Archive for June, 2007

Greenwald on Klein on Iraq

Saturday, June 30th, 2007

I’d like to believe that Glenn Greenwald’s writing of such impressive stuff as Our rotted press corps, a division of “Camp Victory” gives reason to hope for the future of our country, but at the same time I have to acknowledge that the fetid stench of what he’s reporting on undercuts that sense of hopefulness a wee bit.

It is difficult to avoid a sense of resignation when one reads things like this. I try to avoid language like this generally, but the sheer stupidity and dishonesty and servile, slavish personality attributes necessary to engage in that behavior is unfathomable — for any human being, let alone for a leading journalist. Yet that is the person assigned by our most read and most establishment-trusted news magazine to write a lengthy article purporting to inform Americans about what is happening in Iraq, about the great victories we’re winning there over “Al Qaeda,” about the resolute and brilliant military commanders killing those who flew the planes into our buildings. Journalists like Joe Klein are as gullible and dumb as they are dishonest.

Silverstein: Lying to Learn the Truth

Saturday, June 30th, 2007

Ken Silverstein, a senior editor for Harper’s, impersonated a lobbyist to mount a sting operation exposing the depths to which our current political culture is for sale (see Their men in Washington: Undercover with D.C.’s lobbyists for hire). Now he has an op-ed in the LA Times where he defends himself against critics like the WaPo’s Howard Kurtz, who say it was wrong of Silverstein to lie in order to get the story: Undercover, under fire.

In my case, I was able to gain an inside glimpse into a secretive culture of professional spinners only by lying myself. I disclosed my deceptions clearly in the piece I wrote (whereas the lobbyists I met boasted of how they were able to fly under the radar screen in seeking to shape U.S. foreign policy). If readers feel uncomfortable with my methods, they’re free to dismiss my findings.

What do y’all think? (It’s probably worth reading Kurtz’s critique of Silverstein – Stung by Harper’s In a Web Of Deceit – before answering.) For myself, I think Silverstein’s argument is compelling. We need real journalism, which means we need journalists willing to write real stories, and (this is crucial) real news organizations willing to employ those journalists. We don’t have enough of that these days. Silverstein’s lying was justified, and that he’s taking friendly fire from the mainstream media over the tactics he used is just more evidence (as if any were needed) that we’re in bad way.

Ted Sorensen for President

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

I think Barack Obama comes closest, of the current wannabes, to being someone I could credibly imagine delivering the following convention acceptance speech: The New Vision.

Here’s hoping I get to hear it, or something like it.

The Cheney Monster

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

Again, no time to obsess. But one of the more important things to appear in the WaPo in a while is this: ‘A Different Understanding With the President’.

Just remember: Impeach. Cheney. First.

Greenwald on the al Qaida Rhetorical Switch in Iraq

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

No time to obsess, but a good article from a few days ago, if you missed it, was this one by (who else?) Glen Greenwald: Everyone we fight in Iraq is now “al-Qaida”.

Romney’s Aide Impersonates State Trooper

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

It’s kind of early for me to get into full-on campaign-lies mode, but I couldn’t pass up this story. From the Boston Globe: Romney aide is the focus of probe.

State Police are investigating one of Mitt Romney’s top campaign aides for allegedly impersonating a trooper by calling a Wilmington company and threatening to cite the driver of a company van for erratic driving, according to two law enforcement sources familiar with the probe.

Jay Garrity, who is director of operations on Romney’s presidential campaign and a constant presence at his side, became the primary target of the investigation, according to one of the sources, after authorities traced the cellphone used to make the call back to him. The investigation comes three years after Garrity, while working for Romney in the State House, was cited for having flashing lights and other police equipment in his car without proper permits.

So, not a campaign lie, technically speaking. But an interesting case of repeated lying by someone active in the campaign.

Drum on Dunning-Kruger

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

In a postscript to an item on Giuliani’s lack of foreign policy expertise, and Giuliani’s simultaneous belief that he alone is competent to handle the demands of 21st-century foreign policy, Kevin Drum offers the following interesting aside (from Commander in Chief):

By the way, the academic name for this is the Dunning-Kruger Effect [PDF download]. Impress your friends by knowing this! Dunning and Kruger, in a famous series of tests, found that “Incompetent individuals, compared with their more competent peers, will dramatically overestimate their ability and performance relative to objective criteria.” Also: “They will be less able than their more competent peers to recognize competence when they see it – be it their own or anyone else’s.”

I tend to view Bush’s pattern of behavior as willful disregard, an intentional act of denigrating real competence due to his own emotional need to deny his inadequacy. But I guess it could just as easily, or more easily, be explained as a completely unconscious process on his part. He might really just believe that he’s competent, and that the toadies he hires based on their willingness to accept and repeat that fiction are also competent. Which doesn’t really change anything in a fundamental way; he’s still an incredible doofus, and a menace to the country as long as he and the people he empowers retain their authority. But the realization might be helpful to me in getting past being really, really pissed off at the guy.

Greenwald on Digby on Lefty Bloggerdom

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

Glenn Greenwald is being quite awesome lately, including in this piece, in which he talks about Digby’s recent speech, which I watched, such that I now know that she’s a she. Anyway: “Fringe liberal bloggers”.

Radicals and extremists are those who believe that we ought to invade and occupy foreign countries which have not attacked and cannot attack us, or that we ought to lock people away indefinitely with no process and/or torture them, or that the president has the power to ignore our duly enacted laws. As is true for any collection of large numbers of people, there surely are liberal bloggers who hold views that are shared only by a small minority. But objectively speaking, the defining views, the ones that its members hold almost unanimously in common, are anything but radical or “fringe.”

