October 31, 2005

Dear Right Wing: I Would Prefer It If You Used More Subtle Figures Of Speech

I would be more comfortable if people like Victor Davis Hanson—i.e., right-wing militarist historians beloved by Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby—didn't write columns calling on George Bush to "cross the Rubicon":

For good or evil, George W. Bush will have to cross the Rubicon on judicial nominations, politicized indictments, Iraq, the greater Middle East, and the constant frenzy of the Howard Dean wing of the Democratic party — and now march on his various adversaries as never before. He can choose either to be nicked and slowly bled to death in his second term, or to bare his fangs and like some cornered carnivore start slashing back.

You might think a National Review editor would tell Victor Davis Hanson: "Uh, Vic... here's the thing. Most people remember that the moment Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon with his army is seen as the point at which the Roman Republic died and the Roman Empire was born. So, as a right wing militarist, you might be better off using a different figure of speech. Just, you know, so people don't think you actually want Bush to destroy republican government in the U.S."

But apparently the National Review has never had such editors. Either that or they did, but then Hanson stabbed them all to death with his gladius.

October 30, 2005

I Don't Get It

There are many things I don't understand about life on earth. For instance, I don't understand the flood of commentary on this old entry about the spiritual essence of dogs. There's so much of it I have to assume it's the weirdest spam ever. And yet... what could the point of spam like this possibly be?

my dog (dexter ) died yesterday and i am devisteded. he was my bestes friend and i can and never will gett over him wotadvice can you please give to me to help me fine out where my little dexter has gone. please help me . his name is Dexter Leaman age 8 staffie cross labrodoor!!! please helllp me im disrot

I Wish I Had Written This

I wish I had written Fafblog's commentary about Michael Kinsley's latest dumbassery. But to do so I would have had to read Kinsley's dumbassery myself and then think about it, which would disturb my delicate emotional equilibrium.


Michael Kinsley points us to a compelling flaw in the rationale behind the Fitzgerald investigation today: Michael Kinsley doesn't understand it.

True, the Plame scandal is simple enough to be summarized in one sentence, but the devil is in the details. There are names and people and places - names like "Niger", which sounds very much like Nigeria and yet is not Nigeria - and people like "Scooter", which is the name of the Vice President's chief of staff and yet is also the name of a muppet. Will the muppet be indicted? If so, will the muppet himself be charged alone, or are the puppeteers who operate his mouth and limbs also under investigation? Was he voiced by Jim Henson, and if so, how will the Justice Department prosecute the dead? Sorting out these intricate questions of "who" and "what" would take a reporter, and Mr. Kinsley doesn't appear to know any of those.

I don't recommend you examine the dumbassery yourself, but if you do, you will find it reads as though Kinsley wrote it between bites of pizza. Yes, it's a shame 2,000 Americans have died in war based on lies, but the real tragedy is Michael Kinsley had to spend up to twelve seconds writing a column about it.

October 29, 2005

Ow, My Head!

I really should swear off the right-wing crazo-sphere, because it causes me genuine physical distress. On the other hand, it's a learning experience. One thing I've learned is that you can say, with no hyperbole, that the thought processes of a significant chunk of America's right wing are exactly the same as those of holocaust deniers.

And when I say "a significant chunk," I'm not just or even mostly talking about the part of the right wing that's bozos with websites. The right wing has many, many people with genuine power who think just like holocaust deniers.

Both holocaust deniers and America's right wing have the same extreme hostility to reality, because it conflicts with their preferred fantasies. In both, this hostility manifests itself in several ways. They both seize upon the tiniest shred of anything that could be considered "evidence" for their favored fairy tale. Conversely, rather than accepting overwhelming proof of what they don't wish to believe, they both at most will concede we're faced with a "mystery" that may never be solved.

For instance, here's Clifford May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and Chairman of the Policy Committee of the Committee on the Present Danger, writing at National Review Online:

There were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The mystery is what Saddam Hussein did with them.

My god, what an incredible mystery!

ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991...

Perhaps we shall never solve this perplexing mystery!

ISG judges that in 1991 and 1992, Iraq appears to have destroyed its undeclared stocks of BW weapons...

Everywhere we turn, we are confronted by MYSTERY!

Did Jews sent to Auschwitz go to Transnistria (Rumania) instead? The Mystery Deepens.


The confirmation of the involvement of Majdanek in the Operation Reinhardt deportations serves only to deepen the mystery of what happened to the Jews of Poland.

(Via via)

Chris Floyd Has Finally Stopped This "Vacation" Nonsense

I'm not sure why Chris Floyd felt he could go on vacation with his family, particularly without authorization, but thankfully he's back. If you haven't seen it already, I particularly recommend this cornocopia cornucopia of horrifying information about Afghanistan.

October 28, 2005

Speaking Of Indictments

It's nice to see the handcuffs go on Scooter Libby. But Scott Ritter recently made this point in a public conversation with Seymour Hersh, which—because it's honest—will obviously be ignored:

You know, there's a lot of talk today in the Democratically controlled judiciary committee about going after the Bush Administration for crimes, for lying to Congress, and etc. And I'm all in favor of that, bring on the indictments, but don't stop at the Bush Administration. If you want to have a truly bipartisan indictment, you indict Madeleine Albright, you indict Sandy Berger, you indict every person on the Clinton Administration that committed the exact same crime that the Bush Administration has committed today. Lying during the course of your official duty: That's a felony, that's a high crime and misdemeanor. That's language in the Constitution that triggers certain events like impeachment. So let's not just simply turn this into a Bush-bashing event. This is about a failure of not only the Bush Administration but of the United States of America, and we have to look in the mirror and recognize that, well, all the Bush Administration did is take advantage of a systemic failure on the part of the United States as a whole, a failure that not only involves the executive, but it involves the legislative branch, Congress.

Possible Friday Activities

Now might be a good time to sign John Conyers' letter to Bush urging that Bush grant no pardons in the Valerie Plame case.

It may also be a good time to read Ray McGovern's piece about the possibility that Bush could reenact Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre and fire Patrick Fitzgerald:

When the Watergate scandal reached a similar stage in October 1973, President Richard Nixon, ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire the intrepid special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Richardson resigned rather than carry out Nixon's order; and so did his deputy William Ruckleshaus. So Nixon had to reach farther down into the Justice department where he found Robert Bork, who promptly dismissed Cox in the so-called Saturday Night Massacre.

Fitzgerald is at least as vulnerable as Cox was. Indeed, in recent days some of the fourth estate, Richard Cohen in the Washington Post and John Tierney in The New York Times, for example, seem to have accepted assignments to help lay the groundwork for Fitzgerald's dismissal.

