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saturday, july 9, 2005

Being Afraid
I suspect that among those who have not had the opportunity to fight a war there are always a few who regret not being able to prove themselves on the battlefield. War does seem hardwired into the human experience; the battle cry is a pretty primal thing. So, I can understand the excitement of the twenty somethings like Pat Tilman who joined up after 9/11, driven by a strong desire to test his mettle and physical courage. (Hell, that was the reason Oliver Stone joined up in Vietnam, Kerry too --- it has little to do with politics.) Young men being excited about war is nothing new --- and having their illusions shattered by the reality of it is nothing new either. The literature of the ages can attest to this.

That is not what we are dealing with here, however. We are dealing with a group of right wing glory seekers who chose long ago to eschew putting themselves on the line in favor of tough talk and empty posturing --- the Vietnam chickenhawks and their recently hatched offspring of the new Global War On Terrorism. These are men (mostly) driven by the desire to prove their manhood but who refuse to actually test their physical courage. Neither are they able to prove their virility as they are held hostage by prudish theocrats and their own shortcomings. So they adopt the pose of warrior but never actually place themselves under fire. This is a psychologically difficult position to uphold. Bullshitting yourself is never without a cost. ...
...  Playing laptop Pattons at full volume, supporting the president and the entire power structure of the government is their only way of proving to themselves that they are warriors. They are damaged by their own contradictory past and as a result they cannot see their way through the haze of emotional turmoil to seek out and find real solutions to the problem of terrorism. They lash out with trash talk and threats and constant references to their own resolve because they are afraid. They've always been afraid.
This week many Americans have expressed wonder and admiration for the stoicism of Londoners after the terrorist attacks, as if such stoicism were a strictly British attribute. As I wrote earlier this week, Manhattanites also were remarkably calm on 9/11 and the days after. I'm not sure news coverage reflected that calm; I suspect it didn't. I guess you'll have to take my word for it.
But just as the experience of 9/11 was different for New York and Washington than it was for the rest of the nation, so too is the point of fighting terrorism. New Yorkers wanted--still want--security. New Yorkers want to be able to ride trains and buses without fear of being gassed or bombed. We want high-rise office buildings, bridges, and landmarks not to be destroyed.
Seems to me the rest of the country want something else. Some want revenge, but a lot just get off on the thrill by proxy that the "war on terror" provides for them. As James Wolcott wrote of the punditocracy this week,
When all of these "terror experts"--many of them affiliated with rightwing think tanks--pontificate and speculate (based on no real information) about who the perpetrators were and the nature of the long struggle we're in, they look and sound keyed-up, keen with anticipation, eager to entertain the worst. Look how little time it took for CNN to point the finger of suspicion at al-Zarqawi as mastermind of the attacks--al-Zarqawi, the all-purpose shadowy villain, here, there, everywhere, and nowhere. Visually, this scare talk complemented with commando porn images of security patrols packing enough firepower to retake Stalingrad. What are those weapons for? It's not as if terrorists engage in running gun battles in the West. They plant explosives, and once those explosives go off, guys standing around with machine guns looking like an army of Bernie Keriks don't make a whole lot of difference.  
If the Good Fairy of Homeland Security told us she could keep American soil completely free of terrorism, but in return we had to stop fighting/punishing/torturing Muslims and forsake storming around the world with our armies and planes and bombs, would we take the offer? I think New Yorkers would in a heartbeat. But I suspect much of the rest of the nation would not. They'd rather not give up whatever glory trip they're on.
... yesterday's bombings will likely lead to a spirited global debate about different ways of responding to a terror attack. Do you feed your nation's fears or refuse to be terrorized? Do you erode your citizens' freedoms or aspire to greater acts of altruism? Do you lash out at people who had nothing to do with it, or hunt down and destroy the thugs who are responsible? And what, when all is said and done, makes you safer?
It frustrates the hell out of me that we never had that debate in America.
There were a number of stories in the news today about our allocation of "homeland security" resources. See, for example, "Security Clash May Be Brewing in Congress," "Our Faith-Based Train Rides," "Defending America," and  "We Are Still Not Ready." Bottom line: We are allocating anti-terrorism and defense resources in the most damn stupid, wasteful, ineffective way possible. We might actually be better off if we took our entire national security budget and dumped it into an ocean.
Update: See also "America's Vulnerable Railways" by Thomas Oliphant in today's Boston Globe:

This action by the Senate's appropriators, reducing next year's budget to $100 million from $150 million this year, might have made some sense if there were evidence that it would have no impact on security.

However, the opposite is the case and has been for more than three years of inexcusable neglect and conniving between the Bush administration and its corporate buddies....

...Among the 50 percent of the 9/11 Commission's specific recommendations a year ago that Congress and Bush have yet to act upon was the sensible notion that there should be a national transportation security strategy based on known threats and dangers.

Instead, there appears to have been not only inaction and delay, but unholy alliances between industry and government to avoid taking measures to protect against potentially catastrophic terrorism that is not difficult to imagine.

8:51 pm | link

Proving once again that righties hold other people to higher standards than they hold themselves ... via Daou Report, via World o' Crap, we find that Hindsniffer of Power Line is outraged that someone on DU message board wrote something cynical about Karl Rove vis a vis the recent bombings in London. "The posters at Democratic Underground represent the heart and soul of the left, and, arguably, of the Democratic Party," Hindsniffer sniffs.
Let's take a look at the heart and soul of the right ... World o' Crap found these on Lucianne:
Nuke the entire Muslim world, especially the oil fields. Without oil money they go back to sitting around mudholes in the desert subsisting off dates, and making for quaint touristic photos.

Another typical comment from the same thread:

Did we ever finish developing and deploying the neutron bomb? Use it around the oilfields, use the conventional nukes on Mecca and Medina and Riyadh and Qom. We can argue about which type to use on some pestholes in Phillipines and Malaysia and Indonesia and Pakistan. Islam is the enemy. Muslims are the enemy. There. It needed to be said. Muslims are the enemy. Time to act accordingly.

