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Friday, February 28, 2003

We Don't Need Your Stinking War

Monkey Media Report has a very interesting post up about the alternative to war:

Not sure why I haven't seen more discussion of this one in the blog world: With Weapons of the Will: How to Topple Hussein Nonviolently by Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVall. It's a 'must-refute' for those in favor of a costly U.S. invasion/occupation. Originally published in Sojourners magazine last September (and linked approvingly in a fascinating 3-part analysis at One Hand Clapping), the article points out that civilian populations have risen up a number of times to overthrow dictators who were at least as willing to engage in mass murder as Saddam:

"It's essential to understand that unless a regime wants to murder the entire population, its ability repressively to compel a population's compliance is not infinitely elastic."

According to the authors, the key to sparking the kind of resistance that overthrew Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu in Romania and Augusto Pinochet in Chile is breaking the stranglehold of fear that keeps the people in check. Once that happens - look out, dictator:

"No one doubted the willingness of Pinochet's regime, in the 1970s and early 1980s, to use terror as an instrument of repression in order to assure the regime's control: Disappearances, brutal killings of dissidents, and arbitrary arrests had silenced most dissenters. But once that silence was broken in 1983 in a way that the regime could not immediately suppress -- through a one-day nationwide slow-down, followed by a nighttime city-wide banging of pots and pans in Santiago -- the regime was no longer able to re-establish the same degree of fear in the population, and mammoth monthly protests were soon under way."

In the case of Romania in 1989, it was the population of Timisoara that lit the bonfire:

"[Shoot to kill orders] arrive in Timisoara that afternoon. At 17:00 water cannons and tear gas are used against the people, tanks and APD's enter the streets and the shooting begins at about 18:00. They fire indiscriminately into the crowd. This was the watershed of the Revolution - differentiating it from previous demonstrations such as strikes in the Jiu valley and the 1987 riots in Brasov. News spreads quickly, especially by foreign TV and radio transmissions from neighbouring countries. The scale of the massacre becomes more and more exaggerated with reports of up to 60,000 dead in Timisoara...That same night there are sporadic anti-Ceausescu riots in other towns..."

Yep, that's how successful popular revolt usually works. It's interesting that when President Bush went to Romania last November, he called upon the memory of Ceausescu to drum up support for invading Iraq. "From that balcony, the dictator heard your voices and faltered," Bush said, while failing to mention that no foreign army had been necessary. (It should be added that Soviet hands were probably pulling strings behind the scenes in 1989, just as U.S. hands would pull them in Iraq today).

Ackerman and DuVall also note a key point about Saddam's rule that may make it easier to bring down than the regime of someone like Pinochet:

["Saddam's] hold on power is even more reliant on personal loyalties and their reinforcement by material rewards and mortal penalties. As such, the frequent reports of his repression should be seen not only as a sign of his brutality, but as evidence of the disaffection that his capricious, personal style continues to breed: He would not have to crack down if there were no one who might be disloyal."

In other words, if Hussein started ordering mass executions of crowds in broad daylight - a likely move - a military mutiny like the ones that took place in Romania and Chile would be an even more likely countermove. And it turns out there's also a strategic advantage from the perspective of a hawk like Rumsfeld:

"[If a campaign began with] civilian-based incidents of disruption that were dispersed around the country and that did not offer convenient targets to shoot at, any attempt to crack down would have to depend on the outermost, least reliable members of Saddam's repressive apparatus".

Why is this not the plan on the table in the White House? Why are we spending billions of dollars and endangering the lives of, for instance, my roommate's brother-in-law? The authors' final paragraph says it all:

"Regimes have been overthrown that had no compunction about brutalizing their opponents and denying them the right to speak their minds. How? By first demonstrating that opposition is possible, peeling away the regime's residual public and outside support, quashing its legitimacy, driving up the costs of maintaining control, and overextending its repressive apparatus. Strategic nonviolent action is not about being nice to your oppressor, much less having to rely on his niceness. It's about dissolving the foundations of his power and forcing him out. It is possible in Iraq."

Sound like pie in the sky?

Tell it to Nikolae and Elena

This would have worked. With modern media and a concerted effort in other countries in the region, it would have worked. But, it would not effectively establish our reputation as the meanest muthafuggahs on the planet and that, after all, is what this is all about.

"You Will be democratic, and I mean now" is an interesting, if completely incoherant, concept.

Read the entire post. He has many great links to the subject. This, it seems to me, was the real alternative to war.


Matthew Yglesias has an interesting post up about the propaganda efforts headed up by Westwood One in the mid-east. He says:

You want to convince people that the United States is not determined to destroy their traditional values, and that democratic procedures and basic human rights are compatible with a variety of cultural forms, and this program sounds like it's doing the exact reverse.

The problem, of course, is that the only values the United States has been very interested in promoting are the values of capitalism. And those values, while fine as far as they go, without an equal emphasis on democracy, freedom and opportunity have helped to sow the resentment and hatred we are now seeing. Everytime we broadcast about our opulent way of life to a bunch of poor people with little hope living under a tyrannical despot, we are asking for their rage to be turned toward us.

The Westwood One executive is quoted as saying:

When we play a song by Jennifer Lopez, we talk about all the difficulties she has overcome," he says. "Those are great stories about the kind of things that can happen to you when you live in a democracy." As long as ratings are Pattiz's first and last concern ("don't lead with what makes us unpopular," he lectures me), METN will do little more than pander to the lowest common denominator in his trademark, Pepsi-Generation style.

Sad to say that because of their circumstances and experiences in life, the average youth in the mid-east is a much more serious person than that. And we should be much more serious about giving them something more than consumerism because they don't have the money or the inclination to buy if that's all we're selling.

Which brings me to this most disturbing article from today's LA Times. If this is any indication, Richard Perle is gonna have some splainin' to do when we are greeted with terrible hostility rather than a road to Baghdad strewn with rose petals.


Here, in the middle of the desert, closer to the Saudi Arabian border than to Amman, Jordan's relatively cosmopolitan capital, it is easier to hear the unvarnished sentiments and frustrations of this Arab country.

"Maan is a case study for Jordan. It reflects how we think in this country," said Taher Masri, an urbane former prime minister who remains close to the government. The confrontational statements, he says, are part of a complex philosophy common in this part of the world.

"Saddam is not liked for himself. He is liked, if he is liked, because he stands up to America and Israel -- and it has developed that the source of power for Israel is America and this is, of course, what" Al Qaeda's Osama bin Laden has been saying.

"And what you will see in the streets is not support of Saddam, it's anti-American, anti-Israeli feeling," Masri said.

The confrontation in Maan also suggests how far even moderate Arab governments might go in responding to further unrest that could be ignited by a war in Iraq. It demonstrates that when moderate Arab countries repress the most vociferous Islamist voices, they run the risk of inflaming anti-American sentiments because the repression appears to be in the service of U.S. interests.


They love us. They really love us.

What a terrible, terrible mess.

3/4 - I apologize for the misspelling of Yglesias's name again. I know someone with the "I" spelling and it seems to be a block. But, I'm sure that a guy who occasionally makes a typo or two, as Mr. Yglesias does, won't hold it against me.


Atrios links to this article by Michelangelo Signorile on the Koufax matter and his comments section has a very lively debate going on the subject.

I think that Signorile and some of the commentors are dancing around another issue, but I'll get to that.

First, I don't agree with whole "public figure" aspect of this argument at all. If somebody makes an issue of their sex lives, then it becomes an open topic. Similarly, if you make public pronouncements about other people's sex lives then you have opened up your own for scrutiny. But, if you are just living your life, (as a long retired athlete, for instance) you have a right to have keep your sex life private, period. The issue with the media is sexual privacy no matter what the gossip item refers to, whether it has to do with being gay or having blow jobs in the oval office.

Tabloids are exploitive, lying, piece of shit rags that feed the base nature of everybody who reads them and as much as I believe in free speech I can't say that I wouldn't feel gleeful at the sight of a pile of New York Posts going up in flames. They are a destructive force in our culture and if you don't believe me then just turn on
television news for 10 minutes and you'll understand what I'm talking about. It is no coincidence that Bill "Enemy of the State" O'Reilly came from that bastion of respectable journalism, "Inside Edition." It is a pervasive influence in our politics and has been instrumental in the dumbing down of our national media and the trivializing of our political system to such a degree that an ignorant sock-puppet could be elected President because the news media were obsessed with the superficialities of the candidates to the exclusion of everything substantive.

