Thursday, July 22, 2004

'Big' News Days Can Make For Small Blog Days

Or: Everything I Needed to Know About National Security Organization Management I Learned from a Sandra Bullock Movie.

I've been asked, more than once, why I don't post long analyses of big breaking events - like today's release of the 9/11 Commission report. There are several answers to that question.

1.) Contrary to what one friend asked yesterday, no, this is not all that I do. I have a totally non-blog-related job in the real world that likes it when I, you know, get work done.

2.) More importantly that that, however, (because "I ran out of time" isn't ever a really good excuse) sometimes these "Big News Events" just aren't. That is to say - we've know this report has been coming, we kinda knew what it would and would not say, and we knew it was going to be covered to all hell by everyone else. You want coverage, just pick a paper, any paper, and read the front page. Keep checking here for the witty insight, but since I don't have the report in front of me to read right now, you'd do better with The New York Times anyway.

3.) Of course, since it's still me here, I have reactions to what I've heard so far, mostly from NPR's coverage of the commission statements this morning. Listening to the chairman's harrowing account of just how unprepared we were and how vulnerable we are now while driving across the Golden Gate put me in a great mood, I can assure you (not that I think the GG is a valid target - the symbolic destruction would be pretty, and everyone's commute would suck, but the body count just wouldn't be high enough). I was left with a sense of defeat - a certainty at that moment that widespread mayhem was a moment or two away and no one, not Kerry, not Bush, no one, could protect us.

We weren't ready. No one knew what the other guy was doing. The other guy didn't want the other other guy to know what he knew. No one knew what al-Q-agent X was doing or where he was, but they knew he was coming and they knew he was here. Someone knew there were helping hands in Iran and Pakistan (damn and I thought Pakistan was all helpful Harriet, too), but clearly that didn't get to Bush et al in time (no, of course it did, and no/yes it has nothing/everything to do with the Iraq war).

The best news came in the recommendations section, when I heard the commissioners say they did NOT back the idea of a new security agency. Though they do favor a new, oh here's that stupid word, czar to oversee the mess of hapless intel we have now.

Here's where Sandra Bullock comes in.

In the beginning of Miss Congeniality (stick with me), Sandra Bullock's Gracie says that before they go into to Texas to save the pageant from a crazy bomber, they should call the locals to avoid a turf war.

A turf war.

It ALWAYS comes down to that. It's the hubris of American (probably world) law enforcement. Who gets the credit? Whose backyard? It's like reverse NIMBYism, it's PIMBYism - please, in my backyard, so my guys, my unit, my department can save the day because everyone else is an incompetent halfwit and if we give them the information they'll botch the investigation and if they think they're so smart then why don't they just go their own way and we'll go ours and we'll see who gets there first and solves the crime and resuces the girl in the whole or the country from the next -


Too late.

Adding someone else to the mess won't fix it. Fire everyone and start over with a new paradigm. Groupthink never dies, it just gets thought in another room.

So that's my post on the big news of the day. For more, check Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo (though he's preoccupied with the Berger fiasco - which is a whole 'nother rant), this NYT article where we learn "Panel Warns Deadlier Attacks Are Likely," this Wash Post headliner on how we doomed ourselves by refusing to acknowledge the sky could fall, or better yet, go to the NPR site for the primary source, the commissioners press conference (you can also access the report, exec summary, and related primary documents from here as well - and probably a ton of other sites).

And when you get done having a few moments of well-earned, some-large-number-of-us-are-going-to-suffer-really-ugly-tragic-untimely-deaths panic, relax with this bit of biting comic relief from Josh Marshall:

Possible Bush slogans ...

1. Not as terrible as it could have been!

2. Four more years and we'll be safe!

3. Peace!

4. Incompetence and exaggeration, not bad-faith or lying, as shown in two recent reports!

5. Are you better off today than you would have been today assuming that that idiot Al Gore had won four years ago and he was president instead of me?

In fact - those five are a good start for some audience participation (assuming you've read down this far in the post). Our caption contests yield some fun results - so why not enter your own idea for a possible Bush slogan in the comments below.

[Ed. Note - If you arrive at a post via a direct link - ie, something past the general address - make sure to use the 3d party comments software, not the "Post a Comment" Blogger link. It's a glitch I'm working on.]

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