Archive for November, 2005

Hatch’s Freudian Slip

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

I thought this was kind of fun. From the Salt Lake Tribune: Hatch refers to Iraq as Vietnam.

“The Democratic Party seems to be taken over by the Michael Moore contingent in their attitude toward Vietnam, and they continually call for a withdrawal of troops at a time when we haven’t finished the job,” Hatch said on the network’s morning show. Hatch’s spokesman acknowledged the error, which was first reported on the American Prospect Web log.

The comedy works on at least a couple of different levels, doesn’t it?

Randy Cunningham’s Honesty

Tuesday, November 29th, 2005

When I first read the text of Randy Cunningham’s statement acknowledging having taken bribes and announcing his resignation from the House, I thought to myself man, I just love these speeches. I love it when a politician comes out and delivers his mea culpa, acknowledging what half of us knew perfectly well already, and shifting seamlessly from contrition to the tearful appeal for our sympathy. Here’s the text, as I read it at Talking Points Memo:

I am resigning from the House of Representatives because I’ve compromised the trust of my constituents.

When I announced several months ago that I would not seek re-election, I publicly declared my innocence because I was not strong enough to face the truth. So, I misled my family, staff, friends, colleagues, the public — even myself. For all of this, I am deeply sorry.

The truth is — I broke the law, concealed my conduct, and disgraced my high office. I know that I will forfeit my freedom, my reputation, my worldly possessions, and most importantly, the trust of my friends and family.

Some time ago, I asked my lawyers to inform the U.S. Attorney Carol Lam that I would like to plead guilty and begin serving a prison term. Today is the culmination of that process. I will continue to cooperate with the government’s ongoing investigation to the best of my ability.

In my life, I have known great joy and great sorrow. And now I know great shame. I learned in Viet Nam that the true measure of a man is how he responds to adversity. I cannot undo what I have done. But I can atone. I am now almost 65 years old and, as I enter the twilight of my life, I intend to use the remaining time that God grants me to make amends.

The first step in that journey is to admit fault and apologize. The next step is to face the consequences of my actions like a man. Today, I have taken the first step and, with God’s grace, I will soon take the second.

Thank you.

Cue the violins, right? I was reminded of Clinton’s speech coming clean about Monica (sort of) in the wake of the blue dress.

So now I’ve actually watched the video of Cunningham delivering the statement, courtesy of Crooks and Liars. And I don’t know. Call me a sucker, but I sure want to be taken in by it. I want to believe that that’s real contrition, that Cunningham means it, and isn’t just playing for sympathy with that “twilight of my life” stuff.

But then I think about Aaron Broussard, and his tears, and my heart hardens a bit.

I guess when you get right down to it I don’t know what’s real here. Except that the things Randy Cunningham said in the course of that statement were all starkly, verifiably true. What a moment it must be for a corrupt politician, someone who’s been sucking down millions of dollars in bribes and casually shelling out favorable treatment in response, to stand in front of those lenses and that microphone and actually speak the final, irrevocable truth.

Like I said, watching him, I want to believe. Does that make me a putz?

Daddy’s Little Photoshopper-to-Be

Monday, November 28th, 2005

All those high-profile bloggers who indulge in Friday cat-blogging (or whatever) have inspired me to inflict this on you. It’s from my little would-be Photoshopper, William, who, during our recent Thanksgiving trip to the mountains saw fit to doctor Matthew McConaughey’s People magazine “Sexiest Man Alive” cover with the picture of the recently-departed “ugliest dog in the world” that he’d read about in the LA Times:

William\'s sexy-ugly man-dog image

That’s my boy. :-)

The Incredible Shrinking Case against Jose Padilla

Sunday, November 27th, 2005

Dahlia Lithwick in Slate has an interesting article on Jose Padilla, the homegrown alleged “dirty bomber” who has spent three and a half years locked in a military brig without charges: Public Enemy No. 43,527 – The government throws back another small fish.

Nobody disputes that small-fry terrorists must be caught and punished. After all, most of the Sept. 11 murderers were small fish with no real grasp of the big plan. Nor does anyone dispute that these terrorists should be questioned by the state if they can help foil big terrorist plots. But most Americans now dispute — and some have long disputed — that all this needs to be done outside the existing legal stratosphere. More than three years after the government began holding citizens in jails without charges, there is no proof that anyone in this country is safer for it. Nor is there any proof that ordinary criminal trials for Padilla, Hamdi, and the other terrorists we’ve tagged would have exposed vital intelligence information or resulted in acquittals. Yet with Hamdi sent home, and Padilla shuffled to the criminal courts, there may be no testing the addled theory that President Bush has boundless wartime powers, even after the Supreme Court has told him he doesn’t.

