Raznor's Rants

Costarring Raznor's reality-based friends!

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Longer posts to come

I don't think I'll be able to post long commentary today. I have a problem set due to tomorrow and a lot of Clausewitz to read, plus continued research in prep of my thesis. Still, reading Clausewitz gave me an idea for a new lengthy post on a Clausewitzian perspective on the Iraq conflict, which sort of expands some of the thoughts I posted here. I know there are enough of my readers who enjoy my longer commentary to make it worthwhile.

In the meanwhile, right now the Twins are leading the Yankees 3-0 in the bottom of the seventh of game one of the ALDS. I'm just hoping for a Chicago/Boston World Series. That would totally make up for the fact that the Diamondbacks missed the playoffs this year.

Rove the asshole

Over at Buzzflash, James C Moore has a good article on Karl Rove.

So, although I guess not all the facts are in on this whole Plame being leaked as a CIA agent, but allow me to posit this theory.

It was Rove! If he didn't call the reporters himself, he orchestrated it. This is clearly his work as if he left his signature. Rove isn't just an asshole of politics, he is the Pablo Picasso of dirty tricks and his art leaves a Rove-like aura to them. When senior officials leak information that undermine national security for no reason other than revenge, the first step should be to get Rove, and then the rest will follow.

Monday, September 29, 2003

CIA leaks

GYWO weighs in.

Why I'm happy

Everytime I get a new album it puts me in a general state of euphoria. So after getting The White Stripes new album on Friday, I received Muse's new album in the mail today. It seems to be a step up from their previous stuff. So considering the progression of their first three studio albums, I'm looking forward to see what Muse will do next.

So despite all the stuff I linked to below (I mentioned to a friend recently how the more I read the news, the more I get pissed off) I at least have something to keep me happy.

That may be a problem, right?

The Daily Howler, sort of bitterly, mentions a problem with the whole Plame thing:

Final question: Should President Bush’s Justice Department be investigating President Bush’s “senior officials?” We’re waiting to hear the press corps’ calls for an independent investigation. And of course, pundits will know that this special counsel should be a lifelong insider Democrat. Scribes made this a point of principle at the time of Ken Starr’s appointment. We’re sure that they’ll yell loudly now. You know just how moral they are.

I mean, this is one hell of a conflict of interest. When I hear DOJ investigation, of course, I'll think John Ashcroft. I don't think Ashcroft leaked the names, but I don't think he or his Justice Department can be trusted to find out who did. No matter how much faith Condoleeza Rice has in the matter.

Update: Apparently Scott McClellan has plenty of faith in the DOJ as well. Nice to know Ashcroft is so popular with the Administration.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Reminder of historical parallels

I linked to this NEWSWEEK article earlier and it's worth a read. But reading through it, I came across a little reminder of a previous post:

The White House wanted to believe that it could get away with a relatively quick in-and-out operation because American soldiers, Vice President Cheney predicted, “will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.” The bad guys—the worst of Saddam’s Baathist Party—would flee or surrender, but a large middle-class “Mesopotamian bureaucracy” would remain in place to run the country. This notion was pushed by a band of Iraqi exiles, most notably Ahmad Chalabi, who have close ties to the Pentagon neocons—and who stood ready to step in and fill the leadership void. Within a few months, it was hoped, American forces could be drawn down to no more than 50,000 troops.[Emphasis added]

Don't forget, I started my diatribe comparing the Bush administration to the radicalization in Revolutionary France with this quotation from Alan Forrest's Soldiers of the French Revolution:

By 1792, this view [that war was necessary to maintain the Revolution] was most clearly identified in the Girondins, the group in the Assembly that most consistently advocated war against Austria if the Revolution were to be saved. While Robespierre and his supporters among the Paris Jacobins warned that war would only distract the French people from their real enemies within, Roland, Brissot, and other leading Girondin politicians insisted that there was no necessary contradiction between internal surveillance and external conflict. Brissot even went so far as to claim that he did not see a war policy as being in any sense dangerous because French troops would be welcomed in countries they invaded as liberators and missionaries of liberty. [emphasis added]

Didn't quite pan out in either case did it?

The thing is, it's not the case that Armies who invade countries governed by tyrranical despots are never greeted as liberators. Even Hitler's armies were greeted as liberators when they invaded outlying Soviet states, until the populace realized that living under Nazi Germany wasn't much of an improvement. But from a strategic standpoint, being greeted as liberators by an invaded populace should never be depended on. The difference between what happened with Revolutionary and then Napoleonic France is that their strategy didn't depend on their soldiers being loved by the general populace. It seems that Bush's entire post-war plan was based on this premise.

Iraq vs Vietnam, Part III

Joseph Galloway (co-author of We Were Soldiers Once . . . And Young) wrote a pretty good column on how Rumsfeld is destroying the American military, and he includes what I find to be the most pertinent analogy between Iraq and Vietnam I've seen thus far:

Another defense secretary who could not admit he'd erred was Robert Strange McNamara, who, like Rumsfeld, was recruited from corporate America. By the time he did, it was too late.

Still not quite parallel. McNamara was handpicked by Kennedy because he was innovative and highly intelligent, as part of his "best and brightest" Cabinet. Rummy, from all I can gather, was picked more for his hard-line neo-conservatism.

But read the rest of the article. It's short and quite good.

Via Atrios.

On that Plame

Atrios and John Marshall are already all over this, and Tom's chimed in, but it bears mentioning.

