February 25, 2007

Readin' Readin' Readin'

1. Arthur Silber, "Dispatch from Germany, Summer of 1939," Part I and Part II

2. Michael Klare at Tomdispatch, "Bush's Future Iran War Speech"

3. And of course Seymour Hersh, "Our Government's Gone Completely Insane and I'm Writing About It in the New Yorker for the 30th Time Even Though None of You Seem to Listen"

February 24, 2007

More Fantasticness!

Richard Wolffe of Newsweek:

I think the press here does a fantastic job of adhering to journalistic standards in covering politics in general.


Americans are keenly aware of how many U.S. forces have lost their lives in Iraq, according to a new AP-Ipsos poll. But they woefully underestimate the number of Iraqi civilians who have been killed...

Among those polled for the AP survey...the median estimate of Iraqi deaths was 9,890.


As many as 654,965 more Iraqis may have died since hostilities began in Iraq in March 2003 than would have been expected under pre-war conditions, according to a survey conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad.

(Title borrowed from Saheli.)

February 23, 2007

No Surprise

Big news from Michele Bachmann (R-Crazytown):

Iran is the trouble maker, trying to tip over apple carts all over Baghdad right now because they want America to pull out. And do you know why? It’s because they’ve already decided that they’re going to partition Iraq.

And half of Iraq, the western, northern portion of Iraq, is going to be called…. the Iraq State of Islam, something like that. And I’m sorry, I don’t have the official name, but it’s meant to be the training ground for the terrorists. There’s already an agreement made.

They are going to get half of Iraq and that is going to be a terrorist safe haven zone where they can go ahead and bring about more terrorist attacks in the Middle East region and then to come against the United States because we are their avowed enemy.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if the origin of this is Ralph Peters' insane new map for the Middle East, with the original becoming more and more garbled at every step along the way until it lodged in Bachmann's confused noggin.

It's A Good Thing We're So Good

Arthur Silber's "Dominion Over the World" series continues with part VII, "The Mythology of the 'Good Guy' American." Strangely, none of this stuff about the Philippines was in any of my history classes, and it never seems to be on TV. Hmmmm.

February 22, 2007

Frank Gaffney Magical Mystery Tour Rolls Onward

I see Frank Gaffney is still as charmingly insane as ever. Here he is on Tucker Carlson's MSNBC show on Tuesday:

GAFFNEY: I think that it was necessary to go into Iraq. We now know that Saddam Hussein had hot production lines for biological and chemical agents.

CARLSON: You really believe that, that it was...

GAFFNEY: This is what the Iraq Survey Group determined, hot production lines, and plans to both ramp them up when sanctions came off and to put them into aerosol cans and perfume sprayers to send to the United States and Europe.

Does Tucker Carlson challenge Gaffney further on this? No. But in his defense, that would involve committing journalism, something his bosses at General Electric frown upon. And he has a pretty hefty mortgage to pay.

(Gaffney's appearance on Tucker was pointed out by a commenter at Glenn Greenwald's Salon blog.)

February 21, 2007

Bill McKibben On Global Warming

Tomdispatch has Bill McKibben's new NY Review of Books piece on global warming. If you're not scared already, reading this will fix that.

Then be sure to visit this site for information about the upcoming March 20th congressional action day on global warming, put together by the Sierra Club, Audubon Society, and many others.

Finally, go visit Step It Up '07, the organizing point for the nationwide April 14th events McKibben mentions.

Rhinocrisy Announcement + Justifiable Cruelty

Powerblurg Rhinocrisy has ditched blogspot and moved to its own snazzy domain.

It other news, Dennis is being beautifully cruel to two unnamed British writers. You can probably figure out for yourself who they are, but if not, go here.

The Significance Of Frank Gaffney

A few weeks ago I wrote something comparing Michelle Malkin's moral and intellectual standards to those of Holocaust deniers. But I also said Malkin has no significance in and of herself; every country has people as strange and confused and angry as she is. What matters is that normal societies leave them to fulminate in their parents' basement. In contrast, troubled societies let them organize "conferences" and guest host national television programs.

This brings us to Frank Gaffney, third-string neocon and founder of the Center for Security Policy. In a healthy country, Gaffney would spend his days arguing with his enormous collection of Star Wars action figures. Here in America, we constantly put him on TV as as "expert" on foreign policy and give him an organization with a $2 million budget.

Last week Gaffney appeared on the Alan Colmes Show with Glenn Greenwald to talk about his recent column for the Washington-Moonie Times. As Greenwald had publicized, the column originally started with a fabricated Abraham Lincoln "quote," which has now been removed. Gaffney's call to hang Sen. Carl Levin remains, however.

During the program Gaffney made some claims about Iraq and WMD that are standard in the further reaches of wingnuttia—out in the wilderness where even Dick Cheney doesn't venture. Below are the most important parts; if you want to listen to it, Crooks & Liars has the audio. (Both of these sections are in the second segment.)

starting about 8:50

GAFFNEY: The Iraq Survey Group, the guys who went in and did a forensic analysis of what was the status of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction program, found -- contrary to what Glenn keeps saying -- that there was a hot production line for chemical and biological agents in Iraq, that there were plans to ramp it up when sanctions were lifted, which was imminent, and to place the products of those lines into aerosol cans and perfume sprayers for shipment to the United States and Europe. That's documented fact.

COLMES: Why isn't the administration making that argument?

GAFFNEY: I don't know why they're not, but I'm telling you that's a fact!

starting about 13:20

GAFFNEY: I'm simply asking you to square what you just said with what I pointed out is the fact of what Saddam Hussein had -- which was active production of chemical and biological weapons, albeit at low levels, with the plans to ramp them up for use as terrorist weapons against the United States and Europe. That's not something I'm making up! That's not something that was fraudulently presented to the American people! That's what we now know on the basis of the facts we discovered when we finally liberated Iraq!...

Glenn, you don't know the facts! You're a "stickler for the facts," and you don't know the facts!...

What [the ISG report] said is they did not find large stockpiles of chemical weapons. What happened to them is a mystery they weren't able to explain. But what they did find, and what is in the [ISG] report, and what I'm citing, and what is fact, is that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction programs, and plans to ramp them up and use them against us. You may choose to ignore that. You may choose to say that's irrelevant...

There was evidence Saddam Hussein had actual stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. There is evidence they were removed across the border into Syria. I don't know.

But what is not in dispute, except from Glenn, who apparently chooses to ignore it, or at least won't come to grips with the fact it validates my position and undermines his, is the [ISG] report said he had production of these chemical and biological agents and he planned to put them in weapons to ship to the United States. Now that's the kind of thing that did require, I believe, the liberation of the country!

Now I'll go through and examine Gaffney's effluvia in detail. I don't do this in hopes Gaffney himself would ever acknowledge what he said was false; in fact, I doubt he can distinguish between fantasy and reality well enough to understand this. Moreover, even if you could get him to stop doing this kind of thing, it wouldn't make any difference. He'd just get fired, and his bosses would hire another mouthpiece.

However, it is worth examining Gaffney's silliness to demonstrate the levels to which his bosses require their toadies to sink in order to get their money. Again: it's the people in charge who're the problem, not Gaffney.

GAFFNEY: The Iraq Survey Group, the guys who went in and did a forensic analysis of what was the status of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction program, found -- contrary to what Glenn keeps saying -- that there was a hot production line for chemical and biological agents in Iraq...

