that calls for a reconsideration on how the money is spent and whether the spending accomplishes the things it was supposed to. But that thought, too, leads to broader vistas: Los Angeles as "the epicenter of a new Mexican-American civilization"; the pride that, as state librarian, he saw among Californians in their local communities. And, reflecting on last year's devastating fires in Southern California, he recalled a Latina TV reporter interviewing a fire chief who also happened to be Latino and an emergency room physician (ditto) - all performing like anyone else in the same jobs - "the old genes inhabiting new people."

By the way, if you aren't familiar with Gregory Rodriguez, and you're at all interested in California politics, policy, demographics, or pretty much anything that effects the state, and thus the nation, start reading. He's a fellow at the New America Foundation and is frequently in the LA Times. He's one of the few leading Latino voices with whom I agree more often than not. If he is one of California's new visionaries, which I think he is, then we may make it after all.

Shameless Cross Promotion - then back to the real news:

This is from my other life -

Attention Young Democrats:

We have a simple question for you: What do you call hundreds of democrats coming together in a beautiful Southern California city to work together to take back Washington, the White House, and the Governor's office? We call it the perfect time and place to hold SPRING CONFERENCE!

That's right, folks, join us for the 2004 CYD Spring Conference - Saturday, May 1, in sunny San Diego at the Marina Village Conference Center for a day of training, planning, networking, and building the Democratic spirit that will carry us to Victory in November! Come learn valuable opposition research skills, learn to organize, meet up with and sign up to help out with tight Dem races, and get the inside scoop on the California Democratic Party which will be meeting next door in their Executive Board meeting. We'll also be helping former CYD Board members Ed and Silissa get their chance to represent young dems in their run for the DNC!

Democrats, young and formerly young, will be in San Diego on Saturday, May 1 - where will you be?

Here's the stats:

What: 2004 CYD Spring Conference
When: Saturday, May 1, 2004
Where: Marina Village Conference Center, San Diego, CA 9:00am until we can't party anymore!
How much?: $15 per person if you sign up before April 25. $20 per person after and at the door.
Where do we stay?: We'll be sending you a list of local hotels and helping you out - but accommodations are up to you.
Where do I sign up?: We'll have on-line sign ups coming soon. Before then, however, you can sign up by sending the following information to

(long email address? sure it is, but it's also a shameless plug for my new website - a place for you - the next gen great minds of our democracy - to meet and rant - and it's a free email account).

(*required by law)

Then make out and mail your CHECK for $15/$20 to: California Young Democrats, c/o Alex De Ocampo, 12309 Burbank Blvd. #27, Valley Village, CA 91607

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Praise?
Contact your Spring Conference co-chairs at

We'll see you in San Diego on May 1st - book those tickets and set up those carpools now. Spread the word!

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

A Historic Mission

The story so far -

Bush is talking and I'm about to pass out from frustration and anger. Not really - strength comes from composure - I am composed.


"There is serious violence in SOME areas" - yes, the "some" was emphasized, not harshly, but subtly

He says he'll send more troops if necessary.

"We're not an imperial power as nations such as Germany and Japan can attest; we're a liberating power as nations in Europe and Asia can attest." - This deserves some careful analysis.

"The people know where I stand" - with regards to his response to the pre 9/11 warnings, missteps, allegations against him, etc. Shoot can't read my notes - maybe it's about WMD, the subjects are so conflated. The subtext - not that sub, either - that I can't prove anything about anything, but I know what I know. And you the press aren't helping. Me and the American people - the REAL AMERICANS know what's up.

Yet as he continues speaking I'm struck with the realization that his mouth continues to write checks our bodies will cash.

"We're changing the world," says the President. Whether America is safer or not remains to be seem.

But wait - there's more -
work called an interupted - though nothing's really more important - here's what I heard as I came back to the conference.

"Freedom is not America's gift to the world, it is the Almighty's gift to the world" so it's our mission to get it out there. I'm so glad there's no theological ideology guiding our country - WAKE UP AMERICA.

