Mojo - April 2008

Pressed by Shrinking Budgets, Cities Return to Gravel Roads

| Tue Apr. 1, 2008 11:32 AM EDT

This isn't an April Fools prank. Apparently things are getting really bad in Michigan.

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McCain Gets the Facts Wrong on Iraq - Again

| Tue Apr. 1, 2008 10:45 AM EDT

maliki-mccain-sadr.jpg

Call it a pattern of mischaracterizations. John McCain recently got the facts wrong on Iraq again when he tried to portray Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's disastrous attempt to take on Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr as a success. (You can learn more about Sadr here.) He said this on the campaign trail:

"Apparently it was Sadr who asked for the ceasefire, declared a ceasefire. It wasn't Maliki. Very rarely do I see the winning side declare a ceasefire."

That's completely misleading. Not only did Sadr come out of the fighting just as strong as he was before (check out Robert Dreyfuss in The Nation), but his people were celebrating what they called a victory over the Prime Minister and, by extension, America:

At the Sadr Office in the centre of the massive slum in northeast Baghdad, home to 2.5 million impoverished Shias, the receptionists greeted visitors with sweets to mark their victory over Nouri al-Maliki, the increasingly isolated Iraqi Prime Minister, who directed the assault on Shia rogue militias in Basra, the lawless southern oil city. "This is for victory over Maliki," one said with a grin. "The fighting ended on our terms."
Certainly Mr al-Maliki's huge gamble appeared to have failed yesterday. Having vowed to crush Shia militias with a 30,000-strong force in Basra, he ended up suing for peace with the people he had described as "worse than al-Qaeda." Al-Mahdi Army kept its weapons and turf.

Military Report: Let's Co-Opt Blogs

| Tue Apr. 1, 2008 10:26 AM EDT

Wired's Danger Room has found a 2006 report titled "Blogs and Military Information Strategy," written for the Joint Special Operations University. It has some interesting ideas about how the military can deal with that dang blogosphere.

Information strategists can consider clandestinely recruiting or hiring prominent bloggers or other persons of prominence... to pass the U.S. message. In this way, the U.S. can overleap the entrenched inequalities and make use of preexisting intellectual and social capital. Sometimes numbers can be effective; hiring a block of bloggers to verbally attack a specific person or promote a specific message may be worth considering. On the other hand, such operations can have a blowback effect, as witnessed by the public reaction following revelations that the U.S. military had paid journalists to publish stories in the Iraqi press under their own names. People do not like to be deceived, and the price of being exposed is lost credibility and trust.
An alternative strategy is to "make" a blog and blogger. The process of boosting the blog to a position of influence could take some time, however, and depending on the person running the blog, may impose a significant educational burden, in terms of cultural and linguistic training before the blog could be put online to any useful effect. Still, there are people in the military today who like to blog. In some cases, their talents might be redirected toward operating blogs as part of an information campaign. If a military blog offers valuable information that is not available from other sources, it could rise in rank fairly rapidly.

Members of the armed forces need "cultural and linguistic training" before they can blog? Are they serious? The military is filled with cynical 20-somethings—it's built for blogging! There are hundreds, probably thousands, of military men and women already doing it. Of course, they're doing it in good faith, which is not what this report is suggesting.

A military spokesman says the comments were "not 'actionable', merely thought provoking." I don't believe it. Which prominent blogger is a undercover secret agent? Any guesses?