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October 18, 2003
A couple good ones from Orcinus, via Atrios: first, an op-ed discussing the implications of George Bush Sr.’s decision to give the 2003 George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service to (drumroll please) Ted Kennedy.
Since the current President Bush veered away from the real war against terrorism in Afghanistan and went a'venturing in Iraq, much to his father's dismay, just about everybody close to Washington politics has known of the policy schism between father and son.
Second, the story of a terrorist discovered to have
a bunker containing a cache of weapons and explosives worthy of an army: an anti-aircraft gun capable of firing 550 rounds per minute up to four miles away, machine guns, explosives, thousands of rounds of ammunition, and booby traps. Investigators also find pictures of President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with scope cross-hairs drawn over them.
But not to worry: he’s a white guy terrorist. Which is probably why news of his arrest hasn’t made it much beyond the Grand Rapids Press.
My earlier post on SF bookstores inspired a couple of people to send in reports on how they're handling the book out there, and frankly, I'm appalled, at least at two stores in particular--one of which had a single copy hidden away under a table, the other of which had ordered (and sold) three copies and did not intend to order any more.
Not only have I spent a lot of my career trying to support indy bookstores, I've had several standing-room-only events at both of these specific indys. And this is my payback, this is my thanks.
Man, this pisses me off.
Afterthought: having had some time to go to my happy place, I'm reminded that I also received a report not long ago that the book was displayed prominently at the SF Airport bookstore. Which is totally bizarre, because I'm just not an airport bookstore kind of author, but hey, you take what you can get...
He is the wild blue yonder
For those of you who care about such things, the late, lamented, and utterly brilliant live action Tick series is now available on DVD.
It's almost Halloween
The more you watch, the less you know
Ever worry that millions of your fellow Americans are walking around knowing things that you don't? That your prospects for advancement may depend on your mastery of such arcana as who won the Iraqi war or where exactly Europe is? Then don't watch Fox News. The more you watch, the more you'll get things wrong.
The DNC gets one right
They've produced an ad about the Plame scandal. Kos has the links.
Why we went to war
WASHINGTON — A suspicious sample of biological material recently found by U.S. weapons hunters in Iraq probably was purchased legally from a U.S. organization in the 1980s and is a substance that has never been successfully used to produce a weapon, experts said.
October 17, 2003
Proof that Spinsanity originates in an alternate universe
From the latest entry in their ongoing pathological obsession with Michael Moore:
Moore uses fake quotes as chapter headings, implying that Bush (or administration officials) said things they never said. The most problematic is "#3 Whopper with Bacon: 'Iraq has ties to Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda!'" (page 53) He quotes Bush repeatedly stating that "We know [Saddam] has ties to Al Qaeda" - but provides no source suggesting the administration tied Saddam to Bin Laden personally.
I assume this needs no elaboration. I assume readers of this site understand that in this universe, the Bush administration tried to tie Saddam to al Qaeda (and by excruciatingly obvious extension, to bin Laden) at every possible opportunity. I assume, in short, that you are not playing whatever childish game of schoolyard "gotcha" that they're playing over at Spinsanity (Ari Fleischer never said it so it's not true, nyah nyah nyah!), that you read the newspaper and watch the President on the news, and are aware that when he mentions 9/11 a dozen or so times in a speech about Iraq, it's not just because some proofreader screwed up somewhere--that he is in fact conveying a specific message, which is in turn fodder for commentators and critics.
I assume, in short, that you understand that it is not by accident that a majority of Americans recently polled believe that Saddam was behind 9/11.
Always remember that the self-appointed fact-checkers of the internet are themselves human, as was demonstrated with the Snopes brouhaha a couple of weeks back. "Non-partisan" or not, everybody's got a bias, everybody's got an angle, everybody's got a bug up their ass about something.
Afterthought: even by their own standards, I'm not really sure what the point of the last sentence in the paragraph above could possibly be. Bush tied Saddam to al Qaeda, but not to bin Laden personally, so Michael Moore is a liar? File under straws, clutching at.