This story really burns me up. Not because I have any particular sympathies for Padilla. But because the wrong being committed by those who have locked him up without charges, using him as a poster boy to promote fear and civil liberties erosions, strikes me as more significant than anything he ever did himself.

Philosoraptor: Bush’s Military Policy the Worst of Both Worlds

Saturday, November 26th, 2005

Philosoraptor makes what appears to me to be a slam-dunk case: Iraq and the evaporating myth of American invincibility.

By irresponsibly (and possibly unjustly) invading Iraq, the Bush administration has made it irrational for other countries to trust their safety to our good will. Countries now eye us suspiciously, not sure what might set us off next. By invading a more-or-less randomly-selected country–a country no more allied with al Qaeda than, say, Syria or Iran or Pakistan–we have acted irrationally and unpredictably. Since we can’t be trusted to act morally or rationally, it becomes necessary for other countries to prepare to defend themselves against us.

I think there’s a level on which George Bush believes it’s a good thing for him to act irrationally and unpredictably with the US military. And evaluated in the Karl Rove calculus, which is all about winning and holding elective office in the US, he was obviously smart to believe that. But in the larger scheme of things, in which there’s a collective good to be striven for, both in terms of US citizens’ interests and the interests of humanity generally, that attitude of Bush’s is horribly stupid and wrong.

Philsoraptor, Hamsher on the “Let’s Bomb al Jazeera” Thing

Friday, November 25th, 2005

So, this whole thing about Bush allegedly threatening to bomb al Jazeera, only to be talked out of it by Tony Blair, continues to bug Philosoraptor. He speculates some more about what it means in al Jazeera on Bush’s alleged urge to bomb.

Also interesting was this piece from Jane Hamsher of firedoglake: And Tarek Ayoub is still dead.

Kinsley v. Cheney

Friday, November 25th, 2005

I’ve noticed Michael Kinsley making snarky arguments in favor of positions that I think are frankly wrong. So I’m not sure I want to put the full-on stamp of approval on this latest one of his, even though I think it’s frankly right. In any event, it’s very much worth reading, and thinking about: The phony war against the critics.

Watching America

Friday, November 25th, 2005

Answering the question, “who will watch the watchers?”, the Watching America site features translated news articles on America from foreign news sources. The site recently underwent a redesign, according to the borderline-spam I received about it, so I checked it out, and guess what? It’s pretty interesting stuff.

For example, if I hadn’t visited it, I never would have seen this video clip from al-Manar TV of Lebanon, in which Cleric Abd Al-Karim Fadhlallah explains how when Columbus came to America, “the intellectuals among the Indians spoke Arabic.”

Reporter Who Witnessed White Phosphorus Use by Marines in Falluja Weighs in on the Controversy

Friday, November 25th, 2005

I haven’t really talked much about this whole white phosphorus thing until now, though I’ve been entertained by the back-and-forth in the comments. But a while ago Sven forwarded this really interesting article from the North County Times to me, and now that I finally got around to reading it I wanted to pass it along. From staff writer Darrin Mortenson: White phosphorus debate grows white-hot.

It includes a firsthand account of the then-embedded reporter’s experience alongside Marines shelling Iraqi fighters with WP during the first battle of Falluja. It also offers a nice summary of the Pentagon’s evolving claims regarding the use of the substance, first saying it had not been used as an anti-personnel weapon, then, when confronted with detailed accounts of just that, switching to saying that it wasn’t a banned weapon, and wasn’t used against civilians.

Finally, the comments at the end of the story mention the ironic uncovering of a Defense Department report after the first Gulf War in 1991 that alleged that Saddam had used WP against Iraqi Kurds, and referrred to it as a “chemical weapon.”

Highly recommended.

Murray Waas on the PDB for 21 September 2001

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005

An important piece of the puzzle (for those who still need help coming to grips with the obvious) is this article from Murray Waas in the National Journal: Key Bush Intelligence Briefing Kept From Hill Panel.

Ten days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda, according to government records and current and former officials with firsthand knowledge of the matter.