In closing, he offered: "When I say something, I mean it and the credibility of the US" is essential to peace and freedom or something - yes I need to get the correct quote - keep reading - faithful 6 readers.

How can he claim credibility when we've been shown wrong again and again. And how is the tautological poetry of "when I say something, I mean it" a valid grounds for US foreign policy?

Welcome Back, Mr. President

Bush will hold a prime-time press conference tonight at 5:30 PDT.

This sh*t writes itself - here's what he said - it doesn't deserve the keystrokes to comment - you know what I'd say anyway:

Asked whether he was indeed referring to a solo news conference -- the 12th of his presidency and a format that he is known to dislike -- Bush replied confidently: "Why not?" It will be his first formal news conference since December.

By the way, I heard that's what he said when the neocons first came to him about Iraq.


Justice Scalia acknowledges the existance of the first amendment.

Er, Sorta.

Scalia explained that in a speech earlier that day he had asked that his appearance not be recorded.

"That announcement was not repeated at the high school, but the marshals believed (with good reason) that the same policy was in effect," Scalia wrote.

"The marshals were doing what they believed to be their job, and the fault was mine for not assuring that the ground rules had been clarified."

Scalia normally bars television cameras from his appearances, but his policy on the use of small audio recorders has not been clear-cut. Newspaper and other print reporters typically use the devices to ensure the accuracy of quotations but not to record speeches or other remarks for broadcast.

Homeland Security

Jon Carroll in the Chron:

"-- The commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, said, 'I don't see any shadows of Vietnam here in Iraq.'

The most surprising thing about Vietnam, at least for us civilians, was the realization that overwhelming military superiority did not equal victory. So every time I hear about helicopter gunships swooping down on squads of riflemen, or rockets launched into mosques, I think: This is not a fair fight.

Oh, we'll kill a lot more of them than they will of us, for our sins. We're losing anyway. We can't win, not because we aren't strong or brave or dedicated, but because we don't live there and we don't want to live there. People fight for their native soil. They don't give up. They can't be pacified.

It's not about right or wrong. It's not about freedom. It's about land and blood and historical fatigue. There's the shadow of Vietnam right there. "

'Snares and Delusions'

Mr. Krugman- hitting 'em on the head, everytime:

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush, who once challenged his own father to go mano a mano, is still addicted to tough talk, and still personalizes everything.

Again and again, administration officials have insisted that some particular evildoer is causing all our problems. Last July they confidently predicted an end to the insurgency after Saddam's sons were killed. In December, they predicted an end to the insurgency after capturing Saddam himself. Six weeks ago — was it only six weeks? — Al Qaeda was orchestrating the insurgency, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was the root of all evil. The obvious point that we're facing widespread religious and nationalist resentment in Iraq, which is exploited but not caused by the bad guy du jour, never seems to sink in.

He still personalizes everything. Beautifully put. It's his America, his war, his reality, his truth, and his game. Guess what that makes you and I?

Sorry, still not buying your paradigm

Worse yet, the administration never bothered to educate the American people on the nature of war amid uncertainty. The president did not stress beforehand that it was necessary to act, even though some of his suppositions would inevitably prove to be incorrect.

When you read the Shultz speech, you get the impression the country is aging backward. Twenty years ago we had a leader who treated us like adults, mature enough to cope with harsh uncertainties. Now we're talked to as if we're children, which, if you look at the hypocrisy-laden terror debate, is about what we deserve.

The Uncertainty Factor

I'm not even entirely sure who he's slamming here, but I think it's we the people even as he sorta backhands the current Administration. Sorta. Not even, really. Though it does demonstrate, as was predicted, the necons distancing themselves from the administration that did everything they wanted it to, failed accordingly, and was left holding the bag. Whoops. It'd almost be funny if not for the deaths of a few hundred soldiers and a few thousand Iraqis.

How many branches can you count?

From the San Jose Mercury News:

Next to the ballot itself, the symbol of democracy in California ought to be the clipboard.

