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October 11, 2003

It depends on what the meaning of "is" is

Andrew Sullivan argues that "grave and gathering danger" in no way implies "imminent threat," and that anyone who says otherwise is a damn liar. (Scroll to top of linked entry.)

Update: unlike Andrew, alert reader Jonathan S. knows how to use a thesaurus:

Entry: imminent
Function: adjective
Definition: at hand
Synonyms: approaching, brewing, close, coming, expectant, fast-approaching, following, forthcoming, gathering, immediate, impending, in prospect, in store, in view, ineluctable, inescapable, inevasible, inevitable, likely, looming, menacing, near, nearing, next, nigh, overhanging, possible, probable, threatening, to come, unavoidable, unescapable
Concept: timeliness

Another update: A quick Lexis search for the time period from 9/1/02 to 5/1/03, for the terms "imminent threat," "Bush" and "Iraq," turns up literally thousands of references. Bush may not have used the specific words himself, but they were out there in constant public debate, both pro and con, and at no point did he seek to clarify the issue and say, "no, no, I don't mean the threat is actually imminent, just that it's possible." In short, this is a really stupid bit of hair-splitting.

El Rushbo

Okay, you've seen the statement by now:

"I first started taking prescription painkillers some years ago when my doctor prescribed them to treat post surgical pain following spinal surgery. Unfortunately, the surgery was unsuccessful and I continued to have severe pain in my lower back and also in my neck due to herniated discs. I am still experiencing that pain. Rather than opt for additional surgery for these conditions, I chose to treat the pain with prescribed medication. This medication turned out to be highly addictive.

"Over the past several years I have tried to break my dependence on pain pills and, in fact, twice checked myself into medical facilities in an attempt to do so. I have recently agreed with my physician about the next steps."

(There's a bit more, follow the link.) Note how carefully Rush points out that his addiction was the result of a medical condition. You see, he's not just some common, weak crackhead off the street--he had to take the pills because he was in pain. (This observation courtesy of my pal Steve Rendell, a long-time Rush-watcher.)

I remember noting in a few cartoons, during the debate over Clinton's health care plan, that Rush considered health care more of a privilege than a necessity. He often compared guaranteed health care to guaranteed car ownership--if poor people want new Cadillacs, does we as a society have to provide them? Huh? Do we? One of his recurrent themes was that there's no need for health care reform because no one goes without health care, because you can always go to an emergency room. This seemed mindbogglingly simpleminded to me at the time--what do cancer patients do, or anyone else who requires something more than immediate, one-time treatment?--but it makes more sense, now that we know that Rush was so confused on the topic that he did not understand the distinction between a physician prescibing medication and a maid scoring drugs in a parking lot.

In fact, a lot of what Rush has said makes more sense now that we know he was stoned out of his mind for years.

(And spare me the complaints about the harsh tone here. I'd have a lot more compassion for him if he'd ever shown an iota of compassion for anyone else affected by human weakness and frailty--including drug addicts.)

Astroturf

Look's like the military's joining the fun.

Update: here's more on the story.

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

October 10, 2003

Tonight

I'm giving another presentation at Judson Church, at 6:30 pm, if you're in the area. This one's in a room off around the corner from the main entrance--look for the street that's all blocked off due to construction and try to make your way past the barricades. If all goes well, there should be some books available for sale and signing. More details here.

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

October 09, 2003

Oddly appropriate

I guess spouting mindless propaganda is an easily transferrable job skill:

They are not the only apparatchiks deemed worthy of rehabilitation. Almost all of the bureaucrats at the information ministry have done very nicely for themselves since the war. The government minders who spent their days reporting to the intelligence services on foreign reporters or doing their best to obstruct their work have gone on to well-paid jobs - for the same foreign news organisations they once hounded.

The second-in-command at the information ministry, who spent his days reading the reports the minders wrote about visiting foreign journalists, has been employed by Fox News.

