Saturday, October 13, 2007 by Michael Reynolds
The US Army
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — Here at the intellectual center of the United States Army, two elite officers were deep in debate at lunch on a recent day over who bore more responsibility for mistakes in Iraq — the former defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld, or the generals who acquiesced to him.
“The secretary of defense is an easy target,” argued one of the officers, Maj. Kareem P. Montague, 34, a Harvard graduate and a commander in the Third Infantry Division, which was the first to reach Baghdad in the 2003 invasion. “It’s easy to pick on the political appointee.”
“But he’s the one that’s responsible,” retorted Maj. Michael J. Zinno, 40, a military planner who worked at the headquarters of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the former American civilian administration in Iraq.
No, Major Montague shot back, it was more complicated: the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the top commanders were part of the decision to send in a small invasion force and not enough troops for the occupation. Only Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, the Army chief of staff who was sidelined after he told Congress that it would take several hundred thousand troops in Iraq, spoke up in public.
Officers were split over whether Mr. Rumsfeld, the military leaders or both deserved blame for what they said were the major errors in the war: sending in a small invasion force and failing to plan properly for the occupation.
What? No debate on who was more right, Rumsfeld or Cheney? No debate over who was more helpful to the cause, the uncritical echo chamber at Fox News, the uncritical echo chamber in the Republican Congress (excepting Senators McCain and Hagel,) or the uncritical echo chamber in the right-o-sphere?
Why do I keep harping on this topic? Is it just to drive home the point that back when every right-wing comment-writer and blogger was calling me "impatient," "ignorant," "ill-informed," "naive" and "panicky," and accusing me of being afflicted by "Bush Derangement Syndrome," and of being a dupe of the mainstream media, and everything else just short of "treason," that I had in fact gotten it right?
Yes. Yes, that's a big part of it. It's an unattractive aspect of my personality that I resent it when people call me a fool when I'm right. Mea culpa: mea no like it. Mea get bitchy when mea called a pussy by people stupid enough to swallow Rumsfeld's bullshit.
But there's a more noble purpose as well. I'll make this point again and again and again until it gets through: uncritical support is not patriotism. Blindly stupid loyalty to blindly stupid leadership is not patriotism. Love of country is not demonstrated by one's ability to swallow whole a bunch of transparent lies.
If you love your country, and you want your country to prosper, and you want your military to prevail, it is your patriotic duty to pay attention to what's going on, do a bit of due diligence, and when you see that the leadership is lost in a delusion, you open your mouth and fucking say so. Loudly. Persistently.
Lessons of the Iraq war?
1) Less is not more. More is more. The next time someone tells you less is more, grab a baseball bat and beat them till they cry for mommy.
2) Nothing is ever easy. Does it involve life and death and guys with guns? Yes? Then it won't be easy.
3) Go to war or don't go to war, but don't go halfway to war. If it's not worth mobilizing the full power of the American people, stay the fuck home.
Am I repeating myself from previous posts? Yes. I am. Because although the US Army, forced as it is to deal with harsh reality, is eminently capable of learning from past mistakes, the uncritical, enabling, armchair supporters of this war are all-but unteachable.
Donald Rumsfeld was criminally incompetent. Period. Proven. No longer arguable. Too many of his generals were gutless careerists. Period. Proven. No longer arguable. I said it four years ago. The US Army says it today. When will Fox News and the WSJ and the Republican Congress and Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the right-wing echo chamber man up and admit that they were wrong?
Friday, October 12, 2007 by Michael Reynolds
Remember when internet visionaries were assuring us that online freedom of speech was unstoppable? The Chinese government didn't get the memo:
• 19 May 2006, 17:02 From: Fan Tao, deputy director of the Beijing Internet Information
Administrative Bureau: Please do not refer to the film “Summer Palace,” a participant in the Cannes Film Festival official competition, without obtaining the censor’s approval. You are also asked not to post articles or comments on this subject and not to interview actors who appeared in the film. You are asked not to report or reproduce any information about the Cannes Film Festival that mentions the film. Finally, do not post any article on this subject in discussion forums, blogs or comments.
