Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Rove Doctrine

In all of the discussion regarding the stupidity of escalating the conflict in Iraq, one thing that seems to be slipping through the cracks, and which would be highly instructive on the idea's merits, is just where such a plan came from.

It certainly didn't come from the Iraq Study Group.

It most definitely didn't come from the voters in November

Nor did it come from either the old or new Congress.

We also know that it didn't come from Bush's (most recent crop of ex-) generals, whom he famously consulted on his "listening tour" across town.

But if all of the informed parties that Bush went to for advice were against escalating troop levels, then how could he have possibly come to such a decision? As Sherlock Holmes said, "Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth."

Thus, we are left with one option: Karl Rove. The "new strategy for Iraq" is not (as it might appear) actually a new strategy for fighting the conflict in Iraq, but rather a new strategy for fighting the politics of the Iraq issue. This is the only light in which escalation makes any sense, and it has the advantage of being consistent with the behavior of the Bush administration since its inception.

It's consistent with Bush's repeated framing of any issue in terms of what "message" it "sends." It's consistent with formulating governmental policy as whatever is most damaging to your political enemies. This administration habitually equates criticism of such policies as warrantless wiretapping, indefinite detention, and torture, with refusal to conduct terrorist surveillance. He publicly and repeatedly stated last Fall that voting for Democrats equated to voting for terrorists.

It has been long pointed out that this administration, unlike any to previously occupy the White House, does not "do" policy. Rather, policy decisions are routinely framed as political decisions. What best plays to the base? What's most damaging to the other party? What "sends the right message?" That's the Rove Doctrine, in one phrase.

This is how you get to escalation in spite of every informed opinion on the subject of Iraq: It's not about Iraq at all, and it never was. It's about us.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

News Flash for 1/18/07

WASHINGTON - Senators demanded details Thursday from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales about new orders putting the government's domestic spying program under court review — and questioned why it took so long to do so. In response, Gonzales ran like hell out the door and made his escape past suprised Capitol security. He is believed to be still at large.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Children Of Men

This is the best damn movie I've ever seen. I'll probably revise that hyperbole at some point in the future, but at the moment I just can't think of a movie I've ever seen that I like better. Not even Muppet Treasure Island. It's that good. How do I love this flick? Let me count the ways:

  1. This movie displays what a British fascist state would look like about as well as the original V for Vendetta comic - that is to say, much better than V's movie adaptation.

  2. The last third of the movie shows pretty much what it must be like to live in Baghdad right about now.

  3. Sci-fi premeses allow political situations to be displayed and discussed with an assumption of no political bias. You can actually put all this on the screen without seeming preachy, because even the geopolitics are hypothetical - as opposed to movies such as Syriana or The Constant Gardener, where the geopolitics are real.

  4. Even though it's set 20 years in the future, the presumed technology changes are really quite subtle, and therefore believable. Pretty much they've got flat-screen TV's everywhere for advertising - that's about it.

  5. Clive Owen and Julianne Moore sure can bicker.

  6. Although much of the situational commentary applies to American politics, far more of it applies to English politics more specifically. I like it that more and more movies aren't being made by and about Americans or otherwise dumbed down so that Americans can understand what's going on.

  7. As difficult as it is, every once in a while the technical aspects of the filmmaking are so good (without being all cgi-flashy) that it actually breaks you out of the picture. For example, one sustained handheld shot requires the precise coordination of hundreds of people starting in different areas at precisely coordinated times. Blood spatter gets on the camera lens. Everything works.

  8. There's no big flashy "save the world" ending. All this film does is follow one leg of a journey that hopefully will lead to the literal salvation of humankind - but there's hardly any one point you can point to and say that's the climax where things officially shift towards "happily ever after." In other words, you don't get a movie ending where everything is wrapped up neatly with a bow. It's more like a short-story ending, where you got to see only one slice of the larger situation and that's all you get. You know, like life.