Sunday, March 30, 2008

The OTHER 2001 terror

Via Orcinus:

WASHINGTON — The FBI has narrowed its focus to "about four" suspects in the 6 1/2-year investigation of the deadly anthrax attacks of 2001, and at least three of those suspects are linked to the Army’s bioweapons research facility at Fort Detrick in Maryland, FOX News has learned.

Among the pool of suspects are three scientists — a former deputy commander, a leading anthrax scientist and a microbiologist — linked to the research facility, known as USAMRIID.

This one could get very interesting. Dubya and his lickspittles insist on claiming that (thanks to his steely gaze and circular filing of the Constitution) we have not been attacked since 9/11, but like virtually everything else they claim, it is flat wrong on its face. It had been an ongoing puzzlement to me -- why did the anthrax attacks, which actually killed people and and had lots of people, um, terrorized, drop off the radar?

Now I think we have a pretty good clue as to why. If terror can come from our own people, the justification for rounding up assorted Scary Brown people and Moozlims quickly wears thin. If the source of the anthrax turns out to be a Timothy McVeigh-like right-wing nutjob, all the kneejerks that power the Bush juggernaut fall apart.

Which leads me to believe we are not going to be hearing much more about the anthrax story.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Lest we forget

This past week, total U.S. fatalities in Iraq passed the 4000 mark.

When the total ran past 3000 on New year's Eve 2006 I, like most of the rest of the left blogosphere, marked the occasion. This time, the milestone passed with nary a mention.

That is truly sad, and represents a failing on our part. We who opposed the war from the beginning are not thereby absolved from ongoing responsibilities. We who cared and mourned the losses of American and Iraqi lives in this epic blunder are not excused from grieving today's losses by virtue of our empathy for previous victims.

Each day is a new crime, each death a new tragedy. We must not let the monotony of the bloodshed numb us to its horror.

This past week, total U.S. fatalities in Iraq passed the 4000 mark.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

And we say they have not learned from history

For instance, you might think they learned nothing from the nightmare of Nazi Germany, but you'd be wrong:
Older White House computer hard drives have been destroyed, the White House disclosed to a federal court Friday in a controversy over millions of possibly missing e-mails from 2003 to 2005.

The White House revealed new information about how it handles its computers in an effort to persuade a federal magistrate it would be fruitless to undertake an e-mail recovery plan that the court proposed.

"When workstations are at the end of their lifecycle and retired ... the hard drives are generally sent offsite to another government entity for physical destruction," the White House said in a sworn declaration filed with U.S. Magistrate Judge John Facciola.


In proposing an e-mail recovery plan Tuesday, Facciola expressed concern that a large volume of electronic messages may be missing from White House computer servers, as two private groups that are suing the White House allege.

Facciola proposed the drastic approach of going to individual workstations of White House computer users after the White House disclosed in January that it recycled its computer backup tapes before October 2003. Recycling — taping over existing data — raises the possibility that any missing e-mails may not be recoverable.

At a House committee hearing last month, a computer expert who previously worked at the White House called the e-mail system "primitive" and said it was set up in a way that created a high risk that data would be lost from White House servers where it was being archived.

Under pressure to provide details about its computer system, the White House told the congressional committee that it never completed work that began in 2003 on a planned records management and e-mail archiving system. The White House canceled the project in late 2006 and says it is still working on a new version.

What did the Nazis do wrong?

Keep good records.

Q.E.D. -- learning from the past.

Friday, March 21, 2008

An insect of another kind

I have been able to avoid exposure to the world's dumbest columnist for quite a while now, but Glennzilla and Atrios brought Richard Cohen back into my peripheral vision, and I was too weak to resist rubbernecking at this jacknifed truck of a writer.

The occasion is his explanation in Slate for his ongoing imbecility re: Iraq. Given the man's obvious belief in his own infallibility, it would be too much to expect much gravitas in his mea culpa. But this just beggars belief:

I was miserably wrong in my judgment and somewhat emotional, and whenever my resolve weakened, as it did over time, I steadied myself by downing belts of inane criticism from the likes of Michael Moore or "realists" like Brent Scowcroft, who had presided over the slaughter of the Shiites. I favored the war not for oil or empire (what silliness!) or Israel but for all the reasons that made me regret Bosnia, Rwanda, and every other time when innocents were being killed and nothing was done to stop it. I owe it to Tony Judt for giving me the French ex-Stalinist Pierre Courtade, who, wrongheaded though he might have been, neatly sums it all up for me: "You and your kind were wrong to be right; we were right to be wrong."