There are even worse in other threads, but like Mr. Hinder said, "Warning: this is only for those with strong stomachs."

Chris Bowers at MyDD found these comments on Little Green Footballs:
  • "IMHO, they should go house to house interrogating every Muslim about what they know and when they knew it. And then kick every last one of them who is there illegally out of the country. And then decide if any of the rest of them deserve to stay. Now, if only Israel would do the same thing after its terror attacks.... "

  • "Can we eradicate Islam now, please?"

  • "If there are no Arabs there are no attacks. How many more need be sacrificed?"

  • "It is now time to force muslims to make a choice: Live peacefully or die. I prefer the latter."

  • "We need to stop fucking with these people and kill every one involved. I mean anyone with prior knowledge, anyone who payed for it, and anyone who supported it. Regardless of nationality."

  • "If its Islamic it will probably blow up. All Islamic get full body searches with VERY high intensity X-rays ."

  • "The best way to deliver those high intensity x-rays is through some W76 warheads at around 100 kt a piece. It will be easier to give a full body search after that."

  • "Britain should END ALL ISLAMIC IMMIGRATION NOW....Continuing to welcome the enemy into your country is insane."

  • "subhumans, first time on 2 feet...round em all up, every friggin' last one of them...unfortunately, I still think it will take even more violence from the Arabs before the West wakes up and goes savage on em"

  • "Martyring Muslims doesn't seem to make much of a difference to the fanatics. What is needed is to take their human capital out their hands - their children. No more warped children, no more jihadis. "
Nice. And be sure to read Chris's analysis of why Power Line was Time magazine's blog of the year.
Jesus' General has a roundup of gentle comments from several rightie blogs, also not for the faint of heart.
My buddy Orrin Judd says that Europeans (including, I assume, Brits) deserve to be bombed because they aren't Christian enough:
As Europe has drifted out of the West and lost touch with its Judeo-Christian culture it has left itself with nothing to integrate such young people into. The Media Matters folks are apparently upset that Brit Hume said one of his first thoughts yesterday was to buy futures but the reality is that terrorism is a growing threat to Europe in a way that it isn't to us.
Commenters believed Britain shouldn't have allowed Muslims to immigrate. I joined in the comments to mention that there are more Muslims living in America than in Britain. I also wrote that "Various sources also estimate that in ten years or so there will be more Muslims in America than Jews," to which one person responded,  "And as well assimilated as Jews are, just as Europe never assimilated its Jews."    
You can't make this shit up.
10:14 am | link

A new Harris Poll of opinions on evolution vs. creationism reveals that Americans are confused.
Only 38 percent of those polled believe that humans "developed from earlier species," yet 46 percent believe that apes and humans "have a common ancestry" and that "Darwin's theory of evolution is proven by fossil discoveries."
Even more remarkable, when challenged to make a choice between "humans beings evolved from earlier species" and "human beings were created directly by God," only 22 percent went with evolution.
So, you've got a substantial chunk of the population believing that humans were created directly by God, but at the same time have a common ancestry with apes.
Maybe this is telling us that many people sorta kinda believe that man evolved but are afraid they will be struck by lightning if they deny God, even to a pollster.
Slightly more people (49 percent) than not (45 percent) believe that all plants and animals evolved from earlier species. Does this reflect a belief God only makes humans, but not other critters? Or, is it telling us that lots of people really haven't thought out this evolution stuff? Or, is it telling us that humans need to evolve a little more?
8:08 am | link

friday, july 8, 2005


Amid the carnage today, Home Secretary Charles Clarke is talking about the people who carried out "these terrible criminal acts." That's an understandable reaction — and we shouldn't quibble too much over a choice of words by people who have been stellar allies, who are in the middle of a rescue effort, and who are unsure the bombing has actually stopped. But it is worth repeating that what happened today is not mere crime.

This is war. It can't sensibly be separated from Bali or Mombassa or Istanbul or Madrid or Baghdad or Virginia or lower Manhattan — or any of the other places where the enemy has attacked.

The only security — and an imperfect security it is — is to acknowledge that this is a war and fight it like a one. Prime Minister Blair has been a staunch ally after 9/11, but many in his country, and throughout Europe, have not grasped what we are up against.

