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The Daily Journal: January 25, 2007

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Glimmers of Life in the U.S. Senate
First Semi-True Vote Against the War

The kind of “surge” Congress could stop

Those who love war can’t stand those who’d rather not fight them, or those who’d rather end them when they prove pointless, as the Iraq war did sometime in late spring, 2003. That’s when it became evident that the WMD scare had been invented and that demolishing the country to rebuild it as a democracy would amount to nothing more than blood-soaked hubris. But the troops are there. How to keep them there? By painting those who want them out of there as traitors all the same—not to the original cause but, amazingly, to the troops. This is how the insanity of warmongers’ logic works: turn an attempt to safeguard the troops into a betrayal. And why not? If the Swiftboat fanatics were able to turn John Kerry’s decorated Vietnam service into a cowardly betrayal, and to do so on behalf of George Bush, who evaded the draft, then all realities can be bulldoze to the benefit of resonant lies. The electorate a few weeks ago booted out the Republican majority for not doing its job. The message was clear. End America’s involvement in the Iraq war, and soon. Bring the troops home. That’s not betrayal. It’s loyalty. On Wednesday, the Senate, for the first time since the war began, showed that its existence could matter after all. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 12-9 to oppose Bush's Troop escalation. One Republican voted with the Democrats’ majority. It’s a on-binding resolution. But it could be the first step toward a binding one that would have reduced funding as a consequence. Still, even in that vote, Joe Biden, the committee chairman, agreed to water down the wording of the resolution and not call the troop escalation by its name. He went with “increase.” From the Post:

"This is a signal: Mr. President, please don't go do this," Biden told the Democratic-controlled committee as debate on the resolution began this morning. He said the United States should be withdrawing troops from Iraq, instead of adding them, and said the growing antiwar sentiment in Congress was made clear by the icy reception Bush received when discussing Iraq in his State of the Union address last night. "I've never heard such a deafening silence when a president has laid out the single most important part of the presidential agenda as I heard last night," Biden said. "I hope he listened to us as well as we listened to him." [...] In debate this morning, [Sen. Richard] Lugar warned that passage would be "the legislative equivalent of a sound bite," would allow Congress to wash its hands of responsibility for the war and would weaken America's standing in the eyes of foreign observers."We don't need a resolution to confirm that there is broad discomfort" with the war, Lugar said. "If Congress is going to provide constructive oversight, they must get involved in the weeds" of the policy. The full story...

Curious word choice. Get involved in the weeds of the policy. From a Republican who spent the last five and a half years ensuring, on the Bush junta's orders, that the Democrats were shut out of the weeds of policy. He, and many members of the now-miniroty Republican Congress, are the weeds. Uprooting them takes time. But it looks like the Democrats are putting on their gloves. They shouldn't bother. It's bare-knuckle time.

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The Buck Stops Where?
War Costs, at Home

Ron Walters, Distinguished Leadership Scholar, Director of the African American Leadership Institute and Professor of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland College Park, writing in The Final Call: “The concept of victory that George Bush is pursuing in Iraq, is fallacious for a number of reasons that I could spell out, but I want to concentrate here on just one, the economic cost. The rate spending for the Iraq War has now exceeded that of Vietnam, which is $8 billion per month, and it is growing exponentially. For example, the successive addition to the budget brought the total cost to $436 billion, and last October another supplemental in the budget added $70 billion, bringing the current total to $506 billion. But it doesn’t stop there, another increase of $130-$160 billion is being considered to ramp up sending American personnel over to do training. That will bring the total up to $700 billion if it passes in 2007, but out in the distance, there is the possibility of a decision by Bush to beef up American forces by another 30,000 troops that will cost even more. [...] One major reason why Democrats should have communicated to the American people their lack of support for further funding for the war is that they have been placed in a box by the departing Republicans. The Republicans have completed only 2 of 11 spending bills and because of that, passed a law, funding the government at the current level, until February of 2007. But because it is reported that Democrats will extend funding at the same levels to cover the rest of the year, it is an act that will amount to cutting many domestic programs. This budget scenario would appear to run contrary to the so-called 11th hour agenda, some of which will have financial implications, like cutting college costs by restoring the funding for Pell Grants, passing the Minimum Wage, fixing the prescription drug benefit program and the like. Here, it is notable that Richard Nixon did not stop the War in Vietnam, he was busy following his own concept of victory for six years when he was impeached in 1974 over Watergate, even though Lyndon Johnson had announced a policy of Vietnamization in 1968. It took the Congress to stop the war by passing Foreign Assistance Act of 1974 cutting off funding to the South Vietnam Government, which started the wheels rolling toward closure. Absent control of the White House, Congress becomes the only tool that Democrats have in 2007 for being accountable to the overwhelming vote of Americans to close down this fiasco in Iraq. But they must have the courage to act.” The full column...

