Archive for August, 2007

Larry Craig’s Exit Strategy

Friday, August 31st, 2007

I’ve been thinking through tomorrow’s announced press conference, at which it is widely reported that Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) will announce his resignation from the Senate.

I hope that’s all he does. As I think through the various scenarios, though, I have this paranoid sense that, faced with the loss of everything he’s defined himself by, faced with the prospect of public recognition, of his own personal recognition, that he is not only a liar, but far worse, an abomination of the sort he was taught to despise from an early age, he might decide that his only way out is to kill himself.

Which is an inherently ludicrous idea on the face of it. Like the heckler who called out disdainfully at the end of his September 28 press conference, “what if you are gay? Come out of the closet.” It’s just not that big a deal, once one accepts the simple fact that his being attracted to other men is neither a disease nor a moral failing. It’s just how he is, like being left-handed.

I wouldn’t even be thinking about the possibility of a televised suicide, probably, if it weren’t for the example of Bud Dwyer. But there’s something about the zeal with which Craig has been asserting his non-gay-ness that makes me wonder how he will handle the announcement tomorrow. There’s something tense and fractured and brittle about him; he’s lived his whole life in this cage of his own construction, refusing to face the truth. How will he deal with reality? Will he be able to?

If I had to put money on it, I guess I think he’ll just continue the way he has. He’ll assert that he’s not gay, and did nothing wrong, other than the lapse of judgment that led him to plead guilty to the bathroom-incident misdemeanor. More in sorrow than in anger, for the good of the party and the people of Idaho, Nixon-like, he’ll step down. And then he’ll just continue in the closet.

But there’s that self-loathing, that mental illness, that underlies the choice to stay in the closet, and it just makes me nervous. And then there’s the Idaho factor, and his military service.

Sigh. Maybe this sense of dread I’m feeling is Stanley Kubrick’s (and Matthew Modine’s, and Vincent D’Onofrio’s) fault.

Update: So, I’m not the only one who’s anxious about this: blacktygrrrr, commenter Harold on this Rolling Stone item, and this copy-and-pasted version of the same comment in the Boise Weekly.

Later update: Whew. Resignation announced, still alive, still in the closet.

Larry Craig’s Police Interrogation Audio

Friday, August 31st, 2007

Larry Craig fails his accountability moment.

Embarrassing. Embarrassing. No wonder why we’re going down the tubes.

Greenwald Tracks the Rhetorical Ramp-up to Bombing Iran

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

Scariness from Glenn Greenwald: The president’s escalating war rhetoric on Iran.

Larry Craig’s Denial

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

In my mind, this is up there with Ted Haggard’s in-the-car interview on the eve of his confession. Anyway, here’s a portion of the chat session in which Adam and I agreed that we couldn’t decide which of our feelings toward Larry Craig was stronger: pity or loathing.

Me: hey, you know what?
Adam: what?
Me: I hear that senator larry craig of idaho… Is. Not. Gay.

And later:

Adam: the thing is, I think that’s the one thing he thinks he’s telling the truth about
Adam: that’s why he’s so emphatic about it

My favorite part is the off-camera question at the end:

Hey, what if you are gay? Come out of the closet.

Nephew on the Fraudulent Case for Wars Past and Present

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

Thomas Nephew thinks out loud about the basis for impeachment. In light of the Bush team — with the Democratic Congress’s help — retroactively making some of its lawbreaking officially legal, what should the focus of impeachment proceedings be? Nephew concludes that it should be the fraudulent case for this war — and the next one.

Colbert, Backstage with Kerry

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

I’m still more of a Jon Stewart man, but this Josh Marshall footage of Colbert out of character with John Kerry is pretty cool.

Quebec Cops Admit Placing Provocateurs Among Striking Workers

Friday, August 24th, 2007

You probably saw this video already. If not, it’s definitely worth taking a look at. The thing that gets me is the sheepish reaction of the undercover provocateurs when they’re accused of being cops. And then, of course, the odd response of the riot police when the agents flee behind their line: At first, they take the guys down, but then, almost instantly, the majority of the riot cops turn their attention back to the real protesters.

