Undeserved Mantle

From an interview with Prospect magazine foreign editor Bartle Breese Bull (who wrote a June opinion piece on Moktada al-Sadr for The New York Times) by Robin Young, host of WBUR’s Here & Now (this segment begins at 4:39 in the Real Audio stream):

ROBIN YOUNG: You do say he’s smart. You say, in fact, he’s one of the canniest politicians in Iraq, but previously we’ve heard that he wasn’t that bright. In fact, that maybe he was maybe kind of dumb and had sort of inherited inherited this mantle from fathers (sic) and uncles but didn’t deserve it.

BARTLE BREESE BULL: Yeah. You know, I think he seems very dumb too and when he speaks and so on. He’s not a great speaker. He’s at the very lowest rung of the Shiite clerical heirarchy — the equivalent of a village preacher, officially — but we have to look at his actions, Robin.

Perhaps she was thinking of a different leader.

Bush Gives You the Finger

George McGovern Has Balls

George McGovern
photo from Dakota Wesleyan University’s McGovern Center

George S. McGovern, a World War II bomber pilot, history and political science professor, political activist, U.S. Representative and Senator from South Dakota, John F. Kennedy’s Food for Peace director, and 1972 Democratic nominee for President of the United States turns 85 today.

From 1965 on, McGovern was one of the earliest and most consistent voices in government advocating an end to the Vietnam War, opposing not only the policy of Republican Richard Nixon but also Democrat Lyndon Johnson. He advocated opening talks with Communist China years before Nixon was lavishly praised for doing so. McGovern’s first speech on the Senate floor, in March 1963 was titled “Our Castro Fixation versus the Alliance for Progress” which addressed how — as he puts it in his biography Grassroots:

…the [Kennedy] Administration and the Congress were so absorbed in their fears of Fidel Castro that they were overlooking the real challenge to the United States in Latin America — “the economic, political and social ills” of the nations to the south if us. I described the misery and political instability of Latin America as “a smoldering blockbuster on our doorstep … a continent cursed by a social system that concentrates enormous wealth in the hands of a few and consigns the many to lives of desperate poverty.”

That was a newly-minted US Senator from South Dakota, on the floor of the Senate, just five months after the Cuban Missile Crisis, 44 years ago. Know anybody there now who could do the same?

Spinning Around the Goalposts

From the Huffington Post, 18 July 2007, 11PM:

Huffington Post headlines

The second story describes how the US has searched for more than a year for “the titular head of the Islamic State in Iraq”, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.

On Wednesday, the chief United States military spokesman here, Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner, provided a new explanation for Mr. Baghdadi’s ability to escape attack: he never existed.

General Bergner told reporters that a senior Iraqi insurgent captured this month said that the elusive Mr. Baghdadi was actually a fictional character whose declarations on audiotape were read by a man named Abu Abdullah al-Naima.

The first story explains how that enabled US forces to move the goalposts, retroactively:

BAGHDAD — The U.S. command said Wednesday the highest-ranking Iraqi in the leadership of al-Qaida in Iraq has been arrested, adding that information from him indicates the group’s foreign-based leadership wields considerable influence over the Iraqi chapter.

Khaled Abdul-Fattah Dawoud Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, also known as Abu Shahid, was captured in Mosul on July 4, said Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, a military spokesman.

Bergner said al-Mashhadani had told interrogators that al-Baghdadi is a “fictional role” created by al-Masri and that an actor is used for audio recordings of speeches posted on the Web.

Of course, al-Baghdadi’s non-existence has been vetted as thoroughly as his original existence.

Movie Core Dump

Movies I’ve watched recently:

Stranger than Fiction
Entertaining exploration of the boundary between reality and storytelling
The Departed
Over the top but it’s Scorsese
Flags of Our Fathers
There was something a little too pat and obvious about the story after the return from Iwo Jima but sometimes life is like that, too
Mystic River
Liked the doom and darkness of the story although I didn’t exactly buy the local shopkeeper as the leader of a gang
I don’t buy how all the white people lived through it
Man of the Year*
Was going to write this story as a book for my thesis project in 1990 but had to write about Shakespeare instead
Thank You for Smoking*
All of a sudden we were getting a lot of movies with references to people dying from smoking or trying to quit smoking, this was the only one I deliberately chose
Children of Men*
Something about this one irked Barbara but she couldn’t put her finger on it, OK by me though
The Da Vinci Code
I only got it for the much-hyped Smart car chase scene, which sucked
For Your Consideration*
It wasn’t Spinal Tap or Best of Show, but we got some laughs
Paths of Glory
This movie should be shoved down the throats of every Iraq war planner
Taxi Driver
Somehow I’d never seen this before, but I’m really glad now I did
They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?*
Another old movie I’d like to force some people to watch, although the people who need it would probably just hoot and holler at Jane Fonda’s demise
The Constant Gardner*
We’re suckers for Le Carre
Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers
I was disappointed by this, it just seemed slapdash, but then Greenwald’s just sort of churning them out
The Running Man, set in Mesoamarica, a tried and true formula with little dialog needed; you may not admire Mel Gibson but he knows global marketing for action movies
Richard III*
This was the first movie I deliberately chose from what I’ve seen before; it’s a great turn by Ian McKellan who does a fantastic job with the 1930s retelling of Shakespeare
Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie
Realized I’d seen part of this on TV before; it’s pedantic and extremely repetative, although there is some interesting information buried in there
Good Night, and Good Luck*
Missed it in the theaters, but it worked well on TV, the medium it portrayed
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind*
A hell of a career for Chuck Barris, even without the killing
The Last King of Scotland
I can’t wait for the sequel; seriously, Forest Whitaker was a fantastic Amin, it just seemed like the movie focused too much on the doctor and that there wasn’t enough of what was going on around him
Nuts in May
A seriously odd ’70s British telemovie about snooty “nature-loving” prigs messing up a camping vacation for the “lesser” people around them
Bill Hicks: Sane Man*
Bill Hicks Live: Satirist, Social Critic, Stand-up Comedian
I’d seen some clips of Hicks, so I got a couple of his shows, but something about his delivery just rubs me the wrong way after a little while; it was just a little too mugging and too obvious
God Said Ha!*
After what I said about Hicks, I suppose people would wonder how I could like Julia “It’s Pat!” Sweeney’s cancer show, but it didn’t seem as forced and it was more of a storytelling style I’ve always thought worked well
Passport to Pimlico
Could anything subversive like this or The Mouse That Roared get made in the US any time in the past decades and be at all successful? A suburb of London finds out they’re actually part of France and uses the fact to get around post-war rationing, with not entirely beneficial results
The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill*
Obsession about animals; I recognize it
For some reason, this is always trotted out as an example of relativism and different people telling different versions of the same story (Rashomon-like) but now that I’ve seen it, it’s just different people telling different stories, sort of like in criminal court, which is what’s going on in the movie
I’m All Right Jack*
An old British film about missile defense plant owners sending getting their stupid upper-class twit relative a job in the workers ranks to muck things up and cause a strike; except that the workers are portrayed as not too bright either. A pox on everyone’s house. Entertaining, but not one I screened for dad.
Wages of Fear (and bonus disc)
A very interesting movie from the ’50s, about the relationship between the US, Europe, and covered with a thick sheen of oil.
Richard Pryor: Live in Concert*
I’d only ever seen the expurgated version of this on TV. I like Pryor, but it doesn’t live up to the hype as the best comic concert performance movie ever and not just because it’s dated.
The Battle of Algiers (and 2 bonus discs)
Very gritty and oddly-entertaining portrayal of the French vs. the Algerians.
More old-style political drama I’d never seen, but found quite gripping
You’re Gonna Miss Me*
Roky Erickson’s adult life on video. Some days I think I’ll end up like Roky, just without the talent.
American Hardcore*
This just depressed me. Not because I wasn’t in the scene in the big cities or because it exploded, but the bands featured were just the ones I really didn’t think were all that good.
Donnie Darko: Director’s Cut
I’ve heard about this movie for years but while I liked it’s playing with time and space and I could see how it might be appealing to a teenage crowd, it didn’t hang together for me.

* Barbara watched it

The Ronnie Horror Show

Being that traffic here is negligable, I don’t usually just point people to more-travelled sites because I figure if you’re paying enough attention to things to get this far, you’ve probably seen most of the stuff I look at already.

But let me just mention Dennis Perrin’s latest post in which he indulges his admiration for the short-lived long-ago sketch comedy show Fridays — which I never saw back when it aired — by posting their 1980 post-election, pre-inaguration parody The Ronnie Horror Show. As someone who saw a lot of The Rocky Horror Picture Show back in the era, this wasn’t funny solely because of the political content.

Poking the Nest

Slow learner and White House Homeland Security Advisor Fran Townsend, at a press conference today:

And the answer is, every time you poke the hornet’s nest they are bound to come back and push back on you. That doesn’t suggest to me that we shouldn’t be doing it.

