A Veteran’s/ Armistice/ Remembrance Day observed on November 11 in particular shouldn’t just mean a gauzy and somber honoring of live veterans and fallen soldiers. It should be in part a day of anger and horror about the particular war that ended on this day, the stupid brutality of it, and the evil that followed in its wake. Of course, no continuously-existing government (US, UK, Canada) is likely to create a day officially dedicated to pointing out that its predecessor contributed to the deaths of millions for no good cause. But we have the capacity to remember lessons other than the official ones.
John Quiggin says something similar here. Jim Henley notes that Armistice Day was originally “dedicated to the cause of world peace,” before being transformed into an additional day of celebration for the military.
Scott Raab’s profile of Robert Downey Jr. in Esquire is yet another entry in the you’ve-got-to-be-crazy-to-be-a-genius-genre, which, as I’ve said, freaks me out a little. But it’s also just gorgeously written. The lede in particular captures something that I find fascinating about Los Angeles and the movie industry, and that I also feel like I’ll never be able to have access to or truly understand:
The back-deck view from the A-List is quiet and spectacular. That’s the monstrous ivory Getty Center standing mid ground, and through the haze across the San Fernando Valley, the mountains. There’s a woman taking a gentle dip in a pool beyond the far side of the deck, her head bobbing in silent profile.
Here the root beer is microbrewed; all proceeds go to help shelter dogs. The water, an advanced hydration beverage patented for high levels of stabilized dissolved oxygen, is A-list, too. Luncheon — sliced steak and salmon fillet — is being prepped by the chef, Louise, whose shortcake-and-cream dessert will be gluten-free. Is this heaven, or Pacific Palisades?
I am not making fun. I want to stay here, live here, curl up on the bench and snooze the afternoon away. The root beer is frosty and delicious. The woman in the pool is standing now, shoulder-deep, her back turned, talking on the phone; too soft to hear, her voice floats on the late-summer breeze, hidden by birdsong. Sun-kissed, my tape recorder shines, waiting for our host.
Our host is in a meeting, in the house; the A-list means the meetings come to you. A few moments more and time will jerk forward again, this blissful silence will flee in holy terror, and Robert Downey Jr. will come, calling me the name that only he has ever called me — dude — and I will tell him how happy I am to see him and to see how far he has come since I saw him last.
Last night, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow accused Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee and current gubernatorial candidate, of leaking sensitive intelligence information to the press. Hoekstra told the Washington Post this week that Maj. Nidal M. Hasan had e-mail conversations with a radical Yemeni cleric, Anwar al-Aulaqi. Maddow excoriated Hoekstra for letting Aulaqi know that his e-mail is being monitored:
MADDOW: Why is it Pete Hoekstra who’s taking it upon himself to tell the press that this radical cleric is having his email read by U.S. intelligence agencies? The FBI had not said publicly that this cleric had been emailing Hasan. The CIA, the NSA, the White House — nobody else had reported this cleric was e-mailing Hasan. This is just Pete Hoekstra letting us know — and letting the radical cleric who is under surveillance know — that he’s under surveillance.
Asked if there was a concern that Hoekstra was leaking sensitive information, a Republican spokesman for the House intelligence committee told Maddow’s show, “I do not know, guessing, since [Aulaqi] was deported, he knew he was a target anyways.” Maddow noted that Aulaqi wasn’t “deported,” but rather left the country voluntarily, according to the 9-11 Commission. (Aulaqi had contacts with some of the 9-11 hijackers.)
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) said, “I am disappointed that some have rushed to the news media with unfounded information in order to gain headlines.”
Hoekstra has been trying to use the Ft. Hood shootings to engage in a political attack against Obama, claiming “administration officials delayed briefing members of Congress about the alleged gunman,” thus raising “red flags” about what the White House was hiding. “What do they know that they don’t want us to know?” Hoekstra said on Fox News.
FireDogLake’s Marcy Wheeler rounds up some of Hoekstra’s “notable lies.”
The shift appears to reflect Omar’s growing confidence that his group can operate on its own, without al-Qaeda as its patron. “The Taliban have got the expertise, they have got the resources, they have got the momentum,” said Richard Barrett, coordinator of the U.N. Taliban and al-Qaeda Monitoring Team. [...]