It really doesn’t feel like anything other than what the union protesters are claiming: These are undercover cops. And yeah, as it turns out, they were: Quebec police admit they went undercover at Montebello protest.

Police said the three were told to monitor protesters who were not peacefully demonstrating to prevent any violent incidents, but they were called out as undercover agents when they refused to throw objects.

Hm. Really? Granted, we don’t see what came before the footage shown in the YouTube video, but in the video the union organizer repeatedly demands that the cop holding the rock should put the rock down. I think the union version of what happened comes much closer to passing the smell test than the police version.

The Latest ‘Unclassified Producer’ YouTube Video

Friday, August 24th, 2007

I like this guy a lot. He does a good job of gathering the relevant facts together and presenting them in an easily digestible package.

Churchill, His Arms Wide

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

I very much enjoyed this essay entitled The Power of (Right Wing) Myth, and its analogy between the episode of Star Trek involving a race of aliens that speak only in metaphor and the tendency of many (I won’t limit it to the right wing as the author does) to fall back to a defined set of references to 20th century history to explain, even justify, a lot of things our government has done more recently. You can see it in Bush’s bizarrely ironic comparison of the Iraq and Vietnam wars, and all the way down through the ranks of officials and commentators throwing Churchill and Imperial Japan and Hitler around, seemingly without considering them anything more than archetypes of “good” or “evil”.

I was one of the generation the author mentions, who grew up in a republican household, imprinted with the mythos of the triumphant Reagan throwing out the unmanly peanut farmer; I had a “Reagan ’84” bumper sticker next to pictures of the Transformers on my bedroom door in grade school. But why haven’t more people like me given up childish caricatures and tried to learn the real lessons of history? I mean I wouldn’t use an episode of Star Trek to justify a war…

McGovern on Our Upcoming Attack on Iran

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

I’ve been reading Glenn Greenwald’s A Tragic Legacy. It occasionally feels over the top, but when I take the time to go through the case Greenwald lays out (on the specific nature of Bush’s decision-making, how it was manipulated to make the Iraq war happen, and how it’s being manipulated now to make a military attack on Iran happen), it’s hard for me find any flaws in his reasoning. That makes stuff like this piece from Ray McGovern especially worrisome to me: George W. Bush: A CIA Analysis.

Among other things, it mentions speculation that the reason Rove has left the White House (and perhaps the reason Tony Snow is also leaving), is that neither one wants to stay and deal with the aftermath of the upcoming missile and bombing attacks by the US on Iranian training camps and nuclear facilities.

The more I think about it, the more I think this isn’t just paranoia on my (and the other Bush-haters’) part. I think it’s a rational reading of the evidence before us.

Let me be more specific: I believe it now is more likely than not that Cheney has won the internal White House debate over whether or not we should bomb Iran, and Bush has decided to go forward with such bombing, probably within the next six months. I also believe that doing so will be disastrous, for many of the same reasons that invading Iraq has proven to be disastrous.

So, there are a couple of tests before us: 1) Am I actually being rational in drawing this conclusion at this point? Are we at essentially the same point in the Iran-attack timeline that we were in the late summer of 2002 with respect to the Iraq invasion? And 2) Will the people in a position to oppose this horrible idea be any more effective this time around than they were in the run-up to the Iraq invasion? Will media outlets conspire to pass on the administration’s pro-war propaganda and manipulated intelligence? Will wiser heads in the foreign policy community be more vocal in their opposition, and will that opposition have any effect? Will the Democratic-controlled Congress be willing or able to restrain a president bent on launching an ill-considered war?

Sarno on the Haiti UFO Video

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

Interesting piece (given my recent thinking about the role of the Internet in fueling wacky perceptions) in today’s LA Times: It came from outer space. In it, “Web Scout” writer David Sarno investigates the origin of the above video, recently being much-viewed on YouTube, which purports to show UFOs flying over a beach in Haiti.

