Friday, September 29, 2006

America, the beautiful

Boldly going where America has never gone before, the headlines:

House Approves Power for Warrantless Wiretaps

Senate Approves Broad New Rules to Try Detainees

Book Says Bush Ignored Urgent Warning on Iraq

Abramoff and Rove Had 82 Contacts, Report Says

After Burst of Violence, as Many as 60 Bodies Are Found in Baghdad

Congress Is Told of Failures of Rebuilding Work in Iraq

Poll Says Most Iraqis Want U.S. Out

Senate Moves Toward Action on Border Fence

Bush Attacks Democrats Over Iraq and Terror

“Five years after 9/11, the worst attack on the American homeland in our history, the Democrats offer nothing but criticism and obstruction and endless second-guessing,” Mr. Bush said at a fund-raising event for Gov. Bob Riley. “The party of F.D.R. and the party of Harry Truman has become the party of cut and run.”

Fuck you, you incompetent, fascistic ass. I mean, "Mr. President."

Read it:

lyrics by Katherine Lee Bates;
music composed by Samuel A. Ward

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassion'd stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness.

America! America!
God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

O beautiful for heroes prov'd
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life.

America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev'ry gain divine.

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears.

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.

Sing it:

words and music by Woody Guthrie

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me

As I was walking a ribbon of highway
I saw above me an endless skyway
I saw below me a golden valley
This land was made for you and me


I've roamed and rambled and I've followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
And all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me


The sun comes shining as I was strolling
The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
The fog was lifting a voice come chanting
This land was made for you and me


As I was walkin' - I saw a sign there
And that sign said - no tress passin'
But on the other side .... it didn't say nothin!
Now that side was made for you and me!


In the squares of the city - In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office - I see my people
And some are grumblin' and some are wonderin'
If this land's still made for you and me.

Chorus (2x)

©1956 (renewed 1984), 1958 (renewed 1986) and 1970 TRO-Ludlow Music, Inc. (

Heed it:


Oh my name it is nothin'
My age it means less
The country I come from
Is called the Midwest
I's taught and brought up there
The laws to abide
And that land that I live in
Has God on its side.

Oh the history books tell it
They tell it so well
The cavalries charged
The Indians fell
The cavalries charged
The Indians died
Oh the country was young
With God on its side.

Oh the Spanish-American
War had its day
And the Civil War too
Was soon laid away
And the names of the heroes
I's made to memorize
With guns in their hands
And God on their side.

Oh the First World War, boys
It closed out its fate
The reason for fighting
I never got straight
But I learned to accept it
Accept it with pride
For you don't count the dead
When God's on your side.

When the Second World War
Came to an end
We forgave the Germans
And we were friends
Though they murdered six million
In the ovens they fried
The Germans now too
Have God on their side.

I've learned to hate Russians
All through my whole life
If another war starts
It's them we must fight
To hate them and fear them
To run and to hide
And accept it all bravely
With God on my side.

But now we got weapons
Of the chemical dust
If fire them we're forced to
Then fire them we must
One push of the button
And a shot the world wide
And you never ask questions
When God's on your side.

In a many dark hour
I've been thinkin' about this
That Jesus Christ
Was betrayed by a kiss
But I can't think for you
You'll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side.

So now as I'm leavin'
I'm weary as Hell
The confusion I'm feelin'
Ain't no tongue can tell
The words fill my head
And fall to the floor
If God's on our side
He'll stop the next war.

Copyright © 1963; renewed 1991 Special Rider Music

The music's over. There's nothing left for us here but the shrillness.

"Patently unconstitutional"

That's what Arlen Specter called the new detainee rules approved by the Senate yesterday. He voted for the bill.

Here's the Democrats who voted for it:

Carper, Del
Johnson, S.D.
Landrieu, La
Lautenberg, NJ (what was he thinking?)
Lieberman, Ct (surprise, surprise)
Menendez, NJ (another Blue State Democrat afraid to turn the lights off at night)
Nelson, Fla
Nelson, Neb
Pryor, Ark
Rockefeller, W. Va (what a disappointment)
Salazar, Col
Stabenow, Mich

A sad day for our country, our reputation, our history.

Bin Laden's and the other Salafist extremists' goal, in addition to taking the entire Muslim world back 900 years to a glorified time of Islamic power, is to force us to violently react to their attacks and threats, and hence dismantle the freedoms and democratic values we have held dear since the founding of the Republic.

With yesterday's vote, one could argue that we have lost another battle in the "War on Terrorism," if not the war itself.

All of this for Republicans to try to gain an edge in the midterm elections.

They are, as Thaddeus Stevens once said of a colleague, slinking in their own slime.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The "values" party

Bernie Kerik, the gift that keeps on giving, now with extra-added Jeanine and Albert Pirro.

Ms. Pirro yesterday did not deny the substance of the conversations as reported by WNBC. The station said that in a profanity-laced exchange, the two discussed whether Mr. Kerik’s company could place a recording device on her husband’s boat to capture evidence of any trysts.

In the conversations, WNBC said, Ms. Pirro expressed frustration that her husband might be cheating on her.

At one point, Ms. Pirro complained that an employee of Mr. Kerik seemed hesitant to plant a recording device and offered what she suggested was a plausible reason that workers might be on the boat.

“We can just simply say, if there is an issue, that I am redecorating it for our anniversary,” Ms. Pirro said, according to the WNBC report.

Mr. Kerik, WNBC said, spoke during the conversation with concern that recording conversations on the boat might be problematic, although the report did not specify what the problems were. “Everybody is panic-stricken because it’s you,” Mr. Kerik was quoted as telling Ms. Pirro.

Ms. Pirro, swearing, said during one conversation that if need be, she would put the monitoring device on the boat herself.

WNBC reported that Mr. Kerik, just minutes later, called an employee at Mr. Giuliani’s consulting firm and asked him to find a recording device. A spokeswoman for Mr. Giuliani, Sunny Mindel, declined to comment yesterday.

This all took place months after Kerik's fall from Homeland Security grace. On an otherwise depressing blogday, I give thanks for this Kast of Karakters.

Ishtar? Ohhhh, iftar.

Curious headline this morning.

Bush urges bickering allies on terrorism

President of the United States: "Heh, heh. Yeah, go ahead and fight. You know you want to. In the alley behind the playground. Heh.

The story continues.

Judging by the body language Bush himself had said he would be watching, there were plenty of tensions to overcome over a light dinner of soup, sea bass and salad. The meal was billed as an "iftar," a meal that breaks the daytime fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Musharraf and Karzai are Muslims.

The Afghan and Pakistani leaders stood stiffly on either side of Bush during a brief Rose Garden appearance before they ate.

Question: Is it a good or a bad thing that all of those invited to tonight's rare State Dinner do not consume beverage spirits?

Second question: Did preznit invite them for dinner simply because they are the only other two world leaders who (like, the preznit himeself, publicly) insist on non-alcoholic beer?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"Why are you so stupid?"

President Clinton was, perhaps, the first leading Democratic politician to fall victim to the Mighty Wurlitzer. But as illustrated by his righteously angry smackdown of Fox News's Chris Wallace (another example of the decline of the human race, one generation at a time) the other day, he is the first to refuse to roll over in the face of further Swiftboating. David Remnick's thoughtful, even-handed and fascinating (and like a Clinton monologue, long) piece in the New Yorker is further illustration.

That night, Clinton invited the travelling party to Castelli’s, an Italian restaurant on Mahatma Gandhi Street, near the Mercato, the market area. The original owner had come to Ethiopia in the thirties with Mussolini’s occupying army and stayed behind; the family members who run it now speak fluent Amharic. There were plates of marinated eggplant and zucchini, prosciutto di Parma shipped to Djibouti from Italy and driven to Addis; there were two kinds of spaghetti, two of ravioli; there was roast chicken. On the wall were pictures of Jimmy Carter, Brad Pitt, and Angelina Jolie with the owners.

