Monkey Media Report Archive

A North Carolina
news and arts Weblog
October 2004

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10.29.04 - I like what William Rivers Pitt has to say about the latest episode of that crazy Osama reality show, but, to be honest, Newsmax's reaction is much more fun and MSNBC offers a few more interesting tidbits:

NBC’s Richard Engel reported that bin Laden spoke in a modern style of Arabic, in contrast to the flowery Quranic language he has used in previous messages. He appeared to be speaking in a fashion he thought would be better suited to this target audience, the American people...

U.S. officials told NBC News that in parts of the tape not aired by Al-Jazeera, bin Laden acknowledges that the recent Afghan elections were not a success for him because “they came off with minimal violence.” And he admits that “aggressive Pakistani operations” in South Waziristan, where he is believed to be hiding, have hurt his operations.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Rick Francona, a Middle East specialist and former military official at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, said the tape was surprising in that it appeared to demonstrate that bin Laden was in good health.

Of course, ratings for the world's most famous villain had dropped severely after the White House programmed "Iraq II" against him in the same time slot, but - despite U.S. attempts to keep him off the air - his comeback moment has apparently arrived. And news that U.S. military commanders supposedly know where Osama is but can't or won't go after him certainly won't be helping Bush's reelection chances:

Former Navy Secretary and 9-11 commissioner John Lehman says the U.S. knows where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is hiding but can't reach him because he is in a region of Pakistan controlled by Islamic extremists opposed to President Pervez Musharraf.

"There is an American presence in the area, but we can't just send in troops," Lehman told the Sun. "If we did, we could have another Vietnam, and the United States cannot afford that right now."

Hm. I wonder why. [link]

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10.28.04 - What the hell, I said on the air I'd do it so here it is: For those late deciders who watched the show this week and still need convincing that the invasion of Iraq was a colossal miscalculation, my attempt at a non-partisan three-point argument:

First point: For the first time in the history of modern U.S. intelligence, the White House created a new entity, the Office of Special Plans, to override the CIA and State Department analysts who normally reported to the President. This strange new office was designed for one purpose: to funnel dubious - and, according to Colin Powell himself, "deliberately misleading" - assertions about Iraq directly to the White House for use in public speeches. Those speeches convinced an awful lot of folks, including the nameless geniuses on the News & Observer editorial board*, that preemptively invading a country that hadn't attacked us was sound foreign policy. Question #1 for you late deciders who read the above two links: Why was such an office necessary?

Second point: Rumsfeld, Bush, Rice and Cheney saw the emotional turmoil caused by 9/11 primarily as an opportunity to establish U.S. military bases in Iraq. They then unnecessarily endangered our soldiers by rushing to war while many of us were reacting out of anger, hurt and a desire for revenge. The 'Osama = Saddam' misdirection has not only made you terror moms much less safe, it's also placed your sons and daughters in gruesome, morally horrific situations [wm] that create enough death and suffering to darken those soldiers' lives for a long time (if they survive, unlike the apparently innocent folks in that video). Meanwhile, Al Qaeda has almost certainly used the time we've been mired in Iraq to grow stronger worldwide, using Iraq as yet another failed, chaotic state in which to hide and plan. Whatever else Iraq was before the U.S. invasion, it sure as hell wasn't a Wahabist safe zone.

Third point: Bush & Co. actively suppressed concerns from military commanders about the White House's near-total lack of post-war planning, which led Rumsfeld and his neocon pals to make a series of stunningly ignorant blunders immediately after the invasion that have led directly to the deadly mess we're seeing today. Why would anyone trust the same folks who drove us into this ditch to get the car home in one piece?

There. That's the argument, for anyone who - beyond all expectation - is still able to be convinced. That last link is a real killer, by the way. I know very few of you will follow it, but the least you can do is read this much:

Many of the original miscalculations made by the Bush administration are well known. But the early blunders have had diffuse, profound, and lasting consequences-some of which are only now becoming clear. The first and foremost of these errors concerned security: the Bush administration was never willing to commit anything like the forces necessary to ensure order in postwar Iraq. From the beginning, military experts warned Washington that the task would require, as Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki told Congress in February 2003, "hundreds of thousands" of troops. For the United States to deploy forces in Iraq at the same ratio to population as NATO had in Bosnia would have required half a million troops. Yet the coalition force level never reached even a third of that figure. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his senior civilian deputies rejected every call for a much larger commitment and made it very clear, despite their disingenuous promises to give the military "everything" it asked for, that such requests would not be welcome. No officer missed the lesson of General Shinseki, whom the Pentagon rewarded for his public candor by announcing his replacement a year early, making him a lame-duck leader long before his term expired. Officers and soldiers in Iraq were forced to keep their complaints about insufficient manpower and equipment private, even as top political officials in the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) insisted publicly that greater military action was necessary to secure the country.

