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Sunday, March 19, 2006

Siezing Consensus from a Place of Power

During the Cold War, politicians and pundits used to bandy about a phrase we don't hear much any more - "balance of power." As I recall, it described the goal of essentially balancing the military might and political influence of the Soviet Union and her Warsaw Pact allies with that of Britain, the United States, and the rest of NATO and their allies.

The balance, though, was never really equal. The West, and especially the U.S., were public and predictable in their free societies, and almost always had the upper hand organizationally and technologically.

The Soviets, paranoid and unpredictable, were able to feel good about their position at the opposite end of the scale - they too had technology, missiles and a massive army - but their problems were kept quiet, seen as a sign of weakness, and those who questioned the status-quo propaganda the Kremlin promulgated frequently were censured, exiled or murdered. As a result, issues went unvoiced and unresolved and loyalty was not based so much in pride but rather in self-preservation.

So when the United States and Russia began to sign treaties in the 1970s, the State Department understood that it was more important to make the Soviets feel equal by giving them the other big chair at the table than to flaunt the relative superiority of free, open and democratic societies.

The powers achieved consensus over the threat of destruction, and did not let the differences in their societies divert them from that goal.

Now we think of ourselves as the biggest kid on the block and it seems the world is a more dangerous place. We've taken Reagan's "evil empire" rhetoric out of its historical context, as if the Cuban Missile Crisis and the detente of the Seventies never happened. Ronald Reagan could not have voiced his harsh criticism without the backdrop of reasonable consensus that previous decades had achieved.

The best thing we can do is bring Iran to the table. Hopefully, North Korea will be next. Negotiate with them, but not with a bomb held behind our backs. A gun held to the head might go off, and then what would we do? We must, rather, bring out an open purse just when we are tempted to wheel around an M-16. For if the goal is to reach a consensus, then we should reward those who choose to join us at the table. We don't have to prove that we are the strongest, but that we are the strongest in our commitment to peace.

Likewise, despite the history of violence, I believe Israel should be talking to Hamas (something I think they may be doing already in secret). Yes, I know - Israelis aren't blowing up buses and Palestinians aren't bulldozing houses - but in the end, all anyone wants is to be heard, to have a seat at the same table. Sure Israel could keep up its program - they have the military advantage - but then it never ends. There will always be more Arabs than Jews.

We must stop looking for the perfect enemy and reach consensus for an imperfect peace.


Bruce Kay Guest Column #3:

Don't Touch That Dial!
(If You Want to Live)

Report From Radio Free Baghdad
by Bruce Kay

Like everything here in Iraq , the start-up of the first Iraqi non-profit radio station, 'Nationalistic Public Radio' , has been , well, problematic.
First , the call letters, WIED - who came up with that?

Other issues? Well - starting the weekday programming with Mourning Edition, umm, it's a show that just doesn't lift the spirits.

Things do get a little better with the new call in game show. I think it's the prize - Carl Kasell making death threats on your enemy's answering machine - that makes it so popular. The show, Wait , Wait Don't Kill Me, is composed of an interrogator questioning a (Shiite) contestant who has to get every answer right or, well, I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't heard it yet. Anyway it's a smash hit (with the the Sunnis.)

Another popular show is in English so it's big with the US leadership. All Things Considered-Targets, is a lighthearted look at how US forces blow off steam ( and blow up everything else) but done with whimsy.

There is a variation on Car Talk over here that really took off. It's a show that started out with a large audience of palm tree mechanics, but for some reason has lost a lot of its listeners. Regardless, C
ar Bomb Talk hosted by the Mohammadotti brothers, really strikes a cord over here .

Another feature, that travels well, is the hourly traffic/weather/shrapnel reports. Nothing gets you around traffic like knowing where each day's craters have sprung up.

And who says the women here can't be fashionable? The ladies have made Burka Today the fashionable show about, well, fashion. Hint: this spring, for eye holes, horizontal is all the rage!

Not surprising in this sectarian environment, the Kurds are setting up there own "KPR" station. Don't know much about it, but it's all alone, on the far end of the dial.

One final note, to counter what they see as the "liberal spin" of the Iraqi media, Fox News has announced their own radio station
start up. It is said to be dedicated to broadcasting only "positive" stories from the war. My gut feeling, It won't be on 24/7.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Calls to Step Down Increase

About one hundred protesters showed up outside the Georgia Convention Center, near the Atlanta airport, Thursday night to wave signs and chant against President Bush and his policies.

