January 31, 2006

The Very Young Coretta Scott King

I see Coretta Scott King died today at 78. Like many people, I'm always surprised by how young she and Martin Luther King were. He would have just turned 77 two weeks ago, and was 26 during the Montgomery Bus Boycott; 28 when the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was founded; 34 when he delivered the "I Have a Dream" speech; 35 when he received the Nobel Peace Prize; 38 when he delivered "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence"; and 39 when he was assassinated.

This always makes me think two things:

1. What am I doing with myself? I've really got to get my act together.

2. Progressives are fools if they don't focus predominantly on young people. Almost every significant social movement has been led by and dominated by fresh faced youth, and it's unlikely this is going to change. Progressive organizations need to cough up the dough to recruit and support young people, and make room for them at the top.

That's assuming progressive organizations actually want to win, which is something you can never count on.

For a good example of people who actually know what they're doing in this area, check out Hope Street Youth Development in Wichita, KS.

January 30, 2006

Can't Sleep Won't Sleep

SusanG at DailyKos has done an extensive interview with Daniel Ellsberg. It's split up into six parts, and it's well worth reading them all. Here's how SusanG describes them:

Part I, January 20, 2006 - The Pentagon Papers and the Overlooked 1968 Leaks: Covers Ellsberg feeling that the Pentagon Papers ultimately proved ineffective in what he was trying to accomplish, but that leaks he did prior to them in 1968 were much more effective.

Part 2, January 21, 2006 - Judith Miller, the New York Times and Government-Controlled Press: Ellsberg speculates that Miller was "on the team" for the CIA - something he witnessed of several reporters during Vietnam - and that to a greater or lesser extent than the public realizes, we are dealing with a controlled press in this country.

Part 3, January 22, 2006 - The Cult of Secrecy in Government and Its Undermining of Democracy: Ellsberg discusses the undermining effects of government secrecy on the working of a practicing democracy, overclassification and the problems of signing oaths of secrecy to get clearances, which routinely leads to lying to Congress and courts during the course of investigations.

Part 4, January 27, 2006 - Whistleblowing and Effective Activism: Ellsberg talks about the hows and whys of whistleblowing - and importantly, when it's NOT worth the personal price - as well as what average American citizens can do to effectively put pressure on the government for change.

Part 5, January 28, 2006 - Iraq/Vietnam Parallels and Other Foreign Policy Fiascos: Ellsberg analyzes the obvious parallels between Vietnam and Iraq, as well as the two major differences - oil and strategic geographical importance - which he believes will keep us in Iraq for as long as 50 years.

Part 6, January 29, 2006 - Bush, the Next 9/11 and the Approaching Police State: Ellsberg discusses ... well, the title says it all.

January 29, 2006

Cindy Sheehan Tells The Truth

One of the nice things about Cindy Sheehan is her brutal honesty. It's so brutal it's almost 1% as brutal as the world we live in. Here she is in a recent interview:

And about Bill Clinton... You know, I really think he should have been impeached, but not for a blow job. His policies are responsible for killing more Iraqis that George Bush. I don't understand why to rise to the level of being president of my country one has to be a monster. I used to say that George Bush was defiling the Oval Office, but it's been held by a long line of monsters.

I've always thought Saddam Hussein would have fit nicely into the American political system circa 1825. I suspect he would, like Andrew Jackson, have gotten on the money.

January 27, 2006

Bernard Chazelle, Troublemaker

One thing America does well is produce loud opinions on every subject from people who have no idea what they're talking about. We may be falling behind in every other area, but in this we continue to excel.

Unfortunately, Bernard Chazelle has ruined everything by producing an essay about the recent French riots based on actual knowledge of France. Even worse, it's genuinely interesting.

All I can say is, this Chazelle character is on very thin ice with me.

Comments Are Back!

Despite no solution to spam having yet been found!

I just got lonely.

January 26, 2006

Aaron Brown Explains How It's All Our Fault

I enjoy people who make enormous amounts of money while not understanding the most basic facts about where that money comes from. It gives them a charming Marie Antoinette pre-guillotine vibe.

For instance: Aaron Brown. He recently gave a post-firing speech in Florida to complain about the American public. Apparently we've let him down by not appreciating his incredible newz skillz:

"Television is the most perfect democracy. You sit there with your remote control and vote...It's not enough to say you want serious news. You have to watch it"

As the article says, "Brown has spent most of his 30-year career in television news." Yet apparently it's yet to dawn on him that television—or any advertising-supported medium—isn't one person, one vote. IT'S ONE DOLLAR, ONE VOTE.

Which audience would Lexus (and hence, CNN) rather have? 10 million people making $20,000 a year? Or 2 million people making $200,000 a year?

You'd think this would be obvious enough you'd learn it the first day at Frowning Anchorman School. But not if you're Aaron Brown, who apparently has a three-inch thick skull protecting a brain the size of an almond.

Of course, in fairness to Brown, he may consider a system of one dollar, one vote to be "the most perfect democracy." I'm sure headless Marie did too.

January 25, 2006


Good god Digby can write.

This specific post is about the preposterous pearl-clutching pants-wetting of the Washington Post about left-wing rudeness. But obviously the writing's always great at Hullabaloo. Why hasn't the progressive world, such as it is, started paying Digby?

Supporting The Troops, Then And Now

One of the weirdest things about Iraq has been the open comparisons of it by people like Max Boot to the Spanish-American War. Usually you'd expect crazy leftists to do that, since the Spanish-American War was imperialist yadda aggression based on shameless yadda lies. But I guess the right feels comfortable enough in their power to be honest. Certainly I admire how straightforward Jay Garner was when he said:

"Look back on the Philippines around the turn of the 20th century: they were a coaling station for the navy, and that allowed us to keep a great presence in the Pacific. That's what Iraq is for the next few decades: our coaling station that gives us great presence in the Middle East."

But thankfully it's not just the coaling station part that's the same! For instance:

Troops and civilians at a U.S. military base in Iraq were exposed to contaminated water last year, and employees for the responsible contractor, Halliburton Co., could not get their company to inform camp residents, according to interviews and internal company documents.

Compare to:

Richard Morris's Encyclopedia of American History gives startling figures: "Of the more than 274,000 officers and men who served in the army during the Spanish-American War and the period of demobilization, 5,462 died in the various theaters of operation and in camps in the U.S. Only 379 of the deaths were battle casualties, the remainder being attributed to disease and other causes"...

In May of 1898, Armour and Company, the big meatpacking company of Chicago, sold the army 500,000 pounds of beef which had been sent to Liverpool a year earlier and had been returned. Two months later, an army inspector tested the Armour meat, which had been stamped and approved by an inspector of the Bureau of Animal Industry, and found 751 cases containing rotten meat. In the first sixty cases he opened, he found fourteen tins already burst, "the effervescent putrid contents of which were distributed all over the cases." (The description comes from the Report of the Commission to Investigate the Conduct of the War Department in the War with Spain, made to the Senate in 1900.) Thousands of soldiers got food poisoning. There are no figures on how many of the five thousand noncombat deaths were caused by that.

