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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Iraq and American Foreign Policy Alternatives 

Iraq and American Foreign Policy Alternatives

The Clarion Content has been deliberately (largely) withholding comment on United States foreign policy actions in Iraq. This is because it was hoped that the Clarion would be able to frame its initial commentary about Iraq within the context of a debate about a larger foreign policy rework that ought to be undertaken. The Clarion still fully intends to sponsor that discussion: that the United States needs to fundamentally reconsider its foreign policy. We are indebted to friends of the Clarion for helping provide the twin themes of that rework, transparency and consistency. This piece will not delve into that meatier foreign policy material. Ultimately, the publisher of the Clarion could not refrain from commenting on pontification about Iraq in Washington, DC, circa June 2006.

The point that must be made today is simply, Iraq is a mess, and the Democratic Party offers no real policy alternative from the Administration. It is taken as fact herein that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfolwitz, et. al. have screwed the pooch in Iraq. While the Clarion never held much hope that the Democrats could provide an alternative on Iraq, disheartened as we were by the Kerry nomination and campaign of 2004, this week past has shown just how completely out of touch with popular sentiment the Democrats are. It is one thing for Joe Lieberman, Joe Biden and Hillary to meander toward what they perceive as the center, trying to position for a general election, rather than the primaries, it is repugnant, but to be expected. (1) But for the Democratic party in general, when one of its lefties, like Carl Levin, makes the kind of statements he did this week, it says to the liberty focused liberals, the genuine supporters of human rights, that even on the left edge of the big tent that is the Democratic party, there is no place for us anymore. (2)

This week the Senate voted down two resolutions on the Iraq War, one with a binding deadline for the withdrawal of troops, one recommending a troop reduction without a binding deadline. Senate Democrats offered two resolutions rather than one, to highlight and underline their spineless inability to resist/alter/critique the Administration’s Iraq policy.

This week also saw General G.W. Casey, Jr. (Commander US Forces Iraq) broach discussion of a drawdown of the number of personnel of the United States Armed Forces stationed in Iraq by as much as half. The Clarion understands the argument that a firm, publicly announced deadline for the withdrawal of troops might be counterproductive. The Clarion is glad to hear General Casey suggesting troop drawdowns. (However politically motivated—or at least on behalf of, the Commander-in-Chief this talk might be.) What is horrifying and frustrating in light of this week's events and comments is that neither of the two political parties represented in national office in Washington, DC has any sense that invading Iraq was a massive mistake.

It is not news to say that the Bush administration does not think invading Iraq was a mistake. Among the many, many sellouts of the 2004 Kerry campaign was the unwillingness to say invading Iraq was a huge mistake. (3) It was as disingenuous as Bill Clinton saying he didn’t inhale, though about a matter of far greater consequence. What is so disturbing is that two years on, outside of John Murtha’s district, one can’t find a Democratic politician with the common sense and understanding enough to say invading Iraq was a titanic mistake.

The Clarion understands that one can’t pretend this mistake didn’t happen. The Clarion further understands and accepts that even as an advocate outside the policy-making apparatus, one has to advocate action on the basis of where things stand now. There is no rewind. But when Democrats in positions of power and prestige like senior party Armed Service Committee member, Carl Levin, are making comments like, “For heaven's sake, we liberated that country. We got rid of a horrific dictator. We've paid a tremendous price. The idea that they should even consider talking about amnesty for people who have killed people who liberated their country is unconscionable," it is obvious that they just don’t get it. (The Senator was commenting on the new Iraqi Prime Minister’s recently mooted peace plan.)

Link to an article with Senator Levin's comments

Earth to Senator Levin: America liberated Kuwait under George Bush I, after Iraq and Saddam Hussein invaded. (4) Under George Bush II, America invaded Iraq. The fiction that Americans were somehow Iraq’s liberators and that troops would somehow be greeted with roses in the streets was promulgated by the administration's most dastardly members, Cheney, et al. (5) Senator Levin, where have you been during the last umpteen months of your committee’s meetings? Has the insurgency not put paid to some sense that America was a liberator? All but the client state America is propping up see America as an invader, not a liberator. Thousands of innocent bystanders have been killed by the United States invasion. Senator, do you think their families see American troops as liberators? For all the heroic individual actions of countless United States servicemen, the nature of the mission has made America the bad guy. The anecdotal evidence of the people on the ground, even in the United States military, is that 90% of the resistance America is facing is local, Iraqis, not foreign jihadists.

