provenance: unknown

« Killing for security  |  Further miscellany from a remote locale »

Notes upon housesitting

  • It's remarkable how utterly a change of environment can muck up one's ability to get certain things done.
  • On the other hand, some good ideas often come out of a change of pace.
  • Some cats seem to prefer to eat on the rug. No doubt they simply wish to observe local custom — the dining tables in this house are on rugs, too. But I wish I'd known; I left the placemats in the cabinet, where I suppose the cat just couldn't get to them. And picking feathers (plus a head and a foot, once belonging to some nondescript, medium-sized gray bird) up off a rug gives one more than sufficient time to conjecture where exactly the breach of etiquette may have lain.
  • I only saw the eclipse briefly. (Celestial spectacle rarely seems to hold my interest, somehow.) From where I stood, a topmost lunar segment still shone white, with the area below lightly (darkly?) tinted red; but the whole was on too small a scale to overly impress. It reminded me, though, of the beginning of a hike in the Sierra Nevada a few summers ago; as I hiked, west, up a valley, I watched the moon descend behind a pass ahead of me as the sun rose on my back, and it felt like I could feel the earth, its motion fixed by the two bodies before and behind, rotating beneath my feet.
  • The Lakers lost. The Lakers lost! I'd barely watched a basketball game all year, but I watched San Antonio finish them off. It was oddly unmoving to see the Lakers get all teary over it; it seemed to betray a surprising lack of perspective. And I admit I am glad to see them lose. They were always a team blessed with such potential for grace that nevertheless always won ugly. Kobe Bryant is such a pretty player it's almost impossible not to love to watch him, and yet he acts like winning is a birthright. Shaquille O'Neal is an astoundingly gifted athlete, but he bullies other players with raw strength and size, and plays the victim on those rare occasions when the refs don't favor him. And the rest of the Lakers seem to have adopted a similar sense of entitlement; you could respect their effort, if it weren't for their attitude. Rick Fox embodies this best; he's a pretty boy, mediocre in every way (though solid, by the standards in question), who nevertheless acts the condescending superstar through and through. Nor is it even obvious how "dominant" a team these Lakers ever were, to me at least; too many incidentals — injuries on other teams, referees' bad calls — have played too big a role in their recent success.

    And it was only fitting to see them beaten by Tim Duncan, a phenomenal athlete in his own right but one who embodies not raw talent, but exceptional, almost workman-like skill. And who pretends to be entitled to nothing.
  • I have seen some of this new MTV show, the one with Ashton Kutcher, Punk'd. And it is amazing to me that people acting like assholes is somehow considered entertainment these days. (And MTV has made a real pattern of this, with Tom Green and some parts of Jackass.) I will say this, too: I was fortunate once to catch some of Da Ali G Show; and one scene in particular helped me realize why it was actually funny. Sacha Cohen ("Ali G") was playing some sort of hopelessly inept wannabe wrestler, in the locker room or some sports team. And he kept challenging this one guy to wrestle, and kept getting his butt kicked (of course, he was only pretending to really try and wrestle, which was the point), and then trying to "surprise" the guy and jump on him when he wasn't ready, and so on. And everyone knew exactly what this character was going to do; there was no element of threat to anyone at all. The joke was on Sacha Cohen's character, not on the other guy. And that's what made it funny, I thought, compared to all that MTV crap — it wasn't about anyone being a sucker.
  • Howell Raines should probably resign from the New York Times. The Jayson Blair episode piles calamity upon long complaint, and it will be harder for Raines to restore employees' faith in the Times than for someone new. And while I don't think he's to blame for not realizing Blair was a plagiarist, Blair was nonetheless a visibly problematic employee whose role Raines completely mishandled.
  • At first I thought it was funny, but the way the story of the Texas Democrats' flight from the state legislature developed (Joshua Marshall's coverage (scroll down to the entries below that one, too) has been excellent) is actually frightening. Politicians in power at the federal level using national security resources to enforce partisan politics (and their own personal agendas) at the state level? Tom Delay should go to jail for that.
  • I get that providing security in Iraq isn't trivial. But it sounds like "coalition forces" have made almost no progress. When the Times reports (on today's front page) that "awe at American power in war has transformed into anger at American impotence in peace," it doesn't even sound like an exaggeration. (They use that "limbo" word, too.) What the hell is going on? What priority is there, before security?