• 28 June 2006, 18:40 From: Chen Hua, deputy director of the Beijing Internet Information
Administrative Bureau: Regarding the explosion at a mine belonging to the Fuxin mining group in Wulong (in the northeastern province of Liaoning), please only use articles from Xinhua and Liaoning News. Regarding the draft law on the management of crisis situations [which, inter alia, steps up press censorship], please use the Xinhua and People’s Daily articles and nothing else. Please reinforce monitoring of comments, discussion forums and blogs and immediately remove any violent or obscene message. Regarding the issue of unequal income distribution, please use articles from the Central Committee’s main information mouthpieces and nothing else. Please do not spread rumours about this matter or conduct online polls. Please reinforce monitoring of comments, discussion forums and blogs and immediately block any violent or obscene message.
There are many, many more examples in this report from Reporters Without Borders. Men and women in China are risking their liberty and their lives to tell this story. So take a look. Know what China is.
H/T: to my kid.
by Michael Reynolds
We don't have access to perfect data on the Iraq war. No one is able to present the complete picture to us. It's hard to get the problem to come into focus. It's like looking at a pointillist painting: you keep wanting to back up a little further, back up, back up and uh oh, too far, now it's just a blur I have to squint to see at all.
I end up relying on a very subjective instinct for what the real picture shows. I try to keep my antennae tuned for the stories that will matter, to pick out the stories and databits that matter. To drag the pointillist metaphor out a little too far, I'm looking for the drops of paint that form the faces, the major elements of the picture, and not just the background foliage.
I think this
BAGHDAD, Oct. 11 — In a number of Shiite neighborhoods across Baghdad, residents are beginning to turn away from the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia they once saw as their only protector against Sunni militants. Now they resent it as a band of street thugs without ideology.
The hardening Shiite feeling in Baghdad opens an opportunity for the American military, which has long struggled against the Mahdi Army, as American commanders rely increasingly on tribes and local leaders in their prosecution of the war.
The sectarian landscape has shifted, with Sunni extremists largely defeated in many Shiite neighborhoods, and the war in those places has sunk into a criminality that is often blind to sect.
Interesting, no? In Anbar we're making progress because we're the only force capable of dislodging the murderous fanatics of Al Qaeda in Iraq. It's not our love of democracy that's working for us there, it's the fact that from the point of view of local Sunnis we are the lesser of evils. We manage the job of being both more deadly and less dreaded.
And now, in Shiite areas we may be seeing some progress -- slight and early and fragile -- because the US Army is a professional force not given to murder-for-profit.
While the Mahdi militia still controls most Shiite neighborhoods, early evidence that Shiites are starting to oppose some parts of the militia is surfacing on American bases. Shiite sheiks, the militia’s traditional base, are beginning to contact Americans, much as Sunni tribes reached out early this year, refocusing one entire front of the war, officials said, and the number of accurate tips flowing into American bases has soared.
Shiites are “participating like they never have before,” said Maj. Mark Brady, of the Multi-National Division-Baghdad Reconciliation and Engagement Cell, which works with tribes.
“Something has got to be not right if they are going to risk calling a tips hot line or approaching a J.S.S.,” he said, referring to the Joint Security Stations, the American neighborhood mini-bases set up after the troop increase this year.
Americans generally don't spend a lot of time studying history. So I wonder if people realize what a historical rarity it is, this military of ours. A professional, restrained, faithful and uncorrupted force that nevertheless is far and away the world's most capable killing machine. The Iraqi people seem to be noticing the difference between our army and Saddam's, and between our military and their militias.
The people and politicians calling for a quick and complete withdrawal from Iraq need to ask themselves whether their entirely justified contempt for Mr. Bush should cause them to simply dismiss what is quite clearly progress in Iraq. It was one thing when the progress was confined to Sunni areas. If the same sorts of shifts are taking place in Shiite areas as well, we need to reassess. We need always to keep a cautious, very skeptical outlook. Skeptical in big, bright, fiery letters. But in the end we have to pursue the policy that will be best not for the cause of opposition to Mr. Bush, but for the cause of the United States.
Thursday, October 11, 2007 by Michael Reynolds
I'd write about it but I'm pressed for time.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007 by Michael Reynolds
This is cool.
My kid found it.
by Michael Reynolds
"The situation here, for this kid, looks to me to be a lot more fun than what he had under his old parents. He didn't have to go to school, he could run around and do whatever he wanted…there was an element here that this kid liked about this circumstance."
