Saturday, November 01, 2003

Two More US Soldiers Killed In Iraq  

They were near Mosul.

Wolfowitz, The Clear Thinking Intellectual  

I must say, I could never make up anything half as funny:
Violence may be surging in Iraq, but there's another thing Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz says Iraqis fear: President Bush getting booted from office.

Wolfowitz, speaking at Georgetown University, said a worried resident of the southern city of Najaf asked him in July at a town hall meeting, "What's going to happen to us if George Bush loses the election?"

Wolfowitz didn't mention the Democrats, but he suggested the question sums up Iraqi fears that a new team in the White House would abandon them.

Wolfowitz said he tried to assure the Iraqis, but "when they hear the message that we might not be there next year, they get very scared."

Shake Clark's Hand, Lose Your Job  

The outing by senior administration officials of Valerie Plame, an undercover C.I.A. counter-terrorism expert and wife of Bush critic and former ambassador Joseph Wilson, is undoubtedly the signature example of contemporary GOP vindictiveness. But there are others. For instance, there is Eric Massa, until recently on the majority staff of the House Armed Services Committee, chaired by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.). Massa was a lifelong Republican whose first taste of politics was serving as a page to candidate Ronald Reagan during the 1976 presidential race. But before joining the committee staff, Massa had served in the armed forces, where, among other things, he was a top aide to Gen. Wesley Clark (Ret.) during Clark's tenure as NATO supreme commander. The two were close, so when Clark came to Washington in early October to meet with Democratic congressional leaders at a private residence a few blocks from the Capitol, Massa walked over to say hello. But as the former comrades-in-arms greeted each other warmly on the street just outside the event--Massa never went inside, say other attendees--Republican operatives stationed nearby noticed his presence, and reported back to his staff director, Robert Rangel. Soon after, sources tell 'Who's Who,' Hunter and Rangel repeatedly told Massa that, given his friendship with Clark, he could no longer work at the committee, but when reporters from a few big-name newspapers heard the story and began calling around, Hunter claimed that Massa had never actually been fired. Fed-up, Massa resigned. No one from Hunter's office was available for comment. Contacted by WW, Massa commented, 'I don't hold ill will for anybody. This is about issues, and Clark the man, and I'm going to do everything I can to get him elected.'
via Talking Points Memo: by Josh Marshall

Good Golly, Miss Molly!  

How I love her.
So George Dubya becomes President, having run as a "compassionate conservative," and what do we get? Hell's own conservative and dick for compassion.

Like Science? Support The Cable Science Network  

Take their survey and tell 'em what you'd like to see.

Kevin and Matt On Liberal Hawks  

Kevin Drum, as always, has a sensible viewpoint, even if in part he's wrong as he is here. Of all the tools required to counteract radical Islamists and in particular their resort to terrorism, the use of American military force is the crudest and least effective. Indeed, it almost inevitably will make things things worse. Exhibit A: Iraqmire. Exhibit B: Afghanistan.

The liberal hawks' position stems from modern updates of the American myth of manifest destiny, which I've discussed briefly here. Which brings us to Exhibit C: History proves that democracy cannot be imposed, except in very special cases.
Among the major powers, the US has engaged in the largest number of regime changes. Since the past century, it has deployed its military to impose democratic rule in foreign lands on 18 occasions. Yet this impressive record of international activism has left an uninspiring legacy. Of all the regimes the US has replaced with force, democratic rule has been sustained in only five places - Germany, Japan, Italy, Panama, and Grenada. This suggests a success rate of less than 30 percent. Outside the developed world and Latin America, there hasn't been a single success.
Also see here.

So even if you reject the hardcore notion that this is a clash of civilizations, which Kevin rightly does, Kevin's more thoughtful position is contradicted by history.

It's time for the liberal hawks to admit it. They were wrong on Iraq. And the well-informed doves like this group were correct.

Will anyone listen to the voice of reason next time? Only if "next time" Bush is out of office.

In his usual witty fashion, Matthew Yglesias weighs in with the practical point that the liberal hawks - who, despite their tragic lapse of judgement, are usually sensible people - really have nowhere but the Democratic party to go.

Wolfowitz Once Again Under Fire  

But not in Baghdad.
One of the leading members of the Bush administration has come under fire at an American university only days after resistance fighters blasted his Baghdad hotel with a rocket attack.

US deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz was visibly shaken as he fended off hecklers at Georgetown University during a speech Thursday.

The smooth-talking politician, who kept his cool under fire in Baghdad some days earlier, appeared ruffled and at one point snapped back at the hecklers.

"We hate your policies!" shouted one young woman, standing ten metres from Wolfowitz who went pale and clenched his jaw.

"Killing innocents is not the solution but rather the problem," she said.
NOTE: I look at al-Jazeera every day but I believe this is the first time I've ever used them as a link. Normally, I like to use news sources that only the most rabid right wing attack dogs would label as biased. In this case, partly because Cursor brought it to my attention, I thought it was worth doing.

Dingell's Criticism of "The Reagans"  

Congressman John D. Dingell (D-MI) today joined the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Members of Congress and conservative pundits in demanding that CBS ensure that its upcoming two part mini-series "The Reagans" is an accurate portrayal of the Reagan legacy. In a letter to CBS President Leslie Moonves, Dingell wrote, "I trust that CBS will not be a party to a distorted presentation of American history."

Rep. Dingell, who served in the Congress during both of President Reagan’s terms in office, offered this advice to Mr. Moonves:

"As someone who served with President Reagan, and in the interest of historical accuracy, please allow me to share with you some of my recollections of the Reagan years that I hope will make it into the final cut of the mini-series: $640 Pentagon toilets seats; ketchup as a vegetable; union busting; firing striking air traffic controllers; Iran-Contra; selling arms to terrorist nations; trading arms for hostages; retreating from terrorists in Beirut; lying to Congress; financing an illegal war in Nicaragua; visiting Bitburg cemetery; a cozy relationship with Saddam Hussein; shredding documents; Ed Meese; Fawn Hall; Oliver North; James Watt; apartheid apologia; the savings and loan scandal; voodoo economics; record budget deficits; double digit unemployment; farm bankruptcies; trade deficits; astrologers in the White House; Star Wars; and influence peddling."

Rep. Dingell concluded, "I hope you find these facts useful in accurately depicting President Reagan’s time in office."

Corn Edges Up On It  

Even he won't state what is patently obvious if you research how capable al Qaeda really is. They are dangerous, very dangerous. But their danger is manageable by careful intelligence work, hearts and minds campaigns, and covert operations. In short, the terrorists have become Bush's equivalent of the Birchers' commies under the bed. Well, yes, the communists were a threat. But not the way the Birchers thought so.
...Bush does a disservice to the nation by exaggerating the real-enough threat from Al Qaeda. Such melodramatic renditions of the terrorist threat can interfere with the creation and implementation of effective policies. If the terrorism of Al Qaeda springs from an irrational desire to control or kill everyone else, there’s not much to do about it other than, as Kurtz said in Heart of Darkness (or Apocalypse Now ), "exterminate all the brutes." But even Rumsfeld—again in that much-noticed memo—observed that a long-term anti-terrorism strategy has to focus partly on efforts to moderate Islamic fundamentalism.

Much political speech turns on whatever sounds good at the moment. Presumably, a White House speechwriter thought it was effective to have Bush proclaim Al Qaeda the ultimate kill-all/control-all evil. And isn’t that what Boykin thinks? Cheney and Bush obviously believed it was useful to declare Hussein a near-member of the nuclear club, evidence notwithstanding. Grappling with reality is not what these folks do. At least not in public. They distort; they bend. They keep alive Orwell’s cliché that "political speech" is "largely the defense of the indefensible." And for that they are rarely placed on the defensive.

Question For George Bush  

Mr. Bush:

Why do you hate Dick Cheney so much that you won't let his daughter marry the person she loves?

On a related subject, an article on Chrissy Gephardt. She's working on her father, who is still opposed to gay marriage. Give Dick Gephardt credit for being decent even when he's wrong. Neither on a personal level, nor on a public level has he sought to hide the issue -and his grappling with it - under the rug. This is in stark contrast to the behavior of the Cheney's who have avoided out of shame and fear of political reprisal acknowledging Mary Cheney's partner.

