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saturday, february 19, 2005

Speaking for Myself, II
 
 
Peretz's claim that there just aren't any more great liberal thinkers writing books reminded me a great deal of another opinion piece I read last week. In the February 13 Los Angeles TimesCharlotte Allen wrote that there are no great women intellectuals ready to step into the late Susan Sontag's shoes.
 
"When I think of female intellectuals today, only Camille Paglia comes to mind," she wrote, which I agree is pretty damn pathetic. Paglia is to thinking what Thomas Kinkaid is to painting. If that's the best you've got, civilization truly is in decline.
 
But Allen's agenda is all too transparent. Although Sontag was a "woman of the left" whose opinions "can make you wince," at least Sontag "refused to embrace ideological feminism." In Allen's view, this was Sontag's saving grace.
 
A letter writer to the LA Times has Allen's number:
Allen is part of the Independent Women's Forum, which, as MediaTransparency.org puts it, "is neither independent nor a forum." It is funded by extreme right-wing foundations, such as the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation and the Scaife family foundations.

The IWF website states that the forum wants to counter "the influence of radical feminism in the courts." But it has a history of being against mainstream policies that might empower women, such as the Violence Against Women Act, Title IX and the Women's Educational Equity Act. It is against gender equity, period.

It was no surprise that on Jan. 19, the CEO of the IWF claimed that the president of Harvard was right when he said that women have less success in science because of their genes, not discrimination or other social factors. The IWF is consistently anti-feminist. It's no surprise that the forum can't find any women who qualify as public intellectuals, not even themselves. [Sherryl Kleinman, Chapel Hill, NC]
Armed with the knowledge that Charlotte Allen is an ideological whore, let us now consider her arguments. She makes a distinction between academic intellectuals and public intellectuals, who "pitch their ideas to the general reading public," but then manages to write off popular authors like Barbara Ehrenreich as "professional feminists," which means they don't count, somehow. ("Ehrenreich similarly has branched out into socioeconomic topics ('Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America'). Even then, Ehrenreich looks mainly at the plight of female workers. ...")  Real intellectuals don't bother themselves with the plight of female workers, I suppose.
 
And if Nickle and Dimed is an "ideologically feminist" book, isn't Allen defining as "ideologically feminist" just about any book written about the lives of women (except those that advise women to be stay-at-home, home-schooling moms, which tend to be written by men)?
 
Further, a man could not have written Nickle and Dimed, because a male writer attempting the same experiment probably could have gotten better jobs. The bottom-of-the-food-chain employment Ehrenreich wrote about is still a largely gender-segregated world. What Allen is really saying is that the whole issue of the exploitation of workers is unworthy of intellectual consideration.
 
"Ideological feminism has ghettoized and trivialized the subject matter of women's writing," Allen says. "As a successful ideology, it has foreclosed debate — and debate is the hallmark of the public intellectual." Actually, there are many points of contention within feminism. In fact, I've long maintained that the once relatively unified feminist movement that sprang up in the 1960s splintered apart by the 1980s, to the point that there are now a whole lot of feminisms with different points of view. The evil cabal of "ideological feminists" who so upset Allen is only a bugaboo living in her mind. Maybe she should see a shrink.
 
Other reactions, in no particular order:
 
When I graduated journalism school in 1973, it still was a given that the boy graduates would be hard news reporters and the girls would write for the "women's pages" -- recipes, fashion, etc. So when I hear someone argue that too many women writers are only writing about women (who are, after all, half the population), I wonder if it still isn't true that it's easier for a woman to be recognized as an authority and get published if she's writing about women's issues.  Conversely, it's still probably true that a lot of men don't notice women's issues, leaving mostly women to notice them and write about them.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Although Sontag was not primarily a feminist writer, I suspect that without the ground-breaking of the feminist movement she would not have been taken as seriously.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Another letter writer, Scott Banks of Claremont, California, says,
Yet when she gets around to making lists of male and female public intellectuals, her list of males is no more copious than her list of females, and arguably more obscure. By her own count, she has discovered a cause without an effect.

There is indeed a problem here, but not with feminists. Ours is not a country with a particularly healthy interest in intellectuals, public or not. Our president clearly exemplifies this attitude, so perhaps we will discover together, over the long run, the wisdom or folly of this indifference.
My addition: The days in which the publishing industry was run mostly by people who loved literature and ideas are long gone. Now, the publishing industry is run mostly by CEOs who care only about quarterly earnings. For this reason, the manuscript aquisition editors (whose jobs depend on how many dollars their books bring in) are looking for variations on what's been successful before, not for innovation.
 
As I wrote last night, there's not much in the way of fresh, breakthrough political thinking getting published by either the Left or the Right. (And the Right has its own publishing house cranking out a lot of its stuff, so it has less of an excuse.)
 
That's why I believe the next wave of breakthrough thinking is going to come from the Web. It may go from the Web to books, but it will start on the Web.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Allen didn't mention Karen Armstrong, one of my favorite public intellectuals who doesn't write about feminism.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Finally, whenever I see two "public intellectuals" like Charlotte Allen and Martin Peretz adopt the same essentially boneheaded theme at about the same time, I suspect the theme is being generated from somewhere up the power pyramid. Is Peretz taking orders from the Scaife family foundations? If so, that would explain a lot about what's up with The New Republic.
 
 
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8:03 am | link

friday, february 18, 2005

Speaking for Myself
 
As if The New Republic weren't annoying enough, it has now declared the death of liberalism. Martin Peretz writes,
I think it was John Kenneth Galbraith, speaking in the early 1960s, the high point of post-New Deal liberalism, who pronounced conservatism dead. Conservatism, he said, was "bookless," a characteristic Galbraithian, which is to say Olympian, verdict. Without books, there are no ideas. And it is true: American conservatism was, at the time, a congeries of cranky prejudices, a closed church with an archaic doctrine proclaimed by spoiled swells. William F. Buckley Jr. comes to mind, and a few others whose names will now resonate with almost nobody. Take as just one instance Russell Kirk, an especially prominent conservative intellectual who, as Clinton Rossiter (himself a moderate conservative) wrote, has "begun to sound like a man born one hundred and fifty years too late and in the wrong country." 

At this point in history, it is liberalism upon which such judgments are rendered. And understandably so. It is liberalism that is now bookless and dying. The most penetrating thinker of the old liberalism, the Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, is virtually unknown in the circles within which he once spoke and listened, perhaps because he held a gloomy view of human nature. However gripping his illuminations, however much they may have been validated by history, liberals have no patience for such pessimism. So who has replaced Niebuhr, the once-commanding tribune to both town and gown? It's as if no one even tries to fill the vacuum. Here and there, of course, a university personage appears to assert a small didactic point and proves it with a vast and intricate academic apparatus. In any case, it is the apparatus that is designed to persuade, not the idea. 