The Iraq Survey Group report is here. It's actually an impressive piece of work that reflects well on the CIA. While the "key findings" section—the only part anyone ever looks at—is highly spun and misleading, the body contains a great deal of information that's deeply embarrassing for the US government. (Or at least it would be, if anyone in Washington's political class ever read it.)

Anyway, Gaffney's statement that "there was a hot production line for chemical and biological agents in Iraq" is completely fanciful. Here's the ISG conclusion about Iraq's chemical weapons program (throughout, bold and italics are in the original; underlines are mine):

While a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions have been discovered, ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991. There are no credible indications that Baghdad resumed production of chemical munitions thereafter...

And here's the ISG conclusion about Iraq's biological weapons program:

ISG found no direct evidence that Iraq, after 1996, had plans for a new BW program or was conducting BW-specific work for military purposes.

So where could Gaffney's claim about "a hot production line for chemical and biological agents" come from? Almost certainly from the description in the ISG report of the labs of the Iraqi Intelligence Services (IIS). This appears in the section on Iraq and chemical weapons:

ISG uncovered information that the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) maintained throughout 1991 to 2003 a set of undeclared covert laboratories to research and test various chemicals and poisons, primarily for intelligence operations. The network of laboratories could have provided an ideal, compartmented platform from which to continue CW agent R&D or small-scale production efforts, but we have no indications this was planned. (See Annex A.)

ISG has no evidence that IIS Directorate of Criminology (M16) scientists were producing CW or BW agents in these laboratories. However, sources indicate that M16 was planning to produce several CW agents including sulfur mustard, nitrogen mustard, and Sarin.

Exploitations of IIS laboratories, safe houses, and disposal sites revealed no evidence of CW-related research or production, however many of these sites were either sanitized by the Regime or looted prior to OIF. Interviews with key IIS officials within and outside of M16 yielded very little information about the IIS' activities in this area.

So you can see the process within Gaffney's mind: he took something the ISG report said "could have" occurred but for which there was "no evidence," and decided that the ISG report said it had in fact happened. No wonder Gaffney tells us Doug Feith is an "old friend" who is "thoughtful, careful and conscientious."

Still, you might say, these IIS labs sound pretty bad. What's this about testing "various chemicals and poisons"?

It's impossible to know for sure. Perhaps these labs served as Dr. Evil's headquarters in his endless quest for world domination. But the actual explanation is likely more prosaic. The chemical section of the ISG report has an annex examing this issue in detail. According to this annex, it appears the labs may have been involved in attempted assassinations of regime enemies in the eighties and early nineties (just as US labs have been). More recently the labs were in charge of testing Saddam's food:

Exploitation of the M16 headquarters building revealed that the directorate had large amounts of laboratory glassware and analytic equipment, which could be used for both legitimate work such as food testing and forensic analysis, and illicit CW production and development. However, precursor chemicals required for CW agent production were not found among the various chemicals located at the headquarters building or its storage site in Djerf al-Naddaf...

The equipment, chemicals, and literature found at the [M16 headquarters in Karada] are consistent with sensitive reporting on the activities of the M16's chemical forensics division, which does not have strong ties to CBW research or the development of assassination-related compounds.

The M16 chemical forensic division was responsible for testing food for the regime. Other reports corroborate that there was an M16 division which had the ability to analyze chemical substances and test food and other items for the presence of poisons and toxins.

• According to a senior IIS official who has reported reliably in the past, this building served as the M16 headquarters, where research on toxins and their properties took place. However, the same source stated that the work was solely for defensive purposes.

• Laboratory analysis of several samples taken at the site revealed that the M16 had samples of potassium cyanide, the pesticides diazinon and Malathion, the herbicide glyphosate, and several other innocuous chemicals. It would not be unusual to find these chemicals at a laboratory examining foodstuffs for poisons or contaminants, because such a lab would need standards to which it could compare analytic results.

You may recall that back before the war, Saddam's paranoia about being poisoned was used as evidence of why he was a tyrant who had to be removed. Here's a relevant section from a May, 2002 article in the Atlantic:

Fresh food is flown in for him twice a week—lobster, shrimp, and fish, lots of lean meat, plenty of dairy products. The shipments are sent first to his nuclear scientists, who x-ray them and test them for radiation and poison. The food is then prepared for him by European-trained chefs, who work under the supervision of al Himaya, Saddam's personal bodyguards.

But what's this statement in the ISG report about the IIS labs "planning to produce several CW agents including sulfur mustard, nitrogen mustard, and Sarin"? Isn't that important?

Nope. It's clear from the labs annex that this is the basis for Gaffney's claim that Saddam planned to "place the products of those lines into aerosol cans and perfume sprayers for shipment to the United States and Europe." But look carefully at what the labs annex says about this:

Future Plans To Produce CW Agent

ISG is unable to corroborate the sensitive reporting that the IIS was planning to produce nitrogen mustard, sulfur mustard, and Sarin, but assesses that if plans to produce chemical agent within the IIS existed, the M16 chemical preparation division would have been the group tasked with carrying them out.

A former Iraqi intelligence officer reported that the M16 chemical preparation division planned to produce and weaponize nitrogen mustard using CS rifle grenades. The source provided ISG with two grenade launchers and cases of CS grenades he claimed M16 officers were supposed to modify.

The same source later reported that the IIS had a plan to produce Sarin and sulfur mustard, which the IIS planned to distribute to the US and Europe. The source claimed that the director of M16, Nu'man Muhammad al-Tikriti, gave him a perfume-bottling machine that was to be used to help carry out this plan.

Both of these plans are extremely difficult to corroborate...

In other words, one unnamed Iraqi claimed that Iraq was going to do this at some point in the indefinite future. And the ISG didn't corroborate it.

It would be hilarious under any circumstance for Gaffney to say this amounts to "documented fact." But remember this all started with Gaffney's column defending Douglas Feith from accusations of shoddy cherry-picking of intelligence to reach predetermined conclusions. It's as if Gaffney were defending Feith from charges of wife-beating by punching his own wife in the face. No wonder these two get along so well.

In any case, Alan Colmes asks precisely the right question here: if this is "documented fact," why hasn't the Bush administration ever said anything about it? The answer is obvious: it's so preposterous that even Dick Cheney won't stand behind it.

And finally:

GAFFNEY: What [the ISG report] said is they did not find large stockpiles of chemical weapons. What happened to them is a mystery they weren't able to explain...

There was evidence Saddam Hussein had actual stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. There is evidence they were removed across the border into Syria. I don't know.

What happened to them is a mystery they weren't able to explain. Right. Again, here's the ISG report on Iraq's chemical weapons:

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

On Iraq's biological weapons:

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

This, more than anything else, is why I compare Gaffney to Holocaust deniers. Holocaust deniers begin by holding a crazy position; say, no European Jews died during World War II. When confronted by overwhelming evidence to the contrary—for instance, there used to be all these Jews in Europe, and after the war they weren't there anymore—the most they'll ever say is that the missing people's whereabouts is a "mystery" that may never be solved.

Here are some examples from the Holocaust denial website "Focal Point":

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


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

Yeah, it's a mystery all right.

