June 30, 2005

Blah Blah Radio Blah

I'll be on Living Room with Kris Welch on KPFA 94.1 fm in the SF Bay Area to talk about the Downing Street memos, etc., starting about three minutes from now at 3:30 pm ET. Don't say I never give any advance warning.

The Book Disease

Several weeks ago Anna of Annalysis infected me with the feared online book disease. Since then I've been busy undergoing an extensive pedicure, but now I've finally gotten around to it.

Total number of books owned

Somewhere in the low hundreds.

I will contrast this with my mother, who owns so many books my father made her move them into the basement of their house, because he was concerned the upstairs floor might collapse.

Last book bought

Spanking the Donkey by Matt Taibbi.

Last book read

The Unquiet Ghost: Russians Remember Stalin by Adam Hoshschild. This is a good book if you want to be terrified by human depravity.

Five books that mean a lot to you

• Without Feathers by Woody Allen

I first read Without Feathers when I was twelve. It made me laugh so hard I cried. I remember thinking, I had no idea life included things THIS FUNNY. I read that copy so many times it fell apart.

In my 8th grade English class everyone had to choose a book and read excepts of it out loud. I did Without Feathers. Afterwards my teacher criticized me for laughing during my presentation. It hurt my feelings at the time, but he was right: jokes don't work very well if you yourself chortle while telling them. I'm still working on this.

Without Feathers has really been the gift that keeps on giving. When I was in high school it was one of the initial topics of conversation between myself and Rob Weisberg, who to this day is one of my closest friends. Without Feathers was also where I first heard of the New Yorker, because the front of the book listed where the pieces had first appeared. Almost two decades later after I first read it, a piece by Mike Gerber and me appeared with several by Woody Allen in the New Yorker humor anthology Fierce Pajamas. This was one of the greatest thrills of my writing life.

These days I find Without Feathers hard to take. Woody Allen is so driven by fear in everything he does. But man, it really did it for me in junior high.

• The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera

Milan Kundera is like T.S. Eliot in that you have to read him as a teenager in order to get the most out of it. If you read him later, he may strike you as unbearably adolescent. Fortunately, I DID read The Book of Laughter and Forgetting as a teenager, in the best possible circumstances—as part of a program with a bunch of other teenagers who had to read it too.

Oh, the earnest conversations we teens had about Life after reading it. If you heard us now you'd want to vomit. But if you know a weird 16 year-old, you should give them this book.

Key quote: "The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting." Incredibly enough, this turns out to be true.

• Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West by John Ralston Saul

I've bought and given away at least 20 copies of Voltaire's Bastards. Yes, I am the reason John Ralston Saul was able to purchase the San Diego Padres. I could go on, but I've already said more than enough on this subject already.

• Who Will Tell the People: The Betrayal of American Democracy by William Greider

Published in 1992, this is probably the best book even written about the current tattered state of US democracy. But it's not just depressing; it always gives you reason to think it might be worth trying to do something about it. It's similar in many respects to Voltaire's Bastards. In fact, John Ralston Saul apparently liked it so much he sent Greider a copy of Voltaire's Bastards.

Here's part of the final chapter:

[Lincoln] stood for an idea of democracy that I think is now widely dismissed as mystical—the belief that only from the many can this nation fulfill its larger qualities. My impression is that many Americans, perhaps most of them, no longer really believe this. Or they are sullenly resigned to the assumption that, given modern complexities, a genuine, full-throated democracy is no longer practical in America. Given the realities of power, it no longer seems plausible to them. Possibly, they are correct...

I choose to believe otherwise... The first step toward renewal is to free ourselves of the cynical expectations of these times and to reassert that faith without hesitation or apology—to declare stubbornly that what we were all taught in childhood is still true, or can be true, if we decide to make it so...

My encounters as a reporter with ordinary citizens have led to optimism about the potential for democratic renewal... Even in the most benighted corners of this country, in burned-out slums or on desolate Indian reservations, I have always met some whose forceful intelligence shone through the barriers of language and education and class. I frequently came away thinking to myself: Those people would be running things if they had been born with a bit more luck...