I sat across from Clinton. There were bags under his eyes, and yet he seemed in a good mood, eating, joking around. (He barely touches wine or other alcohol.) And then, without a question or a prodding comment, Clinton started to talk about Whitewater, about Kenneth Starr, about how allowing the appointment of a special prosecutor had been “the worst decision” of his Presidency. He talked about old enemies in Arkansas, about the Resolution Trust Corporation, about Gennifer Flowers, about Susan Schmidt, of the Washington Post (“a Xerox machine for Ken Starr”). This went on for twenty minutes, at least. A few times, when he started pointing across the table, when his carotid artery seemed to inflate like a jammed garden hose, you could see just how deeply he still feels the attacks of the late nineties.

Someone asked him if he thought it would be unbearable to go through all of it again, as he inevitably would if Hillary ran for President in 2008.

“I don’t care,” he said, “because we know we did nothing wrong.”

Later, Clinton’s aides expressed little surprise at his outburst. John Podesta, who had been at the dinner, said, “He can bring it up and be pissed off all over again, but he really has moved on. He reminds himself of what Mandela told him at Robben Island. Clinton asked, ‘How did you forgive your jailers?’ And Mandela said, ‘When I walked out of the gate I knew that if I continued to hate these people I was still in prison.’ Clinton believes it, but he has to keep reminding himself. That story is a little bit of a prayer.”

Despite Clinton’s declarations of inner peace, his “prayer” does not always keep the furies, the old resentments, at bay. “The method he uses to live with himself is to make a clear and precise argument that this was something that others had done to him and not that he had done to himself,” Leon Panetta said. “Because of his brainpower, he can create a logic for anything. But deep down he would be such a good person if he could just accept the fact that he screwed up and made mistakes, and move on. ”

Rahm Emanuel told me that this was too harsh an interpretation, that the attack on the Clintons in the nineties was so severe and baseless, in his view, that a moment of anger over dinner was nothing. He mentioned a recent report in the Chicago Tribune which revealed that the Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, began his career in Congress with a net worth of three hundred thousand dollars and now has assets of six million, owing largely to an almost fantastical increase in the value of land near a highway project that he helped push through Congress. “The Speaker came in with three hundred thousand dollars and now has six million in real estate and no one asks a question? Your question is ‘Why is Clinton so angry?’ My question is ‘Why are you so stupid?’”

The whole thing is worth a read (particularly if you're on a cross-country flight).

Monday, September 25, 2006

A rare, mouth-agape, pro football post

During last night's Bronco/Patriots (no joy in Red Sox/Pats Nation), I watched a Bronco player vomit at the line of scrimmage. On national TV.

But that doesn't come close to comparing to this.

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Tampa Bay quarterback Chris Simms had his spleen removed after taking several hard hits in 26-24 loss to the Carolina Panthers and was resting comfortably in a hospital Sunday night.

There was no immediate word on how long the fourth-year pro might be sidelined. The recuperation time for a normal person is four to six weeks, though it's unclear how long it might take to heal enough to play football.

''Chris is doing well and we anticipate a full recovery,'' team physician Dr. Joe Diaco said in a brief statement, adding the 26-year-old son of former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms was in stable condition.

Simms had a blood transfusion as part of his treatment and was expected to be hospitalized for several days, Peter King said during a break on NBC's Sunday Night Football, citing a conversation the Sports Illustrated reporter had with Simms' mother, Diana Simms.

Thought he'd injured his ribs. Yeesh.

A comma

Neary 3,000 American service men and women dead, untold thousands of Iraqi civilians. The loss of American prestige and power that only slogging through a three-plus year quagmire can bring. All that is just "a comma" of history to President George W. Bush.

Via Tristero.

Motivation for terrorism, or, John McCain is either a fool or willfully obtuse

Circular logic.

In public comments on Sunday, Republican Congressional leaders did not dispute the accuracy of the reports about the intelligence estimate, although they continued to defend the American presence in Iraq.

”I think it’s obvious that the difficulties we’ve experienced in Iraq have certainly emboldened” terrorist groups, Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, said on the CBS News program “Face the Nation.”

“But I would also argue that these people didn’t need any motivation to attack us on Sept. 11,” he said.

Six years after Sept. 11, and John McCain still doesn't understand that the attacks of that day were not motivated as ends in and of themselves, or as a singular act of revenge motivated by whatever? The scaling up of attacks -- the USS Cole, the African embassies, and finally, the World Trade Center and Pentagon -- were intended to motivate us into an overwhelming over-reaction that would then serve as a recruitment drive for terrorism. And it worked. We used the Sept. 11 attacks as a specious excuse to attack and occupy Iraq.

Now, new found recruits have all the motivation they will ever need. And John McCain, in his statements Sunday, doesn't deny that. He just waves the bloody flag of Sept. 11.

"Straight Talk Express," indeed.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Traveling, business. Postings will be light for a few days.

In the meantime, enjoy this bit of front page foolishness.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Poor Waffles

It's been a couple of days since we last heard from the Editors. I'm beginning to worry about Waffles.

Tortured logic

Habeas corpus is one of our founding ideals.

No more.

The issue that most engaged administration critics was the new bill’s aggressive and possibly constitutionally suspect efforts to keep the courts from hearing many detainees’ challenges or claims based on the Geneva Conventions. Though people charged with war crimes would receive trials before military commissions that largely resemble courts-martial and criminal prosecutions, the administration has announced plans to use just a score of those.

About 430 people are being held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and there is no guarantee that they will ever be tried. The legislation, unchanged by the compromise, would prohibit habeas corpus challenges to these indefinite detentions.

“You’re creating a system,” Ms. Daskal said, “where Khalid Shaikh Mohammed,” called the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, “will have more rights than the low-level detainee who was sold into U.S. custody by bounty hunters.”

Indeed, the propriety of indefinite detentions at Guantánamo will continue to be decided by combatant status review tribunals, or C.S.R.T.’s. The revised rules for military commissions do nothing to alter the tribunals’ unorthodox procedures.

"The C.S.R.T. is the first time in U.S. history in which the lawfulness of a person’s detention is based on evidence secured by torture that’s not shared with the prisoner, that he has the burden to rebut and without the assistance of counsel,” said Joseph Margulies, author of “Guantánamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power” (Simon & Schuster, 2006).

A limited appeal from adverse determinations of these tribunals is permitted, but habeas corpus challenges are not. That means, Professor Freedman said, that “the feature of the bill that does the greatest amount of harm to the American legal system remains untouched.”

William Jefferson Clinton responds

Fox's Wallace got more than he bargained for, me thinks.

Wallace: Do you think you did enough, sir?

Clinton: No, because I didn't get him.

Wallace: Right.

Clinton: But at least I tried. That's the difference in me and some, including all of the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try, they did not try. I tried. So I tried and failed. When I failed, I left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy and the best guy in the country, Dick Clark, who got demoted.

Read, as they say, the whole thing.

Fashionable once again

I remeber that, for a short period of time anyway, open racism upon when exhibited by politicians in the public square.

Attorney General Abbott, a former Texas judge running for re-election this year, has long highlighted his efforts against voter fraud, calling it “an epidemic” and likening it to the infamous ballot-box stuffing in South Texas that won the 1948 Democratic senatorial primary for Lyndon B. Johnson.

But the suit said he had prosecuted only about eight people under the new law, all affiliated with the Democrats and all but one African-American or Hispanic.

Mr. Cruz, the solicitor general, said that other cases involving both parties were under investigation and that in any case the attorney general did not initiate voting fraud cases but received them from local authorities.

In the case of Ms. Meeks, the woman who said investigators had peeped into her bathroom, Angela Hale, a spokeswoman for Mr. Abbott, called her “the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation that stems from a complaint referred to the office of attorney general by a citizen in Tarrant County.”

“The investigation of Ms. Meeks has been conducted professionally and properly, to the full extent allowed by law,” Ms. Hale said in a statement.

