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No need for apologetics

Oh, my!  Hillary has astounded the left blogosphere again.  She hasn’t backed off on her “war hawkishness” and for the first time in 6 years, she has actually defied the White House and admitted that their foreign policy was full of holes.  So, now all of the left’s assessment of her is proven true, TRUE, I say!  She would have taken us into a new war had she been president, she wouldn’t have stopped with earth, she would have declared it on the Martians and then where would we be?  I can almost see the caricature Hillarys filling the souvenir shelves in 2016, hair standing on end and eyes wild and terrifying like some older, plumper version of Galadriel on ring steroids.

Will you people get a grip?  You’re starting to remind me of the right.  Yeah, I went there.  Those people are black/white thinkers without nuance. The left’s absolutism when it comes to war and pacifism is starting to resemble that.  I’m not apologizing for Hillary.  You can go back to her senate days until the present and really read what she’s said to figure out where she stands.  She’s allowed to be wrong.  God knows, the left is extremely forgiving of other politicians who were much wronger than Hillary.  John Kerry and John Edwards were given free passes and they were clearly motivated by politics.  But she’s also allowed to be right and we have to look at the bigger picture of the globe and our unfortunate and damning dependence on oil to see what might be going on here.

In the last couple of weeks, I have wondered why it is that this region of the world is still so tribal, why authoritarian religion has such a grip on the inhabitants, why it hasn’t allowed them to evolve and who is behind all that religious hierarchy.  I mean, why is it concentrated so heavily in the area where oil is located and where there are global chokepoints to the flow of oil and other goods?  You’d think that living in such a strategic area of the world that these people would have a better standard of living than they do.  Why aren’t the best minds coming from the middle east?  Why are so many of them poor?  What is the connection of religion to power and which side is wielding it?  I’m sure there are papers on the subject. But it’s not my area and I’m dissatisfied and embarrassed by the shallowness of the discourse on the left when it comes to these questions.  All I ever hear is, “why are we there?”, “why are we spending money to bomb other countries?”, “when can we get out?”, “get out now!, Now!, Now!” and “See, that was a waste, they’re back to killing each other”.

Back in 2008, I tried to warn people over at DailyKos and here that getting out of Iraq wasn’t going to be easy and shouldn’t be rushed.  The Bushies went to Iraq to steal and experiment, and, in the course of that experimentation, trashed the place.  Pulling out was going to be destabilizing and we were probably going to have to stay longer whether we liked it or not.  And what happened?  The White House, ever in campaign mode, pulled out without stabilizing before the 2012 election and the place fell apart.  (See this Frontline episode on Losing Iraq.  The evidence damns the Bushies and the Obama administration.)

I keep coming back to responsibility.  We on the left seem to think that if we didn’t want a war and didn’t start one, we are not responsible for what happens when one happens despite our protests.  And that’s just not true.  Whether we like it or not, we will be forever associated with the other fellow bone headed, stupid, mean spirited Americans who were lead over a cliff by a bunch of greedy, selfish, destructive global “citizens”.  What you might consider “war hawkishness” might be responsibility to me.  And it sucks to be the more conscientious elder sibling.  It’s so much easier to take the easy way out and enjoy the credit, while it lasts, for making everyone happy temporarily by disassociating from the war as quickly, and as it turns out, as recklessly as possible.  But getting out quickly didn’t make things better, did it?  That high was timed to last a campaign season and very little thought was given to the morning after the party.

If anything, the Arab Spring, the collapse of Iraq and the civil war in Syria has confirmed my initial assessment of the two candidates in 2008.  Clinton was rehab and Obama was an enabler.

The latter won.

Addendum:  Some dirty hippies completely discredited themselves in the last couple of election cycles and need to take an old cold tater and wait.

 

About those migrating kids…

Maybe I missed something critical to fully understand this story but isn’t it odd that these kids have been coming here suddenly out of nowhere?  They’re being chased out of their home countries by gangs?  Where did THEY come from?  Are these gangs motivated by politics, drugs, economics?  Why are they singling out kids?  What or who is stirring this pot?

