January 30, 2010

Essential Continuity

Just about exactly seven years ago I was arguing with someone about the coming invasion of Iraq. He'd spent some time training at Fort Benning, and wasn't an idiot. So he knew about the School of the Americas and our Grand Guignol policy toward Central America. But, he heatedly told me, this war would be completely different from all that.

Todd Greentree, a State Department official during the eighties, recently wrote a book called Crossroads of Intervention: Insurgency and Counterinsurgency Lessons from Central America. Here's one of its blurbs, from Francis Fukuyama:

"Between Vietnam and Iraq, the United States was involved in another set of now-forgotten conflicts in Central America during which it was forced, painfully, to re-learn the principles of insurgency counterinsurgency warfare. Crossroads of Intervention tells this tale in a gripping fashion, and demonstrates the essential continuity in the nature of these conflicts. It's only too bad that this book had not been available before the start of the Iraq War.”

Hooray, I was right! Too bad about all those Iraqis our allies murdered with electric drills.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 07:43 PM | Comments (12)

January 29, 2010

Why I Liked Howard Zinn

Howard Zinn was probably my favorite among the entire genre of writer/activists. The reasons boil down to the fact he was (1) humane, (2) informed without being pretentious, and (3) funny. His only real competition for me is Noam Chomsky—but while Chomsky is incredibly good at knowing everything without coming across as a jerk, he otherwise is somewhat robotic. Whether or not Chomsky actually is just as humane and funny as Zinn (I assume he is), he chooses a method of presentation that usually prevents those qualities from surfacing.

Zinn, on the other hand, was always recognizably a human being among other humans. He didn't hector, he didn't sneer, and he was never abstract. He made you think: in a better world, there would be more people like this. And maybe I could be more like him, since he doesn't make it look that hard.

This was to me one of the most meaningful things Zinn wrote, from his autobiography:

The events of my life, growing up poor, working in a shipyard, being in a war, had nurtured an indignation against the bullies of the world, who used wealth or military might or social status to keep others down.

That's not a manifesto about democracy, freedom, the means of production blah blah blah. It's just a simple perspective that anyone can understand: bullies are bad.

I agree, and I think that's pretty much all there is to say about politics and life. Bullies are bad, from the ones who make fun of the smelly kid in third grade to the ones who douse mideast villages with white phosphorus. People of the world unite: you have nothing to lose but all those bullies.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 04:41 PM | Comments (78)

January 25, 2010

First Sex Tape President

Last May I conjectured that by 2040 the U.S. would elect a president even though naked pictures or sex tapes featuring them would be available online. Nevertheless I'm startled to see how close we came to having that be true in 2010.

In the long run this is a healthy development, although traumatic for everyone involved in the short run. There will also inevitably be a feeling of wistfulness when we think about all the America presidents who we never got to see having sex. (#1: Grover Cleveland.)

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 11:58 AM | Comments (23)

January 24, 2010

Strike the root

By: John Caruso

I'm sure I won't be the only one quoting Paddy Chayefsky in the wake of the Supreme Corporate's idiotic decision, but here you go:

There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multinational dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels.

It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and subatomic and galactic structure of things today! [...] There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT and AT&T and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today.

(If you haven't seen the movie, you really should see the movie.  And be sure to see the other movie too.)

This also seems like a good time to remember this:

  1. Of the 100 largest economies in the world, 51 are now global corporations; only 49 are countries.
  2. The combined sales of the world's Top 200 corporations are far greater than a quarter of the world's economic activity. 
  3. The Top 200 corporations' combined sales are bigger than the combined economies of all countries minus the biggest 9; that is they surpass the combined economies of 182 countries.
  4. The Top 200 have almost twice the economic clout of the poorest four-fifths of humanity.

That data is from the year 2000; below are some updated stats from 2005:

Of the world's largest 150 economic entities, 95 are corporations (63.3%) according to data released this month by Fortune Magazine and the World Bank. Wal-Mart, BP, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch/Shell Group all rank in the 25 largest entities in the world, above countries that include Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Norway, Denmark, Poland, South Africa, and Greece.

