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Stealing your best lines

by Ted on January 23, 2006

A long excerpt from Osama bin Ladin’s complete letter to America (UPDATE: Please note, as per comments, that this is a letter from 2002.) Between the call to Islam, the condemnation of homosexuality, gambling, financial interest, alcohol, the separation of church and state, and the liberation of women, does anyone else feel like they’ve heard this before? It’s practically Howard Dean’s stump speech, isn’t it?

Between the part about how Clinton was let off too easily for immoral acts committed in the Oval office, and the part about how America “brought (the world) AIDS as a Satanic American Invention”, I’m surprised he doesn’t already have a diary at Daily Kos. Is Osama really out of the anti-Bush mainstream with this?

Um, yeah. He really, really is.

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An open letter to Tom Maguire

by Ted on January 20, 2006


I hope that you’ll forgive that I didn’t just put this in your comments. I don’t hold you responsible for them (much as I wouldn’t want to be held responsible for everything in our comments), but your commenters scare me.

I really think that you’re off-base here. There are times when the arguments made by virtually any partisan can be shown to be parallel to the rhetoric of some unsavory character. It’s not hard to squint your eyes and find parallels between the rhetoric of Michael Moore, Howard Dean or Ted Barlow and Osama Bin Ladin. Similarly, it wouldn’t be hard to quote Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney, or Tom Maguire and find a somewhat similar argument that had been made by David Duke, Timothy McVeigh or… you know. The guy we’re not supposed to mention. (You may remember that during the 90s, Republican congressmen had a habit of making arguments that were similar to the rhetoric of Slobodan Milosevic.)

But so what? There’s simply no way to defend yourself against this, short of just shutting up. There’s no plausible way to make a case against a war without opening yourself to the possibility that the enemy will ever use a similar argument. (Any patriotic rhetoric will be simply excised by an attacking pundit.) There’s no way to oppose social spending without exposing yourself to a comparison some modern-day Scrooge. There’s no way to oppose affirmative action without exposing yourself to comparisons to racists. You don’t enjoy being on the receiving end of this sort of playground logic, so why take such pains to excuse it when the shoe is on the other foot?

People who make the kinds of statements that Chris Matthews made aren’t really making an argument. Rather, they’re just trying to get a little bit of tar onto the partisan they’re criticising. There’s no principle that they’re trying to establish. It’s just a show of contempt.

And it really does little good to bat your eyes and say that the good fella didn’t mean anything by it. You’ve found an angle at which Chris Matthews’ statement can be literally defended. Good for you. Now read your comments and trackbacks. At your blog, one of the most reasonable right-of-center blogs around, your readers have spent the day lamenting what they imagine to be an alliance between al-Qaeda and the American left. They understand the message.



The Army and Vietnam, part 2

by Ted on January 20, 2006

More from The Army and Vietnam by Andrew F. Krepinevich. It’s especially interesting, if I perceive the state of the world correctly, because al-Qaeda front terrorists in Iraq (as opposed to jockeying Iraqi ethnic militias) don’t seem to be terribly interested in gaining the positive support of a wide swath of Iraqis. That might reflect a nihilistic worldview, or it might be my own myopia.

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Ask Pajamas Media

by Ted on January 19, 2006

Q: Dear Pajamas Media,

Christopher Hitchens has been noteworthy for his strong support of the Iraq war and the Bush Administration’s vision of the war on terror. Many were surprised when he recently joined an ACLU lawsuit challenging the NSA program of warrantless wiretaps. Could you direct me to any insightful citizen journalism that could help me understand this story?

A: Sure. It’s because he’s an anti-semite.

Pajamas Media is not an embarassing money pit bringing shame to political bloggers everywhere.

The Army and Vietnam

by Ted on January 19, 2006

Inspired by this post, I read The Army and Vietnam by Andrew F. Krepinevich a few weeks ago. It’s really very good. Most of the book functions as an analysis of the Vietnam war through the lens of counterinsurgency tactics, as the author walks through the failure and sporadic successes of the military leadership to learn from its mistakes.

