Long, Long Odds

It’s been a bad month for the U.S. military in Iraq, but it’s been far worse for civilians in the city of Fallujah.

Since the siege of Fallujah began after four civilian security workers were killed and mutilated at the beginning of the month, hospitals in the city reported over 700 civilian dead and 2,800 wounded. The U.S.-approved Iraqi health minister placed civilian death totals much lower on April 22, at 271.
[source: “AP Toll Says 1,361 Iraqis Killed in April”, New York Times, 30 April 2004]

Since the incursion was sparked by outrage over four deaths, it’s pretty fair to say that we’ve basically killed fifty-plus innocent victims for each of the four Blackwater contractors. We may have killed as many as 175 per. We’ve lost over 100 military personnel in the process, and over 1,000 resistance fighters are reported to be dead in the city, but as a punitive action — whose stated purpose even today is to “capture or kill” the people who organized the attack on the contractors — this harks back to stories of just about every occupying army promising to exact dozens of deaths in reprisal for each death of a soldier, doesn’t it?

Air America Is Still On the Air

The much ballyhooed/derided Air America radio network has been on the air for four weeks now, and I’ve been listening live most mornings (since I’m on Pacific time) to its star show, “The O’Franken Factor”, with Al Franken and Katherine Lanpher. I’ve got a few notes on the show and some of the others.

First off, let me say that I can’t take more than a very short period of listening to HannityOReillyLimbaughSavage and their ilk. I have no respect for their lack of factual content, or the lock-step manner in which they hew to the party line. So I offer these comments and criticisms with the hope that they’ll be taken as supportive of the intent of Air America.

“The O’Franken Factor” (OFF) has had some great guests. It’s one truly great thing about the show. Al’s at his best playing off of some of these very intelligent people.

Al needs to loosen his grip on his schtick. Maybe it’s a result of his having worked in comedy and speaking engagements for the past three decades, but he keeps coming back to the same touchstone stories. He’s used the same well-rehearsed items in his books, interviews on talk shows, and probably in his speeches. I understand exactly what he’s doing, because I do the same thing myself. They’re funny a couple of times, but you need to try to keep from telling the same gag to the same audience more than once. It’s hard to do when you’re on the radio fifteen hours a week — the temptation to fill time with a reference to, say, Paul Wolfowitz’s response to a question about the military — but he needs to loosen up and improvise if he’s going to mention the incidents. Don’t repeat it verbatim. Again.

Take more calls, but be smart about about it. OFF relies far too much on prepared material of dubious humor quality, like the Scalia/Cheney duck hunting recording. The show needs the jolt of randomness that comes from a good call, it gives Al something to play off of, and every now and then there’s something really great like the woman who called in today with information about how the President’s under oath when he’s giving the State of the Union speech. Al has a tendency to be too polite to people who need to be cut off, though.

Don’t fall into the partisan trap. A woman from Minnesota called yesterday, saying that John Kerry needed to speak more plainly if he’s going to have a chance to win this November. Al seemed a little flummoxed for a moment, then decided to take it as a criticism and turned it into a call for George W. Bush to tell the truth. Maybe he wasn’t paying attention, maybe he misunderstood the caller, but she had a good point and was just trying to explain what Kerry needed to do to win. Al needs to make sure he’s not just being as reactionary as the guys on the other side.

Use Katherine Lanpher more. She’s great when she’s asking questions of callers or interviewees. She deserves to be doing more than acting as a foil for Al when nobody else in on the phone or in the studio.

One thing I hope that OFF can stay away from is the type of slur another Air America host, Randi Rhodes, indulges in, like playing songs about how much Condoleezza Rice looks like a snake. I don’t like the woman, either, but it’s got nothing to do with her appearance. It’s awfully easy to attack people for their looks, certainly you see plenty of that from people like Limbaugh, who wasn’t above attacking Chelsea Clinton when she was twelve years old.

