April 30, 2006

My Hobbies Include Knitting And Writing Presidential Signing Statements

Read the new Boston Globe story about the 750 presidential "signing statements" Bush has issued while in office. Signing statements are assertions by a president that he doesn't have to obey laws passed by Congress. Among the laws Bush says he can ignore are:

• a ban on US "advisory" troops in Colombia engaging in combat
• requirements that he tell Congress before diverting appropriated money to other, secret uses
• protections for federal whistleblowers
• ...and much, much more!

But the best part of the article is this defense of Bush:

Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law School professor who until last year oversaw the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel for the administration, said the statements do not change the law; they just let people know how the president is interpreting it.

''Nobody reads them," said Goldsmith. ''They have no significance. Nothing in the world changes by the publication of a signing statement..."

Uh huh.

"You have to understand," Goldsmith continued, "the reason we did this 750 times is precisely because it has no significance whatsoever. It says that right in the job description: 'Extremely high-powered lawyers needed to sacrifice years out of their careers in order to engage in completely pointless activity.' While I was at the Justice Department, my other duties included building elaborate sand castles and 'noodling.'"

RIP, Funny Economist

Katrina vanden Heuvel has written a nice post about John Kenneth Galbraith, who died last night at 97.

I like to refer to Galbraith as history's funniest economist. Of course, that's like calling him the tallest mountain in Iowa. But he was still pretty funny. I laugh whenever I think of the title of his book Money: Whence it Came, Where it Went.

And beyond the funny title, Money is extremely informative and well-written. There are a few excerpts online here.

UPDATE: Roger at Limited, Inc. has worthwhile thoughts about Galbraith here.

April 29, 2006

Please Help Me Determine Which Of Us Is Insane

According to Raw Story, Frank Rich interviewed former CIA executive Tyler Drumheller for a column that will be in the New York Times tomorrow. As you hopefully recall, Drumheller was on 60 Minutes last Sunday to criticize the Bush administration for ignoring indications Iraq had no WMD programs.

So, that's nice enough. But. Here's some of what Drumheller apparently told Rich:

"The real tragedy of this," Drumheller says, "is if they had let the weapons inspectors play out, we could have had a Gulf War I-like coalition, which would have given us the 300,000 to 400,000 troops needed to secure the country after defeating the Iraqi army."

This is essentially the view expressed by Bill Clinton back in 2004:

"I have repeatedly defended President Bush against the left on Iraq, even though I think he should have waited until the U.N. inspections were over," the former president said. "I would not have done it until after [former U.N. chief weapons inspector] Hans Blix finished his job."

The flaw in this reasoning, of course, is that it is completely insane. Both Drumheller and Clinton seem to have missed the fact that Iraq HAD NO BANNED WEAPONS. Thus, allowing the inspections to continue would have garnered us not more support from other countries, but even less.

Unless...unless I am the one who's completely insane. Perhaps I've imagined the 200,000 news stories about Iraq's lack of WMD. Perhaps I wrote the Duelfer report while asleep, then (also while sleeping) procured the domain cia.gov, and posted it there...so my waking self could download and read it, never realizing what my sleeping self was up to. Perhaps it was like sleep walking, except it was sleep-government-report-writing. The first rule of Duelfer Report Club is, don't talk about Duelfer Report Club.

I'm not dogmatic about which of these things is true. Please help me out here.

(It's also possible I'm being unfair to Clinton. As Adam Kotsko says: "Well, maybe he doesn't realize that there were no weapons. I can see not reading the newspaper as closely after eight stressful years as president.")

April 28, 2006

2.5 Billion Impeachable Offenses

The Congressional Research Service has issued a report on U.S. spending on the Iraq, saying it will soon reach $320 billion. As a Washington Post story notes, this includes "$2.5 billion diverted from other spending authorizations in 2001 and 2002 to prepare for the invasion."

$2.5 billion. That's even more than the $700 million Bob Woodward reported in Plan of Attack:

On July 17 [2002], [Tommy] Franks updated Rumfeld on the preparatory tasks in the region. He carefully listed the cost of each and the risk to the mission if they didn't proceed along the timeline which set completion by December 1. Total cost: about $700 million.

The big-muscle movement was for airfields and fuel infrastructure in Kuwait where a massive covert public works program had already been launched...

Some of the funding would come from the supplemental appropriations bill then being worked out in Congress for the Afghanistan war and the general war on terrorism. The rest would come from old appropriations.

By the end of July, Bush had approved some 30 projects that would eventually cost $700 million. He discussed it with Nicholas E. Calio, the head of White House congressional relations. Congress, which is supposed to control the purse strings, had no real knowledge or involvement, had not even been notified that the Pentagon wanted to reprogram money.

Now, here's Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution:

No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.

So, back in olden times when we still cared what the Constitution said, Bush could clearly be impeached for this. Thank goodness those days are behind us. Kudos also to the Washington Post for demonstrating this by putting it in the second-to-last paragraph in an A16 story.

BONUS: Bush administration lawyers like John Yoo argue that the president can wage wars at his own discretion, despite the plain language in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution giving Congress the power to "declare war." Yoo makes this claim:

Congress could express its opposition to executive war decisions only by exercising its powers over funding and impeachment.

But it turns out Congress doesn't even control the funding of war. So you heard it from John Yoo himself: the only way to stop the war is by impeaching Bush.

On The Third Anniversary, You Traditionally Give Gifts Made Of Depleted Uranium

After Downing Street has some suggestions about how to celebrate the May 1st third anniversary of Mission Accomplished Day. I particularly enjoyed this Young Turks video.

Everyday Magic

Dennis Perrin explains here how AP used one sentence to make 200,000 bodies disappear.

April 26, 2006

You Better Not Disagree With This, YOU NAZI

Since I just pointed out that everyone is Hitler, I should add that I actually don't have any problem with Nazi comparisons per se. In fact, they sometimes can be useful.

My perspective is that human nature always remains the same. Extreme human behavior occurs when human traits that are always there—at all times, in every society and every person—become expressed in an extreme way.

Thus, the Nazis were not aliens. Terrifyingly enough, they were people not all that different from us. There is a tiny little Nazi inside both you and me.

But these dangerous human tendencies are often difficult to perceive in their less virulent forms. Thus, it's easiest to understand them by looking at extreme cases like the Nazis.

For instance, the Nazi genocide had a particular theme, which was: we have an enemy within our nation, which is allied with our powerful enemies outside our nation. Therefore, we must strike at our internal enemy before they destroy us!