The argument should not be about whether there exists a double standard, but why there aren't more standards to begin with.

But, with the case at hand, there is more to it than that, isn't there? From what I can tell, people are dismayed that the issue was blown up because of the nature of the "charge" --- that is that he was accused of being gay and it was treated as if he had been a "child molester." This is true. But, there's a little Claude Raines action going on here, too. It is wholly unsurprising that in the macho world of sports that an item like this would gain attention and approbation. But, it's not fair to say that the sportwriters across the board find it "contemptible" that someone would be accused of being gay. After all, they didn't react to the original blind item at the time and the reaction to the Mike Piazza rumor was far less energetic.

Part of what they are reacting to (and I don't doubt that there is quite a bit of homophobia involved as well) is that this is Sandy Koufax, a legend and notoriously private man, who has been falsely accused of making a deal with an author contingent upon her not revealing that he is gay. It's not just the gay thing, it's also the idea that he was portrayed as an underhanded liar. A lot of people admire Sandy Koufax, for more reasons than his pitching arm, and that hurt. But, to be fair, they also reacted strongly when Koufax quit the organization and a lot of them said that it was "wrong" for him to be accused of being gay by using rather obtuse language.

Which brings us to the heart of the matter. In some of the commentors's arguments the idea is bubbling that because there is nothing wrong with being gay, that a public figure of integrity should not object to being called gay, whether he is or not. One could correct the record for accuracy's sake, but it really shouldn't be much of a concern because, after all, there's nothing wrong with being gay so what's wrong with people thinking you are?

This is a fatal error, I think, because it supposes that people, gay or straight, should not mind if others misrepresent their sexual orientation. If it is not ok to force gay people to publicly live as if they are straight, is it really much different to ask straight people to behave as if it doesn't matter if they are perceived as being gay?

I realize that there are many people who have an ambiguous sexual orientation and that is a perfectly natural state for them. But, for many others, sexual orientation is an intrinsic part of who they are and it is fundamental to their identity. To assume that it should not matter to people how they are perceived in that way is asking to change something very basic in human nature. This seems to me to be the very essence of the gay rights movement. It's not just about being who you are --- after all, you have no choice in the matter --- it's about being seen and accepted for who you are.

Sandy Koufax, rightly or wrongly, will now be the Hall of Fame pitcher who will be known for his blazing fastball and also the guy about whom it will be said "he was gay." The truth or untruth of that is certainly not relevant to his standing as a legendary athlete. But, to him, as a person it might matter a great deal if it is not true, not because he finds being gay "contemptible" but because it is a fundamental misrepresentation of who he really is.

One should not have to be willing to have the world believe one is gay, in order to be completely open and accepting of homosexuality. I don't think we can ask people to live a lie, or to acquiesce to lies told about them, no matter what cause it purports to serve. Nothing good can come of it.

(For the record, I've been called gay by wing-nuts in comments sections and in e-mail many, many times. When idiots call someone "gay" on the internet, it is so stupid that one can only laugh in return. I don't consider morons hurling "gay" as an epithet the same as normal people misperceiving someone as being gay when they are not. A fine distinction, but a distinction nonetheless.)


In retrospect, I think I was unfair in categorizing Signorle as one who thinks people should accept a designation of gay to further the cause. He clearly states in his article an admiration of the way Mike Piazza handled the situation, which was to deny that he was gay and shrug it off while offering support to gay players. And, he further stated clearly that he thought one of the issues that needed tending was the sensitivity of athletes. To that I can only agree, but one couldn't confine it to the gay issue. Jocks are about the most insensitive humans on earth. It's a big job.

Thursday, February 27, 2003


Seth Michaels was at the George the First speech at Tufts and gives us a rundown. It's very interesting that Senior is in a bit of a defensive posture as he tries to explain why he didn't "finish the job" as the neocon imperialists accuse him of 20 times a day all over the media. He had some very good reasons, one of which was that they would never have been able to fulfill Madrid if they had exceeded the UN mandate.

And, Madrid and the peace process managed to ratchet down the violence in Israel for almost 10 years and was very well worth trying. It's one of the main keys to future peace in the region and at least Poppy had the brains to see that.

I'm not a big fan of the guy in general, but I have to admit that the press treated him unfairly today by only highlighting his rude joke:

"We've now found another real good reason to use duct tape"

It's a typical Bush smartass remark, but according to Seth he'd also said this:

"I understand where they're coming from, and I hope they'll listen and understand where I'm coming from...I hope those demonstrators, who are speaking from their hearts, understand this...what we seek is not hegemony, but compliance with a wide variety of UN resolutions. I think there is such a concept as a just war...the 43rd president shares the innately human desire to avoid conflict that might kill innocent people."

Seth says: Pretty classy for a 78-year-old guy who just got the finger from a 20-year-old. Also worth noting is that he did not, as his son and his son's administration have done, try to link Iraq directly to Al-Qaeda:

"Today we have another ingredient we didn't have in 1991 - Sept. 11. I'm not saying that there's a conspiracy between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, but the U.S. must protect its citizens and friends."

It's always been my contention that the bitchy, Dowdian KewlKidz style of political reporting started with Bush and that supermarket scanner. It was misrepresented at the time and then used against him as if what they'd said was true. Needless to say, Clinton and Gore suffered from the same treatment.

I naturally assumed that any president would be subjected to this treatment going forward, but I was wrong. President FratBoy was exempted from any serious scrutiny from day 1. I can only assume that the Republicans became so good at manufacturing these scandals and embarrassments that the press forgot how to do it for themselves. Today, they were reminded by seeing ole' 41 and they fell back into step. I can't think of how else to explain it.

Walk Toward The Light, Jim.

How come nobody’s noticed that James Pinkerton has crossed over from the dark side?

Check out these columns from the past few weeks.

This guy used to be a dyed in the wool reactionary but I've noticed that lately he's been well...pretty sensible and rational. I hate to make too big of a thing about it because he'll probably lose his children's slots at Sidwell Friends or get drummed out of the segregated country club, but it's so rare these days that a pundit escapes from the underworld and lives to tell about it. (And you can't really blame them since the brilliant 12 year old marketers are convinced that anyone who is "anti-war, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration's motives" is, like, such a total loser.)

Anyway, I'd like to propose a toast to Jim Pinkerton, former Republican lackey. To Courage and Integrity!

Everyday People

I just love San Francisco

Ungentle Reminder

Les Dabney at Testify! reminds us of that strangely ignored little scandal called Iraqgate.

I know that the republic will never, ever recover from the high crime of 12 furtive hallway blowjobs, but this little scandal seems to have led to 12 years of non-stop regional blowback. The mediawhores sure are on the ball, aren't they?


Robert Parry of Consortium News also has a new article online about the Missing US-Iraq history

Before George W. Bush gives the final order to invade Iraq -- a nation that has not threatened the United States -- the American people might want a few facts about the real history of U.S.-Iraq relations. Missing chapters from 1980 to the present would be crucial in judging Bush’s case for war.

But Americans don’t have those facts because Bush and his predecessors in the White House have kept this history hidden from the American people. When parts of the story have emerged, administrations of both parties have taken steps to suppress or discredit the disclosures. So instead of knowing the truth, Americans have been fed a steady diet of distortions, simplifications and outright lies.

This missing history also is not just about minor details. It goes to the heart of the case against Saddam Hussein, including whether he is an especially “aggressive” and “unpredictable” dictator who must be removed from power even at the risk of America’s standing in the world and the chance that a war will lead to more terrorism against U.S. targets.

Fuggedaboudit. It's the premiere of Survivor: Iraq and nothing must stand in the way of our new show.


Why It Won't Work

Back in the late 90's while most of us were watching the bimboes of the Barbizon School Of Former Prosecutors dissect the legal strategy behind Ken Starr subpoenaing Monica's pedicurist, others were noticing that a foreign policy debate was taking place and they wrote about it:

Pax Americana: The Impossible Dream

To sum up, then: foreign fears of a hegemonic America imposing its will on others are misplaced. The U.S may have the raw military power to attempt such a role and some influential Americans call for it but the country has not developed the necessary will, temperament or strategy to succeed as a hegemon. It spends a great deal on international affairs, but does not allocate its resources wisely. It is overcommitted in the military field and undercommitted in the diplomatic field. It proclaims strategic doctrines that are designed more to win the next election than to secure international support. Its leadership groups enjoy the aura of world leadership, but they are unwilling to make any sacrifices themselves in pursuit of leadership. Any quest to establish a Pax Americana that involves sacrifice will therefore lack legitimacy. It will be deprived of the political and moral underpinning that makes a sustained effort at global hegemony possible.