Will the White House decide to fire special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, and simply absorb the PR black eye, as Nixon did? There is absolutely nothing to prevent it. Can you imagine Attorney General Alberto Gonzales refusing on principle an order from President Bush?

Could Bush himself be named an un-indicted co-conspirator? If that or something like it happens, we can expect a circling of the wagons and Fitzgerald cashiered.

October 27, 2005

Who Says America's Self-Centered?

While dribbling my life away online, I discovered that Time magazine's big story on the My Lai massacre from its December 5, 1969 issue was titled:

An American Tragedy

How pleased we'd be if a big article on 9/11 in a popular Muslim magazine were titled:

An Afghani Tragedy

The Time article title also reminds me of something in a classified internal U.S. government memo about Guatemala, written—coincidentally enough—on March 29, 1968, less than two weeks after My Lai. It was from the State Department's Viron Vaky, who'd recently been stationed in Guatemala, to his boss the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs. By U.S. standards Vaky was very, very liberal, and in the memo spoke out against the gruesome crimes of the U.S., which were every bit as bad as what was going on in Vietnam. Then Vaky wrote:

U.S. Values

This leads to an aspect I personally find most disturbing of all--that we have not been honest with ourselves.

If I were one of the thousands of Guatemalans we massacred, I might look at that and say:

Huh. You know, the aspect of all this I personally found most disturbing is when you cut my balls off and shoved them in my mouth. I also was fairly disturbed when you raped my six year-old daughter and then blew off my wife's head with an assault rifle. But that's the funny thing about life: everybody has their own point of view.

What An Extraordinary Occurrence

How strange that the liberal media would call a TV host on the carpet for having too many liberals as guests.

I guess that's the thing about the liberal media: they're tricksy.

An Interesting Fact

Here's an interesting fact from this week's New Yorker about Saddam Hussein's trial:

...setting up the trial has cost American, not Iraqi, taxpayers some hundred and thirty million dollars.

I wonder if there are any ways we could recoup some of this money? Just for instance, we could charge:

• $100 for a pay-per-view special hosted by Howard Stern featuring Saddam-Chalabi jello wrestling

• $1,000 to get your picture taken with Saddam

• $10,000 to get your picture taken with Saddam while wearing a t-shirt of the Israeli flag

• $100,000 to make Saddam listen to you sing a loud karaoke version of "We Are The Champions"

Of course, all these ideas would be horribly offensive to the Arab world and humanity generally. In the end they'd cost us much more than we'd ever make in the first place. But then, long-term thinking really isn't America's strong suit.

Other suggestions are welcome.

October 26, 2005

My God, They Really Are Insane

I usually don't visit the fever swamps of America's right because it makes my head hurt. But Sifu Tweety at the Poorman just lured me to National Review Online to witness Jonah Goldberg expressing this forlorn hope:

Byron, Andy, someone: Is it possible that Wilson will be indicted too, or is that pure pie-in-the-sky talk? Because that would sure help a lot of bitter pills go down.

Now, that's good bat-shit crazy. But Goldberg apparently received this bat-shittier response from NRO's Stephen Spruiell:

Wilson was never obligated to keep his trip a secret, although if leaking his wife's name is a crime he should be indicted for ensuring it would happen when he wrote his op-ed.

I agree! Also, if stabbing Nicole Simpson to death is a crime, she should be indicted for ensuring it would happen with all her slutting around.

The Mystery of Michelle Malkin, Explained At Last

On several occasions recently, Tom Tomorrow has asked the Eternal Question about America's giant flock of shrieking right wing pundits:

Are they lying, or simply so stupid that it's a wonder they manage to get up out of bed in the morning without hurting themselves?

Specifically, Mr. Tomorrow was wondering about why Michelle Malkin claimed that the vigils today for the 2,000+ U.S. troops killed in Iraq consist of "partying over their deaths." Obviously you'd have to be an extraordinary cretin to believe such a thing. And Malkin at least has the intelligence to dress herself and find her way to television studios. So she must be lying. And yet...can people really lie like this all the time without their brains exploding? So she must be an idiot. But... and round and round you go.

The troops thing, of course, is just one example, of which there are literally millions. It truly is confusing: are Bill O'Reilly & William Kristol & William Safire & Sean Hannity & Ann Coulter & Rush Limbaugh & Instapundit & Powerline & Jonah Goldberg and their numberless ilk morons, or are they liars?

I believe I have the answer. It is found, like all answers to the world's conundrums, in Life and How to Survive It by John Cleese and Robin Skynner.

Cleese and Skynner spend a great deal of the book discussing moral values. Their main points are these:

(1) Everyone everywhere shares the same values: loyalty, honesty, caring for others, etc.
(2) BUT -- people interpret these values according to their level of mental health.

"Mental health," as Cleese and Skynner define it, is a measure of how in touch you are with reality. Thus, people more in touch with reality interpret these values in healthier ways. Those less in touch with reality interpret them in unhealthy ways. (If you want more details on this, I recommend the chunk of the book I excerpted here.)

Here's how Skynner explains point number 2 about how people interpret values:

They talk for a while about different interpretations of loyalty, and then come to the paydirt as far as Malkin et al are concerned: how people interpret the value (that everyone shares) of "telling the truth":

The Anticipation Is Killing Me

I had to get up early this morning to look under the tree. I even shook some of the boxes.

October 25, 2005

A Lot Of News

U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq hits 2,000.

Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts announced today he plans to introduce a bill to cut off funding for the war.

Steve Clemons of the Washington Note claims Fitzgerald will issue 1-5 sealed indictments tomorrow.

It's beginning to look a lot like Fitzmas
Ev'rywhere you go
Libby gets five to ten, maybe Abrams in jail again
With David Corn and Raimondo all aglow

Thanks, Rosa Parks

Because white people are dumbasses, we tend to have one of two dumbass responses to the Civil Rights movement. Either it's (1) deep, smoldering resentment, or (2) a kind of asinine we-just-luv-the-Civil-Rights-movement wow-we're-morally-elevated let's-all-sing-Kumbaya feeling.

Instead, white people should be deeply grateful to the Civil Right movement—not because it was morally right (though obviously it was) but because it was good for white people. There's a moment in Eyes on the Prize where they show an interview with a white Civil Rights worker in Mississippi soon after Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner had been murdered. The interviewer asks the white guy if he's scared, and he says, "Of course I am. Everybody here is." Then the interviewer asks why he's staying there, and he replies: "Because I think my own freedom is completely bound up with the freedom of every other person."

