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»  August 31, 2007



Letter to the Senator

23 August 2007

Senator Wyden has placed a hold on the nomination of John Rizzo to the position of CIA general counsel due to Mr. Rizzo's failure to object to a memo authorizing interrogation techniques that may have given officers "shaky legal advice".

According to the International Herald Tribune, Rizzo has been "acting general counsel off and on for most of the past six years". AP stories mentioned that he his most recent stint as acting general counsel has lasted for three years.

Will Senator Wyden's hold on Rizzo's nomination to a permanent position have any effect on his status as de facto general counsel at the CIA?

Senator Ron Wyden has gotten a good deal of press -- including a mention in a recent New Yorker article on CIA "black sites" by Jane Mayer -- for placing this hold. That's great and all, I would love to have the people responsible for authorizing torture held accountable for their actions. But none of the articles that I have seen mentioning Wyden's action say anything about what the actual effect will be of preventing or delaying Rizzo's permanent appointment to a position he has filled in an acting capacity for much of the Bush administration. Maybe someone who has better access to the Senator could ask that question.


»  August 30, 2007


Postmark Katrina: Flipping around through TV last night there was remarkably little on the fifty or so channels we get about Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf Coast, or New Orleans. And by "remarkably little" I mean almost nothing. Apart from CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360", the only other significant piece I came across was "Storm Stories" on The Weather Channel, which had an (oddly enough) interesting episode called "Postmark Katrina", a joint production with the US Postal Service about how mail operations were undertaken in the wake of the disaster. Take it with a grain of self-served salt, but the USPS's emergency operations come off looking a lot better than FEMA's. And it even features some footage from Portland -- although that's about people scamming FEMA money.


»  August 29, 2007


»  August 28, 2007


Tonwarenstallrichtlinie: Does the "you broke it you bought it" philosophy apply to, say, a case of rape? Or is using the "Colin Powell Rule" for every situation just stupid?

[About the title, I just think it captures more of the authoritarian flavor in German -DP]


»  August 27, 2007


The Gordon Smith Plan for Bringing the Troops Home: From the Smith campaign web site:

Gordon Smith understands the importance of bringing our troops home from Iraq. He is a supporter of a plan to transition America’s mission to the Iraqi security forces leaving our troops focused on our arch-enemy – extremists and terrorists.
That's -- uh -- it. He "supports" a plan but doesn't tell you what plan it is.



That's a Reinhard...I Say That's a Reinhard, Son!: torridjoe at Loaded Orygun says he had a bucket at the ready when he wrote a post in which he had to sort of agree with the Oregonian's David Reinhard on similarities in the struggle between top-position candidates (like Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination and Jeff Merkley for Democratic candidate for Oregon Senator) and their primary challengers (Barack Obama and Steve Novick, respectively).

I thought I once posted a piece where I had to agree with the O's Bad David (as opposed to David Sarasohn) on something but I either wrote that as a letter to the editor or it was just some memory of a hellish nightmare.

On the other hand, I have to wonder out of which hole Reinhard pulled the word "speechifying" of when he described the Obama/Novick half of the equation as:

And in this corner, the super-charged challenger, the hot new kid on the block who makes up in pizazz, speechifying and life story what he lacks in public-office experience...
To me, anyway, that sort of has the smack of Tony Snow's use of "tar baby" a year or two ago. It's not flagged as derogatory in my online references, but then "tar baby" isn't either. It's just a little odd that Reinhard pulls out the Foghorn Leghorn/Pogo language for highfalutin disquisition when he's talking about Obama who is -- ahem -- African American.s


»  August 26, 2007


The Irony of Experience: Barack Obama supporters are pumped up because President Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski has come out in support of their candidate.

After a couple of weeks of wrangling between Hillary Clinton, Obama, and the media over the question of whether he has enough experience to be President -- and Obama's quite justifiable response that the "experienced" senators were the ones who fell for fake claims of WMD in Iraq and authorized George W. Bush to attack Iraq and get the US into the mess it's been in for more than four years -- now an "experienced" foreign policy expert comes through and says that Obama "has the upper hand" over Clinton in his grasp of foreign policy.

I suppose people need to take the endorsements they can get, but aside from Brzezinski's own judgment on arming anti-government forces in Afghanistan in 1979, wasn't the whole debate based on the idea that just because someone had been involved in foreign policy decisions for X number of years that didn't necessarily make their judgment superior to someone with, say, sane views?

It seems self-defeating for a campaign to make the claim that the longer experience of an opponent doesn't necessarily make them right, then buttress their clearer judgment by pointing to an endorsement by someone with even more experience without an examination of the endorser's own record.


»  August 25, 2007


IAM Candidate Forums Monday and Tuesday: International Association of Machinists and Aerospace WorkersThe International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers is hosting a series of discussions with some of the presidential candidates from both parties at their National Staff Conference in Orlando on Monday and Tuesday this week, hosted by Erin Moriarty of CBS News. This is the schedule:

Mon., 27 Aug., 12:30 pm Pacific New York Sen. Hillary Clinton
Mon., 27 Aug., 4:30 pm Pacific California Rep. Duncan Hunter and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee
Tue. 28 Aug., 4:30 pm Pacific Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich

The event will be streamed, live, from the IAM web site.



The Stakes Involved: Quoted in Bruce Miroff's newly-released The Liberals' Moment: The McGovern Insurgency and the Identity Crisis of the Democratic Party, Sen. George McGovern in March 1965, on a CBS television panel on the escalation in Vietnam:

I think there will be a staggering loss of human life out of all proportion to the stakes involved and I see no guarantee that once we go through that kind of a murderous and destructive kind of military effort that the situation out there will be any better. In fact, I think it will be a lot worse.


»  August 22, 2007


Novick Wants Your Stuff!: Oregon Democratic Senatorial primary candidate Steve Novick has landed HQ space on SE 8th in Portland, and they're looking for donations to stock the office, particularly:

  • Chairs (office or folding)
  • Tables
  • Desks
  • Computers
  • Monitors
  • Flatbed scanner
  • Printers
  • Copiers
  • TVs
  • Filing cabinets
  • Trash cans
  • Dry erase boards
  • Office supplies
  • Coffee maker
  • Microwave
  • Fridge
  • Couch
  • Book shelves
  • Corkboard
  • Clocks
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Stereo
  • Shredder
  • Power strips
  • Posters and other memorabilia of famous underdogs
Call the campaign at 503-236-7289 if you can donate. I assume that they're looking for underdogs that won.



They Ought to be Hospitalized:

(Quicktime, 3.7MB / 2:39)

Michael Scheuer -- former CIA bin Laden chief and author of Imperial Hubris -- appeared with CNN's Tom Foreman (who looks and sounds like he's been studying Glenn Beck for some reason) and Barbara Starr on Saturday's "This Week at War" for a chat about the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

FOREMAN: How do we have a face-saving way to get out when we have so many intelligence reports saying that if we step out of Iraq, step out of Afghanistan precipitously, that they will become breeding grounds for troubles that will come visit us?

