Friday, March 31, 2006

"Reality Jab" Nation & World: U.S. raid on Shiite shrine served as a warning
The U.S. military was trying to send a "little reality jab" to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr when American and Iraqi troops raided a Shiite community center and shrine over the weekend, says a top U.S. military official.

The joint assault killed at least 16 people, most of them believed to be tied to Sadr's militia, the Mahdi Army. U.S. officials insist the center was being used as a base for insurgent activities and was not a mosque. But many Iraqis say the complex did indeed include the Shiite equivalent of a mosque, and the raid has drawn harsh condemnation from Shiite politicians and prompted Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, to launch an investigation.

The mayor of Baghdad promptly cut off cooperation with the U.S. Embassy, and Shiite politicians suspended their negotiations to form a new government.

I'm beginning to feel that if I say "here's the problem in a nutshell" one more time my head will explode, but I just play them as they lie.

We are in control in Iraq only in the sense that a man holding a hand grenade from which the pin has already been pulled and discarded is in control. We have a limited ability to postpone the destruction, but we can't prevent it, and we can't do much of anything else while standing there holding it, either. So, Mr. Top Military Offical, we are not really in a position to deliver a very effective "reality jab." We jab; the political process (such as it was) grinds to a halt.

The reality is that we now need Sadr a lot more than he needs us. Sadr seems to hold the aces in the reality deck these days, and pissing him off while your philosopher-king debates the definition of civil war strikes me as a less than, well, realistic.

And from a stylistic point of you, methinks anyone in charge of much of anything in this man's Administration ought to steer well clear of the word "reality" for a while -- kind like the way "heckuva job" has lost its cache'.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Judicial Temperament

Amid a growing national controversy about the gesture U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made Sunday at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, the freelance photographer who captured the moment has come forward with the picture.

“It’s inaccurate and deceptive of him to say there was no vulgarity in the moment,” said Peter Smith, the Boston University assistant photojournalism professor who made the shot.
Smith was working as a freelance photographer for the Boston archdiocese’s weekly newspaper at a special Mass for lawyers Sunday when a Herald reporter asked the justice how he responds to critics who might question his impartiality as a judge given his public worship.

“The judge paused for a second, then looked directly into my lens and said, ‘To my critics, I say, ‘Vaffanculo,’ ” punctuating the comment by flicking his right hand out from under his chin, Smith said.

The Italian phrase means “(expletive) you.”

The efforts of Italian-Americans everywhere to distance themselves from crude stereotypes thereby take a body blow. The theme from "The Sopranos" should now play whenever Nino appears in public. And the bond between Scalia and hunting buddy Dick Cheney is now clear. Perhaps there is some secret international brotherhood of Go Fuck Yourself, kind of like the "Are you a turtle?" thing the astronauts had back in the 1960s.

I puzzled over this post for a while. I try hard to avoid stereotyping and ethnic slurs. (I detest, for example, the way some lefties actually tried a while back to make fun of Michelle Malkin based on her Filipino maiden name.) But how else can one discuss this incident?

Update: The other thing about this story that ought to strike a nerve is the way Scalia has now utterly trashed the gold standard for credibility. When lawyers talk about the hypothetical perfect witness, they talk in terms of bishops and priests and, yes, judges. So a Justice of the Supreme Court has always been seen as incorruptible and scrupulously honest. And here we have a Supreme acting like common thug, and then lying about what he saw a photographer capture. The arrogance is mind-boggling, but the lowering of standards for judicial honesty is perhaps the greater outrage.

Update #2: The Boston Archdiocese has now fired the photographer. No good deed goes unpunished by the Church.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


(Updated) Consider the juxtaposition of the following three items:

*The AP lifts a story about Administration security policy from Raw Story; AP privately admits the sourcing, but says it is their policy not to credit bloggy sources.

*The AP lifts a story about questionable dealings of a Kansas Republican from Josh Marshall's TPMuckraker; no credit is given.

*The Washington Post, perfectly happy to have Ben Domenech do that juvenile voodoo that he do in their august yet online publication, fires his sorry ass immediately upon learning that he had ripped off various authors whose work had appeared in print.

The lesson here is obvious: Plagiarism of Old Media sources is a Bad Thing. But It's OK If You Rip Off A Blog.

Update: They come in threes. The Wall Street Journal rips off Raw on the Abramoff story. And admits it. From Jason Leopold via Skippy:
today, the wall street journal published a front-page "exclusive" that basically recycled my story from january without mentioning that it was first reported by me or that i broke the story wide open. i spoke to two journal editors in new york. they acknowledged this morning that they read my story and assigned a reporter to follow it up. but they refuse to credit me for first reporting it.
I stand by my piece from a few months ago: Don't You Dare Call me a Journalist.

When Corporate America and the Internet collide

I'm sure the folks at the ad agency thought it was a great idea to cross-promote Chevy Tahoe: The Apprentice ® by letting John Q. Public create Tahoe commercials online. What they didn't count on was our subversive little corner of America getting our grubby little paws on it. Via DU, there are a bunch of good ones, but you simply gotta see this.

Go look at it quick before they yank it down. Download Flash if you have to -- it is worth it to see something this funny and subversive on GM's dime. More here. Or make your own.

Update: I did. Joe Bob sez check it out.
Update #2: The director's cut.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Point of Non-Unshitability

Reader Edward Ott is confused by the new phrase I carelessly threw about in my last post. On further reflection, I believe it is, though a trifle obscure, an important concept and worthy of wider dissemination.

Fellow blogger The Poor Man perhaps invented the "parent" phrase, which he brilliantly used to refer to the Iraq mess. (I should also point out that as the founder of the Poor Man Institute for Freedom and Democracy and a Pony, with which I am proud to be associated, he is, in a pointless yet irrelevant way, associated with me. )

People want someone to unshit the bed. You can't unshit the bed. All you can do is make the bed-shitter sleep on the floor.

I take "unshit the bed" to mean "the logical null set in which one fixes a problem that cannot in reality be fixed." The "point of non-unshitability" is thus the moment at which all is forever and irrevocably lost, the bed is unambiguously shat, and the situation is no longer fixable, regardless of the magnitude of the resources, optimism and ponies thrown at the problem.

So I simply created a variation on the Poor Man's classic phrase. But I think this new phrase, which locates the onset of the condition temporally, is critically important, and deserves recognition in its own right. Much effort has already been, and will continue to be, expended in locating the critical inflection point at which Iraq becomes unfixable, yet it has been difficult to discuss the concept because it has not had a proper name. I cannot solve the apparent non-unshitability in Iraq, but I can give it a name.

I now leave it to you, dear readers, to spread this wisdom far and wide. Encourage the press to ask, "Mr. President, have we already reached the point of non-unshitability, and if not, how will we know when we have reached it?", or "Secretary Rumsfeld, are there specific milestones which you believe conclusively demonstrate that we have not yet reached the point of non-unshitability?", or even, "Secretary Rice, how will U.S. policy change post-point of non-unshitability?"


Mark this date

When the history of the disaster that is our intervention in Iraq is written fifty years from now, this may well be marked as the moment at which the bed became irrevocably non-unshittable:

Shiites Say U.S. Is Pressuring Iraqi Leader to Step Aside - New York Times

BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 28 — Senior Shiite politicians said today that the American ambassador has told Shiite officials to inform the Iraqi prime minister that President Bush does not want him to remain the country's leader in the next government.

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari holding a news conference last week in Baghdad, Iraq. It is the first time the Americans have directly intervened in the furious debate over the country's top job, the politicians said, and it is inflaming tensions between the Americans and some Shiite leaders.

The ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, told the head of the main Shiite political bloc at a meeting last Saturday to pass a "personal message from President Bush" on to the prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who the Shiites insist should stay in his post for four more years, said Redha Jowad Taki, a Shiite politician and member of Parliament who was at the meeting.

Ambassador Khalilzad said that President Bush "doesn't want, doesn't support, doesn't accept" Mr. Jaafari to be the next prime minister, according to Mr. Taki, a senior aide to Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Shiite bloc. It was the first "clear and direct message" from the Americans on the issue of the candidate for prime minister, Mr. Taki said.

The fact that these idiots can simultaneously (a) claim that the reason we started the war was to bring democracy to Iraq, (b) that we are winning that war and that democracy is flowering there and (c) tell our designated Pinochio that he isn't a real boy, and should clear out because he no longer pleases his REAL master is... well, words fail me. It is such a spectacular display of hubris, insanity, and just plain stupidity that my well of outrage is unequal to the task.

Dubya and crew think Jaafari needs us. I suspect the opposite is closer to the truth. A full-scale, unambiguous civil war is his to make, and I suspect we just took away his last reason for avoiding it.

One of the corollaries to Murphy's Law is that nothing is ever so bad that it can't get worse. Iraq, thanks to our administration's epic stupidity, etc., is about to get a lot worse.

