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August 30, 2003

Whoops

As a number of topologically-inclined readers have already pointed out, the "moebius strip" in this week’s cartoon really isn’t.

And upon close examination, I have to admit that they are correct.

Dammit. I worked on this thing until my eyes bled—I was really sure I had it right. I guess it just proves that Tom Tomorrow is no M.C. Escher. On the other hand, have you seen M.C. Escher’s political cartoons? Really banal visual analogies, full of donkeys and elephants and crosshatching—

Okay, not really.

At any rate, I apologize. I have failed you. I hang my head in shame.

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

August 29, 2003

Says it all

From Ruben Bolling’s latest Super Fun Pack Comics.


Another Iraqi blogger

Posted with the usual caveat: on the internet, anyone can be anything. But this seems plausible.

“[Iraq] is not a country in chaos and Baghdad is not a city in chaos.” – Paul Bremer


Where is this guy living? Is he even in the same time zone??? I’m incredulous… maybe he's from some alternate universe where shooting, looting, tanks, rape, abductions, and assassinations aren’t considered chaos, but it’s chaos in *my* world.

Ever since the occupation there have been 400 females abducted in Baghdad alone and that is only the number of recorded abductions. Most families don’t go to the Americans to tell about an abduction because they know it’s useless. The male members of the family take it upon themselves to search for the abducted female and get revenge if they find the abductors. What else is there to do? I know if I were abducted I’d much rather my family organize themselves and look for me personally than go to the CPA.

By BBC’s accounts there are 70 cars a day being hijacked in Baghdad alone…

And now we’ve just had some shocking news- Mohammed Baqir Al-Hakim was assassinated in the holy city of Najaf! Mohammed Baqir Al-Hakim was the head of SCIRI (Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq). They don’t know who was behind it, but many believe it is one of the other Shi’a religious factions. There has been some tension between Al-Sadir’s followers and Al-Hakim’s followers. Another cleric, Al-Sistani, also had some interesting things to say against Al-Hakim…

And from another entry:

Listen to this little anecdote. One of my cousins works in a prominent engineering company in Baghdad- we’ll call the company H. This company is well-known for designing and building bridges all over Iraq. My cousin, a structural engineer, is a bridge freak. He spends hours talking about pillars and trusses and steel structures to anyone who’ll listen.

As May was drawing to a close, his manager told him that someone from the CPA wanted the company to estimate the building costs of replacing the New Diyala Bridge on the South East end of Baghdad. He got his team together, they went out and assessed the damage, decided it wasn’t too extensive, but it would be costly. They did the necessary tests and analyses (mumblings about soil composition and water depth, expansion joints and girders) and came up with a number they tentatively put forward- $300,000. This included new plans and designs, raw materials (quite cheap in Iraq), labor, contractors, travel expenses, etc.

Let’s pretend my cousin is a dolt. Let’s pretend he hasn’t been working with bridges for over 17 years. Let’s pretend he didn’t work on replacing at least 20 of the 133 bridges damaged during the first Gulf War. Let’s pretend he’s wrong and the cost of rebuilding this bridge is four times the number they estimated- let’s pretend it will actually cost $1,200,000. Let’s just use our imagination.

A week later, the New Diyala Bridge contract was given to an American company. This particular company estimated the cost of rebuilding the bridge would be around- brace yourselves- $50,000,000 !!

More.

Operation Cognitive Dissonance

My pal Jason Vest on the neocon fantasy world:

As images of the bombed United Nations headquarters in Baghdad appeared on television last week, my thoughts turned to a conversation I had with a very senior national-security official (a political appointee with no military experience, not a career bureaucrat) prior to the invasion of Iraq. He earnestly told me that after Saddam Hussein's fall, Americans would be welcomed in Iraq, and not with a fleeting shower of goodwill but with a "deluge" of "rose water and flowers" that would last in perpetuity. Ahmad Chalabi and American advisers would set up shop to oversee a transition spearheaded by scores of returning Iraqi exiles, who would transform Iraq into a profitable, oil-pumping society. After all, the official said, this wasn't Afghanistan, where there were lots of religious and tribal differences among the local populations. We wouldn't need to stay long, and we certainly wouldn't need the United Nations -- which, as far as this official and his compatriots were concerned, could go screw itself. The United States could handle it all. Within a year, he said, Iraq would be a beacon of democracy and stability in the Middle East.

Much more. And on a related note, next week's cartoon is up early due to the holiday weekend.

The wit and wisdom of Bill O'Reilly

From Slate's Press Box:

Two-for-One Bank Shot "Already the two parties are blaming each other [about the power blackout]. And I have two words for them—shut up." —Aug. 15, 2003

On Location at the Los Angeles Book Fair
[To Al Franken]: "Hey, shut up! You had your 35 minutes! Shut up!"
—June 1, 2003

No-First-Amendment Zone
"All of these spin-meisters on both sides should just shut up until all the [Florida] votes are counted."
—Nov. 9, 2000

That Means You, Sid Blumenthal
"There is no victory for any American in the impeachment trial. The president should be ashamed of himself, and his partisans should shut up."
—Feb. 4, 1999

Hollywood Sissy
"He has dodged this program, Alec Baldwin has, for years. Bottom line: If you're going to sling it, Alec, then stand up to some fire. If not, shut up and don't be ridiculous."
—Jan. 2, 1999

Shut Up for Freedom
"And it is our duty as loyal Americans to shut up once the fighting begins, unless—unless facts prove the operation wrong, as was the case in Vietnam."
—Feb. 27, 2003

To Our Brothers and Sisters in the Great White North
"Canada shouldn't have any say [about the Guantanamo prisoners] at all. I mean, just shut up about it."
—April 16, 2003