Don’t get me wrong.  Americans shouting at helpless kids to go home are ugly and mean and those are not American qualities that I want projected around the world.  And it’s not fair to these kids that so many states are turning them away when they need a place to stay if only temporarily.

But something about this story seems really improbable.  It feels like the emotional side has been fed an extra dose of steroids. It reminds me of some of the worst Hollywood sentimental tear jerking movies.  Or a little bit like this:

 

Yeah, Iraq shouldn’t have invaded Kuwait but while I was listening to that girl testify, all I could think about was what were the chances that the tiny country of Kuwait would have so many premature babies in incubators.  The numbers just didn’t add up. Call me a cold hearted cable TV viewer.  On the other hand, if you’re going to lie, I guess you should go big.

Still, gangs in central America chasing so many kids out of their countries to take a dangerous trek to America?  What are the odds?  What’s really going on and what is it they want us to do without thinking this through?

Sign me, Not Fallen Off the Turnip Truck

Iraq: The project that will not die

Open Carry extremists in Texas

Open Carry extremists in Texas

The first significant split I had with my brother happened over Iraq.  That’s because he was struck with temporary moronity  propagated by Fox News that trickled down to all of the other media outlets by what I suspect was a small evil group of psy-ops specialists.

It’s hard to be the only scientist in the family.  I’m sure I sounded like some unpleasant klaxon harshing the “let’s go kick some Haji ass!” mellow.  Everyone in America seemed to be on the same team.  There was no talking to them. There was no proof that there were WMDs in the desert.  There was no evidence for a nuclear weapons industry.  And you could be damn sure that if there was oil to be had there, it was going to be hoarded by the companies who went in there to get it.  That last one was a particularly difficult concept to get across.  They just didn’t understand WHY you would want to withhold oil from the global market.  It just sounded crazy.

So, now Iraq is falling apart and Obama wants to sit on the sidelines and let it happen.  In a way, that’s understandable.  It wasn’t his war.  He didn’t start it.  Also, he supposedly gave a speech about it that no one can find a record of.  And there’s that Nobel he needs to live up to.

But part of the responsibilities of being the leader of the free world is having to do some pretty unpleasant things.  I never thought that the president that took over from Bush in 2008 was going to be able to walk out of Iraq on the first day.  You don’t have to be a “war monger” to realize that stabilizing a country that has been deliberately de-stabilized by a bunch of ideological and greedy nut cases is a top priority.

But I get the feeling that the Obama campaign never got over its campaign mindset.  It’s been all about being the fricking cock-on-the-walk and controlling the foreign policy to the point of strangulation lest a political rival look good.  What followed was not a serious commitment to responsible behavior  but a couple of announcements that the war was over even though the country is still a chaotic mess.  I’m as disappointed with some of the pacifism at all costs people on the left as I am with the haji-kickers on the right.  Getting out of Iraq was never going to be easy and not laying the ground work for doing so carefully is going to hurt all of us.

For one thing, we can all expect gas prices to spike now.  Yep, it’s going to happen.  And if we are on a saddle point of plunging back into recession, this is certainly going to help that along.  When oil spikes, everything gets more expensive.  Poorer people are already wondering where they’re going to get the money to feed their kids.  Imagine how that’s going to go when the already high cost of food goes even higher.  How do you get to work?  What’s going to happen to the industries that rely on tourism?

But that’s a little selfish whining from some first world citizen, right?  I mean, how would you like to be a Kurd watching as the US prepares to screw you over again 30 years later?  Or any Iraqi really who lived through the last 10 years?  And if there weren’t religious extremists in the country 10 years ago, there sure are now because there is nothing that will create dangerous extremism better than instability and economic hardship.

There’s a warning there for Americans but we’ll probably be too distracted and hypnotized to realize what it is before it’s too late.

Oh, Brother

The bro comes home.  (yeah, yeah, I know it’s Fox but in this rare case, it happens to be accurate. The footage has not been digitally retouched):

Check it out here.

Cool.

**********************************

Some of the comments I’m reading are encouraging readers to jump on the “Let’s pin the Benghazi disaster on Obama right before the election!” bandwagon.  Nah gunna do it.  Here’s why:

1.) It has been our policy here at The Confluence since 2008 to not propagate either party’s memes or propaganda.