Islam, Christianity and insanity

The story of Abdul Rahman, the Afghan convert to the New Testament, is now well-covered. (I think I may have been the first blogger to pick up in it.) The pressure from our government seems to have convinced the Afghani court system to avoid offing the poor man, which avoids a bad end for Mr. Rahman (which is good) and avoids the full weight of the realization of the yet-unconfronted culture clash we have been papering over for four years (which probably isn't) -- but only temporarily.

One of the many revealing things about this case is the lack of reaction to the means by which Rahman was spared. As best as I can tell, they essentially ruled him unprosecutable because he is insane. Think about that for a minute. How do Falwell, Robertson and their followers square their support for their president's New and Improved Afghanistan with their attitude toward Christianity? Isn't Afghanistan calling them all bonkers, simply by virtue of their religion? The dissonance ought to be rather painful.

But the respite bought by Rahman's furlough will likely be brief. Muslim clerics are calling for Rahman's death. He is now in hiding. If he is killed, the issue comes back with a vengeance. If he flees Afghanistan, (a) he may still end up getting whacked, and (b) either way, the issue of fundie Islam and religious freedom ought to stay on the front burner.

Which would, in a just and sane world, lead to a discussion of fundie Christians as well. And maybe that's why they have been so quiet on this one.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Guess not

A few days ago, I decided to respond to some rather nasty anti-Semitic rantings from a reader of my last Raw Story piece by engaging in some actual debate with the perp writer here in this very precious real estate.

Opinion was mixed as to that decision, but I guess the whole thing was a waste of time -- I haven't heard a peep out of her. Perhaps the propect of facing off with an articulate Jew and his Greek chorus (Compact Edition) was a bit intimidating. Or maybe she's moved on to another hit-and-run target.

So much for constructive engagement and consensus building, eh?

Oh, and excellent snark, vermontraccoon. Most excellent.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Frightening coincidence

Today James Wolcott writes this (quoting economist Stephen Roach) about America's mounting international debt and fuck-you attitude toward its creditors:

"From Beijing to Dubai, there is a growing undercurrent of economic anti-Americanism. The irony of it all is truly extraordinary: The US has the greatest external deficit in the history of the world, and is now sending increasingly negative signals to two of its most generous providers of foreign capital -- China and the Middle East. The United States has been extraordinarily lucky to finance its massive current account deficit on extremely attractive terms. If its lenders now start to push back, those terms could change quickly -- with adverse consequences for the dollar, real long-term US interest rates, and overly indebted American consumers. The slope is getting slipperier, and Washington could care less."

Also today, I read this, from William shirer's seminal "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich:"
Between 1924 and 1930 German borrowing amounted to some seven billion dollars [a lot of money back then] and most of it came from American investors, who gave little thought to how the Germans might make eventual repayment. The Germans gave even less thought to it.

After Alito's confirmation, I began wading through Shirer's book, and I've kept at it on and off. There is plenty there to scare the pants off any contemporary reader. This point is actually the least of it, but I wanted to call attention to the tie-in.

The Domenech affair

That was quick.

The reign of wingnut wunderkind Ben Domenech as the Washington Post's in-house political blogger lasted only a few days. The official explanation for his departure is revealing:

When we hired Domenech, we were not aware of any allegations that he had plagiarized any of his past writings. In any cases where allegations such as these are made, we will continue to investigate those charges thoroughly in order to maintain our journalistic integrity.

Plagiarism is perhaps the most serious offense that a writer can commit or be accused of. will do everything in its power to verify that its news and opinion content is sourced completely and accurately at all times.

We appreciate the speed and thoroughness with which our readers and media outlets surfaced these allegations. Despite the turn this has taken, we believe this event, among other things, testifies to the positive and powerful role that the Internet can play in the the practice of journalism.

We also remain committed to representing a broad spectrum of ideas and ideologies in our Opinions area.

Jim Brady
Executive Editor,

To which I say, piffle.

I do not in any way condone plagiarism. It is wrong, wrong, wrong, and wee Ben is a bad doggy. But plagiarism is an "inside baseball" violation. In my view, the most serious offense a
writer (at least a writer at a major newspaper) can commit is failing to act as a check on the government, by either (a) accepting
whatever happy horseshit gets plopped onto his or her steno pad by those in power or (b) making shit up.

The Post is quite diligent in policing the originality of its writers, but seems unconcerned with their honesty or competence. This whole embarassing episode begs the real question: why did they hire this buffoon in the first place? Credentials? Writing skill? Those theories have taken a serious hit. What's left is the real reason -- wingnuttiness.

The next step will be interesting. If the Post, like a latter-day Diogenes, will now seek an honest wingnut to replace Domenech, we are probably in for a long loop of lather, rinse and repeat.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Here's your chance, Canute

First, thanks to those of you who responded -- I'm in the midst of a grave, self-inflicted computer wound, which will limit my blogging for a couple of days, but I appreciate the interaction, such as it is.

The (expressed) majority opinion seems to be to engage Ms. Canute. I'm willing to give it a try, though I'm not sure exactly how it should work. Frankly, I find this a difficult topic to deal with, because I feel like I am being attacked as a member of a class toward which Ms. Canute feels and expresses considerable animus. So I am not inclined to let Ms. Canute post directly. But if you want to explain your position, lady, have at it in the comments. Tell me why I shouldn't feel attacked. Or tell me why you are attacking me.

So, Ms. Canute, I'm going to hold my fire for the moment and resist the urge to start by taking on what I have read in your writings. Not since the time someone actually said to me, more than 20 years ago, "Some of my best friends are Jewish," have I tried to engage in a dialogue like this.

Enlighten us. Tell us why you are not to be dismissed as a nutcase.

Shit. For. Brains.

FULFILLING DEMAND: GM to boost output of its large SUVs

With the new Chevrolet Tahoe selling briskly, General Motors Corp. told workers at three assembly plants that it will increase production of its family of new full-size SUVs by about 11,000 to 12,000 a year, a GM spokesman said Tuesday.

Despite high gas prices, GM expects strong demand for its new large SUVs coming to market, including the new Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon XL. They are among the company's most profitable vehicles.

GM will increase the number of large SUVs coming off the production lines at plants in Janesville, Wis., and Arlington, Texas, in June and at Silao, Mexico, in July, GM spokesman Dan Flores said.

Stories like this push me over the edge.

GM is driving, Thelma & Louise-style, toward a spectacular failure. The future belongs to the nimble, efficient manufacturers of nimble, efficient cars -- the mammals to the lumbering dinosaurs, consuming the bare minimum of increasingly dear dinosaur juice. In general I have little sympathy for GM as a company, which has been spectacularly bad at taking on the Japanese onslaught. (I do feel for the workers.)

But "strong demand for large SUVs"? It now costs nearly $100 to fill up these dreadnaughts, and with mileage in the low teens, that must be a frequent occurrence. And the next supply shock in the Middle East will send prices even higher.

As libruls go, I have a pretty strong libertarian streak. If you want to buy (or make) something this mind-bogglingly stupid, I wouldn't prevent it through legislation. But I am a big believer in using the law to internalize externalities, and I am convinced that Americans are not paying the true cost of driving these atavistic rolling fortresses.

Anyways. In the longer term, GM is playing while Rome burns, but it is hard to fault them from a shareholder standpoint for seeking profits by supplying the 4-wheeled hallucinogen Americans still insist on arming themselves with. I don't think the buying public deserves the blame for GM's impending failure. But Jeebus, what stoopidity.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Careful what you wish for

As much as I enjoy the warm embrace of the thousands of you who come here sharing my views and cheering my brilliant insights, I can't help noticing the way contrary viewpoints are rare here. Conservative voices are pretty rare on most progressive/liberal sites, and vice versa. Even my stuff at Raw Story, a much higher profile venue, rarely generates much in the way of cogent dissent. (I'd love to think that my logic is so compelling that cogent dissent is an oxymoron, but still.)

I've often thought that much more could be accomplished by trying to open up a dialogue, as opposed to preaching to the choir.

Rubber, meet road.

Yesterday, someone named "July Canute" launched an off-topic, anti-semitic rant in the comments to my "No Truth, No Consequences" piece @ Raw. In person, I can get pretty worked up about such things, but my Internet persona seems to have thicker skin, and I responded in the comments there only with snark. She responded by following me over here and ranting some more in the comments to the previous post.

I checked Ms. Canute's blogs (I am not inclined to link to them -- find them yourselves if interested), and am truly confused. She calls herself a "Democrat from the South," and does seem to share our view that Bush is a dangerous moron. But the level of invective and blame hurled at Jews is frightening -- I get the feeling the Protocols of the Elders of Zion lurk in the background.

So what do you, the bluememe regulars, think about this? Should we be using this space as a venue for some actual retail politics, and try to get some actual debate going here? Or should we treat her as a troll?

