Strawberry Fields Forever - Nothing is real

Saturday, September 11, 2004

This is serious

I really hope there's another explanation for this, but it appears as though North Korea has and is now testing nukes.

This is bad. Very bad.

I'll post more later (and get back to replying to comments), but right now I'm feeling a bit like I did exactly three years ago realizing that what I feared would become true, has in fact come to pass.

May we somehow find the wisdom to find a way out of this.

[Added 7/2/05] Ok, yeah, this should have been updated a LONG time ago... thankfully we survived to face another day (turns out the explosion was probably not a nuke test). Of course it also means that I survived, which means I may yet blog again...

In remembrance

I cannot give adequate voice to what happened three years ago, but I found a few things that did. This is not partisan or jokey, but I do highly recommend you read the transcript from the first Daily Show after the attacks. I can't put it any better than Stewart when he said:
The view from my apartment was the World Trade Center and now it's gone. They attacked it. This symbol of American ingenuity and strength and labor and imagination and commerce and it is gone. But you know what the view is now? The Statue of Liberty. The view from the south of Manhattan is now the Statue of Liberty. You can't beat that.
The entire transcript is equally brilliant.

Also in the aftermath, another unlikely source came forward to properly frame the aftermath: The Onion. Their first issue that arrived after the attacks included the brilliant article, "God Angrily Clarifies No-Kill Rule"

If you aren't already overloaded with memories of that day, read both. I will resume normal stuff, the stuff that by its very presence exemplifies our victory over those inhuman terrorists, and resume to exercise my freedom of speech. For now, I'm a bit under the weather, and nothing I write will be as good as what I am linking to. (not to say I may try to some day, but I will not today)

Sunday, September 05, 2004

(un)Civil discourse in America today

This is somewhat a followup to an older post where I talked about limits of reasonable debate. I largely grew up (and still live) in a very conservative area in Los Angeles county (yes, such a thing exists), Palos Verdes. It's a very affluent, and extraordinarily conservative area. In Jr. High when there would be debates on abortion, the debates would be me against 30 other people, with mine being the sole pro-Choice voice. (yes, I learned how to shout over all 30) Eventually I got tired of such repetitive debates, and I also learned that some people just aren't worth the effort. Far too many in our society match in a very serious way the words John Lennon sang in sympathy, "He's as blind as he can be, just sees what he wants to see, Nowhere Man can you see me at all?"

I am not limiting this to the right or the left. I've had Communists scream in my face because I wasn't against all forms of capitalism, and I've had people become apoplectic because I did not agree with his view of how great the current President is. Unfortunately, many many people do not agree with Voltaire's words - "I may disagree with what you say, but I'll defend to death your right to say it."

In a free society, this is unfortunately a fact of life - not everyone chooses to have an open mind or is willing to accept that other points of view can possibly be valid. Thankfully many do. I may not be the best person on Earth at respecting other view points, and there are definitely some view points I will not tolerate (especially of those in positions of power). I will not tolerate people defending Nazism. I will not tolerate people advocating indiscriminate violence . I will not tolerate those who profess racism, sexism, agism, homophobia, heterophobia, and the ilk. I will not tolerate those who honestly hate and wish to destroy this nation, and there are some. (generally these people will freely admit to this) Note: there is of course a difference between those who disagree with policies, disagree with leadership, condemn parts of this nations varied past, and those who entirely hate and wish to destroy this nation. Criticism is patriotic. Destruction is not.

As a note, if you try to explain that Britney Spears is superior to the Beatles, then we have a problem. I can be philosophical (sorta) when it comes to politics, political theory and other issues. However, the Beatles rule, period.

My grandfather (on my father's side) was an arch-conservative with lots of issues. He had alienated much of the family by the time he passed away from lung cancer due to other issues. That said, he did his best to be good to myself and my sister. He knew that even then I had largely formed a political viewpoint contrary to his own. I will never know if what he said to me was what he honestly believed or if he was trying to change me in a way that wouldn't further tick off the family or myself, but he told me words that I do try to live by, "always try to look on both sides to make sure you're correct."

