Friday, June 03, 2005

What's it all mean, Mr. Natural? 

This is a humble blog. By that I mean that on most days we don't a whole heck of a lot of hits.

That changes every now and then when some kind soul like
Avedon or Susie or the General mentions something they saw here. Then there's a spike for a few days, followed by a return to obscurity.

About half of the hits Rain Storm gets on a normal day are generated by search engines. Most of them don't result in any actual reading.

What all that means is that I tend to notice when we get visits from unusual sources. That happened today.

Somebody at nbc.com did a search with blogpulse.com on the subject of military recruiting. The search engine hit on something we wrote below. About 90 minutes later, somebody from nbc.com stopped by and actually read something. The visit lasted more than 6 minutes. As you probably know, that's a long time in the blogosphere.

About an hour and a half later, they were back again (I'm assuming it's the same person -- same browser and operating system, same east coast time zone). This time the visit lasted more than 23 minutes.

An hour and a half later, they were back again. This time they didn't stay long. An hour later, we got a hit from msnbc.com. This is somebody different. They're on the west coast. But they zoomed in on the same pages that nbc.com was reading. Stayed a minute and a half and were gone.

Will Rain Storm get quoted on msnbc? I doubt it. But that's what passes for excitement around here on a Friday afternoon.

Have a great weekend. I'm hitting the road again tomorrow, so unless Jesuit Witch picks up the slack, content is going to be pretty thin here for the next couple of weeks. Hasta.


The T-Shirt You Crave 

Another Patriot for Impeachment. Get yours in time for the 4th of July and celebrate our independence.

Thanks to the
lovely and talented Avedon for the link.


The Dim Future of Military Service 

I often reflect on the positive impact my years of military service had on my life. Markos and I are pretty much on the same page on this. He says it better than I would:

Once upon a time, my wife and I sparred over military service for our son. Yeah yeah, he's 19 months old, but I fantasized about a military stint for him. I wouldn't be half the man I am today without my three years service. The Army gave me much of the self-confidence I carry to this day, that feeling that no matter how bad things may seem, I've been through worse and survived.

My wife and I no longer have that argument. The Army I served in is not the same Army we have today. Despite having Bush in office, there was a sense that we wouldn't be used and abused for dubious causes. We liberated Kuwait, sure, but Bush, Powell, and yes -- Cheney -- knew better than to push forward to Baghdad. They knew that in that path lay quagmire.

As I've written before, it breaks my heart that the military is no longer a viable option to many people who could benefit from its pluses. I owe the Army my education. Without it, I don't know how I would've been able to afford college. Many others from the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder have used the military to escape their ghettos, trailer parks, or barrios.

But that was when we trusted our leaders to take the lives of our men and women in uniform seriously. That's clearly no longer the case.

As I've noted in a few posts earlier this week, the military is having a very hard time making its recruiting goals. Now the Pentagon is struggling to figure out how to spin the bad news before they release the numbers for May.

The problem is three-fold. First, kids today, despite the usual ration of youthful hubris, don't want to spend their formative years in a hell-hole quagmire fighting a needless guerrilla war against suicide bombers. Second,
parents on both sides of the political divide are steering their children toward futures that don't include enlisting. And finally, veterans like Kos and me won't encourage young men and women to follow in our footsteps. It was good for us. It very likely would not be good for them.


Billmon on Deep Throat 

What the health of the Republic requires, in other words, may not be a new crop of leakers and whistleblowers, or a fresh young generation of Woodwards and Bernsteins -- or even a more independent, aggressive media. What it may need is a new population (or half of a population, anyway), one that hasn't been stupified or brainwashed into blind submission, that won't look upon sadistic corruption and call it patriotism, and that will refuse to trade the Bill of Rights for a plastic Jesus and a wholly false sense of security.
Read it all.


Thursday, June 02, 2005

What the Right is Really Afraid Of? Books 

Bill from Portland Maine writing at Daily Kos points out that the Radical Wrong has identified the 10 (actually 20 if you count the honorable mentions) most harmful books (from their twisted, paranoid perspective) of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Once you toss out the usual suspects like Marx, Lenin, Mao, Hitler (surprised they didn't like him more -- he is sort of a role model for those guys), you get to see who they are really afraid of.

Here are a few from the top 10:

Coming in at Number 4 (surpassed only by the works of Marx, Hitler, and Mao - imagine that) is The Kinsey Report. Apparently an honest discussion about sex ranks right up there with big time totalitarianism -- must scare the bejezus out of the fundies.

Number 5 goes to John Dewey's Democracy in Education. The fundies have a problem with the teaching of "thinking skills." That may explain a lot of things.