But even taking all that into account, I'm not particularly bothered by this decision.  It ultimately does little to change the reality of corporate control of our political system, and in a sense it's an improvement because it makes that reality clear and undeniable.  The mask is gone.  Also, this will be the first time many people have heard (or fully understood) that our legal system treats corporations as persons, with all the rights that entails—and that's a good thing, because only the clinically insane believe that it's desirable for immortal and amoral profit-driven entities to have more power over our lives than they already do.  Even hardcore conservatives will usually agree on this point if you talk to them about it one on one, with specific examples.  I would never have imagined at the beginning of this week that by the end of it the phrase "corporate personhood" would be on so many lips, yet here we are.  Thanks, Supreme Thwart!

And the fact that this makes it impossible to pass laws limiting corporate brainwashing is also arguably for the best.  McCain-Feingold was never more than a half-assed palliative that left corporate domination over the system essentially intact—the illusion of reform, not the real thing.  In its breathtaking, overreaching arrogance, this decision forces us toward the only real solution to ending corporate dominance not only of our political system but of every aspect of our lives: passing a constitutional amendment to put an end to the offensively absurd fiction of corporate personhood.

So now that the Supreme Snort has made it illegal to waste our time hacking at the branches of evil, maybe we can finally start striking at the root.

ADDING: Conservative sites have shown an impressive dedication to hypocrisy as they've studiously avoided condemning this decision as "judicial activism", but National Review Online deserves special recognition for choosing yesterday as the perfect day to decry liberal judicial activism.  Way to go, NRO!

— John Caruso

Posted at 03:27 PM | Comments (28)

January 23, 2010

First Black President Clinton

This is a great, great joke of John Caruso's. If you have any ideas for how I could make people think it's my joke, please write them in comments below. (Obviously, I don't want anyone leaving suggestions that involve physical violence. Those should be communicated by private email.)

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 03:05 AM | Comments (25)

January 21, 2010

The surplus population

By: John Caruso

Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses?  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me?  Ha ha, just kidding!  Actually they should rot in the hellhole we've helped to create for them, and if they don't we'll throw them in another one:

United States officials say they worry that in the coming weeks, worsening conditions in Haiti could spur an exodus. They have not only started a campaign to persuade Haitians to stay put, but they are also laying plans to scoop up any boats carrying illegal immigrants and send them to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. [...]

The State Department has also been denying many seriously injured people in Port-au-Prince visas to be transferred to Miami for surgery and treatment, said Dr. William O’Neill, the dean of the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami, which has erected a field hospital near the airport in the Haitian capital.

"It’s beyond insane," Dr. O’Neill said Saturday, having just returned to Miami from Haiti.

No, it's beyond immoral, but it's perfectly sane (and just as predictable).  The Obama administration will do just what other administrations have done in similar circumstances: posture as much as it thinks it needs to while the cameras are rolling, while taking as little concrete action as it thinks it can get away with (and reversing itself as soon as it's politically tenable).  For example, Obama's Guantanamo plans are straight out of the Clinton administration:

[In] the 1992 election campaign, Bill Clinton campaigned on a pledge to reverse what he called then-President George HW Bush’s "cruel policy" of holding Haitian refugees at Guantanamo with no legal rights in US courts. Upon his election, however, Clinton reversed his position and sided with the Bush administration in denying the Haitians legal rights. The Haitians were held in atrocious conditions and the new Democratic president was sued by the Center for Constitutional Rights (sound familiar?).

And during the US attack on Yugoslavia the Clinton administration initially tried to defuse growing criticism of its refusal to take in any Kosovo Albanian refugees by announcing a plan to temporarily relocate 20,000 of them to Guantanamo, which administration officials admitted was "selected to eliminate the possibility that some of the refugees might be able to claim political asylum in the United States."  Clinton eventually abandoned the Guantanamo plan and allowed some Albanians into the continental US, in part due to public outcry over the blatant hypocrisy.  We'll see if Obama's "cruel policy" of corralling traumatized Haitians at Guantanamo meets with a similar reaction (and a similar fate), but I think it's likely that Haiti will drop off the front pages soon enough that he'll be able to get away with it.