Likewise with Gaffney: the evidence that Iraq destroyed its undeclared chemical and biological weapon stockpiles in the early nineties is overwhelming. That's what the ISG report says happened. That's what all the Iraqis say happened. There's physical evidence that it happened. And of course, there were all those stockpiles in 1990, and by 1992 they weren't there anymore. To Frank Gaffney, this all adds up to an unsolvable "mystery." (The same is true for another JV neocon, Clifford May.)

And what about Gaffney's "evidence" that these stockpiles "were removed across the border into Syria"? It doesn't exist:

As the hunt for weapons of mass destruction dragged on unsuccessfully in Iraq, top Bush administration officials speculated publicly that the banned armaments may have been smuggled out of the country before the war started...

But intelligence and congressional officials say they have not seen any information — never "a piece," said one — indicating that WMD or significant amounts of components and equipment were transferred from Iraq to neighboring Syria, Jordan or elsewhere...

[O]fficials familiar with the search say U.S. authorities have found no evidence that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein transferred WMD or related equipment out of Iraq...

Last week, a congressional official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said suggestions that weapons or components were sent from Iraq were based on speculation stemming from uncorroborated information.

But who knows? My suspicion is the missing WMD went to Transnistria (Rumania), and those six million missing Jews are all in Syria.


I emphasize once more that it's a mistake to focus on Gaffney and all the people like him. They don't matter, just as the crazy individuals at the Tehran Holocaust denial conference don't matter.

What matters is that Iran has nutty, powerful rich people willing to fund that kind of garbage, and a society that acts like it's part of legitimate debate. And what matters is that we have nutty, powerful rich people willing to fund this kind of garbage, and a society that acts like it's legitimate.

And who exactly are the nutty rich people behind Frank Gaffney? According to tax documents, his organization received $2.2 million in tax-deductible donations in 2004. About $600,000 appears to have come from various right-wing foundations.

I don't think it's possible to find out for sure who provided the rest of the donations; while organizations like Gaffney's have to file this information with the IRS, it's blacked out when the documents are made public. (One thing we can learn from the forms is that CSP is basically Gaffney alone. His 2004 salary was $272,850. The rest of the expenses were for rent, events, a few consultants, etc.)

But we can make some educated guesses. According to Jim Lobe of Inter Press Service, CSP is funded by "defense contractors and far-right Zionists associated with Israel's Likud Party." One person on the CSP board of directors is Charles Kupperman, Vice President of Space and Strategic Missiles Sector at Boeing. Another is an investment banker named David P. Steinmann, who's also on the board of JINSA. And the Chairman is Terry Elkes, who used to be CEO and president of Viacom, and now runs an equity firm "deeply engaged in the media industry." (I assume Elkes is in charge of keeping the media so liberal.)

It's these people—along with billionaires like Rupert Murdoch and Sun Myung Moon, who give Gaffney his prominent platforms—who are the source of the craziness. Gaffney himself is essentially irrelevant.

Of course, you may say you don't want to believe we're a country with lots of powerful people who wholeheartedly support the equivalent of Holocaust denial. You may say you don't want to believe our political system is as crazy as Iran's. Well, I don't want to believe it either. The only reason I do is because it's true.

February 20, 2007

Les Jokes


The web site of a museum dedicated to the JFK assassination has unveiled new footage showing President Kennedy's motorcade. The silent, 8 mm color film offers "the clearest, best film of Jackie in the motorcade," said Gary Mack, curator of the Sixth Floor Museum. "You can clearly see that she has a gun."

Monday, Wal-Mart announced plans to put nine new stores in areas across the US which are in need of economic revitalization. With luck, Wal-Mart hopes to create the same thriving economy, community spirit, and sense of hope for the future it has spread throughout so many of America's small towns.

...Said Wal-Mart Vice Chairman John Menzer, "Areas like this don't need another jobs program. They don't need the government coming in and telling everybody what to do. No. What America's struggling communitiies need are 50 pound jars of dill pickles. And a 78-year-old woman carrying it out to your car."

Trying to woo conservative voters, Presidential candidate John McCain told an audience Sunday that Roe versus Wade should be repealed. "Frankly," McCain said, "we can't spare the troops."

...But widespread doubts remain about Senator McCain's electability. After all, he actually went to Vietnam.


UPDATE: Kevin S. points out that Dennis is being brutal but funny, or as I term it, "brutny."

February 19, 2007

"Dad Is Missing"

Here's an article from Saturday's Wall Street Journal by Sarmad Ali, a young Iraqi journalist living in the U.S.:

About 5 o’clock on a mid-December morning, I was awakened by a call from my brother in Iraq. “Dad is missing,” he said. He was upset and some of his anger spilled out at me: “You should be here,” he shouted. “You don’t seem to care.”

My father had left home in Baghdad that morning to go to the auto-repair shop across town where he works. Fifteen minutes after he left, car bombs exploded on his route to work and he hasn’t been seen since.

His disappearance set off a desperate search by my family through the netherworld of war-torn Baghdad. It also put me in the agonizing position of trying to help my family with the violent dislocations of civil war — over the phone, from thousands of miles away.

The rest. You can also hear Ali reading a version here.

(Thanks to Saheli, a friend of Ali's friend Cyrus Farivar, for pointing this out.)

Speaking Of Bottoms

Speaking of bottoms, and the odd fixations that some political leaders have with them, did you know Ian Paisley ran a failed campaign in the late seventies called "Save Ulster from Sodomy"? I myself didn't until I learned it from Bob Harris' incredibly funny and fascinating forthcoming book.

Of course, those who did not support Paisley must now admit how wrong they were, given that Sodomy conquered Ulster. The city has been razed to the ground by the Sodomy Army, and all its residents sent to work in the Sodomy Mines. Let us hope mankind has finally learned its lesson: you cannot negotiate with or appease Sodomy.

AND: I once knew a young Irish lass right around the time Ireland approved a referendum changing the constitution to make divorce legal. (Amazingly enough, this was in 1995.) She used to tell funny stories about how her mother was definitely voting for it, and her father was definitely voting against.

February 18, 2007

The Bin Laden-Fuckin', Arafat-Murderin' George Bush

A few months ago a book called Ariel Sharon: An Intimate Portrait came out. It's by the late Uri Dan, who was Sharon's longtime confidant/bootlicker. It sounds like it's worth skimming, at least for these two parts:

From a new review in Ha'aretz:

Speaking of George Bush, with whom Sharon developed a very close relationship, Uri Dan recalls that Sharon's delicacy made him reluctant to repeat what the president had told him when they discussed Osama bin Laden. Finally he relented. And here is what the leader of the Western world, valiant warrior in the battle of cultures, promised to do to bin Laden if he caught him: "I will screw him in the ass!"

Dear God, I hope no one tells David Broder about this!

Then there's this, from a column by Uri Avnery:

Just before he died, Uri Dan, who had been Ariel Sharon's loyal mouthpiece for almost 50 years, published a book in France. It includes a report of a conversation Sharon told him about, with President (George W.) Bush. Sharon asked for permission to kill Arafat and Bush gave it to him, with the proviso that it must be done undetectably. When Dan asked Sharon whether it had been carried out, Sharon answered: "It's better not to talk about that." Dan took this as confirmation...

Is there proof that Arafat was murdered by Israeli or other agents? No, there is none. This week I again ran into MK Zahalka, and both of us concluded that the suspicion is growing stronger, together with the conviction that Arafat's absence is felt now more than ever.