Karl Marx grabs another honor at Number 6.

Then at Number 7 is Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique. Apparently suggesting in 1963 that there might be more to life for a woman than being a stay-at-home mom (what we used to call a "housewife") foreshadowed the end of civilization as the fundies know it.

Comte, Nietzsche, and John Maynard Keynes round out the top 10 with deep tomes on philosophy and economics.

The second 10 has a few more hits that are revealing about the deep fears that plague the fundies and keep them awake at night. Remember, we're talking about the most harmful books of the 19th and 20th centuries. What other books have done immeasurable harm to our poor civilization. Think "ecology movement." Those evil tree huggers and their ilk.

Holding proud honorable mention positions in the second 10 are Paul Ehrlich's The Population Bomb and Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. Oh yeah, and there's a little book there by a guy named Darwin, and another sex book by Simone de Beauvoir. As the General says, "Probably French."


Spinning the Falling Recruitment Numbers 

Kos picked up that the Pentagon has delayed the May recruiting report while they figure out how to spin the bad numbers.
Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said the May numbers for the active-duty and reserve components of the all-volunteer military will be released on June 10.

"Military recruiting is instrumental to our readiness and merits the earliest release of data. But at the same time, this information must be reasonably scrutinized and explained to the public, which deserves the fullest insight into military performance in this important area," Krenke said.
You know what's next, right? They'll start to hold back the casualties report so it can be reasonably scrutinized while they figure out how to explain the dead and wounded to the public.


Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Dick Cheney's Bad Hallucinations 

Either Cheney is delusional, meaning that he acutally believes the crap he says, or he knows that he has to continue to perpetuate the Big Lie to keep Americans from thinking about the death toll in Iraq.

Despite not having enough troops to do the job (see post below), Cheney goes on
Larry King Live and says that the war will be over before King George II leaves office. Kos points out how this simply defies the reality on the ground.

A Rain Storm reader from Canada drew my attention to something I wrote last July about the difficulties of fighting a guerrilla war. At the risk of repeating myself, I'm taking the liberty of republishing it below.

Counterinsurgency: an ugly kind of war
Like the French soldiers of the late eighteenth century, we saw ourselves as the champions of "a cause the was destined to triumph." So, when we marched into the rice paddies on that damp March afternoon, we carried, along with our packs and rifles, the implicit convictions that the Viet Cong would be quickly beaten and that we were doing something altogether noble and good. We kept the packs and rifles; the convictions, we lost.

The discovery that the men we had scorned as peasant guerillas were, in fact, a lethal, determined enemy and the casualty lists that lengthened each week with nothing to show for the blood being spilled broke our early confidence. By autumn, what had begun as an adventurous expedition had turned into an exhausting, indecisive war of attrition in which we fought for no cause other than our own survival.

Writing about this kind of warfare is not a simple task. Repeatedly, I have found myself wishing that I had been the veteran of a conventional war, with dramatic campaigns and historic battles for subject matter instead of monotonous succession of ambushes and fire-fights. But there were no Normandies or Gettysburgs for us, no epic clashes that decide the fates of armies or nations. The war was mostly a matter of enduring weeks of expectant waiting and, at random intervals, of conducting vicious manhunts through jungles and swamps where snipers harassed us constantly and booby traps cut us down one by one.

Philip Caputo from A Rumor of War
Kevin Drum has a good post about the difficulty the U.S. is having fighting a counterinsurgency war in Iraq.
I've read over and over from military analysts of various sorts that we could have won in Vietnam. The basic principles of counterinsurgency are well known, they say, and we were beginning to apply them successfully when Nixon made the decision to pull out. If he had stayed the course, we could have won.

Maybe. But if those principles are so well known, why do we never seem to learn them? Instead, three decades after Vietnam, I keep reading
stuff like this:
U.S. jets dropped six bombs Monday on a residence believed to be a safehouse used by terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the U.S. military said. At least 10 people and possibly as many as 15 were killed, witnesses and doctors said.

Four 500-pound bombs and two 1,000-pound bombs were dropped in an operation designed to underscore the resolve of coalition and Iraqi forces....
This just scares the shit out of me. My greatest fear in Iraq is that it turns into the West Bank writ large, an endless, slow motion slaughter that demonstrates undoubted resolve but sucks the soul out of both sides in the process.
I couldn't agree more. There are two fundamental problems. One is certainly the mindset of those in the White House and Pentagon about how the war should be fought. The only thing likely to alter that is regime change in the U.S., hopefully this year.

The second problem is that, for the most part, the heavy (armor, i.e. tank) forces that make up the bulk of American units are not only ill-suited for the counterinsurgency mission, they don't train for it.