Let's think about semantics and reality. Many on both the Left and the Right argue about whether 9/11 or M11 or 7/7 were crimes or acts of war. To me, this is an absurd and pointless argument, because mass terrorist attacks by stateless organizations don't fit either category. Trying to shoehorn 9/11 into an old classification system is a bit like finding a new species of critter and calling it a "dog" because it wags its tail and barks, even though it also flies and lays eggs.  
The point of the semantic argument is, of course, to figure out what to do about terrorism. If it's a crime we'll send out the cops; if it's war, we'll shoot at it. And we'll put our new critter in a dog pen and be astonished when it flies away.
The moral is, sometimes you need to put semantics aside and deal with things as-they-are.
The Right made up its mind that terrorist attacks are acts of war, and the proper response to an act of war is to go to war--with armies, ships, artillery, bombs, etc. But these are instruments of old-fashioned, fighting-over-territory war, and terrorism is not constrained by terroritory or national boundaries. We're shooting flies with a shotgun.
Truly, when Bush first starting talking about a "war on terror" I assumed he was using the word war in a metaphorical sense, like war on cancer.  Fighting terrorism by means of conventional war is absurd. But, of course, the Bush Administration amounts to one absurdity after another, so I should have known better. And the Right, stuck in conventional-war mindset, assumes that those of us who think their approach is absurd are "soft on terror" and have not "grasped what we're up against."   
Angry Bear responded to McCarthy's last sentence:
At the risk of repeating myself – most of us in this nation and in Europe have realized there is a war against Al Qaeda, which was not an ally of Saddam Hussein. 
At this point it may be that al Qaeda isn't much of anything but a name adopted by multiple Islamic factions, but that's part of our cognitive problem. Wars against nations are wars between definable, finite entities with geographical locations, whereas a war against al Qaeda, whatever it is, is a war against something without definite form or mass or location. We're dealing with multiple leaderships and multiple groups that form and unform and reform, and with "troops" of ever-shifting identities and loyalties and numbers.  
But the Right, heaven help us, is still thinking in terms of fronts and geographical objectives. Might as well dress our troops up in knee pants and three-corner hats and arm them with muskets.
You want to see Flaming Stupidity? Matt Yglesias caught this one:
Sometimes you read things that make you wonder. For example, Rich Lowry's apparent endorsement of this sentiment: "There should be retaliation. Find a terror camp somewhere and hit it. Terrorists should, for these purposes, be treated as one nation, and all should be held responsible for any one attack." So maybe we round up some MEK guys (I think they're still in our custody, or maybe in Richard Perle's office somewhere), shoot them in the back of the head, and that will improve things?
Lowry et al. can't wrap their heads around the fact that we aren't dealing with a nation, or anything like a nation. They can't grasp terrorism as-it-is.
And dealing with terrorism as if there were just one big global terrorist organization, when in fact there isn't, is stupid. Dealing with terrorism as-it-is means developing multiple strategies to deal with multiple terrorisms, because that's reality. To do otherwise is to fight a fantasy enemy instead of a real one.
Come to think of it, "fighting a fantasy enemy instead of a real one" pretty much sums up our involvement in Iraq, huh?
This cognitive rigidity is pervasive on the Right. In 2001 the Bushies appeared to ignore clear warnings of impending terrorist attacks* This was often attributed to a "lack of imagination." (Dick Armitage to 9/11 panel: "I just don't think we had the imagination required to consider a tragedy of this magnitude.") But the real problem was mental rigidity. The Bush White House had its head full of Cold War reality and couldn't see the new reality.
Here's one of my favorite "memory hole" items. This is from a CNN transcript of April 30, 2001:
The State Department officially released its annual terrorism report just a little more than an hour ago, but unlike last year, there's no extensive mention of alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden. A senior State Department official tells CNN the U.S. government made a mistake in focusing so much energy on bin Laden and "personalizing terrorism." ...
...POWELL: The results are clear: state sponsors of terrorism are increasingly isolated; terrorist groups on under growing pressure. Terrorists are being brought to justice, we will not let up. But we must also be aware of the nature of the threat before us. Terrorism is a persistent disease.
The Bushies were still thinking in terms of enemy states. They failed to grasp that terrorism is stateless. The Right still doesn't seem to grasp that. Or, maybe they grasp it, but they can't make the connection between reality and strategy, or between facts and formula, or between process and goals.
The Left isn't free of some mental rigidity of its own. Some lefties seem to think that if only we could send out the cops to arrest bin Laden and other al Qaeda leadership, the terrorism problem would melt away. But terrorism isn't about bin Laden. At this point bin Laden may be no more than a figurehead. Removing him would have no real impact on the majority of jihadists. I'm not saying I don't want him brought to justice for 9/11; just that a "law enforcement" approach alone is inadequate to address the terrorism problem.  

I don't even pretend to know precisely what strategies we should pursue. Formulating intelligent strategies requires a thorough understanding of how the various terrorisms came to be and the myriad factors that sustain them. By willfully remaining ignorant of terrorism, however, we might unwittingly apply strategies that make the problem worse instead of better.

And, considering the major increase in worldwide terrorism, it's obvious that's exactly what we're doing.

See also: Chris Bowers, "The Hawks Have Failed."
*I do not eliminate the possibility that the Bushies knew something was about to happen and willfully chose to let it happen. However, IMO the notion that Bush was the true mastermind behind 9/11 is absurd, because he's not that competent. Also his behavior in the hours immediately after the attacks reveals clearly that he was caught flatfooted.
8:37 am | link

thursday, july 7, 2005

Those Righties Sure Know How to Fight Terrorism
Via Atrios, 

U.S. reports major increase in worldwide terrorism

Brilliant. If we continue to fight terrorism the righties' way, in five to eight years we'll all be living in caves.

Lots of chest thumping on the Right today, of course. That's what they're good at. If only boasting and posturing and being obnoxious could combat terrorism ...

I mostly agree with Public Theologian --

All the tanks, all the bombers, all the ships all the hundreds of thousands of soldiers about which the president likes to boast  he has deployed in the war on terror did not save a single soul in London today.  All we are doing in Iraq is creating a giant zone of recruitment and training ground for more America-haters.  We aren't stopping anybody from anything, but are rather pouring gas on an already burning fire.

We have got to fight this war smarter, rather than harder.  This will not be won with armies, but with accountants, translators, detectives, and informants-- -- namely the kinds of resources at which the president sneers.  We must get out of Iraq as soon as possible, not as a capitulation to terrorism, but as the first positive step to defeating it.  Once we're out, the giant recruiting zone and training ground for world terrorism that Iraq has become will immediately go out of business.  The fledgling government will undoubtedly have difficulty maintaining some stability, so other countries in the world who have some credibility with the Iraqi people as countries not interested in world domination will have to step up and take a role.  But we simply have to get out as soon as possible, because our presence there is endangering everyone on the planet.  Although there is no end to the number of people who want to come to Iraq and kill Americans, once we are gone It will be hard for the terrorists to recruit people to come and murder Brazilians [and/or] Norwegians.

The president still doesn't get this.  He still thinks in only one direction, which is namely that the United States can deploy its power and over time it will prevail.  He has not wised up to the fact in a system, power can flow in multiple directions . even simultaneously, so that he is oblivious to the ways in which US actions, although displaying tremendous force,  have dramatically strengthened the hand of people who hate America.  I'm sure he is sincere in wanting to protect our citizens, but his simplistic heavy-handed approach ignores the reality of what is actually happening.  We simply have to do something else.

My only quibble with the above is that I think military force should be used against terrorism in some circumstances. As I've said before, the military action in Afghanistan right after 9/11 was necessary, and I only wish it had been quicker and harder. But the invasion of Iraq was just flaming stupid and counterproductive.

