February 28, 2010

When Stock Photo Children Grow Up

I love this picture of a Canadian hockey fan after the U.S. men's team beat them:


She also seems strangely familiar. I guessing it's because of the main photo from Bitch PhD:

Here they are side by side:


She is mocking the very essence of manliness in both pictures, and hence is probably a witch.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 10:41 AM | Comments (14)

New Tomdispatch


The Attack on Climate-Change Science
Why It’s the O.J. Moment of the Twenty-First Century

By Bill McKibben

Twenty-one years ago, in 1989, I wrote what many have called the first book for a general audience on global warming. One of the more interesting reviews came from the Wall Street Journal. It was a mixed and judicious appraisal. “The subject,” the reviewer said, “is important, the notion is arresting, and Mr. McKibben argues convincingly.” And that was not an outlier: around the same time, the first president Bush announced that he planned to “fight the greenhouse effect with the White House effect.”

I doubt that’s what the Journal will say about my next book when it comes out in a few weeks, and I know that no GOP presidential contender would now dream of acknowledging that human beings are warming the planet.

And here’s what’s odd. In 1989, I could fit just about every scientific study on climate change on top of my desk. The science was still thin. If my reporting made me think it was nonetheless convincing, many scientists were not yet prepared to agree.

Now, you could fill the Superdome with climate-change research data...

Somehow, though, the onslaught against the science of climate change has never been stronger, and its effects, at least in the U.S., never more obvious: fewer Americans believe humans are warming the planet.

The rest.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 10:25 AM | Comments (8)

February 24, 2010

My Rule of Thumb

A few weeks ago Charles Davis criticized reporting by Eli Lake about Iran's nuclear activities in the Washington "American is Satan's Harvest" Times. Then Lake criticized his criticism.

I don't know much about the specifics, and have no intention of taking the time to learn. Fortunately, I have a rule of thumb to help figure out which one to trust. It goes like this: "Don't trust reporters who lie to win arguments in the comment section of blogs."

Based on this, I'm going to have to believe Charles Davis.

Five years ago a boring fight broke out in the comments of a post by Matthew Yglesias. I'm embarrassed to say I read it and participated in it. (That link is to the archive.org version of the page; for some reason the Yglesias.Typepad.com original is now missing some of what happened.)

One of the fight participants was Eli Lake, who wrote:

You are inventing history...It is true that [France, Germany and Russia] said [Saddam] was in the process of complying, but no one said he had complied. Indeed he had not. He threatened to shoot down surveillance jets, he did not make scientists available to inspectors without chapperones, he was spying on the inspectors. The report the Iraqis filed in december of 2002 contradicted earlier testimony from Hussein Kamal and Iraq's earlier accounts of what weapons they had. The burden of proof was on Saddam to account for his stocks of weapons he admitted to having before the war. In the interim he failed to even live up to the numerous confidence building measures the international community set forth in subsequent resolutions and the original cease fire. Finally, the Kay and Duelfer reports prove he was technically in violation. He had the break out capacity to build chemical and biological weapons, his programs were in tact, and Duelfer said he had the intention to do so once the sanctions were lifted. But please, don't let the facts of the matter get in the way of your theories.

Posted by: Eli Lake | February 10, 2005 11:32 AM

All of these statements were at best highly misleading, and sometimes flatly false. Of course, it's usually hard to tell whether people like Eli Lake are lying or just have no idea what they're talking about. But there is one way to find out—try to bet them money:

I've read most of the Kay and Duelfer reports, and a claim that they prove Iraq's CW and BW programs "were intact" strikes me as bizarre. Moreover, I've never seen anyone else make this claim. Perhaps my understanding of the reports is wrong. But I don't think so. So I would be happy to bet Eli Lake $500 that a mutually-agreed upon arbiter will say that my interpretation of "the facts of the matter" is correct.

In terms of the arbiter, I suggest Daniel Drezner. But as I say, anyone on whom we can both agree would be great.

What do you say, Eli? This is clearly a subject you feel strongly about.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz | February 10, 2005 01:10 PM

Lake didn't respond in the comments. And he also didn't respond when I asked a mutual friend to ask him to contact me. So I feel I'm on firm ground when I say he was consciously lying.

