Saturday, April 19, 2003

Quick Question  

From the Times, something puzzles me about this:
The United States is planning a long-term military relationship with the emerging government of Iraq, one that would grant the Pentagon access to military bases and project American influence into the heart of the unsettled region, senior Bush administration officials say.
Forgive the question, but, um, what emerging government?

This reminds me of the propaganda coming out of the Times during the Turkey debacle. I was reading translations from the Turkish papers and it looked like they were not going to allow the US in. But what did I know? 'Cause the Times was reporting all sorts of unnamed sources saying everything was fine, it was a done deal.

Well, it wasn't and to Americans, it must have looked like there was a last minute betrayal by the Turkish government. But there wasn't. The government would have been overthrown as opposition to the US was over 90%.

So, forgive my skepticism, but there seems to be a little, uh, disagreement as to whether the emerging government that the US is interested in and the ones the Islamists want. So...who are the unnamed members of the emerging government?

Rescued From The Ministry of Truth  

Recently, I re-read 1984, which in these days of Ari Fleischer, the Iraqi Information Minister, and of course, George Bush, reads more like an instruction manual than a dystopian fantasy. Once the edtion referenced above comes out, I may do a review of it. I can't wait for Pynchon's intro!

One of the most disturbing scenes in the book, and I've never forgotten it, at least 35 years after I first read it, is the moment Winston Smith holds in his hands irrefutable truth of the lies and distortions of the government of Oceania, then consigns it to the trash. Julia, his lover, fails to see its importance, but it haunts Winston, and that image of a past being shaped and reshaped to fit a current reality, has also haunted me, in many ways.

So, it was with a slight frisson of horror that I learned via Cursor, that Time Magazine is editing its archives to remove stuff that is embarassing about the current administration. What makes this particular example chilling is that Time removed an essay written by George Bush, Sr., penned in 1998 with Brent Scowcroft. Why? Because the views expressed on Iraq conflict sharply with what his son has just perpetrated.

Fortunately, The Memory Hole, which specializes in making sure that stuff like this gets caught, had archived a copy of the entire article, as well as a scan of the original page, in case anyone wishes to claim it was fabricated. I am reproducing it here, and urge everyone who reads this to copy it, download it your own computer and also send it to one friend, so it can never be lost.

“Why We Didn’t Remove Saddam”

George Bush [Sr.] and Brent Scowcroft
Time (2 March 1998)

The end of effective Iraqi resistance came with a rapidity which surprised us all, and we were perhaps psychologically unprepared for the sudden transition from fighting to peacemaking. True to the guidelines we had established, when we had achieved our strategic objectives (ejecting Iraqi forces from Kuwait and eroding Saddam’s threat to the region) we stopped the fighting. But the necessary limitations placed on our objectives, the fog of war, and the lack of “battleship Missouri” surrender unfortunately left unresolved problems, and new ones arose.

We were disappointed that Saddam’s defeat did not break his hold on power, as many of our Arab allies had predicted and we had come to expect. President Bush repeatedly declared that the fate of Saddam Hussein was up to the Iraqi people. Occasionally, he indicated that removal of Saddam would be welcome, but for very practical reasons there was never a promise to aid an uprising. While we hoped that popular revolt or coup would topple Saddam, neither the U.S. nor the countries of the region wished to see the breakup of the Iraqi state. We were concerned about the long-term balance of power at the head of the Gulf. Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in “mission creep,” and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible. We had been unable to find Noriega in Panama, which we knew intimately. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-cold war world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.’s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different—and perhaps barren—outcome.

We discussed at length forcing Saddam himself to accept the terms of Iraqi defeat at Safwan—just north of the Kuwait-Iraq border—and thus the responsibility and political consequences for the humiliation of such a devastating defeat. In the end, we asked ourselves what we would do if he refused. We concluded that we would be left with two options: continue the conflict until he backed down, or retreat from our demands. The latter would have sent a disastrous signal. The former would have split our Arab colleagues from the coalition and, de facto, forced us to change our objectives. Given those unpalatable choices, we allowed Saddam to avoid personal surrender and permitted him to send one of his generals. Perhaps we could have devised a system of selected punishment, such as air strikes on different military units, which would have proved a viable third option, but we had fulfilled our well-defined mission; Safwan was waiting.

As the conflict wound down, we felt a sense of urgency on the part of the coalition Arabs to get it over with and return to normal. This meant quickly withdrawing U.S. forces to an absolute minimum. Earlier there had been some concern in Arab ranks that once they allowed U.S. forces into the Middle East, we would be there to stay. Saddam’s propaganda machine fanned these worries. Our prompt withdrawal helped cement our position with our Arab allies, who now trusted us far more than they ever had. We had come to their assistance in their time of need, asked nothing for ourselves, and left again when the job was done. Despite some criticism of our conduct of the war, the Israelis too had their faith in us solidified. We had shown our ability—and willingness—to intervene in the Middle East in a decisive way when our interests were challenged. We had also crippled the military capability of one of their most bitter enemies in the region. Our new credibility (coupled with Yasser Arafat’s need to redeem his image after backing the wrong side in the war) had a quick and substantial payoff in the form of a Middle East peace conference in Madrid.

The Gulf War had far greater significance to the emerging post-cold war world than simply reversing Iraqi aggression and restoring Kuwait. Its magnitude and significance impelled us from the outset to extend our strategic vision beyond the crisis to the kind of precedent we should lay down for the future. From an American foreign-policymaking perspective, we sought to respond in a manner which would win broad domestic support and which could be applied universally to other crises. In international terms, we tried to establish a model for the use of force. First and foremost was the principle that aggression cannot pay. If we dealt properly with Iraq, that should go a long way toward dissuading future would-be aggressors. We also believed that the U.S. should not go it alone, that a multilateral approach was better. This was, in part, a practical matter. Mounting an effective military counter to Iraq’s invasion required the backing and bases of Saudi Arabia and other Arab states.

Friday, April 18, 2003

Regarding the Iraq War  

This war was a mistake. Yes, Iraq is better off without Saddam (with the notable exception of the 2000 civilians who died, the thousands of uncounted Iraqi soldiers who perished, the nearly 200 "coalition" forces and newspeople killed, and the uncounted persons severely mutilated), but to have done it via war was to invite disastrous consequences, which likely are at most a few years away and will probably come much sooner. It was also bad in terms of setting a precedent. What is stopping any nation from invoking the Bush Doctrine? Or Bush himself from invoking it not only against Syria, Iran, etc, etc, but also against...well, I guess I'm just paranoid, but when you read the PATRIOT Act, and now Patriot Act II, perhaps there's not a little justification.

What is astounding is to this day, there are still people of higher than average intelligence who believe that what we did was all for the best.

Of course, Saddam was an evil man. I don't need men the caliber of Richard Perle and Dick Cheney to remind me of something they just learned. As David Corn points out, in the letter that these bleeding hearts sent to Clinton in the late 90's, there is not a word about the sufferings of the Iraqis. It is only concerned with American interests. And a smiling Rumsfeld met with Saddam back in the 80's, right around the time he was gassing the Kurds.