A primarily military response to terrorism is like shooting at flies with a shotgun; you'll do a lot of damage, but most of the flies will still get away.

The Right just doesn't get it. They're still talking about fronts, for pity's sake. There are no fronts. We may be putting all of our resources into a specific geographical area, but the enemy is not contained there. The irony of the "flypaper theory" is that we're the ones stuck in the flypaper. And thanks to Iraq, we lack the money and resources we need for real homeland security.

Just after 9/11, I remember reading that people outside New York City were flocking to gun dealers to stock up on firearms for protection against terrorism. Now, it's OK with me if they want to buy firearms, but it's delusional to think a firearm is any kind of protection against terrorism. Guns are about as much use as duct tape.

But I think this exemplifies the Right's response to terrorism. It's emotional, not rational; it's a knee-jerk, shoot-it-if-it-moves reaction, not well-informed, smart strategy. Indeed, the Right misunderstands attempts to understand terrorism--socio-psycholgical profiling, if you will--as blaming America. This is nothing but willful ignorance; an inability to face geopolitical realities with honesty and maturity.

If knowledge is power, then ignorance is weakness. No matter how many guns you have.

Update: What I love about blogs-- Garance Franke-Ruta posts at TAPPED:

News reports are in about the location of the Tube bombs, and the stations picked for the horrific rush-hour assaults are especially chilling. These attacks were not just attacks on our closest ally, but on the very idea of Arab and Muslim integration into the West. Among the targets in the worst attack on London since World War II was the Edgware Road station, located in the heart of wealthy, assimilated Arab London. Middle Easterners of a variety of religions and South Asian Muslims are a substantial minority of the population in London, and the Edgware Road area is the pre-eminent Arab neighborhood in the city, with a fantastic variety of Lebanese coffee shops, Saudi grocery stores, and Persian restaurants. Some even call it "Little Lebanon," though the residents and shop clients come from all over the Middle East and North Africa, and the area especially attracts a young, hip crowd that compares it to Amman or Dubai. Edgware Road is Arab London's main street.

Though we have no idea yet whether the stations or train lines that were bombed were specifically targeted, it's hard to imagine that whatever terrorist organization or cell was behind the attacks failed to consider the symbolic power of an attack on Edgware Road.

I've had the TV on all day and hadn't heard that. Blogs rule.

Steve Soto writes,

What good is an anti-terror policy if your only consolation is that everyone else in the world suffers except you? And when will Tony Blair confront George W. Bush for his administration's shortsighted role in what happened in London today? ...

... Lastly, as Tony Blair oversees the carnage and anger in his country, he may want to ask his good buddy George W. Bush why his administration crippled Blair’s domestic anti-terror efforts to track down and stop Al Qaeda cells inside Great Britain by exposing a known Al Qaeda asset at a time when the Brits were very close to nailing a ring of Al Qaeda cells inside the country? With today's tragedy in front of them, don't you think that British intelligence would have wanted to finish their work last fall in smashing London's Al Qaeda cells before the Bush Administration blew a covert operation just so Bush could be reelected?

But as the Plame case shows, the Bush Administration has never let national security here or abroad get in the way of their Number One priority anyway, have they?

I hadn't heard that on television, either.

As I keyboard, some guy on MSNBC is saying that he doesn't think Islamic terrorists are responsible for today's attacks. If not, what was the significance of bombing Edgeware Road?

Update: Read Digby.

Update update: Steve M. reads Free Republic so you don't have to.

3:07 pm | link

News from London
MSNBC is reporting that more than 40 people were killed in today's terrorist attacks in London, and as many as 300 were wounded.
Has President Bush issued a statement yet? Or is he still changing his pants?
Update: Lots of people are proclaiming the London attacks to be a "wake up call." But there is little agreement as to what we're supposed to wake up to.
I endorse Demagogue's version (via Daou Report):
So far the most interesting, honest thing I've heard anyone say was on NPR this morning, from a former CIA-agent who used to work on the Osama Bin Laden team. He pointed out that if it's al-Qaeda that this is mutually embarassing for both British and American intelligence operations because no one had any warning whatsoever. He said he hopes it's a significant wake-up call for America, that this summer had started shaping up like the summer of 2001-- with the news obsessed with missing girls, shark attacks, etc. He said he was worried about our complacency most of all because people aren't paying attention to how little things have really changed since the War on Terror began. He also had some heavy criticism for the way the war on terrorism has been fought thus far, but I'll try to find the transcript of his interview before I summarize what he said. (I wish I knew his name, I've tried looking for it but haven't found it thus far.)
On the other hand, I take issue with this:
Watching the interviews with British folks who had been directly affected by the bombings was interesting-- they were calm, almost placid, just so very British. One man described how the top of the bus just blew off, as though that kind of thing happens everyday. It was just so mature and dignified. As a Washingtonian who rides the metro everyday I certainly do fear something like this happening here, although in many ways I fear the actual attack a lot less than I fear the panicking of other people-- we are not a stoic people. (See duct tape, area schools closing for predicted snow and for heat.)
Especially given the enormity of the event, New Yorkers were remarkably stoic about 9/11. Even after both towers had collapsed, and even though the phones and servers were down, several of my colleagues remained busy at their jobs and planned to spend the rest of the day working. (Not me.) And even though the evacuation of New York was very slow, I saw no panic or hysteria. On the Upper West Side people were still shopping and dining at sidewalk cafes as if nothing had happened, although I also saw long lines around hospitals as people lined up to donate blood. It would turn out that little of the blood was needed, since most people either escaped whole, or they died.
People who had escaped walked up 8th Avenue, covered with dust, faces blank. More numb than hysterical. There may be something in our physiology that causes emotion to shut down in the face of horror. It really does take some time for reality to "sink in." Most of the hysteria came from people who were far away and watching on television, IMO.
The President did manage to issue a coherent statement without undue delay. He assured Americans he had been in contact with "our homeland security folks" and had instructed those folks to  be "extra vigilant as our folks start heading to work." He also criticized terrorists who would "take the lives of innocent folks." He managed to refrain from calling the terrorists "folks." 
Update: Juan Cole comments 
I heard Michael Scheuer, the former CIA Bin Laden analyst, a couple of times this morning, once on NPR's Morning Edition and once on the Diane Rehm show. I thought his comments compelling.