I don't delude myself into thinking I will change anyone's heart-felt views with this site, or in my life. However, I do have the faith in the strength of my ideas and ideals that I believe in the free market of ideas my views can do pretty well. I also happen to believe that discussion can be fascinating even if not a single person changes their view. I have loved the few discussions on here that have remained civil. No one changed their view, but that isn't always the point. Remember, in ancient Greece, three of the most famous philosophers followed each other: Socrates, Plato and then Aristotle. Each held radically different views of the universe and how it worked. All of them were brilliant. Smart people can disagree. And in my case, even the far more mediocre minds can as well.

Pluralism, the idea that opposing viewpoints can and should exist, that's part of the true genius of our founding fathers. Even in these troubled days, we should all try to remember that. (and I'll include myself in that)

BTW: This does not mean I will quit criticizing the administration, or Republicans in general, and the other sides should not relent either. We can all do so in a better manner.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

In other (musical) news...

A reminder that Smile finally comes out this month (Sept 28). U2's next album (probably named Veritgo) is now supposedly coming out in November. R.E.M.'s next album, Around The Sun comes out in early October. (you can stream a copy of their first single from their site). Beck is supposedly working on a new album. Paul McCartney has been working on one, but no word on when it comes out. There apparently will be 2 new John Lennon releases this Fall. Lennon Acoustic, which appears to be a selection of acoustic tracks, some commercially released versions, some culled from the Lennon Anthology set, and some "unavailable until now". Given the quality of his acoustic demos/etc, it could be quite interesting. They are also releasing a remastered/expanded Rock and Roll this fall. Given that has some of the muddiest sound of any of his releases, the obligatory remix may actually help the sonics. (yes, I know there were major problems with the remix of Plastic Ono Band, but the other ones have been pretty decent in my not so humble opinion) Unfortunatly, much of the bonus material appears to be taken from the existing Menlove Ave release. Now to see if they bother to try to fix the sound on what I consider his worst sounding release, Walls & Bridges. (incidentally one I consider vastly underrated) Leonard Cohen's next album is now slated for October (for me to get as a present for my father) That's the major news I know of on the music front. No update on the supposed boxed set of Capitol versions of Beatles albums... Given we're getting pretty late in the year, it's looking increasingly unlikely to come out this year.

What Kerry must do

Put simply, Bush did a pretty good job with his speech. I disagree with his content, and much like Arnold's it had some factual problems that have cropped up, but the delivery was good, and especially near the end it was nearly poetic. If I ranked the speeches given at both conventions, this would tie with Kerry's as the 2nd best speech, with Barrack Obama's keynote at the Democratic convention being the best. I'd rank Zell Miller's as the worst in terms of delivery and content, but the best in terms of helping the Democrats.

Now the conventions are over, and I believe the election will be decided largely on whether or not Kerry can convince enough of the population that he can fight the war on terror effectively and whether or not the Republicans can hurt Kerry enough. Even with Time's current poll showing a 11 point lead for the President, there is little reason (currently) to believe that this is any more than an outlier. (the other polls I've seen continue to show mixed results hovering in the 2-3% range of difference) Even taking the poll at its word, comparing against a Time poll from prior to either convention shows that basically 4% of Kerry's support from them have become undecideds. The race is fundamentally still much the same. I believe Bush is the front-runner, but a very vunerable one.

Kerry must be able to answer what he would have done in Iraq in a clear and concise way. I have done my best to give the answer I believe is his: that he believed that it is fundamentally correct for the President to have such authority to go to war, but that the war and especially its aftermath was not conducted correctly. (note: I go a bit further in my opinion, but I am trying to voice his opinion) He must be able to answer what he would do to fight the war on terror in the next 4 years in clear and unambiguous terms. I can't imagine he won't be asked this at a debate (assuming they happen). I assume and hope he'll be ready. The Republicans have been very effective in painting doubt about Kerry. Fair on unfair he must answer it. There is little Bush can do to help himself at this point. We all know him and have formed our opinions. His job approval is quite low for an incumbent. The dissatisfaction for his performance and for the war are both quite high. He can only hope that the public disapproves more of Kerry than of himself.

Once again, go Kerry go!

Friday, September 03, 2004

Alternate universe George W. Bush video

Give the Daily Show every award in the book. I want to see these guys with Emmys, Pulitzers, Polks, Nobel Prizes, Tony Awards, Oscars, everything, even the ones they can't qualify for.