Where to start?
 
Let's start with Reinhold Niebuhr, so that we can shake his hand and let him sit down. Niebuhr was a politically progressive theologian, a deep thinker, a great man. But although Neibuhr was a great contributor to 20th century liberal discourse, I disagree that he was central to it.  So, Reinhold -- we love ya, babe, but this isn't about you. Now, on to Peretz.
 
Peretz argues that there is no liberal voice putting forth new ideas. This implies that there are conservative voices putting forth new ideas. But seems to me the only conservative academic thinkers with any influence these days are Leo Strauss, who died in 1973; Allan Bloom, who died in 1992; and Robert Bork, whose most recent work (1997) seems to be Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline -- yeah, I'm sure that's full of fresh, positive conservative ideas. Next generation writers like Dinesh D'Souza  and  Francis Fukuyama are essentially Allan Bloom warmed over -- second rate minds. Frankly, you can categorize all contemporary conservative "intellectual" literature as the same stuff they were writing forty years ago, but dumbed down.
 
What are most conservatives reading? I surveyed some conservative Amazon lists, and the most widely read authors were Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Mona Charen, David Limbaugh, Michael Savage, and Peggy Noonan. And, remarkably, all of these people have written the same book. It's titled, Deliver Us from Liberals: How Liberals Are Destroying America and Hate Jesus and Should be Hanged as Traitors, Especially Hillary Clinton.
 
But Peretz writes,
Ask yourself: Who is a truly influential liberal mind in our culture? Whose ideas challenge and whose ideals inspire? Whose books and articles are read and passed around? There's no one, really.
What about Jared Diamond? Collapse: How Societies Choose or Fail to Succeed is on many a leftie reading list these days. George Lakoff also comes to mind. It's true that nearly all other popular books from the Left are all about the evils of the Bush Administration, but show me one that isn't true. And then go back and look at the works of Hannity, Coulter, et al.
 
Fact is, right now most political discourse in America, both Right and Left, is all about how awful those other people are. There's not much energy left for anything else. This is not a liberal problem. It's an American problem.
 
And I sincerely believe lefties more than righties would like to turn their energies to more positive political work. But we're fighting for our lives now. When there's a pack of rottweilers after your ass it's not the time to consider what color to paint the doghouse.  
 
Peretz goes on,
What animates American conservatism is the future of the regulatory state and the trajectory of federalism. The conservatives have not themselves agreed on how far they want to retract either regulation or the authority of the national government. These are not axiomatic questions for them, as can be seen by their determined and contravening success last week in empowering not the states against Washington but Washington against the states in the area of tort law. As Jeffrey Rosen has pointed out in these pages, many of these issues will be fought out in the courts. But not all. So a great national debate will not be avoided.   
In other words, conservatives are wound up about the same zombie ideas they've been wound up about since Goldwater. Wake me up when they've got something new. And as far as the 'great national debate" -- exactly on what planet has Peretz been living lo these past several years? We cannot "debate" anything any more. Lies are put on the table to be accepted or rejected, and if you reject them you are marginalized and ridiculed for having too much "nuance." That's the extent of our "national debate."
 
Peretz puts down "the blogs, with their daily panic dose about how the Bush administration is ruining the country." (Buddy, somebody's got to do it if you won't.) Then he lists topics often discussed on the Left Blogosphere that he says no one is discussing, like economic competition, "rapacious capatalism" (a big bloggie favorite) and race (even bigger). Talk about being out of the loop ...
 
Truly, Peretz needs to retire. And he can take that other TNR relic, Peter Beinart, with him.  And Gregg Easterbrook, too. The man's a flaming idiot and an embarrassment to the species. But that's another post ...
 
 
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7:46 pm | link

Right Hook
 
Yesterday, President Bush made noises about maybe raising the cap on Social Security taxes to help pay for privatization. As a result, knees jerked all over Rightieland. Raising taxes? No no no!
 
Peter Wallsten and Warren Vieth in the Los Angeles Times provide some reactions to the cap suggestions:
"It's exactly the wrong way to go," said Richard Lessner, executive director of the American Conservative Union, which is hosting the annual Conservative Political Action Conference that started Thursday. Attendees were buzzing about the concession by a president whose tax-cutting agenda has made him a hero.

"If you're looking to rally the American people around a reform plan, you don't lead off with a tax increase or benefit cuts," Lessner said. "Those are both political losers."

treemoney.jpgI guess it's also a political loser to explain to people that there's no free lunch. But like it or not, the privatization scheme will cost trillions, and we're already way over our heads in deficits. Exactly what does Mr. Lessner propose we do? Does he believe in a Government Revenue Fairy?

John Lott, an economist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and a supporter of private accounts, said the fact that Bush was discussing a tax increase suggested the White House had veered off course.

"Bush has backed himself into the corner on a false issue," Lott said Thursday. "This tells me that the White House hasn't made the strongest argument that they could make."

It worries me when I agree with Lott about anything, but he's right -- Bush has backed himself into a corner on a false issue. The false issue is that Social Security is in crisis -- it's not (see this also).

In fact, I've heard arguments that whatever problems there might be with Social Security funding could be solved entirely by raising the cap. Thus, some say, any shortfalls projected for many years down the road could be avoided, and the program could trip along its merry way, unchanged, for the rest of the 21st century.

But (say the righties) noooooooo ... we can't do anything simple to keep the program as it is. We must overhaul it entirely in order to destroy it. That's the plan.

Righties explain their tax fetish by arguing (against much real-world experience) that raising taxes always hurts the economy, and lowering taxes always helps it. Therefore, one must never raise taxes, but should keep lowering taxes, until (I assume) there are no taxes at all and the government is living on air.

In the case of raising the cap, however, only those making more than $90,000 (where it's capped now; income above the cap is not taxed) to wherever the cap is raised would be affected. It could be a pretty thin slice of the economic demographic. It's irrational to suggest that such a tax shift would be more disasterous to the economy that another few trillion dollars in deficit.

But of course, if you still have faith in supply-side economics that's the argument you will make. Supply-side economics means believing in the Government Revenue Fairy.

Bush has boxed himself into a corner. He sold the privatization scheme to the Right with pie-in-the-sky promises that it would return more money to individuals than the old accounts. But to persuade moderates he's having to actually cough up some detail and the devil therein. Moderates are demanding that Bush show how he's going to pay for this nonsense. Hence, the cap suggestion. As explained on Liberal Oasis:

Polls not only show that Bush is clearly struggling to sell his plan, but also that the prospect of lifting the cap is more popular than you’d might expect.