This sounds like a bunch of high-faluting hoo-ha, but incredibly enough, it's true. Here's how I understand what he meant, from the smallest level to the highest:

1. American racism hasn't just been hideous for African Americans (though obviously that's been its most important effect). It's also crippled the humanity of white people in a profound way. The Civil Rights movement helped heal white people; we should be grateful for this just like we'd be grateful to a doctor who helped us walk again.

If you're white and you don't know what I'm talking about, you're in big trouble.

2. The diminishment of racism has also improved white people's daily lives. I know I've met a wide circle of people that I never would have if I'd lived before the Civil Rights movement, and my life is much, much more enjoyable because of it.

3. Most importantly, the increase in the political power of African Americans—though it's still nowhere near the level it should be—has increased the political power of most WHITE Americans. The great lie of American society is that politics is a zero sum game in which any increase in African American political power is matched by a decrease for white Americans. This is completely wrong. For instance, look at who's led the fight on the Downing Street Memo—mostly it's been the Congressional Black Caucus. They've been the voice for the voiceless, both black and white. (For their troubles, of course, they've predictably been sneered at by appallingly jejune reporters.) This generalizes on a million different issues. If you're white, unless you're a billionaire, you better hope black Americans get more powerful.

It's important to understand all this because people operate out of self-interest. There's nothing wrong with that, and even if there were, there's nothing we can do about it. For political movements to get anywhere, they have to help people see that most moral claims are not contrary to but actually are fused with their self-interest. We can only get what we want for ourselves if we help other people get what they want.

To put it in the coldest, starkest terms, there are a lot of white soldiers who've been killed in Iraq because their parents and other white people didn't work with African Americans for the past forty years to help everyone get better lives. If they'd done so, black people and white people would have had enough power together to stop this war before it began. But they didn't, and we couldn't, and now their children are dead.

Still, in part because of the Civil Rights movement, we may have enough power to stop the war before it kills all of us. So for that—and for much more—white people, black people and every kind of people should say: thank you, Rosa Parks.

October 24, 2005

Ten Things We Will Soon Learn About Patrick Fitzgerald

1. He Murdered Vincent Foster

2. Is Son Of A Liberal Elite Doorman

3. Claims He Spent Christmas, 1983 In Cambridge; Actually Was In Somerville

4. Casey Sheehan Would Be Ashamed Of Him

5. Is Irish, Not That We're Implying There's Anything Sinister About His Frequent Blackouts

6. Fathered John McCain's Illegitimate Black Child

7. Charles Krauthammer Thinks He's Crazy, And Krauthammer Is A Psychiatrist

8. Let's Not Forget That The Vatican—The Center Of His Religion—Is The Great Whore Spoken Of In Revelation 17

9. A Friend Of Mine Knows The Cousin Of The Neighbor Of Someone Who Worked With Him In 1986 Who Says the Coffee Machine In The Office Cost 50 Cents But Sometimes You Would Put In A Quarter And It Would Start Working Which Meant it Had Eaten The Quarter Of The Person Ahead of You And Once They Saw Fitzgerald Get Coffee Like This Which Meant He Essentially Stole A Quarter From Someone In The Office, Which Really Brings Up The Character Issue

10. Michael Moore Is Fat

(thanks to Rob)

UPDATE: I guess this would be #11:

"He's a vile, detestable, moralistic person with no heart and no conscience who believes he's been tapped by God to do very important things," one White House ally said, referring to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald.

Why Must Dean Baker Continue To Pester Us With His Crazy Schemes?

Once again, Dean Baker complains that the current patent system isn't optimal just because it makes prescription drugs far more expensive and perhaps less effective than they could be. What's worse, he even has an idea for how to make the world "better":

The country is projected to spend $224 billion on prescription drugs in 2005. If these drugs were sold in a competitive market, the price would fall by about 70 percent, implying savings of close to $150 billion at 2005 spending levels. This means that we pay approximately $10 in higher drug prices for every dollar in research on breakthrough drugs supported by drug patents. In addition, patent monopolies provide incentives for aggressive marketing campaigns and even kickbacks to doctors for prescribing drugs. They also provide incentives to conceal negative research findings and to publish misleading research findings. And, patents require large amounts of secrecy, which slows research progress.

My favored alternative is direct public funding of approximately $30 billion a year, as would be provided under the Free Market Drug Act (FMDA) introduced by Dennis Kucinch in the last session of Congress. This would effectively double government funding for biomedical research, since it already is spending approximately $30 billion a year through the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The basic plan is to create 10 competing government sponsored corporations (each getting roughly $3 billion a year) charged with researching and developing new drugs, through the FDA approval process. All new patents are placed in the public domain so that new drugs can be sold as generics...

Next thing you know, Baker will be saying we could develop something called "anesthesia" for operations. I like the scrap of hardened bark I bite down on whenever I have a limb amputated just fine, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

October 23, 2005

Close Friends

This profile of Scooter Libby mentions that Alan Simpson, the former Wyoming senator, is "one of Cheney's closest friends."

Huh. Well, maybe it's worth remembering that Simpson cozied up to Saddam Hussein in an April, 1990 meeting, telling Saddam his bad reputation could be blamed on "a haughty and pampered press" who "all consider themselves political geniuses."

Maybe it's also worth remembering Simpson said this to Saddam JUST ONE MONTH after Saddam had executed Farzad Bazoft, a reporter for the Guardian.

Of course, as soon as it became politically convenient, Simpson called Saddam "pure evil" and publicly wept big wet crocodile tears about the poor suffering people of Iraq. No one cared more about them than old Alan Simpson.

So I guess it's nice Dick and Alan have each other as friends. That way they each have someone to talk to, while no one else has to come within 100 miles of them and smell the stench of their rotting souls.

October 22, 2005

Time For An Old Joke

So, according to this Daily News story that's been zipping around the planet, George Bush knew in September, 2003 that Karl Rove had leaked Valerie Plame's identity.

Of course, on October 7, 2003, Bush said this:

REPORTER: Mr. President, how confident are you the investigation will find the leaker in the CIA case?

BUSH: I don't know if we're going to find out the senior administration official... I don't have any idea. I'd like to. I want to know the truth.

As I wrote some time ago, Bush was being just as sincere and credible as Bill Clinton would have been if he'd ever said this:

REPORTER: Mr. President, did you have sex with Monica Lewinsky?

CLINTON: I don't know if we're going to find out whether I had sex with her. I don't have any idea. I'd like to. I want to find out the truth.