The danger in fact lies elsewhere. The world is unlikely to see a Pax Americana but, depending on political fortunes, it might see an effort to attempt one. The effort would fail -- but with it would also die the commitment to internationalism that is a prerequisite for American leadership. And no one should be in doubt that the loss of that leadership would be extremely harmful.

They didn't even try to use 9/11 to call for sacrifice, they completely ruined our diplomatic relations with the world and they have allocated our resources so ineffectively that we are going to have the equivalent of the Argentine economy in a matter of a few years. In pursuit of their absurd fantasy, they have exacerbated every single weakness the U.S. had and yet they persist in allowing those like the Jesse Helms acolyte, John Bolton and the delusional Richard Perle speak for this country and take us to the point of no return.

The failed attempt at Empire is going to cost us far more than doing absolutely nothing would have done.

"You're Next. Very Efficient Diplomacy"

Rittenhouse Review calls the following passage in an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer "Comic Book Diplomacy."

Hawkish administration officials argue that ousting Hussein and his regime could remake the Middle East and help safeguard the world from the specter of international terrorists armed with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

In their best-case scenario, regime change in Baghdad would trigger the spread of democracy and freedom throughout the Mideast. Awed by America's power, Muslim support for terrorism would evaporate; Palestinians and Israelis would make peace; and global anti-American sentiment would evolve into gratitude and goodwill.

This is not news, though. Richard Perle said the following on PBS in October 2001

Is there any point about Iraq one must understand so that an educated view can be made?

It's important to recognize that Iraq is a country with an enormously talented people, and that is well understood by the rest of the Arab world. So there is real concern when the rest of the Arab world observes suffering in Iraq, which is now widely attributed, I think wrongly, to the embargo that's been in effect for many years. That is very different from believing that the Arab world supports Saddam Hussein, or that it would not welcome the elimination of Saddam Hussein's regime. I think there would be dancing in the streets if Saddam were removed from power, and that reaction of the Iraqi people would be reflected in the attitude of the Arab world, generally. So the notion that if we go after Iraq we are somehow going to advance in the direction of a war against Islam that will turn out to be far worse for us, I think is really quite mistaken. ...

The common belief is that our soldiers are not welcomed very easily in any Arab nation today, even when there is no battle going on. It's hard for an American public to believe that the Arab allies will indeed welcome us with open arms in any endeavor against any other Arab nation. Is that a mistaken a view?

Yes, I think it's a mistaken view. This idea of Arab solidarity is complete nonsense. It's been nonsense for as long as I can remember. They're at each other's throats all the time. Saddam invades Kuwait. You have a war between Iraq and Iran. Although Iran is not an Arab nation, it's a Muslim nation. You have Jordan fighting Syria in the 1970s. It's just nonsense to suggest that there's solidarity. There is no solidarity there. ...

If we go into Iraq and we take down Hussein?

Then I think it's over for the terrorists.

Why so optimistic?

Because having destroyed the Taliban, having destroyed Saddam's regime, the message to the others is, "You're next." Two words. Very efficient diplomacy. " You're next, and if you don't shut down the terrorist networks on your territory, we'll take you down, too. Is it worth it?" Of course it isn't worth it. It isn't worth it for any of them.

Read the whole interview, keeping in mind that he gave it in October 2001, just a few weeks after 9/11. The only significant change in plan has been that we have pretty much told the Iraqi National Congress to take a hike. And when you read it, you will see that Mr. Perle is completely unhinged.

These guys are radical, violent idealists and they always have been.

From the outset, the chief architects of the push to get Saddam Hussein have been Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, who, as chairman of the Defense Policy Board, is not technically a member of the Bush administration. As prize students of arch-hawk, Albert Wohlstetter in the 1960s, the two men have been comrades-in-arms in a series of crusades against détente, arms control, and any multilateral effort that might constrain Washington's freedom of action to do what it wants, where and when it pleases, dating back to the early 1970s.

These are the "grown-ups" folks. Fasten your seatbelts.

Enemies Of The State

Courtesy of MWO, I find that Bill O'Reilly has issued the following warning:

"Once the war against Saddam Hussein begins, we expect every American to support our military, and if you can't do that, just shut up.

Americans, and indeed our foreign allies who actively work against our military once the war is underway, will be considered enemies of the state by me.

Just fair warning to you, Barbra Streisand and others who see the world as you do. I don't want to demonize anyone, but anyone who hurts this country in a time like this, well. Let's just say you will be spotlighted.

Talking points invites all points of view and believes vigorous debate strengthens the country, but once decisions have been made and lives are on the line, patriotism must be factored in."

The phrase "Enemy of the State" is not usually used by Americans, now is it? But, it certainly has a familiar ring to it. Where have we heard it before??

The Kulaks Are the Enemy of the State
-- Joseph Stalin

The Indian shopkeepers are the Enemy of the State
--Idi Amin

The white farmers are the Enemy of the State
-- Robert Mugabe

The Jewish shopkeepers are the Enemy of the State
-- Adolph Hitler

Great minds do think alike.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Hesiod Says The Myth Of The Liberal Media Is Dead

This is my favorite part of the Donahue memo:

Donahue presented a "difficult public face for NBC in a time of war......He seems to delight in presenting guests who are anti-war, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration's motives." The report went on to outline a possible nightmare scenario where the show becomes "a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity."

You can tell by this that we are dealing with a shallow, braindead, PR KewlKid asshole. Not one original thought in evidence. This is the reason why MSNBC is so lame.

I think that the Bill Press/Pat Buchanan show is the best one on the network, mainly because they have a good guest line-up and Buchanan is a paleoconservative at a time when the neocons are dominating the foreign policy debate. It makes for unpredictable and slightly more interesting television because the paradigm of GOPBorg vs. ineffectual psuedo-liberal "journalist" is just so damned yesterday.

Never Give Up. Never Give In.

Skippy's right.

If at first you don't succeed, try again on Thursday.

The Iraq Threat Doesn't Exist In A Vacuum

Josh Marshall notices the following little problem in our quest to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Even our would-be supporters in regime change don't want to be associated with an occupation by a foreign (and non-Muslim) power. And yet there's almost no way we're going to achieve our objectives without a long occupation which is deeply-entrenched and so overwhelming numerically that it can throw a blanket of enforced peace over all the tensions, divisions and rage that Saddam's tyranny has both created and held in check for three decades.

The real problem is that we're embarking on an enterprise which does not admit of half-measures. As Fouad Ajami notes in this article, an American invasion of Iraq will at first almost certainly be viewed as a neo-Imperialist attempt to take over an Arab country, secure its oil wealth, and do various other bad things.

No kidding.

I am stunned that we are only days or weeks away from war and this subject is suddenly floating to the surface as one of concern, since some people, like me, have been pounding this drum since the very beginning. In fact, it is my main objection to the blasted war in the first place.

Let’s try it very s-l-o-w-l-y and try to make the point one last time.

Many of us who are opposed to the invasion are not opposed because we are pacifists. I supported the Afghanistan campaign to oust the Taliban and I am generally, and as a matter of principle, in favor of stopping tyrants from killing large numbers of people when we can do it. Nobody has to make the humanitarian argument to me, and frankly I'm somewhat sickened when I hear people like Tucker Carlson self-righteously invoke it when he never gave a moments thought to the Iraqi people until it showed up on a list of "well polled" arguments from Karl Rove's office.

And, I am deeply concerned about the spread of nuclear weapons. The science is now accessible and reasonably simple. The only serious roadblock seems to be obtaining uranium in sufficient quantities. But, I also do not see that we are going to be able to contain the spread simply through military force. I’m not sure how we can contain them, truthfully, but I know that invading and occupying the Axis of Evil is not going to solve the problem and if the current situation in North Korea is any guide, our policy seems to ensure that there will be more countries with nukes sooner rather than later. Saddam Husseins and Kim Jong Ils have existed since the dawn of time and there will always be another one. Getting rid of them is only a stop gap measure. (Missile defense is a childish fantasy that can only make us less safe as it invites aggressors to use everything they’ve got, knowing that some (all?) will evade the system.) We must find a way to either contain the material required to make nukes or get rid of it altogether. It is not possible to change human nature so fundamentally that people will not try to obtain such awesome power.