The administration has refused to provide the Sept. 21 President’s Daily Brief, even on a classified basis, and won’t say anything more about it other than to acknowledge that it exists.

The information was provided to Bush on September 21, 2001 during the “President’s Daily Brief,” a 30- to 45-minute early-morning national security briefing.


The highly classified CIA assessment was distributed to President Bush, Vice President Cheney, the president’s national security adviser and deputy national security adviser, the secretaries and undersecretaries of State and Defense, and various other senior Bush administration policy makers, according to government records.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked the White House for the CIA assessment, the PDB of September 21, 2001, and dozens of other PDBs as part of the committee’s ongoing investigation into whether the Bush administration misrepresented intelligence information in the run-up to war with Iraq. The Bush administration has refused to turn over these documents.

Indeed, the existence of the September 21 PDB was not disclosed to the Intelligence Committee until the summer of 2004, according to congressional sources. Both Republicans and Democrats requested then that it be turned over. The administration has refused to provide it, even on a classified basis, and won’t say anything more about it other than to acknowledge that it exists.

Hm. So, are we still clinging to that “everyone had access to the same intelligence Bush did, and agreed that we needed to go to war with Saddam” storyline?

Bush’s (Joking?) Plan to Bomb al Jazeera

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005

When both Kevin Drum and Josh Marshall lead a posting on something by noting that it is “(seriously|awfully) weird,” you know I’m going to be all over it. Anyway, from Drum: Bombing al Jazeera. And from Marshall: This is an awfully weird story…

At issue are some British newspaper reports that Bush, while meeting with Tony Blair in April 2004, disclosed a plan to bomb the al Jazeera offices in Qatar as part of pushing back against the Arab-language broadcasters for their unfavorable coverage of US operations in Iraq.

The obvious interpretation of this is that Bush was joking, since that’s the kind of actually-not-very-funny sadistic humor that we’ve come to expect from the Frat Boy in Chief. But there are interesting signs that at least some of those in the room on the British side took the statement seriously, and made notes of Blair’s subsequent efforts (successful, reportedly) to talk Bush out of it.

I think that’s the detail that raises it to non-believability for me. We all know that if Bush really wanted to do something like that, no whimpering from his poodle across the pond would change his mind.

But it’s still kind of interesting. Bush apparently said something in that meeting, and however you interpret it, it isn’t very flattering that he did so.

McClellan made the following response when asked about the story:

“We are not interested in dignifying something so outlandish and inconceivable with a response,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan told the Associated Press in an e-mail.

I really liked Philosoraptor’s take on that: I have no plans to attack al Jazeera on my desk.

Given that we know that the administration is willing to mislead with half-truths, it would simply be irrational to interpret this as a denial. Which is not to say that it should be interpreted as an admission, either. Rather, we know that we must demand ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers.

We first learned this when Mr. Bush told us that there were “no plans to attack [Iraq] on [his] desk.” Later we found out that the planning was well underway. So the plans must have been in his drawer, or have moved on to Powell’s desk, or whatever. But we discovered something important about Mr. Bush at that point: we couldn’t interpret his words in the ordinary way, in the way we’d interpret the words of someone we knew we could trust. It was a despicable use of conversational implicature to prey on our trust and good will in order to deceive us.

In fact, I feel a tug–which I want to resist–to count McClellan’s evasive answer as Winglish for ‘yes’. And given Mr. Bush’s terrible decision-making in the past, I suppose I wouldn’t put this past him. One thing I think everyone can agree on: if he was serious about bombing al Jazeera, then this counts to some degree against his stability and/or competence.

Heh. “Winglish.”

Update: More from Jeremy Scahill in The Nation: Did Bush really want to bomb al Jazeera?

Josh Marshall: Agreeing Iraq Was a Threat != Supporting Invasion

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005

Joshua Micah Marshall does a good job getting to the heart of the dishonesty at the heart of one particular angle the Bush people have been pushing lately: Some of the White House jabs…

For better or worse there was a vast consensus within the American political establishment that Saddam Hussein was a threat to American interests and that he must at least be maintaining some stocks of chemical weapons. It is even true that in 1998 the Congress passed and the president signed the Iraq Liberation Act, which put the US on record as supporting ‘regime change’ in Iraq, though we should not forget that this law was intentionally foisted on the president at a moment of maximum political weakness by most of the same connivers that brought us the real war four years later.

