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All content © 2002-2005 Anne Zook

August 03, 2004
Reading and Watching

It's amazing what you can get through in your lunch hour, if you try hard enough.

I'm still watching the development of the Spy Czar story.

Intelligence Chief Without Power?

President Bush on Monday cast his support for a new post of national intelligence director as an historic overhaul of the nation's major spy agencies. But White House officials left vague the authority that the new director would wield over personnel and spending, raising doubts among some experts about the real power of the new position.

Hmmm.

Digby thinks this is the key point to the story:

White House and Bush campaign officials have long said that the details matter far less than the pictures and sounds of Mr. Bush talking in any way about his campaign against terrorism, which polls show is still his strongest card against Mr. Kerry.

I mention those two bits for a reason, of course. The article starts out talking about something that's rather important to a lot of citizens. The idea of intelligence-gathering, how it's done, and how we analyze it is rather closely tied up with the idea of safety for many of us.

It's certainly interesting to note that by the end of the article we're being told what we should have expected all along. The entire thing, from the Bush Administration's perspective, is just a story to be spun for campaign purposes. It doesn't matter if he's short on specifics or is proposing something that either can't be done. What matters is a sound-bite of him saying "war on terror".

And the prisoner abuse story

The General in charge of Abu Ghraib at the time the abuse occurred is now saying she thinks there was a deliberate plot to keep her out of the loop. A cover-up.

Lawrence reminds us why we shouldn't let this slip through our memories and the details he provides aren't ones I've read before.

The Danish military is investigating a report that an intelligence officer abused Iraqi prisoners.

The Democratic Convention Candidates

Kerry offered Substance over Style according to MotherJones.

Will Durst disses Edwards but ends by deciding the 'Smurf' has claws. Thank you for your rude and condescending column, Mr. Durst.

Education

It's about quality teachers and I think Kerry is showing courage in letting the powerful Teachers' Union know that they need to make changes.

Same-sex marriage

Missouri is voting on same-sex marriage.

Iraq and Other Matters of War

Kenyan Foreign Minister Plays Ugly Joke (Well, how else would you characterize standing up to announce the release of hostages who have not, in fact, been released? )

Scapegoats, pharmakos, and Saddam Hussein. Psychology, Blair, Bush, and wiping out the shame of creating a monster.

The Muslim Army chaplain accused (and clearing) of "spying" at Guantanamo is resigning from the army. He says his reputation and his chances for making a career in the service have been destroyed.

Limiting freedom in an attempt to make yourself more secure doesn't work. You don't wind up safer. You just wind up less free.* Basic freedoms to protest are being systematically undermined by anti-terror legislation is a Guardian headline, but it applies to the USofA as well. (* Ivins and Dubose address this idea in Bushwhacked. I'll probably be posting more on it later.)

They Knew It's about the Bush Administration, 9/11, and the 9/11 Commission report, and about lies the things that led us to invade Iraq. (Note: Copious hotlinks to support their arguments, none of which I've had time to read yet. I'll follow them this evening. In the meantime, know that Atrios is already talking about it.)

And I haven't talked about it, but I have be wondering why we're under a heightened "terror alert" based on data from before 9/11. I mean, yeah, I know that reports of al Qaeda's planning indicate they're meticulous and thorough but do we really have reason to believe we have reliable info on a post-9/11 attack? Apparently, yes. (And yet, I find myself unable to become alarmed by the news that possible terrorists were been looking at brochures four years ago.

Class Wars

National Review Goes Nuts, claims that the rich are rich no longer. (No, I'm not doing the research to explain about "average" income, tax deductions, tax cuts, etc. Nor am I intending to research where they found their data, who they're including, and the difference between "rich" and "greedy rich." There are economists on-line who can do that. When I find a post, I'll let you know.)

Guns

I read something like this and I scratch my head. Every time I read it, I scratch my head. I understand people don't want to lose their guns, but exactly what value do even gun supporters see in removing the ban on assault weapons?

Reality TV

"Reality TV" meets real surgery. I don't believe I'll be turning on the Hospital OR Webcast Channel any time soon. I am content to know I have insides. I don't require to view them.

Other Matters

This is how to write a tempting book review. I've read some about the early exploration (and exploitation) of spices and the regions where they were discovered, and I think I'll order a copy of this.

Hugo Schwyzer drives me bonkers, okay? I don't doubt he's a great person, in fact, I'm convinced of it, but I can't recommend reading this post unless you have some time on your hands. I mean, I read it, then my head exploded and the pieces when in five different directions. YMMV.

