Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Football Gods have been very Good to the Badgers this Off-Season

The Badgers had a pretty terrific season (albeit disappointing end) last year, but, man, do the stars seem to be doing their damnedest to align for the team in 2011.

First, Michigan is still rebuilding in the post-Rich Rod universe. Not too big of a deal for the Badgers since they don't play the Wolverines and UM isn't in their division. Bonus: Michigan's defense was so bad last year that it's probably going to take several seasons to bring it back up to a competitive level.

Second, Jim Tressel's resignation yesterday basically throws Ohio State into a summer of panic and will likely end the school's decade long dominance of the Big Ten. The timing couldn't be better for the Badger, who travel to Columbus to play the Buckeyes a year after upsetting the then-#1 team in the nation in Madison. It's hard to think about exacting vengeance when your too busy rebuilding. Then there's the potential years of probation waiting for OSU. It took take another 4-6 years before the Buckeyes are back in contention.

Right there is usually enough to put the Badgers into contention for a Big Ten title. Michigan and OSU are the two traditional powers of the conference and they are arguably at their combined lowest point in decades, but the rest of the conference seems to being doing all it can to give the Badgers a chance to run wild through the Big Ten for the next 5 or so years.

Iowa (whom the Badgers neither play, nor share a division with) is suffering from a minor off-season training issue that sent 13 players to the hospital and has since called into question the leadership skills of the team's coaching staff. Penn State may never actually be the contender it should be until Joe Paterno retires (though, if there is anyone in any sport who deserves to retire on his own time frame it's Paterno -- I would argue that, even if they don't win, in the long run, Paterno's presence is better for both the school and the football program; but we are talking about a window of opportunity for the Badgers here). Minnesota and Indiana aren't going anywhere. Northwestern, well, they're Northwestern: bowl eligibility is usually all they ever desire. Purdue, a team that can be something of a surprise, had a crappy season last year too.

That leaves the constantly over-looked/under-rated Michigan State, whom are on a roll, and the new guys Nebraska. Apparently, the Corn huskers are supposed to be pretty loaded with top notch recruits, but a.) they're still freshman and, more likely, redshirts; b.) they team had a lot of coaching turnover and will be running a new offense; and c.) will be playing in stadiums that are considerably larger, louder and more intimate than those in the Big Twelve North. That could take a few seasons getting used to.

The Badgers lost a ton of talent to the draft and graduation, but the rest of the conference seems to be going out of its way to level the playing field. These next few seasons could be just what UW needs to jump up the football ladder and contend for more than just a Big Ten title and birth in the Rose Bowl.

Wisconsin's Close-up in Sarah Palin's Propaganda Film

You may recall Sarah Palin's most recent visit to Madison in April. The appearance was last minute. The weather was terrible. The crowds were small. The results were underwhelming. The whole event begged the question: why even bother? Well, here's your answer: the episode features prominently in the new Palin documentary that's apparently premiering in Iowa this month:
The film's coda is introduced with an on-screen caption that reads, "From here, I can see November." It is here that Mark Levin alludes to Ronald Reagan as a Palin-like insurgent who was also once distrusted by the GOP establishment.

Palin is then shown firing up a rally that occurred just last month on the steps of the state capitol in Wisconsin. "What we need is for you to stand up, GOP, and fight," Palin, in vintage campaign form, shouts to the crowd. "Maybe I should ask some of the Badger women's hockey team -- those champions -- maybe I should ask them if we should be suggesting to GOP leaders they need to learn how to fight like a girl!"

Following an extended in-your-face riff by Andrew Breitbart in which he repeatedly denounces as "eunuchs" the male Republican leaders who decline to defend Palin, the film ends with one last scene from the April rally in Madison: "Mr. President, game on!" Palin shouts before a martial drumbeat ushers in a closing quotation by Thomas Paine, which also appeared in "Going Rogue." The implication is neither subtle nor easy to dismiss.
Now I'm dying to see the film, if only to see how the Madison event is spun. By most measures it was something of a disaster. But this detail does explain why Palin and the rest of the speakers were so insistent that the numerous hecklers shut up during the proceeding: the event wasn't for the crowd that had gathered at the capitol, the small number of people watching on TV or even the folks reading the paper the next day: it was for the (undoubtedly heavily edited) film's audience.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


From PPP's latest survey of the state:
43% of voters now approve of the job Walker is doing to 54% who disapprove. When PPP polled the state in late February it was 46% of voters approving to 52% disapproval. Walker's numbers now are virtually identical to where they were before with Democrats and Republicans but with independents he's seen his popularity continue to decline from a 45/53 approval spread to a 40/56 one.
That's a pretty steep decline among independents.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

1000 Words

Yup, this is in Oshkosh (intersection of Sawyer and Oshkosh Ave., for those keeping score at home).

