December 28, 2009

Rahm Emanuel and Jonathan Weisman Team Up to Create Imaginary Version of Reality

Would you like to come on a trip to a magical imaginary world? Well then, join Rahm Emanuel and his reporter sidekick Jonathan Weisman aboard this Wall Street Journal article:

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has been telling Democrats a win on the health issue will reverse the slide in public opinion, just as passage of another controversial proposal, the North American Free Trade Agreement, lifted President Bill Clinton in the polls...

In an interview Friday, Mr. Emanuel expressed little concern for the president's standing with the Democratic base. Mr. Emanuel said the liberal wing of the party is already coming back to the fold.

This would be a bizarre thing for Emanuel to be telling other Democrats under any circumstances: NAFTA passed at the end of 1993 in Clinton's first year, and then in 1994 the Democrats promptly lost control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate—the House for the first time in forty years. You wouldn't think hearing Emanuel compare today to that would really get Democrats to break out the champagne.

But what about Emanuel's specific claim: that passing NAFTA "lifted Bill Clinton in the polls"?

To start with, that's nearly impossible on the face of it. NAFTA was unpopular. It was debated throughout 1993, and a September poll that year got these results:

Do you favor or oppose the proposed free-trade agreement between the United States and Mexico?

Favor 35% (7% strongly, 28% moderately)
Oppose 41% (21% strongly, 20% moderately)
No Opinion 24%

Moreover, few people even knew what Clinton's position on NAFTA was: the same poll found 31% thought he supported it, 1% thought he opposed it, and 68% weren't sure.

But what were Clinton's actual approval ratings? Here's a graph (click to enlarge), created with a useful USA Today tool:

So let's take a look at that section of Jonathan Weisman's Wall Street Journal story again, but with additions to bring it into line with reality:

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has been telling Democrats a win on the health issue will reverse the slide in public opinion, just as passage of another controversial proposal, the North American Free Trade Agreement, lifted President Bill Clinton in the polls.

In fact, by the time NAFTA passed Clinton's approval ratings were already on a five-month upswing, improving from 38% in June, 1993 to 50% just before the House voted on the treaty that November. In the unlikely event Clinton did receive a bounce from passing the unpopular NAFTA, it was both small and short-lived: his approval rating went on to hit 58% once, at the end of January, 1994; it then slid back to 50% by the beginning of March, and was once more in the doldrums at 39% in September, nine months after Clinton signed NAFTA into law. On November 8, 1994, the Democrats lost the House and Senate, and would not regain them both for twelve years.

Of course, the real people to blame here aren't Emanuel or Weisman. Emanuel is a professional hack; his job is to generate exactly this kind of truthiness (although this is a particularly shameless example). Weisman is another kind of professional hack; he works for Rupert Murdoch, who orders his employees to serve up a steaming crock of shit every morning to their readers.

The real villains are America's educated upper middle class. In theory doctors, scientists, lawyers, professors, etc. care about reality. And if we got our act together we have the power to demand it; we could even create new institutions that could employ Jonathan Weisman and encourage him to question Rahm's latest imaginary history. But in practice it turns out that's just too much trouble. So we get $3 trillion wars and $8 trillion housing bubbles based on transparent lies.

PREVIOUSLY: Other great past achievements in stenography include those by Michael Gordon and Jeffrey Goldberg.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 07:55 AM | Comments (18)

December 24, 2009

All Mine

For three seconds I believed I was the first person to refer to the Nobel War-is-Peace Prize. This turned out to be incorrect.

However, I do seem to be the first person to call it the Nobel Peace of the Dead Prize. So I'm taking full credit for that, despite the fact it has so far failed to set the internet on fire.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 07:24 AM | Comments (12)

December 22, 2009

I Don't Get It

I understand all of Barack Obama's behavior this past year, except for one thing. He's a standard issue corporate Democrat, and has done everything standard issue corporate Democrats do. And while he theoretically could make the Democrats more politically successful by taking advantage of popular anger and staking out some populist positions, especially regarding Wall Street, the Iron Law of Institutions decrees that he won't—while the Democratic party overall would be more successful, mobilizing new constituencies would require Obama himself and his primary backers to have less power within the party. Imagine if all 15 million people on Obama's email list, energized by encouragement from Obama, were getting organized and coming up with their own ideas. Stephen Bing wouldn't like that.