He found the statement issued by a "secret jihad" web site similar in form and content to typical al-Qaeda communiques, including the threats against other countries (Italy and Denmark). He was sure this was an al-Qaeda operation.

He noted that Bin Laden had called off any ceasefire and had several times threatened to hit the United Kingdom.

He said that "chickens were coming home to roost" for US and UK politicians who had obscured the nature of the al-Qaeda struggle by maintaining that the organization attacks the West because "they hate our values."

Scheuer believes that al-Qaeda is an insurgent ideology focused on destroying the United States and its allies, because its members believe that the US is trying to destroy them. Al-Qaeda members see the Israeli occupation and oppression of the Palestinians, backed by the US; US support for military regimes like those of Pakistan and Egypt; and US military occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq as evidence of a US onslaught on Islam and Muslims aimed at reducing them to neo-colonial slavery. That is, specific Western policies are the focus of al-Qaeda response, not a generalized "hatred" of "values."

Scheuer opposes any attempt to configure the struggle against al-Qaeda as simple crime-fighting. He believes that they must be addressed through a thorough-going counter-insurgency effort.
10:01 am | link

Terrorist Attack in London
Tony Blair said today's explosions in London were an apparent terror attack, according to Reuters.  

Witnesses saw the top was ripped off a double-decker bus near Russell Square close to King's Cross train terminal and the twisted wreckage of another in Tavistock Square nearby.

Several underground subway stations also were hit.

"It is reasonably clear that there have been a series of terrorist attacks in London," Blair told reporters at the [G8] summit. He said he would return to London.

Various news sources report that least two people were killed and many more wounded. There is no official determination of who is responsible.

However, AKI just reported:

A European-based militant group believed to be linked to the al-Qaeda network has said it was responsible for Thursday's multiple bomb attacks in Londoon. The Group of the Secret Organisation of al-Qaeda in Europe issued a brief statement posted on the Internet claiming responsibility for the blasts and warning Italy and Denmark to pull out their troops from Iraq or receive similar treatment. Authorities have yet to establish the message's credibility.

Donald MacLeod of The Guardian writes,

The explosions in London look like an attempt to recreate the Madrid bombings and would have been planned for months, a leading terrorism expert said today as the capital began to come to terms with an apparently coordinated attack.

Michael Clarke, director of the Centre for Defence Studies at King's College London, said six bombs would mean at least 24 people involved in planting them in a targeted operation. The fact that London had been hit when the resources of the security forces were focused on the G8 summit at Gleneagles indicated some clever thinking by terrorists.

"It will have been quite a big plot and months in the planning," said Prof Clarke, who declined to speculate who was behind the attacks at this stage.

I don't know if any Brits drop by this blog, but if so, you have my heartfelt condolences.

But if Islamic terrorists are responsible, it rather blows a hole in the "flypaper" theory, eh?

Update: Several bloggers have pointed out that the perps might be from the anti-globalization movement. If this turns out to be so, the cause of anti-globalization will be irreparably damaged. You might as well send Wal-Mart an engraved invitation to open slave labor camps in China. 

Update: CNN has a timeline of the blasts. The BBC corroborates the AKI account above "An Islamist website has posted a statement--purportedly from al-Qaeda--claiming it was behind the attacks." The Associated Press reports, 

A group calling itself "The Secret Organization of al-Qaida in Europe" posted a claim of responsibility for the blasts, saying they were in retaliation for Britain's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The Web statement, republished on the site of the German magazine Der Spiegel, could not be immediately confirmed.   

The flaming idiots weigh in--Scott at Powerline titles a post, "Another Front Opens." When will the fools get it in their heads that there are no "fronts"? You can only have a "front" when armies are fighting over specific territory. A "front" assumes a theater of war with geographical parameters. That is not the case with terrorism.

Another flamer: The ever clueless Orrin Judd sniffs "Similar to 3-11 in Spain and obviously tragic, but is this really all al Qaeda can pull off these days?" Spoken like a true weenie who has never faced terrorism himself but thinks he understands it 'cause he saw it on TV.

7:54 am | link

Anybody Else See This?
Last night I caught a bit of a TV news clip of Bush blowing out the candles on a birthday cake. At one point he stood up, visibly disoriented, and stumbled backward a step. Then he stepped forward and finished blowing out the candles.
Reuters reported that Bush "jokingly" stumbled, but it didn't look "jokingly" to me. Maybe he was just dizzy from blowing out candles. He does seem to stumble a lot, though, doesn't he?
7:44 am | link

wednesday, july 6, 2005

Roe v. Republicans
On some parts of the Left there's been much hand-wringing over Roe v. Wade of late. Some make the argument that abandoning Roe would make the Democratic party more palatable to moderate voters.
I say the Dems should wait and watch what opposition to Roe does to the GOP in the next couple of years.

In the three decades since Roe v. Wade, pro-lifers have marched, prayed, and licked envelopes in the hope that a pro-life president might change the Supreme Court. Friday morning, they got their wish: Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announced she would retire. Pro-lifers rushed to their computers to declare … defeat. If an anti-Roe justice replaced O'Connor, "there would still be a pro-Roe majority" on the court, said the National Right to Life Committee. "Replacing her will not challenge Roe's core," agreed the Committee for Justice. "Abortion Would Still be Legal in 43 States Even if Roe Overturned," added Americans United for Life.

