Gone with the wind


This just in: "War opponent Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, received the most from donors in the military, collecting at least $212,000 from them. Another war opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, was second with about $94,000."

Speaking of saturation election coverage, when you're waiting for Super Tuesday returns tonight, instead of watching the 52 different screens in The Situation Room or listening to a Hardball panel ponder all the reasons Hillary may express emotion, here are five articles to read about the candidates that might tell you something useful:

  • Ezra Klein on Clinton and Obama's differing visions on how to fix the economy, from the The American Prospect.
  • Mark Schmitt, also in the The American Prospect, on Clinton and Obama's very different ideas of the presidency as an office.
  • Obama v Clinton: Who's Greener? from The Nation.
  • Timothy Noah's breakdown in Slate of Clinton's and Obama's respective health-care plans, here and here.

George Zornick writes: We wrote a Think Again column in November about a dangerous plan being pushed by the Federal Communications Commission that would relax media cross-ownership rules at the local level, allowing big media conglomerates to buy multiple outlets in the same market -- so one company could own, say, the newspaper, radio and television stations in one city. It would virtually control freedom of the press in that area.

Sadly, the FCC Commission passed the plan in December along party lines, 3-2, and yesterday the FCC officially "published" the rule changes, one of the last steps toward making them official. You'll note the linked story about this recent development is to Broadcasting & Cable online, which, with no slight to that operation, isn't exactly The New York Times -- yesterday's move went completely unnoticed in the press, except to trade magazines. This is odd because the last time such rule changes were proposed, in 2003, there was a huge public outcry and the FCC received over 3 million complaints, the most it's ever gotten on any one issue.

StopBigMedia.com is running a campaign to have the rule changes reversed, and court challenges are likely coming. Democracy needs defending, especially in the dead of night, and it's pretty dark out there with saturation election coverage on the minutiae of haircuts and shed tears -- so swing by the StopBigMedia.com operation, and send it to a friend.

I discovered after doing yesterday's Marty item that the Great Man has been staking out the Clintons' bedroom, listening for rustling of the sheets. He writes:

Since this is a couple which doesn't even have the comfort of pillow talk, its internal aggressions are projected outwards to the people they have defined as enemies.

In addition to being in terrible taste -- particularly for a man who, I imagine, wishes to keep his own pillow talk private -- note the fact that it is also just plain bonkers. I mean, what in the world does pillow talk have to do with projecting internal aggressions outward?

A friend points to three new entries in the "what is the craziest thing Marty Peretz can say before his friends take public notice, particularly now that he no longer owns TNR" sweepstakes. They are:

"Celebrity Cash" -- In which he implies that Clinton is evil because celebrities he doesn't like give money to her.

"How Will Immigrants Vote?" -- For Clinton, apparently, which to Marty, of course, is terrible news. But at least it gives him an excuse to compare her to Eva Peron.

"Shenanigans in New York" -- Marty treats us all to his very special conspiracy theory:

I have a theory. Yes, it just a theory. But I wouldn't be surprised. That the New York State Democratic Party which is under the suzerainty of the Clintons simply skipped this normal step in the process. The older voters are for Hillary. They know where to vote.

The first-timers are for Obama. Let them fend for themselves.

There's more: Did you also know that "virtually the entire Muslim world went into delirium after a Danish newspaper published 12 caricatures of the prophet Mohammed?" Yes, a billion people "went into delirium." No, this man's not a racist.

This one I don't even understand. Hillary is "smarmy" for being nice to Rupert Murdoch, but Marty is friends with Rupert too, and this is fine. No wonder Marty fell for Andrew.

And by the way, "Mr. Hiding Under the Clinton's Bed," well, that sentence finishes itself ...

It's all here.

Speaking of TNR, here's David Cay Johnston's complaint about Jonathan Chait's NYTBR review of his book. Judge for yourselves.

At least 65 journalists were killed while doing their job last year, says the Committee to Protect Journalists, here. It's a 13-year high, going back to 1994 when the genocide in Rwanda claimed a lot of reporters' lives.

This new high is swollen in large part due to the war in Iraq, where 32 journalists were killed in 2007. The report calls Iraq "the deadliest conflict for journalists in recent history," with 125 journalists and 49 support workers killed since March 2003. It's notable that of the 32 journalists killed in Iraq last year, all but one were Iraqi. The country isn't safe for Western journalists to venture into alone, and so they must depend on local staff to do basic reporting there -- but even they aren't safe, with nine in 10 journalists in Iraq telling the Pew Research Center late last year that their local staff can't even carry notebooks, pens, or anything else that identifies them as a reporter. It's hard to do good reporting in Iraq when even getting the five Ws can get you killed.