Indeed, this is the theme in all genocides of which I'm aware. It was the case with the Armenian genocide, in which the Armenians of Turkey were purportedly working with Russia to destroy the Ottoman Empire. It was the case with the Cambodian genocide, in which internal class traitors were working with the Western imperialist running dogs. It was the case with the Kurdish genocide, where the filthy traitorous Kurds were working with their dirty allies the Persians to destroy the Iraqi nation. And while I don't know anything about the Rwandan genocide, I'd bet a lot of money that was the story there too.

That's the context in which we should understand things like this famous September 16, 2001 statement by Andrew Sullivan:

The middle part of the country--the great red zone that voted for Bush--is clearly ready for war. The decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead--and may well mount a fifth column.

It's not right, obviously, to say Andrew Sullivan is a Nazi. However, it's completely legitimate to point out he was playing a jazzy improvisation on Nazi, Turkish, Khmer Rouge and Baathist themes.

Moreover, it's important to point this out. Nazi Germany wasn't a delightful law abiding republic one day and the nightmarish symbol of all human evil the next. Its transformation was a gradual process...a gradual process which started with statements like those of Sullivan.

Now to be fair, those first dangerous seeds were planted in a society that was (hopefully) much more fertile soil than the U.S. today. Still, it really is worthwhile to push to make statements like Sullivan's beyond the pale. If bringing up the Nazis helps do that, it's fine with me. It's much better to bring them up before rather than after the construction of the death camps.

(For an example of what I'm talking about, see here.)

"A Tiny Revolution: Your Source for Careful, Legitimate Nazi Analogies Since 2004"

April 25, 2006

The Stutts Deed

Mike Gerber has more important news about Stutts University:

The New York Times' recent report on student sex magazines, somehow neglected to mention the granddaddy of them all, The Deed, published by students at world-famous Stutts University. Started in 1969 as an underground comic, The Deed has been many things in its long life, including "a radical journal of Wymmyn's Liberation" and "The Thinking Person's Guide to Self Love". Recently resurrected after a long hiatus, The Deed's latest incarnation contains windy, repurposed essays from Gender Studies class, sex tips from relatively inexperienced people, and wildly fraudulent surveys of student sexual behavior. But most students read it for one thing: murky photos of somewhat naked people they think they might know.

...But if today's Stutts is so permissive, why aren't students simply enjoying themselves by meeting someone nice and HAVING lots of sex? Why in God's name are they publishing a magazine about it? "When you think about it, it's a no-brainer," said Karen Ruger, Stutts' Dean of Student Affairs. "A Stutts student is much more interested in creating something that may make them rich--or at least get them into The New York Times--than actually connecting with another human being. Where's the percentage in that? It seems very hippie-ish and stupid to them."

The rest is here.

Also, don't miss the chance to check out the Stutts website. Or at least, one of the Stutts websites. There's another, but we don't allow members of the general public like yourself to access it.

April 24, 2006

Hu At Stutts

As you may have heard, China's President Hu visited my truly extraordinarily incredibly prestigious alma mater, Stutts University, on his recent trip to the U.S. Mike Gerber has the details:

As was widely reported, Chinese President Hu Jintao ended his American visit with a trip to Stutts University. The stay, which was meant to last only a day, ended up stretching through most of the weekend, after the President and his delegation were charmed by a playful re-enactment of the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising courtesy of The Cuckoo, Stutts' student humor magazine.

"Everybody was making such a big deal over it, we naturally wondered what would be the most irresponsible thing possible," Peter Armbruster '08 said. Acting quickly, the rascals decided to re-enact the famous photograph of the man standing in front of the tank--only reversed. In the Cuckoo's version, a normal-sized human (Editor Hart Fox '08) stood in front of a small, remote-controlled tank operated by Armbruster.

The Cuckoo failed utterly in its goal of offending people; most passerby on the New Quad either didn't notice or, getting the reference, laughed. The person who laughed the hardest was, surprisingly, President Hu--who broke away from his security detail and introduced himself to the amazed pranksters.

"He came up to me with a real pissed-off look on his face and said something like, 'You guys are the assholes,'" Armbruster said. "I was just about to apologize, when he broke out laughing."

"The President kept asking, 'Did I get you? Did I get you?'" Fox added. "I finally said, 'President Hu, do you see the peestain on my pants? Yes, you freakin' got us.'"

The rest is here.

Let's Just Stipulate That Everyone Is Hitler

As we know, Iranian President Ahmadinejad is a potential Adolf Hitler. Saddam Hussein obviously was worse than Hitler. Al-Zarqawi is like Hitler in his bunker. And Hugo Chavez is acting just as Adolf Hitler did.

Yasser Arafat, of course, was the Arab Hitler. Back in 1989, Manuel Noriega's actions were just like Hitler's invasion of Poland. Even earlier, Egypt's Nasser was a miniature Hitler.

Meanwhile, Chavez himself has pointed out that Hitler would be like a suckling baby next to George W. Bush.

This raises an important question: is there anyone on earth who isn't just like Hitler? I think it would make everything a lot easier if we just accepted that the answer is no.

I realize certain people will dispute this. I'm not surprised. That's just what Hitler did.

They Can't Muzzle Dennis Perrin

Apparently blogspot.com is malfunctioning. So here's something by Dennis Perrin that will eventually appear on Red State Son whenever it's functioning again.

• • •


by Dennis Perrin

It's nice to see that Time's Joe Klein has lost none of the pomposity he proudly displayed back in the day, when our public buffoons were a little less gaudy in their idiocy (the pre-Fox News period). Klein's smugness and occasionally wild remarks (recall that he predicted that blacks would riot after seeing Spike Lee's "Do The Right Thing") earned him a seat at elite media roundtables. And the revelation that he was the Anonymous who typed "Primary Colors," his novelistic account of the first Clinton campaign, sealed his political insider status for keeps. The beauty of this arrangement is that you can say pretty much anything you like, so long as media gatekeepers consider it "reasonable" or "insightful."

So what's passing for insightful reason this month? How about nuking Iran? Or, better still, saying that you think nuking Iran is a viable option, or maybe not, given that you are crazy and incapable of rational assessment? As Klein himself put it recently, responding to a caller on Jim Bohannon's radio show:

"And I do believe that [nuking Iran] should be an option. But let me tell you what I actually believe about this. First of all, it should be an option and I think it doesn’t do us any harm for the Iranians, if they are going to go around saying crazy things, to think that we might act crazily as well."

Think that'll get Klein barred from future talk shows and media panels? Are you crazy?!