PREVIOUSLY: "Did you tell her I'm going to kick his sorry motherfucking ass all over the Mideast?"

(Ha'aretz review via Chris Floyd, via the Angry Arab)

February 17, 2007

Judith Miller Doesn't Make Mistakes, And Neither Does Frontline's Transcription Service

Here's a section of the transcription of Frontline's recent interview with Judith Miller:

MILLER: I'll say something else about WMD: It's a very hard area to write about. I was not alone. Many other papers did the same kind of reporting that I did. I think because The New York Times is the paper that it is and I had written for so long about it, I was --

BERGMAN: You were the leader. You were the expert in this area.

MILLER: I was the alleged expert.

Amusingly, though, if you watch the show, Miller actually said this:

MILLER: It's a very hard area to write about. I was not alone. Many other papers made the...uh... did the same kind of reporting that I did. I think because The New York Times is the paper that it is and I had written for so long about it, I was --

"We Are Not Freaks"

Arthur Silber has a post here well worth reading on the dynamics of straight white male-ism. As a charter member of said group, I can say it's taken quite a while for me to realize that all those criticisms made of us, including the nice liberal straight white male subgroup to which I belong...all those criticisms that made me defensive and caused my brain to freeze up...all those criticisms turn out to be...accurate. The interesting thing to me is, while I had to completely reconstruct my personality in order to perceive this, I'm now much more relaxed, much less guilt-ridden, and generally much happier. I recommend this total personality reconstruction to anyone.

Be sure to also read this post by Arthur, referenced in the first. And to understand where he's coming from, check out this post at TAPPED (including the comments) that started everything.

February 16, 2007

More Bombs Going Off In Iran

I wonder what would happen in the U.S. if Iran were threatening to attack us and refusing to take the use of nuclear weapons off the table—while all the while funding separatist movements here, just as bombs were going off in U.S. cities.

I bet we'd be pretty mad. Fortunately, it's only us doing it to them, so it doesn't count:

TEHRAN, Iran - A bomb exploded in southeastern Iran late Friday, near the site where an explosion this week killed 11 members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, and clashes broke out afterward between Iranian police and insurgents, Iranian news agencies reported.

"The sound of a bomb explosion was heard in one of Zahedan's streets," IRNA, Iran's official news agency, reported. The report gave no further details, including whether there were casualties. The semiofficial Fars news agency said the explosion was at a school and was followed by clashes.

"The insurgents began shooting at people after the explosion. Clashes are continuing between police and the armed insurgents," the Fars agency said.

On Wednesday, a car bomb blew up a bus owned by the elite Revolutionary Guards in Zahedan, capital of the Sistan-Baluchestan province on the border with Pakistan.

A Sunni Muslim militant group called Jundallah, or God's Brigade, which has been blamed for past attacks on Iranian troops, claimed responsibility for the Wednesday bombing.

Iran has accused the United States of backing militants to destabilize the country...

A majority of Iran's population are Shiite Muslims but minority Sunnis live in southeastern Iran.

Part II Of "The Undertaker's Tally"

Part II of the Roger Morris series for Tomdispatch is now up here. If you haven't read it already, Part I is here.

Comedy...Or ComeDIE?!?

By now most of you troublemakers have seen the promo clip for Fox's new show The 1/2 Hour News Hour. If you haven't: yes, it is just as excruciatingly unfunny as you suspect.

But why do conservatives generally have such trouble creating—or even comprehending—teh funny? An insightful discussion of this appears in Life and How to Survive It by John Cleese and Robin Skynner.

CLEESE: Laughter increases the cohesion within a group. Think how politicians make an audience feel good by making jokes about opposing parties. [But] I always get bothered that all this nice cosy cohesion in a group is usually bought at the expense of out-groups. Because there's another kind of laughter which in recent years I've come to value far more. And that's the laughter that says, "Yes, that's funny, and it's funny because I recognize that this behavior is something I share, something that we all share because it's intrinsic to being human. It's how people are." Now that is definitely the best kind of laughter.

SKYNNER: Do you remember what conclusion we came to about mental health at the end of the first chapter?

CLEESE: You mean that the least healthy people are paranoid and need other people to blame and hate, but the most healthy people are "affiliative."

SKYNNER: Yes. Well I'm suggesting that humor, like all other aspects of human behavior, can be looked at in the same way. That is, any given piece of humor or laughter can be placed at some point on the spectrum between most paranoid and most affiliative. For example, take the nastiest kind of racial jokes. They'll be ways in which one group expresses its hostility toward another, so these jokes belong down the most paranoid end of the spectrum. Whereas the jokes you describe in which people acknowledge they are laughing at failures which are common to all human beings, part of the human condition, would be right up at the healthiest end of the spectrum.

CLEESE: Then there's not really an out-group at all—the humor is saying: "Isn't it hilarious that this is what all we human beings are really like, despite our pretensions."

I remember Jonathan Miller saying that true humor produces great intimacy. Now I see why. Because the best humor emphasizes the similarities between people, not the differences.

SKYNNER: That's humor's greatest value, I believe. Not just for the pleasure and sense of well-being it brings us, but the way it can remind us day after day of the limitations we all have simply because we're human beings—and of how easily we forget that!

In other words, the best comedy is directly antithetical to the core values of the human instinct we call conservatism.

I think that's about all there is to say about this.

February 15, 2007

Part III Of Harper's Discussion, Plus...Something Else

Harper's has been running a three-part series with different experts evaluating the likelihood Bush will attack Iran. Part III, with think tank denizens, is now up here. Previously: Part I with independent analysts, and Part II with former CIA analysts.

Then go read McClatchy's Baghdad Bureau blog about our current war.

An Inside View Of The Los Angeles Times

From "Parties of God: The Bush Doctrine and the Rise of Islamic Democracy" by Ken Silverstein in the March, 2007 issue of Harper's (not online):

To write with any nuance about Islamists for an American audience is to invite controversy. I experienced this firsthand a year ago, when, as a staff reporter for the Los Angeles Times, I visited Lebanon for a story that discussed Hezbollah's evolution from its origins during the country's civil war and the basis for its popularity...

After submitting my story, though, I ran up against insurmountable editorial obstacles...

The primary problem, it soon became clear, was fear of offending supporters of Israel. At one point I was told that editorial changes were needed to "inoculate" the newspaper from criticism, and although who the critics might be was never spelled out, the answer seemed fairly obvious. I was also told in one memo that "we should avoid taking sides," which apparently meant omitting inconvenient facts. Over my repeated objections, editors cut a line that referred to "Israel's creation following World War II in an area overwhelmingly populated at the time by Arabs." That, I was told in an email from one editor, David Lauter, was

the Arab view of things. Israelis would say, with some justification, that much of the area wasn't overwhelmingly populated by anyone at the time the first Zionist pioneers arrived in the first part of the 20th century and that the population rose in the mid-decades of the century in large part because of people migrating into Palestine in response to the economic development they brought about.