This is the original article written by David Corn:

At CIA Director George J. Tenet's request, the Justice Department is looking into an allegation that administration officials leaked the name of an undercover CIA officer to a journalist, government sources said yesterday.
The operative's identity was published in July after her husband, former U.S. ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, publicly challenged President Bush's claim that Iraq had tried to buy "yellowcake" uranium ore from Africa for possible use in nuclear weapons. Bush later backed away from the claim.

The intentional disclosure of a covert operative's identity is a violation of federal law.

The officer's name was disclosed on July 14 in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak, who said his sources were two senior administration officials.

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

Wilson, while refusing to confirm his wife's occupation, has suggested publicly that he believes Bush's senior adviser, Karl C. Rove, broke her cover. Wilson said Aug. 21 at a public forum in suburban Seattle that it is of keen interest to him "to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs."

For anyone wondering how far the Administration is willing to go with its Machiavellian power grab, look no further. It looks like they've compromised national security and who knows how many CIA investigations just so they could silence their critics.

There's a DOJ investigation right now. We'll see how far it goes, especially since the Administration seems not very willing to help it along. But the thought of seeing Karl Rove escorted out of the White House in handcuffs is pretty nice.

Rumsfeld is sooooo evil

Here read this and quake in fear with the thought that this man is in charge of the Pentagon:

Franks and most of the Pentagon (news - web sites) were focused on winning the war, which they did. But, the newsweekly said, the occupation was a second thought.

One example is the Coalition Provisional Authority.

"CPA stands for the Condescending and Patronizing Americans," a Baghdad diplomat told Newsweek.

"So there they are, sitting in their palace: 800 people, 17 of whom speak Arabic. One is an expert on Iraq."

What happened to the Iraq experts? According to Newsweek, Rumsfeld ordered 16 of the 20 Pentagon staffers picked to go to Baghdad be cut because they were "Arab apologists," had positive opinions of the United Nations (news - web sites) or other opinions not acceptable to the neo-conservatives running the US government.

Rumsfeld's interference "got so bad that even doctors sent to restore medical services had to be anti-abortion," a member of the original team said.

Via Atrios.

Update: This is even worse than that. Cal Pundit has more of the context of this (the above being an excerpt):

The ideological intrigue reached into the upper levels of the Bush administration. Rumsfeld ordered General Garner to drop a State Department official named Thomas Warrick from his reconstruction team. Garner protested, his aides recall; he needed Warrick, who had been the author of a $5 million, yearlong study called “The Future of Iraq.” Rumsfeld’s reply, as relayed by Garner to his aides, was: “I’m sorry, but I just got off a phone call from a level that is sufficiently high that I can’t argue with him.” Sources tell NEWSWEEK that Rumsfeld was taking his orders from Vice President Cheney.

I really have no comment on this. I'm vomitting in fear and contempt.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

How to Deal with the Lies and the Lying Liars When They Lie about "Bowling for Columbine"

Good column by Michael Moore over here.

And you know, so long as I'm posting now, I should mention August has a new comic up and Ampersand has a series of posts about the wage gap here, here, and here that are quite enlightening.

Meanwhile, I've been doing a lot of longer posts lately, which is unlike my whole Raznor style. Hope you've been enjoying them. I'm not sure when I'll do it again. I'm spending my time researching grad schools and reading up on the Prussian Army in the 19th century. Such fun.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Why not Spain?

I notice TAPPED has linked to the Cleland article which I already posted on below.

TAPPED had this to say:

Historical analogies can be misleading. In many ways -- even many important ways -- Iraq is unlike Vietnam. But in other ways, the parallels are eerily similar, and worrisome.

See what annoys me about this is that if you replace "Iraq" and "Vietnam" (and maybe take out the word "worrisome") this would likely work. As in this:

Historical analogies can be misleading. In many ways -- even many important ways -- World War II is unlike the Peloponesian Wars. But in other ways, the parallels are eerily similar.

The thing is, I think Iraq will likely end up being a quagmire, but allusions to Vietnam are annoying because they ignore so many fundamental differences. Besides what I outlined below about the buildup, Vietnam was a more limited war. Our goal was to prevent the north from invading the south, and hence enforce the borders as drawn by the Geneva Accords of 1954. What we failed to take into account was how much support the north had in the South. Also we had the difficulty of being essentially unable to take the major value points in the North, Hanoi the capital and Haiphong the major port, since they were extraordinarily close to China, and doing so may have provoked the Chinese to counterattack as they did in Korea. All this changed Vietnam from a limited war into a prolonged, costly, painful mistake of a war.

But the thing is we won the war in Iraq, if you look at this in purely Imperial terms. We have military control of Iraq, all of Iraq's land, for practical purposes, belongs to the US.

Right now we're having a problem securing that land.

Which is why I find a better parallel to our situation in Iraq than Vietnam would be Napoleon and France's ill-conceived invasion of Spain.

I've already done a post comparing current Bush policies to Revolutionary France (and I've heard that in his latest book Paul Krugman makes a similar analogy. Go Raznor. Go Raznor) so why not compare our current war to the goings on in Imperial France?

Napoleon was undeniably a military genious. In previous European wars, the focus was on the acquisition of land, either taking a province from a neighboring nation, or defending a province from a neighboring nation. These wars were as clean as war could be. Very seldom did this result in the elimination of a foreign government, because at the time, most of these nations were kingdoms, so the respective kings would have a certain professional respect for competing kings, and were many times even related.