The issue is, of course, the manner in which US force was deployed. This was a unilateralist, illegal, unjustifiable invasion of a country, undertaken against the will of the entire world. "Partners" were coerced and bribed. Popular will prevented many governments, including Turkey, from joining. The arrogance and stupidity of such a task is astonishing, now being compounded by the promotion of Chalabi as the new president, a kind of Iraqi version of Ken Lay, convicted of fraud and embezzlement by Jordan, who has not set foot in Iraq since the 1950's. As if this wasn't enough, add on the sweet contract deals to Halliburton (i.e. Cheney) and Bechtel (i.e. Rumsfeld, Schultz, and many other Repubs), the slimy Perle's underhanded deals with arms dealer Khashoggi, and even the most starry eyed naif must admit that the US has no moral high ground upon which to conduct world affairs.

But wait! There's plenty more.

Add to this the utterly unnecessary vindictiveness of the Bush administration. Of course, the French and German will be excluded from reconstruction, but their punishment goes further. Bush wants them to forgive their loans to Iraq, as well as Russia's, putting these governments under financial pressure that they can ill afford.

Even poor Tony Blair, an apparently decent man, is being punished for disloyalty. UK firms have been shut out of the most lucrative Iraq porkbarreling as well. But what on earth did Blair do that was so reprehensible? He has been insisting that the UN play a key role in Iraq, not be entirely run by the US. He has refused to follow Bush into Syria (and have no doubt, Bush wants Syria, although it might wait until after 2004, if we are cursed by his re-election). Both of these entirely reasonable, commonsense responses to the insanity of Bush's behavior have been swatted aside, and Blair's loyalty with it.

In addition, apparently Bush is not even deigning to reimburse the civilian victims of his bombing and slaughter in Iraq.

And then the icing on the cake. The almost wilful destruction of Iraq's history and heritage, irreplaceable objects and literature that survived 7000 years of calamity before Bush permitted their annihilation.

A simple thought experiment. Today, in the Times, Edward Rothstein has a think piece about the auction of a manuscript to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, possibly the score Beethoven was looking at as he flailed his arms in a futile attempt to conduct the work at the premiere. Imagine the horror if a crazy person stole the score and, in full view of the world, burnt it.

Now, imagine that every single manuscript of Beethoven's music, and Mozart's, and Bach's, including unedited pieces that no one's heard in nearly 300 years, PLUS, oh, documents like the Magna Carta, the US Constitution, every Gutenberg Bible, PLUS all the works of Turner, Pollock, Rauschenberg, and, for good measure, most of Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Vermeer, PLUS the original manuscripts of Moby-Dick, Ulysses, PLUS the earliest known Bibles, imagine all of this pulverized to dust, scattered by thieves, consigned to flames, removed from our future appreciation forever.

That's what happened in Iraq last week. Added to the wholesale slaughter, mutilation, and raping, the rioting and thievery, we literally destroyed their history, the world's history, our history. This is what the US leaders have brushed aside as "stuff happens."

The repercussions, when they come, will be enormous. Will we deserve it? No, we, the US people will not. We were lied to, anaesthesized by the most sophisticated propaganda the world has seen, and our public will which was, at the very least split about the war, was completely ignored.

But the present US government is responsible. Do they deserve what will certainly happen? NO. Justice is not retribution or punishment. Justice is, or should be, the prevention of future crimes. Period.

Whatever happens, it will not be justice. No one in this administration will be indicted for war crimes. None will be locked up or prevented from inflicting further horrors. But they very well may suffer along with innocent Americans the fate that we will all most certainly suffer when a thoroughly unjust retribution is taken upon this country.

In other words, what happened last week has replaced a future rife with uncertainty with a future that is all but certain. For those who think that removing Saddam was, on balance, a moral good that outweighed the immorality of the war and its aftermath, I suggest you wait.

It took al Qaeda three years from its crystallization during Gulf War I to its first attack on the World Trade Center and the beginning of innocent Americans' experience of unjust, inchoate, revenge. More likely than not, it will take less time for us to find out what we must unfairly endure as a consequence of the second week of April, 2003.

I better stop before I get really upset.

Gunter Grass  

An eloquent screed, if there can be such a thing from a great writer.
There are many Americans who love their country[,] people who are horrified by the betrayal of their founding values and by the hubris of those holding the reins of power. I stand with them. By their side, I declare myself pro-American. I protest with them against the brutalities brought about by the injustice of the mighty, against all restrictions of the freedom of expression, against information control reminiscent of the practices of totalitarian states and against the cynical equations that make the death of thousands of women and children acceptable so long as economic and political interests are protected.

No, it is not anti-Americanism that is damaging the image of the United States; nor do the dictator Saddam Hussein and his extensively disarmed country endanger the most powerful country in the world. It is President Bush and his government that are diminishing democratic values, bringing sure disaster to their own country, ignoring the United Nations, and that are now terrifying the world with a war in violation of international law.

We Germans often are asked if we are proud of our country. To answer this question has always been a burden. There were reasons for our doubts. But now I can say that the rejection of this preemptive war on the part of a majority in my country has made me proud of Germany. After having been largely responsible for two world wars and their criminal consequences, we seem to have made a difficult step. We seem to have learned from history.
Notice the way Grass takes back the pro-American label from those, including Americans, who are so ignorant of our history they equate support of Bush with American values.

Also be sure to check out Howard Dean's latest, intelligent thoughts about the Bush Doctrine. Not as eloquent as Grass, but very exciting to see a Democrat take Bush on so directly.

Alterman Hits One Out Of the Park  

His new column in The Nation is fantastic. Go and read the whole thing. It's called Bush Goes Awol, but it's not about Bush ducking out of his National Guard duty.

Dems Must Win In 2004, Despite Themselves  

A few days ago, the Times published a story about the woes of the democrats. There’s no reason to repeat it here, just go to the link. I think there is more going on with the Dems' worries about 2004 than simply finding it difficult to take on Bush after the “victory” in Iraq. I’d like to explain here why those of us who care about the future of the country are literally going to have to hold the Dems’ feet to the fire to get a decent candidate who will fight furiously for us.

There’s two main areas that are holding the Dems back. First and by far the most important and difficult to confront: the presidential ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton. The second, and relatively easy to define area: the Big Issues. Since no one’s talking about Clinton, let’s go there first.

Clinton for President

Let's start by stating the obvious. Aside from Bill Clinton himself, there is no one in politics more talented, more intelligent, or more qualified to be president of the United States today than Hillary Rodham Clinton. Therefore...

It is probably not in Clinton’s interest for a Democrat to win in 2004.

The plan must have been something like this back in 2000. Gore becomes president and, regardless of whether she becomes Senator, Clinton positions herself for a run in 2008. Unfortunately, due to a savage press and a corrupted Florida election, not to mention an outrageously partisan Supreme Court decision, Gore did not become president.