Jeebus. What towering cluelessness. What epic self-delusion. What arrogant flippancy in the face of great suffering -- suffering he helped cause. To admit his own blind rage, then claim he was wrong for the right reasons (and to dismiss as "silliness" the real first causes) -- the pathology still stuns me.

Update: a better but still flawed attempt from Sully. And the model mea culpa from John Cole, who thereby earns a coveted spot on the blogroll.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


The Schadenfratricide continues. My last post, titled "Fleas," referenced the meta-theft (thieves ripping off thieves) at the NRCC. I made light of it, but on further reflection, this is a big story, fat with implications.

In an article about the many woes afflicting the Republicans, the WaPo says this:

If Republicans needed any more evidence of how difficult this fall may be, the past week had it all, analysts said. The Illinois race demonstrated new levels of disaffection, the party's efforts to go on offense elsewhere were thwarted by recruiting failures, and the NRCC scandal will divert campaign resources and could frighten off badly needed contributors, they said.
Which reminds me of another, even more appropriate reference from the insect world, the fable of the scorpion and the frog.

The story is about a scorpion asking a frog to carry him across a river. The frog is afraid of being stung, but the scorpion reassures him that if it stung the frog, the frog would sink and the scorpion would drown as well. The frog then agrees; nevertheless, in mid-river, the scorpion stings him, dooming the two of them. When asked why, the scorpion explains, "I'm a scorpion; it's my nature."

As Wikipedia says, that story "illustrate(s) the purportedly insuppressible nature of one's self at its base level." Indeed. These guys steal and betray. It is their nature. They focus monomaniaically on short-term self-interest. While the pillaging was good, and the fat of the land could keep them all in the style to which they have become accustomed, a veneer of trust and cooperation appeared, and they focused on fleecing the rest of us. But it should be no surprise that eventually, now that the ship seems to be taking on water, they begin stealing from each other.

The potential impact of this story is significant, perhaps even tectonic. The symbiotic relationship between big business and the Republican Party depended in a sense on suspension of disbelief: it required multinationals to feel comfortable with the idea that, however rapacious the Repugs were when confronting the rest of us, these scorpions would never sting them. The DeLay/K Street game requires that businesses trust and give cash to lobbyists, who must in turn trust and give that cash to Republicans. If anyone in that chain of corruption loses the trust of the upstream or downstream players, the system breaks down. And once it starts breaking down, the individual actors quickly see their individual maximizing behavior is taking the money and running.

And that's why this story is so important. Whether or not the MSM publicizes this story, the money knows, and is busy canceling contracts, stopping checks, and pulling the plug on the whole enterprise. And it will be a classic feedback loop: the worse it gets, the worse the thievery, thereby speeding the financial exanguination.

It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of frogs.

Friday, March 14, 2008


The National Republican Congressional Committee, already lagging behind its Democratic counterpart in fundraising this year, has nearly $1 million less in the bank than it thought because of an alleged embezzlement scheme from its former treasurer.

The FBI began an investigation in February to determine how much former treasurer Christopher J. Ward, who previously did work for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, embezzled from the NRCC. On Thursday the committee released more details on the investigation, indicating he may have moved as much as $1 million from campaigns he ran into his own account.

"The evidence we have today indicated we have been deceived and betrayed for a number of years by a highly respected and trusted individual," said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the NRCC chairman.

Lie down with dogs...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Expanding the dictionary

NOCHA -- acronym; for No One Could Have Anticipated. See, e.g., Condi Rice ("NOCHA that terrorists would fly planes into buildings"), George W. Bush ("NOCHA that the breach of the levees").

Just call me Ambrose.

Monday, March 10, 2008

From the BlueMeme dictionary

Definition of Neocon: someone who tries to frighten Americans into giving up freedom in exchange for unsubstantiated claims of security, while forcing others (e.g., Iraqis) at gunpoint to give up security in exchange for unsubstantiated claims of freedom.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The speech

via Aravosis, you may have heard Hillary mock Obama's speech opposing war in Iraq as a slender reed upon which to base his claim to the White House. Here it is:

October 2, 2002

Good afternoon. Let me begin by saying that although this has been billed as an anti-war rally, I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances. The Civil War was one of the bloodiest in history, and yet it was only through the crucible of the sword, the sacrifice of multitudes, that we could begin to perfect this union, and drive the scourge of slavery from our soil. I don't oppose all wars.

