Saturday, May 29, 2004

Alice in "W"onderland

(Ever notice how much Dick Cheney sounds like the Mad Hatter?)

How low with Bush-Cheney '04 sink?

(courtesy of the fabulous Steve Gilliard)


The Washington Post article says

Former pro football player Pat Tillman was "probably" killed by friendly fire as he led his team of Army Rangers up a hill during a firefight in Afghanistan last month, the U.S. Army said Saturday.
Why the quotation marks around the the word "probably"?

Patriotboy: Setting the terrorist threat level

The Legacy of I.F. Stone

According to Victor Navasky, I.F. Stone was the antithesis of the modern (read New York Times) reporter:

[A]lthough he never attended presidential press conferences, cultivated no highly placed inside sources and declined to attend off-the-record briefings, time and again he scooped the most powerful press corps in the world.

His method: To scour and devour public documents, bury himself in The Congressional Record, study obscure Congressional committee hearings, debates and reports, all the time prospecting for news nuggets (which would appear as boxed paragraphs in his paper), contradictions in the official line, examples of bureaucratic and political mendacity, documentation of incursions on civil rights and liberties. He lived in the public domain. It was his habitat of necessity, because use of government sources to document his findings was also a stratagem. Who would have believed this cantankerous-if-whimsical Marxist without all the documentation?

And as he gleefully explained to a group of Swarthmore students in 1954 (I know, because I was one of them), if you didn't attend background briefings you weren't bound by the ground rules; you could debrief correspondents who did, check out what they had been told, and as often as not reveal the lies for what they were.
Sounds like some of the better bloggers, eh?
Even after he died, they still didn't quite know how to handle him. In a classic example of the sort of on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand journalism against which I.F. Stone fought all his life, the lead paragraph of his obituary in the New York Times neatly balanced his "admirers" against his "critics."
Sounds like the New York Times, doesn't it? Plus ca change,....

New York Times: Obituary

From an anonymous commenter at Eschaton:

The Grey Lady, a noted pioneer of American journalism, died after a long struggle with fascism on December 12, 2000 at her home in New York, New York.

The Grey Lady was born September 18, 1851 in New York, New York, the daughter of Henry Jarvis Raymond and George Jones. She was an early supporter of the Republican party carrying a large black border on the day of Lincoln's death. Disgusted with the scandals in the Grant Administration, George Jones, moved his daughter the Grey Lady away from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party.

In 1896, Adolph S. Ochs, publisher of The Chattanooga Times, married the Grey Lady. "All the News That's Fit to Print," coined by Ochs himself became her personal motto. On December 1, 1897 the Grey Lady was formally crowned The New York Times. In 1918, she won her first Pulitzer Prize for public service in publishing the texts of dozens of official reports, documents and speeches about World War I.

On January 20, 1981 the Grey Lady moved back to the Republican party of her youth. She ignored the inauguration of Democratic President Clinton in her most recent autobiography preferring to highlight the day Ronald Reagan was sworn in. In 2000, after 8 years of peace and prosperity, she rediscovered war. September 11, 2001 changed everything. After a brief second marriage to the former Republican party, she was diagnosed with terminal fascism. She died with a broken masthead at home in her sleep.

The Grey Lady is survived by several cousins, The New York Daily News, The New York Post, the Village Voice, the New York Press, and the New York Observer as well as numerous second and third cousins all of whom still reside in the greater New York metropolitan area.
I will miss her.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Ger yer free "Keep out of Jail" cards right here

With FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III by his side, Ashcroft said at a news conference two days ago that "credible intelligence, from multiple sources, indicates that al Qaeda plans to attempt an attack on the United States in the next few months. . . . This disturbing intelligence indicates al Qaeda's specific intention is to hit the U.S. hard." He added that the information has been "corroborated on a variety of levels."

Under the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and Bush administration rules, only the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can publicly issue threat warnings, and they must be approved in a complex interagency process involving the White House. Administration officials sympathetic to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said he was not informed Ashcroft was going to characterize the threat in that way -- an assertion that Justice officials deny.
Either DHS is lying, or Justice Dept. officials are lying.

