June 30, 2004

You Must Stop Causing Problems For Nicholas Kristof

Today Nicholas Kristof explains why you shouldn't call George Bush a liar:

I'm against the "liar" label for two reasons. First, it further polarizes the political cesspool, and this polarization is making America increasingly difficult to govern. Second, insults and rage impede understanding.

Note that neither of Kristof's reasons is "it's not accurate."

Also, it's interesting that he's concerned about America being "difficult to govern." Generally that's a worry held only by people who believe they're doing the governing. So, shape up America -- you're making Nicholas Kristof's life more difficult.

(Later in the column Kristof explains that various untrue statements by Bush are due to "confusion." As in, George Bush is "confused" about whether he normally reads newspaper articles.)

UPDATE: For further (and more extensive and more beautiful) stomping on Kristof, visit The Editors.

June 29, 2004


Groups of vicious killers tend to be good at two things: (1) being vicious killers, and (2) being unintentionally funny. For instance, a captured American soldier has been murdered in Iraq, and the group claiming responsibility calls itself "The Implacable Power Against the Enemy of God and the Prophet." I like to believe that in internal deliberations, in order to save time, they refer to themselves as TIPATEOGATP.

Please: do not try to placate TIPATEOGATP. They cannot be placated. They are implacable. What you can do, however, is use their acronym as an excellent password for your ATM card.

June 28, 2004


Part of having good manners is knowing what not to do. And the New York Times has very good manners. So when they run a gigantic article about Lula, the President of Brazil, and the prospects for change in Latin America, they knew not to mention certain things. Like:

1. That the article was running fifty years to the day after the overthrow of the Guatemalan government by the U.S. Maybe that was the New York Times' own private joke. Funny!

2. Anything more than vague references to the 1964 military coup in Brazil. Really, you can't even tell there was a coup. There's no hint that Brazil ever had a non-military government pre-64. The article gives the impression that it had always been that way until recently.

3. The US involvement in the 1964 coup... which of course was modeled on the 1954 Guatemalan coup.

So, please do not bring up any of these subjects. You don't want to be rude, do you? No, you don't. Be polite like the New York Times, and there's no need for anyone to understand a single thing about life on Earth.

The Menace of Nutopia

A piece in the Washington Post Outlook section mentions this:

In December 1980, the month after Reagan's election, KGB chief [Yuri] Andropov circulated a confidential memorandum to the Central Committee. It wasn't about the president-elect, but about the murder of John Lennon that month. Andropov reported that "in many of Moscow's establishments of higher education," anonymous posters had appeared to organize a demonstration in memory of the ex-Beatle. "The KGB has taken the necessary measures to identify the instigators of this gathering and is in control of the situation," Andropov assured the party elite.

It's good to know that Yuri Andropov and J. Edgar Hoover -- despite their differences in ideology, history, etc. -- did share some common ground: ie, a bizarre fixation on the menace posed by John Lennon.

The only sad part is Andropov and Hoover never got to meet and discuss their strategies for staying "in control of the situation."

HOOVER: Our great nation is threatened by this hooligan Lennon. Particularly his song "Nutopian International Anthem." That one has a power we just can't stop.
ANDROPOV: Yes, our nation too!
HOOVER: If we don't do something, America will crumble and we'll be living in Nutopia. So to make sure I stay "in control of the situation," I have put on my special strong underwear.
ANDROPOV: Yes, me too!
HOOVER: It make me feel... safe.
ANDROPOV: Yes, me too!

June 27, 2004

More Horrible Anniversary

If you want to know more about the US coup in Guatemala fifty years ago today, one of the best sources is Bitter Fruit by Stephen Schlesinger and Stephen Kinzer. The excellent book Killing Hope by William Blum has a great deal of information both on the coup itself and the consequences since. One chapter is online here.

It's encouraging that there are a few stories about the anniversary in the US media. That wouldn't have been the case in 1964, 1974, 1979, 1984, or 1994.

Boston Globe: "Fifty years after coup, Guatemala struggles"

San Francisco Chronicle: "Coup still scars Guatemalans 50 years later"

AP: "Guatemala: Anger lingers over CIA role in overthrow 50 years ago" (as of today apparently picked up by just one US paper)

The Capital Times (Madison): "Guatemalans know U.S. record, sympathize with suffering Iraqis"

Commondreams has also published several pieces that have not appeared elsewhere:

"Guatemala and the Forgotten Anniversary"

"Remembering Guatemala, 1954: It’s the Impunity, Stupid"

Finally, a story about the ongoing consequences of Guatemala's history is here. This story (about the hideous murders of hundreds of Guatemalan women) reminds me of a bitter Guatemalan joke from the early nineties: "If Jeffrey Dahmer lived here, he'd be president."

Horrible Anniversary

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of America's overthrow of the democratically-elected government in Guatemala. The right wing regime installed by the US went on to kill 200,000 Guatemalans.

June 26, 2004

With An AXE?

Seymour Hersh's most recent article in the New Yorker is about Israeli efforts to establish a presence in the Kurdish regions of Iraq. But it also contains this exciting detail about Iyad Allawi, soon to be our head puppet in Baghdad:

Allawi moved to London in 1971, ostensibly to continue his medical education; there he was in charge of the European operations of the Baath Party organization and the local activities of the Mukhabarat, its intelligence agency, until 1975... At some point, for reasons that are not clear, Allawi fell from favor, and the Baathists organized a series of attempts on his life. The third attempt, by an axe-wielding assassin who broke into his home near London in 1978, resulted in a year-long hospital stay.

Now, I'm not a professional assassin. (It's really more of a hobby.) But it seems to me that, while you obviously can kill someone with an axe, it really shouldn't be your first choice when breaking into your target's house in the middle of the night. In fact, it should be one of your last choices.

Not your LAST choice, of course. There are still a few weapons that would be either more cumbersome, less likely to kill, or both:

1. a large fork
2. an electric chainsaw powered by two AA batteries
3. a small, wheeled cannon
4. 100 spiders (if target is scared of spiders and might have heart attack)
5. a boombox playing a tape with subliminal hints target should kill himself with an axe

June 25, 2004

A Little More Anonymous

1. Later in the interview with Andrea Mitchell, Anonymous says:

My experience working against bin Laden was there was multiple occasions when we did not take advantage of an opportunity to solve the problem because we were afraid of killing a civilian, we were afraid of hitting a mosque with shrapnel, we were afraid of disrupting sales of arms overseas.

Yes, those namby-pamby liberals, keeping the CIA from doing its job because of worries about killing a civilian, or hitting a mosque with shrapnel, or... disrupting sales of arms overseas?

You'd think someone could ask Anonymous to expand on this. When exactly did the US government refrain from killing bin Laden because it was concerned this would disrupt arms sales? Who was buying, exactly? And who was selling?

We might be in danger of learning the answers to those questions if we had a press corps or an opposition political party. Thank god we don't.

2. dreamsign in comments here points out that:

Anonymous has said that the only effective course of action is a brutal war, short of changing the policies that many in the Muslim world find so offensive. Mitchell didn't hear the part after 'short of', because those policies have become embedded in our sense of national identity. It's a sort of heresy (of the letting the terrorists win variety) to suggest that those policies can be altered. Anonymous himself seems to think that all out war is less of a cognitive stretch than policy change.

I think dreamsign is exactly right. Andrea Mitchell probably does believe that our mideast policies are part of the essential nature of the US, and therefore "what we stand for." And Anonymous doesn't take the idea of changing our mideast policies seriously.

Still, I respect Anonymous' honesty in stating that changing those policies and a much more brutal war are the only two options for the US. I'd prefer myself to go with the "change policies" choice rather than the "let's be vicious killers" choice. But that's just me.

June 24, 2004

Review Reviewed

Mike reviews David Denby's review of Fahrenheit 9-11 here.

I am tempted to review Mike's review of the review. (Then Michael Moore could make a movie reviewing my review, thereby closing the circle of life, death, and re-birth.) But Mike's Denby review is completely right, so it's not necessary.

My Name Is Andrea Mitchell, And I Can't Hear A Word You're Saying

Andrea Mitchell just interviewed "Anonymous," a CIA officer who's written a new book called Imperial Hubris. (He's also written a previous book anonymously, called Through Our Enemies' Eyes.)