SCHEUER: Well, they're there now, sir. It is not a question of if it will happen. It is happening now. Whether we stay or whether we go from those two countries, they're going to come after us in the United States.

FOREMAN: Isn't that a huge argument for at least not running away from it?

SCHEUER: We shouldn't run away from it, but we should be realistic. We have lots of aircraft carriers and lots of submarines. We don't have a lot of troops. The idea that anyone thought they could control Afghanistan which is the size of Texas with 30,000 troops, a person of that description ought to be hospitalized.

Or impeached.



Red-Baiting at Blue Oregon:

This kind of tactic only works if you're actually worried about being called a socialist:

Oh man, Kari!


But what do we do with all these Green/Socialist trolls? Donate to the DLC?

If you're not worried about someone calling you an "impotent commie loser", getting called a socialist doesn't hold any fear, particularly if it's reasonably accurate.

Let's see now...who else likes to call people socialists?

Astonishing! The enemy of democracy was Oregon's Gordon Smith. Here is Wallsten's fuller account of this pathetic man's demagoguery:
WALLSTEN: Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) accused Kerry of advocating socialism within the United States and appeasement overseas.

"It's not John Kerry's fault that he looks French," Smith told reporters on the conference call arranged by the Bush campaign.

"But it is his fault that he wants to pursue policies that have us act like the French. He advocates all kinds of additional socialism at home, appeasement abroad, and what that means is weakness for the future."

Some Republicans have referred jokingly to Kerry's ability to speak French and his physical appearance, but rarely has the reference found its way onto the campaign trail.

Astonishing—that empty, thigh-rubbing men like Smith would make such a joke of your democracy. Wallsten wanted voters to know how kooky and crackpot the campaign has become. But other scribes, at our greatest newspapers, slumber and snore as the clowning continues. Indeed, as thigh-rubbing men like Smith pimp and clown, they have our magnificent "press corps" to help them.



Bonehead Question of the Week: Who would ever have thought to ask this question? Someone red-baiter at Blue Oregon, that's who.

Do you want to live in a country where we impeach presidents when they make bad decisions?
Yeah, if the decision is bad enough and you think that they will continue making bad decisions. That's what impeachment's for: to keep untrustworthy officers of the state from misusing the power the people have entrusted to them. Whether they make the decision out of malice or stupidity, if there is sufficient reason to assume that they will continue to make bad decisions, then you take their hands off the wheel.


»  August 21, 2007


One Week: Over at Jack Bog's Blog, Sen. Ron Wyden gets kudos for opposing the confirmation of John Rizzo as CIA general counsel because of his legal authorization for "interrogation techniques that stop just short of inflicting pain equal to that accompanying organ failure or even death".

Of course, Rizzo's still acting general counsel. He was nominated to the general counsel spot in March but he's been serving as acting counsel since last year. It's the seconf time he's been acting general counsel since 2001. According to the International Herald Tribune: "Rizzo has been acting general counsel off and on for most of the past six years, serving without Senate confirmation."

I mean, I'm glad he's not getting confirmed but if he's going to continue in his position as acting general counsel, I'm not sure that the hold (which got Wyden mentioned in The New Yorker as well) impresses me all that much.

I was intrigued by this comment in the comments there from someone calling themself Tenskwatawa, however:

And the retro-spin being ground out is that Wyden opposed it from the start, whereas I sat ten feet in front of him, Feb. 25, 2003, 3 weeks preliminary and he was selling Iraq invasion, telling 'town hall' Oregon City, that definitely, definitely, definitely [quote], "we KNOW Saddam has weapons of mass destruction, VX, nerve gas ...," where I butted in, "there are NO WMD's in Iraq." To his face. And Wyden glared at me, blinked, da-blink da-blink [what's up with his eyelids, anyway?], and continued, "... and we have got to go in and get them out."
Here's a piece of an Los Angeles Times article mentioning that meeting and another in Medford (via CommonDreams.org):
In Oregon, Smith heard worries about war during a series of town hall meetings he conducted with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) last week. At one in Medford, more than half the audience stood up when asked how many had "deep questions" about going to war. At a gathering in Oregon City, a man challenged the wisdom of a preemptive attack on Iraq, asking: "Who appointed us policemen of the world?"
The date in the commenter's story is off by at least a couple of days (the Times article was published on the 24th), but I wouldn't mind knowing whether Wyden was actively opposing the war at those meetings. Certainly there's nothing in his news releases that would indicate a pushback against the war. More research needed.

Here's one result of a quick LexisNexis search for wyden iraq:

The Oregonian - 9/25/2002 - 436 words
Here is how members of the Northwest delegation stand on President Bush's request for a resolution against Iraq: Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.: Says administration should proceed deliberately to deal with threat posed by Saddam Hussein, but also should anticipate consequences for war on terrorism and containment of conflict if...
$3 for anyone who wants it. So, in 2002, Wyden -- a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence -- thought that Saddam Hussein posed a threat. It'd be interesting to find out what kind of threat the senator thought he posed. And why. I'm not sure that I'm seeing this as opposition.


»  August 20, 2007


The Yes Democrats: In a bizarre turn of events, bloggers and commenters at places like Blue Oregon and the unofficial Lane County Bus Project have taken to lecturing the unwashed masses who show up in corporeal form at events like Sen. Ron Wyden's Town Hall on Iraq for a lack of civility.

We've reached a point where the worm has turned so many times it practically Gordian. Politicians --especially crooked ones -- have accused the media of being anti-American for telling more or less the truth for so long that they've actually begun to believe it of themselves and now flog the flag at every opportunity.

When bloggers arrived on the scene with the growth of the World Wide Web, and TV, newspaper, and radio commentators began to feel their privileged position of authority threatened by political bloggers, they began accusing them of using foul language, for a lack of civility, and for not being "serious" enough. While it's true that there is a certain amount of profanity, invective, humor, and misinformation on blogs -- as science fiction author Ted Sturgeon famously said: "ninety percent of everything is crud" -- the professional commentators seemed to feel that absolved them from addressing actual issues brought up by bloggers or examining possible flaws in their own clan's output. That battle's still going on.

The blogger world has had its own successes. People who saw an opportunity and were in the right place at the right time to become a part of the mainstream political establishment. Now it's their turn to join in the choruses of politicians and commentators telling actual voters to just sit down and shut up. "Everything is fine. Your concerns will be addressed at the time of our choosing (should they be addressed at all). If your concerns have not been addressed, please try again at some other time. But civilly, no matter how much we ignore you or talk down to you." So while the right-leaning blogs have been telling the "Bush-hating" left to just STFU for as long as they've existed, more and more of those calls are coming from people who label themselves progressive Democrats but seem to form what I like to think of as the "squishy center".

