March 31, 2006
You'll See It Whether You Want To Or Not
Here's a picture of George Bush appearing in his long-running one man show "Angry Drunk Dad":
Good Job, Dead White Men
I generally hate leaders with the burning intensity of a trillion leader-hating suns. However, I must acknowledge any institution's first generation of leadersÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âi.e., the leaders who actually found itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âcan surprise you.
This is the case with America. Certainly many founding fathers were just as craptastic as you'd expect. But others were, while filled with human flaws, genuinely impressive and wise.
This comes through with particularly clarity in this guest post on Glenn Greenwald's site by Hume's Ghost. Read it and you'll see these dead white men are speaking to us right here today, from BEYOND THE GRAVE.
For instance, here's James Madison in 1785:
...it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of Citizens, and one of the noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. The free men of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entagled the question in precedents.
JAMES MADISON COMEDY BONUS: "We had bad nutrition."
March 30, 2006
Uh...When Did Schools Start Tasering 14 Year-Olds?
Did you know high schools and even middle schools have started using tasers on students? I didn't.
There's a brewing controversy on this now in Wichita, Kansas, which I learned about from Jake Lowen of the excellent organization Hope Street Youth Development. Here's the timeline he sent:
February: Wichita Police introduce tasers into schools.
Early March: Students at Wichita West High School discover this and are understandably concerned. Organized by Hope Street, they gather 250 signatures on a letter to the school district asking about health effects and the district's use policy.
March 16th: A 15 year-old student is tasered during a confrontation at another high school, Wichita North. However, no one except those involved know at the time because the school district covers it up.
The next week: The tasering becomes public thanks to an anonymous tip from a teacher. The Wichita Eagle criticizes the school district for trying to hide it.
Today, March 30th: The Wichita Eagle reveals two other attempts to taser students, including a 14 year-old girl.
I'd be very curious to hear from anyone who knows anything more about schools using tasers, either where you live or elsewhere. If you're curious why this matters, you can read Amnesty International's 2004 report, documenting 114 (adult) deaths from tasers.
Front Page News Three Days Ago Already Lost In Mists Of Time
So in a speech yesterday Bush said this:
Today, some Americans ask whether removing Saddam caused the divisions and instability we're now seeing. In fact, much of the animosity and violence we now see is the legacy of Saddam Hussein. He is a tyrant who exacerbated sectarian divisions to keep himself in power.
I actually have some sympathy for this perspective. But it does contrast starkly with Bush's pre-war views, as recorded in the January 31, 2003 "White House Memo":
The memo indicates the two leaders envisioned a quick victory and a transition to a new Iraqi government that would be complicated, but manageable. Mr. Bush predicted that it was "unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups." Mr. Blair agreed with that assessment.
Again, Bush's speech was yesterday (Wednesday). This memo story was on the front page of the New York Times two days before (Monday). So...would it be too much to ask for some enterprising reporter to repeat both instances of Bush's words back to him, and politely ask when between January 31, 2003 and March 29, 2006 HE MANAGED TO FIGURE THIS OUT?
I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess: yes, it is too much to ask.
March 29, 2006
Fuck The Oil
There's a new movie being shown next month in New York called The War Tapes. It was "directed" by Deborah Scranton, who gave cameras to a New Hampshire National Guard sent to Iraq for a year starting in March, 2004, and asked them to film whatever they wanted.
Kroft: Mr. Secretary, what do you say to people who think this is about oil?
Rumsfeld: Nonsense. It just isn't. There are certain things like that, myths, that are floating around. I'm glad you asked. It has nothing to do with oil, literally nothing to do with oil.
Here's what two members of the Guard unit say in the clip:
Sgt. Zack Bazzi*: Wall? Just leave it alone and leave. Fuck the oil, man. Fuck that. It's not worth it. I'll walk everywhere in the U.S. I'll recycle everything, dammit. I'll even drive a Honda Insight. The little hybrid thingys.
Soldier (off-screen): Fuck that.
Bazzi: See, look, you're the reason we always go to war, Bauer. You with your little Ford F-1000s.
I hope Secretary Rumsfeld has since been able to straighten out these terribly misinformed soldiers.
(Note that Bazzi is misinformed about one important thing: our mideast policy doesn't have to do with access to oil, which we would have no matter who runs things. We don't have to go to war in order to buy gas. But we do have to go to war for CONTROL of oil and oil profits.)
*Based on this page about the Guard unit, I think it's Bazzi talking, but I'm not sure.
Already Leagues Ahead Of Today's Other Newborns
Congratulations to Anna and David "Hardest Working Man in Progressive Politics" Swanson on the birth this morning of their son Wesley Neil Swanson.
Incredibly enough, Wesley has already set up his own website. Like his father, he's no slacker.
I Hope You All Die a Horrible Death; Also, Please Vote for Me
So, the Israeli elections were a crushing defeat for Likud and its leader Bibi Netanyahu.
The truth is I have a soft spot for Netanyahu, because he's such a pure embodiment of the qualities found in most leaders. Specifically, he and his wife apparently hate the country they want to lead. Here she is, grousing back in 2002:
"Bibi is a leader who is greater than this entire country, he really is a leader on a national scale. We'll move abroad. This country can burn. This country can't survive without Bibi."
I've always thought that would make a great, honest campaign slogan for Netanyahu:
March 28, 2006
Philippe Sands On Hardball: There's Yet ANOTHER Memo
Philippe Sands was on Hardball last night. He's the U.K. law professor who originally broke the news on the memo recording the January 31, 2003 Bush/Blair meeting at the White House.
His book, "Lawless World," isn't available in the U.S. yet. And I was genuinely surprised when Sands said it also mentions ANOTHER memo:
...one other aspect that I've described in my book, "Lawless World" that hasn't emerged so much in "The New York Times" is another memo, which records a conversation between Colin Powell and his counterpart in the United Kingdom, Jack Straw, which makes it clear that in Colin Powell's eyes if there wasn't enough evidence for a second security council resolution, then there wasn't enough evidence to justify the U.S. going in alone.
