Archive for May, 2004

Dissecting David Brooks; Dissecting Thomas Friedman.

Saturday, May 22nd, 2004

David Brooks …: Nonetheless, it’s not too early to begin thinking about what was clearly an intellectual failure. There was, above all, a failure by America to understand the consequences of its power. There was a failure to anticipate the response its power would have on the people America sought to liberate. They resent the US for its power and at the same time expect the US to be capable of everything.

There was a failure by America to understand the effect its power would have on other people around the world. America was so sure it was using its might for noble purposes, it assumed that, sooner or later, everybody else would see that as well. Far from being blinded by greed, America was blinded by idealism.

There was what?

Now, looking ahead, America faces another irony. To earn their own freedom, the Iraqis need a victory. And since it is too late for the Iraqis to have a victory over Saddam, it is imperative that they have a victory over the US. If the future textbooks of a free Iraq get written, the toppling of Saddam will be vaguely mentioned in one clause in one sentence. But the heroic Iraqi resistance against the American occupation will be lavishly described, page after page.

For America to succeed in Iraq, America has to lose.

That means the good Iraqis, the ones who support democracy, have to have a forum in which they can defy the US. If the insurgents are the only anti-Americans, then there will always be a soft spot for them in the hearts of Iraqi patriots.

From here, we prop Ahmad Chalabi up by propping him down. If I hadn’t witnessed similar absurdity by the powers that currently be, I would brush that aside as an absurdity… but in this post-modernist game we’re witness to… it’s the American audience that they’re aiming at anyway, so… maybe the “showing” of the Iraqis “embracing” “Chalabi” will feed into “our” view that they’ve fought and won sovereignty.

… On the other hand…

Okay. What does the prominent Liberal Hawk have to say these days?

Dancing Alone:

It is time to ask this question: Do we have any chance of succeeding at regime change in Iraq without regime change here at home?

“Hey, Friedman, why are you bringing politics into this all of a sudden? You’re the guy who always said that producing a decent outcome in Iraq was of such overriding importance to the country that it had to be kept above politics.”

Yes, that’s true. I still believe that. My mistake was thinking that the Bush team believed it, too. I thought the administration would have to do

Question: What kind of narrative device did Thomas Friedman just employ there? What professional columnist interjects their editorials with imaginary conversations? To what purpose?

I’ll take it as a sign of exasperation withinin his own thought-process.

I admit, I’m a little slow.

Following that statement, Friedman describes the war architects as a parade of ideolouges…

Skip over to his latest editorial… keep the template handy… Actually, let’s excerpt the parody and place it side by side with the real editorial:

Last week’s events in [country in the news] were truly historic, although we may not know for years or even decades what their final meaning is. What’s important, however, is that we focus on what these events mean [on the ground/in the street/to the citizens themselves]. The [media/current administration] seems too caught up in [worrying about/dissecting/spinning] the macro-level situation to pay attention to the important effects on daily life. Just call it missing the [desert for the sand/fields for the wheat/battle for the bullets].

India just had a stunning election, with incumbents across the country thrown out, largely by rural voters. Clearly rural Indians, who make up the country’s majority, were telling the cities and the government that they were not happy with the direction of events. I think I can explain what happened, but first I have to tell you about this wild typing race I recently had with an 8-year-old Indian girl at a village school.

When I was in [country in question] last [week/month/August], I was amazed by the [people’s basic desire for a stable life/level of Westernization for such a closed society/variety of the local cuisine], and that tells me two things. It tells me that the citizens of [country in question] have no shortage of [courage/potential entrepreneurs/root vegetables], and that is a good beginning to grow from. Second, it tells me that people in [country in question] are just like people anywhere else on this great globe of ours.

“Dust” is an appropriate word, because a drought in this area of southern India has left dust everywhere. “These kids — their parents are ragpickers, coolies and quarry laborers,” said the school’s principal, Lalita Law. “They come from homes below the poverty line, and from the lowest caste of untouchables, who are supposed be fulfilling their destiny and left where they are — according to the unwritten laws of Indian society. We get these children at age 4. They don’t know what it is to have a drink of clean water [or use a toilet]. They bathe in filthy gutter water — if they are lucky to have a gutter near where they live. They don’t even have proper scraps of clothing. We have to start by socializing them. When we first get them, they run out and urinate and defecate wherever they want. [At first] we don’t make them sleep on beds because it is a culture shock. Our goal is to give them a world-class education so they can aspire to careers and professions that would have been totally beyond their reach, and have been so for generations.”

