September 29, 2003

Cheney's Fixation with the Atta-Prague Story

The Washington Post has an interesting article today about Dick Cheney's obsession with linking Saddam Hussein with 9/11, specifically by pushing the doubtful story about 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta meeting a senior Iraqi security official in Prague: Iraq, 9/11 still linked by Cheney.

Posted by jbc at 03:41 PM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

Gollum and Smeagol Review the Two Towers

If you haven't seen the trailer for The Return of the King yet, you must go watch it. Watch it now! Heh. It made the Mrs. start bawling, and I got pretty misty-eyed myself. Appears to be available from various places, like Apple's download page.

But anyway, in the meantime, here's a fun item: Gollum and Smeagol debate The Two Towers DVD.

Posted by jbc at 03:34 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

TPM Does the Plame-Outing Story

Near-continual updates from Joshua Micah Marshall of Talking Points Memo over the last few days regarding the outing-Joseph-Wilson's-wife story. Especially interesting items so far have been: The Washington Post continues to own Wilsongate (in which he talks about yesterday's WaPo article that confirmed that stuff is going on in the White House behind the scenes, as the Bush people try to contain the growing scandal), Gagglepalooza from this morning, in which he quotes at length from Scott McClellan's daily White House press briefing this morning, at which it was definitely blood-in-the-water time, from the sound of it, and A couple more issues to watch, in which he points out how this has the potential to cut the heart out of Bush's claims to be standing tall in terms of protecting us from the threat of WMD proliferation.

All I can say is, wow. And Janus: I'm trying very, very hard not to use the "g"-suffix.

Posted by jbc at 03:20 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

September 28, 2003

Do Not Call Me, Call Everyone Else

Sometimes, it doesn't matter how miniscule or trivial the substance of a story is, it's still worth taking note of, if for no other reason then to laugh: Judge Who Nixed Call Registry Is on List.

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Waldman: The Media Are Partly to Blame for Saddam-9/11 Myth

Writing in today's Washington Post, Paul Waldman has an excellent opinion piece pointing out that it is not just the rumormongers in and around the Bush administration, but also the media, who have helped create the conditions under which nearly 70% of Americans believe Saddam Hussein was directly involved in the 9/11 attacks: Why the media don't call it as they see it.

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September 27, 2003

Minnesota Flag Hubbub

This is almost old news by now, But It's new to *me* -- so I'm going to share. A law recently went into effect in Minnesota requiring: "All public and charter school students shall recite the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States of America one or more times each week." Now first of all, why only once a week? I mean, why not every morning? But I digress -- it seems that when passing this law, the state legislature didn't consider that many of the urban schools didn't own flags, and didn't have the money to buy them, so kids are now saying the pledge to a flag graphic shown on the classroom TVs. That's right, they can't afford a $0.95 Flag in each class, but they all have TVs.

Now things are getting even more interesting. A High School student in St. Paul was kicked out of class twice by the same teacher "...for exercising her right not to stand, or participate in any manner in the activity." Even after her school principle acknowledged "...that the law included an “Opt out” provision which meant that she did not have to stand or recite the pledge."

Way to go Minnesota school system, way to be on the ball about this whole flag thing.

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CIA Asks Ashcroft to Investigate Outing of Plame

NBC is reporting that the CIA has requested that the Justice Department investigate whether or not the Bush administration broke the law by revealing to reporters that Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was an undercover CIA operative specializing in WMD: CIA seeks probe of White House.

This is (potentially) a really big story. But of course, that assumes that John Ashcroft's Justice Department is actually interested in, well, erm, "justice." I'm not exactly holding my breath on that.

Link from Joshua Micah Marshall's Talking Points Memo.

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September 26, 2003

Wars Real and Imagined

So, here we are in the middle of one of those big online debates. They never end; no one ever "wins," because both sides are right, and (rightly) aware of their rightness, and unwilling (or unable) to transcend the frame of reference that is the necessary underpinning of their rightness. A few (a very few) are willing to actually listen to the other side, raising the possibility of a synthesis that one day might lead beyond the current stalemate, but too much of the discussion is just angry, sarcastic, or dryly snarky denunciations, knocking down strawmen created by inverting all the known-to-be-right positions of one's own side and attributing them to the other.

Consider the following two essays which, in combination, have thoroughly depressed me the last few days. First up, from ex-Israeli military man, novelist, and far-right commentator Mark Helprin: War in the absense of strategic clarity. This is probably the most dressed-up version I've seen of the argument, presented repeatedly since 9/11, that we are, in fact, at war with the whole of the world's Arab population, or the whole of its Muslim population, or both. It is the argument that says the ties between Saddam Hussein and 9/11 are self-evident in the Arabic ethnicities and Islamic belief of the dead hijackers.

Of course, this glosses over the all-important step where the boundary between us and them was drawn. We could also observe, after all, that all the hijackers were dark-haired, or male, or human, or mammals, and blame that group for the attacks. But those boundaries would include too many whom we know, from personal experience, to be innocent. Drawing the boundary in such a way as to group only Arab (or Muslim) innocents within our retaliation's blast radius works better. We can indulge our sense of rage, and the darker fear that underlies it, with relative impunity, entertaining various brutal fantasies for how we will even the score with them. Like Ann Coulter's call to invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. Or Rich Lowry's musing that nuking Mecca (in response to a hypothetical terrorist dirty bomb detonated on US soil) would send a strong message, and would kill few people, though perhaps the more moderate strategy of nuking Baghdad and Tehran, and maybe Gaza City and Ramallah, and maybe Damascus, Cairo, Algiers, Tripoli and Riyadh, would be preferable. Or Helprin himself, who comments wistfully in his essay about the ability of the United States to "almost instantly turn every Arab capital into molten glass."

In response to Helprin's essay, Lee Harris of Tech Central Station offers the following: War and wishful thinking. Harris points out that the mere desire, even the very, very, strong desire, to go to war in response to the events of 9/11, does not, in and of itself, mean that a suitable target for such a war actually exists.

Harris makes a bunch of other observations about the nature of war, some of which I disagree with, but his conclusion is worth quoting:

Everything about the present crisis is new. Historical analogy drawn from the period prior to 9/11 more often misleads than illuminates. We are in a brave new world, and the sooner we recognize the unreliability of all our prior categories and metaphors to guide us, the sooner we will free ourselves from the wishful thinking that is perhaps an even greater threat to our survival than the terrorists themselves.

I think Harris has a point, but I think that ultimately, he's as bound up in his own frame of reference as Helprin is. And that, sadly, isn't anything new at all.

When nuclear weapons entered the world's military arsenals, humanity did a collective double take and said, "Whoa. We've got to re-think this whole war thing." We still do. And while my own views (obviously) fall much closer to Harris' side in this debate than Helprin's, I think the debate itself is not particularly helpful in coming up with a solution.

So what is the solution? I don't know. That's why it's depressing.

Posted by jbc at 10:18 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

The Strange Case of Brianna Stewart and Treva Throneberry

Courtesy of Hiro's ABC News habit, here's an interesting story about a 34-year-old woman who insists she's both 21 and a completely different person (and was willing to spend two years in prison and go through high school all over again rather than admit the truth about who she was): Search for identity.

Posted by jbc at 08:04 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

September 25, 2003

More 'Bowling for Columbine' Fun

So, I finally rented and watched Bowling for Columbine. It's funny to me how something that's been built up in my mind for so long by so many people can end up seeming so... different when I finally meet it face-to-face. I felt like telling the movie, "Huh. You're a lot smaller in person."

Which isn't intended as criticism. The movie is what it is, and I think it makes a great point, and deserves to be watched and talked about. If I had my way, though, I guess I'd prefer that the talk actually be about what the movie is about, rather than being the strident meta-discussion over whether or not Moore "told the truth" in making it.

Yeah, well, I'd like to serve under Captain Picard aboard the Enterprise and take an extended vacation with the riders of Rohan and go fishing on the Grand Banks with the crew of the We're Here, too. But none of those things are ever going to happen, except in my head. We live in the real world, and the subjective nature of reality notwithstanding, it is what it is, too, regardless of our wishes.