While sponsored mainly by the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition, there were people there from several different organizations, including a large contingent from a particularly outraged group, The World Can't Wait (until 2008). There were also members of

As their name implies, The World Can't Wait is calling for the "Bush regime" to resign or be forced out of office before the next presidential election cycle. According to literature they distributed at Thursday's protest, they hold that the government, "your government," they insist, "is setting out to remake a fascist way." And they go on to warn, "silence and paralysis are not acceptable.We must act now; the future is in the balance."

There were also anarchists and those who are generally disillusioned with this entire government, from the White House to Capitol Hill.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Thunder Road

Waves of revolution no longer need only be heard crashing on the shores of distant regimes when the gauntlet for change lies at our feet. Though the echoing clamor seems to have left Washington, DC like the hollow hoofbeats of a retreating army, its force drives across the country with fresh thunder. What Congress and the White House think they have exiled, we the people will return to their door.

You see, they don't acknowledge an upswell they no longer hear. They listen for the quiet, because to them an angry but apathetic constituency is the same as a happy one. They have no responsibility to satisfy the silent. So if the story is no longer on the front pages of the Washington Post or New York Times, to them the issues have "etherized."

But Chicago, Indianapolis, Miami - you know what the renewal of the Patriot Act really means. Birmingham, Little Rock, Lincoln - you know what it is like to have a loved one die for lies. New York, Memphis, Santa Fe - you know what happens to your in-need communities when corporations are allowed to write laws that benefit themselves at your expense.

And New Orleans, well, you probably know the best of all what courruption and mismanagement in government costs every individual in a community.

Congress is intended to be a place for visionaries, not vested interests; for families, not fancy vacations; for the workers, not the WalMarts.

That we all have a right to happiness is a founding principal in this country. That some feel it's okay that their happiness comes at the expense of others is to evade the responsibilities of leadership. Our representatives serve at our pleasure, not those of corporate special interests. To that extent, it's not too late to let your voices be heard. The time, in fact, is now.

Bush is coming to my town tomorrow and I am going to be there with all the others that Washington's feigned ignorance has awakened. We are the thunder that will return the clamor to Capitol Hill and the steps of the White House. Don't let the noise echo out to sea; send it back to DC.

When we stand up, they must stand down.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Another Bruce Kay GUEST COLUMN*:

From the upcoming bombography

Bruce Kay’s' "Brief Notes between the Explosions"

Dateline: Baghdad
March '06

The people here just can't contain their excitement -"The Academy Awards".

There's a buzz in the streets in the streets. Whoa-that buzz is incoming. Damn! So, maybe the excitement is about something else. Hmmm, what else is there? Hmmm, why did I volunteer to cover the film scene here? Good questions.

The Sunni-Dance Film Festival doesn't seem like such a good idea to me... now, but I am fascinated with the Arabic versions of our top films. They've adjusted them ever so slightly for the local populace.

The leading contenders here are not a surprise:

- "Brokenback Mountain," another Abu Grahib based story.

- "Forced March of the Penguins"

- From last year, just released here, "Passion of the Christ," but now, with a laugh track.

Speaking of big laughs, there is a Comedy Central special coming up the locals are really excited about, “The Friar Roast of Saddam-Literally."

Also cracking them up, the Arabic version of "The Aristocrats," with added footage of Bin Laden's really dirty version involving a goat sacrifice, three virgins, and…well, I don't want to ruin it for you. Hopefully it will make it to the states.

Among the big documentary hits is “The Bush Peace Plan: Mission Really, Really, Really Impossible."

Unfortunately, though, "Mohammed's Satirical Cartoon Festival" was cancelled at the last minute. No one saw that coming.

On a related note, there is an announcement that while the Sunday morning Kritics Koffee is still scheduled for Oscar Sunday, there will be no Danish. No explanation given.

Well, that’s it from the Green Zone. I was just informed there will be a Fatwa issued against this column unless I thank our sponsor, Mohammed’s Truckles Movers, who remind you, Just pile your belongings on the mountain, we'll take it from there."


*GUEST COLUMN contributions appear as a courtesy and though vetted they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the publishers of this blog nor our advertisers.