So by re-floating this trial balloon, Bush can test if he could win support from the Democratic “Fainthearted Faction” without losing too much conservative support.

For example, Fainthearted Faction member Sen. Kent Conrad says he could support partial privatization if the plan wasn’t financed by “massive borrowing” or “drastic benefit cuts.”

But Bush may find that, while picking up a few moderates, he could lose some of the more extreme righties for whom "taxes are always bad" is gospel. In a corner, indeed.

Let's keep him there.

   
 
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thursday, february 17, 2005

Oopsie!
 
This afternoon either Eric Boehlert at Salon or Joe Strupp at Editor and Publisher -- I'm not sure which got it online first -- broke the news that "Jeff Gannon" got into White House press briefings before Talon News even existed. As I keyboard, Keith Olbermann is talking to Greg Mitchell of E&P on MSNBC.
 
Now Ron Hutcheson of Knight-Ridder is making excuses, saying that even though it's annoying to have ideologues in the White House press briefings, he thinks it's a necessary evil. Otherwise the press briefings are too exclusive. However, IMO, "Gannon's" ideology isn't the story. The story is that whatever processes there are for security checks were bypassed in "Gannon's" case, and on top of that he was given a preferred place in the question-asking rank. 
   
 
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8:03 pm | link

Holy Shit
 
Bush just nominated John "What human rights?" Negroponte to be Director of National Intelligence, "a new position that will oversee the country's 15 intelligence agencies and exercise broad control over a multi-billion dollar intelligence budget," says the New York Times.  
 
Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to live in a country where the President actually gives a shit about the people. The U.S. used to be such a country, but it sure isn't now, and my memory isn't what it used to be.
 
Negroponte's nomination is another signal that actual national security -- you know, making us citizens safer from terrorist attacks -- is less important to the White House than some neocon fantasy of global American domination by any means necessary.
 
This page has a good account of Negroponte's bad history, including the little matter of political murders in Honduras.
 
[Update: A commenter who was unable to figure out the page linked in the paragraph above belonged to Foreign Policy in Focus -- and if I can do it, it can't be that hard -- complained about the link, saying "The 'This page' link certainly is not a credible source of information. The site has no identification nor does it say who is responsible for its content."  
 
Fine; then go to Eric Alterman's blog and find the same information there. Or find it in a lot of other places; it's all stuff that's been well known for a long time by just about anybody paying attention.]
 
It might be argued that Negroponte knows how to deal with terrorists because he is one. Somehow, I am not reassured.
 
Update: I apologize for being flip with Ambassador Negroponte's name in the first paragraph. I called him John "What Human Rights?" Negroponte. His correct name is, of course, John "We Have More Nuns Than We Need Anyway" Negroponte.
 
Update Update: More on Negroponte's unsavory past in The Guardian. See also David Corn in The Nation.
   
 
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11:11 am | link

L'Apres-midi d'un faune
 
The New York Times finally weighed in on "Jeff Gannon," although only through columnists. Fortunately, they've got their eyes on the real story and not the fake story the righties are trying to frame.
 

I'm still mystified by this story. I was rejected for a White House press pass at the start of the Bush administration, but someone with an alias, a tax evasion problem and Internet pictures where he posed like the "Barberini Faun" is credentialed to cover a White House that won a second term by mining homophobia and preaching family values?

At first when I tried to complain about not getting my pass renewed, even though I'd been covering presidents and first ladies since 1986, no one called me back. Finally, when Mr. McClellan replaced Ari Fleischer, he said he'd renew the pass - after a new Secret Service background check that would last several months.

In an era when security concerns are paramount, what kind of Secret Service background check did James Guckert get so he could saunter into the West Wing every day under an assumed name while he was doing full-frontal advertising for stud services for $1,200 a weekend? He used a driver's license that said James Guckert to get into the White House, then, once inside, switched to his alter ego, asking questions as Jeff Gannon. ...

With the Bushies, if you're their friend, anything goes. If you're their critic, nothing goes. They're waging a jihad against journalists - buying them off so they'll promote administration programs, trying to put them in jail for doing their jobs and replacing them with ringers. [emphasis added]

"Even the Nixon White House didn't do anything this creepy," La Dowd says at the end.  

Frank Rich weighs in:

"Jeff" has now quit Talon News not because he and it have been exposed as fakes but because of other embarrassing blogosphere revelations linking him to sites like hotmilitarystud.com and to an apparently promising career as an X-rated $200-per-hour "escort." If Mr. Guckert, the author of Talon News exclusives like "Kerry Could Become First Gay President," is yet another link in the boundless network of homophobic Republican closet cases, that's not without interest. But it shouldn't distract from the real question - that is, the real news - of how this fake newsman might be connected to a White House propaganda machine that grows curiouser by the day. Though Mr. McClellan told Editor & Publisher magazine that he didn't know until recently that Mr. Guckert was using an alias, Bruce Bartlett, a White House veteran of the Reagan-Bush I era, wrote on the nonpartisan journalism Web site Romenesko, that "if Gannon was using an alias, the White House staff had to be involved in maintaining his cover." (Otherwise, it would be a rather amazing post-9/11 security breach.)

Rich then brings up the subject of journalists on the White House payroll, à la Armstrong Williams and Karen Ryan.

The money that paid for both the Ryan-Garcia news packages and the Armstrong Williams contract was siphoned through the same huge public relations firm, Ketchum Communications, which itself filtered the funds through subcontractors. A new report by Congressional Democrats finds that Ketchum has received $97 million of the administration's total $250 million P.R. kitty, of which the Williams and Ryan-Garcia scams would account for only a fraction. We have yet to learn precisely where the rest of it ended up.

Rich also asks questions many on the Left Blogosphere have been asking:
Mr. Guckert has at times implied that he either saw or possessed a classified memo identifying Valerie Plame as a C.I.A. operative. Might that memo have come from the same officials who looked after "Jeff Gannon's" press credentials? Did Mr. Guckert have any connection with CNN's own Robert Novak, whose publication of Ms. Plame's name started this investigation in the first place?
Finally,
The "Jeff Gannon" story got less attention than another media frenzy - that set off by the veteran news executive Eason Jordan, who resigned from CNN after speaking recklessly at a panel discussion at Davos, where he apparently implied, at least in passing, that American troops deliberately targeted reporters. Is the banishment of a real newsman for behaving foolishly at a bloviation conference in Switzerland a more pressing story than that of a fake newsman gaining years of access to the White House (and network TV cameras) under mysterious circumstances?
Not to me, it isn't.
 
