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Archive for August 2004

“U.S. Out of Iraq,” Me Out on a Limb

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Ok, I’m really no expert on what’s going on in Iraq. Not at all. In fact, I have to admit that as of the late the eyes get a little fuzzy, a little dry feeling when I hit the “war on terror” section of the Times each morning – sometimes I end up reading just the first paragraphs, sometimes not even that.
But there is something a little troubling about the whole “out of Iraq” sentiment, at the march on Sunday and elsewhere.
Believe me, I was very much against the war from the firstmost. UN involvement or no. The question that I just could never get around was “Why now?” And when folks do things that don’t have at first a very clear reason, you can generally be sure there’s a reason buried down deep there somewhere (or, in this case, many reasons buried in plain sight) that’s not so pretty. Anyway, I was against the war. Day one till now.
But I’m not really sure that “getting out of Iraq” at this point is exactly the right course at this point either. Ethically, I mean, above all. I’m pretty sure we have a responsibility to do right by the place now that we’ve bombed the bejesus out of it. And by “right,” I even think I mean what the Bushites say they mean: democracy, freedom, all the rest.
It’s a more nuanced opinion than the Bushites could get their heads around, but I do think it’s very tenable to have been against the war in the beginning and hope for a successful conclusion, even a “victory” of sorts now. (Of course, my “victory” is not theirs. Mine, for instance, wouldn’t have anything to do with their crooked henchmen like Chalabi, I’d like the oil to be nationalized to pay for some nice social programs and infrastructure a la Chavez in Venezuela, and a whole lot of other differences. Actually everything…)
And, on some level, when you get beyond the bullshit that Kerry’s been forced to spout about the war so as not to seem like a pansy or a Europhile or whatever, I have a feeling this is what he’d actually be about too in Iraq. When the Halliburton and Carlyle tentacles are pulled out of the pot, things might seem very different over there in terms of our interests in the region.
So – first of all, I’d hope that we could do better than what Krugman’s advocating in the Times today:

So what’s the answer? Here’s one thought: much of U.S. policy in Iraq – delaying elections, trying to come up with a formula that blocks simple majority rule, trying to install first Mr. Chalabi, then Mr. Allawi, as strongman – can be seen as a persistent effort to avoid giving Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani his natural dominant role. But recent events in Najaf have demonstrated both the cleric’s awesome influence and the limits of American power. Isn’t it time to realize that we could do a lot worse than Mr. Sistani, and give him pretty much whatever he wants?

Nope – I don’t think I’d settle for another Ayatollah. Fine, I guess if he were to be democratically elected, but I wouldn’t be the one to hand him power on a platter. Go from a pseudo-fascist dictatorship to a another Shia theocracy. No thanks.
Very, very reluctantly, I think I’d even redouble efforts before I’d do that. Redouble efforts at what, I’m not sure. But not that…
Secondly, since I at least think it’s possible to have a coherent viewpoint on Iraq that involves both a) a rejection of the administration’s initial logic and current strategy in the whole affair – all the way to an outright rejection of the legitimacy of the war as a whole and b) a sense that it must be followed through, at this point, to its proper conclusion… I wonder that Kerry couldn’t figure out a way to rephrase his war policy into something workable at this point. Some subtle and articulate statement to the following effect:

I was always against Saddam, but I am also disappointed and even offended that we were taken into this war under false pretenses. There may have been other sollutions possible, but the current administration took the path of war. This is the hand that we have been dealt, that we have dealt ourselves. At this point, there is no turning back. But unlike the current administration, a Kerry administration would finish the deal in Iraq in a manner that will win the peace. We will clear the air by cutting out the corporate interests that are muddling our attention on the topic; Halliburton and the Carlyle Group, the oil companies will have to fend for themselves. I believe that gestures of good faith on America’s part will be met with cooperation on the part of the Iraqi people. And the Iraqi people, contrary to the opinion of the current administration, are more than capable and more than willing to govern themselves in a true democracy. A Kerry administration will settle for no middle ground, will not slowly cede power to a new Ayatollah and hope that the American people and the world are not watching.

I am running out of gas, but something along these lines might help Kerry get out of the “flip flop” hole he’s, to a certain extent, dug for himself.
What I’m saying, in short, is that Kerry needs to get way more pointed, way more radical in his general “I’ll do the war better” line of argument. It might work. I think it might even be the most honest answer that he could give to these questions… not just another focus-grouped response.
And perhaps most importantly, it would throw the ball back into Bush’s court… Let him answer this charge, this plan, with his own…
My two cents, late at night and half informed.

