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A Long Way From Lake Wobegon - Riffs and Licks
A Long Way From Lake Wobegon
Garrison Keillor has a incendiary column at In These Times. It's an excerpt from his new book:
Government of Enron and by Halliburton and for the Southern Baptists is not the same as what Lincoln spoke of. This gang of Pithecanthropus Republicanii has humbugged us to death on terrorism and tax cuts for the comfy and school prayer and flag burning and claimed the right to know what books we read and to dump their sewage upstream from the town and clear-cut the forests and gut the IRS and mark up the constitution on behalf of intolerance and promote the corporate takeover of the public airwaves and to hell with anybody who opposes them.
I take issue with his idealization of the Republican Party in the 1950s (American conservativism was hardly benign in those days) but it's a great piece.


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From: (Anonymous) Date: September 19th, 2004 09:33 am (UTC) (Link)

Government of Enron and by Halliburton

Not forgetting, of course, that Therisa Heinz Kerry was a major stock holder of Haliburton and quite possibly Enron as well (since they refuse to make her financial holdings public we may never really know).
I also find it odd that any supporter of Kerry could make an inuendo implying the GOP bans books, when it is the Kerry camp that purchased all the remaining copies of his 1972 anti-Vietnam war book and have threatened television networks with legal actions if they run ads from the swift boat vets. I guess freedom of speech is only permissable for Garrison Keillor.

-Christine's politically-middle-of-the-road-friend, Peter
steelbrassnwood From: steelbrassnwood Date: September 19th, 2004 09:43 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Government of Enron and by Halliburton

Well, I don't know that his column was a campaign screed for John Kerry so much as a howl of anger and terror about what's happened in the last four years and what's terribly likely to happen in the next four. (On the censorship front, remember what Al Gore's wife used to do for a living, as well.)

However, while I don't think the Kerry campaign has completely clean hands, the Repugnants have thoroughly outdone them on every front in the dirty-tricks war. And accusing Keillor of being hypocritical about free speech is completely fatuous; he had nothing to do with whatever the Kerry campaign might have done. (And for that matter, the Swift Boat ads are outright libel, clearly overstepping what's allowed even against a public figure. Kerry should be going at those liars much more aggressively than he has been.)

I used to think I was in the middle of the road, politically, as well, but the road's been moving to the right for years. And in any case, this is less about politics than about sheer disgust and fear. As much as I disagree with John McCain's politics, I would not be responding to his presidency the way I am to Shrub's, because I don't think McCain is stupid, I don't think he'd have steered the country into such a dangerous position, and I don't think he'd be as much of a corporate whore as Dubya has been.
steelbrassnwood From: steelbrassnwood Date: September 19th, 2004 10:18 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Government of Enron and by Halliburton

And see Maureen Dowd's column today for the Bush/Cheney campaign's response to even being questioned.
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 19th, 2004 03:21 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Government of Enron and by Halliburton

Hey Ken:

I enjoyed your thoughtful response.

I assume that the "war on terror" (and its execution) is the policy with which you most disagree. If you were the president at the time of the 9-11 attacks, what would you have done? Knowing only facts that were known then, how would you react?

On a more pleasant note, I passed the following URL off to Christine the other day to pass onto you. It is an MP3 of the Ed Palermo big band playing a Zappa tune with a harmonica intro by Howard Levy. Some of these players wmade up my wedding band, and I though you would enjoy his playing.


steelbrassnwood From: steelbrassnwood Date: September 20th, 2004 06:46 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Government of Enron and by Halliburton

Hi Peter. Where to start on your question? How about the "war on terror" itself. That's a nonsensical phrase: terror is an emotion. You can't fight a war against it or eliminate it. That's a Bushism (or perhaps a well-thought-out subtle shift in nomenclature) for the "war on terrorism." Which is also a nonsensical phrase. Terrorism is a tactic used by extremist groups of all types, some of whom oppose us, some of whom support us, and some of whom couldn't care less about us.

The war in question is a war against al Qaeda and affiliated extremist Islamic groups who are doing their best to kill large numbers of Americans. And we haven't been fighting that war since we abandoned Afghanistan. Instead we have diverted resources and attention to a war against an odious, but not particularly dangerous, and certainly not unique dictator, in the process not only allowing Afghanistan to begin sliding back to the stateless chaos in which terrorist groups flourish, but pushing Iraq into the same condition. Combine this with an ineffective security strategy and an unwillingness to listen to or learn from the mistakes that led to 9/11, and you have a country at greater risk than we were five years ago.

What would I have done differently? My God, what would a rational person not have done differently. Let's ignore the debate over whether Shrub lost focus on the problem before the event; the record there is clear but it's also irrelevant to the conversation now. What would a President have done?