More informative debate from our friends at Fox
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: While inspectors in Iraq continue searching for weapons of mass destruction (search), some Americans are outraged at the president that so far no weapons of mass destruction have been found. Our next guest thinks that's grounds for impeachment.
From PR Watch (click through for the links):
Expect lots of media hype soon over the first Jessica Lynch-related book by Iraqi Mohammed Odeh al-Rehaief. According to some reports he told U.S. Marines the location of the captured Private Lynch. He and his family were then granted U.S. asylum. Along with the chance for U.S. citizenship, al-Rehaief received $300,000 from Rupert Murdoch's Harper Collins for his new book about the Lynch rescue. He also was given a job at the Livingston Group, a high-powered D.C. lobby firm. His book "Because Each Life Is Precious: Why an Iraqi Man Came to Risk Everything for Pvt. Jessica Lynch" is being promoted by his Livingston Group colleague Lauri Fitz-Pegado. She is infamous for her work at Hill & Knowlton PR in 1990 coaching the Kuwaiti girl called "Nayirah" in her shocking but phony testimony on Congressional hill that she'd seen Iraqi soldiers murdering Kuwaiti babies. That stunt helped propel the U.S. to war against Iraq in 1991. Fitz-Pegado's client was the ruling family of Kuwait and the baby-killing claims were later shown to be false. The new book is well timed since it will precede by a few weeks Jessica Lynch's own book, half-a-million copies of which will hit bookstores on Veterans Day, November 11th.
Speaking of book publicity, cont'd.
Hey you journalists who enjoy this site: I could use a hand here. Come on, you're reading my stuff, other people are probably interested too. Tell your editor the book is a career retrospective from a groundbreaking alternative cartoonist, or some damn thing like that. Just gimme some ink already!
October 16, 2003
Speaking of book publicity
A couple of years back, I spent an afternoon being interviewed and photographed for the back page of Time Out New York magazine (where they run a regular interview feature). It was only after I'd taken time away from my work and obligations and all this was over that they informed me that oh, by the way, we were only doing this as a standby, filler in case something else falls through at some point. Which, had it been explained to me beforehand, would have been reason enough for me to decline the whole thing--my time may not be valuable to magazines looking for filler, but it is extraordinarily precious to me.
It never ran, of course--an interview with me about current events has a limited shelf life, and 9/11 kind of knocked it right off the shelf entirely.
So, hey Time Out New York...you guys kind of owe me one. And I'm trying to promote a book here, and not just any damn book, a career-to-date retrospective. So whaddya say we settle the debt...?
A mysterious bump
The book's been hovering around #2000 on Amazon, but today it's climbing back up the chart--currently at 700 or so. Did I get some review somewhere or something that I don't know about, or did a number of you just slap your heads and say to yourselves, my gosh--I forgot to buy the Great Big Book of Tomorrow!
In any case, thank you, because it is increasingly apparent to me that I am simply not going to get much institutional support from the publisher. I am on my own; that I ever thought otherwise was just the triumph of hope over experience.
Update: speaking of the book, it's a premium over at BuzzFlash right now, which is to say, for a bit of a higher price than you'd pay in the bookstore you can get it signed and with a tiny drawing of a certain familiar penguin--and support an important source of news and information in the process. But don't wait too long, I believe they only have nine copies left.
Yesterday, we had the Staten Island Ferry crash into the dock and kill ten people. Today, right now, a huge chunk of Washington Heights in upper Manhattan is seriously underwater--streets like rivers, area evacuated--due to a water main break.
Oh, and this apparently takes one of the main access roads to Yankee Stadium out of commission. And I hear there's some sort of game there tonight.
From the mailbag
Tom, I believe that you may be getting sucked into a semantic pissing contest with the argument over whether or not Iraq presented an 'imminent threat' or not. The bottom line is this: The administration attacked Iraq. It did so either believing (without justification) that there was an imminent threat or not believing that there was an imminent threat. The apologists' 'explanation' actually makes Bush look worse. If he attacked a nation that he felt did not present an imminent threat, then he is an acknowledged war criminal, is he not? David Y.
