Saturday, May 14, 2005

The Times front page has a theme that's not spelled out: actions have consequences

The front page of the New York Times carries a number of stories. The most emphasized (by columns and photo) is the base closings stories, Pam Belluck "For Shipyard and Region, Shock and Vow to Fight" by Pam Belluck and "Pentagon Urges Closing of Bases, Cutting 26,000 Jobs" by Eric Schmitt. People are shocked. I'm shocked that people are shocked. Has no one been paying attention to the Bully Boy the last four years?

This isn't a new plan that just popped into someone's head. The Bully Boy and others in the administration have been speaking of this for some time. It's been outlined and discussed. Maybe it's only now hitting home? Maybe only now are people who've thought they were the exception, that the Bully Boy would never do to them -- only to to others, are having to face the hard truth that the "exception" principle doesn't really apply.

The Air Force Association was addressing this in 2002 (from "First Skirmishes in the Battle of the Bases" by George Cahlink:

However, a few days later, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld actually endorsed the possibility of moving the command when he told reporters, "The European Command is in Europe, the Pacific Command's in the Pacific, and the Central Command is in Tampa." He then asked rhetorically, "Why is that?"
Those words set off alarm bells in the state capital in Tallahassee.
The Florida governor quickly fired off a letter to Rumsfeld that said Central Command "personnel are an integral part of our community." Bush said he understood the need for having military commanders in the region to oversee the war on terrorism but wanted to emphasize the importance of the command to the state. He added that about 84 percent of the 1,300 military and civilian personnel employed at Central Command live in the Tampa Bay area and generate $387 million annually for the state's economy.
Florida's rapid response put Rumsfeld on notice that it will not allow the uncontested removal of military facilities and employees from the state. Florida's actions reflect a growing trend across the nation, as states and local communities become increasingly aggressive in fighting to keep jobs at their bases.
With another round of military base closings set for 2005, communities with military facilities are spending millions of dollars on upgrades to infrastructure surrounding military bases, hiring lobbyists in Washington, D.C., to determine if their bases are vulnerable, forming partnerships with the military, and touting the value of their installations every chance they get.
The Pentagon had a tough job convincing Congress to allow more base closures. An even harder job could be fighting states and local communities over what bases can be closed.

Robert Burns was covering it for the Associated Press in 2001. Now granted our news media does a lousy job of tracking stories of late. And more often than not something that really effects you will be buried inside the paper or mentioned in passing on a broadcast. But this isn't new and the shock seems to be of a I-can't-believe-he-did-it-to-me! nature.

You can also read Ralph Blumenthal's "College Libraries Set Aside Books In a Digital Age" and feel the "invisible hands" not of the "free market," but of the Bully Boy. Letting books go free into the wild (University of Texas library system which includes satellite schools throughout Texas) isn't a new concept but one that's been pushed by various appointees over the years. Appointed by? Then Governor Bully Boy. In the short term, it's actually a good thing for the UT library systems because they've been funded so poorly for so long that "it's as though we're getting new books." That's from a librarian in the UT system I spoke to on the phone this morning. Prior to the Bully Boy, there were never "flowing" with money. But in the late eighties they did switch over to a computerized system ("finally") ("bar coding" was the term she used). With the arrival of the Bully Boy, it was "as though a war was delcared on reading." (Which made me wonder if our First Lady of Literacy and Libraries was as ineffective as First Lady of Texas as she currently is as First Lady of the nation?) The librarian I spoke to was an "RFK Democrat" and a "Ann Richards supporter" but basically self-described as apolitical. She provided with contact info on another librarian who self-described as a "Reagan Republican" but echoed the same beliefs and criticisms while also noting that the delivery system is so slow and the inventory of holdings so inadequate that it's far easier to borrow from one of the libraries housed in a major city in Texas than to get a book from the UT library system. Both also wondered what this would do to the periodicals? (Fred Heath, quoted in the Times, had declared in March of this year that funds would still be available for them though book purchase would be put on hold.)

So the point here is that Bully Boy had one full term as governor and a partial term. This is the damage he's created in Texas, be ready as it goes national long after 2008. Blumenthal doesn't seem all that concerned by it. (Maybe he's been reading Thomas Friedman's columns?) But it bothered me enough to get out some phone lists and search out the number of the first librarian.
(I have two more calls I'm still waiting to be returned.) Call Le Monde, we're all Texans now. And we'll all, apparently, be attending vocational schools from now on.