Clinton wasn't our first black president, but Obama is most definitely our first black President Clinton.

— John Caruso

Posted at 03:44 AM | Comments (15)

January 19, 2010

Operation Elect Sarah Proceeding According to Plan

My sources in the Obama administration tell me their secret plan to make Sarah Palin president in 2012 has taken a huge step forward with the election of [Some First Name] Brown to the senate from Massachusetts. As I mentioned six months ago, Operation Elect Sarah has three key elements:

1. Fail to pass meaningful healthcare reform.

2. Fail to pass a second stimulus bill and thus doom the economy.

3. Collect giant wads of campaign contributions from Goldman Sachs.

Getting Sarah into the White House seemed like an impossible dream back in November, 2008. But these people are professionals. There's nothing they can't do.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 10:02 PM | Comments (17)

January 17, 2010

It's Nothing Personal

By: Aaron Datesman

When I read this In These Times article, I assumed that this part had to be an error:

Every day, 3 million pounds of explosives are used to blow the tops off ancient mountain ridges in southern West Virginia to access thin seams of coal underneath.

After checking around, now I believe the statistic. It’s a big number, of course, and everybody knows that mountaintop removal mining is a tremendous crime against the environment. Let’s use more meaningful units to place the statistic in its proper perspective.

Assuming that the explosives used are TNT (apparently dynamite is more energetic), this comes out to 1.36 ktonnes (kilotons) of explosive energy per day. This still does not provide much illumination. A comparison is better: the Little Boy bomb dropped on Hiroshima had an explosive force of 15 ktonnes.


I feel that the US Congress should maybe send a registered letter to Japan next August saying, “See? Really, it wasn’t anything personal.”

— Aaron Datesman

Posted at 06:14 PM | Comments (14)

America's Elite: Are They Hateful and Cruel Enough?

Another great place to donate money for Haiti is Partners in Health. Beverly Bell, an American who's worked in Haiti for many years, also suggests the Lambi Fund of Haiti and Grassroots International.

This is from the high school history textbook The American Adventure, quoted in Lies My Teacher Told Me:

During Reconstruction many people tried hard to help the black people of the South. Then, for years, most white Americans paid little attention to the blacks. Little by little, however, there grew a new concern for them.

Here's David Rothkopf, writing in Foreign Policy:

In all its benighted history, perhaps Haiti's greatest moment of hope since its independence came just a decade and a half ago. Back then, America finally took interest in its near neighbor...

But over time...the United States lost the political will to assist the struggling country. Good intentions and a pregnant moment were overtaken by events ...

If you can believe it, the rest of Rothkopf's post is even more grotesque. If I were a 1953 Soviet apparatchik looking for people to write a encyclopedia he's just the kind of historian I'd hire.

Besides working as a Deputy Undersecretary for Trade at the State Department, Rothkopf was once managing director of Kissinger Associates. You can decide for yourself if the answer to the question posed in the title here is "yes."

P.S: David Brooks also wonders why Haiti's in such bad shape. The answer turns out to be voodoo.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 03:33 PM | Comments (28)

January 14, 2010

Important Haiti Actions

There are many worthwhile organizations aiding Haiti listed here, but John Caruso and several friends and emailers specifically recommend donating to the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund.

It's important that the U.S. immediately grant Haitian refugees protected status from deportation. Tell Obama and then tell Congress.


In February of last year, President Obama's Department of Homeland Security followed through on a Bush administration plan and ordered the forcible repatriation of over 30,000 Haitians.

The White House just announced that it was "pausing" the deportation of Haitian refugees -- but it has refused to afford Haitians the immigration protections offered to victims of war or disaster from countries including El Salvador, Honduras, Somalia and Sudan. Simply pausing deportation falls far short of the protections advocated by human rights groups.

President Obama must order the Department of Homeland Security immediately grant Temporary Protected Status to undocumented Haitians in the U.S. This will give them protection from forcible deportation to Haiti, allow them to work legally, and start the long and difficult process of healing their families and communities. To refuse to do so would be irresponsible and immoral.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 12:01 PM | Comments (44)

January 13, 2010

Shock Doctrine for Haiti

Lisa Derrick at Firedoglake has a collection of good organizations to give to money for Haiti. Registered nurses can volunteer to go in an effort being organized by the union National Nurses United.