Klein describes himself as a "raging moderate," whatever the hell that means. But assuming that, as a moderate, raging or not, Klein cares about the Earth's environment (which has become, at least rhetorically, a moderate concern), then advocating a nuclear assault on Iran, even as an "option," is simply irresponsible if we are to build a better, greener world. Nukes are environmentally unsound, for obvious, radioactive reasons. So if you're gonna suggest slaughtering tens/hundreds of thousands of people, then why not consider the old German model of mass extermination? Yes, there's that sticky Nazi legacy thing which still upsets a lot of people. But remember, 9/11 changed everything, and we simply must push past old emotions in order to confront new dangerous realities. If there is some way to march Iranian citizens into human abattoirs operating 24/7, then we achieve the mass murder we desire while sparing the planet further contamination. And as an added bonus, the remains of those dead Iranians can be reduced to powder, bagged, and sold as organic compost. So not only do we eliminate the Iranian threat, we strengthen the environment as well.

But that scenario might be a bit too rational for Joe Klein. As a highly-paid pundit, it's his job to say the things crazy people would love to say, if only they were given access to the corporate media. But you have to know how to talk crazily, how to keep your crazy ideas within the mainstream fold. Otherwise, anybody could go on TV and radio and say anything they wanted. And as a free society, we can't have that.

April 23, 2006

Coming This Fall From Imaginary Books

My friend Leenda has come up with titles for several books she wants to write. Among them are:

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Panda

Slouching Toward Dallas: Debbie's Story

My Fall from Heaven: Penny's Story

Ask Not What the Universe Can Do for You: Ask What You Can Do for the Universe

There are more here.

April 22, 2006

This I Believe

So apparently this retired CIA guy Tyler Drumheller is going to be on 60 Minutes tomorrow, and will accuse the Bush administration of ignoring intelligence that Iraq had nothing:

"[The source] told us that there were no active weapons of mass destruction programs," says Drumheller. "The [White House] group that was dealing with preparation for the Iraq war came back and said they were no longer interested. And we said 'Well, what about the intel?' And they said 'Well, this isn't about intel anymore. This is about regime change.' "

Yes, maybe. But after years of exciting back and forth inside my head, I've come to believe much of the Bush administration truly DID believe Iraq had some kind of banned weapons.

At least, the stupider ones did. The smarter ones likely thought: well, Saddam may not have anything now, but Iraq has so much natural wealth they'll have something eventually. (Wolfowitz: "...the country floats on a sea of oil.") So we'd better use the opportunity presented by 9/11 to take care of business.

That doesn't mean they didn't consciously lie. It's just they thought they were framing a guilty man. It didn't matter what they said, because after the invasion they'd capture Saddam and prove his mustache was made of anthrax.

Moreover, I think they almost had to believe this, at least the ones who're not supervillains. That's standard human psychology. They knew they hated Saddam, but couldn't face the real reason for their hate, which is that he was interfering with a desire of theirs that's completely insane—i.e., the wish to run the world. So they had to search for something that would justify their emotions, and WMD really fit the bill.

I don't say this to defend them; just the opposite. It wouldn't be a defense of Saddam to say: But in 1990 he really did believe Kuwaitis were dogs who wanted to turn Iraqi women into "10-dinar whores"! Nor would it be a defense of Hitler to say he truly did believe Jews were verminous subhumans scheming incessantly to destroy the master race. (Indeed, I'm sure Saddam and Hitler did believe those things. See human psychology, above.)

Anyway, I look forward to watching 60 Minutes. But I doubt it will change my mind.

April 21, 2006

It WAS Au Revoir

I'm very happy to see that, due to vociferous feedback, Dennis Perrin has reversed field and decided to keep bl•••ing while working on his next book. Please stop by and get caught up.

I'd never seen this little "Pirates and Emperors" Schoolhouse Rock-esque cartoon Dennis links to. It's really worth watching.

Let's Criticize The Peace Movement, From A Primate's Perspective

A few weeks ago, Scott Ritter wrote an article criticizing the anti-Iraq war movement. Now there's a new interview with him in which he says many of the same things:

You’ve offered the anti-war movement a bitter pill to swallow. You’ve said the peaceniks are a poorly organized conglomeration of egos, pet projects and idealism. Can you elaborate?

First of all, what is the peace movement? There is no national peace movement. There’s a conglomeration of organizations, all of which are ego-driven. If you take a look at Peace Action, they have a national Peace Action and they have state Peace Actions around the country. They don’t work well with each other; they don’t get along with each other. They feud. They don’t have a centralized plan...

I am not volunteering myself to be the visionary of the peace movement. All I’m saying is that having attended these meetings and reflecting on what I’ve seen, the peace movement’s getting its butt kicked...There needs to a meeting of the minds, a unified vision statement: What do we agree on? What is our focus of effort? And then once you get this mission statement, let’s put a little bit of fire into this...

But as soon as you mention “structure” to the peace movement, they get all nervous. They think it’s abut imposing military standards on them—an absurdity...It’s about organizing, and making sure you don’t waste resources. That’s what the peace movement needs: organization and to stop wasting resources.

I’m a football fan. At the end of the day, I judge a coach and a team by the score that exists on the scoreboard when the end of the fourth quarter comes. And right now, it’s the pro-war movement 60, the anti-war movement nothing. Someone can’t tell me, “No, no, we’re doing OK.” No, you’re not. You’re getting beat, and you need to recognize you’re getting beat, and you need to figure out why you’re getting beat, and you need to figure out what you need to do to get yourself back on track. And the key thing here is: Bring a sense of focus and organization, which is lacking.

I have a lot of sympathy for Ritter's perspective. Much of what he says is completely right. However, I also think he doesn't recognize the problems stem from something much deeper than individual shortcomings in 2006.

The root of it is the U.S. is an extremely depoliticized society. There are barely any progressive institutions in America, so there's no progressive institutional memory. No one remembers what worked before and what didn't. Everything starts from zero each time. And there's little progressive culture encouraging people to sacrifice for the common good. (This is not something I figured out on my own.)

Fixing this would take decades. But obviously people want to be effective right now.

The normal answer would be for the anti-war movement to become more hierarchical. That's what primate societies under stress naturally do. (This is why leaders love war.) But hierarchy only works in the short-term, and even then it doesn't work too well—particularly when your long-term goal is a less hierarchical society.

Do you have an opinion? If so, I'd be very curious to hear it. I encourage you to criticize everyone and everything, except for me and Scientology.

UPDATE: People have said some genuinely interesting things so far. Please don't hesitate to chip in if you feel like it. Eventually I'll edit things down and send it to Common Dreams or someplace similar.

April 20, 2006

We Are Surrounded By Swedes

Here's what John Batiste, a general who commanded the First U.S. Infantry Division in Iraq wrote yesterday:

The national embarrassment of Abu Ghraib can be traced right back to strategic policy decisions...The tragedy of Abu Ghraib should have been no surprise to any of us.

And here's Colin Powell, back when the scandal first was made public:

The photos that we all saw last week and into this week stunned every American.