Speak up, the rest of you Anonymi. And participate, damn it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

If I ignore it, will it go away?

In a comment to the previous post, Anonymous (not you Anonymous -- the other Anonymous, or perhaps one of the other Anonymi) opines thusly:
Opposition is a form of EMPOWERMENT to the side you are opposing. It gives legitimacy to their arguments by saying they are worth debating. You are smarter than that. I like your style bluememe, but I don't understand why you keep legitimizing arguments that are meaningless. Comment on their absurdity without feeling the need to refute that which holds no water. Go for it.

As Jon Stewart would say, "Whaaaaaaaaaaaaa?"

I'm nobody. I set no agendas. With the exception of the handful of you who wander through here, nobody notices if I take on Republican talking points or fart Auld Lang Syne in the key of E flat. So how do I have an effect by ignoring what the dominant political party says?

Strategy is situation-dependent. When I get to be a senior advisor to a progressive President, I'll be sure to use this tactic to dismiss absurdities like the one (properly) thrown at Shrubya yesterday in Cleveland about the Iraq War helping to bring about the Rapture.

So Anon, you bring me a few hundred thousand of your closest friends hanging on my every word. I promise to ignore Neocon memes that are beneath contempt.

Well, some of them, anyway.

Oh, and thanks for the compliments. I think.

What is the opposite of "reporter?"

As many already know, the Washington Post has hired a right winger to blog on the WaPo website, in an apparent effort to balance out Dan Froomkin (and to some extent, Dana Milbank). This move has properly unleashed a 'Firestorm' that should only get louder with time, since there is no indication that they are planning to bring on an actual lefty.

I'm disgusted, of course. But if you squint and tilt your head just right when you look at this move, it tells us something significant about right wingers in general and their lackeys at the Post in particular.

First, note that this development was telegraphed a week ago -- here's an exchange between editorial page editor Fred Hiatt and a reader:

Washington, D.C.: I've noticed The Post has embraced blogs in a big way. Most seem to be opinion, not straight news, which I guess is what blogs everywhere tend to be. Some are on the left (Froomkin), some in the middle (the debate), but I haven't seen any that are consistently right-of-center. What do you think of the blogs on the site now (Achenblog, debate, etc.)? Do you read them? And are the any plans to add a conservative blog?

Fred Hiatt: I don't oversee this Web site--but I believe the people who do agree with your point and are in the process of looking for a right-of-center blog. I think it would be a good idea.
And it isn't just the toadies running the Post who think more shilling is necessary -- their masters do, too.

But this move begs a larger question: are Dana Milbank and Dan Froomkin left wingers?

Milbank says he gets hammered from both sides. Here's what Froomkin himself says:

Regular readers know that my column is first and foremost a daily anthology of works by other journalists and bloggers. When my voice emerges, it is often to provide context for those writings and spot emerging themes. Sometimes I do some original reporting, and sometimes I share my insights. The omnipresent links make it easy for readers to assess my credibility.

There is undeniably a certain irreverence to the column. But I do not advocate policy, liberal or otherwise. My agenda, such as it is, is accountability and transparency. I believe that the president of the United States, no matter what his party, should be subject to the most intense journalistic scrutiny imaginable. And he should be able to easily withstand that scrutiny. I was prepared to take the same approach with John Kerry, had he become president.

This column’s advocacy is in defense of the public’s right to know what its leader is doing and why. To that end, it calls attention to times when reasonable, important questions are ducked; when disingenuous talking points are substituted for honest explanations; and when the president won’t confront his critics -- or their criticisms -- head on.

The journalists who cover Washington and the White House should be holding the president accountable. When they do, I bear witness to their work. And the answer is for more of them to do so -- not for me to be dismissed as highly opinionated and liberal because I do.

And that, my friends, truly is the relevant distinction: by bringing in an avowed right winger to balance out Froomkin, they are admitting that "accountable" is now the antonym of "conservative."

So let's make some lemonade from these journalistic lemons. You want to call accountability a liberal value? Fine by us. Want to call transparency a liberal value? Terrific. The more explicit we make the distinction those values on the one hand, and the sycophanitc stenography the conservatives favor on the other, the better I like it.

And that suggests another way to get some mileage here. The conservatives have has a monopoly on certain rhetorical high ground by calling themselves "values voters." Well I have values, too -- including the ones Froomkin mentioned. So call me a values voter -- I value accountability, and I value transparency.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Score one for the MSM

Man, do I love a good "tell" -- what poker players call the way a player unconsciously betrays attempts to bluff or mislead his opponents.

Craig Crawford pointed out a big one tonight on Countdown. Dubya made the mistake of taking some real questions from real people in Cleveland today, and some guy (probably now on his way to Gitmo) nailed the Preznit but good:

"Mr. President, at the beginning of your talk today you mentioned that you understand why Americans have had their confidence shaken by the events in Iraq. And I'd like to ask you about events that occurred three years ago that might also explain why confidence has been shaken. Before we went to war in Iraq we said there were three main reasons for going to war in Iraq: weapons of mass destruction, the claim that Iraq was sponsoring terrorists who had attacked us on 9/11, and that Iraq had purchased nuclear materials from Niger. All three of those turned out to be false. My question is, how do we restore confidence that Americans may have in their leaders and to be sure that the information they are getting now is correct?

THE PRESIDENT: That's a great question. (Applause.) First, just if I might correct a misperception. I don't think we ever said -- at least I know I didn't say that there was a direct connection between September the 11th and Saddam Hussein. We did say that he was a state sponsor of terror -- by the way, not declared a state sponsor of terror by me, but declared by other administrations. We also did say that Zarqawi, the man who is now wreaking havoc and killing innocent life, was in Iraq. And so the state sponsor of terror was a declaration by a previous administration. But I don't want to be argumentative, but I was very careful never to say that Saddam Hussein ordered the attacks on America."

As Crawford pointed out, this is probably not how Bush's team scripted out the 2006 explanation. Sure, they were careful to avoid letting Bush make the connection that explicit back in 2002-2003. But that's the point we've been making on the left for more than three years - that they skated right up to the line and did everything they could to create the impression among the bubbasphere that Saddam damn near flew the 9/11 aircraft by remote control, without quite saying it.

Recall the brilliant comment about Dubya from Graydon Carter on Real Time a few weeks ago: "He speaks to the audience as if they're idiots. I think the reason he does that is because that's the way these issues were explained to him."

Thus the unambiguous tell -- when W.P.E. says he was "careful" not to say Saddam ordered the attack, he's parroting his instructions ("Never explicitly say Saddam ordered 9/11") -- and admitting that he was told to say everything but. When he admits he was careful not to say it, he's admitting how hard he tried to imply it -- that it really was all a con.

Too subtle for most of the media, perhaps. But kudos to Olbermann and Crawford for making the point.

Wanker of the day

Or perhaps, given the significance of the day (3rd anniversary of Quagmire II) and his role in it, Wanker of the Decade.

The Mustache of Freedom, aka Tom Friedman, has another of his trademark columns today, called "How to scare Iran: Pull out of Iraq -- or succeed there." Succeed -- wow, man. Wish I'd thought of that.

Some of what MOF talks about -- how the differences between Persians and Arabs will divide Iraqis and Iranians once the primary unifying force (hating us) is removed -- is probably correct. In any event, I'm in no position to differ, having never interviewed an Iraqi cab driver. But near the end of his piece he goes completely off the rails with this nonsense:
...if the United States were out of Iraq and the United States attacked Iran's nuclear facilities with air strikes, Iran would not be able to retaliate with with its missles against any large concentrations of U.S. military forces nearby.
Tom, I'd like to introduce you a wonderful tool called the Internets. If you poke around, you'll find that the United States has a bunch of warships in something called the Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf (think about that name, Tom-- as in, like, Persia). And if you are dilligent, you will also learn that Iran has cruise missiles that can sink those ships at will. I think an aircraft carrier five miles off the coast of Iran counts as a "large concentration of U.S. military forces nearby," don't you?

Friedman's rantings are a clear and present danger. I will have a longer piece coming out on Raw in a couple of days that lays out how awful things may soon get, thanks in at least small part to the exemplary wanking of the Mustache of Freedom.

Update: More crumbs in the mustache.

They really are bedwetters! - How to spot a baby conservative

Remember the "whiny ass titty baby" meme several lefty blogs picked up a month or so ago? Well whattaya know? It has a solid basis in fact:
Remember the whiny, insecure kid in nursery school, the one who always thought everyone was out to get him, and was always running to the teacher with complaints? Chances are he grew up to be a conservative.

At least, he did if he was one of 95 kids from the Berkeley area that social scientists have been tracking for the last 20 years. The confident, resilient, self-reliant kids mostly grew up to be liberals.