At times, initiatives initiatives have been a very valuable last resort for voters. But too often, they are a way of disguising a special interest -- dress it in jeans, give it a card table and a clipboard -- to make it look like it's working for the good of the whole state.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Connecting the Dots

Ron Brownstein's article in today's LA Times does a good job matching up public opinion and the Bush administration on some frequently confused and transposed issues.

The 9/11 Commission is connected to Iraq, though not in its charter. There was never evidence connecting Saddam with Al Q, OBL, and/or the 9/11 attacks. A frightening number of polls, however, show that too many Americans think Saddam orchestrated, or at least had a large role in 9/11. So where does the Commissions work - and the recend Clarke v. Condi scuffle fit into the bigger electoral - and moral - picture?

Attacking Bush on 9/11 could be a third rail. But his handling of 9/11 and of Iraq aren't wholly independent:

That's one point from Clarke on which Bush supporters and critics probably could agree. The failures before Sept. 11 have many fathers. But the war in Iraq belongs to Bush alone. It is the centerpiece of his short-term strategy for suppressing terrorism. It is the cornerstone of his long-term vision of curbing anti-American extremism by encouraging democracy in the Islamic world.

If most Americans conclude the war is failing to achieve those goals, or even undermining them, the public is likely to render a far tougher verdict on Bush than it has for his actions before Sept. 11.

So there you have it - a pretty good way of dividing and uniting the issue at the same time. I don't know if anything could've stopped 9/11 - and though I think that Bush does at least come off as a little "whatevs" on the issue - I could be persuaded to give him the benefit of the doubt (could be). But if the reason why he was so checked-out on the building threat was that he was searching for reasons to go after Iraq - then the issue isn't really one to forgive, is it?

If you proceed through your job with blinders on; if you begin a search not for the truth but for evidence to create your own reality; if you do these things and then something like 9/11 happens, it is your fault. It might not have been under other circumstances.

Since 9/11, then, as the article points out, he has less of an excuse. If we are again attacked, we will at least have concrete proof, in the form of headstones, that Bush was focused on things other than actual terrorists threats. Whereas before he could talk his way out - now, he couldn't.

The 9/11 attacks and the Iraq war have been both overly conflated and overly separated recently. Bloodshed is the bottom line that ties them together. That the Administration tried initially to pin 9/11 on Iraq (and doesn't go out of its way to dispell that belief) combined with its lie-ladden reasons for invading Iraq should leave any true-blooded American cold with fury. It doesn't - yet.

It's my dream that soon those who ask "are we any safer today" won't be greeted with insults and questioning voices, but will be appreciated for seeking the truth - for connecting the dots correctly, stepping back to appreciate the big picture, rather than remaining myopicly mired in Bush and the neocon's pointillistic fantasy.

Who should mourn? How?

The headline alone gives you the slant:Comforter-in-chief keeps his distance / Unlike other governors, Schwarzenegger hasn't gone to soldiers' funerals. Not that I disagree with the bottom line. Though I think it's more Bush's responsibility to show that he's even aware that there are boys and girls dying at his command. But if he won't step up, maybe other would-be leaders can show him how.

Check out this for zing-y-ness:

Schwarzenegger's low profile on military deaths belies the otherwise populist, hands-on nature of his nascent administration. He continues to phone business owners whom his staff has found to be pondering a move from California, for instance.

Davis attended some funerals. But, himself a veteran, his presence was probably more heartfelt and less likely to produce a circus as Arnold's would be. Sometimes showing up is enough. Sometimes not showing up is more meaningful. And for many families, as the article says, there must be a thought of "you didn't know my child/father/sister" anyway.

But there should be some kind of action. And from the president, something more visible still. And the coffins should be shown in Dover. Ignoring the pictures doesn't mean the events aren't taking place.

Daily Irony Dose

The New York Times >A Justice's Sense of Privilege

I'm sorry, which Amendment? The First? Never heard of it.

What's in a name?

A magazine by any other would have as low a circulation.

America has a cover price of $8 and will be sold or provided to a rarefied, highly selective audience. American, with a cover price of of $3.95, inhabits the aisles of chain stores, including every Wal-Mart, the nation's biggest company, which has managed to brand itself as a small-town booster.