This immediately reminded me of a story the Guardian published on May 31, 2003. The story claimed a transcript of a conversation between Colin Powell and his U.K. counterpart Jack Straw was circulating in NATO circles. Supposedly they spoke briefly before Powell's address at the U.N., and both had deep concerns about the Iraq intelligence:
Mr Powell told the foreign secretary he hoped the facts, when they came out, would not "explode in their faces."
This seems plausible on its face. Remember that Larry Wilkerson, Powell's chief aide, has said:
I recall vividly the Secretary of State walking into my office. And he said, looking out the window, just musing. He said, "I wonder what we'll do if we put half a million troops on the ground in Iraq and comb the country from one end to the other and don't find a single weapon of mass destruction."
However, right after the story came out, the Guardian issued this correction:
In our front page lead on May 31 headlined "Straw, Powell had serious doubts over their Iraqi weapons claims," we said that the foreign secretary Jack Straw and his US counterpart Colin Powell had met on February 5. Mr Straw has now made it clear that no such meeting took place. The Guardian accepts that and apologises for suggesting it did.
I've wondered ever since what was going on here. Was the transcript real, or fake? Did the Guardian ever actually see it? Why did the Guardian phrase the correction in such a peculiar way, while leaving the story on its site? Note they don't apologize for the story as a whole; just for claiming Straw "met with Powell at the Waldorf Hotel in New York shortly before Mr Powell addressed the United Nations." Does this indicate the transcript was real, but Straw met with Powell elsewhere, or at a different time, or they spoke by phone?
Now, of course, I wonder: is this what Philippe Sands was talking about yesterday? It seems plausible.
On the other hand, Powell and Straw would have been more likely to discuss a second resolution in late February or March.
In any case, this is an important subject that deserves further coverage. Certainly the memo Sands refers to should receive attention. And the origins of the Guardian story should be cleared up. If any of this is real and is ever published, it would likely be extremely unpleasant for everyone concerned.
(The entire Hardball transcript is posted below.)
HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS
March 27, 2006
MATTHEWS: As we mentioned earlier today's "New York Times" reports that a secret memo shows President Bush and Prime Minister Blair were set on an unswerving path to war, even as they publicly kept the door open to negotiations at least six weeks before the war began.
The memo is a summary of a meeting between President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, on January 31, 2003. Highlights of the memo appear in the new edition of the book "Lawless World" by Philippe Sands. This new edition is out in Great Britain, but currently not here in the U.S., as of yet.
Philippe Sands joins us now from London.
Mr. Sands, thank you for joining us. The implications of this are strong. If we were telling Saddam Hussein to lay all his weapons out, all on a lawn somewhere where we could see them before we would call off the dogs, and he didn`t have the weapons to show us, how was war to be avoided?
PHILIPPE SANDS, AUTHOR, "LAWLESS WORLD": Well, Chris, that`s a very powerful point. I think what the memo makes clear is two things. Firstly, the decision to go to war was taken by the end of January 2003, as your report said, irrespective of whether or not weapons were found.
And secondly, more significantly, I think, the report -- the memo makes clear that the president and the prime minister had no real hard evidence of their own as to weapons of mass destruction. And that`s why they began to engage in discussions as to possible ways of provoking Saddam Hussein into, for example, attacking U.S. planes painted in U.N. colors.
And all of this suggests that the actual material that the president, the prime minister had was very limited indeed.
MATTHEWS: Why do you believe Bush and Blair, based on your reporting -- why do you believe those two heads of government wished to go to war?
SANDS: Well, that is a terrific $64 million question, and here in London, there is still a great deal of puzzlement as to why the British prime minister joined in. As far as the United States is concerned, it seems clear that a decision was taken very early. Some reports suggest in the hours after 9/11. And having been in New York on 9/11, I can quite see the passions were high.
But as passions cooled and the cool light of day emerged, those feelings were promoted. And I think by March 2002, a decision had been taken probably I think to show that the U.S. was tough on terrorism, tough on the causes of terrorism. And the easiest target was Iraq, as it turned out, it was the wrong target.
MATTHEWS: Well, our president, as you may have noticed in the last week, has denied ever claiming an Iraqi participation in 9/11. Were you surprised that he is now denying that he ever implied that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11?
SANDS: Well, I mean, this is a president who seems to have a rather selective memory and a rather selective relationship with issues of competence. One of the most striking things I discovered in the memorandum was that when asked by the British prime minister what his plans were for once the real war was over, the U.S. President Mr. Bush replied, that he didn`t think there was going to be any strive, there wasn`t going to be any sort of insurgency.
So what we`re having here -- and I listened to what Scott McClellan said -- is a rewriting of history and when all of the material emerges, it will I fear not show either the U.S. president or the British prime minister in a very good light.
MATTHEWS: Well let`s talk about -- let`s do these things in order, because you`re an expert now, having written this book and updating it now with this new full look at this memorandum.
What struck me in the memorandum again today was that the vice president -- rather, the president of the United States, George W. Bush, had decided to go to war with Iraq before completing the inspections, had decided to do so before sending the Secretary of State -- and a skeptic, I must say -- Colin Powell, to the United Nations.
What is the significance of that? That he made the decision as recorded by David Manning, who was working for the prime minister at the time, before either of those events occurred, the U.N. presentation, which was apparently to sell Europe on the fact that there were weapons of mass destruction, and the completion of the weapons inspections themselves. Both were not waited for. The president decided to go to war before that and so did Tony Blair apparently.
SANDS: Well, there`s now no shred of doubt and there`s been no denial, you will have noticed, as to the contents of the memorandum, that the decision was indeed taken in January before Colin Powell went.
