Friday, April 28, 2006


Fred Kaplan on Juan Cole's Global Americana project:
Juan Cole...wants to hire skilled linguists to translate into Arabic the classic works of American political thought—especially those works that deal with freedom of religion, division of powers, sovereignty of the people, and equal rights. He has in mind the essays and speeches of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Tom Paine, Benjamin Franklin, Martin Luther King Jr., and Susan B. Anthony; a solid history of American Jews and other minority groups; maybe a few good books, written by American historians, about Iraq. Cole also wants to subsidize Middle Eastern publishers to print these books in large numbers and at low prices, and he wants to pay fees to book dealers throughout the region—just as publishers pay Borders and Barnes & Noble here—to display the books prominently.

This isn't just an idea. Cole has established the Global Americana Institute and the Library of Americana Translation Project. Since he outlined the idea in his blog late last year, readers have sent him $13,000. He claims that some foundations are "jumping-up-and-down enthusiastic" to pour in the big bucks, once he obtained the legal status of a nonprofit organization. The federal government just gave him this status two weeks ago. He's filling out the grant applications now. He also recently returned from the Beirut international book fair, where he says several Middle Eastern publishers and dealers expressed great interest in the project (and, no doubt, in the prospect of the money).

Long ago, the federal government did on its own just what Cole proposes to do. The United States Information Agency—then an independent agency—maintained libraries in Amman, Istanbul, and elsewhere, filled with translations of American political and literary classics. The Franklin Book Program, a nonprofit company with funding from the State Department and private foundations, published hundreds of titles and stocked them in libraries and bookstores all over the world. The Franklin Book Program shut down in 1977, its international board having determined—prematurely, it turned out—that its mission was accomplished. In the 1990s, under pressure from the Republican-run Senate (especially Jesse Helms, then chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee), the USIA was absorbed into the State Department; its budget was whacked and its agenda politicized; its libraries were shut down, their books remaindered.

You know, spearheading an effort to translate the great works of American political thought into Arabic doesn't seem like something such a supposed America-hater would be interested in, but I'm sure the wingnutosphere will explain it away somehow...


Brings the funny.


Best-selling author Glenn Greenwald.
I genuinely believe there is a hunger to talk about what is happening to our country and why it is happening. The media is capable, at best, of talking about scandals and issues in day-to-day isolation. The fact that this administration has expressly embraced theories of presidential power which are entirely unprecedented and plainly alien to our most basic political values and traditions is something of unparalleled significance and yet also something that we have barely discussed as a country. I think Americans know there is something deeply amiss and are receptive to attempts to talk about what that is.

Moreover, the conditions are ideal to have a real discussion about the abuses and excesses of this administration. One thing which administration supporters such as York have failed to sufficiently appreciate is just how many people who previously supported this administration have now turned on it and have irrevocably abandoned it. The president's approval rating didn't plummet from 60% to 33% because "liberals" changed their minds. That has happened because people who were open to standing behind the president -- and who, for several years, did support him and his policies -- have changed their minds about his competence, his likability, his trustworthiness, and the overall wisdom of his world-view. That is an extraordinary shift. The group of people who believe that the Bush presidency is a failure extends far beyond "the Left" and includes virtually every group on every point on the political spectrum.

Gives me hope.


Even among the hysterical choir of hardline Israel supporters who have responded to Walt and Mearsheimer's Israel Lobby paper with a steady chorus of slander, the glass-shattering spinto soprano of David Frum stands out. In his NRO diary he writes:
... when a man cannot argue that the United States is controlled by a sinister Jewish conspiracy without being accused of anti-semitism. That, at any rate, is the argument used by defenders of the now notorious Walt/Mearsheimer paper.

This is obviously a wildly dishonest representation of what Walt and Mearsheimer wrote, but Frum, equally obviously, is not interested in debating the paper's merits, or its lack of them, as much as he is in doing his part to make sure that future authors think twice before attempting any similar project.

Frum goes on to "support" his charge of anti-semitism against Walt and Mearsheimer by pointing out that...wait for it...their paper has been praised by anti-semites. This is a transparent and elementary fallacy, something one as educated and intelligent Frum surely must realize. It hardly needs pointing out that, according to Frum's reasoning, the fact that David Duke and other racists agree with Frum's position on affirmative action means that Frum is a racist. It says a lot about Frum's estimation of his readership that he thinks he can get away with this kind of crap.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Poor Daniel Pipes:
The great mystery of the 2003 war in Iraq - "What about the WMD?" has finally been resolved. The short answer is: Saddam Hussein's persistent record of lying meant no one believed him when he at the last moment actually removed the weapons of mass destruction.

"Actually removed the weapons of mass destruction" implying that those weapons actually existed at or near the time of the U.S. invasion, something that the Iraqi Perspectives Project, about which Pipes is writing, does not claim. Ever the dutiful servant, Pipes' intent here, once again, is to represent "traces of previous WMD programs" as somehow equivalent to actual WMD.

Apr. 25, 2006 update: I have received many questions about the disposal of the WMD - Syria? Belarus? - and wish to clarify that I purposefully did not deal with this question in the above article (just as the Iraqi Perspectives Project did not). The topic here is exclusively the functioning of the Saddam Hussein regime in relation to the WMD mystery. Any thesis of what was done with the WMD is compatible with the above background explanation.