“We assure all countries that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, as a responsible force, will not extend its hand to cause jeopardy to others,” Omar said in a written statement in September.
The messages from the Taliban leadership since the spring amount to something of a “revolution,” said Wahid Mujda, a political analyst who was a Foreign Ministry official under the Taliban government. “Al-Qaeda’s path is now different from the Taliban’s path, and they are growing more separated.”
Meanwhile, Spencer Ackerman says that Leah Farrell, former al-Qaeda specialist for the Australian National Police, has a blog that’s “attracting ever-more attention in U.S. defense circles.” That said, I think we can predict here and now that she’s going to stop attracting attention in U.S. defense circles since she thinks we should withdraw from Afghanistan and that al-Qaeda attacks on U.S. forces are a deliberate ploy “forcing a surge in American troop numbers” and creating a situation in which “Mullah Omar’s legitimacy would be jeopardised were he to publicly disassociate from al-Qa’ida and guarantee he would not again provide it sanctuary.”
She’ll stop attracting attention because, as Spencer writes in that very same post, there’s absolutely no constituency for withdrawal of American forces inside the Obama administration. Instead, the debate among civilians runs from “we should stick with the increase in troop levels that Obama has already executed” to “we should engage in large additional increases in troop levels.” And within the uniformed military it seems that everyone wants large additional increases.
I think we really saw this movie in Iraq already. Clearly, there’s a lot of uncertainty endemic to thinking about this kind of issue. What’s not uncertain, however, is that as long as U.S. troops remain in theater, we haven’t “lost”. It’s also clear that you don’t achieve “victory” by withdrawing under fire. Consequently, those considerations will predominate. As I’ve said before, it would be very different if military planners were expected to come up with deficit neutral proposals capable of attracting 60 votes in the Senate—that would end the war in the blink of an eye.
Brian Beutler talks to House Whip James Clyburn and reports that according to Clyburn the inclusion of Stupak’s amendment flipped a total of ten votes in favor of health reform that otherwise would have voted no. Given the closeness of the vote, that still would have been enough to make a difference. But it’s a lot smaller than the 40-vote bloc you sometimes see reported. And some of the “no” votes came from liberals like Dennis Kucinich and Brian Baird who might be relatively easy to persuade to vote yes on an un-Stupaked conference report.
Tom Shannon is a career foreign service officer. He’s also US Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere. Has been since 2005. Was appointed to the job by George W Bush. Five months ago, Barack Obama appointed him to be Ambassador to Brazil. He’s obviously well-qualified. He sailed through committee. And then because Jim DeMint is a bad human being, he was subjected to a months-long hold. Then DeMint relented. So now it’s Senator George LeMieux of Florida’s turn to screw things up with a hold.
Neither DeMint nor LeMieux invented the abuse of the hold procedure, but the Republican Party of the 111th congress has taken this to such new heights that it’s about time the Senate take some responsibility and start organizing itself like a legislative body of an important country and not like a country club. The ability for one senator to delay confirmation of key executive branch personnel indefinitely for no real reason has never been a good idea. At times, this power has been abused to advance policy goals I believe in. Oftentimes it’s used to advance bad policy goals. More recently, it just seems to be being used as a matter of principle—maximum feasible obstruction. It needs to be changed.
One of the lasting images from Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-MN) “House Call” — the right-wing “press conference” (i.e. rally) against health care reform on Capitol Hill last week — was a photograph captured by ThinkProgress here that read: “National Socialist Health Care: Dachau, Germany – 1945.” Another sign said that “Obama takes his orders from the Rothchilds [sic],” a reference to the famous Jewish banking family often implicated in conspiracy theories.
Prominent organizations and individuals in the Jewish community immediately condemned the displays and called on the protest’s organizers to take responsibility and apologize for ignoring the vile materials at the event. Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) posted a YouTube video and singled out Bachmann. Watch it:
Israel also sent a personal note to Bachmann requesting an apology but as of yesterday, she had not replied. She did, however, release a statement calling the anti-Semitic imagery at her House Call “regrettable” and “inappropriate,” but she still didn’t explicitly apologize for refusing to condemn the them earlier:
Sadly, some individuals chose to marginalize tragic events in human history, such as the Holocaust, by invoking imagery and labels which have no purpose in a policy debate about health care. These regrettable actions negatively shift the focus of the current discussion on this issue. The American people deserve an open and honest debate to ensure the best possible solution to our health care problems, and I agree that these unfortunate instances are wholly inappropriate.