So that's not confusing. All of it makes perfect sense and doesn't require Obama and friends to act like anything other than regular power-hungry politicians.

But here's what I don't get: why didn't Obama, starting the day after he won the election, relentlessly brand the economy as Bush's? Why didn't he tell every Democrat that whenever they appear on TV, they have to meet a quota of three mentions of "The Bush Economy"? That's just politics 101, and god knows the Republicans would have done it if the situation were reversed. Obama had every incentive to do this, and none not to—he could still have had the same policies to pay off Wall Street, while shielding himself from some of the heat.

It's weird. While the Democrats do behave like the Washington Generals, consistently playing to lose, I don't generally think it's conscious. They're just responding to incentives. But here the incentives are all in one direction (as far as I can tell), and they haven't acted.

The only explanation I can see is staggering incompetence. I guess you can never rule that out.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 08:46 PM | Comments (41)

December 21, 2009

The Crazy, Crazy People Running This Planet

While chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan was perhaps the most powerful person on the planet. He was certainly always in the top three. And he was a lunatic.

You may remember this letter to the editor by Greenspan that appeared in the New York Times in 1957, when he was 31 years old:

Atlas Shrugged is a celebration of life and happiness. Justice is unrelenting. Creative individuals and undeviating purpose and rationality achieve joy and fulfillment. Parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should.

Uh...that is quite an interesting insight, Mr. Money Guy. *backing away slowly*

But there's more, from this interview with economist Paul Samuelson shortly before he died:

And this brings us to Alan Greenspan, whom I've known for over 50 years and who I regarded as one of the best young business economists. Townsend-Greenspan was his company. But the trouble is that he had been an Ayn Rander. You can take the boy out of the cult but you can't take the cult out of the boy. He actually had instruction, probably pinned on the wall: "Nothing from this office should go forth which discredits the capitalist system. Greed is good."

It's amazing any of us are still alive.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 06:06 PM | Comments (17)

Greg Mankiw, Teaching by Example

Fire Larry Summers Now! is a funny little blug written by an anonymous economics graduate student at an unidentified fancy college. Recently Greg Mankiw, who's an extremely fancy economics professor at Harvard and was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors during the Bush administration, sent the blug some email:

I have stumbled upon your blog a couple times, and I must say that I am very much put off by it. The blogosphere is fill with too much rude ad hominem rhetoric. Engaging in it under a pen name seems particularly cowardly. I recommend having the courage of your convictions by revealing your name. Otherwise, stop the mean-spiritied attacks on Larry Summers and other economists of note.

This is from the book The Doubter's Companion by John Ralston Saul:

The idea of unregulated warfare appeals to our foolish self-pride by suggesting that only a weakling, a coward or an incompetent could be afraid to come out from behind artificial protection in order to fight like a man. Of course only a fool rises to this kind of taunting...

History is filled with a long list of small armies and small nations who have risen to the taunts of large neighbors. The next recorded event is their destruction...

In short, the people who cry loudest for a level playing field fall into two categories: those who own the goalposts and fools.

The horrifying reality is that Greg Mankiw may actually believe that there's no reason for an economics graduate student to be worried about attaching their name to criticizing Larry Summers (and Greg Mankiw). How can anyone believe money and power have anything to do with what happens in academic economics? The only power that matters is the power of ideas. I mean, how else can you explain the fact that Greg Mankiw has an endowed chair at Harvard, one of the most left-wing institutions on the face of the earth?

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 02:30 PM | Comments (8)

December 20, 2009

New Tomdispatch


"They’re Wasted"
The Price of Pushing Our Troops Too Far

By William Astore

When I was on active duty in the military, an Army friend used to remind me: “Any day you’re not being shot at is a good Army day.” Today’s troops, especially if they’re “boots on the ground” in Iraq and Afghanistan, don’t have enough good Army days. Many of them are on their fourth or fifth deployments to a combat zone. They’re stressed out and tired; they miss their spouses and families. And often they’ve seen things they wish they’d never seen.

But you’d hardly have known this listening to the debate over President Obama’s decision to escalate yet again in Afghanistan. Its tone was remarkably antiseptic. I can’t help recalling old wargames I played as a kid in which deploying infantry brigades to faraway places was as simple as picking up a few cardboard counters, tossing the dice, and pinning my troops to a new spot on the map. No gore splattered on my face when I rolled snake eyes after pushing my grunts too far into the Fulda Gap while playing MechWar ‘77.