I also believe in international institutions, treaties and laws. I understand that they are cumbersome and bureaucratic and inefficient, just like any legal system. But, it was a great step forward for humanity to begin working toward a global rule of law and although it does not provide a perfect system it at least provides a basic set of rules that can be understood by everyone concerned. It doesn’t cover everything, but those things it does cover (like a prohibition against preventive war) are civilized advances over what came before in the same way that the criminal justice system is an advance over vigilantism. It does not always provide for perfect justice or perfect security but, all things being equal, it is an improvement over the endless territorial and tribal wars that came before. Imperfect, but better. Therefore, one of my objections to this war is the unilateralist intent, in spite of the lip service that has been paid to the UN (as a stalling device for logistical reasons and a helping hand to Tony Blair, in my opinion.)

However, my fundamental argument against invasion and overthrow has always been that without a clear and convincing act of aggression by Iraq, it is the worst kind of hubristic folly to put a US army on the ground in the middle east so soon after 9/11 under circumstances that appear to make Osama bin Laden’s worst accusations appear to be true. Only a megalomaniac would believe that it is wise, without adequate preparation and long term planning, to take actions seemingly designed to prove to the millions upon millions of would-be terrorists that bin Laden is right. Could we not have at least waited until the dust settled on the World Trade Center before elevating bin Laden to the status of prophet?

And to so miserably fail to make a credible case tying Saddam to 9/11, to rush headlong with little real deliberation (the phony UN debate notwithstanding), to fail to bring along world opinion and prepare the American people, and most of all to treat this war as if it exists in a complete vacuum without any consequence to the larger issues of Islamic terrorism, the Israeli Palestinian conflict and anti-American sentiment that is growing and metastasizing with every step they take toward invasion is to consciously and actively make the situation more dangerous.

None of this is to say we do nothing and try to roll up our shores and retreat from the world. But, this war was on the table long before bin Laden became a worldwide hero to millions of resentful young Muslims and long before terrorism became a serious threat to American security. It is the wrong war at the wrong time and despite the neocon dream that the United States will so impressively defeat Saddam that our enemies will retreat and withdraw from the field when confronted with our mighty sword, it is far more likely to make us less respected, less feared and less safe.

I’m all for ridding the world of WMD and terrorism. But, neither of these goals is going to happen as a result of invading armies occupying countries or pie-in-the-sky missile defense programs that don’t work. It’s going to require some new thinking and some different strategies. Dragging out your favorite dog-eared war plans and throwing them at the problem is the worst possible way to confront the new threats. It is arrogant, clumsy and, worst of all, ineffectual.

Members of the administration have made it clear that their intent is as much to create a new middle east as it is to stop Iraq from obtaining WMD. They believe that this will show that America is to be the civilizing force in the world --- beyond “indispensable” to “preeminent.” But, they are hazy on the details, seemingly assured that our military strength and wealth will be enough to make it happen.

This is dangerously naïve. And the repercussions of such naivete have been obvious from the start. It’s not dovish or pacifist to weigh the long term risks of the Iraq operation and find that it is the wrong plan under the current circumstances. I have not yet heard from Kenneth Pollack or Josh Marshall or other thoughtful liberal internationalists a convincing argument that Saddam is so imminently dangerous that the risks are worth running after the seminal event of September 11th.

For better or worse, Saddam and the threat of international Islamic terrorism are now inextricably linked to the national security of the United States. The problem is that we are the ones who have linked them and by doing so we will have eliminated a petty tyrant who may have become a problem in the future only to create an implacable worldwide foe today. And doing it the way we did it, we have alienated even our closest allies.

I honestly don’t know how this could have been handled any worse.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003


At what point did this simpering, inarticulate, embarrassing excuse for a leader decide that all of these men were irrelevant, and that he and he alone possessed greater knowledge and insight than all of them and those before them? When and how did his minions and cheerleaders suspend disbelief, conjuring up hallucinations of emperor’s clothes that are not there, to arrive at the conclusion that this man, this lucky sperm club poster boy, has opinions or even a fleeting random thought that should be weighed on the same scales as great men of intelligence and accomplishment?

And now, we are to let this buffoon and his shadowy handlers lecture us and the rest of the world as to what is irrelevant?

OK, then. Whatever. No wonder we are the laughing stock. History will judge us for electing (if you can call it that) this imbecile. This President will be the one judged irrelevant, if he doesn't destroy the planet first. We can only hope that the rest of the world doesn't decide WE are irrelevant and leave us behind before we can remove this embarrassment and apologize for inflicting him on the world.

Thanks South Knox Bubba. I needed that.

Snow Art

Avedon Carol directs us to this beautifully composed snow picture. Notice how it clings so prettily to the trees.

To an Alaskan however, snow is abstract art, smashing all the conventions and everything in its way.

copyright1999-2002 by the very talented Alaskan art photographer, Kate Salisbury Wool

Our ships must all sail in the same direction. Otherwise, who can say how long your stay with us will last. It's not personal, it's only business. You should know, Godfather"

Bush Message Is That a War Is Inevitable, Diplomats Say

As it launches an all-out lobbying campaign to gain United Nations approval, the Bush administration has begun to characterize the decision facing the Security Council not as whether there will be war against Iraq, but whether council members are willing to irrevocably destroy the world body's legitimacy by failing to follow the U.S. lead, senior U.S. and diplomatic sources said.

In meetings yesterday with senior officials in Moscow, Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton told the Russian government that "we're going ahead," whether the council agrees or not, a senior administration official said. "The council's unity is at stake here."

A senior diplomat from another council member said his government had heard a similar message and was told not to anguish over whether to vote for war.

"You are not going to decide whether there is war in Iraq or not," the diplomat said U.S. officials told him. "That decision is ours, and we have already made it. It is already final. The only question now is whether the council will go along with it or not."

They figure that everyone is like a moderate Republican or a battered liberal. Do as we say or it'll only get worse for you. They assume that everyone will fall into line once they thwack their meaty virility on the table with a big huge thump. Maybe so. But, trust and esteem are destroyed and all you have left is force.

The fallout from this could be enormous.

UPDATE: Chris at Interesting Times has a great series of posts and links on the issue of Bush's credibility gap and how it affects our "diplomatic" efforts.

Federalist Society Star

Ashcroft said the defendants are alleged to have knowingly and intentionally sold the items for use with illegal narcotics. Many of the items were disguised as common objects like lipsticks or hi-lighter pens, used by students to elude detection as drug paraphernalia.

The defendants face a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

He said sellers of drug paraphernalia were just as responsible as others for the illegal drug trade. "They are as much a part of drug trafficking as silencers are a part of criminal homicide," Brown said.

But...silencers are legal.

The Dauphin and his Advisors

John Judis provides a clear, succinct rundown of the screw-up otherwwise known as the Bush administration Iraq policy and strategy.

Again. This would be much less likely to happen if the person actually charged with making the decisions weren't an empty slogan in a suit. Everybody thought it would be a great idea to have a presidency run by a committee of grown-ups, just like say...Enron.

As ye sow and all that jazz.

Monday, February 24, 2003


Bush Faces Increasingly Poor Image Overseas

Passing Thought

Scott Rosenberg in Salon says of Al-Arian/Rove-gate:

In the meantime, the strange saga of Al-Arian should remind us all that defining terrorism is a far more complex problem than our current president's blunt moral compass allows. After all, Bush's own most trusted advisors, with all their intelligence resources, embraced the same Al-Arian whom they now seek to convict. Should Rove now show up on an FBI watch list for consorting with known terrorists? (And can anyone doubt that if 9/11 hadn't happened, Rove would still be courting the Al-Arian vote?)

Picture if you will the same story circa 1996. Would the words "resignation" not be in the frenzied headlines by the second day?

Lethal Technicalities

The other day I wrote a post asking people to suport the Innocence Protection Act. I wrote, "Whether or not you believe in the death penalty, I think it's fair to say that nobody believes in executing innocent people."

I was completely wrong.

Please, law and order types, please spare me any more whining about somebody getting off on a technicality. You live by technicalities, whether it's conflicting deadlines for counting votes or arbitrary cut-off dates for claims of actual innocence. And worse, you do it in the name of efficiency. At least the laws protecting defendents are in place to keep the country from turning into a lawless police state. You guys just want to make the trains run on time.

Sick, amoral and unjust. What is happening to this country?