But then you already knew that.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Conversion to Christianity could bring death penalty in Bush's Afghanistan

Remember the great fanfare when the Afghan Constitution (the very one trumpeted on the White House website) was passed once we brought our New and Improved FreedomTM to the heathens? The one President Bush said would "recognize Afghanistan's Muslim identity, while protecting the rights of all citizens"? Remember when a few naysayers (left and right) noted that said constitution was less than promising in its protections of basic human rights?

Well, freedom is on the march, all right -- straight toward the gallows.

Kabul - An Afghan man is being prosecuted in a Kabul court and could be sentenced to death after being charged with converting from Islam to Christianity, a crime under this country's Islamic shariah laws, a judge said on Sunday.
The defendant, Abdul Rahman, 41, was arrested last month after his family accused him of becoming a Christian, said Judge Ansarullah Mawlavezada.

Rahman was charged with rejecting Islam and his trial started last Thursday.

During the one-day hearing, the defendant allegedly confessed that he converted from Islam to Christianity 16 years ago while working as a medical-aid worker for an international Christian group helping Afghan refugees in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, Mawlavezada said.

The judge said in an interview: "We are not against any particular religion in the world.

"But, in Afghanistan, this sort of thing is against the law. It is an attack on Islam."

Mawlavezada said he would rule on the case within two months.

Afghanistan's constitution is based on shariah law, which states that any Muslim who rejects Islam should be sentenced to death, according to Ahmad Fahim Hakim, deputy chair of the state-sponsored Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.

The prosecutor, Abdul Wasi, said he had offered to drop the charges if Rahman converted back to Islam, but he refused.

"He would have been forgiven if he changed back. But he said he was a Christian and would always remain one," said Wasi.

"We are Muslims and becoming a Christian is against our laws. He must get the death penalty."

The only reason I know about this story is because I heard about it on BBC World News in the car -- most major U.S. news outlets have ignored it. For Team Screwthepooch, this is yet another failure they hope nobody notices. It is an especially nasty poison because the folks most likely to take offense are exactly the ones who have been most resistant to reality-based thinking to date -- the fundamentalist Christians. If they get wind of this, and Bush does nothing, Shrubya's poll numbers will find a new level of political hell.

Ending Bush's reign of error will require numerous "strange bedfellows" alliances. Making a stink about this is clearly the right thing to do, but it is also good politics. This story is tailor-made to drive a wedge between the religious right and their pseudo-savior. If Bush loses the fundamentalists, he's toast.

So here's one to reach out to your God Squad friends with. Ask them if they know the government we support in Afghanistan may well start executing converts to Christianity. Ask them what they think of a President who lets such things happen.

Friday, March 17, 2006

No exit

I have been meaning to write a longer piece for months about the way in which the combination of global warming and the oil shortage are going to force renewal of the debate over nuclear energy. An article in the Times reminds me of the issues.

Nuclear Reactors Found to Be Leaking Radioactive Water
With power cleaner than coal and cheaper than natural gas, the nuclear industry, 20 years past its last meltdown, thinks it is ready for its second act: its first new reactor orders since the 1970's.

But there is a catch. The public's acceptance of new reactors depends in part on the performance of the old ones, and lately several of those have been discovered to be leaking radioactive water into the ground.

Near Braceville, Ill., the Braidwood Generating Station, owned by the Exelon Corporation, has leaked tritium into underground water that has shown up in the well of a family nearby. The company, which has bought out one property owner and is negotiating with others, has offered to help pay for a municipal water system for houses near the plant that have private wells.

In a survey of all 10 of its nuclear plants, Exelon found tritium in the ground at two others. On Tuesday, it said it had had another spill at Braidwood, about 60 miles southwest of Chicago, and on Thursday, the attorney general of Illinois announced she was filing a lawsuit against the company over that leak and five earlier ones, dating to 1996. The suit demands among other things that the utility provide substitute water supplies to residents.
In the same way that the Bush Administration has argued that opposition to the dismantling of the Constitution is "pre-9/11" thinking, we are about to see a whole lot of arguments from nuclear power advocates that we no longer have the luxury of avoiding a massive shift to nuclear power. Peak Oil really is here, and the costs of fossil fuels will spiral ever upward. But more importantly, nuke advocates are right that with current technology, there are not a lot of alternatives that will allow new energy without adding to global warming.

I still haven't made up up my mind on that one. I think a move to nuclear power now is another manfiestation of Junior's preference for dealing with problems by cutting corners now and letting somebody else deal with the mess later. Issues like disposal of spent fuel and old nuke powerplants are very real, and have not yet been solved. It may be that there will never be a solution.

A second way in which this is a classic Dubya problem is that, just like with Iraq, one of the arguments is going to be, "you can argue all day about how we got in this mess, but we're here, so we are going to have to accept costs XYZ." Conservation and an Apollo like project on alternative energy (like, perhaps, the Apollo Alliance) could have headed off this dilemma. But as with the joke about the pyschologist changing the light bulb, the folks in charge have to want to change, and they plainly did not. Americans have been, as a society, mindbogglingly stupid on this score. As a people, we deserve to suffer for our sins. The problem with nukes is that it is our children who will pay for that sin, as they will with global warming.

And the third way in which this is like Iraq is that us lefties will be proven to be right, yet again, but the millenialist/robber baron/ostrich alliance will have again run out the clock and precluded better solutions. (I believe in solar and wind and such, but I'm not sure we can cut over quickly enough to make them work on a global scale.) We may well be forced into turning to nuclear power and leaving yet another toxic nightmare for future generations.

You're welcome

Judith Miller's New Excuse

Judith Miller has a new alibi—the blogs done her in!

Writer Marie Brenner presents Miller's latest defense in an April Vanity Fair feature story about the fallout from the Valerie Plame investigation. Brenner, acknowledging she's a friend of the former New York Times reporter, writes that while still in Iraq in May 2003, Miller became a "major target in the intense public anger directed at Bush's war, owing to her reports that Saddam Hussein was producing weapons of mass destruction."

The ones tossing the fire were those dastardly—but unnamed—bloggers, according to Miller.
Miller describes to Vanity Fair the process by which the Pajama People destroyed her:

The bloggers were without editing, without a way for people to understand what was good, what was well reported—to distinguish between the straight and the slanderous. Things would get instantly picked up, magnified, and volumized.
Awwww. Now I'm blushing.

(I should point out yet another error here, Judy -- I do have an editor, and a publisher, at least for my columns. But I've never slept with either of them, so I can understand why you might have been confused.)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Bombing (in the Hollywood sense, too)

Largest Iraq Air Assault Since '03 Begins - Yahoo! News
The United States on Thursday launched what was termed the largest air assault since the U.S.-led invasion, targeting insurgent strongholds north of the capital, the military said.

The U.S. military said Iraqi troops also were involved in the operation aimed at clearing a "suspected insurgent operating area northeast of Samarra."

"More than 1,500 Iraqi and Coalition troops, over 200 tactical vehicles, and more than 50 aircraft participated in the operation," the military statement said.

The military said the operation was expected to continue over several days against insurgent targets in Salahuddin province.

First, recall that Sy Hersh predicted this back in December. Another one of those "no one could have anticipated" moments that the realists did, in fact, anticipate.

Think about what this turn of events means. Iraq is a country over which the U.S. and its puppets have claimed dominion for three years now. A place where a few dead-ender foreign elements have been in the last throes of desperation for most of that time. A place where, as it turns out, the light at the end of the tunnel is the blinding glare of our munitions targeting the purple fingers recently waved in those landmark elections.

And that is the larger point here. There is a massive disconnect between the claim that we are making progress in a democratic Iraq and the very idea that we are resorting to aerial bombardment. It is an unambiguous admission that we don't control the ground. You only drop bombs on your enemies. It is therefore hard to imagine a more visceral refutation of all the bullshit the Bushies have been blowing up our collective asses.

Will the media point out the admission of defeat implicit in this tactic? Yeah, sure. But we have to.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Toxic shock

Wired News Jessica Simpson snubs Bush

How toxic has WPE become? So toxic that one of the few national figures dumber than he is is ducking the the chance to meet with him:

Concerned about politicizing her favorite charity, singer-actress Jessica Simpson on Wednesday turned down a invitation to meet with U.S. President George W. Bush, a snub that left Republicans dismayed.
Simpson, 25, a Texas native who started out singing in her church choir, became a star on the Christian music circuit as a teenager and crossed over to the pop mainstream with her major-label debut album "Sweet Kisses" in 1999.

I would have thought that the number of people whose ethical decisionmaking is improved by spending time in Hollywood was probably zero.

I stand corrected.