This puts Clinton in a bind. She has made a promise to New Yorkers to serve her entire 6 years as Senator. I believe she feels obligated, both ethically and politically, to serve out her term. So a race in ‘04 was, and remains, out of the question.

If a Democrat wins in ‘04, Clinton’s opportunity to run gets pushed back to 2012. By then she will be 65 years old, 73 by the time her second term would expire. This is on the cusp of being too old to run. Her age could become a campaign issue, not to mention that she, like many people at “retirement age” may not have the energy for an extended campaign. Add to this the fact that Americans have no experience with a female president candidate, let alone a female president, and her best shot for running must be 2008. (On purpose, I’m ignoring all the right wing objections advanced about Clinton. It’s all nonsense and there’s no point to try to refute nonsense or give it a hearing by acknowledging that it's worth objecting to.)

Both Clintons are very powerful within the party and rightly so. A less than fully enthusiastic presidential campaign could easily be in the cards. It might not look that way unless one peered closely at tactics, appearances, etc. - no one’s dumb enough to make a tactic like that overt, certainly not Clinton - but it might go a long way towards explaining a self-destruct on the presidential level for the Dems in 2004.

I hope, as always, I am wrong, paranoid, and too cynical by half. But it strikes me as conceivable that Clinton, and the Dems, are thinking that nothing, not even the catastrophe of 8 years of George W. Bush, should stand in the way of an '04 Clinton run, especially as Bush has, at least to the public, "won" the war so it is difficult to confront him on it.

To say the least, if that is the thinking I disagree strongly. It depends upon the fallacy that Bush is not as bad as he is, and that the changes he is making are not as radical and long term as they are. Bush and his administration are far outside the mainstream of American politics, although it may not look that way from the perspective of the Dem elite. As great as she could be, the country cannot wait until 2008 for a regime change.

To conclude this section, let me say that I was as dismayed as the next person at the disgraceful way Clinton abandoned her antiwar constituency, even going so far as to vote to give Bush war powers regarding Iraq. That said, let us put the blame for the Iraq debacle and future terrorism exactly where it belongs: on the people who forced this policy on a country and a world who made it very clear they didn’t want any part of it. Yes, the Dems should have been more forceful, but the ugly truth is that Bush would have sent in the troops regardless of whether that resolution had passed. He made it quite clear in the early days that he did not feel he needed any legal justification to consult Congress at all as to whether he could go to war in Iraq. The Iraq war and the post war world we are about to suffer, is entirely Bush’s fault.

The Great Issues

I’ve already blogged about The Great Issues here. I’m going to discuss just some salient points, with reference to a marvelous rant by Digby entitled “What’s Wrong With The Democratic Party?” as well the Times article above.

The Times sources, and I believe Digby as well, seem to agree that if the Dems can shift the country’s focus to the economy and off security issues, the Dems can win. I think this is wrong for the following reason:

National candidates must focus on the greatest issue of their time.

This seems so axiomatic to me that it hardly bears repeating. Yet, it eludes the Democrats again and again. What happened in 2000? The big issue was that a Democrat had presided over 8 years of peace and prosperity, not Clinton’s “character.” Clearly if it was that important and the country cared, Clinton would never have been re-elected and he would have been tossed out after impeachment. He wasn’t. The Big Issue was the economy, stupid, and the fact that we were, despite enormous risks, safe. Gore and the Dems in general couldn’t see the advantage to touting this head on and the result is that a race that shouldn’t have been even close was far too close in the electoral college than it should have been.

In 2002, the same thing happened. Apparently, a group of idiotic pollsters convinced the Dems they could win seats in the House and advance further in control of the Senate if they stuck to pensions and prescription drugs and avoided the national security issue.

Huh???? When the country’s scared stiff that Saddam’s about to nuke us? Who cares about high drug prices when we’re all about to die? (Obviously, the fears were wildly overblown before we destroyed Ira, but even the most rational of folks were concerned back in ‘02 about imminent terrorist attacks.)

So the Republicans portrayed the Dems as weak on security - “look, you’re sitting ducks for bin Laden and Saddam and the Dems are refusing to get behind the president and instead carp about prescription drug plans.” Man, it was like shooting fish in a barrel.

By refusing to confront the incompetence of Bush for 9/11, by refusing to confront the insane war mongering by the administration that began with the State of the Union speech in January ‘02, by refusing to stand up for commonsense, the Dems proved the Republicans right: they are weak on security. They won’t even talk about it.

So, I take issue with Digby, whom I normally agree with, when he writes,
We are weak on national security, but I think we can deal with that if we do not cede patriotism and American values to the Republicans
This is simply not the case. Remember, 9/11 happened on Bush's watch. The buck stopped with Bush when he was inaugurated. It was his responsibility and in the 9 months before 9/11, he was willfully ignoring al Qaeda as was everyone else in his Administration.

The 9/11 attacks are a tragic example of the spectacular weakness of extreme right wing Republicans on national security.

For some indication of how seriously al Qaeda was taken during the Clinton years, and how much al Qaeda was ignored once Bush took over, please read The Age of Sacred Terror, a brilliant book that will make it quite clear that national security is not, by any means, a weak area for Democrats and should not be conceded during the ‘04 campaign.

Regarding patriotism and American values, Democrats have a slam dunk against the Bushites, if they chose to call a cat a cat and blow the lid off the Bush agenda. And they should. These are people who wish to finalize the transition of the US from a democratic republic into an autocracy, presided over not by the best and the brightest but by the richest and nastiest. They have said so, over and over, in position statements by the "neo-cons,"in their talk radio and tv shows, and most importantly, in their actions.

Digby, and other observers, are right to point out the financial and media advantages Bush has. They are formidable. But, Digby does not emphasize this superbly put point enough.
All of these forces taken together give them the advantage even though a majority of Americans support the Democratic agenda and would reject the radical elements of the GOP agenda if they knew what they were.
Yes, precisely! So let us proclaim it not only from every blog and website we can control, let the Dems and liberals shout it on talk radio whenever possible, let them state it baldly on TV, let's blow the cover off Bush and show the country exactly what he is up to.

When the Bushies dare to criticize a Kerry for calling for "regime change," the Dems should not back down but adopt it as a campaign slogan. When they dare to question Daschle's religious beliefs, the Dems should make Bush's bizarre delusion that he was called by God a campaign issue and ridicule his belief at every opportunity, until they stop. Let's force Bush's religious extremism out into the open. The average American would be appalled by his arrogance, narcissism, and intolerance.

To conclude:

On every single issue, the Bushites are either wrong, lying, or clueless. Everything they have undertaken, including their wars, have led to immediate disaster with more just around the corner. All the Democrats need to do is say that and not back down and Bush loses in '04. While this would hamper the chances of a President Clinton in '08 or '12, the danger of Bush continuing in power is too great to wait.

Even if the Democrats don't want it, we must take back the presidency and at least one house of Congress. This is, by far, the most important election of our time. It will be horribly ugly, but far too much is at stake for anyone to sit it out.