In the interview, Anonymous says it's "a gross mistake" to believe Osama bin Laden is "trying to rob us of our liberties." Instead, he explains, bin Laden gains support because of widespread Muslim opposition to "particular American foreign policies." Specifically he mentions our support for the Israeli government, our presence on the Arabian peninsula, our actions in Iraq, etc.

Andrea Mitchell then responds:

Mitchell: You're saying that no amount of public diplomacy will reach the Muslim world and change their minds because they hate everything that we stand for.

To his credit, Anonymous does not do what I would have done. Which is leap across the table, grasp Mitchell's head in my hands, and scream "ARE YOU FUCKING DEAF?" into her ear from one inch away. Instead, he simply reiterates what he said before. Mitchell still shows little sign of understanding.

It's hilarious and of course terrifying how people like Mitchell -- who is married to Alan Greenspan, one of the most powerful human beings on earth -- simply cannot hear the most straightforward statement.

Anonymous: The sky is blue, and it would be a gross mistake to believe the sky is green. The sky is not green.

Mitchell: So... you're saying the sky is green.

June 23, 2004

I Reserve The Right To Murder You

In October, 2002, British Foreign Minister Jack Straw said this about Iraq:

"We reserve the right to act within international law in respect of the use of force which may or may not be covered by a new resolution. It is entirely appropriate for America, as for us, to reserve their position if the United Nations does not meet its responsibilities. "

Later on, just before the invasion, the British Defense Minister Geoff Hoon said:

"We've always made it clear that we would reserve the right to use our nuclear weapons."

At the time these phrases reminded me of something, but I couldn't figure out what. Now I've finally remembered:

"We insist on reserving the right to bomb niggers."

That was the prominent British politician Lloyd George in 1932. The "niggers" George was referring to were Iraqis, whom England was then bombing with regular munitions as well as poison gas.

It's funny/terrifying the way some tropes are so deep in a culture that they will reappear decade after decade. And this trope is particularly enjoyable, with its bland assertion of the "right" to kill Iraqis.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Britain politicians are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Bombing of Niggers.

UPDATE: This reminds me of a charming quote from a story in the New Yorker. The man speaking is Sayyid Ali Abdul al-Hakim, a Shiite cleric in Najaf:

"What I have said to the British authorities is that we are not Africans. We have scientists and teachers and we can do things for ourselves. We are not people with no history."

Sayyid -- thank you, but we'll handle the appalling racism. We just need you to take care of your job, ie, being the target of appalling racism.

Clinton: Sham Inspections Should Have Been Shamier

There's one thing to be said for Bill Clinton: he's consistent. More than three years after he left the White House, it's still impossible to understand what the hell he's actually saying.

For instance, in publicity for his book Clinton is often being asked whether invading Iraq was a good idea. And he's generally claiming it was a bad idea to launch the war without further Unmovic inspections. But does this mean he would have been against launching the war if Iraq had been found in compliance, as it obviously would have been? Well... he never comes out and says it. In fact, he seems to be saying we should have waited for further inspections and then invaded no matter what:

"I have repeatedly defended President Bush against the left on Iraq, even though I think he should have waited until the U.N. inspections were over," the former president said. "I would not have done it until after [former U.N. chief weapons inspector] Hans Blix finished his job."
-- Reuters
In terms of the launching of the war, I believe we made an error in not allowing the United Nations to complete the inspections process.
-- 60 Minutes
My view was that we shouldn't attack until the UN inspectors are finished and they can say, "He [Saddam] did or did not comply."
-- The Guardian
MICHAEL DUFFY: When it comes to Iraq, he says he absolutely supported Bush's efforts to get back in the inspections game. He says we didn't know what they had after 1998. He says the US was flying blind, and he really did support Bush going back and taking a really hard look. Where he thinks to draw a line is he says "I wouldn't have invaded as early or as quickly as Bush did." But Clinton left us no doubt when we interviewed him last week that he would have possibly eventually invaded just like Bush did.
-- NPR

In other words, Clinton appears to mean we should have looked upon the whole inspections process as a sham, designed to garner further support for something we were going to do anyway. Of course, this makes no sense, since we would have had even less international support the longer inspections went on.

Thank goodness no journalist has followed up with Clinton by asking the obvious questions about this. Then we might have a clear idea of what powerful political figures are saying. And that must be avoided at all costs.

Finally, it's worth noting that when Clinton says, "I have repeatedly defended President Bush against the left on Iraq," he means, "I have repeatedly defended President Bush against the vast majority of humanity on Iraq."

The Decapitator Community

If there were a competition for the funniest use of the phrase "the __________ community," who would win? I believe it would be the 9-11 commission, for its reference to "the jihadist community." As in, "Bin Ladin made several remarks [during the summer of 2001] hinting at an upcoming attack, which spawned rumors throughout the jihadist community worldwide."

Ah, the jihadist community, with their barn raisings and quilting bees, their bake sales and 4-H Clubs. Knitting together the luminous strands of human relationships into one glorious jihadist whole.

The only thing that could beat this would be a reference to "the decapitator community." Please let me know if you ever come across such a thing.

By the way, I feel only those using such a phrase non-ironically should be eligible for this hypothetical competition. So references -- as funny as they might be -- to "the Hello Kitty community," "the serial killer community," "the masturbating community," or "the nose picking community" wouldn't count.

June 21, 2004

Please Put More Effort Into Your Lies

I'm a grown up. I realize that having a government that doesn't lie constantly may be too much to ask for. But... couldn't the lies at least make sense?

Telling lies that make sense is just a mark of respect for the people you're lying to. For instance, when I'm housesitting for my friends and I sell their most valuable possessions on Ebay, when they get back I tell them their house was robbed. I don't tell them the Pope came over and ate their TV, stereo, and jewelry.

My friends appreciate it when I tell the first lie. It allows them to pretend they're not complete idiots for asking me to housesit for them. (Plus, it makes me feel good, because in a certain sense it's not even a lie. After all, their house was robbed.) But if I told them the second lie, it would show I have such contempt for them I think they'll swallow anything. Then they'd be forced to do something about the fact I sold all their furniture, and nobody wants that.

I was thinking about this recently when I read this story about Condoleezza Rice. Rice was recently sent out to do damage control after the 9-11 commission reported Iraq didn't have a collaborative relationship with Al Qaeda, and she said this to NPR:

"What I believe the 9-11 commission was opining on was operational control, an operational relationship between al Qaeda and Iraq which we never alleged."

Now, this is obviously a lie. The 9-11 commission was not opining about whether Iraq had operational control over al Qaeda.

But it's also a lie that makes no sense whatsoever. Because... why would the 9-11 commission opine on something the Bush administration NEVER ALLEGED? If no one had alleged that something might be true, why would the commission investigate it? It's like saying, "What I believe the 9-11 commission was opining on was whether Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden got married in Vermont, which we never alleged."

This is why it's imperative that George Bush be defeated. We need people in the White House who will put more effort into their lies.

June 18, 2004

Nothing Here Til Monday

I'm going to be away until Monday, so there will be nothing here until then.

On Monday, however, you'll want to spend your entire day reading and rereading the genuinely interesting things I'm going to say.

June 17, 2004

I Have Discovered An Error!

I've been reading the 9-11 Commission report (pdf file here), and have discovered a very, very serious error. They describe how the idea for the 9/11 attacks came from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Originally he wanted Al Qaeda to hijack ten planes, and planned on piloting the tenth himself:

The centerpiece of his original proposal was the tenth plane, which he would have piloted himself. Rather than crashing the plane into a target, he would have killed every adult male passenger, contacted the media from the air, and landed the aircraft at a U.S. airport. He says he then would have made a speech denouncing U.S. policies in the Middle East before releasing all of the women and children passengers.

Obviously this isn't true, because it makes no sense. One thing we know 100% for sure is the hatred around the world for the US has nothing to do with what the US government does. It has to do with what America is. So Mohammed might have made a speech, but it would have denounced "democratically elected government... freedom of religion... freedom of speech... freedom to vote and assemble and disagree."

I hope the 9-11 Commission fixes this mistake soon, because otherwise Americans might become confused.

June 15, 2004

It's Unlikely You'll Read This

Would you like to read something dull? How about if it were both dull and embarrassing for me?

For some reason I just wasted precious hours of my life arguing with a stranger, via the website of the Washington Monthly. Even worse, the argument wasn't about something worthwhile, like who was the greatest hair band of the eighties. (Cinderella.) It was about politics in the broadest sense, where everything you say sounds vague and stupid.