2.) In this case, it would be disrespectful of the four embassy staff who died there to cynically use their deaths as a way to score political points.  I’d rather keep the investigation free of electoral politics.  There *is* a story there and people should be held accountable if they neglectfully or knowingly ignored warnings that put these people in danger but we must weigh this against the diplomatic mission and the current events and developing situation in Libya.  That will require a thoughtful investigation so that the State department and the CIA benefit from learning what went wrong and who spilled the beans, etc.  It will NOT benefit from a cynical election year ploy to undermine the State department and foreign policy in order to disgrace Obama.  Let him take himself down, he seems to be doing a pretty good job of it without any assistance.

3.) Hillary Clinton is a big girl.  Yes, she is.  This is her job.  Let her do it.  If she gets called to Capital Hill to testify, she can handle it.  The Republicans have inadvertently screwed themselves here.  She’s a seasoned veteran of cynical, hypocritical, politically motivated investigations.  I hope they won’t call her up before the investigation is complete but even if the House Republicans rush her, I feel confident that she will do her homework and do the best that she can.  Let’s not undermine her mojo by trying to protect her.  We overcome sexism and misogynism by taking on challenges and rising to the occasion.

4.) We let Bush get away with a lot of really nasty s%^&.  He started an unnecessary war in Iraq based on lies, he and his party drained the Treasury to reward their contractor cronies, they increased the deficit, refused to “cut and run” (it doesn’t get more cynical than THAT phrase) and the whole fiasco has destabilized part of asia and cost thousands of military servicepeople their lives and limbs.  If you weren’t upset by all that by demanding accountability from Cheney and Bush but you’re getting your knickers in a twist over Benghazi, then you have your priorities seriously messed up.  You need to do some soul searching.

The foreign policy debate is coming up between Romney and Obama and I suspect that much will be made of Benghazi.  Or not.  I think this could backfire on the Republicans because there is a way for Obama and the Democrats to go on the offensive here that might win them back a bunch of Clintonistas.  It would require Obama to fake passion about something.  And that’s the problem.  He’s not a passionate guy and he doesn’t appear to believe in much of anything so any attempt at passion will look forced.  I dunno, maybe one of the debate prep team members will slap him around and knock some sense into him.  We’ll see.  But if they’ve been paying attention, they will know what to do.  This could be the Republicans third rail if they’re not careful.

Thursday: Rhetorical Talk about Rhetorical Jobs for Non-Virtual People

Words, words, words, yeah!

So, Obama gave a speech last night about removing troops from Afghanistan and bringing some home by the end of the year and blah-blah-blah.  Didn’t we hear this kind of crap before about Iraq? And how did that turn out?

Let’s examine What Obama REALLY Said last night:

For this reason, in one of the most difficult decisions that I’ve made as president, I ordered an additional 30,000 American troops into Afghanistan. When I announced this surge at West Point, we set clear objectives: to refocus on al-Qaida; reverse the Taliban’s momentum; and train Afghan security forces to defend their own country. I also made it clear that our commitment would not be open-ended, and that we would begin to drawdown our forces this July.

Tonight, I can tell you that we are fulfilling that commitment. Thanks to our men and women in uniform, our civilian personnel, and our many coalition partners, we are meeting our goals. As a result, starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point. After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.

First, we stopped combat operations in Iraq as well.  How many troops are still there?  More importantly, how many of those same troops are still under fire and presumably have to fire back?

Second, what is the definition of a “steady pace”?  100 troops per month?  1000 troops per month?  For how many months?  If planes carrying 100 troops leave Baghdad twice a week and planes carrying 300 troops leave Kabul once a week, how many months would it take to reduce the total number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan by 50%?  You may use a calculator and a scratch paper to complete this problem.  Please show all work.  Partial credit will not be given for incomplete or incorrect answers.

Third, who says Obama is even going to be in office in 2014?  But more than that, are we going to increase the number of contractors and mercenary types in Iraq and Afghanistan to replace the troops we are removing?  If not, *prove* it.  If so, how much are the contractors going to cost?  Imagine Iraq and Afghanistan are cylinders of unequal height and diameter.  What must be the rate of replacement to remove US military troops from these two cylinders and refill them with Blackwater Soldiers of Fortune?  (Do saddle points make you nauseous?.)