To an Anti-War Protester Whose Father Died on 9/11
"Shut up. Shut up."
—Feb. 4, 2003

Presidential Gag Order
"What Jimmy Carter should do is privately give Mr. Bush his opinion and shut up publicly."
—Feb. 18, 2003

Diplomatic Gag Order
"But if the Bush administration wants to attack al-Qaida in Yemen, the Swedes should shut up, because basically it's our people who are dead, they killed our people, and we have to run them down."
—Nov. 20, 2002


And He Wonders Why Daschle Won't Appear
"Believe me when I tell you The Factor goes out of its way to get Democrats on this broadcast. But Daschle has been and remains too frightened to appear. So with all due respect, senator, shut up."
—May 17, 2002

O'Reilly Delegates Authority to Sen. Evan Bayh
"If you see [Sen. Tom Daschle] for me, senator, tell him to shut up. For me. You can be nice."
—March 17, 2003

"Why didn't you just—why—why didn't you just not say anything? This—I never can get this for you guys, and I—and I don't mean to be arrogant or anything like—I just don't get it. Just shut up about it. Who cares what you do? That's what the Air Force is asking you to do. Shut up."
—June 8, 2000

"If I were Rosie O'Donnell and I didn't want to get married, I'd shut up. The same thing with Madonna. Have the kids if you—you know, obviously, they have money. They can support the kids. But I'd shut up."
—Dec. 14, 1999

"I'm asking you to shut up about sex."
—Sept. 23, 2002

Shut Up, Pinhead!
To Mike McGough of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial page, who accuses O'Reilly of exploiting a murder victim's sister who appeared on O'Reilly's show:

"Hey, Mike, shut up. I resent the fact that you said that we exploited this woman. We gave this woman a voice. That's something that you and your stupid newspaper would never do, you pinhead. You would never do that. "
—Nov. 13, 2002

A Viewer Protests the Treatment of McGough
"Paula Evans, Winston-Salem, N.C. [writes]: 'Bill, if you are so concerned about public figures being bad role models for children, please stop interrupting your guests and telling them to shut up!' "

"Well, the 'shut up' line has happened only once in six years, Ms. Evans, and that's because the editor from Pittsburgh was filibustering, after accusing me of exploiting the families of the murder victims. The no-spin zone is a tough place, and lies and unreasonable discourse will be stopped in their tracks."
—Nov. 15, 2002

There's more. Go read.

Have a great weekend. And shut up.

(Oh, and if you need something to read over the holiday, may I suggest a certain
book of a humorous nature...?)

Winning the hearts and minds

For awhile, Salaam Pax was the warbloggers' favorite Iraqi. I never really understood why--he was clearly ambivalent about the US invasion from the start. And he sure doesn't seem awfully happy with the occupying forces right now:

They came at around 12 midnight they were apparently supposed to do a silent entrance and surprise the criminal Ba’athi cell that was in my parents house, unfortunately for them our front gate does a fair amount of rattling so my brother heard that and opened the door and saw a couple of soldiers climbing on our high black front gate. When the silent entrance tactic failed they resorted to shouty entrance mode. So they shouted at him telling him that he should get down on his knees, which he did. He actually was trying to help them open the door, but whatever. Seconds later around 25 soldiers are in the house my brother, father and mother are outside sitting on the ground and in their asshole-ish ways refused to answer any questions about what was happening. My father was asking them what they were looking so that he can help but as usual since you are an Iraqi addressing an American is no use since he doesn’t even acknowledge you as a human being standing in front of him. They (the Americans) have a medic with them and he seems to be the only sane person amongst them, my brother tells me they were kids all of them. Anyway so my brother and father start talking to the medic and he tells them what this is about. They have been “informed” that there are daily meetings the last five days, Sudanese people come into our house at 9am and stay till 3pm, we are a probable Ansar cell. My father is totally baffled, my brother gets it. These are not Sudanese men they are from Basra the “informer” is stupid enough to forget that there is a sizeable population in Basra who are of African origin. And it is not meetings these 2 (yes only two) guys have here, they are carpenters and they were repairing my mom’s kitchen. Way. To. Go. You have great informers. While my family is waiting outside something strange happens, one of the soldiers comes out, empties his flask in the garden and start telling the medic to give him his, the medic shoos him away. They all think that the soldier is filling his flask with cold water from the cooler. Later it turns out that he emptied my father’s bottle of Johnny Walker’s into his flask and was probably trying to convince the medic to give him his to empty another bottle. Weird shit.

There's more.

Whither Anagram Man?

So asks reader Jim J., who writes:

Had to share: "george walker bush" is an anagram for "beer keg lush go war". I was inspired by "ronald wilson reagan"- "insane anglo warlord", which I think popped up in Z magazine once.

Maybe it's time to bring the old boy out of retirement.

(You can create your own anagrams here.)

Yikes
The little Secret Service agent at the National Constitution Center seems more interested in John Ashcroft's tight USA Patriot Act spin-tour schedule than any constitutional rights when he stops me from following a flock of television reporters heading for a brief presser with the man who could not even beat a corpse.

"You can't go in here," says the little Secret Service agent, who was very nice to me the last time we met, inside Cuba Libre, when we were both awaiting a visit from that revered cigar aficionado Bill Clinton.

As the flock disappears down a hall in a hurried scurry, the bespectacled woman in the black dress who could have been Ainsley, the perky Republican from The West Wing, looks at me and waxes apologetic.

"I am sorry," she says as the last of the camera crews whiz by. "But he is not talking to print. Only talking to television."

Pens may no longer be as mighty as the camera, but apparently they make Ashcroft and his guardians squeamish.

I protest and try to follow TV.

This time around the little Secret Service agent is not so fun. He orders me escorted away from the scene.