The Wyden meeting in Portland was set up with check-ins for people to ask questions (no more than two minutes) and for Wyden to respond. And that's probably about as good a way to run things as you can ask for.

But it doesn't allow for a true dialogue. It doesn't allow for follow-up or challenging a portion of the respondent's answer (and some of Wyden's answers were pretty bone-headed). You may think it anti-social for an audience to boo a response they disagree with, but the corrolary is that they shouldn't applaud or cheer with remarks they agree with. Unless outbursts of positive enthusiasm are deemed unacceptable in a meeting, outbursts of disdain should be allowed. You may not like them, but that's simple fairness.

Unless your intention is that legislators should live in a world where they hear only the music of angels applauding their glorious achievements and that they should be coccooned away from mass criticism (i.e. jeering and booing) to protect their fragile minds.


»  August 19, 2007


Ahistorical Note: After a couple of years of talking to people about impeachment, it seems as if I've heard just about all of the ideas and considerations people new to the conversation seem to be discovering as if they were flowers blossoming from a fresh cow pattie.

One commenter at Blue Oregon linked to a Washington Post op/ed by Michael Tomasky -- who's been keeping a seat warm at The American Prospect for several years -- with makes the alarming claim that impeachment is "The Dumbest Move the Dems Could Make".

Then again, Tomasky may not be the person you want to turn to for advice. Here he is from March 2003, just a few days after the invasion of Iraq (my emphasis):

This may sound self-evident, but it feels like it needs saying because I'm picking up, as I browse some of the liberal Web sites and follow the protest actions, a certain "Aha!" mentality with regard to the alleged "quagmire" that now looms. The mentality is understandable on one level. To a considerable extent the hawks' credibility hangs heavily on a smashing and quick success. No reputation is more on the line than that of Donald Rumsfeld, who has spent the better part of the last year and a half pooh-poohing the career brass in the Pentagon and its quaint 20th-century ways. Seeing Rumsfeld and all his allies taken down a notch is a tempting thing to hope for, to say nothing of the more important fact that a quick success in Iraq will go some distance toward greasing the skids for Iran, North Korea or wherever they decide should come next.

But it's wrong to think this way, and not merely for the obvious reason that such a view amounts to hoping for more death and agony. First of all, the use of the word "quagmire" after five days is preposterous. Vietnam became a quagmire after about three and a half years. This war, even with the Iraqis displaying a stiffer upper lip than we'd been led to believe they would -- and even with the prospect of house-to-house combat in Baghdad -- is very unlikely to take more than three and a half months. (If it somehow should, I'd venture that George W. Bush will be in deep political trouble.) Besides which, one should not have opposed the Vietnam War because it became a quagmire. One should have opposed the 1965 escalation, if not the 1961 mini-escalation in the number of "advisers," on principle. Now, as then, concerns about a "quagmire" reflect a response to circumstances -- is the war going poorly or well? -- rather than an expression of principled belief.

So there will not, in all likelihood, be a quagmire.

And that was from a guy who was against the invasion, supposedly.

People were predicting a quagmire at the time not because things were briefly bogged down on the drive to Baghdad. They were predicting a quagmire in the long term because we were invading a country of 25 million people with no plan to get out.

Moreover, people did oppose the Vietnam war on principle before it became a quagmire (in Tomasky's opinion that would have been about 1968). People protested the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in 1964. There were protests throughout the Johnson/Humphrey portion of the war ("Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?") Martin Luther King spoke out against the war in 1967 on moral and ethical grounds as well as on the right of a people to self-determination.

So I'm not particularly impressed by Tomasky's prognostication or his historical knowledge.

Tomasky's view of impeachment doesn't take into account information that would be exposed at the hearings or trial. He's presenting the case as if the vote would be taken immediately, without any case being made against Bush and Cheney that would build pressure on reluctant legislators to remove them from office.

So forgive me if I don't share the commenter's appreciation of the quality of Tomasky's judgment.


What the...?  

Stan Ridgway in Portland Tonight:

Stan Ridgway

Stan Ridgway, the poet laureate of broken dreams and thwarted ambition, a guy whose voice you'd remember if you ever heard it in songs like "Mexican Radio", "Don't Box Me In", "Camouflage", "Drive, She Said", or "I Wanna Be a Boss", ends his 2007 summer tour tonight in Portland at Mississippi Studios on (natch) N. Mississippi. Doors open at 7pm.



We're All Bozos On This Bus, The President Is Driving Us, This Bus Is Off to War: A couple of excerpts from comments (not mine) from a post decrying the outbursts at Sen. Wyden's and Rep. DeFazio's public meetings in Eugene, from the unofficial Lane County Bus Project blog:

DeFazio doesn’t deserve the mob style from dems. maybe to be greeted with flowers for the battle he is waging though. the mob has formed of pure disgust of bush and cheney and the current direction of the country — a very well found disgust. taking back and enshrining the precedents that they have stepped on might well take decades if even possible. But defazio is doing this and doing it well. no civil disobedience necessary. and possibly a better process to allow those people to really feel like they are being heard.
One better process would be action on the concerns expressed and acknowledgment that they might have a valid viewpoint after being derided for five years since the Iraq war machine got started up. Endless repeating of lines about how impeachment would take vital time away from stopping the war are as ludicrous as the reiterations that Iraq has been turning around for the last four years. If there's a plan to get Bush to end the war before the end of his term, let's hear what it is and get a chance to evaluate it, just as we should have expected Bush to give us a plan for "victory" in Iraq that wasn't just hunder down and wait until it was someone else's problem.
The immaturity of citizens who are out of control, who can’t or won’t maintain control of their emotions and behavior, who are so grandiose and so righteous that they shout down anyone who opposes or frustrates them should not be tolerated in a public forum. They simply damage a righteous cause and forfeit the right of dissent and public speech.
Yes, please, let us restrict any dissent in our public forums. After all, that is what President Bush has done so successfully in his "public" meetings over the past few years. It's worked well for him.


»  August 18, 2007


The Fable of the Liberal Bubble: Time to stomp on this myth and the concern trolls who promote it.

It is time to get real about this--how many of you Blue Oregonians know a registered Republican? Or someone registered outside a major party?
When I read comments like this and people saying that people need to get out of their "liberal comfort zone" I wonder how much right-wing mythology these folks have bought into.

Even in Multnomah County a quarter of the voters in 2004 voted for George W. Bush. Just under half of the registered voters in the county at the time were Democrats. About 20% were registered Republicans. Another 24% or so were registered independent.

If one out of every five voters in the county -- the most Democratic county in the state by far -- is a Republican and one out of every four voters in the county voted for Bush, if you know ten random people who vote from around the county then you are likely to know a couple who voted for Bush and are Republicans. Neighbors, co-workers, etc. This idea that Democrats live in some sort of hermetic dome encapsulated in the hometown of Lars Larsen, where Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly have had devoted radio audiences for years is just bizarre.