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August 31, 2004 at 1:06 am

Posted in Politics

Preemption: Blog Version

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A modest proposal:
The rumor is floating around that the “October Surprise” we’re all waiting for from the Bush & Co. is that Cheney will be dropped “at the advice of his doctors” and either McCain or Guiliani will be added to the ticket as VP.
From Dan Rather’s Convention Journal:

TALK AROUND THE GARDEN TODAY:
Not much of it, really. Only a few people besides workmen inside the hall. Among the few who were there, the most popular topic of conversation was whether President Bush might surprise and announce during the convention that Vice President Cheney would not be running with him this year.
This rumor has swirled around a bit from time to time throughout the year, the chatter being that Mr. Bush would prefer to run with Sen. John McCain – or maybe Rudy Giuliani – and will sooner or later find a way to do it.
No one can be found inside the Bush-Cheney campaign who does anything but scoff at this. That, of course, doesn’t keep people from musing about it and some were today, but none of them were anywhere near in a position to know anything.
They were just shooting the bull.

I have no idea if this would be a terrific idea or not.
But… in the interest of depriving the Repubs of yet another weapon in their infinite-seeming arsenal of campaign tricks, I’ve got an idea. Maybe it’s a dumb idea, but here goes:
Since we all know that if something like this were to happen, the “liberal media” would be all gravitas and condolences, wouldn’t so much whisper the idea that this was all planned out from the beginning, that the “doctor’s orders” is all a bunch of bs…
Why not let’s have the important left bloggers pick a day in the near term and all post the same message, something like this:

I am hereby predicting, despite the fact that I have absolutely no inside information on the topic, and furthermore I am not a medical doctor specializing in televisual and/or clairvoyant diagnosis, that Dick Cheney will drop out of the race sometime between now and election day because of the advice of his doctor and/or a physiological event of whatever severity.

Get enough of posts along these lines, and, well, who knows if it will do anything. But we can forward the archival posts along to the talking heads at CNN to try to preempt their shock at the tragic surprise announcement.
How the hell did all of us know this would happen, while Wolf Blitzer is treating it as an unfathomable surprise??? Catch my drift?
(I kinda wish Kerry and his people would start thinking along these lines… Start anticipating what’s going to come down the pike to flush him. Like when “senior Republicans” are bragging that “By the time the White House finishes with Kerry, no one will know what side of the (Vietnam) war he fought on” – you take that seriously and man the guns… )
Preemption, in other words…

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August 30, 2004 at 1:50 am

Posted in Politics

CNN: At least Carol Lin’s got her priorities in order

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JASON BELLINI: At street level, Sunday’s protest felt like a parade. Madison Square Garden served as the reviewing stand. Flores-Williams knows getting arrested is a way to get attention.
His protestor manifesto in the latest issue of “High Times” magazine included a section on how to deal with getting arrested. Remain silent is the main advice.
(on camera): In his article for “High Times” magazine, Jason writes that he believes the era of single-issue activism is over, “there are no longer any inner circles,” he writes, “no longer any activist stars.”
(voice-over): What you have is a cacophony of tens of thousands of protestors representing hundreds of different issues all coming together, Flores-Williams hopes, with the collective message — we’re not happy with our government.
The question not answered today — will street theater alone keep anyone interested?
Jason Bellini, CNN, New York.
(END VIDEOTAPE)
CAROL LIN: I know it’s democracy, but it’s sometimes hard to take seriously.

LATER:

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And last but not least, there you can see Frances, moving on through, heading to the Leeward Islands. Tropical storm watches have been posted now for the northern Leeward Islands. Could potentially have an impact on the United States, maybe by Saturday. So the end of the week. We’re going to be watching Frances very slowly. Right now, category four, with 135 mile an hour winds.
CAROL LIN: Wow. To be taken very seriously. Thanks very much, Jacqui.

Link to the transcript is here.

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August 30, 2004 at 12:19 am

Posted in Television

Fantastic

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My grandma once got me a subscription to MacLean’s for my birthday.macleans
Thinking about re-upping.

