July 30, 2010
Five Dollar Friday
Five dollars goes today to Allie Brosh's Hyperbole and a Half for being alot of wonderful things.
July 29, 2010
Sympathy for One Specific Devil
Since I'm feeling bad for Republicans and their burning hate generally, I'd also like to take time to feel bad for one particular Republican: Karl Rove.
A few weeks ago Karl Rove wrote a cri de coeur called "My Greatest Mistake in the White House." That mistake was not striking back at the horrible Democrats who, with shameless hypocrisy, said that George Bush had lied us into Iraq.
And of course he's right: almost all the Democrats saying this were shameless hypocrites. Al Gore, John Kerry, John Edwards, Ted Kennedy, Bob Graham—they all said before the war that Iraq definitely had banned weapons, and then afterward accused Bush of lying when he made the same claim.
Now, obviously Rove doesn't admit what actually happened, which is not that they were all honestly mistaken. What actually happened is that they were all lying (or at the very least recklessly indifferent to the truth). Nevertheless, if I were a giant lying scumbag like Rove, it would truly chap my ass to be called a giant lying scumbag by a bunch of other giant lying scumbags.
Indeed, it would make me feel I was completely justified in telling just about any lie myself. In fact, wouldn't I owe it to my country to do whatever was necessary to triumph over such shameless hypocrites? Now that you think about it, wouldn't it be disgusting personal vanity to refuse to lie when that's what was necessary to keep these dangerous liars out of power?
So when you look at it that way, people of good will have no alternative but to lie and lie and lie and lie and lie.
AND: The ability of monsters to perceive themselves as martyrs was previously explored here.
Sympathy for the Devils
A few years ago I was talking about U.S. foreign policy with an editor at an ultra-fancy New York magazine. To my surprise, he explained that he definitely wanted the U.S. government to keep running the planet for our benefit (as he understood "us" and "benefit"). But he was unhappy that the Bush administration was so in your face about it to the rest of the world. That, he thought, was a real mistake.
And now, with Obama in office, for the first time in my life I understand the seething fury of the professional Republican class. From the outside, it seems crazy; what do these rich, powerful people have to be angry about? Either they're in office running a global empire, or they're formally out of power but making $850,000 a year as BP's Vice President for Public Relations.
But it does make sense. When in office, Democratic presidents do almost exactly the same things as Republicans. However, while carrying out the wars, torture, coups, etc., Democrats use flowery rhetoric about the Brotherhood of All Mankind, while receiving endless hosannas about their moral beauty from Barbara Streisand and the Nobel Peace Prize committee.
Here's how Mary Kate Cary puts it, in a column called "Where is the Anti-War Left on Afghanistan?" She was a speechwriter for George H.W. Bush and now is some kind of PR hack:
Despite the fact that President Obama has tripled our troop presence in Afghanistan and the Democratic Congress approved $33 billion more for what is now America's longest-running war, there's been an eerie silence from the left—no "die-ins," no beating drums, no anti-Obama protestors dressed in skeleton costumes. No one protesting the president's every appearance.
Maybe the antiwar left only protests when Republican presidents are in office. Maybe it's not about Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress, it was only about George Bush. Maybe for the antiwar left, it's not about pacifism or soldiers' lives or even what's in our national interest. Maybe it's just about Republicans.
So you'd be mad too if you were a Republican apparatchik. They're called criminals and monsters for doing pretty much the same things as Democrats. They're just more straightforward about it.
HOWEVER: The seething fury of the Republican base is somewhat different. They're mostly angry in the way Sunnis in Iraq are angry—they simply find it illegitimate that power is being wielded by someone outside their clan.
July 25, 2010
Don't Get Angry at the Dung Beetles
...in this post you find McArdle doing the respectable-society version of the same approach to argument that Andy Breitbart has just showed us can have such potent effect.
The Atlantic?!? Publishing things with the intellectual shabbiness of Andrew Breitbart?!? My god, just wait until David Bradley, the owner of the Atlantic, hears about this!
"Andrew’s nexus is that he knows people in Hollywood and he knows people in DC and in each place he’s kind of like a celebrity because people in Hollywood who are kind of like quietly political, meaning they’re on the right, are fascinated with him because he knows all these media pundits that we’ve been reading quietly, and he actually knows them! It’s incredible! And in D.C., he goes there and he’s Mr. Hollywood" [said Breitbart's friend Jude Christodal].
Mr. Breitbart strode up. He had been talking to Republican Congressman Eric Cantor and publisher David Bradley, who had been thrilled to finally put a name to a face. “You’re Andrew Breitbart?” [Bradley] exclaimed when introduced.