Events

I'm giving a short presentation at this event tonight, if you're in New York:

BREAKING NEWS Is it broken? A new kind of media circus

art * dance * performance * music * animation * video

Featuring:
*special clips from The Daily Show
*a presentation from The Onion
*artwork by Art Speigelman
*a cartoon reading by Tom Tomorrow (This Modern World)
*performance by Zeroboy
*music by Joe McGinty & Nick Danger (Loser's Lounge)
*animation by Robert Smigel & J.J. Sedelmaier (SNL's TV Funhouse)

Thursday, October 9th at 7pm

Admission is FREE

Judson Church
55 Washington Square South (at Thompson St.)
Info: 212-477-0351
www.judson.org

And tomorrow night, I'm giving a longer solo talk in the same venue for FAIR (details here.) Books should be available tomorrow, but not tonight.

Republicans are certifiably insane

The eminently reasonable Calpundit makes the case.

The estate tax--it's as bad as the Holocaust!

According to Grover Norquist.

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

October 08, 2003

Bill O'Reilly is really losing it

If you get the chance, be sure to catch his interview on Fresh Air today. He bitches and moans about how unfairly he's being treated, and then finally walks out on the interview.

Not a very good showing for someone who spends his life hectoring and badgering his guests, and accusing those who don't want to play along of lacking courage.

Update: Link.

Not exactly a vote of confidence
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday that he was not told in advance about a reorganization of the Iraq reconstruction, which he heads. He said he still does not know the reason for the shake-up.

Woops.

So you might ask, is ol' good natured Uncle Rummy happy about this turn of events?

Rumsfeld was asked several times why the changes were necessary. "I think you have to ask Condi that question," he said, according to a transcript posted on the Web site of the Financial Times.

Pressed, he said: "I said I don't know. Isn't that clear? You don't understand English? I was not there for the backgrounding."

Well, maybe not entirely.

Story, via this guy.

The President wants to get to the bottom of this!

Without, you know, actually doing anything about it.

Randy, you tell me, how many sources have you had that's leaked information that you've exposed or have been exposed? Probably none. I mean this town is a -- is a town full of people who like to leak information. And I don't know if we're going to find out the senior administration official. Now, this is a large administration, and there's a lot of senior officials. I don't have any idea. I'd like to. I want to know the truth. That's why I've instructed this staff of mine to cooperate fully with the investigators -- full disclosure, everything we know the investigators will find out. I have no idea whether we'll find out who the leaker is -- partially because, in all due respect to your profession, you do a very good job of protecting the leakers. But we'll find out.

How do you know when he's lying?

U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 1, Clause 5

"No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States."

Mark my words, we'll soon hear people like Sean Hannity explaining why we need an amendment to change "natural born" to "natural born or naturalized." The arguments will be long on misdirection, short on logic, and chock full of achingly stupid metaphors: Naturalized citizens are like adopted children. Would you deny adopted children their rights? And of course they will deny that this has anything to do with any specific naturalized citizen--it's just a matter of basic fairness! Why are you liberals so opposed to basic fairness?

And so on.

Update: I'm a little late on this--as it turns out, it's already happening:

Hatch has introduced a resolution to amend the Constitution's ban on non-American-born presidents by allowing people who have been U.S. citizens for at least 20 years to be elected to the White House. While the measure was not introduced with Schwarzenegger in mind, Hatch said the Austrian-born superstar would be a perfect example of why the constitutional amendment is needed.

"If Arnold Schwarzenegger turns out to be the greatest governor of California, which I hope he will, if he turns out to be a tremendous leader and he proves to everybody in this country that he's totally dedicated to this country as an American . . . we would be wrong not to give him that opportunity," said Hatch.

See? It's not about Arnold specifically, though he's a great example of the need for, you know, basic fairness.

Update 2: Oh christ, Conyers wants to do it for the benefit of Jennifer Granholm. Bad, bad idea.

Update 3: a lot of emailers seem to think that the left will benefit from this as well. Two words for you, buckos: President Schwarzenegger. I'd rather stick with the imperfect system we've got than risk that outcome. (If by "risk" you mean "guarantee.")