This is difficult, I know, for the well born and well educated to believe about the ordinary run of Americans (and perhaps threatening to some) for it suggests there is a vast pool of unrealized ability dwelling in the American population—people with important things to say who are not heard...

If there is a mystical chord in democracy, it probably revolves around that notion—that unexpected music can resonate from politics when people are pursuing questions larger than self. As a reporter, I have seen that ennobling effect in people many, many times—expressed by those who found themselves engaged in genuine acts of democratic expression, who claimed their right to help the larger destiny of their community, their nation. Power can accumulate in mysterious ways, if citizens believe they possess this right. Their power atrophies when they no longer believe in it. This book is for the believers.

• Life and How to Survive It by Robin Skynner and John Cleese

This is the only book I've ever read about human psychology that has made immediate sense to me. If you're confused by human behavior, I really can't recommend it highly enough. Read it and All Will Become Clear.

(Several previous mentions of it by me can be found here.)

• • •

If they haven't caught this affliction already, I now cough on Dennis Perrin, Bob Harris, Zeynep Toufe, Josh Berthume and the bookish King of Zembla.

I was planning to also afflict Harry of Scratchings, but I was too slow.

UPDATE: It turns out Simbaud, le roi de Zembla, was already diseased. So I hereby infect Jake of Lying Media Bastards

June 28, 2005

What The Washington Post Left Out

The Washington Post published an okay story today about the Downing Street memo and the other leaked UK documents. It took them two months and doesn't break any new ground, but I guess it's nice they've done a long front page piece on the subject.

Still, one part of the article made me laugh:

[Blair's] aides contend that in the days immediately after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Blair saw Saddam Hussein's Iraq as a potential danger that needed to be dealt with. But the prime minister faced an entirely different set of obstacles, political and legal, than Bush did, including much stronger domestic opposition to war.

Here's why that's funny: it's true the UK documents discuss the "obstacles" faced by Blair and that these obstacles included "much stronger domestic opposition to war." But take a look at this excerpt from the March 14, 2002 memo to Blair from his foreign policy advisor David Manning, and see if you can spot one particular obstacle that the Post left out:

[Condoleezza Rice and I] spent a long time at dinner on IRAQ. It is clear that Bush is grateful for your support and has registered that you are getting flak. I said that you would not budge in your support for regime change but you had to manage a press, a Parliament and a public opinion that was very different than anything in the States.

Yup: at the highest levels of the British government, they were concerned about managing a press "that was very different than anything in the States." In fact, Manning listed it first among the obstacles Blair faced.

It's not every day you get confirmation that high government officials see the US media as well-behaved lapdogs. It's a good thing the Washington Post didn't mention that, because if they had their readers might have learned something about reality.

June 26, 2005

I Have Returned! With Some Stuff!

1. Congratulations to the Editors at The Poorman, whose material has been transmogrified from words into sounds by NPR's On the Media. I'm pleased to see NPR retained the funniness during the transition.

2. Please join me in saluting Dennis Perrin for starting a sentence "Karl Rove skull-fucking 9/11..."

Read the whole thing, particularly the bit about a recent talk by Seymour Hersh.

3. Zeynep of Under the Same Sun has traveled to her native country of Turkey to participate in the World Tribunal on Iraq. You should read all of her posts here, here, and here.

The last post is partly about a presentation by Tim Goodrich of the organization Iraq Veterans Against the War. IVAW has recently joined the After Downing Street coalition.

June 22, 2005

Unforgivable Funniness

Bob Harris is unforgivably funny while describing his troubled voyage to England.

My favorite part: "the International Convention on Implacable Screaming."

June 21, 2005

Me, Yet Again

Tomorrow (Wednesday the 22nd) at 11:05 am ET I'll be on AM 760, the Boulder, Colorado Air America affiliate, to talk about the Downing Street Memo. Their online streaming is here. You are invited to call in and harass me.