That's just Multnomah County. The odds are even higher in the rest of the state.

Oh, and what about people's families? One of the quintessential stories of the '60s was the "generation gap": long screaming matches over the dining room table about the Vietnam War and Nixon. Are all those parents dead already? Did all the kids from that generation turn into hippies? (The answer is "no"). Do the people who push this myth think liberals don't have siblings or uncles or cousins or some other family member whose politics don't agree with theirs? There's a long tradition of jokes about households where spouses cancel out their votes, and I've known at least a couple of those couples personally.

47% of the voters in the state voted for Bush in 2004. If you've got family in the rest of the state, there's an awfully good chance (if they voted) that some of them voted Republican. And if you've got family who voted in the rest of the country -- since he presumably won the election with more than 50% -- the odds are even higher.

Why is it that the "realists" always think it's other people who live in a bubble and not the other way around?


»  August 17, 2007


The Cure: Fred Thompson's been assumed to be waiting in the wings for the right moment to enter the GOP presidential race, but he had an interview with John King of CNN where he didn't look so good and in just about 900 words (including King's questions) he used the words "Cure", "cure", and "curable". I think Thompson’s got a lot on his mind right now. I wish him the best, but hope he decides not to risk his health by running.

FRED THOMPSON, FMR. SENATOR: ... We’re going to make a statement shortly that’ll cure all of that...


THOMPSON: ... Hasn’t happened yet, but I think a federal court very well likely will go in that direction, and a constitutional amendment would cure that.

... THOMPSON: Well, if I have critics in Washington it’s not going to come as a surprise to me. I’ll have more by the end of this campaign. Proof’s in the pudding. I think that’s curable.

Crooks and Liars has the video and transcript.



Just a Niblz: Niblz.com founders Nathan Pryor and David Shireman (photo from Vancouver Business Journal's Megan Patrick)I've mentioned my former co-worker and fellow Director programmer Nathan Pryor before because he's a bright guy with a good sense of humor and a hell of a sense of fashion (that's him on the left in the photo).

Nathan and a two-jobs-back co-worker (can't this guy settle down?) were featured on the front page of the Vancouver Business Journal today for a Web tool they sort of publicly launched on April Fool's day this year called Niblz.com.

Vancouver natives Nathan Pryor and David Shireman were tired of spending precious lunchtime minutes trying to decide where to dine. Trying to coordinate several peoples' tastes and schedules was tiresome and downright boring.

The friends met in 2000 working at Vancouver-based HOSTS Learning Corp., and to solve their near-daily dilemma, Pryor developed a simple, web-based program to do the work for them.

"We thought, 'Couldn't we have someone just decide for us?'" Shireman said. "The Internet does everything else for you."

The site, which they've since refined and made available to public at NIBLZ.com, allows one user to invite friends out to eat electronically.

The user chooses several local restaurants from a database, sets a date and time, then the site emails selected lunch pals, who vote on where they'd like to dine.

The event planner also gets a vote, and when voting closes, the site tallies the votes and emails each attendee the "winning" restaurant.

Read all about it.

My own front page appearance in the Portland Business Journal was so long ago that it's not even online. Ahhh, to be young again.

Nathan holds himself



Aiding and Abetting Evil: I was looking back over my own track record here to see what I'd said early on about Iraq and ran across this quote from Edmund Burke that I'd used in a different context:

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.



They Keep Pulling Me Back In: Excerpts from a single comment responding to multiple inquiries at yet another Blue Oregon post on Sen. Wyden's Town Hall on Iraq.

One commenter asked me why I thought Wyden hadn't been active enough in ending the war. After all he's voted against it whenever he got the chance, didn't he?

Every time I have to do some research to bolster my point is going to mean picking at Wyden's record. I think some people might prefer that it would be enough for me to state my opinion that I don't think Wyden's been active enough in opposing the war, and you could disagree with me about how active he actually has been, but if you really want to challenge my opinion, I'll do some research.

Wyden doesn't have his news releases from 2002 online, but his 2003 news releases with Iraq in the title consist solely of items related to wasteful spending on Iraq reconstruction projects. So far as I can tell, there's nothing there in something like 130 news releases expressing opposition to the war. He "SPEAKS OUT AGAINST ENERGY BILL" and he "urges BPA to Stop Rate Increase for Power Customers by Settling NW Utility Lawsuits" -- both good things -- but nothing in that first year calling for an end to the war.

2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 will have to wait for another day.

Or, take a look at the timeline he distributed at the meeting Tuesday. What's the first item on there about directly ending the war? April 8, 2006. Three years after the war began. Prior to that, he'd voted to prohibit excessive deployments, examine the Iraq intelligence, reqire the president to submit reports on his plans, investigate contracts (again), and call for 2006 to be the Year of Iraqi Sovereignty (and to set a timetable, although not mandating any dates), and not to establish permanent bases.

He didn't introduce any of the items he voted on in those first three years. He didn't co-sponsor any of the amendments he voted on in 2003, 2004 or 2005. There's a hell of a big gap in the items between June 23, 2004 and November 10, 2005. Seventeen months with nothing. And that's Wyden's own timeline.

So yeah, I think a more active opposition to the war may have been called for, particularly since the senator -- as a member of the intelligence committee who voted against the Iraq AUMF -- presumably knew that there was no credible evidence that Iraq had been a threat to the United States.

And Blue Oregon czar Kari Chisolm tried several times to say that Wyden's response was just a joke.
Let me get this straight, Kari.

Your contention is that Wyden was being sarcastic when he was telling me that he was my representative in Washington and that he was protecting my interests? That he didn't really mean what he was saying?

That he was, in effect, telling me that he was not my representative in Washington and that he was not protecting my interests.

Frankly, I liked him better when he was just wrongly trusting the Bush administration. You make it sound like he actively despises the people who elected him senator.

Kari knows Wyden better than I do. Tuesday was the first time I'd ever spoken to him. I should probably defer to Kari's superior knowledge of the man in judging just how contemptuous he is of his constituents. But I'd rather give Wyden the benefit of the doubt. "Doveryai no proveryai" as the Russians say.


»  August 16, 2007


In the Original Translation: I mentioned earlier how fond Sen. Ron Wyden seems to be of President Ronald Reagan's phrase "trust but verify". Well, apparently, Reagan not only didn't originate the phrase but like some other people he tended to use it a lot:

TIME magazine, 21 December 1987

This time the two men seemed to hit it off personally from the first handshake to the last. In some of their public appearances, they traded quips like a well-rehearsed vaudeville team. At the White House treaty-signing ceremony, for example, Reagan repeated the Russian phrase doveryai no proveryai (trust but verify), only to be interrupted by Gorbachev's good-natured observation, "You repeat that at every meeting." When the laughter of the 250 assembled guests died down, Reagan flashed his off-center grin, gave Gorbachev a little bow and replied, "I like it." The audience exploded with laughter again. Said Gorbachev just before his final departure: "I think we trust each other more."