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August 29, 2004 at 11:58 pm

Posted in Current Affairs

Protest

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Did the big protest today in New York, which was much better managed than the anti-war march back at the beginning of the year. Didn’t see a single equesto-cop. Was never penned in, which is a huge improvement, especially when you have to take a leak.
I was just about there for the only silly pseudo-violent incident that went on:
Fire
We’d just turned the corner from 7th ave to 34th street. Sirens, kids running, a big old puff of smoke. And that was all. They chased down a single kid and arrested him…
Most interesting t-shirt on the other side: small group of right-wingers between 32nd – 34th street, pro-lifers of course, but then a weird crew of pro-war folk (and I mean pro-war), a couple sporting the following slogan across their chests:
INTOLERANCE IS BEAUTIFUL
Ugh.
Watching the reports on tv this afternoon and tonight, got what I should have expected. Near silence. 200 K – 400 K show up for something, and it gets third or fourth billing. But what do I expect?
I guess somebody will have to do something violent to break into the stream of propaganda we’re being fed on the tube. If I were a betting man, I’d bet something will indeed happen… Just a guess…

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August 29, 2004 at 11:56 pm

Posted in Current Affairs

Olympic Pictograms

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Really excellent post at the terrific site Design Observer . (Wish they posted more frequently though – I’m always excited to see something new up.
This one’s on the Olympics and design, and features some great stuff about the Olympic pictograms rolled out for the 1972 Munich games. God they’re terrific. Go take a look here, where they’re mixed in with a lot of other wonderful ones…
I’ve always had a serious thing for pictograms, road signs, etc… Remember when I was a little kid spending a whole summer staring at this comprehensive guide to street signs that was on the back of a Canadian road map I got at the tourist place by my grandmother’s house.
But theseMunich guys take the cake. Like to print them up at put them in little frames all around my house.

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August 26, 2004 at 12:52 am

Posted in design

Whiz with

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WhizI saw this live the other day too. Atrios put it up though. The thing is, that they act like this is the silly, backpage stuff that cleanses the palate or something after all the hard news, the tough policy analysis. But, really, this is all there is. Just levels and grades of bullshit. And cheese-steaks.

CROWLEY: Now, you all know that in election years, nothing goes unanswered. Nothing. But sometimes responses take a little while.
We want to begin this story about a year ago, when John Kerry went to Philadelphia and a famous cheese steak place called Pat’s. There he ordered, of course, a cheese steak, but he ordered it with Swiss cheese. That’s kind of a food faux pas in Philadelphia. You’re supposed to order it with Cheez Whiz, maybe American, but Swiss cheese, definitely a faux pas.
Now who notices these kinds of things? As it turned out, the Bush campaign did. Did we mention that the president was near Philadelphia today?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH: You know, this is my 32nd visit to your state since I’ve been president. A lot of people wonder why I’m coming so much. It ought to be obvious to you; I like my cheese steak Wiz with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: There were also complaints at the time that John Kerry took dainty bites of his Philadelphia cheese steak. Unfortunately, the president did not get into that.

They act as if it’s funny, but given the fact that for a large lump of the American public, this is all the news they’re hearing… So, they’re gonna end up making their decision based on the fact that Kerry is a swiss-cheese eating pansy…

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August 21, 2004 at 12:04 am

Posted in Politics

Olympic Product Placement?

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Dead horse, the commercialization of the Olympics. It gets to like “Who cares…” after awhile. But this, for sure, is a new low – at least if it is what I think it is.
Costas was just interviewing Michael Phelps after he won yet another event, 100 meter butterfly I think it was. Six golds, Mark Spitz, all the rest. Seems like a nice enough guy, in a mildly dumb jock sort of way. And then this, complete non-sequitur:

Costas: Five seconds. What did you have for breakfast this morning. We’ve seen those big stacks of pancakes and Egg McMuffins.
Phelps: Ah, no… Nothing big this morning.
Costas: Light this morning?
Phelps: Light this morning. This morning it was just some oatmeal and some fruit. But tomorrow morning it will be McDonalds for sure.

Seems to me like the not quite invisible hand of product placement has had a touch in this, no? Just out of nowhere, turning the topic to breakfast like that, toward McMuffins and lobbing it up for Phelps to hit it, as it were, over the Golden Arches. And weirder, the thought that NBC and Costas and Phelps and McDs were all in on it together…
I guess it might be inspired by the whole Superbowl / “I’m goin’ to Disneyworld” awfulness. But what’s next? Maurice Greene giving us the old “Tomorrow night, I’ll be watching Scrubs on Fox. Oh yah!”
(BTW – have to give the wife props for this one. She spotted it dozing off in bed in the next room…)