My grandfather signed up for a war the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, fought in Patton's army. He saw the dead and dying across the fields of Europe; he heard the stories of fellow troops who first entered Auschwitz and Treblinka. He fought in the name of a larger freedom, part of that arsenal of democracy that triumphed over evil, and he did not fight in vain. I don't oppose all wars.

After September 11th, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I supported this administration's pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance, and I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such tragedy from happening again. I don't oppose all wars. And I know that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or of patriotism.

What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income - to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression. That's what I'm opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics. Now let me be clear - I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity. He's a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history. I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of Al Qaeda. I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars.

So for those of us who seek a more just and secure world for our children, let us send a clear message to the President today. You want a fight, President Bush? Let's finish the fight with Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, through effective, coordinated intelligence, and a shutting down of the financial networks that support terrorism, and a homeland security program that involves more than color-coded warnings. You want a fight, President Bush?

Let's fight to make sure that the UN inspectors can do their work, and that we vigorously enforce a non-proliferation treaty, and that former enemies and current allies like Russia safeguard and ultimately eliminate their stores of nuclear material, and that nations like Pakistan and India never use the terrible weapons already in their possession, and that the arms merchants in our own country stop feeding the countless wars that rage across the globe. You want a fight, President Bush?

Let's fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells. You want a fight, President Bush? Let's fight to wean ourselves off Middle East oil, through an energy policy that doesn't simply serve the interests of Exxon and Mobil. Those are the battles that we need to fight. Those are the battles that we willingly join. The battles against ignorance and intolerance. Corruption and greed. Poverty and despair.

The consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable. We may have occasion in our lifetime to once again rise up in defense of our freedom, and pay the wages of war. But we ought not -- we will not -- travel down that hellish path blindly. Nor should we allow those who would march off and pay the ultimate sacrifice, who would prove the full measure of devotion with their blood, to make such an awful sacrifice in vain.

Think about the toxic and jingoistic atmosphere back then, and about all the things that seem obvious now but were still many Friedman Units into the future in 2002.

I'll take that speech over all of Hillary's purported experience and McCain's mavericity any day.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Never underestimate

Referring to the unprecedented outburst of actual reporting about John MCain, and the way it had soured his normally fellatory relationship Last week I said:

There is the potential here for the special form of positive feedback loop known as a death spiral -- as McCain turns his legendary temper toward the press and stops being their darling, they will be less deferential, which will only further piss off McCain, and so on.
Or not.

Soon after the New York Times published an article exploring Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) unetheical relationships with lobbyists, McCain banished reporters covering his presidential bid — who have been said to be his political “base” — to the back of his campaign airplane.

But over the weekend, McCain reversed course, hosting a “thank you” cookout on Sunday for over 40 reporters from a wide variety of news outlets — including the New York Times — at his vacation home in Arizona.

McCain’s latest “charm offensive” to “woo the reporters” and appease his “constituency” may have paid off. After McCain grilled for his guests, shared his secret recipes, and provided guided tours inside and around his “rustic Arizona home,” reporters have taken the bait. McCain and the press are back together again. Some highlights from the press accounts of the McCain barbeque:

– “The idea…was to allow reporters to get to know him and his staff under less stressful circumstances. (The fact that the media spent the weekend at a resort called Enchantment probably contributed to that feeling.)

– “There is something surprising — perhaps even metaphysically provocative — about the notion of Mr. Straight Talk in such close proximity to what may be the nation’s highest proportion of crystal-wielding psychics.”

– “McCain held court the way he does almost daily aboard his ‘Straight Talk Express‘ bus.”

– “McCain comes across as a what-you-see-is-what-you-get guy, not terribly given to brooding or introspective meditation.”

– “As grillmaster, he looked like the all-American dad, with a story for every spot in the house.”

Some even boasted of McCain’s cooking skills:

– “McCain stood over not one, but two gas grills, cooking up ribs and chicken for his guests.”

– “So how did they taste? Objectivity prohibits a good reporter from passing judgement, but let’s put it this way: everyone wants to come back.

Never underestimate the stupidity, venality and gullibility of the mainstream press.

I think the other lesson out of this festival of prostitution has to do with the trials of Hillary Clinton. The antipathy between the Clintons and the Washington press corpse is not news. But McCain's schtick is neither a secret nor rocket science. Were she as smart as they say, she could have done the same. (I reject out of hand the objection that she failed to do so on principle -- seen this?)

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