 
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8:44 am | link

wednesday, february 16, 2005

Read This
 
In tomorrow's Seattle Post-Intelligencer, by Dahr Jamail, an independent reporter covering the Iraq war:

How is it that more than 40 percent of Americans still believe Iraq has weapons of mass destruction even though President Bush personally has admitted there are none? ...  It's because overall, mainstream media reportage in the United States about the occupation in Iraq is being censured, distorted, threatened by the military and controlled by corporations that own the outlets.

Jamail goes on to say that Eason Jordan's comments on the targeting of journalists were not without credibility, which is the part of this story that the righties will pick up, if they notice it. But I was more interested in this part:

Most Americans also don't know there are four permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq, with the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root diligently constructing 10 others.

I admit I've only heard dim rumblings about this. I knew some permanent bases were planned and maybe in construction, but this guy says four bases are completed.
 
And, of course, there is also the stuff about how many people die every day, and how much tax money is missing, and about the terrible state of morale among U.S. troops. 
 
Truly, during the Vietnam War we got more information about what was going on "over there" than we're getting now. 
 
Update February 17: Last night I wrote, "Jamail goes on to say that Eason Jordan's comments on the targeting of journalists were not without credibility, which is the part of this story that the righties will pick up, if they notice it."
 
Boy, did I call that one right. You can count on the righties ... to be righties. Who cares about censorship? Who cares about being lied to by the White House? Not righties. Right now it's hard to put a finger on exactly what it is they are protecting -- perhaps the legend they've created for themselves in their own minds. It's way pathetic, in any event.    
 
 
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10:39 pm | link

Red (Blue) Meat
 
Yesterday I put down Eason Jordan as a non-story that got blown up into a story by the Right Blogosphere. And, of course, the righties are saying the same thing about "Jeff Gannon." Writes Glenn Reynolds:
I'm a libertarian -- I've got no problem with gay male prostitutes. Or even gay female prostitutes (they have those, right?). Heck, I'd legalize prostitution -- gay and straight -- if it was up to me, and think of its practitioners as every bit as respectable as other professionals like lawyers, lobbyists and journalists. (Maybe moreso, as I suspect the client satisfaction rate is higher . . . .)

What I don't quite get is when the Left became such a bunch of obsessively puritanical, curtain-peering Gladys Kravitz types. Lighten up, guys! It's only sex, and as we all know, especially post-Clinton, sex, and lying about sex, is no big deal!

And then we on the left start flapping around, saying, but that's not the story. "Jeff Gannon" isn't the story; the story is what the White House was up to giving this guy a press pass. The White House is the story, see? And White House security, and manipulation of news, flap flap flap.
 
And the "mainstream" media dutifully mouths the rightie talking points, and the story is forgotten, and we go on flapping away, ineffectual and ignored, until the next outrage from the White House comes along (in a day or two). You should know the pattern. We've been at this for a while now.
 
Digby gets closer to the heart of it. First, he quotes Jonah Goldberg from yesterday's Howard Kurtz:
Until Jordan quit on Friday, the lefty bloggers were dancing around the victory fire chanting in triumph over bagging this Jeff Gannon guy from Talon News. I'm extending this metaphor too far, I'm sure, but their celebration makes me wonder how so many brave warriors can eat their fill off the carcass of a chipmunk. I confess that at first I thought this sounded like a real story. But it's turned out to be more than a little sad.
Dibgy's analysis, which puts Howie's to shame, follows:
Paraphrasing a comment I read somewhere yesterday (apologies to the author) "pay no attention to the naked gay conservative male prostitute sitting in the middle of the family values white house living room." Goldberg affects a jocular dismissiveness for a reason. He knows what a real story is and he knows how they work. And he is trivializing this one because it is actually quite dangerous.

Meanwhile, on the left we have much handwringing by commenters over this not being a "gay" story and how we should concentrate on the national security angle and how it's really about access etc, etc. We too are ignoring the naked, gay conservative prostitute in the middle of the family values white house living room. And this is where they get us.
Digby reminds us that Jonah Goldberg was a player in the Clinton-Lewinsky saga (through his mother, Lucianne, and having her for a mother almost makes you want to forgive Jonah for being such a jerk, huh?). Then, later, he says,
I hear endless braying about how the Democrats have to "fight back." And yet... we just don't seem to to have the heart to play the raw political game they play.

A Republican's political instincts would tell them instantly that this Manchurian Beefcake story presents an amazingly fertile opportunity to take the Bush White House off message in a way that they clearly despise, sow dissension within the GOP coalition, mitigate a growing moral hazard and most of all, make Republicans around the country examine once again whether their attitudes about gays are really what they think they are. 
As I've said before, this is the box we're in. We play nice, we get beat. We even think about playing dirty, the way righties do all the time, and we still get beat because the righties demand that we live up to our liberal standards, standards that don't restrict them for a moment.   
 
It's a little like the comic book superhero whose only vulnerability is his morality, which the amoral villain cheerfully exploits. The villain is eternally luring the hero into traps by dangling a loved one and/or a bus full of school children over the East River (think Spiderman I, but it's a recurring theme throughout the superhero genre). By trying to save everyone the hero is exposed to attack by the villain. But in the same situation the villain wouldn't be bothered a bit; he'd let everyone die and go home and have a beer.
 
And we don't have super powers. No fun.
 
But in our story, we really aren't having to choose between saving the bus full of school children or sweet Mary Jane. And we really aren't having to choose between confronting the White House and betraying our anti-homophobe values. And don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
 
First off, "Jeff Gannon" is not just a gay man, but a gay prostitute. If being critical of male prostitution is homophobic, then I guess being critical of more common forms of prostitution is heterophobic.
 
I mean, what if we found out that Elisabeth Bumiller were selling herself on a web site called Hotnewyorktimesbabes.com? Would that be OK with Accuracy in Media? Somehow, I doubt it.
 
Second, and more critical, we have a White House that cynically exploits homophobia for political purposes, yet seems to be populated by closeted gay men. This "don't ask, don't tell" policy pushes gays into being enablers of homophobia. As gay activist Mike Rogers says, "The closet is our worst enemy."
 
(Further, isn't it true that people with secrets to hide can be blackmailed? And isn't this a risk to national security? I'm just sayin'.)
 
I still get hoots from the Right Blogosphere because I usually delete comments from righties. But, dammit, I'm tired of playing their games. Being liberal doesn't mean being a sap.
 
All together now: I'm not your monkey.
 