  • Used the goodwill and sympathy of the world to create a multinational security force to stabilize the Middle East, focused not only on war but on economic development and education.
  • Informed the troublemakers in that region (not just Iran and Iraq, but also Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Palestinian leadership, and the corrupt Gulf emirages) that they must clean up their acts in order to continue receiving U.S. support.
  • Made a speech to the nation declaring war. State that the time for partisan bickering is over, and therefore we are withdrawing [long list of divisive proposals]. In return we expect support from the opposition party in the hard work of figuring out how to make this country safer. We are also announcing a series of new taxes to support this war, including a $1/gallon gasoline tax, a $25/ticket airline flight security charge, and sharp increases in upper-level tax brackets.
  • Drive the revenues from new taxes into American-based industries creating war materiel, security equipment and software, and so on.
  • Make another speech on corporate citizenship, reminding businesses that corporations are treated like people and need to act like them as well. Remind them of how we won WW II, and tell businesses to either begin behaving like good citizens, or face loss of federal contracts and increasing tax penalties.
  • Fired Paul Wolfowitz and the other idiots who'd distracted my administration for nine months with talk about Iraq. Made a phone call to Saddam. "I'm not Bill Clinton. Fuck with me and it won't be air strikes. Cooperate, and maybe we'll talk about lifting sanctions."
  • Stopped reading the goddamned goat book if for no other reason than understanding a scared country needs to feel someone competent is in charge.

That's off the top of my head. I'm sure that someone with the resources of a President could do it better. It's hard to imagine how they could do worse than Dumbya.

From: (Anonymous) Date: September 20th, 2004 08:29 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Government of Enron and by Halliburton


Perhaps surprisingly, are in agreement on nearly everything you have proposed above. I particularly agree with your take on the ridiculous label the President has given this conflict. A “War on Terror” is akin to launching a war against “flanking maneuvers.”

Your first point is something I have thought about in the past. I think I would have taken the post-9/11 opportunity to create a new multi-national organization whose mission was solely devoted to anti-terrorism activities. Think NATO of counter terrorism. That might have freed us from some of the unfortunate politics of the UN.

As I see it, on September 12, 2001, there were seven countries in the Middle East and Southern Asia that directly or indirectly supported the kind of terrorists that attacked us the previous day: Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Libya. There are three means that we can use to destroy or isolate terrorists within those countries: diplomatic, financial, and military. Diplomatic means are most likely to work with countries with which we already have a formal diplomatic relationship: in this case, that means Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. I didn’t know that diplomatic means would work with Pakistan on 9/12/2001, but our government moved quickly and President Musharaff responded well to our diplomacy. Saudi Arabia is ostensibly an ally of ours, and we are dependent on them for oil. Barring extreme discoveries, those factors exclude the military and financial options. It may be necessary to bring about more change than the House of Saud wants, but that is a long‐term change.

Syria and Libya are comparatively minor powers. We have cowed Libya in the past using air power alone. Syria can be controlled by Israel if necessary. I think the post‐9/11 calculation was that these countries could not and would not present an immediate threat to us by supplying weapons to terrorists, and might fall in line after other terrorist supporting states were dealt with (as Libya in fact did).

That leaves Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan. This may be the only area where we disagree. I don’t think diplomatic and financial approaches would work with these countries. I think that objectively Iran is the most dangerous of the three. Iran has a decades‐long history of supporting terrorists, is actively seeking nuclear weapons (which they have stated they will use to destroy Israel), and is ruled by Islamic fundamentalists. Iraq, we all know, was a police state that started several wars, gassed its own citizens, funded Palestinian terror groups in the West Bank and was home to Abu Abbas and Abu Nedal. I am not suggesting that invading these countries was/is the only option – just that I think they are much less susceptible to diplomacy without the credible threat of force to back it up.

One of UBL’s core beliefs was that America was fundamentally weak and decaying from within and a few well-placed terror attacks would send us over the edge. The belief that we are a paper tiger who will run away when punched in the nose is a commonly held belief throughout the middle east, fostered by our lack of resolve during the Iranian hostage crisis, our pulling out of Lebanon in 1982 after the Hezbollah attack, our failure to respond to the Mogadishu, Cole or first Trade Center attacks. So, I agree with the need to warn Syria, Iran, Iraq, etc. about their participation in terror, although I suspect their response would be “yeah, you and what army.”

Your third point makes sense, except I’m not quite sure who we are declaring war on, which I think that is one of the problems with Bush’s war on terror.

Anyway, thanks Ken, for an interesting discussion and I promise to stick to music discussions from here on.

steelbrassnwood From: steelbrassnwood Date: September 20th, 2004 07:06 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Government of Enron and by Halliburton

Separately, Levy's work on that tune is typical. Which is to say, astonishing. I've seen him live and have taken seminars with him and really is from another planet. Never mind his harp playing, just the way he thinks about music and can improvise. You know he's also a pretty damned good piano player? He's been doing shows lately with a jazz piano player named Anthony Molinaro and they have a great live CD out.