The U.S. Army has two large unit combat training facilities. The National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, California, is where the armor and mechanized units train to fight a big Russian-style opponent in large force-on-force engagements. The Joint Readiness Training Center at Ft. Polk, Louisiana is where light infantry and special forces units train to conduct counterinsurgency operations.

For the most part, the invasion force the U.S. sent into Iraq was composed of armor and mech units. They don't train for counterinsurgency. Consequently it doesn't matter how much doctrine and institutional memory the U.S. Army has concerning counterinsurgency. Soldiers, teams, and units only gain proficiency at those tasks upon which they train.

Score another one for those bright civilians at the Pentagon who thought they knew everything there was to know about fighting a war in Iraq, and for a president who, as an Air National Guard officer (before he stopped showing up altogether), indicated that he did not want to serve in that ugly little war overseas.


War Supporters = Gutless Bitches 

Kos, like me, is a veteran. We have every right to point out the obvious:
If every bloviating war supporter enlisted, we'd have the forces necessary to fight their war. But the gutless wonders don't enlist.

And to make matters worse, they don't encourage those they influence to enlist. The
War Preachers like Dobson and Falwell celebrate war, but refuse to urge their flock to enlist and fight. The War Pundits and Politicians hide behind tough rhetoric, so butch and manly, but refuse to beam calls for personal sacrifice. And the 101st Fighting Keyboardists cheerlead from the sidelines, but are too cowardly to urge their readers to put principles over personal safety. They claim the "Islamofascist" cause is the greatest we face, but none put words into actions. Why then, should anyone take them seriously?

When we had the troops to fight the war, they could claim, like Andrew Sullivan did, that the troops were our servants and had to heed their orders. But we're running out of soldiers to death, injuries, AWOLs, and horrific recruitment. Now is the time for these War Cheerleaders, these Chickenhawks, to show their mettle. Now is the chance for them to stand for something bigger than themselves and their video game fantasies. Now is the time for them to be real men. Real Americans.

Gutless bitches is right. They deserve nothing but contempt.
Oh, and in case you hadn't heard, we're running a little low on troops.


You know you're a Republican when . . . 

Via Bill in Portland Maine at Daily Kos:
...Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him and a bad guy when Bush needed a "we can't find Bin Laden" diversion.

...trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is Communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.

...A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense. A president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.

...Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton.

...the best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.

...providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy. Providing health care to all Americans is socialism.

...global warming is junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.

...being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery.
And since I'm in Flagstaff today I'll add:
. . . you want America to be just like it was when you were a kid back in the the '50s, except you really want a Wal-Mart supercenter in your town, and claim that anyone who opposes that is a social engineering enviro-nazi.


New Cafe in Town 

Congratulations to Josh Marshall and friends on the launch of TPMCafe.

This site has great potential for engaging commentary on a wide range of issues. Nice to see John Edwards stepping up with a few pieces on how expensive it is to be poor.

Josh kicked things off with a couple of intriguing questions: What would Dems (progressives, etc.) be doing now if they were in power? (at least one commenter has reframed this to "What will we do when we're back in power?") ; and is defense enough for the opposition party as we battle the repugnant right, or do we need an offense, too?

Throw into the soup a collection of knowledgeable and interesting contributors (usual suspects like Ed Kilgore, Steve Clemons, Mark Schmidt, and Matt Yglesias, but also some pleasant surprises like Todd (The Whole World is Watching) Gitlin and Annie (Blue Shoes) Lamott.

The site is free, but you need to register to get full content. I'm enjoying it.

Bartender, bring me another round of that Dark Mocha.


Monday, May 30, 2005

un-fucking-believeable: Is the President opposed to contraception? 

Martini Republic catches Scotty refusing to answer a simple question in the Orwellian Press Room:
Q And my question is . . . . is the President also opposed to contraception, which stops this union and kills both sperm and egg?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President has made his views known on these issues, and his views known —

Q You know, but what I asked, is he opposed — he's not opposed to contraception, is he?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, and you've made your views known, as well. The President —

Q No, no, but is he opposed to contraception, Scott? Could you just tell us yes or no?

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I think that this question is —

Q Well, is he? Does he oppose contraception?

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I think the President's views are very clear when it comes to building a culture of life —

Q If they were clear, I wouldn't have asked.

MR. McCLELLAN: — and if you want to ask those questions, that's fine. I'm just not going to dignify them with a response.
I'm assuming that the issue of contraception is important to more than half of the people in America. I guess if you get 51 percent of the vote, you just don't have to answer simple questions anymore.