June 20, 2005

Ignore This

Believe me, you don't want to read this. For the love of God, I beg you to ignore this and read no further.

No, seriously.

Never mind. I've now erased what was here before—a test run of the list of coalition members of After Downing Street.

In retrospect, I may have exaggerated how horrifying this was.

June 18, 2005

More Me

This afternoon at 5:00 pm ET I'm going to be on Steve Young's show on the Los Angeles Air America affiliate, KTLK AM 1150, to talk about the Downing Street Memo. The live stream (for Windows Media Player) is here.

I Apparently Learn Something New Every Day

I always thought "op-ed page" was short for "opinion-editorial page." Ie, you have the newspapers' institutional editorials and you have the opinion columns. But Timothy Noah says this in Slate:

Three decades ago, the New York Times created the editorial page's logical successor: the op-ed page. "Op-ed" is shorthand for "opposite the editorial page." A mixture of regular columns and freelance pieces, the op-ed page quickly became a thousand times more compelling than the editorial page it stood opposite... Overall, the op-ed page was such an obviously great idea that every other newspaper in America quickly followed suit.

Hmm. I wonder what other abbreviations I'm misinterpreting.

Also, beside the op-ed definition, I also didn't know that the op-ed page as it currently exists is such a new thing. But then, I didn't start reading anything beside the sports section until about 1990.

June 17, 2005


1. Chris Floyd is particularly enjoyable today.

2. Bob Harris was weirdly sick, but is being healed by rugby and cricket.

3. Matt Taibbi talks about Michael Jackson. And don't miss this.

June 16, 2005


I'll be on the Bruce Elliot Show on WBAL at 1090 AM in Baltimore tonight at 10:30 pm ET to talk about the Downing Street Memo. You can find a live stream if you go here and look in the upper right hand corner.

Downing Downing Downing Downing Downing Downing Downi—

See After Downing Street for all the events today about the Downing Street Memo, including:

1. The hearings from 2:30-4:30 pm called by Rep. John Conyers. They'll be carried live on C-Span 3 and then rebroadcast on C-Span 2 tomorrow afternoon. Tons of other media will be there; look for stories tonight and tomorrow.

2. John Conyers' delivery to the White House of his letter concerning the Downing Street Memo, signed by 100+ members of Congress and 500,000+ regular-issue Americans.

3. A 5 pm rally in Lafayette Park.


Michael Smith, the British journalist who uncovered the memo and has written extensively about it and other secret UK documents, is doing a live online appearance at 10 am ET for the Washington Post.

Here's a good Knight-Ridder story.

And here's a fascinating and unsettling Iraq timeline by Greg Palast.

June 15, 2005

More Downing Street

I'm going to be on What's At Stake on Pacifica's WPFW on 89.3 FM in Washington this morning from 10-11 am ET. A live stream is here. One of the other guests will be Cindy Sheehan:

Sheehan ridiculed Bush for saying that it's "hard work" comforting the widow of a soldier who's been killed in Iraq.

"Hard work is seeing your son's murder on CNN one Sunday evening while you're enjoying the last supper you'll ever truly enjoy again. Hard work is having three military officers come to your house a few hours later to confirm the aforementioned murder of your son, your first-born, your kind and gentle sweet baby. Hard work is burying your child 46 days before his 25th birthday."

Also, David Swanson and I wrote a column for the Baltimore Sun:

...the Downing Street minutes and other recently leaked documents illustrate that the intelligence was wrong by design. The documents show officials at the apex of the government of our closest ally confirming among themselves what were the darkest suspicions about the Iraq war among ordinary Americans.

And as always, After Downing Street is your source for all your Downing Street needs.

June 14, 2005

Vewwy Vewwy Quiet

Perhaps you've noticed this site is in a bit of a lull. Partly that's because I've decided to start sleeping 22 hours a day. But it's also because I'm working with After Downing Street on some of their current activities, and it's keeping me extremely busy.

