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August 08, 2003

"I call them revisionist historians"

Apparently the right wingers are now arguing that a link between al Qaeda and Iraq was never suggested or implied. Here's a useful reality check. (Via Calpundit.)

Atrios has more.

Just when you think they can't be any more shameless

From MotherJones.com:

President Bush was extremely supportive of Resolution 1483 -- especially that stipulation about legal immunity. Our man in the White House was so enthusiastic that he took it upon himself to write up an executive order that broadened the immunity stipulation. Where the UN Resolution ends immunity at the point of sale, Executive Order 13303 guarantees immunity from the ground to the pump -- and covers any advertising or promotion involved therein. Lisa Girion of the Los Angeles Times reports:

"According to the order, 'any attachment, judgment, decree, lien, execution, garnishment or other judicial process is prohibited, and shall be deemed null and void, with respect to the following:

(a) the Development Fund for Iraq and

(b) all Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products, and interests therein, and proceeds, obligations or any financial instruments of any nature whatsoever arising from or related to the sale or marketing thereof, and interests therein, in which any foreign country or a national thereof has any interest, that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of United States persons.'

The order defines 'persons' to include corporations, and covers 'any petroleum, petroleum products or natural gas originating in Iraq, including any Iraqi-origin oil inventories, wherever located.'"

That's right. It's a blanket immunity for US-based -- and only US-based -- corporations.

More.

Why your support matters

Again, my thanks to those of you who have responded to my relentless pleas that you buy the book. Numbers are strong enough that while before, there was absolutely no chance of any sort of book tour whatsoever, now there is maybe a five percent chance that something may happen.

Hey, it's progress. Enough of you buy the book this weekend, we might even kick it up to ten percent.

(Afterthought: and why this matters is easy. Booksignings are never about the number of books sold at any given event--you'd have to sell a lot of books just to cover the cost of a plane ticket and hotel room, after all. What booksignings are about is getting the word out that the book exists. I've got my base covered here, no question, but I'd still like to reach the casual reader who maybe doesn't check into my site every day or eagerly await each new cartoon, but who might still pick up the book if they hear about it.)

In related news, the only signing currently scheduled is at the Chelsea Barnes & Noble in Manhattan (on Sixth Ave, between 21st & 22nd), August 19 at 7 pm. If you're in or near the city, please come by. If you've already bought the book online, bring it--I'll sign it for you.

And for the inevitable "why a chain bookstore" emails which are being composed even as we speak--I support the indies where I can. When I go to San Francisco, I sign at the Booksmith or at A Clean Well Lighted Place. In Portland, of course, I go to Powell's. But in New York, where real estate square footage is more valuable than gold, there's not an independent bookstore, at least that I'm aware of, which is set up to accomodate the kind of crowd my events usually draw. In short: it's the only game in town.

This could be interesting

According to my pal Micah Sifry, Ross Perot is considering a 2004 comeback--and it's not good news for the Repubs:

But should we really just treat Ross as a bad joke? My read of his proposal is that he is serious about addressing the country's economic problems, furious at the GOP's irresponsible tax cuts and anxious to return to the national stage, possibly with some form of grass-roots movement by his side. For anyone who remembers how little respect Perot has shown for the Bush family over the years -- not only did he break Poppy Bush's hold on the White House, in 1994 he went out of his way to publicly endorse the Democratic gubernatorial opponents of both George W. in Texas and Jeb in Florida -- there's an intriguing subtext to all this: Ross may think that by launching this new effort in time for 2004 he can crack the Republican lock on power again, to stop the party's "radical agenda" and prevent a "fiscal disaster."

To laugh or cry, part two
Halliburton's role in the rebuilding has been under political scrutiny because the company was formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney. But the Bush administration and the Corps of Engineers, which is overseeing the Iraqi oil reconstruction effort, have repeatedly said that Halliburton has no inside track.

Story, via alert reader Steven G.

To laugh or cry, the decision is yours

From the Times:

A federal judge in Manhattan criticized police officials yesterday for the way demonstrators against the war in Iraq were interrogated earlier this year, and he made clear that civil liberties lawyers could seek to hold the city in contempt of court in the future if the police violate people's rights.

The judge, Charles S. Haight Jr. of Federal District Court, who recently eased court-ordered rules on police surveillance of political groups, made his comments after hearing evidence that the police had asked the protesters their views on the war, whether they hated President Bush, if they had traveled to Africa or the Middle East, and what might be different if Al Gore were president.

Just imagine that for a moment. Imagine being in police custody, being interrogated about your views on Al Gore. Itís like a bad sitcom scripted by Kafka.