Note that this information comes from a special Senate commission set up a hard look at War Department procurement. Whereas today:

The Associated Press obtained the documents from Senate Democrats who are holding a public inquiry into the allegations today. Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.), who is scheduled to chair the session, held a number of similar inquiries last year on contracting abuses in Iraq. He said Democrats were acting on their own because they had not been able to persuade Republican committee chairmen to investigate.

So don't think nothing has changed since 1898. Thanks to advances in democracy over the past 108 years, war profiteering has become much less risky!

January 23, 2006

More Coincidences

According to AP:

White House counselor Dan Barlett said Monday that Bush's photographs in the company of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff amount to a coincidence and shouldn't be interpreted any more seriously than that.

More Abramoff photographic coincidences:

1. Picture of Abramoff putting $100 bills into Bush's g-string with his teeth

2. Picture of Abramoff handing Bush an oversized novelty check for $1 million with memo line reading "bribe"

3. Picture of Abramoff with Bush, inscribed: "To Jack—thanks for the bribe!"

4. Picture of Dan Bartlett with Bush, inscribed: "To Dan—thanks for lying about my sordid relationship with Jack Abramoff!"

5. Twenty year-old picture of Abramoff shaking hands with Donald Rumsfeld in Baghdad

January 22, 2006


Via Laura Rozen, here's an interview worth reading with Kanan Makiya.

If you don't know who Makiya is—and you probably don't, unless you're a huge freak—he was the Bush administration's favorite Iraqi before the war. He wrote several books about the berserk cruelty of Saddam's regime, loudly supported a U.S. invasion, and famously told Dick Cheney we were going to be greeted "as liberators."

Supposedly Makiya has been chastened by events since, but you'd never know it to read this:

Kanan Makiya: Europe gave strength to the argument that it was a traditional colonist land grab or oil grab, which was nonsense, of course...

They undermined entirely the values of the operation. Europeans knew that the United States was not going to permanently occupy Iraq. Deep down the smarter Europeans must have known it wasn't just about oil. It was—rightly or wrongly—a way of changing the traditional western attitude towards the Arab Muslim world. It was an end to the support for autocratic and repressive governments. It was a new view that if we are going to succeed in this war against terror then we are going to have to be viewed by the populations of this part of the world in a totally different way.

Those damn Europeans, refusing to admit that rain has now begun to fall up. This only gives aid and comfort to the enemy!

Exactly What I Love

Here's something I wish I'd done: a slideshow illustrating how conservative cartooning duo Cox & Forkum appear to have borrowed every single one of their tropes from the Third Reich.

Seriously, if you haven't looked at it before, check it out. It's uncanny.

Mike describes the work of people like Cox & Forkum as "history's greatest poisonous nonsense—updated with a Gen Y edge!"

January 21, 2006

Ahhhh! The Cute! It Burns!

Visit Bob Harris, if you want to see something so cute you may have to rinse your eyes afterward with a saline solution.

There are rumors of an even cuter picture from this particular excursion of Bob's...a picture of koala bear behavior so cute it has driven men mad...a picture Bob has shielded from the public for its own good. I can neither confirm nor deny that such a picture exists.

No Comments

I've turned off comments here until I can figure out the best way to block the avalanche of spam.

Also, my apologies to anyone human whose comments I've accidentally deleted.

January 20, 2006

Uh...Thanks For The Blurb

Comments turned off until I figure out how best to deflect the spam

I'm a longtime admirer of author William Blum. For those who don't know, he's the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, one of the best books ever written about American foreign policy.

He's also written a follow up to Killing Hope, called Rogue State. So I imagine he was a bit surprised to read this section of bin Laden's latest tape:

If you (Americans) are sincere in your desire for peace and security, we have answered you. And if Bush decides to carry on with his lies and oppression, then it would be useful for you to read the book Rogue State, which states in its introduction: "If I were president, I would stop the attacks on the United States: First I would give an apology to all the widows and orphans and those who were tortured. Then I would announce that American interference in the nations of the world has ended once and for all."

That would make a nice blurb for the next edition, wouldn't it?

"It would be useful for you to read the book Rogue State"
—Osama bin Laden, cartoonish supervillain

Of course, what this really shows is right-wing religious fundamentalists love to quote criticism of right-wing religious fundamentalism in other countries.

So bin Laden quotes secular, progressive Americans to justify blowing us up. And our homegrown flock of poop-throwing cretins shrieks about how the moonbats agree with the terrorists!!!!

Then Bush quotes secular, progressive Muslims to justify blowing up their countries. And their poop-throwing cretins shriek about how the moonbats agree with the terrorists!!!!

It really works out well for everyone concerned, except of course for all the people who're slaughtered.

January 19, 2006

Jane Espenson

Bob Harris' friend Jane Espenson now has her own bleeeerg. Ms. Espenson is an extremely fancy television writer, and is well known among Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans for having scripted some of their most noteworthy shows. These days she's Co-Executive Producer of ABC's Jake in Progress.

Go say hello, but please: keep it clean.

January 18, 2006


Scribner recently offered me a promotional copy of a new novel they're publishing called Prayers for the Assassin, by Robert Ferrigno. I certainly appreciated this, although I suspect if they included this wee little blarf there's essentially no one with a website they didn't approach.

In any case, it just arrived. Here's the back copy:

THE YEAR IS 2040. New York and Washington are nuclear wastelands. The nation is divided between an Islamic Republic across the north and the Christian Bible Belt in the old South. The shift was precipitated by simultaneous, suitcase-nuke detonations in New York City, Washington, and Mecca, a sneak attack blamed on Israel, and known as the Zionist Betrayal. Now alcohol is outlawed, replaced by Jihad Cola, and mosques dot the skyline. Veiled women hurry through the streets. Freedom is controlled by the state, paranoia rules, and rebels plot to regain free will...

In this tense society beautiful young historian Sarah Dougan uncovers shocking evidence that the Zionist Betrayal was actually a plot carried out by a radical Muslim now poised to overtake the entire nation. Sarah's research threatens to expose him, and soon she and her lover, Rakkin Epps, an elite Muslim warrior, find themselves hunted by Darwin, a brilliant psychopathic killer. Rakkin must become Darwin's assassin—a most forbidding challenge. The bloody chase takes them from the outlaw territories of the Pacific Northwest to the anything-goes glitter of Las Vegas—and culminates dramatically as Rakkim and Sarah battle to reveal the truth to the entire world.

I see.


I will read this quickly, and report back on what the publication of this work Means For America.

January 17, 2006

The Crazy Supporters of Crazies

We hear a lot lately about how Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is "crazy." And for all I know he is.

What few people ask is: who are the Iranians who would support such a madman? And why?