Speaking of which, I'm going to be on WRCT in Pittsburgh tonight at 6:00 pm ET to talk about the Downing Street memo. If you're not in Pittburgh but still eager to benefit from my wisdom, you can also listen online.

June 12, 2005

Now Would Be A Good Time To Sign The Conyers Letter

If you're an American citizen and haven't already, now would be a good time to sign the letter from John Conyers asking George Bush to answer questions about the Downing Street Memo. As of this second, 88 additional congressmen and 497,000 other Americans have signed. (You can also sign up via Moveon.) This Thursday Conyers is holding hearings on the memo, after which he will deliver the letter and all the signatures personally to the White House.

Seriously, you should sign it. If you need more persuading, check out this story from the Times of London today:

Ministers were told of need for Gulf war ‘excuse’
by Michael Smith

MINISTERS were warned in July 2002 that Britain was committed to taking part in an American-led invasion of Iraq and they had no choice but to find a way of making it legal.

The warning, in a leaked Cabinet Office briefing paper, said Tony Blair had already agreed to back military action to get rid of Saddam Hussein at a summit at the Texas ranch of President George W Bush three months earlier.

The briefing paper, for participants at a meeting of Blair’s inner circle on July 23, 2002, said that since regime change was illegal it was “necessary to create the conditions” which would make it legal.

This was required because, even if ministers decided Britain should not take part in an invasion, the American military would be using British bases. This would automatically make Britain complicit in any illegal US action.

“US plans assume, as a minimum, the use of British bases in Cyprus and Diego Garcia,” the briefing paper warned. This meant that issues of legality “would arise virtually whatever option ministers choose with regard to UK participation”.

The paper was circulated to those present at the meeting, among whom were Blair, Geoff Hoon, then defence secretary, Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, and Sir Richard Dearlove, then chief of MI6. The full minutes of the meeting were published last month in The Sunday Times.

The document said the only way the allies could justify military action was to place Saddam Hussein in a position where he ignored or rejected a United Nations ultimatum ordering him to co-operate with the weapons inspectors. But it warned this would be difficult.

“It is just possible that an ultimatum could be cast in terms which Saddam would reject,” the document says. But if he accepted it and did not attack the allies, they would be “most unlikely” to obtain the legal justification they needed.

The suggestions that the allies use the UN to justify war contradicts claims by Blair and Bush, repeated during their Washington summit last week, that they turned to the UN in order to avoid having to go to war. The attack on Iraq finally began in March 2003.

The briefing paper is certain to add to the pressure, particularly on the American president, because of the damaging revelation that Bush and Blair agreed on regime change in April 2002 and then looked for a way to justify it.

There has been a growing storm of protest in America, created by last month’s publication of the minutes in The Sunday Times. A host of citizens, including many internet bloggers, have demanded to know why the Downing Street memo (often shortened to “the DSM” on websites) has been largely ignored by the US mainstream media.

The White House has declined to respond to a letter from 89 Democratic congressmen asking if it was true — as Dearlove told the July meeting — that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” in Washington.

The Downing Street memo burst into the mainstream American media only last week after it was raised at a joint Bush-Blair press conference, forcing the prime minister to insist that “the facts were not fixed in any shape or form at all”.

John Conyers, the Democratic congressman who drafted the letter to Bush, has now written to Dearlove asking him to say whether or not it was accurate that he believed the intelligence was being “fixed” around the policy. He also asked the former MI6 chief precisely when Bush and Blair had agreed to invade Iraq and whether it is true they agreed to “manufacture” the UN ultimatum in order to justify the war.

He and other Democratic congressmen plan to hold their own inquiry this Thursday with witnesses including Joe Wilson, the American former ambassador who went to Niger to investigate claims that Iraq was seeking to buy uranium ore for its nuclear weapons programme.

Frustrated at the refusal by the White House to respond to their letter, the congressmen have set up a website — www.downingstreetmemo.com — to collect signatures on a petition demanding the same answers.