Friday, May 20, 2011

Oh, Those Nutty GOP Lawyers!

If there ever was a case study in IOKIARDI, then this would have to be it:

Challenges Republicans had made to the petitions filed against Kapanke, Hopper and Olsen focused on the initial paperwork setting up the recalls. Specifically, they said that the original document registering the recall effort - called a GAB-1 - did not list the same petitioner as another document filed with it, called the statement of intent.

In Kapanke's race, for example, the GAB-1 listed only a treasurer, Peter Larson, while the statement of intent listed Patrick Scheller of LaCrosse as the petitioner. GOP lawyers said that flaw made the entire recall petition invalid, and argued that the board should throw it out. They made similar arguments in all of the other five petitions filed against Republicans.


The memo says the Republican recall attempt against Democratic Sen. Jim Holperin of Conover had the same problem identified by Republicans in their objections to the recalls of Republicans - a treasurer named Donna Goeddaeus on the GAB-1 form and a petitioner named Kim Simac on the statement of intent. "Interestingly," the memo said, the lawyers who filed the challenge in Kapanke's case defended the same kind of setup in Holperin's.
It really is mind-blowing just how fucking stupid Wisconsin Republicans think everyone else is.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Shorter Ron Johnson: Tommy Thompson can go Fuck Himself

Jesus, the guys been in office four months and is already forgetting how he he got in to office in the first place:
Asked about that contrast Tuesday, Johnson said he hopes Thompson will "change his mind," and was noncommittal on a run by Thompson, who is likely to face primary opposition from the right.

"My guess is that maybe other people will hop in the race and I think we'll have a number of pretty good candidates that might vie for the nomination," Johnson said. "We'll wait and see."
If Thompson would have run in 2010, Johnson wouldn't have had a chance. 

The amusing thing about the fragging that is supposedly coming from moderates in the GOP is that sooner or later it's going to be the ideologues that are responsible for the fragging. No as conservative as Johnson is going o win a senate in Wisconsin in 2010, not with Obama at the top of the ticket and the president's ground game running up and down the state.

Ed Thomspon to the White Courtesy Phone, Ed Thompson to the nearest White Courtesy Phone.

It occurred to me whilst reading this post at Politico that should Tommy Thompson successful navigate the tricky water of a Wisconsin GOP primary, there are going to be numerous mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging conservatives that will not vote for him under and circumstances, thus opening the door to a third party candidate ... and who better to run a statewide third party candidacy (other than Bob Lorge, of course) , than Tommy's very own brother, Ed.

Anyway, if you don't remember how awkward Ed's candidacy for Governor was in 2002, here's a piece from the Times that might jog your memory. Just keep in mind that Tommy wasn't even running back then.

Even if it's not Ed, a conservative, independent candidacy could threaten to split the base of any GOP nominee to left of Ghangis Khan.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

More from the Annals of Film Tax Credits

Jack Carver swings out against the state's film tax credits in a piece yesterday at the Isthmus. Not surprisingly, I don't find it a very helpful way to think of the credits.

Let's start with Carver what seems to believe is the central purpose of the credits: to entice Hollywood movies to film here in Wisconsin. That may be one of the results, but can't be the goal. The actual purpose of the credits is to help create a self-sufficient film industry here in Wisconsin.

These things take time and there are a number of Wisconsin-specific issues that make building a film industry difficult (like the weather). Credits are best looked at as being seed money for a start-up. No, you're probably not going to see much of a return in the first few years, but after a while the dividends should start paying off. Only in this case, the money isn't just being used to kick start a company, it's trying to start and an entire industry. There will be growing pains.

This is why comparing the film credits to those offered to traditional manufacturing companies like Harley or Mercury Marine isn't exactly comparing apples to apples. Let's face it manufacturing credits are basically tax-payer funded bribes to keep companies here. Film credits are also essentially bribes, but they 1.) bring people to Wisconsin and 2.) create and infrastructure and train current residents to make movies so that someday we will be able to make them ourselves.