But Napoleon wasn't interested in simple land acquisition. He was interested in conquest. So, for instance, if he wanted Savoy, rather than the old way of securing a section of Savoy's land, and defend it from counterattack until he could grab a little more land, he would find where Savoy's military was, and actually attack Savoy's army, and once Savoy's army was in tatters, there'd be no one left to defend Savoy's land, and ipso facto, Savoy becomes the newest province of France.

But then we get to Spain. Napoleon was able to eliminate Spain's standing forces, if not easily, at least without much more difficulty than with any other army France conquered at the time. But then something happened. The peasantry of Spain rose up to fight the invading French army. What followed was a long and grueling guerilla war that eventually led to British forces landing in Spain to side with the Spanish peasantry to push France out of Spain. [for illustrations of this, take a look at Goya's paintings of a peasant uprising in Madrid and the subsequent French retaliation]

Here's the thing (to make this even more of an uncanny analogy to Iraq), the Spanish king the peasantry was fighting for was by no means a benign one. He was in fact a very brutal ruler, whose regime continued to carry out the Inquisition, and under whom peasants received only slightly more legal rights than a mule. But they fought the foreign occupiers anyway. Because I guess the local brutal ruler you know beats the foreign invaders who you don't. (I mean, if Zimbabwe suddenly took over America, I'd be all for running them out, even if it meant reinstalling Bush as ruler. And I'm not saying Bush is Ferdinand VII, so lay off) The trouble in Spain put a huge damper in Napoleon's quest for continental Empire, and combined with failed campaigns in Italy and Russia led to his downfall.

So is our situation in Iraq essentially the same as France's situation in Spain? No, of course not. Fundamentally, it seems that the resistance we're facing from the Iraqis is not nearly as strong as the resistance put up by the Spaniards. But our ability to quell such resistance isn't as strong as the ability possessed by the French.

Some opponents of Bush have called Bush's grab for Iraq naked Imperialism. But it's not. It's scantily clad Imperialism. It's under the rhetoric of us liberating Iraq, that we're there to help the Iraqi people. So the American people don't have the stomach nor desire to treat Iraq like any other Imperial holding. If we did, then the guerillas wouldn't be much of a problem. When the UN bombing occurred, we could round up maybe 50 Baghdad civilians, claim they were responsible, and publicly execute them. That would theoretically keep enough of the population scared to allow us to deal with those who weren't. But it would be very hard to reconcile that with the rhetoric surrounding the war. And with support of the war already waning, it would drop far too much when it became transparent that it wasn't about all those nice noble reasons the Administration keeps talking about.

Bush's interview with Fox

Neal Pollack has the details.

The Moral Development of Bush

I really don't read Counter Punch enough. If you're looking for a good place for progressive commentary and are sick of the ads and neocon prop pieces over at Salon, then Counterpunch is the way to go.

And in the meanwhile, Carol Norris writes a good piece on Bush's moral development that's really well done and revealing. Go read it.

Oh, that Safire

Go read Busy, Busy, Busy's post on the new William Safire piece. Now.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Fun with numbers

I usually don't post my comments on other people's blogs over here, but this time I was so damn clever, I just had to pat myself in the back by posting it here.

Over at Atrios he posts this quotation from David Limbaugh:


Atrios says that this is blatantly false, but that's just not true, as I mentioned in the comments:

No, no, this is technically correct. You see, it's like in set theory you have the empty set, and you can say whatever you want about elements of the empty set and it will be correct, since the empty set has no elements because it's empty. Same thing here. At some point in 1776, say January 15, there was no Declaration of Independence, hence America didn't exist and therefore had a population of 0. And of those 0 people, a whopping 99.8% were professed Christians! You cannot deny the technical accuracy of this claim.

Ah the powers of math serve me once again.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Unfair Historical Analogies

The DNC blog (entitled "Kicking Ass", I recommend it for all of you), via Atrios (of course), has linked to this column by former Democrat Senator Max Cleland which compares our current conflict in Iraq to Vietnam.

Now, I don't know if Iraq will devolve into a Vietnam-style quagmire, but given the relatively low casualty rate, I don't think the parallel will be any stronger than it's a bad, misguided, poorly managed war when Vietnam is still on our minds.

Besides which, I don't think that Cleland is being very fair to Lyndon Johnson.

A meme picking up on the left (it's even portrayed in this Ted Rall cartoon, and I usually love Ted Rall) is that what Johnson did in the buildup to Vietnam is essentially what Bush did with Iraq. But this ignores some basic facts.

Frankly, every postwar president, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson, bear some responsibility for what happened in Vietnam. Truman for allowing the French to recolonize Indochina after the war, which was contrary to the wishes of Roosevelt, and Eisenhower and Kennedy, for essentially doing exactly what they needed to keep the ensuing guerrilla war from being lost.

There were some reasons for this. Truman didn't want to piss off the French with regards to Southeast Asia, because he was already pissing them off in Europe by rebuilding Germany's Army and Infrastucture. (Remember, France had fought four major wars against Germany or German states in the previous 150 years). Then Eisenhower and Kennedy did what every major president does about seemingly minor issues in foreign policy, they stayed the course.