And what it is lately is a place to talk about Moore's truthfulness in making Bowling for Columbine. He himself has a really nice treatment of that at his web site: How to Deal with the Lies and the Lying Liars When They Lie about "Bowling for Columbine". And Brendan Nyhan at Spinsanity has his own counterspin on Moore's comments: Moore admits to altering "Bowling for Columbine" DVD.

Thanks to Adam at Words Mean Things for the link.

Posted by jbc at 10:51 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (1)

Kay Report Expectations Lowered

I seem to remember, several months ago, getting some snarky commentary from supporters of the Iraq war about how David Kay's upcoming report was going to blow the lid off the whole WMD thing. Hoo boy, us liberals would have some egg on our faces then, you betcha.

Well, here comes the report: Iraq weapons report won't be conclusive. Surprisingly (or not), it seems to be following exactly the same pattern we've seen, oh, maybe 20 times before during the WMD hunt: BIG GIANT PRELIMINARY ANNOUNCEMENT and then, after a while, littletinyacknowledgement to the effect that, um, well, we haven't acutally found anything. But we'll keep looking!

Hey, super. You go right on doing that.

Update: An interesting editorial from the Washington Post, taking the administration to task for basically the same issue I'm complaining about above (or at least, for making the availability of expert analysis contingent on whether it helps or hurts the administration): Waiting for Mr. Kay.

Posted by jbc at 01:11 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

September 24, 2003

Read a Banned Book

I'm posting this a little late, but September 20–27 is Banned Book Week, ...a reminder not to take one of our most important freedoms for granted—the freedom to read and explore many points of view. So take this oportunity to broaden your mind -- read a book from "The List".

Posted by hossman at 08:22 PM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

The President's Crotch

Completely ridiculous and content-free discussion from BuzzFlash regarding Rove & Co's alleged attempts to make Bush's Johnson the center of the (re-)election effort: George W. Kowalski?

I know it only helps his prospects to bring it up, but I can't resist. I'm pathetic.

Posted by jbc at 04:35 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 23, 2003

Wesley Clark, Phone Home

Raising memories of the "Al Gore lies again!" silliness from the 2000 campaign, righties are making much of Wesley Clark's having been quoted in Newsweek as saying, "I would have been a Republican if Karl Rove had returned my phone callls." (When asked, Clark explained that it was a joke.) For some saner coverage of the issue, I like CalPundit: A modest request.

I'd also like to link to Steve Gilliard's comments on it, but his weblog seems to be permalink challenged at the moment. I guess you can go there and scroll down looking for the headline, "Nonsense about Wesley Clark". My favorite part is this:

George Bush spent his entire career in the service of private gain and failed miserably at it. Wesley Clark spent his career in the service of the public good and succeeded wildly. If I was in the White House, I'd be nervous.

Gilliard makes some nice comments about Dean, too.

Posted by jbc at 05:57 PM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

Wilson: Well, I Think We're Fucked

Ambassador Joseph Wilson, of Nigerian yellowcake fame, did an interview with Josh Micah Marshall of Talking Points Memo on September 16. The first part of the interview appeared last week, the second part appeared yesterday, and it's all pretty fascinating, at least for a politics junkie like me. Long, but very much worth it. And it certainly starts with a bang. Anyway: Part 1, Part 2.

Update: A shorter version of Wilson's views is available in this opinion piece he wrote that appeared last week, but which I overlooked at the time: Seeking honesty in US policy.

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September 22, 2003

The Cats Who Walked Though Walls

(As seen in the Drudge Report) Aparently, a very sweet old lady with a lot cats died a few years ago, and since then her son has come by every few months with some large bags of cat food and just let the 103 cats have the run of the place ... Felines rove in walls as bugs root through filth, building condemned -- I really can't even imagine what kind of person could just walk through feces 3 feet deep to dump some cat food in a kitchen sink.
My favorite quote: "Once the cats breed inside the walls, its economically impossible to clean it up, You can imagine what's inside those walls, and what the house is going to smell like forever."
My friend's favorite quote: "He's also brought out one dog, a beagle. Jacobson said the dog looked well-fed."

Posted by hossman at 09:45 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Titans Coach Fakes a Tantrum

Cool story, quoted by Donald Sensing, about how Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Jarvis threw a mock-tantrum yesterday to fake out the other side: Strategy.

Posted by jbc at 06:15 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bush Descending

So, Bush continues to fall. Here's the latest graph from Professor Pollkatz, combining results from 13 different polls asking, "do you approve of President Bush's job performance?" (Click on the graph for a larger version.)

With Bush's visible weakness, criticism is getting both more widespread and more pointed. For example, Clarence Page has a column on the latest vortex of doubletalk: Blurring the line between Hussein and 9/11.

There's also a lot of interest in just what Bush intends to say to the world in his UN address tomorrow, and how the world is likely to respond. As Jay Bookman points out in an opinion piece in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it's not like Bush has a lot of time to play with: Deadlines in Iraq can't be ignored. Simon Tisdale in The Guardian gives a pretty clear idea of the tough crowd Bush is likely to face: How the world can aid Iraq without helping Bush. And Josh Micah Marshall has an excellent Talking Points Memo entry where he talks about the way Bush & Co. seem stuck in a self-defeating cycle: Denial, anger, bargaining.

In a certain sense, I think this is Bush's last chance. The polls show that solid majorities still approve of him personally (if not of his job performance), and think he's essentially honest. It's just that they (as ever) disapprove of his actual policies, and increasingly believe that he's just not competent. Which leaves him a last opportunity: He could take advantage of that personal liking to apologize, both to the American people and to the world, and humbly ask for another chance. Maybe something like this:

I come before you today to make a painful admission: I have made mistakes. I mistakenly believed that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. I mistakenly allowed the American people to be misled about the nature of his involvement in the 9/11 attacks. And I mistakenly spurned the United Nations, insisting that the US could go it alone, if necessary, in overthrowing the dictatorship in Iraq and erecting a stable democracy in its place.

In all these actions, I must now admit to having been wrong. So I come to you humbly, contritely, acknowledging my error and asking you to give me another chance. I am a changed man. I promise that you won't be disappointed.

Of course, there's no way Bush would say something like that. Instead, we'll get more bluster, more bravado, more little-kid taunting. It's just his nature. Maybe Rove will still be able to pull an October Surprise (a real, live nucular crisis in Iran or North Korea? bin Laden's head on a plate?), but I'm kinda doubting it. No, the most-likely scenario at this point, at least as I see it, is a continued lame-duck descent, with Bush raging against the dying of the light all the way down.

Posted by jbc at 10:07 AM | view/comment (6) | TrackBack (7)

September 21, 2003

The Soldier and the Tiger

Could there be a more apt allegory? From CNN: US soldier kills Baghdad tiger. There's also this piece from the AP: US soldier shoots tiger at Baghdad zoo. From the latter:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A U.S. soldier shot and killed a tiger at the Baghdad zoo after it bit another soldier who had reached through the bars of its cage to feed it, a zoo security guard said Saturday.

The soldiers had been drinking beer when they entered the zoo Thursday night after it closed, said the guard, Zuhair Abdul-Majeed.

"He was drunk," Abdul-Majeed said of the bitten soldier.

After the man was bit, the other American shot the tiger three times in the head and killed it, Abdul-Majeed told The Associated Press.

Judgement clouded by the effects of alcohol, acting on the basis of a macho impulse without bothering to consider the risk, a soldier decides it would be fun to demonstrate his sense of power and ownership over a predatory beast by feeding it some scraps of meat. The animal is dangerous, to be sure, but it is confined in a cage, and the soldier is armed with the latest high-tech weaponry. It will be fun. And besides, it will demonstrate the soldier's humanitarian side. He's helping the animal, see?

Ignoring all warnings, he places himself in close proximity to the tiger, and discovers too late that telescopic sights and laser-guided bombs aren't a guarantee of safety when you are within arm's length of razor-sharp claws guided by a hostile will. He falls, wounded, and his companion, in a fit of retribution, kills the still-caged beast with three bullets to the head.