Ha

August:

Just as a rhetorical concept, if Arnold Schwarzenegger was accused by multiple people of, say, murdering their family members with a hatchet, would it matter if people showed up at rallies saying "families of murder victims for Arnold?" Or for that matter would it really be relevant if Arnold had a bunch of women hitting the talk shows to state in support of their candidate, "well, he never murdered MY family. When I worked with him on the set of Jingle All The Way I certainly never saw him trying to stab anyone. Except Sinbad, but come on, everyone was trying."

Plamegate

"Just an analyst," my flabby white ass.

Before the Novak column was published, at least six reporters were contacted by administration officials and allegedly told that Valerie Plame Wilson worked at the CIA. Whoever did so may have been trying to undermine the importance of Wilson's trip by implying it had been set up by his wife -- and therefore was not a serious effort by the agency to discover whether, in fact, Iraq had attempted to buy uranium in Niger.

The publication of her name left CIA officers aghast. "All the people who had innocent lunches with her overseas or went shopping or played tennis with her, I'm sure they are having heart attacks right now," said one classmate of Plame's who participated in covert operations. "I would be in hiding now if I were them."

--snip--

Plame underwent training at "The Farm," as the facility near Williamsburg, Va., is known to its graduates. As part of her courses, the new spy was taken hostage and taught how to reduce messages to microdots. She became expert at firing an AK-47. She learned to blow up cars and drive under fire -- all to see if she could handle the rigors of being an undercover case officer in the CIA's Directorate of Operations, or DO.

--snip--

Her activities during her years overseas remain classified, but she became the creme de la creme of spies: a "noc," an officer with "nonofficial cover." Nocs have cover jobs that have nothing to do with the U.S. government. They work in business, in social clubs, as scientists or secretaries (they are prohibited from posing as journalists), and if detected or arrested by a foreign government, they do not have diplomatic protection and rights. They are on their own. Even their fellow operatives don't know who they are, and only the strongest and smartest are picked for these assignments.

Go read the rest.

Some intellectual midgets on the right have claimed that this story is just too darned complicated for their tiny little brains to grasp. So for the sake of our comprehension-challenged friends, here's a rundown:

1. Valerie Plame was a highly specialized covert operative for the CIA.

2. Someone in the White House blew her cover for political reasons.

3. That's a felony.

There. Wasn't that easy?

Good news

If you were concerned that our country might run low on morons, California has just demonstrated that it has plenty to spare.

And they vote.

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

October 07, 2003

The stupidest thing I've seen on cable news...

...since the reporters in the hurricane: Chris Matthews and his guests are sitting around one of those talking head desks--out on the beach, with the Santa Monica Boardwalk in the background.

See, it's the California recall. So they're out on a beach. Get it?

Lord.

Just a question

Do you conservatives really not understand the difference between consensual sex and unwanted sexual assault?

If not, you should figure it out, before you end up in jail.

History repeats

Via Kos, more on Novak from the Washington Post:

Let's review: Syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak gets a leak of classified information from foreign-policy hardliners. The column he writes causes a huge embarrassment for the Republican White House and moderates throughout the administration. Capitol Hill erupts with protests about the leak.

Sound familiar? Actually, this occurred in December 1975. Novak, with his late partner Rowland Evans, got the classified leak -- that President Gerald R. Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger were ready to make concessions to the Soviet Union to save the SALT II treaty. Donald H. Rumsfeld, then, as now, the secretary of defense, intervened to block Kissinger.

The main leak suspect: Richard Perle, then an influential aide to Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson (D-Wash.) and now a member of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board and a confidant of neoconservatives in the Bush administration. The account was described in a 1977 article in The Washington Post, noting Perle's "special access" to Evans and Novak.

Evans and Novak, the National Journal wrote in 1979, were among the three "chief recipients" of classified leaks from Perle. "Several sources in Congress and the executive branch who regard Perle as an opponent said that he and his allies make masterful use of the Evans and Novak column," The Post reported 26 years ago. "One congressional aide who tries to counter Perle's and Jackson's influence on arms issues said the Evans and Novak 'connection' helps Perle create a 'murky, threatening atmosphere' in his dealings with others."