Then you get to Johnson, and things get interesting. Johnson had some bold initiatives with his Great Society plan, things for which he would need bipartisan support in order to pass. But Vietnam was quickly devolving into a situation where we would need to mobilize in order to prevent it from "falling to the Communists". (I put that in quotes to point to the fact that one of the major intelligence failures in Vietnam was our inability to recognize the North Vietnamese to be at least as much nationalist as they were Communist. Ho Chi Minh may have been an ideological Communist, but he was no puppet to Moscow nor Beijing)

Johnson also had a good memory. He remembered that Truman received no mercy for not intervening when Mao led a Communist uprising in China. He didn't want the same thing to happen to him, leaving his Great Society initiative out to dry. So he started sending in troops. He didn't mobilize the National Guard, because he didn't want to send a panic. He clearly wanted a war that would be quiet, quick and forgotten.

This, obviously, is not what he got.

Now, compare that to Bush.

Cleland, in his article, implicitly states that Bush gave no sign that he would use the US military during his campaign. I disagree. I remember him talking about the Military needing a new Commander in Chief during the second debate, and I instantly got the impression he was planning to use the military in a self-serving, Napoleonic way.

I take grim satisfaction in knowing I was right.

True, Bush inherited a situation in Iraq, but it was a situation where Iraq had lost badly in a war against America in 1991, and since then sanctions and patrols had left Iraq's military and infrastructure in complete shambles, leaving it fully unable to repeat what it did in Kuwait for the foreseeable future. This wasn't a situation so much as it was an oppurtunity for our boy emperor. Our Caesar wannabe. Our poor-man's Napoleon.

I have little doubt that Rummy, Wolfowitz and Perle were planning a war with Iraq from the day Bush was "elected". Why? Because they were planning it while Clinton was in office, since at least 1998, when they and others formed the Project for a New American Century.

This is not Vietnam. In a sense, this is worse, because it implies a frightening shift in US foreign policy. Whereas Vietnam was an example of the failed policy of containment, Iraq is an almost naked grab for empire. I don't want to see our troops die in Iraq, but moreso, I don't want to see our troops head to Syria, Iran, or wherever the Bushies decide is ripe for conquest.

[Updated for clarity]

Friday, September 19, 2003

In search of better Announcers

Derek Zumsteg's latest article is a must read. Especially if you're my mom, who hates D-backs announcers Thom Brennamen and Steve Lyons with an intense fiery passion.

This doesn't have much to do with the rest of the article, but the opening paragraph is hilarious:

I'm late this week, I know. This season I've been taking notes on all the drugs I was supposed to ask my doctor about, and Monday I asked my doctor about them all. I only now got out of his office and let me tell you: If you're suffering from social anxiety disorder, taking a drug that causes vomiting, diarrhea, and acne among its other side effects seems kind of counter-productive. But I'm no doctor.

Oh, and the above link may not work if you don't have a premium subscription to BP Online, so in that case, just head to the the main page and click on the Breaking Balls article in question in the right column. (I never link to BP articles that aren't available without a premium subscription).

Threat Matrix

Is truly the greatest show ever on television. Read about it here.

Wait something's seriously wrong with this

David Frum wrote this in a recent column:

I heard Jeff Greenfield say on CNN today that every general to seek the presidency since Andrew Jackson has been a Republican. That’s not quite right: Think of Lewis Cass (the Democratic nominee for president in 1848) or George McClellan (Democratic nominee 1864) or Winfield Scott Hancock (Democratic nominee, 1880). What Greenfield probably meant to say was that all the successful generals were Republicans. Indeed so, and for good reasons – the reasons Wesley Clark will drill home in ’04 one more time.

Ignoring the difference between modern Republicans and 19th century Republicans, TAPPED noticed this little historical flaw:

Frum's not as wrong about this as Greenfield, but he's still wrong. Franklin Pierce attained the rank of Brigadier General during the war with Mexico before capturing the Democratic nomination -- and the White House -- in the election of 1852.[Emphasis theirs]

To his credit, Frum corrected his mistake, but in doing so, he wrote this:

I made one slip in yesterday's column and one true error. Talking about the political chances of generals, I said that all the successful generals since Andrew Jackson (I meant politically successful by the way not militarily successful - I know that Winfield Scott Hancock was a fine general) had been Republicans. I should have said had been "non-Democrats": William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor were anti-Jacksonians, but they were Whigs, not Republicans.

The error was that even if I'd phrased the point correctly, I would have overlooked the exception to the rule: Franklin Pierce, who served as a brigadier-general in the Mexican War.

Still, the larger point holds: There's something about military backgrounds and Democratic affiliation that has not until now mixed well.[Emphasis mine]

Excuse me? Military backgrounds and Democratic affiliation has not mixed well? What about John Kennedy - a Democrat who notably served in the Pacific theater in World War II. He seemed to do just fine on the political stage.

Sure, Kennedy wasn't a General, but we certainly haven't had a General rise to the office of President since Eisenhower, and before Eisenhower, I can't think of a single former General President since Grant, and certainly there were none others in the 20th Century.

So, in other words, of the one Generals to become President in the last 110 years or so, all have been Republican. A more damning fact against the candidacy of Wesley Clark will be hard to find.

[Updated to add link to Frum's correction]

And on that note

An official TLAP Day quiz:

You are The Cap'n!

Some men are born great, some achieve greatness and some slit the throats of any man that stands between them and the mantle of power. You never met a man you couldn't eviscerate. Not that mindless violence is the only avenue open to you - but why take an avenue when you have complete freeway access? You are the definitive Man of Action. You are James Bond in a blousy shirt and drawstring-fly pants. Your swash was buckled long ago and you have never been so sure of anything in your life as in your ability to bend everyone to your will. You will call anyone out and cut off their head if they show any sign of taking you on or backing down. You cannot be saddled with tedious underlings, but if one of your lieutenants shows an overly developed sense of ambition he may find more suitable accommodations in Davy Jones' locker. That is, of course, IF you notice him. You tend to be self absorbed - a weakness that may keep you from seeing enemies where they are and imagining them where they are not.