    I suppose it was a fear from the beginning, that the Bush administration's promises of building a new Iraq may have been little more than words. Nor is it a new thought that Bush and his top advisors may simply not have been competent or sufficiently informed to realize what it would actually take even just to keep Iraq running even as well as it had before. But, damn. I guess you just have to hope it's not as bad as it looks, or that perhaps they can possibly turn it around should they somehow, miraculously, acquire the necessary will.
  • It's 70 degrees and sunny. Can't complain about that.

May 18, 2003 3:08 PM

Comments (and TrackBacks)


Seriously now. Transform a whole nation from fascism and authoritarian rule to a pluralistic, still-secular, progressive state in, what, 3 months? The American creative engine is superior, but not quite *that* superior.

We're doing fine. Fine. Adjustments are being made. Methods being honed. Radicals are being marginalised. External influences neutralised and expunged (where necessary). Critics addressed (and arrested -- where necessary). All of this, in our time, not the Arabs' time... Our time. American Time. (After all, by following Arab Rules of Conduct, we literally won that option, might being right in that region. And, by the measure of our might, we're quite right at that. ;-)

"What the hell is going on?"

Where's the nazi-alp-esque counter-coalition forces? So far, they're relegated to looting petrol stations (anyone else noted the once famed thousand strong suicide bombers are, somehow, gone?) and pick-pocketing fellow shoppers in the shuq. Inept little counter-coalition plotters they are.

What we need to be worried about are the liabilities flung upon us by our now unnecessary cohorts (IE House of Saud, well infilitrated with alQaeda Helpers). Their elimination needs to be where our priorities are laser focused, keeping the media and public discourse properly in inline with that plan for a larger, democratised, securlarised midEast and NorthAfrica (yes, the plan seems to be growing).

In due time, in our time, Iraq will be transformed and, rest well all you mall-addicted consumerists, you'll be able to buy your Iraqi produced car batteries and comfort-molded lawn chairs soon enough, all for extraordinary low prices.

.rob

PS If we still allow malls by then, security concerns in mind.

Posted by rob adams on May 19, 2003 1:54 PM

Ah, and re. the NYT and plagiarism...
It would be nice if there were an independent body that investigated and certified both publications and individuals.

Akin to the US educational legal industries.

.rob

Posted by rob adams on May 19, 2003 2:06 PM

Seriously now. Transform a whole nation from fascism and authoritarian rule to a pluralistic, still-secular, progressive state in, what, 3 months?

"Seriously now"? If you're going to make a condescending remark, at least read what you're ostensibly responding to. I didn't say a single thing about any such transformation (or, to return the rhetorical favor, didn't you notice). No, what I'm talking about is security. Is our failure to establish law and order in Iraq -- despite our awesome military power and superior "creative engine" -- also the result of devious machinations by the almighty House of Saud?

Posted by Matt on May 19, 2003 3:11 PM

Security? Lack of?

Ah, bringing "security" to a nation experiencing said vacuum is change on a grand, grand scale: That is what i call 'transformation'. But, not to get into symantics or fall trap to latching onto phrases for implied, unstated messages...

Something like 86% of all Bhgd'd police are in place, are patrolling, are arresting, are flogging away crime on the streets as we read. Yet, looting ocurrs, pickpocketing too, never mind murder. So, what's the problem here? Are these those pesky counter-coalitionaries at work? Or, the sinister House of Saud weilding their fundmentalist audio cassette campaigns against well educated female trollops? What is the problem, seriously.. ?

It depends who you ask.

Ask the man on the street in Bghd'd and he might say "They're not being forceful enough." Ask the over-fed, suburban, molded-plastic lawnchair policy enthusiast and he might say "We need more troops on the street!"

I'd say the more troops option is knee-jerk, simple, and would (ultimately) breed bad medicine between the City and America. It's a hard, slow, and methodical transition, but it's best to have Iraqis governing Iraqis, even if that means a temporary civil-authority vacuum.

Temporary is the key.

Remember that, essentially, we've made every upper-manager in Iraq illegal and subject to arrest (given enough figer pointing by their brethern). As a result, few are willing to step forward and claim the mantel of this or that local authority or regional ministry office, or pumping station. It takes time to fill these positions.

Taking time to make sure (righteous) Iraqis govern themselves, and not taking the quick-n-easy path of just imposing one-man-tribunals on every corner and petrol station, will win us major points -- in the long term.