Reality will always chew away at the edges of the Hallmark card ethos that drives American Magazine. And America's unified theory, that hip-hop brings everyone together, has proved to be mortally wrong on occasion. But like most magazines they are aspirational. America depicts a hip, unattainable place, and American is marketing an ineffable state of being.

With all that's going on in the world, it's a worthwhile exercise to consider the denotations and connotations of both titles.

Phoblographer* stat update

I get a few inquiries from people on the site's stats: hits, etc. We're doing pretty well. In the first 12 days of April we're already at almost double the visits we had for all of March. I dig exponential growth. So keep linking to my site and tell your friends.

Thanks for reading!

On Media

I'm not sure I totally agree with the thrust of this TCS: Tech Central piece, but I thought this quote was interesting. So, for your pondering pleasure:

McLuhan [famed for his observations that the medium influences the response to a person's message as much as the actual message] . . . remarked: "Media, from the phonetic alphabet to the computer, are extensions of man that cause deep and lasting changes in him and transform his environment. Such an extension is an intensification, an amplification of an organ, sense or function, and whenever it takes place, the central nervous system appears to institute a self-protective numbing of the affected area, insulating and anesthetizing it from conscious awareness of what's happening to it."

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Go read this blog

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall

Everything from today back to this April 9 post is great. That post, in fact, ends in art. Read it and it's links. What will we tell the children, indeed.

So far this project, this site, has been more educational for me than it has been for my four-and-falling readers. It's no bother, really. It keeps me reading and ranting and writing. I used to have another outlet for that - but this will do for now. A poor substitute to be sure.

There's so much content out there. Those aggregators out there churning and posting and collecting and depositing the musings of hundreds of thousands of bloggers, news writers, columnists, etc. Too much. Easy to get lost. The truth goes first. What do you have left when you're sifting or panning for gold? The gold and the random, worthless crap that gets stuck with it. Our task is to dump the obviously bad info out.

Blogging helps. Newspapers help. Common sense would help a lot, but there isn't much anymore.

So if you are reading this. Go read Josh's blog too. Then start reading it first. We say the same thing sometimes - independently - which makes me feel smart, if late to the party. Pass it all around to your friends. Don't feel self-conscious about your work to find the truth. Don't fall in line. Don't march in place.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Last blog of the day - I leave you with this

Bush's Low Profile Questioned as Violence Flares in Iraq (

"It's a disquieting feeling people have. They think the president does not have a plan, and he doesn't. . . . We are on the verge of losing control of Iraq."

'Emotional lock box'

Equal Right to Fight

This article is sort of about the role of women in dangerous combat areas. Someone remarks that it's not much talked about when a woman dies - like we've put the issue in an "emotional lock box." But the story is so heavily framed, it's hard to read the article as anything more than the story of another fallen American.

CARLISLE, Pa. — Kimberly Fahnestock Voelz is buried near the church where she was baptized, a few miles across fallow farm fields from the stables where she raised quarter horses as a teenager. Next door is the yellow frame house she left one day in 1996 and, without telling her parents, joined the Army.

Kimberly came home in a military coffin in December, dead at age 27 from a booby-trapped bomb in Iraq. She was the first American female explosive ordnance disposal expert ever killed in action — the 453rd U.S. service member killed in Iraq and one of 16 women to give their lives in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Staff Sgt. Voelz died in the arms of her husband, Max Voelz, also a staff sergeant on the 17-person ordnance disposal team on which Kimberly was the lone woman. . . . .

The couple met during ordnance disposal training and married in 1999. They had recently reenlisted, the Fahnestocks said. Kimberly's memorial service was held in the same church where she was married, and she is buried nearby in the Gate of Heaven Cemetery.

Aug, 6, 2001 memo released Saturday

Saturday's a good day to get the news out - people paying carefull attention and all:

Text of Aug, 6, 2001 memo released Saturday

This seems to be the most damning part:
Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

Note the word "nevertheless." It relates to the previous graf, which starts: "We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting" on OBL hijacking plans.