I'm betting on Justice. Remember that it kept releasing documents attacking 911 Commission co-chair Gorelick even after CEO Bush announced a truce.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Grant's Tomb, the sequel

A few years ago, after touring the Cloisters, I took my children to visit the Grant Mausoleum National Memorial. At 3:30pm on a weekday, I was the 8th person to sign the guestbook that day. When Civil War veterans were alive and active, the memorial drew more than 500,000 several years. By the 1920s, however, interest in the largest American mausoleum died away. The memorial was in terrible physical shape by the 1970s. The memorial has been restored physically in recent years, but interest remains limited. (The Grant Memorial Association is trying to change that.)

I mention Grant's tomb because this weekend is the dedication on the National Mall of the World War II memorial. Many veterans will be in Washington for the event, and for some it will mark the most important day in their lives. Still, in my humble opinion, the memorial is massively out of scale and its symbolism is obscure. By 2050, I fear, it's going to be regarded as another Grant's tomb.


The location of Grant's memorial led to intense competition between New York and other cities. Grant had the final word on the matter.

The old Groucho Marx joke, "Who is buried in Grant's tomb? Nobody," draws on the fact that Grant and his wife are "entombed", not buried, in the memorial.

The last reunion of the Blue and Grey at Gettysburg was in 1938, 75 years after the battle. The corresponding 75th reunion of WWII vets would occur in 2020. It could happen....


Charles Krauthammer wrote a column slamming the design of the WWII memorial. What has the world come to when I'm inspired to write Mr. Krauthammer an email thanking him for his letter?

And Abner Doubleday invented baseball....

A bio of the New York Times' first "public editor". We're all waiting with baited breath until Sunday, when Mr. Okrent unveils his assessment of what went wrong at the former U.S. "paper of record" with the run up to Iraq II. My betting is that he wimps out: "Mistakes were made, it'll never happen again, public shame is the worst punishment", blah, blah, blah.

Another blogger, Aaron Swartz, provides specifics on Mr. Okrent's work at the Times.

William Powers of the National Journal has a different take on Mr. Okrent:

Hmmm, writes like a dream and drives all kinds of people nuts? I say drop the every-other-week shtick—make this man go daily.
He does note, however, that
Meanwhile, outside the paper, one hears scattered complaints that he has not been tough enough, pulls punches.

Well, wait until Sunday and we can all judge together.

Roy Rogers better watch out for his pet

Apparently the US military is running low on bullets. Serious problem.

"I am convinced there would not have been a war without Judy Miller," he said.

The quotation is from Russ Baker, a contributor to the Nation.

I've read about recent debates between bloggers and press representatives. There is much to criticize about Blog City. But at least many of its inhabitants maintain a sense of skepticism about what they read (if only because most of it is undisguised opinion).

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Judith Miller should be able to find a new job.

In March 2004 New York Times executive editor Bill Keller said that Ms. Miller is

a smart, well-sourced, industrious and fearless reporter with a keen instinct for news, and an appetite for dauntingly hard subjects."
Of course, the New York Times was not the only guilty party. Kautilyan has provided a list of more than 100 articles whose content the INC may have manipulated in 2001-2002.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Understanding Iraq (via The Simpsons)

A friend suggested the other day that the Simpsons' TV episode that helps us to best understand what happened with the neocons in Iraq is "Marge versus the Monorail":

A fast-talking charmer (Phil Hartman) sells Springfield a monorail of dubious necessity and, Marge learns, highly dubious quality. Leonard Nimoy is aboard
for the maiden trip, with Homer at the controls.
Simpsons fans will remember that Homer stops the runaway monorail by lassoing a donut shaped sign while on board. Let's hope that the W. administration can find its donut.
Donuts. Is there anything they can't do?