As George W. Bush said about 9/11, "Through my tears I see opportunity." It turns out that now, according to the Heritage Foundation, similar opportunities are available after the catastrophic Haitian earthquake:

Amidst the Suffering, Crisis in Haiti Offers Opportunities to the U.S.

In addition to providing immediate humanitarian assistance, the U.S. response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti earthquake offers opportunities to re-shape Haiti’s long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the public image of the United States in the region...

While on the ground in Haiti, the U.S. military can also interrupt the nightly flights of cocaine to Haiti and the Dominican Republic from the Venezuelan coast and counter the ongoing efforts of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to destabilize the island of Hispaniola. This U.S. military presence, which should also include a large contingent of U.S. Coast Guard assets, can also prevent any large-scale movement by Haitians to take to the sea in rickety watercraft to try to enter the U.S. illegally.

Meanwhile, the U.S. must be prepared to insist that the Haiti government work closely with the U.S. to insure that corruption does not infect the humanitarian assistance flowing to Haiti. Long-term reforms for Haitian democracy and its economy are also badly overdue.

Good to see that, in the midst of the today's confusion, someone's focusing on what really matters: making sure America's 210 years of superhuman cruelty toward Haiti continue without respite.

(Thanks to David Rosnick for sending this.)

AND: Bayville points out in comments that another of Heritage's anti-experts on Haiti, Ray Walser, referred to Haiti's capital in National Review as "Port of Prince." (Click below.) He's since corrected it, thus invalidating my theory that all Heritage employees have the part of the brain removed that produces shame.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 04:48 PM | Comments (16)

My Twitter Feud with Jake Tapper

It's going great, although given the imbalance in enthusiasm levels, I'm feuding with Tapper in about the same way I'm having a love affair with Cameron Diaz. Still, I appreciate that he's responding at all.

This is based on Tapper's righteous indignation that the Obama administration criticized Fox News. As we know, in the United States politicians are encouraged to refer to reporters as liberal terrorist traitors. That's just telling it like it is, and when they do it, corporate journalists like Tapper rush to be the first person to go on TV to say the politicians have a point.

On the other hand, if politicians criticize a giant corporate news outlet from the left, that obviously is AGAINST THE LAW. Jake Tapper saw this lawbreaking, and at a White House press conference made a citizen's arrest:

TAPPER: It’s escaped none of our notice that the White House has decided in the last few weeks to declare one of our sister organizations “not a news organization” and to tell the rest of us not to treat them like a news organization. Can you explain why it’s appropriate for the White House to decide that a news organization is not one –

GIBBS: Jake, we render, we render an opinion based on some of their coverage and the fairness that, the fairness of that coverage.

TAPPER: ...I’m talking about saying thousands of individuals who work for a media organization, do not work for a “news organization” -- why is that appropriate for the White House to say?

Below is my entire Twitter exchange with Tapper, from beginning to (current) end. I'll continue to update it here, or you can also follow it directly.

• • • 

tinyrevolution @jaketapper - besides politicians criticizing media, what startles you most about world you've woken up to after 40 year coma?

jaketapper @tinyrevolution and reporters should have asked the WH about it for every one of those instances

tinyrevolution @jaketapper, you've described Fox as a "sister organization" to ABC. Is al-Manar also your sister organization?

tinyrevolution Trying again: @jaketapper, you've described Fox as a "sister organization" to ABC. Is al-Manar also a sister organization?

jaketapper @tinyrevolution by that i meant a fellow WH-credentialed news org.

tinyrevolution @jaketapper So, no ABC concern at US bombing SerbiaTV, Bush's wish to bomb Al-Jazeera and Israel bombing Al-Manar because no WH credentials?

tinyrevolution @jaketapper And no ABC concern at Perle calling Hersh "closest thing US journalism has to a terrorist" because...NYer isn't credentialed?