To keep it simple, there may be something to his theory of "profoundly disappointing male behavior." If I see one more man stopped at a red light in traffic opening his car door so he can spit on the pavement, I may go postal. And while I'm on the subject of male failings, can I please beg you to put it all away before you leave the public restroom? You're not being discreet. Everyone notices, even though they pretend they don't. Stop it.

Posted by AnneZook at 02:19 PM


Comments

This is praise of the highest order, Ms. Zook! Many thanks!

Posted by: Hugo at August 3, 2004 05:09 PM

Hear hear! to your last paragraph. You forgot the male strutting behavior of strolling across two-lane highways against the traffic and light; that's always a hot button for me.

Posted by: Elayne Riggs at August 3, 2004 05:46 PM

Anne, What the heck is so bad about a man stopped at a red light and opening his car door to spit on the pavement? You'd prefer he'd not open the door before he spits? You're thinking the pavement is oppressed? Spitting is disgusting? He shoud be watching the light? How about a rant on women doing their makeup while they are driving? A rant on people talking on cellphones while they're driving?

Posted by: Ralph Luker at August 3, 2004 07:18 PM

Ralph - Had the subject been women, I could have written quite an entry on how insane it makes me to see a woman driving down the street, putting on mascara, believe me.

Spitting is disgusting, okay? I cited spitting from the car, but another thing that's gross is spitting on the sidewalk, which many men seem to do. I have to walk there, okay? I shouldn't have to watch the pavement to avoid stepping in someone else's body fluid.

Hugo - Yours was a great post. :)

Posted by: Anne at August 3, 2004 09:42 PM

"Hugo Schwyzer drives me bonkers, okay? I don't doubt he's a great person"

That's the best summary of his blog that I've read so far. It applies to everything he posts.

Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at August 3, 2004 11:52 PM

Okay, now I've read Hugo's post. Suprising you picked that one for a "makes my head explode" label. He has at least 20 others I'd give that label to first. Is it his tone of voice that seems to imply that there might be something wrong with single women buying homes that bothers you? It seems like his main interest were two fold, why aren't men buying homes, and are men failing to make themselves into good marriage material.

Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at August 4, 2004 12:01 AM

To answer Hugo's question, "Why aren't men buying homes? Why are so many women buying homes?" my guess would be men prefer an agressive, high-risk investment strategy that focuses on the stock market. I haven't done the research to see if this is true nationally. In my immediate social circle, it is true that the women prefer the security of buying a house, the men prefer the liquidity and potentially higher returns offered by mutual funds.

Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at August 4, 2004 12:31 AM

Anne:
the article on the Army Captain/Chaplain conveniently forgot he committed adultry and downloaded porn onto his taxpayer funded computer..small details..those actions tend to put a damper on your career progression potential too...at least in the Army

As for guns..given your voracious appetite for reading..have you actual read the 1994 crime bill and specifically the section on the AWB? If I asked you to write down now what is an "assault weapon", could you? Do you know what differentiates one weapon that is banned against another that has the exact same firepower and capabilities?

Some people object to the AWB because they fear it's a slippery slope attempt to get a 2d amendment rights..perhaps they are applying the same (flawed?) logic that people who tell me it's perfectly consistent that my wife or I have to sign a permission slip for the elementary school to give her cold medicine or tylenol yet when she's still a minor under our legal guardianship she should have the right to have an invasive surgical procedure without either of our consent because it will erode overall abortion rights...

Perhaps others see something flawed in a bill that banned certain weapons but not others when the only significant differences were cosmetic that did not impact the lethality of the weapon (AR-15 banned; Ruger Mini-14 not - only difference - the AR-15 looks more "military" because of its black synthetic stock)..and would prefer to see appropriate gun legislation that actually takes into consider the capabilities of the weapon as well as the most lethal aspect of any weapon - the person who uses it in a malicious or reckless manner..

Extend the ban..but fix the real issues instead of playing into people's fears or ignorance about guns..

As for the Intelligence Czar..currently the personnel, execution, and budget decisions for the various intelligence agencies are spread out over various organizations such as CIA, Justice, DOD, NSA, NRO, State..of course people are hesitant to give such control to a single person/organization, especially one that will have to be formed under tight legal controls to promote sharing while at the same time safeguarding collateral information on US citizens collected during operations..let alone figuring out the different intelligence (which is vastly different than mere information gathering) each of those organizations need..This is why IF you're going to have a DNI (which is what the CIA Director was supposed to have been), the first step is to have an office that first serves as a clearinghouse for intelligence that gets to senior policy makers..If you don't have money or people, the trump card is access to the President...and this all assumes you pick the right people who know what they're looking at, what questions to ask, and what the critical intelligence requirements are...