Robert F. Worth turns in what appears to be an unrelated article entitled "Tragicomedy of Life in Baghdad Is Brought Home in a TV Series." Love and War is a wacky comedy, as described by Blumenthal, featuring an "everyman" lead. If Worth hadn't used the term "everyman," I would have sailed right past that nonsense. I love these 'universal' entertainment products that focus on an "everyman." (Yes, that's sarcasm.) Love it when, for instance, film reviewers praise the 99th million coming of age story of a young boy as "universal." Guess it depends on your set-point? But keep telling yourself that it's "universal" even while the term "everyman" applies, based on gender alone, to less than half the world's population.

Monster-in-Law's been bashed by some "feminist" critics who are neither feminist nor really movie critics. (Though they're paid for the latter.) Reading some reviews Folding Star e-mailed earlier this week, I was struck by the fact that these nonfeminist had taken up the cause of feminism rather suddenly. After years and years of praising crap that sidelined women, suddenly reviewers for Entertainment Weekly (she's a Queen Bee who thinks she's an exception) and The New Yorker (they haven't had a real film critic at The New Yorker since Pauline Kael stepped down -- instead they rotate between film ignorant and someone attempting to crib from "Libby Gelman Waxner") are all ready to send in membership dues to NOW. Ignore them (as most people do -- which is one reason the review section of Entertainment Weekly has lost so much space in the last ten years and will continue to do so), Monster-in-Law is a funny movie.

But Worth had to use the term "everyman" and that was enough to irritate this morning.
He tells us that the sitcom "is produced by Al Sharqiya satellite television network, founded last year by a Dubai-based Iraqi." And that's all he tells us about that.

How strange.

The Al-Sharqiya network's chairman and chief bankroller is Saad al-Bazzaz, an Iraqi expatriate who made a name for himself in the newspaper business during the 1990s and recently returned to become a local media mogul, a kind of Iraqi Rupert Murdoch (head of News Corp) or Conrad Black, (the disgraced former chairman of Hollinger International). The Iraqi edition of his London-based Azzaman newspaper has become one of post-war Iraq's best-selling dailies. With Al-Sharqiya, the Dubai-based businessman takes aim at Iraq's airwaves.

The above is from Borzou Daragahi's "From soap operas to bottle-blonde newscasters to music videosAl-Sharqiya brings Iraqis entertainment TV" (The Daily Star). We're not done. Let's go The Guardian, to David Pallister's "Media mogul accused of running Saudi-funded propaganda campaign:"

Iraq's first independent media mogul has been running his empire with millions of pounds secretly provided by the Saudi regime, according to allegations made in the high court in London.
Based on documents lodged with the court, Saad Al-Bazzaz - dubbed the Rupert Murdoch of Iraq - was alleged to have received the money for the launch of his newspaper Azzaman, which is now the most widely read daily in Iraq. Mr Bazzaz also controls Iraq's first private satellite TV channel.

[. . .]
In public hearings and judgments in the high court last October, bank records were produced which showed transfers totalling £2.5m from Riyad Bank in Saudi Arabia to Azzaman's NatWest account in Ealing.
Other documents and letters, which Mr Bazzaz's lawyers say are of dubious provenance, suggest the money and political direction of the newspaper was covertly directed by senior officials in Saudi intelligence, which was then run by Prince Turki al-Faisal, the current ambassador in London.

Funny how such an 'interesting' character is so left out Worth's story. So "Love and War" is show not unlike half the crap churned out by the Fox Network (non-news division) ? The show's plot/theme appears to have been thought up by little Donnie Rumsfeld: "Stuff happens." So it's not all that surprising that Bill Berkowitz would report (in August of last year) "Iraq's Prime Minister suppresses media: New media regulations may help feed Iraqis 'reality TV' instead of actual reality:"

"Reality-based" television may become a popular staple in a country that continues to be beset by suicide bombings, outlaws in the streets, and a U.S. occupation force. While Al Sharqiya curries favor with the Allawi government, it will do little to keep the people of Iraq informed. The Committee to Protect Journalists is calling upon the Allawi government "to publicly clarify the role and function of the Higher Media Commission and to ensure that any official regulation of the media conforms with international standards for a free press."

There's a little more going on than a crappy TV show but the Times can't find the story. (We'll be kind and not addressed what passed for election coverage on Al Sharqiya's network.)

Which brings us to Ken Belson's "In Cities Facing Budget Deficits, Cellphone Becomes a Tax Payer." Bully Boy's give aways to the extremely wealthy have meant the tax burdens had to be absorbed in other ways. Why is anyone surprised? As the federal government has starved the states, municipalities have had to find other sources of tax income. Rummy might say, "Stuff happens." Bully Boy might mangle the old bromide, "There's no such thing as a free lunch."

But if there's a theme to this morning's front page, one that's not spelled out because far too much is left out, it's that actions have consequences.

The e-mail address for this site is And yes, for anyone wondering, I omitted the "Church bulletin" that makes the front page from this discussion.