Joan of Arc 575 Years Out

The image is of the Joan of Arc memorial to the soldiers of World War I in Coe Circle at NE 39th & Glisan here in Portland. Today is the 575th anniversary of the day Joan was burned at the stake.

Beinart’s Bad Analogy

Peter Beinart (whose analysis of issues and knowledge of politics have never been particularly astute) is mentioned in a posting by Kevin Drum, with regard to Beinart’s new book, The Good Fight. Apparently, Beinart acknowledges that he was wrong about supporting the Iraq war because of the lack of WMD, the relative success of a containment strategy, the lack of international support, etc. Basically, he thinks that the war would have been a good idea, but…

Beinart’s been clutching like a rat terrier to the idea that Democrats need to rattle more sabers in international policy to “prove” to Americans that we’re serious about national security, likening the anti-Communist stance the US descended into during the Truman years (co-incident with the rise of Joseph McCarthy, Richard Nixon, and others) with the anti-Islamofascist “good fight” he sees as a campaign slogan for the future.

One of the commenters at Washington Monthly had what I thought was an incredibly perceptive observation:

The salient similarity between Truman/Cold War and Democrats/Islamic Terrorists is that the Republicans have exploited a circumstance, exaggerated beyond all rationality, used it to brand the Democrats as traitors, and convinced Democrats that they must be more rabidly and insanely bellicose in order to win elections. The result of that was the Viet Nam War, an utterly useless and immoral exercise in Cold War precepts.

Enemy of the State

The 1998 Gene Hackman/Will Smith thriller Enemy of the State was on this evening. The plot — if you haven’t seen the movie — is about a corrupt NSA assistant director who’s involved in a domestic political assassination (played by John Voight), and an ex-NSA special operative (Hackman) and DC lawyer (Smith) who get dragged into the unravelling cover-up of the killing.

In one of those odd coincidences, at one point Hackman’s character looks up biographical information on Voigh’t character. The IMDB trivia page for the movie notes that the exact date given was the first remote operation of a computer over a phone line, but I suspect that entry is a few years old. The date is: 9-11-40.

The Director Codie

Raman Pfaff of ExploreLearning mentions that the site for which he produces interactive math and science simulations is up for a 2006 Codie Award, the winners of which are to be announced tonight in San Francisco.

He’s not going to be there, but he encourages attendees to yell “Director rocks!” if they hear ProQuest Information & Learning/ mentioned.


The 3D animators at the company I’m working for now turned me on to EA’s Battlefield 2 video game (look for my online handle: hideyholesissyboy). I’m not very good at it, but I enjoy the general mayhem in-between the 15-second waits to revive.

So I had to laugh when I saw this story, which — to me — says a lot about the general stupidity of the people who are supposed to be keeping this country safe.

It seems that a company known as Science Applications International Corp., which has a $7 million contract to monitor online militant propaganda, screened some items for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, including a video made from the point of view of a Battlefield 2 MEC (Middle Eastern Coalition) soldier in battle with US troops, according to Reuters. Despite the article’s statement that “‘Battlefield 2’ ordinarily shows U.S. troops engaging forces from China or a united Middle East coalition,” the truth is that a player can choose to play whichever side they want, and online games are typically made up of a roughly equal number of players on either side of a conflict.

According to the story, the video “flashed between images of street-level gunfights, explosions and helicopter assaults.” A narrator intones the words: “I was just a boy when the infidels came to my village in Blackhawk helicopters.” Pretty scary, eh?

Of course it might be a more effective recruiting tool if the message wasn’t in English, but the real kicker came when a number of readers of the Game Politics blog noticed that the voice-over sounded suspiciously like a part of the audio track from Team America: World Police, an animated puppet movie by the guys who do South Park in which a character bemoans the fate of his goats (the bit about the goats is in the video). The video footage itself wasn’t a modification or “mod” of the game, either, it was just video from a straight recording of the Battlefield 2: Special Forces expansion pack.

Game Politics has an interview with the video’s creator, a Moroccan born and raised in Holland (and apparently a big Parker/Stone fan) at the link above.

I feel safer already.

Lyin’ About Liasson

NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin blames the messengers and errant transcribers for calling correspondent Mara Liasson on her constant plugging of the Republican line on FOX.