But I have to say, I've never had any desire to play like him. His music astonishes me intellectually but it doesn't reach me emotionally much at all (for that matter, neither has Fleck's, or Zappa's, etc). Levy is the quintessential head player and I respect him tremendously, but I play from a different place.

That's a hell of a wedding band, though, although I assume Howard didn't make it. :-)
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 20th, 2004 08:38 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Government of Enron and by Halliburton

You are right, Howard did not attend, although the back up player was very good as well (Tommy 'Pipes' McDonnell from the Blues Brothers Band). The sax player was supposed to have been Cornelius Bumpus but he was out with Steely Dan, so I had a fill-in sax player as well. I forget who it was, but he was a good session man who toured with Tina Turner.

It was essential that my wedding band not suck :-)
bobhowe From: bobhowe Date: September 19th, 2004 03:38 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Government of Enron and by Halliburton

Yup, I'm always charmed when someone makes nakedly partisan statements then dons the middle-of-the-road fig leaf to lend their argument credibility.
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 20th, 2004 06:33 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Government of Enron and by Halliburton

Actually, I am a Nader-voting, Nature Conservancy-member with strong gun control and abortion-rights positions who also believes in small governement and low taxes. I don't think I can be characterized as a neo-con despite my support for an agressive stance on terrorism :)

I read your piece on flame wars and am not trying to start a fight. Really.
steelbrassnwood From: steelbrassnwood Date: September 20th, 2004 07:28 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Government of Enron and by Halliburton

I guess what astonishes me is how Bush qualifies as aggressive on terrorism? Read the 9/11 report, and see how many recommendations he's actually following, and how many more he's giving lip service to but underfunding. Read how badly the TSA is performing, how miserably we're securing our ports, how frustrated and scared border patrol agents in Arizona are. Look at the comic-book security measures everywhere, at how "security" is being used as a cover for intrusions into things that aren't any danger; anti-Bush activists can't fly but I'm sure terrorists are still finding their way into this country.

Never mind the fact that WE KNOW WHERE BIN LADEN IS!!! People have compared the war in Iraq to the joke about the guy who drops his keys in the alley but looks for them under the streetlight because the light is better. It's worse than that. There are bystanders standing by the alley saying "Hey, I think I see your keys. See that shiny thing there?" And the guy under the lamp post is ridiculing them and screaming at them and calling them idiots and his friends are dragging them into the alley and beating them up, kicking the keys under the dumpster in the process.
From: couscous1021 Date: September 20th, 2004 05:44 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Government of Enron and by Halliburton

There are bystanders standing by the alley saying "Hey, I think I see your keys. See that shiny thing there?" And the guy under the lamp post is ridiculing them and screaming at them and calling them idiots and his friends are dragging them into the alley and beating them up, kicking the keys under the dumpster in the process.

hahahahahahahahahahahaha! This almost made me spit out my coffee. I know its not supposed to be 100 percent funny, but it was a welcome side effect.
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 21st, 2004 09:19 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Government of Enron and by Halliburton


We do? You should call the CIA and let them know.

Seriously, though, if you are suggesting that we believe (I would not say "know" - afterall we "knew" there were WMD in Iraq)that he is hiding out in the mountain border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan, I should expect it will take a long time to find him. Don't forget, it took more then five years to capture Eric Rudolph and he was hiding in a much smaller area right here in the USA.

For what its worth, I'm convinced that UBL is dead, and has been dead for quite some time. We haven't seen video prrof-of-life since January 2002. And this from a man who used to provide video rants almost every three months. He's dead and I'd bet a beer on it.
bobhowe From: bobhowe Date: September 20th, 2004 05:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Government of Enron and by Halliburton

I didn't accuse you of starting a flame war; I think the middle-of-the-road label was disingenuous, given the context. As far as Nader-voting, that doesn't exactly burnish your credentials with me: it's just another vote for Bush. I agree with most of what Ken said about the war on terrorism: I think the Bush administration is frankly incompetent in fighting terrorism, among other things.

What does an "aggressive stance on terrorism" mean, anyway? In terms of protecting the lives of its citizens, any government would do better to have an aggressive stance on traffic safety, health care, or environmental law. Would an aggressive stance on terrorism mean taking seriously a National Intelligence Estimate titled Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.?
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 21st, 2004 09:24 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Government of Enron and by Halliburton

If I had received an intel briefing entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.," I would immediately file it under "Duh!" along with "Kim Jong Il Determined to Acquire Nuclear Weapons," "The Mullahs in Iran Determined to Squash Democracy" and "Britney Spears Next Album Expected to Suck."
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