I think David Y. is right. Andrew Sullivan in particular is very good at whipping up these online hysterias. Those of you who follow the blogs may remember last summer, when Sullivan declared that All Must Blog About Iran on a Specific Day, and those who did not were freedom-hating miscreants who secretly support the mullahs, or some such nonsense. (How'd that ever turn out, anyway? Since the regime remains intact, I assume Andy's been on this on a daily basis, trying to change the world through blogging, yes? Certainly it wasn't just the cudgel of the moment with which to whack his perceived enemies, tossed aside like a child's plaything once he became bored?)
And yes--isn't the logical conclusion of the "imminent" argument the admission that Bush is a war criminal? Nice going, spinmeisters! Way to put the critics in their place!
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Defense Secretary Donald H . Rumsfeld and the chairman of the military Joint Chiefs of Staff publicly defended a new deputy undersecretary of defense of intelligence with a reported penchant for publicly casting the war on terrorism in religious terms.
Hey SF/Berkeley bookstores
As readers of this site are aware, I've had some problems with my publisher in terms of publicity and such. I'm trying to salvage things a bit, and one of my efforts involves setting up some events in San Francisco, in conjunction with Salon. I've got a commitment from the Cartoon Art Museum, but need to get something set up at a bookstore as well to help convince the publisher to cough up a plane ticket. It's kind of last minute, which is to say there's "only" a month's lead time, but I'm hoping somebody will squeeze me in, considering how many standing-room only events I've had at these stores over the years, and how many hundreds of copies of books I've sold. So far, no luck though. Hey Cody's, hey Clean Well Lighted, hey Booksmith...don't tell me you've forgotten? After everything we've been through--sniff--did it really mean so little?
Things are great, except when they're not!
After New Republic Editor Peter Beinart pointed out that the media might actually be understating the problems in the country by underreporting the number of wounded soldiers (as opposed to fatalities), Hemmer shot back with this gem …I think there's to sides of that coin. … If you're saying it's actually worse than being reported, could it also be better than what's being reported also, if you consider that these reporters, many of them tell us they want to go cover the new school opening, but they can't because there's another bombing or shooting and that prevents them from sending that story?
On a lighter note...
Bush told his senior aides Tuesday that he "didn't want to see any stories" quoting unnamed administration officials in the media anymore, and that if he did, there would be consequences, said a senior administration official who asked that his name not be used.
As previously noted, a current talking point among the apologists is that no one ever claimed that Saddam actually posed an imminent threat—but rather, we had to invade because he might someday become a threat.
Well, it seems to be true that the Bush administration never used the word "imminent"--in much the same way they never claimed that Saddam Hussein was literally the mastermind behind 9/11--but in the latter case, they certainly linked the two together at every opportunity, and in the former, the administration and its various mouthpieces certainly did everything possible to indicate that time was of the essence and we had to act now and we simply couldn't wait blah blah blah.
Case in point: a speech by the President on October 8, 2002. First, let’s get a little 9/11 linkage in there:
We also must never forget the most vivid events of recent history. On September 11, 2001, America felt its vulnerability -- even to threats that gather on the other side of the earth. We resolved then, and we are resolved today, to confront every threat, from any source, that could bring sudden terror and suffering to America.
Okay, now let’s make sure people understand that time is of the essence.
Some ask how urgent this danger is to America and the world. The danger is already significant, and it only grows worse with time. If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today -- and we do -- does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons?
Okay, not imminent, exactly—but it sure doesn’t sound like we can afford to wait much longer! What kind of threat are we talking about, exactly?
We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, and VX nerve gas. Saddam Hussein also has experience in using chemical weapons. He has ordered chemical attacks on Iran, and on more than forty villages in his own country. These actions killed or injured at least 20,000 people, more than six times the number of people who died in the attacks of September 11.