Obviously, the soldier is George Bush (or the USA, more generally); the tiger is Saddam Hussein (or Iraq). Both parties come away from the experience having paid a price, the tiger somewhat moreso. And while the soldier would doubtless blame the tiger for the debacle, a more sober observer might view things differently.

Posted by jbc at 09:42 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

September 20, 2003

What to Think About the War?

I'm big on the idea that our subjective attitudes color our perceptions. We inhabit a world of myths and fantasies masquerading as facts, and no one is immune. The most hard-headed, rational, objective observer still builds a picture in his or her mind and goes looking for bits and pieces of reality that match up with it. It's not necessarily dishonest; it's just how our brains work.

Obviously, a lot of that is happening now with Iraq. As we head into the presidential campaign season, a lot of money and effort will be spent on convincing each of us that the reality in Iraq conforms to one of two conflicting storylines: Bush's and his Democratic challenger's. And a lot of that sales job will be dishonest, in the sense that the people doing the selling won't balk at knowingly misrepresenting things to try to make their case.

Those storylines are being fleshed out now. For those looking to replace Bush, the story is that Iraq is a mess, and it's Bush's fault. He lied to us to build support for the invasion, and while the lies worked (mostly) in convincing a still-reeling-from-9/11 domestic audience, they didn't do too well with the rest of the world. As a result, we're now bogged down in a Vietnam-style quagmire, with few allies, a faceless enemy that evaporates whenever we try to bring our superior firepower to bear, no exit strategy, and no credible plan for making things better. As time goes on the mess will get worse, our enemies will multiply and become better organized, until we have no choice but to leave the country, letting it fall into the hands of Islamic extremists, and having fanned the flames of anti-US passion to the point that we face worse terrorist threats than ever.

For Bush's supporters, it's basically the same picture, just with every assertion reversed. The pre-war justifications for invasion (at least as modified with the benefit of hindsight) were perfectly valid. The war is going great; we've got a broad coalition of the willing fighting beside us, and we're kicking the bad guys' asses. We know exactly what we're doing, and the plan is working flawlessly. We're enhancing our domestic security by fighting the terrorists on their turf, not ours, and over time we'll succeed in killing them off, substantially reducing the threat of terrorism.

And then we've got those pesky "facts". Obviously, each side chooses different ones, then claims that they conclusively show that its interpretation is the correct one. Some of the latest pesky facts are summarized well in this new article from Time magazine: Election season brings new questions for Bush on Iraq. There's also this article from the Washington Post on the recent battle in (near?) Tikrit: Attack on US troops shows strength of Hussein loyalists. And this one from the Boston Globe: US troops patrol Tikrit in tanks in show of force following killing of three soldiers.

I dunno; these events seem to fit the "things are getting worse" story better than the "things are getting better" one. Time will tell, of course.

In the meantime, I've been getting into some of this with Donald Sensing, who falls very much into the "things are going great" camp. While I disagree with many of his conclusions, I've come to believe that he's both relatively informed, and relatively honest in terms of not intentionally misrepresenting things. But I do think he's laboring under a pretty selective fact filter. Here's some of the latest examples of that: The Saddam-bin Laden connection (and my response here), and I try not to get personal here, but there are times... (and my response here).

Posted by jbc at 09:06 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

September 19, 2003

LA Times Editorial Critical of Administration Spin

I realize that it's an article of faith for those who live inside the right-wing echo chamber that any article or editorial that says something disagreeable is merely a manifestation of the media's liberal bias. Yeah, well, whatever. The fact is, the LA Times editorial writers come off as more conservative than not, at least from where I sit. Less so now than when they were into union busting, maybe, but still, it was pretty shocking to me to see their lead editorial today: So which story is it?

It takes Bush to task for administration deceptions on Iraq, in particular recent statements by Dick Cheney linking Hussein with 9/11, as well as Cheney's pouring more salt into the wound that is US/European relations at a time when we desperately need more international help for the Iraq reconstruction. They also chime in on the side of Republicans in Congress who say that the reconstruction should be taken out of the hands of Rumsfeld and given to Colin Powell.

Posted by jbc at 07:19 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Warblogging on Bush's Failure to Protect the Constitution

Back on March 10 I posted an item about Bush's March 6 press conference. I'm going to repeat something I said there, and amplify it a bit.

George Paine at has an excellent rant on how Bush has failed in his promise to "preserve, protect and defend" the Constitution: The presidential oath. (Nice use of the 'sieg heil' photo, btw.)

Anyway, one of the commenters there said this:

Yes, Bush has violated his Oath of Office. Because of poor education, you know the average American does not care.

I think that's true. And what's more, I think George Bush himself falls into the category of people so ill-educated that they don't realize he's violating his oath of office.

If you go back and watch the March 6 press conference, when he was laying out his reasons for going to war, he made some very revealing comments about what he thinks his job is. At one point, he said:

My job is to protect the American people. It used to be that we could think that you could contain a person like Saddam Hussein, that oceans would protect us from his type of terror. September the 11th should say to the American people that we're now a battlefield, that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terrorist organization could be deployed here at home.

So, therefore, I think the threat is real. And so do a lot of other people in my government. And since I believe the threat is real, and since my most important job is to protect the security of the American people, that's precisely what we'll do.

Later, he said:

My job is to protect America, and that is exactly what I'm going to do. People can ascribe all kinds of intentions. I swore to protect and defend the Constitution; that's what I swore to do. I put my hand on the Bible and took that oath, and that's exactly what I am going to do.

Especially if you watch the video, or listen to the audio, you get a really powerful sense that in Bush's mind, those two things (protecting the American people, and protecting the Constitution) are absolutely synonymous. He makes no distincation between them whatsoever. He has no conception that on some level the two goals might be in conflict with each other.

But in some cases they clearly are. Presidents are required to make difficult judgements between enhancing security on the one hand, and preserving Constitutional liberties on the other. But with Bush, no judgement is required. In his mind, "protecting the Constitution" (what he actually swore to do) just means "protecting the American people" (as in, protecting them from physical harm). So the Constitution gets shredded on his watch, but he sees absolutely nothing wrong with that. Sweet!

Posted by jbc at 12:36 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

September 18, 2003

Very Expensive, and Slightly Obscene, Plate

This isn't really "medical science," but that was the best I could come up with from the current list of categories. It's a photo of a plate that is believed to have been made by Italian Renaissance ceramicist Francesco Urbini in the 16th century; apparently a British museum just paid 240,000 pounds for it. It depicts a man's head made entirely of, um, well, penisis.

Which is pretty cool. But not as cool as the little fantasy I just played in my head, in which a sweet, grandmotherly woman brings it in to be appraised by the experts on Antiques Roadshow, and they have to decide whether or not they can air it.

Posted by jbc at 10:30 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Funny Sieg Heil Bush Photo

I saw this a few days ago, but was too caught up in various other stuff to post it. But the Jason who is really called Jason told me I should put it up, and he's right, I really should.


Bush Sieg Heil

Posted by jbc at 10:13 PM | view/comment (10) | TrackBack (0)

Kobe Bryant and the Hit Man

I hadn't noticed doing anything consciously, but apparently I've been expending considerable energy avoiding any information at all about the Kobe Bryant rape trial. But then this story floated past me, and I admit even I was titillated at the idea of the handing over of a big bag of movie money: Police say Swiss man solicited murder of Bryant's accuser.

So, if the extensive comment haul that resulted from my earlier "Kobe Bryant: Adulterer (+Rapist?)" piece's Google footprint is still in effect, throngs of concerned obsessives will be showing up to add their $0.02. So have at it, throngs. Knock yourselves out.

Posted by jbc at 09:57 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

So, Getting Back to That Iraq-Vietnam Comparison

Those who are fully onboard with the Bush administration's grand plan for defeating evil think things are going really well in Iraq. Austin Bay, for example: A war we are winning. (Update: See also this AP story: U.S. moves in Iraq, Afghanistan commanding respect of foes even as old allies alienated by aggressive superpower.)

Obviously, I'm not so sure. To me, this thing feels more like Vietnam all the time. Yes, I realize we are way short of where Vietnam ended up. But this sure looks to me like the path that leads there. Consider this article from Knight-Ridder's Ron Hutcheson: Some see troubling parallels between Iraq and Vietnam.