If ever there was a clear example of the lack of character of Dick Cheney, it is the embarassment with which he treats his daughter's love.

A Must: Great Speech by Brzezinski  

Go now. You can read or listen. Every single clause is so eloquent that it is impossible to quote one without quoting them all.

But I can't resist this. Brzezinski reminds his audience that the Bushite rallying cry, "He who is not with us is against us" was popularized first by Lenin.

The speech makes clear how extremist this current administration is. Brzezinski is precisely the kind of moderate/right voice that is covered by the phrase "thoughtful conservative." When we say "honest people can disagree," Brzezinski is one of the people who comes to mind.

In this case, I fully agree with him, althought I have rarely done so in the past.

2 More US Soldiers Died In Iraq  

Roadside Bomb Kills Two GIs in Iraq:
A roadside bomb killed at least two U.S. soldiers Saturday in Mosul, and many parents kept children away from classes in the capital after leaflets attributed to Saddam Hussein's party warned of a ``Day of Resistance'' against the U.S. occupation.

How We Doin?  

If the Times Bestseller list* is any indication, not too bad:

Moderate and Liberal Politically Oriented Books: 6
Biography Of Historical Figure That Should Be Lumped With Above (Franklin):1
Right Wing Politically Oriented Books: 3 (2 with daggers, denoting bulk sales)
Books On Non-Political Subjects (Afterlife, Sports, WWII, Murder): 5

*Based on the printed bestseller list. The posted one is different:

Mod/Lib: 5
Bios of Mods/Libs:2 (Franklin/Caroline Kennedy)
Right Wing: 3 (one with dagger, denoting bulk sales.)
Non-Political: 5

In both lists, the top two sellers are Mod/Libs (Moore/Franken)

We can do better.

Friday, October 31, 2003

U.S. Forces Battle Iraqi Guerrillas in Intense Firefight  

U.S. Forces Battle Iraqi Guerrillas in Intense Firefight: "In addition, an American soldier was killed in an attack west of the capital today. At least 33 United States troops have died from hostile fire in attacks in October, compared with 16 in September, and the pace has increased in recent days."

St. Ron  

RNC asks to review 'The Reagans"

If CBS lets the Republicans vet their Reagan show, I will erase the network from my Tivo channel list. That'll show 'em.

Niger Memo Forgery Timeline  

Josh Marshall has done it and to say the least, the appearance of the documents at the time they appeared raises numerous questions.

Cue the black helicopters? I don't think so.

More Evidence Bush's Support Is Diminishing  

But it hasn't diminished enough.
Two new national polls provide an abundance of evidence that Mr. Will-Automatically-Be-Reelected-Because-of-9/11 just might not be. To begin with, both show Bush’s approval ratings falling–again. The Quinnipiac University poll has him down to 51 percent, from 53 percent in mid-September. And the Gallup poll has him at 53 percent, down from the 55-56 percent ratings in early to mid October...

Manifest Destiny And The American Crusade  

I never learned about "Manifest Destiny" until I was old enough to recognize hoo hah when I saw it. That was rather fortunate.

What is Manifest Destiny? Here's as good a definition as any:
In 1845, John 0'Sullivan, the editor of US Magazine and Democratic Review, formulated the "Manifest Destiny", hence the word "destiny". 0'Sullivan believed that God had decreed that Europeans should rule all of North America.
I was able to locate an 1839 essay by O'Sullivan which, in fact, elaborates on the concept of manifest destiny, even if the phrase is not explicitly used:
Yes, we are the nation of progress, of individual freedom, of universal enfranchisement. Equality of rights is the cynosure of our union of States, the grand exemplar of the correlative equality of individuals; and while truth sheds its effulgence, we cannot retrograde, without dissolving the one and subverting the other. We must onward to the fulfilment of our mission -- to the entire development of the principle of our organization -- freedom of conscience, freedom of person, freedom of trade and business pursuits, universality of freedom and equality. This is our high destiny, and in nature's eternal, inevitable decree of cause and effect we must accomplish it. All this will be our future history, to establish on earth the moral dignity and salvation of man -- the immutable truth and beneficence of God. For this blessed mission to the nations of the world, which are shut out from the life-giving light of truth, has America been chosen; and her high example shall smite unto death the tyranny of kings, hierarchs, and oligarchs, and carry the glad tidings of peace and good will where myriads now endure an existence scarcely more enviable than that of beasts of the field. Who, then, can doubt that our country is destined to be the great nation of futurity?
Amazing, huh? Take out the big words and you can see Bush and the right wing nodding in agreement.

Now "manifest destiny" isn't just some innocent patriotic hyperbole inserted into Fourth of July speeches by some windbag. In O'Sullivan's time, it was used to justify the annexation of Texas and, in general, the western expansion of the US. Today, it is part of the unconscious worldview of American intellectuals who should know better. For of course, Manifest Destiny is garbage.

American values never had, and never will have, an "exceptional" role in the history of the world, any more than Islamic values did during the great conquests that constructed the Caliphate, any more than Roman values did under Caesar, Augustus, and the others, and so on. America's dominance of the world is a contingency of history, not proof of the rightness of our ideals. Sure, democracy is a lot better style of governance than a theocracy or a Roman Empire. But the US didn't invent democracy and was only one of several countries and cultures that helped spread it. And today, it is inarguable that other democratic countries have fairer election systems and that other democratic countries treat both their individual citizens and their businesses in many ways that even the most gung-ho America lover would envy. And it is arguable - indeed it is a very common argument - that American economic rule is any better than any other country's for the citizens of a third world country whose economy we dominate. The number of monstrous dictators this country has accommodated, and still does, is shocking.

Manifest Destiny and other ideas helped justify American expansionism. Today, it has resurfaced in debates about America's "exceptionalism" and as part of the "mission" of the neo cons. As I'll show in other posts, about Woodrow Wilson and others, it is also highly influential in one strain of American political liberalism. To say the least, in a world which has overwhelmingly rejected Bush's overt attempts to impose an American empire through military force -and which will certainly continue to resist such attempts in many different ways- America will need to drive a stake through its narcissistic fantasy that it is "special" and its values are, or should be, everyone's. Aside from the fact that it is patently ridiculous to believe America is exceptional, there lie monsters (example: the embarassing absence of the important nations of Europe from the Coalition of the Willing).

To recognize that the US is simply one more country that is sometimes great, sometimes mediocre, and sometimes horrible shouldn't diminish anyone's love of country. In my case, if anything, it increased it. Suddenly, the phony impression I had of a bromide, perfect America was replaced by wonderment at the sheer scale of this country's achievement, both for good and ill. Suddenly, America became real. Because "destiny" is bogus teleology. But America's interactions with its world and the challenges of doing that well while honoring America's boundaries are profoundly exciting.

One final note about "manifest destiny." I started collecting information about the concept after I came across it, as an aside in an odd book review in Foreign Affairs. It was a review, written by a Christian evangelist of Strong Religion, a book highly critical of fundamentalisms. The reviewer went to great lengths to discredit Strong Religion, which piqued my interest in the book (that's yet another post!). In passing, the reviewer wrote:
"[M]anifest destiny" was coined in 1845 not by a fundamentalist but by a thoroughly secular newspaper editor, John O'Sullivan, who sought simply to articulate the emerging American national doctrine of continental expansion.
As the quote from 0'Sullivan above makes clear, he may have been secular -I'm not an historian and have no way to verify that assertion - but he was quite willing to invoke God in the most eloquent and fervent way as being on the side of the American project. The sense of America's divine mission in the world is behind Manifest Destiny, and its later incarnations, including the present one.

In a very real sense, then, to advocate a foreign policy based upon the notion of Manifest Destiny, or its derivatives, is to call for nothing less than an American Crusade.