That's from a 2008 profile of Breitbart. Bradley got all excited when Breitbart appeared at a party Bradley was throwing in Minneapolis at that summer's Republican convention.
This kind of thing is why you shouldn't get angry at individuals within our hideous media system. Of course, I've succumbed to that temptation myself many times; no one appreciates more than I do that McArdle is one of the world's most excruciating human beings. But it's counterproductive.
After all, why is McArdle so excruciating? It's not because she is Wrong On The Internet. It's because she is Wrong On The Internet while in a position of influence and power.
And why is she in this position? Is it because David Bradley, the owner of the Atlantic, wants to employ people who work hard to present an accurate picture of the world, and McArdle has somehow fooled him? Or is it because David Bradley wants to employ people who work hard to dishonestly slime Elizabeth Warren?
Obviously it's the latter. The U.S. media is like an ecosystem, with various evolutionary niches for different creatures. Bradley has created a niche for McArdle to do her thing. But there's no reason to get angry at her, any more than you should get angry at dung beetles for filling their particular evolutionary niche. They're not going to stop rolling their little ball of dung all day long unless that niche disappears. And if all the individual dung beetles were somehow wiped out by an infection of accurate criticism on blugs, something else would soon fill the niche in a similar way.
(And while I may be giving McArdle too much credit, it's possible that if the ecosystem changed, she might be able to evolve into something different.)
I found Thomas Levenson via Atrios.
AND: Glenn Greenwald made the same point here. However, it was in an interview with the Atlantic, so he sadly did not compare Atlantic writers to dung beetles:
GREENWALD: When I began writing about politics, I believed that applying pressure, shame, and the like to our national journalists could help influence behavior in a positive way. I no longer think that. Our national media isn't subservient to political power because of the behavior or personality attributes of any particular journalists — at least not primarily. The real problem is structural and cultural...
That's why I no longer think the goal is to reform the existing establishment media but, rather, to create an alternative to it, a competitor to it, that will perform the functions it refuses to perform.
July 23, 2010
Five Dollar Friday
One of the most frustrating things about the "left," to the degree there is such a thing in the U.S., is its failure to create worthwhile, stable institutions. Everyone runs around expending energy on teeny-tiny projects, rather than gathering our meager resources together to generate a smaller number of organizations that can endure and learn from experience.
This is especially irksome with media outlets, which is why I appreciate Democracy Now! so much, and why they get $5 today.
Another Prediction: The Sun Is Going to Rise Tomorrow
Here's something I wrote in the comments section of a post here from November 11, 2007 about Obama and Social Security:
Fooling people into believing Social Security is in such trouble that we have to make "tough decisions" about it is one of the premiere achievements of America's right in the past 25 years. It's extremely important to dispel this illusion, because as long as it survives it sets the stage for what's going to happen in the next big economic crunch: an all-out campaign to blame the crunch on Social Security and social programs generally. If you want something to invest in, bet on THAT, because there is no surer money on earth.
The people who run the US would like nothing better than to subject us to the kind of structural adjustment that the IMF has long specialized in for the third world. Read The Shock Doctrine. That's what they're preparing for us, and the Social Security campaign is the centerpiece of this. When unemployment's 12% and inflation's running at 20% and people's homes are being repossessed, Obama's position of "there's a giant problem with Social Security, so let's raise the FICA cap" will not get us a raised FICA cap (something which 90% of Americans don't even know the meaning of). Instead, all he will have done is contributed to getting the whole thing washed away in the flood.
This may be hard to recognize if you're not familiar with the way they've run this playbook all over the world. But I guarantee you, this is what they're up to, and that's why this matter so much.
Then back in 2005 there was this.
July 22, 2010
New York Times Decides There's No Reason to Start Getting Iraq/WMD Story Right Now
New York Times unsigned editorial, today:
After four bosses in five years, the intelligence community needs sustained and credible leadership. James Clapper Jr., who was nominated by President Obama to succeed the ousted Dennis Blair as director of national intelligence, certainly seems up to the job.
There is no mention anywhere in the editorial of this, which appeared in the New York Times on October 29, 2003.
WASHINGTON, Oct. 28— The director of a top American spy agency said Tuesday that he believed that material from Iraq's illicit weapons program had been transported into Syria and perhaps other countries as part of an effort by the Iraqis to disperse and destroy evidence immediately before the recent war.
The official, James R. Clapper Jr., a retired lieutenant general, said satellite imagery showing a heavy flow of traffic from Iraq into Syria, just before the American invasion in March, led him to believe that illicit weapons material ''unquestionably'' had been moved out of Iraq.