I’ll cross my fingers.

John Kerry Wrong On Spain

Sunday, John Kerry issued a statement expressing his regret that Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luiz Rodriguez Zapatero hadn’t reversed his decision on a withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

Zapatero campaigned on a platform that included a troop pullout. He’s stated any number of times since his election that unless political and military control of Iraq was turned over to the UN by the end of June, that his government would proceed with that plan.

American commentators have insisted that the Spanish electorate and the new government were “scared” by the terrorist attacks in Madrid just days before the election. Kerry seems to be buying into the same myth.

The current Iraqi occupation authority is obviously incompetent. After more than a year, there’s no civil order. Even before the current wave of violence, there was no effective authority. Kidnapping, robbery, and other crimes of violence have made Iraqi citizens less safe than they were under Saddam Hussein. The plan to turn over governance to an as-yet-unnamed Iraqi administration doesn’t address the reality of providing safety for citizens and occupying troops.

The Zapatero administration seems to be doing exactly what they promised to do before the elections. So far, they’re not letting terrorists, a disapproving George Bush, and now the tut-tutting of John Kerry affect their policies.

New bundleMaker

Michael Geary writes on DIRECT-L:

Hi folks,

I’ve made some important tweaks to the bundleMaker MIAW/.dir that I
started a while ago. It now produces healthier OS 9-compatible bundles.
Also added a copy progress bar (thanks BudAPI!), and some miscellaneous

If you need to make OS X + OS 9 apps, bundles are the way to go, and
this little baby is designed specifically for Director projects.
Download and share freely.


-michael geary

p.s. much credit also goes to Johan Verhoeven for making this better

p.p.s. Please feel free to contribute/improve and re-post!

Short Vision

In an April 8 commentary on remaking the Middle East played on public radio’s “Marketplace”, Tom Donnelly of the American Enterprise Institute stated that the U.S. can no longer look the other way, and that we must take an active role in the shape of governments in the region. His view of history seems rather short, however, because we’ve been heavily involved — mostly for the worse — in reshaping the Middle East for over fifty years. The U.S. installed the Shah of Iran in the 1950s and supported a repressive reign there that led directly to the rise of the religious theocracy of Ayatollah Khomeini a quarter century ago. The U.S. supported Saddam Hussein through the his war with Iran and the gassing of Kurdish villages, virtually up to the time he invaded Kuwait nearly fifteen years ago. And the U.S. supplied arms and money to religious fighters in Afghanistan throughout the 1980s to thwart the Soviet occupation, paving the way for the Taliban’s takeover of that country in 1996 and the subsequent establishment of terrorist training camps where Osama bin Laden orchestrated the destruction of the World Trade Center. In each case, the U.S. “plan” neglected to take into account the needs of the local population, fostering actual torture, war, and civil unrest in the name of supposed regional stability. I, too, believe Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan would be better off with some form of secular democratic government. But if they’re undertaken as our previous Middle East ventures have been — which perhaps Donnelly could read up on before his next opinion piece — without any real regard for the supposed beneficiaries, the results are likely to be just as unsatisfactory in the long run.


President Bush has been described by former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neil as “incurious”, a trait that seems to be shared by the rest of his administration.

One glaring example of this lack of curiosity has been Bush’s repeated claim that if the government had known about a plan to attack New York or Washington with planes flown by terrorists, they they’d have done something about it. Sure, who wouldn’t?

National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice’s testimony before the 9/11 Commission today repeated the party line a number of times. That seems to indicate a fairly restricted view of the situation.

There’s virtually no way short of a miracle that any intelligence agency can get wind of the specifics of something like the 9/11 plot. It was accomplished with a small group of dedicated people, on a small budget, with virtually no equipment. Waiting to get details of the plan — apparently the only way the administration would act — would never prevent the next attack. Someone needs to be asking questions, trying to figure out what types of threats are realistic, and actively searching for threats.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
—Edmund Burke