There is no indication that Perle, though a prominent administration adviser, has any connection to the current leak, that of the identity of a CIA agent. In fact, he does not fit Novak's description of the recent leakers as "senior administration officials." Perle, through his assistant, said that he never spoke to Novak about the matter involving former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, and that he had been unaware of the identity of Wilson's wife, the exposed CIA agent.

Still, the history of Novak's columns, many of them with juicy bits of presumably classified information, provides clues about his sources. Novak has often relied on foreign policy hardliners -- neoconservatives, in the current parlance -- for leaks that prove damaging to moderates. Novak himself is sometimes at odds with the neocons, particularly in his criticism of Israel, but has formed a longtime alliance.

Hey Californians

No on the recall, yes on Bustamante.

(Afterthought: or whoever. If the recall passes, Arnold wins. The important part is the first part.)

Go.

Timing

Via August, I learn that the president has proclaimed Oct. 12 through 18 Marriage Protection Week. As August points out, Oct. 12 is the anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard. And if you think the timing is just an unfortunate coincidence, well, you know, bridge. For sale. And so on.

The notorious Fred Phelps, on the other hand, is not quite as subtle about these things as Karl Rove:

Casper, Wyoming) Anti-gay preacher Fred Phelps has announced intentions to erect a monument to Matthew Shepard the gay college student brutally murdered five years ago near Laramie.

But, the monument will be no memorial. Phelps says the monument would be 5 to 6 feet tall and made of marble or granite. It would bear a bronze plaque bearing the image of Shepard and have an inscription reading "MATTHEW SHEPARD, Entered Hell October 12, 1998, in Defiance of God's Warning: 'Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is abomination.' Leviticus 18:22."

The monument would be erected in downtown Casper, Shepard's home town.

Phelps has sent details of the monument to the city of Casper city council and there may be nothing the city can do to prevent it.

Phelps said he intends to put up the monument in City Park, already the location of a controversial statue of the Ten Commandments.

The Ten Commandments statue was donated to the city by the Fraternal Order of the Eagles in 1965.

After a court battle over a similar monument in the city of Ogden, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that any city that displays a Ten Commandments monument on public property must also allow monuments espousing the views of other religions or political groups on that same property.

Quote of the week

"It’s plainly wrong to want to punish someone for an opinion you don’t agree with."

--Rush Limbaugh, 10/3/03

I haven't said much about Limbaugh's troubles so far, largely because I haven't had much time to blog. A couple of quick thoughts: the ESPN controversy is the best thing that's ever happened to him, because it gives him--and his supporters-- something to talk about other than drugs. I listened to Sean Hannity's program a bit on Friday and yesterday, and while he's mentioned the drug thing, when he speaks of Rush's "troubles," he is mostly talking about ESPN and what cowards they were not to support him and how unfairly he was treated and whine whine whine blah blah blah. The only thing Republicans enjoy more than whining about the politics of victimization is whining about how victimized they are.

As for the "hillbilly heroin"--well, it's Bill Bennett all over again. A man who has made a living excoriating anyone who exhibits human frailty turns out to be a victim of same. Remember, this is the man who has said this:

"Drug use, some might say, is destroying this country. And so if people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up.

And this:

"What this says to me is that too many whites are getting away with drug use. Too many whites are getting away with drug sales. Too many whites are getting away with trafficking in this stuff. The answer to this disparity is not to start letting people out of jail because we're not putting others in jail who are breaking the law. The answer is to go out and find the ones who are getting away with it, convict them and send them up the river, too."

So, you think, now that Rush has revealed that he is human, with human weaknesses, perhaps he will begin to exhibit a bit more compassion for others. Well, the jury's still out, but I can't say that I would bet the house on it. It's not quite the lesson his supporters seem to have taken out of the whole business so far:

Whether or not the allegations of drug abuse against Rush Limbaugh are true, it would seem that, if true, he has come to his senses and gotten clean. Leftists never will.