In truth, around 300,000 troops might have been enough to make Iraq largely secure after the war. But doing so would also have required different kinds of troops, with different rules of engagement. The coalition should have deployed vastly more military police and other troops trained for urban patrols, crowd control, civil reconstruction, and peace maintenance and enforcement. Tens of thousands of soldiers with sophisticated monitoring equipment should have been posted along the borders with Syria and Iran to intercept the flows of foreign terrorists, Iranian intelligence agents, money, and weapons.

But Washington failed to take such steps, for the same reasons it decided to occupy Iraq with a relatively light force: hubris and ideology. Contemptuous of the State Department's regional experts who were seen as too "soft" to remake Iraq, a small group of Pentagon officials ignored the elaborate postwar planning the State Department had overseen through its "Future of Iraq" project, which had anticipated many of the problems that emerged after the invasion. Instead of preparing for the worst, Pentagon planners assumed that Iraqis would joyously welcome U.S. and international troops as liberators. With Saddam's military and security apparatus destroyed, the thinking went, Washington could capitalize on the goodwill by handing the country over to Iraqi expatriates such as Ahmed Chalabi, who would quickly create a new democratic state. Not only would fewer U.S. troops be needed at first, but within a year, the troop levels could drop to a few tens of thousands.

Of course, these naive assumptions quickly collapsed, along with overall security, in the immediate aftermath of the war. U.S. troops stood by helplessly, outnumbered and unprepared, as much of Iraq's remaining physical, economic, and institutional infrastructure was systematically looted and sabotaged.

The rest is even better, with lots of details to clinch the case.

[*Powell, remember, expressed "regret" over some of the nonsense that wound up in his Feb 2003 speech to the U.N., but overly credulous media at the time (again, the N&O's editorial board serves as a perfect example) accepted the allegations at face value, even as CIA, State Department and Pentagon employees like Karen Kwiatkowski, who deserves some kind of whistleblower prize, looked on in shock and growing outrage. Funny, isn't it, how so many of us were able to immediately figure out that the administration's claims were flimsy justifications at best for a "preemptive invasion," while senior editors at major newspapers like the N&O willingly swallowed the administration line? And later, when CIA director George Tenet took the fall, lots of people (including, by golly, the N&O's editorial board) were fooled into believing the White House had simply been a victim of bad intelligence. Yeah, right. There wasn't a word in the N&O's "It's good that Tenet resigned" editorial about the Office of Special Plans. How out-of-touch can mainstream journalists get?

On second thought, don't answer that.] [link]

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10.27.04 - For the folks who liked the marker graffiti I filmed for the last two episodes of Monkeytime TV, here's more boxcar art. In fact, here's pages and pages of strangely appealing boxcar art. [link]

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10.26.04 - What do you want me to say? You want me to be all gung-ho for Kerry? (Yeah ok, whatever.) You want me to point to the best sites for convincing your conservative relatives? (I've been doing that for months; check the top of the home page.) You want me to tell you how to vote on NC's Amendment One? (This thread should convince you to vote no.) You want me to describe how many times I've called the Bowles campaign in the last three weeks to get Erskine's position on federal equality for gay and lesbian citizens, and how many times his policy coordinator and communications director have put me off with non-answers? (His stated position is worse than Dubya's, in case you're one of the few straight people who care.)

Fuck, y'all. I'm so sick, tired and angry it's no longer funny. If you absolutely must have a reason to explain why I've stopped posting, I'll make one up for you: This site is now a monument to those tens of millions of Americans who are registered to vote but won't. I'm not one of them, but damn can I relate. [link]

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10.12.04 - Well, lookee here. Turns out that the Triangle's two Sinclair-owned stations have applications for renewal of their FCC licenses under consideration right now. Area TV watchers have until November 1 to file Formal Petitions to Deny or Informal Objections to those applications. Tim Ross posted a succinct summary with great links at alt.music.chapel-hill this morning, and locals have begun following up. I just left a message with a UNC law prof who 1) served as Deputy White House Counsel under Clinton and 2) is described in his bio as "a leading expert on...the interrelationship between media, law and politics." The rest is covered nicely in Tim's post, reproduced with minor edits below:

====
You may have heard by now that the good ol' Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner of 62 local TV stations across the country, has plans to require its local stations to air an anti-Kerry "documentary" (more or less "Swift Boat Vets: The Movie") right before the election. Two of these stations are in Raleigh: WRDC ("UPN 28", the UPN affiliate) and WLFL ("WB 22", the WB affiliate).

