Saturday, April 21, 2007

Rant Follow-Up

The other day I was on a rant about the dangers of grief porn. Today I ran across an article that illustrates my point.

For some context, Exeter is a community of about 8,000 people with one high school in the middle of the Central Valley of California.

Exeter police say a rumor at the city's high school Thursday grew until dozens of students and their parents feared an on-campus shooting spree like Monday's Virginia Tech shootings.

"It's really not what everybody's blown it out to be," Police Chief Clifton Bush said Friday.

He said that, somehow, something said by an Exeter Union High School student about the Virginia Tech assault became twisted in the retelling. Eventually, other students were saying that someone had threatened to come to school with a gun.

"It wasn't a threat. It was a comment that was made — typical high-school stuff — that hit the fan and grew like wildfire," Bush said. "It's really a nonincident."

Still, school officials were swamped with calls Friday morning from parents fearing for their children's safety.

"We're trying to calm everybody down," Tamara Taylor, secretary to the school's Principal Don Brinkman, said Friday morning.
And trust me on this. Exeter is the type of town where someone might have shot first and asked questions later. And you know that this story is being repeated all over the country. An imprint will be left from the hoopla made of our "national nightmare" that will not be easily erased.


Friday, April 20, 2007

We'll Continue to Stand Up

Just thought you would all like to know that it's now official U.S. policy to do the civil war fighting in Iraq rather than having Iraqi's do their own fighting:

Training Iraqi troops no longer driving force in U.S. policy

By Nancy A. Youssef
McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON - Military planners have abandoned the idea that standing up Iraqi troops will enable American soldiers to start coming home soon and now believe that U.S. troops will have to defeat the insurgents and secure control of troubled provinces.

Training Iraqi troops, which had been the cornerstone of the Bush administration's Iraq policy since 2005, has dropped in priority, officials in Baghdad and Washington said.

No change has been announced, and a Pentagon spokesman, Col. Gary Keck, said training Iraqis remains important. "We are just adding another leg to our mission," Keck said, referring to the greater U.S. role in establishing security that new troops arriving in Iraq will undertake.

But evidence has been building for months that training Iraqi troops is no longer the focus of U.S. policy. Pentagon officials said they know of no new training resources that have been included in U.S. plans to dispatch 28,000 additional troops to Iraq. The officials spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they aren't authorized to discuss the policy shift publicly. Defense Secretary Robert Gates made no public mention of training Iraqi troops on Thursday during a visit to Iraq.
Damned right the haven't announced it yet. And I wouldn't hold my breath that there will ever be any official U.S. representative who is willing to say this to the press.

It's not really "news" in the sense that we already knew this from the reality on the ground. But (as Rummy would say) "one" has to wonder what the plan is down the road? Kill every Sunni?


Be On The Lookout

For this:

Editor and Publisher got an advance look at a PBS documentary by Bill Moyers to air next week. It's called Buying the War and is described as "the most powerful indictment of the news media for falling down in its duties in the run-up to the war in Iraq."

"While much of the evidence of the media's role as cheerleaders for the war presented here is not new, it is skillfully assembled, with many fresh quotes from interviews (with the likes of Tim Russert and Walter Pincus) along with numerous embarrassing examples of past statements by journalists and pundits that proved grossly misleading or wrong. Several prominent media figures, prodded by Moyers, admit the media failed miserably, though few take personal responsibility."


Strategry That's Working

Froomkin today:

As long as Gonzales remains front and center in the furor over last year's mass firing of U.S. attorneys -- as long as his goofy stonewalling continues to distract attention from all the elements of the purge that point so incriminatingly toward the White House -- he simply enhances his position as the ultimate "loyal Bushie."
Yep. Bush to the media: "hey lookie here, a nice new shiny weenie for you!"

When's the last time you heard anything about Bush or Rove's involvement, or charges of the larger issue of political dirty tricks involving voter fraud prosecutions?

In the olden days we had a name for Gonzo's testimony: Stonewalling.


And Another Thing

Greyhair has a terrific post below. I would add one comment.

I noticed that the media is interviewing Asian Americans a lot. They seem to be prepping the hate-crimes to come that will surely be a response to the VT shooting.

I don't remember the media making a big to-do over the Columbine shooters being white. Is white the default setting in this country?