The argument is in the comments section of something Kevin Drum wrote about Ronald Reagan. To see the original, you can go there. Below I've pasted the back-and-forth between my antagonist and myself, minus the comments of everyone else. It's also been edited slightly for clarity.

I'm putting this here for two reasons:

1. To remind myself never to do it again as long as I live.

I hate this kind of argument, and I hate people who engage in them, whether they agree with me politically or not. How did I become one of them myself? I blame Ronald Reagan.

2. Because the other person's argument seems preposterously weak to me, and I wonder if it does to others. To my mind he repeatedly makes assertions with no evidence, and repeatedly responds to arguments I haven't made. But perhaps I am the one making assertions with no evidence. Of course, even if this is true, it would be the fault of Ronald Reagan.


Posted by: mark on June 12, 2004 at 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

Judging from from some of the comments here the major beef the lefties have with Reagan was the Reagan Doctrine.

Checking the expansion of Marxist dictatorships - all of which shot their way into power as guerillas except the ones directly imposed by the Red Army - was something that was *not* supposed to happen. Nicaragua ws supposed to be followed by El Salvador, then Guatemala and so on with the West pulling up stakes and retreating each time.

That's what these commenters are really angry about, not dead bodies. The FMLN and the Afghan KHAD and the MPLA and Ethiopia's communist rulers all piled up dead bodies, in some cases by the tens or hundreds of thousands. Their moral outrage for these crimes were, for the most part, nonexistent, being husbanded only for the atrocities committed by the military forces resisting Marxist governments and guerillas.

The nature of war is that people die and that soldiers inevitably commit atrocities, a crime desrving punishment. If we fund those fighting the Marxists people will die though perhaps the Marxists will lose. Or we can stand aside and people will die and the Marxists will win...and then more people will die.

This argument is actually about what the Left once honestly called " counterrevolution" but no longer dare to do so directly. Reagan was a successful counterrevolutionary on a global scale and that's a large part of the hard left's residual hatred for the man ( though from their perspective there's lots to dislike ).

Humanitarianism or pacifism has very little to do with it - they're angry about who won.


Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz on June 13, 2004 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

It's too bad Mark wasn't around in the Soviet Union during the 1980s. He could have pointed out the massive hypocrisy of Andrei Sakharov, Vaclav Havel and other internal critics of communism. After all, where was the concern of Sakharov, etc. for the hundreds of thousands of corpses created by the running-dog-capitalist-imperialists in Central America, etc.? I can hear Mark now, saying, "Their moral outrage for these crimes is, for the most part, nonexistent, being husbanded only for the atrocities committed by the military forces supporting Marxist governments and guerillas."

Fortunately, there were many commissars available in the Soviet Union who did point this out. And they were well rewarded for their service to the powerful of that time and place. I'm sure Mark will be just as well rewarded for his service to the powerful of this time and place.


Posted by: mark on June 13, 2004 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

Jonathan Schwarz,

If you know a way to get the VRWC to cut me a few checks I'd be most appreciative ;o) Obviously I need some better representation because I've been left out of the feeding trough.

Sakharov was concerned with human rights everywhere and criticized the American role in the nuclear arms race BTW but his activism in the 1980's was a mite cramped by living in internal exile in Gorkii under continual KGB harrassment.


Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz on June 13, 2004 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK


I suggest you just keep doing what you're doing. I'm sure the US foreign policy establishment will find a place for you.

Regarding Sakharov, he was indeed concerned with human rights everywhere. But he spent the vast majority of his time criticizing the Soviet Union and communism generally -- not all of his time, but the vast majority. And rightfully so. For this, he was continually attacked by the Soviet press, who asked why his outrage "for the most part" was husbanded for the Soviet Union. Why oh why did his Nobel acceptance speech only include the names of Soviet political prisoners? they would bleat.

Likewise, equivalent figures in the US are concerned with human rights everywhere but spend most of their time criticizing actions taken by the US. And people like yourselves attack them in precisely the same way as Soviet commissars. It's funny to see -- you just have to change a few words.

Of course, it's this way in every society, and always has been. You can read about it in the Bible if you're so inclined.

Lastly, your implication that Sakharov would have criticized the US during the eighties if only he could have is fanciful. The Soviet Union would have been delightful to have him do so. They would have put it on the front page of Pravda.


Posted by: mark on June 13, 2004 at 8:14 PM | PERMALINK

Jonathan Schwarz wrote:

"I suggest you just keep doing what you're doing. I'm sure the US foreign policy establishment will find a place for you"

And if not, there's always Barber College.

Regarding Sakharov perhaps most of his criticism was husbanded for the Soviet Union not merely because it was his own country or that the system was tormenting him and his wife but because, objectively speaking, the behavior of his governmen was systemically worse ? I note also that despite his critical dissent, or perhaps in part because of it, the Soviets did permit Sakharov abroad to lobby against SDI.

Your analogy with Soviet Commissars and people like myself is...well...not really analagous. Critics of the Soviet system could end up in jail, a lunatic asylum, a labor camp or dead. I'm not trying to silence anyone much less jail them - I'm simply making a point they do not wish to hear. Or have anyone else hear either.

Being criticized on the internet is hardly equivalent with what Sakharov or Solzhenitsyn or Scharanskii went through. It's part of political debate in a democratic society.


Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz on June 13, 2004 at 11:02 PM | PERMALINK


You write:

Regarding Sakharov perhaps most of his criticism was husbanded for the Soviet Union not merely because it was his own country or that the system was tormenting him and his wife but because, objectively speaking, the behavior of his government was systemically worse?

There are two questions here.

First, did Sakharov ever make the case like this? I've never heard of it, and I assume you haven't either, since you don't cite anything. However, while I don't remember where, I have heard of him saying he didn't criticize the US with anything like the intensity of the USSR because he was Russian.

Second, would such a case have been legitimate if Sakharov (or anyone) had made it? That's a question that would take much more time than either of us would be willing to spend. And we'd never agree anyway.

But it's worth saying a few things about it. Let's imagine Sakharov spent ten times as much time criticizing the Eastern Bloc as he did the US and our actions. Were conditions in the Soviet Union ten times worse than in the US? Let's say yes. Was the invasion of Afghanistan ten times worse than the Vietnam War? No. Were conditions in the Eastern Bloc ten times worse during Sakharov's main period of dissidence (the sixties, seventies, and eighties) than in Central America? No way. If Sakharov had been Salvadoran, let's say, he wouldn't have been exiled to Gorky. He would have had his balls cut off and stuffed in his mouth, and after he'd bled to death he'd have been dropped off at the city dump to be eaten by vultures. Then, two decades later, you would have referred to this as an "inevitable atrocity."

Next, you write:

Your analogy with Soviet Commissars and people like myself is...well...not really analagous. Critics of the Soviet system could end up in jail, a lunatic asylum, a labor camp or dead. I'm not trying to silence anyone much less jail them - I'm simply making a point they do not wish to hear. Or have anyone else hear either.

I didn't say you were exactly analogous to Soviet commissars. I said your argument was exactly analogous. It's also exactly analogous to that of Saudi pundits -- who, when another Saudi criticizes actions of the Saudi government, will immediately say: Where is this person's concern for the Palestinians suffering in Gaza at the hands of the Zionists? Their supposed humanity and pacifism are obviously just a cover for their hatred of their country and Islam.

And it's not surprising that you're making this argument, since it's been made in every country on earth throughout history. I'm just pointing that out, and suggesting that it's about as valid when you make it as it is in the millions of other cases.

Furthermore, while you don't have the power to put other Americans in jail or a lunatic asylum or a labor camp, or to kill them, I have no confidence the right in America wouldn't use that power on other Americans if it gains it. God knows the people in power have been delighted to do all those things to people in other countries.

So when you say "the Left" is only angry about "who won," it sure doesn't sound to many Americans that you're just "making a point they do not wish to hear." It sounds like you're one step away from branding huge swaths of America as traitors. And what do you do with traitors? Well -- as much of the right has been saying recently -- there's nothing we can do now...

Are you one of these people? I don't know. I hope not. So let me ask you this -- you defend past US foreign policy by saying: "The nature of war is that people die and that soldiers inevitably commit atrocities, a crime desrving punishment." What concrete steps have you personally taken to see that those responsible for atrocities in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, etc. have received punishment?

If the answer is "none," why should I believe you care at all that these atrocities happened in the first place? And perhaps more importantly, why should I believe you'd take concrete steps to prevent them happening in the US?