October 21, 2005

My Crazy Boss Isn't Crazy Like The Other Crazies

The transcript of the recent speech by Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, is well worth reading if you are the type of weirdo who likes this kind of stuff. As Billmon puts it:

Like Richard Clarke, Wilkerson strikes me as reasonably representative of the technicians who actually run the empire -- and his assumptions largely appear to reflect those of his class. American supremecy is a taken as a given, requiring no legal or moral justification. Not because America has any grand historical mission to spread the blessings of democracy to the heathen, but because American power maintains the world order and keeps the peace, or at least something approximating it...

It does appear to have dawned on Wilkerson that the U.S. hegomony isn't viewed as quite such an execise in utilitarian benevolance by the rest of the world, but I'm not sure he understands exactly why this is. I think he puts far too much blame on the cabal's shenanigans -- although these admittedly have made things worse -- and not enough on the fact that empires, even the practical, no nonsense type favored by the realists, are anachronisms in the modern world.

So, Wilkerson thinks everything would be A-OK if only non-crazy imperialists like George H.W. Bush, Colin Powell and himself were running things. This makes him less terrifying than the insane imperialists, but still blind to most aspects of our small, blue planet. For instance, here's one specific thing Wilkerson said:

I like to use the world gracelessness, and I use that word because grace is something we have lost in the modern world... walk in with a foreign leader and find something you can be magnanimous about. You don’t have to win everything. You don’t have to be the big bully on the block. Find something you can be magnanimous about, that you can give him, that you can say he gets credit for, or she gets credit for. That’s diplomacy. That’s diplomacy. You don’t walk in and say, I’m the big mother on the block and if everybody’s not with me, they’re against me, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. The difference between [Bush] father and son, in my mind, sort of comes from that attitudinal approach to the world.

The problem here is that when you get down to it, you really can't be a non-bully imperialist. It's like being a quadriplegic quarterback. As Wilkerson's hero Powell himself once said:

I like to use the term decisive force...

It's the equivalent of being the biggest bully on the block. "I've got my knife, I've got my gun, I've got my stick ball bat, are you sure you really want to challenge me?"

So on one side you have the people Wilkerson hates, who say "We should be huge bullies all the time!" Then you have the people Wilkerson loves, who say "We should only be bullies some of the time!" The one unthinkable option is not to be bullies at all.

October 20, 2005

I Request 90 More Years Of Abe Osheroff

Robert Jensen recently did a long, genuinely interesting interview with the extremely appealing 90 year-old activist Abe Osheroff:

AO: What's happening in Latin America, the move to the left, looks genuine and promising. There's been a certain globalization of anti-imperialist forces. I welcome them. I'm happy about them, but I do not think this is the answer. I don't expect that at all, because I've learned in my life that most radicals and revolutionaries are much better people before the revolution than after, and some of those virtues come from not being in power -- they just lack the opportunity to be real bastards. So, these developments are very good, but to engage in wishful thinking is ridiculous politically.

RJ: So Hugo Chavez is not the messiah?

AO: He's more than not the messiah -- he also seems to be a pretentious fucker.

Read it all.

One Jolly Afternoon Not Long Ago At The New York Times

Originals from BAGNewsNotes.

October 19, 2005

Max Sawicky Is Funny


Actual Real News

The American Prospect just published an important piece by Laura Rozen about the so-called "Phase II" report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. "Phase I" was published last year, and examined the WMD conclusions of the CIA, etc. and how they came to them. Phase II was supposed to investigate whether or not what the Bush administration said was congruent with the intelligence they were given. Last July Pat Roberts, the Republican chairman of the committee, very explicitly promised Phase II was on its way. "It's a priority," he said. Of course, after the presidential election he decided it could be safely ditched.

Then, with the release of the Downing Street Memo, pressure on Roberts to finish Phase II revived. I'm now working on a secret project to attempt to increase this pressure. But anyway, here's Rozen's article:

Today, committee Republicans view their mission as being not oversight but cover-up. Indeed, one source told the Prospect that Roberts has worked closely behind the scenes with vice president Cheney’s office in crafting the language defining and limiting the investigation’s terms...

And then Justin Raimondo has this explosive-if-true claim about the forged Niger documents:

A parliamentary committee [in Italy] was charged with investigating, and they issued a heavily redacted report: now, I am told by a former CIA operations officer, the report has aroused some interest on this side of the Atlantic. According to a source in the Italian embassy, Patrick J. "Bulldog" Fitzgerald asked for and "has finally been given a full copy of the Italian parliamentary oversight report on the forged Niger uranium document," the former CIA officer tells me:
"Previous versions of the report were redacted and had all the names removed, though it was possible to guess who was involved. This version names Michael Ledeen as the conduit for the report and indicates that former CIA officers Duane Clarridge and Alan Wolf were the principal forgers. All three had business interests with Chalabi."


There Is No Santa Claus

I have only two ideas total. In fact, even that may be stretching it. So I tend to repeat myself.

One thing I repeat is that the mainstream media does a FANTASTIC job. Day in and day out, they turn in an extraordinary performance—at what they exist to do. And that is to make as much money as possible.

Of course, in terms of helping people learn about the world, they are an eternal catastrophe. But why would we ever expect any different? The mainstream media is made up of gigantic corporations. Like all corporations, they manufacture a product, which is their audience. They sell this product to their customers, which are other huge corporations.

Informing people about the world is not just irrelevant to the purpose of making money, but in many ways actually HURTS a corporation's profitability. No business goes out of its way to piss off its owners and customers.

Now, obviously it's true you hear constantly about the media's Unending Fight For Truth. But you also hear constantly that a fat man wearing a red suit breaks into America's homes at the end of each year to distribute new X-boxes. Neither of these things is real.

I was thinking this when I read this statement by the perspicacious Digby:

This [the Judith Miller hoo-ha] is at its essence about a toxic political culture. The press has abdicated its responsibility to hold the powerful accountable.

I almost always think Digby is right, on every topic. But here's the thing: the press doesn't HAVE this responsibility. Gigantic corporations, by law, have one and only one responsibility, to make as much money as they possibly can.

Sure, they pretend they carry the awesome burden of holding the powerful accountable, just like Wal-Mart pretends it's deeply concerned with the well-being of its employees. And in fact, some New York Times managers may even believe they are engaged in the Unending Fight For Etc., Etc. But that doesn't change the fact that if the need for huge profits ever conflicts with holding the powerful responsible—and it will, constantly—you really shouldn't wait up.

Later, Digby wrote this about the talented Ms. Miller:

How on earth does someone this vapid become an "expert" on national security issues for the New York Times?