What a fool believes

I said earlier that I think it is important to be magnanimous and forgiving of the folks now leaving the Tinkerbell parade and sneaking back into the reality-based community. I still believe that. But I think there is no reason to hold our fire as to those who continue to chug the Kool Aid.
FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting) has collected some choice punditization from an earlier time. We should feel free to flay these bozos with their own words. To wit:
"The only people who think this wasn't a victory are Upper Westside liberals, and a few people here in Washington." (Charles Krauthammer, Inside Washington, WUSA-TV, 4/19/03)
"I doubt that the journalists at the New York Times and NPR or at ABC or at CNN are going to ever admit just how wrong their negative pronouncements were over the past four weeks." (MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, 4/9/03)
"We're all neo-cons now." (MSNBC's Chris Matthews, 4/9/03)
The Tweety song is my fave. I think we ought to be throwing these kinds of quotes in their faces every chance we get. And I think we ought to be taking our general dissatisfaction with media bias and bring it all to bear on a single target for a while. If we can make it uncomfortable enough for one media whore, I think we have a better chance of having an effect than we do when our complaints are more diffuse. And if we can force one voice to tell a little truth, I suspect many more will sit up and take notice.

I vote for Tweety as the first target.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Censure in a nutshell

Skinner @ DU has mixed feelings on Feingold's censure resolution. I think s/he cpatures the problem well:
Senator Feingold deserves a lot of credit for taking concrete action to hold the president accountable. At the very least, he has put the issue of Bush's lawbreaking back on the front pages. But more importantly, he is doing what any right-thinking American officeholder (or citizen) should do. I don't care if you're liberal or conservative or whatever: if you believe in the rule of law, if you believe in protecting the rights of the individual against the state, if you support the Constitution of the United States, and if you are alarmed by the application of unchecked executive power then you should support holding the president accountable.

And therein lies the problem. They're not supporting it.

I support Senator Feingold's censure resolution. But I have mixed feelings about it because right now it appears poised to fail. And when I say "fail" I don't mean "lose on a party-line vote" -- The resolution is poised to fail in a spectacular and public way, with a substantial number of elected Democrats too afraid to take even a small stand in favor of what is right.

If this thing loses with a large number of Democrats defecting, then Bush's supporters are going to paint this as a victory for Bush -- and not only that. They are going to claim that this vindicates his warrantless domestic spying program. They are going to claim that this is "proof" that the program is lawful, and has the support of Congress. And that would not be so great.

Maybe there is something self-defeating in expressing reservations. But I think this is about right, and I'm just not the Kool Aid type.

In short, I think censure is far too lenient. But I can't help worrying that this will be an empty "accountability moment," and that this one step forward will result in moving us three steps back.

If wishes were horse's asses

(Updated below)

The psychopathology of the infantile conservative is on full display when Andrew Sullivan looks at Bush's latest iteration of The Iraq Fantasy. Sully's frontal lobe notes at the outset that "Bush's assurances on Iraq have to be taken with a hefty dose of skepticism." And in another telling sentence, he admits that "Even Instapundit has been forced to stop linking to Iraq's bloggers, whose first-hand testimony of terror and rampant insecurity would sadly hurt morale." Sullivan's post speaks volumes in its silence as to whose morale, exactly, he is so concerned about.

But of course the frontal lobe isn't driving Sully's short bus. Sully's id wants what it wants, reality be damned. Sully wants to believe that he will be proven right in the end -- that Daddy Bush will make him feel good about himself. In the magical world of his immature fantasies, hope is all the plan he needs. And so Bush's latest speech, merely the Nth iteration of the same tired nonsense on toast, becomes the new silver lining in the dark clouds his disappointing Daddy keeps sending his way:

I'm grateful for the president's detailed account of his side of the story. Here's the president's empirical, sober, and un-Cheney-like account of why there's still hope in Iraq.

I have tremendous sympathy for most abused children, but not this one. When influential adults thank their serial abusers, my pity comes up short.

I heard most of Shrub's speech. I didn't hear a whole lot of sobriety (interesting choice of words there, Sully) or un-Cheney-ness. I heard cherry-picked stats that (even if true) are not, as your cerebral cortex just admitted, reflective of the larger reality. But for Sully, there is the unquenchable hope that this time Daddy will keep his word. This time, Daddy will bring home the pony he has been promising for three years. And so an admission that Bush is not credible somehow morphs into gratitude and wishful thinking yet again. Your all-important "morale" is restored by a fresh dose of fantasy.

If mental contortions were as visual as their physical equivalent, there would be a spot for Sullivan in Cirque du Soleil.

Update: want an example of Bush's "empirical, sober" approach? Yesterday he blamed an unnamed newspaper (the LA Times, as it turns out) for blabbling about our IED countermeasures. Via The Prospect:

And guess what: It turns out that Bush left out a small detail about the offending article in question. Turns out it was about the fact that some military officials were angry that this potentially life saving technology still hasn't been shipped to Iraq, ten months after Pentagon officials recommended investing in research and sending prototypes to Iraq for testing. Says the piece:

10 months later -- and after a prototype destroyed about 90% of the IEDs laid in its path during a battery of tests -- not a single JIN has been shipped to Iraq.

To many in the military, the delay in deploying the vehicles, which resemble souped-up, armor-plated golf carts, is a case study in the Pentagon's inability to bypass cumbersome peacetime procedures to meet the urgent demands of troops in the field. More than half of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq have been caused by roadside bombs, and the number of such attacks nearly doubled last year compared with 2004.

As for Bush's charge that the LA Times tipped off terrorists, a quick Google search shows that extensive information about the technology was all over the Internet well before the piece was published -- including at least one news report six months earlier that provided many of the same technological details the Times did. What's more, in its story today about Bush's broadside, the LA Times said:

The Times spoke to several Defense Department officials before the article appeared. None expressed concern that publication could endanger U.S. troops...Before Bush mentioned the report Monday, no U.S. officials had contacted The Times to raise those concerns.

Yup -- Sure sounds empirical and sober to me.


Update: visual aid.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Wrong and the right

As E&P and many others have reported, the new bill put forth by Mike DeWine, which moves the curve of FISA to fit the points arrogantly drawn by George Bush, would also go where no law has gone beofre: it would criminalize press reporting of government illegality.

Attacking this insane and flagrantly unconstitutional bill should be a top priority. But Democrats have done a dismal job of framing issues. The Administration has done little else right, but they have generally been pretty successful in framing their scandals. As Glenn Greenwald and others have pointed out, the Administration has been branding opponents as opposing eavesdropping in general, and thus cowardly, traitorous fools. The framing is absurd and unfair, but the press has done little to counter it. Even more amazing, most of the Democrats seem to be acquiescing as well.

What the DeWine bill is really doing is compensating for one illegal act (like a FISA violation) with another (the muzzling of the watchdogs) . The frame with which to attack this absurdity should be obvious:

Two wrongs don't make a right.

No truth, no consequences

Column up @ Raw.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The collaborator problem

As most of us have noticed and enjoyed, Paul Krugman allowed himself the well-deserved pleasure of a bit of "nyah, nyah" at Andrew Sullivan's expense on Friday.

Sully's response was predictably conflicted -- on the plus side, a willingness to publish some mildly critical comments from readers (as with most self-identified conservatives, his blog does not permit comments), and some grudging acknowledgement of a few eensy weensy errors in judgement.

On the minus side, there are the requisite Sully half-truths, blame avoidance and self-delusion. SullyWatch chronicles the nonsense.

No question that Sully's absurd warblogging warrants considerable ridicule. But his recent tentative wandering off the Kool Aid reservation brings up a larger question: how should we deal with the collaborators?

My recommendation: when the rats jump our way, let's keep the public retribution to a minimum. As much fun as it is to punish them, and as much as they deserve it, there are real benefits to taking the high road.

Will we get credit in the long run for our generosity? Yeah, right. Evil maintains a ledger and rewards the charity extended to it -- right after the flying pig exhibition wraps up.

The utlilitarian reason for limiting our gloating, and the torturing of the wingers trying to find spots in the lifeboats is much more immediate. We need them -- need them to join our chorus, need them to denounce Bush and his bloody crusade, and need them to form a steady parade into the reality-based community. And to get those things, we need them to feel comfortable coming our way. So we should bite our tongues and welcome them with open arms.

But jeez, Louise... what a wanker.

(Photo from the greatest photog ever -- Henri Cartier-Bresson)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Don Quixote de la Koufax

Since I seem to be writing the patron blog of lost causes, I suppose I should remind one and all (and pray that one and all are not the same thing) that the voting for The 2005 Koufax Awards: Most Deserving of Wider Recognition ends tomorow, though the world quite possibly will not, whatever the outcome.

Not that my recognition is not wide enough. No sir or ma'am. Hardly a day goes by that I do not say to someone, "My, but isn't my recognition wide?" or, when indulging my feminine side, "Does this blog make my recognition look too wide?"

So please consider tossing a vote our way. In the alternative, suggestions for fresh ways of saying "It is an honor simply to be nominated" are hereby solicited.

Friday, March 10, 2006

All forked up

Amid reports that the White House Asked Dubai Ports to Pull Out, I think it is now safe to draw some conclusions about this epic clusterfuck.