Some favorite quotes from the article:

“Frankly I’m worried about this,” wrote one observer on the conspiracy site “If people feel it necessary to flood the Internet or the UFO community with increasingly more ‘realistic’ hoaxes, what will happen in the event of a true landing?”


Barzolff stressed the videos were not intended as a viral marketing ploy. His movie is still in the idea phase, and he created the hoax strictly as a “sociological experiment” — in other words, just to see what would happen.

What happened far exceeded his expectations.

After he finished producing the videos, he posted them and went to bed. “I thought they would reach perhaps 2,000 people,” he said through Sam.

“When I woke up the next morning there were 70,000 views,” on the Haiti video. “Twenty minutes later it was up to 130,000 views. It grew exponentially from there.”

Barzolff called the results of his experiment “entertaining, thrilling, completely addictive, and a little scary.”

The scary part, he said, was that in spite of the evidence, “many people refuse to believe it’s a hoax.”

Wallsten: Rove Going After Hillary… to Help Her?

Sunday, August 19th, 2007

If you listened to the latest podcast, you know I’m in a Rovian mood right now. So I was intrigued by the following piece by Peter Wallsten in the LA Times. It makes the case that Rove’s latest attacks on Hillary might actually be intended to strengthen her with the Democratic base, in the same way that Rove advocated attacking John Kerry early in the 2004 campaign as a way of conferring front-runner status on him, as opposed to the guy they were really worried about: John Edwards. Anyway: Clinton may be a target of Rove’s reverse psychology.

In this case, Rove’s weeklong broadside against Clinton — which he is expected to repeat in multiple appearances on television talk shows today — looks suspiciously like an exercise in reverse psychology that his team employed three years ago when it was preparing for President Bush’s reelection bid.

The ploy was described by Rove lieutenant Matthew Dowd during a postmortem conference on the 2004 election at Harvard University the month after Bush defeated Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts.

In the run-up to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, when it was not yet clear who Bush’s opponent would be that November, Rove and his aides had begun to fear that their most dangerous foe would be then-Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

With his Southern base, charismatic style and populist message, Edwards, they believed, could be a real threat to Bush’s reelection.

But instead of attacking Edwards, Rove’s team opened fire at Kerry.

Their thinking went like this, Dowd explained: Democrats, in a knee-jerk reaction to GOP attacks, would rally around Kerry, whom Rove considered a comparatively weak opponent, and make him the party’s nominee. Thus Bush would be spared from confronting Edwards, the candidate Republican strategists actually feared most.

Unlike Kerry, who had been in public service for decades, Edwards was a political newcomer and lacked a long record that could be attacked. And, unlike former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who had been the front-runner but whose campaign was collapsing in Iowa, Edwards couldn’t easily be painted as “nutty.”

If that sounds implausibly convoluted, consider Dowd’s own words:

“Whomever we attacked was going to be emboldened in Democratic primary voters’ minds.

“So we started attacking John Kerry a lot in the end of January because we were very worried about John Edwards,” Dowd said. “And we knew that if we focused on John Kerry, Democratic primary voters would sort of coalesce” around Kerry.

“It wasn’t like we could tag [eliminate] somebody. Whomever we attacked was going to be helped,” he said.

Grunts and Non-Coms in the NYT on Iraq

Sunday, August 19th, 2007

This was interesting, and rings true to me, to the extent I can evaluate it from where I sit: The War as We Saw It. Makes for a thought-provoking contrast with the “don’t pull the rug out from under the troops Just When We’re Finally Making Progress(TM)” stuff that Team Bush has been putting out lately.

Huffington on the Media on Dead Mine Rescuers

Saturday, August 18th, 2007

I’ve been only half paying attention to the ongoing saga of the miners trapped in the Utah coal mine. Something about the “Little Boy” (or adult mine workers) “Trapped in a Well” (or a mine) storyline seems so clichéd, so tailor-made for shallow, breathless coverage by a growing crush of media, that I feel a personal duty to avoid the story, the same way I feel obligated to say “no” to any extended warranty while buying consumer electronics, just on general principle. Which is callous and insensitive, I realize; those miners and their families are going through a horrible ordeal, and any decent human, given half a chance, would (and should) feel powerful emotional sympathies. Which may just be another way of saying the same thing: in a context in which large corporations are mobilizing armies of bubbleheads and technicians and equipment to tap into my essential humanity for the purpose of selling soap (or whatever CNN is hawking during the commercial breaks from the mine coverage), cultivating my inner cynic becomes an act of justifiable (if regrettable) self defense.