National Mourning

I've about had it with the coverage of the Virginia Tech shootout. It has been the lead story now since it happened with little new "news" being uncovered. The world could be (and is) crumbling, but our lead news pictures/interviews are a few 20-somethings moaning and groaning about NBC's coverage of the event they're all too happy to be a big part of.

This event, along with a number of others in the past, has lead me to believe a few things:

1.) The media coverage is extreme when they decide it's to be a national story. I'm coining a new term for this: "grief porn". The coverage gets so voyeuristic and extreme as to qualify as porn in my book. And coverage gets porn-like when there isn't anything better to distract the viewing public. Grief porn was created by the media, but is only successful because of the lizard-brain-rubber-necking response in humans.

2.) There are individuals in our society who are addicted to grief porn. Some individuals actually derive a sort of vicarious joy from experiencing these events at a distance .... an intellectualized grief ... that allows them a sense of connection to something bigger than themselves (because they're too lazy to make a life for themselves). These people are in danger of not knowing what real grief is as their emotions get exaggerated in an non-intimate way.

3.) The victims, or those in close enough proximity as to warrant media attention, are often seduced into becoming stars of the event ... their fifteen minutes if you will. For many of these, it doesn't take long to get seduced into the eventness and lose sight of any personal morality.

4.) Grief porn is very very bad for the country. By nationalizing such stories and then giving them a huge megaphone, we encourage copycats. But even worse than that. We take an event that is rare, present it as commonplace and turn it into a reason to be afraid. Now every person on a campus in the U.S. will be paranoid about shooters. Campuses will take ridiculous extremes for "security", an impossible goal on a college campus. All of this will cost a whole lot of peace-of-mind and a whole lot of dollars.

The Virginia Tech story is a poster child for the point Michael Moore was trying to make in his documentary, "Bowling For Columbine". While I'm all for strict gun control laws, guns aren't the root problem. Fear is. We have become a nation of irrational children who are afraid of our shadows. We wipe shopping carts with anti-bacterial wipes while wolfing down junk food, worry about mercury in vaccines while turning a blind eye to coal-fired electric plants, refuse to buy a vegetable if it has a blemish but eat any kind of packaged junk with a pretty picture on the label, and carry handguns for safety while driving like crazy-people. We willfully ignore the poisoning of the planet with a petroleum based economy, use resources at an unsustainable rate and elect politicians who are all too happy to pander to our stupidity while ripping off our nation.

I don't know. I must be getting old or something because the world increasingly looks foreign to me. It's all probably a natural progression as the gavel gets handed over to newer generations to deal with a world that changes at a breakneck pace. But that doesn't mean I can't bitch about it. Every. Step. Of. The. Way.


Embed At Virginia Tech

Here's a quote from a reporter who is covering the Virginia Tech shooting. He was also an embed in Iraq:

Bowman, an Air Force veteran, says even covering the war as an embed, which for him included a close call with an enemy attack, had less exposure to outright tragedy and suffering than the campus shooting has offered. "The war was a process, things were happening every day. This is more aftermath of a major calamity," he said. "You are dealing with victims, investigations and traumatized family members and getting at the truth. A massive story to get your hands around."
Tribalism is fasinating.

This reporter is outright saying that because it's happening in his home, to his people, his country, it's more traumatic. Frankly, if he didn't experience the up-close and personal aspects of tragedy in Iraq, he didn't do a good job.

I'm not sure he's being totally provincial, but the news piece in E&P came across that way. I think he's trying to make the point that the Virginia Tech tragedy is a .... tragedy. But it came across as if he's saying it's more of a tragedy than the daily mass murders occurring in Iraq. Let's go ask a few Iraqi's who have lost family members how they feel.


Dumbest Ever

The 15 most embarassing photos of our Dear Leader.
I'm embarassed to be an American.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Ain't Gone Yet

President Bush was "pleased" with Abu performance today.


Belly Achin'

There sure is a lot of it today towards NBC for airing the video of the nutbar Virginia Tech killer.

I think it's a bunch of nonsense. The bellyachin'.

People in this country have voted with their clickers to be entranced by stories such as this one. Frankly I think they are local stories, but the likes of CNN, Fox and the networks have sought to make themselves the "national forum" when "major" events occur mainly because they're just on the air waaaay too much and have too much time to fill. Ok. So this was a major event and the ratings will show that everyone flocked to the news media for the latests on what was happening in our "national nightmare". So why should the media be lambasted when they continue giving viewers what they want by publishing the nutbars video? It's news (as least as judged by today's standards). It's relevant (at least as judged by today's standards). It certainly lent insight into the "why" of the event. And trust me, had they held it back they would be lambasted too. Who knows, maybe the starkness of this guy's psychosis will actually cause people to think seriously about mental health care? Maybe.