Apparently Batiste, like myself and so many other people living in this country, is Swedish.

Seriously: They're REALLY NOT Kidding

John "Crusher" Yoo has written a new book called The Powers of War and Peace. And according to a review in the Nation, it has some big news: everything you know about American history is wrong!

You may remember from 10th grade the argument in 1787 between the federalists and anti-federalists over the ratification of the Constitution. The anti-federalists main worry was the Constitution as written would centralize too much power in the national government, particularly the executive branch. In fact, they said, we'd end up with a tyranny again, just after we'd fought a revolution to escape a king. Meanwhile, the federalists argued the Constitution had checks and balances that would prevent this.

Of course, the Constitution was ratified, leading to much rejoicing and eventually several segments of Schoolhouse Rock. But in history class they always tell you the anti-federalists were wrong: we didn't end up with a tyranny. The Constitution prevents the executive branch from doing anything it wants. For instance, only Congress has the power to declare war.

But John Yoo has some surprising news: the anti-federalists were right! The Constitution does give the president, particularly in matters of war and peace, exactly the same powers of the British king circa 1787! The only difference is, Yoo thinks this is a good thing.

Think I'm exaggerating? Well, check out Yoo's website, which has an article he wrote that's incorporated into the book:

...[The anti-federalist] Cato correctly concluded that in the realm of practical politics, the President's authority under the Constitution did not differ in important measure from that of the King.

Ha ha ha! The joke's on you, American history!

The best part is, Yoo is associated with the Federalist Society, the notorious conservative legal organization. I guess one of the main tenets of the Federalist Society is that the anti-federalists were right all along.

SPECIAL NIXON BONUS: Here's what James St. Clair, Nixon's counsel, said in the famous 1974 case U.S. v. Nixon about executive privilege:

The President wants me to argue that he is as powerful a monarch as Louis XIV, only four years at a time, and is not subject to the processes of any court in the land except the court of impeachment.

April 18, 2006

Why We Fight

There's a part in the documentary Why We Fight in which someone—I think it's Karen Kwiatkowski—talks about war profiteering. I suspect what she says is right: it's not that these people launch wars in order to make money for Halliburton. But it is something that makes the cost-benefit ratio of wars significantly different for Dick Cheney than for normal humans. Lots of downside for regular people and little upside; little downside for Cheney and a giant-sack-full-of-cash upside. (If you're Cheney, you might even get to have Ken Adelman come over and lick your feet.)

Anyway, Jonathan Versen has calculated how much the stock of military contractors including Halliburton and Boeing has gone up since March 19, 2003. For comparison's sake, he's done the same for some standard stock indices.

The results aren't a huge surprise.

April 16, 2006



ABC News:

Last year, Exxon made the biggest profit of any company ever, $36 billion, and its retiring chairman appears to be reaping the benefits.

Exxon is giving Lee Raymond one of the most generous retirement packages in history, nearly $400 million, including pension, stock options and other perks, such as a $1 million consulting deal, two years of home security, personal security, a car and driver, and use of a corporate jet for professional purposes.

Wow. That's a huge retirement package. And I think it's pretty obvious where he's been keeping it....

Okay, it's your turn. Does anybody have a better caption for this photo? Shouldn't be hard.

(Jon, is this too cruel? Too late now, I guess.)

Posted by Seth

I Hate Everybody

After it became clear Iraq had no WMD, you saw a new claim pop up here and there: Iraq had still had stuff in 1998, secreted away. But then the three days of bombing in Operation Desert Fox, ordered by Clinton that December, had destroyed it. Except nobody knew! They thought Iraq still had it!

For instance, here's George Packer, in Assassins' Gate:

Richard Perle's essay dripped scorn, claiming that Clinton's December 1998 bombing of Iraqi installations, widely ridiculed as a "wag the dog" distraction in the middle of impeachment hearings, "had no lasting effect" (an assertion that was refuted after the invasion by the Iraq Survey Group, which found that the missile strikes had helped to finished off what was left of Saddam's chemical weapons facilities).

And this is Al Franken, in The Truth (with Jokes):

[Clinton] launched a series of targeted bombing raids, which, as Bush's handpicked weapons inspectors would later confirm in the Duelfer Report, knocked out all that remained of Saddam's atrophied WMD capability...

This is an appealing tale for Clintonistas, because it him look good. First, it gets him off the hook—if Iraq had had nothing since 1991, and Clinton demanded the sanctions be maintained even as hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died, that would be embarrassing. Second, it's a poke in the eye to all the Republicans like Richard Perle.

Sadly, it's completely untrue. The Duelfer Report doesn't say anything like this—see for yourself.

What the Duelfer Report does say is that Iraq was essentially disarmed by the end of 1991, with just about everything (except paper) either secretly destroyed or declared to the UN.

I wonder where George Packer got this little pile of crap? (I assume Franken got it from Assassins' Gate.) Maybe at an exciting dinner party in Northwest Washington, where Sandy Berger got slightly drunk and gave a long, self-justifying monologue.

April 15, 2006

I'm Too Tired; Make Up Your Own Joke

Good luck!:

While the week began with the White House trying to tamp down speculation about military strikes in Iran, reported by The Washington Post and by journalist Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker, it was becoming clear the Bush administration was growing impatient with a diplomatic effort that is not working with Tehran...

The bluntest assessment of diplomatic success came from Karl Rove, U.S. President George W. Bush's political adviser and deputy chief of staff, who told a Houston audience Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was "not a rational human being."

"We are engaged in a diplomatic process with our European partners and the United Nations to keep (Iran) from developing such a weapon," Rove said. "It's going to be tough because they are led by ideologues who have a weird sense of history."

April 13, 2006

Wholesale Rape And Slaughter Keeps My Pool Clean!

Jonathan Tasini (a union activist who's running against Hillary Clinton for the NY Democratic senatorial nomination) makes this important point about immigration to the U.S.:

What has been lost in the debate about immigration is this fact: our country's foreign and economic policy is largely to blame for the flow of people who come here illegally...If you think about the hundreds of thousands of people who have come here over the past several decades from countries like El Salvador and Guatemala, many of them fled to the U.S. because they would have been killed or imprisoned by their government's repressive regimes or forced to live as refugees. These were often regimes that our government supported for many years, if not decades, with large infusions of weapons and money...

When I was growing up near Washington, DC it was hard not to notice the upsurge in people there from Central America, particularly El Salvador. This was right when the Reagan administration was trying to do for indigenous people in Latin America what our forefathers did for American Indians: i.e., wipe them off the face of the earth.

The neat thing was that after Washington policymakers did this, they were then able to hire people who'd fled those countries for $$$cheap$$$. During that time you'd see Central American refugees all over the wealthy DC suburbs, working as nannys, gardeners, etc.

