As far as I know, there is no truth to the rumor that the following message was found on a certain Texas lawyer's answering machine:
"Harry, this is Dick. I just wanted to call and thank you for your support of the administration over the years, and for your candor in explaining to me about the second thoughts you've had lately about supporting the brave new direction we're taking the country. I'm really sorry you feel that way, but I just wanted to let you know that I still consider you a friend. In fact, just to show you there are no hard feelings, I'd like to - I'm going to be down there next week and I thought you might like to go on a little quail hunt with me. Let me know if you're available, and we'll go bag us a few, OK? Talk to you soon."
Farming terrorists - the game Bush plays posted by Rick at 4:29 PM
I confess that I am a player of games. I'll play virtually any game at the drop of a hat. I play pool and poker and pinball. I play board games, word games, card games, and video games. If I can't find people to play with, I'll play a computer opponent.
One computer game I play entirely too much of involves running around a dungeon, earning points by killing virtually everything in sight. I know some people consider it pointless, even sick; but so far, it hasn't led me to commit mayhem in real life. To the contrary, I think it provides an outlet for aggression and negative emotions, allowing me to blow off steam in a nondestructive way. Occasionally, it also provides me with insight into real-life situations.
One of the critters that you run into in this game is the giant white mouse. Giant white mice are easy targets, so you don't get a lot of points for killing just one. You have to kill them in large numbers to get any significant credit. However, they also reproduce very rapidly. So players often do something they call farming.
The way it works is this: you find a giant white mouse in a room with only one exit, ideally a door leading to a narrow passage where mice won't have room to run around you. You do something to rile it up, then run to the exit and close the door. You wait outside the room while one mouse becomes two mice, then four, then eight... and soon you have a whole room full of giant white mice. You just open the door and stand in the doorway, inviting them to attack you and killing them as they come within reach.
The secret of successful giant white mouse farming is to avoid killing the last mouse. When their numbers run low, you close the door and let them multiply undisturbed for awhile. Once the room is full of mice, you open the door and kill most of them again. But not all. Because if you kill them all, you have to go run around the dungeon and find something else to kill. And let's face it, it's a lot easier farming giant white mice than doing battle with trolls and ogres and dragons.
This situation has many real-life parallels. The so-called health care industry in America is actually in the business of (and makes a tidy profit from) treating illness; it's geared towards corrective rather than preventive medicine. After all, without sick people to cure, how would the industry turn a profit? Likewise, the criminal justice system is all about exacting revenge on those who are judged to have offended society, rather than rehabilitating them - because the growing and profitable prison industry needs a constant supply of criminals to justify its existence.
And then there's the "War on Terror."
The Long War, to use the marketing term currently favored by Bush League mouthpieces, is what these people need in order to further their real aims. It's what they use to excuse their trampling of the Constitution, their abandonment of the environment, their ballooning budget deficit, and anything else they want to shove down our throats. They repeat the mantra at every opportunity. We're a nation at war. Dissent is treason.
They need the war to justify their excesses. Without the war, we might question the GESTAPO Act (I refuse to call it patriotic when its purpose is Granting Every Surveillance Tactic the Autocratic President Orders). Without the war, we might challenge the use of torture. Without the war, we might even dare wonder aloud at the suppression of dissent. Without the war, we'd probably have thrown the scoundrels out already.
They desperately need the war to convince us that we need them.
So they need to cultivate enemies. And they know it. How else to explain a foreign policy that often seems to have as its central purpose the pissing off of most of the world? How else to explain practices that accomplish nothing but to drive Arabs and Palestinians - and increasingly, Muslims around the world - into the waiting arms of the terrorist groups we claim to be opposing?
To return for a moment to the computer game: there is a danger in farming giant white mice. If somehow the explosively breeding critters escape confinement, they can take over the place - and then there's no getting them under control. The player's only recourse is to find a stairway and retreat to another level of the dungeon that hasn't been overrun with rodents. In the fantasy world of the game, you see, monsters don't follow you up or down stairs; once you've departed a level, everything on that level magically ceases to exist.
Unfortunately, there are no magical staircases in real life. For us, there's no escaping the world we create. Once you've cultivated a world full of enemies - or poisoned the rivers, or melted the polar ice caps, or wrecked the economy, or abolished civil liberties - you have to live with the consequences. We Americans, and the whole world, will have to live a long time with the consequences of the Bush League's folly.
Asking Gold and the War on Fiction posted by Vynce at 11:46 PM
Now, I'm no huge fan of Arlen Specter, but I think he's on the right track here:
You think you're right, but there are a lot of people who think you're wrong. As a matter of public confidence, why not take it to the . . . court? What do you have to lose if you're right?
As far as I'm concerned, that's one of the Golden Questions of politics, and it's exactly what the public needs to hear asked. "If you're so sure, what are you afraid of?" It's a sensible solution to a common problem in politics -- spinsters claiming that there's no reason to investigate, they're certain of the outcome. (It's worth distinguishing this question from its twisted cousin, the accusation that "If you're so concerned about your privacy, you must have something to hide.") Anyway, I applaud the Republican of PA for asking this question, and I hope the public hears it.
Arlen doesn't stop there, though -- he also wants to talk to Ashcroft. Why? Apparently John Ashcroft had concerns about the legality of this program. Hm. Maybe it's not as clear cut as AG AG says.
So Senator Specter, keep grilling Gonzales. Though I do wish you'd ask yourself that same Golden Question about putting him under oath: if he's willing to do it, why not ask it of him? You lose nothing by putting him a little more firmly on the record.
Speaking of the GOP spin machine (and "If you're so sure, what are you afraid of?"), did anybody notice Rumsfeld recently trying to have his war and win it, too? They say that the U. S. is winning the war on terror, but that the threat is greater than ever before. Their argument seems to be that the enemy is more determined and has better weapons. (Is that an admission that they didn't have the worst possible weapons when we started? I mean, I know they didn't, but that was supposedly a major reason we went, so I'd like to hear the clear admission on that point.)
Anyway, if they were talking about fighting a particular group -- say the Martians -- and that the group was more dangerous now because they're more desperate, I might believe that. Them Martians, man, they can get mean when they're cornered. And they're fighting for their homeland, after all. So yeah, the most dangerous time might be when we've pounded on them for a while and are about to wipe them out. But we aren't fighting the Martians. We have nothing against them as a people; we claim to accept them as our own. The U. S. even claims to take genocide seriously, so we say we have no plans to completely eradicate them. It's a good thing, too, because soem of oru best friends are Martians, and if they thought we were out to get them all... well, it wouldn't be pretty. And I'd not be proud to be an American.
But this war is -- supposedly -- on "terror"; and if the threat -- the reason to fear -- is greater, then terror is winning. That, to me, seems obvious from the definition of "terror". (Will this teach them not to declare war on nebulous, non-sentient enemies? Abstract, intangible nouns are hard to beat. Even the tangible ones are pretty hard to defeat if you don't define them rigidly. If only we had learned anything from the war on drugs, war on poverty, war on illiteracy, or war on Christmas. The nouns are winning those wars, too.)
So if we're winning, which war are we winning? The war on a people? Or the war on our own emotions? Or maybe just the war on news coverage of the problems we have here at home...