Any thesis? How about the thesis that Saddam sent the WMD to the moon inside the the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile?

I guess we'll never know.


As usual, Frontline has a great companion website to their program on the Iraqi insurgency. This interview with reporter Michael Ware is very interesting, particularly on the significance of Zarqawi and what he means to a new generation of terrorist jihadis:
WARE: Zarqawi, in many ways, has not only confronted the West, but he's also challenged the jihad community itself, and he's forced it to look again at itself and its strategic objectives, and even its tactics. So he's enflamed great debate.

Nonetheless, the suspicion that I harbor is that in the final wash down the track, be it in years or in generations, what we will see is that the form of Islamic militancy will have more of the mark of Zarqawi than it will of the more moderate. It's this young generation that's being enthused by Zarqawi; it's he that has brought them alive.

Q: And bin Laden is not a part of that generation?

No. Certainly the way I see it, and the way it's been expressed to me by individuals who have become a part of Zarqawi's organization, Sept. 11 was the end of a form of Al Qaeda. Sept. 11 was the final product of the Afghan generation. ... And I'm sure the Al Qaeda strategists knew that after Sept. 11 an attack would come, and the organization would be dispersed, and [they would] have to revert to an underground movement and would be under great stress. And if you look at what bin Laden has said, and if you just analyze the nature of the actions, it was an inspirational event: "You see what we can do? Now you go out and do it. We've trained you. We've funded you. We've shown you the way." And that's always been a fundamental Al Qaeda principle.

So very much it was franchised terrorism, and it was, "Think globally, act locally," with a very local phase to every manifestation. And it didn't have to be Al Qaeda in every appearance. It was Abu Sharif [leader of Asbat al-Ansar, a Lebanon-based group] here and the Moral Liberation Front there, and something else here and something else here. But in all its permutations, it was a furtherance of a fundamental Al Qaeda-inspired ideology or concept. It's the idea that is most powerful.

So what we saw after Afghanistan is this movement seeking its new birth, its next platform, and through Zarqawi we see this personified. He had a camp in Herat, [Afghanistan], for his organization, which was not Al Qaeda but was definitely affiliated and working within it. It's then reported that he went to Kandahar, joined the defense of that, and eventually fled through Iran. Then there [are] various reports about where he went and how long he spent and whatever. But essentially, what he was doing was ... shopping around as a terrorist consultant for hire. He was looking for the next place or group or cause on which to graft himself. And ultimately, the U.S. administration gave him Iraq as the next platform upon which to build the new generation. It was the ultimate tool with which to recruit.

If you go back and you see the letter that Zarqawi wrote to Osama bin Laden, which was intercepted, ... it constitutes Zarqawi's business plan. "This is what I intend to do with this platform, seeking the support of Osama bin Laden." You go back and read that document now, and Zarqawi has followed through with everything that he promised. Every tenet that he outlined, he has, if not fulfilled, he has pursued vigorously. And it was here that Al Qaeda was given a rebirth. This is what we're now seeing: This Bush administration is the midwife to the next generation of Al Qaeda, and that's a generation that is principally being shaped or flavored by Zarqawi. ...

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Andrew Sullivan has this post up:
Sistani and the Holocaust
The great hope for Shiite moderation in Iraq, Ayatollah Sistani, has a representative in the U.S.: one Fadhel Al-Sahlani. He's both a Holocaust-skeptic and someone who believes that Israel should not exist. Just noticing the actual content of Muslim moderation in Iraq.

A couple things bothered me about this. While Sahlani is in fact Ayatollah Sistani's accredited representative in the United States, it seems a bit presumptious to attribute Sahlani's every utterance to Sistani. In this respect, the title of the post seems pretty misleading. Things get really silly, though, and simple-minded, when Andrew attempts to inflate a few comments in an interview into the "content of Muslim moderation in Iraq." That is, unless Andrew would also insists that a few regrettable comments by James Dobson's lawyer should be held to be representative of the "content of American Christianity"? Doubtful.

Sistani's got a pretty nifty website. If Andrew, or anyone, would like to know the Grand Ayatollah's opinion on anything, they can e-mail him here.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


Abu Aardvark has some first thoughts on the new message from bin Laden:
It is striking that for the second time in months, al-Qaeda's leaders have issued a strong statement on Palestinian affairs...and Hamas has told al-Qaeda in no uncertain terms to get lost. It happened back when Zawahiri attacked Hamas for taking part in the elections, and now it's happened in response to the bin Laden speech. A fairly typical example of the refusal of many entrenched Islamist movements to accept al-Qaeda's claims to lead the Islamist umma (the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood was equally unimpressed with Zawahiri's criticism of their electoral participation, and issued strongly worded public statements to that effect) - and worth keeping in mind as the first wave of analysis of the new bin Laden tape pours out.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


Mike Davis on the history of the car bomb.
On a warm September day in 1920, a few months after the arrest of his comrades Sacco and Vanzetti, a vengeful Italian anarchist named Mario Buda parked his horse-drawn wagon near the corner of Wall and Broad Streets, directly across from J. P. Morgan Company. He nonchalantly climbed down and disappeared, unnoticed, into the lunchtime crowd. A few blocks away, a startled postal worker found strange leaflets warning: "Free the Political Prisoners or it will be Sure Death for All of You!" They were signed: "American Anarchist Fighters." The bells of nearby Trinity Church began to toll at noon. When they stopped, the wagon -- packed with dynamite and iron slugs -- exploded in a fireball of shrapnel.