Public Relations War

The Better Rhettor:

For months both major U.S. cable news networks have acted as if the decision to invade Iraq has already been made, and have in effect seen it as their job to prepare the American public for the coming war.(Paul Krugman)

And how is this done, exactly? How is a population made to believe that war is inevitable, the enemy implacable, the government a source of unerring wisdom and might? Let us count the ways:

o The news programs with their zingy, multi-colored, eye-snagging graphics: "Target Iraq; "Countdown Baghdad" etc, as though war were comparable to a Monday night football game or an upcoming TV mini-series.

o The seemingly endless rounds of interviews with miscellaneous generals and preening pundits who discuss in lascivious detail the mechanics of war, i.e., the capacity of American missiles, the ideal weather for infantry attacks, the armaments of the Iraqi Republican Guard, as though questions of "why" and "whether" were irrelevant and all that remained were "how" and "when."

o The demonization of the enemy into a single malevolent personality—quick, who has the trendier one-word name these days, "Shaq," "Kobe," or "Saddam"?—who serves as a cartoon figure that forestalls more complicated discussions of history, politics, and economics. (What happened to "Osama," by the way? He’s off the "A-list," at least for now.)

o The relentless assaults on talk radio against the patriotism, character, morality, and mental stability of those who dare to oppose the war. You are either with us or you are morally defective.

The good folks at Political Research Associates have done a nice job of cataloging some of these antics as they have taken place on the covers of the conservative publication, The Weekly Standard in 2001-2002. The covers, when you consider them together, offer a fine example of how citizens are prepared to accept war as inevitable, their leaders as noble, and their enemies as vile, terrifying characters who deserve pretty much whatever they’ve got coming to them. Here’s the visual gallery, with a few of my own comments underneath each image:

Go see the gallery. It's amazing.

Wish I'd Said That

Kevin at Lean Left cuts to the chase of the Bell Curve debate:

The larger point is that it does not matter. Even if there was a strong correlation between race and "intelligence" (defined as you wish), it does not matter. It has no practical effect, other than the spread of racism. Why? Because the individual range is so obviously great.

Try it this way. Duke Ellington is a genius. Dr. Carver is a genius. John Rocker is a moron. History demonstrates that all races are capable of producing genius, and all races are capable of producing people so stupid you wonder if they will forget how to breathe, and of producing both in large numbers. In both "races", history shows us that genius is rare but not unknown, stupidity is less rare, and the vast majority muddle along in the middle. From a practical stand point, it does not matter if the median white is dumber than the median black. As a society, you must allow for the geniuses of both groups to flower, and build institutions to contain the damage the morons of both groups could do. To do otherwise would be to doom your society, in the long run.


Shock Jockying For Power

I was going to write a long piece dissecting Slate's assertion that shock jocks are the voice of liberal radio. There are some aspects of that thesis with which I agree, but the larger point is that they are not explicitly political, and more importantly, they are not consciously aligned with the Democratic Party in the same way the right-wing talkers blatently work hand in glove with the Republicans. To the extent shock jocks are political, they are like Ross Perot or Jesse Ventura -- they represent the male yahoo anti-vote. They are certainly not the answer to the imbalance on the AM dial.

However, Yuval Rubenstein at Groupthink Centraldoes such a thorough job of refuting the central theme of the article that I am going no further. Just go read it.

Talking Past Each Other

Calpundit writes a somewhat poignant post today.

For my part, I never meant to imply that Kevin is anything but a fine person and someone with whom I agree 99.9% of the time. I believe that the argument about "intelligence" is one of semantics and where race is concerned, I think that semantics are a huge issue. Kevin may disagree, but I don't think that there is any fundamental disagreement with respect to how we view race and racism. I wish that I had made that more plain.

Furthermore, I respect the angst and difficulty Kevin has had in coming to his position on Iraq and I recognize that this is so for many liberals. His position is not indicative of a knee jerk support of Dubyah or a sense of adolescent bloodlust like so much of the blogosphere. It comes from a sense that it is better to take care of the problem sooner than later even under our current terrible leadership.

But, I disagree. I do believe that terrorism and petty tyrants with nukes are exceedingly dangerous and that we cannot afford to disengage from those issues. But, I think that the way we do it is almost as important as doing it at all. In this modern world of cable news and internet chatrooms and seething resentment and economic interdependence it is no longer possible to be an imperial power without almost instantaneous blowback.

I believe that terrorism is the biggest immediate danger facing America and that the Axis of Evil could have been kept in a box long enough to subdue that threat, at least to some degree. I think that blowing our relationships with those in the region and allies elsewhere was absurd considering the threat we are under. I grant that my mistrust of this administration is so thorough that I cannot believe anything they say, but they have been singularly unconvincing in the matter of Iraq's immediate threat.

Public record shows that neoconservative foreign policy ideologues have been pushing for invasion for years and it shows that their most important rationale for invasion was to show the despots of the world that we would invade and overthrow those who would attempt to gain WMD. And they believe that this show of strength will change the dynamic in and of itself to one of a more acquiescent mid-east and a more reasonable Kim Jong Il.

This is what's wrong with the invasion. I believe it is likely to have the opposite effect that it is intended to have and indeed the situation in North Korea suggests that I'm right. I believe that to wait would have been a better choice.

But, I too commented back in October on another blog (in answer to the charge that that antiwar rallies would likely turn into pro-Saddam rallies) that says some of the same things that Kevin and others are saying now:

I don't think the pro-Saddam rally will be well attended.

But, there will be prayer vigils and sleepless nights on the part of those of us who hope that this incompetent administration doesn't fuck it up so much that all hell breaks loose in the region, including the real possibility of nuclear war and many american and arab casualties. And we'll be wishing fervently that terrorism on US soil doesn't become something we'll have to learn to live with because we just can't seem to kill all the people who hate our guts and multiply exponentially with every aggressive action that we take. And we'll sure hope that we can get some cooperation from the unstable regimes that finance them without having to invade and depose their leaders, too.

And, if everything works out, let's keep our fingers crossed that we can turn the mideast into a democratic paradise quickly because judging from our experience in Afghanistan, our President meant it when he said he "wasn't into nation building." We really don't need to fight this war again.

And I know that a lot of us will probably get together around the dinner table and water coolers to talk about the enormous sums of money remaking the mideast is costing, and will continue to cost for years to come, while we worry about whether we'll have jobs or health care or a chance of a comfortable retirement.

So, rather than attending pro-Saddam rallies, people who are against this war being waged by someone in whom they have no faith will instead be gathering together to fervently pray that his adventure goes perfectly every step of the way.

Once the die was cast, and I believe it was cast last August during the meetings in Crawford with all the military brass, I don't know that there was ever much we could do but register our doubts, make our statements, protest and go on the record and then hope that it doesn't go as badly as we think it might.

At this point, what choice to we have?

Atrios says it better than I can.

Sorry Kevin. I think I'm getting edgy. Wartalk and terrorism does that, what with the lack of sleep and obsessive internet reading. Enjoy the movie. Make it a comedy.


Charles Murtaugh writes: "Calpundit has become a one-stop shop for all my anguished-liberal needs," which made me wonder: Is there such a thing as an anguished conservative? I can't think of one.

And that observation, in turn, reminded me of the post I linked to from Interesting Times last week:

The two psychologists think that inept people are often self-assured because they lack self-monitoring skills, which are the same skills required for competence. Subjects who scored in the lowest quartile in tests of logic, English grammar, and humor were also the mostly likely to ``grossly overestimate'' how well they performed.

``Not only do (incompetent people) reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices,'' wrote Dr. Kruger, ``but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it

Ah. That explains it.

Degenerate Art

Why didn’t the artists speak out last night on the Grammys? I don’t know. I imagine it’s for many of the same reasons that many liberals in the US haven’t been speaking out --- fear of being called unpatriotic, the sense that 9/11 is sacred (and Iraq, however inexplicably, is attached to it), knowledge that the war is inevitable and a genuine feeling of ambivalence about the goals if not the motivations of those who are waging it. It is also true that the Grammy’s were in New York City; there are those who feel that it is hallowed ground.

And, one cannot look at this without noting that the corporation that owns CBS also owns MTV and VH1, and that the large corporate entities that created many of these “artists” have a huge stake in the success of George W. Bush’s administration. Self-interest is our civic religion these days even if it's subliminal.

But, I’d like to address another aspect of this issue. From what I’ve read today, it is taken as an article of faith from those on the right that artists are ignorant, ill-informed and so completely out of the mainstream that they should be treated as children and be seen and not heard. I have read at least 5 different comments today, and received several e-mails, saying that awards shows are properly places for the little tykes to clap their pudgy hands and giggle with glee when they get their nice awards, but they should leave the serious issues to the really important people (like warbloggers, presumably.)