Thanks to Susie for the link.


a hole in the world 

Go read Susie's Memorial Day piece. Just go read it.


to honor those who have fallen 

Since it's Memorial Day, take a moment to ask your government to explain a war that has resulted in over 1600 dead American troops and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

Documents from the British government reveal that that U.S. and Great Britain conspired to push Iraq to war in 2002.

According to a story in The (London) Times Online:

THE RAF and US aircraft doubled the rate at which they were dropping bombs on Iraq in 2002 in an attempt to provoke Saddam Hussein into giving the allies an excuse for war, new evidence has shown.

The attacks were intensified from May, six months before the United Nations resolution that Tony Blair and Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general, argued gave the coalition the legal basis for war. By the end of August the raids had become a full air offensive.

The details follow the leak to The Sunday Times of minutes of a key meeting in July 2002 at which Blair and his war cabinet discussed how to make “regime change” in Iraq legal.

Representative John Conyers has a letter asking President Bush for answers. He's asking you to sign it. I'm asking you, too.

Armando at Daily Kos has highlighted Representative Conyers' diary:

These are revelations of not only systematic efforts to bring a war against Iraq in most of 2002, it appears to be evidence that war was BEING CONDUCTED against Iraq in 2002. Representative Conyers provides us some new information on the question he has presented to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and an action item.

This morning I read the new revelations, again the London Times, that British and U.S. aircraft had substantially stepped up their bombing activity in the summer of 2002 in an effort to "goad Saddam into War." If true, we would seem to have the "smoking bullet" to the "smoking gun" of the Downing Street Memo.
Read the whole thing. Then go to Representative Conyers' web site and sign the letter.

Remember the fallen today. Bush lied. People died.


Sunday, May 29, 2005

Casualties of War 

This is the first of one or more pieces I'll write for Memorial Day. It's the day we remember those who have died in battle, given their lives for their country, made the ultimate sacrifice.

I've heard it said that nobody hates war more than a soldier. There are times I believe that's true. But there are other times I know that family members, especially mothers, fathers, spouses, those left with huge holes blown in their lives, a sorrow that never really heals, come to hate war more than even the soldiers who survive.

Attaturk linked to a very good piece from the Star-Tribune (you may have to register):

The McInernys will be at Fort Snelling on Memorial Day, for the services. They always are. And they will put a notice in the obituary pages that day. They always do that, too, placing a smiling picture of Roger J. McInerny Jr., forever 19:

"Killed in Vietnam on April 1 1970," it always says. "Remembered every day by parents, brothers and sisters."

Go read it all.


Reasons to be a Republican 

Jeff Gillenkirk, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle (screw the Paper of Record -- The Chronicle is the Paper of Choice as far as I'm concerned), has decided that since he recently turned 55, it's time to be a Republican.
The reasons are many, not the least of which is age. I turned 55 recently and, having lived more than half my life, I can't afford to worry anymore about the other guy. It's time for me.

As a Republican, I can now proudly -- indeed, defiantly -- pledge to never again vote for anyone who raises taxes for any reason. To hell with roads, bridges, schools, police and fire protection, Medicare, Social Security and regulation of the airwaves.

President Bush has promised to give me more tax cuts even though our federal government owes trillions of dollars to its creditors. But that's someone else's problem, not mine. Republicans are about the here and now, and I'm here now.

As a Republican, I can favor exploiting the environment for everything she's got. No need to worry about quaint notions like posterity and natural legacy. There are plenty of resources left for everyone, and if we don't use them, someone else will.

I want a party that doesn't worry about things before we have to. Republicans refuse to get hog-tied by theories such as global warming, ozone depletion, fished-out oceans and disappearing wetlands. The real problems -- if there are any -- aren't forecast to take hold for at least 50 years. So what do I care? I'll be dead.
Since I'm creeping up on the old double nickel myself, I'm old enough to remember back 20 years or so when a fellow named James Watt was Secretary of the Interior. Watt was sort of a forerunner of today's fundie-fascist radical fringe Religious Wrong. He figured that since Jesus was coming back any day now, there was really no need to pay any mind to all this ecology stuff. The party of Here and Now, indeed.

That brings to mind an old Doonesbury strip (it's Sunday morning, so I'm rambling on a bit). Congresswoman Lacy Davenport is talking with her maid and asks her where she is from. The maid replies that she is from Harlem. Lacy starts to reminisce about going to the Cotton Club during Harlem's "Golden Age."

The maid says she doesn't recall any Golden Age of Harlem. Her recollection of Harlem was a place of hard times and lost hope.

Lacy tells her to have faith, that Harlem will rise again.

The maid replies, "Yes'm. So will Jesus, but I ain't waitin' up nights."


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