jaketapper @tinyrevolution Youre putting words in my mouth and then assailing them. Seems to me you dont need me if youre going to do both parts.

tinyrevolution @jaketapper I've searched for evidence of ABC concern about all those examples. I've found none. Happy to acknowledge if it exists. Does it?

tinyrevolution @jaketapper To be fair, George Will did ask William Cohen whether wussy civilian leaders were preventing NATO from bombing SerbTV

tinyrevolution @jaketapper And later Morton Dean did say, "From NATO's point of view, the timing of the attack [on SerbTV] was exquisite."

tinyrevolution @jaketapper But whatever your answer, I should say I do appreciate and admire your responsiveness

jaketapper @tinyrevolution you're conflating two very very different things. bombing a media outlet in war v. criticizing one domestically.

tinyrevolution @jaketapper Okay: difference in your reaction *not* WH credentials, but other outlets were foreign & it was war?

tinyrevolution @jaketapper So, if Iranian mullahs criticize Iranian paper = something Iranian journalists should care about...

tinyrevolution @jaketapper ...and if Iranian mullahs attack America and blow up Fox headquarters = not something Iranian journalists should care about?

tinyrevolution @jaketapper Finally: seems worth noting America's never been at war with Qatar, al Jazeera's home. But they are foreign!

tinyrevolution @jaketapper Then of course there's Seymour Hersh, who I believe is Swedish and hence fair game

tinyrevolution Hope no one tells @jaketapper that WH staffer wanted president to "attack [the press] and attack hard"...in 1971 http://tr.im/Kh0Y

tinyrevolution @jaketapper WH staffer attacked press as liberal; press struck back by putting him on national TV 17 hours per day http://tr.im/Kh0Y

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 10:02 AM | Comments (10)

January 12, 2010

Adam Curtis

Adam Curtis, the documentarian who made The Century of the Self and The Power of Nightmares, has a bluug. He doesn't post too often, but when he does it's about as good as it gets on the tubes. Most recently he wrote (and posted video) about England's gruesome colonial history in Yemen:

In the wake of the underpants bomber we have been deluged by a wave of terror journalism about this dark mediaeval country that harbours incomprehensible fanatics who want to destroy the west. None of it has explained that only forty years ago the British government fought a vicious secret war in the Yemen...the chaos that has engulfed the Yemen today and is breeding new terrorist threats against the west is a direct result of that conflict of forty years ago.

When you're done checking that out, read a 2005 conversation between Curtis and Errol Morris. These sections make me want to sue them for stealing my Weltanschauung:

EM: Here’s a question...is history primarily a history of conspiracy? Or is it just a series of blunders, one after the other? Confusions, self-deceptions, idiocies of one kind or another?

AC: It’s the latter. Where people do set out to have conspiracies, they don’t ever end up like they're supposed to. History is a series of unintended consequences resulting from confused actions, some of which are committed by people who may think they're taking part in a conspiracy, but it never works out the way they intended...

EM: I’ve never had much of an appetite for conspiracy theories. Here's my argument in a nutshell. People are too much at cross purposes with each other, too stupid, too self absorbed to ever effectively conspire to do anything.

AC: “Just too self-absorbed” is the key element. To make a conspiracy work, you have to see it from all different angles to make sure the plan works. They don’t. Every time you ever read transcripts or detailed descriptions of what goes on at high level policy decisions - I'm sure it’s true of the Kennedy administration, I'm sure it’s true today in the Bush administration - The arguments, the self-absorption, the disagreements and the narcissism are incredible.


AC: ...in my country, a lot of the senior journalists had a very good Cold War and still have that mentality as well. They hang on to it. You know, that's why they kept on thinking there were hidden things out there in Iraq. I don’t think they made it up, I think they genuinely believed it in Iraq. Because that's what the Soviets were like. They hid these things.

EM: It’s far more frightening than the idea that they were knowingly peddling lies. The more frightening version is they truly believed in all of it.

AC: I think that's true. And it was after that sort of self-created fantasy that they could then go to war.