What's Yer Inner Pirate?
brought to you by The Official Talk Like A Pirate Web Site. Arrrrr!

Hey, happy International Talk Like A Pirate Day

How did this start anyway?

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Congratulations to Ampersand

It's now Ampersand, homeowner.

Bill Maher on Wesley Clark

I rather enjoyed this post:

Wesley Clark declared his candidacy yesterday, and you know he’s being taken seriously because he’s already under attack. It’s the usual suspects, of course – Limbaugh, Fox News, hate radio. Clark’s a decorated veteran, so he should at least be afforded some respect. But I suppose that’s too much to ask from the party that admonishes everyone to support our military men and women. Of course, if Wes Clark came out as a Republican these same simpletons would be calling you traitors for refusing to elect him God.

Yes, it's humorous, but not as much as what he linked to. The headline of the article is General 'Weasely' Clark - the 10th Little Indian, so you know it's a well-thought out commentary. Here's an excerpt:

Surprise, surprise!

Weasley Clark is going to become the “10th little Indian” in the Democrat presidential primary and will announce his intention to run after announcing just last week that he, too, is a tax-and-spend neo-lib.

Gee, he certainly had everyone on the edges of their seats and spending sleepless nights wondering if he’d run … NOT!

Ooooooh, did you see what he did? He started out giving his reader the impression that this was unexpected, and people were guessing and at the edge of their metaphoric seats, but then suddenly he rebuked that with the " ... NOT!" There's the stuff of political commentary.

Okay, I admit it's pretty much like shooting fish in a barrel, and the barrel is big, and you've got a shot gun, and also, the barrel is on fire. But, come on, it's fun once in a while to go for the easy targets and have fun with that.

In any case, I feel like posting something here, and I'm not going to search the web for anything more substantive, because I've got massive reading to do for tomorrow. (remember, the Reed senior thing) So until I post again (soon), have fun.

It's official, Tom Friedman is now officially insane

From his latest column (via Atrios):

It's time we Americans came to terms with something: France is not just our annoying ally. It is not just our jealous rival. France is becoming our enemy.

No comment.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Running America like a business

Via Mikhaela:

Common acts among despots . . .

Nitpicker has the details.

August's got a new cartoon

Go read it. It's very funny.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Bill Maher on Playboy's tentative "Girls of Wal-Mart Issue"

So why am I so excited about this? Because Wal-Mart is a fundamentally evil corporation that pays its employees sub-poverty wages and treats them like slaves, and anything that irritates the guy who runs this godforsaken enterprise is OK by me.

Here's a link.

Clark in the running

John Marshall gives a pretty good run-down of the whole Clark thing. Go read it. He knows more about it than I.

But what do I think of Clark? I think just his stature as former Commander in Chief of NATO is enough to at least consider supporting his bid for presidency. Frankly, after the general cluster-fuck that is Bush foreign policy, possibly the most important thing for the next president will be his abilities as a diplomat, and a man like Clark not only has the experience of a diplomat, but already has a pretty good standing with the NATO nations that will help make US foreign policy multilateral as opposed to unilateral.

As a side note, this argument for diplomacy also works for former ambassadors. Especially if said ambassador happens to support a more progressive agenda than Clark.

I hate them all except for Turtle Face

Harry Goz, the voice of Captain Murphy on Sealab 2021, has died.. I hear that voice and it always makes me laugh. The sheer brilliance of it.

Well, Harry, you'll be missed.

[Updated so that the title is now one of my favorite Captain Murphy lines from Sealab. I should mention, too, I heard of this from August.]

Monday, September 15, 2003

David Horowitz is insane

Here's a quotation from David Horowitz' latest article decrying Franken's new book.

He had to write something, but he could use 14 students to provide him with his research and write as much of it as he cared to let them. All under the auspices of the university.

By disclosing these facts with the breathless candor of a kid who has stumbled into a toy store where the merchandise is free, Franken has exposed for all who care to look a national educational disgrace.

Although liberals like Franken regularly complain about the unfair advantage "big right-wing think tanks" provide to the Republican cause, Harvard and in fact the entire Ivy League constitute infinitely larger left-wing think tanks that serve the Democratic cause. (For comparison, Harvard's endowment, according to the latest figures, is $17.5 billion; the Heritage Foundation's is $63 million.)

So Harvard is a $17.5 billion think tank for liberals and he bases this on the fact that 14 students helped Franken research his book. This would come as a surprise to such former Harvard faculty as Henry Kissinger, and the fact all Ivy League schools are implied in this, this would also come as a surprise to the Bushes, being alumni of Yale.

This would also come as a surprise to David Horowitz, who in the 1960's accused these very institutions as being too conservative. But that's something else all together.

But the point is he's making a comparison between Harvard's endowment and the Heritage Foundation's. The thing is Harvard does many things that are either correspond to Conservative politics as well as are apolitical. Heritage Foundation is a tax-shelter for spreading right-wing propaganda. To state that it's a crime that it's not getting as much money as the oldest institution in the continent is not only deceitful, but considerably laughable.