I especially appreciated the introduction and its lucid introduction to the strategy of a successful insurgency/counterinsurgency. I liked that part so much that I’ve transcribed about four pages, in the interest of posting it in small blog-sized chunks for discussion. The book was published in 1986. It’s fascinating to see how much of it applies to the situation in Iraq, and how much is less relevant.

I hope that this inspires a few readers to buy the book, or at least discuss its ideas. Unfortunately, I realize that this goes beyond “fair use”. I’ve tried to contact Krepinevich to ask for permission, but have failed to get a response. So I’m going to try to play this like an mp3 blog. Each section will stay up for a week, and then I’ll pull it down. I will, of course, respond immediately to any request from the copyright holder or complaint from a co-blogger.

Here goes.

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Cheese-eating mechanization monkeys

by Ted on January 18, 2006

I started reading The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century by Colonel Thomas X. Hammes tonight. Hammes is a 29-year career Marine who has spent his professional life studying what he calls fourth-generation warfare, or counterinsurgency. In the small portion that I’ve read, it’s striking how scathing Hammes is about “transformation”, the push for a smaller, high-tech force:
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Friday fun thread: Dessert evangelism

by Ted on January 13, 2006

I made this last week, from Jacques Pepin: Fast Food My Way, and it was more crazy delicious than Mr. Pibb + Red Vines. The sweet-tart raspberries and the melted chocolate go together beautifully. The recipe is very fast, very easy, and it doesn’t get much of your stuff dirty. You do, however, need little oven-safe ramekins or custard cups. They’re not hard to find, though; I bought a pack of four 10-ounce Pyrex dessert cups at the supermarket for $8.

Commenters, have you got a dessert for which you’d like to testify?

Chocolate-Raspberry Gratin

Serves 2

1 cup frozen raspberries
4 store-bought chocolate chip cookies
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon butter
Sour cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Pour 1/2 cup of frozen raspberries into each cup. Hand-crumble two chocolate chip-cookies over each cup. Sift 1 T sugar over the cookies. Cut up the butter and dot it over the top.

Bake for 16-18 minutes; the raspberries should be gently bubbling and the top should be a little browned. Let cool until warm, then serve with a dollop of sour cream if you have it.

UNRELATED UPDATE: As long as I’m Fun Threading, please enjoy: A Selection From George W. Bush’s Eavesdropping Tapes: Matthew Barney and Björk Place an Ikea Phone Order.


by Ted on January 12, 2006

Iraq’s most powerful Shiite leader on Wednesday rejected making major changes to the new Constitution, diminishing Sunni Arab hopes of amending the charter to avoid being shut out of the nation’s vast oil wealth.

Sunnis were reluctant to sign on to the Constitution last fall, fearing that provisions granting wide powers to autonomous regions would leave oil in the hands of Kurds in the north and Shiites in the south. Sunnis dominate in western and much of northwestern and northcentral Iraq, but the oil lies beneath Kurdistan and parts of southern Iraq that one day may be subsumed in a semi-independent region controlled by Shiites…

“We will stop anyone who tries to change the Constitution,” said Mr. Hakim, whose party has close ties to Iran. “Many of the people who voted for us were promised federalism in the south,” he said, referring to the form of government allowing for semiautonomous regions. He said Kurds, who joined Shiites to form the current ruling coalition, “agree with us about this condition, and we will continue our strategic coalition with our Kurdish brothers.”

I don’t have any non-obvious comments, but I thought that this story deserved a little attention.

Ann Althouse has taken issue with my post comparing the Plame leak to the NSA leak. In that post, I made, more or less, three points.

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by Ted on January 5, 2006

I just followed a link in our comments to a fascinating post from theorajones at True Blue. She wrote this back in September:

Every middle-class mother hears “immediate evacuation” and “5 days in the Superdome” and thinks, “Jesus Christ, I have no idea how much water I would bring for 5 days. Is it 5 gallons? Ohmigod, where are our passports? Do I have to bring the kids’ birth certificates? What about the deed to the house? Would I have time to get my mother’s jewelery out of the safe deposit, or is that selfishness that’s going to kill my children?”