All quotes above via Roger Ailes (not that one), who is one of my new favorite bloggers.

(Minor editing--I incorrectly referred to Rush's "firing." He actually resigned.)


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

October 06, 2003

Unbelievable
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Defense Department sold equipment to the public that can be used for making biological warfare agents, according to a draft report by the General Accounting Office.

The Defense Department agency responsible for the sale of excess property to the public, the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service, halted the sale of such items September 19 while the practice is reviewed.

"Many items needed to establish a laboratory for making biological warfare agents were being sold on the Internet to the public from DoD's excess property inventory for pennies on the dollar, making them both easy and economical to obtain," the GAO draft report said.

Story.

By the way

If you live in California, vote no on the damn recall.

"Governor Schwarzenegger." Jesus. Do you want to be a national laughingstock?

By the way, I say this as a proud former Californian.

Dear god

Okay, I've got a new resolution to try to avoid repeating too many items that are already on other widely read blogs, because I don't want to turn this into the Department of Redundancy Department. (And, as I say, I'm a bit swamped this week anyway.) But sweet Jesus:

A couple of years ago, the husband and I were eating out — something you don't do often with four kids under 10 — when he lowered his voice and gestured for me to look at the next table.

I did so, expecting to find something peculiar, such as Karl Rove conspiring with Elvis.

Ha ha. Get it? Anyone who thinks that Karl Rove is an underhanded political schemer probably believes Elvis is flying around somewhere in his UFO. But let us continue:

What I saw: A young family of five — father, mother, three young children, well-dressed, well-behaved, enjoying their night out, too. Except for the well-behaved children — mythical creatures with which we have no personal experience with — the family was unremarkable.

But they were black. And my husband whispered that in a nation where 70 percent of black children are born into homes without fathers, it was great to see a picture-perfect black family dining together. "I almost want to go give the guy a high five," he said, somewhat sheepishly.

I don't even know where to begin with this. In what lily white stepford community does this person live, that the sight of a black family out to dinner makes her husband nudge and point? And the extraordinary thing is that the writer goes on to explain that this is proof of her open-mindedness:

He didn't, of course. When we left, we nodded, smiled at the children and promptly forgot the exchange...in which both of us unconsciously revealed that — horrors! — we are very desirous that black Americans do well.

It's true. We desire Condoleezza Rice to do well! We desire Colin Powell to do well! We desire Clarence Thomas to do well! We desire practically every black American — with the possible exception of O.J. — to do well!

Gosh, isn't that special. Some racist liberal would have probably looked at that family eating dinner and not given it a second thought. But not this exemplar of color-blind conservatism!

(By the way: "mythical creatures with which we have no personal experience with"...?)

(Story by way of Atrios.)


Burn rate

There's an article in the New York Times this morning about the efforts of New York magazine's media columnist, Michael Wolff, to find some investors and buy that same magazine, which is scheduled to go on the auction block soon. (Wolff is also a failed entrepreneur whose attempt to cash in on the Internet bubble was entertainingly chronicled in the book "Burn Rate.")

But all of that is beside the point. What made me stop and spit out my coffee--well, in a rhetorical flourish kind of way, which is to say there was no actual coffee or spitting--is his salary: "more than $450,000."

For a weekly column. In a magazine whose total circulation is in the range of 450,000 readers, and largely limited to one city.

I mean, Wolff is a fine and insightful writer, and I mean him no disrespect. But I'm guessing that a vast majority of the people who are reading this entry right now have never heard of him--he's only a "star" in the insular world of New York media. Yet in the peculiar value system of this city, he's worth close to half a million dollars a year.

Nice work if you can get it, I guess.

* * *

Sporadic blogging remains in effect, probably through the week. Going through a busy spell at the moment. (I know, there's a lot in the news right now--but no lack of commentary. Go read the other blogs, they've got it more than covered.)

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