Right now current credit cap is set at $500,000 which is hardly "dolling out cash like the Pentagon." Even when the state refunded $5 million in the first year of the program, it still represented a nearly negligible portion of the budget. Nearly every industry in Wisconsin receives some sort of economic assistance from the state: the film folks are asking for their piece of the pie.

Carver goes on to summarizes the arguments for the credits thusly:
The defense of the program, as I see it, stems from two arguments. First, if any economic benefit to the state can be foreseen, then a generous subsidy may be the only way to entice film crews to Wisconsin, since just about every other state has been engaged in a vicious rat race to give welfare to Hollywood. 
No. The credits exist to provide an incentive to compensate for Wisconsin's inherit deficiencies in film-making, like climate or a complete lack of sound technicians. There's nothing anyone can do about winter in Wisconsin, but, over time, there will be something the state can do about the complete lack of sound technicians in the state or dearth of indoor studio space. Tax credits help Wisconsin catch up.
Second, there is the cultural element. Can the production of a film in Wisconsin promote the state, its natural beauty, its cities, etc? 
This is where Carver starts to veer off the road. The point of establishing a film industry in Wisconsin is not for promotional purposes. If it were, the credits could probably just straight out of the Tourism advertising budget.  The credits should be designed to help create a profitable industry that creates entertainment products people want to buy. If that means turning downtown Racine into a post-apocalyptic hellscape populated by mutant zombies, so be it. Which is why this next graph is just silly:
Here's an idea. Offer tax credits to companies who will shoot films that are set in Wisconsin, rather than to those who use Wisconsin as a stage for another location. Never, for instance, should a movie that takes place in Minnesota be subsidized to shoot in Wisconsin. It's imperative that every viewer knows that those inviting blue lakes in the background are ours, not theirs. 
It's really not. Georgia's film commission requires any recipient of tax credits to attach this logo to the credits.

It's actually a brilliant idea: the logo is so bright and big that it's nearly impossible to miss and as a result I know that "The Walking Dead" and "Archer" are both filmed/animated in Atlanta. It's really no different than knowing that the Saturn I used to own was built in Tennessee because there was a sticker on the inside of the door.

But I'm getting off point. Most people, and it sure seems like Carver falls into this group, usually subscribe to two fallacies about entertainment: 1.) that it can only be created in New York, LA or Nashville and 2.) that it is created through some kind of voodoo. Actually, it can be created anywhere and is shockingly as mundane as any other business. And just like any other business, investors want to see their money spent wisely. I've heard that it's a lot easier to win financing for film projects simply by telling investors that filming will take place in a location that offers tax credits, regardless of how lucrative the incentives actually are. There were something like two dozen films -- mostly small pictures with budgets well below $10 million -- with at least an interest in filming in Wisconsin when the tax credits began and nearly all of them bailed once the program was curtailed.

Again, even back at its original level of between $5-10 million a year is probably comparable to what the state wastes every year by not having a film industry.  The UW system has no less than three schools with Radio, TV and Film departments that are essentially useless in Wisconsin (unless you want to be a DJ). It costs the state somewhere in the neighborhood of $150,000 to educate someone from kindergarten through college: if any one of those students want to get into the film industry, they have to leave the state and take its investment in them with them. Anyone want to bet that between 25-75 of the thousands of kids graduating in Wisconsin this month head on out to Cali to give the movie business a shot?

The problem with the original film tax credit program is that the people who bought into it thought it was a fun and sexy way to induce famous people to Wisconsin so they could spend like, well, movie stars. They were wrong, but instead of tweeking the program they thought it would be easier to just scapegoat the "Hollywood welfare" queens because that was the easy thing to do. Unfortunately, the smaller, local filmmakers for whom every dollar is squeezed to death and who were depending on the program got screwed.

So the first thing Wisconsin needed to do, but didn't, was to establish realistic goals and expectations from the program. Carver notes that Louisiana shelled out big bucks for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but this was the plan Louisiana set for itself almost a decade ago. It wanted to be a major producer of films and was aggressive in doing so. Last year it dropped $100 million on just four movies. While that should seem ridiculous to just about anyone, Louisiana did some early targeted tax crediting for film infrastructure which paid off. Today it's one of the largest production hubs outside of California.

