Saturday, September 20, 2003

Celebrate the recordists

Wow! I've only been blogging for about 3 weeks now, and already I've achieved the coveted position of #966 on the Truth Laid Bear ranking of weblogs by average daily traffic!

With a little hard work and application, I'm sure I can get it up there to #950 or so!

Of course, it might help if I actually wrote something worth reading instead of posting all this filler and links to the Same Old Gang of liberal bloggers -- you know the sorry bunch of them: Marshall, Drum, Kos, Gilliard, Billmon, Atrios, Hesiod, Demosthenes, Ailes, Spencer, Yglesias and the hive-mind that is TAPPED -- but frankly I'm been pretty exhausted lately and this is about all I'm good for. Any kind of rational analysis requires, at the very least, the ability to think three or four coherent thoughts in succession, and as for insight ... well, forget it, that takes a least one good night's sleep, two would be better.

I did have one interesting question to pose, though.

When I first began to think seriously about starting a blog, I read all sorts of stuff that people had written about why they blog, with the intention of perhaps using it as fodder for an entry. I later decided not to do that, but it remains a good question.

In the play I'm in rehearsal for, The Violet Hour, the playwright, Richard Greenberg, asks a similar, but more general question. Early on in Act Two, the main character says:

Why are we all such recordists? [...]
Everyone’s taking everything down as if it’s historical, as if it’s historic.
As if it’s witty or sums up the Times.
All of us confident, all of us acquiver with self-importance.

And why is that, indeed? Why are there so many memoirs published, many of them by people otherwise unknown? Why do people get the urge to blog? Why do I write these thoughts in a public venue instead of in a diary or journal?

I have no answers, of course, answers requiring (again) coherent thought (at least).

In the last few weeks or so, Kevin Drum on CalPundit has cautioned a few times against "blog triumphalism", the idea that blogging is a new and terribly influential factor in the nation's political intercourse. I understand what he's saying, that's it's too new and too limited in its scope and therefore shouldn't be credited with more influence than it has, but I think the flip side is that for people, like myself, who have discovered political blogs, there's been a revelation of an entirely new and hiterto unknown layer of discourse. It's not a uninformed barroom argument (although it can share some of the characteristics of one), but neither is it the usual give-of-take of the same-old annointed elites of punditry. It's a treasure trove of voices most of whom I would never have been exposed to, except for the vehicle of blogging

So while it's good to avoid overselling the blog factor, it's also good to celebrate blogs, especially political blogs (and most especially liberal political blogs) as, overall, a very positive thing. Without them, I wouldn't have "met" the Same Old Gang of liberal bloggers I listed above, all of whom have done much to help clarify for me our dire political situation. I don't know why they, in particular, and other liberal bloggers as well, were driven to become public recordists of these times and their thoughts on it, but I'm certainly glad they did.

Update (9/21/03): That ranking above, #966, is rather deceptive, because on the TTLB Blogosphere Ecosystem, which I take to be a more accurate representation of blogging status, I'm currently lowly #3296, and dwell in the "Crusty Crustacean" category (sounds like something from "Sponge Bob Square Pants"), only three slots up from the bottom.

Still, I take comfort from the thought that there are almost a thousand bloggers below me, while I try to overtake the more than three thousand above me on my way to world dominance.

It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.
Gore Vidal

Many thanks to my 15 Loyal Readers who keep me out of the cellar!

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/20/2003 11:25:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Simple, huh?

Josh Mashall asks:

Is simplism the new integrity? I guess it is.

According to the prevailing chatter, Wes Clark has been waffling on his position on the war. CBS said as much: "Clark Waffles On War."

Frankly, I don't think I've ever heard anything quite so stupid.

The idea seems to be that there are really only two positions on the war, the Dean position and the Bush position.

Either you were against the war from the beginning, against even threatening force under any and all circumstances, soup-to-nuts, or you were for it, more or less under the same range of conceivable circumstances. If you have a position that falls between these two monochromatic options, you're indecisive, a waffler or a trimmer.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/20/2003 02:35:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


High Tech Heroin

Joseph Forno thinks we're becoming dangerously addicted to information technology, which leaves us vulnerable to corporate manipulation:

Technology, like gambling and heroin, is addictive. We're driven or forced into buying new gadgets and constantly upgrading our technology for any number of reasons, both real and perceived, and feel uncomfortable without our latest "fix." Corporations love this because once we accept and begin using their products or services, the dependency is formed and they essentially own our information – and subsequently, society and us. Their proprietary lock on our collective information means they can force us to spend money and upgrade on their schedule and not when we truly need - or can afford - to do so, regardless of whether or not we need the latest features, and regardless of the consequences that may haunt us down the road.

[via Follow Me Here]

I[d write some commentary on this, but I need another hit.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/20/2003 01:50:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


In/Out Let's Get Crackin'

I've not much clue why, but these two thoughts have been popping in and out of my head recently:

'Never get out of the boat.' Absolutely goddamn right. Unless you were going all the way.
Apocalypse Now (film, 1979)
produced & directed by Francis Coppola
written by John Millius & Francis Coppola
narration written by Michael Herr
[spoken by the character "Captain Williard"
played by Martin Sheen]

There are going to be times when we can't wait for somebody. Now, you're either on the bus or off the bus. If you're on the bus, and you get left behind, then you'll find it again. If you're off the bus in the first place - then it won't make a damn.
Ken Kesey
quoted by Tom Wolfe in
Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968)

I'm open to suggestions...

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/20/2003 01:09:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Concision, displayed

Ambassador Joe Wilson, interviewed by Josh Marshall for TPM, sums up our situation in Iraq:

Wilson: Well, I think we're fucked.

Seems right to me.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/20/2003 12:59:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Tom, we hardly know ye

Billmon has Shorter Tom Friedman:

"I said before the war that Bush Administration might fuck up in Iraq, and I said during the war that the Bush Administration might fuck up in Iraq, and I said after the war that the Bush Administration might fuck up in Iraq, and now the Bush Administration has fucked up in Iraq. And it's all France's fault."

Friedman is an enigma to me. I don't in general share the obvious disdain of him so readily apparent in the the liblog community, but it's sometimes unnerving the way he oscillates between incisiveness and totally off-the-wall cluelessness. Sometimes he seems so distinctly right and other times he blames everything on France. What is it, is he on meds or something? I really don't get it.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/20/2003 12:54:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


We're made as hell...