All true. But not everyone thought we should invade Iraq. And that’s the heart of this. You could easily substitute “WMDs” for “a threat” in the sentences above. The question is ‘how much of a threat’? Do we need to invade? Do we need to invade right now? Do we have to invade right now before we even get a chance to see if the suspicions which are the premise of our invasion are even accurate?

Various people of different political stripes said ‘no’ to one or more of these questions. And that’s the heart of the matter. It’s almost comical when you take a moment to think about it. President Bush has spent most of his presidency swinging around the cudgel that he has the character and the strength to defend the country when his political opponents don’t. Now suddenly we learn that all the Democrats he’s run against for four years as not tough enough to defend the country actually supported all of these decisions and would have done everything the same way had they been in power. What an extraordinary development. Sued for Fraud

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005

I love this (well, not love, but you know what I mean): Online daters sue matchmaking Web sites for fraud., a unit of IAC/Interactive Corp. (IACI.O: Quote, Profile, Research), is accused in a federal lawsuit of goading members into renewing their subscriptions through bogus romantic e-mails sent out by company employees. In some instances, the suit contends, people on the Match payroll even went on sham dates with subscribers as a marketing ploy.


The company said it does not comment on pending litigation. But Match spokeswoman Kristin Kelly said the company “absolutely does not” employ people to go on dates with subscribers or to send members misleading e-mails professing romantic interest. The company has about 15 million members worldwide and 250 employees, she sa

Philosoraptor’s Iraq Intelligence Inquiry Initiative

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005

Philosoraptor does some digging in an effort to get to the bottom of what’s really behind all this yes-he-did, no-he-didn’t yapping re: Bush’s dishonest case for war with Iraq: The Iraq Intelligence Inquiry Initiative.

It’s actually good stuff, if you obsess about this topic (as I do, obviously). But it’s also kind of sad, because it’s pretty much the only place that such a degree of objectivity and rigor is going to be applied to the question.

And the question is kind of an important one.

More at: Josh Marshall and Frederick Shmidtt on (AD) and (AI)
and The Aluminum Tubes Argument (Initial Version)

Mary Mapes on Rathergate

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005

Mary Mapes, the former CBS producer who was made the fall gal, mostly, for the 60 Minutes story based on the almost-certainly-forged Killian memos about Bush’s spotty National Guard service, has a book out. As profiled in the WaPo: Ousted CBS producer comes out swinging.

Mapes is now pushing a book, called “Truth and Duty,” about the botched “60 Minutes II” story on Bush’s National Guard service that led to her firing. She ladles out plenty of blame but largely defends what she still considers a fair piece of reporting, although an independent panel accused CBS of having “failed miserably” to authenticate the documents before rushing the story to air.

The article is pretty old, but I meant to link to it when it came out, and forgot to until now. I find it interesting both as an example of someone working to salvage her reputation in the face of a pretty cut-and-dried case of error, and because big stories like this tend to get clearer, rather than murkier, with the benefit of a little hindsight.

Sarah Silverman and the Aristocrats Joke That Went Too Far

Thursday, November 17th, 2005

Sam Anderson has written an interesting profile of comedienne Sarah Silverman. It’s in the latest Slate: Irony Maiden – How Sarah Silverman is raping American comedy.

I especially liked this part:

This summer, she got into trouble in a venue that was supposed to be trouble-proof: The Aristocrats, a documentary that challenged 100 comedians to offend its audience as ingeniously as possible. While most of the comics went straight for the “piss-shit-suck-fuck” paradigm, which very quickly became about as offensive as a newborn koala, Silverman turned the old-school joke against an iconic old-schooler. She implied, via an emotionally supercharged soliloquy full of loaded pauses, that she had been sexually abused by the 79-year-old show-business institution Joe Franklin. At the end, she looked straight into the camera and said, dead seriously, “Joe Franklin raped me”—an anti-punch line that completely paralyzed the theater I was at. Instead of laughing, we were all stuck trying to decide whether this was some new species of joke or just plain old slander. When Franklin threatened to sue soon after the movie was released (“I didn’t like the nature of that wisecrack”), it made the joke strangely better. Silverman was the only comic in the film who met the challenge of the joke: She pushed it too far.