I did have a moment when listening to NPR the other day when it occurred to me how the rescue effort has played out like a metaphorical version of the Iraq war: ill-equipped, ill-trained (if sincere) efforts in the early going (like the True Believer twenty-somethings who staffed the CPA in the early Iraq reconstruction effort); followed by people with some sense of what needed to be done, but without the required expertise to pull it off against a tight schedule (as when the initial rescue wells went astray and missed the miners’ presumed location); followed by repeated expensive-but-doomed efforts that amounted to too little, too late. And the whole time, we had the spectacle of those in power (generals and politicians in the case of Iraq, mine owner and Bush-appointed mining safety official in the case of the collapsed mine), posing for the cameras and apparently focused at least as much on maintaining a fiction that they bore no blame for the unfolding disaster as on actually living up to their obligations.

Sigh. And now the metaphor gets an extra layer, as we grapple with the sunk-cost fallacy: More are continuing to die as a result of the initial mistakes. Do we keep going as a tribute to the fallen? Or pull out and face the realization that they died in vain?

Anyway, I was interested by Arianna Huffington’s commentary on the media’s coverage of the affair: It Shouldn’t Have Taken the Deaths of Three Miners to Get the Media to Focus on Mine Safety.

So last night, suddenly, after the tragic second collapse at the Utah mine, there was a dramatic shift in the TV coverage of the story. All at once, faux folksy mining boss Bob Murray, who had been everywhere, was nowhere to be found (even sending in a junior executive to handle this morning’s press conference). In his place, at long last, were actual scientists, and experts on mine safety and the workings of the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Bush mine safety czar Richard “Recess Appointment” Stickler was also absent last night, and did not appear again until this morning’s press conference.

So many questions were finally being asked. Prompting one more: What took so long? Why did it take a tragic second collapse before the Murray and Strickler PR Show was finally replaced by actual journalism?

On the specific question she raises about the media, I think it’s just the latest in a long line of examples of how entertainment and business values are displacing journalistic ethics. Bloggers are gradually assuming the role of journalists. Which I realize is problematic in various ways, but it’s also just the reality of the situation. Podcast 22

Friday, August 17th, 2007

I had fun with the last one, so I kept going. podcast 22 follows the same approach, only moreso: Most of it is captured audio from YouTube (the new Napster), interspersed with shamelessly stolen music. I speak exactly 10 words in the whole thing.

Cheney Knows His Stuff

Monday, August 13th, 2007

If I’ve ever claimed that nobody in the Bush administration recognized how dangerous and destabilizing it would be to invade Iraq, I apologize.

Cheney knew perfectly well.

What the Military Says

Monday, August 13th, 2007

The first casualty in wartime, famously, is truth. (Phillip Knightly’s book, The First Casualty, is an excellent resource in this area.) The military’s job, its very essence, revolves around the violation of the most fundamental moral principle we have (thou shalt not kill); it would be ludicrous to expect people steeped in that to bat an eye at the relatively minor transgression of bearing false witness. Or, to put it more charitably, for people who are engaged in an activity where the stakes are deemed to be high enough to justify the wholesale taking of human life, to balk at telling falsehoods would be ridiculous, even immoral (if morality could reasonably be applied to any aspect of such an undertaking, a point I’m not willing to stipulate).