And this in the only museum dedicated to our national principles. In the city where an irascible weekly newspaper editor helped create a nation with his press.

Emphasis added. Story here, via alert reader Steven B.

Here's your brolly, what's your rush

So let me get this one straight. Tony Blair says that if it were true that his government has "sexed up" the Iraq dossier, he would have had to resign.

Okay.

This is the same dossier, remember, which warned us that Saddam had the capability to launch a devastating chemical or biological attack within forty five minutes--a claim we now know to be patently untrue.

Blair's cutting it fine--arguing that he believed what he was saying at the time.

"Given that the process was that they had to decide what it was we could properly say, obviously we had to make this case because it was the case we believed in and this was the evidence we had," he said.

Only 27 percent of the British public now say they trust him, down from 74 percent in 1998. I don't claim to be an expert on British politics, but if he can't do better than this, it seems a fair bet that the moving lorries might be showing up at Number Ten Downing sooner rather than later.

In a related story, Blair's top aide has just announced his resignation. For--yes, you guessed it--"family reasons."

Speaking of voting

I haven't really been on top of the Diebold voting machine stuff, but there's a lot on the topic here. Short story: a lot of people seem to believe that the new computer voting systems are extremely vulnerable to tampering. And the people who run the company are, um, Republicans:

Wally O'Dell, CEO of Diebold Inc., this week sent out letters to central Ohio Republicans asking them to raise $10,000 in donations in time for a Sept. 26 Ohio Republican Party event at his home.

His company, which specializes in security and election machinery, is one of three under consideration to supply new, electronic voting machines to replace punch card machines still in use in 71 Ohio counties.

--snip--

In his invitation O'Dell states his support for the Republican Party and notes he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President next year."

Via Calpundit.

Hillary for President?

Apparently the rumor is that she's considering a run.

I'm guessing this is just silly-season filler, but, as always, I could be wrong™.

I hope I'm not, though. I could be wrong on this one too, but my instinct is that the Democrats have a pretty decent chance in '04--but not if the candidate's name is Clinton. Too much baggage.

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

August 28, 2003

Gropenator update

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Bad news: I remain yet unable to dislodge the surviving video footage of the Gropenator molesting a series of UK interviewers. Ain't giving up yet.

The Gropenator and interviewer Denise Van Outen on ITV's

For those just joining this saga, earlier posts are here and here.

Meantime, an alert emailer (whose name was accidentally lost in a spamfight -- my bad) pointed out a relevant Premiere article you can access via the Wayback Machine (the interface is funky, so for your convenience: pages 1, 2, 3, and 4).

Now, as I've been asked several times by a few emailers lucky enough to wade through the spam: why does this matter? Isn't this just what the wingnuts did to Clinton? It's just sex, so who the hell cares?

OK, from the top: Clinton's acts, whatever else they were, were a) consensual and b) private. Arnold's actions in the UK interviews were neither. If news reports are to be believed, Arnold repeatedly grabbed a series of women sexually, in public, in a way that normally gets people arrested.

Anna Richardson of Big Screen claims that after the cameras stopped rolling for her interview segment, Schwarzenegger, apparently attempting to ascertain whether Richardson’s breasts were real, tweaked her nipple and then laughed at her objections.

As defined by the U.S. Department of Justice, Arnold's videotaped acts quite plainly meet the federal definition for sexual assault:

Sexual assaults may or may not involve force and include such things as grabbing or fondling. [Emphasis added.]

Can this be any more explicit? Hello?

It's not just the feds. In most states, including California, felony sexual assault encompasses "any type of unwanted physical contact with any sexual organ." That would include grabbing someone's breast against their will.

It boggles me that anyone calling themselves liberal or a progressive -- not to mention human -- would need a reminder about the rights of women to their own bodies.

Of course private, consensual sexuality has nothing to do with competence for any job, including public office. This simply ain't that. Ain't even close.

And it's germane because the Gropenator is trying to attain power by appealing to California's conservatives -- who, if they have anything resembling a conscience or respect for their own self-proclaimed beliefs, will run screaming when fully confronted with the candidate's behavior. Not that I'm counting on it, but you'd just kinda figure...

And now the latest: The Smoking Gun has posted text of a 1977 interview in which he admits using hashish and involvement in a "gang bang."

As Arnold tells the story, at least, the group sex was entirely private and consensual. So y'know what? In my book, it's not fair game for politics, and I'm hereby dropping it. Make sense?

(The pot and hash, however, are fair game, because Arnold now opposes even medical legalization, a blatant hypocrisy.)

Thing is, so far it looks like people are more disgusted by consensual group sex than the repeated manhandling of unconsenting women.

That says more about our culture than it does about Arnold.

Correction: I was certain I heard a recent radio report that Arnold was opposed to medical marijuana, but alert reader Eli correctly points out that Arnold has quite clearly announced he's in favor. My mistake, and I appreciate the correction.

Update: Links to both earlier pieces were added at the top of this post for the convenience of readers arriving from search engine links.

For once, a fictional crime on this blog

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

I don't know how many of you guys are fans of the TV series CSI -- actually, I imagine the Tom Tomorrow/CSI Venn diagram as tangential circles -- but FYI, tonight's episode, in which Bobcat Goldthwait plays a deranged comedian (a remarkable acting stretch) is a repeat of the last one I co-wrote, based largely on things I saw in my years as a road comic.

Your daily White House Lie for Thursday, August 28th

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

From Reuters: The Bush campaign is actually claiming that they're at a fundraising disadvantage:

"Democrats and their allies will have more money to spend attacking the president during the nomination battle than we will have to defend him," campaign chairman Marc Racicot wrote in the fund-raising e-mail sent Wednesday night.