Tell her that she’s got to evacuate without a car, and she’ll start shaking her head. Tell her she’s gotta do it in 18 hours, Grayhound and Amtrak are shut down, it’s 250 miles to get out of the hurricane’s path, and she’s got $200 bucks in her pocket, and every soccer mom will know with certainty what every soccer dad doesn’t get–that it’s impossible. Flat out impossible.

Matt Welch was the first journalist that I saw questioning some of the Katrina-related rumors about “dysfunctional urbanites too depraved to be saved.” He recently received an email from a contractor who was sent in to help rebuild. Take it with a grain of salt, but do go read it:

The one thing that haunts me the most is that when they finally started door to door search and rescue they would spray paint the front of the building, and it would contain the date of the search, who performed the search, how many were found dead, and how many were found living. As you probably know the flood waters came in on August 29-30. I can’t even begin to count how many homes that we saw that were not checked for survivors for the first time until the 24-26 of September. I would just like to know why it took almost a month to check these homes for survivors? There were people who starved to death because they could not escape their attics, and the resources were there to help them. THEY LET PEOPLE DIE!

Isn’t it the same thing?

by Ted on January 4, 2006

Law professor Glenn Reynolds quotes law professor Ann Althouse:

I wonder if those who screamed loudest about the Plame leak and national security are equally outraged about this new leak?

Pointing out this vile hypocrisy must be the zingiest zinger that ever zinged a zingee. They’re right, in way. Few of us who are upset about the outing of Valerie Plame are viscerally upset about the NSA leak, which we tend to see as a classic whistleblower scenario. As a dedicated Plame screamer, let me try to reply. (NOTE: Update below the fold.)

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Where are you going with this?

by Ted on January 3, 2006

Dwight Meredith:

Perhaps FISA is unduly restrictive. If so, let’s pass a better law. If, instead, we just let the President break the law anytime he decides to do so, we should not be surprised when some President decides to use that power in ways we find abhorrent. At that point, it will be nearly impossible to fix. No statute will be able to bind the President and both impeachment and constitutional amendment are very blunt instruments with long time lags. It is far better to decide what checks are needed before the fact.

Boy howdy. Other folks have used up most of the good points on the warantless wiretaps, but this point is absolutely vital. The White House has aggressively promoted the theory that the President can ignore the letter of the law if, in his judgement, national security would be better served by a different law permitting warrantless wiretaps, torture, etc. If the other branches of government give up the ability to constrain the President, they will likely never get it back again. Presidential campaigns don’t produce very many Cincinnatuses.

I’ve been a little surprised at the number of self-proclaimed small-government conservatives and libertarians who have stepped up to bat for Bush on this. The chasm between “Republicans” and “conservatives” continues to widen. I don’t see any way to reconcile the two. This country has had a pretty good run without subscribing to the theory of Presidential untouchability. The division of powers and rule of law seem to have paid some significant dividends. Letting them slip, even with the best of intentions, seems deeply, tragically unconservative. And yet the Pajamasphere seems intent on sneering at the press and cheerleading as the President jumps the rails.

“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve $3.5 million in venture capital“, apparently.

The Senate is likely to vote on John McCain’s anti-torture amendments tonight. U.S. residents, please call your Senators today and politely encourage them to vote Yes on Senator McCain’s anti-torture amendments, which would codify the existing guidelines and prohibiting cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.

Human Rights First recommends the following talking points:

– I am calling to urge my Senator to vote YES on Sen. McCain’s amendments tonight.
– These amendments will ensure our troops will get the guidance they desperately need.
– The Senator has a moral and legal obligation to ban cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.
– These amendments will draw a much-needed line between appropriate interrogation techniques and the horrible abuses I’ve read about in the papers.

Many thanks.