But that argument, which in any case doesn't refute what I wrote, was long ago rejected by serious Mideast scholars, including many in Israel. It also avoids confronting a root cause of the conflict. According to the Jewish Agency for Palestine, the original Zionist governing body in what was to become Israel, there were roughly 1.1 million Arab Muslims living in Palestine at the time of partition—twice the number of Jews. "Perspective is everything," I replied in an email to the editors. "If my name was Mostafa Naser and I grew up in the southern suburbs of Beirut, I seriously doubt I would be an ardent Zionist. If we can't even acknowledge that Arabs have a legitimate point of view—and acknowledge what the numbers show—we caricature them as nothing more than a bunch of irrational Jew haters." As I noted in a conversation with one editor, religious hatred, on both sides, is an element in the conflict, but it is fundamentally a struggle over land and national identity. If an Eskimo state had been created in Palestine in 1948, one suspects that anti-Eskimo feeling would have increased in the Arab world. After days of unfruitful negotiations, and a final edit that in my view gutted the story, I decided to pull the piece rather than "inoculate" it to the point of dishonesty.

I assume when David Lauter spoke of "people migrating into Palestine in response to the economic development," he was thinking of From Time Immemorial by Joan Peters. It was published (appropriately enough) in 1984, and was soon understood by essentially everyone on earth to be an embarrassing fraud. But apparently this news hasn't made it to the Los Angeles Times yet.

February 14, 2007

El Funnesto


Comedian Al Franken announced today that he was running for the US Senate in 2008. When asked why he was running, Franken said bluntly, "The events of the past few years have demonstrated that it's not enough to say the right things. People must step up. Citizens have to make their voices heard. That's the only way we'll ever get SNL off the air."

In Jerusalem, members of the Israeli parliament are debating whether to oust that country's President, who faces rape and sexual assault charges. President Bush expressed his support saying, "I told Moishe a million times: just do it to the country."


Judith Miller Still As Bonkers As Ever

Here's Judith Miller last night on Frontline:

LOWELL BERGMAN: There's definitely a group of people felt you were becoming a martyr [by going to jail rather than reveal her conversations with Scooter Libby], that you were doing this to make up for the problems with the WMD coverage.

JUDITH MILLER: ...I didn't feel I had anything to apologize for with my WMD coverage.

Here's Seymour Hersh on the same program:

HERSH: I still think that those reporters who do things I find heinous believe they're doing the right thing.

Harper's Discussion On Iran, Part II

Part II of Ken Silverstein's three-part series on the probability of the U.S. attacking Iran is up on the Harper's website, here. Part I is here.

Blame Canada Dennis!

In the wake of the John Edwards blogger "scandal," many have wondered whether regular bloggers will ever be able to work for political campaigns. (Well, Democratic political campaigns. Anything whatsoever remains OKIYAR.)

Fortunately, Dennis is riding to the rescue with an easy solution—blame him:

Look -- there's no way in hell that a serious Democratic campaign is going to hire the likes of me. Not only is my contempt for this corrupt, archaic political system open for all to see, my public opinions have bordered on slander and oftentimes read like a lunatic's screams. When it comes to mainstream political discussion, I'm toxic, damaged goods. But that doesn't mean you have to suffer the same marginalization. So instead of quitting a campaign under pressure, why not Blame Me! for your previous outbursts!

For an affordable, privately-negotiated fee, I'll allow you to insert my name in your blog archives, making me the source of any or all hostile opinions you may have typed in the heat of the moment. When your political enemies are searching for something that can embarrass your candidate, instead of finding this:

The crypto-fascist Christers are trying to shove their blood-stained crucifix up our collective ass.

They'll see this:

'The crypto-fascist Christers are trying to shove their blood-stained crucifix up our collective ass,' said Dennis Perrin, discussing the GOP's 2008 campaign strategy.

The rest.

Donald Rumsfeld: Incredibly Enough, Even Worse Than You Thought

Don't miss this Tomdispatch piece by former National Security Council staffer Roger Morris about the career of Donald Rumsfeld. I know you already think Rumsfeld was bad, but you likely have no idea.

And this is only Part I. Part II is coming Thursday.

February 13, 2007

George Tenet Not Thinking This One Through

More George Tenet:

One person who has read early drafts of the book said Mr. Tenet defended himself by carefully parsing the “slam dunk” comment: he said he was not telling Mr. Bush that there was rock-solid evidence that Mr. Hussein had chemical and biological weapons, only that the president could make a “slam dunk” case to the American public about these weapons programs.

Uh. Hmm.

I don't think this is the best direction for Tenet to take this in. Given that it, you know, implies they were consciously fooling America.

Harper's Discussion On Iran

Ken Silverstein of Harper's is running a three-part series of discussions with experts on the likelihood of a U.S. attack on Iran. The first part is up here.

The Human Toll Of War

More about George Tenet and his new book:

The publisher who met with Mr. Tenet said he had spoken extensively about the toll that the Iraq war had taken on his family, particularly on his son, who was"teased mercilessly" at school. "Other kids would yell, 'Your dad's a murderer!' and that kind of thing," the publisher recalled him saying.

While one feels for Tenet's son, we must remember he has not been the only one to suffer: a recent study by Johns Hopkins researchers estimated that 650,000 Iraqis have also been mercilessly teased. And I've heard 3,000 U.S. soldiers were made fun of so cruelly by the other children that they ran back home to America hidden in metal boxes covered in flags.

Dick Cheney Was Helpless In The Face Of Those Overpowering Intelligence Assessments

About George Tenet's new book:

Mr. Tenet is not expected to take on Mr. Bush, with whom he developed a close bond during early morning intelligence briefings in the Oval Office. But Mr. Tenet's friends said he had been surprised when Mr. Cheney and Ms. Rice, appearing on Sunday talk shows last September, fingered him in justifying Mr. Bush's decision to go to war with Iraq.

In the interview on "Meet the Press," Mr. Cheney said: "George Tenet sat in the Oval Office and the president of the United States asked him directly, he said, 'George, how good is the case against Saddam on weapons of mass destruction?' The director of the C.I.A. said, "a slam dunk, Mr. President, it's a slam dunk."

Mr. Cheney added, "That was the intelligence that was provided to us at the time, and based upon which we made a choice."

From Henry Kissinger's 1995 book Diplomacy, p. 303:

What political leaders decide, intelligence services tend to seek to justify. Popular literature and films often depict the opposite--policymakers as the helpless tools of intelligence experts. In the real world, intelligence assessments more often follow than guide policy decisions.

This is in reference to what Kissinger terms a "wild exaggeration of German strength that blighted French military estimates."

February 12, 2007

Zut Alors! Encore Avec Le Funnie!


The International Space Station lost power for a few hours on Sunday. Officials said that the batteries became drained after the crew got obsessed with trying to get their Nintendo Wii to work in zero-gravity.

The Israeli Defense Ministry announced Monday that had it had tested that country's state-of-the-art anti-missile system. "The test was a complete success," said the official. "President Bush picked up on the first ring."

The rest.

Le Funnie Continues


The U.S. Military is claiming that the government of Iran is arming insurgent militias in Iraq, raising the question of whether the war is widening. Now maybe it's me, but the idea of invading Iran to fix Iraq seems like trying to fix your marriage by having an affair.

Harvard University named its first female President Sunday. When told of the news, former President Lawrence Summers said, "Tell her there's a calculator in the desk if she needs one."

More here.

Bad Tux Explains It All For You

Bad Tux the Snarky Penguin says this about Michael "Tape Recorder" Gordon:

I think the problem here is a disconnect between what newspapers see their job as being, and what citizens want and need in order to do their job as citizens of a free nation. Newspapers see their job as being accurate transcriptionists of people in power. But citizens want newspapers to go beyond simply transcribing the words of people of power, and find out what the truth is and report the truth.