Wisconsin probably isn't capable of being that kind of producer, nor would it probably want to be; but, again, this is part of the problem of looking at the tax credits in a strictly tit-for-tat economic analysis. Think of the credits along the same line of building a small park with a playground in a neighborhood: it doesn't provide a business service or immediate economic value, but it does increase the property values of the nearby houses and keeps the kids from having to go to other parks across town. The credits serve as a buttress against the immigration of the creative class from Wisconsin. That alone should be worth $10 million a year.

There's really no reason why a more finely tuned credit program can't succeed in Wisconsin, so long as the lessons learned from the first go-around are implemented. These include, but aren't limited to:
  • Very detailed and specific declarations of what expenses and salaries qualify for the credit.
  • Training for government officials conducting the oversight and auditing.
  • Estimates of projected costs provided to the state before filming begins.
  • Sunset the program after 10-15 years. (This should be more than enough time to get the film industry moving in Wisconsin)
The bottom line is that most people treat filmmakers -- and especially local filmmakers -- like children running around with their parent's Super 8 camera: it's cute and fun, but incomprehensible how someone can make a living doing it. Since most people don't understand how their neighbor could make a living being a filmmaker they see no economic or social value in the occupation and therefore don't see it being worth of the same kind of tax protections as the manufacturing company that probably won't be around in 20 years any way.

So there. We've talked about this issue here, here, here, here, and here. I know this is a losing issue, but I'm still always disheartened by the uproar this issue causes. The state gets bilked for hundreds of millions of dollars every year in fraud, bullshit tax breaks to people and corporations that don't need them, unaccountable programs and overpriced public works projects, but suddenly everyone shits their pants over $5 million bucks because it went to a walking scapegoat (rich, out-of-state, showbiz folk!) and gives folks the chance to beat their chests. It's so fucking predictable.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Bush Administration's Profoundly Awful Intelligence Policies Actually Prevented the CIA from Finding bin Laden

It shouldn't come as any surprise that many supporters of former President Bush are now rushing to sing the praises of the policies that killed Osama bin Laden, and while the prominence of the sexier of those policies -- enhanced interrogation, indefinite detention, rendition, etc. -- is still murky at the moment, there is one policy that conservatives seemed to have forgotten: the Bush administration's all-out war with the Central Intelligence Agency.

Starting some time in the first half of 2002, CIA was on the losing end of just about every bureaucratic struggle it fought with the White House. Some folks blame Donald Rumsfeld for this, the theory being that CIA's successful invasion of Afghanistan made the Pentagon look bad. Whatever the causes, there can be little denying that CIA's relationship with the White House was so abysmal that it's little wonder bin Laden wasn't found until after Bush left office.

The list of CIA's grievances is extensive. Many analysts thought their portfolios were being taken from them and delivered to the nebulous Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon during the run-up to the Iraq War. VP Cheney apparently applied pressure to Iraq analysts in the Agency to come up with the necessary connections that would build a case for war. And when no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, just about everyone at the Agency felt they were unjustly blamed despite warning the White House before the war.

CIA's relationship to the Bush White House was pretty much over at this point. Bush never seemed to trust the CIA again after the WMD fiasco. There's even reason to suggest that Bush thought elements within CIA were trying to sabotage him political (see the Joe Wilson affair).

The war in Iraq also started to give the Agency fits. First, it distracted them from an already difficult mission in Afghanistan, where bin Laden and much of the leadership of the Taliban were still at large. Then the Iraq insurgency got out of hand and required CIA to devote even more energy and resources to a situation they were never crazy about to begin with. The relationship was so dysfunctional that by the end of 2003 CIA agents were grumbling to the press at an unprecedented level.

2004 got off to a terrible start with the leak of an undercover operative by the White House, an event that many in CIA took to be a petty act of political vengeance. During this time, the Bush White House started developing closer to ties to the National Security Agency, not only because they were in charge of the controversial eavesdropping  program, but also because they operated under the auspices of Rumsfeld's Pentagon. Morale at the agency was apparently awful and made worse by the fact that a number of their operations were outsourced to private contractors who, in many cases, were former Agency employees now working at a significant pay increase.