I'm Just Trying To Be Helpful  

The Times report of the uncensoring of a Justice Department report has a sidebar in which the "sophisticated" technique used by The Memory Hole is described.
The Justice Department earlier this month posted on its Web site a report from an outside contractor on employee diversity within the department. Many of the negative findings in the report, which the department had refused to release publicly for more than a year, were heavily edited. But Russ Kick, a writer and editor in Tucson, who maintains a Web site that archives government documents, found a way around the editing. He said he was able to call up the document in its Adobe Acrobat format and, using software that allows editing of PDF documents, then highlighted the blacked out editing bars and deleted them. The original, unedited text then appeared. [Emphasis added.]
After reading this, I started to feel sorry for David Johnston and Eric Lichtblau and the rest of the hapless New York Times reporters who were so blatantly scooped by an underfunded website. I mean, if they had bothered to look at the redactions, they would have noticed that it had been electronically blacked-out. And if they had known even the first thing about using Acrobat -the most common way to create and distribute in the world- they could have easily recovered the text.

Well, since we're easing up on the holiday season, I thought I'd send them a little gift:

It should arrive in the next day or so. Hopefully, it will help them cover the Bush administration a little bit better. I've urged them to share the book with colleagues.


It's not just sauna and reindeers, y'know.
The latest Global Competitiveness Report by the World Economic Forum has sprung a surprise. It sees Finland racing ahead of the United States as the world's most competitive economy, with Sweden and Denmark tying up third and fourth spots on the annual listing, the World Economic Forum said in a report on Thursday.
Those who know me know that my admiration for Finland is boundless. It is good to see that the world is catching on.

In recent months, they have been named the least corrupt country and the country with the most free press. Their technological innovation is world class, as is their art and culture, in many ways far surpassing the US or the rest of Europe.

This report may surprise others, but those of us who have been to Finland in the past 5 years should not be surprised at all.

Low Budget Web Site Exposes Laziness of NY Times, WaPo Reporters  

Congratulations to Russ Kick of The Memory Hole. He not only showed how corrupt the Justice Department is by restoring the redacted sections of a report on diversity in the Justice Department.

He proved beyond a shadow of a dobut that mainstream journalists are asleep at the switch in covering the Bush administration. The techniques to uncover the redactions are so elementary that any competent investigative reporter should have known them. And applied them regularly on any censored pdf released by the government.

Ten cents says there are no stories in the mainstream press, or even in the press that covers the press, that point out that this is as much a scandal of journalistic incompetence as it is of Bush administration abuse.

Times article here.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

My Political Compass  

I'm landing around where Mandela and the Dalai Lama do. Guess I'm in pretty good company.

After all, I have often mumbled, "Dear God, when I die, wherever you're sending George W. Bush, please send me to the other place."

Apple Porn  

News about the supercomputer built from 1500 Macs.
The latest semi-official numbers concerning the speed of Virginia Tech's "Big Mac" supercomputer rank it as the third-fastest machine on the planet.

The system's architect, Srinidhi Varadarajan, said Tuesday evening that the newly completed supercomputer operates at 9.55 trillion operations a second, or 9.55 teraflops.
And get this: they paid full price for each machine.

Voting Machine Scandal Hits The AP Wire  

Doubts about the trustworthiness of electronic voting machines are growing among election officials and computer scientists, complicating efforts to safeguard elections after the presidential stalemate of 2000.

With just over a year to go before the next presidential race, touchscreen voting machines don't seem like the cure-all some thought they would be. Skeptics fear they'll only produce more problems, from making recounts less reliable to giving computer hackers a chance to sabotage results.

``I'm deeply concerned about this whole idea of election integrity,'' said Warren Slocum, chief election officer in California's San Mateo County. His doubts were so grave that he delayed purchasing new voting machines and is sticking with the old ones for now.

He's not alone..

The concerns focus on:

--Voter confidence: Since most touchscreen machines don't create a separate paper receipt, or ballot, voters can't be sure the machine accurately recorded their choice.

--Recounts: Without a separate receipt, election officials can't conduct a reliable recount but can only return to the computer's tally.

--Election fraud: Some worry the touchscreen machines aren't secure enough and allow hackers to potentially get in and manipulate results.

``The computer science community has pretty much rallied against electronic voting,'' said Stephen Ansolabahere, a voting expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. ``A disproportionate number of computer scientists who have weighed in on this issue are opposed to it.''
Emphasis added.

Press Release From The Unfound One  

On Larkin Blog:

Osama bin laden, the director of George W Bush's re-election campaign, today issued a renewed call for jihad against America and expressed his profound gratitude to the American President.

"The President has been an enormous boon to my recruiting efforts. Ever since his incompetent intelligence services inadvertently allowed me to bomb the country on 9/11, I've been on a roll. My recruiting is off the charts. And every day, the Administration does something that really helps my cause."

In particular, bin laden mentioned the invasion of Iraq. "By knocking out my big opponent, Saddam, and turning the country into a breeding ground for terrorists, he has really made my job easy. Words cannot express my admiration. Perhaps another suicide bombing will do the trick."

Reached in the Far East, where he was on a campaign swing for his war on terror, Bush said he was "deeply honored" by bin laden's words, and expressed his own gratitude for the al-Quada leader.

"Before 9/11, I was really sucking wind in the polls. But those attacks were literally a gift from the sky. I've now got the whole country cowed and the press bamboozled. And, as an extra bonus, we've got Iraq's oil. Osama rocks!"

Bush said he hopes that Osama will launch another terrorist attack soon, in time to get the GOP re-elected in 2004. "It would be really great if it could happen the week of the Republican convention in New York next August. All those explosions will make a nice backdrop to my re-election speech. It'll be just like the Fourth of July!"
via Mac-a-ro-nies.

Civility. An Initiative To Stop The Hate  

The Atrios vs. Luskin The un-Stalker flap is part of a larger issue that often gets bruited about the blogosphere:

The uncivil tone of so much discourse on the blogosphere.

Recently, I was accused of adding to the mean-spirited atmosphere. Here's what happened.

Matthew Yglesias posted this job opportunity:
Here at the office we were trying to think of some smart, young (i.e., under-35) conservative journalists. Any suggestions?
I responded in comments thus:
That's like seeking a cow that understands calculus.
Josh Chafetz on Oxblog singled out my comment as being quite vitriolic.

I've given the matter a great deal of thought, as Josh seems sincere and thoughtful himself.

I recalled that in the week after September 11, I read a column by Steve Dunleavy in the New York Post which began "It is amazing how liberals, whom I regard as traitors in this time of crisis..". I also remember someone named Coulter just wrote a book with the same theme; it's a best seller.

That's me they're calling a traitor, because I'm a liberal. That's incredibly vitriolic.

But... I also remembered that my mother used to say that two wrongs don't make a right. And so I decided to take the initiative here, to be the first to back off the nastiness and make a concrete effort to tone things down. It is only fair to admit that that my remark on Yglesias' comment board about cows, calculus and conservatives was out of line. What I should have said was this:

Finding a smart, young conservative is like seeking a cow that understands calculus. But it may be that cows are somewhat smarter than I think they are.

Ok, Mr. Dunleavy and Ms. Coulter. Your turn to contribute to a less hate-filled discourse.

Thought I was Crazy, Huh?  

Thought it couldn't happen, huh.Go here.

My very first post mentioned this nightmare scenario. And I just recently posted about it again.

Please, no. No. No. No. No!

Atrios Gets Slashdotted  

Luskin could not have given Atrios better publicity if he tried.
"Pseudonymous blogger Atrios has been threatened with a subpoena and lawsuit for defamation. Apparently Atrios used a headline 'Diary of a Stalker' in reference to Donald Luskin . In response to the posting, several anonymous commentators made some allegedly libelous statements about Luskin, and now Luskin has hired an attorney and started making threats and demands. The funniest thing is that Luskin has previously referred to himself as a stalker in his own headline: 'We Stalked. He Balked.' ."

Pickering Blocked  

Good news.
Senate Republicans on Thursday failed to break a Democratic filibuster of U.S. District Judge Charles Pickering's promotion to the federal appeals court, continuing a two-year standoff tinged with accusations of racial, religious and regional politics.
via TalkLeft

Quote of the Day  

Wesley Clark:

"I guess that next thing we are going to hear is that the sailors told him to wear the flight suit and prance around on the aircraft carrier. This is a president who does not want to take accountability."

via The Horse.

Tuesday's The Day  

Tom Tomorrow reports:
Via email from the man himself, the word has been delivered: Neal Pollack is declaring Tuesday "Luskin is a stalker" day. Details to come. And don't forget to watch him (Neal, that is) on the Daily Show tonight.

