A Stalinist Line of Discipline.

Don’t miss this speech by Jim Marcinkowski posted at No Quarter. This is just a bit of it.

We fought the Soviets and I fought the Soviets because they had a fatally flawed, intolerable system of government where (and think about this):

The government was always right and never apologized;

Any dissent was suppressed, ridiculed, banned or worse;

Secret prisons were denied and never acknowledged or spoken about;

The torture of captives (in Lubyanka) was condoned;

State incarceration was not subject to the checks and balances of a legal system;

Economic plans, like for oil, were established/determined in closed sessions between politicos, commissars and production managers, far outside public view, and where government claimed privilege in so doing;

Wages were set at the lowest common denominator, no matter what Bloc country you were in;

Government agents had access to your medical records, your library records, your telephone, and your e-mail.

A place where judicial power and judicial review were proclaimed concepts, but simply ignored in application;

Where criminal records of young adults were closed to all but the military;

Where a Constitution was a mere facade and ignored by state actors.

Any dissent, debate and protest were deemed unpatriotic;

The public media was bought, paid for, and provided by the state;

The military clandestinely and shamelessly influenced the national media and public opinion;

A place where wrong was declared right;

Where tapping a phone was like tapping a pencil;

Where lying was considered a patriotic skill;

The extraction of natural resources was paramount to any concern for the environment and the impact on the health of its people;

Where the use of “state secrets,” (those things embarrassing to the government) were confused with legitimate issues of “national security”;

A place where “secrecy” and “national security” were used to control debate;

Where legitimate secrecy, was subject to political use and abuse;

Where “legislators” were mere mouthpieces for and rubberstamps of whoever was in power;

Where you lived and died with the permission of the government;

A place where foreign policy was more important than domestic concerns;

Where fear was used as a political weapon and an acceptable means of control;

Where the best medical care was reserved for the influential;

Where wealth was concentrated in the top 5%;

A place where there was no middle class – just a small economic and political elite, and the working poor. …

… Since 1995 the Republican Party and its friends in the American corporate structures that so vigorously contribute to and support them have—in the space of a decade—created in this country more than the beginnings of a system that this country spent 50 years trying to dismantle.

Jim Marcinkowski is running for Congress, btw.

Stop Cheney

Stop him, before he shoots again

Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and injured a man during a weekend quail hunting trip in Texas, his spokeswoman said Sunday.

Harry Whittington, 78, was “alert and doing fine” after Cheney sprayed him with shotgun pellets on Saturday while the two were hunting at the Armstrong Ranch in south Texas, said property owner Katharine Armstrong.

Armstrong said Whittington was mostly injured on his right side, with the pellets hitting his cheek, neck and chest, and was taken to the hospital by ambulance.

Maybe Dick the Dick thought Mr. Whittington was a Muslim oil-producing nation.

The Talking Dog notes that the Dickster was so rattled he forgot to blame Democrats. Wow.

See also: Jane Hamsher and James Wolcott.

Steve M knows what really happened.

The Vegetable Speaks

David Brooks says that liberal blogs maintain a “Stalinist line of discipline.” Think Progress has the transcript from today’s Chris Matthews Show — think Dumb and Dumber:

DAVID BROOKS: Whoever the Democratic candidate, that is the weakness of the Democratic party, they’ve got the blogs and the netroots who are semi-nuts and they insist on a Stalinist line of discipline.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: I love your objectivity.

DAVID BROOKS: It’s objectively true. I did a psychoanalytic test.

I read that, and it occurred to me that it’s been awhile since I’ve posted Brooks’s picture. So there ’tis.

The truth is, it’s the Right that marches in Stalinist discipline. Hell, the Right is more like the Borg Collective than a political movement. See (via Avedon) “The Democrats’ Tiny Megaphone” by Robert Parry:

Wealthy progressives and liberal foundations can match up almost dollar for dollar with conservative funders. But the American Left has adopted largely a laissez-faire attitude toward media infrastructure, while the Right has applied almost socialistic values to sustain even unprofitable media ventures.

Indeed, the Right’s subsidizing of media may be the most under-reported money-in-politics story in modern American history. Many good-government organizations track the millions of dollars contributed to candidates, but much less attention is paid to the billions of unregulated dollars poured into media.

This imbalanced attention continues even though the conservative media is arguably the most important weapon in the Republican arsenal.