Ms. Hale also defended Mr. Abbott’s use, in a PowerPoint presentation on voter fraud, of a postage stamp about sickle cell anemia, an ailment found chiefly among African-Americans, to show how possibly fraudulent mail ballots were examined for suspicious similarities. But she said another exhibit in the presentation, a “clip art” illustration of black voters in line at a polling booth, had been removed.

Joe Lieberman's "Tomorrow Tour"

Joe Lieberman's primary campaign: hilariously inept when it's not threateningly desperate.

The first human within reach is Derosier. Joe grabs his hand and embraces him in a full-on man-clench for the cameras, as though Derosier were a faithful supporter who drove out to the mouth of the Norwalk River just because he’s eager to hear more about Joe’s support for bike trails. I turn to the young staffer next to me and say, “Wait, that’s his driver he just embraced!” She shrugs like, No shit, you idiot, that’s how this works. And she’s right. This event might as well be taking place on a soundstage. All that matters is that the manufactured support looks real on the evening news tonight and in the paper tomorrow.


I get close enough to Joe to ask him if he condones the tactics I saw yesterday. Stories about “Cheeseburgergate” are flying across the blogosphere, and even the Hartford Courant and New York Times reporters are asking Joe about his tactics now. “It’s all part of politics, unfortunately, in this day and age,” he says. But Senator, do you condone the tactics at the machinists’ rally and at Ted’s? He says he doesn’t know anything about those tactics but adds, with righteous indignation, that he did see a picture in this morning’s Courant “of a Lamont supporter attacking two of my kids.” There you go. That seems to be the plan. Get the Lieber kids attacked and then get righteous. A handler cuts off my follow-up question and escorts the senator out of reach.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

GOP "rebels"

Yeah, rebels.

"I'm pleased to say that this agreement preserves the single most potent tool we have in protecting America and foiling terrorist attacks," the president said, shortly after administration officials and key lawmakers announced agreement following a week of high-profile intraparty disagreement.

Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record) of Arizona, one of three GOP lawmakers who told Bush he couldn't have the legislation the way he initially asked for it, said, "The agreement that we've entered into gives the president the tools he needs to continue to fight the war on terror and bring these evil people to justice."

"There's no doubt that the integrity and letter and spirit of the Geneva Conventions have been preserved," McCain said, referring to the international treaties covering the treatment of prisoners in wartime.

We'll see.

Just hope you don't get a taste of the "integrity and 'letter and the spirit of the Geneva Conventions'" like this guy did.

"Rebels." Sheesh. The media has returned to lapdog status, just in time for the run-up to November.

UPDATED to correct a stupid mistake.
8 WWII Veterans speak on Iraq War

And this was filmed two years ago. More about the film, which is about 8 artists work as artists during and in some cases after their experiences in WWII, can be found here:

The not-so-twilight of BushCarthyism

Peter Beinart, he of The Wrastlin' Liberal, or something, has a dream:

This is the most fundamental part of the conservative foreign policy rebellion. McCain and his allies are not merely arguing that respect for human rights serves U.S. interests. They are arguing that human rights actually exist--that they constitute a universal standard above and beyond U.S. actions. The conservative rebels have taken aim at the moral relativism undergirding the Bush administration's supposed commitment to universal liberty. In so doing, they have made it much harder for Bush to equate opposing his policies with coddling the terrorists and endangering the United States. And, just like Eisenhower in 1954, they have reasserted a different kind of conservatism--one that can proudly show its face to the world. Maybe, just maybe, the jig is up.

And it is a dream.

Beinart's contention is that with Warner, McCain, and Graham -- as pro-military Republicans as you can get -- opposing Bush's approach to detainees and worrying about our country's reputation as it fights The Global War on Muslimmunists, then Rove and Bush will not be able to go around the country this Fall attacking Democrats for being soft on Islamonazis. See, three conservative Republicans are opposing him too, so nya, nya, nya, nya, nya.


While the three may force Bush to the negotiating table to come to a compromise (one that will, no doubt, be negated when the House approves Bush's bill and the two competing bills are sent to Committee and the House version prevails, kind of like the Immigration Bill), they will not stop him and his vassals from continuing the tactics of fear. Only his approved (Republican) candidates will keep voters safe in their beds at night. The "Democrat party" cares more about union membership than the safety of your granny, etc. He and Rove will simply ignore this nasty bit of untidyness in Washington, where "the politicians" are trying to stop him from winning the Global War on Whatsis. Warner, Graham, and McCain will simply be lumped in with more unnamed "Democrats" who care more about doing away with the internal combustion engine than with his "Freedom Agenda." And who think "the terrorists" should be given warm milk, a cookie, and a bed tucking each night.

To his credit, Beinart finally recognizes the game has changed, and that Bush is using McCarthyist tactics. But Bush has the full Noise Machine of both the Republican party apparatus and the White House. He isn't some drunken Senator taking on the U.S. Army. And he ain't gonna stop because of that nettlesome McCain.

It doesn't get old

Originally uploaded by vegacura.
Every year I do my best to savor the season as it unfolds, and I think this one may have been the most enjoyable ride since '98. The sophomore non-jinx of Robinson Cano and Chien Ming-Wang; the emergence of Melky Cabrera; the vast improvement -- at age 35 -- of Jorge Posada behind the plate; the talent and style of Johnny Damon; watching Randy Johnson become a different, but still effective pitcher; surviving the loss of the team's corner outfielders (and their combined 250 RBIs); Brian Cashman pulling off the Abreu trade at the deadline; Derek Jeter's best season since 1999 (what should have been his first MVP); sweeping Chicago at home in July; sweeping a five game series in Fenway Park in August.

Congratulations to the New York Yankees, once again, and on to October.

“This year was a lot more difficult, because we had to overcome a lot of injuries,” said closer Mariano Rivera, who has missed three weeks with a strained muscle near his elbow. “It wasn’t easy for us, so definitely, we have to enjoy it.”

Rivera mostly stood to the side of the celebration, smiling as many of his younger teammates whooped it up. Robinson Canó bounded around the room with others, ambushing nearly every teammate with a flood of beer.

The group gathered around Jorge Posada, bouncing and hollering, “Puerto Rico! Puerto Rico!” For Jason Giambi, it was “G! G! G!” For Sal Fasano, “Sally! Sally!” On and on it went.

Torre gave a toast to kick off the revelry, and he went around the room hugging each player, from Bernie Williams to Andy Cannizaro. There were more young players than usual, a fact not lost on Torre.

“This is so different from a lot of Yankee teams, because so much youth was involved,” Torre said. “Last year, Robby Canó and Wang brought us a little more youthful spirit, mixed with the veterans, and they didn’t seem to back off this year. And Melky was sensational.”

Andy Cannizaro?

Watch it, Hugo

He may be "the devil," but he's our devil, dammit.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Lamont speaks.

Full transcript.

At least TAP didn't ask "repeated" questions about Monica Lowinsky.

The dinner, held at the Equinox restaurant, was an on-the-record meeting arranged by aides to Mr. Lamont. It came at the end of his first full day in Washington since the Aug. 8 primary, capping a 14-hour marathon of meetings with national reporters, a handful of union leaders, and top Democratic officials.

Mr. Lamont skipped the wine (''I better not,'' he said with a chuckle) and ordered a caramelized banana tart for dessert but left before it arrived. He and his aides moved to end the interview after the discussion of the Lewinsky scandal, normally an off-limits topic for Democrats.

In answering repeated questions about the scandal, Mr. Lamont noted that he had young children at the time -- his eldest, 19-year-old Emily, sat next to him during the first course but then left.
Our liberal media and their ongoing obsessions.

"...the solitary and stumbling noble stag..."

As Sam Spade would say, "the cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter, eh?"

Supporting the Iranian people

Uh oh.

Republicans joining the axis of appeasement [Michael Ledeen]
Kathryn, you said "natch" about Chafee signing on to the "civil rights for terrorists" movement led by the increasingly unstable Sen McCain. You might also have natched Hagel—who has never seen a tyranny with which he didn't want to have a deep philosophical discussion—and Lugar, who is the State Dept's ambassador to the Senate. Lugar is so desperately committed to the appeasement of Iran that he held hearing today in which there was not a single voice in favor of active support of the Iranian people.
Posted at 8:11 PM

You know, when Michael Ledeen starts voicing his "active support of the Iranian people," you can be sure bombs are about to rain down on those Iranian people.