Actual email from Michael Gordon defending his Iran article:

I spent some time talking to a range of officials on this issue and quoted the intel reports accurately.

The Nazis -- A Warning From Amazon Unbox

1. Go read Digby's post "Revenge of the Republican Geeks" about the new New Yorker profile of Joel Surnow, co-creator of 24.

2. Go to the Amazon.com page for the documentary The Nazis—A Warning from History

3. Read the product description:

How could a political party as fundamentally evil and overtly racist as the Nazis come to power? This remains one of the most enigmatic questions of the last century. Acclaimed historian Laurence Rees examines what led a cultured nation at the heart of Europe to commit the atrocities it did. In so doing, he exposes popular myths and encourages understanding of the real forces that led to one of the darkest chapters in modern history. Was it simply the hypnotic power of Hitler's rhetoric? Did the Gestapo really impose themselves by terror on an unwilling population? Through interviews with witnesses and perpetrators, along with archive film and records, this six-part series unveils a more chilling reality.

4. Read this review:

This series is very good a zeroing in on individual Nazis to show how ordinary people did terrible things within the framework of the larger state. It also does an excellent job of explaining the Nazi world view. It pays well deserved attention to the importance Hitler placed on "art" and culture as well as the way in which social darwinism was twisted into a culture of lawlessness where the strong were encouraged to exploit, if not destroy, the weak.

5. Look at the Amazon ad on the same page for their Unbox feature, which lets you buy movies via download.

See how it says "Buy the DVD and get a FREE TV show"?

See what TV show they use to illustrate this?

6. Enjoy a dark, fear-filled chuckle

February 11, 2007

"The Year Of Iran"


Some senior administration officials still relish the notion of a direct confrontation. One ambassador in Washington said he was taken aback when John Hannah, Vice President Cheney's national security adviser, said during a recent meeting that the administration considers 2007 "the year of Iran" and indicated that a U.S. attack was a real possibility. Hannah declined to be interviewed for this article.

John Hannah replaced Scooter Libby as Cheney's national security adviser when Libby resigned. He also was a primary author of the case on Iraq that Cheney's staff wanted Colin Powell to use at the UN, but Powell threw out as crap. And given what Powell did use, that must have been some pretty crappy crap.

(Thanks to Seth Ackerman for pointing this out.)

February 10, 2007

Readin' Readin' Readin'

"Over the Cliff with George and Dick" by Tom Engelhardt

"Palestine, Bush's Other Civil War" by Seth Ackerman

"Helping Israel Die" by Ray McGovern

New York Times Reveals "Reporter" Michael Gordon Actually Voice-Activated Tape Recorder

NEW YORK—New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller today announced that the paper's longtime staff writer Michael Gordon is not an actual person, but rather a voice-activated tape recorder.

"I'm not sure why everyone didn't figure this out before now," said Keller, pointing to the fact that, in Gordon's 26-year career, all of "his" stories have consisted entirely of transcribed statements by anonymous government officials.

According to Jill Abramson, the paper's Managing Editor, Gordon was purchased for $27.95 at a Radio Shack on West 43rd Street. Describing the situation as a prank that had "gotten slightly out of hand," Abramson said the paper had decided to acknowledge Gordon's identity because—after the tape recorder's front page story today, "Deadliest Bomb in Iraq Is Made by Iran, U.S. Says"—there "was no place left to take the joke."

Keller described how he and Abramson laughed continuously while editing the Iran story, which is based on the following sourcing:

U.S. Says...United States intelligence asserts...reflects broad agreement among American intelligence agencies...civilian and military officials from a broad range of government agencies provided...military officials say...The officials said...The assessment was described in interviews over the past several weeks with American officials...Administration officials said...according to the intelligence...According to American intelligence...Some American intelligence experts believe...they assert...notes a still-classified American intelligence report...a senior administration official said...according to Western officials...Officials said...An American intelligence assessment described to The New York Times said...Other officials believe...American military officers say...American officials say...According to American intelligence agencies...Assessments by American intelligence agencies say...Marine officials say...American intelligence agencies are concerned...Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week.

"You can't deny that's funny," said Keller, adding that the lack of skepticism displayed by Gordon was "literally inhuman." Keller and Abramson asserted that the Iran article is "even more hilarious" than Gordon's 2002 stories on Iraq's purported nuclear program, written with Judith Miller.

According to the paper's management, the Times plans to keep the tape recorder on its staff indefinitely, given that it does not require health insurance and its voice-activation feature saves a lot of tape. Indeed, the tape recorder formerly known as Michael Gordon has already filed its own story on the matter, consisting entirely of transcribed statements from anonymous government officials.

Does Iranian Perfidy Know No Limits?

In the Washingon Post:

With the aim of shaking Tehran's commitment to its nuclear program, Bush also approved last fall secret operations to target Iranian influence in southern Lebanon, in western Afghanistan, in the Palestinian territories and inside Iran.

I'm so pleased the president is finally going to "target Iranian influence" inside Iran. For too long we've sat here doing nothing while Iran hatches more and more nefarious schemes to influence itself. But finally we have a leader who understands we have to stop this. It's a simple matter of self-defense!

BUT SERIOUSLY: The U.S. is almost certainly doing things within Iran that would cause us to invade any country doing them to us—such as supporting separatist groups engaging in terrorism.

February 09, 2007

Le Funnie

Yes, this site grows less amusing every day, but Mike and Dennis are keeping hope alive.

Mike's started writing five weekend update jokes a day. For instance:

Forty-eight hours after love-struck astronaut Lisa Nowak was arrested for attempted murder, NASA pledged that it would revamp its psychological screening process. "For one thing," a NASA official said, "we'll take it more seriously when an astronaut gets a tattoo saying, 'Death from Above.'"


After discovering that many of their stadiums do not come up to code, Italian soccer officials have announced that several upcoming games will be played in front of no spectators. That's too bad...Still, it's nice to see after years of trying to convince us to play their type of football, they've given in and started to play our type of soccer.

And here's Dennis:

Democratic Senator Joe Biden is at it again. Less than a week after he described Barack Obama as "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy," for which he had to apologize, Biden yesterday quipped to reporters, "You can put a chimp in a suit, but you can't expect him to say 'Foreign Relations Committee.'" When asked if he thought his comment was racist, Biden angrily replied, "How dare you ask a brother that!"

More Dennis here.

The Dark Side

An Iraq Interrogator's Nightmare
By Eric Fair

A man with no face stares at me from the corner of a room. He pleads for help, but I'm afraid to move. He begins to cry. It is a pitiful sound, and it sickens me. He screams, but as I awaken, I realize the screams are mine.

That dream, along with a host of other nightmares, has plagued me since my return from Iraq in the summer of 2004. Though the man in this particular nightmare has no face, I know who he is. I assisted in his interrogation at a detention facility in Fallujah...

Despite my best efforts, I cannot ignore the mistakes I made at the interrogation facility in Fallujah. I failed to disobey a meritless order, I failed to protect a prisoner in my custody, and I failed to uphold the standards of human decency. Instead, I intimidated, degraded and humiliated a man who could not defend himself. I compromised my values. I will never forgive myself.

Tyler Drumheller, 25-year veteran of the CIA:

DRUMHELLER: It was Vice President Dick Cheney who talked about the "dark side" we have to turn on. When he spoke those words, he was articulating a policy that amounted to "go out and get them." His remarks were evidence of the underlying approach of the administration, which was basically to turn the military and the agency loose and let them pay for the consequences of any unfortunate -- or illegal -- occurrences...