Buda's wagon was, in essence, the prototype car bomb: the first use of an inconspicuous vehicle, anonymous in almost any urban setting, to transport large quantities of high explosive into precise range of a high-value target. It was not replicated, as far as I have been able to determine, until January 12, 1947 when the Stern Gang drove a truckload of explosives into a British police station in Haifa, Palestine, killing 4 and injuring 140. The Stern Gang (a pro-fascist splinter group led by Avraham Stern that broke away from the right-wing Zionist paramilitary Irgun) would soon use truck and car bombs to kill Palestinians as well: a creative atrocity immediately reciprocated by British deserters fighting on the side of Palestinian nationalists.


The car bomb...suddenly became a semi-strategic weapon that, under certain circumstances, was comparable to airpower in its ability to knock out critical urban nodes and headquarters as well as terrorize the populations of entire cities. Indeed, the suicide truck bombs that devastated the U.S. embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 prevailed -- at least in a geopolitical sense -- over the combined firepower of the fighter-bombers and battleships of the U.S. Sixth Fleet and forced the Reagan administration to retreat from Lebanon.

Hezbollah's ruthless and brilliant use of car bombs in Lebanon in the 1980s to counter the advanced military technology of the United States, France, and Israel soon emboldened a dozen other groups to bring their insurgencies and jihads home to the metropolis. Some of the new-generation car bombers were graduates of terrorism schools set up by the CIA and Pakistani intelligence (the ISI), with Saudi financing, in the mid-1980s to train mujahedin to terrorize the Russians then occupying Kabul. Between 1992 and 1998, 16 major vehicle bomb attacks in 13 different cities killed 1,050 people and wounded nearly 12,000. More importantly from a geopolitical standpoint, the IRA and Gama'a al-Islamiyya inflicted billions of dollars of damage on the two leading control-centers of the world economy -- the City of London (1992, 1993, and 1996) and lower Manhattan (1993) -- and forced a reorganization of the global reinsurance industry.

Read the whole thing.


Today's Golden Strawman award goes to Cliff May:
The question is not whether Donald Rumsfeld should resign. The question is not even who should replace him. The question is: What goals would a new Secretary of Defense set, and what strategies would he implement to achieve them?

If Rumsfeld's critics believe America's military has met its match on the battlefields of Iraq, they should say so forthrightly. But they should talk, too, about the ramifications of an American defeat in the heart of the Arab Middle East.

For example, once al-Qaeda can creditably claim to have driven U.S. forces out of Iraq, is there any reason to believe the line will be held in Afghanistan? And what responses should we expect elsewhere in the region after such an American humiliation?

Of course, no one has suggested that "America's military has met its match on the battlefields of Iraq." As I'm quite sure Cliff understands, guerrilla insurgencies avoid open confrontation on traditional battlefields, preferring instead to turn the streets, markets, and neighborhoods into battlefields. They don't win with a massive, decisive battlefield victory, they win by proving to the people that the government cannot protect them, they win by dictating the pace of the fighting, they win by not losing. You can make up your own mind on whether or not they're winning in Iraq.

And no matter how many times it's made, the reputation argument ("Withdrawal will make us look weak!") never gets any less silly, or any less darkly reminiscent of Vietnam. It should be obvious that, whenever the U.S. withdrawal occurs, al Qaeda will claim credit for it, as will the Sunni Iraqi insurgency (which is not to be confused with al Qaeda), as will Muqtada Sadr. Recognizing that the U.S. occupation itself has become a significant destabilizing factor, I think an important question right now, perhaps the most important, is which faction will the U.S withdrawal strengthen more. Our best option at this point seems to me to be some kind of behind-the-scenes deal with Sistani, wherein Sistani can represent as having brokered an agreement for a phased but very definite timeline for a U.S. exit. Sistani is no liberal by any stretch of the imagination, but, in addition to being arguably the most powerful man in Iraq, he has repeatedly advocated for electoral democracy, at least as he defines it.

Shi'a cleric-controlled democracy is obviously not what the U.S. went into Iraq to create, but that's what they're going to have, at least in the short term, and we'd better get used to this idea. The question is whether it will be a religiously-oriented democracy under the guiding hand of conservative Sistani, with at least the possibility of eventual liberal reform, or a straight-up hardline religious authoritarian sham-democracy under the iron fist of Sadr and his militiamen.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


In reference to this item by Matt Yglesias, David Frum asks:
Shouldn't it be mildly embarrassing to somebody in the world of left-liberal politics that a 25-year-old blogger is able to produce a stronger case against striking Iran than two former Clinton NSC Senior directors in the New York Times, the director of the European Studies Center at Oxford University in the pages of The Guardian?

Actually, we in the world of left-liberal politics are quite proud that we have in our ranks 25-year-old bloggers who, in addition to generating astute political analysis, are actually able to claim it as their own work.