Lessons in History: French Radical Revolutionaries and the Bush Administrarion

So currently, in my History class, we're looking at Revolutionary France and then up through the Napoleonic era. For this, we're reading Alan Forrest's Soldiers of the French Revolution, and I found this excerpt (pgs 7-8) of particular interest:

By 1792, this view [that war was necessary to maintain the Revolution] was most clearly identified in the Girondins, the group in the Assembly that most consistently advocated war against Austria if the Revolution were to be saved. While Robespierre and his supporters among the Paris Jacobins warned that war would only distract the French people from their real enemies within, Roland, Brissot, and other leading Girondin politicians insisted that there was no necessary contradiction between internal surveillance and external conflict. Brissot even went so far as to claim that he did not see a war policy as being in any sense dangerous because French troops would be welcomed in countries they invaded as liberators and missionaries of liberty. [emphasis mine]

Sound familiar?

Here's the thing, people try to draw flawed historical parallels to the current situation we're facing in America. The more popular, or at least most prominent, is comparing today to Germany of the 1930's, which has to ignore various geopolitical and social context and often devolves into the Bush=Hitler meme which is way too simplistic and divisive to be given any critical thought. (and to conservatives who want to pick up cheap points on this meme, remember it's no more absurd and far less prevalent than the whole "Osama=Saddam" assertion that is being repeated by the right-wing fringe of the press)

The other historical comparison that seems to be gathering more interest is the comparison to Rome, particularly where the Republic was overthrown by Caesar and became a pure Empire. But this happened thousands of years ago. I have trouble with comparisons that have to ignore thousands of years of progress.

That said, though, I'm introducing a new historical comparison: that of Revolutionary France. I'm not saying that this is a very good comparison, or even significantly better than the comparisons above, but it's no worse than those above, since any period of history will have interesting parallels to virtually any other period of history. Plus this has the added benefit of pissing off the uber-conservatives who now hate all things French since France dared to not agree with everything America does even though we Americans single-handedly rescued France from Hitler and built up their entire country from scratch.

Anyhow, the most interesting thing I learned about France is that the political climate following the Revolution is nothing if not chaotic. Within the hundred years following 1789, there were 3 revolutions (1789, 1830 and 1848) and two Imperial coup-d'etats (1799 and 1860). Without going into detail of the entire period I just mentioned (since I don't really know much about it) I'll focus on what immediately followed the first Revolution.

By 1792, with the Revolution pretty much a success, radical Revolutionaries dominated French politics. This is most prominently by the trial and execution of Louis XVI for treason, but that was merely one of many, many beheadings to take place between 1793 and 1794, most of which were for economic violations of the Levy en masse, which called for a complete and total mobilization of the French people. For example, here is an excerpt from the (translation of the) first article of the Levy en masse:

The young men shall go to battle; the married men shall forge arms and transport provisions; the women shall make tents and clothes, and shall serve in the hospitals; the children shall turn old linen into lint; the old men shall repair to the public places, to stimulate the courage of the warriors and preach the unity of the Republic and hatred of kings.

So the question is what happens to a Democracy that is guided by radicals and maintains a total mobilization against an ideological and permanent enemy? (I mean, kings were everywhere in 18th and 19th century Europe) Well, at the risk of oversimplification, for the French, it meant the dissolution of their democracy. When the Levy en masse was first introduced, there was not so much a problem for military recruitment, as the peasant class, in order to escape difficult living conditions, would readily enlist into military service. But when they attempted recruitment in order to enforce the Levy en masse in 1795, they found the peasants' living conditions improved, making them less willing to enlist. Things spiraled out of control for the Revolutionaries in the General Assembly, to the point that Napoleon was able to take control in 1799. Nice analogy to the ancient Roman and contemporary American tradition of Republic dissolving into Empire, except for the French it was Democracy dissolving into Empire, then into Monarchy, then into Democracy again, then again into Empire, and back to Democracy. (brain hurty)

Now what lessons can we learn from Revolutionary France that pertain directly to the Bush Administration?

First and foremost, Democracy cannot be imposed through violence. And war makes things difficult for a Democracy to maintain itself. I don't doubt that the Austrian king didn't like having a Democratic France bordering his country, and may have been taking steps to weaken it, but in response the French declared a total war that really didn't really seem to have, in modern terms, an exit strategy. Their goal was not just to take part of Austria, or depose the Austrian king, but to depose of all Kings. This left the Republic's government unstable, and left wide open for a coup.

Secondly, policies based on pure ideology without enough attention to pragmatism and diplomacy (or Realpolitik) is doomed to failure. This, I believe, pertains more directly to the current Administration, who if you give a generous interpretation to their actions (they're not just greedy, evil, power-hungry oppurtunists) they are governed by pure ideology with no regard when they seem to contradict with reality.

I dunno, maybe we'll learn from the errors of the past. But then this is Bush, we don't learn lessons of history as recently as 6 or so months ago (look at the tax cut legislation). The odds of learning lessons that are over 200 years old seem quite unlikely. I'm only half kidding.

(I'll be periodically updating this to fix grammar and spelling errors.)

Update/Addendum: Just came back from the library, where I did reading on the Napoleonic era, and I did oversimplify his rise to power. He was named Consul of France in 1799, when he essentially became dictator by having complete control over military and politic matters in France. In 1803 he was named Consul for life, and was crowned Emperor of the French in 1804. So this isn't a coup like that performed by Julius Caesar, where he marched his loyal legionaires into the Capital in order to take control of Rome, it was a rather peaceful one. But it's a coup nonetheless, since his rise to power for all purposes marked the end of the First Republic in France. And what's pertinent to this discussion is he made his rise to power because he was an ingenious and popular general as the radicalization of French politics put a great emphasis into the importance of French military.