No backing down this time, people. Regarding Gannongate, the Left is right and the Right is wrong
 
 
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7:48 am | link

tuesday, february 15, 2005

Eating Their Own
 
Last week the Wall Street Journal published an eyewitness account of the Eason Jordan incident that said, in effect, 'tweren't that big a deal.
 
Yesterday WSJ published a defense of last week's story. One gets the impression that the fury of the Right Blogosphere was turned on WSJ, and the paper's editorial board was a bit shaken by it.
 
Yesterday's unsigned editorial restated the incident, then said,

None of this does Mr. Jordan credit. Yet the worst that can reasonably be said about his performance is that he made an indefensible remark from which he ineptly tried to climb down at first prompting. This may have been dumb but it wasn't a journalistic felony.

It is for this reason that we were not inclined to write further about the episode after our first report. For this we have since been accused of conspiring on Mr. Jordan's behalf. One Web accusation is that Mr. Stephens is--with 2,000 others--a fellow of the World Economic Forum, thereby implying a collusive relationship with Mr. Jordan, who sits on one of the WEF's boards. If this is a "conflict of interest," the phrase has ceased to mean anything at all.

Sorta like the Paris mob turning on Robespierre, huh?
 
For their part, the righties are all huffy about being called a "lynch mob" (a phrase WSJ did not use, btw, but see, for example, Michelle Malkin and Easongate) claiming they weren't after Jordan's head, just the truth.
 
Sure; and I'm the Easter Bunny. As David Neiwert wrote,
What has proceeded apace is a classic right-wing blogosphere witchhunt. Some have even put together an "Easongate" blog. It's obvious that, after "Rathergate," right-wing bloggers have concluded that the way to make a name for yourself is to take down someone from the "MSM," even if it's a little-known executive for a cable network. They're calling for his dismissal, as are members of the D.C. conservative pundit class.

These people aren't outraged. They're hunting pelts
Some rightie bloggers are miffed because WSJ doesn't support their belief that the Jordan scandal was worthy of several billion gigabytes of blog commentaries and the hateful email mobbing the Right is so good at; see, for example, Professor Bainbridge and Captain's Quarters.
 
Back in the 1970s a lot of leftist movements went on an ideological purity kick that just about tore the American Left and much of the Democratic Party apart. It seems to me the Right is now on the brink of the same precipice. They've pushed their extremism and obsession with ideological purity about as far as it will go. From here, they can either pull back from the brink or self-destruct.
 
Of course, there's a third option, which is to continue to push us all in the direction of totalitarianism. I don't think everyone on the Right is ready to go there, but some clearly are. And I think it's only a matter of time before the virtual mobs become literal ones. Eventually, somebody's going to be severely injured, maybe killed.
 
Over on Hullabaloo, Digby says"I think that the Right is making a mistake if they think that they'll be able to hang on to power if they shut people up." Please read the comments to this. Really good analysis from a lot of people.
 
I hadn't noticed there was an Eason Jordan scandal until last week, when I was surveying the Right Blogosphere looking for comments on the Middle East cease fire. And all I was finding was one blazing-hot post after another about Eason Jordan. You'd think he was behind the 9/11 plot. You'd think he was caught stewing babies. You'd think nothing else was going on in the world -- no Social Security debate, no North Korean plutonium weapons crisis, no continued violence in Iraq, no Middle East cease fire, no new information about Condi Rice's lies and incompetence regarding 9/11. The Right Blogosphere was All Eason Jordan, All the Time.
 
And for what? Some second-hand news (no direct quotes available) about unsubstantiated offhand remarks that may have some factual basis. At best, it was worth a tut-tut. Maybe a finger wag. That's about it.
 
But the Right Blogosphere went on a screaming rampage about it. As Avedon Carol says at The Sideshow "The moral of the Rather and Jordan stories is that if right-wingers suspect even for a moment that you do not worship at the alter of right-wing group-think, they will use any meagre excuse they can inflate or invent to drive you out of the news business."
 
I think there's one more moral. For years, the extreme Right has been brilliantly exploiting every tool available -- think tanks, talk radio, the Web, cable television, etc. -- to shape "public opinion." And they've been remarkably successful. A big chunk of the American population has been conditioned to run screaming from the word liberal. To equate disagreement with treason. Eventually, to give George W. Bush unconditional love and support, no matter what he does.
 
In other words, WSJ helped create this monster. As you sow, dear righties, so shall you reap.  
 
See Jay Rosen's comments for a more in-depth and much less snarky look at the "MSM" v. Blogs issue.
 
 
Via The Left Coaster, from the Chicago Tribune:
... the media are facing a blizzard of lies and propaganda from corporations and the government. But journalists at mainstream news organizations don’t feel free, under the conventions of “fair and balanced” journalism, to call a lie a lie, Hall said.

“Too many of us have become too passive,” Warren said. Journalists are scared of angering administration sources and losing access to Washington officials, which he mocked as “access to get lied to.”
Update update: Good commentary on press bias from Charles at Mercury Rising (thanks, Charles!)
 
 
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monday, february 14, 2005

Blame Bush for North Korea's Nukes, Part 3
 
At the end of the last installment, Part 2, and as explained in more detail in Part 2.5, in October 2002 an assistant secretary in the State Department announced that he had learned North Korea was processing uranium for weapons.
 
In Part 2.5 I explained why there's a good chance the North Koreans were not processing uranium for weapons, and even if they were, they were a long way away from having enough uranium to make weapons, and for some time the real concern with North Korea is that it would re-start plutonium processing. The North Koreans are known to sufficient plutonium to make several nuclear weapons now.
 
Further, as explained in Part 2.5, what seems to have set the Bushies off was an attempt at diplomacy (and closer economic ties with North Korea) by Japan and South Korea. Plus by stirring up a stink in October 2002, it gave the rightie punditocracy one more issue to bash Democrats with right before the November elections.
 
So let's start off with another look at why the Bushies didn't want Japan and South Korea to try to improve economic conditions in North Korea.
 
The usual suspects in the White House appear to have wanted an excuse to stop shipments of oil to North Korea (a condition of the 1994 Agreed Framework negotiated by Jimmy Carter, explained in Part 1), believing Kim Jong Il would be pushed into meekly abandoning his nuclear weapons program.
North Korea's collapsed economy gives the United States and its allies the diplomatic leverage to convince the communist regime to abandon its nuclear ambitions, [Condoleezza] Rice said.

"North Korea has been signaling and saying that it wants to break out of its economic isolation," Rice told CNN's "Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer." "It has to break out of its economic isolation.

"This is a regime that in terms of its economic condition is going down for the third time. Its people are starving." ...

U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, told CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday that he considered North Korea's nuclear ambitions and missile capability a bigger threat to the United States than Iraq.