It offends my sensitivities that the story got trumpeted like some kind of new episode of "24", dominating the airwaves over, oh say, events in Iraq that are far more tragic for the world (ferchrissakes) and occur on a daily basis. It seems that there are many viewers who only want to be a part of the "national nightmare" as long as it appeals to their particular sensitivities. Well get over it gang. You want sensationalized news coverage, you got it. And if you don't want it, hit the off button.

OH. And a special note especially for Big Ed Schultz who gave this topic front-center coverage on his show today. Big Eddie reminded me of another local asshole Ron Owens (KGO Radio, S.F.) who is so arrogant and self-important that it makes you want to upchuck.

Big Eddie: I've turned you off. I listened to Paul Harvey rather than listening to your trying to be the voice of America and "our" sensitivities. You are a media whore (oh my) and will do anything to promote yourself and your program. I've gotten to the point where I have to wonder about accusations that you are a closet conservative who has opportunistically become a liberal so as to rake in cash by being the liberal Rush Limbaugh. Wouldn't surprise me in the least. Anyway, I'm using the "off" button on you. Seeya.

Ok. rant off


Texas Toast

Of course Abu Gonzales is testifying today in front of the Senate. And of course he's lying through his teeth and generally putting on a "disappointing performance". And of course public opinion is against him and everyone in the media will be reporting his "failure" during his testimony to "save his job". And of course it's all irrelevant.

Unless a large number .... and I mean a BIG number of Republican Senators go to Bush and say that they want Gonzo gone, he'll stay. Bush, permanently stuck stupid, will loyally keep the idiot Abu in his job just because everyone else thinks he should be fired. It's in Bush's nature and is not going to change at this late date. Oh. And the same goes for Paul "slobbering on his comb and holey socks" Wolfowitz.

Update: When Tom Coburn (R-Nutbar-Oklahoma) calls for Abu to resign in an open Senate hearing, it's getting close to possible.


They're OK

Like Atrios, I am surprised by this:

WASHINGTON — While Congress and the White House remain divided over what to do with the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the USA, a new poll shows the American public appears to have reached a consensus on the question.

A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken last weekend found that 78% of respondents feel people now in the country illegally should be given a chance at citizenship.
I know this is pretty much how I feel, but I assumed that the country was much more hostile to illegals. All my perceptions prove is that the right-wing is quite effective in getting out their message. Like evangelicals, clearly those who are "minutemen" have a greatly over-represented voice in the media when in fact most people realize that illegals are a important and necessary part of our country's functioning.


Iraq Catch Up

Oh. And I haven't mentioned it lately. But Iraq is still FUBAR.

Locally we've had two killed soldiers in one week .....


Abortion Rights Bye Bye

One of the big stories yesterday was the Supreme's deciding that "partial birth abortion" was illegal.

In practical terms, this is really kind of a non-story. There are alternatives for doctors to the particular procedure that is banned. As everyone notes, the bigger danger is the regulatory effect and opening the doors to other legislation preventing other abortion procedures. Abortion is de facto illegal in much of the country already, the "red" states, due to regulations, opposition to clinics and harrassment.

Of course none of this was unpredictable nor should it be surprising. When Bush won in 2004 it was fati accompli. As others point out, the bigger story may be how the Democratic party is slowly abandoning the issue, much like they've abandoned gun control and the death penalty. Medical technology is making abortion a less critical issue as well.

The only solution will be to continue the liberal movement. It will take years to swing the Supreme's back to some sort of reasonable place and I'm afraid we're in for a generation of a very conservative court.


Follow Up To Comment

As a follow-up to my comment about the Virginia Tech murders, there was an article in my local paper today. A young schziophrenic lost it and murdered his mother. The family made repeated attempts to get him treatment before the attack but got the same kind of response as the Virginia Tech gunman got. This local story won't get national exposure because of it's scale. But these tragedies are happening every day across the country.