Simone Ledeen on the President's visit

After you're done enjoying the rants of a 29-year-old MBA who helped run Iraq into the ground, do take a look at the rest of the site. The theme music is quite enjoyable, and there is a listing of U.S. troops killed in Iraq. Just think twice about the website's advice for converting Muslims:

...ministry begins with striking up a conversation. And it is easy for a Christian in a predominantly Islamic land to strike up a conversation about Christ, Mike says, because Muslims talk about religion all the time.

Did Chalabi Dupe the US into War in Iraq?

This from the Guardian newspaper:

The implications are far-reaching. Mr Chalabi and Mr Habib were the channels for much of the intelligence on Iraqi weapons on which Washington built its case for war.

"It's pretty clear that Iranians had us for breakfast, lunch and dinner," said an intelligence source in Washington yesterday. "Iranian intelligence has been manipulating the US for several years through Chalabi."

Larry Johnson, a former senior counter-terrorist official at the state department, said: "When the story ultimately comes out we'll see that Iran has run one of the most masterful intelligence operations in history. They persuaded the US and Britain to dispose of its greatest enemy."

The Center for Security Policy has a different take on Mr. Chalabi:
Ahmed Chalabi has suddenly become a kind of Arabian piñata, presented to the world as everything from a con-man, felon and liar to the man who singlehandedly duped the U.S. government into invading Iraq on the basis of fraudulent intelligence and promises of a flower-strewn cake-walk. To the extent the Bush Administration is contributing to this transparent effort to find a scapegoat for its increasingly troubled Iraq policy - presumably, in the hope of improving the President’s sagging popularity here at home - it has made not only an epic strategic mistake, but a potentially costly political one, as well.

Is Chalabi a master manipulator and spy or a U.S. ally who was sold down the river? I'd prefer the latter. The idea that the U.S. was tricked by Iran into a war that has cost more than 10,000 lives is very disturbing.

Tony Blakely on W. (as of 12/2002)

Bush I don't begin to understand. I'm sure his motives are honorable, but he seems to have come to it very late in life.

I don't sense in either man a lifelong passion for a set vision. And maybe Bush is just coming to it now since, to judge by what he has said, he basically started his adult life at 40. Most people start their adult life at 20, so at 55 that may be his equivalent of 35 in the evolution of his worldview. There's room, potentially, for a lot of growth in the maturity and intensity of Bush's judgment.

I'd be interested in Tony's assessment 3 years later, now that the training wheels are off.

'Occupation will end' soon; troops to remain indefinitely.

USA Today says it all.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Should Kerry accept the nomination at the Democratic convention?

Howard Reiter reports that during the 1860 GOP convention in Chicago, "Lincoln made a surprise appearance and gave what must be the earliest in-person acceptance speech in history...."

So now we know why Stephen Douglas lost the US presidency in 1860 to Abraham Lincoln: He failed to speak to his party's convention! (Should we let Bill Safire in on the news?)

Young neocons in the Middle East

The Post carried the story Sunday of the young neocons who are rebuilding Iraq.

It's been tried before....

Sunday, May 23, 2004

The strange case of Nick Berg

Asia Times has interviewed two medical experts who doubt that the video of Nick Berg shows his actual murder. It also raises questions about claims that al-Zarqawi's voice is that heard on the video.

So if Nick Berg was already dead before his beheading, when and how did he die? And if al-Zarqawi is not the narrator, who participated in Berg's death? Who went to the trouble of trying to deceive the public? Why was it done?

Did the training wheels fall off?

I haven't looked at the Drudge Report in months. The "throw it at the wall and see what sticks approach" gets tiresome. Apparently right-thinking Americans are supposed to be upset with Kerry for ridiculing the President's riding ability.
Only a few will "connect the dots" and hear Kerry's remark as a reference to Bush's own comment earlier in the week that the training wheels are "coming off Iraqi democracy". I thought Kerry nailed it.
I consider Kerry's other comment:

I hope he's OK. I didn't know the president rode a bike.
as a bit snide. Then again, I wasn't there.