Conyers promised to deliver it to Bush once it reached 250,000 signatures. By Friday morning it already had more than 500,000 with as many as 1m expected to have been obtained when he delivers it to the White House on Thursday.

AfterDowningStreet.org, another website set up as a result of the memo, is calling for a congressional committee to consider whether Bush’s actions as depicted in the memo constitute grounds for impeachment.

It has been flooded with visits from people angry at what they see as media self-censorship in ignoring the memo. It claims to have attracted more than 1m hits a day.

Democrats.com, another website, even offered $1,000 (about £550) to any journalist who quizzed Bush about the memo’s contents, although the Reuters reporter who asked the question last Tuesday was not aware of the reward and has no intention of claiming it.

The complaints of media self-censorship have been backed up by the ombudsmen of The Washington Post, The New York Times and National Public Radio, who have questioned the lack of attention the minutes have received from their organisations.

June 10, 2005

Friday Michel-Camdessus-Being-Hit-In-The-Face-With-A-Pie Blogging

Below are two action shots of Michel Camdessus, then head of the International Monetary Fund, being hit in the face with a pie. This took place in 2000 in Bangkok.

I prefer to leave my source for these pictures a mystery.

• • •

June 09, 2005

It's Frightening To Die Cheated

These thoughts by Driftglass on the mindset of America's right wing have been zipping around. It's well worth reading it all, but here's an excerpt:

It’s not true that the Conservatives I know don’t give a damn so much as they are terrified that they were wrong... Deeply, primally terrified.

[S]ince they will happily burn the world to the ground before they admit they might actually have been wrong about Bush, it falls to us to keep them backed into a corner as best we can, because once events out here in Realityland begin to pound through the perimeter denial defenses, what comes after ain’t gonna be pretty.

Not to scream blindly into the void for the impossible... but to keep patiently repeating: “Here’s what you said, and here’s what you did. You were wrong. Apologize,” in every venue available.

The bad news is, until they wake the fuck up, these people are slaves, and there is no one so ferocious as a brainwashed thrall defending his owner...

The good news is... the sheer weight of simple things like time and gravity and causality itself are our natural and incorruptable allies. They are merciless, and recognize no Geneva Convention niceties when meting out justice to arrant fools who try to fuck with them.

This reminds me of something I just read in The Unquiet Ghost: Russians Remember Stalin by Adam Hochschild.

Hochschild tells the story of Susanna Pechuro. Pechuro was part of a small group of Moscow teenagers who rebelled against Stalinism in the early 1950s. The oldest of the six was nineteen, the youngest sixteen. They're remarkably similar to the White Rose, the German teenagers who rebelled against Hitler.

As with the members of the White Rose, Pechuro's group didn't accomplish much before they were arrested—they met, talked, distributed a few leaflets. After they were caught, three were shot, and two died after being imprisoned in labor camps. Only Pechuro survived.

And here's the most interesting part: even after seeing his daughter arrested, Pechuro's father didn't seem to question the Soviet leadership—even within his own heart. It was only after the collapse of the Soviet Union, at the end of his life, that he began to do so. And the fear her father told her about as he was dying seems exactly like the fear of America's true believers:

"It's frightening for me to die cheated. To think that I've spent my life being cheated. That I still believed—at a time when YOU understood everything. And I, a grownup, believed. My life has been spent in lies."

For her parents' generation, Pechuro explains in The Unquiet Ghost,

"The war explained provided explanations for everything. Things were bad because of the war, what could you do? They hadn't traveled anywhere. They had read very little. They were people who went through their daily routine, brought up their kids, cooked their meals, went to their offices and didn't give anything else a second thought. If a newspaper said something, that meant it was true.

"Now people say they didn't see, then. But I think they really saw everything. It was easier for them to persuade themselves that they weren't seeing—then they were relieved of any obligation to do anything."

But what about her? Why did she and her teenage friends act in a way that was from any rational perspective completely crazy?

Somebody has to be the first to say, "Stop, they are telling you lies." Somebody has to explain to people that the world in which they're living is the world of lies. We thought that we had to pursue this cause of explaining things to other people.