It's been fun, but let's face it, you were always going to be in Ari's shadow, obscured by the wisps of smoke and fetid stench of brimstone which, even now, three years after his departure (laughing maniacally, in a stone chariot drawn by humongous demon rats with halitosis) still lingers in the press room. My friend, compared to your predecessor, you are not even the Diet Coke of evil, nay, more like the TAB of evil, or perhaps the Fresca. When one considers the duplicity, mendacity, and outright skullduggery of those with whom you worked every day, this almost equals a compliment.

As Michael Wolff notes, your "singular talent [was] to stand there and take it." I will miss that vaguely frightened look that you had, similar to the look the President gets when he speaks to an audience which hasn't been hand-picked, and even sometimes when it has. I will miss that Victorian vapored look of indignation you used to get at entirely appropriate and reasonable questions. I will not miss your over-reliance on the phrase "moving forward".

So long, and good luck, though good and faithful servant of knavery. It's time for you to be moving forward.


Just go.

Listen, basketball is my favorite sport (I like the way they dribble up and down the court). Nothing else really comes close, except maybe post-season baseball, and, of course, croquet (which I'm convinced could be the new poker if only we could get some celebrities behind it, but frikkin' Clooney no longer returns my calls.) If I had to choose one sport for Seattle to have, b-ball would be it. That said, I don't think Washington taxpayers should pony up one cent for the Sonics. Or should I say one cent more, after the $74 million spent renovating Key Arena in 1994.

I'm unimpressed by an ultimatum from team owners, even less by the argument that since we've allowed ourselves to be reamed by the Mariners' and Seahawks' owners in the recent past, it's only fair that Sonics' owners get a(nother) turn. Budgets are about priorities, and subsidizing the hobby of a bunch of multi-millionaires (and the jobs of another bunch) should not be one of them. I don't have much faith in the backbone of city and state politicians to stand up to these sorts of threats and claims of intangible, magical benefits of sports teams, but here's hoping.

Yeah, I'll be bummed if the Sonics leave Seattle. And as I wallow in the deep, deep, depths of my sad, sad, sadness, I'll go out to hear some music, or to see a play, or to an excellent restaurant, or to one of Seattle's many great cinemas, and enjoy the things that make this city uniquely great, as in pro sports isn't one of them (unless we get the croquet thing going), and quickly forget what I was sad about.


The knives are coming out for Juan Cole on rumors of his appointment to the Yale faculty.

Cole responds with this, rightly noting that "You really only have to write the reply once; the smears don't change over time."

UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald notes that one of the authors of the NY Sun op-ed smearing Cole is the daughter of Powerline's Scott Johnson. The bitter, mendacious, defamatory little apple apparently doesn't fall far from the tree.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


"I have strong confidence in Don Rumsfeld. I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation, but I'm the decider, and I decide what is best, and what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense," he said.

I suppose it makes some sense for the President to keep Rumsfeld on, as Bush needs as many people around him who have their own legacies to salvage by saving Iran from itself, or whatever they're going to call it.

In other news, our President hears voices.


An award that is long overdue.
The story he links to [by Dan Simmons] takes grave misreadings of Thucydides to a whole new level, a category in which the competition is stiff. Simmons is sure to win this year’s coveted "Golden Hanson". The trophy features a stern VDH uprooting an olive tree with one hand and hitting himself repeatedly on the head with an axe handle with the other.

Go read the whole thing.


The Economist reports on the ongoing effort by Israel to disconnect Jerusalem from Palestine, using settlements and the wall to surround and isolate Palestinian neighorhoods in the city's Arab East section.
Jerusalem is still essentially two cities—not just in population and economic ties, but also in municipal policy. In a recent book (“Discrimination in the Heart of the Holy City”, International Peace and Co-operation Centre, Jerusalem, 2006), Meir Margalit, an Israeli peace activist and former city councillor, has detailed the differences. Arab Jerusalemites, now about 33% of the city's residents, get just 12% of its welfare budget, even though their poverty rate is more than double that of Jewish residents. They get 15% of the education budget, 8% of engineering services, just 1.2% of the culture and art, and so on. Overall, their share of the services' budget is under 12%, meaning a four-to-one difference in spending per person between Jews and Palestinians. In countless other things, from the number of garbage containers on the streets to the employment rates at city hall, there is a massive disparity in favour of the city's Jews.

This is important:
In the easternmost parts of the city, where the barrier cuts between the Mount of Olives (inside) and Abu Dis (outside), running right through residential neighbourhoods, a strange sight presents itself. The great concrete wall leaks people. In the morning, they squeeze through gaps between the blocks and existing buildings, helping each other to negotiate piles of rubble and loops of barbed wire. In the evening they are sucked back in. For thousands, this is the daily commute.

Most of them are blue ID holders who prefer some discomfort to a long detour to the nearest official crossing point. One way or the other, some 60,000 people are thought to cross each day in each direction. While the wall is still incomplete, the soldiers often tolerate their infractions.