I've always thought that was one of the greatest geopolitical bankshots in history.

Hey, Rosa—did you like the way I finalized that deal to send attack helicopters to the folks who cut off your father's balls and stuffed them in his mouth? I bet you did! Now, do the laundry and change my kid's diapers!

But the story doesn't end there. If things continue to go well, Stephen Hadley will soon be able to afford a entire squad of strapping young Iraqi lads to edge his lawn.

Someone Who Does Things

Jake Lowen, a community youth organizer in Kansas, has just started an interesting _lo_ including video and audio. It will probably be 10,000 times more compelling than most _log_, because unlike many of us, he actually leaves his house and does things that matter. I've sometimes thought the only way politics will change in America is if progressives are forced to stop yammering and do real work. Or at least maintain a 1/10 or lower yammer/work ratio.

His first entry introducing himself is here. There's also a great snippet of one of the kids he works with appearing on Fox to talk about their campaign to force schools to disclose their policies on tasering students.

April 12, 2006

Cripes Almighty

I've been reading Assassins' Gate, the book by George "Why Aren't Nice People Like ME Running The War?" Packer. And I just came across something that's apparently old news to many. But it wasn't old news to me:

On May 12, Bremer arrived in Baghdad wearing a dark suit...Three weeks later, Jay Garner...quietly went home. He was taken by Rumsfeld to the White House for a farewell conversation with the president...

The conversation lasted forty-five minutes...yet the president did not take the chance to ask Garner what it was really like in Iraq...

"You want to do Iran for the next one?" the president joshed as the meeting came to an end.

"No, sir, me and the boys are holding out for Cuba."

Bush laughed and promised Garner and the boys Cuba. And that was it...

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Let no one say the people running the world don't have a FANTASTIC sense of humor!

Cue the humorless left to tell us it's not "politically correct" for the most powerful people on earth to joke about slaughtering others by the thousands.

ALSO: I'm not sure which is more horrifying; that they tell these kinds of "jokes," or that they don't understand that telling the "jokes" doesn't make them look so great, and hence were willing to tell George Packer about it.

Guest Post By Seth Ackerman

I'm very happy to present a guest post below by Seth Ackerman on the new Washington Post story about the supposed "bio-labs" found in Iraq. Impressively enough, it turns out the post-war WMD lies were just as vigorous as the pre-war WMD lies.

You've probably seen Seth's writing before in Harper's, Mother Jones, and FAIR's Extra! Now a graduate student in history, he's one of the most knowledgeable people there is on the Iraq-WMD issue. In particular, you can't understand what happened without reading his 2004 article "A Legacy of Lies."

Please give him a warm welcome, and he may be willing to return.


by Seth Ackerman

Today's Washington Post is reporting that a secret team of Pentagon inspectors concluded way back in May 2003 that the briefly famous Iraqi "bio-weapons trailers" were in fact nothing of the kind. As you'll recall, the Bush administration responded by immediately calling a press conference to admit that they were wrong.

Sorry, I mean they immediately buried the inspectors' report and then spent the next six months lying about the trailers.

The day after the Pentagon team's findings were transmitted to Washington, the CIA released a white paper on its website insisting, as the Post puts it, "that U.S. officials were 'confident' that the trailers were used for 'mobile biological weapons production.'" Then,

Throughout the summer and fall of 2003, the trailers became simply "mobile biological laboratories" in speeches and press statements by administration officials. In late June, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell declared that the "confidence level is increasing" that the trailers were intended for biowarfare. In September, Vice President Cheney pronounced the trailers to be "mobile biological facilities," and said they could have been used to produce anthrax or smallpox.

It wasn't until David Kay released the final Iraq Survey Group report in September 2004 -- which he summarized in Congressional testimony with the deliciously satisfying sentence, "It turns out we were all wrong" -- that the administration finally admitted the trailers were actually intended for making weather balloons (no, I'm serious).

But my favorite part of the Post article is where reporter Joby Warrick quotes Kay:

Kay said he was not apprised of the technical team's findings until late 2003, near the end of his time as the group's leader. "If I had known that we had such a team in Iraq," Kay said, "I would certainly have given their findings more weight."

Now, what makes this funny to me is this. Despite being forced to finally tell the truth in the end, Kay was hardly a good guy in the WMD saga. In the run-up to the war, he became one of those As-Seen-On-TV celebrity weapons inspectors. He was constantly on the news telling us how *terrifyingly huge* Saddam's schlong -- I mean *arsenal* -- was. Of course, it's true, there were a lot of ex-inspectors on TV back then. And a lot of them were talking about Saddam's huge, veiny arsenal. But Kay was one of the most gung-ho. He always used the latest talking points. It was clear that he was on the team. That's why the administration eventually picked him to lead the investigation.

So here's the thing. When the war ended and the weapons hunt started, Kay was an official "NBC News Analyst," always on call in case a big, throbbing cache of WMD was discovered. In May 2003, when they first found the trailers, Kay raced to Baghdad, where NBC's Baghdad correspondent Jim Avila filmed him triumphantly standing in front of the trailers with a pointer:

AVILA: A mobile lab capable of manufacturing anthrax or botulism from the back of a truck, with equipment manufactured as late as 2003. Former UN Chief Weapons Inspector David Kay, now an NBC News analyst, went over the lab firsthand.

Mr. DAVID KAY: This is a compressor. You want to keep the fermentation process under pressure so it goes faster. This vessel is the fermenter. You took the nutrients--think of it as sort of the chicken soup for biological weapons. You mixed it with the seed stock, which came from this gravity flow tank up here into the fermenter. And under pressure with heat, it fermented.

AVILA: The other two mobile labs are secured here at the Baghdad Airport. They're said to be in better condition. Military intelligence officers have visited the factory where they're made and now believe there are eight mobile labs in country. Military inspectors say these labs look very similar to those in the UN presentation made by Colin Powell before the war. And according to Kay, any claims they had any legitimate use makes little sense.

Mr. KAY: Literally, there's nothing else you would do this way on a mobile facility. It is it.

Kay was in fact pointing at a giant weather-balloon machine.

It's hard to know what to say about this whole story. One thing I'd note is that when the administration announced the discovery of the trailers, UNMOVIC immediately asked for permission to inspect them -- they were still legally mandated to oversee Iraq's disarmament -- but the administration refused. Yet David Kay and his NBC cameras managed to get permission. Somehow I suspect he regrets that now.

April 11, 2006

Contest For New South Dakota State Motto

This is the brain child of the Freeway Blogger, and it is funny.

My favorite: "World's Greatest Dad"

And The Award For Best Unjustly Put-Upon Sigh Goes To...