Indiana still for Bush

I grew up in Indiana. Never could make sense of why the state is so politically conservative.

Friday, May 21, 2004

He can walk and chew gum at the same time....

Do read Wesley Clark's article on the Middle East in the new issue of Washington Monthly. General Clark sounds like an intelligent, thoughful leader who could make a contribution to American foreign policy. At least he could debate VP Cheney on the value of Iraq War II (AKA, the Big Scary One).

General Clark is clearly not a 'Buck' Turgidson:

Mr. President, we are rapidly approaching a moment of truth...Now, truth is not always a pleasant thing, but it is necessary now to make a choice, to choose between two admittedly regrettable, but nevertheless, distinguishable post-war environments. One, where you got 20 million people killed, and the other where you got 150 million people killed.... Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed, but I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops, uh, depending on the breaks.
(Courtesy of

I do think Clark looks a bit like that loveable General Tom Waverly of "White Christmas". There might be some votes in that, especially if television stations start showing holiday films early this fall....

On Friendship

According to Josh Marshall, President Bush offered the following thought at the LSU commencement address:

"On the job, and elsewhere in life, choose your friends carefully. The company you keep has a way of rubbing off on you. And that can be a good thing or a bad thing."

Bush's role model, Warren G. Harding, said it better:
I have no trouble with my enemies. I can take care of my enemies in a fight. But my friends, my goddamned friends, they're the ones who keep me walking the floor at nights!

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Kerry's got 270 electoral votes

Still a long time until November, but Kerry is in good shape for a candidate who has had $60 million of negative ads dumped on him. Since the last projections, Michigan and Ohio are the only big swings, though New Jersey may be back in play.

A couple of comments:

For polls taken 6 months prior to an election, I am astonished at how sensistive the numbers are to news trends. There may be few surveyed who are declaring themselves undecided, but voters appear to be changing their minds.

I saw an online comment about undersampling of people whose only phone is cellular. I suspect that the group is disproportionately younger folks.

Something big--revelation, resignation, indictment--is due to hit the Administration before June 30. When that happens, we'll get the chance to learn if Bush's numbers can go any lower....

"Nazis? There were no Nazis here."

SecDef Rumsfeld replied to reporters' questions this morning that he did not know Mr. Chalabi's home had been raided. When pressed on the subject, Rumsfeld claimed that he did not know Adnan Chalabi, that he never knew any Chalabis.

Later in the day, General Council Gonzales held a press conference and explained that although Chalabi was on the US payroll, the Fourth Amendment did not apply....

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

"Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio"

Shakespeare's famous quotation is often misquoted. "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio" is the official version.

Which reminds me of a story. When I was freshman, I worked a cafeteria line with a junior politico-hippie from Minnesota named Tim. Tim loved baked potato night. With every order, h'd take a foil-wrapped potato in his tongs, look at it carefully through his wire rims and declare "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio.... Would you like butter or sour cream with that?" It really changed my perception of baked potatoes...and skulls.

Alas, poor Ahmed, we knew him, Colin*

Roger Ailes has given us the perfect pictorial tribute to Mr. Chalabi.

Let's see: $340,000/month x 12/months per year = even more than Dick Cheney makes. Tough week for the Chalabi 401K.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The War Crimes Act is 18 U.S.C. 2441

(thanks to Michael Berube's blog)

Attack on Iraqi wedding party

New services are reporting an US military attack on an Iraqi wedding party resulted in more than 40 dead. Somebody over at the Eschaton blog remarked that Juan Cole's blog is becoming bizarre as Juan tries to digest this and other recent events.

I cannot blame him.

Know your government: Department of Justice (part one)

The US Department of Justice includes a Department of Professional Responsibility (OPR). The OPR,

which reports directly to the Attorney General, is responsible for investigating allegations that Department of Justice attorneys have engaged in misconduct in connection with their duties to investigate, represent the government in litigation, or provide legal advice. In addition, OPR has jurisdiction to investigate allegations of misconduct by law enforcement personnel when such allegations are related to allegations of attorney misconduct within the jurisdiction of OPR.