(I have to say that calling artists “stupid” in the face of a president who cannot string two words together coherently is so chillingly obtuse that I’m afraid that a few of these people may be beyond reach. But, that’s another post….)

This view shows a complete lack of understanding of the history, function and purpose of art. So, let me try to clear up a few of the misconceptions that seem to be plaguing the right (who, as commenter Cheryl adroitly pointed out, revere the only entertainer to ever ascend to the presidency, Ronnie Reagan.)

There are two reasons why artists speak out on politics and why they tend to be overwhelmingly liberal. First, the practical reason is that they have an audience. It has been asked repeatedly why an awards show should serve as a platform for political sentiment. Well….


If artists/citizens feel strongly about a political issue they may also feel they have an obligation to use their access to large numbers of people to make that point. Those of us who blog or are actually active in politics from either side of the debate should understand this better than anyone. If you care, you try to persuade. And anybody who wants to can participate. It’s called democracy.

Which brings us to the second reason. Artists are overwhelmingly liberal because conservatives are always trying to tell them what they can and cannot say, write, paint, or make. There is nothing more precious to an artist than free speech and history is filled with examples of governments cracking down on art and speech they determine to be a threat to the nation. Even here in the US. And, certainly there. It is only logical that civil liberties would be of prime importance to artists, particularly those who use their art as a means of political expression and it should not surprise anyone that the more conservative and authoritarian governments are always the ones that are trying to curb them. Artists know this and usually support liberal politics as a result.

It is just reverse elitism to assume that the artistic community is any more stupid than any other group of people in this country. Some are, some aren’t. This smug snobbishness is quite revealing, particularly coming from the group that allows the likes of Jerry Falwell to speak for them on political issue ranging from taxes to war strategy.

I think it shows they’re scared. Smart Republicans understand something else about this phenomenon and that is that certain artists bring with them a powerful image that can be extremely useful if applied correctly --- Charlton Heston as Moses for instance --- Reagan in a cowboy hat. If the broad artistic community becomes truly engaged in politics, the right will have a problem on their hands. Popular Culture is a sleeping political and public relations giant and when it is awakened it can be a formidable foe. And it is overwhelmingly liberal.

And they know that the likes of Rupert Murdoch will never forego profits for politics. Ever. If the artistic communities make liberalism visible again, and by extension they make their art explicitly or implicitly political and profitable, the Republicans will be in trouble. FoxNews is only entertaining to dittoheads and masochistic Democrats. Everybody else is watching the real liberal media like Murdoch's most successful television show ever --- The Simpsons --- the most subversively liberal TV show in history.

The musicians did a big el-foldo. Let's see if the filmmakers can do a little bit better.

Sunday, February 23, 2003

Imperialist Stunt

I saw this the other night and I almost couldn’t believe it. If it were anyone but Sy Hersh making the claim I would have to say it was tin-foil time.

When the war began, even though this is-- again, you know, this is complicated. Musharraf asked, as a favor, to protect his position. If we suddenly seized, in in the field, a few dozen military soldiers, including generals, and put them in jail, and punished them, he would be under tremendous pressure from the fundamentalists at home.

So, to protect him, we perceive that it's important to protect him, he asked us-- this is why when I tell you it comes at the level of Don Rumsfeld, it has to. I mean, it does. He asked-- he said, "You've got to protect me. You've got to get my people out."

The initial plan was to take out the Pakistani military. What happened is that they took out al Qaeda with them. And we had no way of stopping it. We lost control. Once there planes began to go, the Pakistanis began-- thousands of al Qaeda got out. And so-- we weren't able to stop it and screen it. The intent wasn't to let al Qaeda out. It was to protect the Pakistani military.

But, when you think about it, it actually makes sense in Bush terms. In order to preserve Musharref’s tenuous hold on a nuclear nation that could easily be overwhelmed by Islamic fundamentalists like the Taliban, the US had to agree to evacuate the Pakistani military who were helping to train the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. In the process, we evacuated al Qaeda and Taliban to Pakistan. From the war we were waging in Afghanistan against the Taliban and al Qaeda.

The more we hear of things like this the more plausible it really is that the Bush administration doesn’t find the terrorist threat to be very serious and the war with Iraq is being waged as an easy, splashy “pageant” meant to put the world on notice that they should simply give up in the face of our awesome Death Star technology. To do this, it must be an easy win. Whatever the consequences, they’ll wing it.

Neal Gabler makes this case in his "A splendid little war"

The Spanish-America War, like the imminent war in Iraq, had its origins not in any direct threat to American security or in treaty obligations to allies or even in some affront to American honor, but in a desire to project a new sense of the country's power and responsibility -- in historian Frank Friedel's words, "to see the United States function like a great nation." Though the world of the late 19th century was not, like ours, dominated by a single superpower, America possessed an abiding faith in her own moral superiority to every other regnant nation, just as it does today. This was (and is) not entirely without justification. At the time, America was certainly more idealistic than Germany, France, England, Japan or Spain. She believed in the values of democracy and equality even if she didn't always believe in their actual exercise -- Third World nations would need a lot of help -- and she increasingly saw her role as international cop, enforcing what other nations were too craven to enforce.

It’s probably only a coincidence, but Karl Rove calls himself a “student” of the McKinley presidency. (This is mostly because McKinley was really a creature of his political handler Mark Hanna, I suspect; they were almost always pictured together, as partners, in political cartoons like the one below.)

There are many other parallels between the two Presidents, not the least of which is that the war was fully supported, if not created, by the press. War --- but most especially victory --- is very good for the media business.

It would be a good idea, considering all this, to keep in mind that the rallying cry of “Remember The Maine,” referring to the incident that precipitated our declaration of war, was very likely an engine explosion, not a Spanish bomb, as we contemplate the impending and inevitable “material breach.”

Gabler concludes with:

In the end, as much as doves may hate to say it, Bush may be right. Why not go to war? The Cuban portion of the Spanish-American War did last less than 90 days, and it resulted not only in Spain leaving Cuba but in America taking Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines and thus asserting her power. But if Spain was quickly vanquished, the Philippine portion of the war dragged on for years as America tried to pacify insurgents there, resulting in 4,000 American dead and hundreds of thousands of Philippine civilian casualties. (Anyone looking for the analogy to Vietnam will find it here.) As the saying goes, watch what you wish for ...

Of course the assumption, in 2003 as in 1898, is that war will be quick and bloodless -- that it won't be hell but a piece of cake. At least, that is what the Bush administration is telling us and that is what many of us want to believe. We are going to war no matter what and no matter why. If that sounds vaguely familiar, it is. We have been here before. It is 1898 all over again.

But, there were no Pakistans with nukes or bin Laden’s with al Jazeera. The world is much smaller now and the stakes are much bigger. This kind of adventure is beyond risky in the nuclear age. It's reckless.

Thanks to Testify for the NPR link

The Norwegians—who gave us the term "quisling"—awarded former President Jimmy Carter the Peace Prize
Ann Coulter

Kevin proposes that Jimmy Carter be appointed as civilian leader of Iraq.

Sure, conservatives hate him, but consider: he was president of the United States for four years and knows a bit about running a country. He's a prominent dove and would be trusted by lots of people who otherwise wouldn't give Bush the time of day. He's rather famously sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, which means he'd be trusted by the Arabs. And he's a humanitarian, which means he'd be genuinely motivated to help Iraq and the Iraqi people.

If Bush did this he would cut the Democrats off at the knees. It would be brilliant. It would be right.

It is, therefore, impossible.


Bush Cited Report That Doesn't Exist

Bush and White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer went out of their way Thursday to cite a new survey by "Blue-Chip economists" that the economy would grow 3.3 percent this year if the president's tax cut proposal becomes law.

That was news to the editor who assembles the economic forecast. "I don't know what he was citing," said Randell E. Moore, editor of the monthly Blue Chip Economic Forecast, a newsletter that surveys 53 of the nation's top economists each month.

"I was a little upset," said Moore, who said he complained to the White House. "It sounded like the Blue Chip Economic Forecast had endorsed the president's plan. That's simply not the case."

Deputy White House Press Secretary Claire Buchan insisted Friday that the survey, which mentioned "the likelihood that some version of the Bush administration's latest stimulus package will be enacted," justified the president's claim. Moore said that a survey taken in January before the president announced his plan forecast 3.3 percent annual growth between the last quarter of 2002 and the last quarter of 2003. A survey taken in February reached the same consensus.

Sure. That makes sense. And, it's not like it's about sex or anything.