Again, a huge corporation like the New York Times pretends—even to itself—it wants someone smart, hard-hitting, etc. to cover national security issues. But in reality, it selects for vapidity. Judith Miller rose to the top of the New York Times not IN SPITE OF being unbearably vapid, but BECAUSE she's unbearably vapid.

Christopher Dickey of Newsweek is, I think, completely right about this:

Few newspapers, magazines or networks are willing to pay for high-priced low-volume journalism. It's so much easier--so much more cost effective--to take mass-produced information off the shelf and embellish it with a few opinions, or just to receive wisdom from the folks in power. Many critics are complaining about all the money that Judy's case has cost the Times. But maybe they're missing the point. Think of all the money she saved the Times by getting headlines day after day from top-level sources instead of working on a project year after year just to shoot those sources down.

So, progressives need to let go of the hope that the mainstream media is ever going to be much different from what it is today. We can't change much about reality if we keep hoping Santa Claus will bring us presents, because there is no Santa Claus.

October 18, 2005

My Own Talking Point

No appalling Republican wrongdoing comes without its own slew of moron talking points, which the Republican media machine repeats with the doggedness of a zombie army. Right now the talking point is to say the Valerie Plame affair isn't serious—and that in fact it's Karl Rove et al who're being victimized by "the criminalization of politics." (Via This Modern World.)

I wish the non-Republibots would respond, "Actually, this isn't about the criminalization of politics. It's about the criminalization of crime."

Exciting Rumors!

The New York Daily News reported this today:

Cheney's name has come up amid indications Fitzgerald may be edging closer to a blockbuster conspiracy charge—with help from a secret snitch.

"They have got a senior cooperating witness—someone who is giving them all of that," a source who has been questioned in the leak probe told the Daily News yesterday.

Here at headquarters, we hear that another news outlet will report later today on which person (or persons) is doing the cooperating.

And if I heard wrong, I'll simply erase this and no one will be the wiser.

UPDATE: Yup—Raw Story says the cooperating witness is Cheney's aide John Hannah.

I wonder if this story will make things awkward for Hannah at work today.

October 17, 2005

Dean Baker Just Complains And Complains And Complains

Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah:

The major obstacle to large-scale stockpiling is that the drug is under patent by Roche, the Swiss pharmaceutical company... [W]e are left with the prospect that millions of people in the United States could risk death because our government does not want to infringe on Roche’s patent monopoly...

The $220 billion question (current U.S. spending on prescription drugs) is where are the economists? Remember, economists are people that get high blood pressure from 10 percent tariffs on shoes or pants. When Bush put a temporary tariff on steel imports that maxed out at 30 percent, economists all over the country became apoplectic. So why is the economics profession overwhelmingly silent about drug patents, which are the equivalent of tariffs of 300 percent on average, and affect a product that is much more important to our economy and our health?...

Given the enormity of the stakes, you would think that there was a major debate within the economics profession about the best method of financing drug research. While there has been a limited amount of writing devoted to the topic, most economists are too busy dealing with tariffs on pants and other crucial items. Maybe mass deaths from a flu pandemic will help to reorient priorities in the profession.

If you are foolish enough to think the completely preventable deaths of millions would be a bad thing, you are allowed to read it all.

Judith Miller, Scooter Libby, And Their Tiny Monkey Brains

Lots of people have been struck by this section of Judith Miller's opus:

My recollection....was that Mr. Libby wanted to modify our prior understanding that I would attribute information from him to a "senior administration official." When the subject turned to Mr. Wilson, Mr. Libby requested that he be identified only as a "former Hill staffer." I agreed to the new ground rules because I knew that Mr. Libby had once worked on Capitol Hill.

Did Mr. Libby explain this request? Mr. Fitzgerald asked. No, I don't recall, I replied. But I said I assumed Mr. Libby did not want the White House to be seen as attacking Mr. Wilson.

I was struck by this too, but not for the reason other people gave, which is that Miller's behavior Broke The Sacred Bond Of Trust Between Journalists And Their Readers.

Instead, I thought it was interesting Libby and Miller stopped at "former Hill staffer." After all, Libby's intent was to deceive anyone reading Miller's (never-written) article. And Miller didn't care about deceiving her readers. So why not go all the way and attribute Libby's information to Tom Daschle? Or SpongeBob SquarePants?

The answer, I believe, is that Libby and Miller's tiny monkey brains wouldn't allow this. The "Hill Staffer" designation was the product of two competing instincts within their monkey brains:

1. Scooter & Miller Tiny Monkey Brains: We want to deceive people!

2. S&M TMBs: But deceiving people is wrong!

3. S&M TMBs: What if Scooter were referred to as a "former Hill staffer"? Then we'd still be deceiving people while still kind of sort of telling the truth!


What I think is worth noticing is that step #2 does seem to take place even within the brains of people as depraved as Libby and Miller. It's genuinely hard for the ol' monkey brains to lie—so lots and lots of monkey brain resources are devoted to figuring out ways to deceive that will pass muster with the rest of the monkey brain.

Man, it's exhausting. No wonder Miller doesn't have any space left in her head for reality.

October 16, 2005

A Small Joke

Mike and I were talking about the Judith Miller fiasco, and I referred to Arthur Sulzberger, the publisher of the New York Times. However, I couldn't remember what his excruciatingly twee high-society family nickname was.

"Is it Pinch?" I wondered. "Or Punch?"

Mike said: "I believe it's Putsch."

George Packer Is The World's Greatest Logician

George Packer, author of The Assassin's Gate: America in Iraq, has these important words for us:

Iraq was a war of choice, in the sense that we went off to fight even though we had not been physically attacked, which raised the threshold for the American public's and the world's support. But this didn't make the war immoral by definition; other than World War II, every American war has arguably been a war of choice.

Let's follow the reasoning here, because I feel some of you malcontents could benefit from seeing truly rigorous thinking in action:

1. It is impossible for most of America's wars to have been immoral. That's obvious.
2. America has fought lots of wars where we haven't been attacked.


3. America attacking Iraq without having been attacked is not, by definition, immoral.

The alternative here would be to believe that America is like any other country; that when a country attacks another without being attacked it is almost always immoral; and that therefore, because America has fought a lot of wars in which we weren't attacked, we've fought a lot of immoral wars.

Fortunately, we have intellectuals like George Packer to help us understand that that's just illogical.