According to John Byrne at Raw Story, the Senate Intelligence Committee may finally be wrapping up its "Phase II" investigation on Iraq. Phase I covered whether intelligence analysts were pressured; this part's supposed to examine whether the Bush administration's claims squared with the intelligence they were given.

Democrats on the committee have been pushing for this for two years. First Pat Roberts promised to make it a "priority." Then he said it wasn't right to do it during an election year. Then when the election was over he said there was no point to doing it in a "post-election environment."

Finally, when the Democrats actually shut down the Senate, Roberts was forced, kicking and screaming, to get it done. Now that it's almost finished, his spokeswoman is saying this:

"Let's finish this report, so we can get onto pressing matters on Iran...At some point we have to stop looking in the rear-view mirror and look forward."

What I like about this is the implication that finishing the report was somehow out of the Republicans' control. Listen, buddy: no one's angrier than Pat Roberts that this took so long.

Look, I'm really getting frustrated here. Let's finally pay you back the $90,000 I borrowed from you in 1978. Can we finally do that? Finally? I'm sorry, at some point we have to stop looking in the rear-view mirror and look forward.

Welcome To The Club, Iran

Zeynep welcomes Iran to the club. But a different club than the one Iran claims.

I particularly like the giant doves of peace behind Ahmadinejad.

April 10, 2006

Or Is It...Au Revoir?

Sadly, Dennis Perrin has powered down Red State Son for a while as he works on a new book. He promises he'll come back, although perhaps not before undergoing a horrifying transformation. (Actually, the horrifying transformation part's mostly my interpretation of events.)

"Or is it...au revoir?" is an homage to the fact that Dennis know comedy history more deeply than anyone else on earth. This actually should be an easy one.

Dean Baker's Beat The Press

Economist Dean Baker now has his own bleeeeeertp called Beat the Press, focusing exclusively on media malfeasance regarding economics.

You may remember Baker as the man who did more than any other one person to stop Bush's plans for Social Security. Or as author of the Economics Reporting Review, which his new site largely replaces. Or as a frequent contributor to MaxSpeak! Or as a pre-WW II chancellor of Romania, in which case your memory has served you badly.

In any case, it will be well worth visiting the site regularly. The first post focuses on the highly confusing way the media uses numbers.

April 09, 2006

I'm Concerned About The Bush Administration's Time Management Skills

The Washington Post today confirmed Seymour Hersh's story that the Bush administration is debating using nuclear weapons against Iran. The story includes this detail:

Planners also are debating whether launching attacks from Iraq or using Iraqi airspace would exacerbate the political cost in the Muslim world...

I agree this is an important subject, but I'm worried it will take time away from the more critical internal Bush administration debate over whether the Pope is Catholic.

April 08, 2006

White House Authoritatively Told Uranium Claims "Baseless" Before 2003 State Of The Union

According to a story in tomorrow's Washington Post, there's a critical new memo on the uranium-from-Niger claim that's never been disclosed before now:

Tenet interceded to keep the [uranium] claim out of a speech Bush gave in Cincinnati on Oct. 7, 2002, but by Dec. 19 it reappeared in a State Department "fact sheet." After that, the Pentagon asked for an authoritative judgment from the National Intelligence Council, the senior coordinating body for the 15 agencies that then constituted the U.S. intelligence community. Did Iraq and Niger discuss a uranium sale, or not? If they had, the Pentagon would need to reconsider its ties with Niger.

The council's reply, drafted in a January 2003 memo by the national intelligence officer for Africa, was unequivocal: The Niger story was baseless and should be laid to rest. Four U.S. officials with firsthand knowledge said in interviews that the memo, which has not been reported before, arrived at the White House as Bush and his highest-ranking advisers made the uranium story a centerpiece of their case for the rapidly approaching war against Iraq.

Bush put his prestige behind the uranium story in his Jan. 28, 2003, State of the Union address.

The significance of this is the timing, and that the National Intelligence Council is supposed to be the final word.

Hersh: U.S. Is "Looking Seriously" At Using Nuclear Weapons On Iran

From the article "The Iran Plans" by Seymour Hersh in the newest issue of the New Yorker:

One of the military’s initial option plans, as presented to the White House by the Pentagon this winter, calls for the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, against underground nuclear sites...

The lack of reliable intelligence leaves military planners, given the goal of totally destroying the sites, little choice but to consider the use of tactical nuclear weapons. “Every other option, in the view of the nuclear weaponeers, would leave a gap,” the former senior intelligence official said. “ ‘Decisive’ is the key word of the Air Force’s planning. It’s a tough decision. But we made it in Japan.”

He went on, “Nuclear planners go through extensive training and learn the technical details of damage and fallout—we’re talking about mushroom clouds, radiation, mass casualties, and contamination over years. This is not an underground nuclear test, where all you see is the earth raised a little bit. These politicians don’t have a clue, and whenever anybody tries to get it out”—remove the nuclear option—“they’re shouted down.”

The attention given to the nuclear option has created serious misgivings inside the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he added, and some officers have talked about resigning. Late this winter, the Joint Chiefs of Staff sought to remove the nuclear option from the evolving war plans for Iran—without success, the former intelligence official said. “The White House said, ‘Why are you challenging this? The option came from you.’ ”

The Pentagon adviser on the war on terror confirmed that some in the Administration were looking seriously at this option, which he linked to a resurgence of interest in tactical nuclear weapons among Pentagon civilians and in policy circles. He called it “a juggernaut that has to be stopped.” He also confirmed that some senior officers and officials were considering resigning over the issue. “There are very strong sentiments within the military against brandishing nuclear weapons against other countries,” the adviser told me. “This goes to high levels.” The matter may soon reach a decisive point, he said, because the Joint Chiefs had agreed to give President Bush a formal recommendation stating that they are strongly opposed to considering the nuclear option for Iran. “The internal debate on this has hardened in recent weeks,” the adviser said. “And, if senior Pentagon officers express their opposition to the use of offensive nuclear weapons, then it will never happen.”

The adviser added, however, that the idea of using tactical nuclear weapons in such situations has gained support from the Defense Science Board, an advisory panel whose members are selected by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

The rest is here.

April 07, 2006

I'm Just As Disappointed As Everyone Else That I Shot Your Mother

Here's President Bush yesterday talking about Iraq:

I fully understand that the intelligence was wrong, and I'm just as disappointed as everybody else is.

That's nice, although I think I'd prefer if he were actually more disappointed than everybody else. Some days I even dare to dream he might be something more than "disappointed."

April 06, 2006

A Winning Democratic Strategy From People Who Hate Democrats

David Sirota points out here that the Brookings Institution has launched something called "The Hamilton Project" led by Robert Rubin.