Secondly, it may be brought up that this doesn't really pertain to Bush since Bush's ideology is different than that of Revolutionary France. But this is beside the point. The point is not what the ideology in question happens to be, but rather the fact that ideology, rather than diplomacy, becomes the most important aspect of foreign policy. This is a recipe for disaster in any period of history, and I don't see why we should think our period to be any different.

Look what I done got!

So, today, I got in the mail from Amazon.com copies of Joe Conason's Big Lies and Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. I started reading both and like them both. It's a good balance. If reading Conason's book gets me all pissed off and seething, I can just skip over to Franken's book and enjoy jokes about similar subject matter.

In the meantime, I may post my thoughts as I read them, but I make no promises. I'm not like Atrios,who apparently reads these books at a rate of 100 pages a day, and posts cool excerpts every now and then. I'm a Reed senior, and my ability to read these is hampered by the reading in my history class, plus there's the fact that I'm also currently reading Alonso Church's The Calculi of Lambda-Conversions (which is fascinating by the way) and I want to get through (and understand) at least up to the middle of the third chapter in preparation for my first official thesis meeting tomorrow.

I don't mean to complain, just explain. It's not like there's not other stuff in these classes that aren't pertinent to this blog. For example, I think next I'll post a few pertinent thoughts on the revolutionary France.

Nice to know Bush cares

Read this article about how Bush cares much more about money than people. Now.

Via August

Friday, September 12, 2003

Johnny Cash and John Ritter have died

An article here.

This so soon after Johnny Cash released a damn brilliant album. And of course a few days after Warren Zevon's death.

Man this really bums me out.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Some people are being fangoriously devoured by a gelationous monster!

In case you need comic relief.

This is how the world looked two years ago

Take a look at these photos of the world mourning with us on September 11, 2001. They're as moving as they are infuriating.

I hate to politicize this, but it only took two years for Bush to turn this feeling of sympathy and remourse into anger, resentment, and in some cases hatred. A better man in the White House could have taken this undying sympathy and turned it into a promise for a better world. Bush ignored it, and used the day as an eternal excuse for his empire.

Like I say, I hate to politicize Septermber 11, but it's already way too late for that.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Thanks for, uh, letting us know guys

Atrios links to this story:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The burning ruins of the World Trade Center spewed toxic gases "like a chemical factory" for at least six weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks despite government assurances the air was safe, according to a study released on Wednesday.

The gases of toxic metals, acids and organics could penetrate deeply into the lungs of workers at Ground Zero, said the study by scientists at the University of California at Davis and released at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in New York.

Lead study author Thomas Cahill, a professor of physics and engineering, said conditions would have been "brutal" for workers at Ground Zero without respirators and slightly less so for those working or living in adjacent buildings.

"The debris pile acted like a chemical factory," Cahill said. "It cooked together the components and the buildings and their contents, including enormous numbers of computers, and gave off gases of toxic metals, acids and organics for at least six weeks."

The report comes amid questions about air quality at Ground Zero and what the public was told by the government.

Last month, an internal report by Environmental Protection Agency (news - web sites) Inspector General Nikki Tinsley said the White House pressured the agency to make premature statements that the air was safe to breathe.

The EPA issued an air quality statement on Sept. 18, 2001, even though it "did not have sufficient data and analyzes to make the statement," the report said.

Update: August has a good, more personal take on this.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Where the money goes

Chart via Atrios.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Oh no, they're on to my evil plan

As everyone knows, being a liberal, I hate America. As such I've calculated each of my criticisms to invigorate the terrorists and thus kill more Americans. And I would have gotten away with it, if not for that damn Secretary of Defense and his cunning logic. Well, now that I'm figured out I might as well participate in tomorrow's GOP fundraiser and admit defeat.

Seriously, though. There's a word for when the ruling party classifies dissent as treason. And it ain't "democracy".

Update: Billmon has more. Specifically, reacting to this excerpt from the article:

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, concluding a four-day trip to Iraq and Afghanistan, said today that critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policy are encouraging terrorists and complicating the ongoing U.S. war on terrorism.

"We know for a fact . . . that terrorists studied Somalia and they studied instances where the United States was dealt a blow and tucked in and persuaded themselves they could, in fact, cause us to acquiesce in whatever it is they wanted us to do," he told reporters aboard his plane.

He writes:

And exactly who "encouraged the terrorists" by criticizing the Clinton Administration's admittedly FUBAR intervention in Somalia? Was it, perhaps, the likes of Tom Delay, Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott?

Clearly, the dry rot of terrorist subversion has spread far.

Howard Dean

on Bush's speech:

In 15 minutes, he attempted to make up for 15 months of misleading the American people and 15 weeks of mismanaging the reconstruction.

Warren Zevon died

Here's his obituary.

You know, this is almost funny

I didn't comment on this right away, but it bears mention:

On Aug. 26, Hume reported that “U.S. soldiers have less of a chance of dying from all causes in Iraq than citizens have of being murdered in California, which is roughly the same geographical size.” California has 6.6 murders a day, he said; U.S. troops have been incurring about 1.7 deaths a day. The problem: California has 34 million people, but there are 145,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq. “Admittedly it was a crude comparison, but it was illustrative of something,” Hume says.