The Democrats have to win, in spite of themselves.

Professional Looters  

Even if you don't care two hoots about the destruction of Iraq's antiquities (and you really should, for many reasons), the news that professional thieves were behind the museum lootings should be cause for concern.


Well, consider this: As an expert said on C-Span yesterday, it was extremely troubling to hear from Bush that Iraq had controls of tons of anthrax. It is even more worrisome to think that they now don't.

Now, the resale of Iraqi art objects could be worth a fortune on the black market. Just imagine what the resale of genuine Iraqi chemo or bio weapons would fetch.

So, if there actually were viable wmd's in Iraq - and so far, none have been found and reported - rest assured that professionals arms merchants and thieves are extremely interested in locating them and selling them to interested parties.

Possible recipients? The usual suspects: al Qaeda, Hamas, and possibly the next Timothy McVeigh gang currently forming, as McVeigh's did, among the more crazed members of the Army in the Gulf.

Let us hope that the Bush administration was lying through their teeth about Iraqi illegal arms.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Dangerous Times  

Dave Neiwert over at Orcinus has some of the most thoughtful and brilliant blogging around. He's done numerous posts about the increasing violence that the prowar crowd has directed at the antiwar demonstrations. One can only assume that, as we turn towards the elections, antibush rallies will meet with the same, if not worse, violence.

The link above directs you to the latest installment in his Rush/Fascism series which discusses both the texture of fascist thought and the way that certain fascistic motifs from the far right are first "transmitted" via people like Limbaugh into a larger audience and finally adopted. It is very detailed, very thorough and very sobering. Well worth a read. Here's a short excerpt in which he lists 5 aspects of fascists movements. They should be scarily familiar to anyone who's been following Bushite propaganda:
the Bush administration and its supporters, particularly those in the "transmitter" crowd -- Rush Limbaugh and talk radio, Fox News, the Free Republic -- have begun deploying the very same "mobilizing passions" in recent weeks in countering antiwar protesters that Paxton identifies as comprising the animating forces behind fascism. Again, these kinds of appeal clearly resonate with the proto-fascist Patriot element that have been increasingly finding common cause with the Bush regime.
… Feelings propel fascism more than thought does. We might call them mobilizing passions, since they function in fascist movements to recruit followers in fascist movements to recruit followers and in fascist regimes to "weld" the fascist "tribe" to its leader. The following mobilizing passions are present in fascisms, though they may sometimes be articulated only implicitly:

1. The primacy of the group, toward which one has duties superior to every right, whether universal or individual.

2. The belief that one's group is a victim, a sentiment which justifies any action against the group's enemies, internal as well as external.

3. Dread of the group's decadence under the corrosive effect of individualistic and cosmopolitan liberalism.

4. Closer integration of the community within a brotherhood ( fascio ) whose unity and purity are forged by common conviction, if possible, or by exclusionary violence if necessary.

5. An enhanced sense of identity and belonging, in which the grandeur of the group reinforces individual self-esteem.

6. Authority of natural leaders (always male) throughout society, culminating in a national chieftain who alone is capable of incarnating the group's destiny.

7. The beauty of violence and of will, when they are devoted to the group's success in a Darwinian struggle.
Going through this list, it is fairly easy to identify these "passions" at play particularly in the debate over the Iraq war and the growing attacks on dissenters.
1. See, again, the Bush Doctrine. An extension of this sentiment is at play among those jingoes who argue that Americans may need to sacrifice some of their civil rights -- say, free speech -- during wartime.

2. This meme is clearly present in all the appeals to the victims of Sept. 11 as justifications for the war. It is present at nearly all levels of the debate: from the White House, from the media, even from the jingoist entertainment industry (see, e.g., the lyric of Darryl Worley's extraordinarily popular country-western hit, "Have You Forgotten?": "Some say this country's just out looking for a fight / Well after 9/11 man I'd have to say that's right.").

3. This meme has been stock in trade of the talk-radio crowd since at least 1994 -- at one time it focused primarily on the person of Bill Clinton -- and has reached ferocious levels during the runup to the war and after it, during which antiwar leftists have regularly and remorselessly been accused of treason.

4 and 5 are, of course, among the primary purposes of the campaign to demonize liberals -- to simultaneously build a cohesive brotherhood of like-minded "conservatives" who might not agree on the details but are united in their loathing of all things liberal. It plays out in such localized manifestations as the KVI Radio 570th On-Air Cavalry, which has made a habit of deliberately invading antiwar protests with the express purpose of disrupting them and breaking them up. Sometimes, as they did recently in Bellingham, this is done with caravans of big trucks blaring their horns; and they are also accompanied by threatening rhetoric and acts of physical intimidation. They haven't yet bonded in violence, but they are rapidly headed in that direction.

6. Needs hardly any further explanation, except to note that George W. Bush is actually surprisingly uncharismatic for someone who inspires as much rabid loyalty as he does. But then, that is part of the purpose of Bush's PR campaign stressing that he receives "divine guidance" -- it assures in his supporters' mind the notion that he is carrying out God's destiny for the nation, and for the conservative movement in particular.

7. One again needs only turn to the voluminous jingoes of Fox News or the jubilant warbloggers to find abundant examples of celebrations of the virtues -- many of them evidently aesthetic -- of the just-completed war.

Again, the purpose of the above exercise is not to demonstrate that mainstream conservatism is necessarily becoming fascist (though that is a possibility), but rather to demonstrate how it is becoming hospitable to fascist motifs, especially as it resorts to strong-arm tactics from its footsoldiers to intimidate the political opposition. This underscores the real danger, which is the increasing empowerment of the extremist bloc, particularly as it blends into the mainstream GOP. The increasing nastiness of the debate over Bush's war-making program seems to be fertile territory for this trend.

More Resignations  

I haven't posted anything about the destruction of the Iraqi museums and libraries for a variety of reasons, most importantly that it is just too sickening to think about. I first read Gilgamesh when I was about 14 or 15 and loved it and I've, off and on, worked on developing a piece on the subject. Now,two US officials have resigned in protest over the destruction.
"While our military forces have displayed extraordinary precision and restraint in deploying arms -- and apparently in securing the Oil Ministry and oil fields -- they have been nothing short of impotent in failing to attend to the protection of [Iraq's] cultural heritage," Martin E. Sullivan wrote in the resignation letter that he sent Monday to the White House.

* * *

"The tragedy was foreseeable and preventable . . . ," he wrote. "The tragedy was not prevented, due to our nation's inaction."

* * *

The second committee resignation came from Gary Vikan, director of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore -- who calls his action "similarly symbolic." He said yesterday, "I had to do something."

Armies have been marching through the Fertile Crescent for several millennia, and Baghdad has been sacked before. "But it hasn't been this bad," says Vikan, "for 700 years."
via Atrios

Katrina Leung Directly Tied To Clinton Chi-Com Investigation  

Here's why Leung's Republican Party affiliations are important. You have to ignore the red herring of the sexual affairs.
Leung, sources say, was the task force’s chief source on prime target Ted Sioeng, a suspected Chinese “agent of influence” whose family and businesses contributed $250,000 to the Democratic Party in 1996 and an additional $100,000 to a California GOP Senate candidate. Leung and Sioeng (who sat next to Al Gore at his Buddhist-temple fund-raiser that year in Los Angeles) were “close friends,” one source says.