One More US soldier Killed And Two More Iraqis  

Saboteurs hit a supply train.

Straw Man Alert!  

Poor Tom Friedman, arguing with scarecrows:
"The first thing is to understand who these people are. There is this notion being peddled by Europeans, the Arab press and the antiwar left that 'Iraq' is just Arabic for Vietnam, and we should expect these kinds of attacks from Iraqis wanting to 'liberate' their country from 'U.S. occupation.' These attackers are the Iraqi Vietcong.

Hogwash. The people who mounted the attacks on the Red Cross are not the Iraqi Vietcong. They are the Iraqi Khmer Rouge - a murderous band of Saddam loyalists and Al Qaeda nihilists, who are not killing us so Iraqis can rule themselves."
I have never seen the Iraqi terrorists compared with the Vietcong. And the differences between Iraq and Vietnam are patently obvious.

As is the overwhelming number of distressing similarities: a quaqmire for American troops, posted to a country they don't understand, with a culture they don't understand, stuck in the middle of a fight they don't understand, being killed for a purpose they don't understand.

Can Friedman truly be serious that he doesn't see the parallel to Vietnam here?

Winning Hearts and Minds  

Afghans Tell of Torture During Security Sweep

Good News, But Only If it's True  

GDP growth posts strongest growth in nearly 20 years. Why do I think the books are cooked? I guess that's how liberals are: expecting the worst from people, except when they naively believe that people are essentially good.

Why Bush Says More Attacks In Iraq Means Progress  

Halliburton gains from the chaos:
Citing new damage to Iraq's oil industry from saboteurs, the Bush administration Wednesday delayed its planned replacement of a lucrative no-bid contract that was awarded to Halliburton--Vice President Dick Cheney's former company.

Halliburton, paid $1.59 billion so far, could stay on the job until early next year under the new schedule announced by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
via the indispensable Today in Iraq, who scours the media for information about what is going on in Iraq and blogs it, unfiltered.

The Candidates Almost Say It, So Liberal Oasis Says It For Them  

In the past few days, Dem candidates have been asked what their plan would be in Iraq and they invariably respond, "Get our allies involved." The interviewers invariably riposte, "That's proven impossible."

The reason why US allies don't want to help that much should be obvious, as I discussed on 13 October.

Today, LiberalOasis made the same point I did, but much more succinctly:
The basic question assumes that other nations are inherently reluctant to help us out.

But that’s not the case. They’re inherently reluctant to help Dubya out.

We received the help we needed in the first Gulf War, in Kosovo and in Afghanistan.

But the unilateral war, and the insistence on US control of the occupation, fed the world’s fears about American arrogance and ulterior motives.

Which Bush ironically warned about in the ’00 campaign.

The trust that the world had in Bush after 9/11 was permanently destroyed.

And so, we will not get the help need until we elect an Administration that understands the importance of multilateralism for our national security.

With the world’s help in money and troops, and a commitment to an open society, Iraq will get a truly representative, independent government.

And the terrorists will have no more targets to strike.

That’s what the Dems need to say.

Not just point the finger at Bush, but explain why he’s to blame and why new leadership will make all the difference.
Exactly right.

[UPDATE] David Byron via email reminds me that I went much further than Liberal Oasis did in my 13 October post. I think the pessimism I expressed then is correct. Bush's follies has created a situation that will make it impossible for the world to trust the US fully, even if Bush is replaced and a competent president is elected.
It has become abundantly clear that the strategy at the UN and elsewhere (think China's position re: NoKo) is to play for time and give Bush as little help or consideration as possible, under the expectation that both increased foreign and domestic pressure will force a regime change in Washington in 2004.

To the extent that such a strategy helps Bush go down in flames and leads to the election of a competent president, I'm all for it, of course. But let's assume this happens, that Bush is out and somebody sensible is in the White House. Donning my world leader costume again, what would I then do? Would I immediately resume the relatively cordial relationship I had with the US prior to Bush? Or would I assume that it is only a matter a time before the US goes nuts again and tries to set up a worldwide empire ruled by the reckless use of unchecked military power?

Being a cautious fellow, I would assume the latter. Even if the most sensible person in the world was running the US, I would be committed never to permit the US to regain the type of power that would allow a future Bush to create such havoc in the world.

So regardless of who the next president might be, the stench of Bush's presidency will linger over America's future dealings with other countries.
[UPDATE] Digby weighs in with similar thoughts.

So does Avedon Carol.

Mary, over at The Left Coaster agrees and posts some excellent articles to drive the point home.

Atrios In The Register  

An interesting point. If a subpoena is issued for Atrios' name, the very integrity of Google (which owns Blogger) is called into question.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Not Donald Luskin  

Repeat: This is not a picture of Donald Luskin. Nor does it refer to him in any way, shape, or means.

Guess What? Fox News Is Biased  

And o'Reilly's been claiming all along that it isn't. Well, someone's lying.
From CHARLIE REINA: So Chris Wallace says Fox News Channel really is fair and balanced. Well, I guess that settles it. We can all go home now. I mean, so what if Wallace's salary as Fox's newest big-name anchor ends with a whole lot of zeroes? So what if he hasn't spent a day in the FNC newsroom yet?

My advice to the pundits: If you really want to know about bias at Fox, talk to the grunts who work there - the desk assistants, tape editors, writers, researchers and assorted producers who have to deal with it every day. Ask enough of them what goes on, promise them anonymity, and you'll get the real story.

The fact is, daily life at FNC is all about management politics. I say this having served six years there - as producer of the media criticism show, News Watch, as a writer/producer of specials and (for the last year of my stay) as a newsroom copy editor. Not once in the 20+ years I had worked in broadcast journalism prior to Fox - including lengthy stays at The Associated Press, CBS Radio and ABC/Good Morning America - did I feel any pressure to toe a management line. But at Fox, if my boss wasn't warning me to "be careful" how I handled the writing of a special about Ronald Reagan ("You know how Roger [Fox News Chairman Ailes] feels about him."), he was telling me how the environmental special I was to produce should lean ("You can give both sides, but make sure the pro-environmentalists don't get the last word.")

Editorially, the FNC newsroom is under the constant control and vigilance of management. The pressure ranges from subtle to direct.  First of all, it's a news network run by one of the most high-profile political operatives of recent times. Everyone there understands that FNC is, to a large extent, "Roger's Revenge" - against what he considers a liberal, pro-Democrat media establishment that has shunned him for decades. For the staffers, many of whom are too young to have come up through the ranks of objective journalism, and all of whom are non-union, with no protections regarding what they can be made to do, there is undue motivation to please the big boss.

Sometimes, this eagerness to serve Fox's ideological interests goes even beyond what management expects. For example, in June of last year, when a California judge ruled the Pledge of Allegiance's "Under God" wording unconstitutional, FNC's newsroom chief ordered the judge's mailing address and phone number put on the screen. The anchor, reading from the Teleprompter, found himself explaining that Fox was taking this unusual step so viewers could go directly to the judge and get "as much information as possible" about his decision. To their credit, the big bosses recognized that their underling's transparent attempt to serve their political interests might well threaten the judge's physical safety and ordered the offending information removed from the screen as soon as they saw it. A few months later, this same eager-to-please newsroom chief ordered the removal of a graphic quoting UN weapons inspector Hans Blix as saying his team had not yet found WMDs in Iraq. Fortunately, the electronic equipment was quicker on the uptake (and less susceptible to office politics) than the toady and displayed the graphic before his order could be obeyed.          

But the roots of FNC's day-to-day on-air bias are actual and direct. They come in the form of an executive memo distributed electronically each morning, addressing what stories will be covered and, often, suggesting how they should be covered. To the newsroom personnel responsible for the channel's daytime programming, The Memo is the bible. If, on any given day, you notice that the Fox anchors seem to be trying to drive a particular point home, you can bet The Memo is behind it./CONTINUED BELOW

Fox News and The Memo/CON'T.