October 15, 2005

I Myself Believe Judith Miller Completely

Whew! Well, the New York Times has written their long article about the Judith Miller brouhaha, and Miller herself has written a "Personal Account" of what happened. Now everything is cleared up:

1. Miller had "Valerie Flame" written in the same notebook which contained her notes from a July 8, 2003 interview with Scooter Libby. But she testified she didn't think Libby told her the name, and despite the fact that the Plame affair became national news within days or weeks of the mystery source telling her Plame's name, she "simply cannot recall" who her source was.

2. Miller's notes from the July 8 interview with Libby show Libby told her Plame worked for Winpac, part of the CIA. However, she has "no clear memory" of the context in which he said this.

3. Miller told the grand jury she did discuss the Plame affair with other sources, but she "could not recall" who.

4. Miller doesn't think Libby told her Plame's name because, she says, it appeared in a different part of the notebook from her notes from the Libby interview. However, she refused to show the notebook to the New York Times reporters who wrote the story about her.

5. Miller told the Times reporters she "made a strong recommendation to my editor" that she write a story about Joe Wilson and his wife. Jill Abramson, then Washington bureau chief for the Times, said Miller never made any such recommendation. Miller refused to tell the Times reporters who "my editor" was.

6. Miller has Nicole Simpson's severed head stored in her freezer, but she "cannot recall" how it got there.

The important thing about all this is it shows America's youth there is a sure path to the top of the news profession, and it is: be someone with an extremely bad memory for news.

October 14, 2005

The Human Comedy Is Less Funny When It Involves Giant Servings Of Ultra-Violence

Dennis Perrin:

...the Iraqis are the ones who got it, and they continue to get it good and hard. But, really, must we spare a thought for those sad people when Western liberals are in such existential pain? If you think having to hit the polluted ground to avoid constant crossfire is bad, just imagine sitting in your garden and wondering What Went Wrong (or W3) on the other side of the world. It's an Abu Ghraib of the soul.

George Packer knows that sting. His new book on W3, "The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq," is getting a fair amount of media attention, most recently at Salon, where Gary Kamiya devoted seven full screens to the tome. If you don't sub to Salon (and why would you?), you'll have to sit through a brief ad to read the whole thing, but I strongly recommend that you do. It's perhaps the clearest take on the present war lib dilemma, in which Kamiya dispenses some lib myopia of his own.

In short, Packer, like all good libs, wants to see a democratic world that mirrors our own (y'know, a corporate-dominated society that serves those who own the economy), and no better or more necessary region presently exists than the Arab (and Persian) world, starting with Iraq. For over a decade, we've kicked and beaten the stuffing out of that country, so it was time to show some love -- tough love, mind you, but affection all the same.

Packer's intellectual tough love advisers were Kanan Makiya and Paul Berman. Makiya, an Iraqi exile who teaches Middle East Studies at Brandeis and runs the Iraq Research and Documentation Project at Harvard, was perhaps the more romantic one.

...as Woody Allen put it in "Annie Hall," intellectuals prove that you can be absolutely brilliant and have no idea what's going on -- though in Kanan Makiya's case, "brilliant" is perhaps too loaded a word. The "no idea what's going on" part, however, he has down.

You are requested to read it all.

ALSO: Here's a 1993 interview with Edward Said mentioning Kanan Makiya.

October 13, 2005

Does Richard Cohen Know Anything At All About Anything Anywhere Ever?

One of the great things about writing a column for the Washington Post is that you don't have to know anything about life on earth. Finding stuff out is hard. Life is much easier when you can just go to parties, hear stuff there that might be true or might not—who cares?—and then vomit it all over your readers.

Richard Cohen demonstrates this for the 1000th time in his column today. It's about why Patrick Fitzgerald should just stop pestering people, for God's sake, and go home. Some people think the column is as stupid as a pound of fungus.

And it is. But what struck me was not the column's main, stupid point, but this brief aside:

...it was not the intent of anyone to out a CIA agent and have her assassinated (which happened once)...

Cohen here is referring to the 1975 killing of Richard Welch, the CIA's Athens station chief, by a Greek guerilla group calling itself "November 17." (November 17 was named after the November 17th, 1973 massacre of dozens of Greek students by the US-installed junta.)

There are two problems with this:

1. William Colby, head of the CIA in 1975, famously denied Welch was killed by having been named by anyone:

Los Angeles Times, December 28, 1977

[William] Colby said 'bad cover' contributed to the assassination two years ago of Richard Welch, CIA station chief in Athens. This was partly a result of administrative practices that made it easy to identify CIA employes from embassy lists, he said.

Besides, Colby said, Welch 'accepted the bad cover' by living in the same house as his predecessor and by making only minimal efforts to disguise his identity.

Although an Athens newspaper published a story naming Welch as a CIA official shortly before his death, Colby said this had only the indirect effect of inflaming potential killers to strike at CIA employes. He said Welch's cover was not adequate to hide him, even without the newspaper account.

Subcommittee Chairman Les Aspin (D-Wis.) reminded Colby that CIA spokesmen called a number of newspapers the morning after Welch's death to suggest that the assassination was a direct result of the newspaper's printing his name.

'I have pretty specifically avoided saying that,' Colby said. 'Maybe you are right about the first few telephone calls.'

2. To say that the people who named CIA agents in the seventies—mostly Philip Agee and Counterspy magazine—intended for those agents to be assassinated is ludicrous. They intended to make it impossible for the agents to continue to operate undercover, thus forcing the CIA to bring them back to the US. (And indeed, this is what was done with many agents.)

Now, why would Richard Cohen believe something so very, very wrong? Well, as I say, I'm sure he just heard it at some dumb Washington party and never bothered to find out whether it was true. However, there's a reason why certain things are said at dumb Washington parties and certain things aren't. As Namebase.org founder Daniel Brandt has pointed out:

The Welch assassination was also seen a convenient "hook" for stopping the Congressional investigations of the CIA, by changing the focus from "what is the CIA doing around the world," to the issue of "endangering the lives of officers by naming names." The media, which the CIA can manipulate by planting stories and calling in chits from friendly reporters, pretty much fell for this.

And I'm sure Richard Cohen will continue falling for it, year after year after year, even as "it" changes. No matter what "it" is, Cohen will eagerly fall.

October 12, 2005

Excellent Job By Lukery

As you may have seen already, After Downing Street raised money online to pay serious, non-partisan pollsters to ask if Americans think Congress should impeach Bush if he lied about his reasons for invading Iraq. (Pollsters weren't willing to do it otherwise, because apparently it isn't a subject of public interest.)

Well, as it turns out, 50% of Americans think Congress should consider impeaching Bush under those circumstances, while 44% disagree. This is truly significant news, particularly given that the possibility of impeaching Bush is never, ever mentioned on TV. Perhaps now as many as one member of Congress will stand up and represent the views of half of America.