''I think people below the Saddam Hussein-and-his-sons level saw what was coming and decided the best thing to do was to destroy and disperse,'' General Clapper, who leads the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, said at a breakfast with reporters.
He said he was providing a personal assessment. But he said ''the obvious conclusion one draws'' was that there ''may have been people leaving the scene, fleeing Iraq, and unquestionably, I am sure, material.'' A spokesman for General Clapper's agency, David Burpee, said he could not provide further evidence to support the general's statement.
Of course, the New York Times really isn't in a position to throw stones at people with insane views about Iraq and WMD. If it's up to the job of being a newspaper, I guess Clapper's up to the job of running all U.S. intelligence.
July 21, 2010
BREAKING: MUST CREDIT TINYREVOLUTION.COM
Tinyrevolution.com is in possession of a shocking statement made today by Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack. Judge for yourself whether this completely unedited original copy is so vile that Vilsack must resign immediately:
Yesterday, I asked for sordid civil rights injustices — i.e., rural controversy, wrongly making it difficult to bring jobs to Georgia.
Our policy is clear: discrimination. Any act of discrimination against the American people. But equally important is our do-do.
For the good of the country, this obscene Alinsky-ite Maoism must be exterminated. Where is the mainstream media on THIS, Washington Post? Also, Al Sharpton.
UPDATE: If this has been edited in any way it was not by Tinyrevolution.com and we have no idea how to locate the original.
July 20, 2010
New York Times Maintains Unblemished Record of Wrongness on Iraq WMD Story
On Sunday David Sanger of the New York Times wrote an article about Shahram Amiri, the Iranian nuclear scientist who defected to the U.S. and then recently defected back. This is the beginning:
Would [Amiri] end up like Vitaly Yurchenko, the one-time K.G.B. officer who defected to Washington exactly a quarter-century ago, revealed some of the deepest secrets of a collapsing empire, and then bolted from his C.I.A. handlers...?...
[R]emarkably, Mr. Yurchenko is still around. And as his interrogation by Iranian intelligence began on Friday, Mr. Amiri could only hope for the same fate.
Because there’s an alternate ending to such dramas that Mr. Amiri no doubt doesn’t want to think about. It is the case of Hussein Kamel, a son-in-law of Saddam Hussein. Mr Kamel escaped from Iraq to Jordan in 1995, and gave the West an insider’s view of Mr. Hussein’s then-active research projects on chemical, biological and other weaponry, not unlike the view of Iran’s nuclear program that American officials say they got from Mr. Amiri. Mr. Kamel, too, went back home, promised by his father-in-law’s lieutenants that all was forgiven. He was shot a few days later.
From afar, it appears that the Iranians are still uncertain which model should best apply to the bizarre case of Shahram Amiri.
Of course, like everything ever published by the New York Times about Iraq and WMD, this is completely wrong.
1. Hussein Kamel did not "give the West an insider's view of Mr. Hussein's then-active research projects on chemical, biological and other weaponry."
That's because there were no "then-active research projects." As Kamel said, Iraq had no actual non-conventional weapons left—they'd all been either turned over to the UN for destruction or destroyed by Iraq itself. And all of Iraq's WMD programs had ceased to function soon after the Gulf War in 1991. You can read the CIA's report regarding their CW program here, and their BW program here. You can also read what Kamel told the UN and IAEA here, and what he told the CIA here.
As you'll see, what actually happened was that Kamel gave the UN, IAEA and CIA an insider's view of Iraq's pre-Gulf War chemical, biological and nuclear weapons projects. This was significant because Iraq had never come completely clean about what they'd developed during the eighties. Moreover, from 1991-95 Iraq had been hiding large quantities of documentation about their pre-91 projects in hopes they could eventually use it to restart the programs—and they surrendered it all when Kamel defected. So Kamel's defection demonstrated that Iraq was lying about the past, but not that it was lying about the present.
2. To the New York Times' credit, while they're completely wrong, they're actually less wrong about this than many other publications. For instance, back in 2003 Slate wrote this:
[Saddam] certainly had such weapons as late as 1995 (his son-in-law told us where they were, whereupon the U.N. inspectors of the day went and destroyed them)...
3. It's especially funny for the New York Times to compare Shahram Amiri with Hussein Kamel, because—beginning with the Clinton administration—the U.S. government relentlessly lied about what Kamel had told us. So if they're similar situations, Amiri will have told us Iran has no nuclear weapons program, and then we'll lie relentlessly about him saying that. Ha ha!