There are a lot of great ideas floating around political blogs about how to respond to Sinclair in ways that actually might be effective....boycotting advertisers, contacting local affiliates, etc. I'll put some of those links down below...but one of the more interesting ideas I saw was pointed out at The Left Coaster:

Unlike most of the other Sinclair stations, the two local Raleigh stations actually have their FCC licenses up for renewal RIGHT NOW. According to The Left Coaster:

"The FCC rules state that anyone who has an interest, presumably a local interest, in the renewal of a TV license may file either an informal objection or a more formal petition that must meet specific requirements. Note that Petitions to Deny are required to be filed with the FCC one month in advance of the station's license expiration date."

The licenses of WRDC and WLFL both expire on December 1st, so Petitions to Deny would need to be filed by November 1st. I'm no lawyer, and I doubt that the stations would actually have their licenses denied by the FCC, but it seems to me that any Petitions to Deny would cause the stations some legal worries/fees...and that alone might be one useful form of public pressure.

Advertiser boycotts might be more effective since that's really the connection to the corporate pocketbook. There's a growing advertiser database up.

Going after *local* advertisers seems like an even smarter idea. That local business that advertises during the 6 o'clock episode of The Simpsons is going to start raising hell with the local affiliate if they start getting some bad publicity. There's also a petition at: http://www.stopsinclair.org. I'm skeptical about the effectiveness of petitions but that site has some good info about the whole issue and several links to other bits of information.

Of course, there's always the tried-and-true method of local people contacting the stations directly: WLFL: (919) 872-9535; WRDC: (919) 872-2854. To their credit, WLFL is already running an online poll question "Do you think Sinclair Broadcast Group should run the documentary?", so maybe their ears are open. And WRDC 28 has an online "feedback" form.

If this kind of stuff is important to you, get to it and try to fight the power! As the great Rain of the Jaguarundi once said, "TIME IS VERY MUCH OF THE ESSENCE".

Tim R.
====

There, that should be enough to get you going. The kind of obviously one-sided political crap Sinclair is trying to pull is the wave of the future, of course (by 2010, I expect to see competing networks plugging their own candidates on "reality campaign shows" leading right up to election day), but we might as well do what we can to keep the corporate television networks at least moderately honest in the meantime. [link]

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10.11.04 - Good news. There'll be a new episode of Monkeytime TV airing Wednesday, for the first time since early June. You have no idea how happy I feel as I get it ready. It won't be live, since the new digital studio isn't ready for that yet, but most folks tell me they like the old pre-recorded shows better anyway. The new equipment should also make it easier to mix and match live and recorded bits. If you're in Raleigh, Monkeytime airs on Time Warner cable channel 10 from 8-9pm, with a rerun Thursday evening at midnight. [link]

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10.1.04 - Good short Newhouse News article about the issue both Kerry and Bush "hardly address" on the campaign trail: "the need to put more American youths in uniform." Here's a wake-up call for Kerry supporters:

And 15 years after the end of the Cold War, the military forces of the NATO European allies are so shrunken that they are unable to make good on a pledge to provide 5,000 more troops for Afghanistan, according to a new report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a private nonpartisan think tank in Washington.

Bottom line: The allies won't be able to provide fresh combat troops for Iraq or anywhere else "either at present or in the foreseeable future," said Andrew Krepinevich, a retired West Point officer and Pentagon strategist who directs the center.

Bush, of course, has no plan other than smiling while insisting things are on the upswing, as last night's stumbling performance demonstrated nicely, but Kerry's repeated insistence that he can get other countries to share the burden of fixing Iraq may be a similarly optimistic approach. As TomDispatch puts it: "...if his only solution to the Iraqi mess is bringing in allies, he's in trouble..." Scroll down for Swiss writer Bruno Giussani's very sobering "Memo to Kerry from Europe: Help (for Iraq) Is Not on the Way." After recounting multiple examples of Kerry promising to replace a chunk of the 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq with troops from elsewhere, Guissani can't help note that "Senator Kerry may be counting on that European sympathy a bit too much":

From a European perspective, this is funny talk, particularly from a man who knows Europe well and who, by the admission of his own advisers, has not so far held any discussions with foreign leaders about committing more troops. Kerry is promising something whose likelihood is very close to zero. Help is not on the way for Iraq. Europe will not rush to "share the burden," nor to significantly reduce the cost of the Mesopotamian adventure to American taxpayers. Truth is, the United States will have to see Iraq through mostly by itself.

