That Wacky Lou Dobbs

CNN’s Lou Dobbs, writing about why Congress should reject the Law of the Sea Treaty just like Ronald Reagan’s administration did, makes the argument today that President George W. Bush is a “one-world neo-liberal who drove budget and trade deficits to record heights while embracing faith-based economic policies”.

“Neo-liberal”? I don’t think so Mr. Dobbs. He’s all yours. He’s the same guy he always was.

The Best-Laid Plans

Richard Nixon usually gets whatever blame is usually assigned for Operation Menu, the secret bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War that led to the rise of the Khmer Rouge and the deaths of millions of Cambodians in the killing fields. The bombing itself is estimated to have killed hundreds of thousands of Cambodians over a fourteen month timespan.

What’s often forgotten, however, is that the Menu operation began less than two months after Nixon took office. Nixon did, indeed, give the authorization, but he did so within days of his inaguration. The plan itself had been drawn up at the Pentagon during the Johnson administration, but LBJ didn’t authorize it.

Operation Menu came to mind last week when the reports that telecom companies had been approached to provide call records to the NSA by February 2001, just a month after the Bush administration took office. According to a filing by former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio, Qwest had declined the NSA’s request by 27 February 2001, which means that the request had presumably been delivered sometime before that.

That leads to the fairly safe conclusion that the program was on the shelf somewhere before then, most likely inside of the government. It would be interesting to know who developed and proposed it, and who knew about it prior to its authorization.

Playing Nuclear Chicken With Bush and Putin

For the first time in nearly sixty-five years, the head of government in Moscow has gone to Tehran. The old Soviet Union and Iran used to share a border — which was why the United States overthrew the government of the democratically-elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and supported the dictatorial, anti-communist Shah for a quarter-century — and it can’t have been making anyone in the Kremlin happy to have a major US military presence involved in major operations within a few hundred miles of the Russian border.

I’ve been expecting Russia or China stepping in to put their foot down in Iran for a couple of years now. Russia completed an estimated $700 million sale to Iran of air defense systems capable of shooting down bombers and cruise missiles just last winter.

The next step would be for Russia to send in military “advisors” and maybe a squadron of “training” jets based at sensitive Iranian target sites, so that the Bush administration’s whole ramp up to an attack on Iran would be forced to provoke an incident with the Russians (something even Democrats in Congress who shpport an attack on Iran might have to think twice about) or ramp down from the current Iran war fervor, making the US look even more impotent. Heckuva job, Bushie (and all your buddies on both side of the aisle in the Capitol)!

The Friendly Skies

The oddest thing on the UK trip a couple of weeks back — for me, anyway — was as we were going through Heathrow passport control after an eleven-hour trip. The line was long, although it moved fairly rapidly, and we’d already filled out our entry forms hours before, but halfway through the maze there was a high table with blank forms on it.

On the table was a small box with flaps on either end that has been opened and you could see the contents matched with the exterior. The artwork on the cover was for a plastic airplane model of a Boeing 747. The box was labelled in both English and Arabic. The decals on the plane were for Iran Air.

Comcast Pulls MSNBC Off Analog Cable in Portland

In Portland, Oregon — a city known to the Bush family for nearly two decades as “Little Beirut” — we’ve got limited options for cable service (just like most other major metro areas). In our case, it’s mega-giant Comcast.

We’ve been toodling along with our old non-digital cable hookup for years. An Expanded Basic program has given us more than enough crap to choose from, especially with a DVR to record anything we might want. News on the three main cable networks as well as the Northwest Cable News, the Travel Channel for Anthony Bourdain, Home & Garden TV to laugh at what people call decor, the Sci-Fi Channel for mindless entertainment.

But all of that’s about to change at the end of the month. Along with Oxygen and Hallmark Channel and a couple of shopping channels, as we move into the final months of the primary season Comcast is making one of the cable news networks unavailable to non-digital subscribers. Would that be GOP house organ FOX News? CNN with their steady diet of celebrity gossip and Glenn Beck? Or did I give it away in the title?

There are a lot of possible reasons for this change. I don’t really think that Comcast is moving the network that carries the likes of Keith Olbermann, David Schuster, and even Chris Matthews over to digital-only to restrict the number of viewers of their non-wingnut shows. People with digital set-top boxes won’t be affected aside from the channel change from 47 to 128 (The Weather Channel is going in at 47 — it was 50 — and The History Channel is moving to 50 from 37; don’t ask me why). I don’t even know if this change is going to be duplicated outside of the Portland metro area.

But it irks me that as we’re really getting into the meat of the political season that the most non-conservative national cable news outlet is — even in a restricted area, if that’s the case — going to require me to pony up at least another $1 a month, after rates have already increased this year. It’s like they know people who would watch Countdown and Hardball (even though I’m not a regular viewer of either one) will have to bite the bullet if they want to keep up on the news and not have it filtered through the likes of Brit Hume.

More On the Left

Historian Tony Judt, apropos of liberals like Michael Tomasky who are not part of the “left” and are definitely not “anti-militarist”:

Liberal hawks have been quick to swoop down on dovish critics of the American military — condemning in particular’s criticism of Gen. David Petraeus. Quickly, it has become conventional wisdom that liberals should never disparage the military.