See also this opinion piece from former Senator Max Cleland: Mistakes of Vietnam repeated with Iraq.

(Cleland, by the way, is the triple-amputee Vietnam vet who lost a narrow re-election bid to Saxby Chambliss, after the latter ran ads questioning Cleland's patriotism and equating him with Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein because Cleland had voted against Bush's version of the Homeland Security bill. More on how Cleland is feeling about that is available in this Washington Post article from a few months ago: Political veteran; there's also some interesting discussion in the comments on this piece at Hit & Run: The lighter side of Max Cleland.)

Posted by jbc at 04:02 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Righties Taunt the 'Angry Left'

David Corn has a thought-provoking piece at Anger-baiting on the right. It seems the same right-wing echo chamber that couldn't contemplate anything Clinton did without becoming suffused with righteous indignation is drolly amused at the Left's current inability to control its temper in the face of the Bush administration.

Now, let's see: how would the Right have responded to similar criticism? Oh, wait, I know: "Angry? You bet your ass I'm angry! Your guy is a disaster! What the hell do you think I'm going to feel? I care about my country, dammit. Where's your own anger, you pathetic tool. Gah. Get away from me; you're making me nauseous."

Yeah. That'll work.

Oh, wait: "And guess what? You guys are wimps. Even a 70-year-old liberal can out bench-press Flight-Suit Boy." Heh.

Posted by jbc at 03:32 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Nation on the WaPo's Editors

Here's a really interesting look at the way coverage of the Bush administration's lies and misstatements on Iraq in the Washington Post changed over the last six months. From The Nation's Ari Berman: The Postwar Post.

It isn't so much that the stories themselves changed; it's that the placement of those stories in the paper changed. At first they were being buried way back. It was only as time went on and the truth about administration deceptions became more obvious that the paper started running the material on the front page.

Note that this makes pretty much no difference to people like me, who tend to read their newspapers online, where any story you can link to is pretty much just as prominent as any other. But in the real world I guess it matters a lot.

Anyway, like I said, it's interesting. I especially liked this quotation from the end:

The newfound intensity of the press brings to mind, Pincus says, something Gene McCarthy told him years ago. "The press is a bunch of blackbirds," McCarthy mused. "All are on a wire and one will go to another wire and when that bird doesn't get electrocuted, all the birds will go to that other wire."

Posted by jbc at 11:25 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bush Joins the Chorus

So, the circle is complete. George Bush now echoes the statements made by Rumsfeld and Rice in the last few days, that there is no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in the events of 9/11.

(But see, it's all still part of the war on terror. Iraq is the geographic center of the region from which these threats came. By which I guess they mean that it's located approximately midway between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, two countries that, despite being ruled by antidemocratic regimes friendly to the Bush administration, have far more substantial involvement with al Qaeda than Saddam's Iraq ever did.)

Anyway. From the Toronto Star: No proof Iraq tied to 9/11: Bush. And from the Chicago Tribune: Bush: No Iraqi link to Sept. 11.

Look at them blinking innocently into the TV lights. "Us? Try to mislead people into thinking that Saddam was involved with 9/11? Never! Why, the 70% of the country that currently believes in that just got the idea on their own. We certainly had nothing to do with it!"

It's fascinating to see the degree of coordination on the spin coming out of the White House. Say what you will about their near-total lack of honesty, morality, and patriotism, the members of the Bush administration do know how to read from the same script. It's almost like ballet, the deft way they all pivot and leap into the air together. When the lie has served its purpose, they do away with it, like a retreating army blowing up bridges behind it. Jerome Doolittle comments on this in his Badattitudes Journal: Why keep old lies around?

Posted by jbc at 11:04 AM | view/comment (5) | TrackBack (0)

September 17, 2003

Franken on Religion

The good people at have an interview with Al Franken, as he does the buy-my-book circuit. In this case the interview focuses on God and spirituality. Good stuff: Why would the anti-Christ write Chorus Line?

Posted by jbc at 03:43 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Martin Kelley on Life in the Land of Tinfoil Hats

Martin Kelley at posted an item on September 11 that I didn't notice at the time, but am very glad I noticed now: Big lies & mass hysteria. He sums things up very nicely. Truly, we're living in a land ruled by myths and nutjobs.

Posted by jbc at 01:43 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Rumsfeld Denies Knowledge of Iraq-9/11 Link

Rumsfeld denies knowledge of Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and any direct involvement by Saddam Hussein in 9/11. Film at 11:00. Defense chief sees no link between Iraq and al-Qaida's Sept. 11 attacks

Posted by jbc at 11:03 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Calling Them on It

I recently finished the #1 nonfiction bestseller in America: Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right (Salon excerpt, Oliver Willis' review). And the book is awesome. It's funny, honest, and well-researched. I'm sure it will come in for a coordinated smear campaign from the right, though the pre-emptive strike by Fox only seems to have helped sales, so maybe they'll figure out that ignoring it would be a better policy. Heh. Which I'm sure will drive some people (like Bill O'Reilly) crazy.

But anyway, it's a great book. I'm going to fair-use some of the conclusion, because it sums up the book's underlying message nicely, and ties in with something I wanted to say:

Yes, I'm a liberal, and I'm proud of it. It's a term we need to reclaim. Because I believe most Americans are liberals just like me. Most Americans believe in helping people. And most Americans believe that the government has a role to play -- to create opportunity, to protect the environment, to provide for the common good.

We are the country, but they control it. Only 7 percent of Americans say they want to weaken environmental regulations. But the 7 percent are in charge.

How do we get it back? We have to fight. But we can't fight like they do. People say that Rush and Fox and their ilk are popular because they're entertaining. And if you can stomach that stuff, I suppose they are. But a part of their entertainment value comes from their willingness to lie and distort. They fight with lies.

We can't do that. We have to fight them with the truth. Our added entertainment value will have to come from being funny and attractive. And passionate. And idealistic. But also smart. And not milquetoast-y. We've got to be willing to throw their lies in their face.

He's right. If we don't, the liars will be happy to take as much slack as we're willing to give them. Like Ann Coulter's comment the other day, mentioned by Adam with the link text Scheming psychotic monster. Or like Dick Cheney on Meet the Press last Sunday (nicely debunked by this article from the Boston Globe: Cheney link of Iraq, 9/11 challenged).

We have to be willing to call them on it. And we have to play fair -- but we don't have to let them use our willingness to be open-minded against us. For example, we don't always have to adhere to self-imposed "fairness" guidelines involving equal time and civil discourse that the other side routinely violates. Sure, we should be polite when it's warranted. And not when it's not. But we decide who deserves which kind of treatment, and how much of it.

I've been thinking about this in connection with some of the responses I've received to a comment I made on Donald Sensing's One Hand Clapping weblog (see the original post, Osama bin Laden's strategic plan, and my comments here, here, and here).

Donald Sensing had a distinguished career as an Army officer, and is now an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. He's informed, articulate, and under normal circumstances he displays a high degree of honor and integrity. But if he posts bullshit, I'm going to call him on it. And I kinda think he did in this case. Maybe I'm wrong. If it turns out I am, I'll apologize. But by my standards, the tone I've used is appropriate.

Update: Heh. New record for the elapsed time between my asserting a willingness to apologize if something occurs, and my issuing said apology. Well, not quite that apology, but close enough. Later update: Subsequent post by Donald Sensing, and ensuing discussion, including an apology for reals.

Posted by jbc at 07:05 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)


I know this is going to bug some people. Actually, I think it bugs me, on some level. But I think I have to link to it anyway: Fetopia. Thanks (I think) to Tuesday of This Girl Thinks for bringing it to my attention.

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Orson Scott Card on File Sharing

I remember the August, 1977, issue of Analog magazine. I read it in my bedroom, upstairs at the back of my father and stepmother's condo, the same room where I listened to Bad Company's Running with the Pack and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by Genesis. I remember that issue for just one reason: it contained a really cool short story called "Ender's Game" by a first-time author named Orson Scott Card.

Wow, I thought. This guy is awesome.

He's still awesome: MP3s are not the devil (part 1).