Reagan at least gave credit where credit was due and cited the original source. If Wyden keeps using it, maybe he could just call it an "old Russian proverb" or something of the sort.



What Do You Give a Man Who's Lost 190,000 Guns?: I'm sure some folks will assume that Sen. Ron Wyden may not have meant to imply that he actually trusted the Bush administration when he said he believed in the Reagan doctrine of "Trust but verify" in response to my question about whether he trusted the administration. It's a line he seems to like -- a lot -- so it's entirely possible that he just popped it out as a part of his usual spiel.

Apart from the obvious, literal interpretation of the phrase (the first word is fairly unambiguous) and Wyden's words that followed (as I related in the original post), let's consider it in the context of Tuesday's Town Hall on Iraq as a whole.

Wyden brought up the Petraeus report due out in September at least two or three times in answers to questions about the war, saying that it was possible that it would have an effect on shifting the course of the war by convincing Republicans. Willamette Week's coverage of the meeting quotes him:

"I don’t think that General Petraeus can prove that we are getting the job done," said Wyden.
Comments like that were greeted with jeers at the town hall.

What Wyden said might be correct if the report conformed to reality, but nobody with any amount of skepticism really expected the report to do that even when it was first announced. Who could possibly have predicted this:

Despite Bush's repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government.
Perhaps people like Wyden should have been paying attention three months ago, when General "I lost 190,000 weapons in Iraq" Petraeus said this:
Baghdad – Three months into the job, General David Petraeus says it is difficult to predict how well the surge of troops in Baghdad will succeed before the full number of troops arrive and that he would not have a definitive answer about prospects for stability by September, when he is to report back to Congress.
If Wyden doesn't expect the report to be accurate, then he shouldn't pretend it will have some transformative effect on the GOP. Maybe he thinks that when they see what a crock it is that they'll throw their hands up in disgust, but that doesn't excuse peddling it to the crowd in Hoffman Hall as if it had some sort of validity.

For myself, I take the senator at his word. I think that hope beyond hope he trusts the administration to finally get their act together and do the right thing. I think that his words about the Petraeus report changing the minds of Republicans were sincere. I believe the guy says what he means.

I just think he's gullible.



Take it From Someone Who's Dropped One: Theodore Van Kirk was the navigator of the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the "Little Boy" atomic bomb on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. He's interviewed in the documentary White Light, Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and just before the end of the movie he has this to say:

You always have these oddballs in a group and somebody says, "Ah, we should drop a nuke over in Iraq." The stupid jerk doesn't even know what a nuke is. If he did, he wouldn't say that.



Verily We Roll Along : This is just sort of an embarrassing headline to link to.

LoadedOrygun on the Wyden thing.


»  August 15, 2007


All the Japanese People Needed Was Better Verification of Government Claims: From White Light, Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, about 15 minutes in:

dr. shuntaro HIDA

In 1945, I was a doctor at Hiroshima Army Hospital. At the start of the war with America many Japanese were excited, believing that we were winning. But then their sons began dying one after another. Mothers and wives began to feel an increasing anxiety as the war continued. Though the government kept saying that we were winning, the people realized Japan couldn't win.



Trusting and Verifying: Just as a little pre-emptive in case anyone claims Sen. Ron Wyden didn't say "Trust but verify" about the Bush administration; here are some examples of his previous usage of the phrase.

From the Corvallis Gazette-Times, 23 February 2006:

Throughout the evening, Wyden discussed the difficult task of balancing national security issues with civil liberties and the necessity of giving the nation’s executive branch flexibility in fighting terrorism, while demanding accountability.

To drive the point home, he quoted Ronald Reagan: "Trust but verify." And he assured his audience of roughly 60 that "It is possible to fight terrorists ferociously without throwing our civil liberties in the trash can."

From Wonkette's liveblogging of the confirmation hearings for CIA chief Michael Hayden, 18 May 2006 (posts are in their original bottom to top order):
12:02 — Wyden misquotes Reagan’s "trust but verify" line. We think he’s a good person to be the dick to Hayden because it’s hard to think of him as a partisan firebrand showboating Schumer type, as he clearly is about to start crying.

11:59 — Ron Wyden — He’s the best we’re gonna get for contentious question, but the problem is, he’s 12 years old. Ron Wyden — Boy Senator! To be played by little Ronnie Howard! Ron Wyden — castigating the entire Bush Administration for breaking the law, but sounding like he’s Linus explaining the true meaning of Christmas.

From an AP story at the First Amendment Center, 29 April 2005:
"We’re to some extent doing oversight in the dark," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. "I operate under the Ronald Reagan theory: trust but verify. What I do know is we haven’t gotten the report that is supposed to be filed."
From the Senator's news release on a hearing with then-DNI John Negroponte and Hayden (who was NSA chief at the time), 2 February 2006:
Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) questioned Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte and NSA Chief General Michael Hayden at a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence today on issues of domestic surveillance and terrorist threats worldwide. In today’s hearing, Wyden said that the right position on NSA wiretapping should be to say "trust, but verify," allowing Congress the opportunity to do effective oversight to verify citizens are being adequately protected. ...

WYDEN: Mr. Director, that answer isn't good enough for me. That answer is essentially: "Trust us. The Congress and the public just have to trust us."

And Ronald Reagan put it very well. He said, "Trust, but verify."

And we have no way to verify that citizens are being protected the way you have outlined today.

Of course, Ronald Reagan was the guy whose administration was selling arms to the Iranians to raise funds for the contras in Central America to circumvent the Boland Amendment that Congress passed to prevent the US government from giving money to the contras, so I'm not exactly sure why Wyden (and any number of other Democrats) want to use Reagan's words to give the impression that they're on the ball, vigilance-wise. Perhaps they could come up with their own original and untainted philosophy some day.

Here's a little A. Whitney Brown from the day.

The Big Picture with A. Whitney Brown

More about that here.



That Petraeus Report: A lot of bloggers have been pushing around the news today that the Petraeus report that Sen. Wyden was basing all his Iraq plans on yesterday in the Town Hall on Iraq yesterday is going to be written by the White House's heavy hand:

After years of slogans and soundbites Americans deserve an even-handed assessment of conditions in Iraq. Sadly, we will only receive a snapshot from the same people who told us the mission was accomplished and the insurgency was in its last throes. We’ve spent hundreds of billions of dollars and lost thousands of lives in Iraq. An honest report from our generals and diplomats about the status of the war isn’t too much to ask.
Oh, wait, that was no blogger. that was Rep. Rahm Emanuel according to Greg Sargent at TPM Cafe (via Shrillblog).

Was this at all foreseeable? Did we really need to wait for the Petraeus report to tell us what was going to happen? Or could you have assumed that the Bush administration would pull this kind of crap from the beginning of the surge? I mean, that is, unless you were gullible enough to trust them.