And all the while they do this they scream that the “media” is infested with “liberal bias.” Strangely, the only news program this liberal can stand to sit through any more is Keith Olbermann’s “Countdown” on MSNBC. The rest of them on all channels are mostly far-Right propaganda. I swear, if MSNBC ever messes with Olbermann I will call up the Mighty Maha Army (all six of us) and march on Rockefeller Plaza.

Back to Parry:

Political “propaganda themes” – often coordinated with GOP leaders – are distributed instantaneously across the country, reaching into both rural and urban America with a repetition that gives these messages a corroborative ring of truth.

The messages echo from talk radio to cable news to conservative columnists who appear in the mostly pro-Republican local newspapers. The themes then are reinforced in magazine articles and in books that dominate the shelves of many American bookstores.

Over the past two decades, Republicans have exploited this media capability with great deftness in consolidating power across large swaths of the country, especially where there is little media diversity (i.e. the Red States).

And the Right Blogosphere is an integral part of the Republican Noise Machine.

In essence, the right-wing media – a vertically integrated machine reaching from books, magazines and newspapers to radio, television and the Internet – has the power to make almost any ludicrous notion seem real and threatening to millions of Americans.

If Karl Rove wants people to believe John Kerry faked his war injuries, in spite of documentation and eyewitness accounts to the contrary, all he has to do is whistle. The Machine will be sure that’s the story the public hears, nonsense or not. If Karl wants to tweak the paranoia of the Christian Right, he yanks the chains and, suddenly, the Machine is spewing out nonsense about a war on Christmas. Smooth as butter. In comparison, the Left can barely coordinate its socks.

Along these same lines: If you haven’t already, be sure to read Peter Daou’s “THE TRIANGLE: Matthews, Moore, Murtha, and the Media,” “THE (Broken) TRIANGLE: Progressive Bloggers in the Wilderness” and “Scandal Fatigue, Catnip, and the ‘Angry’ Left.”

Busted Bomb Busters

Mark Mazzetti of the Los Angeles Times reports that there’s a device called the Joint IED Neutralizer (JINs for short) that in tests has destroyed 90 percent of roadside bombs in its path. Roadside bombs account for more than half of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq. Yet none of the JINs have been shipped to Iraq.

JINs are remote-controlled devices that blow up bombs with a directed electrical charge. No one expects the JINs to eliminate all deaths from roadside bombs, but troops in the field seem to think that the possibility of eliminating some deaths should make deployment of the JINs a priority. They’re cheap beasts by military standards — $200,000 each — and they can withstand AK-47 fire and detonate bombs from a distance. Each device ought to be usable multiple times. The company that makes them says they could crank out 50 per months if they got the go-ahead. Only about a dozen have been produced so far.

The excuse is that deployment of these thingies to Iraq has been snagged in Pentagon bureaucracy for months. Others in the Pentagon say the device requires further testing. However, recently the Marines decided they’d test the things in the field, thank you, and are preparing to ship some JINs to Al Anbar province in Iraq.

I am weary of the “bureaucracy” excuse. Bureaucracies are as good as their managers. Yes, low-priority projects can linger in someone’s in-box, but if the top suits (or brass, as it were) make it well known they want some particular thing to move, and direct mid-level managers to expedite the process, then I bet movement there will be. But when the top guys can’t or won’t set clear priorities because they have their heads up their butts and don’t know how to work with the bureaucracy beneath them, that’s when items get bogged down.

Update: While at the Los Angeles Times, don’t miss “For One Marine, Torture Comes Home.”

Mondo Snow

Here in the greater New York City metro area we really did get slammed with some major snow. This is a guess, as I haven’t gone outside, but from the kitchen window it looks like 18 inches, give or take.

We’ve been having an extraordinarily mild winter until now. This storm is a major setback for my plans to convert my co-op apartment into a luxury tropical beachfront property. Maybe next year.

While I’m on a personal level — I want to thank everyone for the supportive emails. I hope to answer all of them, but it may take a few days. I really, really appreciated them, though.

On to Iran

Philip Sherwell of The Telegraph reports that the Pentagon is planning a military blitz of Iran.

Strategists at the Pentagon are drawing up plans for devastating bombing raids backed by submarine-launched ballistic missile attacks against Iran’s nuclear sites as a “last resort” to block Teheran’s efforts to develop an atomic bomb.