I don’t know what [country in question] will be like a few years from now, but I do know that it will [probably look very different from the country we see now/remain true to its cultural heritage], even if it [remains true to its basic cultural heritage/looks very different from the country we see now]. I know this because, through all the disorder, the people still haven’t lost sight of their dreams.

India needs a political reform revolution to go with its economic one. “With prosperity coming to a few, the great majority are simply spectators to this drama,” said Mr. George. “The country is governed poorly, with corruption and heavy bureaucracy at all levels. I am a great advocate of technology and globalization, but we must find a way to channel their benefits to the rural poor. What is happening today will not succeed because we are relying on a corrupt and socially unfair system.”  

Speaking with a local farmer on the last day of my recent visit, I asked him if there was any message that he wanted me to carry back home with me. He pondered for a second, and then smiled and said, “[Short phrase in indigenous language],” which is a local saying that means roughly, “[Every branch of the tree casts its own shadow/That tea is sweetest whose herbs have dried longest/A child knows his parents before the parents know their child].”

I’ve never been able to read a Thomas Friedman article the same way after seeing that McSweeney’s parody… I won’t comment on whether he’s right or wrong about various issues, just say: he’s… consistent.


Saturday, May 22nd, 2004

Goody. It’s online.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: I asked Congress to join me and pass what I called the faith-based initiative, which would help change the culture of Washington and the behavior of bureaucracies. They’ve stalled. So I just signed an executive order.

This is a common theme in the Bush administration. Recall his reasoning for finally relenting on allowing the Congress the right to rubber-stamp an Iraq War Resolution (paraphrasing from memory): this is an opportunity for Congress to… show ther support. Watch this sometimes crude, sometimes smooth linguistic trickery.

BUSH: We are here in the middle hour of our grief. Americans do not yet have the distance of history, but our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil.

Batman has been around since 1938. He has yet to accomplish the riddening of evil.

We will rid the world of the evildoers. We’ve never seen this kind of evil before. But the evildoers have never seen the American people in action before, either, and they’re about to find out. Thank you all very much.

… Never seen this kind of evil before? Really?
And, in the end, who found what out?

This idea of America is the hope of all mankind. That hope drew millions to this harbor. That hope still lights our way. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it.

During the debate, the moderator asked the candidates what political philosopher or thinker they most identified with. Steve Forbes answered John Locke. Alan Keyes named the Founding Fathers.

[December, 1999]

MODERATOR: Governor Bush, a philosopher/thinker. And why.

Gov. GEORGE W. BUSH (R), Texas:   Christ, because he changed my heart.

MODERATOR: I think the viewer would like to know more on how he’s changed your heart.

The Moderator should have cut him off and gone to the next candidate…

Gov. GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, if they don’t know, it’s going to be hard to explain. When you turn your heart and life over to Christ, when you accept Christ as a savior, it changes your heart and changes your life. And that’s what happened to me.

Soooo…. Do you believe an angel rides in a whirl wind?

It’s a LaRouche House

Saturday, May 22nd, 2004

Little Pink Houses…

I recall in 2000 seeing one Buchannan/ Foster sign, on the edge of PSU campus, the day before election. It looked out of place. Plenty of Gore/Lieberman signs, Nader / LaDuke signs, and the occasional Bush/Cheney sign… but this was the only Buchannan sign that I had seen all election season.

Skip to this year.
The LaRouche posters are splattered all over North Portland telephone polls. To nobody’s particular notice. The LaRouchites put them there, and they’ll fall by the wayside sooner or later.

But I did see a LaRouche sign in the window of a mid-sized pink house. And a large picture of the man… Lyndon LaRouche.

It’s overtaken, around the city, by the Kerrys, the Bushes, the Kuciniches, and the faded Deans (occasionally with Kucinich or Kerry stuck over them)… but there it is: I know where a Lyndon LaRouche supporter lives.

Feel free to knock.

The Good Old Days

Saturday, May 22nd, 2004

I recall this conversation… probably my senior year in high school, probably my Journalism class. A fellow student, a young lady whose name escapes me, commented on the crass nature of today’s entertainment and landscape and said “I wish this were the 50s.”

To which I responded, “No you don’t. You wouldn’t get very far career-wise. And if I were to rape you, the judge would more likely get me off.”

I had gathered a sense, from my general sense of adolescent disillusionment I suppose or from somewhere or other, that there… are… no… good old days.