Posted by: mark on June 14, 2004 at 12:00 AM | PERMALINK

Jonathan Schwarz writes:

"Were conditions in the Eastern Bloc ten times worse during Sakharov's main period of dissidence (the sixties, seventies, and eighties) than in Central America? No way. If Sakharov had been Salvadoran, let's say, he wouldn't have been exiled to Gorky. He would have had his balls cut off and stuffed in his mouth, and after he'd bled to death he'd have been dropped off at the city dump to be eaten by vultures. Then, two decades later, you would have referred to this as an "inevitable atrocity." "

You must recall that Sakharov was also a world famous physicist and the father of the Soviet H-Bomb. Less famous dissidents, say Sharanskii or Amalrik were treated more roughly than Sakharov or Solzhenitsyn in the 1970's and 1980's. Non-famous dissidents were dealt with as the KGB pleased. Sakharov was not the paradigm for handling dissent in the USSR.

And of course this sets aside the Stalin years where things were incomparably worse - even moreso than in El Salvador under the junta or Guatemala's dirty war, which by any standard were quite bad. Many (though not all) Communist states went through a stage of mass murder matched only by the Nazis. I'm sure you are aware of the documentary record and the many books published from the Gulag Archipelago to the Black Book of Communism. If that hasn't affected your views by now then not much I can say will.

The difference between CA dictatorships and the USSR resides in the nature of the claims being made by the regimes. El Salvador, while oligarchical and consistently repressive throughout it's history, was not trying to export an ideology of death squads to the four corners of the globe. The Soviet Union did so on a regular basis until almost 1990 when the expense reached the point of ruin. Letting them do so unchecked would have been unwise in terms of our interests and harmful to the citizens of the countries where Communists siezed power.

Soviet Communism, like Fascism, was an active transnational threat to American interests in a way parochially inclined dictators like Pinochet or Mugabe or Burma's military rulers were/are not. Ideally, they should be toppled. When that would coincide with American interests so much the better.

Since you haven't volunteered much in the way of your curriculum vitae in terms of hunting down Nazi fugitives or bringing aged NKVD torturers to task, much less to justice, I'm really not certain why I need to " prove " anything to you before being eligible to comment here or anywhere else.

And to set your mind at ease, no, even if I had the power to send people I disagree with to concentration camps I would never do so. Nor is pointing out the nature of the arguments made by *some* on the Left a call for a rope and handy tree. It's dealing with a morally repugnant position by naming it for what it is.


Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz on June 14, 2004 at 4:36 AM | PERMALINK


You write:

You must recall that Sakharov was also a world famous physicist and the father of the Soviet H-Bomb. Less famous dissidents, say Sharanskii or Amalrik were treated more roughly than Sakharov or Solzhenitsyn in the 1970's and 1980's. Non-famous dissidents were dealt with as the KGB pleased. Sakharov was not the paradigm for handling dissent in the USSR.

Okay, let's compare apples and apples: Sakharov and Oscar Romero. One gets exile in Gorky. One gets his brains blown out while saying mass.

Furthermore, post-Stalin, non-famous dissidents were not tortured, brutalized and massacred in the Eastern Bloc with anything like the frequency of non-famous dissidents in countries where we were running things.

Post-Stalin repression in the Eastern Bloc never reached the heights that it did in locations under our rule. That's just a fact.

And of course this sets aside the Stalin years where things were incomparably worse - even moreso than in El Salvador under the junta or Guatemala's dirty war, which by any standard were quite bad. Many (though not all) Communist states went through a stage of mass murder matched only by the Nazis.

Untrue. Such stages of mass murder were reached numerous times under colonialism. Indeed, colonialism is viewed with just as much fear as fascism and communism by most people on earth. For instance, plucky little Belgium managed to kill 5-10 million people in the Congo. The US obviously did quite well with enslaved Africans and American Indians. Then there were numerous induced famines quite comparable to anything under Stalin or Mao. More recently, Suharto put up some impressive numbers in East Timor, not to mention within Indonesia in 1965.

So bring up Stalin if you want. Just don't forget the rest of it.

The difference between CA dictatorships and the USSR resides in the nature of the claims being made by the regimes. El Salvador, while oligarchical and consistently repressive throughout it's history, was not trying to export an ideology of death squads to the four corners of the globe.

Untrue. That is precisely what the World Anti-Communist League was about. That is precisely what Operation Condor was about. And Latin America dictators were quite happy to participate directly in installing new dictators. For instance, Somoza eagerly collaborated with us in the 1954 coup in Guatemala. It was run out of Nicaragua.

And none of that compares with the activities of the US, of course. If you want to claim it's all defensive, that's fine. Just remember the other people in history who made exactly that claim about their actions vis a vis communism.

Soviet Communism, like Fascism, was an active transnational threat to American interests in a way parochially inclined dictators like Pinochet or Mugabe or Burma's military rulers were/are not.

This is true only with the conventional usage of "American interests" -- ie, US corporate interests. If you consider the interests of actual Americans, they can be quite a threat. For instance, various American nuns had a keen interest in not being raped and murdered. Another American had quite an interest in not being blown up on Sheridan Circle in Washington DC. Yet another had an interest in not being murdered in a soccer stadium in Santiago.

Since you haven't volunteered much in the way of your curriculum vitae in terms of hunting down Nazi fugitives or bringing aged NKVD torturers to task, much less to justice, I'm really not certain why I need to " prove " anything to you before being eligible to comment here or anywhere else... And to set your mind at ease, no, even if I had the power to send people I disagree with to concentration camps I would never do so.

First, I'm not the person taking a mild view of "inevitable atrocities" in wars I support.

Second, I didn't say you needed to prove anything in order to comment. I said that if you want progressive Americans to believe you're not part of the American right that wants to string them up -- particularly after you've stated they just dislike Ronald Reagan because communism "lost" -- you damn well better prove you actually care whether atrocities that happen with your support get punished.

Let me put it this way: imagine there was a hard left administration in the US, made up of people who happily supported the most gruesome mass murder of foreign conservatives in the past, then lied about it both at the time and now. Meanwhile, there were huge bestsellers saying things like: We must kill some Americans in order to physically intimidate conservatives, because otherwise they will become full-fledged traitors. Then you met someone left-wing who says about the mass murders that had been carried out by the present left-wing administration: Atrocities happen in war. They can be punished, but of course I've never done anything to make sure that happens to the perpetrators of the atrocities I support. Then he adds: conservatives' only REAL objection to these murders is that their side lost.

Under those circumstances, would you feel like it was just part of "political debate in a democratic society"? Or would you require some sign that this person actually had some commitment to democratic norms?

So while you might not send people off to a concentration camp, I will say -- in all seriousness -- if it were happening to progressives, I see no evidence you would do anything beyond making ineffectual noises. After all, you seem to be fine with your government raping, torturing and murdering progressives elsewhere.

Nor is pointing out the nature of the arguments made by *some* on the Left a call for a rope and handy tree. It's dealing with a morally repugnant position by naming it for what it is.

Yet you have quoted not a single individual as evidence he or she holds this position. Nor did you initially refer to "some" on the left. Instead, you simply spoke of "the lefties" and "these commentators" without any specifics.

It reminds me of Michael Walzer after the September 11th terrorist attacks. His article "Can There Be A Decent Left?" spoke of the "glee" about the attacks felt by "so many" on the left. Yet he managed to write 3,000 words without quoting a single individual. I actually emailed him to ask for some specifics. He had none.

Anyway, this has gotten far afield from my original point, which I stand by: your argument is exactly analogous to the ones made by commissars in the Soviet Union (and by their equivalents in every country in history). And it has about the same validity.


Posted by: mark on June 14, 2004 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK


You want a specific example of a morally repugnant, anti-democratic Leftist argument ? Fine. Here you go:

Professor Nicholas DeGenova:

"At an antiwar rally De Genova, who teaches history and anthropology, began by denouncing U.S. flags as the "emblem of the invading war machine in Iraq today. They are the emblem of the occupying power. The only true heroes are those who find ways that help defeat the U.S. military." He then called upon American troops to murder their officers and expressed the hope "for a million Mogadishus."


Casual comparisons between Adolf Hitler and George W. Bush:



Neo-Stalinist Front Groups Active in Anti-War Events and Marches alongside democratic Leftists:

The International Action Center/World Worker's Party/ANSWER

How's that ? That was about 5 minutes worth of Google searching. I haven't read Walzer's article but I'm sure having spent his intellectual life on the Left, he could find more pointed examples than I did if he cared to do so. Of course, had Walzer done so and named names, he'd have been drummed out of the movement and denounced as a " neoconservative " by his former associates.