What the f***? Bush is breaking campaign laws as we speak (see below) and setting new records for cash-whoring, as even Reuters has to point out in the very same story (italics added):

Bush's fundraising has broken records. In 2000, he bypassed public financing and its spending limits during the primaries and raised more than $100 million with help from more than 200 Bush campaign "pioneers," volunteers who collected at least $100,000 each for him.

The 2000 Democratic hopefuls, including eventual nominee Al Gore, took public financing and were limited to about $40.5 million in primary spending.

-- snip --

Bush also is skipping public financing for next year's primaries. With the individual contribution limit doubled to $2,000 under the new campaign finance law, he is widely expected to raise more than $200 million. He has no challenger for the GOP nomination.

Bush began fund raising for his re-election effort in mid-May and had taken in $35 million by the end of June, the most recent figures available.

The biggest fund-raiser among the nine Democratic hopefuls from January through June was Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, whose campaign collected $16 million.

Either the Bush people are compulsive, sociopathic liars, or they just can't do basic math.

Hmm.

Both. Definitely, both.

Update: Bush reportedly raised $1.4 million at a single 24-minute appearance this week (link via Cursor). Poor guy. Really struggling.

The ongoing Bush/Cheney crime spree

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

President Bush signs American flags for workers at Beaver Aerospace and Defense after speaking about jobs and economic growth in Livonia, Michigan, Thursday, July 23, 2003. President Bush, in campaign-style speeches in states vital to his re-election, sought Thursday to make sure voters give him credit for rebates heading to millions of taxpayers this week. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

The Washington Post has finally managed to notice Bush's personal defacing of the flag (not to brag, but decried in this space exactly one month earlier):

The president of the United States -- Potus, by his official acronym -- went on a brief foray into the criminal underworld last month in Livonia, Mich., where he ran afoul of U.S. Code Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8 (g): "The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature."

The article goes on to say that it's no big deal, and I'd agree, except for this administration's already unhealthy relationship with the flag...

US President George W. Bush(AFP/File/Tim Sloan)

... which frankly borders on codependence.

Of the good and more importantly, the Post also blows the whistle on the Bush/Cheney campaign's use of the official White House website to pimp their fundraising speeches -- which, in case anybody cares, is against the law:

Foul, judges Larry Noble, the executive director of the watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics. "It's inappropriate. It's a government Web site. It's the use of government property for political work, which is illegal."

Further in, we learn that Democratic lawyers point out either the Hatch Act or 31 USC 1301(a) as the relevant statutes violated, one or the other, depending on how the White House might choose to defend their actions.

And, of course, this will probably be the last you ever hear of it, because it doesn't involve wild dogs eating Laci Peterson on fire.

But throw it on the list.

New CIA recruiting tool: hot babes in catsuits

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

The fabric of reality just took another blow: the CIA has asked Jennifer Garner to star in a recruitment video aimed at university graduate students.

"We feel that Miss Garner... embodies the intelligence, enthusiasm and deidcation that we're looking for."

"Embodies?" No kidding. Just a coincidence, I guess, that the recruitees are largely early-20s males.

And I'm sure the depiction of CIA life will be accurate, given that it consists mostly of dodging bullets, wearing shiny wigs, and having your estimates of Iraqi WMD ignored by a dry-drunk with a messianic complex.

Added the spokesman:

"Miss Garner has a standing invitation to come to the agency, where she is guaranteed to meet a vast number of fans."

Ewwww.

No wonder they can't find the WMDs. Guys, try analyzing the data with both hands, OK?

SoBig ate my baby

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Just a note -- the Yahoo email address I've been using here has been rendered completely worthless with spam. Maybe one letter would get through in the deluge, with everyone else getting bounced. Same thing with others I've set up, which become useless before I even have time to post the new address here.

I'm gonna have a form-based email page installed on my site. The page isn't up yet, but it should be before long. So that's where you can say hi if need be.

In a related story, the virus has managed to inform the enjoyably anti-Bush (and evidently pretty damn alert) Oliver Willis that he's in the address book of Bush's campaign manager.

Nice to know they're watching...

RIP Wesley

I just found out that Wesley Willis passed away a few days ago. If you're not familiar with Wesley, he's difficult to explain. Jello Biafra gave me some of his tapes maybe ten years ago. His music was, well, not for everyone, but it was high on my list of peculiar favorites (along with Harvey Sid Fisher and those song poems that have become more popular recently) for many years.

But -- the caliber of his strange music aside -- Willis was a man who, despite tremendous personal obstacles, managed to craft a successful life for himself through perseverance and sheer bullish will. He toured frenetically. He recorded at least 50 albums, most of them self-produced, and hustled them constantly. Childlike and unaware of certain social conventions, he seemed undaunted by the long odds between himself and fame. Longtime friend Tamara Smith recalls going to restaurants with Willis and watching him yell across the room to strangers, "Hey, I'm Wesley Willis. I'm a rock star!"

So he was, in his own peculiar milieu.

Willis was as prolific as he was repetitive. His songs were usually variations on a few melodic formulas, set to rudimentary, programmed keyboard riffs. Songs like "Chronic Schizophrenia" and "I'm Sorry That I Got Fat" were steeped in pathos. But many others were imaginative and funny, including "I Whipped Batman's [Butt]" and "Cut the Mullet." Willis surprised people by being more attentive, more intelligent, more plugged into his surroundings than they expected him to be. Friend and former roommate Carla Winterbottom says the last song she remembers him singing was a little ditty he made up about Qusay Hussein.

Each of Willis's songs ended with him shouting, "Rock over London, rock on Chicago," and then intoning some commercial slogan, like "Folger's, it's good to the last drop." His honesty and pop cultural references found resonance within the punk music scene. In an industry filled with studied eccentrics, Wesley Willis was the real thing.