Four days in Iraq

The wise men swoop in and make their pronouncements.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 19 — A leader of a high-level panel studying American policy toward Iraq said Tuesday that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki must take immediate action to improve security, end sectarian killings, reduce corruption and deliver basic services if he wants to retain United States support.

The independent panel, led by former Representative Lee H. Hamilton of Indiana and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, said it would make detailed recommendations to President Bush and Congress after the midterm elections.

The group, formed at the request of Congress and with the approval of the Bush administration, visited Iraq for four days this month. Members said they had met with more than three dozen Iraqi officials, including Mr. Maliki. The group has also met with Mr. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Panel members expect to meet soon with an Iranian official, whom they did not identify, with the Saudi ambassador to the United States and with the foreign minister of Syria.

If Mr. Bush is looking for an opportunity to revise American policy in Iraq, the panel, known as the Iraq Study Group, could be a catalyst.

Yes, I'm being snarky about the group's ability to solve the intractible problems brought about by our occupation of Iraq by spending all of four days there, but if this is an opening to engage Syria and Iran on stopping the violence, then they truly are wise men.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Morally handicapped doesn't count

Lieberman doesn't take "no" when it comes to the voters, and he doesn't take "no," apparently, when he parks.

Not bringing them home

U.S. troops are going to be in Iraq for a long, long time.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 18 — The top American commander in the Middle East said the more than 140,000 soldiers now in Iraq are likely to be needed there at least until next spring because of continuing sectarian violence and the effort to secure Baghdad.

“I think that this level probably will have to be sustained through next spring, and then we’ll re-evaluate,” General John P. Abizaid told reporters at a breakfast roundtable.

American commanders have said previously that they expected current troop levels to be maintained through the end of the year unless security improved, but General Abizaid’s comment were the first indication that commanders believe reductions are unlikely until well into next year.

His comment were immediately seized upon by Democrats, who said they indicated that the administration’s strategy for stabilizing Iraq was not working

The surge in violence over the last six months, especially in Baghdad, has forced American commanders to increase troop levels by around 20,000 since last June and scrap plans made by General George W. Casey Jr., the senior American commander in Iraq, to reduce the number of combat brigades to 12 by this month.

“If you had asked me six months ago, I would have said that we would be down a couple of brigades from what we currently have,” General Abizaid said.

Wonder how bad it will get over the next Friedman.

Gag orders

White House officials have long denied that they control what scientists working for the administration are allowed to say. But Salon has the emails.

In an e-mail the week prior, Fuqua OK'd Landsea for another interview and asked, "Please be careful and make sure Chris is on his toes. Since BLANK went off the menu, I'm a little nervous on this, but trust he'll hold the course."

The individual who went "off the menu" could have been researcher Thomas Knutson, whose published research indicates that hurricanes will grow stronger because of global warming. But when NOAA press officers asked if Knutson could appear on CNBC, Fuqua asked if Knutson had the same opinion as Landsea. When he learned that Knutson had published research suggesting that hurricanes will be getting stronger, he responded, "Why can't we have one of the other guys on then?"

Fuqua is the former director of media relations for the Republican National Convention. Contacted by Salon, he asked, "Can I get back to you?" Subsequent attempts to contact him were unsuccessful.

Asked if Commerce clears scientist to talk to the press, Richard Mills, the department's director of public affairs, said, "I wouldn't characterize it like that." What did it mean when Fuqua said that Chris Landsea should "stay on message?" Responded Mills, "Chuck just meant that Chris should be ready and prepared."

When NOAA press officer Laborde was contacted to discuss the e-mails, he denied that interviews were subject to approval from White House officials. Confronted with his own e-mails, however, he said, "If you already knew the answer, why did you ask the question?"

To prove you're a liar, you moran.

The dope on the Pope

Sorry, dopey headline. But I can't help myself.

Anyway, thought it might serve as a public service to put Pope Benedict's recent incendiary remarks on Islam in context.

In the seventh conversation edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the jihad (holy war). The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: There is no compulsion in religion. It is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat.

But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels,” he turns to his interlocutor somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words:

Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.

The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.

God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death....

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: "For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality." Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practice idolatry.

As far as understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we find ourselves faced with a dilemma which nowadays challenges us directly. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God's nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true? I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God. Modifying the first verse of the Book of Genesis, John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: In the beginning was the logos. This is the very word used by the emperor: God acts with logos.

Logos means both reason and word-- a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God, and in this word all the often toilsome and tortuous threads of biblical faith find their culmination and synthesis. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist.


And so I come to my conclusion. This attempt, painted with broad strokes, at a critique of modern reason from within has nothing to do with putting the clock back to the time before the Enlightenment and rejecting the insights of the modern age. The positive aspects of modernity are to be acknowledged unreservedly: we are all grateful for the marvelous possibilities that it has opened up for mankind and for the progress in humanity that has been granted to us. The scientific ethos, moreover, is the will to be obedient to the truth, and, as such, it embodies an attitude which reflects one of the basic tenets of Christianity. The intention here is not one of retrenchment or negative criticism, but of broadening our concept of reason and its application.

While we rejoice in the new possibilities open to humanity, we also see the dangers arising from these possibilities and we must ask ourselves how we can overcome them. We will succeed in doing so only if reason and faith come together in a new way, if we overcome the self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirically verifiable, and if we once more disclose its vast horizons. In this sense theology rightly belongs in the university and within the wide-ranging dialogue of sciences, not merely as a historical discipline and one of the human sciences, but precisely as theology, as inquiry into the rationality of faith.

Only thus do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today. In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world’s profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures. At the same time, as I have attempted to show, modern scientific reason with its intrinsically Platonic element bears within itself a question which points beyond itself and beyond the possibilities of its methodology.

In this context you can see why this intellectual Pope (very much unlike his more insinctive predecessor) is having trouble articulating an apology. His remarks were about the need for the synthesis of reason and Christianity; no wonder he doesn't understand when the response to them are so unreasonable.

Joy in Metville

Congratulations to the New York Metropolitans on the occassion of their first division title in 18 years.

Monday, September 18, 2006


Holding civilian and military leaders accountable for starting a war without planning for contingencies. How novel.

JERUSALEM, Sept. 17 — The Israeli government established a committee on Sunday to investigate the political and military leadership’s handling of the recent war in Lebanon, which has come under intense public criticism in the month since the fighting ended.

In Israel, which expects swift and decisive military victories, many citizens say that the military campaign in Lebanon was poorly planned and executed, and that leaders should be held accountable. Israel could not halt the rocket fire into northern Israel by the Lebanese group Hezbollah, and it has not achieved the return of two soldiers Hezbollah captured in the cross-border raid on July 12 that ignited the monthlong conflict.

The committee “will examine the political leadership and the security echelon regarding all aspects of the campaign in Lebanon,” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told his cabinet at the beginning of its weekly session.

The cabinet voted 20 to 2 for the committee, which will be led by a retired judge, Eliyahu Winograd.

However, dozens of protesters outside the prime minister’s office demanded that the investigation be carried out by a state commission. Such a commission would have greater power and be seen as more independent because it would be appointed by a Supreme Court judge instead of by the government it was investigating.

Mr. Olmert defended the cabinet decision, saying the committee would have the powers of a state commission, allowing it to subpoena witnesses and order police searches.

Many Israelis, including a large number of disgruntled reserve soldiers, have been demanding an inquiry since the fighting ended Aug. 14. Mr. Olmert has faced some of the harshest criticism, and his popularity has plummeted.

Critics have also called for the resignations of Defense Minister Amir Peretz and the military’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz. Last week, Maj. Gen. Udi Adam, who commanded the Israeli forces in northern Israel and southern Lebanon, submitted his resignation, the first senior figure to quit because of the war.