Or am I wrong ?

You wrote:
"So while you might not send people off to a concentration camp, I will say -- in all seriousness -- if it were happening to progressives, I see no evidence you would do anything beyond making ineffectual noises. After all, you seem to be fine with your government raping, torturing and murdering progressives elsewhere."

A recognition of the reality of the nature of war is not the same thing as an endorsement of atrocities. Lots of civilians were killed by american bombs in WWII but the alternative to bombing was allowing the Third Reich to rule over Europe. Seeking Hitler's defeat is not the same thing as revelling in the deaths of German civilians. Your implicit requirement of casualty-free resistance to violent subversion, terror or invasion is a de facto argument against resistance of any kind. When attacked, the free world should retreat to gain your moral sanction.

Perhaps you have an alternative strategy that the United States should have followed regarding Soviet expansion in the 1960's -1980's but that presumes that you saw Soviet expansionism as a problem and not just the reaction of the United States to that expansion.

Moreover, I'm not sure exactly how the United States acquired responsibility for the 19th century colonial exploits of King Leopold in the Congo or Hermann Goering's father in Namibia or any other European colonial war. Everything that is non-Communist is not automatically pro-American, capitalist or democratic.

Armed resistance to armed Communist movements or governments is not to be defined as "imperialism " or " colonialism" either.


Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz on June 15, 2004 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK


This is really devolving.

The first thing you said was:

Judging from from some of the comments here the major beef the lefties have with Reagan was the Reagan Doctrine...That's what these commenters are really angry about, not dead bodies...Humanitarianism or pacifism has very little to do with it - they're angry about who won.

I noted you provided no evidence for this. In response, you provide four examples.

The number of them from "comments here"? Zero.

The number of them that have to do with Reagan or the Reagan doctrine? Zero.

The funny thing is that your style here is again exactly analogous to commissars and their many equivalents through history. First comes the broad attack against political opponents. Then comes the retreat to saying only some of the opponents feel this way. Then comes the citation from a samizdat document of some obscure figure saying something tangentially connected with the original accusation.

It's also funny that, regarding Michael Walzer, you construct an excuse for him that he himself did not make, either in the article itself or in his email to me. And of course it wouldn't be a legitimate excuse in any case. Being scared someone might call you a name does not entitle you to make accusations -- particularly incredibly stupid and offensive ones -- without evidence.

Next, you write:

A recognition of the reality of the nature of war is not the same thing as an endorsement of atrocities.

Uh huh. Well, I guess when the nature of war makes it necessary for the US government to kill Americans in the same way it's killed Vietnamese, Salvadorans, Guatemalans, etc., etc., etc., your fellow citizens can take comfort in the fact you don't endorse it.

More seriously, your general position regarding communism has lots of historical antecedents. I'm sure you know who they are.

Next, you write:

I'm not sure exactly how the United States acquired responsibility for the 19th century colonial exploits of King Leopold in the Congo or Hermann Goering's father in Namibia or any other European colonial war.

I'm also not sure how this happened. Certainly I didn't say it was so. Instead, when you stated that "Many (though not all) Communist states went through a stage of mass murder matched only by the Nazis," I simply noted it wasn't true.

The reason I did so was to point out -- since you'd brought up the Black Book of Communism -- that there's also an (unwritten) Black Book of Capitalism. (Obviously what happened in the Congo and Namibia is part of it.) I think it's good to be aware of both, rather than pretending that there's just one or the other... as commissars of various stripes tend to do.

Finally -- and I think we've both spent enough time on this now -- I will again reiterate that your argument is precisely that of commissars throughout history. As long as there have been governments, organized religions, etc., there have been people eager to defend them from any and all criticism.

First comes the criticism. Then the commissars swing into action, asking why the critic doesn't care about every misdeed happening on earth at the same time. How could anyone be so hypocritical as to criticize Soviet labor camps while the US is dropping napalm on infants in Vietnam! How could anyone be so hypocritical as to criticize dropping napalm on infants while there are Soviet labor camps! How could anyone criticize torture in Saudi Arabia when the Zionists are killing Palestinians! How could anyone criticize killing Palestinians while there's torture in Saudi Arabia!

Well, the answer is no one could be that hypocritical! It's obvious they say these things because... because they hate our country! They hate our country and love our enemies!

This kind of politics has all the sophistication of a third grader.

June 14, 2004


Social Security is another topic that is boring until EXTREMELY INTERESTING. If you don't need Social Security, it is so boring it's difficult to type even a few words about it without losing consciousness. I have only been able to do so here via the aid of Class A chemical stimulants.

However, if you need Social Security, it is EXTREMELY INTERESTING. It is extremely interesting in the way that not living on the street is interesting. It is extremely interesting in the way that not starving to death is interesting.

So, here's some good news: Social Security continues to be fine. From my perspective, the most important implication of this is that there's no need for us to spend any more of our limited time on earth thinking about it.

I know this may be a surprise to you. The standard position is American politics is to run around in circles shrieking, "Social Security will collapse! It will collapse within twelve seconds! O Sweet Jesus, the Collapse of Social Security is about to devour us all!"

Back here in reality, Social Security has not been about to collapse. It has been fine. I know this because, for reasons too uninteresting to explain, I know a lot about it. I could explain why it's fine, but it would be so boring that even my large stores of cocaine and methamphetamine wouldn't help.

Instead, let me just point something out to anyone inclined to worry. Do you see all the people warning about the terrifying Social Security crisis?

Now, think back a year and a half. Do you remember the exact same people warning you about another terrifying crisis? One having to do with a country whose name starts with I and ends with Q? Do you remember how they ran around in circles shrieking, "Saddam Hussein has WMD! He has them right now! O Sweet Jesus, Saddam Hussein is about to break into our homes and devour etc., etc.!"

Well, it's exactly the same situation now. The crisis is just as real with Social Security as it was with Iraq. It's just as bone-chillingly terrifying. The people shrieking are being just as honest and accurate as before.

So my advice is: do not spend a second of your life thinking about Social Security (except to prevent the shriekers from destroying it). There is no crisis. If you want to learn about it in detail, feel free, but keep in mind that so doing will also require the development of a powerful drug addiction.

June 13, 2004

The Way We Were

Recently the State Department admitted that its report on terrorism last year was wrong -- the report claimed there had been fewer terrorist incidents than had actually occurred. This is a big embarrassment, because the Bush administration had used the report's inaccurately low number to crow about progress in the War on Terra. Here's Colin Powell on ABC's This Week, explaining how this happened:

It's a numbers error. It's not a political judgment that said, "Let's see if we can cook the books." We can't get away with that now.

Ah, yes -- I remember well the days when we could get away with cooking the books for political reasons. But now...

[music swells]

Can it be that it was all so simple then?
Or has time rewritten every line?
If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me -- would we?
Could we?

Seriously, though -- "We can't get away with that NOW"?

Whisk, Whisk, Whisk

...the [CIA], I am gratified to say, took a strong stand against the use of torture in Vietnam.
-- Donald P. Gregg, 30-year veteran of the CIA and national security adviser to George H. W. Bush from 1982 to 1988, June 10, 2004

A CIA handbook on coercive interrogation methods, produced 40 years ago during the Vietnam War, shows that techniques such as those used in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have a long history with U.S. intelligence and were based on research and field experience.
-- Washington Post, June 13, 2004

That Donald Gregg op-ed is actually all about how torture is a bad idea. So this transparently false claim about the CIA and torture in Vietnam is all the more bizarre. Weirder still -- really, to the point of near-insanity -- is that Gregg also states that "Under William Colby's direction, interrogation centers were set up [in Vietnam], under American control, and coercive techniques were forbidden."

Uh... no. No. One of William Colby's main activities in Vietnam was to set up the Phoenix Program. The Phoenix Program involved torture in the same way that opera involves singing.

I guess people like Donald Gregg have to tell these sorts of lies just to keep their heads from blowing up. But it's horrifying that the New York Times lets him do it. It makes me think of this famous section of Brave New World:

"You all remember," said the Controller, in his strong deep voice, "you all remember, I suppose, that beautiful and inspired saying of Our Ford's: History is bunk. History," he repeated slowly, "is bunk."