Looking at it, you can tell right away who the Hamilton Project is for: Wall Street Democrats. Or as I like to call them, "The Party of Gay Investment Bankers and Corporate Lawyers Whose Grandfathers Worked in the Roosevelt Administration." (In fact, by my count, its advisory council includes twelve investment bankers.) They're people who should naturally be Republicans, but just can't bear having to hang out with Pat Robertson.

The funny thing is, they're apparently desperate to make this clear. Why? BECAUSE THEY'RE CALLING THEMSELVES "THE HAMILTON PROJECT."

Let's ask the Democratic Party's own website to explain the significance of this:

Thomas Jefferson founded the Democratic Party in 1792 as a congressional caucus to fight for the Bill of Rights and against the elitist Federalist Party.

The "elitist Federalist Party," of course, was founded by Jefferson's chief rival Hamilton.

Moreover, if you only take one thing away from seventh-grade history, it's that Jefferson was the small-d democrat, while Hamilton famously exclaimed "The People!—The People is a Great Beast!" Hopefully that can be used as the title for all the Hamilton Project's proposals for free trade, balanced budgets and school vouchers:

"The People is a Great Beast!": A Plan for Economic Prosperity for 21st Century America

It's not that I don't feel for Robert Rubin & co. Times are tough for rich people who aren't completely insane. They understand the insane rich are ascendant and well on their way to destroying everything. In fact, this is probably the longest-running debate in American history:

Insane Rich: Let's kill everyone and take their money!

Non-Insane Rich: I like the way you think. I really do. But if we keep them alive and working for us, we'll make even more money in the long run.

Insane Rich: You communist!

Still, it might be nice if the Democratic party didn't get all its ideas from people who hate Democrats. But don't get your hopes up. Here's the one senator who spoke at the Hamilton Project launch:

April 05, 2006

Being Right Isn't As Much Fun As We Anticipated

In the week before the worldwide February 15, 2003 demonstrations on Iraq, I wrote an "Open Letter to Europe" about them that Alternet and Moveon picked up. The point of the letter was to tell Europeans how important it was for them to pressure their governments to stand up to the Bush administration, and thank them for doing so.

I thought the letter had been lost in the mists of time, but I recently found it was preserved by archive.org.

The text is below. I think it stands up pretty well, except for my apparent belief it was possible to stop Bush from invading.


Dear friends,

We, the undersigned citizens of the United States of America, are writing to ask for your help.

We are already grateful for your principled opposition to our government's misguided and dangerous policy toward Iraq. Despite the deceptive claims of the Bush Administration and the poor coverage of the crisis by our media, huge numbers of Americans have evaluated the facts for themselves and join with you to oppose our government's drive toward war.

Like many of you, we believe that war will not lead to future peace in the Middle East but to more violence and death -- not just in Iraq but eventually throughout the region, as well as in the United States and across the globe. With you, we believe that war will not bring about the liberation of the Iraqi people but visit upon them even greater catastrophe than in the past.

We are doing everything within our power here in America to change our government's policy. However, we fear this war cannot be stopped without strong opposition from the nations of Europe.

We, and the rest of the world, therefore look to you for support in this daunting task we share.

We ask that you attend the antiwar rallies this Saturday, Feb. 15 in London, Paris, Berlin, Istanbul, Rome, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Warsaw and other cities across Europe. An overwhelming turnout in the streets will show your governments and the world that Europe says no to preemptive war. Before and after the demonstrations, write, speak out and protest in every way possible.

We ask also that you demand that your governments support the French-German initiative for additional inspections. If your government currently backs the Bush Administration, make it clear that they should withdraw this support. If your government is standing against the Bush Administration, make it clear that you support their actions and call upon them to stand firm.

Finally, we ask that, when the threat of war recedes, you join together with us in non-violent efforts to help the long-suffering Iraqi people in their struggle for democracy and freedom.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we were deeply moved by Europe's messages of sympathy and support. Those of us who visited the sites of the attacks in the weeks that followed will always remember the comfort we took in the letters posted nearby sent from your families to ours.

Today, we need your unity more than ever -- or we fear that Sept. 11 will be only the beginning of a terrible spiral of violence that will engulf the Middle East, the United States and the world.

However, we believe this frightening vision of the future need not come to pass. As former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, who was Commander General of the Allied Forces in World War II once said, "I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it."

Let this be the moment when the people of the world, for the first time, truly come together to force our governments to give us peace. Please stand with us on February 15 and in the future, as we stand with you.


For a while the New Yorker has run cartoon caption contests—i.e., they supply the cartoon and ask readers to supply the caption. They used to do it once a year, but it was so popular they now do it every week.

Here's this week's cartoon, by Gahan Wilson. I think you'll agree it's fertile with possibility. One that occurs to me is below.

I also hope you may have some ideas of your own. If you want, you can enter them here.

"Please, we don't call them uncanny. They're differently canny."

April 04, 2006

Dear Bush Speechwriters: Please Find Another Book To Swipe From

This sounds like pretty standard rhetoric from the Bush administration, doesn't it?

"America cannot tolerate continuous disturbances in these areas...Therefore the United States, in keeping with the law of self-preservation, is now resolved to intervene decisively to rebuild the foundations of a reasonable order in the Middle East....U.S. history has already proved that, thanks to the greatness and qualities of the American people, it alone is called to undertake this task."

It's not, though. (See below.)

As you may have guessed, that's actually Hitler, with a few words changed. It's from his speech upon the March 15, 1939 invasion of rump Czechoslovakia:

"The German Reich cannot tolerate continuous disturbances in these areas...Therefore the German Reich, in keeping with the law of self-preservation, is now resolved to intervene decisively to rebuild the foundations of a reasonable order in Central Europe....[German] history has already proved that, thanks to the greatness and qualities of the German people, it alone is called to undertake this task."
—The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, p. 449

I'm not saying the Bush administration are Nazis. I'm just saying it would be nice if they stopped justifying wars with Nazi rhetoric.

The White Man's Burden Seems Particularly Heavy Today

Tom Tomorrow, via Doc Strangelove, has discovered a compelling interview with JV neocon Daniel Pipes:

Q: What is the biggest lesson you have learned from the Iraq war?

PIPES: The ingratitude of the Iraqis for the extraordinary favor we gave them.

Yes, the ingratitude of the wogs is legendary. Henry Morton Stanley knew this. Here's what he wrote about his 190 African servants on his 1871 trip to find Dr. Livingstone:

"The blacks give me an immense amount of trouble; they are too ungrateful to suit my fancy."

Also like Iraqis, Stanley’s servants had a tendency to die in copious, ungrateful quantities.