It's a strange message: Abortion kills babies—but don't worry, Roe and legal abortion are secure. Why the reassurance? Because pro-lifers know that if the public thinks abortion might be criminalized again, a lot of voters will start to worry less about Osama Bin Laden and more about Tom DeLay. Some pro-life politicians will lose their jobs. Others will defect and beg for re-election. Pro-lifers know these things will happen, because they happened the last time voters panicked over Roe. That was in 1989, when George H.W. Bush was president. Not until three years later, when O'Connor and her colleagues reaffirmed Roe, did the backlash subside.

According to Gallup, 65 percent of Americans want the Roe v. Wade decision upheld. In our 50-50 nation, 65 percent is a substantial majority. So how come a pro-Roe position is seen as a political handicap?
Abortion is one of those issues--like gun control and gay marriage--that causes a substantial minority of voters to stampede to the polls to vote for whatever vertebrate organism the GOP placed on the ballot. On the other hand, relatively few pro-reproductive rights voters choose candidates based on that one issue.
However, if abortion became illegal in most parts of the U.S., that could change. And the Republicans don't want that to change. They need the issue of abortion to dangle in front of the "values" voters. They don't need abortion to actually become illegal, because that would piss off the rest of--a majority of--the electorate.
Because the SCOTUS would still have a pro-Roe majority if O'Connor's seat is given to an "anti," Saleton thinks Bush will throw a bone to the Fetus People and appoint an "anti" justice to replace O'Connor. However, it's possible a future appointment would be more moderate.  It's not in the best interest of the GOP for the SCOTUS to have an anti-abortion rights majority.
But if Roe were overturned, would abortion remain legal in 43 states? Sure--for a couple of weeks. Only seven states have laws that would ban abortion immediately if Roe is overturned. But you know that the moment Roe is overturned, every statehouse in every "red" state will be cranking out abortion bans faster'n you can say "Alan Guttmacher."
And it could be worse. Michael Dorf argues in TAP that the Right will not stop with state law, but will push for a national abortion ban.
Today’s Republican Party pays at most lip service to the notion of limited national power. The Justice Department was all too eager to interpret federal statutes to override Oregon’s law permitting physician aid in dying and California’s medical marijuana law. Likewise, Congress (including many Democrats) brushed aside the obvious federalism objections to its extraordinary intervention in the Terri Schiavo case.

Thus it is not alarmist to predict that within weeks -- if not days or hours -- of a Supreme Court decision overruling Roe v. Wade, Congress would enact legislation outlawing most abortions nationwide. At that point, the fate of legal abortion would depend on the justices’ views about the limits of congressional power.

In spite of the fact that opinions on abortion have remained remarkably static for these past thirty years, many on the Right have an abiding faith that support for legalized abortion is shrinking. For example, check out what flaming idiot James Taranto wrote for WSJ. Taranto argues that abortion has been a winning issue for the GOP and a losing issue for Democrats.  How does he know? "Polarization over abortion coincided with a period of Republican ascendancy," Taranto says. "Since the parties split on abortion, the GOP has won five of seven presidential elections, and no Democrat has had a majority of the popular vote."

Jesse at Pandagon responds

You know, since Watergate, Republicans have won five of eight elections. Since the Iranian hostage crisis, five of seven. Since the Challenger explosion, three of five. Amazingly, if you pick any event from 1965 on, Republicans will have won more elections than Democrats. It's like that trick where you mess with all the numbers and eventually get your birth year, except mind-searingly stupid.

But the dumbest assumption Taranto makes is that a large majority of aborted fetuses would have grown up to be Democrats had they been born. Thus, legal abortion reduces the number of potential Democratic voters in relation to Republican voters, who hardly ever get aborted.

His one bit of "proof" for this theory is that women of color, who tend to vote for Democrats, have a higher abortion rate than white women. However, the U.S. Census Bureau says that the proportion of "non-Hispanic whites" in the U.S. population is getting smaller. So that one's a wash.

The underlying assumption is that women who are opposed to abortion don't get abortions, meaning they are more fertile and raise lots of "anti" babies. To which I say--hah. Nothin' like a positive pregnancy test to suddenly throw a whole new light on the abortion issue.

And he assumes that, if abortion were outlawed, women wouldn't get abortions. Double hah.

Update: Here's a clip&save--evidence that outlawing abortion doens't stop abortion.

3:50 pm | link

What About Bob?
Today, federal prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald will urge U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan to reject proposals to sentence Judy Miller and Matt Cooper to home detention instead of prison. Further, Fitzgerald threatened to charge the reporters with criminal contempt, which carries a lot more jail time than the current charges of civil contempt.
But what about Bob?
But what about Novak? He obviously knows who leaked the name to him. Why is Miller, who never even wrote an article, facing jail? If anyone should be threatened with contempt of court, it is Novak.

There are only two possibilities. Either Novak did tell the prosecutor the names of the officials who leaked the name and the prosecutor is going easy on them, or Novak refused and the prosecutor is going easy on Novak. Either explanation reeks of favoritism, selective prosecution, and cover-up.

Well, yes. And the next part of Kuttner's op-ed is especially disturbing (emphasis added): 

One leading suspect of having leaked Plame's identity is the president's chief political adviser, Karl Rove. Given how utterly Machiavellian Rove is, readers who take press reports of Fitzgerald's pristine independence at face value are touchingly naïve.

Given the stakes, do you really think this administration would let a Justice Department official just pick some highly independent prosecutor to launch a wide ranging probe -- one that could net Novak, a reliable administration toady, and the chummy high officials Novak talks to, say, Rove or Vice President Dick Cheney?

Nor is it an accident that this investigation, rather than fingering whoever inside the administration broke the law by outing Valerie Plame, is instead putting the squeeze on two news organizations that just happen to have been critical of the Bush administration, Time magazine and The New York Times, and by extension the entire press corps.

The man has a point. A lot of us on the Left have hoped that Fitzgerald is conducting an honest investigation. We need to face the possibility that he isn't. Or that he's being manipulated and/or stymied in some way by the White House.
For this and other reasons, it's becoming more and more clear that Judy Miller and Matt Cooper should stop protecting the source of the Plame leak. Bill Israel writes in Editor & Publisher:
In 99.9 percent of cases I know, journalists must not break the bonds of appropriate confidentiality, to protect their ability to report, and to defend the First Amendment. I’ve testified in court to that end, and would do so again.