"The objective of OPR is to ensure that Department of Justice attorneys continue to perform their duties in accordance with the high professional standards expected of the Nation's principal law enforcement agency.

The OPR's "Counsel submits an annual report to the Attorney General." Annual Reports are available online for 1994 through 2001. Apparently, the Bush Administration is not posting its annual reports.

OPR Counsel H. Marshall Jarrett was appointed by the Clinton Administration in 1998. (bio)

I'd take 8 years of "Kerryisms" any day

As more evidence that right-wing columnists lack a sense of humor, William Saletan offers us definitive evidence that John Kerry is every bit as linguistically challenged as our current President. Kerry's crime? His speech "is full of caveats and pointless embellishments." Says Saletan.

Maybe it's just my way of thinking about the world, but I'll take caveats over lies any day....

Monday, May 17, 2004

Iraq Update

The latest from Professor Juan Cole is not good news:

US aircraft bombed Karbala overnight. Now that is a story.

I can't believe I just wrote the words above. I would not be writing them if Bush had any idea whatsoever what he was doing in Iraq. Bombing Karbala. It must be being seen by Shiites as like a sci-fi Terminator sort of Yazid.

Every time I think things cannot get worse, they do.

Alberto Gonzales, White House Counsel

Mr. Gonzales has been in the news lately for his writing after September 11th that,

"In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners...."

Mr. Gonzales was the subject of an article in the July/August 2003 issue of "The Atlantic", which
described his role in 57 executions while George W. Bush was Texas governor. The picture is not very flattering to either Bush or Gonzales, but it is consistent with Bush's avoidance of reading. Gonzales kept the documents summarizing the facts of the case short, leaving out many of the mitigating circumstances that might have swayed another governor.

The author Alan Berlow notes that Gonzales is
"a Harvard-educated lawyer who went to to become Texas secretary of state and a justice on the Texas supreme court. He is now the White House counsel... and the man most often mentioned as the President's choice for the next available seat on the Supreme Court."

Yet another reason to advise your friends to vote for Mr. Kerry....

Sunday, May 16, 2004

If the Nazis had had our technology in 1945...

An ebay vendor is offering magnetic Bush/Cheney '04 bumper stickers. The idea of being able to quickly remove that evidence of political support says something about the upcoming election, doesn't it?

Bush supporters? There were no Bush supporters in this village. We heard rumors....

Sy Hersh continues the drumbeat

Mr. Hersh's Saturday night special reveals that a highly classified program intended to break down terrorists was extended to Iraqi prisions.

Update. Josh Marshall offers a novel term to describe the DoD's response to Mr. Hersh's assertion: "Rumsfeld spokesman Larry Di Rita's widely-quoted statement -- "Assertions apparently being made in the latest New Yorker article on Abu Ghraib and the abuse of Iraqi detainees are outlandish, conspiratorial, and filled with error and anonymous conjecture." -- isn't a denial, it's splutter -- a classic non-denial denial."

We'll be seeing more splutters before the first Tuesday in November....

Update.Abu Ghuraib may become an expander of our vocabulator. First Marshall refers to a "splutter". Now a senator on NPR complains about DoD officials "palavering around", stalling in order to prevent the truth coming out. An expansive use of the verb "palaver", but very imaginative!

Saturday, May 15, 2004

NPR and a sense of history

I tuned in Scott Simon's Saturday Edition this morning, hoping to figure out why so many on the left no longer respect Mr. Simon. (He's a Chicagoan with a love of the Cubs. So am I. So what's not to like?) Before Scott and Dan Schorr to do their weekly summary, there was a news report. But the news report did not mention fighting in Najaf, a city with some of Shiite Islam's holiest shrines, a city built on the site of a battle pitting 92 against an army of 5000, a city that US forces had been warned by Iraqi leaders not to attack.

Guess I have to go elsewhere for news that matters.

Update Satellite imagery of the Iman Ali Mosque, Najaf.