In fact, one other aspect that I`ve described in my book, "Lawless World" that hasn`t emerged so much in "The New York Times" is another memo, which records a conversation between Colin Powell and his counterpart in the United Kingdom, Jack Straw, which makes it clear that in Colin Powell`s eyes if there wasn`t enough evidence for a second security council resolution, then there wasn`t enough evidence to justify the U.S. going in alone.
So Colin Powell was spot on, but it seems he was overridden by a president others in the administration, who were absolutely committed to taking the United States to war, tragically in erroneous circumstances, irrespective of what the inspectors found.
MATTHEWS: The second thing you point out is that in that conversation they had in January 31, of 2003, several months before we went to Iraq, was that they had no notion whatever that there was going to be this incipient civil war we`re watching right now in Iraq. That they were -- were they told by people like, oh, who were the people over there, was it the Iraqi National Congress folk who were telling this, the neoconservatives, who was telling the president that Iraq would naturally come together as one country of after the fall of Saddam?
SANDS: Well, this is a very important question, Chris, and this goes to issues of competence and why, frankly, I think in both Britain and The United States, there needs to be a full investigation of the road to war, which has not happened.
It is not correct to say they had no notion that there wouldn`t be an insurgency and there wouldn`t be internecine strife. The memo reports the view of the president to that effect, but in fact, we know that they had received clear advice from people who know the region in the State Department, from people who know the region in the Foreign Office, in London, that precisely what has happened was going to happen.
I can direct you to reams of document in the public domain of people saying this is where it`s going to go wrong, so it`s not that the president hadn`t been advised. He had been told and he chose to override.
MATTHEWS: He may have had some help in this regard, Mr. Sands. A passage in a new book, your book is called "Lawless World." This other book by Bernard Trainor, "Cobra Two," describes a phone call from then Vice President Elect Cheney to then Defense Secretary William Cohen regarding Iraq. This phone call came soon after the debate by the Supreme Court when they gave the election to President Bush after the Florida dispute.
Here`s what Cohen received, a call from the vice president, Cheney. Here`s what he said. He said that he wanted to see one thing. He did not want to see a tour of the world or all the potential threats to our country, he wanted to get a briefing for the new president, his partner, George W. Bush, on one topic, Iraq. That`s all he wanted."
I talked to Bill Cohen a number of times on this, and he said it was breath taking. All the vice president wanted to know about, he didn`t care about the world all around the globe, the only thing he cared about was Iraq. He was already honing in on that decision in December of 2000. What does that tell you?
SANDS: Well, I think it tells us that all of this is completely consistent with the materials that emerged, the Downing Street Memo of July 2002, and now this White House meeting memo of January 2003, that an early decision was taken, and I think what it raises is fundamental questions about competence.
It raises, in my view, fundamental questions of legality, but also more importantly perhaps for the president`s purpose, incompetence. We face other threats. I`m absolutely convinced, for example, that the situation in Iran is altogether more serious than it ever was in Iraq. But what we now have is two leaders, Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair, who have effectively taken our two countries to war on a false prospectus and now have undermined the trust that is needed at a time of real threat for the United States and real threat for Britain, and that`s why I think the situation today is extremely serious.
MATTHEWS: Well, in this country, we have been given so many reasons for this war, that have turned out not to be accurate, so many prediction that have turned out to be inaccurate that we still wonder really deep down, why did this president go to war in Iraq.
We know the vice president was raring to go, we know that Wolfowitz was raring to go. We don`t know, by the way, whether Rumsfeld was even asked by the president, because I asked him once, did the president ask your opinion, and he said, funny thing, he`s never asked me whether we should go to war or not.
It`s still tricky to figure out when and why our president, much less your prime minister over there, decided to go to war, because all the reasons they have given and all the predictions they have made, have not come to anything. Anyway, thank you for very much. The book is called "Lawless World." Is it going to be on sale over here soon?
SANDS: It`s coming to the U.S. in the new additional. So, absolutely, with more material I hope.
MATTHEWS: Great. "Lawless World" by Phillipe Sands. Thank you, sir, from London.
March 27, 2006
Reading About It On The Internet
From the Malaysian Star:
WHAT books do the great minds of our time read? Do they go for big thick science books, or novels, like the rest of us?
If we go by what Dr Vinton Cerf reads, then it's a mixture of literature as well as science books.
Fondly known as the father of the Internet, Cerf is Vice-President and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google Inc and chairman of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) board...
There are about 30 books on his desk, which he has read in recent weeks. Having just finished two books on Google, he is currently reading The Beginner's Guide to Winning the Nobel Prize (Peter Doherty); A Certain Justice (P.D. James); Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (Malcolm Gladwell); Barry Trotter (Michael Gerber); A Short History of Nearly Everything (Bill Bryson); Chaos: Making a New Science (James Gleick) and Shadow of the Giant (Orson Scott Card), among other titles.
Yet More Information That Seems Damning For Bush But Actually Is Taken Competely Out Of Context
The New York Times has confirmed the so-called "White House Memo" of January 31, 2003 is genuine. The memo, first reported several months ago, records a meeting at the White House between Blair, Bush and key advisors. Among the key points:
1. Bush had decided on war no matter what, even if UNMOVIC found nothing and they failed to get a second U.N. resolution.
2. Bush suggested creating a pretext for the war by painting a U.S. spy plane in the colors of the United Nations, in hopes Iraq would try to shoot it down.
3. Bush thought it was "unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups."
So, how to deal with this embarrassing information? An unnamed "senior British official" tries this gambit:
"In all of this discussion during the run-up to the Iraq war, it is obvious that viewing a snapshot at a certain point in time gives only a partial view of the decision-making process."
Huh, that sounds familiar. Where have I heard it before? Oh, rightÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âit's exactly what Tony Blair said about the Downing Street Memo:
"The trouble with having a political discussion on the basis of things that are leaked is that they are always taken right out of context. Everything else is omitted from the discussion and you end up focusing on a specific document."