Task-force prosecutors hoped to use Leung to lure Sioeng back into the United States in the spring of 1997. But the ruse failed—apparently because Sioeng got suspicious—and the case collapsed. Now FBI officials want to know if Leung sabotaged the probe and was actually protecting Sioeng.
In other words, Leung, a Republican Party operative, was trying to lure a man to the United States in order to advance a probe into illegal campaign finance contributions. By far, most of the contributions were going to Democrats. Yes, some were going to a state GOP race. But the focus on the investigation was the national Dems, especially Clinton and Gore.

UN Weapons Inspector Hans Blix  

Remember him?
Hans Blix has not been interviewed in the American media since the war began on March 19. However, he gave an extensive interview to the Spanish newspaper, El País on April 9 in which he made it clear that the United States' claim that intelligence sources had proof of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was doubtful at best.

* * *

"The [US] intelligence agents seemed to be collecting data that later were used to attack Iraqi military objectives," Blix said.

* * *

Blix goes on to point out that once the Iraqis began to cooperate, after he delivered a rebuke to them at the United Nations on Jan. 27, Americans became increasingly upset and started to criticize him. Finally, as the weather began to heat up and threaten the military operation, the United States completely lost patience in the inspection process and abandoned it.

When asked if he believed that weapons of mass destruction exist in Iraq, Blix expressed cautious doubts. "I originally thought that the Americans began the war believing that they existed. Now, I believe less in that possibility.[empahsis added.]


Thank you TalkLeft for bringing this to our attention. Amazing no one did this before.

The Disappearing Republican Connection Part Deux  

The story of Katrina Leung and her Republican Party activism is not only getting lost. Now, Atrios tells us that CNN is playing up an almost certainly bogus Gore connection. Transcripts have not yet been posted. When they are available, I'll link to the story.

Meanwhile, this New York Times article goes into considerable detail about her wealth, but does not bother to mention her Republican Party activities or the fact that her handler and alleged lover, James J. Smith, was an FBI agent deeply involved in the investigation of the Clinton era Chi Com scandal that wasn't.

The only place you can learn today in the US about Leung's Republican party ties (and Smith's ties to an FBI investigation against Clinton that went nowhere) is on blogs that have preserved the links. Outrageous.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Priority One for 2004: Bush Must Go  

This is exactly right, even if you don't have kids.
I am not a loyalist of any party; I also have a track record of being fiercely critical of "Lesser of Two Evils" voting. And I tend to think local community-building matters more than electoral politics. But at this point in history there is no room for neutrality, nor for ideological purity. In less than 19 months, Americans will get our only serious opportunity to prevent George Bush from running this country for eight years. We'd better unite behind someone else, soon, and get busy. Our great-great-great-great-great grandchildren will thank us.

The Disappearing Republican Connection  

A lot of people, including people in the media, find it difficult to accept how irresponsible and slanted the media is in the US. Here's one more example, the Katrina Leung case today. Let's summarize what we know about Leung and James J. Smith, her FBI handler and alleged lover.

Leung was, in real life, a Republican party fund raiser. She donated to Republican campaigns, organized benefits, served on boards of various organizations that were stacked with GOP luminaries. Covertly, she was a secret agent working for the FBI, spying on the Chinese. Her handler was James J. Smith.

By 1991, if not earlier the FBI, including Smith, was told that Leung was probably a double agent, passing classified FBI info to the Chinese. During the Clinton years she was left in place. The FBI at that time was headed by Louis Freeh, who hated Clinton and was determined to undermine him.

In other words, during the Clinton years, Leung received money from the FBI and money from the Chinese. Some of this money was passed directly on to Republican party candidates. Furthermore, she was an enthusiastic campaigner for Republicans, even accompanying one California gubernatorial candidate to China. All of this is public knowledge.

Here's how the BBC describes Leung, in an early paragraph in their story today:
Ms Leung, a 49-year-old Chinese-American businesswoman, is accused of stealing classified documents from an FBI agent with whom she had a long-term relationship.

Correspondents say that the scandal could prove a great embarrassment to the FBI and the Republican party, with whom Ms Leung - a Los Angeles socialite - had close links.
But now, here's how the NY Times describes her in one of the final paragraphs of their story.
Ms. Leung, a prominent political fund-raiser, was charged with the unauthorized copying of national security documents, while Mr. Smith was charged with gross negligence in his handling of the documents. The investigation into the case is continuing, and more charges are possible, officials said.
Notice: her extensive work and association with exclusively Republican fundraising has been expunged. This has happened again and again since the story broke. Most US newspapers refuse to acknowledge her connections to Republicans.

If the story merely went this far, it would already be an outrageous scandal, far exceeding Whitewater at its worst. But it goes much further because of an important fact that is not mentioned in either article.

James J. Smith, Leung's handler and alleged lover, was deeply involved in the interrogation of Johnny Chung, the middleman in an investigation of whether the Chinese were trying to fund Democratic campaigns. Some information can be found here.

In other words, the FBI and the Republicans were accusing the Democrats of doing exactly what they were doing themselves.

It is relatively easy to leap to the conclusion that the entire "Chi-Com" scandal during the Clinton era was in fact a diversion from FBI money laundering to Republican party races which was bolstered by Chinese donations to Republicans as well.

Whether this is a plausible conclusion will only become apparent if more research is done both into Leung's Republican party activities and also into Smith's connections to Chung, to the Chinese, and to the Republicans.

This stinks to high heaven. And the US media is complicit in covering up Republican involvement.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Great News  

Tapped tells us that "policy analyst Bruce Bartlett writes in to tell us that [Bill] Clinton is only barred from serving more than two consecutive terms; he could run again in 2004 even without the [22nd] amendment repealed. "

Ok, everybody who trashed Bill during the first 8 years. It's time to write him a very, very nice, but very abject apology. Right now.

A Shorter Cursor  

A round-up of stuff from the indispensable Cursor:

Ah, so that explains it. Apparently, the rumor is that the Saudis brokered a deal to "save" Baghdad and also the top leadership. Saddam may have split to...Mecca???
Arabic media are speculating that a "safqa" -- Arabic for a secret deal -- was arranged between the United States and the Baath regime to hand over Baghdad. Although nobody can pinpoint the exact terms, there are three clear outcomes. First, the lives of many American and British forces as well as most senior Baath officials were spared. Second, Baghdad itself did not turn into the bloodbath widely anticipated by military experts. Third, the war was shortened dramatically, saving the region -- especially Saudi Arabia -- from catastrophic consequences...
While Arabs all over the Middle East now routinely talk of the deal that saved Baghdad, they also speculate that the same deal may have saved Saddam...
Where could Saddam be if he is still alive? Some Arab media experts speculate he may have sought refuge in Mecca, the most sacred Islamic place in the world. No non-Muslims ever lived in and very few have even set foot in this holiest of Muslim cities.