Better get out your verification boots. It's going to be deep wading, and you don't even want to know what you're going to be wading through.



Wierd Coincidence: My mail today included a response from Sen. Wyden to a letter of mine about habeas corpus.

At least he writes back. Gordon Smith hasn't responded in over three years.



The Question I Wanted to Ask: Lots of words spilled about the Wyden town hall yesterday at Blue Oregon, where the editors have taken to calling dissenters a "lynchmob", saying that their arguments are "crap", and accusing them of "shrieking" and "screaming".

Can you hear the shrillness, Kenneth?

What's funny, given that commenters at BO are apparently unhappy about my picking on poor, poor Sen. Ron Wyden for saying he trusts the Bush administration (what else could he do?) is that whether he trusted them wasn't even the question I went to ask.

What I was going to ask him was what -- when a majority of the Democratic senators on the intelligence committee (including Wyden) and a majority of the senators on the armed services committee voted against the Iraq AUMF -- could possibly have possessed 29 Democratic senators (including four of the current presidential candidates) to give authority to Bush to invade Iraq? I figured that after four years he must have talked to some of them. As a member of the intelligence committee he saw the best info that anyone in Congress could have seen, did he have any idea what (apparently false) evidence the other senators saw that could have caused them to make such a grave mistake?

But I didn't get enough time to ask that. Maybe he wouldn't have liked that question either.

One of my comments from the "screaming" post:

Over on the other thread, one of the posters mentioned Sen. Barry Goldwater and the Nixon impeachment. He (or she) had the timeline wrong, but here's a snippet of an interview with Goldwater from TIME magazine in May 1973 (my emphasis):
Should President Nixon resign? If the President of the United States lied to the American people, then the question is: Can you trust him? Impeachment would come up. And this country is in too much trouble internationally to have such a gigantic demonstration of distrust in its leaders. I'm convinced he knew nothing at the inception [of the Watergate affair]. But the coverup?

If it can be proved that he lied, resignation would have to be considered.

It would be quick. Everything would be over, ended. It wouldn't drag out like impeachment.

That was a member of the president's own party, a year after the Watergate break-in, and a year before the impeachment hearings began in the House Judiciary committee.

"Can you trust him?" That was essentially my question to Sen. Wyden. Barry Goldwater could bring that up after what was in comparison a pretty small operation at the time (most of the abuse of power charges in the Nixon impeachment articles were uncovered after this interview). If the door to impeachment in the Senate is locked -- even by people who vote the right way like Ron Wyden -- there's no impetus for the House to pursue it. Someone has to kick open the door by actively discussing the possibility that it could happen, if they're actually open to the idea.

If they're not, good luck to "getting us out of Iraq, fixing energy policy, fixing the health care system and correcting schools" while Bush and Cheney are in office. That just seems like a political fantasy to me.

I didn't include this in yesterday's post, but as I turned to leave, Wyden said that he was going to be working in September to beat back the FISA bill. I replied that Bush has already stated that he was going to push for further authority than he'd gotten last month. A bright-eyed young woman defended Wyden and told me that of course that's what Bush would do. But that's sort of my point. That is what Bush would do. You can expect the administration to cross the line at every opportunity. Trust and verify is fine when the subject has earned your trust. But the Bush administration has shown time and again that it is not trustworthy. At the very least it needs to be constrained.


»  August 14, 2007


Smack Me Upside the Head With a 2x4, Or Maybe Just Start With Ron Wyden: Just got back from the two-hour exercise in futility that was Sen. Ron Wyden's (D-OR) Portland Town Hall on Iraq at the near-capacity (about 400) Hoffman Hall at Portland State.

Lots of people wanting to ask questions. Lots of condescencion from Wyden about how the Senate doesn't initiate impeachment and that he has to remain impartial as a potential juror just in case impeachment ever does happen which he thinks it shouldn't because it would take up all the time the Senate needs to do important things like end the war, provide health care to every American, and get a Democrat into the White House (and apparently pass last week's FISA extension). It was a rowdy crowd, and while Wyden got kudos from a number of people for his votes against the Iraq AUMF and war funding, he was jeered a number of times for statements on impeachment.

I had the misfortune of accidentally sitting in the middle of a bunch of 9/11 conspiracy theorists who were pretty vocal (although I have to admit I joined the general mob on a couple of points) so I may have been more in the thick of things than most.

A number of people pressed Wyden on the Israel/Palestine issue, since the Iraq Study Group made that a central point in the plan they put forth many moons ago. Wyden kept coming back to the amazing offer Ehud Barak offered Yasir Arafat in 2000, which seemed to rile a number of people -- including the 9/11 contheos. Perhaps Wyden doesn't realize that there's some dispute about how wonderful the offer was.

My number to ask questions was 75, and as the second hour wound to a close and they started cutting things off, I think they were only up to the low 30s. There were a number of good questions and statements from people -- mostly mothers -- with children or more in service in Iraq. A lot of people wanting to know when the Democrats were going to end the war.

At one point, when answering an impeachment question, Wyden talked about how long and drawn-out the Senate trial would be. He made it seem as if there would be trucks full of evidence parking in the chamber. I thought I knew a piece of info and double-checked it on my Treo so that I could incorporate it into my question but one of the other folks who'd been sitting a couple of rows in front of me got there first and asked him if he knew how long the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton had lasted. I couldn't hear if he actually said anything, but people in the audience started shouting it out: "One month" (January 7, 1999 to February 12, 1999).

So I didn't get to ask him any of the questions I had bubbling in my head in front of the audience. I walked up to the front of the auditorium as he was shaking hands and let the old ladies and the people who knew him press the flesh first, because I'm nothing if not polite. Just before it looked like he was about to take off, I gave him one of my cards and introduced myself, then asked him the question I'd settled on.

"Senator, do you really trust these guys?"

He grinned at me and said "I believe in the Reagan Rule: Trust but verify." Then he went on to explain how he was my guy in Washington to provide verification, but I have to admit I was a little stunned, well, no, really stunned, because after the past seven years of lies, evasions, and degradation this country has been subjected to by the Bush administration, I just wanted to say "Are you fucking kidding, Senator?"

I'm nothing if not polite. I didn't say that. But I have to believe that anyone who thinks that they can start from a position of trust with the Bush administration at this point is incredibly naive.


»  August 9, 2007


SiCKOs in The Hospital:

Everybody's talking about health care like it hasn't been a problem for a long time. It was a major theme in the AFL-CIO Democratic presidential forum the other night, Michael Moore's SiCKO got the backs of the insurance companies up earlier this summer, but really, problems with the health care system have plagued the US for decades, world's richest country or not.

For evidence, I present The Hospital. The 1971 film starred George C. Scott (just a year after his Oscar-winning turn in Patton) and Diana Rigg, who'd been steaming the screens of TVs across the land in the imported episodes of The Avengers (and who makes a gut-splitting appearance in the second season of Ricky Gervais's Extras, which watched the night after seeing The Hospital).