For comparison's sake, at the high water mark for Clinton impeachment fervor—when it was on television twenty-four hours a day—only 36% supported hearings to consider impeachment, and only 26% supported actual impeachment and removal.

Anyway, the Central After Downing Street Brain Trust, such as it is, didn't come up with the idea of doing this. It was thought up by Lukery of Wot Is It Good 4. I think this is the sign of exciting developments in the world of political organizing—one person had a great idea and suggested it to a larger group, which was then able to raise money directly and quickly from its "members" to make it happen, all without support from the usual suspects. If we get a lot of this kind of stuff, America would be in danger of turning into a democracy.

So, go say hello to Lukery and congratulate him.

October 11, 2005

Wait, I've Changed My Mind And Decided Colin Powell Is The Most Honest Man On Earth

Yesterday I quietly and calmly explained that COLIN POWELL IS A GIGANTIC ERUPTING GEYSER OF LIES. Today I thought it might be fun to soberly and carefully describe why POWELL'S REAL NAME IS MR. BULLSHIT GOT-LIES PINOCCHIO.

Below are all the nitty-gritty details; as far as I know, this has never been laid out to this extent before. Speaking of which, I actually do have a reason for doing this beyond my own personal amusement. (Although my own personal amusement is a significant factor.) More news on this soon.

Powell has gone to great lengths to create the impression he was desperate to make sure his U.N. presentation on February 5, 2003 was 100% accurate. According to the WMD Commission, he "engaged in an intense personal effort to explore every flaw in the intelligence he was about to present to the United Nations Security Council."

Uh. Well. Hmm. Judge for yourself:

At the beginning of the presentation, Powell stated:

My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.

Later in the presentation, in regards to whether Iraq had reconstituted a nuclear weapons program, he said:

...there is no doubt in my mind...

That's in public. What about in private? According to Larry Wilkerson, Powell's chief of staff, after the U.N. presentation

[Powell] had walked into my office musing and he said words to the effect of, I wonder how we'll all feel if we put half a million troops in Iraq and march from one end of the country to the other and find nothing.

1. Powell played an intercept of a conversation between Iraqi army officers about U.N. inspections. However, when he translated what they were saying, he knowingly embellished it, turning it from evidence Iraq was complying with U.N. resolutions to evidence Iraq was violating them. Here's the conversation as Powell provided it:

They're inspecting the ammunition you have, yes.
For the possibility there are forbidden ammo.
For the possibility there is by chance forbidden ammo.
And we sent you a message yesterday to clean out all of the areas, the scrap areas, the abandoned areas. Make sure there is nothing there.

However, the incriminating phrases "clean all of the areas" and "Make sure there is nothing there" do not appear in the official State Department translation:

And we sent you a message to inspect the scrap areas and the abandoned areas.

(Imad Khadduri was kind enough to confirm for me that the State Department translation is correct.)

This is described in Plan of Attack by Bob Woodward:

[Powell] had decided to add his personal interpretation of the intercepts to rehearsed script, taking them substantially further and casting them in the most negative light...

Concerning the intercept about inspecting for the possibility of "forbidden ammo," Powell took the interpretation further: "Clean out all of the areas... Make sure there is nothing there." None of this was in the intercept. (p. 310)

Note that since the State Department was questioned about this by journalist Gilbert Cranberg, the translation has disappeared from its site. It's now available only via the Wayback Machine.

2. Later in the presentation, Powell said:

We know that Saddam's son, Qusay, ordered the removal of all prohibited weapons from Saddam's numerous palace complexes.

The State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) prepared two memos commenting on drafts of Powell's presentation. (They were later released as appendices to the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on WMD intelligence.) And the first memo, from January 29, 2003, flagged this claim as "WEAK":

second bullet. WEAK. Qusay order to remove prohibited items from palaces.

3. Powell said:

...key files from military and scientific establishments have been placed in cars that are being driven around the countryside by Iraqi intelligence agents to avoid detection.

The January 29, 2003 INR memo flagged this claim as "WEAK":

last bullet. WEAK. Sensitive files being driven around in cars, in apparent shell game. Plausibility open to question.

This claim was again flagged in the second INR memo, from February 3, 2003:

Page 4, last bullet, re key files being driven around in cars to avoid inspectors. This claim is highly questionable and promises to be targeted by critics and possibly UN inspection officials as well.

4. Powell:

...we know from sources that a missile brigade outside Baghdad was disbursing [sic] rocket launchers and warheads containing biological warfare agents to various locations, distributing them to various locations in western Iraq.

January 29, 2003 INR memo:

last bullet. WEAK. Missiles with biological warheads reportedly dispersed. This would be somewhat true in terms of short-range missiles with conventional warheads, but is questionable in terms of longer-range missiles or biological warheads.

February 3, 2003 INR memo:

Page 5. first para, claim re missile brigade dispersing rocket launchers and BW warheads. This claim too is highly questionable and might be subjected to criticism by UN inspection officials.

5. Powell described a satellite picture this way:

The two arrows indicate the presence of sure signs that the bunkers are storing chemical munitions...

The truck you [...] see is a signature item. It's a decontamination vehicle in case something goes wrong.

January 29, 2003 INR memo:

***/WEAK. We support much of this discussion, but we note that decontamination vehicles—cited several times in the text—are water trucks that can have legitimate uses...

...Iraq has given UNMOVIC what may be a plausible account for this activity—that this was an exercise involving the movement of conventional explosives; presence of a fire safety truck (water truck, which could also be used as a decontamination vehicle) is common in such an event.

6. Powell:

These are facts, corroborated by many sources, some of them sources of the intelligence services of other countries.

February 3, 2003 INR memo:

Numerous references to humint as fact. (E.g., "We know that...) We have been told that some are being adjusted, but we gather some others—such as information involving multiple-corroboration—will stay...In the Iraq context, "multiple corroboration" hardly guarantees authenticity of information.

7. Powell:

...in mid-December weapons experts at one facility were replaced by Iraqi intelligence agents who were to deceive inspectors about the work that was being done there.

January 29, 2003 INR memo:

last bullet. **/WEAK. Iraqi intelligence officials posing as WMD scientists. Such claims are not credible and are open to criticism, particularly by the UN inspectorates.

8. Powell:

On orders from Saddam Hussein, Iraqi officials issued a false death certificate for one scientist, and he was sent into hiding.

January 29, 2003 INR memo:

second bullet. WEAK. Alleged false death certificate for scientist. Not implausible, but UN inspectors might question it. (Note: Draft states it as fact.)