The media makes it seem the 9/11 Commission were the only folks to find
the burning bush...Sometimes it's dangerous to posture your forces based on the last war..and sometimes it's dangerous to make recommendation based on what happened as opposed to what's needed in the future..sometimes history informs that..sometimes we take the wrong lessons in our haste to "fix it"..maybe that's a bad "male" behavior...

Posted by: Col Steve at August 4, 2004 01:01 AM

Lawrence - As when frequently happens when I read Hugo's posts, I found myself going in five different (mental) directions based on the parts I agreed with, the parts I disagreed with, the implicit sexism (for which I blame cultural conditioning and not Hugo), the parts he got almost but not quite right, and the parts I felt were important that he didn't discuss.

I spend a lot of time fussing at him, but his blog is absolutely one of my favorite reads every day.

Posted by: Anne at August 4, 2004 09:14 AM

Col Steve - Seriously, man. Get a blog. You've got more to actually say than 80% or 90% of the bloggers out there. :) I'd appreciate a list of what other blogs you're reading and commenting on.

the article on the Army Captain/Chaplain conveniently forgot he committed adultry and downloaded porn onto his taxpayer funded computer..small details..those actions tend to put a damper on your career progression potential too...at least in the Army

Had the man originally been arrested for adultery, I'd be mocking the military gently for setting itself up as a moral standard-bearer while freely admitting that the concept of "discipline" more than "morality" was probably at the heart of that particular regulation. (But mocking, yes, because I'm all about the mockery.)

Had the man originally be arrested for downloading porn onto his computer, I'd have been rolling my eyes at "disciplinary overkill" and suggesting that administrative punishment, rather than criminal, would have been a more rational reaction (while, yes, admitting that "discipline" in the military must necessarily be different than "discipline" in the corporate world.)

But he wasn't, was he? He was arrested for espionage, which they couldn't prove, and subsequently charged with adultery and downloading porn onto his computer.

I'm just saying. It came off as petty and small-minded. It was embarrassing to witness. It read like an act of desperation. "Well, we can't get him on espionage, but we have to justify arresting him somehow, so find something to charge him with."

It's a matter of scale, isn't it? Being disciplined, off the world stage, for adultery or porn is one thing. Even an unprovable accusation of espionage, done publicly, is quite another. It's a whole different level of reputation damage. Surely you can see that?

As for guns..given your voracious appetite for reading..have you actual read the 1994 crime bill and specifically the section on the AWB? If I asked you to write down now what is an "assault weapon", could you? Do you know what differentiates one weapon that is banned against another that has the exact same firepower and capabilities?

Well, color me embarrassed. Truthfully? I tried a year or two ago and got distracted and stopped. I guess I should shut up until I've read it.

Some people object to the AWB because they fear it's a slippery slope attempt to get a 2d amendment rights..perhaps they are applying the same (flawed?) logic that people who tell me it's perfectly consistent that my wife or I have to sign a permission slip for the elementary school to give her cold medicine or tylenol yet when she's still a minor under our legal guardianship she should have the right to have an invasive surgical procedure without either of our consent because it will erode overall abortion rights...

My. You managed to cover a lot of territory with that one, didn't you?

Everything is a slippery slope, Col Steve. There is no idea, no action, no behavior that can't be taken too far. There is no principle that someone, somewhere isn't able to word so broadly that it covers the originally intended territory and an additional planet or two besides.

I know, I know, I use the "slippery slope" argument myself, but I generally do reserve it for things I think are already approaching the danger territory, not things that could, somehow, somewhere, be extended to include that territory.

Perhaps others see something flawed in a bill that banned certain weapons but not others when the only significant differences were cosmetic that did not impact the lethality of the weapon (AR-15 banned; Ruger Mini-14 not - only difference - the AR-15 looks more "military" because of its black synthetic stock)..and would prefer to see appropriate gun legislation that actually takes into consider the capabilities of the weapon as well as the most lethal aspect of any weapon - the person who uses it in a malicious or reckless manner..

Extend the ban..but fix the real issues instead of playing into people's fears or ignorance about guns..

The ignorant among us would also like to suggest this is entirely tied up with changing the way "business as usual" is done in Washington. The irrational list of guns that are banned/not banned is entirely the result of lobbying by pro-gun organizations, so it's a mistake to act as though it's a carefully thought out, carefully crafted list.

No, it's not perfect, but few things are. It sends the right message, which isn't a bad start. (Of course, in the sense that it gives a false sense of security, it's a danger, too.)