There have been a couple of stories illustrating this lately. First was the case of “Scott Thomas”, a soldier in Iraq who wrote a piece (Shock Troops) for The New Republic, in which he talked about how his basic humanity had been eroded by the experience of fighting the war, recounting several icky-sounding actions allegedly carried out by himself and his fellow soldiers: mocking a woman with a disfigured face, taking a skull from a mass-grave and using it as a decoration, and intentionally running over dogs with a Bradley fighting vehicle. There was much howling from right-leaning bloggers that Scott Thomas must be a fake, since no real soldier would do, much less say, such things. Then it turned out that Scott Thomas was in fact Scott Thomas Beauchamp, a real soldier stationed in Iraq, at which point the focus shifted to whether or not Beauchamp’s statements were true. A great deal of blogging later, the question remains fairly murky; at a minimum, Beauchamp apparently got at least one significant detail wrong. But the actual truth of the matter, whatever it is, has been buried by an avalanche of self-serving theorizing and conclusion-jumping. The best source at this point is probably the fairly well scrummed (by which I mean, argued back and forth by partisans on each side, pruning away most of the bloggy snark and leaving only the principal pieces of published evidence behind) treatment at Wikipedia’s Scott Thomas Beauchamp article.

Making the truth murkier in this case is the fact that the military hierarchy is controlling the investigation, making Beauchamp stop talking to people and selectively releasing information to places like The Weekly Standard. Say what you will about the shortcomings of the media these days; even a fully functional media would have a tough time figuring out the truth in this context. One thing I’m sure of, at least, is that the military has not approached this from the perspective of an unbiased seeker of the truth.

The thing that got me about the Beauchamp story was that after reading all the reactions to it in the weblogs I frequent, I was surprised, when I finally got around to reading the original piece, that the actions it describes were actually as minor as they were. I mean, this is in a context of members of the military being successfully prosecuted for war crimes involving willfully killing unarmed civilians. But your outrage is reserved for a guy using his Bradley to run over dogs? I thought Philosoraptor’s take on that was pretty apt (even if the title puts me somewhat in mind of Jane Austen): The Scott Thomas (Beauchamp) Saga Draws to a Close? And Its Possible Effects on the War Debate With Comments on Memogate.

This is reminiscent of Memogate. It’s indisputable that Bush’s National Guard record stinks to high heaven. It’s very, very likely that something untoward went on there. But the Rather memo was a hoax. This single clear case in which the right was right goes proxy, in the minds of many, for all the other, more substantive debates about Bush’s Guard record. Having been right in one high-profile case, those eager to support him can tell themselves that they were right about the whole thing. Such a willingness to believe is the administration’s greatest ally on the right.

Anyway, moving on. The second story I’ve been thinking about lately that bears on the military’s trustworthiness concerns an op-ed piece that appeared on July 30 in the NY Times: A War We Just Might Win. It was written by Michael O’Hanlon and Ken Pollack, and describes their experiences on a military-hosted fact-finding mission in Iraq. In the wake of the piece’s appearance there has been much trumpeting by war supporters of the fact that even two liberal war critics now admit that the surge in Iraq is working. Here’s the key paragraph from the piece:

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

There’s more, but the thing that gets me is how transparent the piece is at being a carefully planned opening salvo in the propaganda war that will surround Gen. Petraeus’ upcoming mid-September report on the state of the surge. Some background reading that helps put the piece in context:

Okay, ideological rugby players: The ball’s all yours. Have fun in the comments.

Neil Finn Singing ‘Silent House’

Saturday, August 11th, 2007

There was a time, back when Linda was working for A&M, that we saw a lot of concerts. Some of them were good, some were just so-so, but sprinkled in there are some memories I treasure 20 years later: Mark Mothersbaugh kicking glasses off our table as he whipped the crowd into a frenzy during ‘Whip It’, Joe Jackson recreating the entire ‘Blaze of Glory’ album, and Steve Winwood playing ‘Dear Mr. Fantasy’. But at the top of that list of memories is Crowded House.

Since then we’ve made a point of seeing them every chance we’ve had, and now that they’ve reformed to release a studio album and do a US tour we’re counting the days until the Santa Barbara show two weeks from now.

There’s something about the way Neil Finn performs live that is completely pure and natural; he strolls across the stage, strumming the guitar, head back as he looks into the sky, and it’s as if the performance goes away; there’s no band, no crowd; just this guy with music pouring out of him.

