You may only read this site if you've purchased Our Kampf from Amazon or Powell's or me
• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

January 09, 2007

Thank You, Shailagh Murray

Here's Washington Post reporter Shailagh Murray yesterday (via Atrios):

WASHINGTON, D.C.: I am somewhat surprised at the debate about the surge. In October, The Post's own polling showed that 19% of voters favored an immediate withdrawal. Yesterday, CNN reported that more than 50% want an immediate or by year's end withdrawal. Still, the politicians debate more or less, not sooner or later. Why won't the politicians follow the polls when it comes to leaving Iraq?

SHAILAGH MURRAY: Would you want a department store manager or orthodontist running the Pentagon? I don't think so. The reason that many politicians are squeamish about hard and fast goals of any kind in Iraq is that there is no simple response or solution -- it would have emerged by now. A withdrawal by year's end carries enormous, very serious implications.

LAKE LUZERNE, N.Y.: Why do we care so much more about Iraq, where our elected representatives have little influence, compared with affordable health care?

SHAILAGH MURRAY: Because the security of the most unstable part of the world is at stake.

Here's my admiring email to Shailagh:


Thanks very much for your cogent answer to the questioner in your Washington Post chat yesterday who asked why politicians are ignoring the clear desires of Americans vis-a-vis Iraq. For far too long American "citizens" have felt they're entitled to some sort of say over what the U.S. government does. (I've noticed they get especially uppity when it affects whether their children live or die.) Only with the efforts of leaders like yourself can we stamp out this pernicious nonsense.

I also appreciate that, when someone else asked why the U.S. government cares "so much more about Iraq" than affordable health care for Americans, your response avoided the actual answer, "oil." It's imperative that we keep this reality from the eyes of the department store managers and orthodontists who simply don't have the brainpower to comprehend it.

best regards,
Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at January 9, 2007 01:46 PM | TrackBack

Well, obviously he would respond that 'oil' is included his concept of 'security'. In this particular region 'security' means 'control of oil', in other regions it might be control of banana trees or copper mines or many hard-working ascetic people or strategic location.

That's what 'security' is, Jonathan.

Posted by: at January 9, 2007 02:36 PM

Haven't you noticed the hankering for a "man of principle" who will carry out unpopular measures, supposedly for the good of all? A dictator, in other words, like Pinochet or Franco.

Murray wants a dictator.

Posted by: John at January 9, 2007 03:14 PM

Thank you for posting this, your email is priceless.

Posted by: rob payne at January 9, 2007 03:31 PM

Another reason the pols are afraid of pulling out now is because they haven't ruined Iraq enough.

What if we leave before all hope is lost? What if Iraq eventually recovers from what we've done, after we've gone, and it becomes obvious to the whole world, possibly even to some Americans, that the US was the reason Iraq came unravelled after we invaded, as opposed to the inherent barbarity of those ungrateful brown-skinned people?

But if the US stays long enough to completely ruin Iraq, then we can't possibly be blamed for the complete ruin of Iraq.

Plus, as a bonus, our hand-picked kleptocrats will beg us to remain in some of them military bases. You know, the ones we built but wanted to hand over to the Iraqis, just like we wanted to help them privatize their oil industry.

(I hope she liked your letter.)

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at January 9, 2007 04:11 PM

Yeah, Murray didn't say oil and should have. The real question of the day is do you want to leave 30% of the world's oil supply in the hands of folks who hate our guts?

This war was stupid and ill-advised. But we can't leave without the resource we came to get - unless you particularly relish turning your lives upside down. Because that's what would happen if this oil supply went away because of an unconstrained civil war or became really, really expensive for those of us not trading in Euros.

Given that most of the people who control the other 70% of the oil hate us as well we ought to think pretty hard about our next steps. And the fact that your average department store manager and orthodontist doesn't get this is Murray's point I think.

Posted by: none at January 9, 2007 06:27 PM

When are people gonna realize Bush knows what is best for US? Jeeze.

Posted by: SPIIDERWEB™ at January 9, 2007 07:26 PM

Even 25 years later, I am still terrified of my orthodontist. I think we probably should have him running the Pentagon. I guarantee that none of the terrified children going through that office said "Doc, what I really want is a mouthful of metal that makes me look like a fucking dweeb" and yet they all walked out that way. Now THAT'S a guy who can get things done.

Posted by: Ted at January 9, 2007 07:27 PM
And the fact that your average department store manager and orthodontist doesn't get this is Murray's point I think.

I don't really buy any of the oil stuff here, but let's say for the sake of argument it's true. Then, who exactly is to blame for the fact the average department store manager and orthodontist doesn't know this? Is it institutions like...the Washington Post? And can specific individuals be blamed, such as the Post's Congressional correspondent, whose name turns out to be Shailagh Murray? Because I can't really recall this type of frank discussion about our need for oil and what we might have to do to get it in the pages of the Post.