As we roll the dice again in Central Asia, it’s clear that we’re pushing our Army and Marines too far. Naturally, our troops, notably the brass, will deny this. For them, it’s “Army Strong” or “Semper Fi”; only losers whine or bellyache. Well, we Americans need to recognize the limits on our troops, even if they refuse to do so.


Surging by the Minute

By Jo Comerford

$57,077.60. That’s what we’re paying per minute. Keep that in mind -- just for a minute or so.

After all, the surge is already on. By the end of December, the first 1,500 U.S. troops will have landed in Afghanistan, a nation roughly the size of Texas, ranked by the United Nations as second worst in the world in terms of human development.

Women and men from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, will be among the first to head out. It takes an estimated $1 million to send each of them surging into Afghanistan for one year. So a 30,000-person surge will be at least $30 billion, which brings us to that $57,077.60. That’s how much it will cost you, the taxpayer, for one minute of that surge.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 12:03 AM | Comments (16)

December 17, 2009

Guess who's getting a lump of coal this year

By: John Caruso

The ACLU of Northern California wrote me to share this great news:

Dear Mr. Caruso,

The decade is ending with more hope than it began.

The Obama administration has begun to restore some of the fundamental rights this country was founded upon — rights that have been dismantled for too long.  Rights that you care so much about.

Yay!  I care so much about these rights, and the Obama administration is restoring them!  Thank you the Obama administration, for giving us more hope than when it began!  And Anthony D. Romero of the national ACLU wrote me another letter with even more good news:

Dear Mr. Caruso,

As 2009 comes to a close, two things have become clear to those of us who work to protect and advance freedom's cause.

The first is that our hopes for progress on civil liberties are brighter than they have been in nearly a decade.  The second is that powerful forces are aligning to block the forward momentum that America so urgently needs.

Oh no!  Powerful forces aligning to block the forward momentum that America so urgently needs?  Who can they be?  Spin me a scenario that illustrates their blackhearted no-goodness, Anthony D. Romero!

Attorney General Holder moves forward with a decision to restore the rule of law and use our time-proven U.S. courts to try those accused of the 9/11 attacks — and, like clockwork, a wave of fear-mongering and angry rhetoric about "coddling terrorists" erupts.

Ah, so on one side we have the powerful forces aligning to block the forward momentum that America so urgently needs—and on the other we have Attorney General Holder, dedicated civil liberties protector in the administration of Nobel Prize-Haver Barack Obama, who reveres the rule of law and is therefore restoring some of the fundamental rights this country was founded upon that have been dismantled for too long.  Yay!  Yay, Obama administration!

But sadly the mail didn't stop there, and what should I receive next but this dreary, whining missive from the malcontents at the Center for Constitutional Rights:

A year ago, there was great hope for change with the coming of a new presidency; and yet today we find ourselves fighting many of the same battles we fought during the Bush administration. [...] CCR is committed to ultimately prevailing on our work to put an end to the problems created by Bush (and continued under Obama), including: ending rendition (outsourcing torture); safely shutting down Guantánamo; ending warrantless spying by the NSA; repealing portions of the Patriot Act in the Supreme Court; and continuing our efforts to hold torturers accountable. Rest assured that the Center will be there for all these struggles.

Center for Total Bringdown is more like it.  "Problems created by Bush and continued under Obama"?  Didn't they get the memo?  Don't they realize that Hero-President Obama and Attorney General "Robin" Holder are doing all they can to restore some of the time-proven U.S. courts that are aligned like clockwork with fear-mongering powerful forces who have been dismantled for far too long, and America urgently needs a wave of angry terrorist rhetoric to restore the rule of law, or something like that, yay Obama!!!?  It's like they're applying a single universal standard without fear or favor to both Republican and Democratic administrations—as though the same actions deserve the same response no matter who's carrying them out.  Absurd!

No, really: absurd.

And this, my friends, is why I'm not going to send so much as a penny to the ACLU this year.  This is not just the usual sordid but ultimately excusable pandering that you expect to see during the fundraising season; it's the willful propagation of dangerous falsehoods and fantasies by an organization that should be doing everything it can to dispel them.  The ACLU should be using my money to tell its supporters the truth: that in the area of civil liberties, Obama is practically indistinguishable from Bush.  But they know that the vast majority of their members are Democrats, and they'd much rather keep them writing those fat checks than upset them with the inconvenient reality.