When I try to explain Crowded House to people who don’t get them, it’s hard, and I understand that there’s a problem there. On first listen, a Crowded House album usually makes me feel like, “Huh. That’s pleasant enough, if kind of lightweight and innocuous.” But Linda will give me that look and say, “no, you’ve got to listen again,” and I will, and the second or third time through something will ignite. I think of Crowded House as the closest thing we have to what the Beatles would be today if they hadn’t fractured and dissipated, but were still making music the way they did at their peak. I realize those are fighting words for some people, but that’s the effect the music has on me.

Yesterday I was working at the computer and listening to ‘Time on Earth’, and I put the song ‘Silent House’ into ‘Repeat One’ mode in iTunes. Before I knew it I’d listened to the song for over an hour. Is that wacky? The song touches a part of me that’s been going through some personal grief lately, and it’s a comfort to have it. I (obviously) really like the studio version (which they appear to be streaming from the Crowded House website at the moment), but the YouTube video posted above, in which Neil Finn sings the song with Elly-May Barnes at a cerebral palsy benefit concert she did in February of this year, is pretty cool.

Hilzoy on Iraq War Advocates on Their Error

Friday, August 10th, 2007

It sometimes strays a little too far into snark for my taste (despite Hilzoy’s contention that that’s not the goal), but I mostly did enjoy this from Obsidian Wings: A Few Teensy Mistakes…

There’s a deeper issue at work here than just scoring points against the other side, and I’m impressed by someone like Rod Dreher (whose NPR commentary Hilzoy links to) being willing to confront more or less honestly his own error in supposing that invading Iraq was a good idea, and to consider how it was he came to be so in error.

But I agree with Hilzoy’s conclusion, in spades:

Again, I don’t mean this to be some sort of “I was right” triumphalism. What interests me is not so much who was right and who was wrong, but this particular version of being wrong — a version that involves not just error, but errors like “I didn’t realize until it was too late that I had to take reality into account”, or: “I didn’t fully appreciate the fact that making nice speeches isn’t all there is to being President.” And I’m also interested in why people seem willing to confess these kinds of profound error without any sense of intellectual shame, and why they continue to be given platforms in public life. Because until we find some way to ensure that we hear the opinions of people who know these sorts of things in advance, rather than having to learn them after hundreds of thousands of people have died, we are in deep, deep trouble.

Links Roundup

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

I’m throwing these in here because all of them struck me as, but I haven’t been able to tear myself away from boring crap like vacations and work and my family and local politics long enough to geek out and post them.

My apologies.

But anyway, here’s some links that I would be talking about if I were in obsessive mode:

  • Pelosi’s Choice – Thomas Nephew at the newsrack blog goes into some detail about why Nancy Pelosi is wrong to keep impeachment off the table.
  • At The Stupa, The Mystic looks at What to believe?, an analysis of the fairly narrow question of whether it can or can’t be credibly said that Bush lied about the Iraq-Saddam connection in the run-up to the Iraq War. Yes, apparently this is still a serious question going on 5 years later.
  • From the Center for American Progress, a fairly compelling little timeline thingy in which Serious Pundits (and others) offer their wisdom as to how we’re just now entering the crucial six-month phase that will decide the outcome of the Iraq war. And have been for, oh, the last 5 years or so.
  • The scariest two minutes and nineteen seconds from Bush’s press conference of today: President Bush on accountability.
  • Did you know that is the 116th-most-visited liberal weblog on the planet? I know it to be true, because a conservative weblog says so (based on Alexa data, apparently). I started off being happy that I was on the list. But I was sort of hoping to be higher than #116, so when I saw that that’s where we actually are, it made me sad. Damn you, expectations. If I could just make myself stop expecting sunshine and rainbows all the time, I wouldn’t go around being depressed about things that just are what they are. Same goes for my feelings stemming from a certain Democratic Speaker of the House’s attitude toward impeachment, now that I think about it.

Anyway, there you go: A concentrated dose of jbclinks. Kthnxbye!