On one matter, Kerry is right: It is undoubtedly in everyone's interest to encourage some form of democratic stability in Iraq and to prevent it from becoming a failed state. But European politicians are not suicidal and that won't change even if John Kerry is elected.

[via Cursor, which has been full of great stuff this week] [link]

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9.30.04 - Best debate moment: Just after 11pm on The Daily Show, when former general/supreme commander of NATO Wesley Clark used the disappointment of "right-wing bloggers" as evidence that Bush had totally blown the first real contest of the campaign. I try not to ever watch this kind of carefully stage-managed garbage alone, so the five of us in the living room - stuffed with (if I may) a delicious, mostly homemade Shrimp & Veggie in Peanut Sauce pasta - looked at each other and laughed out loud. Wesley goddamn Clark going to freaking bloggers to gauge voter reaction in the first half-hour after a presidential debate? And admitting it on national television a few minutes later?

Ed Cone, I hereby prostrate myself before the altar of Blogger Triumphalism. Truly, nous sommes arrivé. [link]

Update: Ed links to a DailyKos roundup of pro-Bush bloggers who think Kerry won.

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9.30.04 - So, after work last night I biked over to community TV for a training session on the sparkling new digital equipment. Looks like we won't be able to air more than one or two live shows before the election, which is what I expected after the initial meeting last month. Hopefully, we'll be able to get in one or two prerecorded shows as well, but that's still up in the air. Anyway, while there I caught a glimpse of last night's rerun as it aired. It was the show in which I really went after conservative black preachers for their disgusting attempt to claim "civil rights" for black people only. When I got home, this was waiting for me:

-----Original Message-----
From: xxxxxxx@ncsu.edu [mailto:xxxxxxx@ncsu.edu]
Sent: Wednesday, September 29, 2004 8:32 PM
To: todd@monkeytime.org
Subject:

If i ever get withing arems reach of you i hope i am in the state of mind
to slap the shit out of you and the idiot who put you on television.
First of all every gay in america should be put on a boat, taken out in
the ocean and sunk. Who would put a fag on televion talking about how bad
it is that the concervative preachers who don't support gays. They
shouldn't be supported by anybody, especially the church. I hope that
when you die you go straight to hell and you can let satan fuck you in the
ass the rest of eternity

The funniest thing about this message, after the obvious interest in satanic ass-fucking, of course, is that it came from a typically easy-to-identify N.C. State account - you know, first initial/middle initial/last name@ncsu.edu. In this case, the owner is a freshman boy from the small coastal town of Washington, North Carolina (population 9,767), which I see claims to be the very first town in the United States to have named itself after George Washington. Before he became president, thank you.very much.

Anyway, I made up my mind long ago not to live in fear of people like this (or the two others who responded to the show last night with obnoxious email), but I'll be damned if I'm going to sit here and do nothing while some 18-year-old works out his conflicted sexual feelings by fantasizing about slapping the shit out of me while the devil fucks me up the ass. Good heavens. Something must be done.

More seriously, it's difficult via email to sort out the bigots who are all lusty talk from the few who might actually do something violent, so I feel compelled to do what I can to prevent this juvenile from threatening my people in the future. Plus, I'm now very curious to see how seriously NCSU takes this violation of section 14.1.8 of its Code of Student Conduct and section V of its policy on Computer Use Regulation. Stay tuned. [link]

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9.29.04 - Just a quick request: As long-time readers of this site know, I've never been one to beg for donations. Hell, I don't even like the idea of a Paypal button as a regular feature. But, as I do my best to reign in a tendency toward longer and more link-filled posts than just about any other political blogger in North Carolina (mainly so I can meet my friend Tim's one-post-a-day challenge for September), it occurs to me that anyone who's been enjoying the significant amount of work that goes into this site wouldn't mind sliding me, oh, enough money for a beer or two. (That goes especially for you newspaper and TV types who visit frequently. Cough up at least something.) Rest assured I'm not picky when it comes to alcohol, having inherited my dad's drinking genes, so if all you can afford is a buck for a PBR, it would still be appreciated.

So, if you want to encourage this sort of thing, feel free to head over to PayPal and "Send Money" to todd-at-monkeytime-dot-org. I'll have an Amazon donation page this week, too, if you'd prefer that (I generally hate using Amazon, mainly because I still hold a grudge over the company's absurd attempt to patent one-click shopping, but if it's your thing I won't stop you).

And thanks.

(And, hey, never give your dog beer.)

[link]

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You can't stop now.

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