From the perspective of the White House, it was smart to blur the lines about what was acceptable and what was not in the war on terrorism. It meant that whenever someone was overzealous in some dark interrogation cell, President (George W.) Bush and his entourage could blame someone else.

February 08, 2007

I Wish Elliot Abrams Would Come Up With New Ways To Lie To Us

Here's Elliot Abrams today, lying about never having seen Iran's 2003 peace offer:

Leverett said yesterday that he became aware of the two-page offer, which came over a fax machine at the State Department, in his waning days in the U.S. government as a senior director at the National Security Council, but that it was not his responsibility to put it on Rice's desk because Rice had placed Elliott Abrams in charge of Middle East policy. "If he did not put it on her desk, that says volumes about how she handled the issue," he said yesterday.

Abrams is currently the deputy national security adviser in charge of the Middle East and democracy promotion. An NSC spokeswoman, speaking on behalf of Abrams, said yesterday that Abrams "has no memory of any such fax and never saw or heard of any such thing."

Here's Elliot Abrams in 1984, lying about massacres by the Salvadoran military:

Appearing with Aryeh Neier on "Nightline' in February, Abrams insisted to Ted Koppel, "I'm telling you there were no massacres in El Salvador in 1984.' When Neier asked about reported massacres in Los Llanitos in July and near the Gualsinga River in August, Abrams countered, "They never happened"...When asked by Koppel if the embassy had investigated reports, Abrams's confidence seemed to drop: "My memory is that we did, but I don't want to swear to it because I'd have to go back and look at the cables." Neier says embassy officials have told him the investigations never took place; the State Department has never offered proof to the contrary.

Here's Elliot Abrams in November, 1986, lying to the Senate Intelligence Committee about the contras:

SENATOR BRADLEY: So let me ask it again. Did either one of you ever discuss the problems of fundraising by the contras with members of the NSC staff?

MR. ABRAMS: No, I can't remember.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: the only way to get appointed to a high political position in America is to have a terrible memory for politics.

(Post story via Zembla)

Wow, That Mote In The Eyes Of Iranians Is HUGE


With the United States resistant to opening talks with Tehran over Iraq and the nuclear issue, Iran's leaders are divided over what to concede in their attempts to head off a potential clash. The country's response to the U.N. Security Council's Feb. 20 deadline to cease uranium enrichment will be the first real test of whether Iran will blink. But even if officials here are increasingly anxious about the approaching deadline and rising tension with Washington, ordinary Iranians — mostly relying for information on newspapers that downplay the crisis — feel secure. "America has already shown in Iraq that it can't do anything," say Jaleh Momeni, a 26-year-old secretary in Tehran. "They don't dare attack us."

These ordinary Iranians are of course in stark contrast to ordinary Americans, who well understand the catastrophic consequences of an attack on Iran, given that American newspapers (and weekly magazines!) constantly hammer home Iran's ability to strike back at the U.S.

February 07, 2007

Act Now To Stop Bush From Attacking Iran

Don't want Bush to blow the crap out of Iran, but unsure what you can do about it? Here are some suggestions:

1. Most importantly, urge your congressional representatives to co-sponsor three pending bills on Iran. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-MAOR) and Walter Jones (R-NC) have introduced similar resolutions declaring that Bush cannot attack Iran without authorization from Congress. The main difference is that Republicans will be more likely to co-sponsor the one from Jones, a fellow Republican. The third was introduced by Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), and calls on Bush to open negotiations with Syria and Iran.

Just Foreign Policy has set up a page here where you can check to see if your representative is co-sponsoring any or all of the three bills. If they're not already co-sponsoring all of them, go to this form to automatically send them email urging them to do so. Then call them (Capitol Hill switchboard: 202 224-3121) to give them the same message.

2. Sign the Just Foreign Policy petition on Iran.

3. Sign the Democrats.com petition on Iran.

4. Donate money to Just Foreign Policy so they can run this ad in Congressional Quarterly telling Congress not to let Bush blow the crap out of Iran.

There's much more that I'll be covering soon, but this is a good start.

Return Of Stand Down

In the months before the invasion of Iraq, Max Sawicky started the No War Blog, which served as a gathering point for Iraq posts by bloggers of all political persuasions who loved Saddam so much they thought the war was a bad idea. A while back it suffered death by spam, but now he's thinking it would be a good idea to restart it...with a focus on Iran. And he's looking for some design and programming assistance:

The anti-imperialist masses are clamoring for a return of Stand Down!, a.k.a. the NoWarBlog. I still own the domain name (nowarblog.org). I will find and pay for a host. You will design the site (simple is better). I'm especially interested in setting up Scoop or something similar. Antiwar.com and Zmag are fine, but they are unidirectional and somewhat insular. We need something bidirectional to help the left get on the Internet, rather than the Internet defining what is left. On this score, I'd be interested in any ideas on how to proceed, as well as volunteers...

For the aspiring, righteous web designer in project #2, the payoff is using the product to promote one's work, plus any personal gratification you get from helping out. I'm willing to keep one permanent ad for your services on the pages as well

I am part of said anti-imperialist masses. If you have ideas for Max, you can contact him here.

February 06, 2007

No Need For Government-Run Media When You Have The History Channel

This week the History Channel is running something called "Iran: The Next Iraq?":

For over 25 years, "Death to America" has been the rallying cry of the Iranian government, but it's only recently that the threat has become chillingly real and the Islamic Republic of Iran has emerged as perhaps the most clear and present danger to American security. This special will explore the once proud military tradition of Iran, its recent decline in power, and the country's struggle to gain a place among the world's super powers. We will also examine evidence that shows Iran is secretly pursuing a nuclear weapon and just may intend to use on the United States or its allies.

I really appreciate the title. Is Iran the next Iraq? Is it a country that poses zero threat to the United States that we'll attack anyway? Will Americans be persuaded to support such an attack by crappy Soviet-style propaganda on the History Channel?

(Thanks to Sam for the tip.)

February 05, 2007

You Must Now Buy Our Kampf

Our Kampf is now available via Amazon and also via Powell's, just like a normal book that doesn't kill you seven days after you read it. (A limited number of copies are still available directly from me.)

If you haven't bought it yet, you have to buy it now. I'm serious. Not only is it one of the g-damned funniest things you'll ever experience, but it's your responsibility as a reader of this site and/or decent human. Hopefully it doesn't look like it, but this blursh requires a great deal of work. I have to be paid for it in some way, and I'd prefer to do it like this rather than kidnapping you and holding you for ransom.

If you have bought it, thank you; Mike and I truly appreciate it. However, you still have remaining obligations. Please urge it upon friends and relatives, and inform them how much more you'll love them once they've purchased their own copy. We need some check-out-this-great-weird-internet-product word of mouth here. And definitely let me know if you have something nice to say about it, which I will compile in a list of glowing testimonials.

That's all about Our Kampf, until tomorrow.