He waved his hand; and it was as though, with an invisible feather wisk, he had brushed away a little dust, and the dust was Harappa, was Ur of the Chaldees; some spider-webs, and they were Thebes and Babylon and Cnossos and Mycenae. Whisk. Whisk–and where was Odysseus, where was Job, where were Jupiter and Gotama and Jesus? Whisk–and those specks of antique dirt called Athens and Rome, Jerusalem and the Middle Kingdom–all were gone. Whisk–the place where Italy had been was empty. Whisk, the cathedrals; whisk, whisk, King Lear and the Thoughts of Pascal. Whisk, Passion; whisk, Requiem; whisk, Symphony; whisk …

INTERESTING FACT: Donald Gregg's daughter is married to the writer Christopher Buckley, himself the son of William Buckley.

June 12, 2004

I Must Bring This To Your Attention Right Now

Of course, if you're a good person you're probably already aware of it.

Sudden World Peace

Here's an article from the New York Times about print-on-demand technology, and how it makes it easier for writers to publish their own work. One section of the story reads:

Every book comes complete with a customized cover chosen from among several thousand designs. For an additional fee, it can also be trademarked and registered with a machine-readable ISBN number, essential for any author hoping to get the work stocked by a major chain and on its way to becoming a best seller.

Of course, the chances of best-seller status are as likely as sudden world peace.

So, sudden world peace is just around the corner! Because my writing partner Mike Gerber originally used a print-on-demand company to self-publish Barry Trotter and the Unauthorized Parody -- and it and the sequel Barry Trotter and the Unnecessary Sequel have sold 600,000 copies worldwide. For quite some time Barry Trotter and the Unauthorized Parody was #2 on the bestseller list of the Times of London.

Speaking of which, below is a scan of a generally positive article from The Sun about the success of Mike's books and other parodies in England. It's hard to read, but since it's filled with errors perhaps that's for the best.

UPDATE: The text of the Sun article can be found here. If you happen to care, the article's wrong that the Harvard Lampoon is "America's answer to satirical mag Private Eye." The National Lampoon was, kind of, America's answer to Private Eye. And it did grow out of the Harvard Lampoon. But the Harvard Lampoon is a college humor magazine, whereas Private Eye was (is?) a national magazine run by grown ups.

Also, the article doesn't mention that The Sun appears in Barry Trotter as "The Stun," with the slogan "Stun-ingly Insipid!"


June 10, 2004

I, Skewerer

Recently I mentioned a CBS claim that Reagan "was viewed as" a popular president, and contrasted that to a graph in a Gallup article showing Reagan's approval rating while in office was mediocre -- he was 6th out of the last 10 presidents, behind Clinton and just ahead of Nixon.

In the comments, Solomon took issue with this, saying that I'd "skew[ed] the purpose and meaning of that [Gallup] article purposefully and shamelessly." Because I really do strive for accuracy and fairness, I want to respond to his statements.

However, I must warn you that unless you like this kind of thing, it will be incredibly boring.

For reference, the CBS article is here, and the Gallup piece is here.

1. Solomon writes that "The Gallup page you cite clearly states that Reagan was one of the most liked presidents of all time, regardless of job approval ratings."

This is simply not true. Gallup routinely measures both a president's job approval ratings and whether he's liked as a person. And while the article does say, "Reagan was always well-liked by the American public -- based on ratings measuring the public's personal opinion rather than its assessment of his job performance," this is true almost all the time for all presidents. So the divergence in the two measurements of Reagan doesn't mean he was especially "well-liked." And the article rightfully doesn't say he was -- it just points out the divergence.

There's some good information on this subject in this article:

Gallup reported on May 20, 1982, that "contrary to a widely held belief, Reagan’s personal popularity is not disproportionately greater than his predecessors’." At that time, Reagan’s job approval rating was 44 percent, while public approval of his personality was 69 percent. This is a perfectly ordinary disparity. Eisenhower’s personality approval was 84 percent when his job approval was 52 percent; 80 percent of the public liked Johnson personally when only 48 percent approved of his job performance. For Kennedy, comparable figures are 86 percent and 64 percent, for Nixon 78 percent and 55 percent, for Ford 69 percent and 44 percent, and for Jimmy Carter 72 percent and 48 percent.


Even the notion that the American public likes Ronald Reagan the man (as opposed to some of his policies) has been grossly exaggerated. Overall, his "likeability" percentages have ranged in the low-to-mid seventies, reaching a high of 81% in November 1985, and a low of 50% in August 1983. Likeability indexes have generally fluctuated in the mid-to-upper seventies for all of Reagan's modern predecessors.

For example, 84% of Americans liked Ike in February 1956. In August 1964, 89% of Americans liked Johnson. Even in the summer months of Carter's final, unpopular year as president (just before his defeat by Reagan in the 1980 election), Carter scored a higher Gallup personal likeability index at 76% than Reagan's 73% during the comparable period of his Administration.

2. If you read the CBS article, you'll see that when it states that Reagan was "viewed as a popular president," it is explicitly referring to his Gallup approval rating while in office. In fact, it gives a rundown of presidential Gallup approval ratings. In the process it gets it factually wrong (claiming Reagan was 5th and ahead of Clinton) and spins it misleadingly (claiming Reagan comes in 5th out of "all who have held the office" rather than 6th of the 10 for whom there is polling data).

So, I'm not sure why it's misleading to counter CBS' claim about Reagan's Gallup approval ratings while in office with a graph of Reagan's Gallup approval ratings while in office.

3. The Gallup article makes two other main points about Reagan's popularity. One of them does not bolster Solomon's case, but one does.

(A) Reagan comes in near the top both in polls about who the greatest president was in history, and in polls about who the greatest president was since World War II.

This is interesting, but despite what Solomon appears to believe, it's not meaningful in terms of Reagan's overall popularity. You can be beloved by a fraction of Americans without being particularly popular overall. This appears to be the case with Reagan.

For instance, in a 2003 poll, 13% of people chose Reagan as the greatest president in history. Another 11% chose George W. Bush, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower, George H.W. Bush or Nixon. Reagan was probably popular among this 11%. So 24% of respondents total would probably admire him.

Meanwhile, 63% chose Kennedy, Lincoln, FDR, Clinton, Jefferson, Truman or Carter. It's likely Reagan was quite unpopular with that 63%. And it's likely Kennedy, Lincoln, FDR, Clinton, Jefferson and Truman were all popular with that 63%, no matter who their first choice was.

(B) Reagan's present-day, retrospective approval ratings are quite high, significantly higher than when he was in office.

73% of people in a 2002 poll retroactively approved of Reagan's performance while in office, which is much higher than his 53% average at the time. This places him 2nd out of the last 8 presidents, behind only Kennedy.

I can be legitimately criticized for leaving this out. So have at me.

If you're going to do so, though, you may want to ponder why Reagan's approval ratings have risen so much. Could it be because of the relentless flood of false stories -- beginning in 1981 and continuing to the present day -- claiming he was really, really popular while in office?

I would say yes, and would compare it to another phenomenon:

If you polled people now, most would probably say that the more education you had, the more likely you were to oppose the Vietnam war. Certainly -- as with the stories about Reagan's popularity -- there has been a relentless flood of stories like this for the past 30 years: the soft-headed elitists didn't understand what blue collar, salt of the earth Americans knew in their hearts.

However, these stories are completely untrue. In fact, it was exactly the opposite: during the Vietnam war, the more education someone had, the more likely they were to support it. The less education someone had, the more likely they were to oppose it completely.

So that's it. Feel free to disagree with me -- all that will happen is that I will call you a fascist. JUST LIKE THOSE BROWNSHIRTS AT THE LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS.

George We Liked Your Resume!

As mentioned below, Mike Gerber and I took the liberty of creating a resume for George Tenet and posting it to Monster.com. And we've already gotten a response!

It's unfortunately from some kind of headhunting firm, not a potential employer for George, but it's still encouraging. Anyone who feels like filling out the form for George should feel free to do so. Every little bit helps.

The best sentence in this email is clearly "Let me introduce ourselves," which seems to indicate that the author is schizophrenic. The only thing better would be "Let us introduce myself," which would indicate the author was part of a hive mind.

Date: Sat, 5 Jun 2004 12:24 -0600
Subject: George we liked your resume!
From: listmaster@managementrecruiting.com

Dear George,

We liked your resume. Are you still in the market?

Let me introduce ourselves. Executive Search Online is an exclusive service dealing in top positions in all areas of the country. Our clients include many leading recruiters, growth companies and fortune 1000 corporations.