So if you're a card-carrying member of the ACLU, please consider redirecting your annual donation money to CCR—an organization that understands that feeding people's Democratic fantasies (no matter how profitable that might be) only makes it that much easier for the Obama administration to continue its embrace and expansion of the assault on civil liberties.

— John Caruso

Posted at 07:06 PM | Comments (36)

December 14, 2009

Populist Rhetoric and Symbolic Actions

Barack Obama is so mad at Wall Street! Here, just look at what he told 60 Minutes last night:

BARACK OBAMA: I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street...Nothing has been more frustrating to me this year than having to salvage a financial system at great expense to taxpayers that was precipitated, that was caused, in part by completely irresponsible actions on Wall Street...the people on Wall Street still don't get it. They don't get guys are drawing down $10, $20 million bonuses after America went through the worst economic year that's it's gone through in decades, and you guys caused the problem.

But he's not just all talk. He's also taking action! He's so furious he's going to have an hour-long meeting with Wall Street executives. Dear god in heaven!

Phillip Swagel was Assistant Treasury Secretary for the final two years of the Bush administration, and wrote a paper for the Brookings Institution called "The Financial Crisis: An Inside View" that came out on March 30th this year. In it he predicted the Obama administration would use essentially the same strategy as Bush's Treasury Department, but with one difference—the Obama people would:

...use populist rhetoric and symbolic actions to create the political space under which the implicit subsidies involved in resolving the uncertainty of legacy assets can be undertaken.

"Implicit subsidies involved in resolving the uncertainty of legacy assets" means, of course, "hundreds of billions of dollars given to Wall Street."

Like many professional conservative apparatchiks, Swagel comes across as tremendously angry that the Democrats do just about the same things they did—but with a different PR veneer that gets them treated by the world as somehow better people. Based on the Obama administration's actions so far, both in domestic and foreign policy, it's hard not to agree they have a point.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 10:07 AM | Comments (39)

December 12, 2009

A Short Play

GEORGE W. BUSH enters and walks to center stage.

Hey world! SUCK IT!

BUSH punches 5 billion poor people in the face.


BUSH exits. BARACK OBAMA enters and walks to center stage.

War is not healthy for children and other living things. What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding? As Dr. King taught us, the arc of the universe is long but it bends towards etc., etc., and so on.

OBAMA punches 4.88 billion poor people in the face.


—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 09:31 AM | Comments (24)

December 11, 2009

Going Backwards

This is the speech Franklin D. Roosevelt gave to Congress on March 1, 1945 after he came back from Yalta, speaking about what would become the UN:

[The Yalta Conference] ought to spell the end of the system of unilateral action...and all the other expedients that have been tried for centuries—and have always failed.

We propose to substitute for all these, a universal organization in which all peace-loving Nations will finally have a chance to join.

Sixty-four years later, Barack Obama said this in his Nobel Peace Prize speech:

America led the world in constructing an architecture to keep the peace: a Marshall Plan and a United Nations...

I -- like any head of state -- reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation.

We're so great we created the UN! Also: screw the UN!

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 08:45 PM | Comments (19)

December 10, 2009

New Tomdispatch


Living by the Gate From Hell
A Portrait of Nonviolent Resistance in One Palestinian Village

By Ellen Cantarow

Much is heard of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but the story of the determined, long-term nonviolent resistance of many Palestinian villagers to the loss of their lands, striking as it may be, is seldom told. Here’s my report from just one village on the West Bank.

At no time since its 1967 West Bank occupation have Israel’s seizures of Palestinian land and water resources seemed as shocking as the ones attending its construction of “the wall,” begun in 2002. Vast, complex, and shifting in form, the wall appears most dramatically as 25-foot-high concrete slabs punctuated by militarized watch towers, supplemented by electronically monitored electrified fences stretching over vast distances.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) declared the wall illegal, but Israel ignored the ruling. Now, it undulates through the West Bank for over 280 kilometers, clasping Israel’s major colonies and some minor ones in its embrace. The completed wall will incorporate more than 85% of the West Bank’s settler population, a de facto annexation by Israel of significant chunks of the territory it first occupied in 1967. This is the dream of Greater Israel rapidly turned into architecture.