I only ask.

As Greg Sargent notes at The Plum Line, Obama chose his words carefully to suggest that the money saved in Afghanistan would be used to solve problems here at home:

* Was Obama’s Afghanistan speech persusasive? One of the key political challenges Obama faced last night was to persuade the public that he’s winding down the war fast enough at a time when its costs are skyrocketing even as we face chronic unemployment and a fiscal mess at home. Hence his claims that “the tide of war is receeding” and that it’s time for “time for nation building here at home.”

The deliberate choice of the latter phrase seemed designed to persuade Americans that the Bush-initiated post-9/11 war era is slowly but inevitably coming to an end, in order to buy some political space to continue the mission at levels that are (not quite) acceptable to the military commanders and won’t draw sustained attacks from Republicans.

Nice try.  But one of the first things that my mom said when she heard of the drawdown bringing troops home  was “And where are THOSE people going to find jobs?”  Good question.  Barry??  Bueller?  Bueller?

A bit of a cart before the horse, eh?  Maybe the best thing to do is to propose a real jobs program for real people.  But Dave Dayan at FDL says the idea in Congress is to say the right words, sprinkle some magic fairy dust on the jobs program, whine about how mean the Republicans are and get back to ignoring the unemployed:

The Senate Democratic leadership – all of them, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, Patty Murray, Debbie Stabenow and Mark Begich – planned a morning press conference today where they will call for job creation measures, or stimulus, to be included in any debt limit deal. They will say that deficit reduction cannot bring Americans back to work, and that recent soft numbers for the economy demand that jobs get the primary attention. According to the press release “they will urge the negotiators to consider new proposals to boost hiring in the short term at the same time that they pursue a plan to bring down the debt in the long term.” The phrase “equal priority” is in there as well.

Before Democrats let the narrative completely get away from them, this was the basic idea – stimulus now, doing no harm and even helping the economy through the rough patch over the next year or two, with deficit reduction to come later. But obviously, Democrats and the White House thought that the rough patch had ended with a few decent months of job creation, and so job creation was put on the back burner, at least in the context of the debt limit talks and the deficit deal. Now, with the new numbers, it’s clear that reducing the deficit will just put the country in a bigger hole.

There’s a sense that this is mainly rhetorical. Democrats have seen Republicans obstruct even the most piddling of jobs bills in the Senate. Yesterday the reauthorization of the Economic Development Administration, an old Great Society program, failed to break a filibuster. The reauthorization gave just a few hundred million more to the program, and was more than offset by the successful passage of the elimination of ethanol subsidies. Republicans still didn’t vote for it. Sen. Reid said yesterday,
“I don’t like to question my colleagues’ motives, but whether they work with us to pass these policies, or continue opposing ideas they once supported, will tell us a lot.”

I guess I can tell the bank that I am going to pay the mortgage too but in a couple of months, they will realize I was just being rhetorical.  I can only hope that the foreclosure documents are rhetorical as well.  Luckily for prospective employers, the Supreme Court has now made it safe to stiff female employees in the wage department because, after all, how are you going to prove it?  We all know that enlightened management treats all employees equally regardless of gender.  Anyone who is making less must be doing something wrong, Scalia seems to say.  For the knuckle draggers, the new Supreme Court Paycheck Fairness and Non-Discrimination policy should save some money.  How very Dred Scottian of them.  Whose going to an employer now for discrimination?  Maybe Dems can use it as a selling point in the new jobs program!

In the meantime, the job prospects of the liberated R&D professional are not going to get any better for, ohhhhh, I don’t know, about 9 years?  Check out this graph that Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline found on the “Patent Cliff” for the major pharmas:

That, my droogs, is a seriously scary picture for two reasons.  (Three, actually) One, it means that there are very few new and innovative drugs coming to market that will take the place of the older, more toxic ones, and that current drug shortages should be expected to continue.  Two, it signals that the system is broken.  There have been plenty of submissions, very few approvals.  Three, it means that things won’t start leveling out for us displaced sciencey geeky types until 2020 or longer.