UK Defense Secretary John Reid also said this about the Downing Street Memo (via Nexis):
"You can produce one out of a thousand of memos that were flying about, which represented one person's view about one particular issue."
So now we have TWO British memos shamefully ripped out context. Or rather, eight memos ripped out of context, counting the six other documents related to the Downing Street Memo. Wait, I'm sorryÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Ânine memos, when you add in the one Paul O'Neill revealed showing the Bush administration already planning for "Post-Saddam Iraq" on January 31, 2001. Or actually, ten memos, counting the NSA memo about spying on the U.N. Well, to be fairÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âeleven memos, given the one Blair aide John Sawer wrote in May, 2003 about the lack of post-war planning.
Okay: we have eleven internal memos ripped horribly out of context. And in a bizarre coincidence, they tell exactly the same story as a gigantic amount of public information.
But that's irrelevant. What's important is we know if we had access to all the relevant government documents, they would tell a completely different story. If only Tony Blair and George Bush had the authority to declassify them!
Sadly, of course, this is impossible. Blair and Bush are completely powerless in this matter. All they can do is tell us how they would be completely vindicated if only we knew things we aren't allowed to know.
March 26, 2006
The Washington Post Is Really, Really Subtle
The Washington Post today published a brief excerpt of "The Israel Lobby," the new paper by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt that's been creating a predictable hoo-ha.
With it, the Post also published eight reactions. Of the eight, six excoriate the paper and two are positive. The two positive reactions are from Juan Cole and David Duke.
I think the Washington Post is trying to imply something here about the paper and Juan Cole, but the Post is doing it in such a subtle way I can't quite grasp it.
AND: Maybe the Post has hired some of the experts in rhetorical subtlety who wrote Powell's speech at the U.N.:
Most U.S. experts think [the 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...
BONUS: The Washington Post somehow managed not to quote this column, by Joseph Massad of Columbia:
...it is in fact the very centrality of Israel to US strategy in the Middle East that accounts, in part, for the strength of the pro-Israel lobby and not the other way around...The pro-Israel lobby could not sell its message and would not have any influence if Israel was a communist or anti-imperialist country or if Israel opposed US policy elsewhere in the world.
How I Keep Winning
I like to be skeptical of claims that reinforce my worldview. That way, if they turn out to be true, my worldview feels doubly validated...which is always pleasurable. But if they're false, I congratulate myself for having such a commitment to the truth that I'm skeptical of things that reinforce my worldview. And that's also part of my worldview. I win either way!
For instance, a while back Diane at Lawrence of Cyberia dug up this quote from Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that published the Mohammed cartoons. It's from 1938, and they're commenting on Kristallnacht:
You have to admit Germany its clear right to rid itself of its Jews. But one must insist that it happens in a decent manner.
This seemed suspiciously pat to me. It makes a certain point so perfectly I thought it couldn't be real.
To Diane's credit, however, to confirm it she went right to the source: Jyllands-Posten. And to their credit, they admitted they really wrote that.
And what does this mean for my worldview? I'll tell you what it means:
Victory! Victory! Victory!
In order to keep my decades-long winning streak alive, however, I have to be skeptical of these purported Hitler quotes. I welcome any information on their accuracy, because any outcome will be a part of my ongoing triumph.
March 24, 2006
No One Spams This Site Better Than Me
If you ever try to post a comment here and it gets "held for moderation," please don't be offended. I'm not trying to censor anyone.* It's just my blarf software, which sometimes grabs things according to its own mysterious criteria in an attempt to prevent spam. Just wait and eventually I'll see and post it.
I bring all this up because the site just held one of my comments. Irritating, but also an admirable show of even-handedness.
*Except for Kathy Lee Gifford, who leaves at least 40 profanity-heavy comments a day. Kathy and I have a complicated history.
Oh, If Only The U.S. Media Had The Ability To Read Books
I finally read The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House and the Education of Paul O'Neill by Ron Suskind. As you may remember, it came out two years ago. Let no one say I'm a slave to the news cycle.
It turns out to be an amazing book, far better than the standard political crap clogging our nation's reading arteries. And while it got a lot of attention when it was published, there were still sections that surprised me.
For instance, here's an account of a May 16, 2001 National Security Council meeting on the Mideast. Among the attendees were Bush, Rumsfeld, Powell, O'Neill and George Tenet:
...Tenet gave his report on intelligence—it was still only speculation, he told Bush, whether Hussein had weapons of mass destruction or was starting any weapons-building programs.
...there was little to tell or hear. O'Neill had reviewed a pile of CIA intelligence dossiers prior to this meeting. "Everything Tenet sent up to Bush and Cheney about Iraq was very judicious and precisely qualified. The President was clearly very interested in weapons or weapons programs—and frustrated about our weak intelligence capacity—but Tenet was clearly being careful to say here's the little that we know and the great deal that we don't. That wouldn't change," O'Neill recalled, "and I read those CIA reports for two years." [emphasis in original]
This seems important, wouldn't you think? And when The Price of Loyalty was published, many accounts mentioned O'Neill's skepticism about WMD intelligence. But this is the most critical section of the book on this issue, and using Google and Nexis I can find barely any references to it. The exceptions are:
Was this somehow enough to get the attention of everyone except for me? Or did it really drop through the cracks?
March 23, 2006
Fascinating New Information For Everyone Inside My Head
Here's something that will certainly be of keen interest for every person reading this who is me: according to a recent interview with John Flansburgh, the Firesign Theatre was a key influence on They Might Be Giants. I'd never heard this before.
The Firesign Theatre, for those who unfamiliar with them, was arguably America's Monty Python. Except they almost exclusively did records instead of TV, and their material is much less accessible. I wrote my college thesis on them (at Stutts!), and it may be you can only really enjoy them if you are forced to produce a fifty-page paper examining their work in minute detail. But if you do, you might agree with the Rev. Ivan Stang that they are the "greatest mutant artists since Shakespeare."