It is a Vietnam redux in different rhetorical clothing. Instead of fighting the amorphous rhetorical enemy of Communism, America is fighting the amorphous rhetorical enemy of Terrorism. The Iraqis, like the vast majority of the Vietnamese, are fighting a foreign invader. Vietnam continued the fight throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s, vs. France, then on through 1960’s and 1970’s until America finally gave up. (6) The fact that both of the political parties with any power in Washington either don’t see or choose to ignore this underlying reality is deeply disturbing. The American people want out of Iraq for just this very reason, the same rationale that eventually turned the majority of the American public against the Vietnam War. Americans want to be liberators not conquerors. When they have cottoned on to it, the American people have resisted the neo-colonialist urge of the American elite. Unfortunately, it looks quite certain that in 2008 both major parties will offer candidates who support paternalistic, jingoistic, aggressively interventionist foreign policy platforms.

A deadline for the withdrawal of most (7) American forces from Iraq is not an answer. America needs to make an admission that the entire invasion was an epic mistake based on a false premise, regardless of however evil Saddam Hussein was. Further, America needs to state unequivocally that it rejects the notion of pre-emptive War. (8)


(1) The two Joe’s, of the three of them, might even honestly believe what they are saying.

(2) Not that elements sponsoring multiculturalism in the guise of pseudo-fascist-Political Correctness hadn’t been pushing us in that direction anyway.

(3) The 2004 campaign was quite literally fought over the argument of whether America would have won Vietnam, if it had stuck it out. Literally, “Kerry quit on Vietnam, just like he was going to quit on Iraq” was the subtext of the Republican campaign. Candidate Kerry, rather than skewer them with their own argument, “The Republicans never wanted to quit Vietnam, just like they will never want to quit Iraq.” instead, played directly into their hands insisting he wasn’t going to quit Iraq.

(4) But then after liberating Kuwait, America subsequently failed to continue on into Iraq. This was one of the primary reasons American troops, this time, were greeted with suspicion rather than joy by the Shi’ite majority of Iraq. George Bush (I) let them dangle in the wind, let Saddam kill thousands more of them putting down a revolt attempt, after America encouraged them to rise up in resistance.

(5) For a sense of how far gone the Democrats are in terms of the real debate, note that they are using the Administration’s propaganda as the baseline for discussion.

(6) Pray, pray, pray American kids don’t fight for decades in Iraq. Every limb lost is one too many. And please take note that less than thirty years after the last colonialist invader left Vietnamese soil, they are quite literally knocking down American doors to join its economic clubs, play the game by its economic rules. (Primarily via membership in the World Trade Organization and reducing bilateral tariffs.)

(7) Neither Democrats or Republican are in ANY WAY proposing to withdraw all United States forces. Both sides see Iraq becoming a permanent outpost for at least some United States troops.

(8) When Dick Cheney says the Democrats position, “in effect, validates the terrorist strategy” he is only correct if one accepts his and the administration’s underlying rational for invading Iraq. If one is sharp enough to distinguish that Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks on America of September 11, 2001 and that Iraq had no offensive weapons of mass destruction, then withdrawal becomes the admission of a terrible, tragic mistake by the Bush Administration, not a validation of terrorist strategy. To pretend invading Iraq was not an epochal mistake, to continue supporting a client state there, to maintain an occupying force, this is what plays into the hands of nihilistic, no hope, jihadists. …Cheney’s statement was made in a CNN interview.


Philadelphia Inquirer 6/23/06

Hartford Courant 6/26/06 by David Lightman, Washington Bureau Chief

by Liz Sidoti of the Associated Press in the San Jose Mercury News 6/23/06

by Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times found in the Seattle Times 6/26/06

by Bushra Juhi of the Associated Press in the Terra Haute Tribune Star 6/27/06

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

“Si se puede!” -quoth Univision 

“Si se puede!” -quoth Univision

The Clarion Content highly recommends that readers who have even a casual interest in following the World Cup, on the TV, watch the Univision coverage rather than the bland-aneity, the schlock that is ESPN/ABC/Disney’s coverage.