On Wednesday's show, they showed their version of a Bush promo film (much as they did for Kerry)

See it, and watch a video that in about 3 minutes is far more effective, funny, and fair than Michael Moore's entire film, F 9/11. (even if you do like Bush, this video is VERY funny)

I'll get back to regular posts soon, but I wanted to share this first:

George W Bush - Words Speak Louder Than Actions

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Why Iraq?

Reply to a comment many posts down (including the comment entirely quoted from Independent1) put on the main page since once again, it's getting too unwieldy for a comment, and once again, I have the power!

Iraq under Saddam Hussien was one of 7 nations that were the biggest national supporters of terrorism, as sited by George Tenet in 2001. The other 6 are Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Syria, Libya, and Sudan. If we are going to win the war on terrorism, we need to stop these countries from supporting terrorism, either by diplomacy or force.

It is indisputible that Saddam Hussien supported terrorist groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, Saddam Fedayeen, Al Aqsa Marters Brigade, Islamic Gihad, Answar Al Islam (which may be an offshoot of al-queda, and other islamic terrorists groups. Many of these terrorist groups have declared us as an enemy, and some, most noteably Hamas, have actively promised to attack the US on our soil. In fact, I predict that the next terrorist attack on US soil will not be from Al Queda, but from a different islamic terrorist group.

It is also widely recognized that there is a large level of comingling between these terrorist groups, meaning that an individual terrorist may be a member or have ties with several terrorists groups. Islamic Gihad, for example, has now merged with Al Queda.

Al Queda is in every other country in the world, why is it so hard to believe they were also in Iraq, a nation that openly harbored terrorists and openly hated us?

First of all, the stats referred to do not mention if they are talking about states with the highest aggregate support for terrorism, or the states whose officially recognized governments most support terrorism. I'm assuming it's the latter, though even then it's very likely Saudi Arabia belongs on that list. If it's the former, then there are undoubtedly other nations that should be very high on the list (U.S. since frankly a good deal of the funding for terrorism comes or at least came from front groups in the U.S., Egypt and Pakistan in addition to Saudi Arabia and maybe China, but it's hard to get info on China for obvious reasons)

Your list is interesting. Why didn't we go after those states (in addition to Saudi Arabia) after Afghanistan? Cuba has little influence and power, so it's really unnecessary to hit them at that point. North Korea... now if we really want to fight states that support terrorism with WMDs, then few if any nations should be higher on our hit list than North Korea. The problem with hitting North Korea is A) the leader is truly insane and B) they probably do have a nuke. (in addition to the fact that China might not like us there) One could also make good arguments for going after Iran, a nation that had at least similarity with Iraq in theological and ideological terms. Syria is also a good potential target if we want to fight on the terms of hitting states that support terrorism. Libya and the Sudan are also good candidates.

Why didn't we hit Libya, Sudan, Syria, or Iran instead or in addition to Iraq? I'm willing to grant that reasons exist for not hitting the others.

I honestly don't know for sure. I don't think we should have hit any other nations at that point in 2003. I think we should have kept our resources and energies focused on Afghanistan/Pakistan.

Possible explanations on why we hit Iraq include:
  • We knew we could. Their military was still quite weak, and we either didn't really think they had WMDs or that we didn't believe they would use them. (if we really believed they had them and would use them, then we should use that same rationale to go after North Korea) In addition, we had an outstanding U.N. resolution somewhat allowing this. This doesn't answer why we felt it necessary to hit another nation so soon after Afghanistan, but it does answer why Iraq
  • Political posturing. Take focus off of Afghanistan, and refocus the nation on another war. Give Bush a victory and ensure reelection. I'm not saying this is the answer, and if it is, it hasn't gone well. I'm just trying to figure out explanations that fit the available information
  • Chalabi really really duped us. If so, this administration should be voted out for that alone
  • The administration believed we could hit Iraq, and the administration believed it would be easy, and the administration believed it would lead to democratization of the middle-east. In other words, the neo-cons completely ruled the day... I think this explanation has more than a grain of truth
  • Something involving oil or Halliburton. (few of the other on the list have much if any oil) Again, I'm not saying I believe this, I'm just saying that fits the evidence.
Again, I don't doubt that a few Al Qaeda members were in Iraq. Emphasis on few. And yes, the definitions of the terrorist groups were/are fairly amorphous. That's a fair argument. It still does not answer why Iraq and not one of the others. We had Iraq pretty well boxed in. We had forced inspectors back in there. Saddam was a megalomaniac, but a largely secular one. He didn't like Bin Laden, and Bin Laden didn't like him. Why not attack a government more sympathetic to Al Qaeda to tie our attack a little bit more credibly to 9/11. The fact that to the world community the attack seemed entirely tangential to 9/11 is part of why our world support so completely eroded. Saddam was a sadistic scumbag, but then again, so are so many other tyrants in the world. We are not sending in troops to stop the horror in Sudan right now. If we felt that human rights is the standard for our foreign policy, then we would have been in there months ago. (note: I thought George HW Bush's decision to send in troops to stop the horror in Somalia in 1992 was a noble effort even if the results were not as great)