As for the Intelligence Czar..currently the personnel, execution, and budget decisions for the various intelligence agencies are spread out over various organizations such as CIA, Justice, DOD, NSA, NRO, State..of course people are hesitant to give such control to a single person/organization, especially one that will have to be formed under tight legal controls to promote sharing while at the same time safeguarding collateral information on US citizens collected during operations..let alone figuring out the different intelligence (which is vastly different than mere information gathering) each of those organizations need..This is why IF you're going to have a DNI (which is what the CIA Director was supposed to have been), the first step is to have an office that first serves as a clearinghouse for intelligence that gets to senior policy makers..If you don't have money or people, the trump card is access to the President...and this all assumes you pick the right people who know what they're looking at, what questions to ask, and what the critical intelligence requirements are...

#1 - I never liked the idea of the CIA being, even just sort of vaguely, "in charge" over overall intelligence, okay? I have a strong dislike for any "overall" government activity being conducted by an organization with no transparency, no accountability, and no fixed purpose.

#2 - I'm not, in fact, "sold" on the idea that a single, unified "intelligence agency" of any kind would best serve our interests in the long term. I support the idea of making changes. I just don't necessarily support the changes people are discussing. (I have not read the 9/11 Commission's report, okay? I didn't intend to read it but it's beginning to look as though I'll have to.)

#3 - If we have to have an Intelligence Czar, I want it to be a position where the nominee has to be approved by Congress. I want a high-profile position so that the next time we get a lunatic in the White House, any action taken to pressure this person, or fire them for not cooking the books suitably, is considered "media-worthy."

That's all I'm saying.

(Well, okay, I'm also saying that the Bush re-election campaign's cheap ploy to try and steal the moral high ground with the illusion that Bush gave profound and long-term thought to a policy issue disgusted me.)

The media makes it seem the 9/11 Commission were the only folks to find the burning bush...Sometimes it's dangerous to posture your forces based on the last war..and sometimes it's dangerous to make recommendation based on what happened as opposed to what's needed in the future..sometimes history informs that..sometimes we take the wrong lessons in our haste to "fix it"..maybe that's a bad "male" behavior...

No, I don't think so. The urge to rush to fix what's wrong seems to be characteristic of our species. I mean, as long as you're not spitting on the sidewalk while you're recommending making hairpin changes in policy based on yesterday's headlines, I'm pretty sure it's not a strictly "male" behavior. :)

I don't object to that immediate reaction we sometimes have...to take action, fastfastfast. That's the same urge that leads us to take action at all. (At least, in my view.) Properly harnessed, it's one of our better qualities. Even unharnessed, it can be one of our better qualities.

(On the other hand, it's something that can be overdone, like anything else. John McKay discusses that today.)

Posted by: Anne at August 4, 2004 10:04 AM

It's a matter of scale, isn't it? Being disciplined, off the world stage, for adultery or porn is one thing. Even an unprovable accusation of espionage, done publicly, is quite another. It's a whole different level of reputation damage. Surely you can see that?

Anne - "off the world stage" is a matter of perspective...it was quite well known in the military all the behaviors he did..and as a fellow West Pointer, I'm not willing to cut him any slack given the taxpayers paid a lot of money to teach him to not lie, cheat, or steal..

Also, yes, the additional charges resulted from the investigation; however, he was reprimanded for his handling of the documents even if it did not rise to the level of espionage. In other words, his career was finished whether the additional offenses were discovered. I don't have a lot of sympathy for someone given his training and position of trust to whine about a situation he created by his own poor judment and behavior.


The irrational list of guns that are banned/not banned is entirely the result of lobbying by pro-gun organizations

Think you are wrong here..read the history of the AWB..the NRA and others did not want a single gun banned (and took out their wrath in the subsequent 94 elections)..the gun control crowd took advantage of some tragic events involving semi-automatic weapons that had some "military" type cosmetic features and got that inserted..hence the discrepancies..I'm not being critical of them by making that statement - they had a policy objective in mind and took advantage of an opportunity to get something passed in the view that something was better than nothing.

I don't object to that immediate reaction we sometimes have...to take action, fastfastfast. That's the same urge that leads us to take action at all. (At least, in my view.) Properly harnessed, it's one of our better qualities. Even unharnessed, it can be one of our better qualities.

I have a different take. I think it reflects often our inability to act on issues even when we've recognized we are living with unsustainable contradictions. We finally take action when the contradictions reach the point of critical mass or external forces force us to deal with an issue. Either Lawrence or Jonathan posted about the growth of medical outlays as a percentage of GDP - we all know that it's going to become a serious drag on our economic growth - yet all we get (like social security) is partisan exploitation and marginal tweaks...We've been "studying" intelligence reforms for two decades..if it takes 9/11 to get them implemented - okay - but let's look at the 100s of recommendations from various administrations as opposed to just the 9/11 commission..

but, if it weren't for the last minute, nothing would get done..


Posted by: Col Steve at August 5, 2004 11:34 PM