I observed exactly the same thing when I visited Abu Dis in 2003, long lines of people climbing through gaps in the concrete barrier, the elderly having to be lifted over, all under the eyes of an Israeli soldier who stood smoking a cigarette some hundred yards off. Such scenes, of course, give the lie to Israel's claim that the wall is for "security," as any one of the hundreds who that soldier watched go through the wall could have been carrying explosives. Rather, the wall exists as part of the Israeli effort, in the words of former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon, to make the Palestinians "understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people." It's not a security operation, it's a psychological operation. Like the occupation itself, the wall is primarily designed to bring about the political and economic death of Palestine, and to facilitate the annexation of more Palestinian land into Israel.

Those who still insist on crediting the wall with any significant reduction in terrorism can take it up with Shin Bet.

Friday, April 14, 2006


More calls for Rumsfeld to go. Here's an idea: Promise him Paul Lynde's old seat on Hollywood Squares. I didn't say it was a good idea.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


A couple of items from this week's Stranger. First, Josh Feit reports on the growing problem of fundie pharmacists in Washington State refusing to fill certain contraceptive- and pregnancy-related prescriptions based on moral objections. Here's a website where you can write to Washington Governor Christine Gregoire and politely ask that she put the smack down on these people.

Emily White has this very moving reflection on South Dakota's recently passed abortion ban.
The passage of the South Dakota abortion ban is a radical development in the history of abortion law, and it is clear that soon dozens of other states will follow suit. The law—which doesn't make exceptions for rape or incest, as other laws have—is being passed in a red, red state where an abortion is already extremely difficult to obtain, so perhaps it should come as no surprise. Yet if you look at the law in the context of a country run by a religious ideologue who abuses power as regularly as he rides his mountain bike, and when you consider how the Supreme Court is shifting, and how far away 2008 is, well, it gets a little scary. It feels like the beginning of something.


When South Dakota's governor signed the ban into law, he spoke of protecting our "most vulnerable citizens," but here is how South Dakota values those lives, once they are out and breathing and in need:

"The three worst counties for child poverty were all in South Dakota, according to the Children's Defense Fund. Buffalo County, home to the Crow Creek Indian Reservation, was dead last" (New York Times editorial page, March 12).


It is strangely appropriate that the one ray of light in the South Dakota story comes from a population also targeted for termination by white men. In March, Cecilia Fire Thunder, president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe on South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation, announced that she would open a Planned Parenthood clinic within the boundaries of the reservation, a place the law can't touch. Stretching 11,000 square miles on the southwestern edge of the state, the Pine Ridge Reservation is a place with a 45 percent unemployment rate. Yet if Cecilia Fire Thunder opens her clinic, it will be the only place in South Dakota to get a safe and legal abortion. It's quite an image to contemplate: all kinds of females, even rich white girls from the suburbs, traveling into the poverty of reservation land so they can take control of their fate. Maybe it would seem ironic if it weren't so ominous.

Read the whole thing.


You must read Lance Mannion's comments on Bobo and the Duke lacrosse-rape scandal.
Men are animals, says Brooks, but once upon a time the wiser of them knew their true natures and preached a gospel of stern self-discipline and moral vigilance. Then along came moral relativists---LIBERALS, in case you didn't know---who tore down the father figures who kept us in line. Next thing you know, there are strippers and underage drinking on campus and the poor misguided Duke lacrosse players gave in to urges Liberalism had robbed them of their defenses against.

This is the Right Wing Kulturkampf ur-myth restated. Once upon time we were all good and well-behaved, if plagued by demons and temptations within. You know, back in the day, when lynching was a spectator sport, children were worked to death in factories and mineshafts, and employers thought nothing of hiring goons to beat and kill workers who dared strike for safer working conditions and decent pay.

Then came the Fall, and with it moral relativism, post-modernism, Freudianism, Marxism, feminism, birth control, Roe v. Wade, situation comedies that make dad into a buffoon, and black people who expect to live in our neighborhoods and send their kids to our schools...whoops, did we say that last one out loud? We meant, entitlements, the nanny state, and the culture of dependence brought about by Welfare.


Ok, it's wrong to say I agree with one of Brooks' ideas, because he doesn't have any. What he has are a bunch of muddled opinions he gussies up with a prose style that sounds to some less discerning ears like good writing, and most of these opinions are defenses of a general prejudice that white conservative men are good folks and the world would be a better place of the rest of us would just shut up, get out of their way, and let them run the show as they see fit.



NRO's Andy McCarthy:
forged documents, combined with shoddy reporting, have been used to debunk what is actually a true story

You thought he was talking about the Bush-National Guard story? No, he's talking about the Niger-uranium story, which he insists still has legs.

McCarthy links to this piece from Christopher Hitchens, in which Hitchens argues, in so many words, that Iraq must have been trying to obtain uranium from Niger, because what else could Iraq's ambassador to the Vatican been doing in Niger other than trying to obtain uranium?

Back in 2003, Wissam al Zahawie responded to the assertions in Bush's speech, claiming that he was in Niger as part of "an unsuccessful tour to persuade African leaders to break the UN embargo and visit Iraq." He also visited Benin, Burkina-Faso and Congo-Brazzaville (and what else could he have been doing there except trying to acquire sharks with frikkin lasers attached to their heads?)

It is of course possible, perhaps likely, that Zahawie is not being entirely forthright about the details of his trip, but the bottom line is that such assumptions are pretty thin evidence to justify a military invasion.