Once again, Steve Gilliard nails it:

Did they think we were going to get our asses kicked forever? Accept their lies and nonsense forever? We're not all Alan Colmes, being bitchslapped every night because an argument would be rude. We're just as American as they are, and we're gonna not only clean up their mess, but send them back down the memory hole. Their ideas suck, their ethics suck, their morals suck and we don't have to stand by and let them loot the country. It isn't theirs to loot.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/20/2003 12:44:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Friday, September 19, 2003

Blah blah blah blah blog

This is from a review in last week's New York Times Book Review

Klosterman's first book, ''Fargo Rock City,'' was a funny, modest memoir by a metalhead from North Dakota; it doubled as a reproof to music snobs who would deny the importance of bands like Poison and Bon Jovi. But now that Klosterman, a senior writer at Spin, can rest that case, he is searching for unrest. Without purpose or foe (or even a metalhead in his rec room pointing out that, dude, Pamela Anderson is Canadian), Klosterman merely throws tantrums, mouthing off like a blogger or a morning D.J.

I think this may be the first time I've seen the word "blogger" used in a general-readership periodical without being accompanied by an explanation as to what it means -- an interesting indication of its spread and acceptance.

Of course, the connotations as used aren't all that good...

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/19/2003 01:26:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Mini Clark-a-rama

Still not a lot of free time (not helped by the fact that Blogger ate the first version of this post -- and then mangled the second -- and I had to recompose most of it from memory), but I was working on a roundup of liberal blogger reaction to the Clark announcement, only to be surprised that some of the more illustrious libloggers (Kos, Gilliard and Marshall, for instance) haven't posted anything about it, yet.

The ever-reasonable (if recently quasi-radicalized) Kevin Drum has some comments based on Clark's book, Waging Modern War (which still awaits my attention on the bookshelf):

On the positive side, Clark demonstrates in Waging Modern War an obvious appreciation of the fact that since the United States can't do everything by itself, it's imperative to work well with other nations even though it's a real pain in the ass to do so. You can practically feel the frustration oozing out of his pores when he describes the convoluted command structure of NATO and the difficulty of holding the alliance together in the face of domestic political considerations coming from a dozen countries. Despite that, he takes the grownup attitude that since there's really no other alternative, we'd better accept multinational campaigns as the future of warfare and figure out the best way of dealing with them.

On the negative side, he describes continual conflicts with his boss, the Secretary of Defense, and with his peers and superiors in the Army. He is frequently uninvited to meetings he thinks he should be at, and even though the book gives only his side of the story it's pretty obvious that there's a reason for this. We don't know what it is, of course, but it clearly involves something more than just disagreements over military strategy. The lesson Clark seems to have taken from this is that since he obviously knew more than anyone else, he should have had more autonomy and access to the White House, a conclusion that I'm not sure I find comforting.

Finally, on the both the positive and negative side, Clark seems have been surprised about how difficult it was to deal with the press in a high profile situation like a war. This surprise is a little inexplicable, but on the other hand, having learned this lesson under fire it's likely that he's now successfully absorbed it and will work well with the press during his campaign. Time will tell on this.

TAPPED features two entries on the beginning of the right-wing attack on Clark and this article by Michael Tomasky:

Fighting in the jungles of 'Nam, heading the Supreme Allied Command of Europe and winning a war against a genocidal thug are all much to be admired, and they all surely teach a person many lessons. But do they teach a person how to be a good political candidate?

As candidate, declared and undeclared, Clark has done a lot of things right so far. He dropped his hints and chose his media interventions adroitly, letting the story of his candidacy build what seemed like its own momentum to those who weren't watching closely. He is not, conventional wisdom aside, announcing too late. Bill Clinton announced his candidacy in October 1991, and, though the electoral calendar has been pushed forward since then, it's still fine because regular voters aren't paying attention yet. As for the "lateness" being a factor in Clark's ability to raise money, forget it. He's doing it through the Web, and he'll have plenty. And he's assembled a veteran campaign team, even if it looks (suspiciously, to some people) heavily drawn from the former Clinton-Al Gore axis.

But the question isn't whether Clark's handlers are good at politics; it's whether he is. The maiden speech certainly came up well short of inspiring. He seemed, like many such rookie candidates, a bit flabbergasted to be up there. Spare and cautious, his rhetoric sounded only half-developed -- I kept thinking sentences were going to go on for another phrase or two when, splat, they just ended -- and he seemed far more intent on touching the bases his consultants told him to touch rather than expressing a theme, vision or rationale for his candidacy. Yes, it's troubling, as some of the TV commentators noted, that there weren't any specifics in the speech. But far more troubling was the fact that there wasn't any music in it.

Fine, it's just one speech. But this brings up another problem for Clark, a situation that, among all the candidates I've watched over the years, has only ever been faced in quite this way by Hillary Clinton in her New York Senate bid: Clark will have to do all his learning, and make all his mistakes, under a media spotlight so intense that every errant syllable will be analyzed and exaggerated.

And, thanks to my friend Shirley, I read Hesiod's breakdown of what the right-wing attacks against Clark are likely to be:

Among the attacks that will be launched on Clark are:

1) He's just a front for Hillary and Bill Clinton. Mostly, he will be portrayed [sub rosa, and especially on talk radio] as Hillary's Presidential stalking horse. There will be rumors flying that he would entertain asking her to join the ticket as his VP.

2) He's an unstable hothead who "almost started World War III." This line of attack has already been raised, ironically, by Katrina Vanden Heuvel on the pages of The Nation. That incident was less aggressive and hotheaded than it seemed.


3) He was involved in the Waco disaster. Clark commanded the 1st Cavalry Division out of Fort Hood, Texas at the time of the Waco siege. Gun nuts and militia wackos will go bananas over this allegation.

4) They will repeat the smear perpetuated by George Will and the Weekly Standard that Wesley Clark lied about being contacted by the White House to hype the Iraq-9/11 connection.

5) They will try and downgrade his military service, which will be hard to do.

6) They will, probably in the "confederate" South bring up his Jewish ancestry.

7) He did not get along with his colleagues in the military. This is an effort to portray him as arrogant and aloof. Unable to work with people, etc. In other words, they will portray him as another Douglas MacArthur. Of course, to rightwingers, MacArthur was a hero.

Read the entire post, and several others as well which continue these thoughts.

As for me, I'm pretty much in wait-and-see mode about Clark. Of course, like most liberal Democrats, there's a certain amount of salivating about the value to us of having a General who's one of ours and not one of theirs, so I'm more than aware of the iconic value which Clark represents, but I really don't think it's sufficient (especially considering his low name-recognition among the general public) to justify claims that Clark is now going to sweep his way to nomination, or knock Dean out of the running, or whatever. His entry certainly changes the dynamic, but he's not, in truth, the entirely perfect candidate.

In terms of qualifications, we can begin with the fact that he's so much more qualified than George W. Bush that the comparison is laughable (Bush probably thinks a "Rhodes Scholar" is someone who studies highways), but that criteria holds for a significant percentage of the American population as well, so it can't be the final determiner of whether Clark's the best person for the job. I remain skeptical of both his executive and political skills, and I was not reassured by his either his lackluster speech today or by the reports on Kos, Gulliard, Tapped and Billmon (use the links at the right) about the quality of people he's recruited to run his campaign. ("Assholes" would seem to sum them up.)