Feel free to draw as many or as few parallels with all this as you desire.

Via via.

June 08, 2005

George Bush Makes Up His Mind

I just mentioned this, but let's take a closer look at the precise phrases Bush has used to describe his views on Iraq.

On April 4, 2002, he was interviewed on British television:

Question: I take your point about no immediate plans, but in a sense, have you made up your mind that Iraq must be attacked?

The President: I made up my mind that Saddam needs to go.

Three months later in July, 2002, the high level British government meeting took place that's recorded in the Downing Street memo:

C reported on his recent talks in Washington... Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action...

Yesterday, June 7, 2005, Bush was asked about the Downing Street memo, and said this:

THE PRESIDENT: And somebody said, well, you know, we had made up our mind to go to use military force to deal with Saddam. There's nothing farther from the truth.

It's enjoyably pathological: not only does he lie, but he makes sure to contradict himself with the exact same words.

Nature's Perfect Lying Machine

Millions of years of evolution have designed George W. Bush for one purpose and one purpose only: lying.

Silently he swims through the sea of American politics. He does not sleep. He knows no mercy. And suddenly, with no warning, HE ATTACKS:

Bush-Blair Press Conference, June 7, 2005

Q Thank you, sir. On Iraq, the so-called Downing Street memo from July 2002 says intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy of removing Saddam through military action. Is this an accurate reflection of what happened? Could both of you respond?...

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I -- you know, I read kind of the characterizations of the memo... And somebody said, well, you know, we had made up our mind to go to use military force to deal with Saddam. There's nothing farther from the truth.

The fight is quick and bloody:

Interview Of The President By Sir Trevor McDonald Of Britain's Itv Television Network, April 4, 2002

Question: I take your point about no immediate plans, but in a sense, have you made up your mind that Iraq must be attacked?

The President: I made up my mind that Saddam needs to go...

Question: So you're going to go after him?

The President: As I told you, the policy of my government is that Saddam Hussein not be in power.

Question: And how are you going to achieve this, Mr. President?

The President: Wait and see.

And within seconds, the truth is dead:

Press Conference: Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George Bush, April 6, 2002

PRESIDENT BUSH: ...I explained to the Prime Minister that the policy of my government is the removal of Saddam and that all options are on the table.

After a brief feeding frenzy on the corpse of reality, nature's perfect lying machine moves onward. Always searching, always hungry, striking fear in the heart of honesty everywhere.

June 05, 2005

There's A Feeling Of Boredom/Of The Big Whoredom

Back in the middle ages, you could make a good living painting the portraits of kings, queens, princes, dukes, earls, etc. You painted their picture; they gave you money; and they stuck the portrait on their wall. Everybody was happy.

There was a catch, however. You could never, ever paint them as they actually were.

In reality, the kings and queens were pretty ugly. They had bad teeth, drooping jowls, and running syphilitic sores. If your painting reflected this, it would be your last commission. But if you painted them as they wanted to be—youthful, strong, beautiful—you would eat well to the day you keeled over. True, you had to be a complete and utter whore, but that's life.

Our present day kings and queens don't bother much with portraits painted on canvas. But the urge to be surrounded by beautiful reflections of themselves hasn't changed. So these days they mostly hire people to paint portraits of them with words.

I thought of this as I read an article by David Cay Johnston, the best reporter at the New York Times, about the ever-widening chasm between America's richest people and everyone else:

From 1950 to 1970, for example, for every additional dollar earned by the bottom 90 percent, those in the top 0.01 percent earned an additional $162, according to the Times analysis. From 1990 to 2002, for every extra dollar earned by those in the bottom 90 percent, each taxpayer at the top brought in an extra $18,000.

That's reality, and it's hideous. Even worse, it's in the New York Times, so our kings and queens might read it and begin to suspect they're not quite as lovely as they thought. Fortunately, our present day royalty have already paid someone to be on hand to paint a more appealing portrait:

"In this income data I see a snapshot of a very innovative society," said Tim Kane, an economist at the Heritage Foundation. "Lower taxes and lower marginal tax rates are leading to more growth. There's an explosion of wealth. We are so wealthy in a world that is profoundly poor."