Graham, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, urged the White House to rethink its priorities.

But Rice said Iraq's history shows the Baghdad regime is harder to contain than North Korea.

"These are not comparable situations," she said. "They're dangerous, both of them dangerous. But we believe that we have different methods that will work in North Korea that clearly have not and will not work in Iraq." [Kelly Wallace, CNN, October 21, 2002]

In December 2002, oil shipments to North Korea were stopped. Just over two years later, North Korea announced it has nuclear weapons. See how well Condi's plan worked?
 
Also in December 2002, the people of South Korea elected a new President, Roh Moo Hyun, who favors continuation of the Sunshine Policy and greater autonomy from the United States. For a good analysis of this election and Korean-U.S. relations in general at the end of 2002, please see "Korea: Another Big Election Defeat for Bush" by Jim Lobe, TomPaine.com, December 20, 2002.
 
Also in December 2002, Bush was handed a clue that the world does not neatly sort itself into good guys and bad guys:

In early December, the U.S. National Security Agency tracked the movement of 15 Scud missiles and 85 drums of chemicals from a factory in North Korea to the freighter So San. Then the NSA monitored the unflagged ship around the world to the Arabian Sea.

Were these missiles going to Iraq? The U.S. asked the Spanish Navy to stop and board the So San. But the dictator of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, claimed the cargo, thereby putting the Bush Administration into a nice ideological pickle. Saleh is an ally against Iraq, part of Bush's beloved "coalition of the willing"; therefore, Saleh is a "good" guy.

The Yemeni insisted he had bought the missiles years before he made his promise to us [to buy no more scuds from North Korea] and just never got around to telling us about it. Nobody believed that, but Saleh lets us kill Al Qaeda leaders on his territory, and our knowledge of this shipment means he won't be able to re-sell it easily.

So President Bush decided to sacrifice the principle of the interdiction of terror weaponry entering a war zone on the altar of practicality. Instead of suggesting a fair compromise -- "We'll reimburse you for your $41 million purchase, and we'll impound the cargo" -- he chose to appease an unreliable ally and turned the 15 missiles, with the unidentified chemicals, over to the man who had made the U.S. look foolish. [William Safire, "Bush's Stumble: The So San Affair," The New York Times, December 19, 2002]

But perhaps the most critical thing that happened in December 2002 was that North Korea announced it was going back into the plutonium production biz. Years of careful multinational diplomacy were thereby flushed, thanks to Bush and his foreign policy team.
 
I believe I'm finally done with 2002, and will go ahead to 2003 in Part 3.5. I'm trying to break these posts into smaller bits without leaving out anything critical. Eventually I'll put them all in one place for easy reference.
 
 
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And the Winner Is ....
 
The results are in for the Iraqi elections. Juan Cole writes,
Lebanese Broadcasting Co.'s satellite television news is reporting that the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), comprising Shiite religious parties, has won an absolute majority (141 seats) after adjustments were made in accordance with electoral procedure. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the list leader, expressed his pleasure at this 51 percent outcome for his coalition. The UIA still needs a 2/3s majority, and therefore a coalition partner or partners, to form a government (which involves electing a president and two vice-presidents, who will appoint a prime minister). But it can now win votes on procedure and legislation without needing any other partner.
So what happened to Bush's lapdog, Ayad Allawi? Tom Lasseter writes for Knight Ridder:

Allawi's political ticket, which had said it expected to finish strong, ended up a distant third with about 1.2 million votes, far behind the Shiite cleric-led United Iraqi Alliance, which got about 4 million. A coalition of Kurdish parties nearly doubled Allawi's ticket's total.

What happened? Many Iraqi politicians think that Allawi, a longtime exile who was once a member of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, spent so much time with Americans, behind barricades, that he never connected with the people of Iraq.

Allawi's gamble was that Iraqis wanted a strongman willing to call for U.S. tanks to suppress uprisings, a leader who rode around in expensive armored sport utility vehicles, even a leader whose followers had once taken CIA money

The article goes on to say that Allawi is working on a deal that would allow him to remain prime minister. I think it's safe to say that if that happens, the elections were a total fraud.
 
John Burns and James Glanz report in the New York Times that the final voter turnout was 58 percent. This is, you might notice, a tad lower than the 70 or 80 percent the Right Blogosphere was whooping about a couple of weeks ago. Glenn Reynolds wrote that "Turnout was also somewhat higher than previously estimated," suggesting he is even more math challenged than I am. No wonder righties like Bush's Social Security plan.  
 
In the Washington Post, Robin Wright points to a plain fact that I bet no hard-core rightie has yet to admit:
When the Bush administration decided to invade Iraq two years ago, it envisioned a quick handover to handpicked allies in a secular government that would be the antithesis of Iran's theocracy -- potentially even a foil to Tehran's regional ambitions.

But, in one of the greatest ironies of the U.S. intervention, Iraqis instead went to the polls and elected a government with a strong religious base -- and very close ties to the Islamic republic next door. It is the last thing the administration expected from its costly Iraq policy -- $300 billion and counting, U.S. and regional analysts say.

Wright says that both the Shia and the Kurds have close ties to Iran, meaning that 70 percent of the new government of Iraq are buddy-buddy with "the world's primary state sponsor of terror,'' what Bush called Iran in the recent SOTU speech. Whoopsie!
 
In the Los Angeles Times, Peter Galbraith writes that the new government might have a tough time writing a constitution.
How to deal, for example, with Kurds who are proud of the progress that women have made in their region and Shiite clerics who want religious law written into the constitution — law that includes provisions for daughters getting only half as much inheritance as sons? Even more problematic, Kurds and Arabs do not share a commitment to the idea of Iraq. Sunni Arabs have always been nationalistic, and the Shiites may become nationalists now that they are rulers. But the Kurds do not want to be Iraqi at all and will not accept a constitution that restores any central government authority over their region.
It would be best for all of us if an Iraqi government succeeds, but it's going to be difficult, and I expect Bushie meddling will make it more difficult.
 
 
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9:15 am | link

sunday, february 13, 2005

The Real Deal
 
Paul Craig Roberts, from the libertarian end of conservatism, has seen the truth.
The Bush administration, which already held the world record as the most deluded government in history, has now taken denial to unprecedented highs by blaming Syria and Iran for its "Iraqi problem." Why didn't Americans realize that it is dangerous to put a buffoon in charge of the US government who hasn't a clue about the world around him, what he is doing or the consequences of his actions?
It's a first-rate rant. Enjoy.
 