In chess, the most satisfying move you can make is a fork: you move one of your pieces into a position in which you threaten not just one but two of your opponent's pieces. The opponent can save one, but must sacrifice the other.

Logical forks are similarly satisfying. And it seems to me that the Dubai ports deal is the perfect fork food.

If you start from the premise that the deal threatens national security, then of course the Administration's posture on this deal undermines everything they have been saying for four years, and they look stupid, corrupt or both for pursuing a deal that so endangers us.

On the other hand, we could take them at their word, and believe that the deal has little or nothing to do with security; that the national reaction has been overwrought; and that backing out will hurt us in the long run. If that is the case, don't they have to take the blame for being so hopelessly incompetent in their handling of the deal that they allowed the thing to spin so far out of their control?

Dubya is now whining that he is concerned about the "broader message" sent by the sinking of the deal. He should be concerned. The broader message here is that his whole fear-based power-grab is a sham. Or that he and his team are utterly inept.

Take your pick. That's the beauty of a fork.

You've got greymail!

(Updated below)

There is a wonderful old parable about the robin in the barn.

A robin neglected to fly south for the winter, and got caught in a blizzard. Slowly freezing to death it managed to fly into an unheated barn and land on a rafter. The weather was so bad that even in the barn the bird was unable to recover, and finally fluttered to the ground.

In a remarkable coincidence, however, it landed close to a cow, which shat on the bird only seconds after it landed. The steaming excrement, still near the temperature of bovine intestines, quickly warmed and revived the bird. The robin was so joyful at the dramatic reversal of fortune that it began to sing. The singing attracted the cat that lived in the barn, which quickly snatched and ate the bird.

The moral of the story, of course, is that not everyone who gets you into a pile of shit is your enemy, and not everyone who gets you out of one is your friend.

I was reminded of that parable as I read this:

A federal judge ordered the CIA on Friday to turn over highly classified intelligence briefings to Vice President Dick Cheney's former top aide to use in the aide's defense against perjury charges.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton rejected CIA warnings that the nation's security would be imperiled if the presidential-level documents were disclosed to lawyers for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff.

The judge said the CIA can either delete highly classified information from the briefing material and provide copies of what Libby received six days a week, often with Cheney. Or, Walton said, the CIA can produce "topic overviews" of the matters covered in the briefings.

The judge also ordered the CIA to give Libby an index of the topics covered in follow-up questions that the former White House aide asked intelligence officers who conducted the briefings.

In seeking CIA input late last month, Walton appeared to have been trying to broker a compromise between defense attorneys and prosecutors to avoid a lengthy court battle with the Bush administration over the briefing material.

The judge's order indicates he is ready for such a fight. He set a schedule for the Bush administration to file any objections by March 24.

It might look like the judge is the cow here, but if justice is the robin, he is more likely the cat.

I'm no expert in greymail cases, but this much seems clear. If the judge had told Libby, "You are accused of lying, and none this classified stuff is relevant," Libby would have had an issue for appeal, but would have had to go forward with his defense sans the documents. Instead, the judge has cooperated with the pas de troix that is a successful greymail defense.

1. Defense asks for classified docs
2. Judge orders government to produce
3. Government refuses
4. Defense seeks dismissal
5. Judge dismisses, and Oliver North Scooter walks.

Just two days ago I predicted that the noise Jack Abramoff is threatening to make would inure to Scooter's benefit. I did not expect to see verification so quickly.

Today is a very good day for Scooter. The rest of us just got shit on.

Update: More on Judge Walton here, courtesy dKosian Halcyon.
Update #2: Larry Johnson sees the Judge's half a baby ruling as good news. Upon further relfection, I suspect he may be right. I sure hope so. Not sure I need to do a full Emily Litella here, but grains of salt recommended.
Update #3: I have thought some more about this, and I now think that LJ might be right about the judge's intentions, but not about the result.

Judges generally like compromises. So the approach taken by Walton seems, in the abstract, to make sense. But.

We know the Bush team takes wildly illogical positions regarding the sharing of information. Look at the Seibel Edmonds case, for example. And getting Scooter off the hook is likely to be Karl Rove's highest priority about now (other than his job as Katrina rebuilding czar, of course). So it would not surprise me if the White House refused to let the CIA or anybody else turn over information that is already public, let alone a single word of the PDBs or ther internal documents. (Recall how well it worked out for them to let us know about the "bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside U.S." PDB).

So I'm back to thinking that there is no way the Bush cabal will accept the compromise, if that's what it is, offered up by Walton. The real question will be what Walton does after they refuse.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The eloquence of Richard Cohen

Richard Cohen, that Joe Klein of brain-dead pseudo-liberal columnists, has a column up today that could have been written, and ought to have been written, a year or more ago. Culture of Intellectual Corruption isn't too awful, just pointless, in the way that condemning the Spanish Inquisition or Halliburton war profiteering are pointless -- it might have made a difference once, but that ship sailed long ago. I guess he was too busy denying the importance of Traitorgate and arguing that math is useless to notice what was going on in the White House until now.

But I was struck by the closing paragraph, and this dazzling rhetorical flourish:
Corruption of any kind corrupts. It costs us either money or confidence or both. But intellectual corruption is far more dangerous. It ruins and costs lives.
Wow. Corruption corrupts. Now I know why he gets paid to write, and I don't.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Iraq through the prism of Vietnam

Via Josh Marshall, must-reading on the parallels between Quagmire I and Quagmire II from General William Odom, a veteran of Vietnam.

No shrinking violet, General Odom. Last fall he said that the "invasion of Iraq I believe will turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history."

Abramoff talks, Libby walks?

Everybody is talking about how the forthcoming Vanity Fair article will feature some large-caliber ratting from Jack Abramoff. Republican's have been trying to pretend they don't know Jack. Jack, who seems to be driven largely by a need to be respected and taken seriously, doesn't seem to like that strategy so much. His revenge will apparently out a bunch of Congressional and other bigwigs who dared to deny him.

The first-order effect will be to raise the temperature in the stewpots in a bunch of Republicans now find themselves.

And I suspect that the second-order effect will be to strength the hand of anyone else in the prosecutorial cross-hairs -- like Scooter, for example. Scooter may not know the location of as many bodies as Abramoff does, but what he does know is probably enough to sink Cheney and Rove, and possibly even Bush. So after the dust clears from the Abramoff explosion, my guess is you will start to see some serious steps taken to protect Scooter in order to prevent him from doing the same.

Prelude to November

Cuellar Defeats Rodriguez In Congressional Grudge Match

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar defeated former congressman Ciro Rodriguez early Wednesday in the Democratic primary in House District 28, riding phenomenal strength in his home county to avoid an April runoff election.

With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, Cuellar had 53 percent of the ballots tallied. Rodriguez, who narrowly lost to Cuellar in the 2004 primary in the South Texas district, had 41 percent. Victor Morales had 2,534 votes, or 6 percent.

Lots of Dems and assorted anti-Republicans have been sounding increasingly optimistic about the polls showing that, at least in the abstract, voters favor Democrats over Republicans. Dreams of taking back at least one house of Congress dance through their heads.

Hope, meet reality.

In TX-28, a Republican won the Democratic primary -- not the general election, the primary.

Tom Delay won his primary by a 2:1 margin.

We in the blogosphere think our work matters. We think our sleuthing, agitating and rabble rousing radiate out to the larger community.

The left threw money and effort behind Rodriguez. We have hunted DeLay mercilessly.

All for naught. Democrats can't even win their own fucking primaries. How in hell are they going to take enough seats in the general election to take over the House or the Senate?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Snow job

Senate panel rejects bid for NSA inquiry

Senators Hagel and Snow caved.


More than a month ago, in my most recent Raw Story column, I wrote that if Alito ascended to the Supreme Court, we would pass the point of no return. I called the piece "No Tomorrow."

Since then, I have actually seen lot of things that encouraged me, and that suggested that there might still be time to turn back the thieves and scoundrels who have hijacked our country.

Today's "moderate" Republican spinectomy shouldn't surprise me, I know. But it is yet another checkpoint the ruling junta has blasted past without being stopped. It is another chance squandered. And we are yet another step closer to the totalitarian monarchy that we may not be able to undo.

And as cynical and jaded as I am, I seem not to have yet exhausted my personal supply of disappointment.

Monday, March 06, 2006

A tale of two Sullies

There's domestic Sully, who is frequently logical, readable and even right a fair amount of the time. And even when I disagree with domestic Sully (on abortion, for example), his arguments are often reasonable.

Then there's Iraq Sully -- one of the most unconvincingly delusional voices ever to out-stupid the Mustache of Freedom.

Here he adopts the "wisdom" of a reader who shares his magical thinking:

(S)uppose we hadn't gone in? True, Saddam didn't, and still wouldn't, have any WMD, but (as we know all too well right now) the WMD issue was only the beginning. The Saddam regime was inherently unstable and some kind of crackup was coming to Iraq eventually anyway.