One of 10 children, most of whom were sent off to different foster homes, Willis later lived with his mother in the projects. He traced the onset of his schizophrenia to an incident in which he said his mother's boyfriend threatened him and stole his money. Throughout his life, he was tormented by demons that called him a bum and a jerk and worse.

Along with his outbursts and delusions, he had a charm and a simplicity. For such a big man, he could be surprisingly vulnerable, and this elicited the protective instincts of many people.

I saw him live in San Francisco in maybe 1995 or so, again thanks to Biafra. Met him afterwards, but declined to be head-butted.

Rock over London. Rock on Chicago.

Another summer almost gone

Hard to believe it's almost September. It's been insanely busy at chez Tomorrow for the past few months, both personally and professionally, and I kind of feel like the season slipped away when I wasn't really looking. Not that I'm complaining, though. It's all, you will forgive the expression, good.

And anyway, every day that passes is one day closer to the end of the Bush occupation of the White House.

Oh, the irony

Republicans outsource fundraising to India:

The US Republican Party now has a band of young and enthusiastic fund-raisers in Noida and Gurgaon.

HCL eServe, the business process outsourcing arm of the Shiv Nadar-promoted HCL Technologies, has bagged a project to undertake a fund-raising campaign for the US Republican Party over the telephone.

This is the first time such a project has been handed out to a company outside the US. The market research and public relations companies engaged by the party usually undertake such projects.

(Story, via several alert readers.)

The roller coaster ride continues

The book's at #208 on Amazon as I write this, up from about 600 earlier in the week. But I think we can do better than that. Somebody out there's still slacking off.

So far, not a lot of media attention, apart from that piece on Salon (nor any phone calls from the Daily Show, I'm afraid). As always, it's an uphill battle. Part of it is that I don't have an easy hook. I'm not publishing a book with a specific thesis, like Big Lies or What Liberal Media?, or Thieves in High Places, where the subject of the interview is self evident: What do you mean, these are big lies?, or, how can you possibly say that the media aren't liberal? I'm just a guy who's been plugging away on a wide range of topics for a long time now. It doesn't give the would-be interviewer an easy ride.

So, it always gets back to basics. Ultimately what I've got is this site, and you people who read it. So, yes, you see where this is going: buy the damn book.

Update: unless you already have, of course, in which case you have my undying gratitude and may treat this post as a large, inexplicable blank spot in the middle of my blog.

Is the tide turning?

On NBC News last night, I watched the anchor--I think it was Brian Williams-- contrast the cost of the occupation with the stunning new deficit numbers, along with noting the increasing number of American fatalities in Iraq. According to Kos, Chris Matthews read the riot act to Trent Lott last night, asking how much "Bush’s war" will cost taxpayers. CNN apparently also aired acomplaints that the administration misled the nation concerning the cost of the war.

And then there’s this bombshell article in the LA Times, which has already been noted on numerous other blogs:

WASHINGTON — Frustrated at the failure to find Saddam Hussein's suspected stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, U.S. and allied intelligence agencies have launched a major effort to determine if they were victims of bogus Iraqi defectors who planted disinformation to mislead the West before the war.

The goal, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official, "is to see if false information was put out there and got into legitimate channels and we were totally duped on it." He added, "We're reinterviewing all our sources of information on this. This is the entire intelligence community, not just the U.S."

--snip—

As evidence, officials say former Iraqi operatives have confirmed since the war that Hussein's regime sent "double agents" disguised as defectors to the West to plant fabricated intelligence. In other cases, Baghdad apparently tricked legitimate defectors into funneling phony tips about weapons production and storage sites.

"They were shown bits of information and led to believe there was an active weapons program, only to be turned loose to make their way to Western intelligence sources," said the senior intelligence official. "Then, because they believe it, they pass polygraph tests ... and the planted information becomes true to the West, even if it was all made up to deceive us."

Some of you probably remember that I had a little system crash a month or so ago, which started out as a problem in my mail program and soon cascaded through my hard drive like an overload on an unregulated power grid. The only thing I really lost was a bunch of old email, so I should probably count my blessings, but I kind of wish I could go back and reprint some of the messages I got from, say, September of 2002 through May of 2003. So many people were so absolutely sure they knew the truth about the terrible danger Saddam posed and the absolute necessity of going to war—and of course, the ease with which it would all work itself out. I especially wish I could reprint some of the excruciatingly smug "you anti-war types sure have egg on your faces now!" emails I received the day of that statue-toppling photo op.

Of course, that would be petty of me, so perhaps it is just as well that I can’t.

But boy, did those people ever get played. The honest ones are beginning to acknowledge it, the rest are busy trying to convince themselves that the mountain of bullshit they bought is actually delicious ice cream, and never mind that weird smell.

Update: a lot of people find the notion that Saddam was sending out disinformation through defectors ludicrous. I'm not sure--don't countries always try to appear more powerful than they really are, especially weak countries that know they're in the crosshairs? But even if this is just more passing-the-buckism, the point is that they're admitting the WMD threat didn't really exist...

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

August 27, 2003

This is interesting

Richard Perle, one of the PNAC crew who's been advocating invasion and occupation of Iraq since at least the mid-nineties, seems to have decided that we need to get the hell out of Dodge as quick as we can.

Richard Perle, a leading Pentagon adviser and architect of the U.S. war to topple Saddam Hussein, said the United States had made mistakes in Iraq and that power should be handed over to the Iraqis as fast as possible.

Story.