Actually, my seventh grade English teacher tipped me, and the rest of his class, off to this concept. Not that anyone there was paying attention, and not that I’m probably the only one who recalls that lecture.

I lifted the falling from an article from one of Russ Kick’s books, which when it gets to the 50s seems to reference, second-hand, from The Way We Never Were.

#1: 1820s to 1900: Of 20 million immigrants who came to America, 5 million returned to their place of origin.

#2: 1870s: Newsboys… sold newspapers until the age of 10, when they went on to bootblacking. Fierce turf and paper battles. Top of the heap earned about 30 cents a day. The majority were homeless. In 1880, there were 100,000 homeless children in New York City.

#3: WWI. “Conformity will be the only virtue and any man who refuses to conform will have to pay the penalty.” — Woodrow Wilson

The WWI analogy to our current day “Freedom Fries” was not “Liberty Cabbage” or the banning of Beethoven at Opera Houses; it would be the banning of Irish-American papers at various locations. (although, even there it falls apart, as France wasn’t exactly an ally of Saddam Hussein in the true sense.)

#4: 1920s: 56 percent of students graduated high school. 60 percent of Americans earned less than the amount considered necessary to meet human needs.

#4: 1930s: The Commander of operations against the “Bonus Army”: Douglas MacCarthur. His third aide: Eisenhower. Third calvary led by George Patton.

A March 1938 survey found that 41 percent of Americans believed that the Jews held too much power in the United States.

#5: WWII: The US Navy gave a group of recent high school graduates a test of basic math skills. 60 percent failed. A US Army poll at the end of the war found that 22% of GIs thought that Nazi treatment of Jews was justified, and 23% were unsure. A December 1945 Fortune survey found that 23% of Americans wished the US had had the chance to drop many more atomic bombs on Japan before they had the chance to surrender.

#6: 1950s: Mid-decade, only half of the US population had savings, and a quarter had no liquid assets at all. 97 out of 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19 gave birth during the decade. There was an 80 percent increase in out-of-wedlock babies placed for adoption between 1944 and 1955. (Then again… this is the baby boom.)

It’s Going to Happen

Friday, May 21st, 2004

Two sentences pop out as particular ominous in this article.

White House officials say they’ve got a “working premise” about terrorism and the presidential election: It’s going to happen. “We assume,” says a top administration official, “an attack will happen leading up to the election.” And, he added, “it will happen here.” There are two worst-case scenarios, the official says. The first posits an attack on Washington, possibly the Capitol, which was believed to be the target of the 9/11 jet that crashed in Pennsylvania. Theory 2: smaller but more frequent attacks in Washington and other major cities leading up to the election. To prepare, the administration has been holding secret antiterrorism drills to make sure top officials know what to do. “There was a sense,” says one official involved in the drills, “of mass confusion on 9/11. Now we have a sense of order.” Unclear is the political impact, though most Bushies think the nation would rally around the president. “I can tell you one thing,” adds the official sternly, “we won’t be like Spain,” which tossed its government days after the Madrid train bombings.

Er… Thanks for feeding into my conspiranoid impulse with that sentence of certaintude.


Media Bias

Friday, May 21st, 2004

Check out this Oregonian headline from a few days ago:

The ex-police chief will face Francesconi in Portland mayor’s race

Now, look at the results:

First Place: Tom Potter with 42.34% of the vote
Second Place: Jim Francesconi with 34.50% of the vote.

Don’t these results indicate that… Francesconi… forced Potter into the run-off?

Books That Tie in With Latest Political Shenanigans

Thursday, May 20th, 2004

Nancy Pelosi: ignoring his own State Department about what would happen after the fall of Baghdad and ignoring the intelligence as to the chaotic situation that would exist … carries with it a responsibility for all of the costs of war,” she said. “And that’s not only the president, that is all of us any time we vote to send our young people into harm’s way.

“The results of his action are what undermine his leadership, not my statements,” she said. “The emperor has no clothes. When are people going to face the reality?”

#1: The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Anderson.

You can stick the fact that Bush has had another photo-bust to the parable. One year ago, he went to a factory in Ohio to talk up the economy. That factory… has now closed.

Hm. Chalabi’s house has been raided.

“”Revolution is like Saturn, it devours its own children. ”
Georg Büchner

#2: George Buchner: The Complete Plays and Prose.

The third one is “The Wizard of Oz.”