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Appalachian Jungles
Walking back from Vietnam

Mekong memories

Rez Dog, author of Unsolicited Opinions, has been working on his memoir of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. From a recent post: “Walking the Appalachian Trail in Virginia brings the events of 30 years ago into the present. The geography of my youth reminds me of the days when I faced the reality of military service and war. By the time I was a college senior in 1970, I knew that the war was bad policy, that the US was fighting against history itself in Vietnam, destined to fail, just as other invaders and occupiers had failed to defeat Vietnamese nationalism in past centuries. But that knowledge did not qualify me for conscientious objector status, which at the time required religious belief against killing. Like most Americans, then and now, I deplored killing but recognized the right of individuals and nations to defend themselves. I’d hoped the war would end before I graduated but it was still there, waiting for me after college. I had given some fleeting thought to heading for Canada or refusing induction but, in the end I decided to take my chances in the military. It was the easy way out for a young man whose father, uncles and one aunt had served in World War II. As a college graduate I figured that I could land a safe job, away from combat, and could dodge the moral issue of killing in a cause I did not believe in. I was wrong. I landed in the infantry and found myself in the killing zone–a grunt with a rifle–in January 1971. Ill-suited to the task and dubious about the cause, once in the field, I was more than willing to fire my rifle at anyone threatening me or my buddies. I numbed my mind to the fear and questions about the war, stayed low and just tried to survive. Luck was with me. My company saw little real action; I never fired my rifle at an actual target. It wasn’t that nothing was happening; every other company in my battalion was ambushed with at least several killed and others wounded each time. Squads from my company (but not my squad) were ambushed and took casualties several times; three men died in combat-related accidents. I was just flat out lucky during five months of combat patrol. And I was even luckier when I was assigned to the rear as company clerk. But I returned from Vietnam with questions about my moral courage, my willingness to kill in a questionable cause. Those questions have followed me ever since, never fully answered, never resolved.” See the full post...

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Flame-Throwing Taser
Good Old American Know-How At Insanity

From AP in the Sydney Morning Herald (note, incidentally, how even though the weapon isn;t going into production for another three years, the Pentagon is touting it as an eventual great advantage in Iraq and Afghanistan; planning to be there that long?):

The military calls its new weapon an "active denial system," but that's an understatement. It's a ray gun that shoots a beam that makes people feel as if they are about to catch fire. Apart from causing that terrifying sensation, the technology is supposed to be harmless - a non-lethal way to get enemies to drop their weapons. Military officials say it could save the lives of innocent civilians and service members in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. The weapon is not expected to go into production until at least 2010, but all branches of the military have expressed interest in it, officials said. During the first media demonstration of the weapon yesterday, airmen fired beams from a large dish antenna mounted atop a Humvee at people pretending to be rioters and acting out other scenarios that US troops might encounter in war zones. The device's two-man crew located their targets through powerful lenses and fired beams from 500 metres away. That is nearly 17 times the range of existing non-lethal weapons, such as rubber bullets. Anyone hit by the beam immediately jumped out of its path because of the sudden blast of heat throughout the body. While the heat was not painful, it was intense enough to make the participants think their clothes were about to ignite.

Don't think war. Think how every police and sheriff's department in the United States is going to jump on this like the next-great weapon of riot and crowd control, and not only that. It's the high-power Taser of the future.

The waves cannot go through walls, but they can penetrate most clothing, officials said. They refused to comment on whether the waves can go through glass. The weapon could be mounted aboard ships, airplanes and helicopters, and routinely used for security or anti-terrorism operations. "There should be no collateral damage to this," said Senior Airman Adam Navin, 22, of Green Bay, Wis., who has served several tours in Iraq. The full story...

That's what they still say about Tasers.

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Crumpling the Newspaper
End of Days at L.A. Times

That's not the only thing the LATimes is lightening

I can't say that I disagree with the paradoxical notion that the Web is the future of newspapers, or a much bigger part of their future; the web is the future of media. (I'm not exactly developing the Notebooks on parchment.) But the change agents give you pause, especially when they're Tribune Company change agents. From the LATimes:

Los Angeles Times Editor James E. O'Shea unveiled a major initiative this morning designed to expand the audience and revenue generated by the newspaper's website, saying the newspaper is in "a fight to recoup threatened revenue that finances our news gathering." O'Shea employed dire statistics on declining advertising to urge The Times' roughly 940 journalists to throw off a "bunker mentality" and to begin viewing latimes.com as the paper's primary vehicle for delivering news. In his first major action since becoming editor in mid-November, O'Shea said he would create the new position of editor for innovation and launch a crash course for journalists to push ahead the melding of the newspaper and its website. O'Shea [...] said the "Internet 101" course would teach reporters, editors and photographers how to post content on latimes.com. He emphasized the need for speed in reforming an operation that he called "woefully behind" the competition. The 63-year-old editor made the announcement before an audience of hundreds of the paper's journalists, who assembled in The Times' Harry Chandler auditorium. He said that some may have maintained a false sense of security about their industry because of the paper's continuing high profits, which were estimated for 2006 to be nearly $240 million, before taxes. "At this rate, those double-digit profit margins everyone cites will be in single digits and then be gone," O'Shea said, adding later: "If we don't help reverse these revenue trends, we will not be able to cost-effectively provide the news -- the daily bread of democracy. The stakes are high." The announcement by The Times editor follows an industry trend in which newspapers large and small are shifting resources and energy to the Web, where revenues are growing, and away from print editions, where ad dollars are shrinking. Driving the changes was a report by a committee of journalists appointed by O'Shea's predecessor, Dean Baquet, near the end of his long-running feud with the paper's corporate parent over reductions in The Times news staff. Baquet left the paper under pressure from Tribune Co. on Nov. 10, about a month after Publisher Jeffrey M. Johnson was forced out. Johnson had complained that staff cuts were excessive and that he had been stalled from opening new websites to increase revenue and forestall further cutbacks.

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Tales from the Gulag
Guantanamo Unclassified
 
 
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In the Blogosphere

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