I like to imagine Ahmadinejad has fans who are the Iranian version of Thomas Friedman. Friedman, you may recall, said this back in October, 2001:

"I was a critic of Rumsfeld before, but there's one thing ... that I do like about Rumsfeld. He's just a little bit crazy, OK? He's just a little bit crazy, and in this kind of war, they always count on being able to out-crazy us..."

I imagine an Iranian Thomas Friedman making similar remarks re Ahmadinejad to great laughter and approval at sophisticated Tehran dinner parties. Then I imagine putting the real Thomas Friedman next to him, so I could hit them both with one punch.

That's where the imagining stops, because the next step is to imagine a book by the Iranian Thomas Friedman about international economics, and that pain would be too great for any man.

Once Again, Dennis Perrin Ruins Everything By Bringing Up Reality

I myself have been genuinely impressed by Al Gore's transformation since 2000. I evaluate it as genuine and something to be encouraged. And I was wowed by his speech yesterday (though I admit that like all pointy heads, I'm a sucker for references to books 'n' things).

Unfortunately, Dennis Perrin has the bad manners to remind us how dirty Gore's hands are regarding civil liberties:

Clinton/Gore, in the wake of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, came forth a year later with the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act which, under the guise of fighting terrorists, was a frontal assault on the Fourth Amendment and further expanded federal police power. The Clinton/Gore admin also was in favor of roving wiretaps, which they felt the FBI should conduct without a court order. But even before Oklahoma City, Clinton/Gore sought more state control over the populace via the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, passed in 1994, which aided police and federal spying on citizens by tapping digital phone networks. Not only did the phone companies have to allow any and all surveillance of their networks, they also were required to make phone call records available to the state. On top of all this, anyone being spied upon was not to know that they were under federal or police suspicion for whatever reason...

Maybe Al Gore has truly changed. Maybe he's become some kind of civil libertarian. Appearing on the same stage with Bob Barr, whose record on this front is much much better than Gore's, suggests that he might take seriously what he says. But before we can believe anything this career politician and friend to the powerful proclaims, acknowledgment of his role in subverting the Constitution should be demanded.

You may read it all.

Against Against Against The War On Terror

Go say hello to Against the War on Terror, a new blorpf run by young students and activists in New York.

I like what they're doing, even if I think the beginning of their founding statement is wrong:

The war on terror is more than just another public policy. It tries to turn the reduction of even the smallest risks into the highest goal of government and the fundamental purpose of politics. We at Against the War on Terror aim to challenge the idea that security, rather than liberty, should guide our political life. We reject the very premise of the war on terror.

I don't think the reduction of even the smallest risks has much to do with the Bush administration's actions. That's just the PR cover. In reality, they're making the world much more dangerous, while refusing to take common sense precautions (chemical and nuclear plant security, etc.) that even a traitorous America-hater like myself would support.

So, to accept that these people care whether Americans live or die is giving too much away at the start. The truth is, if we're killed in large numbers, they see it as an enormous opportunity.

January 16, 2006

Oh For The Love Of God

Jeanne at Body and Soul points out this:

Peace activists are protesting plans for a military flyover at the city's annual Martin Luther King Jr. march, saying the gesture runs counter to the nonviolent beliefs of the civil rights leader.

The city's MLK Commission said the flyover by two fighter jets from Randolph Air Force Base is meant to be patriotic and an honor to King in a city with a strong military presence.

Peace activists are protesting plans for a military flyover at the city's annual Martin Luther King Jr. march, saying the gesture runs counter to the nonviolent beliefs of the civil rights leader.

The Rev. Herman Price, the commission's chairman, said he was dismayed by the divisiveness the flyover was causing.

"They say the planes represent war and bombs and death, but at the same time those planes can also represent our freedom and peace," Price said.

Next up: celebrating the birth of Jesus by CRUSHING THE MEEK.

Things To Read

1. On Martin Luther King day, it's always a good idea to reread his 1967 speech "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence." It's almost always relevant, because we're almost always fighting a war somewhere.

You might also check out Juan Cole taking the speech and extrapolating 10 Things Martin Luther King Would have Done about Iraq.

2. Robert McChesney and John Podesta have written an article on getting universal broadband internet access. I didn't know this:

Since 2001, according to the International Telecommunications Union, the United States has fallen from fourth to 16th in the world in broadband penetration. Thomas Bleha recently argued in Foreign Affairs that what passes for broadband in the United States is “the slowest, most expensive and least reliable in the developed world.” While about 60 percent of U.S. households do not subscribe to broadband because it is either unavailable where they live or they cannot afford it, most Japanese citizens can access a high-speed connection that's more than 10 times faster than what's available here for just $22 a month.

Beyond the great merits of the piece, I'm pleased and somewhat alarmed to see Robert McChesney (Mr. Left Wing Media Analyst) writing something with John Podesta (former Clinton chief of staff and current president of the Center for American Progress).

What has this world come to?

3. Mimi Smartypants' daughter Nora expresses my thoughts exactly:

Nora is very interested in all things somatic---she gets a lot of mileage out of her doctor kit, she wants to closely inspect any wounds she encounters, she likes to hear the story of how I got stitches in my thumb. It seemed like a no-brainer* to get her a book about the human body for Christmas. Except I did not take preschooler literal-mindedness into account, and did not realize how illustrations could complicate the reading experience. Cutaway drawings of the human body, showing the organs, seemed very troubling to her, and she lingered particularly over the picture of a brain. What's that? It's a brain. Is it in the head? Yes. In everybody's head? Yes. What's it for? Thinking, talking, motor functions, and lower-level stuff like keeping your heart going. It's pretty important. Why does it look like that? That's just how it looks, but remember the brain is on the inside, the picture is just showing you the inside for educational purposes. And so on. Nora repeated this round of questions at least twice before she let me turn the page, which is how I knew she was thinking hard about this concept of "brain."

I did not think the brain would be a problem, however, until Nora appeared in the kitchen doorway, looking solemn, while I was cooking dinner.

Nora: Mommy.
Me: Yes?
[long pause.]
Nora: Mommy.
Me: What is it?
Nora [not crying, but really close, with the chin-wobble and shiny eyes]: I don't want a brain.
Me: Huh?
Nora [crying now]: I DON'T WANT A BRAIN.
Me [confused, hugging her]: Well, um, it's kind of too late. You have a brain. Everyone has a brain. A brain helps you ______ [yadda yadda].


January 15, 2006

I Enjoy Canada

Over at Matthew Yglesias' section of TPM Cafe, he has a post about Iran and nuclear weapons.

I don't have an opinion about the post itself, but it did prompt perhaps the greatest comment in commenting history:

Speaking as a Canadian who is fond of judicious language, I feel that this situation deserves careful and measured thought. So let me just open with:

Is your entire f*cking country on crack??? Are all you Americans out of your cotton picking minds??? Are you completely freaking delusional? Homicidal? Psychotic? Have you lost any shred of a moral compass? WHAT IN THE NAME OF JESUS H. CHRIST ON A CRUTCH IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE!!!!!