And speaking of Iraq, Unhappy Anniversary, Colin Powell: Today was the day Colin Powell went before the U.N. and, employing the mainstream media as his personal propaganda corps, misled the entire world, helped cause the unnecessary deaths of at least a hundred thousand people, and destroyed his reputation as a prudent, honest man. From The Book on Bush:

Charles J. Hanley, an Associated Press reporter, subjected Powell's claims to detailed scrutiny in light of what was known at the time as well as from later revelations and discovered the following:

  • Powell presented satellite photos of various buildings and vehicles in order to suggest that the Iraqis were shielding chemical and biological weapons, and the missiles with which to launch them. He insisted that the trucks at two such sites were really "decontamination vehicles" associated with chemical weapons. In fact, these very sites had undergone five hundred recent inspections. Chief UN inspector Hans Blix had explained a day earlier that no contraband was found and no signs that anything had been moved were detectable. Norwegian inspector Jorn Siljeholm told the Associated Press on March 19 that "decontamination vehicles" found by UN teams were actually fire trucks. No contrary evidence was ever found.
  • Powell played audiotapes of Arabic-speaking individuals discussing a "modified vehicle," "forbidden ammo," and "the expression nerve agents." He said they were intercepts of Iraqi army officers, but there is no way to ascertain if any of this was true, as no context was provided. Meanwhile, if army sources were indeed searching for "forbidden ammo," it makes perfect sense, for the Iraqis had informed UN inspectors they would conduct exactly those searches. When these searches were completed, four stray, empty chemical warheads were turned over to the inspectors.
  • Powell said "classified" documents found at a nuclear scientist's Baghdad home were "dramatic confirmation" of intelligence indicating that prohibited items were often concealed in that fashion. These items never materialized.
  • Powell noted Iraq had declared it produced only 8,500 liters of anthrax before 1991, but UN inspectors had estimated the potential to make 25,000 liters. None of the supply, he argued, had been "verifiably accounted for." Yet no anthrax was ever found in Iraq after the invasion.
  • Powell said defectors had reported "biological-weapons factories" on trucks and in train cars, and displayed artistic representations of them. These, too, never materialized, despite administration attempts to hype the discovery of what were later judged to be weather-balloon fueling stations. (See below.)
  • Powell accused Iraq of creating four tons of the nerve agent VX. "A single drop of VX on the skin will kill in minutes." But the secretary neglected to note that most of the VX had been verifiably destroyed in the 1990s under UN supervision. The Iraqis showed inspectors where they had destroyed the rest, and chemical analyses undertaken by the United Nations generally confirmed this. An analysis by the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London found that all pre-1991 VX would probably have degraded, and none was ever found following the invasion.
  • Powell claimed, "We know that Iraq has embedded key portions of its illicit chemical weapons infrastructure within its legitimate civilian industry." No evidence of this has yet been found. A September 2002 report by the Defense Intelligence Agency, which had always been available to Powell, indicated there was "no reliable information" on "where Iraq has-or will-establish its chemical-warfare-agent-production facilities."
  • Powell claimed, "Our conservative estimate is that Iraq today has a stockpile of between one hundred and five hundred tons of chemical weapons agents." The source of this figure, too, remains a mystery, given the DIA's admitted lack of knowledge. In any case, none was ever found.
  • Powell argued that 122-mm chemical warheads found by UN inspectors in January 2003 might be the "tip of an iceberg." He failed to note, however, that the warheads were empty and were assumed by inspectors to be "debris from the past." No others have since been found.
  • Powell claimed, "Saddam Hussein has chemical weapons. . . . And we have sources who tell us that he recently has authorized his field commanders to use them." Again, no such weapons were ever found, much less used.
  • Powell claimed, "We have no indication that Saddam Hussein has ever abandoned his nuclear weapons program." But, of course, we had no real evidence that he had begun it, either. (See below.)
  • Powell credited "intelligence sources" with discovering that Iraq possessed a secret force of up to a few dozen prohibited Scud-type missiles with a range of six hundred miles and was blocking its test facility from spy satellites. Nothing to support these claims was ever discovered.

Just as they had during the Gulf of Tonkin episode -- when newspapers and newsweeklies published lurid accounts of a battle that never took place, based on fabricated stories passed along to them by the Johnson administration -- many members of the news media were accomplices in this misinformation campaign, almost never questioning its credibility.

Gilbert Cranberg, former editorial page editor of the Des Moines Register, examined the media reaction to Powell's UN presentation, pointing out that the secretary "cited almost no verifiable sources. Many of his assertions were unattributed. The speech had more than forty vague references, such as 'human sources,' 'an eyewitness,' 'detainees,' 'an al Qaeda source,' 'a senior defector,' 'intelligence sources,' and the like." Nevertheless, surveying the coverage of an allegedly skeptical media from some forty papers from all parts of the country, he found the following conclusions: "a massive array of evidence," "a detailed and persuasive case," "a powerful case," "a sober, factual case," "an overwhelming case," "a compelling case," "the strong, credible and persuasive case," "a persuasive, detailed accumulation of information," "the core of his argument was unassailable," "a smoking fusillade . . . a persuasive case for anyone who is still persuadable," "an accumulation of painstakingly gathered and analyzed evidence," "only the most gullible and wishful thinking souls can now deny that Iraq is harboring and hiding weapons of mass destruction," "the skeptics asked for proof; they now have it," "a much more detailed and convincing argument than any that has previously been told," "Powell's evidence . . . was overwhelming," "an ironclad case . . . incontrovertible evidence," "succinct and damning evidence . . . the case is closed," "Colin Powell delivered the goods on Saddam Hussein," "masterful," "If there was any doubt that Hussein . . . needs to be . . . stripped of his chemical and biological capabilities, Powell put it to rest."