FURTHERMORE: Seymour Hersh:

The Patai book ["The Arab Mind"], an academic told me, was “the bible of the neocons on Arab behavior.” In their discussions, he said, two themes emerged—“one, that Arabs only understand force...

Henry Morton Stanley:

"The savage only respects force, power, boldness, and decision..."

Jack Straw, Liar?

I know it's hard to believe, but it appears British foreign minister Jack Straw is a liar.

Here's an account of a television appearance he made on June 1, 2003—two months after the invasion of Iraq, as concern grew over the absence of WMD:

...the foreign secretary was asked on the BBC's Breakfast with Frost Programme if there was "any truth to this: did you in January or February have any conversation with the secretary of state [Colin Powell] where you shared your doubts about the strength or probability of the evidence for the claims you were both making about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction? Did you have any such conversation?"

Mr Straw replied: "Let me deal with that. No I didn't about the quality of the evidence. What is the case is that I've always been very anxious to test the evidence and so, I know, was Powell and President Bush and our prime minister, Tony Blair."

Now, compare this to the account Philippe Sands gave in his talk last week at the New America Foundation:

By early January [2003], from the material I've seen that has not yet made it's way into the public domain, it's clear that in London, at least, there is a sense of serious concern if not panic that the project is going to unfold [sic] because nothing is going to turn up. I refer in the new edition of the book to conversations between Colin Powell and Jack Straw which indicate quite clearly that Colin Powell had no expectations that WMD would be found, that indicate quite clearly that Jack Straw had no expectation that WMD would be found.

What we will tell the anglophile children?

(The relevant section of Sands' book Lawless World is below, courtesy of The Washington Note)

What is clear is that by January 2003 there was very real concern in the British and American governments that it could prove difficult to establish that Iraq was in material breach.

In early January 2003 Mr. Straw wrote a private note to the Prime Minister, expressing the hope that the inspections by Dr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei would produce a big smoking gun that would be sufficient for them to report a breach of obligation by Iraq sufficient to trigger Operational Paragraphs 11 and 12 of 1441, a further meeting of the Security Council, and a resolution authorizing the use of force.

That did not happen.

Mr. Straw's note worried that it should not be assumed that over the next three weeks there would be sufficient non-cooperation by Hussein in respect of interviews outside Iraq to add up to a material breach under OP4.

This indicates that in January 2003 Mr. Straw did not consider that Iraq was in material breach. His note also describes a call four days earlier in which Colin Powell had recognized the danger of proceeding without a second resolution, and told him that "if there was an insufficient case for a second resolution, there would be equally an insufficient case for the US to go unilateral".

April 03, 2006

Schrodinger's War

One exciting thing about America today is getting to experience quantum mechanics on a huge scale. Just as Schrodinger's cat is both alive and dead at the same time, the United States is simultaneously at war and not at war.

For instance, here's the Assocated Press just now on Jose Padilla:

A divided Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal from Jose Padilla, held as an enemy combatant without traditional legal rights for more than three years, sidestepping a challenge to Bush administration wartime detention powers.

It's not surprising they'd put it this way. After all, Bush & co. tell us we're at war and he's a wartime president every two seconds.

But here's the thing: according to the Attorney General of the United States, the person prosecuting Padilla, Congress has not declared war:

GONZALES: There was not a war declaration, either in connection with Al Qaida or in Iraq.

It's easy to understand why the Bush administration wants it both ways: we're at war because that gives them more power...but we're also not at war because they would then have treaty obligations, such as under the Geneva Conventions.

Meanwhile, the AP, the rest of the U.S. media, and the Democratic party say nothing whatsoever about this. No one asks Bush the obvious question: "Is the United States at war?"

I guess everyone intuitively senses that the war's quantum superposition, in which it exists and does not exist at the time, can only be sustained as long as we don't observe the issue. If we did, the war's wavefunction would collapse and it would either be one or the other.

And who wants that? It's much more enjoyable to live inside a gigantic thought experiment.

April 02, 2006

0.07% Of American Political Class Still Sane!

The Washington Post today informs everyone that if we bomb Iran, Iran may attempt to retaliate, including via Hezbollah. Then they give us this brief history of Hezbollah:

Before Sept. 11, the armed wing of Hezbollah, often working on behalf of Iran, was responsible for more American deaths than in any other terrorist attacks. In 1983 Hezbollah truck-bombed the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241, and in 1996 truck-bombed Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 U.S. service members.

As I've mentioned previously, this kind of thing demonstrates that much of America's elite has gone completely insane. Whatever else you might say about those bombings, they weren't terrorism, at least if words have any meaning. They were attacks on military targets.

But this goes really, really deep in U.S. political culture. The basic idea is: we are allowed to send our military anywhere on earth to do anything to anyone. And if someone tries to fight back—even by targeting our military when it's stationed in their country and killing them—that is fundamentally AGAINST THE RULES.

So, I'm pleased to see Matthew Yglesias picked up on this aspect of the Post story as well. At least there's one person on the fringes of these circles who isn't completely bonkers.

SPECIAL CRAZY BONUS: Here's another section from the article:

Former CIA terrorism analyst Paul R. Pillar said that any U.S. or Israeli airstrike on Iranian territory "would be regarded as an act of war" by Tehran...

Is Pillar sure about that...? Isn't it just as likely Iranians would regard it as a proposal of marriage?

This actually isn't a slam against Pillar, who seems admirably non-nuts. I'm sure he felt he had to say that, even though it was like pointing out the sky is blue. As Seymour Hersh reported last year, there are many people certain the sky is green:

The immediate goals of the attacks would be to destroy, or at least temporarily derail, Iran's ability to go nuclear. But there are other, equally purposeful, motives at work. The government consultant told me that the hawks in the Pentagon, in private discussions, have been urging a limited attack on Iran because they believe it could lead to a toppling of the religious leadership. "Within the soul of Iran there is a struggle between secular nationalists and reformers, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the fundamentalist Islamic movement," the consultant told me. "The minute the aura of invincibility which the mullahs enjoy is shattered, and with it the ability to hoodwink the West, the Iranian regime will collapse"—like the former Communist regimes in Romania, East Germany, and the Soviet Union. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz share that belief, he said.

April 01, 2006

Another Accomplished Stutts Student

Please drop by the MySpace site of Hart Fox and say hello. Hart is currently a sophomore at my prestigious alma mater Stutts University. I particularly recommend his blurgh.

Mentioning current Stutts students seems like a good opportunity to point out that I myself went to Stutts.

So let me seize this opportunity: I myself went to Stutts. That is, I am an alumni* of Stutts University.

But please, don't be intimidated. It's really not that big a deal. (That I went to Stutts!)

*This is in fact correct usage. See comments below.