10/29/2003 4:41:16 PM
Posted By: Jim Romenesko

The Memo was born with the Bush administration, early in 2001, and, intentionally or not, has ensured that the administration's point of view consistently comes across on FNC. This year, of course, the war in Iraq became a constant subject of The Memo. But along with the obvious - information on who is where and what they'll be covering - there have been subtle hints as to the tone of the anchors' copy. For instance, from the March 20th memo: "There is something utterly incomprehensible about Kofi Annan's remarks in which he allows that his thoughts are 'with the Iraqi people.' One could ask where those thoughts were during the 23 years Saddam Hussein was brutalizing those same Iraqis. Food for thought." Can there be any doubt that the memo was offering not only "food for thought," but a direction for the FNC writers and anchors to go?  Especially after describing the U.N. Secretary General's remarks as "utterly incomprehensible"?

The sad truth is, such subtlety is often all it takes to send Fox's newsroom personnel into action - or inaction, as the case may be. One day this past spring, just after the U.S. invaded Iraq, The Memo warned us that anti-war protesters would be "whining" about U.S. bombs killing Iraqi civilians, and suggested they could tell that to the families of American soldiers dying there. Editing copy that morning, I was not surprised when an eager young producer killed a correspondent's report on the day's fighting - simply because it included a brief shot of children in an Iraqi hospital.

These are not isolated incidents at Fox News Channel, where virtually no one of authority in the newsroom makes a move unmeasured against management's politics, actual or perceived. At the Fair and Balanced network, everyone knows management's point of view, and, in case they're not sure how to get it on air, The Memo is there to remind them.
via Valerie Plame

Atrios/Luskin: 'Sup?  

Luskin, as Atrios informs us, first used the word "stalk" - in the title to the piece Atrios linked to and amusingly entitled Diary of a Stalker. Luskin doesn't have even the hint of a case. So what is this libel suit about? Obvious:

Luskin doesn't care whether he wins. He wants to out Atrios's identity. If he does, Atrios may lose income as a result. Luskin is also sending a warning to other bloggers critical of him and other right wingnuts that we risk the same harassment if we get too frisky.

This means that Luskin isn't the only one funding the attack on Atrios; there are serious deep pockets involved. And Atrios is just the first blogger to find a horsehead in his bed.

Haven't I heard this all before? Why do the names Plame and Wilson keep coming to mind?

Folks, if Luskin persists, this has the potential to get extremely ugly. Remember, Atrios is just the first. We're next.

Legal Threat Against Atrios  

Atrios has received a letter from a fellow claiming to represent Donald Luskin, who is over at National Review. He threatens to out Atrios's identity if Atrios doesn't immediately remove the link and the caption and comments to Atrios's post Diary of a Stalker as well as another post Luskin doesn't like either called Liberal Incivility Watch.

Apparently, Luskin thinks that Atrios meant Luskin was literally guilty of the crime of stalking. That is quite a stretch, given the way Atrios, and most other normal people, use the English language. And in the blogosphere, as Luskin well knows, his compadres slime and libel opponents on a regular basis.

Furthermore, I really don't think Luskin gets how the internet works. When Total Information Awareness was announced, there were people on the internet who located and posted the home address and satellite photos of house of the man who ran the program, Admiral Poindexter. And his neighbor's phone numbers. Luskin wrote Atrios and complained, Atrios offered to take down the specific offending comments, but that wasn't enough. So now there's a lawyer.

Without question, Atrios is right and Luskin is wrong. The issue is what actions, if any, will best help Atrios. I am tempted to mirror Atrios's posts. A hundred blogs doing the same would probably be effective in stopping this now and in the future. However, it may be that Atrios would prefer to have less rather than more hassle over this one.

Either way, if ever anyone doubted that the right wing would use anything possible to make life hell for those of us who believe in free speech, especially when it's ugly, they should doubt no more.

No, It's Not An Unorthodox Solution  

This quote from Senator Trent Lott has been heavily blogged but, historically, not well understood:
“Honestly, it’s a little tougher than I thought it was going to be,” Lott said. In a sign of frustration, he offered an unorthodox military solution: “If we have to, we just mow the whole place down, see what happens. You’re dealing with insane suicide bombers who are killing our people, and we need to be very aggressive in taking them out.”
"Um, yeah, I guess that's unorthodox," Kevin Drum comments.

He's wrong. It is quite an orthodox solution. This is precisely the solution to Vietnam offered by Curtis Lemay and the other right wing nutjobs in the 60's. This is precisely the solution offered by Lemay, etc. to resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis (see this pdf).

Lott is simply saying what the right has been saying for 40 plus years.

Thank You, Daily Howler  

You have saved me the trouble of writing about Seelye's repulsive spinning of a Clark speech. Read the Howler regularly.

The Compassionate And Responsible Bush  

As I was writing this, the New York Times posted the terrible news that two more GI's were killed.

Given the mounting tragedies, it is worth your time to read the full question and response that provoked the dust-up over the "Mission Accomplished" speech, for there is much more there.

Despite being reminded by the reporter that over 1000 US soldiers had been wounded, that many were amputees and that 217 had been killed in action since “Mission Accomplished”, Bush utters not a word, not a single word, of sympathy or condolence for the American casualties, let alone innocent Iraqis. Not even in passing does he mention “the brave sacrifices of our soliders.”

Furthermore, Bush is remarkably informed, for someone who’s not supposed to be a details kind of a man, about who was or was not responsible for the “Mission Accomplished” photo op. He appears far more informed about this event than about what's been happening in Iraq. His introductory remarks do not so much as even allude to the horrors of the last few days. For all we know, his advisers haven't even informed him of what happened.

And there is more – a false, gratuitous and outrageous attempt to link yesteday with the September 2001 attacks (“same mentality” implies “same kind of people” ie Iraqi terrorists); a lie that the entire “Mission Accomplished” photo op didn’t mean to imply that the military phase of the Iraq invasion was behind us; a craven attempt to pass the buck by blaming his advance men for not being “ingenious” enough to avoid embarassing him; and, in the last four sentences, a remarkable and revealing grammatical train wreck.

But Bush says it all much better himself:
Q Mr. President, if I may take you back to May 1st when you stood on the USS Lincoln under a huge banner that said, "Mission Accomplished." At that time you declared major combat operations were over, but since that time there have been over 1,000 wounded, many of them amputees who are recovering at Walter Reed, 217 killed in action since that date. Will you acknowledge now that you were premature in making those remarks?

THE PRESIDENT: Nora, I think you ought to look at my speech. I said, Iraq is a dangerous place and we've still got hard work to do, there's still more to be done. And we had just come off a very successful military operation. I was there to thank the troops.

The "Mission Accomplished" sign, of course, was put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln, saying that their mission was accomplished. I know it was attributed some how to some ingenious advance man from my staff -- they weren't that ingenious, by the way. But my statement was a clear statement, basically recognizing that this phase of the war for Iraq was over and there was a lot of dangerous work. And it's proved to be right, it is dangerous in Iraq. It's dangerous in Iraq because there are people who can't stand the thought of a free and peaceful Iraq. It is dangerous in Iraq because there are some who believe that we're soft, that the will of the United States can be shaken by suiciders -- and suiciders who are willing to drive up to a Red Cross center, a center of international help and aid and comfort, and just kill.

It's the same mentality, by the way, that attacked us on September the 11th, 2001: we'll just destroy innocent life and watch the great United States and their friends and allies crater in the face of hardship. It's the exact same mentality. And Iraq is a part of the war on terror. I said it's a central front, a new front in the war on terror, and that's exactly what it is. And that's why it's important for us to be tough and strong and diligent.

Our strategy in Iraq is to have strike forces ready and capable to move quickly as we gather actionable intelligence. That's how you deal with terrorists. Remember, these are people that are willing to hide in societies and kill randomly. And therefore, the best way to deal with them is to harden targets, harden assets as best as you can. That means blockades and inspection spots. And, as you notice, yesterday, one fellow tried to -- was done in as a he tried to conduct a suicide mission. In other words, an Iraqi policemen did their job.

But, as well, that we've got to make sure that not only do we harden targets, but that we get actionable intelligence to intercept the missions before they begin. That means more Iraqis involved in the intelligence-gathering systems in their country so that they are active participants in securing the country from further harm.