IN CONCLUSION: I don't think Eli Lake should be condemned for lying here. People lie constantly to themselves and others; it's just the human condition. I defy anyone to say they haven't told 1000 lies like this in their lives. That said, reporters in particular should be aware of and try to avoid this tendency in themselves. And if they lie anyway and are caught, they should have the grace to say: You know, I gave into the temptation there to improve reality in order to win an argument. I recognize it's particularly pathetic to do so in comments on a blog, and I apologize, and will strive not to do it again.

The fact Eli Lake didn't have the ability to do this—particularly combined with his characteristic sneering tone—makes me suspect lying like this is habitual for him. Advantage: Charles Davis.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 06:09 PM | Comments (21)

New Tomdispatch


Explain Something to Me
Fixing What's Wrong in Washington... in Afghanistan

By Tom Engelhardt

Explain something to me.

In recent months, unless you were insensate, you couldn’t help running across someone talking, writing, speaking, or pontificating about how busted government is in the United States. State governments are increasingly broke and getting broker. The federal government, while running up the red ink, is, as just about everyone declares, “paralyzed” and so incapable of acting intelligently on just about anything.

Only the other day, no less a personage than Vice President Biden assured the co-anchor of the CBS Early Show, “Washington, right now, is broken." Indiana Senator Evan Bayh used the very same word, broken, when he announced recently that he would not run for reelection and, in response to his decision, Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz typically commented, “The system has been largely dysfunctional for nearly two decades, and everybody knows it.” Voters seem to agree. Two words, “polarization” and “gridlock” -- or hyperbolic cousins like “paralyzing hyperpartisanship” -- dominate the news when the media describes that dysfunctionalism. Foreign observers have been similarly struck, hence a spate of pieces like the one in the British magazine the Economist headlined, “America’s Democracy, A Study in Paralysis.”...

Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, to the tune of billions of taxpayer dollars, the U.S. military is promoting “good governance” with all its might...

The rest.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 04:24 PM | Comments (2)

February 20, 2010

With the Death of Alexander Haig, America Has Lost a Unique Voice Willing to Snigger About Richard Nixon Being a Fag

What do the Very Serious men in White House spend their time doing? According to The Final Days by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, it's this:

To Kissinger and his aides, Haig sometimes referred to the President as an inherently weak man who lacked guts. He joked that Nixon and Bebe Robozo had a homosexual relationship, imitating what he called the President's limp-wrist manner.

Ha ha! That IS funny!

But sadly, Alexander Haig has just died, so we shall never again hear his lilting voice calling to us in the gloaming, telling us that Tricky Dick was a fairy.

Also, Haig led a failed attempt to have the U.S. directly invade Central America during the eighties. And after a 1981 trip to the middle east as Secretary of State, he reported back that Carter had given Saddam a "green light" to invade Iran the previous year. And once when Robert Parry asked him about these kind of hijinks, Haig told him: "Come on. Jesus! God! You know, you'd better get out and read Machiavelli or somebody else because I think you're living in a dream world!"

I guess that's about it. RIP.

I FORGOT: Haig also enthusiastically defended the rape and murder of four American nuns in El Salvador.

He will be missed.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 12:41 PM | Comments (21)

February 18, 2010


When I started reading the manifesto of the guy who flew his plane into an IRS building in Austin today, I was sure it would be full of standard-issue right-wing crazitude. I can't remember any person who's ever done something like this in America who WASN'T a standard-issue right-wing crazy.

That's partly because there's essentially no left in America for violent crazies to glom onto, and partly because left-wing thinking just doesn't lend itself easily to assassinations, spree killings, etc. Right-wingers think problems are caused by bad individuals, while left-wingers think they're caused by systems. And you can't assassinate the system, man.

But much to my surprise, the manifesto is 96% left-wing. It's like it was written by a slightly-lobotomized Jim Hightower:

Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM executives, for scores of years) and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours? Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple, and this country’s leaders don’t see this as important as bailing out a few of their vile, rich cronies. Yet, the political “representatives” (thieves, liars, and self-serving scumbags is far more accurate) have endless time to sit around for year after year and debate the state of the “terrible health care problem”. It’s clear they see no crisis as long as the dead people don’t get in the way of their corporate profits rolling in...