The Nine Surges of Obama’s War
How to Escalate in Afghanistan

By Tom Engelhardt

In his Afghan “surge” speech at West Point last week, President Obama offered Americans some specifics to back up his new “way forward in Afghanistan.” He spoke of the “additional 30,000 U.S. troops” he was sending into that country over the next six months. He brought up the “roughly $30 billion” it would cost us to get them there and support them for a year. And finally, he spoke of beginning to bring them home by July 2011. Those were striking enough numbers, even if larger and, in terms of time, longer than many in the Democratic Party would have cared for. Nonetheless, they don’t faintly cover just how fully the president has committed us to an expanding war and just how wide it is likely to become.

Despite the seeming specificity of the speech, it gave little sense of just how big and how expensive this surge will be. In fact, what is being portrayed in the media as the surge of November 2009 is but a modest part of an ongoing expansion of the U.S. war effort in many areas. Looked at another way, the media's focus on the president’s speech as the crucial moment of decision, and on those 30,000 new troops as the crucial piece of information, has distorted what’s actually underway.

In reality, the U.S. military, along with its civilian and intelligence counterparts, has been in an almost constant state of surge since the last days of the Bush administration.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 03:22 PM | Comments (10)

December 09, 2009

Bad Anniversary

Donate to Consortium News here

Robert Parry:

Five years ago, a tragedy occurred in American journalism: Investigative reporter Gary Webb – who had been ostracized by his own colleagues for forcing a spotlight back onto an ugly government scandal they wanted to ignore – was driven to commit suicide. But the tragedy had a deeper meaning.

Webb’s death on the night of Dec. 9, 2004, came as the U.S. press corps was at a nadir, having recently aided and abetted President George W. Bush in taking the country to war in Iraq under false pretenses. The press corps also had performed abysmally in Bush’s two presidential campaigns in 2000 and 2004, hesitant to take on the powerful Bush Family.

In retrospect, Webb’s suicide could be viewed as an exclamation point on that sorry era, which had begun a quarter century earlier with the rise of Ronald Reagan and the gradual retreat – under right-wing fire – of what had once been Washington’s Watergate/Pentagon Papers watchdog press corps.

Yet, five years after Webb’s death, the U.S. news media continues to scrape along the bottom, still easily intimidated by the bluster of right-wing media attack groups and fast-talking neoconservatives – and still gullible in the face of lies and myths used to justify the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Absolutely, definitely read it all.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 03:03 PM | Comments (21)

Liberals Are Useless

Chris Hedges said it, not me:

I learned to dislike liberals when I lived in Roxbury, the inner-city in Boston, as a seminary student at Harvard Divinity School. I commuted into Cambridge to hear professors and students talk about empowering people they never met. It was the time of the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Spending two weeks picking coffee in that country and then coming back and talking about it for the rest of the semester was the best way to “credentialize” yourself as a revolutionary. But few of these “revolutionaries” found the time to spend 20 minutes on the Green Line to see where human beings in their own city were being warehoused little better than animals. They liked the poor, but they did not like the smell of the poor. It was a lesson I never forgot.

I've thought something along these lines many times myself. In Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky says: "liberals like people with their heads, radicals like people with both their heads and their hearts." This is an absolutely critical insight about human nature, one which would change the life courses of many young liberals if they heard it. This may explain why it seems to appear almost nowhere online.

The one thing I'd add is that conservatives actually do like people with their hearts. So I think the saying should go: "Conservatives like people with their hearts, liberals like people with their heads, radicals like people with both their heads and their hearts."

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 01:18 PM | Comments (59)

December 08, 2009

How the Crock of Shit Gets to Your Breakfast Table

Each morning Rupert Murdoch's media delivers a warm, steaming crock of shit to the world's people. How does it happen? To understand, let's take a look at one particular crock of shit, from September 24, 2002.

On that day, Murdoch's tabloid The Sun (readership eight million) ran a giant front page headline about Saddam Hussein's terrifying WMD:


Then on the inside of the paper, the headline was:


The Sun stories were based on a dossier released by the British government about Saddam Hussein's terrifying WMD. In it Tony Blair stated that "[Saddam's] military planning allows for some of the WMD to be ready within
45 minutes of an order to use them." This was so important the dossier repeated it three more times. That day Blair told parliament that the intelligence the dossier was based on was "extensive, detailed and authoritative."