[more below]

Let me offer up one small datum which may completely change the equation for you. According to the CIA, Iran is at least five years away from a nuclear weapon.

Five years. Assuming that the CIA has any credibility whatsoever left, its five years. Five years, is time for diplomacy to accomplish a hell of a lot.

In the meantime, I would also point out that the Atomic Energy Commission, that various other international bodies, that inspections have essentially found no sign that Iran is even working on a nuclear weapon.

The only actual evidence that Iran has anything close to nuclear weapons technology is blueprints *that the CIA gave to them!*

Have you all forgotten that the evidence on Iraq was spectacularly wrong? Have you all ignored the fact that it was fabricated? Why then are we going down the exact same road of stage managed, fabricated pseudo-evidence and wild-ass hysteria? What is wrong with you people?

Can't you see that this entire crisis has been manufactured, and has been years in the manufacturing.

Stop and think back five years. What did we have five years ago? A moderate reformist Iranian government making overtures to the United States, rebuilding its relationship with Europe, liberalizing its society, and modernizing its economy.

9/11 comes along, the Iranians are overflowing with sympathy. Mass candlelit vigils are held in Tehran. Iran offers aid and cooperation. Iran hates the Taliban who have executed Iranian diplomats and massacred Afghan Shiites. Iran hates Saddam Hussein. Iran hates Al Quaeda which is a Sunni Fundamentalist organization which declares Shiites infidels and subhuman. Iran shares its intelligence with America, it even arrests Taliban hands them over. So we've got the Iranian spring right, things are finally going to sort out?

And what happens? The Bush administration rebuffs every Iranian overture and does its best to instigate a cold war. Afghanistan is invaded, and suddenly, the Iranians are looking at American troops and allies on their eastern border. Then Iraq is invaded, and its American troops and allies on their western border. Then bases and treaties in Uzbekistan and whoops, there's more American troops and allies on the northern border. The Persian Gulf is filled with American warships and carrier fleets.

Wow, the Iranians are surrounded. And the tough talk is constant. Iran is part of the 'Axis of Evil', the Americans tell each other 'Bagdad, hmmph, real men go to Tehran.' Essentially, America has been threatening military action against Iran for the last five years, and has surrounded the country on every side with troops, bases and allies.

American aircraft invade Iranian airspace regularly. American special forces undertake operations inside Iran. Americans regularly accuse Iranians of interference in Iraq. Dick Cheney pontificates about Israel bombing Iran *after he has just handed over to Israel the long range bombers and bunker busting bombs* required to do the job.

Meanwhile, the United States undertakes economic warfare against Iran, interfering with its business dealings with third party countries, trying to scuttle a pipeline deal with India, and it goes on and on. The hysteria about the Iranians nuclear program is just more of the same.

Now how in God's Bloody Name do you think the Iranians are going to respond to that. Should they concede the nuclear program, abandon their pipeline project? If so, its not going to do them any good. America will just seek more concessions. Each surrender will be met by new demands. This isn't hard to figure out. It's exactly what Bush did with Iraq.

Perhaps overtures, good will gestures, trying to act like a peaceful nation. Did all those things, doesn't matter. The Bush administration is still on a collision course.

So, the Mullahs are concerned that they're faced with a homicidal crazy state, the Iranian people are scared. When people are scared and faced with an aggressive warmongering power which keeps threatening to attack them, continually trespasses on its borders and is undertaking economic warfare... who the hell are they going to elect? Ahminajad may be a crazy bastard, but you assholes, you utter assholes did every thing you could to elect him short of donating 50,000 Diebold machines and mailing his party the trapdoor codes.

So, having pursued a psychotically aggressive course, you've backed Iran into a corner, and engineered a regime which refuses to back further.

And *you* are the victims in all this? *You* are the ones under threat? It's *self defense*????

And of course, you goofily believe that you can just bomb or nuke Iran with impunity?

Holy Microeconomic Theory Bamant! Iran's nuclear facilities are distributed across the country and in hardened sites near population centres. So any strike that cripples a significant portion of Iran's nuclear capacity will inevitably be so large and kill so many people that its going to be tantamount to inviting full scale war.

Think about that. Iran is 70 million people, an area five times the size of Iraq, not disembowelled by 12 years of sanctions and air raids. On the other side of the coin, America's ground army is busted and tied down in Iraq. There's no troops to throw at a major Iranian military force, so you have to hope that bombing will do the trick. The occupation forces in Iraq are in occupation and not territorial defense mode. And Iraq is 65% Shiites who are probably not going to be happy that you're blowing up their brother Shiites. Meanwhile, the straight of Hormuz is so narrow that sinking one supertanker will block it indefinitely, and Iran borders the straight on three sides. Block Hormuz and any naval groups inside the Persian Gulf are trapped there. Any naval groups outside the Persian Gulf are trapped outside. Forget about any oil coming out of the Persian Gulf from Iraq, Kuwait, Quatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia or the UAE. Think about what that does to the price of oil, and to the world economy. Think about what that does to dependent countries like Japan, India, China and Europe.

In short its so appallingly stupid and colossally risky, that I can see why your idiots in charge might consider using nuclear weapons. But throw a few nukes around and see how the rest of the world reacts? Every dirtwad country is going to be mortgaging the Presidential palace to get its own nuclear deterrent from Pakistan or North Korea. How do you feel about the Indonesian Bomb, the Malaysian Bomb, the Thai Bomb, the Myanmar Bomb, the Algerian Bomb, the Saudi Bomb, the Egyptian Bomb, the Brazilian Bomb, the Argentine Bomb, the Venezualan Bomb, the Cuban Bomb, the Japanese Bomb, the Canadian frigging Bomb. You are no longer trustworthy. North Korea, always borderline psychotic is going to be mondo difficult to deal with. You've just guaranteed yourself a full fledged nuclear arms race, balls to the wall with both Russia and China, and quite possibly Europe.

And of course there's no guarantee that the rest of the world will allow this. Do you want an armed standoff with the Russians. Suppose they 'loan' their finest interceptor jets, pilots and radar systems to the Iranians... Do you want to meet *that* on a bombing raid? And if you do meet *that* what are you going to do when half your planes are blasted out of the skies conducting an illegal raid on civilian populations in a foreign country? Cry? Send a harsh note? Launch a first strike? What happens if the Chinese decide to hold Taiwan and South Korea hostage? What do you do? Back off Iran or sell out East Asia? Or Launch a first strike? Hell, in that kind of standoff, someone sneezes and its not going to matter who launched a first strike.

Or would you like an economic standoff, say with Europe, or with Japan and China. Suppose that the Europeans or Chinese decide "screw the worldwide depression, you assholes are just too dangerous to have around." Trillions of dollars get dumped on the market, loans get called in, the bottom drops out of your dollar, its thousand per cent inflation and no manufacturing base and your own trade embargoes. So much for America.