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Angle-Grinder Man

This is so cool. You may remember the earlier item on the strange tale of Terrifica vs. Fantastico. Well, there's a new real-world superhero in the news: Angle-Grinder Man, who wears a blue leotard and gold boots while he patrols the streets of Kent and London, removing wheel clamps from the cars of those victimized (er, victimised) by an oppressive government.

Posted by jbc at 04:18 AM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

September 15, 2003

Marshall Debunks Cheney on the Saddam-9/11 Link

Good lord; Dick Cheney's Sunday appearance on Meet the Press was really shameless. Josh Micah Marshall discusses it in detail: Apparently he can't help himself.

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September 14, 2003

A Quick Quiz on Arabs, Islam, 9/11, Racism, and Ignorance

Here's a fun little item from Counterpunch's Gary Leupp: The matrix of ignorance. It features the following pop quiz:

Which of the following best indicates the relationship between Arabs and Muslims?
  1. All Muslims are Arabs.
  2. All Arabs are Muslims.
  3. Most Muslims aren't Arabs.
  4. Most Muslims are Arabs.

In which Muslim countries do Christian churches and Jewish synagogues operate legally, as well as mosques?

  1. Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq.
  2. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Somalia.
  3. Pakistan, Sudan, United Arab Emirates.
  4. Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan.

According to the U.S. government (which may or may not be accurate in its report), the nineteen 9-11 hijackers were of what nationalities?

  1. 15 Saudis, 4 Iraqis.
  2. 14 Iraqis, 3 Saudis, 2 Yemenis.
  3. 15 Saudis, 1 Egyptian, 1 Lebanese, 2 from union of Arab Emirates.
  4. 14 Iranians, 2 Afghans, 2 Lebanese, 1 Iraqi.

Scroll down, or follow the link below, or just see the whole Counterpunch article at the link above, for the answers. (Note me smirking smarmily at my 3-for-3. See? That Poli Sci degree and the obsessive news-junkie behavior was good for something.)


Posted by jbc at 06:36 PM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (2)

It's all fun and games, until someone gets hurt...

...then it's just fun -- er ... wait a minute ... acctually this doesn't sound fun at all, this sounds seriously messed up: "A man was hospitalised with torn intestines after a friend, attempting a practical joke, pressed an air compressor to his..." Ouch.

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September 12, 2003

Buzzflash Interviews Krugman

Buzzflash has a good interview: Paul Krugman, New York Times Columnist and Author of "The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century".

Posted by jbc at 06:36 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Paine: Have You No Decency, Sir?

George Paine of Warblogging, in ranting about Bush's speech two days ago calling for setting aside the Fourth Amendment, channels Joseph Welch, the attorney who famously asked Sentator Joseph McCarthy, "Have you no decency, sir?": Exploiting September 11.

Posted by jbc at 05:26 PM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

Beverly Eckert: A Better Tomorrow

Yes, I didn't do any self-absorbed commentary on the anniversary yesterday; just more of my usual self-absorbtion. But here's something that I think expresses a worthwhile sentiment: On rising above fear to make a better world.

Posted by jbc at 12:10 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Krugman: The Campaign Will Be Ugly

Paul Krugman looks at the Bush team's track record, and their current situation, and draws what looks to me like an inescapable conclusion: the 2004 presidential campaign will be sordid and ugly, even by modern presidential-campaign standards. Which is saying a lot. Exploiting the atrocity.

Posted by jbc at 09:17 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

September 11, 2003

Rude-But-Fun Anti-RIAA Cartoon

At first I wasn't going to run a link to this, since it's kinda, I dunno, dirty or something. But then I thought, fuck it.

Anyway, from the fine people at Recording artists safety guide to the beach.

Posted by jbc at 01:32 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Fly-Embossed Urinals

I'm going to quote Vincent Vega again: "It's the little differences." Like the way European airports apparently have a thing about embossing make-believe insect "targets" onto the urinals in their airports: The urinals of Amsterdam airport Schiphol.

Don't stop there, though; check out the entire pantheon of world urinals that is

Whoa; this is freaky. I'm in the process of posting this item, having mentioned it in Ishar, the mud where I'm fortunate enough to spend my days hanging out with assorted gods and heroes, and lo and behold, Hiro mentions that actually, that site ( is hosted on the machine maintained by none other than Ishar deity Danthar.

Weird. Since I didn't hear about the site from Danthar, but from the (as far as I can tell entirely unrelated) Geekfun links. So. Small world, and all that. At least as long as you're willing to limit the pool of subject matter to things like, um, urinal-obsessed website creators.

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Guardian: War on Terror Failing

From The Guardian's Brian Whitaker comes this troubling analysis: Another fine mess. According to Whitaker, who cites a new report from academic peacenik Paul Rogers, Bush's "War on Terror" is failing to have any particular impact on the identified enemy.

I'm not sure I go all the way with the spin on this one. The Guardian is pretty famously one-sided in its view of things; sort of a Fox News-lite of the left. But even shading the conclusions with that in mind, it's still a damning datapoint. By the particular measurements the report employed, at least, the Bush administration's anti-terror campaign really isn't achieving much good at all. And it's certainly achieving plenty of bad.

Posted by jbc at 09:11 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

World Opinion Sours on US, Bush

This isn't really news, but it provides a good summing up of a sad situation. From the New York Times: Foreign views of US darken since 9/11.

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Bookman on the Islam/West War

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jay Bookman has another good op-end piece, this one on the unfortunate fact that Osama bin Laden is probably pleased as punch at the way the initial campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan morphed step by step into an assault on the heart of Islam proper, in Iraq: bin Laden's wish granted.

Posted by jbc at 08:43 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 10, 2003

ABC Annoys the Man

From Hiro comes word of this scary story: Border breach? It describes how ABC News, preparing an exposé on lax port security, shipped some depleted uranium from Jakarta to LA, easily avoiding detection by the people allegedly safeguarding us from smuggled dirty bombs. Which is a little scary, I guess.

But it's the second half of the article that is really scary. It describes how, faced with the fact that they'd been made to look bad by the journalists, the government turned around and started hassling them (showing up unannounced at participants' residences, misidentifying themselves as FBI agents, attempting to obtain taped footage of the incidents, threatening heavy legal sanctions, and so on).

No, I'm not bitching about life in a police state; it sounds like none of the stuff that authorities did to the ABC people was really all that awful. Except for what it says about the administration's overall approach to homeland security: What? Someone found chinks in our armor? Well then; we'll just use some of our post-9/11 police powers in an attempt to intimidate the messenger and cover up the problem.

This is, of course, consistent with the Bush administration's behavior in other areas. And it's wrong, wrong, wrong. Not in a moral sense (well, it's wrong that way, too), but in a practical sense. It's like the mid-level NASA managers trying to ignore the chatter about safety risks bubbling up from the engineers. Yes, acknowledging problems might make someone look bad, and correcting them might cost some time, effort, and money. Guess what? That's called "accountability," and if you don't have it, well, you've got even bigger problems than you realize.

This is so wrong. Gah.

Posted by jbc at 07:15 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

How Bush Could Get (Re-)Elected

This is the moment. This is the point in time when Bush either wins or loses the next presidential election. If he waits much longer than this to put his strategy in motion, it won't matter; he won't have time to move enough voters into his column. And big strategies take time to implement. If Karl Rove thinks an October, 2004, invasion of Syria, say, is what it will take to get swing voters to vote for Bush, then the preparation for that needs to start now.

Given that fact, I keep coming back to Sunday's speech, and what it says about Bush's overall strategy. Say what you will about Rove, you can't accuse him of thinking small. Everyone's interpreting the shift in rationale ("Iraq is now the central front in the war on terror") as a defensive move, a ploy to shore up eroding support in the face of the missing Iraqi WMDs. But maybe it's actually an offensive move, the first step in expanding the "war on terror" beyond Iraq.