Remember, the action in Iraq was -- to get rid of Saddam Hussein was widely supported by the Iraqi people. And the action -- the actions that we're taking to improve their country are supported by the Iraqi people. And it's going to be very important for the Iraqi people to play an active role in fighting off the few who are trying to destroy the hopes of the many. You've heard me say that before. That's just kind of the motto of the terrorists. It's the way they operate.
[UPDATE] Josh Marshall has this to say about this incident and the White House attempts to parse it:
This is so ridiculous that I'm surprised they're even trying it. It's an example of how bedraggled and out-of-it they are at the moment.
Note the phrase "at the moment."

Josh is right. You can bet your bippy that Bush and the rest of the radical right will do anything necessary to turn themselves around. This is not a time to assume that Bush is defeated. A majority of this country's voters still think he's doing a good job, so our work is cut out for us.

Digby On Lakoff  

Digby's so right it hurts. And he saves me the trouble of a long critique of George Lakoff's ideas here on Tristero.

Lakoff is spot on when he talks about frames. The right frames the issues so that it is impossible to talk against their position without seeming foolish. The starving of government becomes "tax relief." A very rare procedure usually reserved for exceptional cases becomes "partial birth abortion."

And we, foolishly, argue with them using these terms. I've spoken and blogged about the stupidity of this often. One of the worst examples of self-destructiveness by the left, for example, is to rise to the bait and answer this loaded question, "Well, would youu have left in Saddam in power?" I've discussed the folly of answering this here and here in which I focus on the framing of the questions.

I'm very glad that someone with Lakoff's reputation is finally being taken seriously. Unfortunately, in addition to Lakoff's brilliant analysis of the importance of frames, Lakoff seems to have fallen prey to Big Idea Syndrome, extrapolating from frames to overarching worldviews - Strict Parents vs. Nurturant Parents.

Like most Big Ideas, this one is wrong, and wrong-headed, in so many different ways. Digby has the skinny so you can read him as to why. Me, I say we (and Lakoff) should disavow Strict/Nurture immediately and utterly, but focus like a laser beams on frames, rhetoric, and other communication issues.

On that, Lakoff is totally, thoroughly and indisputably right.

Your Mac Or Your Job  

Microsoft Fires Mac Fan For Blog Photo.

If you've checked the new G5's, there's no contest, imho.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003


Once again, I woke up screaming.

What if Cheney resigns "for health reasons" and Rice replaces him as the VP candidate?

Think it impossible? Please consider what is going on right now with Janice Rogers Brown, the latest extremist Bush judicial nominee. As the Times says, "She will probably soon become the latest of Mr. Bush's candidates to be filibustered in the full Senate." And we know what happened with Estrada and Gonzaelez. Republicans tried to tar Democrats as anti-Hispanic.

Well, it didn't entirely work, but dollars to donuts they'll try again, this time with the African-American Brown, screaming racism. So what? you say. Who cares about judicial nominations anyway? Well, normally I'd agree.

But combine the filibusters of Estrada, Gonzalez, and Brown and THEN elevate an African-American woman to the vice-presidential slot and...Don't be fooled, folks. It would split the black vote between both parties and Bush would probably win.

Consider this as well. Cheney is secretive, he likes to work out of the limelight. He's been tarred with Enron and Halliburton. He's a known right wing loon. If, 8 months from now, Bush/Iraq is anything like it currently is, the pressure to get rid of him will be enormous.

Rice, by contrast, is considered more practical and human. That she is also fairly ineffectual, apparently, and vindictive is not that well known. She also is not known as a far right extremist, as Cheney is. And she can be very telegenic.

Bush then would have a still-influential Cheney plus a prominent daily rebuke to the Democrats' claims that they are the party of civil rights. Why, the press would probably start comparing him to Lincoln, the first Republican president.

When would they make the switch in VP candidates? I would guess around convention time, if not slightly after, to throw a last-minute wrench into the Democrats' strategy.

I've heard two main objections to my nightmare. If Cheney were to step aside, then

1. Powell would be the logical choice; and
2. Bush's major funders would never tolerate an African-American or a woman, let alone both, as a Vice-President candidate.

These are easily answered.

I've read (sorry, can't remember where) that Powell's wife has made it clear to him that she would leave him if he tried. Also, remember that Powell is "too liberal" and the hard right might bolt or not turn out. They have threatened to do so.

If the switch is announced at convention time or right afterwards, most of the funding for the campaign will already be in place, should a Scaife or a Coors object to Rice. Besides, I'm not sure they would care too much if Rice were the nominee. I think they're more worried about Democrats losing the presidency than anything else.

Yes, I know. Pass the tinfoil. I hope you're right. But if the Dems don't have a contingency plan for this, they deserve what will happen to them if I'm not channelling aliens.

NOTE: Busy the rest of the day. Will post the stuff I've promised about the Armed Services testimony tomorrow. Sorry for delay.

Miserable Failure  

Bush is a Miserable Failure.

See Old Fashioned Patriot for the reason why all the cool blogs have a post that says this.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Founding Fathers And Islam  

Melanie over at Kos very kindly gave me a link to this blog regarding her posts about religion earlier that day. In the course of the comments, one fellow wrote:
You'll read many thousands of 18th and 19th century American books and not find many kind words for those who practice eastern religions. For sure, Americans were interested in religions of the east, and they drew bits and pieces for them, but nowhere in late 18th century is there any kind of talk about the need to tolerate Islam.
In fact this is not the case. From Thomas Jefferson's Autobiography:
"[When] the [Virginia] bill for establishing religious freedom... was finally passed,... a singular proposition proved that its protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word "Jesus Christ," so that it should read "a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion." The insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend within the mantle of its protection the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo and infidel of every denomination." -- Thomas Jefferson : Autobiography, 1821. ME 1:67

White House May Have Violated The Patriot Act  

Sam Dash:
If, as now seems likely, top White House aides leaked the identity of an American undercover agent, they may have committed an act of domestic terrorism as defined by the dragnet language of the Patriot Act their boss wanted so much to help him catch terrorists.

Section 802 of the act defines, in part, domestic terrorism as "acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any state" that "appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population."

Clearly, disclosing the identity of a CIA undercover agent is an act dangerous to life - the lives of the agent and her contacts abroad whom terrorists groups can now trace - and a violation of the criminal laws of the United States.
via TalkLeft

Brief WMD Report Mention  

I'm a little behind in what I promised, namely an analysis of the original wmd testimony to the armed services committee, but I really must jump in regarding regarding this post from Tapped
Dick Cheney has been the most indefatigable defender of the most maximalist administration positions on Iraq. Which means he also has the most to lose if the facts do not line up with his preferred version of reality.
TAPPED is right but this is not good news. We want Cheney to stay right where he is.

The temptation to replace him in 2004 will simply mount otherwise. Do I need to remind you that a Bush/Rice ticket would be total disaster? For Democrats?

Real Anti-Semitism  

This is from Pro-Life News. I've archived the webpage so they won't be able to deny it. Scroll down to encounter the real beliefs of Christianism:
D&X Ban Brings Out the Baby Murdering Jews

WASHINGTON -- Jewish groups are closely monitoring progress on a new late-term abortion bill that could become law by the end of the week. The bill, which outlaws a specific procedure technically known as intact dilation and evacuation, is opposed by a majority of Jewish organizations. They say it criminalizes a medical procedure. Jewish groups on both sides of the issue are relying on different interpretations of halachah to support their arguments. Reform leaders cite laws indicating that the life of the mother is paramount and has a higher value than the "potential life" of the fetus.
Anyone want to call Krugman anti-Semitic now?

Good Howler  

Makes the point that I've been making about Boykin. He may be mentally ill. And he excoriates Max Frankel's for his brain-dead review of Clark's book.

Progress Causes Terrorism  

President Bush said Monday that U.S. progress in Iraq is making insurgents more ``desperate'' and spurring attacks such as the bombings at the international Red Cross headquarters and three police stations across Baghdad that killed dozens of people.
Well, by that logic, Short Hills, NJ must be among the most dangerous places in the world and Newark among the least.

Historical Revisionism, Bush Style  

Sneaky, and with my tax dollars, too.
ometime between April 2003 and October 2003, someone at the White House added virtually all of the directories with "Iraq" in them to its robots.txt file, meaning that search engines would no longer list those pages in results or archive them.

Why would the White House do this? Those pages are still public, and the White House search engine itself does index those pages, so users can still get to them.