If it turns out that Saddam is indeed in Mecca, it would be one further clue that the architect of the "safqa" or deal between the Baath and the United States was Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah -- a trusted intermediary of the Bush family and the only Arab leader invited to President Bush's Crawford Ranch.
Apparently, not included in the deal to "save" Baghdad were the priceless treasures in the museum and the National Library, which were both destroyed. Not to mention the al-Jazeera reporter killed and the international "unembedded" reporters at the Hotel Palestine. And the Iraqi civilians. Sweet deal.

Who's paying for all that news?Three guesses:
..the Bush family's association with many media organisations runs deep and is reflected by the hefty handouts from the likes of NBC network owner General Electric and Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, both trenchant supporters of the war..just 24% of News Corp's donations to political parties went to Mr Bush, but almost 90% of the "soft money" went to the Republicans.

Sheila Krumholz, the CRP's head of research, said while the entertainment industry had become more bi-partisan, "soft money" donations tended to reflect the views of the proprietor.

* * *

General Electric directed nearly 60% of overall donations - $1.92m - to the Republicans in 2001-02. The party received nearly twice the amount in soft money donations.

* * *

News Corp, whose Fox network is renowned for its creative approach to US journalistic objectivity, donated $427,487 in soft money to the Republicans in 2001-02. Much of this was directed to the party's national and congressional committees, and a large portion came from either individuals or the companies associated with the Fox network.

However, News Corp's overall contributions favoured the Democrats, as people associated with the company gave 76% of the $1.85m in overall donations to the Democrats.

Huh what's that all about?
Ms Krumholz said overall donations include contributions from employees, who tend to be more left-leaning in media than other businesses.

Murdoch's media empire still has close ties with the Bush family. The relationship was recently put under the spotlight when it was revealed that Fox News Channel chairman Roger Ailes, a former Republican party strategist, secretly acted as an advisor to the president in the days after the September 11 terrorist strikes.
Whew! For a moment I thought Murdoch was being evenhanded. It's just that the sausage-makers at his factories don't like the stench of the sausages they make. Well, they certainly don't count, y'know?

Oh, we already know this, but it's always helpful for some to repeat that "It is no exaggeration to say that lying has become Bush's signature as president. "
Along with tax cuts, education was Bush's top priority when he entered the White House. He charmed lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in an effort to get his bill passed, a bill that combined greater accountability and testing with increased funding. Then, in what has become a trademark, he pulled the plug on the funding...
The New Hampshire School Administrators Association calculated that Bush's plan imposed at least $575 per student in new obligations. His budget, however, provides just $77 per student. It's a revolution in education policy, all right, but No Child Left Behind was simply a lie.

* * *

"Our goal is a system in which all Americans have got a good insurance policy, in which all Americans can choose their own doctor, in which seniors and low-income citizens receive the help they need. ... Our Medicare system is a binding commitment of a caring society. We must renew that commitment by providing the seniors of today and tomorrow with preventive care and the new medicines that are transforming health care in our country." -- George W. Bush, Medicare address, March 4, 2003

The man simply has no shame. His program does none of this. What it does, simply, is to make dramatic cuts in the benefits for both the poor and the elderly...

The states, which have already started cutting Medicaid on their own, are literally begging for federal fiscal assistance, and none is forthcoming. But if they consent to Bush's Medicaid plan, they'll get not only $3 billion in new federal money next year (a loan they would have to repay) but the ability to save money by trimming their Medicaid rolls. In other words, the president is making them an offer they can't refuse...

Bush relentlessly invokes a rhetoric of choice on Medicare. But the Republican proposal pushes seniors toward heavily managed private plans that offer partial drug benefits but limit choice of treatment and doctor.

..while the plan allows House Republicans to avoid making politically unpopular cuts to Medicare, it requires Congress to cut $169 billion over 10 years from programs they oversee. So in the end, Medicare cuts may end up paying for prescription-drug benefits...

* * *

Even though Bush vowed in his State of the Union address to spend $15 billion over the next five years to provide AIDS relief to Africa, much of that money won't be available until at least 2006.

* * *

"Clear Skies legislation, when passed by Congress, will significantly reduce smog and mercury emissions, as well as stop acid rain. It will put more money directly into programs to reduce pollution, so as to meet firm national air-quality goals. ..." -- George W. Bush, Earth Day speech, April 22, 2002
Actually, the Clear Skies law doesn't do any of this. The act, in fact, delays required emission cuts by as much as 10 years, usurps the states' power to address interstate pollution problems and allows outdated industrial facilities to skirt costly pollution-control upgrades.

* * *

Bush's commitment to clean water is just as murky. Despite saying last October that he wanted to "renew our commitment" to building on the Clean Water Act, he's instead decided to "update" it by removing protections for "isolated" waters and weakening sewage-overflow rules, which could significantly increase the potential for waterborne illnesses.

* * *

"There has never been anything to compare this to," says Greg Wetstone, director of advocacy at the National Resources Defense Council. "Even in the days of Reagan, there was never an administration so willfully and almost obsessively concerned with finding ways to really undermine the environmental infrastructure."

* * *

...the president proposed $1.2 billion in research funding to develop hydrogen-powered cars, in part to make the United States less reliant on foreign oil. What he didn't say is that the technology and infrastructure needed to mass produce such cars won't be available until at least 2020. If Bush truly cared about immediate relief, he might start by acknowledging existing hybrid vehicles or supporting more stringent Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards for light trucks and SUVs. Neither is likely to be part of a Republican energy package this year.

* * *

And some in the peace movement get it:
...according to leaders of some of the largest national peace groups, the antiwar movement is reshaping itself to become an anti-Bush movement.

Just how the antiwar movement plans on challenging the president depends on which group you ask. Some are focusing on registering voters to challenge Bush in 2004. Others say their emphasis will be on finding congressional candidates to run against those who have supported or acquiesced to the Bush administration. Still others say they will emphasize creating permanent community-based groups that will fight the administration's policies. Some also say that while they plot their next big moves, they will continue to hold teach-ins, protests and other forums to criticize the current military policies and practices in Washington and fortify their ranks...

Michael Kieschnick, president of Working Assets, the long-distance, wireless and credit card company that donates a percentage of its sales to social causes, plans on a massive voter registration campaign through its advocacy arm, Working for Change. "It's our goal to register a million voters for the 2004 election," Kieschnick said. "That is going to be our main thrust -- to take the millions of people who say they oppose this war and the philosophy behind it and turn it into voting power..."

Other groups that are concentrating on registering voters include Black Voices for Peace, which aims to capitalize on polls that show support for the war was lowest among African Americans.

Doubleplus Scary  

Um, perhaps one of my reporter friends can tell me why this story isn't front page news???:
Seals at an Iraqi nuclear material research center have been broken, a Washington-based nuclear watchdog reported Friday...