Gwynne Dyer talked about this back in early August, in a piece I linked to then, but which has since disappeared (with a new, unrelated item appearing in its place, thanks to the extremely Web-challenged information architects behind the Jordan Times' site). Anyway, the piece is still available, thanks to those clueful folks at al-Jazeerah: Welcome to Iraq-Nam. Here's a key passage:

It [the guerilla war in Iraq] will escalate, and by this time next year the Bush reelection bid will be in serious trouble -- so serious only another brief and victorious war against alleged 'terrorists' may be able to save it. Washington is already blaming 'foreign terrorists' for the non-Baathist resistance in Iraq, and Syria and Iran are going to find themselves filling the same rhetorical role that the Ho Chi Minh trail did in the earlier war. Since Syria is a much softer target than Iran, it is quite likely to be invaded and occupied by American forces before November, 2004 . If there is another major terrorist attack on American soil, that likelihood becomes a near certainty.

That last part is interesting. As things stand today, I don't think Bush could credibly invade Syria; it would be too transparent a ploy to secure his (re-)election. If you look at the latest update of Pollkatz's Bush-approval graph, you can see that that steep decline in his post-flight-suit numbers has continued unabated. That's the thing about people; they just won't stay fooled. Not enough of them, anyway. And each time you fool them, they get un-fooled faster.

There's an interesting new poll from ABC News: Was It Worth It? Poll: More Americans Think Iraq War Raises Risk of Anti-U.S. Terror. If you look at those numbers, you get a picture of people getting wise to the reality of Bush's maneuvers. Republicans by-and-large still think he's doing great in Iraq, Democrats by-and-large think he's failing, but it's those Independents who tell the story. They're the ones who decide presidential elections, and they're shifting steadily into the anti-Bush column.

Besides the transparency of the ploy, there's also that pesky issue of funding. Between the big tax cuts for the rich (and the modest ones for us middle-classers with kids), and his penchant for playing with life-sized army men, Bush has pretty much maxed out his credit cards.

So taken together, this means he'd have a really hard time successfully mounting an election-securing invasion of Syria. At least, he would if he tried to do it today.

But that's the beauty of it. He doesn't have to do it today. Today, in fact, would be much too early. He has a whole year to prepare.

So; what form might those preparations take? Well, as Dyer mentioned, another terrorist attack on US soil would do nicely. Would Bush intentionally allow such a thing to happen, to help his own political fortunes? Hopefully not. But I'd certainly believe him capable of engineering a reasonable facsimile without the high body count; a near-miss, maybe, dramatic enough to be really scary in its implications.

Or not; again, the transparency of his motivations in creating such a Reichstag fire would make it risky. If too many of his fingerprints were on it, it could end up being counter-productive.

There are other actors in this drama, though, who might be willing to help out. Ariel Sharon, for example. Sharon has a very powerful interest in helping Bush get elected, and he might well be able to create enough mischief (invading Lebanon? a bombing campaign in Syria?) to give Bush a pretext for an invasion somewhere.

And then there's Osama bin Laden. I realize this is going to make right-wingers start talking about tin-foil hats, but I think the leader of al Qaeda might very well decide that the best thing for continuing his plans to foment an all-encompassing war between Islam and the West would be to return George Bush to office. So far, Bush has been a perfect accomplice. Throughout the Islamic world, anti-American sentiment is up, recruiting is up, and the hated secular regime in Iraq has been overthrown, paving the way for a rise of Islamic fundamentalism there.

Which brings me back to Sunday's speech. Maybe the shift in rationale goes beyond trying to float a new justification for the war. Maybe the president's latest taunting ("We've taken the fight to the enemy! Our cities are safe because the people being blown to little bloody bits are on their turf, not ours!") is intended, on some level, to encourage another attack on the US. Maybe Bush is intentionally baiting bin Laden and his followers, as with his earlier "Bring 'em on!" statement. Maybe the whole thing is part of a grand design for electoral victory.

I don't know. Bush is a mean-spirited man, with a hard, twisted little heart, and Karl Rove is famously willing to do anything in pursuit of victory. But still. I guess if you strapped me down in a Guantanamo interrogation facility and injected me with truth serum I'd have to admit that I doubt Bush is pursuing such a strategy consciously. But then again, Bush doesn't have to be conscious of the strategy in order for it to work. Maybe Bush is just "being himself," talking tough without any clear idea of the response he might provoke, consulting his gut rather than his head, doing what feels right to his perpetually chip-on-the-shoulder inner child. Bush is absurdly unsubtle, completely lacking in insight into his own motivations. He's oblivious to the fact that he's engaged in a dance of ever-escalating violence with a partner who is equally focused on achieving an apocalyptic outcome, each side convinced that "his" God will see to it that, in the end, his own side prevails. Emotionally, Bush wants this fight, and is incapable of backing away from it.

But Rove is a different story. As much as anyone in the Bush administration, Rove is a pragmatist. He knows what the strategy is, with all its emotional baggage stripped away. It would be really interesting to get Karl Rove in that interrogation chamber for a few hours and see what emerged of his unfiltered thinking. Scary, but interesting.

Posted by jbc at 08:48 AM | view/comment (8) | TrackBack (2)

September 09, 2003

The Onion on U.S. vs. Them

Fun item from The Onion: Relations break down between U.S. and Them. Thanks to badass Hiro for the link.

Posted by jbc at 08:44 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

More Illusions!

From Daypop comes word of a cool new batch of optical illusions: The latest works.

Posted by jbc at 03:58 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Man Ships Self in Crate

From AP, via Yahoo, via Janus: FBI probes man who shipped self to Dallas.

Posted by jbc at 01:16 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Rumsfeld, Kurtz: It's Your Fault, Critics

Those paying close attention will notice that I erred in predicting that Bush would claim during Sunday's speech that his critics were aiding the terrorists. Apparently that was deemed incompatible with the leader-of-the-free-world stature they were trying to convey. But Bush's people couldn't resist making the point anyway; they just had Donald Rumsfeld do it the next day.

Josh Micah Marshall has a nice write-up at Talking Points Memo that looks at Rumsfeld's statement, as well as a piece by Stanley Kurtz at National Review Online that makes much the same case: Another postcard from the 'responsibility era'.

Basically, say Rumsfeld and Kurtz, the president's policies are fine. The problem is all those people who keep criticizing him. Rumsfeld doesn't complete the thought out loud, but the obvious conclusion of his argument is that the US would be much better off if such criticism were not allowed.

Ironic, isn't it? According to Rumsfeld and Kurtz, the only way we will be able to create a free, democratic society in Iraq is if we first replace the system of freedom and democracy we have in this country with something that looks a lot more like... dictatorship.

Posted by jbc at 09:48 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Krugman on Bush's Iraq Bait-and-Switch

The more I think about the speech Sunday, the more outraged I get at the way Bush is now using the 'flypaper' argument to say the war is protecting US cities from terrorism. See, the Iraqi people had nothing to do with 9/11. So why is it that they're suddenly nominated as the people in whose neighborhoods this war will be fought?


Anyway, Paul Krugman has a column that, while it doesn't focus on that particular point, does do a great job of showing how the speech ties in nicely with Bush's history of deflecting blame and making others cover for his failures: Other people's sacrifice.

Posted by jbc at 07:12 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 08, 2003

The Death of Abu Ra'ad

While the Bullshit-Artist-in-Chief is laying out new and improved rationales for why we invaded Iraq, and soberly telling us about the sacrifices we Americans will have to make to salvage his failed policies, Riverbend offers another powerful story about the price that the people of Baghdad are already paying: Under the palm leaves.

Posted by jbc at 10:08 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 07, 2003

Fearless Leader to Address Nation

So, why has Bush suddenly chosen to address the nation? And what is he going to say? For the professionals' take on these questions, here are a couple of decent articles: From the Washington Post: In speech, Bush to ask Americans and allies for teamwork on Iraq. And from the Chicago Tribune, via Bush responds to pressure from his own party.

So much for professionals. On to my own amateur assessment.

The why is easy: because his poll numbers suck. Bush's approval ratings are now flirting with the low numbers he was recording just before the 9/11 attacks. They've continued the steep drop I talked about earlier (see "The silk purse president") that has been going on since the "Mission Accomplished" photo op on the Abraham Lincoln.