You kin keep yer 1945 Mouton Rothschild, Frenchy. It ain't no different than a 1998 Damianitza Melnik innyhow

BULGARIA is turning into a competitive threat to French wine exports to the US market after members of the US Congress said they were considering a boycott of all French goods, especially wines.

At the end of 2002, Bulgaria occupied sixteenth place in the list of wine exporters to the US with only about 209 000 litres, while France was the second leading exporter of wine to the US with more than 74 million litres, behind Italy, which is the top importer.

US lawmakers, angry over France's opposition to the White House administration's Iraq policies, are considering retaliatory gestures such as trade sanctions against the French, the Washington Post said last Wednesday. The 17 senators that are behind the move have reportedly initiated a subscription list as well.

Bulgarian-language media reports this week said that the US Embassy in Sofia, as well as trade attaches, have been instructed to co-operate in increasing Bulgarian wines' market share in the US.

"France and Germany are losing credibility by the day, and they are losing, I think, status in the world," House of Representatives Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay said, quoted by the Post.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, angered by France's policies on agriculture as well as on Iraq, has told associates he would like to target two of that nation's most sacred drinks: water and wine. Hastert talked to House members about slapping restrictions on French imports of bottled water and fine wine.

Thanks to Stoutdem

Rule 'o Law

Nathan Newman points out that Godwin's Law has already been repealed by...Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleeza Rice.

But, he forgot my favorite:

"How could any German say such a thing after all the United States had done to liberate Germany from Hitler?"

Our President's national security advisor actually said that, yes she did.

American As Apple Pie

Dwight Meredith To Enter Baseball's Hall of Fame

Congratulations, Dwight! I'd love to attend the ceremony, but I'll be in Las Vegas where I hear the average winner at the Million Dollar Spin gets a million dollars. I could use the money.

Saturday, February 22, 2003

I've Got A Secret

Don't tell anybody, but there is a liberal media. It just isn't explicitly political very often. It's called Popular Culture.

Tomorrow night, some of the more outspoken popular icons will be appearing on the Grammy's. According to the LA Times at the Brit Awards last night:

Coldplay's Chris Martin broke away from the usual thank you speech Thursday at the Brit Awards, the local equivalent of the U.S. Grammys, to declare, "Awards are essentially nonsense, but we're all going to die when George Bush has his way -- it's good to go out with a bang."

Now, according the the esteemed fair and balanced Drudge, CBS has admonished the awards recipients and presenters:

"It, of course, is a final option [to cut the microphone.] But it's a very real option," said the top source, who demanded anonymity. "There is a time for political commentary, this is not one of them!"

Well now, isn't that special. Fred Barnes and Tucker Carlson may think that the entire country believes that loudmouthed, bowtied dough boys are sex symbols, but in the world that real people inhabit Springsteen, Eminem and Sheryl Crow are just a little bit more uh...familiar. The fact is that if more and more people start saying this stuff out loud, it may reach critical mass and result in curbing the radical excesses of this administration.

I think it's time for the real liberal media to start flexing it's muscle.

Via Jesse

(Oh, and for those who think that celebrities speaking out on politics is silly, think again. It certainly isn't any more inappropriate than bloggers like us spouting our political opinons all over the blogosphere. We're a bunch of citizens sufficiently engaged and informed that we feel the need to express our opinions and join the debate. The difference is that celebrities have audiences of millions and I guarantee that the only people who'll really criticize them for speaking out about politics are those who disagree with them. Frankly, from the level of political discourse I hear on cable news these days, the professional pundits sound so tired and programmed that even I can't listen to it anymore it's so boring. Time to change the channel.)


SHOCKER!!! Drudge lied. Hard to believe.

Bell, Book and Crossburning

Ok, so I can’t resist jumping into this debate about race and intelligence with an observation. Kevin Drum says: In particular, liberals are forced to make the following argument[s]: Intelligence isn't really a meaningful trait.

If this is so, then I would have to say that liberals have won this argument hands down. How else can one explain the dizzying popularity of George W. Bush in conservative circles? Ba-dum-pum.


I argued earlier on Atrios’s blog (and he quotes me today) about the obvious racist implications and conclusions of The Bell Curve. It is irrefutable that the science underlying these conclusions and the statistical analysis they used have been thoroughly rebutted. But, that doesn’t really address the main thrust of Kevin’s post.

First, I agree with Kevin that “intelligence” in the sense of somebody being ”a smart cookie” is the common sense kind of assessment we make every day. But, many people who test very well do not appear to be “smart cookies” and the opposite is also often true. The common sense assessment is made through a thicket of personal prejudices and experiences. And history as well as current examples show that cultural influence has a huge effect on how one interprets intelligence. I’m reminded of a work colleague who when faced with hiring one of either a black or a white candidate said to me, “I don’t know, I just lean toward hiring (the white guy). He seems to be more on the ball.” I asked him why he thought that and he replied, “He reminds me of myself when I was his age.”

Kieren Healy ascribes to Kevin a desire to be “reasonable” as the reason he waffles from what appears to be a defense of the idea that IQ tests show that African-Americans are less intelligent to an acknowledgement that socio-economic and other factors properly mitigate the disparities between African- Americans and others.

I think we are talking about two different things there and they get to the main thrust of Kevin’s argument, which is that because liberals are so afraid of the information about intelligence being used to promote eugenics or eugenics based policy that we are “forced to make the following arguments: Intelligence isn't really a meaningful trait. And even if it is meaningful, IQ tests don't measure it well. They are culturally and racially biased. And even if intelligence is measurable, it doesn't have a significant genetic component. It's mostly based on environment and upbringing.”

Atrios argues that liberals merely resist using the word “intelligence” when discussing disparities in test score results because it implies immutability --- something that can lead inexorably to racism in a culture that Kevin and many others would agree finds “intelligence” to be a valuable asset to society as a whole. In his mind the argument is one of semantics and I think that is correct. It is important to understand how the meaning of words is twisted to advantage in areas like race and be cautious about falling into a trap laid by those who are very aware that what they say has multiple layers of meaning to people who care to look.

In many ways, the crux of the entire discussion we’ve been having lately about the Southern Strategy, racism and political correctness is one of semantics. One side argues that “it is what it is” and the other argues that there is more to it. We are arguing the meaning of words and phrases and it doesn’t seem useful, to me, to pretend that these semantic differences aren’t tremendously significant. So, in the interests of maintaining credibility, those who study the differences between the races in standardized test scores should be very specific and resist the urge to use terms like intelligence, or at the very least they should be very careful to state (as Murray and Herrnstein did not --- and in fact did the opposite) that IQ and g are very definitely NOT immutable characteristics.

But, beyond that is Kevin’s assertion that liberals believe that IQ tests don’t measure intelligence well. I think is a fair characterization of one liberal position on the topic. They point to data that suggests that these tests in themselves aren’t very predictive of success in life (which somewhat refutes the point of Kevin’s argument --- that we need to raise the test scores so African-Americans can be more successful.) “Intelligence” as measured by IQ tests does not take into account the huge number of variables that go into potential individual success, for which the IQ often serves as a proxy. It is worth noting again, that when the tests are properly adjusted for SES, the disparities disappear. Therefore, when many people say that IQ tests don’t measure intelligence well, this is the kind of thing they are talking about. In and of themselves, they only present a part of the picture and yet there are those who persist in believing that testable cognitive ability alone is a meaningful measure. It is not a liberal rejection of the science, it is a liberal requirement that the science be careful and complete.

I don’t know whether intelligence has a significant genetic component. I don’t think anybody does yet. I don’t doubt that g is heritable to some degree, but I have seen nothing to indicate that the heritability of g is related to the heritability of superficial racial characteristics, which can be dominant or recessive from generation to generation, like any other genetic trait. From a genetic standpoint, the differences between the races are extremely small and our measurement of g is very crude, so I think the jury is still out. But, I do know that race in this country is an interpretive art, a social construct, more than anything else. When the science is able to do it, it’s going to be very interesting to find out where we all fall in the racial spectrum because it’s been defined up to now by everything from what color your great grandfather was to what you chose to call yourself on the official form you just filled out.

Atrios published an additional comment of mine regarding the scientific vs the political aspect of this debate. Science is under attack from the Right in this country far more than from the Left. I adamantly believe that it is important to fight this in every way at our disposal and that means with scientific as well as political arguments. In the case of racism, it sometimes requires a bit of both to make the point.