And, as Gillard and Kos have been saying pretty consistently for a while now, he's joined the fray in a logistically difficult situation by entering so comparatively late in the process, and it's not at all obvious to me that he's going to be able to overcome those hurdles. (Comparisons to Clinton's announcement in October are not apt, since back then all the major Democratis who were the presumed candidates had opted not to run against Bush pere because they thought his lift from Gulf War I made him invulnerable. The lack of strong established candidates left the field open for a dark horse like Clinton to make his run -- and that's certainly not the situation today for Clark.)

I do continue to hold onto the nagging possibility that Clark's entry may actually help Dean by taking a little of the pressure off him as the putative front-runner, allowing him to return just a bit for a while to stealth-mode, where he's done very well for himself. Also, all eyes are on Clark, just when the media would be expected to start running skeptical and critical pieces on Dean, because that is what they do to front runners, especially Democrats. Thus Dean's "honeymoon" may be interrupted, but it also won't be followed by post-matrimonial let down.

Nor do I agree that any possibility of Dean/Clark (or the much less likely Clark/Dean) is now out the window. It really depends on how negative things get, and I suspect, despite the apparently low quality of some of Clark's new people, that it will not descend into the depths because both Dean and Clark are too smart for that.

One final note, since I can no longer remember what other points I made in the original version of this: on TV, as a military analyst for CNN, Clark came across as trustworthy, smart, intelligent and reliable, but, physically, he seemed a little delicate, thin and somewhat frail. That was certainly not the physical impression I got from seeing him on C-SPAN today, but it's something to be aware of.

Oh, and I agree, his speech was pretty mediocre, as was his delivery of it. He needs a lot of work on that. Fortunately for him, while Dean is good on the stump, he's not so good on TV, and it appears to be just the opposite for Clark.

Update: In American Politics Journal, Scoobie Davis has a refutation of the right-wing anti-Clark smears.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/18/2003 01:31:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Monday, September 15, 2003

The Pause That Refreshes

There will be little blogging today or tomorrow (Tuesday), due to the start of rehearsals tomorrow evening.

I'm also having a difficult time acclimating to my new temporal regime -- that is, I've been a night person practically all of my adult life, and it's really hard getting up at 7:30am every morning to get Connor to school. I know there will be little sympathy from those who've been rising at that hour -- or even (!!!) earlier -- for years and years, but I've always been more likely to see the sunrise on my way to bed than otherwise.

Oh, dear, adult responsibility finally hits me ... At 48, no less!

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/15/2003 11:50:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Same old, same old

Tom Lehrer's satirical songs from his album That Was The Year That Was (such as "Who's Next", the lyrics for which I posted in the previous entry) were written for the TV program That Was The Week That Was, which featured political satire. It aired on NBC from January 10, 1964 to May 4, 1965, first on Fridays from 9:30 - 10:00, and then on Tuesdays in the same time slot.

The program was based on a 1963 British series of the same name, and featured at various times David Frost, Henry Morgan, Phyllis Newman, Buck Henry, Bob Dishy, Alan Alda, Sandy Baron and Tom Bosley, among others.

In looking up some information on the show in Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh's The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows: 1946 - Present (20th ed., 1999), I came across this intriguing tidbit:

TW3 attracted considerable attention and large audiences during its first few months on the air, and was easily renewed for the 1964-1965 season. But 1964 was an election year, and politicians -- including Republican Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater -- were among the show's favorite targets. Perhaps by chance, perhaps by design, TW3 was repeatedly preempted during the fall and replaced with low-rated political speeches and documentaries paid for by the Republicans. By the time the show reappeared after the election, its momentum was gone, and audiences had switched to the competition (Peyton Place on ABC and Petticoat Junction on CBS). TW3 -- and with it topical TV -- was gone by the end of the season...

An interesting and intriguing bit of evidence of Republican media-manipulating dirty tricks as early as 1964!

Update: Edited for ease of reading.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/15/2003 01:40:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Sunday, September 14, 2003


Hey, remember back in the halcyon days when countries hated each other, instead of just ganging up and hating us, and the only thing we had to worry about was the whole world being destroyed in a nuclear conflagration?

They're rioting in Africa
They're starving in Spain
There's hurricanes in Florida
And Texas needs rain

The whole world is festering
With unhappy souls
The French hate the Germans
The Germans hate the Poles

Italians hate Yugoslavs
South Africans hate the Dutch
And I don't like anybody very much

But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud
For man's been endowed with the mushroom-shaped cloud
And we know for certain that some lovely day
Someone will set the spark off...
And we will all be blown away!

They're rioting in Africa
There's strife in Iran
What nature doesn't do to us
Will be done by our fellow man.

Sheldon Harnick
"The Merry Minuet" (1953)
recorded by The Kingston Trio on
"Live from the Hungry i" (1959)

And that reminds me of this:

First we got the Bomb, and that was good
'Cause we love peace and motherhood
Then Russia got the Bomb, but that's OK
'Cause the balance of power's maintained that way

Who's next?

France got the Bomb, but don't you grieve
'Cause they're on our side (I believe)
China got the Bomb, but have no fears
They can't wipe us out for at least five years

Who's next?

Then Indonesia claimed that they
Were gonna get one any day
South Africa wants two -- that's right!
One for the black and one for the white

Who's next?

Egypt's gonna get one too
Just to use on you-know-who
So... Israel's getting tense
Wants one in self-defense
"The Lord's our shephard" says that psalm
But just in case ... We're gonna get a Bomb

Who's next?

Luxembourg is next to go
And who knows? Maybe Monaco
We'll try to stay serene and calm...
When Alabama gets the Bomb!

Tom Lehrer
"Who's Next" (1965)
as recorded on the LP
"That Was The Year That Was" (1965)

Incidentally, Lehrer's album was also recorded at the Hungry i, obviously a center of seditious activity at the time.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/14/2003 05:22:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Steps to take

Every now and then, I like to reach into some dark and obscure corner of the World Wide Web and pluck from the dim recesses something of interest, then bring it here to unfutz where it can get some real solid exposure in the burning white glare of attention that's generally aimed my way. (It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it.)

Today, I've finished my usual comprehensive surf of the web, from A all the way to B (and a little beyond), and I've discovered this gem in a place even more terribly obscure than usual: the comments threads on a little-known weblog called CalPundit. The commenter, called here "Marsman", is clearly a diamond-in-the-rough, a person who's voice could be a significant and influential one in the future, should he be championed by the right person, with the right connections and a will to punditory kingmaking on an unprecendented scale.

All kidding aside, I'm vitally interested in figuring out a way to cut the Gordian knot that is the situation we've been put into in Iraq. I don't believe that bolting and going home is the right thing to do -- not because "You broke it, you bought it", but because our actions have put on us a moral obligation to the people of Iraq which must be fulfilled -- but neither do I think that things should continue as they are, at the expense of the lives of our soldiers and those of innocent Iraqis, and (clearly) at the cost of plenty of money we don't have (thanks to Bush).