I remember reading about the stock market crash before the “great” depression and how there were wealthy bankers and businessmen jumping out of windows when they realized they screwed up and lost everything. Isn’t it ironic how far we’ve come in 60 years in this country that they now know how to fix that little economic problem; they just steal from the middle class (who doesn’t have any say in it, elections are a joke) to cover their asses and it’s “business-as-usual”. Now when the wealthy fuck up, the poor get to die for the mistakes…

I know I’m hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand. It has always been a myth that people have stopped dying for their freedom in this country, and it isn’t limited to the blacks, and poor immigrants. I know there have been countless before me and there are sure to be as many after.

I'm not sure what this means. In any case, I'm not surprised that when we finally get some left-wing political violence in this country, there's no body count except that of the perpetrator. In everything, apparently, we just can't plan and execute like the right.

UPDATE: Rereading it, it's more like 76% left-wing, 15% right-wing, and 9% miscellaneous.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 09:02 PM | Comments (56)

February 17, 2010

New Tomdispatch


Hold Onto Your Underwear
This Is Not a National Emergency

By Tom Engelhardt

Let me put American life in the Age of Terror into some kind of context, and then tell me you’re not ready to get on the nearest plane heading anywhere, even toward Yemen.

In 2008, 14,180 Americans were murdered, according to the FBI. In that year, there were 34,017 fatal vehicle crashes in the U.S. and, so the U.S. Fire Administration tells us, 3,320 deaths by fire. More than 11,000 Americans died of the swine flu between April and mid-December 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; on average, a staggering 443,600 Americans die yearly of illnesses related to tobacco use, reports the American Cancer Society; 5,000 Americans die annually from food-borne diseases; an estimated 1,760 children died from abuse or neglect in 2007; and the next year, 560 Americans died of weather-related conditions, according to the National Weather Service, including 126 from tornadoes, 67 from rip tides, 58 from flash floods, 27 from lightning, 27 from avalanches, and 1 from a dust devil.

The rest.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 09:34 AM | Comments (8)

Duty Calls

This is Bruce Anderson, a conservative British columnist, explaining why he's supported torture since before it was cool. You see, it's our duty:

Before 9/11, in front of some serious lawyers, I once argued that if there were a ticking bomb, the Government would not only have a right to use torture. It would have a duty to use torture...

Speaking of duty, here's Osama bin Laden's 1996 fatwa declaring war on America:

Terrorising you, while you are carrying arms on our land, is a legitimate and morally demanded duty. It is a legitimate right...

But obviously Bruce Anderson and Osama bin Laden are completely different: Anderson listed brutality as a right first and a duty second, while with bin Laden it was the other way around.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 09:07 AM | Comments (8)

February 15, 2010


I took a break, but I'm finally back. Also finally, here is some genuinely funny and intelligent political protest:

Protesters against Israel's policies in the West Bank have added a colorful twist to demonstrations, painting themselves blue and posing as characters from the movie Avatar.

Pro-Palestinian participants in weekly demonstrators against the route of the separation fence in the village of Bil'in, and the takeover of Arab homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, have also donned long hair and loincloths to resemble the 10-foot blue-skinned Na'vi of Avatar.

The demonstrators compare the Palestinians to the Na'vi - an indigenous people on the moon Pandora who find themselves up against militarily superior foreign invaders who seek to oust them from their homes.


Thank you, James Cameron. I haven't seen the movie, so I don't know whether it's any good or not, but at this point who cares? To come up with a language for this that's now understood all over the world is a truly beautiful thing.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 09:50 AM | Comments (20)

February 11, 2010

The World in Ten Words or Less

By: Aaron Datesman

Because the United States is a very wealthy country, I like Jon’s opinion that most political conflicts here boil down to a fight between two factions: the Sane Billionaires and the Insane Billionaires. I thought of this when I read the following passage from the book Hard Times by Studs Terkel:

In the Depression. . .[the rich] were so God-damned scared they’d have a revolution. They damn near did, too, didn’t they? Ooooohhh, were they scared! What’s more scared than a million dollars?