BONUS: Back in 2006, David Sanger co-wrote an article for the New York Times with this sentence:
The possibility that Saddam Hussein might develop “weapons of mass destruction” and pass them to terrorists was the prime reason Mr. Bush gave in 2003 for ordering the invasion of Iraq.
An article that appeared on NYTimes.com for part of the day on Sept. 5 incorrectly described President Bush's statements about Iraq's chemical and biological weapons programs at the time of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Mr. Bush said it was Iraq's possession of those weapons that was the main justification for the invasion, not the possibility that the weapons could be developed.
However, I've just noticed that at some point in the past four years, they un-corrected it, removing the correction from their website and posting the story with the false sentence exactly as it first appeared.
You have to admit they're good.
July 19, 2010
Washington, D.C. Benefit Concert
If you're in Washington, consider going to a benefit concert at 7 p.m. on Sunday, August 1st at the U Street Music Hall for the Stone and Holt Weeks Foundation. Stone and Holt Weeks were 24 and 20 when they were struck by a tractor trailer and killed a year ago this Friday. A Washington Post obituary about them and what happened is here.
Washington Post readers and NPR listeners may be familiar with their father, Linton Weeks, who was a writer for the Post and now works for NPR. Here's how the foundation website describes them:
Stone and Holt not only believed, but proved -- through their volunteerism and incredible vitality -- that you can do good and have fun at the same time.
They very much wanted to make the world a better place for all. And they both had the gift of making everything they did a lot of fun—with creativity and originality.
They were young, energetic and inseparable.
They were humanitarians, activists and idealists.
Here's a picture of the two of them together:
The concert will feature Greta of Gold Motel & The Hush Sound; Tennis System; Matthew Hemerlein; and DJ KnoxBox. Check it out.
July 18, 2010
Foreigners: How Horrible Are They?
If it weren't for the New York Times, I would never find out exactly how horrible foreigners are. For instance, they're horrible in Pakistan:
Much of Pakistan’s capital city looks like a rich Los Angeles suburb...
But behind the opulence lurks a troubling fact. Very few of these households pay income tax. That is mostly because the politicians who make the rules are also the country’s richest citizens, and are skilled at finding ways to exempt themselves...the lack of a workable tax system feeds something more menacing: a festering inequality in Pakistani society, where the wealth of its most powerful members is never redistributed or put to use for public good...
"This is a system of the elite, by the elite and for the elite," said Riyaz Hussain Naqvi, a retired government official who worked in tax collection for 38 years.
Much of the tax avoidance, especially by the wealthy, is legal. Under a 1990s law that has become one of the main tools to legalize undocumented — or illegally obtained — money made in Pakistan, authorities here are not allowed to question money transferred from abroad. Businessmen and politicians channel billions of rupees through Dubai back to Pakistan, no questions asked.
And they're horrible in Russia:
A Star Keeps Rocking in the Not-So-Free World...
In addition to heightened pressure on journalists and opposition figures, Mr. Shevchuk and other musicians describe a kind of soft censorship on performers that accompanied Mr. Putin’s rise to power and has continued under President Medvedev.
The music critic Artemy Troitsky described it as “a kind of secret protocol” between artists, musicians and the authorities. In return for avoiding criticism of Russia’s leaders, performers are invited to lucrative government-backed concerts and corporate parties. “Shevchuk is one of the very few people who dared to break this secret protocol,” Mr. Troitsky said.
Mr. Shevchuk says his refusal to toe the line has cost him. Though he retains a fairly large fan base, his concerts are rarely televised. He has accused radio stations of censoring his songs — a recent tune that includes the line “When the oil runs out, our president will die” is rarely played.
While the New York Times has lots of room for these stories, they bought out David
KCay Johnston, one of the greatest reporters of the past fifty years on exactly these issues. The problem with Johnston, of course, is that he wrote about their existence in America.
(Pakistan story via Atrios)
July 16, 2010
The Rolling Stone article about Stanley McChrystal claimed that his staff (which it calls "a handpicked collection of killers, spies, geniuses, patriots, political operators and outright maniacs") "jokingly refer to themselves as Team America." According to the Atlantic, this is true, and there's more:
...the "collection" of people who identified themselves with Team America had a special patch made for their service. (It was created for them by a small company somewhere in Missouri.) Here, for the first time, is an image of the patch that cemented the camaraderie of Team McChrystal.
I will never get over how stupid power makes people. In Team America, the special American commando squad is insanely violent and massacres uncounted thousands of people in Paris and Egypt. It's a pretty funny movie, but any general actually trying to win a counterinsurgency campaign would immediately fire anyone on his staff who started referring to themselves as "Team America." That's not a genius PR move when you're raining hellfire missiles down on people while simultaneously trying to convince them you're on their side.
Of course, it's precisely because power makes people stupid enough to behave like this that all counterinsurgency campaigns are doomed.
Five Dollar Friday
Both Robert Parry and Ray McGovern spoke recently at the National Press Club about their careers and the price they've paid for telling the truth. I don't think there's any video, but you can check out a great summary here.
July 14, 2010
No Deterrence Allowed
After reading Thomas Donnelly's paper "Strategy for a Nuclear Iran" for post below, I realized I'd never read Donnelly's previous, much more famous paper "Rebuilding America's Defenses" (for a New American Century) all the way through.
It turns out he says the same things there, over and over again, and just as straightforwardly. Other countries are trying to deter us from attacking them! This must be stopped! One important way to stop them is ballistic missile defense!
Here are some representative excerpts:
...the United States also must counteract the effects of the proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction that may soon allow lesser states to deter U.S. military action by threatening U.S. allies and the American homeland itself. Of all the new and current missions for U.S. armed forces, this must have priority.
...effective ballistic missile defenses will be the central element in the exercise of American power and the projection of U.S. military forces abroad. Without it, weak states operating small arsenals of crude ballistic missiles, armed with basic nuclear warheads or other weapons of mass destruction, will be in a strong position to deter the United States from using conventional force, no matter the technological or other advantages we may enjoy. Even if such enemies are merely able to threaten American allies rather than the United States homeland itself, America’s ability to project power will be deeply compromised.
When their missiles are tipped with warheads carrying nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, even weak regional powers have a credible deterrent regardless of the balance of conventional forces.
In the post-Cold War era, America and its allies, rather than the Soviet Union, have become the primary objects of deterrence and it is states like Iraq, Iran and North Korea who most wish to develop deterrent capabilities. Projecting conventional military forces or simply asserting political influence abroad, particularly in times of crisis, will be far more complex and constrained when the American homeland or the territory of our allies is subject to attack by otherwise weak rogue regimes capable of cobbling together a miniscule ballistic missile force.
Say what you want about the U.S. foreign policy establishment, you can't claim they don't tell us exactly what they're up to.
AND: The exact same perspective exists regarding Israel, of course. It's expressed succinctly by Martin Peretz here, in the title of a blug post: "If You Can’t Guarantee That Missiles Will Not Rain In On Israel (From Gaza, The West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon or Syria) You Don’t Have a Peace Agreement." Obviously there's no way to "guarantee" this unless those places have no missiles, so peace is only possible as long as other countries are completely disarmed and unable to damage Israel in any way, even as Israel will retain the capacity to rain down nuclear-armed missiles upon them.
July 13, 2010
The Neoconservative Perspective on Iran
It turns out John Bolton is still out there, and still frothing at the mouth about Iran:
What outsiders can do is create broad support for Israel's inherent right to self-defense against a nuclear Holocaust and defend the specific tactic of pre-emptive attacks against Iran's Esfahan uranium-conversion plant, its Natanz enrichment facility, and other targets.
Yikes! I hope he cleaned the flecks of spittle out of his mustache afterward.
Anyway, expressed like this, the public neoconservative perspective on Iran obviously seems insane. Even if the Iranian government obtains nuclear weapons, it's not going to suddenly nuke Tel Aviv (or Paris or Washington) just for a few seconds of satisfaction before it itself is incinerated.
But Bolton et al don't actually think that will happen; it's just propaganda for the bovine public. However, they do have a genuinely rational fear about Iranian nuclear weapons: the danger isn't that Iran would use them to attack us—it's that Iranian nuclear weapons would deter us from attacking them.
This was expressed straightforwardly in a 2004 paper called "Strategy for a Nuclear Iran" by Thomas Donnelly of the American Enterprise Institute. (Donnelly isn't as well-known as other neoconservatives, but he was actually the main author of the infamous "Rebuilding America's Defenses" paper from the New American Century.) Here's the most important part:
Regardless of who is elected to the presidency in November, the growing threat posed by a nuclear Iran is certain to be at the top of the next administration’s national security agenda...
Tehran’s traditional hankering for nuclear weapons has sharpened significantly. Iran’s conventional options are now restricted to attempts to limit American access to the region...
The surest deterrent to American action is a functioning nuclear arsenal...
To be sure, the prospect of a nuclear Iran is a nightmare. But it is less a nightmare because of the high likelihood that Tehran would employ its weapons or pass them on to terrorist groups—although that is not beyond the realm of possibility—and more because of the constraining effect it threatens to impose upon U.S. strategy for the greater Middle East. The danger is that Iran will “extend” its deterrence, either directly or de facto, to a variety of states and other actors throughout the region. This would be an ironic echo of the extended deterrence thought to apply to U.S. allies during the Cold War. But in the greater Middle East of the twenty-first century, we are the truly revolutionary force and “revolutionary” Iran is more the status quo power...
What would the consequences be of a bargain with Iran—be it grand or small—for a strategy of political transformation in the greater Middle East? Is it possible to pursue détente with Iran and regime change elsewhere?
That actually makes sense. (And in fact, while no one noticed, something similar also appears in "Rebuilding America's Defenses": "adversaries like Iran, Iraq and North Korea are rushing to develop ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons as a deterrent to American intervention in regions they seek to dominate.") If you believe the U.S. must be able to attack any country on earth anytime it wants, you'd be right to be frantic with fear about Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. Neoconservatives do have to be willing to appear to be lunatics in public in order to get what they want, but that's just because they believe the American public is too stupid to understand the subtleties of their statecraft. So they have to make things "clearer than truth."
ELSEWHERE: This point—that no one can be allowed to deter us from attacking them—has been expressed many times by the U.S. foreign policy establishment.
P.S. I'm guessing I'm literally the only person on earth who's read "Strategy for a Nuclear Iran" besides Thomas Donnelly.
P.P.S. My favorite part about all this is Donnelly endorsing the U.S. behaving as (he claims) the U.S.S.R. did during the Cold War. Da, Comrade.
July 11, 2010
The Crock of Shit, Lightly Fictionalized
I just saw the movie Green Zone. One part that made me laugh was the shout out to the "crock of shit"—i.e., the claim that Iraq was prepared to attack with WMD within 45 minutes of the order being given—produced by Ayad Allawi's Iraqi National Accord.
The scene where the crock makes its appearance features Greg Kinnear as Clark Poundstone from the Bush administration and Brendan Gleeson as Martin Brown from the CIA. What's also funny is that "Zubaidi" is the stand-in for Ahmed Chalabi. In other words, the movie has the crock of shit being provided by the Chalabi character—the puppet the CIA didn't favor—when in real life it was actually provided by Allawi, the puppet the CIA did want to run Iraq.
POUNDSTONE: Okay, well, let's table that for now. In terms of stabilization, uh—
BROWN: Zubaidi hasn't been here for thirty years.
POUNDSTONE: Well, he's the best bet we have right now for a stable democracy—
BROWN: You find me ten guys in Baghdad who even know who he is.
POUNDSTONE: Well, he's our friend, Marty. He's been very helpful. Our office is extremely satisfied with all the information that we've gotten from him.
BROWN: Zubaidi's been selling us a crock of shit for years. This guy is not reliable. His intelligence is not reliable. His report chain is not reliable.
POUNDSTONE: This is exactly why people are losing confidence in the agency, Marty. You're questioning every single piece of intelligence that's coming in, up to the point where we cannot make any progress.
BROWN: You cannot just hand this country over to an exile no one's ever heard of!
July 09, 2010
Double Five Dollar Friday
$5 goes today to Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, both generally for teaching me about rational media criticism and specifically for bringing Alex Perry into my life. Thank you, FAIR. They're holding a fundraiser right now, and I urge you to donate yourself.
$5 also goes to Douglas Lain for his kickstarter project on "on anti-capitalist permaculture"—essentially he's going to grow food and write about it. There's a video I can't figure out how to embed, but you can go here to see it:
July 07, 2010
Octavia Nasr, senior editor of Middle East affairs at CNN, is leaving the US television news network after sending a message on Twitter praising the late Shiite cleric Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah...
Parisa Khosravi, senior vice president for CNN International Newsgathering, said in an internal memo forwarded to AFP that she had spoken with Nasr and "we have decided that she will be leaving the company...we believe that her credibility in her position as senior editor for Middle Eastern affairs has been compromised going forward."
William Barr is on the board of directors of Time Warner, the parent company of CNN. Barr was a senior advisor in the Reagan administration, which attempted to assassinate Fadlallah, missing him and killing more than eighty bystanders.