Marsman has some good thoughts on the subject, on steps that can be taken, once we have someone in power who is willing to see reality for what it is and who will not be misled by dogmatic necessity or the needs of domestic electoral politics (among other influences):

GwB has plainly made a damned mess of world affairs. People arguing otherwise remind me of every extremist twit in history who, surrounded by the crumbling walls of his or her dogma, insisted that everything was really just sunny and great ... like Hitler in his bunker on the last day, prattling on about secret weapons he was ready to unleash; or those Marxists in 1989 who assured the world that the Soviet Union's economy was still rolling forward, as solid as steel.

The fact is that had the man who was REALLY elected in 2000 been allowed to take office, we wouldn't have this mess. We wouldn't have invaded Iraq, nor should have. We'd probably instead be focused on Afghanistan and Pakistan, and any other bin Laden hiding places, and focused on finding REAL ways to increase world security without trashing western values of liberty and freedom.

But that's not what happened, and now we ARE hip-deep in this awful quagmire. And in truth, it's perfectly reasonable for Democrats -- Kevin included -- to be just a little doubtful about what to do. The ShrubReich drove us into this quicksand. They ARE discredited. But that doesn't mean that anyone else should, necessarily, have some magical formula for undoing the mess.

But then again, I think we do know (based on liberal principles) at least some of the best steps we can take. These may not solve the problems, they may not get us out of the quagmire ... but they are far more likely to help us out than any other course of action that I know of.

To start, a new Democratic administration could assiduously begin rebuilding international bridges ... a task that would be made far easier by being able to convincingly distance itself from the ShrubReich's perverse policies of nationalist self-aggrandizement and unilateralism.

Such a spreading of the risks and the costs would be the first necessary step. So would any steps to diffuse the image of "infidels" unilaterally inflicting themselves on an Islamic nation. More important that than any neo-con wet dream of "democratizing" such nations as Syria and Saudi Arabia.

Would any of this be easy or quick ... or certain? Not on your life. But an energetic Democrat could and surely would give it his best shot (and, might I add, any new Democratic administration would be well advised to consider appointing a special envoy to pull much of this off: former President Clinton. Just the guy for the job!).

Another step would be -- as quickly as possible -- to pull together the best academic and NGO experts on Iraq as the world can furnish, and get them to working designing and implementing meaningful reconstruction plans for Iraq. Something, ANYTHING, to get it out of the hands of the GOP "Good Old Boy" contractors now handling it.

I can think of other steps that would be advisable. But the key thing to know is this: the abysmal incompetence of the ShrubReich has truly inflicted our nation with a horrible situation. We ARE in a quagmire now ... and by definition, quagmires are hard to get out of. There are precious few examples (I can't think of any, actually) in which a nation so caught has managed to get out without a lamentable loss of reputation, influence, treasure and lives.

Which brings me, by the way, to another line of comments above: how bad, exactly, IS the ShrubReich? To me, it is plainly evident that GwB is the worst president in the last 107 years (that is, since McKinley), at very least, and quite possibly the worst president in the history of the Republic. For I know of no president (or administration, if we count in all the people around him) in our history that was at once so inflexibly dogmatic, viciously partisan, cravenly indifferent to the consequences of their acts, and insufferably arrogant as the present one.

[Thanks, once more, to Roger.]

Update: Introductory comments edited and somewhat re-written in the interest of coherence.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/14/2003 03:58:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE



Kevin Drum wonders what's it all about:

There were several possible reasons for going to war with Iraq:
  • For humanitarian reasons, to liberate the Iraqis from a brutal dictatorship. But Paul Wolfowitz has already admitted this was not a sufficient reason, and a minute's thought convinces you he's right. There are lots of regimes as bad as Saddam Hussein's, and most of them we just leave alone.

  • Because Iraq posed a serious threat to the United States or, more broadly, to the stability of the Persian Gulf. But the former has never been plausible, and even the latter is speculative at best.

  • Because we need a large and extended military presence in the heart of the Middle East as a platform to reform the Arab world. This is the neocon plan, and whether you buy it or not, at least there's some logic to it. But if Powell is telling the truth, he's saying that this isn't our plan.
In other words, none of these add up. So why did we really invade Iraq? And I don't mean Christopher Hitchens' reason or Kenneth Pollack's reason, I mean George Bush's reason. There had to be some motive, even if it was a lousy one.

Of course, I suppose there are other possibilities too. It was all about oil. It was because George Bush was avenging his father. It was because the Christian Right is pulling the strings and they want Armageddon in the Middle East.

I just don't know, and it drives me nuts.

Kevin's right that it doesn't make any sense. I suspect that there are various and semi-contradictory reasons for Bush's Iraq policy (neocon ideology, Rovian political calculation, Haliburtonian greed-feeding, as well as those mentioned above), which is why it doesn't cohere and defies rational analysis.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/14/2003 03:06:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


20 Questions

This, from an article by William Bunch in the Philadephia Daily News, is making the rounds, with good reason:

1. What did National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice tell President Bush about al Qaeda threats against the United States in a still-secret briefing on Aug. 6, 2001?

Rice has suggested in vague terms that the president's brief - prepared daily by the CIA - included information that morning about Osama bin Laden's methods of operation - including hijacking. But when the congressional committee probing Sept. 11 asked to see the report, Bush claimed executive privilege and refused to release it.

2. Why did Attorney General John Ashcroft and some Pentagon officials cancel commercial-airline trips before Sept. 11?

On July 26, 2001 - 47 days before the Sept. 11 attacks - CBS News reported that Ashcroft was flying expensive charters rather than commercial flights because of a "threat assessment" by the FBI. CBS said, "Ashcroft has been advised to travel only by private jet for the remainder of his term." Newsweek later reported that on Sept. 10, 2001, "a group of top Pentagon officials suddenly canceled travel plans for the next morning, apparently because of security concerns."

Did either Ashcroft or the Pentagon have advance information about a 9/11-style attack and, if so, why wasn't this shared with the American public?

3. Who made a small fortune "shorting" airline and insurance stocks before Sept. 11?

On Sept. 10, 2001, the trading ratio on United Airlines was 25 times greater than normal at the Pacific Exchange, where traders could buy "puts," high-risk bets that the price of a company's stock will fall sharply. The next day, two hijacked United jetliners crashed, causing the company's shares to plummet and ultimately leading the airline into bankruptcy. CBS News later reported that at intelligence agencies, "alarm bells were sounding over unusual trading in the U.S. stock options market" on the day before the attacks.

The unusual stock trading suggests that someone with a sophisticated knowledge of finance also had advance information about the impending attack. But two years later, no one has been charged in this matter, and officials have not indicated even if the probe is still open.