KR on Bush’s Meta-lies

Thursday, November 17th, 2005

Continuing to demonstrate how real journalism should be done, the reporters at Knight Ridder (specifically, James Kuhnhenn and Jonathan S. Landay) debunk the latest Bush assertions re: his misleading the country in the run-up to the Iraq war: In challenging war’s critics, administration tinkers with truth.

More ‘Bush Lied’ Commentary

Wednesday, November 16th, 2005

Here’s a quick roundup of some of the better stuff on the ‘Bush lied’ story, as fueled by Bush and the offensive linemen of Team GOP having decided to push it lately:

I think it’s pretty clear that if we’re playing this by the rules, Bush loses the debate, bigtime. He’s basically making the same type of bullshit argument about his actions in the run-up to the war that he was making back then about Saddam and his nukes and ties to al-Qaeda.

But it’s a hallmark of the Bush team’s response when they get backed into a corner like this that they don’t play to win some kind of fair, high-minded debate. Look at how they reacted when Richard Clarke went public with his dynamite accusations about how Bush had ignored the threat of al-Qaeda during the first nine months of his administration. Clarke had solid documentation for every one of his charges. It really was a slam-dunk case.

And Bush went on to win re-election anyway. And his main strategy was the same one he’s using now: To make really vile, dishonest arguments, thereby luring the other side to respond in kind, systematically ratcheting up the level of hostility until everyone not already obsessed with politics gets disgusted and tunes out the debate.

Rosenau on the US Bodycount in Iraq

Wednesday, November 16th, 2005

Joshua Rosenau of the Thoughts from Kansas weblog, who apparently knows something about statistics, takes my side in the wee disagreement I had with Dean Esmay a while back regarding the trend of US military deaths in Iraq: Armistice Day thoughts on Iraq.

Kyle Zirpolo Comes Clean on His McMartin Testimony

Monday, November 14th, 2005

I meant to link to his a while back when it appeared in the LA Times, then got caught up in Fitzmas obsessions and whatnot, and neglected to. So I’m doing it now.

From Kyle Zirpolo, one of the child accusers in the McMartin preschool-molestation trial: I lied.

I’m not saying nothing happened to anyone else at the McMartin Pre-School. I can’t say that — I can only speak for myself. Maybe some things did happen. Maybe some kids made up stories about things that didn’t really happen, and eventually started believing they were telling the truth. Maybe some got scared that the teachers would get their families because they were lying. But I never forgot I was lying.

My stepdad was a police officer who had guns in the house. I remember when all of this was coming down, he was put on a leave of absence from work because he was being investigated for supposedly threatening the McMartin family. He was cleared of that accusation — apparently it wasn’t true. But being only 9 years old at the time, I thought my dad was saying he would kill the McMartins. So in my mind, I figured no one from the school was going to dare mess with him because he would have hurt them first. That made me feel secure. It could be a reason I never mixed up reality and fantasy and always knew I was lying.

But the lying really bothered me. One particular night stands out in my mind. I was maybe 10 years old and I tried to tell my mom that nothing had happened. I lay on the bed crying hysterically — I wanted to get it off my chest, to tell her the truth. My mother kept asking me to please tell her what was the matter. I said she would never believe me. She persisted: “I promise I’ll believe you! I love you so much! Tell me what’s bothering you!” This went on for a long time: I told her she wouldn’t believe me, and she kept assuring me she would. I remember finally telling her, “Nothing happened! Nothing ever happened to me at that school.”

She didn’t believe me.

I moved to Manhattan Beach after preschool age, but a lot of my friends in junior high and high school were former McMartin students. My girlfriend and her brother both went there; both were interviewed as part of the investigation, and both said they’d never seen or experienced anything unusual or questionable.

I give Zirpolo a lot of credit for being willing to come forward now. But I can also understand the surviving defendants refusing to meet with him to hear his apology.

Children lie. Hell, grownups lie, all the time. But for children, there’s something innocent about it, an element of the fantastical, magical thinking that makes anything potential as “true” as any other thing. Words like “fantastical” and “magical” have something of a positive connotation, and I’m not trying to say there’s anything good about little kids lying, especially when the lies ruin the lives of innocent third parties.

But the children who testified in the McMartin trial to abuses that didn’t actually take place weren’t really responsible for their actions. They were little kids. They were victims of the process, too. But the grownups who elicited those accusations from them, and the police and district attorneys and parents who took the ball and ran with it, and the media that sold lots and lots of advertising while demonizing Ray and his mother and the rest of the accused, have more to answer for.