Maybe seven weeks and a day from now we can think about our own investigation.

Field of dreams

Obama goes to Iowa.

Standing on an outdoor stage decorated with pumpkins and bales of hay, Obama mocked the Bush administration's policies without ever resorting to the shrill invective that has become a staple of partisan rhetoric. "I've had enough of using terrorism as a wedge issue," Obama declared forcefully, before shifting to a lighter tone. "I don't know about you, but the war against terrorism isn't supposed to crop up just between September and November in even-numbered years. That seems to be the pattern. There is a sudden burst of activity, a sudden urgency, three months before an election."

For the most part, there was little new in Obama's speech, since the nearly 40-minute address, which he delivered without referring to notes, was mostly an artful pastiche of earlier rhetoric. Some of the anecdotes were powerful, such as Obama's encounter with a 105-year-old black woman at a campaign rally during his 2004 Senate race. What was striking through much of the speech was not what the fledgling senator said but the fierce attention that Obama inspired from the audience. The faces in the crowd radiated a rapt intensity that you see in patriotic movies from the 1930s and 1940s but rarely in real life. If there is ever an eye-contact primary, put your money on Obama.

What's he got to lose if he runs?

ABC's baffling decision

Was ABC just stupid, or was there something more in the decision to create a $30 million "public service announcement?"

It’s little wonder that ABC’s mini-series “The Path to 9/11” drew stinging criticism earlier this month for its invented scenes, fabricated dialogue and unsubstantiated accounts of how the Clinton and Bush administrations conducted themselves in the years encompassing the World Trade Center attacks of 1993 and 2001.

A more puzzling question is why ABC spent $30 million on what, since it lacked commercials, amounted to a five-hour public service announcement.

While the two-night docudrama was shown without a sponsor, ABC did not always intend it to be so. As recently as July, ABC was discussing the possibility of running the program with limited commercials from one or two major sponsors.

The network also saw a potential market in schools. It hired Scholastic Inc., the educational publisher, to create a study guide for high school teachers to go along with the mini-series, a move that implied the network saw a future in DVD sales of the mini-series to schools.

In the end, however, Scholastic scrapped its original study guide and no sponsors stepped up to help ABC defray the cost of the program. While the network did sell foreign rights to the show in a few markets, including Britain, Australia and New Zealand, it was left to shoulder nearly all of the cost by itself.

Once it became clear that it would have to go without sponsors, ABC began to promote the mini-series as a public service. That decision left the network open to a weighty question: Is it truly a public service if it alienates a significant part of the audience?

The mini-series drew respectable ratings, coming in second to a football game on NBC on its first night and winning the night on Sept. 11, its second night. But despite drawing an estimated 12 million to 13 million viewers each night, ABC was unable to capitalize on its large audience.

Typically, big productions like “The Path to 9/11” serve as vehicles for networks to promote their new fall lineup. But by excluding not

If I were a Disney stockholder I'd be wondering how ABC execs could be so stupid, or wondering if the "docudrama" furthered longer term interests of the company by defraying culpability for the September 11, 2001 attacks away from the administration then in office. Just sayin'.

UPDATE: Ah, no. It wasn't advertisers who punished ABC for "The Path to the 8/6/01 Presidential Briefing," it was lefty Communist Islamists.

Because he can

Krugman answers why President Bush was so passionate about torture in his press conference on Friday.

A lot has been written and said about President Bush’s demand that Congress “clarify” the part of the Geneva Conventions that, in effect, outlaws the use of torture under any circumstances.

We know that the world would see this action as a U.S. repudiation of the rules that bind civilized nations. We also know that an extraordinary lineup of former military and intelligence leaders, including Colin Powell, have spoken out against the Bush plan, warning that it would further damage America’s faltering moral standing, and end up endangering U.S. troops.

But I haven’t seen much discussion of the underlying question: why is Mr. Bush so determined to engage in torture?

Let’s be clear what we’re talking about here. According to an ABC News report from last fall, procedures used by C.I.A. interrogators have included forcing prisoners to “stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours”; the “cold cell,” in which prisoners are forced “to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees,” while being doused with cold water; and, of course, water boarding, in which “the prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet,” then “cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner’s face and water is poured over him,” inducing “a terrifying fear of drowning.”

And bear in mind that the “few bad apples” excuse doesn’t apply; these were officially approved tactics — and Mr. Bush wants at least some of these tactics to remain in use.

I’m ashamed that my government does this sort of thing. I’d be ashamed even if I were sure that only genuine terrorists were being tortured — and I’m not. Remember that the Bush administration has imprisoned a number of innocent men at Guantánamo, and in some cases continues to imprison them even though it knows they are innocent.

Is torture a necessary evil in a post-9/11 world? No. People with actual knowledge of intelligence work tell us that reality isn’t like TV dramas, in which the good guys have to torture the bad guy to find out where he planted the ticking time bomb.

What torture produces in practice is misinformation, as its victims, desperate to end the pain, tell interrogators whatever they want to hear. Thus Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi — who ABC News says was subjected to both the cold cell and water boarding — told his questioners that Saddam Hussein’s regime had trained members of Al Qaeda in the use of biochemical weapons. This “confession” became a key part of the Bush administration’s case for invading Iraq — but it was pure invention.

So why is the Bush administration so determined to torture people?

To show that it can.

The central drive of the Bush administration — more fundamental than any particular policy — has been the effort to eliminate all limits on the president’s power. Torture, I believe, appeals to the president and the vice president precisely because it’s a violation of both law and tradition. By making an illegal and immoral practice a key element of U.S. policy, they’re asserting their right to do whatever they claim is necessary.

And many of our politicians are willing to go along. The Republican majority in the House of Representatives is poised to vote in favor of the administration’s plan to, in effect, declare torture legal. Most Republican senators are equally willing to go along, although a few, to their credit, have stood with the Democrats in opposing the administration.

Mr. Bush would have us believe that the difference between him and those opposing him on this issue is that he’s willing to do what’s necessary to protect America, and they aren’t. But the record says otherwise.

The fact is that for all his talk of being a “war president,” Mr. Bush has been conspicuously unwilling to ask Americans to make sacrifices on behalf of the cause — even when, in the days after 9/11, the nation longed to be called to a higher purpose. His admirers looked at him and thought they saw Winston Churchill. But instead of offering us blood, toil, tears and sweat, he told us to go shopping and promised tax cuts.

Only now, five years after 9/11, has Mr. Bush finally found some things he wants us to sacrifice. And those things turn out to be our principles and our self-respect.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Oriana Fallaci

I'd been thinking about Oriana Fallaci a lot recently. I think in the end she became dangerously cranky, demanding an unchanged and unchanging Europe, especially Italy, that would exclude Muslims ("Get off of my lawn, you bastards, I was in the anti-Fascist Resistance!"). But I couldn't argue with her fears that European governments, in making compromises with immigrant groups, may soon come to find their liberal institutions and traditions of equality gravely weakened.

And hell, when she was younger no one could make Henry Kissinger look foolish better than she.

Mr. Kissinger called his experience with Ms. Fallaci “the most disastrous conversation I ever had with any member of the press.” At the height of his power and celebrity in 1972, she had coaxed him to admit that at times he felt like “the cowboy who leads the wagon train by riding ahead alone on his horse, the cowboy who rides all alone into the town.” Mr. Kissinger later wrote in his memoirs that the quotation harmed his relations with Nixon.

And I don't know of any other journalist willing to take such liberties with figures such as Ayatollah Khomeini.

A glamorous figure with high cheekbones, a black curl of eyeliner and an ever-present cigarette, she believed that she had the right to ask or say anything, and did so in writings translated into more than 20 languages. In interviews she could be in turn incisive, flattering and blunt, taking her subjects by surprise.

“How do you swim in a chador?” she asked Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, not long after he came to power in Iran. His reply, she wrote in The New York Times, was that she was not obliged to wear one, because it was a garment for proper Islamic women. She tore off her chador, and Ayatollah Khomeini stalked off.