Just Say No

"Just because we volunteered, doesn't mean we volunteered to throw our lives away for nothing. You can only push human beings so far," says Marc Train, a 19-year old soldier from America's heartland. "Soldiers are going to Iraq multiple times. The reasons we're there are obviously lies. We're reaching a breaking point, and I believe you're going to see a lot more resistance inside the military."
Train's a private in the US Army, stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia. But the last time anyone saw him on base was March 16, just before he headed to DC to protest the war he is expected to fight.

Wouldn't it be great if someday they gave a war and nobody came?


Seal Hunt Slowed

Canadian coast guards are trying to rescue the occupants of about 100 seal-hunting boats trapped in ice off the Newfoundland coast. Several of the boats are threatened with damage or sinking, some reportedly are running out of food and fuel, and at least one crew has abandoned ship. Fishermen have described conditions as the worst in more than 20 years. The hunt, described by activists as cruel and unnecessary, is currently in its third and largest stage. The Canadian Fisheries Dept. said 2/3 of the 270,000-seal quota had already been killed.

A small bit of good news. I'm rooting for the ice.


Pet Food Recall Widens

Now it's rice gluten.

SAN FRANCISCO – April 18, 2007 – Wilbur-Ellis Company is voluntarily recalling all lots of the rice protein concentrate the San Francisco company’s Feed Division has shipped to pet-food manufacturers because of a risk that rice protein concentrate may have been contaminated by melamine, an industrial chemical used to make plastics and fertilizers that can lead to illness or fatalities in animals if consumed.
Wilbur-Ellis noted that it obtained rice protein from a single source in China and shipped to a total of five U.S. pet-food manufacturers located in Utah, N.Y., Kansas and two in Missouri.

Hat tip to Monkeyfister


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Pugilist and the Wimp

Josh Marshall's site has some inside dope on the meeting today between Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and our Preznit. Here's an excerpt:

"Reid made it clear to the President that he understood that the President and Vice President after the veto would come after him and Speaker Pelosi with everything they have. Reid said that he and Pelosi would respond just as aggressively. He said he was convinced that they were on the right side of the issue."
I guess our child-in-chief was a bit offended when Reid compared Iraq to Vietnam. Afterall, it's not common for the two year old to be told "no". I hope Reid means what he says and that Congress is prepared for war with the White House. Bush will not back down. The Republican watch continues.


A Comment on Virginia Tech

It's been impossible to not follow the story of the shooter at Virginia Tech. As more details have emerged, it's a familiar picture. I want to comment on the mental health aspect of the tragedy.

Back in the day, say mid-1960's, if someone was mentally deranged they were given government sponsored treatment in a state run hospital, indefinately if needed. Today, if someone is detained by the police as troubled, the police largely don't know what to do with them. Inpatient mental health care is virtually non-existant in the U.S. anymore, particularly for those who suffer from psychotic disorders.

From what I've read it sounds like this fella certainly qualified as psychotic. Schzophrenia typically shows up in late teens/young adulthood. The propensity for violence of schzophrenics is low ... lower than the general population ... but it does happen. The story of this perps treatment is legion. He was properly detained at one time, taken to a hospital, held for 24 hrs. then released, typical treatment these days. Schzophrenia is not caused by environment or situation, it's an organic brain disorder that is inherited in a small portion of the population. But again, despite the clear indications that this fella was troubled, there were no serious options for his treatment.

Most of these folks ultimately end up as member of our homeless population. But some flip. And when they do, there's no understanding the motiviation for them acting the way they do. It would be like asking a schozophrenic why they see spiders on the wall (when there are no spiders). They would give you an answer that would be logical to them, and be meaningless to you and me.

So as a society we choose to not address the treatment and care of those who have severe psychotic disorders. Instead we choose to pay the price in the way the students have at Virginia Tech (and in many many other "hidden" ways). It's the old "pay me now or pay me later" mentality with U.S. citizens often choosing to pay in ways they don't actually choose, but rather in ways that just "happen". Welcome to the Republican dream!

Finally a comment on all the ignorant media nonsense about anti-depressant medications. Of course he, and many many other shooters, are on anti-depressants. That is meaningless. Most of the shooters also brushed their teeth within a day or two, but that doesn't mean that tooth paste causes violence. Anyone who is acting depressed or bizarre is likely to be on medication for treatment. That does not mean the medication "causes" the behavior. It's like the nonsense about suicides. Of course more people who commit suicide are on anti-depressants, they're depressed! It's common protocol that the most dangerous time for a depressed patient is after beginning treatment. Prior to treatment, patients lack the energy for violence. Their energy returns first giving them the ummmph to take action before actually feeling better, a time when they can kill. And this is assuming they've followed the treatment protocol.