So what was the ultimate source for this claim? The British media is reporting today it was AN IRAQI TAXI DRIVER. But not just any old Iraqi taxi driver—an Iraqi taxi driver BRITISH INTELLIGENCE OFFICIALS NEVER MET. Here's what happened:

1. MI6 was "squeezing their agents in Iraq for anything at all."

2. The Iraqi National Accord, an exile organization set up with money from the CIA, had hooked up MI6 with a senior Iraqi military officer. This officer claimed he spoke to the taxi driver, and said the taxi driver in turn claimed he'd heard this from OTHER Iraqi officers he'd driven somewhere. So this was completely uncorroborated, third-hand, with a taxi driver in the middle.

3. The Iraqi National Accord's spokesman later described the "45 minute" claim as a "crock of shit."

4. Breakfast time!


Today—the same day the news broke about the Iraqi taxi driver—Rupert Murdoch wrote this in a Wall Street Journal op-ed:

From the beginning, newspapers have prospered for one reason: the trust that comes from representing their readers' interests and giving them the news that's important to them. That means covering the communities where they live, exposing government or business corruption, and standing up to the rich and powerful.


—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 11:05 AM | Comments (26)

December 07, 2009

Russ Feingold Basically Thinks Sky Is Blue

Sam Husseini shows up at the news conferences after D.C. Sunday talk shows to ask forbidden questions, and then posts the results at Washington Stakeout. This week he spoke with Sen. Russ Feingold, and asked him about Afghanistan, single-payer health care, and...Israeli nuclear weapons:

HUSSEINI: Helen Thomas asked Obama at his first news conference if he knew of any country in the Mideast which possesses nuclear weapons. He said he didn’t want to "speculate." Senator, do you know of any country in the Mideast that has nuclear weapons?

FEINGOLD: I’m not free to comment on that.

Uh...who put the what in the where now?

People used to make fun of Arab politicians because of their bizarre taboo against referring to Israel by its name. (You always had to call it the "Zionist Entity.") But is there anything weirder than the refusal of U.S. politicians to say what everyone on earth knows—that Israel has nuclear weapons? And the way 99.8% of D.C. journalists have somehow agreed never to ask politicians about it?

However, to Sam's credit, he kept after Feingold, and to Feingold's credit, he sort of told the truth:

HUSSEINI: Why can you not say that Israel is a nuclear power, Senator?

FEINGOLD: I basically think it is, but I’m not somebody who is privy to all the details on that. Pakistan clearly is, Pakistan concedes it, admits it.

And even that's much further than other people have gone, like John Edwards. Countries in general are weird, and America's one of the weirdest.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 11:27 AM | Comments (25)

The Enemy's Latest Method of Asymmetrical Warfare

Here's a story from 2006 about three suicides at Guantanamo:

Military officials on Saturday suggested that the three suicides were a form of a coordinated protest.

"They are smart, they are creative, they are committed," Admiral Harris said. "They have no regard for life, neither ours nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us."

As I pointed out at the time, committing suicide was just ONE of the methods of asymmetrical warfare our foes have developed to attack us. As of 2006, they had also perfected these barbaric techniques:

1. Crying
2. Begging for Mercy
3. Getting Tuberculosis
4. Forcing Us To Torture Them
5. Not Being A Terrorist
6. Being Four Years Old

But now it turns out I underestimated them. According to a new report from the Seton Hall University School of Law, the Guantanamo Suicide Terrorists appear to have used a scheme so horrific none of us would have dreamed it possible:

7. Not Committing Suicide

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 09:40 AM | Comments (5)

December 04, 2009

New Tomdispatch


Victory at Last!
By Tom Engelhardt

Let others deal with the details of President Obama’s Afghan speech, with the on-ramps and off-ramps, those 30,000 U.S. troops going in and just where they will be deployed, the benchmarks for what’s called “good governance” in Afghanistan, the corruption of the Karzai regime, the viability of counterinsurgency warfare, the reliability of NATO allies, and so on. Let’s just skip to the most essential point which, in a nutshell, is this: Victory at Last!

It’s been a long time coming, but finally American war commanders have effectively marshaled their forces, netcentrically outmaneuvering and outflanking the enemy. They have shocked-and-awed their opponents, won the necessary hearts-and-minds, and so, for the first time in at least two decades, stand at the heights of success, triumphant at last.