-- Bill O'Reilly
After recounting some of his acts during testimony given just feet away Shawn's weeping parents Tuesday, Devlin faces additional charges in federal court Wednesday morning. He is expected to plead guilty to charges of videotaping himself torturing Shawn after kidnapping him, and transporting the boy across state lines.
After the boy, then 11, was abducted at gunpoint while riding his bike in rural Washington County, Devlin took him to his apartment in suburban St. Louis and repeatedly sexually assaulted him. Days later, Devlin took Shawn back to Washington County in his pickup truck, apparently intent on killing the boy.
He said he pulled Shawn from his truck and began to strangle him. Shawn resisted.
“I attempted to kill (Shawn) and he talked me out of it,” Devlin said Tuesday.
Devlin stopped the choking, but then sexually assaulted the boy again. Prosecutors say it was at that point that Shawn told Devlin he would do whatever was asked of him to stay alive.
How morally bankrupt, how degraded, is the nation that still allows this man on the air?
Tuesday, October 09, 2007 by Michael Reynolds
Shouldn't it say "Greyhound" on the side?
I tried for a Camry. A Volvo. No dice. Tried for an Avalon. An Audi. Nope, sold out. No, they didn't have the Jag.
They didn't have much of anything, so I reserved the regular-sized SUV. An Explorer. But when I got to the Minneapolis Hertz there was a Yukon waiting for me.
Sweet Lord, what a wallowing, fishtailing, sluggish, top-heavy, clumsy monstrosity. The hippopotamus of vehicles. An atrocity on wheels. (Question for GMC's engineers: can you not go and peek inside someone else's car and see how to arrange a dashboard? Did they pay you by the button?) I keep hearing that American cars have gotten a lot better. And then I hit the rental counter and the cars themselves tell me different. The first car rental company that waves bye-bye to GM, Ford and Chrysler will have my business.
Here are three things at which we, Americans, suck: cars, air travel and cellphones.
It's odd, because we used to suck at relatively minor things like coffee, wine and food, and blow everyone else away when it came to anything technological. Now we make very good food and pretty good coffee, but we have cellphone service that would embarrass Mozambique, airlines and airports (see below) that would cause any responsible Japanese to commit ritual suicide, and make cars that are positively Soviet. This cannot be good. It cannot be good that in cars, planes and phones we are now notably inferior to the Europeans, while pulling even in the food and beverage department.
by Michael Reynolds
One of their better flights.
Word for fucking word:
Unless really pressed, I would much prefer to drive rather than fly anywhere within a full day's drive, meaning 500-600 miles. Even a short flight is deceptively time-eating when you count getting to the airport, getting through security, waiting for your late plane, waiting for your connection that sometimes isn't, missing that connection because your first flight was late, waiting for any checked luggage at the other end (if it makes it), etc.
And the rest of what Tully says, too. I could just cut and paste it all. Especially the joy of having your own car, which I'll address in a subsequent post.
Now, my own addendum: our airports are a fucking disgrace. JFK? OMG! Foreigners come here and this is the first thing they see? JFK would embarrass a third world nation. Bulldoze it. Destroy it! Hide our shame from the shocked and pitying gazes of the world.
Atlanta Hartsfield? Sweet Jesus, bring Tecumseh Sherman back from the grave, hand him a torch and he can start on any concourse he chooses. LAX? Nothing wrong with LAX that a catastrophic earthquake wouldn't fix.
Airports are so awful in this country that I'm actually relieved when I can lay over at O'Hare. O'Hare! At least I can get a decent hot dog once I fight my way through the omnipresent crowds. Just, God help you, make sure you have a club membership if you want to take a pee at O'Hare. A club membership or a gas mask and a gallon-sized Purell.
As for our airlines, American Airlines, Delta, United, and especially the despicable Northwest and US Airways cannot go out of business fast enough. (I give a pass to Continental because they did me a solid once.) Let me say this: I'd rather be in any standard coach seat on Jet Blue than in Business Class on US Airways. And I'd rather be in Abu Ghraib than on any Northwest flight.
by Michael Reynolds
The GOP and the Democrats have about the same number of never-gonna-win candidates. But the Dems only have two who elicit embarrassed winces or pity applause: Kucinich and Gravel. The GOP has Hunter, Paul, Brownback and Tancredo. It's not good to have a 2 to 1 edge in space-waster candidates.