It took Bachmann almost a full five days to publicly comment on the anti-Semitic displays. According to her spokeswoman, the congresswoman also “sent a letter to the Jewish Community Relations Council expressing her concerns and ongoing support for the Jewish community.” When Politico asked House Minority Leader John Boehner’s (R-OH) spokesman for comment on these signs, he simply replied, “Leader Boehner did not see any such sign. Obviously, it would be grossly inappropriate.” Rep. Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) spokesman called the photograph “inappropriate.”
The Anti-Defamation League has now also written a letter to the event’s organizers, asking each one of them to “use your stature and platform as a national political leader to reject and condemn the use of Holocaust imagery for political purposes, and to urge your supporters to find other ways to communicate their views.”
The two worst direct impacts to humans from our unsustainable use of energy will, I think, be Dust-Bowlification and sea level rise, Hell and High Water. But another impact — far more difficult to project quantitatively because there is no paleoclimate analog — may well affect far more people both directly and indirectly than either of those: war, conflict, competition for arable and/or habitable land.
We will have to work as hard as possible to make sure we don’t leave a world of wars to our children. That means avoiding centuries of strife and conflict from catastrophic climate change. That also means finally ending our addiction to oil, a source “” if not the source “” of two of our biggest recent wars. As the NYTreported in August:
The changing global climate will pose profound strategic challenges to the United States in coming decades, raising the prospect of military intervention to deal with the effects of violent storms, drought, mass migration and pandemics, military and intelligence analysts say.
Such climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions, say the analysts, experts at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies who for the first time are taking a serious look at the national security implications of climate change.
Remember on Friday when unemployment rose and 190,000 jobs were lost? Floyd Norris points out that even though these events were widely reported they didn’t actually happen. Instead, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the number of jobs went up and the unemployment rate went down. But then a seasonal adjustment factor was applies, and put things into negative territory.
Brad DeLong was inspired to make similar observations in mid-October when the media reported that new unemployment claims had fallen when, in fact, they rose and then were seasonally adjusted into negative territory:
One issue here is that in unusual times the seasonal adjustment process based on the recent past is probably not going to give you the best results. That said, I don’t think dumping the process would help, the labor market really does exhibit a lot of seasonality. But I think responsible journalism should report both numbers fairly prominently. Even if an uptick in economic activity turns out to be purely seasonal, it’s still a real occurrence in the world.
The video for Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” dropped yesterday, and even more than her epic sex-murder-high-fashion-and-Alexander-Skarsgard video for “Paparazzi,” it seems like a distillation of everything that’s made her as successful as she is. And it may be the video that’s converted me, on a really genuine this-girl-is-compelling level. Not that it’s not incredibly strange:
I think one of the reasons I admire Lady Gaga is that more than almost anyone else, she seems willing to embrace the grostesquerie of high fashion. She’s comfortable in the distortion of shapes, the tortorous high heels, but she’s comfortable in them not entirely because they make her sexy. Whether it’s the eye makeup that makes her eyes look uncomfortably big in the bathtub scene, or the twisted hands coming out of the white coffins, Gaga’s at home in both deformity and glamor. It’s an aesthetic that goes with the lyrics: “I want your ugly, I want your disease, I want your everything, as long as it’s free.”
And because she embraces that grotesquerie, Lady Gaga’s one of the few artists who is able to walk over the bridge between beauty and high fashion into the land of the truly fantastical. The crowns on the white semi-gimp suits from the opening sequence, and from the red dress she wore at the Video Music Awards remind me overwhelmingly of Cathedral Head, from Hellboy II: The Golden Army. They’re just stunning.
As a performer, she’s just astonishingly protean in this video. Whether she’s eyeless in the opening sequence, looking disturbingly like an anime character in the bathtub sequence, looking exactly like Amy Winehouse in a posed profile set against a burning bed, staring out from a diamond eyepiece, suspended in time as she’s up for auction, or shot straight on, up close, and incredibly vulnerable, she looks like a half-dozen different women. And that’s in about five minutes.