And no, I’m not talking about post-surge Iraq and certainly not about devolving Afghanistan. I’m talking about what’s happening in Washington.

The rest.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 10:53 AM | Comments (20)

December 03, 2009

New Tomdispatch


Not So Pretty in Pink
The Uproar Over New Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines

By Barbara Ehrenreich

Has feminism been replaced by the pink-ribbon breast cancer cult? When the House of Representatives passed the Stupak amendment, which would take abortion rights away even from women who have private insurance, the female response ranged from muted to inaudible.

A few weeks later, when the United States Preventive Services Task Force recommended that regular screening mammography not start until age 50, all hell broke loose. Sheryl Crow, Whoopi Goldberg, and Olivia Newton-John raised their voices in protest; a few dozen non-boldface women picketed the Department of Health and Human Services.  If you didn’t look too closely, it almost seemed as if the women’s health movement of the 1970s and 1980s had returned in full force.

The rest.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 05:43 PM | Comments (9)

December 02, 2009



We are, of course, exceptional and will succeed where every other empire has failed, so it's nothing to worry about. Carry on.

You'd think this was a sardonic exaggeration of reality—that whatever someone believes in their heart of hearts, the people in charge are intelligent enough not to say this explicitly out loud.

But you'd be wrong. Here's Gen. David McKiernan, then commander of U.S. force in Afghanistan, back in February:

Q General, why should the U.S. expect to succeed in Afghanistan where other superpowers have failed?

GEN. MCKIERNAN: ...especially with the history of Afghanistan, there's always an inclination to relate what we're doing now with previous nations and history that have been in Afghanistan for other reasons. And I think that's a very unhealthy comparison.

We're in Afghanistan with the support of the Afghan people, to bring stability and a better future to that country. That's a, certainly, far different reason than, say, for instance, the Soviets were in there.

Yes, that's a very, very unhealthy comparison indeed. Perhaps the person asking that question needs to be sent to a psychiatric hospital.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 11:45 PM | Comments (40)

Nobel Peace Prize Ceremonies of the Past on Afghanistan

Back in olden times, the speeches at the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony used to decry wars in Afghanistan. I'm guessing that won't be happening this December 10th in Oslo.

Nobel Peace Prize presentation speech by Norwegian Nobel Committee, awarder of the prize, to Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, 1980:

The war in Afghanistan, more than anything else, has cast its dark shadow on men and women in the part of the world to which we Norwegians belong.

Nobel Peace Prize presentation speech by Norwegian Nobel Committee to Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 1981: Asia a new overwhelming refugee problem has arisen as a result of the war in Afghanistan. Well over two million Afghans have sought refuge in Pakistan — a developing country which, without the assistance of international organisations, is not in a position to tackle the problem involved in caring for these refugees. As yet we can see no solution to the problem that their future entails.

Nobel Peace Prize lecture, Bishop Tutu, 1984:

I have spoken extensively about South Africa, first because it is the land I know best, but because it is also a microcosm of the world and an example of what is to be found in other lands in differing degree...Fellow citizens are pitted against one another, sometimes attracting the unhelpful attention and interest of outside powers, who want to extend their spheres of influence. We see this in the Middle Afghanistan...

Nobel Peace Prize lecture, Dalai Lama, 1989:

I am very encouraged by the developments which are taking place around us...Serious efforts to bring peace to war-torn zones and to implement the right to self-determination of some people have resulted in the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan...

Nobel Peace Prize lecture, Jody Williams, 1997:

Let me take a moment to give a few examples of the degree of the epidemic...Afghanistan is littered with perhaps nine million landmines.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 10:24 AM | Comments (22)

December 01, 2009


This is from the recent HBO documentary about Barack Obama's campaign. Watching it now made me angry all over again on behalf on people who believed in him, worked on his campaign and spent a big chunk of their lives getting him elected. You can say they were incredibly naive about American politics, which is true. But stealing from easy marks is still stealing.

"When I go into the White House I will be carrying your voices with me—your voices saying, 'please escalate the war in Afghanistan, cut Social Security to satisfy asshole investment bankers like Pete Peterson, and make sure Goldman Sachs pays out tens of billions in bonuses funded with our money.' What it comes down to is who do you trust."

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 08:47 AM | Comments (68)