On what he's going to say, that's pretty clear, too, based on the inherent politics of the situation, and the hints his people have been dropping. He's going to tell us we need an additional $80 billion for the next year's reconstruction effort. He's going to assert that we need more international assistance in order to succeed in that effort. (Wasn't that exactly what the president's opponents were saying prior to the war, only to be smeared as spineless girly-men incapable of standing tall, Texas-style?)

Most of all, he's going to assert that what is happening in Iraq is a key part of his administration's ongoing progress in fighting the War on Terra. My guess is that tonight will mark the official shifting of the war's primary justification to what has come to be called the "flypaper" theory: that we're taking the fight to the terrorists, on their turf, so we won't be fighting the battle in US cities.

For a couple of interesting takes on that, let's have a little point/counterpoint. From scary conservative David Horowitz, writing in the Washington Times: How to look at the war on terror. And from Bush to address nation.

Since I probably will watch the address, despite knowing that it will make me nauseous, I'm going to make some specific predictions. I'm lousy at crystal-ball gazing, but at least this way I'll have something fun to do while watching. I'm not much of a drinker, so I won't be downing a shot for each of these that comes true (or that fails to come true?), but feel free to use the following ten predictions as inspiration for your own Presidential Address to the Nation Drinking Game:

  1. Bush will allude directly to the events of 9/11 at least twice.
  2. Bush will say "terror" (well, "terra") at least 6 times.
  3. Bush will not say the words "Osama bin Laden".
  4. Bush will not say the words "Saddam Hussein".
  5. Bush will not refer to weapons of mass destruction, or the ongoing hunt for same.
  6. Bush will refer to the ongoing effort to build "a democratic and stable Iraq," but only in the context of assuring listeners that the slow pace of the current "steady" (read, "non-") progress in achieving that result is nothing he hadn't anticipated.
  7. Bush will explicitly assert that the ongoing conflict in Iraq is serving to protect US cities from terrorist attack.
  8. Bush will explicitly state that critics of his Iraq policies are undercutting the men and women of the armed forces currently deployed there, referring to those men and women as "brave".
  9. Bush will not explicitly mention the resignation of Mahmud Abbas, or the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
  10. Bush will not mention the domestic economy, tax cuts, or evidence of economic recovery.
Posted by jbc at 09:01 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

September 06, 2003

Helen Thomas on the non-US Dead

From presidential press conference snub-ee Helen Thomas: Who's counting the dead in Iraq? Who indeed.

Posted by jbc at 08:26 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Another Account of Baghdad Insecurity

Following up on that reality-distortion field being propagated either by Riverbend (who writes that current conditions in Baghdad are hellish in the extreme) or Ken Joseph (who writes that it's great in Baghdad; the stores are stocked, the power's mostly back on, and people are taking relaxed evening strolls with their families), here's a firsthand account from columnist Rich Miller: Postwar Iraq moves dangerously close to civil disaster. Sounds a lot more like Riverbend's Baghdad, in which women, especially, are living in near-constant fear, than Joseph's.

Posted by jbc at 08:17 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Revisionism by Snopes on the bin Laden Flight

Kynn at Shock and Awe points out that Snopes, those perennial debunkers of Internet myths and rumors, have been going to some lengths to cover up a recent failure. Specifically, Snopes had said that Michael Moore was lying when he said that a planeload of Saudis, including Osama bin Laden's relatives, had been allowed to leave the United States in the days following the 9/11 attacks. Well, it now turns out that that assertion was true. But rather than admit their error, the Snopes folks have gone back and edited their original "debunking", restating the assertion they are countering in order to set up some straw men they can more-easily knock down, and erasing without comment any mention of Michael Moore's role in spreading the "false" rumor.

Interesting stuff. Anyway: Snopes: Suddenly less credible.

Posted by jbc at 08:10 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Schell on Why We Must Lose the War in Iraq

I know it's going to really disturb the manly types, but I think Jonathon Schell is making an excellent point: The importance of losing the war. An excerpt:

Biden says we must win the war. This is precisely wrong. The United States must learn to lose this war – a harder task, in many ways, than winning, for it requires admitting mistakes and relinquishing attractive fantasies. This is the true moral mission of our time (well, of the next few years, anyway).

Posted by jbc at 08:03 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 05, 2003

WaPo on Bush's Going Back to the UN for Help

There's a really interesting article running at the Washington Post that goes into lots of detail about Bush's going hat-in-hand back to the UN for help in post-war Iraq: Powell and joint chiefs nudged Bush toward UN.

I'm not sure how much faith to put in the account of who did what when in the continuing battle over the president's tiny little mind; the information is still coming from the same administration insiders, with their same ongoing interest in spinning things one way or another. But it's interesting to me to see the details emerging after the fact, having witnessed the events being described from the outside over the last couple of months. Now we're getting the inside story (or at least one version of it), according to which the post-war debacle we're currently seeing in Iraq has diminished Rumsfeld's standing, with much of his mojo flowing to Colin Powell and the career-military rational types.

I dunno; it wouldn't shock me to have this turn out to just be another case of sending Colin out into the international community to try to get what he can, without actually empowering him to make any concessions. Time will tell, I guess.

Posted by jbc at 12:44 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Emergent Highway Organisms

From CheesburgerBrown of Kuro5hin comes this thought-provoking piece: Traffic zoology. I'd comment on what it means, except I'm so busy linking to things I don't have time to actually read them. So go read it for me, and tell me what I think about it, okay? Thanks.

Posted by jbc at 12:37 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

LA Weekly on Disneyaniacs

Here's a very cool article from the LA Weekly's Adam Davidson: Keepers of the magic kingdom. It's about those people you may have seen from time to time (well, if you're a parent of young children, and sometimes visit a Disney theme park) who are really into that whole Happiest Place on Earth thing. Like, a little too much.

Posted by jbc at 12:26 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Josh Micah Marshall on Bush's Lies

Here's a long, but exceptionally good, article on everyone's favorite Bullshit-Artist-in-Chief: The post-modern president. It's by Josh Micah Marshall of Talking Points Memo.

Posted by jbc at 12:21 PM | view/comment (9) | TrackBack (0)

Spinsanity on the Bowling for Columbine DVD

Sometimes these stories just take on a life of their own. I've never even seen Bowling for Columbine, but it keeps showing up here.

Anyway, here's Spinsanity's Brendan Nyhan: Moore alters "Bowling" DVD in response to criticism.

Posted by jbc at 12:13 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Welch on Weblogs

Weblogger Matt Welch has a good article in the Columbia Journalism Review on weblogs: Blogworld. I know there's been a lot of weblog hype lately, but this article is actually really good.

Posted by jbc at 07:23 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cpl. Brian Taylor's Iraq Photos

Check out thes photos of and by Marine Cpl. Brian Taylor during his recent tour of duty in Iraq: Iraq War - Fox Company, 2nd BN, 23rd Marines. Link courtesy of Sgt. Stryker.

Posted by jbc at 06:34 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

September 04, 2003

How To Survive (a little longer) in a Black Hole

The good folks at Science News have a little blurb about "two researchers who actually took the time to contemplate" whether or not there was anyway to delay death while falling into a blackhole. Their solution is a Blackhole LIfe Preserver -- which would look just like a life preserver you'd find on a boat, except it needs to be the mass of a large asteroid. Assuming you wear this thing arround your waist, and point your feet (or your head) straight at the blackhole while falling, the gravity the life preserve exerts on you will counteract teh forces of the blackhole and prolonging your life a little while (about 0.09 second) -- allowing you to fall a little closer to the hole before rips you to pieces. The whole process has the added bonus of making you get shredded faster once you are torn atom from atom, so you will suffer less. Thank goodness for that.

The article doesn't mention how exactly you are supposed to go about the process of putting on a life preserver that ways as much as an asteroid -- so your milage may very.

(Props to my buddy dave who showed me this article durring our commuting)

Posted by hossman at 02:50 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Joseph vs. Riverbend: What's It Really Like in Baghdad These Days?

Interesting story being linked to by a number of pro-war blogs: Commentary: Letter from Baghdad. Published in the right-wing Washington Times, it's an account by Reverend Ken Joseph, Jr., who according to his bio was initially against the war, but changed his mind after seeing pre-war conditions in Iraq.