In most cases, hornet “push back” consists of them pushing their stingers into your skin. And for most people — those who are not masochistic to the point that they enjoy the sting of a good hornet or those mentally incapable of learning a fairly simple lesson — there is a body of historical evidence and advice that supports the idea that you shouldn’t poke hornet nests.

How Not to Get Stung

If you do happen to see a nest, there are few things you can do to avoid being stung:

  • Do not disturb the nest in anyway.
  • Do not make any loud noises.
  • Stay back from the nest.
  • Do not bother a hornet who is trying to go to its nest.
  • Do not disturb the air by moving your hands or arms around.
  • Do not breathe on the nest or on a hornet.
  • Never kill a hornet near its nest.
  • Do not break a hornet’s nest. It is much safer in one piece.
  • Do not attempt to remove a hornet’s nest in the middle of the day. Wait until it is cooler outside.

Run Away! Run Away!

Now it’s just getting ridiculous.

The run to the center begins, with people like Rick Perlstein enabling the right wing in their demonization of leftists and “the left” by stepping up their campaign to get SIRIUS to change the name of the liberal talk channel on their satellite radio network from “SIRIUS Left” because the conservative channel is called “SIRIUS Patriot”.

So now — assuming anyone on the right is paying attention — they’ll be able to claim that Democrats and liberals are running away from the idea of being associated with the left. Because we all know that the left is a bad thing.

As a marketing plan, it might not have been a bad idea to work to get them to change the name. Although, if I was given the choice of listening to channels I didn’t know anything about labeled “Patriot” and “Liberty”, I’d probably leave the radio off, thinking that the former was a bunch of right-wing talkers who find that kind of ostentation necessary the way they need to drive Hummers to show they’re big men, and that the latter was a 24-hour loop of George W. Bush speeches about “our liberties”.

Stop being so scared people. People who disagree with you are going to call you leftists and communists and socialists and un-American. Hell, they’re starting to call George W. Bush a liberal.If it isn’t true, refute it or ignore it. If it is true, you can say: “Yes, I’m a leftist. Let me tell you about the wonders of socialized medicine.”


SIRIUS Satellite Radio apparently has named their liberal and conservative channels “SIRIUS Left” and “SIRIUS Patriot”, which has a number of people upset.

I have no problem with “Left”. Not that I’m subscribing to SIRIUS. I’m a leftist. A patriotic leftist, but a leftist.

However, I do have some suggestions for those who are offended:

  • SIRIUS Blue
  • SIRIUS Good
  • SIRIUS Better

And some for the other side:

  1. SIRIUS Red (that ought to go over well)
  2. SIRIUS 27% (or whatever)

Dear Ron

Letter to Sen. Ron Wyden:

Dear Sen. Wyden:

Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania has proposed S. 185, the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007, which repeals portions of the 2006 Military Commissions Act that eliminated the a basic constitutional provision from our country’s legal system.

More than half of the Democratic Senators have signed on to the bill as co-sponsors since it was put forward, as has one of the independents. I would like to know if you intend to co-sponsor or otherwise support the bill, if you feel there is some flaw in its implementation, or if you do not believe habeas corpus applies to persons covered by the Military Commissions Act and that it should not go through.

On an unrelated note, I’d like to express my profound disgust for the vote you and your colleagues made on the Lieberman amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. You’ve green-lighted the way for the administration to use cherry-picked intelligence as a reason for air strikes in Iran. One of the Republican presidential hopefuls — who didn’t even vote on the amendment — said he was ready to preemptively strike Iran within hours of the resolution’s passage, long before any of the reports have been churned out.

It’s baffling to me that any of you think the administration can be trusted on even the smallest issues at this point, given their record. I hope you know what you’re doing, but the past several months haven’t exactly given me the impression that that’s the case.


Aaaaaand, cue the missiles:

On Heels Of Senate’s Iran Vote, Brownback Declared I’m Ready To Strike Iran

On Wednesday, the Senate voted 97-0 to pass a resolution sponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) to censure Iran “for what it said was complicity in the killing of U.S. soldiers in Iraq.” The resolution required the Bush administration to regularly report to Congress on Iran’s role in Iraq.

Validating the concern many felt, Sen. Sam Brownback appeared on Fox News shortly after the vote and declared he was ready to preemptively strike Iran. Host Sean Hannity asked Brownback, “There’s probably going to come a point for the next president that they’re going to have to determine whether to go out and have that preemptive strike. And you’re ready and would be ready to do that?”

“Yes, I am, and I think we have to be,” Brownback answered. “Sean, if we’re going to be serious about this fight, and we’re in this fight, and probably for a generation. We’re probably in this fight for a generation.”

Even before the first report! And Brownback sat out the vote!