Words are generally chosen for a reason. Despite the inability to corroborate evidence on this mounting threat, there were patterns. The final graf explains: The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full field investigations throughout the US that it considers Bin Ladin-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our Embassy in UAE in May saying that a group of Bin Ladin supporters was in the US planning attacks with explosives.

So there were signs. I don't know how many, how scary, or how explicit. And all these things will seem crystal clear now - they didn't then - I'm willing to give them that much. Plus, if you read this accompanying article it explains some of the creepier parts of the memo (if you believe White House sources speaking without names).

And going back to Iraq - Bush knew, KNEW, then that Bin Ladin was tending this direction. Whether or not the Administration could've beaten the clock and saved lives on 9/11 - the first target after that day should've been, and remained, not-Iraq. Unless they can release to us a memo linking OBL and Saddam, demonstrating a pattern, there doesn't seem to be much solid ground left under our Iraq-war decision.

What remains, of course, is shifting, blood-soaked sand.

2000 words on the world today

"Marines pray over a fallen comrade after he died from wounds suffered in fighting in Fallujah, Iraq."

"Machine gun Passover: An Israeli man armed with an automatic rifle walks a young girl through Jerusalem's Old City. Israelis were officially advised to carry their personal weapons during the week-long Passover holiday."

I met a woman in New Hampshire, a Dean supporter, who signed her email "Peace, soon."

Overestimating our competence

Ahhhh. David Brooks wants us to The New York Times > Opinion >"Take a Deep Breath".

Explaining why things aren't as bad as they seem - why the sky isn't falling, why the deck chairs need rearranging, why the water isn't rising, why this new suit looks great - in Iraq, he concisely lays out Sadr's strengths:

He has cleverly picked his moment, and he has several advantages. He is exploiting wounded national pride. He is capitalizing on the Iraqis' frustration with the American occupation (they continually overestimate our competence, then invent conspiracy theories to explain why we haven't transformed Iraq).

Most important, Sadr has the advantages that always accrue to fascist thugs. He is vicious, while his opponents are civilized.

He is vicious, we are civilized.

I'll continue to contend, however, that - as we learned by watching Se7en - essentializing something as "Evil" is taking the easy way out.

Now, sit and stare in shock and awe with me - how we can so easily cut things down to size - ignore chances to understand motives so that we may find peace and end the rivers of blood running down far away streets:

Over the long run, though, the task is unavoidable. Sadr is an enemy of civilization. The terrorists are enemies of civilization. They must be defeated.


No tears for polls, thanks

Today's Kristof column has a gem of a thought:

It's not just that the Bush administration's arrogance and unilateralism have led Pakistanis to give Osama bin Laden a 65 percent favorable rating, compared with 7 percent for President Bush (the latest international polls from the Pew Research Center make you want to cry).

I can't help but think of everything that's going on in the world right now, Bush's low favorability rating isn't what's bringing tears to my eyes. But, hey, you gotta set your own priorities, you know?

Mr. Kristof takes another look at Spain and its post-3/11 elections. Some parts got to me:

Accusing Spain of bowing to terrorism has exacerbated the Spanish alienation from the U.S., for this is a country that has lost 900 people to Basque terrorism over the years — and that Al Qaeda recently pledged to turn into "an inferno."

"You never get used to going to cemeteries; you never get used to embracing a widow," says one senior government official. "No one can accuse us of trying to find a way out. It's not only unjust, it's irritating and infuriating."

Couldn't help but think, reading the start of the 2d graf, above, that Bush has found a way to get used to it. Or, rather, he's found a way not to have to get used to it, by never going to begin with.

As my Uncle José, who is profoundly pro-American, puts it sadly: "There's so much anti-Americanism now. That is Bush's achievement."

That's closer to something worth crying over.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Nothing in her life became her like the leaving of it.

With so much ugly, tragic, blood soaked death - I offer this: a quiet story of a Bay Area woman going softly into the night. She lived a lovely life, so it seems. When she came to SF, "It was the '60s, and the city was a giant cocktail party, especially for a pretty, leggy, single woman." Now, "We're talking life and death -- and how much you pay the gardener" Read this and watch out for buses.