It is night and day. Univision’s coverage is to ESPN/ABC/Disney’s coverage as Brazilian futbol is to American soccer. That is to say one is jogo bonito and the other is slow, predictable, dull, and as enlivening and invigorating as a slice of Wonder Bread with a delicious chianti. Wonder Bread

What is about Univision’s coverage? Well, you’ll know the moment you turn it on. It is a thrill ride. The enthusiasm of their announcers is palpable. They know they are covering the world’s biggest sporting event, that their audience is in the millions, that things have stopped all over the world in order to focus on the partido at hand. This excitement literally flows out of the TV. You don’t need to speak Spanish to feel it. Listening to Univision’s announcers every touch, every pass, every cross rumbles with intensity. You just watch the ball. Your base brain and their expressiveness, combined with the onscreen picture forms a feedback loop that allows you to follow the game perfectly well. These men could give any auctioneer a run for their money on words per minute.(1)

Don’t think this means, however, that at any given moment my man doesn’t have the breath, the sheer lung power to cut loose with the traditional thirty to seventy second blast of


At any time, in the middle of any sentence!! Just to give you an idea of how long a blast that is, above you are looking at between thirty and seventy “o” characters bookended by a single “G” and a lone “l.” My man, he don’t have to take no gulp of air first, neither.(2) He just lets go, and you cannot believe how long he can go for. In another existence he would have been belting out arias with the best of them. He has a gift.

This gift gives Univision a huge advantage over the somnambulant American announcers on the ESPN family of networks. If you are watching the World Cup or are familiar with the great game of soccer, you will know there are no timeouts. In international matches this means halves go for more than forty-five minutes without a break. Sometimes a person has to get up and leave the room during that time, it just happens, from the phone to nature calling. Univision’s announcers tone, alone, allows you to know when you need to come back into the room, you are about to miss something. The American broadcasters can hardly summon energy even after a goal, let alone for an important free kick, foul, corner, cross, etc. When and if they ever get excited, it's after the goal, so you have already missed it. Univision’s team does a much better job of anticipating the play.

Now one can’t entirely blame the American broadcasters, they are a product of our national culture. It is entirely rational that they announce like soccer is boring, because by American standards it is; one, two, very often no more than three goals in an entire match. Heck, most basketball games see more scoring than that in the first two minutes. Recently, when two professional North American sports leagues were lagging in scoring, MLB baseball and NHL hockey, adjustments and rules changes were made to increase the scoring. Baseball did everything from juicing the balls to bringing in the fences to raise scoring. Hockey changed age old rules on the two-line pass and icing. Soccer/futbol as a world game, makes no such accommodation to the American mindset and lifestyle. It seems no coincidence that Americans, the world’s biggest consumers demand action from their games. Hence, the American announcers semi-apologetic tone, for ill-understood failure that is our own squad, but also for a game, that fits poorly with the American mindset. (Americans might be expected to struggle to understand or accept a game where territorial control is ephemeral.) (3)

The Univision announcers, even for those who don’t speak any Spanish, offer a thrill with their pronunciation of the players’ names. Names are part of the universal language. Again there is a stark contrast to the sterile American broadcasters whose attempts fall somewhere in between local newscaster and substitute teacher. The fellas in the booth for Univision are impresarios. They boldly roll the names of players from African countries off their tongues. Listening to their coverage of Angola v. Mexico, they were delighting and igniting with names like Kali, Macanga, Loco and Akwa. ESPN’s folks could handle the pronuncation only of Loco and they did not get the pun-“ish” linguistic joy out of it that Univision announcing tandem did. “Loco. ?Loco? Loco. Loco. Loco!!” See Angola’s roster

However, it is not just the African teams that they do well with, they are phenomenal for the German squad. You haven’t lived the World Cup until you have heard Univision’s play-by-play man say, “Schweinsteiger” in a truly excited tone and volume. He also does a phenomenal “Klose” and “Klinsman.” The joy and speed at which these names and the descriptions of the game are delivered is more comparable to singing or more specifically, rapping, or even better, flowing, than it is to speaking. The Univision announcer tandem gets their flow rolling and does not stop until forty-five some odd minutes later.(4) It’s halftime, and you and they are sweating nine-tenths as hard as the players are for the joy, the magic, the mystery, and the sheer electric power generated by the world’s biggest sporting event.

See Germany’s roster

Even Univision’s graphical displays and screen display’s are better, if only because they are more minimalist and less distracting from what is happening on the field of play. Univision is not running a constant scroll across the bottom of the screen ala ESPN, telling one what’s going on in the Canadian Football League or today’s A.L. pitching match-ups. Univision’s standard graphical content is limited to a small scoreboard with the clock, and a sponsor. Flipping between ESPN and Univision’s coverage will leave one with the impression that ESPN’s graphics are much more intrusive, literally much more invasive of the overall screen space.

If you are going to watch the World Cup, go with Univision. They have live coverage of all the games. Trust me that they are on your cable network, you have the channel. Word is my friends, their coverage is already out drawing ESPN/ABC.