No comment necessary

From a little local paper I like to call the Voice:

This is the story of DC 9/11. Screenwriter and co-executive producer Lionel Chetwynd had access to top officials and staffers, including Bush, Fleischer, Card, Rove, and Donald Rumsfeld—all of whom are played by look-alike actors in the movie (as are Cheney, Rice, John Ashcroft, Karen Hughes, Colin Powell, George Tenet, and Paul Wolfowitz). The script was subsequently vetted by right-wing pundits Fred Barnes, Charles Krauthammer, and Morton Kondracke. Chetwynd, whose vita includes such politically charged movies and telefilms as The Hanoi Hilton, The Heroes of Desert Storm, The Siege at Ruby Ridge, Kissinger and Nixon, and Varian's War, is a prominent Hollywood conservative—a veteran of the 1980 Reagan campaign who, after Bill Clinton's election 12 years later, was recruited by right-wing pop culture ideologue David Horowitz to set up the Wednesday Morning Club ("a platform in the entertainment community where a Henry Hyde can come and get a warm welcome and respectful hearing," as Chetwynd later told The Nation).

Chetwynd bonded with Dubya in March 2001 when, at Rove's suggestion, Varian's War was screened at the White House; Chetwynd was subsequently involved in various post-9-11 Hollywood-Washington conclaves and currently serves Bush as part of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. Shot largely in Toronto, DC 9/11 was eligible for Canadian film subsidies, but it is, in nearly every other sense, an official production.


One more on Dean

From the Washington Post, via numerous readers:

"Now that we're there, we're stuck," he said. Bush took an "enormous risk" that through war the United States could replace Saddam Hussein and the "small danger" he presented to the United States with something better and safer. The gamble was "foolish" and "wrong." But whoever will be elected in 2004 has to live with it. "We have no choice. It's a matter of national security. If we leave and we don't get a democracy in Iraq, the result is very significant danger to the United States."

And "bringing democracy to Iraq is not a two-year proposition. Having elections alone doesn't guarantee democracy. You've got to have institutions and the rule of law, and in a country that hasn't had that in 3,000 years, it's unlikely to suddenly develop by having elections and getting the heck out." Dean would impose a "hybrid" constitution, "American with Iraqi, Arab characteristics. Iraqis have to play a major role in drafting this, but the Americans have to have the final say." Women's rights must be guaranteed at all levels.

Dean is almost as sweeping about Afghanistan, where "losing the peace is not an option" and "pulling out early would be a disaster." Five times the current level of troops are needed, he said. "Imagine making deals with warlords to promote democracy. What are these people thinking?"

You can argue as to the merits of pragmatism vs. idealism, or however you want to frame it, but no one should be under the impression that a Dean presidency would mean the US getting the hell out of Iraq anytime soon--he's definitely a "you broke it, you bought it" candidate. (And, um--Iraq hasn't had the rule of law in "3,000 years"...?)

Of course, in fairness, regarding his remarks on Afghanistan--the last time the US lost interest there and pulled out early, so to speak, it paved the way for the rise of the Taliban. And gosh, that didn't work out so well.

Just so you know

Looks like Amazon is currently bundling my book with Al Franken's.

Maybe Fox will sue me, too.

Afterthought: somebody wrote me complaining that they bought the new treasury bundled with one of my old books, and there was too much overlap. I thought I'd been pretty clear that the new one is, well, a treasury, and in addition to a lot of new and rare stuff, it contains work collected from the earlier books (just as the Doonesbury and Peanuts treasuries of days gone by compiled cartoons from other, smaller books). But just in case you're unclear on that, I wanted to make note of it again.

Lessons of history

From an interview with Stephen Kinzer on Democracy Now (via Cursor):

The goal of our coup was to overthrow Prime Minister Mossadegh and place the Shah back in his throne. And we succeeded in doing that. But from the perspective of decades of history, we can look back and ask whether what seemed like a success really was a success. The Shah whom we brought back to power became a harsh dictator. His repression set off the revolution of 1979, and that revolution brought to power a group of fanatic anti-Western, religious clerics whose government sponsored acts of terror against American targets, and that government also inspired fundamentalists in other countries including next door, Afghanistan, where the Taliban came to power and gave sanctuary to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. So, I think you can--while it's always difficult to draw direct cause and effect lines in history--see that this episode has had shattering effects for the United States. And let's consider one other of the many negative affects this has had. When we overthrew a democratic government in Iran 50 years ago, we sent a message, not only to Iran, but throughout the entire Middle East. That message was that the United States does not support democratic governments and the United States prefers strong-man rule that will guarantee us access to oil. And that pushed an entire generation of leaders in the Middle East away from democracy. We sent the opposite message that we should have sent. Instead of sending the message that we wanted democracy, we sent a message that we wanted dictatorship in the Middle East, and a lot of people in the Middle East got that message very clearly and that helped to lead to the political trouble we face there today.

Kinzer is the author of All the Shah's Men, a highly readable blow-by-blow history of the overthrow of Mossadegh. You can read the first chapter here.

Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war

A Republican group in Nevada wants to recall that state's Republican Governor. And Republicans in Pennsylvannia want to change the law so they, too, can join the recall craze.

Charles Donefer comments:

If the recall wins and Tom DeLay can redistrict Texas in an off-year, then you can essentially kiss functioning political institutions goodbye for a generation. I'm not blowing things out of proportion here; I'm being completely serious. We used to have elections and redistricting at regular intervals. In between these political events was the actual governing, which is, depending on how you think, why you get elected in the first place or what you do to convince voters to re-elect you. Either way, there was a time to fight political rivals over who had control and a time to fight them over budgets, laws and the rest of the business of elective office. If redistricting or a recall election can be called at any time one party thinks it can improve its standing, then there won't be time for governing. Right now, the Texas Senate isn't doing the people's business, they're sniping at one another from across the state line - business has ground to a halt in that body.