A liberal Scaife?

We can only hope:

Labor, environmental and women's organizations, with strong backing from international financier George Soros, have joined forces behind a new political group that plans to spend an unprecedented $75 million to mobilize voters to defeat President Bush in 2004.

Link via Kos.

Ugh

After my post on BloggerCon yesterday (seconded by Atrios, Roger Ailes, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, and Elayne Riggs that I know about, and probably more--permalinks buggered on a couple of those, so youíll have to scroll), I got an email from Christopher Lydon, whoís involved peripherally in some way and whoís very, very enthusiastic about blogging. He wanted to interview me for his blog, which at the moment mostly seems to consist of interviews with bloggers. I used to listen to his show on public radio from time to time, before he had some sort of falling out with the station that produced it, so against my better judgment I agreed. Nothing against Chris, who sounds like a very smart and thoughtful man. But (a) I hate interviews in generalóIím a pretty private guy in a semi-public profession, so itís something I have to do (especially when I'm pushing a book), but itís usually about as much fun as a visit to the proctologist Ėand (b) I just donít have that much to say about blogging. (Afterthought: I know the blogging itself would seem to inherently contradict point (a), but the only way I can back up my case is to tell you about all the things I don't write about, and because I'm a pretty private guy, I'm not going to do that. So you'll just have to take my word for it, or not.)

Look, you kids know I love the blogsóread Ďem, link to Ďem, write one myself. But if you read this site, you also know Iím not as swept up in the triumphalist mentality, the sense that blogs are the next dot-com boom, except, well, without money. And midway through the interview, I realized I was being asked to opine on a subject I simply didnít care much about. Blogs are a tool. Iím interested in specific writers, specific ideas. I donít care about blogs as a concept. I meanóI like the Wacom drawing tablet I use just fine, but I wouldnít want to spend forty five minutes talking about it in an interview, you know? Itís just a tool.

Interviews always leave me with a sense of morning-after remorse, but the interview on a subject in which I am only peripherally interested takes it one step further, leaves me feeling like Iím in the seventh grade and I just failed a pop quiz.

The narrative crumbles

Jon Carroll, in the SF Chron:

So for a long time I bought into a common schema for the Bush administration: dim-bulb president surrounded and propped up by bright, ruthless neocons. Agenda included manifest destiny and manifest morality. Agents everywhere worked craftily to forward said agenda while getting very darn rich in the process.

I'm chagrined to admit now that I have, at least in part, bought into a lie.

I was sold a bill of goods. The neocons surrounding Bush are not all that bright, and their execution of their agenda has not been all that crafty. I am undecided whether this new revelation means that I think the administration is more or less scary.

Via Buzzflash.

Heíll be almost this happy if he wins the California governorís race

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August 07, 2003

Aaaaugh! My brain!

A reader sends this little gem from Cheney, which you may have already seen--looks like it came out while I was in Ireland:

Events leading to the fall of Saddam Hussein are fresh in memory, and do not need recounting at length. Every measure was taken to avoid a war. But it was Saddam Hussein himself who made war unavoidable. He had a lengthy history of reckless and sudden aggression. He bore a deep and bitter hatred for the United States. He cultivated ties to terrorist groups. He built, possessed, and used weapons of mass destruction. He refused all international demands to account for those weapons.

Aaaaugh! My eyes!

Unrelated to yesterdayís search for photo ref (for an illustration Iím working on), but dovetailing nicely with sameóitís the GI Joe-scale fully articulated "George W. Bush in a flight suit" action figure.

I shit you not.

It doesnít say if accessories include a 1/6 scale sock to stuff in his crotch.

(Thanks to numerous alert readers who sent this one in this morning.)

So I'm going through the email...

Öand I get something with the subject line "Invite: BloggerCon, Harvard Law, Oct 4." Click on it, and glance through it, and it appears that I am, in fact, being invited to speak at a conference on blogging. Normally this would fall on my list of "situations in which I most hope someday to find myself" maybe slightly above waking up in a hotel room bathtub full of ice with my kidneys missing, but I do have this book I need to promote at the moment, and since my publisher doesnít think itís worth the money to send me out on a book tour, Iím a little more open to the idea of a free trip to Boston right now. So I scroll through the rest of the email to see if thereís at least some sort of honorarium involved, and when I get to the bottom, I find to my astonishment that what Iím actually reading is an invitation to pay $500 to attend a conference on blogging.