Again, I say to you: Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it, like my heart's going to cave in.

You're wanted in the office, sir

Actually, I want you OUT of the office.

From today's Bob Herbert column in the NYT. the best line: "Perhaps if he went to a few fewer fund-raisers and a few more funerals . . ." Now here's the rest:

The Empty Room

Condi Rice was in Washington trying to pass her oral exam before the 9/11 commission yesterday, and the president was on vacation in Texas. As usual, they were in close agreement, this time on the fact that neither they nor anyone else in this remarkably aloof and arrogant administration is responsible for the tragic mess unfolding in Iraq, and its implications for the worldwide war on terror.

The president called Ms. Rice from his pickup truck on the ranch to tell her she had done a great job before the panel.

It doesn't get more surreal than that.

Mr. President, there's a war on. You might consider hopping a plane to Washington.

It's hard to imagine that the news out of Iraq could be more dreadful. After the loss of at least 634 American troops and the expenditure of countless billions of dollars, we've succeeded in getting the various Iraqi factions to hate us more than they hate each other. And terrorists are leaping on the situation in Iraq like rats feasting on a mound of exposed cheese.

The administration has no real plan on how to proceed. It doesn't know how many troops are needed. It doesn't know, in the long term, where they will come from. It doesn't know whether it can meet the June 30 deadline for turning over sovereignty to the Iraqis. (It doesn't know what sovereignty in this context even means. June 30 was an arbitrary date selected with this year's presidential campaign in mind.) It doesn't have a cadre of Iraqi leaders to accept the handoff of sovereignty. And so on.

When you open the door to get a look at the Bush policy on Iraq, you find yourself staring into an empty room.

Meanwhile, people are dying.

When the president challenged Iraqi militants last summer with the now-famous taunt "bring 'em on," he betrayed a fundamental lack of understanding of the horror of war in general, and the incredible complexity of the situation in Iraq.

Instead of behaving as though he is responsible, as commander in chief, for the life of every man and woman who is sent into combat, Mr. Bush has behaved on more than one occasion as though he's at the controls of a video game. He does not appear to be taking this great tragedy nearly as seriously as he should.

Perhaps if he went to a few fewer fund-raisers and a few more funerals . . .

One of the things soldiers on the ground in Vietnam learned is that while there were many South Vietnamese who were genuinely fearful of the Communist North and were anxious to embrace the values that the U.S. stood for, it was difficult to get them to fight for their freedom with the ferocity that the Americans expected. Among other things, we underestimated the strength of the ethnic and cultural bonds that the Vietnamese felt with one another, whatever their political inclinations.

When the Americans — foreigners — with their superior technology and firepower went to work tearing up the landscape and mowing down the enemy (not to mention the so-called collateral damage of innocent South Vietnamese civilians), any chance of winning the hearts and minds of the country at large was lost.

Now we are trying to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis with an unprovoked war that began with a televised bombing campaign advertised to the world as "shock and awe," and that continues with the devastating firepower of Super Cobra helicopters and laser-guided missiles.

Thousands of innocent Iraqis have died, including small children, but we don't seem to give that much thought. And we've insisted, despite profound cultural and religious differences, that we are going to install an American-style democracy, whether the various elements of the Iraqi people want it or not. And we're going to do it fast.

Mr. Bush and his advisers need to regroup and rethink this fiasco. If we were dealt this hand in a poker game, we'd fold. But with 135,000 troops on the ground and no real Iraqi government in sight, that's not an option.

It's heartbreaking to think that brave American troops have once again been put into such an untenable situation. The president, who led us into this wholly unnecessary war, has an obligation to step up and level with the American people, to take full responsibility for the current disaster and to summon help from a genuine international coalition, which is the only feasible route to a resolution in Iraq.


Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Found political advice, Vol. 2

Okay, not so much found as heard. But still funny and useful:

The first thing you should do when riding a dead horse is dismount.


More good sense from the blogosphere

Thanks to LibertarianJackass.comfor posting this cartoon. It's too good not to repeat: