August 31, 2010

No One Could Have Predicted That, While Lamenting How No One Could Have Predicted What Happened to Iraq, John Burns Would Still Not Know What Happened to Iraq

Via Glenn Greenwald, here's a "reflection" from John Burns of the New York Times (their Baghdad bureau chief from 2003-7) about how everything that's happened to Iraq was a terrible surprise:

...there were few, if any, who foresaw the extent of the violence that would follow or the political convulsion it would cause in Iraq, America and elsewhere.

We could not know then, though if we had been wiser we might have guessed, the scale of the toll the invasion would unleash: the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians who would die; the nearly 4,500 American soldiers who would be killed; the nearly 35,000 soldiers who would return home wounded; the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who would flee abroad as refugees...

I suppose that if you're feeling generous, you could give John Burns "the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians who would die." According to Iraq Body Count, the number of dead Iraqi civilians is 97,000-106,000. Of course, the number is surely higher, given IBC's methodology. And in any case it's sketchy to call 100,000 "tens of thousands." But as I say, let's be generous.

But "hundreds of thousands" of Iraqis who fled abroad? HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS? According to the UN, there are currently 1.8 million Iraqi refugees outside the country. (There are also 1.5 million people displaced from their homes but still in Iraq.)

And John Burns wouldn't have to go to the effort of visiting the UN website to find this out. He could have just read the New York Times in 2007, when he was the Baghdad bureau chief: estimated 2 million...have fled Iraq...

We should be grateful, though. By 2100, the New York Times will surely be talking about the "dozens" of Iraqis who died when the U.S. invaded.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 11:33 PM | Comments (38)

August 30, 2010

Help, I'm Drowning

I realize this isn't breaking news, but...listening to Glenn Beck is the mental equivalent of falling into a vat of Karo syrup. You thrash around, can't get out, and feel like you're going to die in the most insipid way possible.

Here's the beginning of his speech at his Lincoln Memorial rally on Sunday:

BECK: We have a choice today .... We can either look at our scars, look at the scars of the nation...we concentrate on the bad instead of learning from the bad and repairing the bad, and then looking to the good...

We have a choice today, to either let those scars crush us, or redeem us. We are gathered here today, in a hallowed spot. Here, Abraham Lincoln, a giant of an American, casting a shadow on all of us. We look, to a giant for answers. Behind you, in front of me, the Washington—alone, tall, straight—if you look at the Washington Monument, you might notice its scars. But nobody talks about that...but a quarter of the way up it changes color. Did you know that it did? Look at it. Look at its scars.

How did the scar get there? They stopped building it in the Civil War. And when the war was over, they began again. No one sees the scars of the Washington memorial, the Washington Monument. We see what it stands for. No one also talks about what's on top, facing east. Just two words, "Laus Deo," "Praise be to God."

So this means...what, exactly? I think it's that we shouldn't dwell on America's flaws, just like, uh, we don't pay any attention to the way the color of the Washington Monument changes? But instead we pay attention to what it stands for? Which is an inscription telling us to praise god? one talks about the inscription either? Help me out here.

Of course, this makes no sense at all. If you've ever been on an elementary school field trip to the Washington Monument, you know that EVERY FOURTH GRADER talks about the way it changes color. Why wouldn't they? It's incredibly obvious. However, no one pays attention to what it "stands for," because no one has any idea. (Beck's right that no one talks about the inscription at the top, though.)

Beyond engulfing us in this unpleasantly sticky metaphor, Beck is also wrong about the Washington Monument's history—which I learned about on one of those elementary school field trips. The construction didn't stop because of the Civil War. As the National Park Service's website will tell you, it had already stopped years earlier:

Why does the color change on the outside of the monument?

When the monument was under construction in 1854, the Washington National Monument Society ran out of money and the project ground to a halt. Twenty-five years later, the U.S. Government took over and completed the upper two-thirds of the structure by 1884 using marble from a different quarry.

There's actually a little more to the story, which you can find in a 1999 Washington Post article. One interesting part is that after the original, private organization running things ran out of money in 1854, it was taken over by the anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant Know Nothing Party. They were particularly outraged by the fact the Vatican, like many other organizations, had donated a stone. So they destroyed it. Then they screwed around for two more years but finally gave up too.

So...I guess you could argue that Beck is within shouting distance of reality. I mean, it probably was harder to raise money as the war approached. And construction probably would have stopped during the Civil War...if it had been going on when the Civil War started. Which it, uh, wasn't.

Finally, the actual history is bad news for Beck's ideology: the private effort to build the monument puttered out, and then was derailed for a long time by cranks with a worldview strikingly similar to Beck & co. (Don't you hate immigrants with weird foreign religions? Did you know Abraham Lincoln is a secret apostate Catholic?!?) It was only the government's money and organization that finally made it happen.


—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 11:48 PM | Comments (17)

August 29, 2010

The Non-Crazy Left

In 2000 I founded what I consider to be the most important political organization in the United States: the Non-Crazy Left. The NCL currently has five members, of which only three are aware that they belong.

One of the non-aware members is Doug Henwood. Henwood doesn't just decry Wall Street, he actually understands how Wall Street functions, and why some of the favorite left-wing remedies for its evils won't work.

Here's Henwood in a three-part video from the Real News, which you should support by giving them money. Someday soon the Real News will be receiving a month's worth of Five Dollar Fridays.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 11:04 PM | Comments (34)

August 28, 2010

Five Dollar Friday, Always Late

Explanation of Five Dollar Friday here. Follow who else is giving on twitter.

Clearly I need to get my act together and actually give out $5 Friday money on Fridays. Since this is a day late for the third week in a row, the amount is again $10. This week it goes to treasured weirdo Dennis Perrin to support the pursuit of his Nameless Mission.

What is Dennis's Nameless Mission? Here, let the Church of the Subgenius explain:

You want to know, "JUST EXACTLY WHAT IS THIS...?" That question is asked a thousand times a day, every day, somewhere. And it's a good thing, because that's the most pertinent question to ask in this modern age.

There is no description. Words do not suffice; one must "SEE." We let you see a little at a time until you are led gradually to TOTAL CLARITY. It is the Nameless Mission. The true mission is always nameless. To name it is to doom it....and alert the enemy.

You can find a little more detail about it here and here and even (NSFW) here:

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 08:33 PM | Comments (2)

August 27, 2010

Thank You for Your Interest in USA Today

Can you remember what happened during the six months before the U.S. invaded Iraq? Yes? I'm sorry to hear that—I'm afraid there's no way we can hire you for a reporting job at USA Today.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 02:34 PM | Comments (8)

August 26, 2010

Jim Henley, Right Again

I still have a few more posts to write about Jeffrey Goldberg's Iran article. But the final one was always going to make the point that Goldberg, without being conscious of it, presents Israel's leaders as completely insane. However, Jim Henley has already written this and hence saved me the work: Goldberg’s article, all on its own, Israel’s policy-makers condemn themselves out of their own mouth. If all you had was “The Point of No Return” and a brain, you would have everything you need to judge Israel’s case for bombing Iran as unjustified and immoral...

It adds up to a devastating case for mens rea regarding a prospective war crime. You don’t need to “fisk” Goldberg’s article with links to other sources making the above points. They are all in Goldberg’s article.

Read it all.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 11:13 PM | Comments (12)

August 25, 2010

Letter to the Editor

It's been a while, so I guess there's no way the Washington Post is going to publish this.

You should definitely read the op-ed in question if you were laboring under the misapprehension that the U.S. bore responsibility for the 1953 coup in Iran. Luckily enough, it turns out not to have been our fault at all!

* * *

To the Editors:

In his Aug. 18 op-ed, "Clerics responsible for Iran's failed attempts at democracy," Ray Takeyh writes that "CIA complicity in [the 1953 coup in Iran] has long provoked apologies from American politicians."

This is incorrect. In fact, no prominent U.S. politician has ever apologized for our role in the coup—even the minimal version described by Mr. Takeyh. The closest we've come is a 2000 speech by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, in which she stated that "the coup was clearly a setback for Iran's political development" and it was "easy to see" why Iranians resented our actions. However, as Voice of America reported at the time, "Mrs. Albright did not actually apologize."

Moreover, Ms. Albright then went on to enumerate actions by Iran she termed "disgraceful." In diplomacy as in personal life, genuine apologies are generally not immediately followed by listing the other party's flaws.

Given Mr. Takeyh's failure to accurately record recent history, it's difficult to be confident that his account of events 60 years ago is trustworthy.

Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 08:46 PM | Comments (11)

August 24, 2010

Jeffrey Goldberg Still America's Preeminent Propagandist (Part V)

Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV (now retracted)

This is by no means the most egregious part of Jeffrey Goldberg's giant article about Israel and Iran, but it's still funny: day next spring, the Israeli national-security adviser, Uzi Arad, and the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, [may] simultaneously telephone their counterparts at the White House and the Pentagon, to inform them that their prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has just ordered roughly one hundred F-15Es, F-16Is, F-16Cs, and other aircraft of the Israeli air force to fly east toward Iran...

In these conversations, which will be fraught, the Israelis will tell their American counterparts that they are taking this drastic step because a nuclear Iran poses the gravest threat since Hitler to the physical survival of the Jewish people...They will tell their American colleagues that Israel was left with no choice.

In other words, as imagined by Jeffrey Goldberg, Ehud Barak is a shameless liar. Because:

In response to a question about Tehran's nuclear program which Israel has said it sees as destined to produce atomic weapons that could put its existence at risk, Barak said in an interview with the paper: "I am not among those who believe Iran is an existential issue for Israel."

Indeed, Goldberg's article itself quotes Barak as saying that "the real threat to Zionism [from an Iran with nuclear weapons] is the dilution of quality...Our best youngsters could stay out of here by choice."

You'd think an editor at the Atlantic might have flagged this strange contradiction, but as far as I can tell magazines no longer have editors.

P.S. Here's an old insight of Ehud Barak's about Palestinians:

[Palestinians] are products of a culture in which to tell a lie...creates no dissonance. They don't suffer from the problem of telling lies that exists in Judeo-Christian culture. Truth is seen as an irrelevant category. There is only that which serves your purpose and that which doesn't. They see themselves as emissaries of a national movement for whom everything is permissible. There is no such thing as "the truth."


—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 10:51 PM | Comments (11)

August 22, 2010

Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Jeffrey Goldberg-Bashing?

What a dumb question. Of course not:

[Goldberg] manages to undo his self-created image as the paragon of tolerance by slipping in an ugly stereotype all of his own. He describes a meeting he had in January with the late Hamas leader, Abdulaziz Rantisi, commenting:
We were in his apartment, in Gaza City, which was filled with his grandchildren when I arrived. They provided him with protection. Rantisi never picked up a ringing telephone; he always had one of the children answer. (The Israeli security services have managed to kill at least one prominent terrorist with an exploding telephone.) At the end of the interview, a telephone rang on a table next to my chair. No children were available to answer it, and Rantisi asked me to pick up the receiver. I declined.

You’ve only read one paragraph about him, and don’t you hate Rantisi already? He fills his apartment with grandchildren to protect himself, and even has them answer the phone for him, so that they can get blown up instead of him if the phone explodes! And then, in the absence of a child to hide behind, he even tries to recruit Goldberg himself as answerer of the potentially-explosive phone! But Goldberg sees through him, and doesn’t play along…

What melodrama. And what utter rubbish. Read that paragraph again, and ask yourself if it really makes sense...

I don’t doubt that Rantisi had other people answer his phone for him, for reasons I'll explain below. But Goldberg’s assumption that this was because Rantisi was happy to let an innocent bystander – even his own grandchild – be blown up in his place, is ill-informed and just plain wrong.

That's from a 2004 Lawrence of Cyberia post about a Goldberg article in the New Yorker. Read it all.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 12:44 PM | Comments (16)

August 21, 2010

Five Dollar Friday, Late Again

Explanation of Five Dollar Friday here. Follow who else is giving on twitter.

Once again I'm a day late with $5 Friday, so once again I'm doubling the amount donated to $10. This week it goes to Grist for their environmental journalism, specifically the writing of Gar Lipow, and even more specifically for his article about high altitude wind energy. If you like Lipow's writing for Grist, be sure to also check out his book No Hair Shirts.

Here's an interview with the CEO of Joby Energy, one of the companies working on the high altitude wind concept:

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 10:15 PM | Comments (2)

August 20, 2010

Eden Abergil Chooses #11

Of course:

Eden Abergil, the former Israel Defense Forces soldier who has been criticized for publishing controversial images on Facebook, allegedly wrote on her Facebook page on Thursday that she would "gladly kill Arabs – even slaughter them."...

"I can't allow Arab lovers to ruin the perfect life I lead," she allegedly wrote. "I am not sorry and I don’t regret it."

There are fifteen things you can say when you're filled with moronic ethnic hate, but right now Eden is going for #11:

11. If there's anything worse than a _________, it's a _________-lover. These traitors are trying to destroy us from within.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 05:25 PM | Comments (6)

Jeffrey Goldberg Still America's Preeminent Propagandist (Part IV)

UPDATE: While Jeffrey Goldberg indeed is lying about what Glenn Greenwald wrote, I now agree with John Caruso these two statements actually aren't contradictory. See comments, below.

Part I, Part II, Part III

Jeffrey Goldberg, last week in his long article about Israel and Iran:

In 1981, Israeli warplanes bombed the Iraqi reactor at Osirak, halting—forever, as it turned out—Saddam Hussein’s nuclear ambitions

Jeffrey Goldberg, now:

My dear friend Glenn Greenwald continues to allege, despite all evidence and logic to the contrary, that I believe that Israel's Osirak attack ended Saddam's desire for nuclear weapons in 1981.

What impressive about this is the way Goldberg lies in multiple ways. Obviously he wrote that the 1981 bombing of Osirak ended Saddam Hussein's nuclear ambitions. But Glenn Greenwald never claimed Goldberg actually believed it. In fact, the whole of point of this to start with was that Goldberg was clearly lying, because he'd written exactly the opposite—that it had NOT ended Saddam's nuclear ambitions—back in 2002, when that suited his purposes then.

P.S. Still doing my best not to get angry at the dung beetles.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 02:45 PM | Comments (60)

August 17, 2010

Tables, Turned


in July the chairman and cofounder of the Blackstone Group, one of the world’s largest private-equity firms, amped up the rhetoric. Stephen Schwarzman—the leading John McCain supporter in a firm that, in 2008, gave more money to Obama—was addressing board members of a nonprofit organization when he let loose. “It’s a war,” Schwarzman said of the struggle with the administration over increasing taxes on private-equity firms. “It’s like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.”...

Schwarzman’s original beef with Obama grew out of a 2008 campaign promise that “carried interest”—the compensation structure of private-equity-fund managers—would be taxed as ordinary income (35 percent) instead of capital gains (15 percent)...the commissions and fees that hedge-fund managers reap (20 percent of their clients’ profits) are not, strictly speaking, capital gains because the managers themselves never held the stocks.

Mock all you want, lefties, but the joke will be on you when the Nazis invade Poland again and everyone compares it to raising taxes on hedge fund managers.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 05:45 PM | Comments (21)


The blot Gin & Tacos has taken a look back at a 2003 Megan McArdle post ridiculing everyone who thought the invasion of Iraq would cost a lot of money. It's painfully entertaining and well worth reading.

However, even G&T missed the worst McArdle-y part:

The war will certainly cost more than the $60b and change that the President is asking for. But it is not going to run us several trillion dollars (though even if it did, that would work out to less than 0.1% of GDP over the next 20 years.)

Do you see? She was off by a factor of ten. The total U.S. GDP from 2003-2023 will probably be in the neighborhood of $300 trillion. So it is true that at a cost of $2 trillion (the amount McArdle was talking about) or even the current estimated cost of $3 trillion, the war will likely cost less than 1.0% of the 2003-2023 GDP. But not "less than 0.1%."

It's at times like these that I struggle with my own admonition not to get angry at the dung beetles. I mean, anybody can make a mistake with a calculator. But to not notice that your answer implies that the U.S. GDP will total more than two quadrillion dollars over the next twenty years? While being incredibly condescending and wrong more generally? And then years later to be off by a factor of ten again? If it were me I'd reconsider my career choices just out of a sense of shame.

But as always, of course, the fault doesn't truly lie with McArdle, but with the Atlantic's owner David Bradley and the Atlantic's advertisers. This is clearly what they wanted: a "Business and Economics Editor" who can't handle 7th grade math. Indeed, if she COULD handle 7th grade math, Bradley surely would never have hired her in the first place. She'd always be giving him answers he didn't like.

P.S. Bonus points to anyone who wants to dig through the McArdle-y archives to find what's surely there: her declaiming about the horrendous shortfall in Social Security over the next 75 years without putting it into context of 75 years of GDP.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 07:08 AM | Comments (11)

August 16, 2010

Jeffrey Goldberg Still America's Preeminent Propagandist (Part III)

Part I is here & Part II is here

(I'll be on Houston's Pacifica station KPFT tonight from 7:40-8:00 pm to talk about Goldberg's article.)

In terms of embarrassment for a fellow human being, this is the most notable part of Jeffrey Goldberg's long article about Israel bombing Iran:

Of course, it is in the Israeli interest to let it be known that the country is considering military action, if for no other reason than to concentrate the attention of the Obama administration. But I tested the consensus by speaking to multiple sources both in and out of government, and of different political parties. Citing the extraordinary sensitivity of the subject, most spoke only reluctantly, and on condition of anonymity. They were not part of some public-relations campaign.

Too bad Goldberg didn't listen to his fellow Atlantic contributor P.J. O'Rourke:

"As a journalist, I've never found it very useful to interview people at the top of the political food chain. Those people did not get into control by being dumb enough to spill their guts to a reporter. It takes a certain kind of egotism that goes into a reporter saying to himself, 'I'll go over here and meet Boris Yeltsin and he's going to tell me stuff he's never told anybody else.' Even if you are Bob Woodward, Yeltsin is not going to say, 'Look, just between you and me, Monday we are going to invade Finland.'"

Tony Karon makes the same point here:

The first question to ask when considering how seriously to take Jeffrey Goldberg’s latest alarmist screed about Israel gearing up to attack Iran, is “Why do people talk to Jeffrey Goldberg?”

Goldberg, of course, operates with the conceit common to many access journalists, who assume that what they’re hearing from their sources is the unvarnished truth, told to the journalist because they presumably trust him as a confidante and recognize the value of his opinions and insights. Let’s just say that such is the conceit that makes it so easy for those in power in Washington to seduce marquee name journalists to carry water for them by anointing them as “special”, cultivating in the illusion that they’re insiders privy to the inner thoughts of the key power players.

A couple of years ago Judy Miller defended her Iraq reporting by saying her job was to go out and get information out of government officials that they didn't want her to know. That's Jeffrey Goldberg's challenging job too.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 06:06 PM | Comments (10)

August 15, 2010


Thanks so much to everyone who donated to the minifundraiser for Consortium News. With more than $2,000 now raised, I will stop yelling at you, and both my mother and I will donate an additional $100.

I wasn't sure this was going to work, and it's extremely gratifying to me that it did. Robert Parry has given the world so much useful, albeit horrifying, information, and I'm truly grateful to everyone for participating in repaying him in some small way.

I believe I first encountered Parry's writing in 1996 after Gary Webb's "Dark Alliance" series about the CIA's complicity in the Central American cocaine trade was published online by the San Jose Mercury News. I was still dumb enough to be shocked by the attacks on Webb by the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, etc., and even more shocked that no one in authority in the government seemed to care. It was Parry's site which provided the back story and additional investigation that allowed me to understand what was going on. Since then I've continued to learn from Parry about perhaps five more scandals that each should have been enough to put America's entire political class in jail for life.

If you're not familiar with all of Parry's reporting, I suggested you begin with (1) the evidence for the 1980 "October Surprise", including the report provided to Congress by Russia's government and Alexander Haig's briefing to Ronald Reagan mentioning how Carter gave Saddam a green light to invade Iran; (2) the Contra-cocaine connection; (3) Rev. Moon's extremely unwholesome background; and (4) the even more unwholesome background of Colin Powell.

I'll be in touch soon with the people who've won the non-valuable prizes. And definitely let me know if you already gave and I left you off the list below.

HONOR ROLL OF FREEDOM: Peter Beattie, NE, Jared, Nell, shargash, Donald Johnson, Aaron Datesman, Mike Meyer, RoninJin, jeanie, The Other Duncan, Gladys Murphy, NomadUK, mistah charley, ph.d., Tony, Justin, John James Morton, ethan, BGGB, "-", drip, Matt, Mike B., John Halle, Grandpa Ken, hf, Save the Oocytes, laym, Rosemary Molloy, Cosette, icecreammang, cemmcs, will shetterly, otto, ba, Steve @ New Hampshire Gazette, [Anonymous - $250], [Anonymous - $100], [Anonymous - $75], Jody Schwarz, [Anonymous - $100], [Anonymous - $25], Colin Brace, [Anonymous - $50], [Anonymous - $200], Rob, Mike of Angle & Bob

And of course if you're not on the list, you can still donate and get added—just go here and let me know that you've done so.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 12:29 PM | Comments (8)

August 14, 2010

Free Speech


Jeffrey Goldberg has been on every cable TV show on earth to discuss his Iran article. Now I'm going to be on two teeny-tiny radio stations today to make fun of him:

1. From 12:10-30 pm ET (9:10-30 am PT) I'll be on Don Lacy's show on KPOO in San Francisco.

2. From 7:00-8:00 pm ET (6:00-7:00 pm CT) I'll be on "Radio Islam" on WCEV in Chicago.

(You can also find me making fun of Goldberg's article in "print" here and here.)

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 10:19 AM | Comments (3)

Five Dollar Friday

Explanation of Five Dollar Friday here. Follow who else is giving on twitter.

Because I'm a day late and the amount doubles every day that happens, $10 goes to Max Ajl of Jewbonics to support his past and hopefully future writing from Gaza. He was there a few months ago and (I assume) will be going back at some point. Here's part of one post from May 6th, "A Merkava for fifty of us???":

We heard what sounded like an Apache whirring over the horizon, just beyond the sand hillocks on the Israeli side of the border. The kids pointed out a surveillance plane against the brilliant sky. I could not see it. Three jeeps, churning up the sand, showed up and soldiers got out, conferring with one another. They apparently decided not to shoot. We were pretty far from the border. Then we heard a tremendous grinding mechanical sound, like metal tearing. It was a Merkava. This was our quiet demonstration. The Merkava's turret wandered around; it spent an inordinate amount of time pointed directly at us, and also at the knot of people, press and teenagers, 5 or 6 meters away. Intimidation. There is something scary and simultaneously pathetic about the IDF's response. Three army jeeps, a Merkava tank, an automated gun-tower, a surveillance drone, and, I think, an Apache, to deal with 50 unarmed civilians carrying a banner, video cameras, and their flag. What's scary is that their rules of engagement permit them to open fire on children's legs with live ammunition. What is pathetic is that they are scared. But what is also scary is that their fear will translate into more crippled and more dead, until live ammunition is banned. [And even then...]. And that won't happen amidst the media blackout. This is the problem with non-violence in a situation of such unequal strength. People keep dying until the symbolic costs become too high, when they threaten to translate into real costs: political support, economic support.

nuestro amigo the Merkava

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 10:01 AM | Comments (3)

August 13, 2010

Jeffrey Goldberg Still America's Preeminent Propagandist (Part II)


Part I is here

My favorite part of Jeffrey Goldberg's long article about Israel attacking Iran is all the discussion about tables:

Barack Obama has said any number of times that he would find a nuclear Iran "unacceptable."..."The world must prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," he said. "I will take no options off the table in dealing with this potential Iranian threat."...

"The expression 'All options are on the table' means that all options are on the table," Emanuel told me before the meeting, in a tone meant to suggest both resolve and irritation at those who believe the president lacks such resolve...

"We are coordinating a multifaceted strategy to increase pressure on Iran, but that doesn’t mean we’ve removed any option from the table," [Deputy National Security Adviser Ben] Rhodes said...

"The president has said he hasn’t taken any options off the table," [said Dennis Ross]...

This is why Goldberg is such an excellent propagandist. Any actual reporter would have pointed out the glaringly obvious fact about this rote repetition: all options are not on the table. For instance, Israel is not going to consider giving up its own nuclear weapons if it were part of a deal to make it certain Iran would not develop its own. Nor is the United States considering giving up its nukes. Nor do we have any interest in a region-wide peace settlement that would satisfy us regarding Iran if it required U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, the United States hasn't even signaled any openness to apologizing to Iranians for our numerous crimes against them (overthrowing their government, teaching the Shah how best to torture them, helping Saddam use WMD against them, etc.). Apparently we would prefer to attack Iran or indeed for Iran to get nuclear weapons rather than exercise any of these possible options.

It take real determination to self-lobotomize yourself so you don't notice this. Goldberg's ability to do so is why he's worth the big bucks. (And ponies!)

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 03:37 PM | Comments (8)

August 12, 2010




—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 01:17 PM | Comments (10)

August 11, 2010

Jeffrey Goldberg Still America's Preeminent Propagandist

Jeffrey Goldberg has just written a long article about the chances of Israel attacking Iran. (Apparently it's 50-50.) The piece demonstrates that Goldberg remains at the top of his profession—he's still America's greatest foreign policy propagandist.

Part of what makes Goldberg so good is his pose of thoughtfulness. He doesn't foam at the mouth, like someone like Frank Gaffney. He fits culturally into the liberal world, such as it is. And this allows the liberal world to be persuaded that all the options have been judiciously considered by our greatest minds and—darn it—we do have to obliterate Iraq/Iran/Islamabad/Iceland/Iapetus.

Another reason Goldberg is so good is his technique. He generally understands that the best propaganda doesn't use lies. That said, at a few points in the Iran article Goldberg does resort to straightforward fabrication.

For instance, the logical conclusion to draw from Goldberg's article is that the men who run Israel are psychotic. They're considering taking an action with obvious catastrophic consequences that also obviously wouldn't accomplish its goal. In fact, it would guarantee that Iran would stop at nothing to get nuclear weapons.

But the men who run Israel can't be psychotic. That's the wrong answer. So how can this circle be squared? Like this:

I AM NOT ENGAGING in a thought exercise, or a one-man war game, when I discuss the plausibility and potential consequences of an Israeli strike on Iran. Israel has twice before successfully attacked and destroyed an enemy’s nuclear program. In 1981, Israeli warplanes bombed the Iraqi reactor at Osirak, halting—forever, as it turned out—Saddam Hussein’s nuclear ambitions; and in 2007, Israeli planes destroyed a North Korean–built reactor in Syria. An attack on Iran, then, would be unprecedented only in scope and complexity.

You see? They've done it before! So they're perfectly rational to believe that they can do it again!


1. Iraq had no genuine nuclear weapons program before the 1981 Israeli attack on Osirak. That was the conclusion of the chairman of Harvard's physics department at the time (who inspected the site after the bombing). This was later confirmed by defecting Iraqi nuclear scientists Imad Khadduri and Khadir Hamza. And it was then doubly confirmed by the head of what became the Iraqi nuclear weapons program, Jafar Dhia Jafar. In fact, all the Iraqis say the Israeli bombing caused Iraq to seriously pursue nuclear weapons. Moreover, it was likely a big factor in Saudi Arabia's willingness to give Iraq $5 billion to do it.

2. Even if Iraq had had a big nuclear weapons program in 1981, the idea that the Israeli attack succeeded in "halting—forever, as it turned out—Saddam Hussein's nuclear ambitions" is COMPLETELY INSANE. Iraq had a gigantic nuclear weapons program from 1981 to 1991.

How do I know this? Well, I'm relying on an article written in 2002 by a talented reporter making the case that it was crucial for the U.S. to invade Iraq. His name was Jeffrey Goldberg:

Saddam Hussein never gave up his hope of turning Iraq into a nuclear power. After the Osirak attack, he rebuilt, redoubled his efforts, and dispersed his facilities.

Now, of course Iraq's nuclear weapons program was terminated by Operation Desert Storm and later UN inspections. But Goldberg was absolutely right in 2002 to say there was a lot going on after the 1981 Osirak bombing. So while it's always hard to tell whether these people are stupid or lying, in this particular case I think we can say for sure that Goldberg is lying.

P.S. Here's the first sentence of Goldberg's article: "It is possible that at some point in the next 12 months, the imposition of devastating economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran will persuade its leaders to cease their pursuit of nuclear weapons."

The official position of the U.S. intelligence community about this remains the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate. And it said Iran stopped pursuing nuclear weapons in 2003. Maybe it was wrong, or maybe something's changed since then. But it is the essence of Goldberg-itude to simply ignore this and assert the opposite as unquestionable fact.

P.P.S. As awful as Goldberg is, there's no reason to get mad at him personally.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 11:30 PM | Comments (36)

August 09, 2010

Thank You + Prizes + More Yelling

Thanks so much to everyone who's donated so far to the fundraiser being held by Consortium News. I explained on Saturday why I'm running a minifundraiser asking readers here to give them $2,000.

By my count, in the past three days $1,055 $1,349 has been given or is on its way. If you're one of the people who's sent them money so far, please check the list below to make sure I haven't missed you.

If you're not one of the people who's given, I hope you can—I realize times are very tough in many places, but just small donations add up when lots of people are doing it. All that's needed now to finish is 95 66 people giving $10 each.

Here are some new incentives:

1. I will send a signed copy of Our Kampf to the person who makes the largest donation and also call to thank them. (If there's a tie I'll flip a coin.)

I will also call to thank the next two highest donations, plus three randomly chosen donators of any amount. (Or if you prefer, I will promise never to call you.)

2. My mother has already donated $100, but pledged to give another $100 as soon as we get to $2,000. And I'll also give another $100 when we get there. So in the end Consortium News will get $2,200 total.

3. I've been doing this for six and a half years and have never tried to hit up readers for money. This wasn't a principled stand, but because I just never needed to. Nevertheless, if you've gotten any enjoyment out of my endless griping, I hope you'll consider expressing it in monetary form by giving to Consortium News. Robert Parry has had an huge effect on how I see the world, and it would mean a lot to me to be able to help him out, even a little bit.

So here's how you can give. Please be sure to leave a comment or send me email after donating:

• Go here to donate via credit card.

• Send money via paypal to

• Send checks or money orders to:

Consortium for Independent Journalism
Suite 102-231
2200 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22201

Hopefully we can wrap this up soon, but if necessary I have no hesitation about yelling about it through 2014.

THANK YOU: Peter Beattie, [anonymous - $100], NE, Jared, Nell, shargash, Donald Johnson, Aaron Datesman, RoninJin, will, jeanie, The Other Duncan, [anonymous - $100], Gladys, Jody Schwarz, NomadUK, mistah charley, ph.d., Tony, "-", Justin, John James Morton, Ethan, BGGB, Mike Meyer

ADDED: drip, Matt, Mike B., John Halle, Grandpa Ken, Rob W.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 10:44 PM | Comments (12)

August 08, 2010

Actual Good News


If you read just one thing today, make it Gar Lipow's Grist article about high-altitude wind power:

The higher the altitude, the faster the wind blows. Other factors being equal, the power available from wind is the cube of its speed. Wind at 1 kilometer can generate a bit less than twice the energy of a turbine at 100 meters. A turbine at ten kilometers can generate eight or more times the energy of a turbine at 100 meters. Estimated high altitude energy potential is about 100 times all energy human civilization currently consumes.

At first glance, the potential of high altitude wind power appears tantalizingly out of reach. While we could probably build one kilometer wind towers, the cost of towers that size are unlikely to ever be low enough that doubling generation will come close to paying for them. And if a one kilometer tower is impractical, a ten kilometer tower seems even less plausible.

Fortunately, giant towers are not the only means we have to reach high altitudes. Kites have been used for millennia, balloons for centuries, motorized planes and helicopters for more than 100 years. Put turbines on an automated kite, plane, balloon or helicopter with no human pilot. Run a tether to transmit the electricity to the ground, and in (in many cases) to provide power for the initial launch. The result is a flying energy generator, a wind turbine or turbines on a flying platform that can provide higher energy density and higher energy reliability and capacity factor than ground based wind turbines at a lower cost. Many developers claim that such flying energy generators (FEGs) could produce electricity with a life cycle cost of less than 2 cents per kWh with a capacity factor of 70% and above (comparable to the capacity factor of coal plants.) This is not merely an idea. A number of companies have working prototypes. It has been proven possible, though not yet practical. The only way to determine practicality will be for someone (either the government or venture capitalists) to fund the transition from proof of concept prototypes to quarter scale commercial prototypes and finally to full scale commercial prototypes. Any one of the companies working on this could probably be fully funded for the cost of the stationary budget of the Department of Energy.

The rest.

You may remember that a recent study found that with current technology, the U.S. has enough wind power at 80 meters to produce nine times the amount of electricity (not total energy) we consume. What Gar Lipow is talking about would require some technological developments, but the potential is far higher (100 times total energy usage, rather than nine times electricity usage); it's cheaper; it's much less intermittent; and it could be generated closer to where it would be consumed.

There's so much bad news about the world all the time I'm not sure how to react to good news. It feels sort of weird.

The pencil-necked geeks among us may want to read an academic paper from which Gar Lipow got some of his information, "Harnessing High Altitude Wind Power":


—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 03:09 PM | Comments (14)

August 07, 2010

God Damn It, Please Donate to Consortium News

Consortium News is wrapping up its current fundraiser but is nowhere near its $40,000 goal. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Robert Parry may be the greatest investigative reporter in the United States. We need to support him and Consortium News.

In fact, I'm so frustrated by the difficulty Parry has raising money that I'm going to devote this site to a minifundraiser of my own. Here's how it's going to work: I'm going to yell at everyone coming here until I can verify that readers have, from today onward, donated $2,000 to Parry. At that point I'll give Consortium News another $100 on top of the $60 I've previously donated this year.

At 200 people giving $10 each, or 40 people giving $50 each, this is surely an achievable goal. So let's get started.

Go here to donate via credit card, or send money via paypal to Then leave the dollar amount of your donation in the comments here or send me an email. I'll start keeping a running total in this post.

You know how great it feels when the car alarm outside your apartment stops going off at 3 a.m.? That's how it's going to feel when we get to $2,000 and I stop yelling at you. But in the meantime:

Get this widget | Track details | eSnips Social DNA

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 07:41 AM | Comments (42)

August 06, 2010

Five Dollar Friday

Explanation of Five Dollar Friday here. Follow who else is giving on twitter.

$5 goes today to The Free Press for their net neutrality advocacy. Obviously the people who run the world weren't going to let the internet stay free forever, and now they're making important advances to destroying it.

You can read up on the possible upcoming Google-Verizon catastrophe here; donate money yourself to The Free Press here; and get involved in various ways here.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 10:49 PM | Comments (6)

August 05, 2010

At First I Was Like This :( But Then I Was Like This :) : ) :)

As a good human being, it's my duty to be horrified and disgusted by anything written by the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg. So I was concerned to see that, in several recent posts about the Cordoba House "controversy," he said some things that were true.

For instance, Goldberg is 100% right about this:

...we must understand that what the terrorists seek is a clash of civilizations. We must do everything possible to avoid giving them propaganda victories in their attempt to create a cosmic war between Judeo-Christian civilization and Muslim civilization. The fight is not between the West and Islam...

And this:

The Cordoba Initiative, which is headed by an imam named Feisal Abdul Rauf, is an enemy of al Qaeda...Bin Laden would sooner dispatch a truck bomb to destroy the Cordoba Initiative's proposed community center than he would attack the ADL, for the simple reason that Osama's most dire enemies are Muslims.

What was going on? Could it possibly be true that Jeffrey Goldberg has some redeeming qualities? If this were so I would have to reevaluate everything I know about the universe.

So THANK YOU JESUS that this was not all Goldberg said. Here are those quotes again in full:

...we must understand that what the terrorists seek is a clash of civilizations. We must do everything possible to avoid giving them propaganda victories in their attempt to create a cosmic war between Judeo-Christian civilization and Muslim civilization. The fight is not between the West and Islam; it is between modernists of all monotheist faiths, on the one hand, and the advocates of a specific strain of medievalist Islam, on the other.

Obviously he left out quite a few people who are effectively on the Islamist side in this "fight": just for instance, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Benjamin Netanyahu and himself. (Of course, the fight is mostly fictional; the real fight is about colonialism.)

The Cordoba Initiative, which is headed by an imam named Feisal Abdul Rauf, is an enemy of al Qaeda, no less than Rudolph Giuliani and the Anti-Defamation League are enemies of al Qaeda. Bin Laden would sooner dispatch a truck bomb to destroy the Cordoba Initiative's proposed community center than he would attack the ADL, for the simple reason that Osama's most dire enemies are Muslims.