You've Got To Feel Bad For Dennis Perrin
I don't have any feelings about Christopher Hitchens as an individual. I just pay attention because he's COMEDY GOLD.
Unfortunately for Dennis Perrin, however, he once was good friends with Hitchens. Burdened as Dennis is with human sympathy, he can't observe Hitchens' obsessive self-degredation with the same unseemly glee as me.
Hitchens has actually gotten worse. You can decide for yourself, presuming you wish to waste time on his fantasy musings, but allow me to highlight one consistent falsehood that I thought Hitchens had been shamed into abandoning, though clearly not. In fact, he leads the piece with it:Up until now, I have resisted all urges to assume the mantle of generalship and to describe how I personally would have waged a campaign to liberate Iraq. I became involved in this argument before the Bush administration had been elected, and for me it always was (and still is) a matter of solidarity with the democratic forces in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan and of the need for the United States to change its policy and be on their side.
The segment in bold is a bald-faced lie, as I've pointed out before. Again, Hitchens did not come out in favor of "regime change" in Iraq in 1991, 1993 or in 2001. He waited till the last possible second, when his Beltway sources told him in 2002 that the invasion was greenlighted and would be unleashed no matter what. That's when he jumped on-board, and even then he had, in his words to me, "about a zillion" concerns about Bush's ultimate intentions. Once he got past those (which took about five minutes), he fully became the pathetic warmonger who now shouts and belches before us.
And there's more. Poor Dennis.
March 21, 2006
I WENT TO STUTTS!!!
I've placed a small picture at left, just so there are no misunderstandings in the future. Misunderstandings about the fact that I went to Stutts.
UPDATE: Apparently there's a new book about Stutts called Freshman by some writer named Michael Graber (?). I don't know anything about it, but it sounds ridiculous. I strongly urge you not to buy it.
In any case, none of this should take away from the important point, which is that I went to Stutts University.
Dear Leaders: Please Stop Liberating Us So Hard
Foreign Affairs recently published a long article by U.S. military analysts about how things looked from the inside of Saddam's regime. It's based on Iraqi archives and interviews with government officials.
My favorite part is thisÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âa quote from an internal government document written by an Iraqi general in the mid-nineties:
"After the liberation of our land in Kuwait, and despite the fact that more than 30 countries headed by the occupation forces of the U.S. rushed madly upon our Republican Guard, our performance was heroic."
You might think powerful people only lie in public, and are brutally honest with each other in private. Nope! In private they lie just as much to each other and themselves. If the archives of the Bush administration are ever opened up, I guarantee it will be full of ernest professions of their desire to liberate Iraq.
People, particularly people who are violent idiots, usually have no idea why they do things. They can't face their actual motivations, and so believe the craziest things about themselves.
March 20, 2006
We Are Not Just Being Redundant; We Are Also Repeating Ourselves
Here's something Donald Rumsfeld wrote for the Washington Post on the 3rd anniversary of our invasion of Iraq:
...history is not made up of daily headlines, blogs on Web sites or the latest sensational attack.
I understand Rumsfeld edited "blogs on Web sites" down from the original "e-blogs on internet Web sites online."
March 19, 2006
Let's Try That Again
This time, with a website that works.
UPDATE: I hesitate to say this, given my recent experience, but I think everything's back to normal.
Of course, now that I have a MacBook Pro, "normal" includes a lidless eye, wreathed in flame, staring at me from just above the computer's screen.
UPDATED UPDATE: Soon after I wrote the update above, the site disappeared again.
I don't think it's an exaggeration to say I am living in a totalitarian nightmare exactly like that of 1984.
I Consider You To Be An Enabler
First my computer brokeÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âbroke so severely that fixing it would apparently cost as much as buying ten new computers. Then, after I bought (one) new computer, I learned I'd somehow forbidden myself from logging onto this site's blurffing software.
I was finally able to fix this via extreme sneakiness. But the point is, I've been staring desperately at this site for the past five days, like a man dying of thirst staring at a gallon of Evian just out of reach. Or perhaps more accurately, like a mouse addicted to crack staring at a pile of unavailable crack.
March 14, 2006
An Army Of One. One Marionette.
I just rented Team America: World Police from Blockbuster. Inside the DVD case was the below mail-in card.
There are many things you could say about this. First of all, as Mike points out, it says something about the movie. Generally speaking, mankind's great works of satire haven't been packaged together with ads for the country of origin's armed forces.
You'd also think the government would steer clear of movies where the military characters are, literally, puppets. But apparently not.
Live the adventure! The adventure of dancing on strings controlled by others far above you!
March 13, 2006
Why Doesn't Anyone Ever Look At It From The Minefield's Point Of View?
Generally when people step on mines, their first concern is for themselves. Oh boo hoo, they say, I've been grievously wounded and am going to die of blood loss.
What's always forgotten in all this is the suffering of the minefield.
Fortunately, that's changing now that the folks at DARPA (the Pentagon's famous Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) have come up with the concept of the "self-healing minefield." The language, of course, implies that when someone steps on a mine, the party hurt in the transaction is the minefield.
I think I speak for all Americans when I say it's critical we have our best scientific minds working on exactly this kind of problem, from exactly this perspective. Next up: psychologists who help nuclear weapons get over their traumatic childhoods.
(News thanks to Scotto posting at Saheli's site.)
When thinking of Tom Fox over the weekend, I was reminded of something actor and improv guru Ali Farahnakian says in his one man show "Word of Mouth":
If when you die, the cause isn't assassination, you're not taking enough chances.*
The more you think about it, the more you realize how genuinely wise this is.
* Paraphrased because I don't remember his exact words.
March 12, 2006
Libby To Receive Valuable Advice On Gutting And Eating Dogs
Recently I wondered what exactly Fred Malek is doing on Scooter Libby's "Advisory Committee." Why would Libby want someone notorious for carrying out some of the Nixon administration's most heinous activities (including Jew counting, ordering FBI investigations of journalists, and being chief architect of the highly illegal "responsiveness program")?