Now, it might be the case that a lot of little companies, and the NIH roadmap for translational research, will pick up some of this slack. But that roadmap is in its infancy, no one knows quite how to implement it and it still takes years and years to develop a drug.  The R&D professionals will be trying to tough it out in smaller companies with less modern equipment, fewer resources and lower overall compensation.  It will be like moving the clock back on research by several decades.  Yeah!  That’ll make the young’uns want to study math and science more!

My offer still stands: we’re here, Democrats and Republicans.  Give us some retired lab space, decent salaries and all the reagents we can eat and we’ll make you antibiotics, CNS drugs and work on the other therapeutic areas that the bigger companies have abandoned.  All we ask is that you get rid of the merger and acquisition folks and let us decide how to use the money without the pressure of the quarterly earnings report.  We sell the patents to the US government.  Voile!  You can’t get a better value than that.

You want to concentrate on nation building here at home?  Save your scientific infrastructure.  We can even train some troops to work in the labs.

It could happen.  And that’s not just rhetoric.  That’s a jobs program.

Sunday: Lori, Noam, Libya and Paywalls

Lori

Lorenda Starfelt passed away last Tuesday.  She was 56.  Her death was announced by her husband Brad Mays yesterday on Correntewire where Lori posted under the name Basement Angel.  Long time readers of this blog will remember Brad and Lori as the filmmakers who documented the dispossessed of the 2008 primary elections.  I met them on several occasions.  Brad was a loose cannon and Lori was his voice of moderation.  She was beautiful with a dazzling smile and captivating eyes.  Brad says she died of uterine cancer that had spread to her liver.  I never knew she was sick.  I am very sorry to hear that she has died.  Her voice will be missed.

Lori intuitively understood the people who defected the Democratic party for the Tea Party.  She knew that racism had very little to do with it.  She knew that the Tea Party is rallying its supporters with false messages but at least it gives them answers.  The Democrats have abandoned its base, liberals and working class and the well educated unemployed.  We shouldn’t be surprised that the movement conservatives behind the Tea Party are picking some of them up.  In one of her last posts at Corrente, she posted this clip from an interview that the Commonwealth Club did with Noam Chomsky:

I have mixed feelings about Noam.  I can’t argue with the points he made in this segment.  He understands the way the powerful elite has used language to pit the working people of the world against each other while they make off with the loot.  And he’s right to criticize those of us on the left for failing to get our act together to deliver a different message.  But in an ironic way, he’s part of the problem.  For all of his justifiable criticism of the failures of the Obama administration, which he must known were coming if he was paying attention to the language of Obama’s 2008 campaign, he was willfully blinded to considering any of the other Democratic candidates as better options.  He didn’t like any of them, he says.  Noam reminds me of the people back in 2000 who thought there was no difference between Republicans and Democrats.  Well, there isn’t much difference now but back then there was.  Maybe Bill Clinton didn’t turn out to be the uber liberal that Chomsky and others like him were hoping for but there was a world of difference between him and the Republicans.  In the same manner, there was a world of difference between the top two Democrats who ran.  One lead from deeply held left of center principles; the other was just a brand who walked and talked like the finance industry that footed the bill for his campaign.  The difference between them had everything to do with who was backing them.  (Next time, pay attention.)

Noam’s weakness seems to be that he’s stuck in the 60’s, reliving the civil rights movement, Cold War and Vietnam.  Sometimes, I just want to smack him.  No one likes war and no one on welfare would prefer it to a well paying job.  The last thing we should do to help people on welfare is make it necessary for them to receive it.  Has he forgotten that poor people on welfare tend to live in the low rent parts of town, because that’s all they can afford?  That concentrations of poor people tend to perpetuate generational poverty, substandard educations and hopelessness?  No, Noam, we don’t want that.  We want government to help poor people by helping them get jobs.  There is a role for government but welfare isn’t a goal.  It’s a stop gap on the way to something better.