4. Are all 19 people identified by the government as participants in the Sept. 11 attacks really the hijackers?

Probably not. Just 10 days after the attacks, a report by the British Broadcasting Corp. said that some of the supposed hijackers identified by the FBI appeared to be alive and well. The BBC story said Abdelaziz al-Omari, named as the pilot who crashed the jet into the World Trade Center's North Tower, was reported by Saudi authorities to be working as an electrical engineer. He reported his passport had been stolen in Denver in 1995. Saudi officials said it was possible that another three people whose names appear on the FBI list also are alive.

The article, which can be read at Unanswered Questions, makes a persuasive case that another man was posing as Ziad Jarrah, the alleged pilot of hijacked Flight 93, which crashed in Shanksville, Pa. So why did this story line vanish into thin air?

5. Did any of the hijackers smuggle guns on board as reported in calls from both Flight 11 and Flight 93?

Quite possibly. An internal Federal Aviation Administration memo written at 5:30 p.m. on the day of the attacks said that a passenger aboard American Airlines Flight 11 - Israeli-American Daniel Lewin - had been shot to death by a single bullet before the jet slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The FAA insists the memo was a mistaken "first draft," even though the alleged shooting is described in great detail.

Aboard Flight 93, passenger Thomas Burnett told his wife, Deena, in a 9:27 a.m. cell-phone call: "The hijackers have already knifed a guy, one of them has a gun, and they are telling us there is a bomb on board."

Why has this angle of Sept. 11 not been investigated in more detail?

6. Why did the NORAD air defense network fail to intercept the four hijacked jets?

During the depths of the Cold War, Americans went to bed with the somewhat reassuring belief that jet fighters would intercept anyone launching a first strike against the United States. That myth was shattered on 9/11, when four hijacked-jetliners-turned-into-deadly-missiles cruised the American skies with impunity for nearly two hours.

Why did the North American Aerospace Defense Command seem unaware of literally dozens of warnings that hijacked jetliners could be used as weapons? Why does NORAD claim it did not learn that Flight 11 - the first jet to strike the World Trade Center about 8:45 a.m. - had been hijacked until 8:40 a.m., some 25 minutes after the transponder was shut off and an astounding 15 minutes after flight controllers heard a hijacker say, "We have some planes..."?

Why didn't the fighters that were finally scrambled at Otis Air Force Base in Massachusetts and Langley Air Force Base in Virginia fly at top, supersonic speeds? Why didn't fighters immediately take off from Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, D.C.? Why was nothing done to intercept American Airlines Flight 77, which struck the Pentagon, when officials knew it had been had been hijacked some 47 minutes earlier?

And why has no one been disciplined for the worst breakdown in national defense since Pearl Harbor?

7. Why did President Bush continue reading a story to Florida grade-schoolers for nearly a half-hour during the worst attack on America in its history?

In arguably the greatest understatement in U.S. history, Bush told a questioner at a California town-hall meeting in January 2002 that 9/11 "was an interesting day." Interesting, indeed. In the two years since the attacks, questions have only grown about the president's bizarre behavior that morning, when he was informed in a Sarasota classroom that America was under attack.

"I couldn't stop watching the president sitting there, listening to second-graders, while my husband was burning in a building," World Trade Center widow Lorie van Auken, a leader of relatives of Sept. 11 victims who have raised questions about the attacks, told Gail Sheehy in the New York Observer.

Why did Bush read a children's story about a pet goat and stay in the classroom for more than a half-hour after the first plane struck the World Trade Center and roughly 15 minutes after Chief of Staff Andrew Card told him that it had been a deliberate attack? Why didn't he take more decisive action, and why wasn't he hustled to a secure area while the attacks were clearly still under way?

Conspiracy advocates have cited these strange lapses as evidence that Bush knew about the attacks ahead of time, but why would anyone with advance knowledge appear so clueless?

For a fascinating read on the subject, go to: An Interesting Day.

8. How did Flight 93 crash in western Pennsylvania?

The most popular version - that heroic passengers who fought with the hijackers successfully stormed the cockpit - has become so widely accepted that people were jarred last month when an Associated Press report seemed to contradict it. The AP story took one line out of a congressional report and wrote that the FBI now believes the hijackers crashed the plane on purpose.

Many were dismayed that the FBI would change its story, but the government had never put out an official story. Some unidentified government officials had first floated the hijackers-crashed-the-plane-on-purpose theory in late 2001.

Based solely on circumstantial evidence from several cell-phone calls made by passengers, most of the public and the mainstream media have come to believe that the plane crashed because of a struggle between the passengers and the hijackers.

Meanwhile, the FBI reportedly has enough hard information about what really happened on Flight 93 to have worked up a flight-simulation video. But that video, the cockpit audio recording and the hard data from the other "black box," the flight data recorder, is still top secret.

The issue symbolizes the government's continuing refusal to release information about what really happened on Sept. 11. Even some relatives of Flight 93 victims are growing unhappy that more information has not been publicized.

9. Was Zacarias Moussaoui really "the 20th hijacker"?

Almost certainly not, even though the allegation has been repeated hundreds of times in the media. The Moroccan native, who has been in custody since his August 2001 arrest on immigration charges after he attended a flight-training school in Minneapolis, has admitted that he is a member of al Qaeda and wanted to commit terrorist acts in America. But he arrived here much later than the Sept. 11 hijackers and reportedly had no contacts with them.

The issue is important because some family members of Sept. 11 victims who are seeking information about what happened that day have been turned down because of the ongoing Moussaoui case.

10. Where are the planes' "black boxes"?

Nothing is more critical to learning about air disasters than the so-called "black boxes." They are the 30-minute audio recordings of cockpit chatter and the fight-data inputs which show the speed, direction and operational condition of the plane, and which are encased in material designed to withstand a high-speed crash. Yet the government has continued to keep a lid of secrecy on the black boxes from Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon, and from Flight 93.

FBI Director Robert Mueller has said Flight 77's data recorder provided altitude, speed, headings and other information, but the voice recorder contained nothing useful. Why not? Why not release the information to the public? Why has a docile mainstream media not demanded this information?

And how come none of the four "indestructible" black boxes was recovered from the World Trade Center, even as investigators said that a passport belonging to one of the hijackers had been found in the rubble, undamaged, a week after the towers's collapse?

11. Why were Donald Rumsfeld and other U.S. officials so quick to link Saddam Hussein to the attacks?

CBS News reported that the defense secretary was making notes about invading Iraq even before the fires from Flight 77 had been extinguished on the other side of the Pentagon. Rumsfeld wrote that he wanted "best info fast. Judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H." - Saddam Hussein - "at the same time. Not only UBL" - Osama bin Laden. He added: "Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not."

Rumsfeld and a number of other Bush administration officials have ties to a once-obscure policy group called the Project for a New American Century. In a 2000 white paper, PNAC - which had long urged an American invasion of Iraq - said that for the United States to assert itself properly as the world's lone superpower, "some catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor" - would be required.