"A key issue is what happened in the days between the abandonment of the site by the Iraqi guards and the arrival of U.S. troops and the imposition of adequate security," asks a report authored jointly by David Albright and Corey Hinderstein of ISIS.

Some of this material is highly radioactive and poses a health and safety risk to anyone mishandling it. All the material could be useful for terrorists or other nations intent on making nuclear weapons or radiological dispersal devices, the report said.
courtesy Jeanne d'Arc.

Did anyone know that Iraq had a certified civilian research facility for nuke fuel? Bush must have. Why wasn't securing this priority one???? Hoo boy. Hoo boy.

Tales From Bush's America: The Law And The Poor  

Adam Liptak has a great story in the New York Times about the awful state of legal defense for the indigent. The Supreme Court has guaranteed the right of a lawyer to even the poorest defendant. Problem is, they didn't spell out who's to pay for them. So, the feds say the states take care of it, and the states say the counties need to take care of it. Well, what happens when the county government is flat-out broke, as it is in Mississippi and in many other places?

Basically, that's too durn bad, says our government. The mean-spiritedness and buckpassing is unbelievable.
For Quitman County, the appeal for state aid is not only about the quality of defense work for the poor, it is also an effort to use money for other pressing needs.

Mr. Scipper, the Quitman County administrator, said that an earlier capital trial nearly ruined the county. To pay the $250,000 cost of the defense of two men with no connection to the county beyond having committed four murders in it, the county had to raise taxes three years in a row and take out a bank loan that took years to repay.

"We lost four members of our community, including two adults who were taxpayers," Mr. Scipper said. "They were murdered and their house was burned down on top of them. And we're supposed to pay for the defense?"

The state has since then assumed most capital defense costs. Still, Quitman's finances are severely strained, another lawyer at Arnold & Porter representing the county, Kathleen Behan, said.

"Quitman is down to those minimal essential services it's essential to have to run a county — the county library, the county school," she said.

Harold E. Pizzetta, a special assistant attorney general who represents Mississippi in the Quitman County lawsuit, is dismissive of the county's concerns.

He said the defense provided to poor defendants here was adequate "in the overwhelming majority of cases." If it is not, he added, it is up to the county to fix it.

"Is there a component of the right to counsel that protects a county from making tough budget decisions?" Mr. Pizzetta asked. "They can either take it from existing funds or raise revenues."
So the request goes from the counties to the states and the states request money from the Government. Or rather they try to. But when Bush meets with the governors of the states, he literally doesn't want to hear about it. He can barely tolerate even two pre-approved questions, and certainly wont answer them in front of the press. In fact, legal aid never even made the agenda.

So the jails overflow with people in there with sentences are too long and that merely increases the overall expense to everyone (and the cynicism). Not to mention that there are poor people who should never have been there in the first place. Not to mention that, until very recently, the idea of adequate legal compensation was considered a right, provided by a free society that understood that commonsense and compassion required it.

Now is Bush to blame for this shabby state of affairs? Well, as of January 20, 2001, Bush swore the oath of the President of the United States. Most of us didn't want to give him that responsibility but, by gum, he wrecked our voting and legal system to get it and he has it. The answer can only be, yes, Bush is to blame that it is as bad as it is. And it is in his power to see it changed.

A Question  

If, say, during the 1990's, I was a high school kid who didn't have much money, liked the package the armed services offered, and had pals who were thinking about joining, I could easily see signing up. After all, where's the downside? The military puts you in great shape, you learn some excellent skills, get a terrific break on education expenses when you're done, get to see the world and heck, maybe even do a little good for your country.

Yeah, sure, you might see some combat, but not too likely. After all, Clinton's too much of a wuss to actually use the military, right?

All that's changed. There's already been two ugly wars, one that literally tore the world, the UN and the US apart. Less than 500 soldiers have been killed, thank goodness, but how many have been wounded? How many stories of how awful a tour of duty in Afghanistan still is are circulating? After all, you can't drink, female companionship is rather difficult to come by, and there are terrorists all over.

Meanwhile, the fighting in Iraq was often brutal, traumatic, filled with horrors.

So the question is, with more wars just around the corner, with the likelihood of a truly enormous calamity to the US military increasing, how will that affect recruitment?

Will kids join up in droves for the destruction of Syria, to safeguard Seoul, to be magnets for guerilla attacks in Kandhar, to be blown up by suicide bombers in Iraq? Will the fact that the Bush administration actually voted to cut veteran's benefits as they praised the young heroess (and heroes they all are) finally open their eyes or will they assume that their leaders will, out of the goodness of their hearts, take care of them if they are cut to ribbons?

I know what I would do if I were a kid, say 19, starting a family. I'd look into my daughter's eyes and I'd say to myself, "This kid's daddy's a lot more valuable that George Bush's oil." I wouldn't even dream of putting that daddy in harm's way. I'd go looking for a job that kept me far, far away from a battlefield.

I wonder, though, what will happen. Jobs are scarce, perhaps deliberately to make the Army more appealing? Could they be that cynical?

Dumb question.

The Progress Of a Rake  

One of the genuine perks of preferring the spunky, peculiar sideshow attractions in the operatic repertoire to the three ring attractions is that it is relatively easy to get great seats. Last night was the Met’s opening night for The Rake's Progress, Stravinsky’s best opera and my wife was able to get fantastic tickets in the orchestra for a a mere $25 each (for those unfamiliar with the Met, it is possible to pay $250 or more for the same seats and feel you've gotten a bargain). The cast was splendid (Upshaw, Ramey, and a nearly perfect Tom Rakewell by Paul Groves) all conducted by the awesome Levine.

When he finally retires, it will be nearly impossible to replace him. There is not is not an opera conductor alive with his breadth and musicality. The only ones that approach him are the specialists in the early baroque – Christie, Jacobs, maybe Gardiner who’s a little more diverse. Gergiev is a great musician – I’ve heard him live only once doing Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sadko- but I don’t know if he has the range or, frankly, the sheer brainpower of a Levine, who appears to have come from another planet.

What was most striking about this production was the seriousness with which everyone from Levine to Jonathan Miller (the director) to the singers approached the deliberately proto-camp cast of characters. There is not a line in the libretto (Auden/Kallman) that is not parody, ersatz Dryden or Donne, deliberately hokey rhymes, clichés piled on clichés. It would be foolish to call a Tom Rakewell or an Ann Trulove stereotypes because they are closer to stereotypes of stereotypes, twice removed from reality.

Superficially, too, the music takes the same approach. Even a novice can begin to identify where Stravinsky stole many of his ideas (and steal he did, proudly). There’s the shameless appropriations from Figaro, Don Giovanni and early Italian operas. The more sophisticated will smirk at the Purcell. The connoisseurs may even catch a little Rameau or Lully flitting by.