What would Noam think of the air strikes on Libya?  For the most part, he’s right about the unnecessary wars we’ve been saddled with.  Iraq was a sham that many Americans were tricked into pursuing.  But the war in Afghanistan?  I’m sorry, we needed to go into Afghanistan after 9/11.  The fact that the Bush administration screwed up the country after the invasion does not alter the necessity of going there.  A country can’t allow a ragtag group of terrorists to attack it and then turn the other cheek.  It sends a bad signal to the rest of the world, which despite our civilizing evolution of the past century is still barely holding itself in check from ripping itself to pieces for power and natural resources.

This morning, we  joined the French and other countries in attacking Libya as an impressive cultural shift continues to ripple across north Africa and the middle east.  Radio Free Europe sums it up:

The British and U.S. strikes came after French warplanes fired the first shots on March 19, destroying government tanks and armored vehicles in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

The campaign, called “Odyssey Dawn,” currently involves forces and equipment from the United States, Britain, France, Canada, Italy, and Denmark. It is the biggest Western military intervention in the Arab world since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

It followed a decision on March 19 in Paris by Western and Arab leaders to enforce a UN no-fly zone over Libya in order to prevent Gaddafi from carrying out attacks on civilians and opposition forces.

In an audio message broadcast on state TV, the 68-year-old Qaddafi remained defiant, saying he was prepared to defeat the Western forces in what he said would be a “long, glorious war.”

“You are unjust, you are the aggressors, you are beasts, you are criminals. Your countries are against you. There are protests everywhere in Europe, in America against the steps you’re taking against the innocent Libyan people,” Qaddafi said. “The people are with us, even your people are with us. All the people on Earth are against you. You will fail like how Hitler failed, Napoleon failed, Mussolini failed. All tyrants fall under the feet of the people. This is the era of the people and the great [Qaddafi] revolution.”

Uh-huh.  Maybe Qaddafi should cut back on the hot sweet tea.

If you are a person of principle, ideally, you want to allow the peoples of these countries to determine for themselves what their government should be and encourage them from the sidelines.  But the possibility that civil unrest threatens to destabilize the world’s economies might also make you want to act when a divided country starts to spiral out of control towards years of violence.  Better to pick a side, preferably the anti-dictatorship one, and aid it.  In this case, timing is everything.  Be swift and thorough.

I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to decide which American politician has been the driving force behind arguing for and assembling the allies for an air strike.  Hint: Ditherers don’t do it.  Unfortunately, unbiased reporting on foreign policy at the NYTimes is spotty, which brings me to the paywall issue announced last week.

While I admit to being a regular NYTimes reader, lately, I have been disappointed and a little shocked by what I read there.  Last week’s coverage of Japan’s struggle with their nuclear reactors was breathless and hyperbolic while reports of the dead, missing and displaced was muted.  For the “paper of record”, it was disgraceful.  Meanwhile, anti-government bias there is becoming obvious.  Maybe the editors aren’t aware of the degree to which they have conformed to the anti-government point of view.  But today, their blurb on the frontpage to their editorial on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget parrots the movement conservative line that “Governor Cuomo is right to argue for spending cuts” even while it laments that the wealthy in the state are not going to be compelled to cough up more in taxes. Who decided that the spending cuts are the right thing to argue?  Did we poll the residents of New York, consult with leading economists, call up some historians?  And this article on the sea walls of Japan that didn’t hold back the tsunamis is just downright bizarre.  Not only is the “government programs are wasteful; private industry initiatives are dazzlingly perfect!” messaging obvious, it’s worked into the piece in particularly awkward ways.  It’s almost like the editors took the original writing from the bureau in Japan and made it work for the Goldman Sachs readers.  Sometimes, I read an article and think *I* could have written it.  Recent writing in the NYTimes doesn’t have the same quality as it did even a couple of years ago.  The prose seems clumsy and amateur, even a little bit dumbed down.

So, while I love Paul Krugman and will find a way to get my fix, I’m not inclined to pony up more money for a paper that seems to be evolving towards the clueless “creative class” readers and Wall Street crowd.  For one thing, soon I won’t be getting a steady paycheck so wasteful government spending in my house is strictly forbidden by real budgetary constraints.  Besides, it’s not like the NYTimes has gone out of its way to cover those of us educated unemployed or working class stiffs.  The union busting moves in Wisconsin were definitely downplayed and even Krugman is puzzled over the way we, the degreed unemployed, are being ignored and forgotten.