Let me summarize the debate: government bad, business good, low taxes, magic of the marketplace, te holy American people, Ronald Reagan, cut programs we can't name, no pain, no reality, be happy! we're the greatest, blah blah blah.
To add at least a modicum of interest, as we go along let's ask how each would do in a theoretical debate with Hillary Clinton.
Managed to discuss the economy without mentioning 9/11 in every answer, a great leap forward. But I don't see any magic in this guy. Giuliani - 9/11 = the who cares mayor. Versus Hillary? Slight edge for Hillary. Hillary fakes warmth better. Giuliani's teeth-gritting snipe would come off as arrogance. I suspect that Hillary is the nicer person, and in a one-to-one that will become apparent.
So, Congressman, do you have a stand on illegal immigration? Do you have any other stand? Anything? Hello? Hillary would cackle him out of the room.
Has he gone deaf? He keeps asking for questions to be repeated. He seems distracted. If you didn't know beforehand that he was John McCain, Genuine No Bullshit War Hero, he'd come off as less impressive than Duncan Hunter, and slightly less rascible. (Um, what? You know: the opposite of irascible.) John, John, John: I'm sorry, but the bus has driven on and left you at the curb. You'd put up a hell of a fight but steely Hill would have the edge over cranky John
Um, is this guy a Republican? He makes sense at times. And yet I find myself strangely unable to pay attention to him. Hunter against Hillary? Yeah, not happening is it?
4.5) Hey, where was Alan Keyes
? I thought he was running. Come on, send in the clown. It's time for cuh-raaaaaa-zee!
Ron, buddy: you're a Libertarian, not a Republican. I kind of like Libertarians in small doses. But they are completely out of touch with the American people. No offense. Paul against Hillary? Who else could possibly make Hillary look more mainstream?
6) Flip Romney
. Optimism? Confidence? Happy happy? Happy, confident Reaganism? Are you sure you're a Mormon and not a devotee of "The Secret?"
And are you happy and optimistic and confident and Reaganistic? Let's just keep smiling our giant toothy smiles, we're number one! Yay! Head to head with Hillary? Who else could make Hillary seem genuine?
Poor bastard's reduced to bragging about working with Joe Biden. Even he knows he's irrelevant. He looks lost and sad. he just can't figure out how to quit. Hillary and Brownback? Godzilla and Bambi.
8) Sleepy Fred.
As a candidate he's not even a good actor. How is that? The corn-pone is pretty thick here, pretty thick. Sometimes the hick act conceals a crackerjack mind. Sometimes it just conceals Cletus. Hillary holds her own with Bill Clinton on a daily basis. This guy? Sleepy McGoober? America wants a president that wants to be president. Bill Bradley tried this same kind of too-cool-for-the-room, I-don't-even-need-your-vote kind of campaign. He now has a radio show. On satellite.
I disagree with him on everything. But he contains three times the genuine, original human components that Romney does. He's more genuine than Hillary. He's as fast on the up-take. He's likable. He's smart. I'd give him an edge over Hillary, the only one of these guys.
by Michael Reynolds
For at least a decade, the inflexibility of voter attitudes toward Clinton had come to be treated as an immutable law of American politics. On the question of Hillary, strategists of both parties concluded, voters had become split into two camps, pro and con, with firmly defined opinions, leaving few undecided and those on all sides generally unsusceptible to persuasion.
Yet over the summer, some voters appear to have changed their minds about the senator. On the key question asked by pollsters - do you view her favorably or unfavorably? - the numbers ticked in small but significant ways in Clinton's direction: a four percentage-point increase among those who like her and a three-point decrease among those who dislike her, according to an analysis of 77 surveys since early 2006 performed by Charles Franklin, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Now her favorability rating nationwide stands at 49.8 percent - on the cusp of the 50 percent threshold widely viewed as a prerequisite for a successful candidacy, according to the analysis.
Wow. Who'd have guessed? It would have taken a brilliant, insightful, think-outside-the-box kind of analyst to see this coming. Someone like this guy