I mean, its morally wrong, its stupid on every level. And yet here you are discussing why maybe you should get out in front of the Republicans on this, or planning your surrender to Bush. Why are you even discussing this?

What is wrong with America?

Movable Type 3.2 & Comments

A month ago I upgraded this site to Movable Type 3.2. Unfortunately, I can't be bothered to actually read the documentation on comments for 3.2. And because the default setting seems essentially to allow any comments whatsoever, there's been a typhoon of spam.

I used to use blacklist, which worked fairly well. So I'm wondering: is blacklist somehow built into 3.2? If so, I've missed it in my desultory inspection. And if not, what's the best way to eliminate spam? I'm considering turning on the setting so that only trusted commenters are accepted without moderation. But if there's a better way, I'd love to hear.

In the meantime, your comments may disappear and then reappear without notice, as I attempt to eliminate the spam while retaining actual people.

Nice Job

This is an excellent joke.

January 14, 2006


Having been tagged by Bob and The Poorman, and desiring to be a good member of the blearggh community, I have answered the series of "four" questions below. Or in some cases, refused to answer them.

Even if you're not interested in these details of my life—which frankly aren't that fascinating even to me—there's a good soup recipe at the end.

Four Jobs You've Had

1. Washington Post paperboy
2. Camp counselor for camp nestled next to Camp David
3. Factotum for corporate lawyer with extremely powerful cocaine addiction
4. The worst job ever (details too awful to reveal, unless you ask very nicely)

Four Movies You Could Watch Over and Over

1. Godfather
2. Godfather, Part II
3. Hoop Dreams
4. Annie Hall

Four Places You’ve Lived

1. Columbus, OH
2. Rockville, MD
3. Copenhagen, Denmark
4. Los Angeles, CA

Four TV Shows You Love to Watch

1. Football, as long as the Redskins keep winning
2. Daily Show
3. Colbert Report
4. Law & Order reruns; in fact, I loved them so much I had to stop watching completely or I wouldn't have been able to do anything else with my life

Four Places You’ve Been on Vacation

1. Montreal
2. Gatlinburg, TN
3. All over France
4. Galveston, TX

Four Blogs You Visit Daily

1. Eschaton
2. Bob Harris
3. King of Zembla
4. Chris Floyd's Empire Burlesque

Four of Your Favorite Foods

I'm attempting to become a vegan. It's not nearly as bad as you'd think.

1. Attack of the Vegetables soup (recipe below)
2. Walnut lentil casserole
3. Gala apples
4. Leeks/red peppers/mushrooms/garlic roasted together

Four Places You’d Rather Be

I'm generally happy wherever I am

Four Albums You Can’t Live Without

I don't think going without any album would actually cause me to die

Four Vehicles You’ve Owned

I refuse to answer this question on the grounds it would tend to embarrass me. I believe this is covered by either the fifth or third amendments.

serves 20

Swiss Chard
Broccoli rabe
3 stalks leeks, carefully cleaned
Broccoli sprouts
Pound mushrooms, diced
3 carrots, diced
3 parsnips, diced
4 zucchini
Spit peas, 1/2 cup
Lentils, 1/2 cup
Adzuki beans, 1/2 cup
3 onions
Celery juice, 10 oz.
Carrot juice, 20 oz.
30 oz. water
Low sodium vegetable stock, 2 tablespoons

• Fill giant pot with water, juices, peas, lentils, beans and two tablespoons of vegetable stock
• Put peeled onions, unpeeled zucchinis, leeks and beans in large pot, and simmer until zucchinis, leeks and onions are soft enough to liquify in blender
• While waiting for vegetables to soften in pot, chop up other vegetables
• When zucchini, onions and leeks are soft, blend them and set aside
• Put remaining vegetables in the pot along with additional water as needed until vegetables are soft enough to liquify in blender
• When remaining vegetables are soft, blend them
• Add everything back to pot and simmer for at least an hour

This takes about three hours total and creates a gigantic amount of soup, which can be frozen as needed. When you eat it you will turn slightly orange from the carotene.

January 13, 2006

The Boaden Methodology

Here in America we have Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. In England they have Media Lens.

One point Media Lens makes repeatedly is that while the British media is better than that of the U.S., it's often still horrible. And this sadly includes the U.K. "liberal" outfits that drive our right wing into a teeth-gnashing, pants-wetting frenzy, such as the BBC, Guardian, and Independent.

Recently Media Lens demonstrated how the BBC simply takes it as given that the U.S. and U.K. genuinely, no-crossies want to bring democracy to the mideast. When Media Lens asked the BBC's director of news, Helen Boaden, what the evidence was for this, she replied that their "analysis of the underlying motivation of the coalition is borne out by many speeches and remarks made by both Mr Bush and Mr Blair."

So there you have it: government figures have said something. And as anyone familiar with history knows, that means IT MUST BE TRUE.

I don't know why everyone doesn't adopt this standard, because it makes everything so much easier. For instance, by using what I call the "Boaden Methodology," we can prove:

1. Napoleon's motivation for invading Egypt in 1798 was to liberate Egyptians. Why? Because that's what he said:

"I have not come to you except for the purpose of restoring your rights from the hands of the oppressors..."

2. England's motivation for occupying Iraq in 1917 was to liberate Iraqis. That's obvious, because that's what the commanding British general said:

"Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators..."

3. Hitler's motive for supporting a 1941 coup in Baghdad? Duh. It was to liberate Iraqis! If it weren't, Hitler would never have said:

"The Arabian Freedom Movement in the Middle East is our natural ally...In this connection special importance is attached to the liberation of Iraq..."

Given all this, the real question is why Arabs are so skeptical about the obvious good intentions of Bush and Blair. My guess is, it has something to do with their primitive culture.

(Thanks to TG for the Hitler quote)

January 12, 2006

UFO Breakfast

Please welcome UFO Breakfast to the blurfroll, at left. I am an admirer of the site as a whole, though I'm particularly in tune with one of the site's co-blurffers, J. Alva Scruggs.

And you may ask yourself: What is my beautiful UFO Breakfast?

Joe Bageant

Thanks to the anonymous commenter who pointed out Joe Bageant has his own site. You should go there and read everything, but especially:

"The Simulacran Republic"

"What the 'Left Behind' Series Really Means"

And his photoalbum of his hometown of Winchester, Virginia

(Embarrassing misspelling of Joe Bageant's name corrected)

January 11, 2006

Come Over And Help Us!

You may have noticed I enjoy tracing weird throughlines in American history...certain alarming attitudes and even specific words that keep popping up over and over again, long after you think we'd driven a stake through their dark hearts. It's deeply and truly creepy. As William Faulkner famously said, "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

Here's a relevant example. In George W. Bush biggest pre-war speech about Iraq and democracy, he explained:

America's interests in security, and America's belief in liberty, both lead in the same direction: to a free and peaceful Iraq...