Laverne & Shirley Republican Bingo

by Ted on October 4, 2005

Give ‘em any rule, they’ll break it…

Auditors find that the Bush administration violated the law by paying Armstrong Williams to push No Child Left Behind. Elliot Abrams pled guilty to withholding info about his knowledge of Iran-Contra. Pardoned by Bush I, appointed by Bush II to senior position on National Security Council. The Bush administration’s top federal procurement official, David H. Safavian, arrested after accused of lying and obstructing a criminal investigation into Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Bush appointee Thomas A. Scully fined $85,000 for threatening to fire a subordinate if he complied with requests to provide cost estimates Medicare bill. Scully was later tapped as chief surrogate on Medicare policy for Bush re-election campaign. Karl Rove told Time Magazine’s Matt Cooper that Joseph Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA while she was still working as a covert operative.
Former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland convicted of accepting perks and lying about it.

Current Ohio Gov. Bob Taft indicted on four criminal misdemeanor counts for failing to report more than 50 gifts and outings. Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher under investigation for illegal hiring, even after preemptively pardoning all staff members under indictment. Former Illinois governor George Ryan begins trial on bribes-for-licenses charges. Mike Foster, former Louisiana Governor and George W. Bush’s LA campaign chair, fined for failing to report $155,000 in payments to David Duke to use his mailing list in two campaigns.
Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay faces (as of this writing) three indictments for money-laundering, conspiracy to commit money-laundering, and conspiracy to violate election laws. House Ethics Panel rebukes DeLay twice in one day, for asking federal aviation officials to track down Texas Democratic representatives, and for conduct that suggested political donations might influence legislative action. Image Hosted by Feds investigate DeLay’s office for illegally soliciting travel and other favors from Jack Abramoff. House Ethics panel rebukes Tom DeLay for offering a political favor to then-Rep. Nick Smith (R-Mich.) in exchange for his vote on Medicare bill.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist faces questions for apparent insider trading of stock in family business. Ohio Rep. Robert Ney accepts trip from Abramoff in violation of House rules; official explanation doesn’t hold up. Business partner of Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff questioned about mysterious quarter-million dollar payment to the murderers of Konstantinos “Gus” Boulis after Boulis refused to sell them the SunCruz cruise ship business. Randy “Duke” Cunningham will not seek re-election; under investigation for apparent sweetheart real estate deal with a defense contractor. Jack Abramoff and former DeLay press secretary Michael Scanlon investigated for bilking their Indian-tribe clients out of $66 million.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and emcee of “Justice Sunday”, fined $3000 for attempting to hide payment of $82,000 to former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke for his mailing list. The former head of a New Hampshire Republican consulting group pleads guilty to jamming Democratic telephone lines during the 2002 general election.

The vice chairman and former treasurer of the Massachusetts Republican Party arrested on federal money-laundering charges after he allegedly deposited thousands of dollars in drug profits in a Brockton bank for a jailed client. Manuel Miranda, who resigned in disgrace for obtaining unauthorized access to confidential Senate Democratic documents, was later hired as the head of ethics committee for the conservative Coalition for a Fair Judiciary. Paul Gourley elected Chairman of College Republicans after signing letters in a fund-raising campaign that misled seniors into thinking they were giving to the campaigns of President Bush and other top Republicans.

Thanks to the Carpetbagger Report.

Jabbor Gibson

by Ted on September 3, 2005

When you’re right, you’re right. Radley Balko has noticed a hunger for good news, and this would seem to qualify:

Eighteen-year-old Jabbor Gibson jumped aboard the bus as it sat abandoned on a street in New Orleans and took control.

“I just took the bus and drove all the way here…seven hours straight,’ Gibson admitted. “I hadn’t ever drove a bus.”

The teen packed it full of complete strangers and drove to Houston. He beat thousands of evacuees slated to arrive there.

“I t’s better than being in New Orleans,” said fellow passenger Albert McClaud, “we want to be somewhere where we’re safe.”

Look at these pictures. I hope this kid gets a medal before Michael Brown does.