Jacob Weisberg argues that John McCain's hugging up to the religious right is all part of a super-smart presidential strategy, and as soon as he dupes the rubes into supporting his nomination, he'll re-emerge as the straight-talking moderate that Weisberg and so many others believe him to be. I'm not buying it. I mean, it may be that McCain's new religiosity is just a ploy, but John McCain didn't have the support of the Weekly Standard and a significant number of National Review editors in 2000 because he's a closet liberal. At some point one has to stop trying to decode McCain's statements and votes over the years and just accept this.

And frankly, I don't think anyone who cozies up to a hateful, ignorant, bigoted party clown like Jerry Falwell, for whatever reason, deserves any support from liberals, period.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


In the latest episode of Mark Steyn's tragic (for us) public obssession with manly manliness, he takes us on a tour of of the many bad things about Iran. If you enjoy the sort of alliteration-happy prose found in high school literary journals, or if you that think mocking hard-to-pronounce foreign surnames is the height of humor, then by all means read it. I don't think I'm spoiling anything, however, when I say it's all just a prelude to this:
Once again, we face a choice between bad and worse options. There can be no "surgical" strike in any meaningful sense: Iran’s clients on the ground will retaliate in Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, and Europe. Nor should we put much stock in the country’s allegedly "pro-American" youth. This shouldn’t be a touchy-feely nation-building exercise: rehabilitation may be a bonus, but the primary objective should be punishment—and incarceration. It’s up to the Iranian people how nutty a government they want to live with, but extraterritorial nuttiness has to be shown not to pay. That means swift, massive, devastating force that decapitates the regime—but no occupation.

The cost of de-nuking Iran will be high now but significantly higher with every year it’s postponed. The lesson of the Danish cartoons is the clearest reminder that what is at stake here is the credibility of our civilization. Whether or not we end the nuclearization of the Islamic Republic will be an act that defines our time.

Apparently, in Steyn's view, the real problem with the Iraq invasion was...the occupation. If only we'd have just split out of there right after the Mission Accomplished photo op, we wouldn't be in such trouble right now (except that we're not in trouble, because everything is going great in Iraq. Has he mentioned that Ward Churchill hates America?)

Having arrived at the new (for him) position that Iran has genuine democracy, instead of cleric-controlled pseudo-democracy, Steyn insists the Iranian people must be punished for the alleged actions of Iran's alleged clients in response to an attck by the United States which hasn't occurred yet, but that Steyn really hopes does. Cheers!

Here's James Fallows, a writer who, quite unlike Mark Steyn, has a record of being right about these sorts of things, on why bombing Iran would not be a good idea.

Monday, April 10, 2006


I think Harry Taylor showed a lot of it in his exchange with President Bush last Thursday.
HARRY TAYLOR: You never stop talking about freedom, and I appreciate that. But while I listen to you talk about freedom, I see you assert your right to tap my telephone, to arrest me and hold me without charges, to try to preclude me from breathing clean air and drinking clean water and eating safe food. If I were a woman, you’d like to restrict my opportunity to make a choice and decision about whether I can abort a pregnancy on my own behalf. You are –

THE PRESIDENT: I’m not your favorite guy. Go ahead. (Laughter and applause.) Go on, what’s your question?

HARRY TAYLOR: Okay, I don’t have a question. What I wanted to say to you is that I — in my lifetime, I have never felt more ashamed of, nor more frightened by my leadership in Washington, including the presidency, by the Senate, and –


THE PRESIDENT: No, wait a sec — let him speak.

HARRY TAYLOR: And I would hope — I feel like despite your rhetoric, that compassion and common sense have been left far behind during your administration, and I would hope from time to time that you have the humility and the grace to be ashamed of yourself inside yourself. And I also want to say I really appreciate the courtesy of allowing me to speak what I’m saying to you right now. That is part of what this country is about.

THE PRESIDENT: It is, yes. (Applause.)

Read on as Taylor's comments bounce like so many overripe bananas off of the President's shield of truthiness.

I enjoyed this picture from the White House website, taken at that same town hall meeting. I'm usually against Presidents singing in public, but I hear he wasn't half bad.

Also, I never realized how tall the President is. He's huge! With the twinkly lights behind him, the happy people at his feet, and his grand, munificent gesture, he's like our new Walt Disney, welcoming us into his Land of Make-Believe. Or our President Wonka, inviting one and all to experience his wondrous, magical factory. Only in this factory they don't make candy and chocolate and sweeties, they make baloney. Just baloney.

Sunday, April 09, 2006


Lt. General Gregory Newbold, retired director of operations at the Pentagon's military joint staff.
From 2000 until October 2002, I was a Marine Corps lieutenant general and director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After 9/11, I was a witness and therefore a party to the actions that led us to the invasion of Iraq--an unnecessary war. Inside the military family, I made no secret of my view that the zealots' rationale for war made no sense. And I think I was outspoken enough to make those senior to me uncomfortable. But I now regret that I did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat--al-Qaeda. I retired from the military four months before the invasion, in part because of my opposition to those who had used 9/11's tragedy to hijack our security policy. Until now, I have resisted speaking out in public. I've been silent long enough.