In the middle of the year DCI George Tenet left and gave Bush the chance to appoint one of his own guys to the Agency. He picked Porter Goss a then-Congressman who brought in his Congressional staff and immediately began butting heads with career intelligence officials, presumably at the behest of the White House. Goss tenure was marked by the departure of enormous swathes of CIA's senior leadership who took with them decades of experience and was largely considered a disaster. He was so awful that Bush even canned him out of the blue one Friday afternoon.

Aside from crushing morale inside the Agency, Goss tenure mas marked by an almost total stripping of authority and prestige when the Intelligence Community was reorganized and the Director of CIA was replaced as de facto leader of the community by the Office of the Director of National Security, which was another huge of the Agency's turf. It was also during Goss' reign that the Iraq insurgency went to hell and the demand for reliable intelligence was at its greatest since the war began, intelligence that was nearly impossible to obtain due to all of the dysfunction back at Langley. Once again, CIA shouldered much of the blame.

Oh yeah, all this time the CIA was put in charge of the enhanced interrogation program even though interrogations had been the purview of the FBI and Army. They had no experience, resisted the program at first and bore all the legal risk.

When Goss was finally shown the door, Bush appoint NSA director Michael Hayden to the post. in 2006 Though Hayden was widely respected in the community, there were concerns about his ties to Rumsfeld and  Pentagon largely because he would still retain his rank in the Air Force (and uniform), even as director of what is ostensibly a civilian agency. Again, most people in the agency interpreted the move to be the Wite House's way of ensuring the primacy of electronic and signals intelligence, both the fortes of NSA, over CIA's human intelligence gathering strengths. This isn't a small detail. Even though the Bush administration increased the budgets of the intelligence community, much of the money apparently went to funding satellites and other electronic intercepting equipment.

Why? Because from the very beginning the Bush Administration was not satisfied with the timeliness of human intelligence, which frequently takes years to develop sources. It was also human intel that created the WMD fiasco in Iraq. They wanted instant gratification and were willing to sacrifice quality for quantity; so instead of training language interpreters, money went to voice pattern recognition software.

Even collecting intelligence on the battlefield played second fiddle to appeasing the social conservative wing of the Bush Administration's political base when the Pentagon kicked out over 60 linguists for being gay.

The final straw occurred when Bush commuted Scooter Libby's sentence in the leak case. There was really no other way to read the move being anything other than a slap in the Agency's face.

The Bush Administration was at war with the intelligence community for a vast majority of Bush's time in office. These policies essentially drove away experience and talent, withheld resources and crippled the Agency's mission at a time when the President said the country needed it most. It is absolutely asinine to suggest that these policies lead to the death of Osama bin Laden.

Tensions only really started to ease when Robert Gates, himself a former DCI, was appointed Secretary of Defense. When Obama appointed Leon Penetta -- a consummate bureaucratic operator -- to be DCI, it was clear he was being brought in to clean up the mess made by the Bush administration. The bin Laden raid was an enormous success for an agency that has been kicked around for most of the last decade.

In the final analysis, the Bush Administration may have had the worst Intelligence policy in American history. They held grudges, didn't learn lessons from mistakes, they deliberately antagonized the very people who were charged with collecting intelligence, they were believed they were better at the job then the experts ... and at the end of the day it all added up to create a situation where the White House really didn't even trust the CIA, the agency that is the final arbiter of what is fact.

And Congress, which is responsible for oversight of the intel community, basically deferred to the White House's lead.

The point is this: it doesn't matter if the intel that helped catch bin Laden came from someone being waterboarded at Gitmo in the big picture. All of the controversial policies that involved tough ethical questions are almost insignificant compared to the massive management policies that the Bush White House botched time and time again. These policies actually prevented CIA from catching bin Laden.

And probably no other policy displays that fact more than the Bush Administation's attitudes toward Pakistan. In Pervez Musharraf, the Bush Administration thought they had an ally and were determined to keep him in power. What they probably didn't consider is that part of the calculus of keeping Musharraf in power may have been the General's ability to placate elements in the Pakistani military that were aiding Al-Qaeda. The Bush Administration let Pakistan dictate the extent of CIA involvement in their country, even though, most people were pretty sure that's where Al-Qaeda was hiding. They may have been correct in trusting Musharraf, but asking a country how many spies the US can keep inside it's borders sort of defeats the entire purpose of espionage.