It's easy enough to understand the reasoning if you look at past White House actions. Earlier this year, the White House revised pages on its website claiming that "combat" was over in Iraq, changing them to say "major combat."

One of the reasons some alert readers noticed the change — and were able to prove it — was that Google had archived the pages before the change occurred. Now that all of the White House pages about Iraq are no longer archived by Google, such historical revisionism will be harder to catch.
link via Calpundit.

Tom Tomorrow Scores One Biggie  

Go here.

Shorter American Op-Ed Pages  

Matt Yglesias rounds up some representative punditfying and proves a point I've made before. We're in the midst of a profound intellectual crisis:
Nicholas Kristof. Shocking discovery: discrimination against gays is irrational.
David Brooks. Shocker No. 2: Britney Spears is vacuous.
Colbert King. Shocker No. 3: I'm still comparing Baghdad to D.C. for no reason!
E.J. Dionne. If Bush wants more positive media coverage of the situation in Iraq he should actually improve the situation in Iraq.
Thomas Friedman. If you thought having NATO occupy the West Bank was a bad idea, you're really going to hate this one.
David Ignatius. Paul Wolfowitz is a visionary genius -- but if his plan doesn't work we're screwed.
George Will. The modern world is different because people care about aesthetics and not just utility (better not tell him about all those medieval cathedrals).
David Broder. Howard Dean's 38 percent polling in New Hampshire can't be explained by his anti-war views since only 35 percent of New Hampshire voters agree with those views (better not tell him about the margin of error).
Jim Hoagland. In a desperate ploy to avoid being mocked by Tapped, I've written a column about the Israeli security fence that's totally correct.

Neiwert On Charles Murray  

Dave catches Murray again, using obsolete ideas from eugenicists to make a circular argument proving white "superiority."

Dave's doing some of the best blogging around. You should check him out regularly. And pay for his "Rush, Newspeak, and Fascism" essay, which is wonderful.

An Outrage That's Also A Bargain  

This story will probably anger you and it should. My response may enrage you. And, yes, it should also:
The caller to Joanne Doroshow's office last month described himself as working for Sky Radio Network, a company that produces programming for Forbes Radio, one of the audio channels available to passengers on American Airlines.

As the executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy, a nonprofit organization that casts itself as a champion of consumer rights, Ms. Doroshow was asked if she would be interviewed for a talk show examining the issue of tort reform. When Ms. Doroshow agreed, she said, the caller informed her that it would cost her organization $5,900 to have its point of view heard. When Ms. Doroshow balked, she said, the caller offered to see if it could be reduced to $3,500.

"I was furious,'' Ms. Doroshow said. "I thought this was another way corporations are dominating what people hear, and are getting only their side presented because they're willing to pay for it.''

Ms. Doroshow was so angry that she directed lawyers for the center, whose board includes Erin Brockovich and Ralph Nader, to draft a complaint letter to the Federal Trade Commission, which the center intends to submit today.
Doroshow is 100% right. It is outrageous that most viewpoints available on Sky Radio (except for a few celebrities) are the ones that are backed by enough money to pay for the privilege of being heard.

But Doroshow is also utterly naive. In fact, if Doroshow (and Brockovich and Nader) win, the little fella they want to protect will, in fact, lose. For what is unmistakeably a shakedown racket is also unmistakeably a fantastic deal, especially for companies or projects on a tight budget.

What SkyRadio has done is a classic business strategy for a hungry company. They've cut out the middleman, the fantastically expensive pr firms who serve as brokers between those that need publicity (including "talking heads" who advocate a point of view) and those who need information to publicize. Normally, to have a chance to possibly "appear" on outlets like SkyRadio will cost you or your company about $30,000. That's what it takes for a good - not great - pr firm to work its connections for several months to try to set up small-time interviews for you, placing articles in trades and local papers, doing some radio call-ins, and possibly coming up with a clever gimmick or two. And there are no guarantees.

Skyline cuts to the chase: rather than pay big bucks to someone else, you simply pay them a lot less and they will provide you access to a wide audience.

Sound cynical? Well, it is. Is it "right?" No, it is not right. Is it "moral?" Absolutely not. It's thoroughly corrupt. It's a shakedown, Don Corleone style.

Would I, or anyone else who has cause to reach SkyRadio's kind of listener allow themselves to be shaken down in this way? Without hesitation. Because the alternative - paying tens if not hundreds of thousands to an effective pr firm without any assurance of media access - is not only equally corrupt but far more expensive and risky.

And there are no moral alternatives when it comes to publicity. Sure, every once in a while a business or entertainment story bubbles to the surface without any serious marketing. And sometimes, an articulate person gets to appear on a talk show who has not been placed their by an agent for talking heads. But don't be fooled:

That scowling scruffy rap artist that ever so convincingly oozes integrity and contempt for corporatism has paid a fortune to be "positioned" in Rolling Stone and ET as the only voice that matters today. That sitdown lawnmower with a built-in dvd player you saw Rudi Bhaktiar talking about on CNN didn't catch Rudi's attention because she's interested in lawnmower technology. The company paid through the nose to get her to yak about it as part of news coverage. And Rudi didn't get anything extra and CNN may not have received anything extra either (yes, Virginia, while CNN may be different, payola is rampant and considered perfectly acceptable today in marketing/pr).

And yes, Jerry Falwell (or Michael Moore) got their initial exposure on talk shows by hiring agents to persuade the shows to have them on. That includes the most "honest" talk shows on tv and the most "honest" talkers.

So SkyRadio comes along and they're like, "Hey, if people just pay us directly, we can offer great pr for less money. And we're providing a public service because we are expanding the number of people who have access to a media outlet, not restricting it only to those who are prepared to sell their newborn into slavery to get exposure."

Should access to media be changed so that it is fairer? Yes. And it will take a thorough revamping of how the media -as well as business and entertainment- works to accomplish it. However, the well-intentioned Doroshow is not helping. Her group is perpetuating the corrupt, and expensive status quo.

What is needed, of course, is an alternative system in which neither SkyRadio nor Big PR can dictate what we see and hear. Meanwhile, anyone who needs publicity today can only work with what is available. And I hate to say it, from that standpoint, there are worse choices than paying SkyRadio.

I'm livid that those are the options. But there are no other ones except never to publicize. And that means certain failure for ventures, or projects, or ideas that would otherwise suceeed. And as the cliche goes, failure is not an option.

[Update: Examples added after initial posting. ]



Three U.S. Soldiers Killed in Iraq

Bombers in Iraq Target Red Cross and Police Stations

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Digby Deconstructs The Sweettooth Fast Incident  


More On The Iraq Hotel Attack  

Well, the Times now has their priorities straight, leading with the death of the soldier rather than that Wolfowitz escaped harm. But the details of the attack on the al Rashid hotel today are sobering:
The missiles were launched from an improvised multirocket launching platform, a home-made version of the Katyusha system used by the Russians. The Irish Republican Army has used similar systems for attacks in the United Kingdom.

The launcher was secreted inside a blue trailer that was made to look like a generator, a ubiquitous item in Baghdad, where electrical service is unreliable. In the quiet of early morning, a white passenger vehicle towed the trailer down a major street, that runs between the hotel and a large park on the other side of it. It was then unhitched at a cloverleaf — which has been closed by the Americans for security reasons — the car pulled away, and soon there after, at 6:08, 8 to 10 missiles thudded into the hotel, about 450 yards away, officials said.

The casualties could have been higher; 11 missiles failed to fire, either because of electrical or mechanical failure. And the trailer had been booby-trapped, with explosives in the wheel base, which American soldiers disarmed when they arrived.

Altogether the launcher held 40 missile pods, said Brig. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, commander of the First Armored Division, whose responsibility is the security of Baghdad...

Half the missiles were 68 millimeter, which have a range of two to three miles; the others were 85 millimeter, whose range is three to four miles, he said. The smaller ones were French made, and designed for use by helicopters. The others were Russian. The French rockets, officers said, were quite new, and likely purchased after the arms embargo was in place.

"They were in pristine condition," said one military officer who inspected the rocket tubes and assembly.

Saddam Hussein had weapons of this type in his arsenal, but General Dempsey said he did not know the origins of these missiles.