The NYTimes is marginalizing itself.  It’s becoming a paper for Mike Bloomberg types and their minions.  The little people who still get the “dead tree” version will have access at no additional charge but if you have internet access, why the heck would you get a hard copy?  It just piles up in the recycling bin.  And if you’re not printing on as much paper, why charge $15.95/month for the electronic version?  Presumably, with the exception of the bandwidth, the costs of printing the paper have gone down.  Is the NYTimes just following the herd of other corporations that have given in to MBAs and consultants who don’t know the business they are asked to manage?  Cater to the money and tell them what they want to hear.  Screw the news, even if it is your core business.  By the time journalism is just a fleeting memory at the NYTimes, the business guys will have taken the money and run.

The NYTimes lost my subscription with the Judy Miller incident.  They’re not getting it back simply because they have international news bureaus, especially if those news bureaus can’t write what’s going on without passing through a political filter.  I’ll have to get my news from more international sources from now on.

Thank goodness Brooke is a budding polyglot.

Wikileaks the State Department

Click on pic for the game "Diplomacy"

The cables are out and now is the time to sift through them and come to our own conclusions about what they contain.  For those of you who want a running commentary, Peter Daou recommends Greg Mitchell’s blog at The Nation.

I’m not surprised that we’re spying on UN officials  and gathering intelligence from around the world.  Didn’t we learn from Joe Wilson that diplomats are sometimes deployed to get information about uranium shipments?  Even a Democrat must understand that keeping tabs on foreign nationals who reside in our country and are operating at a high level in world affairs should be monitored.  We legitimately object when our government spies on American citizens but I’m pretty sure that even Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson understood the value of keeping your foreign friends close and your enemies closer.  Let’s not be naive and let the world head for the smelling salts.  If Hillary authorized some of the surveillance, it shouldn’t come as a shock.  That’s her job.  What’s more important is how discriminant she or her predecessors were in applying it.

What is more surprising is how the NYTimes reports a remarkable lack of agency with these cables.  There is no indication who sent them or with what authority.  Are we to understand that no one in the Bush White House was responsible?  Things just happened?  Who should get credit for negotiating hard bargains in the current administration?  Specific people cause specific things to get done or not get done.  The NYTimes is cheating the casual reader of knowing who is responsible when the agents are referred to so vaguely.  The paper needs to clarify when the actions were taken and by whom.  I think we will all wait in vain for level headed analysis.  The reader is advised to dig into the cables and consult multiple sources for discussion.

In the wake of 9/11 and the Bush administrations heavy handed approach to diplomacy, we shouldn’t be surprised if American foreign service is in the midst of some serious rebuilding years.  A 2007 report that appeared in the Washington Post blamed Condoleeza Rice for poor morale at the State Department:

The report from the Foreign Affairs Council, which includes retired ambassadors and senior diplomats, also said morale is dropping among diplomats.

“In the first two years of Secretary Rice’s stewardship almost no net new resources have been realized,” the report said. It noted that Congress has twice denied money for Rice’s plan to rearrange diplomatic postings away from the Cold War model, which was heavy on jobs in Europe, and toward modern challenges in places like China and India.The council found a severe staff shortage and holds Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice partly responsible. The State Department needs 1,100 more employees, especially since recent staff additions have gone to fill jobs in Iraq, Afghanistan and other difficult posts, the report said.

Back in the Bush era, when conservative ideologues started permeating the State department, some career diplomats quit in disgust and some of them quite publicly. Some were given an ultimatum: to serve in Iraq  during the most dangerous period of the insurgency or resign.  As the WaPo article reports, Rice had a hard time getting funding.  None of these problems have gone away.  The Secretary still has to ask Congress for money.  The ideologues are still there. Let’s keep this in mind as we read through these cables.  Bush screwed up.  Putting it back together requires hard work and ingenuity.  The question is, will the people now in charge take responsibility?  How much is the fault of Rice/Bush/Cheney?  How much is still salvageable?  Who has stepped up and who hasn’t?

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