“What’s more scared than a million dollars?” I like this for its Zen-like brevity, to roll it over in my mind and consider whether the answer is “Nothing” or nothing. In my opinion, right there rolled up in seven words is nearly everything one needs to know about people, wealth, power, history, and politics.

However, after listening to a recent episode of Democracy Now!, I am beginning to revise my opinion.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, Congress has the authority, under a joint resolution, to challenge any presidential directive. It’s not widely known, Amy, but there are at least three states of national emergency that we’re operating under right now by presidential declaration: one relating to 9/11, another one relating to the war on terror, and a third one relating to Iran.

Three states of national emergency?!? Holy smokes! We should all be sleeping in bomb shelters!

Or, should we? You have to be able to stretch reality like taffy in order to conclude that 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran even all rolled together into one could possibly constitute an existential threat to the US, buffered as we are by our wealth, power, two oceans, and stupefying prime-time TV.

“What’s more scared than a million dollars?” I’m afraid that the answer seems to be, “The United States of America”.

— Aaron Datesman

Posted at 10:15 PM | Comments (13)

We've tried nothing, and we're all out of ideas

By: John Caruso

John Feffer bewails the lack of any alternative to the Democratic Party:

We don't have our own party, which would say yes to things we like. True, we have the Green Party and assorted groupuscules. But I'm talking about a viable, national party that secures the votes of the 16 percent of Americans who identify themselves as progressives, and can win a governing majority by crafting arguments that appeal to the two-thirds of Americans who support progressive ideas.

Got that?  We don't have a national party that says yes to things we like, except for the national party that says yes to things we like.  But the Green Party doesn't count because it's not "viable"—meaning it hasn't somehow managed to garner the votes of the 16% of Americans who identify as progressives, but who refuse to vote for it until the 16% of Americans who identify as progressives have already voted for it.

Call me pedantic, but I can't help but sense a subtle logical flaw here.

Liberals like Feffer (and he's far from being the only one) apparently want to see a new "progressive" party spring to life fully formed like Athena popping out of Zeus's skull, somehow instantly gaining ballot access in all 50 states and going directly from non-existence to 16% of the national vote in a single election cycle—though they themselves won't actually vote for this miracle party until the next election cycle, once it's a known "viable" quantity.  And until all of that happens, they refuse to throw their vote away!  On anyone but the Democrats, that is.

I sometimes imagine a dialog with a drowning liberal:


ME: You seem to be drowning.  Here, let me throw you this life preserver.

DL: No!  How do I know that life preserver is viable?  It might dissolve on contact with salt water!  I won't grab it unless I see twenty million other people use it first!

ME: Well, that's up to you.  But I have to say that no matter what, I think it'd be better than what you're holding on to now.

DL: You mean this anchor?

ME: Yeah, that.

DL: Well, it's very easy to say that, but how can I be sure?  That life preserver may never have been tested in the water, whereas this anchor is obviously a viable seafaring device!  Sure, in some ideal world the life preserver might be better, but this anchor is serving its intended purpose in the actual ocean right now!  And furthermore <glub glub glub>.

You might be tempted to feel sorry for poor DL, but don't worry—there are millions more exactly like him.

— John Caruso

Posted at 05:30 PM | Comments (32)

February 05, 2010

NPR's Nefarious Plot to Undermine Howard Zinn

NPR's ombudswoman has acknowledged they got it wrong with their Howard Zinn obituary, and did so with a fair amount of grace.

I believe that by doing so, NPR's imperialist capitalist running dogs were attempting to prove Zinn was wrong about everything. I'M NOT FOOLED FOR A SECOND.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 03:44 PM | Comments (38)

February 04, 2010

Poor Black People: Why Do They Incriminate Themselves on Videotape So Often?

This is from the Scott Harshbarger investigation of the ACORN video "scandal":

The videos that have been released appear to have been edited, in some cases substantially, including the insertion of a substitute voiceover for significant portions of Mr. O'Keefe's and Ms. Giles's comments, which makes it difficult to determine the questions to which ACORN employees are responding. A comparison of the publicly available transcripts to the released videos confirms that large portions of the original video have been omitted from the released versions.