Again, obviously Rudy Giuliani and the ADF are not al Qaeda's enemies, but are effectively on the same side.

So it turns that even when doing the right thing, Jeffrey Goldberg remains horrifying and disgusting, and thus the universe is exactly as I thought it was. This makes me very happy.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 07:58 AM | Comments (18)

August 03, 2010

I Can Find No Irony Whatsoever In These Quotes

By: John Caruso

Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Blowing Shit Up:

"Mr. Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing, but the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family," Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen said.

And his boss, Secretary of Blowing Shit Up Robert Gates:

On the ABC program "This Week," Gates declared himself "mortified" and "appalled" over the public dissemination of 76,000 documents that detailed military operations in Afghanistan.

"If I'm angry it is because I believe this information puts those in Afghanistan who have helped us at risk," Gates said, citing a Taliban statement that it would seek out informants and other collaborators exposed by the documents.

He said the issue involved two areas of culpability - legal and moral.

While the Department of Justice will decide on the legal questions, "there's also a moral culpability, and that's where I think WikiLeaks is guilty," Gates said.

Try as I might, I am unable to locate even the smallest hint of irony in these statements.  No, the commitment of these men to the sanctity of all human life is not only unalloyed by any imaginable taint of insincerity, but is, I must say, a true inspiration to us all.  Just imagine what a paradise Afghanistan would be if Gates and Mullen were allowed to ply their trade without the meddling of moral lepers like WikiLeaks!

OH, THE HUMILITY: Here's the fuller quote from the DoBSU web site:

"My attitude on this is that there are two areas of culpability," Gates said on ABC’s This Week. "One is legal culpability. And that's up to the Justice Department and others -- that's not my arena.

"But there's also a moral culpability," he added. "And that's where I think the verdict is guilty on WikiLeaks. They have put this out without any regard whatsoever for the consequences."

So Gates recognizes that even though he's obviously ideally suited to judge moral culpability, that doesn't qualify him to speculate on legal issues that fall outside that arena of his expertise.  We are truly fortunate to have leaders whose vast ethical wisdom is tempered by such humility.

— John Caruso

Posted at 01:57 PM | Comments (16)

August 01, 2010

Violent Moron Mad Libs

As far as I know, I'm the only person on earth who genuinely enjoys reading Islamist propaganda. What's great about it is is how pungently it demonstrates that All Mankind is One, including the ways in which we are violent morons.

I've just been looking through "The Exoneration," a long 2008 screed by Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda's second-in-command. He wrote it in response to "Dr. Fadl," a prominent hardline Islamist thinker who'd started saying that maybe slaughtering giant numbers of people wasn't such a hot idea after all.

What's wonderful about what Zawahiri says is that all you'd have to do is change a few words and Sean Hannity would read it on Fox tonight:

This is a question that we address to the brothers who use the term "terrorism" to describe what happened in America. I would like an answer to it. This is the question:

When the United States fired missiles on the medicine factory in Sudan, destroying it over the heads of the employees and workers who were inside, what do you call this? What America did against the Sudanese factory, does it not constitute terrorism but what those men did against the American buildings is terrorism? Why did they condemn what happened in America but we heard no one condemn what America did to the Sudanese factory?

I see no difference between the two operations except that the money used to build the factory was Muslim money and the workers who died in the factory's rubble were Muslims while the money that was spent on the buildings that those hijackers destroyed was infidel money and the people who died in the explosion were infidels. Was this the difference that made some of our brothers call what happened in America terrorism? They did not condemn what happened in Sudan and do not call it terrorism. What about starving the Libyan people? What about the almost daily starving of the Iraqi people and the attacks on them? What about the sieges and attacks on the Muslim state of Afghanistan? What do you call all this? Is it or is it not terrorism?

There's the exact same nationalistic bullying you get from Hannity, the exact same insinuations that anyone who criticizes him does it because they're secretly on The Other Side. It's Violent Moron Mad Libs.

[Members of our in-group] have criticized me for killing [members of an out-group]. They've even called it a crime! But, I ask, where were they when [members of that out-group] killed [members of our in-group] at [place]? I wonder, why weren't they upset about THAT?

Hannity, Glenn Beck, Rudy Giuliani et al exist at the exact same moral and intellectual level as Al Qaeda's #2. They truly are no more informed or sophisticated than he is. If Ayman al-Zawahiri had been born an American Christian, he'd undoubtedly be a successful right-wing politician or talk show host.

More textbook Zawahiri wingnuttery can be found in an online forum (described in a New Yorker article) in which he responded to questions from Muslims. Amusingly, he actually answered far tougher questions than any American political figure ever would. Perhaps someday we can learn from the mideast how to have an open society:

SAUDI: Are there other ways and means in which the objectives of jihad can be achieved without killing people? Please do not use as a pretext what the Americans or others are doing. Muslims are supposed to be an example to the world in tolerance and lofty goals, not to become a gang whose only concern is revenge.

ZAWAHIRI: If a criminal were to storm into your house, attack your family and kill them, steal your property, and burn down your house, then turns to attack the homes of your neighbors, will you treat him tolerantly so that you will not become a gang whose only concern is revenge?

All you have to do is switch "American" and "Muslim" and you've got next week's Ann Coulter column, complete with sneering references to "tolerance." It's uncanny.

P.S. Strong Horse!

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 09:30 AM | Comments (45)