That new Pearl Harbor came - two years ago today.

12.Why did 7 World Trade Center collapse?

7 World Trade Center, a 47-story building, was not struck by an aircraft on Sept. 11, yet the building mysteriously collapsed at 5:20 p.m. that afternoon. Apparently debris from the jetliner attacks on the adjacent twin towers started a fire at No. 7. But as the New York Times noted: "No building like it, a modern, steel-reinforced high-rise, had ever collapsed because of an uncontrolled fire." Investigators have speculated that excess diesel fuel for emergency generators fanned the flames, but the full story may never be known.

Some questions also have lingered about why the two 110-story towers collapsed. But investigators think the burning jet fuel - compounded by paper-and-electronics-laden cubicles and possibly insulation matter - burned long enough, at temperatures exceeding 1,000 degrees, to weaken the structural steel.

13. Why did the Bush administration lie about dangerously high levels of toxins and hazardous particles after the WTC collapse?

Because apparently some White House officials felt that the health of the American economy and Wall Street was more important than the health of New York City residents who lived nearby. For example, on Sept. 16, 2001, a draft press release from the Environmental Protection Agency said: "Recent samples of dust gathered by OSHA on Water Street showed higher levels of asbestos in EPA tests." That was deleted and replaced with this: "The new samples confirm previous reports that ambient air quality meets OSHA standards and consequently is not a cause for public concern."

A key figure in the changes was the head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, who - you can't make this stuff up - is a lawyer who formerly represented the asbestos industry.

In fact, the EPA told workers and residents that it was safe to return to lower Manhattan at a time when some test results had not been analyzed and other key tests had not even been performed. The outcome? Key medical professionals say thousands of New Yorkers have developed respiratory illnesses associated with exposure to the dust. Symptoms include periodic gasping for air, a choking sensation and unusual sensitivity to airborne irritants, apparently from a type of "occupational asthma" called Reactive Airways Disease Syndrome.

14. Where is Dick Cheney's undisclosed location?

We'll never know, but a widely reported rumor was that it was right here in the Keystone State. The speculation is the vice president spent the days after the attack at Site R, a secretive Cold War-era site, also known as Alternate Joint Communications Center, deep inside Raven Rock Mountain. The mountain is in western Pennsylvania, near Waynesboro.

15. What happened to the more than $1 billion that Americans donated after the attack?

The largest recipient, the American Red Cross, says it already has used $741 million from its Liberty Fund to help more than 55,000 families cope with the death of loved ones, serious injuries, physical and mental health concerns, financial loss, homelessness and other effects of the attacks.

Of that, $596 million was in the form of direct financial assistance to families of those killed or seriously injured, as well as to displaced workers, residents and emergency personnel who were seriously affected. Depending on individual needs, this financial assistance included up to a full year's living expenses, estate and special-circumstances cash grants, and more.

16. What was the role of Pakistan's spy agency in the Sept. 11 attacks and the subsequent murder of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl?

The idea that Pakistan is considered a leading American ally in the war on terror is both ironic and a bit disturbing when one considers that there are proven links between Pakistan's intelligence agency, the notorious ISI, and the Taliban, as well as likely ties to al Qaeda and bin Laden.

In October 2001, the Wall Street Journal and many reputable news organizations in South Asia reported that the head of the ISI, Lt. Gen. Mahmoud Ahmad, was fired after being linked to a $100,000 payment that had been wired to al Qaeda hijacker Mohamed Atta in America to pay for the Sept. 11 attacks. The New York Times said the intelligence service even used al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan to train covert operatives for use in a war of terror against India.

In recent weeks, two troubling reports have emerged. The highly regarded French journalist Bernard-Henri Levy has written that Wall Street Journal reporter Pearl had been murdered by elements of the ISI because he'd learned that al Qaeda "is largely controlled by the Pakistani secret service" and that Islamic extremists control the nation's nuclear weapons. And investigative reporter Gerald Posner writes that bin Laden lieutenant Abu Zubaydah not only revealed a link to top Saudis but also to high-ranking Pakistani air force officer Mushaf Ali Mir. Mir, who is said to have cut protection deals in secret meetings with bin Laden, died earlier this year in a plane crash that also killed his wife and closest confidants.

17. Who killed five Americans with anthrax?

Actually, it's not clear whether this question should even be on this list. Two years later, it's not known whether the anthrax-laden letters that killed five Americans from Connecticut to Florida, and targeted some leading Democratic pols and TV news anchors, had anything to do with the Sept. 11 attacks. Indeed, the list of potential suspects - al Qaeda terrorists, Saddam, crackpot U.S. scientists - hasn't been narrowed down. Our government's utter cluelessness about a reign of terror that rattled the nation and dominated the headlines in fall 2001 is an investigative failure of epic proportions.

One man, a former Army biomedical researcher named Steven J. Hatfill, has been labeled "a person of interest" by the FBI, but nothing definitive has linked Hatfill to the crime. Just this summer, federal investigators drained a Frederick, Md., pond where they speculated the anthrax letters might have been assembled, but tests of soil samples taken after the draining yielded no evidence of biological weapons. And now Hatfill has sued the government for invading his privacy - in a case that may never be solved.

18. What happened to the probe into C-4 explosives found in a Philadelphia bus terminal in fall 2001?

Do you remember this front-page headline from Oct. 20, 2001: "In Phila. locker, a lethal find; Explosive 'would probably have leveled' bus depot." You can be forgiven if you don't. There's been no mention in local media since late 2001 of the alarming discovery of one-third of a pound of lethal C-4 and 1,000 feet of military detonation cord in a locker at the Greyhound bus terminal in Center City, even though it's possibly the most direct link between Philadelphia and domestic terrorism.

Investigators conceded a couple of months into their probe that the trail had gone stone-cold. They speculated that the material had been stolen from an Army base and that the culprit, who rented the locker on Sept. 29, 2001, decided that the material was too hot to handle after the Sept. 11 attacks. The truth may never be known.

19. What is in the 28 blacked-out pages of the congressional Sept. 11 report?

It's not a total mystery. Everyone has acknowledged that the pages contain highly embarrassing information about links between the Sept. 11 hijackers and the government of Saudi Arabia, America's supposed ally in the Middle East and home to the world's largest oil reserves. One of those officials is said to be Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar, whose wife, Princess Haifa, indirectly funded at least two of the Sept. 11 terrorists during their time in San Diego. The prince is so close to the Bush family that he's known, incredibly, as "Bandar Bush." This week, Time reports that just after the Sept. 11 attacks, when U.S. commercial airspace was still closed to our citizens, Bush allowed a jet to stop at 10 U.S. cities to pick up and fly home 140 prominent Saudis, including relatives of bin Laden.