The Hate America Club

According to NBC's Brian Williams, it's bigger than you may think.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Blessed are the critters

With St. Francis
Originally uploaded by vegacura.
Djuna notes that having statuary of Saint Francis on your deck improves the value of your home.

New vague

A glimpse into the president's mind.

The president took care to say that he wishes to have those obligations “clarified” rather than “reinterpreted.” In particular, he said, the Conventions’ ban on “outrages on human dignity” are so vague that they demand clarification.
"Outrages on human dignity" are vague? Seems pretty clear to me. If it feels wrong, it likely is. If CIA interrogators don't want to be tried as war criminals, they shouldn't commit war crimes. Furthermore, according to Geneva Convention historians, article 3 was left intentionally vague.

The Post spoke to Army Lt. Col. Geoffrey S. Corn, who until recently was chief of the war law branch of the Army's Office of the Judge Advocate General.

Corn told the Post ... "that Common Article 3 was, according to its written history, 'left deliberately vague because efforts to define it would invariably lead to wrongdoers identifying 'exceptions,' and because the meaning was plain -- treat people like humans and not animals or objects.'"

It's amazing we're even having this conversation, but then again, the leader of the free world is a petulant bully.

Although he declared his eagerness to work with Congress, Mr. Bush raised his voice several times and poked the air with his index fingers for emphasis.

“I was surprised at how tough he was,” David Gergen, who has been an adviser to several presidents, said in an interview on CNN.

UPDATE: Via The Poorman, Dahlia Lithwick in Slate:

In a superb article last fall in the Columbia Law Review, professor Jeremy Waldron argued that there is "something wrong with trying to pin down the prohibition on torture with a precise legal definition." That it seems to "work in the service of a mentality that says, 'Give us a definition so we have something to work around, something to game, a determinate envelope to push.' " And indeed it would be worrisome if the president were trying to create a sharp, bright line-rule for when interrogation crosses into torture, so that his agents could dance right up to it and stop, or find tricky ways to tunnel under it. But I suspect that the Bush administration doesn't seek to clarify the definition of torture so much as to confound it. The whole objective of defining, refining, and then redefining the rules has become an end in itself. It keeps our attention trained where the president wants it: on the assertion that old bans on torture don't work and that this conflict is unlike any conflict contemplated under existing international law. All this murk and confusion has begun to be the object of the game and not a casualty of it.

Change in thinking

From The Looming Tower, in the chapter, "The Founder:"

At that moment Mohammed Qutb was jealously defending his brother's reputation, which was under attack from moderate Islamists. They contended that Milestones had empowered a new, more violent group of radicals, especially in Egypt, who used Sayyid Qutb's writings to justify attacks on anyone they considered an infidel, including other Muslims. Foremost among Qutb's critics was Hasan Hudaybi, the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brothers, who published his own prison book, Preachers Not Judges, to counter Qutb's seductive call to chaos. In Hudaybi's far more orthodox theology, no Muslim could deny the belief of another so long as he made the simple profession of faith: "There is no God but God, and Mohammed is His messenger." The debate, which had been born in the Egyptian prisons with Qutb and Hudaybi, was quickly spreading throughout Islam, as young Muslims tood sides in this argument about who is a Muslim and who is not. "Osama read Judaybi's book in 1978, and we talked about it," Jamaal Khalifa recalled. "Osama agreed with him completely." His views would soon change, however, and it was this fundamental shift -- from Hudabi's tolerant and accepting view of Islam to Qutb's narrow and judgmental one --- that would open the door to terror.
Fascinating book. Although much of the information has been around for a while, Lawrence Wright captures it all in a riveting narrative, beginning with Qutb's post-war stay in the United States and his subsequent prison terms in Nasser's Egypt. In Qutb's philosophy, only Islam and The Quran offer the complete system -- one that regulated law, government, diet, marriage, and on and on -- to save humanity from the decadence of the West.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Bob Dylan, plagiarist

Originally uploaded by vegacura.
I am grateful for Mr. Warmuth and his Google sleuthing to discover the connection, but this debate -- with every album he releases -- over whether or not Dylan is a plagiarist is really ridiculous.

“No doubt about it, there has been some borrowing going on,” said Walter Brian Cisco, who wrote a 2004 biography of Timrod, when shown Mr. Dylan’s lyrics. Mr. Cisco said he could find at least six other phrases from Timrod’s poetry that appeared in Mr. Dylan’s songs. But Mr. Cisco didn’t seem particularly bothered by that. “I’m glad Timrod is getting some recognition,” he said.

Henry Timrod was born in 1828 and was a private tutor on plantations before the Civil War started. He tried to sign up for the Confederate Army but was unable to serve in the field because he suffered from tuberculosis. He worked as an editor for a daily paper in Columbia, S.C., and began writing poems about the war and how it affected the residents of the South. He also wrote love poems and ruminations on nature. During his lifetime he published only one volume of poetry. Among his most famous poems were “Ode Sung on the Occasion of Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead at Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, South Carolina 1866,” and “Ethnogenesis.” Mr. Cisco said he could not find any phrases from these poems in Mr. Dylan’s lyrics.

Mr. Dylan does not acknowledge any debt to Timrod on “Modern Times.” The liner notes simply say “All songs written by Bob Dylan” (although some fans have noted online that the title of the album contains the letters of Timrod’s last name).

Nor does he credit the traditional blues songs from which he took the titles, tunes and some lyrics for “Rollin’ and Tumblin’ ” and “Nettie Moore.”

This isn’t the first time fans have found striking similarities between Mr. Dylan’s lyrics and the words of other writers. On his last album, “Love and Theft,” a fan spotted about a dozen passages similar to lines from “Confessions of a Yakuza,” a gangster novel written by Junichi Saga, an obscure Japanese writer. Other fans have pointed out the numerous references to lines of dialogue from movies and dramas that appear throughout Mr. Dylan’s oeuvre. Example: “Love Is Just a Four-Letter Word” echoes a line from “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

This time around Scott Warmuth, a disc jockey in Albuquerque and a former music director for WUSB, a public radio station in Stony Brook, on Long Island, discovered the concordances between Mr. Dylan’s lyrics and Timrod’s poetry by doing some judicious Google searches. Mr. Warmuth said he wasn’t surprised to find that Mr. Dylan had leaned on a strong influence in writing his lyrics.

“I think that’s the way Bob Dylan has always written songs,” he said. “It’s part of the folk process, even if you look from his first album until now.”

Mr. Warmuth noted that Mr. Dylan may also have used a line from Timrod in “ ’Cross the Green Mountain,” a song he wrote for the soundtrack to the movie “Gods and Generals,” which came out three years ago. Mr. Warmuth said there also appeared to be passages from Timrod in “Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum,” a song on “Love and Theft.”

Mr. Dylan has long been interested in the Civil War: in “Chronicles: Vol. 1,” Mr. Dylan’s autobiography, published by Simon & Schuster in 2004, he writes about spending time in the New York Public Library combing through microfilm copies of newspapers published from 1855 to 1865. “I crammed my head full of as much of this stuff as I could stand and locked it away in my mind out of sight, left it alone,” Mr. Dylan wrote.

To Mr. Warmuth, who found 10 phrases echoing Timrod’s poetry on “Modern Times,” Mr. Dylan’s work is still original. “You could give the collected works of Henry Timrod to a bunch of people, but none of them are going to come up with Bob Dylan songs,” he said.

Mr. Dylan could not be reached through his publicist for comment. A spokeswoman for Columbia Records, Mr. Dylan’s record label and a division of Sony BMG Music Entertainment, did not return calls for comment.

Because Timrod is long dead and his work has fallen out of copyright — you can find his collected poems on the Internet — there is no legal claim that could be made against Mr. Dylan.