In the short term, we'll have to deal with the Western-centric policy enthusiasts who think we should merely inject our authority at every micro level of Iraqi society. So, we're sending another 15k troops north into the City environs. But, make no mistake, they'll be cosmetic in nature, literally just standing on a corner, acting only when shot at; They will not be patrolling streets, arresting, or detaining (sans card-deck individuals). We'll continue to leave that up to righteous, secularised Iraqis.

Indeed, that's what we're doing, slowly, but correctly.

.rob

Posted by rob adams on May 20, 2003 12:50 PM

I guess I don't see how it is that security will have to wait for such a transformation. The American/coalition presence is largely unopposed; it's simply where they're absent (either due to their numbers or how they're allocated and organized) that looters have taken advantage.

What makes you think the addition of more troops is only cosmetic?

Posted by Matt on May 20, 2003 4:26 PM

The occupying coalition administration has itself stated that much of the "security concerns" have been a result of a country-wide restraint by patrolling forces; Restraint.

This means that, instead of firing a few shots in the air at a petrol station, or detaining and rounding up looters in this or that building, were not done, out of a notion of restraint -- a policy of restraint.

This exacts a cost in the present, but provides long-term dividends. In the short term civilians will be harmed, killed even, property destroyed, and laws ignored. But, this immediate cost might also provide pressure to local civilians to get their act together -- to fill the vacuum.

Should we, simplistically, seek to fill that vacuum it would disaude and impede others from doing the same. In a nation where grassroots administration and organisation has been met with torture and death, you don't teach the adoption of these principles by stealing the opportunity for yourself. You let the seeds grow naturally, in fertile soil.

The mere presence and visual sight of our troops promotes local organisation and grassroots government, albeit akin to throwing a child into a pond so he learns to doggy paddle.

We're not letting the kid drown, but a few gulps of water down the lungs suits learning to swim well and quickly.

.rob

Posted by rob adams on May 22, 2003 12:40 PM

You know, we've been here before.

Reading many of the comments out there on the personal journals and mainstream editorials, you'd think we were embarking on some, as of yet untried, method of state-destruction-reconstruction. Not so.

We've done this before, we've even heard the same blah-blah-blah about security, loss of property, and singers getting shot after returning home from their cousins too soon. Old history, just a new day.

Germany didn't turn into a nazi-loving psuedo-ally, Japanese didn't hurl themselves into their rice pots because we landed on their shores, and we weren't skinned alive trying to maintain control over Afghanistan ala British and Soviet style before us.

Somehow, despite those with weak stomachs and short-sighted histories, America has done the world (and those we corrected) well.

.rob

Posted by rob adams on May 22, 2003 12:51 PM

The occupying coalition administration has itself stated that much of the "security concerns" have been a result of a country-wide restraint by patrolling forces; Restraint.

This is only the case in that they don't have a sufficient police force. Think about the restraint police use in Western countries, that nonetheless succeeds in maintaining order (when crimes are committed in New York, do you really want to say it's only because the police are too reluctant to shoot at suspected criminals?). Given that there are other costs to more brutal methods of policing, and that security is nonetheless desirable, doesn't it then make sense to bring in a greater force?

Put another way, how do the costs of expanding the police force even come close to the costs incurred by the ongoing looting?

Somehow, despite those with weak stomachs and short-sighted histories, America has done the world (and those we corrected) well.

I agree with this, but it simply isn't the issue at hand. I'm not asking whether or not the U.S. should be attempting to rebuild Iraq. The question here is, simply, Why aren't we doing more to establish security more quickly?

Posted by Matt on May 22, 2003 7:41 PM

Thomas Friedman, a man whose extra-NAmerica observations i immensly respect, just returned from a short stint in Iraq. (I don't always agree with him, but i always enjoy his flat-fact observations.)

He had two observations (literally and figuratively) while touring the countrside. First, he saw the land from the air via military transports (C Transports have these wee little portal windows in the hold, so he vantage was limited i admit) and then from roadside. From the air he saw immense fields, most lay untended, some only half planted. Iraq has been in the past the breadbasket of that region. He also saw little villages, and massive sprawls, whose buildings are largely made of mud connected with lines of telephone poles. Mud huts. Mud. ("This was a Babylon of my ancient ancestors, not the modern Iraq that Bhgd'd impresses upon the world today.")