A new must-read book by investigative reporter Posner - "Why America Slept" - takes the conspiracy to the highest of levels of the Saudi government. He says a top bin Laden lieutenant, Abu Zubaydah, who was captured in March 2002, stunned investigators when - allegedly given the "truth serum" sodium pentothal - fingered three top Saudis. They were Prince Ahmed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, the Westernized owner of 2002 Kentucky Derby winner War Emblem; Prince Turki al-Faisal bin Abdul Aziz, the kingdom's longtime intelligence chief, and Prince Fahd bin Turki bin Saud al-Kabir.

The most incredible part of the story is what happened next. In an eight-day period in late July 2002, Prince Ahmed died at age 43 from a heart attack, Prince Turki died in a car crash and Prince Fahd "died of thirst." Coincidence? What do you think?

20. Where is Osama bin Laden?

Remember how President Bush vowed on Sept. 17, 2001, that he was determined to catch bin Laden "dead or alive"? Well, the good news is that if he wants bin Laden "alive," there's still a chance that could happen. Intelligence experts now agree that bin Laden successfully escaped his Tora Bora hideout in Afghanistan back in December 2001 - when the U.S. failed to commit ample manpower to the chase - and that the al Qaeda leader is alive and well, and plotting new attacks.

"We don't know where he is," Army Col. Rodney Davis, spokesman for America's forces in Afghanistan, said recently. But Newsweek seems to know where to find bin Laden: in the remote, mountainous - and lawless - Kunar province of Afghanistan. The magazine chillingly reported that just five short months ago, bin Laden convened the biggest terror summit since Sept. 11 at a mountain stronghold there. The participants reportedly included three top-ranking representatives from the Taliban, several senior al Qaeda operatives and leaders from radical Islamic groups in Chechnya and Uzbekistan. The topic was carrying out attacks against U.S. interests inside Iraq.

The most chilling aspect of the Newsweek report is that bin Laden has access to biological weapons and is determined to find a way to use them against the United States. A source from the Taliban told the magazine: "Osama's next step will be unbelievable."

But this week, ABC News reported that the hunt for bin Laden has been narrowed to a different area - a 40-square-mile section of the Waziristan region of Pakistan. The report said that local residents suspected of trying to inform Americans about bin Laden's whereabouts were executed in broad daylight.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/14/2003 02:44:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Cellphone stories

Once Upon a Time There Were No Cellphones ...

By Nancy Smiler Levinson

Nancy Smiler Levinson writes books for young readers.

September 13, 2003

Story 1

One afternoon this summer at Coldwater Park, I happened to see a mother sitting on a sidewalk bench, engaged in conversation on a cellphone.

Her young son was riding a tricycle back and forth on the walk, which declined slightly toward the street. Suddenly he found himself rolling to the end of the walk, unable to stop. In a flash the tricycle tumbled over the curb into the street between two parked cars, and the boy fell off headfirst.

I rushed to help. At that moment the mother looked up from her telephone, saw the accident and came running.

"What happened, Adam?" she cried, gathering him into her arms. "Didn't I tell you to stay near Mommy?"

Story 2

One morning at a local public library, a librarian was reading to preschoolers. Since the children were very young, it was required that each be accompanied by an adult.

In the middle of a story, a mother's cellphone rang. She pulled the telephone from her purse and started talking. The librarian stopped reading and asked, "Could you please put the cellphone away?"

The mother continued talking, and the librarian repeated her request.

The mother then stood and said, "I'll talk outside the room, if that's what you want," and she turned to leave. Her child, 2 years old, burst into tears and called, "Mommy, mommy" The librarian told the mother it was not permissible to leave a child there, especially now that the child was distressed.

Finally, the mother said into the phone, "I'll call you later," and returned to her seat. She sat the remainder of the story hour, glowering at the librarian.

Story 3

One day I stood waiting to meet a friend inside a delicatessen in Los Angeles. A father and a girl, about 5 years old, sat in a front booth. She was dressed in a Minnie Mouse dress. On her head she wore a tall, pointed princess hat, with a long, flowing organdy ribbon fastened at the top. In front of her on the table sat a plate of half-finished scrambled eggs and an empty milk glass.

Her father, across the booth, was talking on a cellphone. For several minutes she watched him. Then she began folding her napkin, unfolding it and folding it again into different shapes.

We caught each other's eye. She seemed glad to make contact with someone.

"How pretty you look in your dress and hat," I told her.

She beamed and said, "Thank you." At last the father turned off his telephone.

"Can I have another glass of milk, Daddy?" she asked.

Just then the cellphone rang again. Ignoring her question, he answered. At that moment the waitress brought the check, and he left it with the money on the table. Continuing to talk, he motioned "come on" to his child and walked briskly toward the door.

The little girl followed, the organdy ribbon on her hat trailing behind. She remained invisible to her father.

These are not fairy tales. They are true stories. Once upon a time, parents offered conversation and attention to their children and granted them a measure of respect.

The End.

[via CalPundit]

I believe these stories are true, because I've seen similar things happen on the playground when I'm with my 4-year-old son. To be fair, however, even though I'm rarely tied up on the cellphone, I have caught myself stinting Connor of the attention he desires by reading or being otherwise occupied when he wants me. I hope that it doesn't happen too often, but it does happen.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/14/2003 02:33:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Two heads in one

And speaking of Matthew Yglesias, here he points out of the the structural flaws in the American democracy:

Most countries separate the role of head of state (symbol of national unity) from that of head of government (practical formulator of policy). Think of the United Kingdom with its queen and its prime minister, or Israel with its president (head of state) and prime minister (leader of the government). In the United States, however, the roles are fused into the office of the president, who is called upon to be both the country's emotional center and the designer of policy responses -- meaning that when tragedies are to be commemorated, there is no nonpartisan figurehead to parade in front of the cameras

The result is that the President (or, in the current case, the person resident in the White House) becomes the repository of the nation's emotional responses, which leads to things like Bush's approval ratings jumping up to very high levels after 9/11, on the basis of nothing more than a couple of televised p.r. events and a half-decent speech before Congress. People really needed to believe that we had a leader at the helm, and they allow themselves to see in Bush attributes and abilities that clearly were not (and are not) there.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/14/2003 02:16:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Who fights terrorism?