But I think the operative word and the key to understanding, then loving, this strange and imperfectly great work is “superficial.” At first, there’s a tendency to smirk - I’ve heard that before, I’m in on that joke. But after a while, the references to the past become kind of a base and you start to concentrate on how truly amazing, and amazingly expressive the music is. The cadences are approached, more or less traditionally, and then pulverized. The melismas, coloraturas and other vocal pyrotechnics are systematically examined, broken apart, and put back together with assymetrical rhythms and lengths all for a cause, to invest this seemingly flat, art for art’s sake project, with a nearly painful, disjunct, and highly original expressiveness.

Tom’s story of disintegration is laughable. The fellow’s a moron (and ends up literally becoming one). Ann Trulove makes June Cleaver look like a ho’. But the music takes Tom’s incompetence at life and makes it terribly tragic. Ann’s arias – you can almost hear Stravinsky laughing as he wrote “I go, I go to him” in faux-Rossini style – suddenly twists and turns becoming profoundly sad, tragic, touching.

And that gives us entrée into Auden and Kallman’s world, a world of superficialities, of smug, snotty conceits (the tropes upon tropes and in jokes approaches the vertiginous) that suddenly hit the exact the emotional button to turn these cartoons inside out and force us to make their yearnings our personal ones.

No wonder Stravinsky demanded staging for his works that emphasized the flat, the distancing of the proscenium. He feared that the overwhelming emotion he had built into his music might veer to the sentimental if staged literally. The man worked hard against his emotional excessiveness even as the artist in him demanded it, subverted his vaunted desire for “objectivity.” The Rake is filled with overt emotional display but Stravinksy, with the example of Tschaikovsky never far away, lived in dread of being dismissed as merely one more hyper-dramatic Russian. He needed to be seen as cold, calculating in his effects, but everywhere in the Rake, and in a lot of his music, the lyricism creates genuine pathos, comedy, warmth. (Yes, even in – especially in – Symphonies of Winds)

Miller’s staging is, therefore, as risky in its own way as the other creators’ contributions. There’s not a hint of irony anywhere. When we see a brothel, it looks like a scene out of, well, Hogarth. Tom’s house after Baba sets up shop is exactly what one would expect of someone like her with a huge stuffed shark hung from the ceiling, surrealism Margaret Dumont style. The graveyard is terrifying and the insane asylum heartbreakingly real. We are made to feel for these characters, to laugh, and to cry. It works, incredibly, but just barely. The tension, as you watch as the production threatens to become cloying can become unbearable - it toys with our worries the way a cat plays with a half-dead mouse -probably the way Stravisnky, Auden, and Kallman viewed their audience and therefore, despite the disregard of Stravinsky’s wishes, probably as good a staging as we’ll ever see.

This is what great opera can do: use thoroughly unrealistic artifice to tap into the deepest and most complex emotional experiences. And certainly The Rake is great, despite the major problems in the early scenes as Stravinsky gets comfortable with his language (and gets us comfortable as well). It is great despite the fact that there are majorly awful, awful word-settings where it is clear that the composer had no idea not only how to pronounce what he was setting but no idea where the grammatical meaning lay.

I’ll take the Rake over Lucia or Rigoletto or even Falstaff. Because everytime you hear it, you hear and understand it differently, as a huge joke, as painfully real, as a painfully real joke, perhaps. You can’t ask for more.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Professor de Genova: The Million Mogadishu Man  

Some people genuinely don't get it. Our pal, Nicholas De Genova is one of them. Here, in his first interview since he wished for a million Mogadishus at a teach-in at Columbia, he puts drives the final stake in his career anywhere outside of Podunk U. It's not that he's can't keep his mouth shut or control it when it's open, both of which are true but beside the point. It's that he's completely incoherent:
Q. Your comment about wishing for "a million Mogadishus" has attracted the most attention. I read your letter in the "Columbia Daily Spectator," which gave some more context, but I have to confess I don't see how the context changes the meaning of that statement.
A. I was referring to what Mogadishu symbolizes politically. The U.S. invasion of Somalia was humiliated in an excruciating way by the Somali people. And Mogadishu was the premier symbol of that. What I was really emphasizing in the larger context of my comments was the question of Vietnam and that historical lesson. ... What I was intent to emphasize was that the importance of Vietnam is that it was a defeat for the U.S. war machine and a victory for the cause of human self-determination.
Q. I'm a little hazy on the rhetorical connection between Mogadishu and Vietnam.
A. The analogy between Mogadishu and Vietnam is that they were defeats for U.S. imperialism and U.S. military action against people in poor countries that had none of the sophisticated technology or weaponry that the U.S. was able to mobilize against them. The analogy between Mogadishu and Iraq is simply that there was an invasion of Somalia and there was an invasion of Iraq.
Get it? No, neither do I.

Which just goes to show that stupidity never discriminates.

Bush A Shoe-In In 2004?  

Here's something to give us all a bit of a pause:
Jeb vs. Hillary
With Republicans expecting President Bush to roll to reelection in 2004, their focus is fast turning to 2008 and whom the GOP will run against expected Democratic nominee Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Now, Whispers is told that Florida Gov. Jeb Bush looks strong. "If Jeb is in the mix" for the nomination, says a top GOP official, "it's his."
Questions, anyone, about planning now for the next election? Thanks, Tom Tomorrow, for the heads up.

For the record, though, I don't think Jeb Bush has a chance. What's he gonna say about Noelle, that Hillary and Bill set such a bad example his daughter turned into a druggie while George set such a good example, Chelsea became an exemplary citizen?

Perle's Swinish Friend Chalabi  

Read all about it in this swell column by Joe Conason. You'll have to watch an ad to get access to the site, but you can always leave the room. That's what I did.

Katrina Leung  

This is one of the few relatively current stories that reminds the reader that Katrina Leung, the alleged double agent for China, was a Republican party fundraiser.

Missing, however, is that her FBI handler and alleged lover, James J. Smith, was heavily involved in the Clinton-era investigation of contributions from the Chinese and other governments to the Democrats, which was reported here.

Already there is more smoke than there ever was for Whitewater. Two questions:

1. Leung was paid $1.7 million by the FBI. Did any of that get donated to the Republican Party? [Update: According to Tapped she is known to have donated $4,450. The question now is whether there is any more. ]

2. Was the investigation into the Clinton/Chinese connection by the FBI, which was then headed by the Clinton hater Louis Freeh, a cover-up for the funneling of funds from the Chinese to the Republican party?

Since the Republican party activism of Ms. Leung has been covered up or ignored by all subsequent coverage, it looks like no one in the press is actively pursuing these questions. So that begs a third question:

Why isn't the so-called liberal media all over these angles?

I'm Baaaack  

Ok, back from the an interesting but exhausting four days listening to gobs of new music. As usual, you have to kiss a lot of major frogs to find the few princes, but we did find them, I'm happy to say. And anyone who thinks that contemporary composers have a monopoloy on mediocrity are recommended to spend a day or two exploring the works of CPE Bach. About six months ago, I read through two books of keyboard works and thought I'd require brain surgery when I stopped.

Anyway, regular blogging should resume shortly as soon as the rest of the email that piled up is accounted for.

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