Yeah, it's illustrative of something, all right. I'll leave my readers to determine what that thing actually is. (cough cough britthumeisasoullesswhore cough cough)

[Updated to include more clever insult directed at Britt Hume]

Bush's speech

You can read it here. I tried but after three paragraphs felt physically nauseous. I mean, here's a quote:

[W]e acted in Iraq, where the former regime sponsored terror, possessed and used weapons of mass destruction, and for 12 years defied the clear demands of the United Nations Security Council. Our coalition enforced these international demands in one of the swiftest and most humane military campaigns in history.

I mean, does he have to wash his mouth out in order to clean out all the bullshit after a speech like this? And for God's sake, how many innocent civilian deaths would constitute an inhumane war? Just would like to know.

To be fair though, I liked his reference to the "training camps of terror" in Afghanistan. Next we'll have to go after the Fortress of . . . PAIN!

[Zim reference there. You'll get it or you won't]

Sunday, September 07, 2003

This is fun

In the mid-19th century, Euler postulated a very important theorem regarding polyhedra (that's like three dimensional polygons for the math-illiterate). If we let V be the number of vertices, E be the number of edges, and F be the number of faces, then:

V - E + F = 2

To which, some of you may be saying, "No way! Prove it."

Well, here you go.

Isn't math fun?

Mikhaela's back

And she brings a a new cartoon. Yay.

Behind the times

I guess the Fox News lawsuit has been done with for a while, and I may have been the last blog to take "Fair and Balanced" out of my title, but there you go. This blog goes back to its humble beginnings as Raznor's Rants, and let that be the end of that.

It makes me so happy to think that this guy may soon be the chief justice

Via Atrios comes this little gem from the great Antonin Scalia:

The Constitution just sets minimums," Scalia said after a speech at John Carroll University in suburban Cleveland. "Most of the rights that you enjoy go way beyond what the Constitution requires."

Nice to see that a man whose sole job is to interpret the Constitution has such a skewed view on it.

Why the hell is this man still allowed to sit on the Supreme Court?

The benefit of being slow to post

See, sometimes when I want to post on something, but can't think of anything to say, the issue suddenly ends up being resolved without me.

Like for instance when Snopes is proven proven wrong on something and tries to fix it, while trying to ignore the fact that they had been sufficiently nasty to Michael Moore in the process of getting it wrong and seemed to giving Michael Moore a well-deserved apology, have now updated their site to complete with full apology to Michael Moore.

Consider my role in this done.

Thursday, September 04, 2003


So I had my network connection in my room disconnected yesterday, and today, an entire afternoon spent fixing my computer has finally just now paid off. Any case, now should be the time that I can start actually posting in this blog again with some semblance of regularity.

In the meanwhile, Ampersand appears to be posting again with some regularity so check that out.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

New Muse single

Anyone who knows me personally will probably know I love Muse, and their website now includes the video for their new single "Time is Running Out" which totally rocks.

Of course, viewing the website, I'm reminded of the difficulties of being a fan of a band from England that receives very little distribution Stateside, in that their upcoming tour will be exclusively in Europe and England. Damn you fate!

Update: Okay, watching the video again, it's not of the same high caliber I'm used to with Muse videos, like for those of Bliss (which seems to be a visual metaphor for Dante's Divine Comedy) or Plug In Baby. But the song itself is brilliant, and shares that brilliant darkness with all of Muse's great love songs. I mean "I want to give you up/ But I'm addicted" and "You will suck the life from me". Those aren't quite lyrics for a happy sing-song type thing.

Hindus vs Homos

Eugene Volokh has a great post on anti-Hindu laws and how they apply to anti-homosexuality laws, although he doesn't include the great, Scott Thompson-esque title that I do. It's still a good read, go read it.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

The coming war in America

Great post by Oliver Willis. Read it. Now. NOW!

Bush on domestic policy

Here, read this this New York Times article about the White House's stance on medicare, and see if you can see what's missing?

Here's an excerpt to help you along:

With President Bush back in the capital after his August respite in Texas, the White House prodded Congress again today to act on several issues high on Mr. Bush's agenda, including prescription drug benefits under Medicare.

"The president looks forward to working with Congress to modernize and strengthen Medicare for our nation's seniors so that they can have more choices and better benefits," the chief White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said. "Our seniors have waited far too long for the prescription drug coverage that they deserve."

But Mr. McClellan declined to say whether the president would set a target date for passage — say, Columbus Day, as suggested by Senator Charles E. Grassley, the Iowa Republican who heads the Senate Finance Committee.

"The president believes that Congress should act as quickly as possible because seniors have waited long enough," Mr. McClellan said. "And what we're going to do is continue working closely with members of Congress." He added, "It's time for Congress to act and move as quickly as possible."

Do you see it? Anything not stand out there?

How about any sign of commitment? To a timing of the bill, to content of the bill?

I mean, how much more pussy of a stance can you have? Maybe saying stem cell research is legal, but only on already existing strains? (remember that)

This comes via Matthew Yglesias who sums it up as well as anyone can:

If you're looking for evidence that the administration doesn't really give a damn about domestic policy, check out the New York Times's coverage of the White House position on the prescription drug debate. Near as I can tell from the article, the White House doesn't have a position except to say that congress should pass a bill. They don't care if the congress passes the Senate bill or the House bill or some combination or what the combination contains. They just know that the voters want to see a bill, so they've decided that it's a bill the voters shall get. Serious politicians actually care about the content of the bills they're considering signing.

Anyway, just saying is all.

Monday, September 01, 2003

George Will lies again

Go read about it at Busy, Busy, Busy.