Speaking of the U.S. government not having a clue -- in the recent SOTU speech, Bush accused Iran of being ``the world's primary state sponsor of terror.'' The U.S. is flying unmanned drones over Iran to look for nukes. Seymour Hersh wrote last month that special ops were moving around in Iran, also.
 
So are the Bushies dumb enough to pick a war with Iran? Is water wet and grass green?
 
As mentioned in the last post, the Bushies really do have a tendency to go ballistic over worst-case scenarios based on flimsy if not fabricated intelligence. But just because the Bushies say Iran has nukes doesn't necessarily mean it doesn't have nukes.
 
This is what I know, which isn't much: Iran recently rejected European demands to stop building a heavy-water nuclear reactor, meaning a reactor that provides a way to extract weapons-grade fuel. It's thought Iran is about four years away from having a working reactor, meaning the Bushies will want to invade next week.
 
Seriously, a couple of weeks ago the IAEA said it was making good progress with inspections in Iran. In November,  the NY Times said,
Iran suspended uranium enrichment and all related activities in November, hoping to build trust and avoid U.N. Security Council sanctions. The International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria, is monitoring the suspension.
If the Bushies try to cook up a reason to invade Iran, keep track of what the IAEA is saying. They were right about Iraq, issuing statements in the run up to the war that they saw no evidence of nuclear weapons in Iraq. Right now the IAEA is conducting inspections in Iran and doesn't seem to think there is cause to go to red alert.
 
 
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Blame Bush for North Korea's Nukes, Part 2.5
 
Before crashing ahead to what happened in 2003, I want to go back to the Foreign Affairs article mentioned yesterday -- "Did North Korea Cheat?" by Selig S. Harrison, from Foreign Affairs, January/February 2005.
 
This article was an eye-opener for me, and I thought I had caught on to the Bushies' nefariousness in North Korea already. But it's worse than I had imagined. Harrison says the Bushies are pulling an Iraq in North Korea -- presenting a worse-case scenario based on half-assed intelligence. They are unnecessarily provoking an international crisis and bringing us closer to war -- nuclear war, this time.
 
As explained at the end of Part 2, in October 2002 an assistant secretary at the State Department, James Kelly, set off international alarm bells by claiming the North Koreans were processing uranium to make nuclear weapons, therefore violating the 1994 Agreed Framework that had been negotiated by Jimmy Carter.   
 
As I'd explained in Part 1, the Agreed Framework was negotiated primarily to stop North Korea from processing plutonium, not uranium. Plutonium was a greater concern because the North Koreans had enough plutonium to make lots and lots of bombs pretty durn quickly. But to make a bomb with uranium you need enormous amounts of the stuff, and it takes years to process it, as I'll explain later in this post.
 
So although uranium is always a concern, the international intelligence community didn't believe North Korea was anywhere close to making weapons with uranium. The plutonium situation was a far more immediate danger. 
 
The 1994 Agreed Framework calls for North Korea to be in "full compliance" with IAEA safeguards, though, so if the North Koreans were processing uranium for weapons purposes behind the IAEA inspectors' backs, as Kelly claimed, technically that would have been a violation of the Agreed Framework.
 
But Selig Harrison says it is enormously unlikely that the North Koreans were processing uranium for weapons. It's much more likely, he says, that they were processing uranium to use for energy.

It is much easier to make low-enriched uranium (LEU)--the fuel needed to power light-water plutonium reactors--than it is to make weapons-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU), as Washington has accused Pyongyang of doing. A relatively small number of centrifuges is needed to make LEU, but the production of HEU in quantities sufficient for nuclear weapons requires the continuous operation of hundreds--or thousands--of centrifuges over a long period. Richard Garwin, a respected nuclear scientist, has estimated that 1,300 high-performance centrifuges would have to operate full time for three years to make the 60 kilograms of fissile material needed for a basic ("gun-type") nuclear weapon. Accomplishing that would require an enormous sustained input of electricity, without fluctuation or interruption. Moreover, the operation of a multi-centrifuge "cascade" requires a high-powered motor with a speed twice that of a MiG-21 jet engine. North Korea cannot produce engines even for its Russian-supplied MiGs, and it has only limited, highly unreliable electricity capabilities. It is therefore unlikely that the country is able at present to build or operate the equipment needed, over a long period, to produce weapons-grade uranium.

Harrison goes on to say that North Korea just doesn't have the necessary equipment to pull that off, much less the electricity. They have some of the equipment -- he discusses what purchases they have made in recent years and what they most likely had on hand -- but they are nowhere in the ball park of 1,300 high-performance centrifuges, much less all the replacement parts they would need to keep the operation running.
 
(Do you remember how hysterical the righties were because Saddam Huseein had parts to one centrifuge, found buried in somebody's flower garden?)
 
The North Koreans most likely do have the equipment necessary to process LEU -- uranium for energy. But LEU facilities "would not violate international nonproliferation norms," Harrison says. If that's what they were up to in 2002 when James Kelly threw his little fit, then the North Koreans were not in violation of anything.
 
Harrison, btw, is Director of the Asia Program and Chairman of the Task Force on U.S. Korea Policy at the Center for International Policy. He is also a Senior Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Not some crackpot, in other words.
 
So the next question is, what were the Bushies up to in 2002? Did they have some purpose behind stirring up trouble, or are they just stupid? And the answer seems to be, both.
 
What seems to have set the Bushies off (and I've seen this in other sources, not just from Harrison) is that South Korea and Japan were working diplomatically toward better relations with North Korea. And they were not waiting for signals from Washington to do this; they were doing this entirely independently of the Bush Administration. North and South Korea are building railroad lines through the DMZ and plan to build an industrial park in North Korea in which South Korean firms would set up business. The Pentagon tried its best to put the brakes on this enterprise, but eventually gave in to it. 
 
But then the Prime Minister of Japan traveled to North Korea, and the Bushies had fits. Harrison writes,

American anxieties only grew, however, when, on September 17, 2002, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Pyongyang to discuss the normalization of relations--a visit that Japan had been quietly exploring for more than nine months without telling the United States. Washington, in fact, found out about the trip only three weeks before it occurred, when Koizumi presented the upcoming visit as a fait accompli to Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Koizumi did not ask for U.S. permission to go to North Korea, and he refused to call off the trip even after Armitage revealed Washington's suspicions about a secret North Korean uranium program.

Faced with the prospect that the North Korea policies of South Korea and Japan had slipped out of its control, the Bush administration "saw a real possibility that its options on the [Korean] peninsula would increasingly be driven by the policy agendas of others," wrote Jonathan Pollack, chairman of the Strategic Research Department at the U.S. Naval War College in the summer of 2003. Plans for Kelly's visit to Pyongyang were accelerated, and his showdown with North Korean leaders came less than three weeks after Koizumi's meeting with Kim Jong Il.