Central Command and Strategic Command planners are identifying targets, assessing weapon-loads and working on logistics for an operation, the Sunday Telegraph has learnt. …

… “This is more than just the standard military contingency assessment,” said a senior Pentagon adviser. “This has taken on much greater urgency in recent months.”

The Telegraph also provides a brief history of Iran’s nuclear program, here.

You all remember the “axis of evil” line from the 2002 SOTU speech, I’m sure. The “axis” of dangerous nations was North Korea, Iran, and Iraq. Of the three, Iraq was the weakest and least dangerous; naturally, we squandered our military and spoiled diplomatic resources by invading Iraq, leaving the problems in Iran and North Korea to fester.

(For an account of Bush’s serial screwups regarding North Korea see “Blame Bush for North Korea’s Nukes.” Note that you have to scroll past a bunch of junk after the February 10 post to read the rest of it. I don’t have any way to edit the junk out, sorry.)

James Fallows, whose articles on Iraq for the Atlantic Monthly are indispensable reading, wrote in December 2004:

The decisions that a President will have to make about Iran are like those that involve Iraq—but harder. A regime at odds with the United States, and suspected of encouraging Islamic terrorists, is believed to be developing very destructive weapons. In Iran’s case, however, the governmental hostility to the United States is longer-standing (the United States implicitly backed Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s), the ties to terrorist groups are clearer, and the evidence of an ongoing nuclear-weapons program is stronger. Iran is bigger, more powerful, and richer than Iraq, and it enjoys more international legitimacy than Iraq ever did under Saddam Hussein. The motives and goals of Iran’s mullah government have been even harder for U.S. intelligence agencies to understand and predict than Saddam Hussein’s were.

And, most critically, the Shiite clerics in charge of Iraq have developed close ties to the majority Shiite government in Iraq. Indeed, there is a very real danger that Iraq is becoming a puppet of Iran, in spite of Bushie attempts to make it a puppet of the U.S. It is likely a U.S. strike on Iran would set the Iraqi insurgency on fire; even the U.S.-powered Iraqi government would turn against the U.S.

Further, unlike Iraq, Iran really does have weapons of mass destruction. Fallows wrote that “the Iranian regime would conclude that America was bent on its destruction, and it would have no reason to hold back on any tool of retaliation it could find.” Among other near certainties, Israel would be drawn into all-out war before you could say “ayatollah.” Also,

Unlike Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, a threatened Iran would have many ways to harm America and its interests. Apart from cross-border disruptions in Iraq, it might form an outright alliance with al-Qaeda to support major new attacks within the United States. It could work with other oil producers to punish America economically. It could, as Hammes warned, apply the logic of “asymmetric,” or “fourth-generation,” warfare, in which a superficially weak adversary avoids a direct challenge to U.S. military power and instead strikes the most vulnerable points in American civilian society, as al-Qaeda did on 9/11. If it thought that the U.S. goal was to install a wholly new regime rather than to change the current regime’s behavior, it would have no incentive for restraint.

And the Pessimist at The Left Coaster warns that other nations — notably China and Russia — are making noises about siding with Iran against us.

In other words, a strike on Iran carries terrible risks, much greater risks than did a strike on Iraq. And we know how that turned out.

There is a possibility that the Pentagon is just saber-rattling to encourage Iran to be more compliant with IAEA weapons inspectors and with the UN Security Council. That would be a sensible thing to do. But the Bushies hate the UN Security Council, and they hate the IAEA even more. You’ll remember that in the buildup to the Iraq invasion, IAEA president Mohamed ElBaradei was telling everyone who would listen that Iraq did not have nuclear weapons capability; was not even close. And he was right. Thus did ElBaradei become Public Enemy #2 to the Bushies, behind Saddam Hussein himself. They hated him so much they had the NSA tap his phone to find evidence against him, as part of an effort to have him replaced at IAEA. As evidence of the high regard in which the Bushies are held, the rest of the world supported ElBaradei, who last year was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Bushies, for whom every frustration becomes a personal vendetta, would pot-roast their own babies before they’d do anything to help the IAEA and ElBaradei.

On the other hand, Karl may figure he could use Iran to do to the 2006 elections what he accomplished with Iraq in the 2002 elections. The Republican Noise machine will spew out visions of mushroom clouds hovering over American cities, and the Dems will fail to put up a cohesive challenge. Hmmm. Sounds like a plan.

World War III, anyone?