This was no way to run an intelligence organization.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

GOP Recall Candidate Kicks Campaign Off by Telling Voters there was a Military Coup in America Last Weekend

Kim Simac -- better known as Glenn Beck's favorite childrens book author -- kicked off her campaign for state senate yesterday with a small rally, then scamper over to her blog to push the conspiracy theory that there was a militrary coup in the United States last Sunday. Here's a screen cap from her blog:

The premise of this latest conspiracy theory is that President Obama was not responsible for issuing the order to raid Osama bin Laden's compound last Sunday, that he was "over-ruled" by either military leaders or CIA director Leon Penetta (the theory's rather vague on just whom -- but the important thing is that it certainly wasn't the President!).

The implications of this happening are nothing short of profound: military leaders don't "over-rule" the command-in-chief, that's called a coup d'etat. The source that Simac points to actually uses the word "coup" in his email to some dubious web site no one's ever heard of before.

Anyway, Media Matters has the definition of Mutiny and Sedition from the U.S. Code of Military Justice if you'd like to see for yourself. I know Kim Simac sure as hell didn't.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Better to take 16 Hours and get the Job Done, then take 7 Years and Not

The straws some conservatives are grasping at in a desperate attempt to find something to slam Obama on are hilarious.

By the way, it turns out that thinking things through a little longer probably saved lives:
On Tuesday, White House officials began to offer more details on exactly how Obama had shaped the final assault plan. In particular, the President, they said, urged the Pentagon to revisit the number of helicopters it planned to bring into Pakistani airspace on the mission. One of those extra helicopters later played a role in the mission.The president made his concerns known in a briefing about 10 days before the assault on the bin Laden compound. According to senior aides, Obama felt that the special operations COA, or course of action, was too risky. Under the COA at that time, only two helicopters would enter Pakistani airspace, leaving little backup if something went wrong. “I don’t want you to plan for an option that doesn’t allow you to fight your way out,” the President told operational planners at the meeting, according to the notes of one participant.
So the plan was revised. Ultimately, four helicopters flew into Pakistani airspace, including two refueling helicopters that carried additional personnel. In the end, the extra forces didn’t need to fight their way out of the compound, but a backup helicopter did play a key role in the operation. One of the two primary assault helicopters, an HH-60 Pave Hawk lost its lift, landed hard and had to be destroyed. The backup landed to lift its passengers to safety. “The President created the ‘fight your way out’ option,” explained an administration official.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Let Me Watch My Stories!

Freedom Eden's epic blog post on the news of Osama bin Laden's death was truly a reaction for the ages:
(Click to embiggen.)

That's right: in the middle of what's arguably the biggest news story of the last ten years, Freedom Eden's gut reaction was "Bin Laden dead? But what will ever become of NeNe?"

Whose says blogs can't have gravitas?

The Intel Mother Lode and Pakistan

One of the strange things about capturing Saddam Hussein is that, relatively speaking, he didn't know much. He was, after all, the dictator of an enormous bureaucracy and had thousands of loyal followers who were in charge of the day-to-day nation-running operations. If, for example, his interrogator wanted to know who were the names of Iraq's spies in Iran there's just not much of a chance that Saddam was going to know that kind of detail. (His interrogations were mostly about deconstructing the thought processes that led to certain decisions.)

Bin Laden is a different case entirely. The size of the intel cache they recovered from the raid seems enormous and reporters are already speculating what it could mean for taking out Al-Qaeda, but there's another angle to this that really hasn't been discussed yet: What if one of the thumb drives recovered from the scene contains a list of Pakistani ISI contacts? Would this the kind of smoking gun that might cause a tectonic change in US-Pakistan relations?

Probably not. The Pakistan is too big to fail argument has been around for a while now despite Pakistan being the center for anti-American sentiment over the course of five decades now. Military action is almost impossible in a nuclear-armed country with 170,000,000 people. Still, the roots of American animosity run deep and, to be honest, I don't even know what the origins are. Was there some event that produced the loathing? Some kind of offense or slight? Off the top of my head I can't think of one.

Steve Coll suggests that there really isn't one event that anyone can pinpoint, but that it's an outgrowth of a country with a historically weak government that has little resources to care and educate it's people (and not just the poor ones), which created a vacuum filled by the madrassas built by supporters of the virulent strain of Islamism that developed around the world in the middle of the 20th century. That would mean the problem is as cultural as it is political.