But, there is no margin in allowing Murray and Herrnstein even a moment of credibility on any level and it is exceedingly important to recognize that these old and tired eugenic arguments can easily be dressed up in the modern language of science for a lay reader who is looking for something “scholarly” to back up his gut feeling that “those people” just aren’t as smart as they are.. We can argue about logistic regression and the immutability of g until the cows come home, but those people who bought that stupid book (and the media that shamelessly plugged it because it was “sexy”) need to be put on notice that it is nothing more than a racist screed pretending to be science. It’s exhausting, and people get tired of hearing it, but as Kevin points out, we must face the truth squarely. And the truth is that The Bell Curve is a racist book and was written to serve a racist agenda.

Edited 2/22 6 pm for hilarious mistake --- see comments.

Friday, February 21, 2003

"I believe what I believe and I believe what I believe is right."

Chris at Interesting Times finds a very interesting article that will go into the "What Make's These Crazies Tick" folder immediately.

The two psychologists think that inept people are often self-assured because they lack self-monitoring skills, which are the same skills required for competence. Subjects who scored in the lowest quartile in tests of logic, English grammar, and humor were also the mostly likely to ``grossly overestimate'' how well they performed.

One Size Doesn't Fit All

Seth Michaels comments on the article everybody's talking about.

Here's a well-done, if depressing, article on how the concentration of Democratic campaigns in the hands of a few firms is hurting them in elections. I can think of a few good object lessons (the article has a lot of blind quotes and so tends to avoid mention of specific campaigns): 2002 candidates like Jeanne Shaheen and Erskine Bowles and Chellie Pingree got beaten in part because of the bland, prefab feel of their campaigns - especially the August-to-November unblinking drone of social security and prescription drug commercials. On the other hand, the most successful campaigns of 2002, the pleasant surprises, were Tim Johnson and Mary Landrieu, who each found a very specific, very local issue on which to draw contrasts between themselves and Team Bush (drought relief for Johnson, sugar for Landrieu). And I don't think anyone doubts that Paul Wellstone, had he lived, might have won not in spite of his opposition to an
Iraq war but because of the principled contrast it created. Will the D's learn their lesson in time for 2004?

By the way, Seth culls all the blogs and has some sharp commentary and interesting insights into the sausage making and strategic workings of party politics. He is a good place to start when you're pressed for time and you want to get a snapshot of the inside political dope of the day.


It is hard to explain just how thoroughly Rupert Murdoch and his cadre of greedy sharks have ruined my baseball team, the Dodgers. They have systematically destroyed the tradition that survived everything from Branch Rickey's noble decision to sign Jackie Robinson and end the color line in baseball, to the move out to LA to recreate themselves from the Brooklyn Bums to the classiest team in the national league (or at least a perennial contender.)

They destroyed the best farm system in baseball, hired (then mercifully fired) Texas Republican psych case Kevin Malone who Enroned the team for the forseeable future with contracts for old and/or worthless banged up pitchers worth many, many tens of millions and stripped the club of virtually all ties to its century long legacy. (Not to mention treating the best manager in baseball, Mike Scioscia, so badly that he left the organization he'd been born to manage to take our crosstown rivals to the world series instead.)

Now that NewsCorp achieved its goal of keeping Disney out of the sports media market in Southern California, they are selling the team (which they only bought for the purposes of gaining the media rights in the first place.) I'm surprised they haven't fired Vin Scully as a cost-cutting measure.

This week, to add insult to injury, that fishwrap piece of shit the NY Post had to print another speculative "outing" piece in it's heinous gossip pages that has resulted in the embarrassment and resignation of one of the greatest baseball players in history from the only organization he ever worked for.

Koufax Shuts Out Dodgers

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax, whose brilliance on the mound captivated fans in the 1960s and defined the Dodgers' greatest era in Los Angeles, has severed ties with the club in protest of another News Corp. subsidiary.

Koufax, a very private man who established a standard for pitching excellence in four of the most dominant seasons in the game's history from 1963-66, recently informed the Dodgers he would no longer attend spring training here at Dodgertown, visit Dodger Stadium or participate in activities while they are owned by the media conglomerate, because of a report in the New York Post that apparently intimated that he is homosexual. The Post is owned by News Corp.

Through friend Derrick Hall, a Dodger senior vice president, Koufax declined comment Thursday night, but officials familiar with the situation said the legendary left-hander, and Vero Beach resident, broke off ties after 48 years in response to a two-sentence gossip item published in the Post on Dec. 19. The Post reported that a "Hall of Fame baseball hero" had "cooperated with a best-selling biography only because the author promised to keep it secret that he is gay. The author kept her word, but big mouths at the publishing house can't keep from flapping." Koufax, who was not specifically named by the paper, is the subject of Jane Leavy's acclaimed biography, "Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy," published last September.

News Corp. is undertaking steps to sell the Dodgers, but the timetable doesn't help team officials saddened by what they perceive as the Post's unfair treatment of Koufax.

Expressing his feelings to the Dodgers through Hall shortly after learning of the report, Koufax said "it does not make sense for me to promote any" of the companies controlled by News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch, adding he would "feel foolish to be associated with or promote one entity if it helps another." Hall said Koufax stressed, "I have no problems with the Dodgers or their current or previous management. It's more so about [News Corp.]."

Whatever his sexuality, he isn't a whore. And I imagine his sissy, hall-of fame fast ball could still knock Rupert on his ass from 90 feet away.

Folie a Deux?

Reading this interesting post on SullyWatch, I was stuck by an irony concerning the “cheese eating surrender blah,blah,blah” mantra. They wrote:

So, while it's fair to say that the French military hierarchy was outsmarted, the “surrender-monkey” theme is completely inappropriate. But then, I guess it takes a lot more thought to yell “Followers of an obsolete military doctrine!” than “Pussies!”

The French in WWII were the followers of an obsolete military doctrine.

Here is an analysis of The Bush Doctrine from the Commonweal Institute.

In many respects the defense policy initiatives undertaken by the Bush administration in the wake of 11 September do not closely correspond to the threat. For instance, the administration has resurrected a traditional Realist paradigm despite the post-modern (non-state) character of the new terrorism. Also prominent among the administration's policy responses has been an acceleration of the anti-ballistic missile defense program, sterner rhetoric regarding Iraq and North Korea, and a military modernization program focusing largely on traditional military structures and platforms.

The Bush Doctrine is an obsolete military doctrine before it has even been tried. But then, in a rapidly changing world, stale policy papers written by wild-eyed idealistic zealots aren’t usually adopted word for word by great powers.

Oh wait...

I’m Out Of The Loop

Charles Pierce in a (great, as always) letter to Altercation says:

Wait, now. This Michael Savage knucklehead to whom MSNBC shamefully truckles on a weekly basis now is the same Michael Weiner whose association of aluminum with Alzheimer’s Disease once had people tossing out their cookware (bad), and briefly threatened to cause the demise of canned beer (good), and is altogether the cause of no little hilarity every time real AD researchers get together? This is the same guy? This is the new voice of the patriotic Right? A patent medicine salesman? The Whitley Strieber of AD research? What’s next? Art Bell, Biochemist? When did this start making sense?

THAT Michael Savage is this Michael Savage?

The Mighty Wurlitzer Plays Souza, Too

Taking a page from Poppy's successful "they're ripping the babies from the incubators" PR effort in Gulf War I, President Rove created a group called the Committee For An Independent Iraq. It's run by a bunch of PNAC neocons and gullible front men (like Bob Kerrey) to "sell" the war, particularly to the Europeans, which explains why a US lobbyist helped draft Eastern Europeans' Iraq statement

From the W. Post:While the Iraq committee is an independent entity, committee officers said they expect to work closely with the administration. They already have met with Hadley and Bush political adviser Karl Rove. Committee officers and a White House spokesman said Rice, Hadley and Cheney will soon meet with the group.

This article from November 2, 2002 in the Asia Times lays out the history and connections of the "Committee."

It's always the same names and the same faces. And unsurprisingly, the much vaunted Eastern European statement of support, the document for which Chirac has been excoriated for taking the "New Europeans" to task over, turns out to be another Neocon/Rove sell job.

A Radical Foreign Policy Shift

FYI: The following are the three primary documents that explain the Bush policy of "pre-emptive war and American military empire. You will notice that the threat of global terrorism remains an incidental issue (made useful as a opportunistic public relations tool after 9/11) that presented no reevaluation of the overall geopolitical strategy and engenders no fundamental shift in priorities.

Excerpts from Wolfowitz 1992 Defense Policy draft

PNAC document "Rebuilding America's Defenses"

The Bush Doctrine