See link on who’s getting what ratings for their World Cup Coverage

Univision’s announcer team bios

A quick google search reveals the Clarion is not alone in its thinking about Univision’s and ESPN’s announcers and coverage.





(1) Most of the time the Univision crew is going at the speed of college Policy Debaters spreading, but a lot more emotively, than any but the very best of them.

(2) Triple negative strictly for emphasis.

(3) American leaders can’t understand or accept that lesson at much higher levels for games with far greater stakes.

(4) Another thing many Americans find difficulty to handle, a game that is played for an indeterminate amount of time. What do you mean you add two, three, five or so minutes on to each half at the referee’s discretion???!

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Baseball notes 

The Minnesota Twins are getting a stadium, among other baseball notes

Saw a note from a Twins-Red Sox game a little more than a week ago, that caught my eye, “Crisp fouled a pitch off in the third inning that got stuck in a speaker along the third baseline and never came down.” Sox outfielder C. Crisp participated in one of the strangest quirks of the awful excuse for a baseball stadium that is Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Technically, it is not a stadium, from The New Bantam dictionary… "Stadium---2.outdoor sports arena usually oval or horseshoe shaped, with tiers of seats for the spectators.” The indoor domed monstrosity that is the triple H Metrodome doesn’t qualify as a stadium, let alone a place to hold baseball games, which are supposed to be played on a field.

Fields are much more likely to be found outdoors than inside. There is nothing about the Astroturf on the Metrodome floor occupying the physical space where the field of play would normally be found, which conveys the vaguest allusion to the concept, field. Even the green is the wrong color, a sickly pale green, that looks as if a regular, healthy green had been mixed with chalk dust and sandblasted on to concrete as an application process, leaving it looking like a bad pair of circa 1980’s acid washed jeans. In the jargon of the game, Astroturf was for a long time referred to as carpet, but even that has gone out of vogue, as players and announcers alike realized the turf has more in common with pavement, than it does with carpet, let alone a carpet of grass, like a field. The concept being, when baseball is played out of doors in a field it is quite unlikely to result in a ball going up and never coming down, esp. a foul pop-up.

Baseball stadium building for about a thirty year period during the late 60’s, the 70’s and early 80’s was atrocious, see Riverfront, Three Rivers, Exhibition and Veteran’s stadium among others. Imagine an era where Shea Stadium, under the flight path for LaGuardia Airport, is defined as one of your most aesthetically pleasing stadiums.

But good news non-Minnesota tax paying sports fans, and I am not talking about the new and improved synthetic Astroturf, that has been appearing all over baseball in recent years, which along with owners’ realization that players are among their most valuable assets, is indeed good news for all.

However, the good news I am talking about concerns the Twins!! Just as this publication called for at the start of the season, the Twins are going to tear down the Hubert’s Metrodome and start playing baseball outside in a stadium with no roof. Now as alluded to above, it can be argued that this is only good news if you’re a non-Minnesotan. Because if you are a Minnesotan, you can be pissed that of the estimated cost of stadium construction, currently $522 million, (beware the cost overruns) $392 million is to be financed by the taxpayer, and $130 million is to be financed the Twins owner, Carl Pohlad. Hard to feel like that's a good deal. A further discouraging note for Minnesotans, the state’s House, Senate and Governor agreed to $248 million in state money for an on campus stadium for the University of Minnesota’s football team, one of the Metrodome’s other tenants. That’s a lot of citizens money for stadiums, be they outdoor, no foul balls in the ceiling or not.

From a baseball-centric point of view, however, as Twins Manager, Ron Gardenhire, says, “[the] Metrodome looks like an office building.” Hard to see that as a compliment, one has to think that means he isn’t so excited that they play their games there either, and like the rest of us baseball Luddites, can't wait to get out of the cubicle and back into the non-recirculated open air of a stadium with a field of grass.

The new ballpark is scheduled to be open beginning with 2010 season. We will keep you posted in this space on the progress of construction and its costs.

See link to the AP’s story…

The Clarion Content also endorses Googling the news. Google’s sub-site for searching strictly news sources. See Google the News

Construction on the new New York Mets stadium is now visible across from the outfield fences of the current Shea.

One more quickie baseball note, I still think 85 wins is going to be enough to win the NL West, and possibly the AL West, too, although there a team might need to get to 90. Distortions brought to us by the unbalanced schedule, which would be far less disconcerting were it not for the playoffs having been expanded to eight teams.

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