TAPPED weighs in on the claim that fighting terrorism is a Republican cause. (By the way, does it seem to anyone else that the tone of TAPPED has shifted a little lately, coincident with Matthew Yglesias having been absorbed into the hive mind there? Could be no connection, of course, but...):

Fighting terrorism has never been a Republican cause. In fact, it is a Republican president who is bungling the war on terrorism. It was a Republican president and his administration who resisted the creation of a Department of Homeland Security for months and, once he decided -- after talking-points level deliberation -- to allow one, avoided the most important reform: creating a domestic intelligence agency. It was a Republican president who pushed for a premature war in Iraq that did little to make us safer from terrorists, and in fact required the diversion of both intelligence resources and combat troops from the search for Osama bin Laden. (It was also the Bush administration's initial eagerness to avoid too many boots on the ground in Afghanistan -- no nation-building going on here! -- that limited both Operation Anaconda and the assault on Tora Bora, allowing bin Laden to escape from our noose in the first place.) It is a Republican president whose aides attacked, undercut and subverted the intelligence institutions whose efficacy is crucial to ferreting out and fighting terrorists. It is a Republican president who has deliberately alienated those foreign allies who might have aided us with manpower and funding for Iraq, leaving our active duty military overstretched, our homeland security forces -- reservists, many of whom are cops, EMTs, firemen and other homeland security first-responders in civilian life -- deployed far abroad, and our Iraq coalition too lacking in troops to properly police the country. It is a Republican president who never once, in the wake of 9-11, used his bully pulpit to call on young Americans to volunteer for the military or its reserves, a move that might have alleviated -- and still could -- some of the strain our armed forces have labored under during the past two years of heightened alerts and longer deployments. As Jonathan Chait pointed out in The New Republic, it is a Republican president and his Republican allies in Congress who have consistently and repeatedly failed to appropriate funds for the most pressing homeland-security needs, from computer upgrades for the FBI, to improved security for ports and nuclear facilities, to hiring new customs agents.

[Thanks to Roger (again!) for the pointer.]

First, we find out that the stock market does better under Democratic administrations than it does under Republican ones, and now this. Next thing you know, we'll find out that Republicans aren't unanimously virtuous drug-free teetotalers respectful of family values and the sanctity of marriage.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/14/2003 02:02:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Thoughts...Stop Nagging Me!

My friend Roger wrote me to recommend a blog, Thoughts...Stop Nagging Me! by Amitava "Jay" Mazumdar. I'm still rather pressed for time, so I haven't yet had the chance to do anything but glance at it, but since I trust Roger's judgment implicitly, I'm passing his recommendation on, and I've added it to the blogroll.

Here's an excerpt from one of his latest posts:

What motivated the Bush administration to invade Iraq?

It's been hard for me to figure out exactly what it was that motivated the Bush administration to start a war that its own intelligence demonstrated was unnecessary. Rep. Dennis Kucinich on Diane Riehm this morning accused the Bush administration of fighting the war purely for domestic political reasons. Others believe the war is meant solely to line the pockets of wealthy contributors. However arrogant I believe the Bush administration is, I don't think it's evil.


It's clear to me that this war is the result of ideological zealotry that existed prior to September 11, 2001. The neoconservatives were absolutely committed to overthrowing Saddam's regime, no matter the financial or political cost, or the implications to international law. We know now that the war had little to do with WMDs, as their commitment is not lessened by our failure to find any. So what gives?

I think that the neoconservatives have persuaded themselves that the security of the United States is intricately and irrevocably linked to Israeli security. Any threat to Israel, in this view of the world, is a threat to the United States, irrespective of the fact that the Palestinian terror groups have shown little interest in attacking U.S. interests and have demonstrated no links to al Qaeda. As such, this war for Iraq isn't so much a war to liberate the Iraqi people as it was a war to reduce Israel's list of enemies by one, and then pressure Israel's hostile neighbors, from a new position of strength within the region, to withdraw their support for anti-Israel terrorist organizations.


I think any reasonable person not blinded by ideology would have to concede that preemptively overthrowing an Arab government and occupying an Arab country, at the cost of hundreds of billions of dollars, solely for the sake of another nation is good samaritanism gone mad -- and not least because the solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict has been time again proven to not be military victory, but a political settlement.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/14/2003 12:20:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


But he's our General

Michael Moore is a better filmmaker and propagandist than he is a political thinker, but he has some straightforward advice for Wesley Clark: Run!

I have spent a lot of time checking you out. And what I've learned about you corresponds to my experience with you back in March. You seem to be a man of integrity. You seem not afraid to speak the truth. I liked your answer when you were asked your position on gun control: "If you are the type of person who likes assault weapons, there is a place for you -- the United States Army. We have them."

In addition to being first in your class at West Point, a four star general from Arkansas, and the former Supreme Commander of NATO -- enough right there that should give pause to any peace-loving person -- I have discovered that...

1. You oppose the Patriot Act and would fight the expansion of its powers.

2. You are firmly pro-choice.

3. You filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of the University of Michigan's affirmative action case.

4. You would get rid of the Bush tax "cut" and make the rich pay their fair share.

5. You respect the views of our allies and want to work with them and with the rest of the international community.

6. And you oppose war. You have said that war should always be the "last resort" and that it is military men such as yourself who are the most for peace because it is YOU and your soldiers who have to do the dying. You find something unsettling about a commander-in-chief who dons a flight suit and pretends to be Top Gun, a stunt that dishonored those who have died in that flight suit in the service of their country.

General Clark, last night I finally got to meet you in person. I would like to share with others what I said to you privately: You may be the person who can defeat George W. Bush in next year's election.

This is not an endorsement. For me, it's too early for that.

[Thanks for Ves for bringing Moore's letter to my attention]

I'm conflicted about Clark. I like him, and like what I know of his positions (which isn't all that much), but think he's probably had much too little experience as a politician and an executive to be the ideal candidate for President -- but certainly he's much, much more qualified to be in the Oval Office than the current resident of the White House. Whether he's better than the other liberal candidates is not as certain as some people seem to think, and I am very concerned about what the effect of his entering the race would be. Given the enormous fund-raising advantage Bush has, it would be a darn shame if the Democrats, in general, and Dean in particular, had to raise a lot of extra money in order to battle it out against a new candidate.

I've still of the mind that Clark would be best as a Vice Presidential candidate, lending support and cover on national security issues to another candidate, like Dean, or perhaps even Kerry, but primarily because I don't think he can go the distance, considering the tremendous systemic disadvantages working against him because of his late entry into the race.

It worries me that it appears to me that our primary attraction to Clark comes about because he's a general, and (for once) he's our general, a rarity for Democrats, and we really can't wait for the opportunity to show him off to the world, an icon for all to see.

Isn't that basically what Moore is saying?

Update: Edited to re-write the final paragraphs to express better what I was thinking.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/14/2003 12:07:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Ed Fitzgerald

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Bullshit, trolling, unthinking knee-jerk dogmatism and the drivel of idiots will be ruthlessly deleted and the posters banned.

Entertaining, interesting, intelligent, informed and informative comments will always be welcome, even when I disagree with them.

I am the sole judge of which of these qualities pertains.

All e-mail received is subject to being published on unfutz without identifying names or addresses.

I correct typos and other simple errors of grammar, syntax, style and presentation in my posts after the fact without necessarily posting notification of the change.

Substantive textual changes, especially reversals or major corrections, will be noted in an "Update" or a footnote.

Also, illustrations may be added to entries after their initial publication.
the story so far
unfutz: toiling in almost complete obscurity for almost 1500 days
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the proud unfutz guarantee
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.

If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.

(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)

Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.

original content
© 2003-2008
Ed Fitzgerald


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