Network was still five years off in the future, but Paddy Chayevsky won an Oscar (and a BAFTA and a Golden Globe and a Writers Guild Award) for Original Screenplay (Scott got a nomination for another Dest Actor Oscar).

The story veers between comic and grim, with the inner city hospital Scott's character is the medical director for in the process of expanding by tearing down adjacent tenement apartments where people are still living. Doctors and staff suddenly begin mysteriously dying. And an air of neglect and indifference hangs everywhere like curtains of gauze. With blood on them.

The situations, though, aren't over the top like you tend to find in weekly TV medical shows. Chayevsky himself narrates the opening scene, in which a patient with chest pains arrives at the hospital having been diagnosed by his nursing home doctor with angina. At the hospital, the patient is treated for angina (instead of emphysema) and rapidly declines, only to be treated for severe heart problems and then die within the first two minutes of the film. A death in the emergency room is only discovered when the persistent and thorough billing clerk checks in on a patient/body lying in one of the waiting areas.

Those types of incidents are the foundations of the story, and lead up to one of Scott's great monologues:

What the hell is wrong with being impotent? You kids are more hung up on sex than the Victorians.

I got a son, 23 years old. I threw him out of the house last year. Pietistic little humbug. He preached universal love, and he despised everyone. Had a blanket contempt for the middle class, even its decencies. Detested my mother because she had a petit bourgeois pride in her son, the doctor. I cannot tell you how brutishly he ignored that rather good lady. When she died, he didn't even come to the funeral. He felt the chapel service was an hypocrisy. He told me his generation didn't live with lies. I said, "Listen, everybody lives with lies." I grabbed him by his poncho and I dragged him the length of our seven-room, despicably affluent, middle-class apartment, and I flung him...out. Haven't seen him since.

You know what he said to me? He's standing there on the landing, and on the verge of tears. He shrieked: "You old fink. You can't even get it up anymore."

That was it, you see. That was his real revolution. It wasn't racism, the oppressed poor, or the war in Vietnam. No, the ultimate American societal sickness was a limp dingus.

My God. If there is a despised, misunderstood minority in this country, it is us poor, impotent bastards. I'm impotent, and I'm proud of it. Impotence is beautiful, baby!

Power to the impotent! Right on, baby!

You know, when I say impotent, I don't mean merely limp. Disagreeable as it may be for a woman, a man may lust for other things. Something a little less transient than an erection. A sense of permanent worth. That's what medicine was to me, my reason for being.

You know, Miss Drummond, when I was 34 I presented a paper before the annual convention of the Society of Clinical Investigation that pioneered the whole goddamn field of immunology. A breakthrough. I'm in all the textbooks.

I happen to be an eminent man, Miss Drummond. You know something else? I don't give a goddamn. When I say impotent, I mean I've lost even my desire to work. That's a hell of a lot more primal passion than sex.

I've lost my reason for being. My purpose. The only thing I ever truly loved.

Well. It is all rubbish, isn't it? Transplants. Antibodies. We manufacture genes. We can produce birth ectogenetically. We can practically clone people like carrots. And half the kids in this ghetto haven't even been inoculated for polio!

We have established the most enormous medical entity ever conceived and people are sicker than ever!

We cure nothing!

We heal nothing!

The whole goddamn wretched world is strangulating in front of our eyes.

That's what I mean when I say impotent.



There's No Nobel War Prize: In discussions with people about why they think Dennis Kucinich is such a freak, one of the items that comes up is his "absurd" plan to develop a Cabinet-level position devoted to promoting peace. Goofy, eh? Then, yesterday evening, I heard that the Portland City Council had considered a resolution supporting a current House bill to create the Department of Peace. The resolution passed unanimously.



953 TIME CERTAIN: 9:30 AM – Declare support for a United States Department of Peace (Resolution introduced by Commissioner Saltzman)

From the PDF of the resolution:
WHEREAS, House Bill 808 proposing to create a United States Department of Peace and Nonviolence is currently pending before the United States House of Representatives; and

WHEREAS, the House Bill 808 proposed Department of Peace and Nonviolence will be a cabinet-level department in the executive branch of the U.S. Government dedicated to peacemaking and the study of conditions that are conducive to both domestic and international peace, and headed by a Secretary of Peace, an advisor to the President on issues that are both domestic and international in scope; and


WHEREAS, the proposed Department of Peace and Nonviolence will establish a National Peace Day urging all citizens to observe and celebrate peace and endeavor to create peace on such day; and

WHEREAS, twenty-three cities have passed measures endorsing the proposed Department of Peace and Nonviolence; and

That sounds like it's an absurd idea for sure. 67 co-sponsors as of today, including Oregon's David Wu and Peter DeFazio.


What the...?  

Visual Poetry: I was heading back to the bridge after dropping Barbara off this morning and passed the downtown Meier & Frank construction site where they've got the right lane blocked off with concrete trucks waiting to pour. Standing next to the trucks waiting for their chance to cross traffic were a couple of construction workers in hard hats, already pretty dirty from whatever they'd been doing, and one of them was holding a cute little bag with the Moonstruck Chocolate Co. logo on it.


»  August 8, 2007

What the...?  

Wednesday Kitty Blogging:

Yasushi Ukigaya/Kyodo News, via Associated Press
Yasushi Ukigaya/Kyodo News, via Associated Press

To Punish Thai Police, a Hello Kitty Armband

Published: August 7, 2007

BANGKOK, Aug. 7 — It is the pink armband of shame for wayward police officers, as cute as can be with a Hello Kitty face and a pair of linked hearts.

No matter how many ribbons for valor a Thai officer may wear, if he parks in the wrong place, or shows up late for work, or is seen dropping a bit of litter on the sidewalk, he can be ordered to wear the insignia.

"Simple warnings no longer work," said Pongpat Chayaphan, acting chief of the Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok, who instituted the new humiliation this week.

"This new twist is expected to make them feel guilt and shame and prevent them from repeating the offense, no matter how minor," he said. "Kitty is a cute icon for young girls. It’s not something macho police officers want covering their biceps."


»  August 6, 2007


Why Kucinich Will Never Win the Nomination: Because nobody who ever says something like this will win the nomination:

It is time that the United States begin the process of withdrawing our troops, and allow a UN peacekeeping force to take over the reconstruction of Iraq.
Because nobody who ever says this will win the nomination:
This Administration has no exit strategy for removing US troops from harm’s way. It is now clear, that in their rush to war the Administration failed to adequately prepare for the post-invasion period.
Because nobody who said something like this on 25 July 2003 -- more than four years, 3,000 US fatalities, unknown Iraqi casualties, and hundreds of billions of dollars ago -- will win the nomination:
The United Nations must be brought in. Negotiations for an exit must begin now. An exit agreement with the United Nations must involve the US letting go of the contracting process.