But the Valerie Plame-CIA case that threatens jail time for reporters from Time and The New York Times this week is the exception that shatters the rule. In this case, journalists as a community have been played for patsies by the president’s chief strategist, Karl Rove, and are enabling him to abuse the First Amendment, by their invoking it.
It should be noted that Mr. Israel knows Rove well and considers him a friend. Israel has no doubt that the outing of Valerie Plame was an act of retaliation orchestrated by Rove. Further,
While it is reporters Matthew Cooper of Time and Judith Miller of The New York Times who now face jail time, the retaliation came through Rove-uber-outlet Robert Novak, who blew the cover of Wilson’s wife, CIA operative Valerie Plame.
The problem, as always, in dealing with Rove, is establishing a clear chain of culpability. Rove once described himself as a die-hard Nixonite; he is, like the former president, both student and master of plausible deniability. (This past weekend, in confirming that Rove was indeed a source for Matthew Cooper, Rove's lawyer said his client "never knowingly disclosed classified information.") That is precisely why prosecutor Fitzgerald in this case must document the pattern of Rove’s behavior, whether journalists published, or not.

For in this case, Rove, improving on Macchiavelli, has bet that reporters won’t rat their relationship with the administration’s most important political source. How better for him to operate without constraint, or to camouflage breaking the law, than under the cover of journalists and journalism, protected by the First Amendment?
James Moore writes in The Huffington Post that Karl may be positioning himself to face perjury charges--in order to avoid facing treason charges.  

Positioning is Rove's favorite political sport and that's the purpose of this admission. It's a metaphorical "so what" shrug of the shoulders. But the sub text of Rove's words shows another strategy. The presidential advisor undoubtedly knows he is guilty of a federal crime but, for obvious political reasons, he needs it to be something less than treason. Perjury will be his default position. The political harm to be done to his president and his party for a conviction of treason is incalcuable.

We on the Left will be dancing in the streets if Rover faces perjury charges, but James Moore is right--it ought to be treason charges.

And the federal investigators appear to be making a case for perjury. The American Prospect has already reported that, in his 2003 appearances before the federal grand jury, Rove said he had not spoken to reporters about Valerie Plame's identity until after her name was published in Robert Novak's column. Unfortunately for Rove, early reports indicate that the e-mails being turned over to the federal prosecutor by Time magazine apparently show Rove was in communication with reporter Matt Cooper well in advance of Novak's piece. Sending such e-mails directly from his West Wing computer is not the kind of mistake Rove can be expected to make but Cooper's identification of his source through Time communications ought to facilitate a simple case of perjury against Rove, particularly if Judith Miller of the New York Times can be compelled to stop protecting a source who appears to have betrayed the entire country.

Ah, yes. Judy Miller. What about Judy? Rosa Brooks writes in today's Los Angeles Times:

It was Miller, more than any other reporter, who helped the White House sell its WMD-in-Iraq hokum to the American public. Relying on the repeatedly discredited Ahmad Chalabi and her carefully cultivated administration contacts, Miller wrote story after story on the supposedly imminent threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

Only problem: Her scoops relied on information provided by the very folks who were also cooking the books. But because Miller hid behind confidential sources most of the time, there was little her readers could use to evaluate their credibility. You know: "a high-level official with access to classified data." Ultimately, even the Times' "public editor" conceded the paper's coverage of Iraq had often consisted of "breathless stories built on unsubstantiated 'revelations' that, in many instances, were the anonymity-cloaked assertions of people with vested interests."

Ms. Brooks argues that Miller should have refused to offer anonymity to the "high-level sources" who "sold us a bill of goods on Iraq." Barring that, any promise of anonymity should be forfeit if it turns out the source lied. Same thing if the reporter realizes he or she was being manipulated by the source for political purposes.
Ms. Brooks speculates that Miller has a good reason to protect the source, however--her own reputation. In the past year, Miller has gone from being Ahmed Chalabi's stooge to a 1st Amendment Martyr. And, as Martha Stewart learned, jail time is not the end of a career.
Finally, what about Matt Cooper? His employer, Time magazine, has already given Fitzgerald his notes on the story. Yet Fitzgerald still wants Cooper's testimony. Many on the Left Blogosphere infer from this that Fitzgerald must be building a criminal case against somebody. Indeed, according to TalkLeft, Fitzgerald has said he already knows the identity of the leaker.
Curiouser and curiouser.
[Cross-posted to The American Street]
Update:  Carol D. Leonnig writes in today's Washington Post that "Sources close to the investigation say there is evidence in some instances [in Cooper's notes] that some reporters may have told government officials -- not the other way around -- that Wilson was married to Plame, a CIA employee." The speculation appears to be that Fitzgerald is going after the two reporters for outing Plame to the White House, not for protecting a White House leaker.
Seems far-fetched. Also, it doesn't tell us what prompted the Reptile to out Plame in his column, and whether he knew she was a covert agent when he did so.
Update update: Perp walk for Judy, but Matt will testify.
7:21 am | link