I am driven to action now by the missteps and misjudgments of the White House and the Pentagon, and by my many painful visits to our military hospitals. In those places, I have been both inspired and shaken by the broken bodies but unbroken spirits of soldiers, Marines and corpsmen returning from this war. The cost of flawed leadership continues to be paid in blood. The willingness of our forces to shoulder such a load should make it a sacred obligation for civilian and military leaders to get our defense policy right. They must be absolutely sure that the commitment is for a cause as honorable as the sacrifice.


So what is to be done? We need fresh ideas and fresh faces. That means, as a first step, replacing Rumsfeld and many others unwilling to fundamentally change their approach. The troops in the Middle East have performed their duty. Now we need people in Washington who can construct a unified strategy worthy of them. It is time to send a signal to our nation, our forces and the world that we are uncompromising on our security but are prepared to rethink how we achieve it. It is time for senior military leaders to discard caution in expressing their views and ensure that the President hears them clearly. And that we won't be fooled again.

I anxiously await Colonel Cliff "Cubicle Commando" May's (101st Fighting Keyboarders)explanation of how Lt. General Newbold doesn't know what he's talking about.


Regarding the chorus of conservative yawns which have greeted the revelation that the President personally authorized the release of misleading intelligence on Iraq's WMD as part of an effort to discredit Joseph Wilson, it's helpful to consider, if only for purposes of contrast, the uproar from conservatives at reports, later proven false, that Sidney Blumenthal had been spreading false information about Monica Lewinsky in an effort to discredit her story of an affair with President Clinton. This entry from Jonah Goldberg, who of course owes his entire career to Clinton's tomcatting, is more or less representative of the Right's collective conniption at this news. Michael Ledeen went this far:
Just as Don Corleone and his sons bought, blackmailed, or extorted the favors of businessmen, politicians, judges, and journalists, so Clinton's tenacious survival of a series of mortal threats to his Presidency is intimately linked (as was his initial rise to power) to the successful manipulation of business, political, judicial, and journalistic institutions, beginning with the spectacular purge of all the U.S. Attorneys at the outset of the first term, and culminating so far with the intimidation of potentially damaging witnesses, probing journalists, and Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. And just as real-life mafiosi often maintain Jewish consiglieri, so the Clintons have their Nussbaums, Landows, and Blumenthals. (emphasis added)

Real charmer, that Ledeen.

So, just for the record, in the hermetically sealed moral universe of conservatives (where all compasses point to the right), when the President sends out his lackey to spread false information about the President's ex-girlfriend, it is inexcusable, a threat to the republic. When the President sends out his lackey to spread false information about why the President sent hundreds of thousands of American troops to invade and occupy another country, it's no big deal. Got it?


I missed this last week. Jackie McLean has passed. The giants continue to depart these lands.


Mads Kvalsik responds to Dan Drezner on the Walt-Mearsheimer Israel Lobby paper, and includes a lengthy list of logical fallacies employed by the paper's more hysterical critics.

I'll be interested to see how all the criticism affects Walt and Mearsheimer's final product, if at all. One point that the authors have already demonstrated beyond all doubt, or rather that their paper's reception has demonstrated for them, is that anyone who even suggests that a powerful pro-Israel lobby exists in the United States risks being labeled an anti-semite. This is as destructive of open debate as it is intellectually dishonest. There is real anti-semitism in this world, but equating analysis of a particular political lobby's influence with conspiratorial thinking, or conflating criticism of Israeli policy with hatred of Jews, as so many of the paper's critics have done, in the long run only divests the term of any real meaning and power.

It's imperative to understand that arguments like those offered by Walt and Mearsheimer are a regular feature of Israeli media, which have an ongoing and vigorous debate over these issues that puts U.S. media to shame. Beholding the frothing torrent of libelous invective which has greeted Walt and Mearsheimer's work, it's not hard to understand why. Accusations of anti-semitism are (or should be) serious business; no writer wants any hint of that attached to his work. It is, however, unfortunately a risk for anyone trying to construct a more honest and open debate about the U.S.-Israel relationship, about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and about the battle between political liberalism and religious fundamentalism.

Friday, April 07, 2006


Regarding the revelation that Bush declassified portions of the National Intelligence Estimate so they could be leaked to court stenographer Judith Miller, I wish I could pretend to be surprised at the chorus of "It's no big deal!" from the usual corners, but it's clear by now that nothing short of Bush's performing a late-term abortion in the Oval Office on national television while simultaneously officiating a gay marriage and signing a capital gains tax-hike will ever put the Moral Clarity Bunch off their belief that he is the Right Man.

Cliff May, defining obtuse, deserves special attention:
[T]here is nothing unusual about releasing the NIE -- with some sections remaining classified to protect methods and sources. We have no reason to believe that anyone authorized Libby to leak any sections that would remain classified.

It also is standard practice for every administration to leak to select reporters in advance information that later will be released to the press corps as a whole.

Why? Because that ensures better coverage: When the New York Times gets it first and exclusively they are more likely to put it on the front page and run it big. And a second wave comes later because the other media have to play catch up.