Now the answer is clear -- while Malek did do those unpleasant things, they are outweighed by his positive attributes; specifically, his experience in killing, gutting, and eating dogs:
On a Friday in August 1959, five men in their twenties were arrested about 2 a.m...
After checking the blood-spattered pants of one of the men at the state crime laboratory in Springfield, it was determined that the stains were animal and not human blood. [Sherriff Harry] Backes said the men then changed their story and said they had "caught a dog and were barbecuing it."
Police then found the skinned animal on a spit in the park. The insides of the dog had been removed, and a bottle of liquor was found on a nearby park table. Backes said the men told him they had been drinking earlier in the evening at a West Bluff tavern.
One of the men arrested in the incident, in which a dog was killed, skinned, gutted and barbecued on a spit, was Frederick V. Malek, 22, of Berwyn, Ill.
You can understand why Libby would spot this on Malek's resume and think: I want this guy on my team! If I understand the issue correctly, psychologists believe there's a high correlation between torturing animals and later defending unjustly persecuted government officials.
That's right, isn't it? I think the classic example is Jeffrey Dahmer.
ALSO: I'm pleased to see Malek's present day explanation --
...I spoke with Malek by phone yesterday. He said he and O'Meara went to Peoria in the summer of '59 to visit friends at Bradley University. They got drunk out of their minds at the time. He said he didn't know why O'Meara had killed the dog, that he was not a participant and that he was in no position to stop it.
-- tracks very closely with Stephen Colbert's account of why he killed and ate a panda:
In my own defense, Jon, it was dark, I was drunk, and it was delicious.
March 11, 2006
Rush Limbaugh Comments On Golgotha
If I were as spiritually evolved as Tom Fox, I wouldn't make this obvious "joke." But I can't help myself.
(Limbaugh actually said this about the kidnapping of the Christian Peacemaker Team members on November 29, 2005.)
As you probably know, Tom Fox, one of the four kidnapped members of the Christian Peacemaker Team delegation in Iraq, has been found dead. Zeynep has his last email, written the day before his abduction. In it he tries to answer the question, "Why are we here?"
March 10, 2006
This Site Now Officially A Success
Yahoo is still a problem, but we will deal with them at a time and place of our choosing.
UPDATE: Overnight we've dropped to #3 at Google. Ahhhhhh! Oh, sweet, fleeting glory. There's always someone younger and prettier and obscenier.
March 09, 2006
Impressive Success For Israel's Violent Morons
As I've mentioned recently, I'm a connoisseur of humanity's violent morons, especially one particular maneuver of theirs: implying that their own domestic "enemies" are somehow in league with their country's foreign "enemies." The best part about this is that idiots have been doing this for 15,000 years, yet each new crop of cretins proudly presents it as their own, clever invention.
Recently, though, I'd been growing concerned. Iraq's violent morons have been doing a fantastic job at this, as have America's and England's. But what about Israel's hate-filled nitwits? Have they been letting down their allies in the League Of International Imbeciles?
Just today, Haaretz reported this:
[Israel's Acting Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert strongly criticized Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that he had not learned any lessons from the atmosphere of incitement that preceded the assassination of then prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Olmert's statements followed the publication of an image on Likud's unofficial Website in which the acting prime minister appeared wearing a green cap with the Hamas logo on it. "I thought he would have learned the lesson," Olmert said.
So, kudos to Israel's bloodthirsty nincompoops. Working together with their compatriots overseas, they're making the world the hideous nightmare we've always hoped it could be.
P.S. I can't find this cartoon, but you have any idea where it is, I'd love to add it to my small, private museum of human depravity.
March 08, 2006
This Joke Never Gets Old
Here's Rumsfeld yesterday:
Nearly 56 years ago, in 1950, the Truman administration issued what would become a framework for America's Cold War strategy for four decades. In a formerly classified document called NSC 68, the Truman administration said, quote, "Our fundamental purpose is more likely to be defeated from lack of will to maintain it than from any mistakes we may make or assault we may undergo because of asserting that will," unquote. Today our nation is again in a long struggle. And again, the toughest challenge will be to maintain our national will to persevere and to prevail.
As I've said before, it's always a good sign when politicians start talking about the importance of national "will." If, as Rumsfeld says, we persevere and prevail, well, what I can say? It would be a real triumph.
Maybe a talented female director could even make a black and white documentary about this triumph. The tricky part would be coming up with the right title.
The Biggest Problem We've Got Is People Don't Study Imaginary History
Here's Donald Rumsfeld being interviewed last Friday:
PLUM TV: [How] are people going to change the way they're thinking about this war, and to change the public perception?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I think the biggest problem we've got in the country is people don't study history any more. People who go to school in high schools and colleges, they tend to study current events and call it history.
There's never been a popular war...Franklin Roosevelt was one of the most hated people in the country and he was President of the United States. He was Commander in Chief. He did a terrific job.
So, during World War II, "Franklin Roosevelt was one of the most hated people in the country"?
Maybe some history would come in handy here.
(Source: Roper Center for Public Opinion Research)
As you can see, Roosevelt's lowest approval rating during World War II was 66%. Moreover, before the war his approval rating was generally lower than that, ranging from 55-65%.
The interesting thing is, I doubt Rumsfeld was simply lying. FDR was deeply hatedÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âby people like Donald Rumsfeld. CEO types were constantly fulminating about FDR's traitorous ways, and in fact some of them attempted to stage a coup to overthrow him in 1934.
Thus, Rumsfeld probably has spent his entire life around people who loathed FDR, and so assumes normal people did too. Since this belief fits in nicely with a self-justifying story line, he'll never bother to find out whether it's true.
The funny thing is, I think Rumsfeld's right that people should study more history. Where Don and I part ways is that I think we should study history that actually happened.