The Liberal Media: Celebrating 94 Years of Not Being Liberal
The New Republic was founded in 1914, and while it's hard to believe now, there was a period of time when it was considered an important magazine and a leading voice of liberalism in the U.S. So it's interesting to learn this, from an article the magazine itself just ran:
In 1916, Herbert Croly, the founder and editor of The New Republic, wrote to Willard Straight, the owner of the magazine, about the Supreme Court nomination of Louis Brandeis. Croly enclosed a draft editorial called “The Motive of Class Consciousness,” and also a chart prepared by a lawyer in Brandeis’s office showing the overlapping financial interests, social and business connections, and directorships of fifty-two prominent Bostonians who had signed a petition opposing Brandeis’s nomination. There are five circles on the chart delineating the various hubs of the Brahmin oligarchy: the Somerset Club, banker, State Street, Back Bay resident, and large corporation connections. On one side, the chart connects each of the signers of the petition, led by Harvard President Abbot Lawrence Lowell, to each of the five hubs; on the other side, the signers are connected to each other. “I want you to understand right away that this chart and article will not be published without your consent,” Croly assured Straight.
Neither the chart nor the article ultimately appeared in TNR. Straight had worked for Brandeis’s nemesis J. P. Morgan as the Morgan Bank’s representative in China, and he refused to associate the magazine with “ideological recriminations against his friends and social acquaintances,” according to an explanation accompanying the chart, which is now displayed in the current editor’s office. But although Straight confirmed the power of what Brandeis called “our financial oligarchy” by killing the chart, the magazine continued to strongly supported his nomination.
I'm exactly the kind of weirdo who you'd think would have heard this story. Yet I never had until now, and as far as I can tell, it appears nowhere online except in the article itself. That's some good work by Our Financial Oligarchy.
I wonder why Franklin Foer, the editor of the New Republic, keeps that on the wall? Maybe just to remind himself that all editors have to knuckle under to their owners, so he shouldn't feel too bad about what they publish.
In any case, I look forward to the year 2104, when the New Republic will tell us about what it refused to publish in 2010.
July 05, 2010
"That Martin Luther King Sure Was Paranoid," Said James Earl Ray
The strange thing about Chief of Station, Congo, the book by Larry Devlin about his experiences in the CIA there, is that Devlin is generally an intelligent person. Yet he repeatedly says things that are so mind-bogglingly stupid it makes you wonder how mankind has survived this far.
This is the beginning of Chapter 5:
Life in Leopoldville continued to be chaotic throughout the month of August with the troops still not fully under control. Lumumba, who was preparing to invade Katanga to crush Tshombe's rebellion [separatists supported by the Belgium government], intensified his search for spies, saboteurs, and other enemies. His paranoia infected the troops who saw spies everywhere.
This is literally the next paragraph:
Shortly after my return from Washington, I received several messages from [CIA] Director Dulles advising us that policy-makers shared our view that we should try to remove Lumumba from power. In one of them, on August 26, he wrote:In high quarters here...we concluded that [Lumumba's] removal must be an urgent and prime objective and that under existing conditions this should be a high priority of our covert action.
I was authorized to spend up to $100,000 on my own authority on any operation that appeared feasible...
Devlin then goes on describe all the actions he took as representative of the most powerful government in human history to remove Patrice "Crazee Paranoid Loon" Lumumba, who was dead within six months.
Here's a picture that Devlin proudly includes of himself (third from right) with the non-paranoid Mobutu Sese Seko:
Later Devlin was promoted to run the CIA station in Laos in 1967, then retired from the CIA to manage an U.S.-owned mining company in Zaire. Truly a wholesome career in every way.
July 03, 2010
I Happen to Have Marshall McLuhan Right Here
This is long and involved, but it may be my favorite post in the history of this blot.
Alex Perry, Africa bureau chief for Time, wrote a recent article about Congo that begins like this:
If you want to see what's wrong with Africa, take a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The size of Western Europe, with almost no paved roads, Congo is the sucking vortex where Africa's heart should be. Independent Congo gave the world Mobutu Sese Seko, who for 32 years impoverished his people while traveling the world in a chartered Concorde. His death in 1997 ushered in a civil war that killed 5.4 million people and unleashed a hurricane of rape on tens of thousands more.
Julie Hollar of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting pointed out:
...if you're going to charge Congo with being "what's wrong with Africa," you'd better give credit where credit is due. Independent Congo didn't give the world Mobutu; that gift belongs to the U.S. and Belgium, who supported the overthrow and assassination of democratically-elected Patrice Lumumba and helped prop up the horror that was Mobutu for decades afterward.
Alex Perry showed up in the comments section of Hollar's post and angrily berated her:
The idea that the US created Mobutu and maintained him in power belittles Africans and is typical of the kind of racism that dogs analysis of Africa...The US did not create Mobutu. They certainly did support him...The primary creator of Mobutu was Mobutu...