tuesday, july 5, 2005

Happy July 5th!
Immediately after the Washington DC fireworks ended last night, helicopters turned lights on the crowd to shoo us out of the mall. (The Washington Post says it was fifteen minutes after the fireworks ended, but it seemed to me we were barely done applauding the last burst of rockets' red glare.) It was some kind of evacuation drill, called "Operation Fast Forward," and was meant to be a test of evacuation routes in case of terrorist attacks.
WaPo says the evacuation went smoothly except for a snag at 12th and Constitution, where people were stymied by the crowd control barriers. It so happens (I believe) we crossed the street at 12th and Constitution, so it may also have been our fault. But that intersection didn't seem to me to be any worse than the other intersections. You can't walk anywhere in DC without smashing into crowd control barriers.
Personally, I don't think it was a true-to-life test. Lots of people didn't evacuate Capitol Hill directly but instead walked along Constitution Avenue for a while once they had gotten off the mall. Also, people probably evacuated the mall at the nearest exit point, going in all directions. but in case of a terrorist attack the crowds would be moving away from the attack, all going in one direction.
There's also the panic factor, which can't be planned for. But judging by New York on 9/11, real-life people don't panic and stampede nearly as much as they do in disaster movies.
Other than the encounter with the helicopters, yesterday was a big wallow in Americana. We watched the 3rd Infantry "Old Guard" Fife and Drum Corps, toured Ford's Theater, and paid our respects to the Declaration, Constitution, and other documents enshrined at the National Archives. We also had a tasty dinner at Jaleo on the corner of E and 7th. Highly recommended.
Regular blogging will return tomorrow. In the meantime, read James Carrolls "The Day After the Fireworks" in today's Boston Globe.
9:23 am | link

monday, july 4, 2005

Happy July 4th!

We are, as a nation, exceptionally profligate with the symbols of our national identity and with words like "democracy" and "freedom." The word "freedom" especially seems to have hardened around the edges in the last few years. It has lost some of its ability to suggest the open-ended potential of our lives, the possibility of coming to new terms with the expectations we have been handed by earlier generations. The overtones of discovery the word once had seem to have been put on hold.

Instead, there is a new complacency, a certainty that we know just what freedom means and exactly how it should look. There is an unwelcome comfort with the inequitable distribution of freedom even in our own country. There is a poisonous tolerance for the idea that freedom encompasses only the right to say positive things about America and its mission in the world.

It's worth wondering, on this great holiday, how the rights that were articulated in the Declaration of Independence would sound if they were being voiced in earnest today.

"Freedom" in the political sense is pretty meaningless to people whose lives are being crushed by deprivation and economic helplessness. When politicians make speeches about "freedom" and then enable the tilting of the playing field in favor of the wealthy and powerful, they turn "freedom" into a meaningless abstraction. And that's doubly true of politicians who want to restrict reproductive rights, use government for religious indoctrination, and restrict other civil liberties in the name of "homeland security."
Seems to me some people mix up the meanings of the words freedom, privilege, and power. For the political Right, "freedom" means freedom from opposition. For the wealthy, "freedom" means freedom from responsibility to employees and small investors. For the privileged and powerful, "freedom" means freedom to oppress the rest of us.
And, sometimes, freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose. In that sense, the Bush Administration is doing its best to liberate us. 
8:16 am | link

sunday, july 3, 2005

Today in Washington
I've been all over Washington DC looking for Sally Quinn's outhouse, but I can't tell which one is hers.
Well, so much for Washngton. Elsewhere--via James Wolcott, Matt Taibbi takes on the knuckle draggers trying to censor the Ground Zero memorial in the name of "freedom."
There has always been something monstrously cynical about these make-believe art controversies of the Piss Christ genre, a phenomenon resurrected here in New York last week with the 48-hour press freakout over the "anti-American" artwork of the Drawing Center, a museum slated to move to the Ground Zero site. ...
... In the case of the Drawing Center controversy, the positions of both sides were pretty clear. It so happened that the Center, a small Soho museum founded in 1977 which has had thousands of exhibits over the years, had a few pictures in its collection that were essentially bald political provocations. Among those were A Glimpse of What Life Could Be Like in a Free Country #6, which featured a pen-and-ink recreation of the notorious hooded Abu Ghraib prisoner image, with the wires emanating from his hands spelling the word "Liberty." ...
...If the artist had at least titled the drawing, I Own Three Magic Markers and a Subscription to the Nation, that would be something, a joke at least. But a sense of humor is clearly beyond the artist, Amy Wilson, who in all likelihood was exclusively drawing horses and unicorns right up until a recent collision with an AMC broadcast of Norma Rae or the Counterpunch website.
Read the whole thing ... highly recommended.
8:59 pm | link

On to New Business
When liberals call for replacing a retiring conservative Supreme Court justice with a similar conservative Supreme Court justice, this speaks volumes about the current sorry state of our political affairs.  
And it speaks louder that the Right is already geared up to fight a nomination of Alberto "torture's too good fer 'em" Gonzales.
Within hours after Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's announced retirement from the Supreme Court, members of conservative groups around the country convened in five national conference calls in which, participants said, they shared one big concern: heading off any effort by President Bush to nominate his attorney general, Alberto R. Gonzales, to replace her.  

Late last week, a delegation of conservative lawyers led by C. Boyden Gray and former Attorney General Edwin Meese III met with the White House chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., to warn that appointing Mr. Gonzales would splinter conservative support.

And Paul M. Weyrich, a veteran conservative organizer and chairman of the Free Congress Foundation, said he had told administration officials that nominating Mr. Gonzales, whose views on abortion are considered suspect by religious conservatives, would fracture the president's conservative backers.

Bottom line: Liberals are hoping for a not-activist judge who will rule based on law and the facts of the case. The Right is howling for a way-activist judge who will impose a hard right interpretation to everthing, damn the case and damn the Constitution. And this is happening while the Right is snarling that it's the Left who wants to use the Courts to impose its will.
The rightie talking point is that the Left uses the courts to impose its agenda because it can't get the legislature and the president to bend to its will. The fact is that the Left doesn't control the courts; it's just that the courts are the only part of federal government not controlled by the Right.  
The Left is trying to maintain a balance of power; the Right is trying to crush all opposition and achieve total domination of the government.
George Bush is not in an enviable spot right now. If he nominates anyone who displeases the Right, he's likely to lose much of their support, and right now that's pretty much all he has. If he does nominate a troglodyte the Senate confirmation fight will be fierce and nasty and protracted, and he can't count on the GOP Senators to march in lockstep. He's got to find someone moderate enough to keep the Senate GOP together, but enough of a whackjob to please the Right.
I'm off for a big day of sightseeing in DC. I'll try to get some photos to post.
8:41 am | link

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"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918


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."

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