Last night on television someone who was pro-the Iraq war was saying that the alliance between the insurgents in Iraq and the foreign fighters is the equivalent of the Nazi-Soviet pact and that that's what we’re really fighting against. It’s all so weird. That the men who sit in neon-lit rooms with very nicely done tables and who question you and tell you things, are actually weird.

EM: Yeah. Well, as we all know, the banal and the weird are not incompatible.

AC: That's the whole point - that's what's so fascinating about our time. The banal and the weird are one and the same thing.

EM: Yes. They hold hands.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 08:33 AM | Comments (61)

January 11, 2010

New Tomdispatch


The Shadow War
Making Sense of the New CIA Battlefield in Afghanistan

By Tom Engelhardt and Nick Turse

It was a Christmas and New Year’s from hell for American intelligence, that $75 billion labyrinth of at least 16 major agencies and a handful of minor ones. As the old year was preparing to be rung out, so were our intelligence agencies, which managed not to connect every obvious clue to a (literally) seat-of-the-pants al-Qaeda operation. It hardly mattered that the underwear bomber’s case -- except for the placement of the bomb material -- almost exactly, even outrageously, replicated the infamous, and equally inept, “shoe bomber” plot of eight years ago.

That would have been bad enough, but the New Year brought worse. Army Major General Michael Flynn, U.S. and NATO forces deputy chief of staff for intelligence in Afghanistan, released a report in which he labeled military intelligence in the war zone -- but by implication U.S. intelligence operatives generally -- “clueless.” They were, he wrote, "ignorant of local economics and landowners, hazy about who the powerbrokers are and how they might be influenced... and disengaged from people in the best position to find answers... Eight years into the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. intelligence community is only marginally relevant to the overall strategy."

As if to prove the general’s point, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian doctor with a penchant for writing inspirational essays on jihadi websites and an “unproven asset” for the CIA, somehow entered a key Agency forward operating base in Afghanistan unsearched...

It was an intelligence disaster splayed all over the headlines: “Taliban bomber wrecks CIA’s shadowy war,” “Killings Rock Afghan Strategy,” “Suicide bomber who attacked CIA post was trusted informant from Jordan.” It seemed to sum up the hapless nature of America’s intelligence operations as the CIA, with all the latest technology and every imaginable resource on hand, including the latest in Hellfire missile-armed drone aircraft, was out-thought and out-maneuvered by low-tech enemies.

The rest.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 10:33 AM | Comments (2)

January 10, 2010

Good Manners

Let's take another look at this stuff about Roger Ailes:

...the 9/11 attacks had a profound effect on Mr. Ailes. They convinced him that he and his network could be terrorist targets.

On the day of the attacks, Mr. Ailes asked his chief engineer the minimum number of workers needed to keep the channel on the air. The answer: 42. “I am one of them,” he said. “I’ve got a bad leg, I’m a little overweight, so I can’t run fast, but I will fight."

The Ailes article was written by New York Times reporters David Carr and Tim Arango. When Ailes told them this, the blindingly obvious question any normal person would have asked him was how he felt about U.S. and Israeli targeting of media outlets. For instance:

In 1999, the U.S. bombed Serbia TV, killing at least five people.

In 2004, George Bush told Tony Blair he wanted to bomb Al Jazeera's headquarters in Qatar. Whether intentionally or not, the U.S. also has attacked Al Jazeera's offices in Kabul and Baghdad. (In addition, former British David Blunkett has said that he advised Blair to bomb Al Jazeera.)

In 2006, Israel bombed Hezbollah's al-Manar TV, Future TV and the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation, killing at least one person.

Fortunately, New York Times reporters have good manners, and never ask the blindingly obvious questions any normal person would ask. That's how they get to be New York Times reporters in the first place.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 02:08 PM | Comments (6)

Our Blubbering Elite

I briefly lived in Los Angeles a long time ago, just after the riots following the acquittal of the police who'd beaten Rodney King. One day I was talking to the nephew of a bigtime movie producer, and he soberly explained to me that black gangs in LA had a secret plan, and soon were going to be attacking the three Bs, Brentwood, Beverly Hills and Bel Air—ie, the richest, whitest sections of the city.

I didn't know anything about Los Angeles, but I remember thinking: yeah, I'm pretty sure that's...not true.