This has been a tragic situation, but not as uncommon as you might think. The particular form of violence he choose was rare, but many tragic situations occur all the time because of our blindness to the needs to the severely mentally ill. It just happens that this time, no one could ignore the tragedy because this ill person chose to act out his psychosis all over the campus, and all over anyone who got in the way.


Quote of the Day


People hate this war and hate George Bush, and every time he gets on the teevee and reminds people that the Democrats want to bring the troops home it makes them like Democrats.
I'm still getting settled from being unsettled for a week. I'll be back to regular posting soon!


Monday, April 16, 2007

Gonzales Testifies

It's really funny watching all the posturing about Gonzo's testimony. I particularly like Dems saying that the hearings with him are "make or break". Unless they've forgotten, it's not up to them.

His testimony appears to be more of the same .... garbage. Will that mean he's fired? I don't think so. Not unless there's some really serious Republican pressure put on Bush. And I mean a LOT of pressure. I'm reminded of the scene in the movie "Patton" where a mule is blocking a military convoy. Patton comes up to the mule and proclaims "it's a goddamned mule blocking the way?" and then Patton shoots the mule having it pushed off a bridge by a tank. That's what Republicans will have to do to Bush.


Life In Iraq

Click on the title and read a personal story of just how sectarian violence is playing out in Iraq when a Sunni woman is married to a Shiite man.


Sums It Up

Juan Cole is posting on the dis-reality of Dick Cheney today. That's nothing new. But in that post, Cole capsulizes why our occupation of Iraq is doomed to fail militarily:

The Sunni Arab guerrillas in Iraq enjoy all the advantages of internal social and political mobilization-- sophisticated tactics, high-powered munitions, excellent networking and communications. They benefit from a vast Sunni Arab hinterland of support that includes the oil millionnaires of the Gulf (there are a lot of them and they hate to see fellow Sunnis mistreated) and the committed young professionals of Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, the Sudan, and North Africa.

Against 6 million truly mobilized people, a mere 160,000 foreign troops is unlikely to prevail. The US lacks good intelligence on the guerrillas, and there is no prospect of it getting better intelligence soon. In fact, every year more Sunni Arabs hate us than the year before.
Exactly. This war will require a political solution and a lot of accomodating by Iraq/Iran Shiites. Iraq is now a proxy war for the larger Sunni/Shia conflict that can now only be resolved by the regional groups involved. Until then American soldiers are just pawns of the battle.


Inflation Ex-Inflation

Here's you regular inflation update.

The U.S. investment community continues in denial about inflation in the U.S. Measuring "core" inflation, which excludes food and energy, is nonsense. Tim Iacono puts it this way:

But that's a lot like looking at a burning garage, where the fire has not yet spread to the house, and concluding that the situation is under control.
We're in the same place we were last year at this time with one big difference. If you'll remember, last year energy prices were rising and it was beginning to permeate the economy. Then summer came and the impending elections where Goldman-Sachs did it's dipsy-do election manipulating bail-out. Gas prices fell precipitiously, inflation eased in the ex-inflation areas and everyone sighed with relief.

Too bad it's not last year. There's no election this year and Goldman has shot it bullets. Oil supplies are tightening, gasoline prices are approaching new highs and it doesn't look likely for there to be a real easing until after the "driving season". Bottom line? I think we're in for some more inflation that will be a bit more profound than last year, causing the Fed to have to maintain interest rates (if not increase them).


PBS Does It Again

Last night, PBS aired the first in a series of documentaries on post 911 America. Fittingly, the first entry was a two hour documentary on the origins of al Qaeda.

This first installment was fantastic. It was the most objective, complete explanation of just how al Qaeda came into existence giving an unparalelled history of the movement. I don't know if PBS is going to put up the video or not, but if you ever get a chance to watch it and you want to get an idea of just why the world is where it is today, give it a view. I'm hoping the future installments of the series (I think there are like 12 or 14 altogether) are of equal quality.



This is my new home (number 3, but who's counting). Since blogger won't let me in to my old blog of a couple of years, I'll take more server space with a whole new setup.

It's gonna take a bit of time for setup, maybe a long time. But blog content will be here straight away.

So, Enjoy!