We thought you might be a good match for openings we list and which you can review at our website.

Click on http://www.managementrecruiting.com/site.data/1

The new user button will take you to the profile information you can provide in confidence.

Bryce Decker
Senior Vice President

I Hate Those Fascists In The French Resistance

For too long, fascists have been able to do their dirty work without anyone calling them what they are. But finally, a few brave souls are speaking up!

For instance, Bill O'Reilly has pointed out that the ACLU is a "fascist organization." Man, that hits the nail right on the head. The ACLU is the very epitome of fascism. I don't know why no one calls them by their original name -- the Gestapo.

Likewise, Joe Ryan, an interrogator at Abu Ghraib, has said the International Red Cross is "fascist." Again, that's 100% on the money. Can you imagine anything more fascist than the Red Cross? No you can't, because that would be IMPOSSIBLE.

So, this is a very good start. However, there are still far too many fascists -- present day and historical -- who've gotten away with their fascism without anyone calling them on it. But we're not afraid anymore. In the spirit of Bill O'Reilly and Joe Ryan, I've made a list below of the worst fascists ever:

Amnesty International
The French Resistance
The Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC
The White Rose
"The Greatest Generation"
Anne Frank

UPDATE: Dennis Perrin, in comments below, points out that I missed these extremely vicious fascists:

Witness For Peace
Doctors Without Borders
The 8 Hour Workday
Maryknoll Nuns
The Armenian Genocide
That Indian Who Cried In That 70s Anti-Littering Commercial
East Timor
Sally Struthers

June 09, 2004

Ronald Reagan, Restless Polymath

Below is an extremely important reappraisal of Ronald Reagan's presidency by Mike and myself. (Mostly Mike.)

Everybody knows that Ronald Reagan was responsible for the collapse of Communism and the end of the Cold War. That’s obvious, and anybody who denies it is blinded by their own partisan hate. Of course he did it—it happened on his watch.

But the more important question, the one that all the eulogies dodge, is this: was Reagan a truly great man? To find this out, we must remember what else Reagan did while in office.

In 1981 President Reagan…
…caused severe earthquakes in Peru, Iran, and Pakistan.
…produced a cable-tv version of Penthouse.
…made the Chinese a force in international competitive bridge.
…discovered monkeys in Kenya which use a rudimentary language.
…dug the world’s largest hole, about 35,500 ft. deep.
…killed Hoagy Carmichael, the 82-year-old composer of “Stardust.”

In 1982 President Reagan…
…led violent disorders in Miami, over the shooting of a black man by police.
…threw Sophia Loren in jail for 17 days for tax fraud.
…killed Leonid Brezhnev, leader of the Soviet Union.
…caused the longest lunar eclipse since 1736.
…beat the Milwaukee Brewers 4 games to 3, to clinch the World Series.

In 1983 President Reagan…
…celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Metropolitan Opera by spending eight hours singing selections from over 40 operas.
…awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature to William Golding.
…whipped through southern Texas, leaving 17 dead and causing $1.3 billion in damage.

In 1984 President Reagan…
…killed Yuri Andropov, leader of the Soviet Union.
…agreed to return Hong Kong to China in 1997.
…won eight Grammy awards, on his way to the biggest-selling album of all time.
…released toxic chemicals into the air over Bhopal, India, killing over 3500 people.
…became the first woman to walk in space.

In 1985 President Reagan…
…installed Mikhail Gorbachev as Chairman of the Communist Party of the USSR.
…won his third Tony award, for Biloxi Blues.
…clashed with Italian soccer fans, killing 38.
…introduced tampons to China.

In 1986 President Reagan…
…exploded the Challenger, in America’s worst space disaster.
…urged the use of condoms and abstinence to prevent the spread of AIDS.
…elected Jacques Chirac Prime Minister of France.
…circled the globe without refueling.

In 1987 President Reagan…
…landed a small plane in Red Square, and was sentenced to four years in a Soviet labor camp.
…won best film at Cannes for Under Satan’s Sun.
…took four straight races from Australia’s Kookaburra III, winning back the America’s Cup.

In 1988 President Reagan…
…laid the first fiber-optic cable across the floor of the Atlantic.
…marked the centenary of Britain’s notorious “Jack the Ripper.”
…declared a new Soviet policy of glasnost, or “openness.”

In 1989 President Reagan…
…tore down the Berlin Wall, ending the Cold War.

What a man! Clearly Reagan was a restless polymath possessed of Herculean energy, always struggling to achieve, but like the rest of us, never quite sure of the outcome of his actions. Was Ronald Reagan a great man? Yes, we think so. Yes.

God's Sense Of Humor: Not Subtle

As mentioned in this New Yorker story, the spiritual founder of the settlement movement in Israel was named Rabbi Kook.


Many aspects of being alive fall into a category I'd call "Boring Until EXTREMELY INTERESTING." For instance, taking care of your teeth is boring, until you have a cavity. Then it becomes EXTREMELY INTERESTING.

Likewise, if you live in the first world, the system that brings you clean water every day seems boring. You just turn on the tap and there it is. But let me tell you, if it stopped working, you'd suddenly find the subject of water systems EXTREMELY INTERESTING.

So you might find the subject of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and subsidized housing, to be boring. But if you needed to live in subsidized housing, you'd find it extremely interesting.

This is an encouraging article about people in Washington, DC who find it interesting. That's because, like people all over the country, they're being screwed both by HUD and by real estate developers.

How it generally works is this: HUD gives subsidies to real estate developers so they'll build housing for poor people. Then the area changes and becomes gentrified, meaning the developers could make much more building housing in the same place for richer people. But under HUD rules the developers can't do that... unless they repeatedly fail HUD inspections. Then they have the option, as this story explains, "of paying off their mortgages, leaving them free to redevelop their properties at market rates while tenants get vouchers to seek subsidized housing elsewhere."

So developers will purposefully let their buildings go to hell, so they can pay off the mortgage and evict their tenants. But in DC, tenants have the right to match the price of the building and buy it themselves.

This would seem like the best outcome. Except extremely sleazy developers will try to fool their tenants into signing away their rights, as described in this story.

In this case, fortunately, the tenants have gotten organized, together with two important DC groups called Manna and the Washington Interfaith Network. WIN is part of the Industrial Areas Foundation, which was started by the very funny Saul Alinsky.

Tune in next week for more tales of the Boring Until EXTREMELY INTERESTING.

June 08, 2004

Torturing Someone Needn't Hurt Your Self-Esteem

As you probably know, the Wall Street Journal says that Bush administration lawyers drafted a report on what interrogation techniques could be used on prisoners. The report explained that regular pain doesn't count as torture. For it to be torture, you see, it "must be of such a high level of intensity that the pain is difficult for the subject to endure."

There seems to be a problem here. Do you see what it is?

The problem is: if the pain and suffering inflicted aren't "difficult for the subject to endure," then WHAT'S THE POINT? If the pain and suffering are easy to endure, then the prisoners will just easily endure them and not tell you anything.

This seems confusing -- because, of course, the techniques the report was sanctioning were "difficult for the subject to endure." The US government wouldn't bother with them otherwise. Yet the authors of this report claimed they weren't.

The explanation for this weirdness is found in human psychology. Human beings must maintain a positive self-image, no matter what. No one, no matter how evil he is, conceives of himself as evil. Hitler was sure he was doing the right thing. I mean, what would you do if subhumans were trying to destroy the Master Race? You'd build gigantic death camps, that's what.

So, the reports' authors had to reconcile two competing drives:

1. Their desire to torture others.
2. Their desire to think of themselves as good people.

They ran these two desires through their little monkey brains and let them fight it out. At the end, their competing desires agreed on a rationalization that made no sense whatsoever. But the important thing for people like this isn't making sense. The important thing is torturing, bombing, killing, etc., while still believing yourself to be extremely nice.

The authors of this report don't know it, but their mentality is exactly the same as many slave owners in the American South. Sometimes the children of slave owners would witness slaves being whipped, and become upset. It just seemed so mean. Their parents would tell them: Sure, this looks bad, what with the bleeding and shrieking and begging for mercy and all. But you see, Africans have a different kind of nervous system than we white people do. They're less sensitive. So being whipped doesn't hurt slaves like it would hurt you or me.

Which must have made some of the children wonder: if it doesn't hurt, then WHAT'S THE POINT? Do you just need to exercise your whipping arm?