We've also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical and biological weapons across broad areas. We are concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using UAVs for missions targeting the United States.
So there are various ways in which Saddam could attack us at any moment with his arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, which we know he has! It’s no wonder our concern is "urgent!"
Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.
Okay, we "cannot wait." We have a "gathering" threat. Our concern is "urgent." We are facing "clear evidence of peril." There's a consistent message here, and if you think it is, "there's no hurry, time is on our side," then you are, perhaps, not the sharpest knife in the proverbial drawer.
My point is, imminence as both a specific and general concept was undeniably in the air in the buildup to war. For instance, here's a Denver Post editorial from Sept. 26, 2002 (via Lexis, so I don't have a link for you):
Iraq's Saddam Hussein can unleash chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes of his command, according to a 50-page dossier released by the British government.
Okay, you say, but the editorial writer only comes up with the word "imminent" in reference to the British government's 45-minute claim. Well, yes--but those of you with longer memories than, say, Andrew Sullivan, will recall that our President was not above mentioning that claim a time or two himself:
The White House, in the run-up to war in Iraq, did not seek CIA approval before charging that Saddam Hussein could launch a biological or chemical attack within 45 minutes, administration officials now say.
That’s from the Washington Post, July 20, 2003. (The "Global Message" mentioned is still available on the White House website, as of this writing). As I say, the Bushies may never have specifically used the word "imminent"—but that’s just a matter of splitting hairs so fine, you’re almost working on a subatomic level. Because they sure as hell implied it at every possibility, and anyone who claims not to understand that is either an outright liar or simply so stupid it’s hard to imagine that they are able to get up in the morning and remember to put their socks on before their shoes.
One other point. People have been quoting this bit from the State of the Union address lately:
Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late.
Yes, it’s a denial--but it’s an after the fact denial. At the point in time when he says this, he’s already been using the 45-minute claim for months, as well as giving speeches like the one I quote above. This line is a response to critics, pure CYA. "Imminent? I never said ‘imminent’!" This has no more bearing on the discussion than any other Bush administration after-the-fact denial—what Josh Marshall frequently calls "up-is-downism." As simply as possible, for the comprehension-impaired amoung you: this one paragraph does not negate the fact that he spent the previous several months implying precisely the opposite.
Well then. I’m certainly glad we had this little chat.
October 15, 2003
These days you almost have to feel sorry for the Bush apologists. No sooner do they commit themselves to some spin or another than it's proven to be complete and total bullshit. Latest case in point, that identical letter that started showing up signed by different soldiers. The attempted spin was that they were all buddies, or in the same company, or something along those lines, and they all signed it. A sort of group effort, among a small handful of buddies trying to set the record straight about Iraq, and the darned liberal media blows the whole thing all out of proportion yadda yadda yadda you know the rest.
Well now it appears that 500 identical letters went out with different signatures. So I guess it's back to the drawing board for the spinmeisters...
* * *
Another busy week, as you've probably already surmised. And the blogging is always the first thing that gets thrown overboard...
October 13, 2003
Go give Atrios a couple of bucks
He needs a new computer. And we need him to have one. (Update: looks like he's covered.)
Unless you are a dittohead or a masochist, chances are I've spent a lot more time listening to him than you have. I think he's an asshole and a hypocrite, and I think he's done immeasurable harm to political discourse in this country.
And now we learn, via his maid, that he's been popping thirty OxyContins a day--which means that his radio monologues sounded like the work of someone completely disconnected from reality because that's exactly what they've been, apparently for years.
Having said all that, this is almost enough to make you feel sorry for the guy. Almost.
Update: Uggabugga is profoundly unimpressed by Newsweek's spin.
October 12, 2003
RUSH LIMBAUGH: You know, I've played the Bob Hope three times and the AT&T twice. It wasn't bad. It's just the game is mental. Once you've mastered the physical aspect, not mastered, but 90 percent of the game, all of the other things being equal is mental, and for some reason, I just was not able to execute my swing today.
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