What I've learned since then is that fantasies of imminent attack from omnipotent foes are the norm among powerful rich people. Who knows why, although I suspect it's because their lives are pretty dreary and telling themselves these kinds of ghost stories helps fill up the long dusty hours between checking their stock portfolio.

So it's no surprise that, as Digby points out, Roger Ailes feels like this:

...the 9/11 attacks had a profound effect on Mr. Ailes. They convinced him that he and his network could be terrorist targets.

On the day of the attacks, Mr. Ailes asked his chief engineer the minimum number of workers needed to keep the channel on the air. The answer: 42. “I am one of them,” he said. “I’ve got a bad leg, I’m a little overweight, so I can’t run fast, but I will fight.

“We had 3,000 dead people a couple miles from here. I knew that any communications company could be a target.”

His movements now are shadowed by a phalanx of corporate-provided security. He travels to and from work in a miniature convoy of two sport utility vehicles. A camera on his desk displays the comings and goings outside his office, where he usually keeps the blinds drawn.

Here are a few more examples of similar insanity that I've been collecting and that don't seem to have circulated widely. First, this is David "Axis of Evil" Frum talking about his days as a Bush speechwriter:

...had you asked me in December 2001, “Do you personally think you’re going to live to see the end of the first Bush administration, or the end of the Bush administration?” I would have told you I did not. I was convinced there was going to be some kind of event, near the White House, downtown Washington, something, a car bomb, something like that, and the chances were that a good number of those of us serving were not going to make it. So we were not in a euphoric mood. We were going to work every day with quite an expectation that each time you kissed your family in the morning, you may well not be coming home that night.

Then there's Walter Pincus, who recently described the 2001 atmosphere in white official Washington:

I was in Washington on Sept. 11, 2001, and I saw the anxiety that overtook the city after the loss of 3,000 lives in the destruction of the World Trade Center and the attack on the Pentagon. Friends and colleagues spoke openly of their fears of another attack and purchased gas masks and duct tape to secure their homes. Imagine the atmosphere in the White House, where, one month earlier, the president had received a CIA briefing entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." FBI Director Robert Mueller, new on the job, told Post reporters and editors at a luncheon several weeks after the attacks that there may be as many as 100 al-Qaeda cells inside this country.

Some people think elites cooly use fear to dupe everyone else into doing what they want. But while the duping part is real, first they dupe themselves. What's really amazing is America has made it to this point without a high government official wetting their pants on national television. I just hope no one ever tells them about The Hook!

MORE: As Tristero points out, they remain weepy preschoolers even today.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 12:16 PM | Comments (15)

January 08, 2010

Global Warming = War = Global Warming

Charles Davis has written a great article for Carbon Control News:

Under the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, overseas military activities are generally exempt from regulation...

A 2008 report from Oil Change International that estimated the carbon footprint of the Iraq war found it responsible for “at least 141 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.” Ranked as a country, “it would emit more CO2 each year than 139 of the world’s nations do annually.”

I honestly had no idea wars were completely unregulated in this way (and as the article makes clear, will continue to be even under the best possible international agreements). So we have wars to control the oil that causes global warming, and then global warming will inevitably cause more wars, and then those wars will themselves help cause more global warming. And they told two friends, and they told two friends, and eventually earth was inherited by super-intelligent cockroaches.

Anyway, read it all. I think the best we can hope for is the super-intelligent cockroaches will power their civilization with technology that produces huge amounts of boric acid. Then at least we won't feel like the planet's only morons.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 11:04 AM | Comments (8)

New Tomdispatch


The Melting of America
The Story of a Can’t-Do Nation

By Orville Schell

Lately, I’ve been studying the climate-change induced melting of glaciers in the Greater Himalaya. Understanding the cascading effects of the slow-motion downsizing of one of the planet’s most magnificent landforms has, to put it politely, left me dispirited. Spending time considering the deleterious downstream effects on the two billion people (from the North China Plain to Afghanistan) who depend on the river systems -- the Yellow, Yangtze, Mekong, Salween, Irrawaddy, Brahmaputra, Ganges, Indus, Amu Darya and Tarim -- that arise in these mountains isn’t much of an antidote to malaise either.