[Iraqis'] lives and their freedom matter little to Saddam Hussein—but Iraqi lives and freedom matter greatly to us...

If we must use force, the United States and our coalition stand ready to help the citizens of a liberated Iraq.

For most Americans, this sounded pretty good. We're just being helpful! When you put it like that, we're almost obligated to invade!

It might have been useful if we'd remembered the first Great Seal of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It was part of the charter granted to British settlers in 1629 by Charles I. This was where America began—with Pilgrims, Thanksgiving, etc.

Now, look closely. Can you tell what the American Indian on the seal is saying?

That's right! He's asking the settlers to "come over and help us."

The settlers, of course, did help the Indians...to be dead.

This formula recurs over and over again throughout American history. We go somewhere because we HAVE TO HELP PEOPLE. Then they all somehow—perhaps because of a 400-year streak of bad luck on our part?—end up dead. In 1966, the editor of U.S. News and World Report wrote:

What the United States is doing in Vietnam is the most significant example of philanthropy extended by one people to another that we have witessed in our times.

Now, none of this necessarily means exactly the same thing is happening in Iraq. Maybe this time we really are going to help! You never know!

But probably not. One of the (two) books on Bush's current reading list is Imperial Grunts by Robert Kaplan.

Kaplan's book explains that a) the War on Terror is very similar to America's Indian Wars; b) the WoT is "really about taming the frontier"; and c) most of the earth is now "Injun country."

Look at all those people out there saying, "come over and help us." How can we possibly refuse?

COMING UP: Previous appearances in U.S. history of "shock and awe."

January 10, 2006

Things You Should Read If Indeed You Are A Good Person As You ALWAYS CLAIM

1. Dennis Perrin on Al Franken posing with guard dogs at Abu Ghraib. I hope Franken has enough perspective eventually to realize this was somewhat unwholesome.

2. Dennis Perrin on what life looks like from the bottom of the heap:

One columnist I knew asked whether this was participatory journalism. No, I answered -- I’m doing this because I need the work. I then told him that he should take six months off and do the same thing, that it would be good for him. "Uh, I don’t think so. Thanks anyway," he replied. He never spoke to me again.

3. Chris Floyd on The Highly Informative Hissy Fit of L. Paul Bremer III.

4. Dean Baker foolishly calls for a rational prescription drug policy. (Via.)

5. "Revenge of the Mutt People" by Joe Bageant, over at the Zemblan royal palace:

We the mutt faced sons and daughters of the republic. Born to kick your chicken breast meat to death for you in the darkest, most dismal corners of our great land, born to kill and be killed in stockcar races, drunken domestic rows, and of course in the desert dusty back streets at the edges of the empire. Middle class urban liberals may never claim us as brothers, much less willing servants, but as they say in prison, we are your meat. We do your bidding. Your refusal to admit that we do your dirty work for you, not to mention the international smackdowns and muggings for the republic—from which you benefit more materially than we ever will—makes it no less true.

6. And last but not least, retired British general Michael Rose, former commander of UK forces in Bosnia, calls for Blair to be impeached for Iraq.

January 08, 2006

NY Times: Downing Street Memo Background Is Too Good For The Likes Of Us

The relevant excerpts from State of War appear at the bottom of this post

Most of the attention given to James Risen's new book State of War has focused on Risen's reporting on warrantless spying by the NS—and how the New York Times didn't publish it until State of War was about to come out.

And of course that's important. But the book also contains critical new background on the Downing Street Memo. And incredibly enough, this information has NEVER been published by the New York Times.

As you recall, the Downing Street Memo is the official minutes to a meeting of the highest officials of the British government (including Tony Blair and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw) on July 23, 2002. Part of the memo describes a presentation by Sir Richard Dearlove, head of MI6, the British equivalent of the CIA:

C [Dearlove] reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

Therefore, one of the most important questions about the Downing Street Memo has always been who exactly Dearlove met with in Washington. This would go a long way to answering why Dearlove believed "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." Pundits wishing to play down the significance of the memo, such as Michael Kinsley, opined that Dearlove may have just been talking to "the usual freelance chatterboxes" and perhaps was simply reporting on the "mood and gossip of 'Washington.'"

This isn't what Risen writes, to say the least. According to State of War:

• Dearlove was in part reporting on a CIA-MI6 summit he attended with other top MI6 officials at CIA headquarters on Saturday, July 20, 2002
• officials believe "Blair had ordered Dearlove to go to Washington to find out what the Bush administration was really thinking about Iraq"
• During the day-long summit, Dearlove met privately with CIA head George Tenet for an hour and a half

This obviously raises other questions, such as:

• What records of the meeting exist on the American side?
• Will the Senate Intelligence Committee examine the meeting and MI6's perspective as part of its Phase II Iraq intelligence investigation?
• What specifically did Dearlove and Tenet discuss when alone?

But the most puzzling issue may be this: what on earth makes the New York Times just sit on this kind of information? In fact, the NSA wiretapping story and this Downing Street Memo background is still only part of it. As various outlets have reported, State of War also reveals that the CIA sent thirty relatives of Iraqi scientists to Iraq to ask them whether they were working on WMD programs. Every single relative reported back that the scientists said they weren't, and that Iraq had nothing. Not a word of this has appeared in the Times.

And it doesn't seem to be because Risen wasn't trying. The New York Observer has reported that:

...according to current and former Times sources familiar with the Washington bureau, Mr. Risen was gathering reporting from sources in the prewar period that cast a skeptical light on Saddam Hussein's alleged W.M.D. stockpiles, but either couldn't get his stories in the paper or else found them buried on the inside pages.

In the end, it seems clear the New York Times subscribes to Katherine Graham's philosophy, famously expressed in a speech at the CIA:

We live in a dirty and dangerous world. There are some things the general public does not need to know, and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.

From the Times' perspective, there are some things we members of the great unwashed simply don't need to know.

• • •

From State of War by James Risen, p. 112-114:

As the invasion of Iraq drew closer, an attitude took hold among many senior CIA officials that war was inevitable—and so the quality of the intelligence on weapons of mass destruction didn't really matter. This attitude led CIA management to cut corners and accept shoddy intelligence, other CIA officials believe. "One of the senior guys in the NE Division [the Near East Division of the Directorate of Operations] told me that it isn't going to matter once we go to Baghdad, we are going to find mountains of this stuff," recalled a former CIA official, who left the agency after the war. This acceptance of weak intelligence among senior CIA officials appears to be the backstory to the famous so-called Downing Street Memo.