A conference on blogging as it existed in, say, November of 2001, I might add, with the left side of the blogosphere notable primarily for its absence. Even leaving myself out of the question--whereís Kos, or Atrios? They're two of the most widely-read bloggers by any standard you want to use, and most importantly by the only measurement that actually matters: site traffic.

But you know, even if Kos and Atrios were both attending--hell, even if the panels were moderated by naked supermodels flown in specially for the occasion--$500 to spend a weekend listening to people talk about blogging?

Sweet Jesus. Give me the bathtub full of ice.

Thanks...

...to everyone who bought the book yesterday. It's sitting at #22 at Amazon currently, and I know a number of you purchased it through Powell's or at brick and mortar stores. If this keeps up for a few more days, it'll really help out.

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August 06, 2003

Total recall

Sorry, that title's already a cliche and it's only going to get worse. But, yes, Arnold is going to make a grab for the brass ring in California. A terrible idea, if only for the spate of banal "Terminator"-themed cartoons his candidacy will inevitably inspire.

(Confidential to Arnold: if, by some freakish chance, you lose the election, I've got a terrific idea for a catchphrase you can use on election night to indicate that you will, um, be back...)

Photo ref

Anybody got a link to a good, clear shot of Bush in the infamous flight suit?

UPDATE: Okay, thanks everybody, got what I need.

Earth to Joe

One more on Lieberman, via TAPPED:

"Most of the other Democratic candidates are threatening the change that Bill Clinton and Al Gore brought on the Democratic Party and threatening to take us back into the political wilderness," Lieberman told the audience at the National Press Club Monday in response to a question. "I'm not going to stand back and let this party be taken over by people who would take us into the political wilderness again."

"Into" the political wilderness? "Again"? Gosh, let's see--the Democrats control how many branches of government right now? Oh, that's right. None.

Update from alert reader Philip: "Daily Show did a thing on that quote last night; after Jon Stewart pointed out that the Democrats control nothing, he asked 'Yeah, who was it that took us into that wilderness again?' And then a Gore/Leiberman poster appeared in the top left corner."

I love the Daily Show. I would like to be a guest on the Daily Show. If anybody knows anybody who knows anybody...

See, I've got this book out...

Okay, you probably know about it by now, if youíre a regular visitor to this site. But hereís the thing: in the publishing industry, early sales are everything, at least for a mid-level release like this. If the book makes a strong showing in its first few weeks, then the publisher will put more resources behind it. If it doesnít, then theyíll pretty much leave it to sink or swim on its own. I know, itís clearly a Catch-22, and kind of self-defeating as well, but there it is. Itís the way the world works.

So.

If youíre among the hundreds of people whoíve already bought the thing, you have my eternal gratitude. If I could, Iíd have you all over for a big backyard barbeque, but I live in a city and I donít have a backyard. Otherwise, I would, honest.

But Iíve only won a skirmish here, not the war. The early orders definitely got their attention, but there's more to be done, and soon: strong sales over the next week will make a huge difference for me. So if you're thinking about probably buying the book, at some indefinite point over the next few months: do it now. Do it within the next week. (Afterthought: if you don't want to buy it online, go to your local bookstore--it's all good, in terms of what I'm talking about here.) You see, thereís a sales meeting coming up in a couple of weeks, and if my editor can walk into that and show continuing strong numbers, itíll help enormously, more than I can probably explain to those of you who've never spent any time in the peculiar Wonderland of the publishing industry. They might even begin to see the book as something they actually ought to spend some money promoting, and gosh, that would be a first.

Until that happens, Iím just going to have to keep whining about it on my blog. Kind of pathetic, when you think about it, but itís what Iíve got.

So go buy the book.

I know Iím hammering this one repeatedly, but Iíve been down this path before, in my pre-blogging days, and it was never pretty. In order to get the word out that the book existed, you needed (a) a publicist who gave a ratís ass, (b) someone in the media somewhere willing to write or talk about you, and (c) the lucky confluence of a reader who might be interested in purchasing your book running across the article or review about said book. An undependable sequence of events at best, and in most cases, an entirely unlikely one.

This is the first time Iíve been able to bypass most of that and speak directly to those of you who are most likely to buy it. So forgive me if I repeat myself somewhat, but this is important to me. Perception is everything. If my book appears to be moving strongly in these first few weeks of its release, the publisher will pay more attention to it, put more effort behind it. If it does not, then they won't, and then--can you say "self-fulfilling prophecy"?--remainder bins, here I come.

So buy the book. If you appreciate the work I do, buy the book. Itís far and away the best way to show your support right now. Buy the book.


Joe's Lieberman's not a Republican...