And this is about the efforts of Jean-Bertrande Aristide in 1993 to win U.S. liberal support to return to the Haitian presidency after he'd been overthrown in a U.S.-supported coup several years before:

A serious, if dubious, charge was made in an effort to turn the liberals in Congress against Aristide. A video was surfaced ostensibly showing Aristide urging his supporters to “necklace” opponents, i.e., to put a burning tire around their necks. But what did Aristide really say?

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, entered the following translation into the record, but added the caveat that the only tape he had seen had been obviously edited, so he was not certain this was fully representative of what Aristide had said. The State Department’s translation of the incendiary section read as follows:

“You are watching all macoute activities throughout the country. We are watching and praying. We are watching and praying. If we catch one, do not fail to give him what he deserves. What a nice tool! What a nice instrument! [loud cheers from crowd] What a nice device! [crowd cheers] It is a pretty one. It is elegant, attractive, splendorous, graceful, and dazzling. It smells good. Wherever you go, you feel like smelling it. [crowd cheers] It is provided for by the Constitution, which bans macoutes from the political scene.”

Combined with the spliced in shots of burning tires, this passage clearly sounded like Aristide was urging people to punish the macoutes in a violent way. But that was out of character with other parts of the speech, where he said:

“Your tool is in your hands. Your instrument is in your hands. Your Constitution is in your hand. Do not fail to give him what he deserves. [loud cheers from crowd]. That device is in your hands. Your trowel is in your hands. The bugle is in your hands. The Constitution is in your hands. Do not fail to give him what he deserves.”

In that section, clearly the law was the weapon Aristide was urging his supporters to employ.

Later, an Internet poster who claimed to be present during this speech vigorously denied Aristide had approved of necklacing:

“I was present at that famous speech when Aristide returned from the USA. The speech was taped and cut and spliced to make it appear that Aristide condoned...even encouraged necklacing; such *was not* the case. Aristide said that he understood peoples' desire to necklace, but he emphasized that it was positively immoral.

“He said words to this effect: I understand your desire to smell their burning flesh; but that is not the way of Jesus. We will win without violence; we will overcome. The anti-Aristide people spliced the tape to make it come out this way: I desire to smell their burning flesh. We will win with violence; we will overcome!”

Here's what I think about this:

1. The right-wing elements in the CIA, etc. are nothing more than grown up versions of James O'Keefe—just as moronic, just as hateful, and just as outraged that non-rich people are trying to ruin everything by voting. O'Keefe has a bright future in front of him.

2. Even if these tapes hadn't been doctored, becoming angry about what they showed would be ridiculous. After all, Goldman Sachs steals more money in one day than ACORN could ever manage in a thousand years. And god knows Aristide would have needed a thousand years to match the death toll rung up in Haiti by France, the U.S. and the Morally-Repugnant Haitian Elite (MREs).

But of course there is never, ever a sense of proportionality where powerless people are concerned. Their crimes are always front page news. That's why skilled propagandists (ie, better ones than O'Keefe) know that it's actually never necessary to doctor anything. The best propaganda is 100% true.

AND: It's not just poor black people who have a tendency to incriminate themselves on tape.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 08:34 AM | Comments (15)

February 02, 2010

My Email to NPR's Ombudswoman

Dear Alicia,

I'm writing to thank NPR for including the views of David Horowitz in its obituary for Howard Zinn. It was very thoughtful of you to do so.

After all, if you hadn't made sure to quote some fringe right-wing crank slagging Zinn, it would have suggested that Zinn's six decades of teaching about how the U.S. functions might be wrong. But since you did include it, you demonstrated once again that Zinn was correct about NPR and the media generally: you're enthusiastic handmaidens of the U.S. government at worst, timid "liberals" terrified to step one inch out of line at best.

So this really was the greatest sendoff you could give Zinn, essentially validating his entire life. Well done.

Jon Schwarz

P.S. Please don't read this on the air, since that would call Zinn's perspective into doubt.

* * *

FAIR suggests that you too write to NPR's ombudswoman here.

Posted at 03:27 PM | Comments (26)