But why not? Soldiers have to respect generals. Civilians don’t. In a free society, it is a sign of robust civic health when generals are pilloried for getting into policy issues. Liberal Democrats should ask themselves whether, amid today’s cult of military “heroes,” a president would dare cashier a Douglas MacArthur for insubordination, as Harry Truman did in 1951 — and what our liberal hawks would say if he did.

Not the Left

Jonah Goldberg via Sadly No!:

There is a difference between the “American left” and “liberals,” after all. And usually when fringe leftists openly denounce imperialist America or express hope that she will be bloodied abroad or at home, self-described liberals are usually the first to respond, “Hey, liberals aren’t leftists.”

Not that he gives any examples of leftists wanting America bloodied “abroad ort at home”, but I give you the “liberal” Michael Tomasky, being among the “first to respond, ‘Hey, liberals aren’t leftists.'”:

But Cohen completely ignores the fourth category of foreign-policy debate: liberals who are neither hawks nor on the left. People who, for example, supported the US invasion of Afghanistan. People who, for that matter, supported the interventions of the 1990s. People who would very much like to have seen the United States do something, earlier and more forcefully, about Darfur.

Who are these people? Mainstream liberals who aren’t the anti-militarist left but who also opposed the Iraq war (or, in a small number of cases, supported it originally but quickly recognized the horror of the situation and withdrew their support).

Like who? Well, like me, for starters. And, off the top of my head: Mark Danner, Todd Gitlin, Eric Alterman, Joshua Micah-Marshall, Fred Kaplan, Paul Krugman, Paul Starr, Robert Kuttner, Harold Meyerson, Jo-Ann Mort, John Judis and the aforementioned Yglesias. And a thousand others.

They aren’t the left, of course, they’re serious. And everyone knows leftists aren’t serious.

The Plants of Ellsworth Hall

Barbara and I just got back at midnight Wednesday from a week in England. We headed over there with Mom and Dad to see London for a couple of days and then went to Chester, where Dad and his sisters had all been before at various times (with the sisters having done some genealogical research in the Cheshire area). Mom made the accommodations, and after striking out at a couple of locations, she found a home stay with a couple in Sandbach (pronounced sand-BATCH), a former market town about twenty miles from Chester (that’s a whole other story).

St. Mary's Church, Sandbach, Cheshire, United Kingdom

Sandbach is like a lot of other towns with an outsized church on a site dating back a thousand years, but built and rebuilt over the years. Our host led us around the town the first day we were there but only skirted the outside of the church grounds.

The next morning we went exploring on our own and stopped in at the church to look at the graveyard’s old stones. We just happened on the sexton as he was returning from feeding his cows. He let us into the very mildewy old building which was quite pretty otherwise. We looked around at the windows, listened hard to the old gaffer — who had a brogue very unlike the middle-class folks we were staying with — and then Barbara spotted this on the wall:

Plant family plaque at St. Mary's Church, Sandbach

It says:

Sacred to the Memory of ELIZABETH, Wife of

THOMAS PLANT of Ellsworth Hall, who died

May 26th. 1804, aged 57 years.


Manchester, and Daughter of the above THOs. & ELIZth. PLANT,

who departed this Life the 19th. Octr. 1849, aged 56 years.

“Precious in the Sight of the Lord is the Death of his Saints”

Psalm 116th. V. 15th.

Also of the said THOMAS PLANT, who died

February 26th. 1828, aged 76 Years.

Also of SARAH, Wife of JOHN, Son of the above

THOMAS & ELIZABETH PLANT, who died May 29th. 1832, aged 34 Years.

Also of the said JOHN PLANT, who died

January 13th. 1849, aged 58 Years.

No idea if there’s any actual relation, but it’s a heck of a coincidence.

The Left

Michael Tomasky joins in piling onto Roger Cohen’s latest column whining about how “the left” has demonized the neocons.

Tomasky is quick, however, to label himself as a “liberal”, not a member of “the anti-militarist left”. Now, the definition of “militarism” depends on which dictionary you look at, but Merriam Webster has a couple of them:

1 a : predominance of the military class or its ideals b : exaltation of military virtues and ideals

2 : a policy of aggressive military preparedness

As a leftist, I, quite frankly, am more than willing to say that I don’t believe that society ought to place military ideals above any others. The military in this country is supposed to be subordinate to the civilian authority.

Likewise, the armed forces are supposed to be used for the defense of the country. Aggression isn’t about defense, it’s related to domination, provocation, and destruction.

Tomasky’s playing the same game as Cohen. Cohen doesn’t want to be lumped in as a neocon so he calls himself a “liberal hawk” and dumps on the leftists. Tomasky doesn’t want to be called a leftist, so he appropriates the badge of “liberal” for himself and his buddies who supported invading Afghanistan and (mostly) invading Iraq, and dumps on the leftists.

Ten, fifteen, twenty years from now, Tomasky’s going to be writing a column whining about people confusing him with the neo-neo-cons.