If you focus on those Himalayan highlands, a deep sense of loss creeps over you -- the kind that comes from contemplating the possible end of something once imagined as immovable, immutable, eternal, something that has unexpectedly become vulnerable and perishable as it has slipped into irreversible decline...

Another tipping point has also been on my mind lately and it’s left me no less melancholy. In this case, the Moby Dick in question is my own country, the United States of America. We Americans, too, seem to have passed a tipping point. Like the glaciers of the high Himalaya, long familiar aspects of our nation are beginning to feel as if they were, in a sense, melting away.

The rest.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 08:40 AM | Comments (5)

January 06, 2010

New Tomdispatch


The Second Decade
The World in 2020

By Michael T. Klare

As the second decade of the twenty-first century begins, we find ourselves at one of those relatively rare moments in history when major power shifts become visible to all. If the first decade of the century witnessed profound changes, the world of 2009 nonetheless looked at least somewhat like the world of 1999 in certain fundamental respects: the United States remained the world’s paramount military power, the dollar remained the world’s dominant currency, and NATO remained its foremost military alliance, to name just three.

By the end of the second decade of this century, however, our world is likely to have a genuinely different look to it. Momentous shifts in global power relations and a changing of the imperial guard, just now becoming apparent, will be far more pronounced by 2020 as new actors, new trends, new concerns, and new institutions dominate the global space. Nonetheless, all of this is the norm of history, no matter how dramatic it may seem to us.

Less normal -- and so the wild card of the second decade (and beyond) -- is intervention by the planet itself. Blowback, which we think of as a political phenomenon, will by 2020 have gained a natural component. Nature is poised to strike back in unpredictable ways whose effects could be unnerving and possibly devastating.

The rest

Posted at 07:05 AM | Comments (16)

January 03, 2010

New Tomdispatch


An American World of War
What to Watch for in 2010

By Tom Engelhardt and Nick Turse

According to the Chinese calendar, 2010 is the Year of the Tiger. We don’t name our years, but if we did, this one might prospectively be called the Year of the Assassin.

We, of course, think of ourselves as something like the peaceable kingdom. After all, the shock of September 11, 2001 was that “war” came to “the homeland,” a mighty blow delivered against the very symbols of our economic, military, and -- had Flight 93 not gone down in a field in Pennsylvania -- political power.

Since that day, however, war has been a stranger in our land. With the rarest of exceptions, like Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Hasan’s massacre at Fort Hood, Texas, this country has remained a world without war or any kind of mobilization for war. No other major terrorist attacks, not even victory gardens, scrap-metal collecting, or rationing. And certainly no war tax to pay for our post-9/11 trillion-dollar “expeditionary forces” sent into battle abroad. Had we the foresight to name them, the last few years domestically might have reflected a different kind of carnage -- 2006, the Year of the Subprime Mortgage; 2007, the Year of the Bonus; 2008, the Year of the Meltdown; 2009, the Year of the Bailout. And perhaps some would want to label 2010, prematurely or not, the Year of Recovery.

Although our country delivers war regularly to distant lands in the name of our “safety,” we don’t really consider ourselves at war (despite the endless talk of “supporting our troops”), and the money that has simply poured into Pentagon coffers, and then into weaponry and conflicts is, with rare exceptions, never linked to economic distress in this country. And yet, if we are no nation of warriors, from the point of view of the rest of the world we are certainly the planet’s foremost war-makers. If money talks, then war may be what we care most about as a society and fund above all else, with the least possible discussion or debate.

The rest.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 11:44 PM | Comments (6)

January 02, 2010

Happy Subtly Creepy Cartoon New Year!

If you figure out how old the father and son are in this cartoon (found here), it actually shapeshifts from something depressingly unfunny to a small masterpiece of alarming creepiness.


Unless I've forgotten 10th grade algebra, the son is 22 years old and the father is 79. I find the most unsettling thing not the way the son looks or the fact he's still apparently in second grade, but the bizarre difference in their heights.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 07:10 AM | Comments (16)