You shouldn't think that these are isolated incidents either. Democrats won't stand for being on the defensive any longer. Already, there have been threats to redistrict Republicans out of Democrat-controlled states. If recalls go forward in other states, a Republican Governor could be in similar trouble very soon. I don't think that Republicans know what they're messing with.

Democracy: one great big joke

Taco Bell makes a stab at wacky irreverence: "Who says you can't buy votes?"

Help with reading comprehension

Yes, I'm aware that Dean's liberal credentials are debatable (as even Business Week has noted). There's really no need to innundate me with anti-Dean screeds. It should be clear to anyone who takes the time to read the entry below that it does not constitute an endorsement. Nonetheless, there's clearly something happening here that strikes me as a step in the right direction. I've been saying for years that the Democrats need to grow a backbone--when it starts to happen, I think it's something that deserves encouragement.


Live from New York




That’s me with a man named Kos, backstage at the Dean rally in Bryant Park a few hours ago—which, according to the Dean blog, was attended by about ten thousand people.

I can't say I came away from the rally sold on the guy, but after the past few years of utterly invertebrate Democrats, it’s awfully refreshing to see a member of the opposition party actually behave like—well--a member of an opposition party. And if you’ve seen Dean on the Sunday shows, and perhaps been somewhat underwhelmed—he’s much better with a crowd. Maybe it’s just the ice-water-in-hell effect, but as I keep saying, we don’t need mushmouth DLC’ers (Gallants, if you will)--we need angry Democrats who can fire up a crowd, and who aren't afraid to point out that President Pinnochio's nose grows a little longer every time he opens his mouth. And you don’t have to be sold on him to see that Dean’s definitely a contender for that role.

Next day update: the Times runs a subtly condescending look at the Dean phenomenon this morning, alluding to "feisty crowds" full of "Birkenstock liberals," "aging flower children and the tongue-studded next generation."

I think the reporter accidentally wandered into a Phish concert and got confused. What I saw was a crowd full of normal people from various walks of life—there was no scent of patchouli hanging in the air, nor were there any drum circles or giant puppets. But that’s the media narrative, and they have to stick to it: Dean, the outsider candidate running from the far-left fringe. And what puts him on the far-left fringe, in the media’s eyes? The fact that he refuses to fit neatly into the other media narrative: that of the enormously popular wartime President, whose challengers must tread lightly or risk appearing "divisive" in these troubled times.

What I saw last night was a centrist candidate—too conservative for my tastes, honestly—who nonetheless has the cojones to take on the President of the United States. Watching Dean last night, I found it hard to imagine him standing on a debate stage repeating some thirty-eight times, "I agree with my opponent." I know it was just a stump speech, but stump speeches can tell you a lot. I watched Michael Dukakis address an outdoor rally of San Francisco Democrats in the Marina District in 1988 , a picture-perfect setting with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background—and this was at the end of eight long years of the Reagan Administration, and by all rights the crowd should have been eating out of the palm of his hand—but at the end of it, the mood could only be described, charitably, as "dispirited," as everyone wandered off to find a quiet place somewhere to lay down and die. Okay, not really, but that’s how it felt.

Well, Dean doesn’t strike me as another Michael Dukakis.

Nonetheless, the Times seems a bit confused by the whole thing, unsure how this fits into the standard template of horse-race coverage. Where are the crowds coming from? they seem to wonder. It is only August of 2003!

"He's not running a campaign, he's running a movement," wrote Natasha C., one of four people the Dean campaign invited to chronicle the trip on their Web logs. "These are protest-size crowds, these are not politics-size crowds, and that's the critical difference."

But it is unclear what the movement is for.

Dr. Dean's standard presentation is a smorgasbord of universal health insurance, opposition to the Iraq war, balanced budgets, tax-cut repeal, affirmative action, gay rights, early-childhood intervention and a broad appeal for "community." The defining theme is all about getting rid of the incumbent.

Well, yes, see that’s the thing. That’s what the "movement" is about. Getting rid of the incumbent. Finding someone willing to confront his rigid, right-wing extremism head on, unapologetically. Someone willing to stand up and ask the perennial question: are you better off now than you were four years ago?

That doesn’t really seem "unclear" to me at all.

Katha Pollitt had some similar thoughts in a column for The Nation recently. I’m excerpting from it at length, for those of you who don’t like to follow links, but I do encourage you to read the whole thing.

What did Howard Dean do to make the media so snarky about his primary run? Now that he has emerged as a major fundraiser with flocks of enthusiastic supporters, a vigorous campaign staff, a bag full of Internet tricks and respectable--and rising--poll numbers, the pundits and reporters have to go through the motions of taking him seriously: In a single August week he was on the cover of Time and Newsweek and had a major story in U.S. News & World Report. But aside from some curiously cheerful coverage in the Wall Street Journal, they obviously don't like him. He's "brusque," "testy," the "ex-Governor of a speck of a state" and "a shrill Northeasterner," Karen Tumulty wrote in Time. "It's hard to imagine Dean's glorious season ending without disappointment," adds John Cloud in his profile in the same issue, in which he draws a labored and precious similarity between Dean and George W. Bush (both come from rich Republican families, both went to Yale, partied hearty, speak Spanish--never mind that Dean went to medical school while George II relied on his father's cronies to set him up in the oil business). "The Doctor Is In--In Your Face!" warns U.S. News. Over at Newsweek ("Destiny or Disaster?"), Jonathan Alter also finds "the diminutive family doctor" "brusque" and says he "strutted like a little Napoleon onto the floor of the usually genteel Vermont State Senate."