June 07, 2004

Ronald Reagan: Slightly More Popular Than Nixon

My favorite part of the Reagan Death Frenzy is this sentence from CBS News: "Mr. Reagan was viewed as a popular president."

Ah -- journalism at its finest. It doesn't matter whether Ronald Reagan was ACTUALLY popular. The important thing is that he "was viewed" as popular, whatever that means. Likewise, the important thing is that Iraq "was viewed" as having biological, chemical or nuclear weapons. Apparently that's just as bad as ACTUALLY having them. Don't spoil things by bringing reality into it.

Also, finding out whether Reagan was actually popular would have involved work for CBS. Lots of work. I know, because it took me fifteen whole seconds to find this on the Gallup website:


As you can see, Reagan was very popular indeed, coming in an impressive sixth out of the last ten presidents. Moreover, he was a stunning four percentage points more popular than Nixon, a man often "viewed as" one of History's greatest assholes.

June 05, 2004

A Helping Hand

George Tenet seems like a nice guy, and Mike and I want to help him out. So we've taken the liberty of posting the below resume to Monster.com.

June 04, 2004

George Tenet's Resume

As imagined by Mike and myself.

Tenet bold.gif

A Ruthless, Surprise Attack on Reality

This is an encouraging part of George Bush's speech on Tuesday:

Like the Second World War, our present conflict began with a ruthless, surprise attack on the United States. We will not forget that treachery, and we will accept nothing less than victory over the enemy.

I'm glad Bush reminded us of this, because too many Americans have forgotten how World War II started: with the September 1, 1939 ruthless, surprise invasion of the US by Germany. While Americans soldiers fought valiantly, it wasn't long before the Germans held such famous American cities as Gdansk, Krakow and Warsaw.

Of course, some historians believe World War II began even earlier -- with Japan's ruthless, surprise assault on America in 1937. As they would in 1939, the US military fought with courage, but soon such US cities as Beijing, Tianjin, and Shanghai had fallen to the Japanese Imperial Army. This vicious aggression culminated in the notorious "Rape of Nanking," in which perhaps 250,000 Americans perished.

Either way, it's nice to finally have a US president who cares enough about history to get it right.

June 02, 2004

Because You Are Very Lucky

This is a great Memorial Day piece by Zeynep Toufe. It's about Abe Osheroff, an 89 year-old veteran of the Spanish Civil War.

I am always interested in reading more about the Spanish Civil War, unless such writing appears in the Nation magazine. The Nation has fulfilled their quota of articles dealing with it. If they continue to publish such pieces, we must find some way of stopping them, up to and including civil disobedience.

As it happens, my grandparents lived in Spain in the mid-1930s, and my aunt Susan was born there. Did she fight for the Republican cause at two months old? I suspect so, although she has always maintained a modest silence about it. She's just not the kind of person to brag.

From Muslim WakeUp!, here's something written by Anna Ghonim, an American living in Cairo, about how Bush's apology for Abu Ghraib came across there. Get this: she says the broadcast was entirely in English -- ie, no subtitles, nor simultaneous translation.

And that's the way I like it. If the rest of the world can't be bothered to learn English, they don't deserve an apology. I mean, for god's sake, they have to meet us halfway. We'll take care of the torturing and humiliating, and they can learn our language. That way everybody chips in. Fair's fair.

By the way, Muslim WakeUp! is a beautiful website, despite its unfortunate emphasis on "justice" and "peace."

Finally, here Fred Barnes, a man who -- at least on TV -- appears to have excellent hair, explains that Michael Moore fabricated an embarrassing interview with him. Here Michael Moore explains Fred Barnes may have forgotten the interview, since it took place 17,000 years ago, in 1988.

You can't blame Fred Barnes. I mean, I personally can't remember what my name was in 1988.

June 01, 2004

O My Beloved People, How You Suck Compared To Our Enemies

As I like to say, all the people who constantly shriek about how much they love their country always despise everyone else in their country. So Ann Coulter hates Americans, Ahmad Chalabi has contempt for Iraqis, Sara Netanyahu loathes Israelis, and Yasser Arafat doesn't think much of Palestinians.

But that's not all. One of the weirdest things about these people is that -- when they can tear themselves away from hating us -- they often speak of the respect they have for their country's purported enemies.

This seems strange, since they also are constantly warning the rest of us that these enemies are PURE EVIL. They can't be negotiated with, they can only be destroyed! Any so-called "peace" will just allow them to re-arm to attack again! Anyone who disagrees is as bad, or maybe worse, than the enemy! Persons denying the existence of Robots may be Robots themselves! Etc.

Yet this is everywhere. Here's a perceptive description of Tom Clancy's worldview by Alan Wirzbicki from the New Republic (via Kevin Drum):

The nominal bad guys of [Clancy's] cold war-era books were Soviets, but as often as not Clancy portrayed Russians as worthy adversaries, sharing a code of military honor with the American protagonist fated to defeat them...

Liberals, on the other hand, were more often Clancy's true villains. In the process of defeating the Soviets, Clancy's heroes have also had to overcome a "professor of political science at Bennington, whose geopolitical views ... made Lenin look like Theodore Roosevelt"; a treasonous former Harvard Crimson editor who was giving secrets to the KGB; radical environmentalists bent on destroying civilization; namby-pamby congressmen; and pacifists of all stripes. Easy to hate, but illegal to kill.

The message comes through loud and clear. In Clancy's world, conniving Soviet generals may be bad, but liberal Bennington professors are worse.

This is definitely the case in all the Tom Clancy books I've read. You can hear the characters thinking: if we end up having to nuke the Russians, can't we spare at least one 20 megaton warhead for Marin County?

Likewise, Richard Nixon understood how loathsome and disgusting Americans are:

We're going to [put] more of these little Negro bastards on the welfare rolls at $2,400 a family... Work, work--throw 'em off the rolls. That's the key... The Mexicans are a different cup of tea. They have a heritage. At the present time they steal, they're dishonest, but they do have some concept of family life. They don't live like a bunch of dogs, which the Negroes do live like.

The Jews -- the Jews are, are born spies. You notice how many of them are just in up to their necks?

You know, it's a funny thing, every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish. What the Christ is the matter with the Jews, Bob? What is the matter with them? I suppose it is because most of them are psychiatrists.

You know what happened to the Romans? The last six Roman emperors were fags... The Bohemian Grove -- which I attend, from time to time -- it is the most faggy goddamned thing you could ever imagine, with that San Francisco crowd. I can't shake hands with anybody from San Francisco.

Yes, things were pretty grim. Fortunately, someone understood the danger posed by the vile, filthy people of America. As Nixon explained:

Let's look at the strong societies. The Russians. Goddamn, they root [the fags] out. They don't let 'em around at all. I don't know what they do with them. Look at this country. You think the Russians allow dope?

Then there's "C."C. was a well-known, high-ranking officer in the Israeli army, who, in 1982, anonymously explained how much he hated most Jews:

Let me tell you what is the most important thing, the sweetest fruit of the war in Lebanon: It is that now they don't just hate Israel. Thanks to us, they now also hate all those Feinschmecker Jews in Paris, London, New York, Frankfurt and Montreal, in all their holes. At last they hate all these nice Yids... They are the same Yids who persuaded the gentiles to capitulate to the bastards in Vietnam, to give it in to Khomeini, to Brezhnev, to feel sorry for Sheikh Yamani because of his tough childhood, to make love not war...

Soon their palaces will be smeared with the slogan: Yids, go to Palestine!... You probably want to know whether I am not afraid of the masses of Yids coming here to escape anti-semitism smearing us with their olive oil until we go all soft like them. Listen, history is funny in that way, there is a dialectic here, irony... Leibowitz is right, we are Judeo-Nazis, and why not? Listen, a people that gave itself up to be slaughtered, a people that let soap to be made of its children and lamp shades from the skin of its women is a worse criminal than its murderers. Worse than the Nazis... So I am an anti-Semite? Fine.

Whew, that's ugly. Fortunately, there are some people whom C. admired a great deal:

... note that I don't hate Arabs. On the contrary. Personally, I am much more at ease with them, and especially with the Bedouin, than with Jews. Those Arabs we haven't yet spoilt are proud people, they are irrational, cruel and generous. It's the Yids that are all twisted.

And that's why I'm running for President of the United States. Vote for me, you ghastly, filthy, repellent, nauseating Americans, and I will protect you from our noble enemies.