According to a former senior CIA official, the memo—the leaked British government document from July 2002 that provided a British assessment of the Bush administration's plans for Iraq—was written immediately after a secret conference in Washington between top officials of the CIA and British intelligence. The memo, dated July 23, reported that "there was a perceptible shift in attitude" in Washington about Iraq. The memo went on to say that "military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

The memo reflected an assessment of the prevailing attitude inside the Bush administration offered to Prime Minister Tony Blair by Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6, the British intelligence service. Just days before, Dearlove and other top MI6 officials had attended a CIA-MI6 summit meeting held at CIA headquarters, in which the two sides had candid talks about both counterterrorism and Iraq. According to a former senior CIA officer, the summit meeting was held at the urgent request of the British.

The American and British intelligence services are so close that under normal circumstances, they hold an annual summit to discuss a wide range of issues in a relaxed setting. The year before it had been held in Bermuda. But after 9/11, Tenet had told other CIA officials he was too busy to be bothered with another conference with the British, particularly one held in a remote location. The British were very insistent, however, and kept pushing for the meeting, the former CIA official said. The MI6 officials made it very clear to their CIA counterparts that they had to sit down and talk immediately.

CIA officials believe that Prime Minister Blair had ordered Dearlove to go to Washington to find out what the Bush administration was really thinking about Iraq. While Blair was in constant communication with President Bush, he apparently wanted his intelligence chief to scout out the thinking of other senior officials in Washington, to give him a reality check on what he was hearing from the White House.

"I think in hindsight that it is clear that Dearlove was insistent on having the summit because Blair wanted him to find out what was going on," said the former CIA official.

Tenet finally agreed to the conference as long as it could be held at CIA headquarters, rather than out of town. The session was scheduled for Saturday, July 20, 2002.

The two sides ended up spending most of that Saturday together. One of Tenet's great attributes was his ability to develop warm relationships with the chiefs of allied intelligence services, and Tenet had an especially good personal relationship with Dearlove. He was usually very candid with his British counterpart.

During the Saturday summmit, Tenet and Dearlove left the larger meeting and went off by themselves for about an hour and a half, according to a former senior CIA official who attended the summit. It is unclear what Tenet and Dearlove discussed during their one-on-one session. Yet Dearlove's overall assessment was reflected in the Downing Street Memo: the CIA chief and other CIA officials didn't believe that the WMD intelligence mattered, because was was coming one way or another.

"I doubt that Tenet would have said that Bush was fixing the intelligence," said a former CIA official. "But I think Dearlove was a very smart intelligence officer who could figure out what was going on. Plus, the MI6 station chief in Washington was in CIA headquarters all the time, with just about complete access to everything, and I am sure he was talking to a lot of people."

My Favorite Joke Of 2006

Ulisse Mangialaio on Doug Henwood's lbo-talk points out that Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Becker has come out for a free market in organ sales:

"Another set of critics agree with me that the effect on the total supply of organs from allowing them to be purchased and sold would be large and positive, but they object to markets because of a belief that the commercially-motivated part of the organ supply would mainly come from the poor. In effect, they believe the poor would be induced to sell their organs to the middle classes and the rich. It is hard to see any reasons to complain if organs of poor persons were sold with their permission after they died, and the proceeds went as bequests to their parents or children. The complaints would be louder if, for example, mainly poor persons sold one of their kidneys for live kidney transplants, but why would poor donors be better off if this option were taken away from them? If so desired, a quota could be placed on the fraction of organs that could be supplied by persons with incomes below a certain level, but would that improve the welfare of poor persons?


My conclusion is that markets in organs are the best available way to enable persons with defective organs to get transplants much more quickly than under the present system. I do not find compelling the arguments against allowing the sale of organs, especially when weighed against the number of lives that would be saved by the increased supply stimulated by financial incentives.

Ulisse of lbo-talk then adds my favorite joke so far in 2006:

Adolf Hitler has called a press conference in hell to distance himself from Becker's statements.

January 06, 2006

The Fertile Land Of Israel Produces Another Bumper Crop Of Nutjobbery

As you surely know, Pat Robertson just explained how God struck down Ariel Sharon because he evacuated the settlements in Gaza:

ROBERTSON: ...I think we need to look at the Bible and the Book of Joel. The prophet Joel makes it very clear that God has enmity against those who, quote, "divide my land." God considers this land to be his. You read the Bible, he says, "This is my land." And for any prime minister of Israel who decides he going carve it up and give it away, God says, "No. This is mine."

I know this is incredibly surprising, but Pat Robertson sounds just like Abd al-Aziz Rantissi, the late Hamas leader. Before Israel blew him up, Rantissi made this religious pronouncement:

"All the land of Palestine is a part of the Islamic faith and the Caliph Omar bin al-Khattab declared it for all Muslims. Therefore, no individual or group has the right to sell it or give it up."

It's too bad Rantissi died before Arafat, and thus missed the chance to explain how God had struck Arafat down. WHY IS LIFE SO UNFAIR?

In any case, while Israel/Palestine consistently produces huge amounts of Christian, Jewish and Islamic nutjobbery, other religions have really been letting everyone down. What's needed is for someone to loudly shriek that God gave Israel/Palestine to the Buddhists, and if any Buddhist allows non-Buddhists to live there, God will smite them in some violent Buddhist way. I'm willing to step up to the plate here if necessary.

January 04, 2006

David Letterman Precisely Estimates O'Reilly Crap Content

As you may know, David Letterman said this to Bill O'Reilly when O'Reilly was on Letterman last night:

LETTERMAN: I have the feeling about 60 percent of what you say is crap. Sixty percent, that's just a -- I'm just spitballing here now.

As crap estimates go, this is extremely impressive work. I think it coincides almost exactly with a detailed analysis. Let's take a look.

At about 8:45 during the O'Reilly segment, there was this exchange:

LETTERMAN: The president said less than a month ago that we're [in Iraq] because of a mistake in intelligence. Well, whose intelligence? Somebody just got off a bus and handed it to him?


O'REILLY: If you want to question that and then revamp an intelligence agency that's obviously flawed, the Central Intelligence Agency...Remember, M16 [sic] in Britain said the same thing. Putin's people in Russia said the same thing. And so did Mubarak's intelligence agency in Egypt.

We can break O'Reilly's statement into four claims.

1. The CIA is "obviously flawed"

We could quibble about why exactly the CIA is flawed, but there's no question it is.

25% out of a possible 25%

2. " M16 [sic] in Britain said the same thing"

Again, we could argue about why MI6 said the same thing, but they pretty much did. However, it's "MI6" (letter m, letter i, number 6) rather than what O'Reilly said, "M16" (letter m, number 1, number 6). The letters MI stand for Military Intelligence. This isn't the most important mistake on earth, but in this context it does make O'Reilly sound like a huge dumbass. It's like referring to the CIA as the C1A. So O'Reilly only gets partial credit.

15% out of a possible 25%

3. "Putin's people in Russia said the same thing"

This claim seems to have originated in an undisclosed location deep within O'Reilly's ass. Here's a Guardian story from October 12, 2002:

Vladimir Putin yesterday rejected Anglo-American claims that Saddam Hussein already possesses weapons of mass destruction...