General Dempsey described the device as "clever, but not sophisticated."

"It's a science project in a garage with a welder and a battery and a handful of wires," he said.

That such an unsophisticated device can be used against one of the most fortified and well-guarded sites in Baghdad raises questions about the military's ability to secure any major site in Baghdad...
Please note. This device is considered "unsophisticated," a "science project." The article attributes the attack to Baathists loyal to Saddam. In other words, not al Qaeda, which has never used anything even this elaborate in an attack. A little indication that even now, al Qaeda may not have the intellectual capability to work with technology more complex than a car bomb or box cutters.

By the way, Wolfowitz's performance under attack was impressive:
At a hastily arranged, midmorning news briefing, a defiant Mr. Wolfowitz declared that the attack would not deter the American-led effort to rebuild Iraq. He hailed the American civilians and military personnel working in Baghdad as heroes struggling to halt those he described as "criminals who are trying to destabilize this country"...
Get it? Trying to destabilize Iraq. Like it's actually stable now. Gotta hand it to him. He stays on message as well as the Iraqi Infomation Minister during his most comical moments.

Atlas Lied  

Last weekend, I read this strange article by James Atlas, the biographer of Saul Bellow. In it, he wrote
For the neoconservatives who emerged out of the Vietnam era - most notably Daniel Bell, Nathan Glazer and Irving Kristol - that war had what they felt was a persuasive rationale: the need to avoid the spread of Communism.
Atlas lied.

No, he didn't "misrepresent." He wasn't "inacurrate." James Atlas lied.

Here's the first part of the truth. In today's letter section you will find this response from Nathan Glazer
The "neoconservatism" of that era — of "Daniel Bell, Nathan Glazer and Irving Kristol," all called "neoconservatives" in the article — had almost nothing to do with the war...

The views of these "neoconservatives" on the Vietnam War were various (I opposed it)...
And now, here's the second part of the truth from Daniel Bell in a separate letter available at the same link:
I was not and never have been a "neoconservative." Nor did I support the war.
There was no response from Atlas.

Now, you say, Atlas just made a mistake? I say nonsense. He lied (and he smeared Glazer and Bell in the process). How do I know? Let's continue on in Daniel Bell's letter:
In 1972, I resigned as co-editor of The Public Interest, which Mr. Kristol and I founded, because Mr. Kristol decided to declare public support for Richard M. Nixon and the war, while I supported George McGovern.
It is simply beyond sensible belief that Atlas would write something so confidently assertive as he did about Bell's views unless he knew what they were. Furthermore, even if he was merely misrepresenting himself in this article as an authority on neoconservative thought, then as an historian of Bellow who took 10 years to write Bellow's biography, he surely had many occasions to encounter Bell's history and views, for Bellow and Bell are often mentioned together as part of the same circle. In short,if Atlas has any competence as a Bellow biographer, he had to have researched Bellow's circle, in which case he would surely have learned the story of Bell's resignation from The Public Interest as well as his opposition to Vietnam.

It is also beyond sensible belief that any reputable historian would dare to write a sentence so completely wrong, especially since the two people whose history he thoroughly scrambled are quite alive. Surely, if Atlas was even minimally honest and responsible, he would have checked every fact. These two were particuarly easy to verify, requiring perhaps as few as two phone calls.

One can only conclude that, at best, Atlas really didn't care to learn the truth. In reality, as the bulk of Atlas' writing that I've read makes clear, Atlas was just flacking for the neocons and the cons, in the present instance by making an utterly fatuous case between the present day liberal hawks on Iraq, and neoconservatives during Vietnam.

(His purpose in doing so? I suspect it is part of a conscious effort to move the bar of what is considered "mainstream" political thought ever further to the right, to cast "neoconservatism" as liberalism. This has the effect of making the far right seem closer to the center and it utterly marginalizes those to the left of, say, Colin Powell or Kenneth Pollack. It is an alarming tactic that has happened in the blogosphere on occasion but this is the first time I've noticed it in the Times.)

In any event, unless Atlas replies with proof that his assertions are true - that Bell is a neoconservative, that he and Glazer supported the Vietnam War and that the war was an important issue for neoconservatives - the only possible conclusion is that James Atlas deliberately lied.

The mistakes in this article should end Atlas's access to the op-ed pages at the NY Times. Will it? We'll see. I'm betting they'll just shrug.

One More Possible ChickenWinger  

His nom de nut is "Brother Stephen"
Reverend Stephen White, infamous for preaching against homosexuality and sexual promiscuity at Yale and other college campuses, now faces charges that he solicited sex from a teenage boy in a Philadelphia suburb.

In recent years, White -- known to students as 'Brother Stephen' -- has made informal speeches on Cross Campus and Beinecke Plaza denouncing minorities, homosexuals, religious groups and aspects of popular culture.

White was arrested in June after he allegedly offered $20 to a 14-year-old boy in West Chester, Pa. for permission to perform oral sex on him.

Report Of Report Buried  

Apparently, the Democrats are trying to get a Pentagon report critical of the planning for the Bush/Iraq War released. But you wouldn't know it from the news coverage.

The report is called "Operation Iraqi Freedom Strategic Lessons Learned" and a google news search this morning at 7:00 AM found no major news outlets reporting it (unless you count the Washington Times as major which I don't). However, buried at the end of this Knight-Ridder article is an ambiguous excerpt from the letter that 30 Democrats sent to the Pentagon demanding the report:
They are also waiting for the administration to turn over a classified report from the Joint Chiefs of Staff titled "Operation Iraqi Freedom: Strategic Lessons Learned." In a letter to Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, several Democratic lawmakers said they could not consider the spending request without reviewing the report, which was written in March.

"Our constituents are demanding that Congress exercise its constitutional responsibility to thoroughly assess the administration's post-war policies prior to authorizing $87 billion for military operations," according to the letter, signed by 30 Democrats led by Rep. Tom Lantos of California, the senior Democrat on the House International Relations Committee. No Republicans signed the letter.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee's website has a little more information about this report, based on the Washington Times article, but the effort to get the report seems to have gone nowhere.

Frank Rich On Going Over The Filter  

Great stuff:
This month, as bad news from Iraq proliferated, Mr. Bush pulled the old Nixon stunt of trying to 'go over the heads of the filter and speak directly to the people' about the light at the end of the tunnel. In this case, 'the people' meant the anchors of regional TV companies like Tribune Broadcasting, Belo and Hearst-Argyle.

Last Sunday, after those eight-minute-long regional Bush interviews were broadcast, Dana Milbank, The Washington Post's White House reporter, said on CNN's 'Reliable Sources' that the local anchors 'were asking tougher questions than we were.' I want to believe that Mr. Milbank was just being polite, because if he's right, the bar for covering this White House has fallen below sea level. The local anchors rarely followed up any more than Brit Hume did. They produced less news than Oprah. Will countries like France, Russia and Germany provide troops for Iraq? one of them asked Mr. Bush. 'You need to ask them,' was the reply.

Not Good  

Most Iraqis see US forces as occupiers.This doesn't appear to be the most scientific polls, but nevertheless, this is distressing news, as it means US troops and the Iraqi people are facing an increasingly chaotic and dangerous situation. Apparently, tho, US troops are considered an important element in keeping things from spiraling out of control, as the last sentence in this excerpt implies:
The survey by Iraq's Centre For Research and Strategic Studies, a think tank set up by a group of Iraqi professors after Saddam's fall, also showed only a small portion of Iraqis felt safest in the presence of U.S. troops or local police.
       The poll results, released on Thursday, showed that 67 percent of Iraqis see the U.S.-led coalition forces as ''occupying powers.'' The figure is up from 46 percent in a survey conducted shortly after the war that ousted Saddam.
       Fifteen percent consider the coalition forces ''liberating forces,'' down from 43 percent six months ago. One in 10 sees them as peacekeepers, twice as many as in April.

One More US Soldier Killed At Baghdad Hotel Attack  

But that's only the second paragraph of the story. In the first is thatWolfowitz was in the hotel at the time:
Anti-American guerrillas blasted the Baghdad hotel where U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was staying with a barrage of rockets on Sunday, but the No. 2 Pentagon official survived unharmed, U.S. officials said.

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