Of course, this is gibberish. The only way it could make less sense is if Tim Kane had said "Hrabls xrrix Flu*&$#." But that doesn't matter, just as it didn't matter if the Baron of Richecourt was completely bald except for a lank brown fringe and you painted him with a flowing golden mane. What matters is reassuring the people who own you that they're beautiful. In this, Tim Kane excels.

(You should read David Kay Johnston's excellent book, Perfectly Legal.)

(Title reference here.)

June 04, 2005

More Tiresome 1984 Comparisons

This is tiresome, but I can't help myself.

George Bush, May 31, 2005

THE PRESIDENT: I'm aware of the Amnesty International report, and it's absurd. It's an absurd allegation. The United States is a country that is -- promotes freedom around the world.

"The Principles of Newspeak," appendix to 1984:

It would have been possible, for example, to say Big Brother is ungood. But this statement... to an orthodox ear merely conveyed a self-evident absurdity.

Much less tiresome is this extremely useful delineation by The Editors at The Poorman of how the US government has joined with Communist China, the Soviet Union, Ayatollah Khomeini and Idi Amin in slagging Amnesty International. What a proud moment for us all.

I'm Disappointed By My Lack Of Disappointment

I remember when I was young and carefree and could get disappointed by politicians. But that was long ago.

I thought of this when I read an exchange at Body and Soul between Barack Obama and a constituent about the CIA's "rendition" policy. Obama shows all the fiery spirit of boiled spinach.

That's okay; it's what I'd expect from him. The whole idea that any politician will ever be a genuine leader is a 99.7% fairy tale. The best you can hope for is that, if there's ever a huge social movement pressuring them, they will stop sucking so hard. And even then they'll be slightly sucky. Changing things is up to us, not them.

Still, it makes me wistful for my naive youth, which ended sometime in the late 1800s.

Let's Rumble

Harry and et alia of Scratchings are

... out of patience with famous liberals who are kind of against war, but not willing to yell about it on their radio shows.

Specifically, they are irked by Al Franken and Air America.

Thus, it falls to me to defend Franken, etc., in what I hope will blossom into a vicious, dirty little online war.

1. I strenuously disagree with et alia about Franken's funniness. I don't listen to every second of Air America's broadcasts, but I defy anyone to say Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them and Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot aren't funny. I defy you!

Plus, Franken was often genuinely funny on SNL. He is funny. It cannot be denied. Do not deny it.

2. Air America does have strong whitebread, NY-Times-on-the-radio tendencies. But.

In these days of modern times, even the NYT types, with all their flaws, need to be defended. Yes, they're incredibly white. Yes, they are blind to anything having to do with class. And yes, if necessary they will kill millions so Hillary will be elected and they can be appointed Assistant Undersecretary of State for East Africa.

However, they do have one redeeming quality, which is they aren't batshit crazy. They do care about reality, even if they miss huge swaths of it because of their nice liberal blinders. That's a low standard to meet, but here in 2005 I consider anyone an ally if they aren't certifiably insane.

Franken isn't certifiably insane. And if larger progressive forces make enough noise to make him feel safe, he will stride in the right direction. And you never know when the previously irksome nice liberals will have had enough and will break completely. This has already happened to Jeffrey Sachs, and Paul Krugman may be nearing such a point himself.

3. Air America can surprise you from time to time. It's not JUST polishing the Democrats' knobs. Janeane Garofalo in particular comes up with some pretty frank statements and guests. Chuck D, though there less these days, has also been impressive and interesting.


I understand the temptation to dismiss these folks. But honestly, our forces are not so powerful that we're in any position to throw poop at anyone even vaguely sympathetic. We don't have to love them, nor they us. But let's save the internecine bloodbath for the Biden administration.