As for this lame idea that I, and the "mainstream media", are part of some giant conspiracy to lie, cover up, dissemble etc in the name of, I imagine, the "military industrial complex" or perhaps the CIA, what do you think happens here? Do you think I have a controller with a husky voice who directs my coverage by meeting me in badly lit subteranean car parks? Grow up. People who do my job die sometimes. I've known three myself. Do you really think we'd take those risk to tell lies? Your cheap and half-arsed conspiracies are insulting and infantile.
It's really an amazing freak-out by Perry; that's just part of it.
Larry Devlin was the CIA's Station Chief in the Congo during most of the sixties, and just before his 2008 death, wrote a book about his experiences there.
Early in the book, Devlin describes the frustration the U.S. government felt with Patrice Lumumba, who was elected prime minister of the Congo as it gained independence from Belgium. This section, from p. 46, is about a July, 1960 meeting in Paris between Devlin, U.S. Ambassador to France Amory Houghton, U.S. Ambassador to Belgium William Burden, and U.S. Ambassador to the Congo Clare "Tim" Timberlake.
As you see, U.S. government officials straightforwardly told Henry Luce, the owner of Time, how to cover the Congo:
We moved onto Ambassador Houghton's office where we were joined by Ambassador Burden for more detailed talks concerning the Congo and its problems...During our discussions, Tim brought up a delicated matter: "Time magazine plans to do a cover story on Lumumba with his picture on the front of the magazine." He continued, "Celebrity coverage at home will make him even more difficult to deal with. He's a first-class headache as it is."
"Then why don't you get the story killed?" Burden asked. "Or at least modified?"
"I tried to persuade the Time man in Leopoldville until I was blue in the face," Tim replied. "But he said there was nothing he could do about it because the story had already been sent to New York."
"You can't expect much from a journalist at that level," Burden said pulling out his address book and flipping through the pages. He picked up the phone and put a call through to the personal assistant of Henry Luce, Time's owner.
Luce soon returned the call. After a brief, friendly exchange that made clear his personal relationship with Luce, Burden bluntly told him that he would have to change the Lumumba cover story. Luce apparently said that the magazine was about to go to press. "Oh, come on, Henry," Burden said, "you must have other cover stories in the can." They chatted for a few more minutes before Burden hung up.
A few days later in the United States we picked up a copy of the magazine with a new and different cover story. Lumumba had been relegated to the international section.
Devlin writes about another meeting in the U.S. soon afterward with CIA chief Allen Dulles, in which Devlin argued it was critical for the U.S. to maintain power in the Congo because it was one of the world's few sources of cobalt outside the Soviet Union. Devlin says he was "preaching to the converted."
Time has an online archive of every issue they've ever published. Based on other events described by Devlin, the article about Lumumba that was moved to the inside of the magazine was almost certainly "Congo: The Monstrous Hangover" from the July 18, 1960 issue, or "Congo: Jungle Shipwreck" from July 25.
Devlin's story doesn't make clear whether the article's contents were changed or merely its placement. However, for Time's sake, I certainly hope the contents were changed too; both articles might as well be headlined "Crazed Africa Monkeys Rape the White Ladies."
This appears in the July 18, 1960 Time article:
The huge bonfires of joy died down in the cities of the Congo. The drums and tom-toms grew quiet. The last writhing dancers fell exhausted in the dust...
With a primeval howl, a nation of 14 million people reverted to near savagery, plunged backward into the long night of chaos. Tribe turned upon tribe. Blacks turned upon Europeans...
Prime Minister Lumumba gratuitously added new fuel to the flames. He...summoned the Belgian ambassador to make the fantastic charge that he had uncovered a Belgian plot to murder him. "The assassins were discovered and arrested in my residence," cried Lumumba. "They were armed to the teeth."
Lumumba was overthrown and murdered soon afterward by Congolese factions (including Mobutu) funded and supported by Belgium and the U.S.
In 2008, Alex Perry wrote an article for Time headlined "Come Back, Colonialism, All Is Forgiven." It's about a Congolese riverboat captain named Malu-Ebonga Charles who misses the old white masters terribly:
"On this river, all that you see — the buildings, the boats — only whites did that. After the whites left, the Congolese did not work. We did not know how to. For the past 50 years, we've just declined." He pauses. "They took this country by force," he says, with more than a touch of admiration. "If they came back, this time we'd give them the country for free."
None of this changes the fact that Time is a completely trustworthy source for information about Congo, and its edicts must never ever be questioned by the loony conspiracy racists of FAIR.