But some fans are bothered by the ethics of Mr. Dylan’s borrowing ways. “Bob really is a thieving little swine,” wrote one poster on Dylan Pool (,642969), a chat room where Mr. Warmuth posted his findings. “If it was anyone else we’d be stringing them up by their neck, but no, it’s Bobby Dee, and ‘the folk process.’ ”

Authors who have been caught copying from other writers have been accused outright of plagiarism. Earlier this year Kaavya Viswanathan, a Harvard sophomore who had written a first novel, “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life,” was attacked when readers discovered that many passages in the book nearly exactly replicated portions of “Sloppy Firsts” and “Second Helpings,” novels by Megan McCafferty. Ms. Viswanathan’s publisher, Little, Brown, pulled the book from shelves, and the author was disgraced in the press.

In Mr. Dylan’s case, critics and fans have long described the songwriter’s magpie tendencies, looking upon that as a manifestation of his genius, not unlike other great writers and poets like T. S. Eliot or James Joyce who have referenced past works.

That's insulting. Comparing Dylan's ability to synthesize and reshape the words of others to tell an intriguing story is nothing remotely like the sloppy plagiarism of the novelists that Motoko Rich cites. Writes Michael Gray in Song & Dance Man III,

Dylan himself has described acutely what he believes his own contribution has been. Interviewed in 1985 for the retrospective box-set "Biograph", summarised below, Dylan said that before he came along, rock'n'roll had never been enough:

great catch-phrases and driving pulse rhythms and you could get high on the energy but they weren't serious or didn't reflect life in a realistic way. I knew that when I got into folk music...[Those] songs are filled with more despair, more sadness, more triumph, more faith in the supernatural, much deeper feelings...I needed that. Life is full of complexities and rock'n'roll didn't reflect that. It was just put on a happy face and ride, sally, ride, there was nothing even resembling "Sixteen Snow White Horses" or "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean"...If I did anything, I brought one to the other. There was nothing serious happening in music when I started.

Dylan has not only used, within one of the most powerfully attractive forms of modern technology, the strengths of ancient balladry and of the earliest blues. He has also fused with the power of music the force of other kinds of poetry, creating work that is enriched by and builds upon the work of William Blake, Robert Browning, the French Symbolists, T.S. Eliot, the Beat Poets of the 1950s, and more.

But what really irks me about these debates is the ignorance about what makes Dylan what he is: the music. Yeah, he's the finest poet of the latter half of the twentieth (and start of the twentyfirst) century, but it is the music that informs his genius. His music swings. He brought swing to a folk scene that took itself too seriously (listen to "Maggie's Farm"), and he took swing to rock'n'roll with a combination of inventive arrangement and lyrics that swung (listen to "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again", "Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum", and, most recently "Thunder on the Mountain").

I was thinking 'bout Alicia Keys
Couldn't keep from crying
But she was born in Hells Kitchen
And I was living down the line
I'm wondering where in the world Alicia Keys could be
I've been looking for her even clear through Tennessee.

Ann Richards, rest in peace

A great governor, great woman, too young.

Another Republican waves the white flag

From alert reader Kathleen, we find that Christopher Buckley wants to cut-and-run...from his political party.

Who knew, in 2000, that “compassionate conservatism” meant bigger government, unrestricted government spending, government intrusion in personal matters, government ineptitude, and cronyism in disaster relief? Who knew, in 2000, that the only bill the president would veto, six years later, would be one on funding stem-cell research?

A more accurate term for Mr. Bush’s political philosophy might be incontinent conservatism.

On Capitol Hill, a Republican Senate and House are now distinguished by—or perhaps even synonymous with—earmarks, the K Street Project, Randy Cunningham (bandit, 12 o’clock high!), Sen. Ted Stevens’s $250-million Bridge to Nowhere, Jack Abramoff (Who? Never heard of him), and a Senate Majority Leader who declared, after conducting his own medical evaluation via videotape, that he knew every bit as much about the medical condition of Terry Schiavo as her own doctors and husband. Who knew that conservatism means barging into someone’s hospital room like Dr. Frankenstein with defibrillator paddles? In what chapter of Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom or Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind is that principle enunciated?
Thomas Edsall has just published a book, The Making of Red America, arguing that Republicans have put in place a political machine and a solid, social conservative base that will guarantee electoral victories for years to come, despite the fact that Republican politicians are far to the right of the majority of Americans. So, yes, we're fucked for years to come, despite Mr. Buckley's yearning hope for relief from these unprincipled men -- so good at getting elected, so piss-poor at "governing."

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The religious wars

I guess I should no longer be surprised that in addition to being a self-absorbed idiot, Bush is a lunatic as well, but I still find this jarring.

Bush often calls attention to all the people who he meets who say they are praying for him, and that's how the subject apparently came up yesterday. As Rich Lowry and Kate O'Beirne blogged for the National Review: "He jokingly noted, 'Now maybe the only people who pray in America come to my events.'"

But Bush's disquisition about a "Third Awakening" is highly suggestive, and potentially of no small political significance.

National Review senior editor Jeffrey Hart touched on the issue of revivalism in an op-ed for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last year. He wrote that Bush "has brought religion into politics in a way unknown to recent memory. And he has owed both of his electoral victories to his Evangelical Christian base. This indispensable base has profoundly affected his policies, foreign and domestic.

"The Bush presidency often is called conservative. That is a mistake. It is populist and radical, and its principal energies have roots in American history, and these roots are not conservative."

Hart wrote that the "Third Awakening of Evangelicalism believes all sorts of bizarre things, such as the imminent end of the world, the second coming of Christ, the sudden elevation of the just to heaven and the final struggle of Good versus Evil in Jerusalem: Armageddon. We thus have the immense popularity of the Left Behind series of novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins."

Concentrating mostly on the public health-related effects of Bush's Evangelicalism, Hart wrote that it "has real and often dangerous effects on the world in which the rest of us . . . live.

And, of course, there's this.

In his column, Lowry also writes that it appears Bush is gearing up to attack Iran next.

"[H]is language suggests that the Robert Kagan thesis that the seemingly interminable Iran diplomacy is the necessary run-up to a strike on Iran has something to it. Bush says, 'It is very important for the United States to try all diplomatic means.' That's what we did in Iraq: 'I'm often asked what's the difference between Iran and Iraq. We tried all diplomatic means in Iraq.' Iran, he seems to imply, might eventually prove impervious to diplomacy, but that's something we have to find out. He says, of members of the military, 'I owe it to their loved ones and I owe it to this country to see if we can't achieve [diplomatically] the objectives which, in Iran's case, the short-term objective is no nuclear weapon. So that's what you're seeing happen.'"

[my emphasis]

One madman gearing up to take out another one.

Redefining the term "Populist"

The Times, they are a-changin', I guess.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12 - Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island won the Republican primary there on Tuesday, fending off a bid from a populist challenger that the national Republican Party had feared would cost it a seat it had held since 1976 in an overwhelmingly Democratic state. The race was the most closely watched contest in the nine primaries across the country on Tuesday, in a year when Democrats are hoping to capitalize on anti-incumbent sentiment to take control of one or both houses of Congress.

Am I crazy, but didn't "Populist" use to infer a very different type of politician than the Club for Growth candidate?

"At least Democrats have some heart"

Alert reader "Dan" (surely an alias) sends us this from that lefty rag, Barrons (subscription required to view the 2nd page [Commies!]):

WE DON'T KNOW ABOUT YOU, but our summer wouldn't be complete without checking in with one of the investing world's giants, a 92-year-old who's still got what it takes to steer the $1.3 billion under management at Glickenhaus & Co. to success. The Dorchester Fund managed by Glickenhaus has delivered 16.5%, net of fees, on average each year since its 1961 launch, compared with an average 12.4% gain in the Standard & Poor's 500 index. It's been 45 years since he founded the New York-based firm -- yet he's always made time for his other life's work as a socially-conscious scold. Armed with stock ideas and fighting words, here's Seth Glickenhaus telling it like it is.

Some highlights:

Well, one reason for my grim outlook is federal spending. Federal spending is so dismally distorted toward the military that it is unbelievable.

It isn't only that we're spending money for Iraq and Afghanistan, but the peacetime budget is an absurdity. We are spending $65 billion for an F22 fighter plane, for example, which is way over cost estimates. The paradox is that the plane cannot be used in combat -- because the ratio of the engine, the amount of fuel consumed is so great, that a pilot will only have five minutes in combat zones before he has to get back to the base.