Was it really necessary to move our troops from Afghanistan and mobilize our military to fight Iraq at that time? Even ignoring hind sight when we now know that there were likely no significant WMDs in Iraq, and the official ties between their government and Al Qaeda is basically theoretical in nature, the reasoning still seems flawed.

Beyond the reasoning of why to attack, the way we approached the war, to ignore any realistic planning for the post-invasion is deplorable. Rumsfeld repeatedly ignored generals asking for more troops to secure Iraq. He kept on saying he believed we had enough in there. Is there much serious doubt that another 40-50,000 troops wouldn't have helped a good deal in the first few months to secure the place? (note: I'm not mentioning issues with Abu Gharib, nor Mission Accomplished, nor Green Zones, nor anything else)

Maybe we would have had to fight Saddam eventually. I will grant that would have been a definite possibility. However, we could have waited until we had demonstrated to the Islamic world our mercy and resolve in Afghanistan. We won't win over everyone, but we can reduce the supply of possible recruits for Al Qaeda. Iraq really wasn't going anywhere. We had them cornered. 2 or 3 years later when we had rooted out the remnants of the Taliban and Al Qaeda from Afghanistan, when we could have secured the nation and given the people the hope they so desperately deserve after being the cruel pawn of so many regimes, we would be able to go after Iraq with our world standing in much higher esteem.

In the end, I can't entirely understand why we did what we did. The only thing I know is that it almost certainly was a mistake.

BTW: Blogger should build a spell-check/etc into the comments... that's half the reason why I prefer main posts.

Is the worm turning?

For once, (agreeing with Kevin Drum) I almost would have liked more people to have tuned into the Republican convention. I watched Zell Miller's speech in full along with a good deal of Cheney's speech. Wow. Between those and Alan Keyes' comments about homosexuality being selfish hedonism (attacking Cheney's daughter directly!), the Republican party showed off some of its worst qualities, and for the world to see. I'm noticing also a good deal of panning of Miller's speech.

For those interested, the relevant portions of his appearance on Hardball last night where he challenged Matthews to a duel and the transcript for his other appearance on CNN last night where he appears to have been extremely confused and incoherent is here (registration required). I seriously recommend reading through, it's quite an amazing set of interviews.

A few weeks ago, the Daily Show in its usual mode of providing the most insightful commentary on tv through satire, had a great exchange between John Stewart and Rob Coordry (copied from atrios):

STEWART: Here's what puzzles me most, Rob. John Kerry's record in Vietnam is pretty much right there in the official records of the US military, and haven't been disputed for 35 years?

CORDDRY: That's right, Jon, and that's certainly the spin you'll be hearing coming from the Kerry campaign over the next few days.

STEWART: Th-that's not a spin thing, that's a fact. That's established.

CORDDRY: Exactly, Jon, and that established, incontrovertible fact is one side of the story.

STEWART: But that should be -- isn't that the end of the story? I mean, you've seen the records, haven't you? What's your opinion?

CORDDRY: I'm sorry, my *opinion*? No, I don't have 'o-pin-i-ons'. I'm a reporter, Jon, and my job is to spend half the time repeating what one side says, and half the time repeating the other. Little thing called 'objectivity' -- might wanna look it up some day.

STEWART: Doesn't objectivity mean objectively weighing the evidence, and calling out what's credible and what isn't?