Greenwald on the al-Marri Decision

Sunday, June 17th, 2007

I agree wholeheartedly with Glenn Greenwald’s comments on the al-Marri decision:

Anyone who believes that the President should have the power to order individuals inside the U.S. imprisoned forever with no charges and no process is someone who, by definition, simply does not believe in the political system of the United States.

Hersh Has the Skinny on the Taguba Report

Sunday, June 17th, 2007

With the passage of time, more of the real story comes out. Seymour Hersh profiles Antonio Taguba, whom the Army designated to investigate Abu Ghraib. Now that Taguba is retired, he’s spilling the beans about how the whitewash happened: The General’s Report.

The 29% of you who continue to support the Bush administration are really pathetic. I mean that literally: you have my pity.

How Many Innocents in Prison?

Sunday, June 17th, 2007

The thing that makes this country special, the highest, best virtue we inherited from the Founding Fathers, is our belief that there is such a thing as essential human rights, and that government is merely a means of securing those rights. Because of that, the state can’t (legitimately) argue that its own needs take priority over the rights of individual citizens. We fail to live up to that ideal on a fairly regular basis, but the ideal remains. It’s a target, a goal, something to guide our efforts and illuminate our dreams, if not always our waking reality.

Anyway, I think it’s important to think about what DNA testing has taught us in this area. Through an historical accident we’ve been given the opportunity to retroactively identify cases in which the state has made horrible mistakes, wrongly denying life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to innocent people in the name of an expedient criminal justice system.

A couple of items floated by me recently that I thought were interesting. First, an op-ed piece from UMich law professor Samel R. Gross: Weeding out the innocents. If you’re feeling frisky (or if the LA Times is resistant to bugmenot-supplied login credentials), you can read Gross’s academic study on the same subject: Exonerations in the United States 1989 through 2003.

For a more-personal, less-statistical approach to the issue, I also recommend NPR’s reporting on a particular case and its aftermath: Larry Peterson: Beyond Exoneration.

U.S. Deaths in Iraq for April and May, 2007

Saturday, June 16th, 2007

Here are the updated graphs for April and May. As always, I’m comparing the US military casualties in Iraq to those from the Vietnam war at a similar point in each war’s political lifetime (which some have charged is misleading; see disclaimer below). The data come from the advanced search tool at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund site, and from Lunaville’s page on Iraq coalition casualties. The figures are for the number of US dead per month, without regard to whether the deaths were combat-related.

The first graph shows the comparison for the extent of the Iraq war to-date. (Click on any image for a larger version.)

Next, the chart that gives the US death toll for the entire Vietnam war:

Disclaimer: I’ve been accused of comparing apples to oranges in these graphs. For the record, here’s what I am not arguing:

  • I’m not saying that Iraq is somehow deadlier per soldier-on-the-ground than Vietnam. For both wars, the number of fatalities in any given month tracks pretty closely with the number of troops deployed (along with the intensity of the combat operations being conducted). There were more troops in Iraq in the early going than were in Vietnam during the “corresponding” parts of the graphs. Similarly, for later years in Vietnam, when the monthly death toll exceeds the current Iraq numbers, there were many more troops in place.
  • I am not saying that Iraq is somehow “worse” than Vietnam. I include the first graph mainly because I wanted a zoomed-in view of the Iraq data. And I include the second graph, which shows the entire span of the Vietnam war, because I want to be clear about what the data show about overall death tolls — where any rational assessment would have to conclude that, at least so far, Iraq has been far less significant (at least in terms of US combat fatalities) than Vietnam.

I was just curious how the “death profile” of the two wars compared, and how those deaths played out in terms of their political impact inside the US. For that reason, I chose as the starting point for each graph the first fatality that a US president acknowledged (belatedly, in the case of the Vietnam graph, since US involvement in the war “began” under Kennedy, but the acknowledgement was made only later by Johnson) as having resulted from the war in question.

As ever, you are free to draw your own conclusions. And for that matter, you’re free to draw your own graphs, if you have a way of presenting the information that you believe would be better. In that case, feel free to post a comment with a URL to your own version. Thanks.

Norm on Jon on Tony on the Whitehouse (non)Involvement in the Justice Department Firings: Liar Liar

Saturday, June 16th, 2007

As hosted by Norm at onegoodmove, Jon Stewart notes Tony Snow’s adroit flip-flop on the issue of whether the White House was (or wasn’t) involved in the firings at the Justice Department: Liar Liar.

Danner’s ‘The Age of Rhetoric’

Friday, June 1st, 2007

I apologize for neglecting lately. My attention in the last month has turned from the general to the very, very specific; I started a new blog, and have been focusing way too much of my attention on it. The chances that a reader of this site will be interested in it seem fairly small, but here’s a link anyway, for the idly curious: The Sutro Forest Birdcam Blog.

Even so, an occasional item on the antics of the Failure-in-Chief can break through the fog of birdy obsession that surrounds me, and here’s one now: From author Mark Danner, a commencement speech delivered recently to some graduates at UC Berkeley: The Age of Rhetoric.

Danner offers a powerful argument as to the nature of the reality we, and the Bush administration, are inhabiting these days. It’s very, very good. Which is to say, very, very depressing. But important to read and understand, I think.

Sigh. I wonder what the birdies are up to?