With a tense Mr Blair alongside him at his dacha near Moscow, the Russian president took the unusual step of citing this week's sceptical CIA report on the Iraqi military threat to assert: "Fears are one thing, hard facts are another".

"Russia does not have in its possession any trustworthy data that supports the existence of nuclear weapons or any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and we have not received any such information from our partners as yet.

0% out of a possible 25%

4. "...so did Mubarak's intelligence agency in Egypt"

This is another ass-based statement. Here's a statement by Mubarak on October 30, 2002:

I hope Iraqi latest statements that they do not possess Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) would prove right and accept the unconditional return of UN weapons inspectors to Baghdad.

Here's an AP story from November 25, 2002:

Arab leaders have anxiously watched the U.S.-Iraq standoff over allegations Iraq is stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. Mubarak and other Arab leaders, saying a U.S.-Iraq war would plunge their already volatile neighborhood into chaos, have urged the United States to act with caution and await the outcome of U.N. inspections.

And from the MENA news agency in Egypt, on January 1, 2003 (not online):

As for the Iraqi crisis, President Mubarak voiced hope that Iraq would abide by UN Security Council Resolution 1441 and would not give any chance for war to break out. This could be done through Baghdad's full cooperation with international inspectors and to prove that it does not possess any weapons of mass destruction whether nuclear, chemical or biological, he said.

0% out of a possible 25%


Or, to put it another way:

60% CRAP

January 03, 2006

I Am So God Damn Honest

Sometimes honesty demands you do things you don't want to do. Sometimes, as horrifying as it is, it requires that you defend Donald Rumsfeld. The truth is a swift and terrible sword.

For some time now I've believed Rumsfeld was screwed by Bob Woodward in Woodward's book Plan of Attack. Even worse, he was screwed again when he complained about being screwed. And Woodward came out of it smelling like a rose, with the entire false premise now entering the conventional wisdom. Here's a version of it from a NY Times story yesterday about how the internet is changing journalism:

While the publication of raw material is often aimed at putting the journalist in a bad light, it can sometimes boomerang on the source. The Pentagon got into a dispute with Bob Woodward of The Washington Post in 2004 over quotations in his book "Plan of Attack" that were attributed to Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld about the invasion of Iraq. The quotations had not appeared in the Pentagon's official transcript of Mr. Woodward's interview with Mr. Rumsfeld. But they appeared in full in Mr. Woodward's transcript, and the Pentagon had to admit that it had deleted those portions from its transcript.

I'm certain the reporter, Katharine Seelye, didn't actually investigate this for herself. She just read about it somewhere, and dumped it into the NY Times. Too bad it's extremely misleading.

Here's what actually happened:

1. In Plan of Attack, Bob Woodward describes a January 11, 2003 meeting between Prince Bandar (then Saudi ambassador to the US), Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Gen. Richard Myers (then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff). On p. 265, Woodward writes that Rumsfeld told Bandar there was no question America was going to invade Iraq:

Rumsfeld looked Bandar in the eye. "You can count on this," Rumsfeld said, pointing to the map [of the invasion battleplan]. "You can take that to the bank. This is going to happen."

2. This was news when Plan of Attack came out, because it indicated the decision to go to war had been made by early January, ten weeks before the invasion. However, the Pentagon complained Rumsfeld had never said that to Bandar. As evidence, they posted a transcript of Woodward's October 23, 2003 interview with Rumsfeld. There was no sign of the supposed "take that to the bank" comment.

3. Woodward produced a section from the interview the Pentagon had deleted from the transcript. It included this:

Rumsfeld: I remember meeting with the Vice President and I think [Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] and I met with a foreign dignitary at one point and looked him in the eye and said you can count on this. In other words at some point we had had enough of a signal from the President that we were able to look a foreign dignitary in the eye and say you can take that to the bank this is going to happen.

4. The Washington Post did a victory dance. Many progressives seized upon this as evidence of Rumsfeld's preposterous dishonesty.

5. But.

If you actually read the deleted interview material, Rumsfeld explicitly says that—while he did make those remarks to a "foreign dignitary" at some time—it was not Bandar and it was later than January 11.

On the timing:

Q: Do you remember when that was [you said that to a foreign dignitary]?

Rumsfeld: I do not. But I can't tell you who it was [I said it to] but I remember it was the Vice President, Dick Myers and me.

Q: [Was] that when Myers gave the briefing to Bandar in Cheney's office because I think you were there.

Rumsfeld: When was that?

Q: I have the date -- it was in February I think or maybe it was late January.

Rumsfeld: Sounds early.

Q: Sounds early yeah. It struck me as early too and it could be later in February.

On who the dignitary was:

Rumsfeld: I can't tell you who it was [I said it to]...I mean you just said Bandar and I didn't agree with that so we're going to have to -- I don't want to say who it is but you are going to have to go through that and find a way to clean up my language too.

6. Thus, Rumsfeld was almost certainly in the right—that is, he didn't claim he made those remarks to Bandar nor that he made them early in January, 2003—and those criticizing him (in this one instance) are almost certainly in the wrong.

Rumsfeld has the right to feel aggrieved about this, particularly since these were his first words to Woodward:

I've told you before that my memory tends to go toward concepts, principles and approaches as opposed to details, so if there are factual differences at anything I say, alert us and we'll check them.

7. Ow! I am so honest that it causes me physical distress!

January 02, 2006

That's Some Nice, Grue-Heavy Writing

Roger of Limited, Inc. has this to say about the Lincoln Group, the Pentagon-beloved PR firm who paid Iraqi newspaper and TV stations to run positive stories about the war:

[The Lincoln Group is] a collection of carrion eating pinheads whose lack of conscience would embarrass a buzzard...

In the Bush culture, a scavenger is free to be all he wants to be – the sky, and the body counts, are the limit. Dig in, and while you are gobbling remember – that’s the sound of freedom you hear in the bloodscented wind!

AND: Don't miss this story about the Lincoln Group's nincompoop 30-year young Republican CEO. At first glance it seems appropriate to compare him to a jackal feeding on Iraq's carcass. However, jackals are far more appealing.

Happy C-Span New Year

I celebrated the first day of 2006 by watching Robert Dreyfuss on C-Span at 9 a.m. while slightly hungover. (Me, not Robert Dreyfuss. Although the C-Span host had clearly been drinking heavily.)

What I appreciate about C-Span is its audience. It may not be large, but the people who do watch C-Span watch it hard.

One of these audience members called in to tell Robert Dreyfuss that liberals like him (sic) have always been wrong about everything. One such liberal mentioned by the caller was Neville Chamberlain.

This is so, so true. I don't think Chamberlain's shameless liberalism can be emphasized enough. What's even worse is the way Chamberlain disguised it by being a lifelong member of Britain's Conservative Party.

ALSO: You could write a fantastic book about the way the standard pop-historical treatment of "appeasement" is completely bogus. In fact, Clement Leibovitz and Alvin Finkel already have.