There would be a number of different ways of trying to correct that problem. Again, military action would be out of the picture. Withdrawing foreign aide probably won't help either. So-called "public diplomacy" really hasn't worked in the past. So now what? This might be the right time to develop a Marshall Plan for Pakistan.

It's an idea that gets tossed around frequently, but never really implemented. Now might be the perfect opportunity to make a Marshall Plan-type program a condition of US foreign aide to Pakistan: they tell us where the money is needed, then we go with them to help distribute the aide. Most countries, especially proud and emerging nations like Pakistan who think of themselves as being one of the world's big players, don't like this kind partnership because it make their government look weak and unable to take care of their own citizens. But when that hard drive does show up with a ton of Al-Qaeda contacts in the ISI, it will be a golden opportunity for the US use a great deal of leverage to changing hearts and minds from the ground up.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Your Spectacularly Stupid Bin Laden Post of the Day

As one might expect there are many of them, but the Progressive's laughable exercise in incoherent emoting probably deserves the Grand Jury Award. Let's go to the tape!
What bin Laden did was to use violence as a ready tool to advance his purposes.
What bin Laden did was to wantonly sacrifice the lives of innocent people in service of those purposes. [...]
In this regard, bin Laden is no different a mass murderer than Lyndon Johnson was in Vietnam.
In this regard, bin Laden is no different a mass murderer than George W. Bush was in Iraq.
Oh, there is one big difference: bin Laden killed far fewer innocent people than any of those U.S. Presidents.
The thing I love most about this nonsense is that Rothschild does his damnedest to promote the idea that an evil deed is an evil deed no matter how large or small only to destroy the very framework of his argument at the very end. He want the reader to believe that past American presidents are really no better than bin Laden because they too used violence. Then he tries a judo toss of logic designed to make the reader think that U.S. presidents are actually worse than bin Laden by virtue of the magnitude of their evil deeds. But the only person who ends up on the floor is Rothschild because he essentially pulls the rug out from beneath his own argument.

It's like he's taking aim at a target with a canon only to remove the canon from the equation right before he fires (but that might be too violent an analogy, natch).

Before we move on, I should point out that Rothschild isn't very clear, and probably intentionally so, about what the "mass murder" he is referring to here. Was it the raid that occurred last night, or the aggregate US military action over the course of the last decade? I imagine that Rothschild would like the reader to think of the two as being one in the same, but -- and let's face it -- what instigated the piece was the killing of bin Laden last night. He was considered a fugitive, was being hunted by militaries and law enforcement agencies from around the world and, this is the most important part, had ample opportunity to turn himself in and demonstrate his innocence in any number of legal systems. He not only chose not to, but continued to flaunt his behavior so as to continue to encourage violence.
Until we renounce violence as a convenient tool, until we stop sacrificing innocent lives, until we no longer excuse the mass murder that our own government commits, we’re not in much of a position to celebrate.
I really don't even know what this sentence means. It's such a sweeping statement that it is almost rendered meaningless.
And spare me Obama’s talk of “justice” being done. That’s exactly the same phrase Bush used after U.S. forces gunned down Saddam Hussein’s sadistic sons, Uday and Qusay.
It’s not “justice,” as we’ve come to revere it in this country: a system that upholds due process and habeas corpus and assumes the innocence of the accused and allows for trial by jury.
And that's exactly the point. In order to be afforded those avenues of justice, bin Laden had to agree to the framework of the social compact. He didn't. The United States even went out of their way to offer him due process even though as a foreign national we didn't really need to bother. Bin Laden made the conscious decision to live out side the law -- and not just one particular law, but just about every law on the planet.
No, what Obama and Bush were talking about was rough justice or frontier justice.
The word “justice” should not adorn an assassination.
And now we come to the big finish. To say that bin Laden was "assassinated" is absurd and insulting. Assassins don't tell their targets they're coming. We've been doing that for 10 years now. What occurred last night was a manhunt, not an assassination. No one should even think about lamenting the loss of "assumption of innocence." It's the law that grants that right and since bin Laden refused to live within the law to the detriment of the well-being of many, he isn't afforded any such protections.

First Pic of a Dead Bin Laden?

Possibly here???

The pic looks of dubious origin for all kinds of reasons, but it's the first one I've found claiming to be the kill shot (as it were). Via here by way of Memeorandum.

MORE: Yup, totally photoshopped.

Morning, Bitches