The UN must also take over management, accounting and distribution to the Iraqi people of Iraq’s oil profits. Additionally, a transition from UN control to self-determined governing structure by and for the Iraqi people must be planned. Finally the Administration, which unwisely ordered the bombing, must fund the reconstruction.

We must act now to remove US troops from harm’s way. While some are calling to send more troops into harm’s way, I believe this is wrong. It is time to get the US out and the UN in.


»  August 5, 2007


Spinning the July Fatality Figures: My analysis of the way in which the AP and New York Times reported preliminary fatality figures for July 2007 as some sort of indicator of a change in the situation on the ground in Iraq was featured in a post by Middle East expert Juan Cole yesterday.



1,600 Days: I can't think of any particular significance to the figure aside from its sheer size, but 5 August 2007 is the 1,600th day since the invasion of Iraq to stop Saddam Hussein from turning over WMDs that didn't exist to al-Qaeda terrorists he had no operational contact with.

The address of the White House is "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue".

1,600 kHz is the top end of the commercial AM radio bandwidth.

In the year 1600, William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream was first performed and the future King Charles I of England was born.


»  August 3, 2007

What the...?  

Today's Fortune Cookie Says:

Your fondest dream will come true within this year.
I'm not sure which fondest dream that might be -- I'm continually changing my mind -- but I'll take it.


»  August 2, 2007


July's US Military Fatalities in Iraq: [On 3 August, the fatality figure for July 2007 at Iraq Coalition Casualty Count was revised down to 80. Michael White at ICCC says that a fatality announcement from 19 July was never confirmed and was removed from the database.]

On 31 July, before the month had even ended, Stephen Farrell of the New York Times wrote a story titled "U.S. Death Toll in Iraq in July Expected to Be Lowest in ’07". Based on the figure reported by Iraq Coalition Casualty Count at the time (74), that was certainly true. Also true at the time was the claim in the headline of an Associated Press story by Kim Gamel in The Washington Post that read "U.S. Toll in Iraq Lowest in 8 Months".

By the end of 2 August, the total US military deaths reported by Iraq Coalition Casualty Count was 81, the same as the figure for February and March of this year. The number of deaths was still the lowest for any month of the year, but three of the seven months this year could claim the same. The eight month streak had shortened to four. And there is still a possibility that more July deaths may be recorded.

Both stories couched their claims. The AP story mentioned in its fourth paragraph that July 2007 was the deadliest July since the beginning of the war (54 had died in July 2004 and 2005). The Times article admitted several paragraphs in that "Some casualties in late July may be reported after the beginning of August, so the count is not yet definitive for the month." Both quoted military officials -- who should well know when the reports for a month could be considered final -- noting the early numbers as heartening or a "positive sign".

For the last three years now, July has been a month when -- by chance or due to some operational reason -- fatalities among US troops went down in Iraq compared to June of the same year. The drop in 2005 and 2006 was around 30%. If the July 2007 figure had held at 73 or 74, the drop from 101 in June would have been about 30%. That is when the two stories were released, despite the expressed knowledge by the reporters that the figure would almost certainly continue to rise for a couple of days. As it currently stands, the trend in the absolute number of deaths from the previous Julys doesn't look good (2005: 54, 2006: 43, 2007: 81). Even worse is the trend of the drop from June to July (2005: -31%, 2006: -30%, 2007: -20%).

Despite their caveats, and the almost certain knowledge that their statements would be blown out of the water by figures to be released in a couple of days, this is how "responsible" journalists and editors lead the Times story:

BAGHDAD, July 31 — The death of a marine in western Iraq brought the American military death toll to 74 so far in July, on course to be the lowest monthly figure this year.

Was it? Because by the end of the workday in the US on 2 August, that statement and the headline above it were invalid.

This is the AP lead:

BAGHDAD -- American military deaths for July rose to 73 on Tuesday with the report of a Marine killed in combat, but the toll was still the lowest in eight months as the U.S. said it was gaining control of former militant strongholds.

Which part of that statement is backed up by facts, do you think?

See also "Spinning the Dance of Death".



Spinning the Dance of Death:

[post moved to this evening from early in the morning of 1 August]

Percentage Change in US Military Fatalities in Iraq from June to July 2003-2007 (updated at 10am 11pm 5pm on 2 August)
 JuneJuly% change
2007*10174 78
80 81
-27% -23%
-21% -20%
*may not yet include all casualties for the month

The US military death toll has dropped from June to July in each of the previous two years, for whatever reason, and this year it dropped slightly less than it did in 2005 or 2006. July 2005 was followed by an August where casualties jumped up to 85 (+57%) and in August 2006 they went up to 65 (+51%).

If seven more casualties get one more casualty gets reported for the month (at least six of those from July 2006 weren't reported until 1 August or later), that "lowest death toll in eight months" or "lowest death toll this year" figure shortens up to a tie with only four months earlier, which tracks the trends of the last two years (three months in 2006, four months in 2005) as well.

[As of 5pm Pacific time on 2 August, the death toll for US military personnel in Iraq had reached 81, which is equal to the figures for February and March this year. July no longer has the lowest death toll this year (it's tied for lowest, but it could still go up), nor is it the lowest toll in eight months as the AP trumpeted even before the month was over. It's the lowest in three months.]

[As of 3 August, the figure had been dropped down to 80. Michael White at the ICCC responded to an inquiry by saying that a death reported on 19 July had not been officially confirmed and was removed from the count.]

But rather than wait to make sure the numbers were all in before proclaiming success (does that sound familiar?) the AP for some reason decided to run with the story even before the month was over, despite the almost certain likelihood that a few more American servicemen would be reported on the casualty list during the first days of August.



You Can Say That Again:

Huey Long speeches at Social Security Online

An advisory at the top of a page containing speeches with historical significance on the plight of the poor by Louisiana Sen. Huey Long at an official page maintained by the US government's Social Security Administration says:

This is an archival or historical document and may not reflect current policies or procedures



Mash Bridges: As you know, you cross the Mississippi with the bridges you have, not the bridges you want.



The Architect and the Badger:

Many years ago I was a big fan of Mike Baron's comic book series The Badger, which was just the right mixture of goofiness, psychosis, and brilliance to appeal to me in my early twenties (the most psychotic character in the series was the title hero who, after being his in the face and bleeding on his torn costume looks at his adversary and says: "You broke the shirt! Now you're going to pay!").

The Badger and Baron and a lot of other things from two decades ago sort of drifted away when I went back to college, but I've been working on a web site with some Google ads and up at the top was a banner graphic for one of Baron's latest creations, an online graphic novel called The Architect, that mixes allusions to Frank Lloyd Wright, Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, and H.P. Lovecraftian horror in a brief, entertaining experience. It ain't The Badger, but it'll kill a few minutes.