June 03, 2005

Incredibly Enough, Attack of the Clones Didn't Make The List

Mike Gerber's wife Kate is starting the USC film school screenwriting program this fall. They've sent her a list of 100+ movies they expect students to have seen on arrival. Anyone who watches movies—ie, everyone on earth—will probably be interested in it.

Even I Am Beginning To Find This Kind Of Thing Tiresome

Blah blah Dick Cheney blah on Larry King blah

CHENEY: I'm absolutely convinced we did the right thing in Iraq... we're making major progress there... I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.

Blah blah blah Dick Cheney blah Air Force Academy graduation blah

All of you remember that Tuesday morning in 2001 when alarms were sounded...

A great deal has happened since that day, but we have much yet to do as a nation—and you will be among those who lead us to victory against freedom's enemies...

And you will play an historic role in the great victories to come.

Blah blah blah White House Social Security page blah

... limiting benefits... increasing the retirement age... changing the benefit formula to create disincentives for early retirement...

Blah blah Orwell blah blah 1984 blah

The voice from the telescreen paused. A trumpet call, clear and beautiful, floated into the stagnant air. The voice continued raspingly:

"Attention! Your attention, please! A newsflash has this moment arrived from the Malabar front. Our forces in South India have won a glorious victory. I am authorized to say that the action we are now reporting may well bring the war within measurable distance of its end. Here is the newsflash—"

Bad news coming, thought Winston. And sure enough, following on a gory description of the annihilation of a Eurasian army, with stupendous figures of killed and prisoners, came the announcement that, as from next week, the chocolate ration would be reduced from thirty grammes to twenty.

June 02, 2005

Several Things

1. The Editors at the Poorman continue to be so funny it makes me angry. As soon as I seize power I will have them crushed like bugs. But in the meantime, don't miss their recent endeavor, "The Cornhole."

2. Dennis Perrin has recently been writing some nicely honed sketches of his family. One is about his son's 9th birthday this week, and another is about seeing a plethora of relatives this Memorial Day.

3. You really should read every article by Bob Parry and his sons Nat and Sam at Consortium News. The only exception is if you are a fireman and have been called away to save a burning orphanage. Under those circumstances you are allowed to only read this, this and this.

4. Doug Ireland has written an interesting, encouraging, in-depth look at the French rejection of the European constitution.

5. I've made some additions to my list of compatriots: David Mark's JABBS, Anna Ghonim's Annalysis, and Shakespeare's Sister. And way overdue is the addition of Jim Henley's Unqualified Offerings and Arthur Silber's The Light of Reason to my list of appreciated adversaries.

June 01, 2005

Other Things People Who Hate America Have Been Trained To Do

As we know, on Tuesday the president said this:

I'm aware of the Amnesty International report, and it's absurd...

It seemed like to me they based some of their decisions on the word of... people who hate America, people that had been trained in some instances to disassemble -- that means not tell the truth.

It's good the president mentioned this—Al Qaeda has poured millions into training people who hate America to disassemble.

Unfortunately, he didn't have time to mention all the OTHER things people who hate America have been trained to do. So as a public service, I will here list just a few:

• lee
• be untrothful
• deceeb
• distorp
• misinfarm
• run a com
• run a reverse com
• prevaricake

and worst of all:

• commit perjappy

Why Must Matt Taibbi Pester Us With His Nutty Schemes?

The New Republic has reviewed Matt Taibbi's new book Spanking the Donkey. Of course, I haven't read the review, because to do so you have to subscribe to the New Republic. And if I had to choose, I would rather drink a gallon of snot.

However, David Sirota has somehow managed to read the review. He reports it ridicules Taibbi for suggesting the Democratic party could win by supporting crazy out-of-the-mainstream ideas like universal health care and cutting the military budget. The problem here, as Sirota demonstrates, is these crazy out-of-the-mainstream ideas are held by a majority of Americans.

ALSO: Hopefully there will be an interview with Taibbi here sometime soon.

AND ALSO TOO: You should also read this by Sirota.