CORDDRY: Whoa-ho! Well, well, well -- sounds like someone wants the media to act as a filter! [high-pitched, effeminate] 'Ooh, this allegation is spurious! Upon investigation this claim lacks any basis in reality! Mmm, mmm, mmm.' Listen buddy: not my job to stand between the people talking to me and the people listening to me.

Last night was one of the first times in a long time I saw the press start to disprove the Daily Show. The genesis of Miller's breakdowns is that finally journalists started questioning the ludicrous spin, half-truths, and out-right lies of his speech. They correctly pointed out that Cheney also voted or was generally against several of the same weapon systems that Miller accused Kerry of being against. They questioned his tone, and his overall contribution to the American political process that his vitriol would make.

He became apoplectic exactly because he was totally unprepared for this. Conservative pundits haven't been called on their lies in quite a while. The Swift Boat Veterans group has largely been allowed to give "their side" of the story about John Kerry's service in Vietnam when there is scant evidence (ok, really no evidence) that supports any of their claims. Indeed, most claims are either completely refuted, are impossible to prove or disprove, or are entirely opinion. Yet, these people up through this point have been given equal credibility as the official record which has stood for 35 years.

Did the Daily Show get the press tougher? Probably not. Maybe as others have hypothesized, the press is getting fed up being the whipping boy of the RNC. Maybe they suddenly remembered their mission to report the truth as best as they could. Maybe this is temporary (indeed, that would be my guess). However, for this moment the press has done its job, and the Republicans have exposed their worst tendencies, and were called on it. Yesterday was pretty good. Now let's see what Bush does tonight.

As a note, I think the one exception to the rule of the press generally being passive has been Fox.... why must it be Fox though?

For the record, I'm guessing Bush will be about 2-3 points up after the convention. (I'm sure some polls will show more, some less) I'd love to be overestimating on that.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

When satire is entirely unnecessary

I was planning on writing another lame attempt at satire about the Republican convention, but officially, that is entirely unnecessary.

When I watched John Kerry's acceptance speech a month ago I had a few moments of giddiness as I watched him deliver on my hopes, as I saw him rise to the occasion.

Tonight I'm getting a bit of the same giddiness.

Thank you Zell Miller. Tonight you helped John Kerry as much if not more than you ever helped Bill Clinton, even if unintentionally.

I could watch the footage of you becoming entirely unglued with Chris Matthews for hours on end. You challenged Chris Matthews to a duel!?!? If that's not a metaphor for the modern face of the Republican party... actually forget metaphors, it's funny on any and all levels. (and don't bother pointing out that he's technically a Democrat, he's long since left any semblence of being a Democrat... unless his speech has been a carefully orchestrated attempt to take down George W Bush from within... which isn't entirely impossible)

I haven't yet heard Cheney's speech, but I understand he once again brought up Kerry's line about fighting a "sensitive" war and ripped on Kerry for it... neglecting to point out that the President has used the exact same language in the same context... neglecting to point out that Cheney himself has used the same language in the same context (in at least one instance in the same interview when he chewed out Kerry for saying the same!)

BTW: Wasn't it supposed to be the liberals who were the angry ones? (I know I am, but I must say that I can't compete against Miller & Cheney!)

Between tonight, and Arnold once again describing the fictional debate between Nixon and McGovern as the catalyst for his allegiance as a Republican, I think things are starting to look good. (He also compared anyone who will point out that the economy is not doing that great to "girlie men"... nice message to the 1+ million who have lost their jobs under Bush's economy)

Bush could still hit a homerun tomorrow (though at this point even a bunt would look good compared to those who preceded him), and the debates (if they happen) are still to come, and Bush and his phantom campaigns have much more smear left in them, but right now I'm feeling pretty good. Bush is still the front-runner, but Kerry can win. He's going to have to campaign hard, and his supporters are going to have to work hard (including myself).

On a related note, I finally took down the 2 Gore-Lieberman stickers I've had taped up to the back of my car and replaced them with a John Kerry sticker.

Anyways, if this is the worst these guys have, then to quote the President (in a more appropriate context) "Bring 'em on!"

(note: to be fair, Zell Miller only said he "wished " he lived in a time when he could challenge Chris Matthews to a duel)

(further note: I removed a reference to the Bush daughters' speech. Upon reflection, I really don't want to be a person who would make disparaging comments about two young women who are obviously political neophytes, and did not ask to be the daughters of a President)