UPDATE: The Rumsfeld interview has disappeared from the Defense Department website. It's no longer listed as a recent transcript, and while there's still an html page at the original link, it's completely blank.
I guess that, while it's a good thing for people to learn history, there's no reason to make it easy for them.
March 06, 2006
The Worst Part About Their Culture Is They Don't Understand Irony
Here's an article in Time describing the leader of Iran:
In a few months he had the whole world hanging on his words and deeds, his jokes, his tears, his tantrums. Behind his grotesque antics lay great issues of peace or war, which would affect many lands far beyond his mountains...
He increased the danger of a general war among nations, impoverished his country and brought it and some neighboring lands to the very brink of disaster...
In his plaintive, singsong voice he gabbled a defiant challenge that sprang out of a hatred and envy almost incomprehensible to the West...
It sounds like they're talking about Ahmadinejad, doesn't it? Except that's from a 1951 Time profile of Mohammad Mosadegh. It really is strange how all Iranian leaders (except the shah) have essentially been demented, dangerous children.
I wonder why that is? Maybe it's due to their ignorant, insular, primitive culture.
Now The Complicated Shoe Is On The Other Complicated Foot
As nobody remembers, Gorbachev made noises about withdrawing Soviet troops from Afghanistan for some time before it actually happened in 1988-9. Part II of the BBC documentary The Power of Nightmares includes a later interview with him, in which he sounds very much like a U.S. politician circa 2006:
GORBACHEV: We had to finish this war. But in a way so the Russian people would understand why tens of thousands had died. We couldn't just run away from there in shame. No. We needed to find a process.
What's hilariousÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âto the degree things involving massive bloodshed can be hilariousÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âis the subsequent footage from 1987 of Richard Perle dismissing all this "process" nonsense:
RICHARD PERLE: It's not very complicated. They arrived in a matter of days on Christmas Eve in 1979. They could be home by Christmas Eve if they decided to leave Afghanistan and let the Afghans decide their own future.
You might ask: why isn't the same thing true for the U.S. in Iraq? The answer is simple: the ground in Iraq is very, very sticky. We'd need massive amounts of acetone even to CONSIDER a withdrawal.
March 05, 2006
Foo Takes Care Not To Outshine His Boss Intellectually
We learned the hard way that it's important to keep electrical cords away from rabbits. Late one evening we were relaxing and watching TV. All of a sudden we heard a zap!, saw a puff of smoke, a bunny flying backwards, and then the lamp went out. I quickly rushed over to find a dazed Foo and a chewed up lamp cord. Thankfully Foo did not appear to suffer any permanent damage. The only sign of his trauma was a black singe mark across his two upper teeth. After inspecting Foo, and unplugging the lamp, I let Foo down to be on his way. Can you believe the first thing he did was to go back over to the unplugged lamp and start chewing on the cord again?
I understand Foo is now on John Bolton's staff, coordinating U.S. policy toward Iran.
March 04, 2006
Another Redundant Reconfirmation, Again
This is from a recent article in the New Yorker by Connie Bruck called "Exiles" (not online):
James Dobbins, the Bush Administration's special envoy for Afghanistan, told me that in the prewar planning for Iraq "there was an intention that the U.S. would retain troops in IraqÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Ânot for Iraq stabilization, because that was thought not to be needed, but for coercive diplomacy in the region. Meaning Iran and Syria."
Huh. Let's climb the 5,000 mile tall ladder to the top of the evidence pile and drop that on top.
Here's George Bush less than four weeks before the war began, on February 26, 2003:
...we will remain in Iraq as long as necessary, and not a day more.
George Bush, less than three weeks before, March 6, 2003:
Should we have to go in, our mission is very clear: disarmament... And our mission won't change. Our mission is precisely what I just stated.
All Thanks To Increased Funding For The U.S. Department Of Kafka-esque Cruelty
Via Zeynep, here's more important information about our overwhelming love and concern for the Iraqi people:
Two Iraqi women whose husbands and children were killed by US troops during the Iraq war have been refused entry into the United States for a speaking tour. The women were invited to the US for peace events surrounding international womenÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s by the human rights group Global Exchange and the womenÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s peace group CODEPINK.
In a piece of painful irony, the reason given for the rejection was that the women donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t have enough family in Iraq to prove that theyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ll return to the country.
March 03, 2006
As Tolstoy Said, All Violent Morons Are Alike
What irks me about humanity's violent morons isn't just their violence and moroness. It's that they're all so UNCREATIVE. As far as I can tell, they haven't come up with a new idea since 15,000 B.C.
And worst of all, they aren't aware of this. So whenever they trundle out the latest manifestation of their thimble-brained hate, they're sure they've come up with a stunningly witty new jape.
For instance: a while back an Iraqi group calling itself the Jihadist Martyrs Brigade bombed the Baghdad office of the satellite network Al Arabiya. According to the New York Times, they also sent out dispatches saying "that [Al Arabiya's] name, which means 'the Arab,' should be changed to 'the Hebrew.'"
Haw haw haw! Can you believe it? They came up with concept of associating their "enemies" WITHIN THEIR COUNTRY with their "enemies" OUTSIDE THEIR COUNTRY!
That's never been done before in human history! Except for the 17 billion times it HAS been done!
Meanwhile on "our" "side," an English website calling itself "Drinking from Home" has boldly laid its own claim to membership in the International Brotherhood of Cretins:
That's really my quarrel with these people. It's not just that they're going to kill us all; it's that they're going to do it with the intellectual panache of a retarded baboon.
March 02, 2006
Can You Call It "Victor's Justice" If We Haven't Actually Won?
I've been reading a book from 1986 called Sacred Rage: The Wrath of Militant Islam. It's by Robin Wright, who now works for the Washington Post and is one of the better reporters on the Middle East. Here's an excerpt:
After the 1979 Iranian revolution, the Middle East had begun witnessing a virulent new strain of terrorism that spread like an infectious virus...