In his latest column, Dvorkin blames a “misplaced comma” in the transcript for the wrath of readers at Media Matters and Think Progress, who could plainly see Liasson’s comments in video format.

Who are you going to believe, the transcript or your lying eyes?

The idea that an edited transcript changed Mara Liasson’s statements is laughable. The video of her comments is available online and is quite clear.

She says (beginning at 0:16): “And I think that every time you hear another one of these um kind of bipartisan scandal stories where it’s Democrats not just Republicans taking money from Abramoff um it underlines a feeling that people tell pollsters over and over again which is that everybody does it that there’s not really much difference.”

There’s no pause in her speech between the word “Democrats” and the word “not”. There’s no comma separating the Democrats from “Republicans taking money from Abramoff”. And even if there were, the sentence wouldn’t make any sense. What “bipartisan scandal” story would she be referring to, then?

Someone in radio, such as yourself, should know that in non-scripted speech there’s really no such thing as punctuation. Any punctuation can only be inferred from pauses and emphasis.

Of course, this is hardly the first time Ms. Liasson has made these types of false allegations. It’s why FOX likes to have her on.

A follow-up note:

Mr. Dvorkin, I’m at a loss. When you say that Think Progress and Media Matters relied on an uncorrected FOX transcript, had you contacted them to confirm that fact? Because this is the quote on the page you link to at Think Progress:

“where itÂ’s Democrats, not just Republicans taking money from Abramoff”

and this what’s up at Media Matters:

“where it’s Democrats, not just Republicans, taking money from Abramoff”

Note that the two transcriptions are different. If they came from the same uncorrected source, you might expect that they would be identical.

Of course, since both sites had the video posted (as did the video weblog Crooks & Liars), the text in the transcript hardly matters, because people could see Ms. Liasson’s comments without the filter of a transcriber’s error.

You did verify the source of the transcripts before you accused both sites of using FOX’s transcripts, didn’t you? I mean, that would be something a journalist would do. Right?

Rahm Called

Well, not Rahm Emanuel himself, just someone raising money for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. They were wondering if I’d be willing to pony up $500 to support Congressional candidates in the mid-terms this year. Now, due to circumstances, I’ve been able to give more money than before this in this year’s races, but I haven’t quite hit that level of giving yet.

On top of that, as I told the caller, I’ve decided to target my contributions this cycle to specific candidates. At the national level, I’m being very selective, because I truly think that it’s important that the American people hear from their elected representatives that the Iraq war was a stupid, misguided adventure from the beginning, and that the candidate was either on the record knowing that before the war or has since changed their mind and come to that conclusion. No matter what they think the strategy should be for the future, if they’re unable to come to grips with the reality that the war was a mistake and don’t tell their constituents that, we’re simply doomed to repeat the process again.

I knew that the guy calling was just a volunteer or call center guy, but I still overrode him when he tried to get back on script. He figured out pretty fast that I wasn’t a likely donor, so he said thanks and got off.

Just out of curiosity, I checked the DCCC home page. Would you be surprised that the word Iraq appears nowhere on there?

DCCC Home Page, 13 May 2006

Looking at their page, you wouldn’t know that there were American troops in Afghanistan or Iraq. It’s all about Republican corruption and high gas prices. The national security debate has been ceded entirely to the Republicans; the DCCC isn’t even saying they’re doing a crappy job there.

You have to drill down through the “Featured Fights” link to get to “Iraq and the Cover-up Congress”. Even there, Iraq is only mentioned as “an ill-planned war” and a result of “poor pre-war planning”. “Alleged manipulation of intelligence” does get a mention, but only as something a Democratic congress “would promptly get to the bottom of”.

This kind of milquetoast scandal-mongering is precisely why Democrats get a bad rap on security issues. There’s no explanation of why these things are bad, just threats to investigate. People need to be told what’s wrong and why it’s wrong, not given a promise that “we’ll look into it”. Nobody chooses to undergo exploratory surgery if they can avoid it, you’d rather have a sure diagnosis. Christ, they even manage to make the plural of HMMWV (aka Humvee) look prissy: “Hum-Vees”. At least GM cancelled the Hummer H1.

Leave comments at Daily Kos