What makes this interesting to me is that there is pretty much no way to recconcile his rosy account of current conditions in Baghdad with the much-more-grim portrayal being provided by others, including, for example, everyone's current-favorite Baghdad blogger, Riverbend.

Here's an excerpt from Joseph's piece:

Despite the recent bombings, Baghdad looks dramatically different. The stores are full of supplies. The streets are crowded with people and cars. The buses are working and police are on the streets, directing traffic.

At night the streets are full of pedestrians, many families with children. I am at a loss to reconcile what we see on the ground with what is being reported.

The "regular people" are much better off than they were. Security has improved with Iraqi police everywhere, telephones are starting to work, electricity, while off and on, is relatively stable, the stores are full of food, and, little by little, people are getting jobs back.

Pensions have been paid on time. The schools are working and people for the first time have hope and a future.

Now, here's an excerpt from a recent piece by Riverbend in her Baghdad Burning weblog (Road trip):

Being out in the streets is like being caught in a tornado. You have to be alert and ready for anything every moment. I sat in the backseat, squinting into the sun, trying to determine if a particular face was that of a looter, or abductor or just another angry countryman. I craned my neck looking at the blue SUV, trying to remember if it had been behind us for the last kilometer or longer. I held my breath nervously every time the cousin slowed down the car because of traffic, willing the cars in front of us to get a move on.

I caught site of two men fighting. A crowd was beginning to gather and a few people were caught in the middle, trying to separate them. My cousin clucked angrily and started mumbling about ignorant people and how all we needed, on top of occupation, was hostility. E. told us not to keep staring and anxiously felt for the pistol under his seat.

The ride that took 20 minutes pre-war Iraq, took 45 minutes today. There were major roads completely cut off by tanks. Angry troops stood cutting off access to the roads around the palaces (which were once Saddam's but are now America's palaces). The cousin and E. debated alternative routes at every checkpoint or roadblock. I stayed silent because I don't even know the city anymore. Now, areas are identified as "the one with the crater where the missile exploded", or "the street with the ravaged houses", or "the little house next to that one where that family was killed"...

By the time we got to my aunt's house, every muscle in my body was aching. My eyes were burning with the heat and the strain. E.'s brow was furrowed with the scenes we had left behind us on the street and the cousin's hands were shaking almost imperceptibly- knuckles still white with tension. My mother said a prayer of gratitude for our safe arrival and the cousin's wife, T., swore she wasn't going to leave my aunt's house for another three days and if we planned to go home today, we could do so without her because God needed to look out for other people today, not just us...

Even a notorious truth-is-what-we-make-it guy like me can't view these divergent accounts as the normal result of the differences between two observers' subjective realities. One of these people (at least) is intentionally lying in an effort to mislead us.

Which one is it? We report. You decide.

Posted by jbc at 09:21 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Britney Opens Her Mouth Some More

In an interview with CNN following up on her notorious open-mouthed kiss with Madonna at the MTV Video Music Awards, Britney Spears had some interesting commentary when asked about her position regarding the war in Iraq: "Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision that he makes and we should just support that."

That's my little Mouseketeer.

Posted by jbc at 09:00 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

September 03, 2003

Riverbend on Remembering the Dead

Another post, another woman talking about memories of dead people. From Baghdad Burning: Have you forgotten?

Posted by jbc at 09:54 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wendy McClure on the Dead Non-Elephants of Woodlawn Cemetary

I like Wendy McClure's weblog, Pound, a lot. She mentioned having written an item that appeared in Gapers Block recently, so I went and read it, and it's pretty cool: Elephants and accidents: The truth about Showmen's Rest.

Posted by jbc at 09:46 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 02, 2003

Care and Feeding of the Nature Spirits in Your Computer

From the Spring 2003 issue of New Witch magazine, courtesy of Popular Science, courtesy of Janus: The real reason your computer keeps crashing.

Thanks to Ymatt, too, for the nice Houdini image for the new category icon.

Posted by jbc at 08:27 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Carroll: The War Is Lost

James Carroll, writing in the Boston Globe, has a terse analysis: The truth about Iraq.

It's interesting to me how we've basically moved on. The WMD discussion is essentially over: They aren't there, and weren't there. These days the focus is on the failure of the justification trotted out after that one: that we invaded Iraq in order to transform it from a brutal dictatorship that was a state-sponsor of terrorism into a pro-Israel democracy that would be a beacon of peace in a troubled region.

So, how's the peaceful beacon thing coming along? Uh huh. About the same as the last justification.

Posted by jbc at 08:03 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Oliver James Psychoanalyzes Bush

From psychologist Oliver James, as printed in the Guardian, comes this fun piece of psychoanalysis: So, George, how do you feel about your mom and dad? It isn't anything new, but it's nice to see it mentioned again.

It's interesting to me that this story is more or less completely absent from TV. If you get your information from there, you'll never hear about George Bush as the screwed-up, emotionally stunted eldest child of a neglectful, overachieving dad and a vindictive, abusive mom. But it is precisely that fact (that Bush's failings are essentially invisible when your only source of information is television) that allowed him to "win" the election and assume office.

There's a symmetry to it. Bush is the first president in the history of this country to have been raised almost exclusively on television, to the point of being functionally illiterate. Which, as long as you were raised on TV yourself, is no big deal. If anything, his inability to speak in complete sentences is comforting. He sounds like one of us. True, he doesn't actually say anything coherent once you rise above the level of the scripted sound bite, but if you've never read much yourself, that doesn't come off as a failing. You don't even notice.

But it matters. What it means is that on a fundamental level, the man is incapable of critical thought. He cannot effectively analyze complex issues. He can't understand subtle interactions. As I've written before, that doesn't make him a bad president all by itself, but it's a huge handicap. And combined with his other failings, it's really, really bad.

Posted by jbc at 07:52 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 01, 2003

L.T. Smash's Homecoming

Interesting firsthand account from weblogger L.T. Smash of his journey back from Kuwait (where he'd been for the last eight months): The long road home.

Posted by jbc at 01:20 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Hume Does Death-Stats Voodoo

From Jesse at Wage Slave Journal (via Six Different Ways) comes word of this fuzzy math by O'Reilly's Brit Hume: Fair and balanced mathematics. Seems Hume tried to claim that the current death rate of US soldiers in Iraq is no big deal, since Californians average 6.6 murders per day, while soldiers in Iraq are only averaging 1.7 deaths per day. Yeah, but see, as Jesse points out, "There are about 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, and more than 34.5 million people in California. So if we had as many troops in Iraq as there are people in California, and a comparable number were being killed, we would see 385 deaths per day, as opposed to the 6.6 murders in California."

That seems like a pretty transparent piece of spin, even for Fox, but maybe I'm assuming too much clue on the part of the "math is hard; let's go invading" set.

Posted by jbc at 01:01 PM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

Hickam on the Shuttle

Former NASA engineer Homer Hickam explains what's wrong with the shuttle, and calls for the program to be ended before it takes the entire US manned space program down with it: Not culture but perhaps a cult.

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O'Reilly on Shutting Up

Fun piece from Slate writer Jack Shafer: Bill O'Reilly wants you to shut up.

Posted by jbc at 10:46 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Jwag and the Burger from Hell

Here's another net.kooks entry for your morning. Nausea warning: The photos here are not for the faint of heart. Anyway: Patty Patty Patty Patty Patty Patty Patty Patty Patty Patty Patty Patty Patty Patty Patty XChz XChz XChz XChz XChz XChz XChz XChz XChz XChz XChz XChz XChz XChz XChz XChz XChz XChz XChz XChz XChz XChz. Don't miss the comments after, which split almost perfectly into two parts: "HAHAHAHA! OMFG! You _RULE_!!!!" and "Good lord, you Americans are a bunch of sick, pathetic, bastards." And both reactions are 100% accurate.

Posted by jbc at 10:40 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wired on the Time-Travel Spammer

I remember getting one of these "help me build my time machine" spams a year or so ago, and passing it around amongst my friends, but I didn't think much more about it. Anyway, if you find such things interesting, here's more detail on it from Wired: Turn back the spam of time.

Posted by jbc at 10:31 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)