The lesson can only be: the entire civilized world ("The West", if you will) needs to take more seriously the problem of unstable and/or failed states, and needs to develop and actual functioning machinery for dealing with them, including situations in which Iraq-style "regime change" is the agreed-upon course of action.

This is the foreign policy equivalent of the motto of the ham-fisted mechanic: "if it don't fit, force it; if it breaks, it needed replacing anyway." The convenience of this self-serving rationalization ought to make us extremely skeptical of its application. Is there a context in which Sully would not be able to justify the destruction of a nation this way? And you need to have a Dubya-class messianic streak to believe that you somehow help a failing state by hastening its collapse.

Is this the bedwetter's way of trying to escape the Pottery Barn Rule? "We don't own it, 'cause we didn't really break it if it was going to break anyway."

This lame exercise in situational ethics also leads to a place its proponents are unlikely to want to go. See, to be internally consistent, you either have to (a) accept the responsibility to destroy rescue every failed state (which means sending the military in force into Darfur and Somalia and Bosnia and on and on, or (b) admit that the invasion of Iraq was not about Iraq's alleged instability, but about something else, like... oil, perhaps?

The plea for "functioning machinery" to deal with failing states? How about the one John Bolton is busy destroying? As it turns out, the U.N. was probably doing as good a job as could have been done in dealing with Saddam, and we did a bang-up job of undermining it.

Oh, and "agreed upon course of action"? That would be an interesting universe, but it is not the universe in which most of us live. Nobody outside the Pampers set agreed on Bush's insanity. There may have been a broad acquiesence, a tragic surrender to the inevitable, but that was not agreement. And even the grudging indulgence he received was was bought with lies and misrepresentations that would void any civil contract. So calling Bush's folly the product of an "agreed upon course of action" is flagrant revisionism.

How domestic Sully and Iraq Sully can occupy the same space at the same time is a paradox that Newtonian physics is powerless to explain.

Pretzel Logic

Raw Story: Kerry to introduce line-item veto bill

This thing is too complicated to sort out yet, but at first blush I don't think I like it.

The only upside I can see is that it puts even more responsibility for the sister ship of the HMS Titanic, the USS Deficit, on Shrubya's narrow shoulders. But nobody seems to give a shit about the deficit, which Americans take as seriously as they do global warming. If that is the only benefit, it is the very essence of a hollow victory.

The downside is much more troubling. I sure as hell don't trust Kerry, whose political instincts and commitment to principle are suspect, to say the least. I know if this nonsense (a) actually made it into law and (b) passed Constitutional muster, it would enable horrible things. And most important of all, the very last thing I want to see right now is a move to cede even more legislative authority to the executive.

Is America facing yet another dust bowl?

The millenialist faction of the ruling wingnuts seems to be doing a damned fine job of making the Bible relevant again by hurling us headlong toward the Last Days. The irony is that the scientists they despise are the ones who see the modern version of the Plagues of Egypt coming.

For example: Is America facing yet another dust bowl? meteorologists have warned oceanic conditions similar to those that triggered the ruinous "Dust Bowl" drought again appear to be in place.

The exceptionally warm Atlantic waters that played a major role in the record-breaking 2005 hurricane season, coupled with cooler-than-normal Pacific waters, are weakening and changing the course of a low-level jet stream that normally channels moisture into the Great Plains. Effects are starting to be felt in "America's breadbasket," as the southern Great Plains region is already suffering from higher temperatures and a prolonged lack of precipitation.

Why could a new Dust Bowl drought occur? The low-level jet stream — a fast-moving current of winds close to the Earth's surface — travels from east to west across the Atlantic, then typically curves northward as it crosses the Gulf of Mexico, bringing moisture to the Great Plains. Abnormal sea-surface temperatures have caused this low-level jet stream to continue westward and to weaken, which is preventing much-needed moisture from reaching the agriculturally critical region. The shift in the jet stream is also allowing a southerly flow from Mexico to bring much drier air northward into the Plains. Besides dramatically reducing precipitation for the region, the changes brought about by the abnormal sea-surface temperatures will also result in higher surface temperatures in the Plains.

"When surfaces are wet, energy from solar radiation both evaporates moisture and heats the ground," said Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams. "When no moisture is present, all that energy is channeled toward heating the ground, and the warm-er ground heats the lower atmosphere. “The combination of low moisture and higher temperatures would be a crippling one-two punch for the Great Plains should these conditions persist, much like what occurred during the Dust Bowl drought."

The Dust Bowl, which lasted from 1931-1939, was a severe drought that struck a wide swath of the Great Plains. It was a catastrophic blow to the U.S. economy, which was already staggering under the weight of the Great Depression.

The Dust Bowl was the worst drought in U.S. history, eventually covering more than 75 percent of the country. Solar radiation heating the parch-ed and blighted land caused temperatures in the region to rise to record-breaking levels. "1936 was the hottest summer ever recorded across much of the Midwest and East," said Abrams. "Many of the single-day and monthly record-high temperatures across the eastern two-thirds of the country are from that year."

The Dust Bowl was also noted for the huge dust storms that billowed across the Great Plains and swallowed millions of acres of farmland at a time. While a Dust Bowl-level drought could occur again, it is highly unlikely that the nation will see a return of the dust storms. "The dust storms fed off the over-plowed and over-grazed lands of the Great Plains," said Dale Mohler, expert senior meteorologist and a forecaster for the agricultural industry.

Many of us already figured the oceans would rise, storms would intensify, and energy would run out. But widespread famine? Now you're talking Apocalypse.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Westmoreland Award redux

A few months back, when the Administration was still investing a lot of effort in trying to convince us that the Mission remains Accomplished in Iraq, I tried to interest readers in my General William Westmoreland Light at the End of the Tunnel award for the most egregiously self-deluded pronouncement about the "progress" we are making in the Quagmire Formerly Known as Iraq, aka the LATEOTT award. Nominees were discussed, for example, here, here and here. Re-reading their nonsense is even more entertaining with the benefit of six months of additional fuck-ups.

Think Progress brings to my attention another worthy entrant that has inspired me to try again.

Looking back on a two week stretch in which 1,500 Iraqis have reportedly died in sectarian violence and the number of Iraqi battalions capable of fighting without U.S. support has fallen to zero, General Pace, Chair of the Joint Chiefs:
I’d say they’re going well. I wouldn’t put a great big smiley face on it, but I would say they’re going very, very well from everything you look at.
Most impressive.

Update: Oh, and check out this list put together by EarlG @ Democratic Underground of virtually continuous "upsurges" in violence in Iraq over the past two years.


I mentioned it obliquely whilst in the midst of my hissy fit a month back, but in case you missed it, we are up for the "Tallest Midget in the Circus" category in the Koufax Awards @ Wampum (aka, Blog Most Deserving of Wider Recognition).

Well, kids, the polls are now open. If you are so inclined, do us a friendly and vote our way. Ambassadorships, earmarks and fat defense contracts will be yours for the asking.

But do not focus on the considerable benefits that would flow to you for your indulgence. Ask not what your blog can do for you. Ask what you can do for your blog.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Ted Rall groks the new Constitution

Coming soon to an Internet near you

Pakistan is blocking access to blogs. Kenya is raiding newspapers and TV stations.

If we in the American 'sphere start to get any mainstream traction -- we're next. If they can't get us to shut up one way, they'll do it another.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Wing de la wingnut: Wank of the day

Victor Davis Hanson. Does there exist anywhere on God's green earth a wankier pseudopundit? Perhaps, but I can think of none with the bully pulpit of the Vic.

His latest, on yesterday's Wall Street Journal's opinion page is titled "At War With Ourselves." Fine, and true, even. But check out the subtitle -- and I swear I'm not making this up:

We're winning in Iraq. Let's not lose at home.

Last week the golden dome of the Askariya shrine in Samarra was blown apart. Sectarian riots followed, and reprisals and deaths ensued. Thugs and criminals came out of the woodwork to foment further violence. But instead of the apocalypse of an ensuing civil war, a curfew was enforced. Iraqi security forces stepped in with some success. Shaken Sunni and Shiite leaders appeared on television to urge restraint, and there appeared at least the semblance of reconciliation that may soon presage a viable coalition government.

Ponies for everyone!

The whole piece reads like it was written by Lil' Orphan Annie channeling Tinkerbell, and each fact-free sentence is as absurd as every other, but here are two paragraphs in particular that jumped out at me like winos falling from a fire escape:

There is a more disturbing element to these self-serving, always evolving pronouncements of the "my perfect war, but your disastrous peace" syndrome. Conservatives who insisted that we needed more initial troops are often the same ones who now decry that too much money has been spent in Iraq. Liberals who chant "no blood for oil" lament that we unnecessarily ratcheted up the global price of petroleum. Progressives who charge that we are imperialists also indict us for being naively idealistic in thinking democracy could take root in post-Baathist Iraq and providing aid of a magnitude not seen since the Marshall Plan. For many, Iraq is no longer a war whose prognosis is to be judged empirically. It has instead transmogrified into a powerful symbol that apparently must serve deeply held, but preconceived, beliefs--the deceptions of Mr. Bush, the folly of a neoconservative cabal, the necessary comeuppance of the American imperium, or the greed of an oil-hungry U.S.