Via road he met many Iraqi civilians whose bodies and clothing were, as he said, untended, unkept, and generally filthy. Their attitudes were generally made up of desperation and brokeness.

The reason i mention this is that it paints a picture of a nation deconstructed, disolved. I'm reminded of accounts of Atlanta and Greater Dixie Land post-InterStatesWar, both physically and socially. To be clear, i see this as our burden, not by cause, but by inheritance. But, burdens are dispensed with either properly or inappropriately. (That's where our views diverge here.)

We didn't bankrupt the Iraqi nation. Arab Nationalism (embodied in Ba'athism) and Saddam's Family-o-Thieves did this, up to the last day they fled, colorful satin air brushed wall hangings and dvd gay child-porn in hand.

All the American troops, all their brute force, all their shooting in the air, arrest of looters, and pushing their way into civil administrative affairs will not restore their wealth or, more to my point, their confidence and pride. That comes from within a nation, never from without. Should we wrest that task from them, and do it for them, in the end we will be envied (in even greater magnitude) and ultimately hated as colonisers.

My point is this (as is it the occupying coalitionary forces' current policy): The more we impose our will (no matter how just), the less they can impose their own. Should we step in and provide "security" to the level that critics want, and should we step in and literally rebuild this or that electrical plant, the less they learn as a nation to manage their own affairs, the less they learn to do so in the absence of totalitarian guidance from the likes of Saddam and Thugs.

We are their to protect just process and facilitate their righteous will.

And that's the point, to get them to appropriately fill this vacuum of authority and management. The more we step in and do this, the less shall they.

.rob

Posted by rob adams on May 23, 2003 11:40 AM

The more we impose our will (no matter how just), the less they can impose their own. Should we step in and provide "security" to the level that critics want, and should we step in and literally rebuild this or that electrical plant, the less they learn as a nation to manage their own affairs, the less they learn to do so in the absence of totalitarian guidance from the likes of Saddam and Thugs.

I can't really debate this, except to say that it hardly seems trivial for any sizable nation to reinvent its own system of governance from almost nothing, and that I seriously doubt that, left to their own devices, the various peoples of Iraq would set aside their historic differences and miraculously all arrive together in agreement as to how they should run their affairs, share their resources, and rebuild their country.

Posted by Matt on May 23, 2003 1:11 PM


"...it hardly seems trivial for any sizable nation to reinvent its own system of governance from almost nothing..."

I agree, as do most policy wonks. That's why we're "in it for the long-haul." And, why it's so friggin' necessary to examine this (Iraq) particular environment, and to respond uniquely -- not cookie-cutter-like. Each nation (Germany, Japan, Afghanistan, Iraq, SLebanon/Syria, Iran, NKorea, Libya, Burkina Faso, France, etc.) will require different measures and different paces during their democratic hegemonization.

"...I seriously doubt that, left to their own devices, the various peoples of Iraq would set aside their historic differences and miraculously all arrive together in agreement..."

Again, agreed. I guess that's why we're instituting limited, trainer-wheeled democracy "projects" in places like Kirkuk, and slowly rolling them out elsewhere.

There are those (Iranian counter-coalitionaries, race-horse addicted fat Saudi Princes/al_Qaeda-fighter-wanna-be's, etc.) who are pushing for a much, much quicker process, with snap elections. Heh... Perhaps they, too, see the peril of such a pace to a healthy, pluralistic, liberal, secular democracy in Iraq, or the peril of a truly democractic Iraq to their own pleasure-centred values.

But, come this time next year, in Teheran/Bekaa Valley, we'll hear all these similar arguments, pushing for JiffyPop democracy. We're not in Lower Westchester or Mall of America anymore (thank G-d).

A strong, lasting hegemony takes time to cook.
Just look at Central Europa or EAsia.
But, we'll get there, given the strong work-ethic, superior creativity, and unrelenting opptimism of the powerfully emerging globally resident American-mentality.

.rob who believes the American Nation is a mentality adopted by many people, not merely within those ol' fashion borders -- that's old thought, old world. Gone. Gone. Gone. ;-)

Posted by rob adams on May 28, 2003 1:42 PM


Post a comment

Name:


Email address: (optional)


URL: (optional)


Comment:


Remember info?


Copyright ©2001-2003 Matt Pfeffer

NAVIGATE

. Home
. Web Editing
. Stray Voices
. Writings
. About
. Archive