All Iran, All The Time

1. Arthur Silber: "Becoming a Barbarian, Pariah Nation: What Are You Waiting For?"

2. Leonard Weiss and Larry Diamond in the Los Angeles Times: "Congress must stop an attack on Iran"

3. Robert Parry: "Iran Clock is Ticking" and "Bush is Hiding the Ball on Iran"

4. David Patrick Welch: "New Gulf of Tonkin in the Persian Gulf"

4. Cenk Uygur: "Impeach, Impeach, Impeach"

February 04, 2007

I Miss Molly Ivins

I miss her already. Beyond her genuine funniness, was there anyone else writing about politics for a large audience who was this insightful about humans?

Watching some dipstick the other day on Fox News carry on with great certainty about Hillary Clinton and her evil motives -- and I don't think this guy actually spends a lot of time tete a tete with Mrs. Clinton while she reveals her deepest thoughts to him -- I wondered, "Lord, when are these people going to get over it?"

I think the answer is never, because most people have a very hard time forgiving those whom they have deeply wronged. I know that's sort of counterintuitive, but think about some of the bad divorces you have known. When we have done something terrible to someone, we often need to twist it around so it's their fault, not ours.

This reminds me of some event I saw on C-Span years ago. I think it was an NAACP conference; in any case, everyone on stage and in the audience was African American. After the speeches the people on stage took questions, and a girl who looked about fourteen stood up and asked this:

Why do white people seem to hate us so much? I don't understand. What is it that we did?

Unfortunately, no one gave her the right answer, which is: white Americans cannot forgive black Americans for what white people did to them. Truly confronting slavery and its continuing aftermath would be an almost unbearable experience for white America, because of what is would force us to confront about our capacity for evil.

As "Frenchy" Montesquieu wrote in the 1700s, "It is impossible for us to suppose these creatures to be men, because, allowing them to be men, a suspicion would follow that we ourselves are not Christian." And obviously THAT'S wrong. Indeed, these creatures are not just different from us but are themselves somehow to blame for what we're doing. Maybe we're even doing it for their own good! Indeed, if they're not grateful for all we've done for them, it proves how degenerate they really are! And so on into an ever-deepening spiral of insanity.


All Iran, All The Time: Let's Not Kill Lots of These People

Here's a flash animation of people being normal in Tehran. I particularly dig the woman playing golf in a hijab.

On the other hand, I could do without the "Peacetrain" soundtrack. Not because Cat Stevens is Teh Muslim, but because that song makes me feel like someone's pouring treacle on me.

Thanks to James of Homage to Icarus for the link. Be sure not to miss his own post, with the commenter explaining that "a similar montage could just as easily have been constructed around Germany in the 1930s."

February 03, 2007

Nothing But Iran

Back on November 8th last year I surmised the election results would make Bush far less likely to attack Iran. Turns out I was—how you say?—UNBELIEVABLY WRONG.

So I'm thinking I may make this site all-Iran-all-the-time for the next few months. My favorite coping strategy for massive anxiety is to learn as much as possible about the source of the anxiety...so while this would make no difference in the outside world, it might improve the weather inside my head.

To kick things off, here's my favorite passage from the recent New Republic article titled "Yossi Klein Halevi and Michael B. Oren Are Dangerously Insane and Must Be Stopped" by Yossi Klein Halevi and Michael B. Oren:

Defense experts downplay the possibility of secret facilities unknown to Western intelligence agencies. "If we can locate a suicide bomber as he moves from place to place, then we know how to locate static targets, even deep underground," says the former defense official. Nor are those facilities as impenetrable as some foreign news reports suggest. Noted Yuval Steinitz, former chairman of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee: "The Iranians are signaling us that the nuclear project is vulnerable. Whoever spends several billion dollars just for anti-aircraft systems around nuclear sites is saying that those sites are vulnerable. There would be no need to invest those sums if their bunkers were deep enough [to avoid an air strike]."

Right. When countries are being openly threatened with a massive aerial attack by extremely powerful nations that refuse to rule out the use of nuclear weapons, they will naturally eschew anti-aircraft systems. Any deviation from this standard, normal behavior is extremely significant and tells us something important.

February 02, 2007

I Only Write For Publications With "Tom" In The Name

In addition to that TomDispatch article, here's another new piece I co-wrote, from TomPaine.com:

Armchair Activism That Works

One of the most remarkable, unexpected developments of the Internet has been the explosive growth of Wikipedia. At first glance, the Wikipedia concept—that thousands upon thousands of volunteers working with little central supervision can create a huge databank of accurate information—seems untenable. And yet the Wikipedia bumblebee flies anyway. While not flawless, Wikipedia has become an invaluable resource, with detailed articles on everything from arithmetic to geodesy to the movie "Zoolander."

Can progressives make this power of networked volunteers work for us? Some are already trying. Last year, Josh Marshall’s TalkingPointsMemo.com asked the site’s readers to in turn ask their members of Congress, on the record: Do you support Bush’s plans to privatize Social Security? A regular progressive organization would have needed a large, expensive staff to make the thousands of necessary calls—if, as non-constituents, they could have gotten responses at all. But by working together in a mass electronic barn-raising, Marshall’s thousands of readers got this critical information quickly and easily. Moreover, they had fun doing it and became more loyal to the site in the process.

The rest.

"Beyond Oral Sex"

I've been busy the last week finishing a long article with David Swanson on the Iraq investigations that congressional Democrats should do—but probably won't without pressure. It's now up at TomDispatch:

Beyond Oral Sex
The Bush Investigations

The last time Congress was controlled by the party in opposition to the White House, we all learned more than we cared to know about the uses of cigars. This time the need for investigations is much more serious. The Democrats are talking fast and furious about doing them, but they're not talking about doing the right ones -- and a month into their tenure, they've barely discovered where the bathrooms are.

As humorist Bob Harris enjoys saying about the Bush administration, "It's like a new Watergate every day with these people." Congress could probably spend three decades profitably examining the last six years of the Bush administration. Unfortunately, they'll have to do severe triage to select the areas of malfeasance where investigations will most benefit the country.

The rest.

February 01, 2007

The Start Of A Long Debate

Dennis has a new post well worth reading, jumping off from a column by Jeff Cohen (mentor to many, including Dennis and me) about Jim Webb. It then goes on to consider the strategy of Progressive Democrats of America, which grew out of the 2004 Kucinich presidential campaign:

[Jeff is] after something bigger: namely, a progressive takeover of the Democratic Party. Jeff is now an active board member with Progressive Democrats of America, a group made-up of liberals and those a little further left who see the Dem party as the only realistic vehicle for serious political change. In our rigid, fixed political system, Jeff and his colleagues may be right, which is a pretty sad fact for the Greatest Democracy The World Has Ever Seen. Still, you deal with the cards that are dealt you. When Jeff informed me of this current strategy (which he predicts will take 10-20 years to fully come about), his piece on Webb made even more sense -- praise that which you can honestly praise, gain some trust, position yourself for further possible influence, and keep moving through the party.

Jeff cites the Christian Right's takeover of much of the GOP machinery as an activist model, though in my view, rightwing theocrats have more in common with their party than do progressives with the Dems. In other words, the fight on this side of the aisle is going to be much, much tougher, especially with the corporate stranglehold on the mules. At some point, serious differences will be unavoidable, namely, the mainstream Dem position on the Middle East, Israel in particular. Sooner or later, simply celebrating bits and pieces of the Dem platform will no longer suffice. When the shit truly hits the fan, that's when we'll know how far progressives can go in transforming the party altogether.

The rest.

I'm agnostic on this question, and will surely have my own blather to contribute at some point.