If many are determined to see the Iraqi war as lost without a plan, it hardly seems so to 130,000 U.S. soldiers still over there. They explain to visitors that they have always had a design: defeat the Islamic terrorists; train a competent Iraqi military; and provide requisite time for a democratic Iraqi government to garner public support away from the Islamists.

Where to begin...

1. "Conservatives who insisted that we needed more initial troops are often the same ones who now decry that too much money has been spent in Iraq."I don't recall any conservatives complaining about Rummy's Walmart war (with low, low prices), but even if they did, and even if they were complaining now about the $240 billion and counting we have thrown at Halliburton et al, this an absurd straw man opposition. You see, Vic, it is possible to think that more troops up front might have increased our chances of success AND that the kajillions we are wasting now are not so effective at unshitting the bed. No inconsistency there at all. (Personally I think the bed was gonna get shit either way, but that's just me.)

2. "Liberals who chant "no blood for oil" lament that we unnecessarily ratcheted up the global price of petroleum." Liberals like me did and do decry the blood being spilled for oil. And we see cause and effect between the mess we've made and the run up in oil prices. But I don't hear a whole lot of lefties saying the price of oil is too high, Vic. Just the opposite. So no contradiction there, either. (We do think that enriching Exxon and Saudi princes is not the best idea either, but that isn't a contradiction either.)

3. "Progressives who charge that we are imperialists also indict us for being naively idealistic in thinking democracy could take root in post-Baathist Iraq and providing aid of a magnitude not seen since the Marshall Plan." Let's hold off for another time the question of whether your naivete' was idealistic or not -- for now, perhaps we can agree that the attempted installation of a client government while establishing numerous permanent military bases in the center of the richest oil-producing region in the world is, shall we say, subject to a different interpretation. But "Marshall Plan?" Puhleeze. Nearly three years after Commander Codpiece strutted across the deck of his aircraft carrier, Baghdad averages four hours of electricity a day. We have spent peanuts on stuff that makes Iraqi lives better -- the money all goes to protecting our troops from all those improvised explosive flowers the grateful locals keep throwing. Focusing on how much cash we have thrown at Halliburton and Blackwater is a rather faulty metric for success.

But this is my absolute fav: "If many are determined to see the Iraqi war as lost without a plan, it hardly seems so to 130,000 U.S. soldiers still over there."

Mr. Hanson, allow me to introduce you to Mr. Zogby:
Poll of forces in Iraq shows majority think U.S. should leave within a year.

Nearly three of every four American troops serving in Iraq think the United States should withdraw all its troops and end the war within a year, according a Zogby-Le Moyne College poll released Tuesday.

Le Moyne faculty helped develop and word the poll's questions, which were given to troops in face-to-face interviews in Iraq, pollster John Zogby, of New Hartford, said.

Zogby said the poll was commissioned by a wealthy war opponent, whom he would not name. Zogby said the man "had no input into the questions or analysis and was not trying to make a point."

Despite President Bush's declaration that American troops should remain in Iraq as long as needed, 72 percent of 944 military members polled there said he should bring all the troops home within 12 months.

More than a quarter said American forces should leave immediately.

Oh, and deaths since the mosque bombing in the civil war you say was averted? More than 1300 as of yesterday. A bunch more today.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Osama picks Bush (Wouldn't you?)

Alterman nails it:

Bush appears to endorse the view put forth by a whiney John Kerry that Bin Laden’s videotaped message put him over the top in 2004. Bush said there were “enormous amounts of discussion” inside his campaign about the 15-minute tape, which he called “an interesting entry by our enemy” into the presidential race.

“I thought it was going to help,” Bush said. “I thought it would help remind people that if bin Laden doesn’t want Bush to be the president, something must be right with Bush.”

Come now. If Bush can figure it out that an Osama intervention is going to help him, then, so too can Bin Laden. Just as Fidel Castro offered, through emissaries, to endorse the candidate he hated most in our elections once (jokingly, one presumes) bin Laden, who knew that Bush’s team did nothing to prevent 9/11 despite considerable signals, let him get away at Tora-Bora, pulled agents out of Afghanistan to send them to Iraq, recruited gazillions of potential terrorists for his organization with his chaos-inducing invasion of Iraq and spread more hatred of the United States than our worst enemies might have hoped for, purposely intervened on behalf of Bush.

America. Where "reverse psychology" as sophisticated as a 1970's sitcom still works on enough of the people, enough of the time.

Smoking gun #348

Could this be the one that makes his base finally say "enough?"

Tape: Bush, Chertoff Warned Before Katrina

In dramatic and sometimes agonizing terms, federal disaster officials warned President Bush and his homeland security chief before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could breach levees, put lives at risk in New Orleans' Superdome and overwhelm rescuers, according to confidential video footage.

Bush didn't ask a single question during the final briefing before Katrina struck on Aug. 29, but he assured soon-to-be-battered state officials: "We are fully prepared."

The footage — along with seven days of transcripts of briefings obtained by The Associated Press — show in excruciating detail that while federal officials anticipated the tragedy that unfolded in New Orleans and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, they were fatally slow to realize they had not mustered enough resources to deal with the unprecedented disaster.

Linked by secure video, Bush's confidence on Aug. 28 starkly contrasts with the dire warnings his disaster chief and a cacophony of federal, state and local officials provided during the four days before the storm.

A top hurricane expert voiced "grave concerns" about the levees and then- Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown told the president and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff that he feared there weren't enough disaster teams to help evacuees at the Superdome.

"I'm concerned about ... their ability to respond to a catastrophe within a catastrophe," Brown told his bosses the afternoon before Katrina made landfall.

Some of the footage and transcripts from briefings Aug. 25-31 conflicts with the defenses that federal, state and local officials have made in trying to deflect blame and minimize the political fallout from the failed Katrina response:

--Homeland Security officials have said the "fog of war" blinded them early on to the magnitude of the disaster. But the video and transcripts show federal and local officials discussed threats clearly, reviewed long-made plans and understood Katrina would wreak devastation of historic proportions. "I'm sure it will be the top 10 or 15 when all is said and done," National Hurricane Center's Max Mayfield warned the day Katrina lashed the Gulf Coast.

"I don't buy the `fog of war' defense," Brown told the AP in an interview Wednesday. "It was a fog of bureaucracy."

--Bush declared four days after the storm, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees" that gushed deadly flood waters into New Orleans. But the transcripts and video show there was plenty of talk about that possibility — and Bush was worried too.

Interesting questions: why did this video surface? Why now? It is (or at least in a logical universe would be) incredibly damaging to Bush. It would seem to help Michael Brown, at least to some degree.

If the video makes it to TV, the juxtaposition with Bush's lie is so easy to make, and so obvious, that even Fox may have to show it. They will then have to resort to a "he lies for our own good" defense.

Update: I just watched the video @ C&L. Wow. If the networks run it, this could be fun.

The End of the Blogosphere?

I've been meaning to write something on the danger posed to the blogosphere, and our republic, by the new pay-to-say version of the Internet being pushed by the folks with the bucks. I think there is still much more to be said, but for now, read the piece @ DU by Mitchell Szczepanczyk. Also this, from Tim Karr.

If we don't stop them, the Internet will be as intellectually vibrant as and effective as a source of truth as a Fox newscast.

Maybe they like being radioactive

GOP Senators Move to Advance Patriot Act

Much has been made of the alleged desire of wobbly Republicans to put some distance between themselves and the increasingly toxic Preznit in light of the NSA spying scandal, the port scandal, etc.

Real world evidence to support the hypothesis?

Not so much.

Senate Republicans moved Wednesday to prevent Democrats from trying to add more civil liberties safeguards to a renewal of the 2001 Patriot Act due to expire next week.

In a pair of votes orchestrated by Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., the Senate effectively shut off amendments to a compromise between the White House and libertarian-leaning Republicans allowing some court challenges to government demands for people's records in terrorism investigations.

Democrats complained that the negotiated limits would be virtually meaningless in practice.
"No one has the right to turn this body into a rubber stamp," said Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., the act's chief opponent. "The White House played hardball and the decision was made by some to capitulate."

The procedural wrangling in the Senate prompted House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., to pull the measure off his chamber's schedule for the day. The House was not expected to vote on the matter until next week.
The war on terror can't wait for more debate, Republicans said.

"Civil liberties do not mean much when you are dead," Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., told the Senate.

These locksteppers sure do love them some fearmongering. And I'm sure they really wish that Patrick Henry dude had just STFU way back when.

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