I'd suggest that May is just playing dumb, but that assumes he isn't just dumb. The point that sometimes "some sections [remain] classified to protect methods and sources" is entirely irrelevant in this case, as information wasn't withheld because it compromised security, but because it compromised the President's ability to defend the Iraq invasion. May's contention that this was about "giving a scoop" to the New York Times is obviously nonsense. The National Intelligence Estimate would have been a reasonably big story regardless of how many papers first got it. Taking Mark Twain's advice that "a lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes," Bush clearly wanted to give his preferred version of the intelligence a headstart before having to confront all that pesky, resolve-weakening disconfirming evidence. In other words, Bush used his office's power of declassification to authorize the selective release of information as part of a propaganda effort. How the hell is that kosher?

Thursday, April 06, 2006


Bush is apparently not willing to back the signature initiative of his presidency with real money:
While President Bush vows to transform Iraq into a beacon of democracy in the Middle East, his administration has been scaling back funding for the main organizations trying to carry out his vision by building democratic institutions such as political parties and civil society groups.

The administration has included limited new money for traditional democracy promotion in budget requests to Congress. Some organizations face funding cutoffs this month, while others struggle to stretch resources through the summer. The shortfall threatens projects that teach Iraqis how to create and sustain political parties, think tanks, human rights groups, independent media outlets, trade unions and other elements of democratic society.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


I've been watching Grey's Anatomy on DVD, don't ask me why (okay, it's because of my rhymes with "whyfe"). It's a mildly entertaining show about surgical interns with some decent-for-network-TV dialogue, suitably cringe-inducing (for me) human blood and meat medical moments, and many, many fashionable scarves. It also features Patrick Dempsey and Isaiah Washington in the cast, two actors who I've always liked and who deserve wider recognition, Washington in particular. His performance in Soderbergh's Out of Sight manages to out-psychopath Don Cheadle, no easy thing.

Oh yeah, the show takes place in Seattle, though it is a Seattle in an alternate universe, one where a hospital can be within a block of both the Space Needle and the Pike Place Market.


After a year on the job as America's ambassador of Bush has a Great Heart, Karen Hughes has learned a few things about the Middle East. Share with us what you've learned, won't you, Karen?
"One of the things that I heard as I traveled throughout the Middle East is concern about the Israeli-Palestinian policy. I came back from my first trip and relayed to both the secretary (of State) and the president that, to the extent that we could be seen as visibly working to improve life for the Palestinian people," which would improve the U.S. image across the world.

This is shocking. Improve life for the Palestinian people? When will Bush fire this obvious anti-semite?

Reports about the treatment of detainees in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay have also been "very difficult" for Hughes' efforts, she says.

"Those pictures from Abu Ghraib were horrible," she says. "I would hope that people should look at them for what they are, which is crimes."

Yes. Please start with convincing your boss.


Cliff May, responding to John Kerry:
“As our generals have said, the war cannot be won militarily. It must be won politically.”

Some generals may have said that, but it’s wrong. It’s what is said by generals who love to train and parade and buy expensive weapons systems and then retire to cushy jobs at Lockheed. opposed to jingoist clowns who berate those generals from cushy offices in astroturf think tanks.

Monday, April 03, 2006


Any list of The 20 Most Important Tools Ever that fails to include the electric guitar simply cannot be taken seriously. No other invention has been as helpful in enabling geeks to mate.

Saturday, April 01, 2006




There's absolutely no making sense of it. It's the kind of random, terrifying event that makes me want to collect my little family, throw some clothes and books and bottled water into the car, drive away and settle into a fortified compound in some Duss Ridge deep, deep in the mountains. And I'm not the country type.

The picture that is drawn of Kyle Huff is one of alienation, loneliness and disconnectedness. I can't get Taxi Driver out of my head. Without pushing the Travis Bickle thing too far, it's interesting that Kyle Huff's preferred job was pizza delivery, cruising around in his ship in the night, with only the briefest, most superficial social interaction required. Kyle's having a twin brother frustrates the comparison a bit, but at this point the nature of their relationship is not clear. All that's known for sure is that Kyle Huff was extremely shy and socially awkward, and that he was more or less alone in this world. As Eli Sanders points out, the latter is where he truly differed from his victims.

I recognize two of them from Madison Market, the food co-op a few blocks away where they worked. Reading about the lives they were leading, living in a group house and partying a lot, making music and art, is a little unnerving. I pretty much was them in my twenties, working modestly paying jobs and living simply in order to attend to other more important interests. It was great. Man, it was great. These kids were having the time of their lives, they were doing their thing and they weren't messing with anybody. They were tripping happily through the forest and ran into the Big Bad Wolf.

Kurt Vonnegut wrote that "friends are the family we choose for ourselves," and I love this quote because it captures my exact feelings about my group of friends here in Seattle. I realize, though, how much chance and luck was involved with my meeting my West Coast family. Maybe Stacius doesn't happen to read The Rocket and answer the ad for a bass player and drummer, maybe Stu doesn't want to leave his old band, maybe Tess never comes into the Wedgwood Ale House and meets us, maybe Leslie never comes to take our picture. But they did, and we have this wonderful extended family that helps to cushion the blows of this life, and to exponentially increase its joys. The residents of the Blue House had created a family like this for themselves. The Capitol Hill murders have made it painfully clear to me, again, that some people never have this opportunity, don't have this luck, that this world is full of Eleanor Rigbys and Father McKenzies floating loose out there, unmoored and unloved. And some of them have trucks full of fucking guns.