If you look at the overall federal budget and see the huge percentage going to the military and what is left for medical research, education, the environment and housing, you can't believe it. They talk of reducing the federal deficit, but it is an absurdity.

What if the Democrats win back Congress in the fall?

They will rectify the deficit to a minor degree, but they also are great military spenders. [New York] Senators Clinton and Schumer voted for the Iraq war.

What is your sense of what will happen in the elections and what it means for the economy?

I think the public is completely fed up with George W. Bush and the Republicans and their incredible mismanagement of the country, and there'll be a sweep by the Democrats. That's a positive. At least the Democrats have some heart. They are sympathetic to the downtrodden. The huge disparity of income that has occurred in this country is one of the great negatives and one of the reasons that I'm pessimistic about the economy.


Are you worried about inflation?

No, I'm more worried about the possibility of deflation than of inflation.

How's that?

We don't believe what we read in the papers. The price of homes is going to come down and auto competition is tremendous, and they are giving all types of incentives that lower prices further.

There is tremendous public sentiment against the Iraqi war, and while there is a feeling we will be pulling the troops out sooner rather than later or at least reducing them, it is wise to remember we still have troops in Germany and we have troops in Japan. We'll never give up completely in Iraq. They'll be there for 50 years. The military doesn't give up and they control this country, because they get the following of the Congress and the president.

The military-industrial complex?

Eisenhower warned us, and it has happened. Don't forget, the nature of warfare has changed. There is not going to be a war like World War I or II again. The Third World War has begun. It is a war in Haiti, where they are fighting the government. It is a war in Colombia, where there are three groups fighting, and Sri Lanka, where you have the Tamil Tigers. In Nepal, the Maoists are fighting the king. It is all over the world. In Africa, there are five different countries fighting in the Congo. Not to mention Iraq, Iran or Israel or the Palestinians.

It is a war of terrorism. And you might be interested to know, there is no defense against the terrorists. There is no defense militarily. That is the big unpublished secret of modern warfare: The offensive weapons have no defense. You say, why do you have so much to say about war? War has a negative affect because the spending involved takes monies away from more constructive parts in the market.

What's your opinion of the Israel-Lebanon war?

We created it. We pushed Israel into doing what they did. Israel would never have gone on without the consent of the United States. They would never have attacked Lebanon as they did. They don't go to the john without Bush's consent.

Well, that's a scary thought.

I'm exaggerating to make a point.

What else concerns you, Seth?

I think I've given you enough for the time being.

Shrillness can be a fountain of youth.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

"We have not forgotten."

Olbermann's commentary builds with intensity and fury. Watch it.

"Unity" is just another word for nothing left to lose

Preznit asks, "Why can't we all just get along?"

Drawing parallels between the challenges of his presidency and those of Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman, Mr. Bush said, “Our nation has endured trials, and we face a difficult road ahead.” And he called for unity, saying, “We must put aside our differences and work together to meet the test that history has given us.”

I mean, they don't go around calling the opposition "unpatriotic," do they?

"At the core, we are dealing with two parties that have fundamentally different views on national security," Rove said. "Republicans have a post-9/11 worldview and many Democrats have a pre-9/11 worldview. That doesn't make them unpatriotic -- not at all. But it does make them wrong -- deeply and profoundly and consistently wrong."

And they'd never resort to name-calling, would they?

Today's Democrat Party is the Party of George Soros, a man who said "By declaring a 'war on terror' after September the 11th, we set the wrong agenda for the world," not JFK, a man who said "we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe in order to assure the survival and success of liberty."

Today's Democrat party is the Party of Ted Kennedy, who said "The U.S. military presence has become part of the problem, not part of the solution," not FDR, a man who said "We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our well-being is dependent on the well-being of other nations, far away."

Today's Democrat party is the Party of blame America first, led by a man who suggested that terrorist attacks on Israel were the fault of Republicans, saying "If you think what's going on in the Middle East today would be going on if the Democrats were in control, it wouldn't ..."

Today's Democrat Party has become the Defeat-ocrat Party.

Funnnnn-y. But Mehlman's just a card; that's not meant to be a Republican talking point!

Last week, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld compared critics of the war to "appeasers." Cheney, for months, has been calling those who want to withdraw from Iraq "plain wrong." The White House press secretary, Tony Snow, coined a new term, "Defeatocrats."

The atmosphere is just right for holding hands, isn't it?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five years on

The New York Times was an important part of the city's recovery in the weeks following the attacks of Sept. 11. It continued that tradition today with a comprehensive history of why, five years later, the "World Trade Center" is still, in Ray Nagin's words, "a hole in the ground." No one comes out looking very good. Though it was obvious at the time that the competing agendas -- of a governor looking ahead at his own political future, a mayor wanting to rethink all of lower Manhattan, a developer holding the lease, the Port Authority needing the rent, and the angry grieving of those who'd lost their husbands, wives, daughters and sons...not to mention the egos of politicians, architects, and businessmen -- already doomed any chance that the site would be healed quickly, with decency, and with pragmatism (of course, the people who live and work in the neighborhood get no voice at all).

Meanwhile, Publicus contemplates the two 9/11s while Roy surveys the crazies who get crazier still on "Don't criticize Preznit day," another national holiday, Roy notes, for which he doesn't receive a day off.

And tonight, in the ceremonies before tonight's Yankee game in Baltimore, the PA asked fans to remember those who lost their lives on 9/11 and those who have lost their lives "in the war against terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq." History is a liar.

Top Gun: The path to 9/11

We get press releases.


CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, Sept.10 – As film editors struggle to correct flaws in ABC’s docudrama “The Path to 9-11,” it was revealed today that the Bush administration and ABC-Disney are collaborating on a remake of the movie “Top Gun.” In a highly unusual move, ABC has made available a videotape of a focus group led by the President and Vice President for the purposes of reshaping a rough version of the sequel to the 1986 blockbuster. Parts of the focus group can be viewed at:

ABC’s disclosure came in the wake of controversy over its miniseries about events leading up to the attacks of 9/11. A statement issued by the network said the existence of its “Top Gun” project was made public due to anger over issues of dramatization. “ ‘The Path to 9/11’ is not a documentary, and for dramatic and narrative purposes, the movie contains fictional scenes, composite and representative
characters and dialogue, and time compression,” a spokeswoman explained. “But the public doesn’t get it, so we figured everyone might as well know now that we are also making a film that is entirely fictional, one we can’t be attacked for since it won’t depend on any relation to the truth of some report.” She added, “We don’t want to
have to ask the Democrats for their thoughts, and besides, people like fiction more than documentaries.”

An aide to Robert Iger, the president of Disney, ABC’s parent company, took a preemptive strike at would-be critics. “Just as with ‘The Path to 9/11,’ no one has seen the final version of the new ‘Top Gun,’ so criticisms of film specifics are premature and irresponsible,” the aide said. An international hit, the original “Top Gun” was credited with being the biggest recruitment vehicle ever for the armed
forces. Tom Cruise, who originated the lead role of “Maverick,” has not been asked to star in the remake. The casting of the new movie is
still a secret, but in the video of the focus group, Mr. Bush himself takes the role of “Maverick” and even sings new songs from the movie’s soundtrack. “This film is a sign of our faith, commitment, and leadership in advancing America’s ideals at home and abroad,” said a spokesman for the White House’s Office for Public Diplomacy, who added, “It will boost recruitment, convince skeptics of our noble cause, and show the Muslim world what freedom and liberty are all about.”

In addition to the website listed above, Ian Maxwell MacKinnon and Eric Zinman, who produced the focus group, invite viewers to see archives of previous Bush-Cheney performances at the website Included are readings from the Bush Bible, Q&A sessions, and the songs “Faith-Based Gospel” and “The Sun Never Sets On The Eagle,” sung by President Bush, accompanied by the Vice-President on piano.
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