Kelly's hissy fit in North Korea, Harrison says, was calculated to drive a wedge between Pyongyang and Seoul/Tokyo. The Bushies wanted to stop the Japanese and South Koreans from getting too chummy with North Korea.
 
So, the Bushies want to control the agenda, and their agenda doesn't seem to be a reduction of tension or a normalizing of relations or anything else that might keep peace in Asia. Then what is their agenda?
 
You'll remember that the Bushies got some immediate political perks from the North Korean crisis it had stirred up -- which was, let us note, on the eve of the 2002 elections. Immediately after Mr. Kelly started his bomb-throwing act, the rightie puditocracy was unleashed throughout news media to inflame public opinion against the evil Clinton-Carter 1994 agreement and, by extension, Democrats. Funny how that worked out.
 
Harrison doesn't make the election connection, however. He is more charitable than I am, and attributes the Bushies' North Korean strategy to a penchant for getting worked up over worse-case scenarios, however farfetched. 

The administration's underlying mistake--in the case of the North Korean uranium mystery, as in Iraq--has been treating a worst-case scenario as revealed truth. In October 2004, when Condoleezza Rice, then Bush's national security adviser, was challenged to justify her government's mistaken assessment about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, she explained that "a policymaker cannot afford to be wrong on the short side, underestimating the ability of a tyrant like Saddam Hussein." Similarly, General James Clapper, who was director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) during the 1994 North Korean nuclear crisis, has said that "personally as opposed to institutionally, I was skeptical that they ever had a bomb. We didn't have smoking gun evidence either way. But you build a case for a range of possibilities. In a case like North Korea, you have to apply the most conservative approach, the worst-case scenario." The 1994 U.S. estimate (by the CIA and the DIA) that North Korea had "one or two" nuclear weapons at that time remains unchanged--although it has yet to be proved or disproved.

Note that Selig Harrison wrote this article way in advance of North Korea's recent announcement that it had plutonium-based nukes -- not at all impossible, the experts say. The North Koreans have enough plutonium to make lots of nukes.
 
Weirdly, and typically, the Bushies don't seem to be all that bothered by the plutonium nukes. According to Charles Pritchard,* after having instigated international hysteria over alleged uranium bombs, the Bushies dismissed intelligence that said North Korea might make plutonium bombs. Pritchard wrote a little over a year ago,
In December 2002 North Korea was suspected of having one or two nuclear weapons that it had acquired before agreeing in 1994 to freeze its known nuclear program and to allow it to be monitored.

More than a year later, North Korea may have quadrupled its arsenal of nuclear weapons. During the intervening period, the Bush administration has relied on intelligence that dismissed North Korean claims that it restarted its nuclear program at Yongbyon with the express purpose of reprocessing previously sealed and monitored spent fuel to extract plutonium to make a ''nuclear deterrent.''

Now there are about 8,000 spent fuel rods missing -- evidence that work on such a deterrent may have begun. It is just the most recent failure in a string of serious North Korea-related intelligence failures. [Jack Pritchard, "What I Saw in Korea," The New York Times, January 21, 2004]

(*Charles L. "Jack" Pritchard is a retired U.S Army colonel and the former point man on North Korea for Colin Powell. He worked on North Korea issues in both the Clinton and Bush administrations. Pritchard resigned from the Bush Administration in August 2003. He is now a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institutuion.)  
 
From today's The Age (Australia):
In a curious twist, the United States has shrugged off the first outright declaration by North Korea that it has nuclear weapons. Here is a nation with one of the most erratic leaderships in the world declaring that it has weapons of mass destruction and the US response - at least that of new Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice - is glib dismissal. Saddam Hussein must be wondering where he went wrong. Of course, with North Korea there is no telling whether the declaration of nuclear power is true or simply a flight of Dear Leader Kim Jong-il's imagination. The unremitting propaganda that emanates from the official Korean Central News Agency is not noted for either its accuracy or sparkling prose. Suffice to say, however, after United Nations monitors were expelled from North Korea in 2002 the US claimed it had been told privately by officials in Pyongyang that the country already had nuclear weapons. The fact that North Korea has already been implicated in the illegal trade of nuclear weapons and traded missile technology with other rogue states suggests there may be more than bluff to the claim.
 
 Dr Rice is gambling on the fact that the North Korean declaration is no more than an attempt to raise the stakes in the six-nation nuclear program talks. For good measure she has declared that the US and its allies "can deal with any potential threat from North Korea". Having declared North Korea an "outpost of tyranny" last month, Dr Rice has made her position clear enough. It is a long way from the more hopeful scenes just four years ago when then secretary of state Madeleine Albright sat at the table in Pyongyang with Kim Jong-il to negotiate in person. The US appeared to have a plan at that point. It no longer does.
(So is it true that the name Condoleezza is from an Arapaho word meaning "stupid lying bitch who's going to get us all killed"? Or is that just a rumor?)
 
Now the U.S. is demanding that North Korea give up all nuclear enrichment facilities, whether LEU or HEU, in spite of the fact that LEU facilities can't make bombs and are supposed to be permissible. And it cannot be forgot that Kim Jong Il is deranged enough to use nuclear weapons if he perceives a big enough threat.
 
We might reasonably ask why, if Kim Jong Il were not actually making weapons materials in 2002, he didn't just say so. By all accounts Kim Jong Il is a worse whackjob than Saddam Hussein, and remember Hussein risked war by being vague about what happened to his WMDs (perhaps because he didn't know, either). I'm not sure one can account for why Kim Jong Il does anything.
 
The Bushies are still using North Korea's alleged "cheating" on the 1994 Agreed Framework as an excuse to stay tough and keep North Korea cornered. Yesterday, for example, Dick Cheney told the South Korean foreign minister they must not trade with North Korea. The Bushie plan is to keep North Korea quarantined until it disarms.
 
Given Kim Jong Il's alleged mental state -- not bloody likely.
 
But I'm getting a little ahead of the story. In our next episode (Part 3), we'll go back to 2002 to see what happened when Bush stopped the oil shipments. We'll also revisit the So San affair, when Bush got Spain to stop a shipment of arms from North Korea to Yemen. Great fun.
 
 
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The War Prayer

I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.

"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into those pregnant words.

"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset, & seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor & glory now & ever, Amen."

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."

·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·

It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

[Mark Twain, 1905]

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My Unitarian Jihad Name is: Sister Numchuku of Reasoned Discussion.

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Copyright 2003, 2004 by Barbara O'Brien

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