The early targets were not Western. Many incidents were spectacular and well publicized: the 1981 plot to overthrow the government of Bahrain and install an Islamic republic; sabotage and assassination attempts over an extended period against the President of Iraq; the 1979 seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, and uprisings that year and the next in the oil fields of Saudi Arabia; the assassination Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981.
Did you notice that sentence in the middle? Let's look at it again:
...sabotage and assassination attempts over an extended period against the President of Iraq
I hope you did, because we've put Saddam Hussein on trail and will almost certainly execute him for his response to this "virulent terrorism"—specifically, ordering the executions of 148 people after a 1982 assassination attempt against him in the Iraqi town of Dujail.
And Sacred Rage is par for the course. From 1982-90, the New York Times mentioned Dujail exactly zero times, while very occasionally saying things like "[Saddam] has survived a number of assassination attempts." (Don't even ask about U.S. television.)
By contrast, Nexis shows 386 references to Dujail on TV and radio since we invaded Iraq. Paula Zahn did a long segment on one witness.
BEFORE SADDAM DISOBEYS ORDERS: Not only does the U.S. media maintain total silence about Saddam's ghastly deeds in Dujail, on occasion they actually adopt his perspective—i.e., that he's dealing with "virulent terrorism."
AFTER SADDAM DISOBEYS ORDERS: Great wailing and gnashing of teeth about his hideous crimes in Dujail, filled with details about the suffering of people whose lives (all of a sudden) have some value.
You can understand why Saddam may be a little bitter about this.
SPECIAL HISTORY BONUS: There once was a similar sitution in the Soviet Union—a purported plot against Stalin by high ranking military leaders seeking to kill him and make an alliance with Germany. Stalin had 4,000 officers liquidated.
Here's what Winston Churchill later said, while Russia was Britain's ally: "Stalin was thoroughly justified. These officers were acting against their country."
Paula Zahn has yet to comment.
I'm Appalled By The Corruption Within The Mayor McCheese Administration
Did you know that part of the Bill of Particulars in the articles of impeachment passed against Nixon had to do with McDonald's Quarterpounder Cheeseburgers? I sure didn't:
21. Bribery, Fraud. Solicited and obtained for the reelection campaign of President Nixon, in June, July and August, 1972, from Ray A. Kroc, Chairman of the Board of McDonald's, Inc., contributions of $200,000, in exchange for permission from the Price Commission, first denied on May 21, 1972, then granted on September 8, 1972, to raise the price of the McDonald's quarterpounder cheeseburger, in violation of article II, section 4 of the Constitution and Section 201, 372, 872 and 1505 of the Criminal Code.
As Mike says, it's like there's a conspiracy to make people think history's boring.
March 01, 2006
The Pentagon Archipelago
Please read this by Chris Floyd. It's about an excerpt from a new book by Moazzam Begg, a British citizen who was imprisoned for three years in Afghanistan and Guantanamo:
When I read the passage below from Moazzam Begg's account of his years in Bush's Terror War prisons, I had a strange feeling of dislocation: it was as if 30 years had suddenly fallen away and I was back in high school, reading Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago in stunned disbelief at the hideous cruelty inflicted on the prisoners -- deliberately, as a carefully calculated instrument of state policy. And all of it done in the name of national security, of course, to protect the nation against "terrorists" and "traitors."
Floyd of course doesn't claim we're as bad as Stalin's Russia, but instead that we've got to stop ourselves before we take any more steps on this path:
It's no longer a matter of what crimes Americans will swallow; now the great question of the day is: what won't they swallow? They've walked this far down the road of darkness -- how much farther will they go? Will we one day need a Solzhenitsyn to catalogue our shame, our cruelty and our cowardice?
After you've read Floyd's take, the Guardian also has an article about Moazzam Begg. And then there's Begg's account itself. Here's what he writes about the mindset of his interrogators, who'd convinced themselves he was a terrorist mastermind:
It would have been funny if it hadn't been so terrifying, being in the power of these people who actually believed their own fantasies.
Begg learned about it in a particularly concrete way, but that one sentence sums up life on earth today for everyone. I may have to make it the motto of this website.
My Slaves LOVE Me
Zach Iscol, Phillips Exeter and Cornell graduate and now in the Marines Special Forces, has this to say about his two tours in Iraq:
As a Marine Infantry Officer, on long patrols through the dusty cityscapes and rural farm areas of Iraq's Al Anbar province, I would often halt my patrol to speak with locals. I'd ask them, "Wayne Mujahadeen?" Or where are the holy-warriors, the term used to describe terrorists and the like. Whether talking to a merchantman or farmer on these patrols or even in meetings with city council member of local Sheiks, the answer I would most often get is, "La Mujahadeem, Whoa Munafakeen!" Which translates to, "They are not holy warriors, they are hypocrites."
Thank god we have people in Iraq with Mr. Iscol's insight into human nature! As he implies, when you're heavily armed and hold the power of life and death over people, they're always completely honest with you. If they have some quarrel with anything you've done, they'll tell you, straight up.
It's like when I owned 400 slaves in antebellum Virginia. Whenever I rode out on the grounds of my plantation, surrounded by my overseers bristling with whips and rifles, my slaves were always so happy! It did my heart good to hear them say how much they loved me. Back in the Big House I'd sometimes get worried they sympathized with Nat Turner, but when I asked they always told me they hated him. That was a real relief.
Like Mr. Iscol, I strove to keep an "optimistic outlook." I think history has shown how right I was. And history will soon do the same for him.
Hell In A Handbasket
I've stuck a little picture at left of Tom Tomorrow's new book Hell in a Handbasket. I encourage you to pre-order it today, or if possible yesterday. The picture links to its Amazon page, although the decent people among you can also get it via the Powell's union site.
FULL DISCLOSURE: If you buy it through this either of these links, $0.00 goes to support this site.