In other words, this is like a high school algebra teacher dismissing her students' desire to have some say in what happens to them "because they don't know anything about algebra."

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at January 9, 2007 07:35 PM

How many people is it fair to murder so that your life can stay right side up?

Posted by: New Day at January 9, 2007 07:45 PM

Posted by none:
"The real question of the day is do you want to leave 30% of the world's oil supply in the hands of folks who hate our guts?"

The fishmonger hates my guts. Then again, he pretty much hates everybody. He still sells me fish.

ps - Machiavelli wrote that it takes both prudence and force to preserve the wealth of the principality. Adding $1.5 trillion (Stiglitz's figure as of a year ago as the bill for our Iraq invasion) to our energy costs don't seem too dagblamed prudent. Not prudent for the nation, anyway; Exxon's gonna do OK once it signs its 30-year PSA with Moe Howard's government..., er, I meant, Maliki's sovereign government. Heaven forfend I should imply Maliki's anybody's stooge.

Posted by: cavjam at January 9, 2007 08:42 PM

Shailagh Murray, eh? Must be descended from those traitorous Orange Irish, bending their knees and heads to a cruel king. Ain't no way she'd be a wearin' th' green.

Posted by: cavjam at January 9, 2007 08:49 PM

Given that most of the people who control the other 70% of the oil hate us as well we ought to think pretty hard about our next steps. And the fact that your average department store manager and orthodontist doesn't get this is Murray's point I think.

Posted by none

How is making the people who sell us "our oil" hate our guts - forever and always - supposed to make sure we continue to get the oil we need? I don't get it either.


I would say we better think hard about the next steps. Nuking the entire Middle East means we have to find oil workers who don't mind glowing in the dark for a very short while before they die.

NOT my idea of a career path......

Posted by: Susan at January 10, 2007 12:38 AM


It's like those battered wives - the husband just keeps beating them until the wife learns to love him!

of course, there are a few odd-ball wives who up and leave and a few more who kill their battering husbands while they sleep.

So, the real lesson to learn here that your average department store manager and orthodontist goes to sleep at times........
and we can't have that!

(did I get that right?)

Posted by: Susan at January 10, 2007 12:46 AM

"Given that most of the people who control the other 70% of the oil hate us as well"

Does that 70% include the third largest oil producer in the world?

(Producer, not exporter - hmmm, I wonder why?)

The universe doesn't care about your petty distinctions. At some point the oil and natural gas just won't come out of the ground fast enough, no matter how much hatred is spread around the world. Bullets and bombs don't actually produce petroleum.

Posted by: JustZisGuy at January 10, 2007 01:33 AM

"unless you particularly relish turning your lives upside down...."

Turn your lives upside down - the planet will love you for it.

Posted by: Andrew Montin at January 10, 2007 01:43 AM

"Would I want a department store manager or an orthodontist running the Pentagon?"

Sure. Seems much more likely to produce a sane foreign policy than having arms dealers, oil company CEOs, and defense contractors run it.

Posted by: Aunt Deb at January 10, 2007 08:28 AM


Posted by: nffcnnr at January 10, 2007 10:58 AM

"...the time may come when we will have to kill millions of Muslims..."

Jonathan, with your great ability to locate strikingly parallel quotations from the past, I would love to see you find Nazis or Imperial Japanese who in the 1930s were talking about how inevitable it was that they would have to kill lots of Americans. It is truly scary to hear the neocons mindlessly assume that all-out war with Muslims is only a matter of when.

I also think you could find right-wing nuts saying the same thing about the inevitable all-out war with the Soviets in the 1940s, but (thank God) they weren't in any position to make these prophecies self-fulfilling, as the current bozos are.

Posted by: Whistler Blue at January 10, 2007 02:15 PM

I certainly want to keep Iraq decisions out of the hands of my damn orthodontist! Sadistic bastard, that dude was. Fanatical Israel supporter too, but its the sadism that's my primary concern (although perhaps the two were connected).

Posted by: Rojo at January 10, 2007 09:20 PM

My brother IS a department store manager, and my niece is a dentist (although not specifically an orthodontist), and I can assure you that Bush is too dim a bulb to handle either of their jobs.

On the other hand, I think they could grasp your insight about "oil", AFTER they were deprogrammed from the Two Big Lies about America that Howard Zinn has pointed out ("there is no class struggle", "America always acts altruistically overseas").

I don't know if we'll have time to communicate these ideas to the brainwashed majority of the American people before Jesus comes back, though.

Posted by: mistah charley, SB, MA, PhD at January 11, 2007 07:29 AM