9. Powell:

A dozen [WMD] experts have been placed under house arrest, not in their own houses, but as a group at one of Saddam Hussein's guest houses.

January 29, 2003 INR memo:

second bullet. WEAK. 12 experts reportedly under house arrest... Highly questionable.

10. Powell:

In the middle of January, experts at one facility that was related to weapons of mass destruction, those experts had been ordered to stay home from work to avoid the inspectors. Workers from other Iraqi military facilities not engaged in elicit [sic] weapons projects were to replace the workers who'd been sent home.

January 29, 2003 INR memo:

WEAK. Experts at one facility being substituted by workers from other facilities. Plausibility open to question.

11. Powell:

UAVs outfitted with spray tanks constitute an ideal method for launching a terrorist attack using biological weapons.

January 29, 2003 INR memo:

...the claim that experts agree UAVs fitted with spray tanks are "an ideal method for launching a terrorist attack using biological weapons" is WEAK.

12. Powell:

Most U.S. experts think [the seized aluminum tubes] are intended to serve as rotors in centrifuges used to enrich uranium. Other experts, and the Iraqis themselves, argue that they are really to produce the rocket bodies for a conventional weapon, a multiple rocket launcher.

An October 15, 2003 60 Minutes II program interviewed Houston Wood, a consultant to Oak Ridge National Laboratories and one of the world's foremost experts on uranium enrichment:

PELLEY: (Voiceover) The New York Times reported that senior administration officials insisted the tubes were for an atom bomb program. Was it clear to you that science wasn't pushing this forward?

Mr. WOOD: Yes. That's a very good way to put it. Science was not pushing this forward. Scientists had made their evaluation and made their determination, and now we didn't know what was happening...Most experts are located in Oak Ridge, and that was not the position there.

PELLEY: Do you know one in academia, in government, in a foreign country who disagrees with your appraisal, who says, 'Yes, these are for nuclear weapons'?

Mr. WOOD: I don't know a single one anywhere.

13. Powell:

...it strikes me as quite odd that these [aluminum] tubes are manufactured to a tolerance that far exceeds U.S. requirements for comparable rockets. Maybe Iraqis just manufacture their conventional weapons to a higher standard than we do, but I don't think so.

February 3, 2003 INR memo:

Our key remaining concern is the claim that the tubes are manufactured to a tolerance that "far exceeds US requirements for comparable rockets." In fact, the most comparable US system is a tactical rocket—the US Mark 66 air-launched 70mm rocket—that uses the same, high-grade (7075-T6) aluminum, and that has specifications with similar tolerances. Note that the Mk 66 specifications are unclassified, and the Department is planning to share them with the IAEA.
• • •

Now, with that for context, let's look back at what Powell said last month in his interview with Barbara "Living Dead" Walters:

There was some people in the intelligence community who knew at that time that some of these sources were not good and shouldn't be relied upon, and they didn't speak up. That devastated me.

This can be contrasted with this October, 2003 exchange from 60 Minutes II with Greg Thielmann, who headed the office of Strategic, Proliferation, and Military Affairs in the INR until September 2002:

PELLEY: If the secretary took the information that his own intelligence bureau had developed and turned it on its head, which is what you're saying, to what end?

Mr. THIELMANN: I can only assume that he was doing it to loyally support the president of the United States and build the strongest possible case for arguing that there was no alternative to the use of military force.

And there you have it: Colin Powell, American Liar.

October 10, 2005

Jon 1, Balrog 0

Many believed I was gone forever, but I have returned. Things will be pretty much the same around here as before, though with one key difference: previously I was Jon the Grey, and now I am Jon the White.

Anyway, I am anxious to point out that Colin Powell is a huge liar liar fo-fire. I just had a chance to check out his ABC interview from last month, which was apparently conducted by Barbara Walters' reanimated corpse. And it is full of lies, in the same way Norway is full of Norwegians.

First of all, when asked about his U.N. presentation on Iraqi WMD, Powell blames unnamed low-level government underlings for the fact everything in it was false. Classy! Nothing says "great leadership" like the reverse-Nuremberg defense:

It's obvious I had to order the extermination of six million Jews. My underlings had given me intelligence that they were subhumans scheming to destroy the master race.

In this particular case, according to Powell, "There was some people in the intelligence community who knew at that time that some of these sources were not good and shouldn't be relied upon, and they didn't speak up. That devastated me."

The problem here, of course, is that IT'S A COMPLETE LIE. Last year's Senate Intelligence Committee report on Iraq includes the notes that Powell's intelligence staff at the State Department gave him on his U.N. presentation. But Powell ignored the notes, making TEN SEPARATE CLAIMS that his staff had flagged as "weak" and/or "not credible."

For instance, you may remember Powell sitting in front of the U.N. and telling the entire world:

Key files from military and scientific establishments have been placed in cars that are being driven around the countryside by Iraqi intelligence agents to avoid detection.

Now, here's what Powell's staff was telling him two days before:

Page 4, last bullet, re key files being driven around in cars to avoid inspectors. This claim is highly questionable and promises to be targeted by critics and possibly UN inspection officials as well.

Yes, the intelligence community sure fucked that one up. Why didn't those bastards speak up? You can understand how Powell would be devastated.

This is all part of a new project of mine that will examine Powell's mendacity in all its glorious detail. But for now, I will mention just one more example, which is my favorite:

I am no expert on centrifuge tubes, but just as an old Army trooper, I can tell you a couple of things... it strikes me as quite odd that these tubes are manufactured to a tolerance that far exceeds U.S. requirements for comparable rockets. Maybe Iraqis just manufacture their conventional weapons to a higher standard than we do, but I don't think so.

Here's what Powell's staff told him:

Our key remaining concern is the claim that the tubes are manufactured to a tolerance that "far exceeds US requirements for comparable rockets." In fact, the most comparable US system is a tactical rocket—the US Mark 66 air-launched 70mm rocket—that uses the same, high-grade (7075-T6) aluminum, and that has specifications with similar tolerances.

You know, I'm just an old Army trooper, just an unsophisticated man lost in the big city, just a simple country boy lookin' for some homestyle vittels, so I hope you're not surprised WHEN I LIE AND LIE AND LIE AGAIN TO START A WAR. That's jes' the way we do things back on the farm.

October 03, 2005

Happy Birthday, Weirdo

Today is the 80th birthday of Gore Vidal, one of America's great weirdos.

Doug Ireland rightly suggests that everyone should mark this occasion by visiting this website about Vidal.