...he's just the Republicans' favorite Democrat. This is from an email the RNC is sending out (via Counterspin):

Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) apparently understands what other Democrats don't, that those unwilling or unable to stop terrorist activity by dealing with it will be forced to deal with its aftermath:

"Some in my party are sending out a message that they don't know a just war when they see it, and, more broadly, are not prepared to use our military strength to protect our security and the cause of freedom." (Sen. Joe Lieberman, "Lieberman Takes President, Fellow Democrats To Task On Security, Foreign Policy," Press Release, 7/28/03)


--------------------

August 05, 2003

California dreamin'

I haven't had much to say so far on the latest wave of destructive wackiness emanating from the state I proudly called home for about thirteen years of my life. (And I'm only 17 now! I'll bet you did not know that!)

Okay, not really.

Clears throat.

At any rate: via my pal skippy, here's the Rough & Tumble politics blog, a compendium of all things Californian. I know I'll be checking in, if only to try to figure out what my former neighbors are thinking these days.

--------------------

August 04, 2003

We give and give

Finally remembered to snap a picture of this sign on a bridge outside of Trenton, New Jersey. Iíve always appreciated what seemed (to me, at least) to be the slightly bitter, but mostly resigned tone it conveys--you bastards donít appreciate what we go through living in this bleak industrial landscape so you can have all your nice things, well, the hell with you anyway. (And chances are that Trenton isn't quite the industrial powerhouse it was when the sign was put up, which makes it all the more poignant.)

Of course, Iím probably reading too much into the whole thing anyway.

Interesting

An op-ed from the Houston Chronicle that's been pointed out by a lot of other blogs already, but hey, one more won't hurt:

After eight years of Bill Clinton, many military officers breathed a sigh of relief when George W. Bush was named president. I was in that plurality. At one time, I would have believed the administration's accusations of anti-Americanism against anyone who questioned the integrity and good faith of President Bush, Vice President Cheney or Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

However, while working from May 2002 through February 2003 in the office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Near East South Asia and Special Plans (USDP/NESA and SP) in the Pentagon, I observed the environment in which decisions about post-war Iraq were made.

Those observations changed everything.

What I saw was aberrant, pervasive and contrary to good order and discipline. If one is seeking the answers to why peculiar bits of "intelligence" found sanctity in a presidential speech, or why the post-Saddam occupation has been distinguished by confusion and false steps, one need look no further than the process inside the Office of the Secretary of Defense. I can identify three prevailing themes.

Thre three themes the author goes on to identify and expand upon are:

--Functional isolation of the professional corps;
--Cross-agency cliques; and
--Groupthink.

In other words, the same factors at play in any office environment in any business in the world can also be found in the highest levels of government. Actually I'm not sure why this would come as a surprise to anyone with any familiarity with basic human nature, but somehow, it always seems to.


The kind of people we are

It's not a decision we make once and then put on a nice shelf for display. It's something we revisit every day, every hour as Americans. It's something many of us discuss in our blogs, our columns, and yes, our cartoons--not because we have some irrational, ingrained hatred for the land of our birth, as some dull-witted types would have it, but rather because we are increasingly troubled by the actions taken ostensibly in our name. And while there seems to be a constant shrill cacophany of voices telling us we are being unnecessarily alarmist, that things are just fine, nothing whatsoever to worry about--well, every day it seems like you read something that would suggest otherwise. (Just go read it. It's a complicated story and I can't do it justice with excerpts.)

Do we really tear families apart on the basis of a minor immigration violation, for which the fine was paid? Do we destroy lives so casually and thoughtlessly? Is this who we are?

Apparently so, at least some of the time.

No disagreements here, move along
Armitage recently told national security adviser Condoleezza Rice that he and Powell will leave on Jan. 21, 2005, the day after the next presidential inauguration, sources familiar with the conversation said. Powell has indicated to associates that a commitment made to his wife, rather than any dismay at the administration's foreign policy, is a key factor in his desire to limit his tenure to one presidential term.

Uh huh.

Rice and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz are the leading candidates to replace Powell, according to sources inside and outside the administration. Rice appears to have an edge because of her closeness to the president, though it is unclear whether she would be interested in running the State Department's vast bureaucracy.

Why not? Think of how many underlings she'd have to blame the next time she gets caught lying through that cute little gap in her teeth...

(Story here.)

Afterthought: it seems like only last week that Condi appeared to be on her way out the door. Because, well, it was only last week. Now it looks as though she may fail upward...

Easy bet

If it's on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, chances are it's going to show up in a Maureen Dowd column.

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