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August 20, 2004 at 11:52 pm

Posted in sports

Six Feet Under

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Just got around to watching this Sunday’s episode of Six Feet Under. It’s not been a good season so far – for a lot of reasons, so many that it’d take too long to get into it right now. But Dale Peck’s done a good job of explaining what’s wrong here – which probably won’t be up for long so hurry up and look at it.
Peck’s right – taking a look at American Beauty – one of the most seriously fucked movies to come out in awhile – is the first thing to do to understand what’s going wrong with SFU now.
But watching Sunday’s episode tonight, there was a glimmer of hope. Quickly extinguished. But for a second, I thought they were going to open up the whole “Nate killed Lisa” line of thought again. All last season, up until the very end, I thought that the show had something totally brilliant up its sleeve. Starting from the first episode, Nate’s “near death” experience, it seemed like they were hinting at the idea that the entire season was some sort of safer, alternate world created on the death bed as an act of contrition or something… That marrying Lisa was a dream-life alternative to his tawdry existence in the sway of Brenda. But a dream-life which quickly took a turn for the sour, the boring. And thus, just as his marriage to Lisa had been dreamed into existence, her death too was Nate’s doing as well…
I was so convinced that this was what was up last season. I was so hoping that they were reopening this line tonight. But not so…
A. Ball, it’s not too late to save your show. To do something honest and a little bit revelatory with it!

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August 19, 2004 at 1:05 am

Posted in Television

NY Hiroshima

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Nice bit of news to hear today in Kristof’s column:

Graham Allison, a Harvard professor whose terrifying new book, “Nuclear Terrorism,” offers the example cited above, notes that he did not pluck it from thin air. He writes that on Oct. 11, 2001, exactly a month after 9/11, aides told President Bush that a C.I.A. source code-named Dragonfire had reported that Al Qaeda had obtained a 10-kiloton nuclear weapon and smuggled it into New York City.
The C.I.A. found the report plausible. The weapon had supposedly been stolen from Russia, which indeed has many 10-kiloton weapons. Russia is reported to have lost some of its nuclear materials, and Al Qaeda has mounted a determined effort to get or make such a weapon. And the C.I.A. had picked up Al Qaeda chatter about an “American Hiroshima.”
President Bush dispatched nuclear experts to New York to search for the weapon and sent Dick Cheney and other officials out of town to ensure the continuity of government in case a weapon exploded in Washington instead. But to avoid panic, the White House told no one in New York City, not even Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

I mean, I guess in retrospect they were right… panic etc… And, ultimately, there was no bomb. But also, ahem, a little cavalier sounding… Like if they get super credible information that somebody’s got a nuke in a parking lot somewhere in Manhattan during the RNC, they’ll just Saigon ’75 out the VIPs and cross their fingers???
Also interesting to know now in retrospect what was ultimately perhaps behind the general level of insane freakout we were all feeling back in Oct 2001.

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August 11, 2004 at 10:13 am

Posted in Current Affairs

Krugman Trembling

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I really hated to see Krugman’s fingers trembling while up against O’Reilly. Not his fault… TV is scary, I’m sure… But still disheartening to see it…
Here’s a clip – watch for the fingers…

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August 10, 2004 at 12:26 am

Posted in Politics

Code 46

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Saw Code 46 last Friday night, its opening in NYC. Super excited by the reviews that I saw.
A few comments:
Terrific to set it in Shanghai. Had a little squealy moment when Tim Robbins is walking in a park that just so happened to be the park right at the foot of my hotel a week or two ago. And it just so happens that as I was walking through that part a week or two ago, I muttered to my partner in Asiatic adventure “This park feels like the future.” So, same wavelength as Winterbottom or whoever picked it. Squeal.
Strange to have Hong Kong stand in for Seattle, though.
What else? Though I almost instinctively feel the need to defend the film – it just looked so good, had such a brutally cool feel – I had to agree with my better half who expressed some confusion as to the many little plot balls up in the air, not all of which were fully put to use. Immigration, cloning, sino-copying, tech, love, everything at once.
Trying not to spoil…
Really enjoyed the movie, but definitely agree with whatever reviewer it was who said that the movie felt skimpy-short, deserved another half hour or so…

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August 10, 2004 at 12:03 am

Posted in Film

First Post

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I had another blog, but I’m an academic. An academic of the grad student variety. Of the grad student variety who will soon be seeking work. So, wasn’t too comfortable with google bringing the site to anyone who entered my name. And I have an uncommon name. So… A new, completely anonymous, site for me.

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August 9, 2004 at 11:40 pm

Posted in Personal