--snip--

… I've talked to quite a few Dean supporters, including mainstream Democrats, lapsed voters, flaming leftists, Naderites, gay activists, civil libertarians, anti-death penalty lawyers, pro-single payer health professionals and even a surprising number of Nation staffers. I have yet to find one who mistakes Dean for Eugene Debs, or even for Paul Wellstone, whose line about belonging to the "democratic wing of the Democratic Party" Dean likes to borrow. They've gone for Dean because, alone among the major Democratic contenders, he has taken Bush on in an aggressive and forthright way, because he's calling the craven Democratic Party to account and because they think he can win. "I have no illusions that Dean is a true progressive," said one young graduate student who describes himself as a leftist, "but I don't care. I just want to beat Bush. If Dean has the momentum, I say, go for it."

It’s all about the anger, and ultimately I think that’s what has the media confused. Anger at the Boy King doesn’t fit into their templates, and if it continues, it means they’re going to have to come up with some new ones, and there’s nothing the media hates more than trying to figure out a new template when they’ve already put so much work into the old one.

(Edited slightly for clarity.)

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

August 26, 2003

Because, um, Iraq and Afghanistan have been such unqualified successes...
WASHINGTON, Aug. 26 - President Bush defended his policy on Iraq today, declaring that the United States had struck a blow against terrorism in overthrowing the government of Saddam Hussein. And Mr. Bush said the United States might carry out other pre-emptive strikes.

``No nation can be neutral in the struggle between civilization and chaos,'' Mr. Bush told members of the American Legion gathered in St. Louis for the group's convention.

``We've adopted a new strategy for a new kind of war,'' Mr. Bush said, to loud applause. ``We will not wait for known enemies to strike us again. We will strike them in their camps or caves or wherever they hide, before they hit more of our cities and kill more of our citizens.''

Story.

Of course, if we're going to continue with Bush's ever-expanding version of Pax Americana, we're going to need more troops. If you're in the National Guard, you can officially forget any hope of serving "one weekend a month." If you're not already on permanent deployment, you probably will be soon.

Speaking of our Beloved Leader, here's an interesting tidbit from a story in the Times this morning:

"Even the president is not omnipotent," Mr. Bolten said of the House opposition to the AmeriCorps money. "Would that he were. He often says that life would be a lot easier if it were a dictatorship. But it's not, and he's glad it's a democracy."

Often? He often says this? Bad enough that ever said it at all. Something about any president, let alone this one in particular, frequently repeating this "joke" really gives me the creeps...

(Oh, and speaking of Afghanistan--as Atrios notes today, it is now officially a disaster.)

Fox slinks away, tail between legs

Missed this yesterday, but a reader points out that, three days after having been laughed out of court, Fox has quietly dropped its lawsuit against Al Franken.

Exhibiting the style and wit we’ve come to associate with Fox News, their spokeswoman explained, "It's time to return Al Franken to the obscurity that he's normally accustomed to."

Somehow it seems unlikely that "Al Franken" will be synonymous with "obscurity" any time in the near future, and of course, as every commentator from here to Mars has already noted, that’s largely thanks to, well, Fox News.

Look, we all have these childish impulses, but as adults trying to function in the world, we mostly try not to let them run our lives. This is a particularly important quality in a news organization, for whom public trust is the coin of the realm. No one expects newspeople to be superhuman, or to utterly lack opinions about the world around them—we just need to know that they’ll make an effort, most of the time, to put their personal feelings aside and report the news.

With this insanely childish lawsuit—widely reported as having been instigated by Fightin’ Bill O’Reilly—Fox News has flushed whatever smidgen of credibility it might have had straight down the toilet. Not only are they blatantly biased—we knew that already--they’ve also made it clear that they have the emotional maturity of twelve year olds. As Joe Conason suggests, perhaps the judge in the case has given Fox a new and more accurate slogan: "Utterly Without Merit."

(Edited because your host gets his participles and his prepositions confused with holes in the ground. Or something.)

Hey Amazon!

My Amazon associate account is messed up and I can't get anyone to respond to email, so I'm putting out the call here: will someone from Amazon please get ahold of me to help me straighten this out?

The rest of you, please disregard this entry. Move along. Nothing to see here.

Update: all better now.

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

August 25, 2003

What the hell is going on?

We’re spending a billion dollars a week, but our troops have to use confiscated Kalashnikovs because we don’t have enough rifles to go around. We’ve reopened Saddam’s main political prison and we’re hiring members of his secret police.

And of course there’s the escalating terrorism, not to mention the fact that ethnic tensions are reaching a boiling point in Northern Iraq.

How much more success can we stand?

(Links above via Atrios, Hesiod, and Billmon.)

ps... a Jeopardy reminder

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

The Jeopardy! Masters Tournament reruns start tonight (Monday) in most of the country. Tonight's first game was my best -- probably the least baffled I will ever look -- so there it is, if you're interested.

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

August 24, 2003

Bush falsehood #47 -- collect 'em all!

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

This just hit the wires a couple of hours ago...

Analysts Doubt U.S. Claim on Iraqi Drones

Huddled over a fleet of abandoned Iraqi drones, U.S. weapons experts in Baghdad came to one conclusion: Despite the Bush administration's public assertions, these unmanned aerial vehicles weren't designed to dispense biological or chemical weapons.

-- snip --

In building its case for war, senior Bush administration officials had said Iraq's drones were intended to deliver unconventional weapons. Secretary of State Colin Powell even raised the alarming prospect that the pilotless aircraft could sneak into the United States to carry out poisonous attacks on American cities.

-- snip --

The unproven U.S. assertion regarding Iraq's UAV [drone] programs is one among many. American weapons hunters, like their U.N. counterparts, haven't reported finding any chemical, biological weapons or nuclear weapons in Iraq so far.

I guess the only good news is that it's now perfectly acceptable, even a boring routine, for news stories to mention that the White House is monstrously full of shit.

So there's that.

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