Part of the explanation for the wholesale acceptance may be that Colin Powell is often credited with being the most believable and circumspect of administration members. Though Powell himself may have forgotten, he once knew better than to make the series of false claims he offered. Two years earlier, in February 2001 at a meeting with Egypt's foreign minister in Cairo, Powell defended the UN sanctions program against Iraq by noting how successful U.S. containment of Hussein had been. He explained of the sanctions, "Frankly, they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors."

From TomDispatch:

In his anti-Super Tuesday media piece, Tom Engelhardt takes The Pledge right on the spot:

I swear that I will not 'handicap' any primary race, nor predict who is going to win Super Tuesday in either party. I will not handicap the race to the conventions. I will not speculate on who will be the vice-presidential candidate for whom in the fall, or who will win the presidency in November and enter the Oval Office on January 20, 2009, and I will not discuss polling results, nor mention a margin of error.

And then, in his version of an "exit poll" (in which he asks what it is Americans generally would like to exit from), Engelhardt tries to sort out the differences between two very disparate kinds of enthusiasm that are nonetheless easily confused -- the enthusiasm of new youthful voters for the political process and the enthusiasm of the media for Primary Campaign 2008. He suggests that the young, through no fault of their own, have been ensnared in our era in an exterminatory grid, a sense -- whether they fully realize it or not -- of futurelessness and so despair.

"If, of course, you can't imagine building, or saving, or investing in something for your children or grandchildren (no less somebody else's), then it's hard to imagine doing anything lasting. To lack a future is to have an enormous weight of despair placed squarely on your shoulders. If, even for a moment, it seems to lift, you suddenly feel free to dream; hence (I suspect) the burst of enthusiasm and hope seen this year -- and the outpouring of new primary voters which has gone with it."

He explores, in particular, Barack Obama's role in this and the power of his seemingly vague formulations, the chant, "Yes, we can...!" and his claim to represent "the future," not "the past." ("When was the last time an American presidential candidate invoked the future and seemed to mean it?")

Then, turning to the media version of enthusiasm, Engelhardt writes: "In a sense, the media has no future or past. Instead, it devours both in an eternal present and still remains hungry. In our Super Bowl/Super Tuesday media culture, all those pundits, talking heads, reporters, and entertainers collectively might be thought of as if they were the mad spawn of Anne Rice and Rupert Murdoch, swarming to a source of blood that, in this election season, is your enthusiasm, as well as any momentary hopes you have for the future. Their enthusiasm is to bite deep into your enthusiasm and suck it dry.

"They, too, are chanting: Yes, we can...! Yes, we can...! They'll happily chant it until a new administration enters the White House in January ... inheriting an American world in deep trouble and a planet spinning on a dime. And then they'll take their enthusiasm off to another eternal present where children are being shot up by some maniac, or giant buildings are collapsing into dust, or some celeb is heading for the nearest dry-out clinic. They'll walk away happy into another present, leaving the rest of us high and dry. Yes, they can...!"

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Don Hynes
Hometown: Portland OR

Thanks for the clarity in regard to President Reagan. The poet Robert Bly once commented that after Vietnam America was so desperate for a wise old man to head the country we hired an actor to play one.

When you authorize and pay for murders in the criminal world that is usually frowned upon by the law. When you do it from the White House it's termed tough on terror or morning for America. How about calling it midnight for the victims?

Name: Jim
Hometown: West Palm Beach, FL


I liked the Astore article on TomDispatch with one exception. Maybe I am in the wrong progressive circles, but which ones consider the military "so tainted, so baneful"? He confuses anger at the army with the anger of watching a good army put to bad use by incompetent leaders. To take one example, it is generally conservatives that first blame the armed forces for Abu Ghraib (or at least whatever soldiers happened to be there), while it is generally liberals who first blame our elected leader for not sending enough properly trained troops to get the job done. It is no small irony that the author requests a new look at the army while sharing old distortions about progressives.

Name: William N. Osborne
Hometown: Glen Burnie, MD

I wanted to comment concerning the inherent American trust of the military. Such trust is truly needed since the military serves as our defense of the common welfare. But, after having served the Army for over 25 years before retirement, I became increasingly concerned over the rapidly increasing infiltration of conservative politics, particularly in the officer corps. The Army is of course conservative but the increased hard right bent is alarming. Long gone is the old Victorian/Edwardian attitude of politics being beneath the officer's concern. I experienced officers continually expressing repressive and restrictive religious and political opinion, even in official matters. For example, I was horrified one day when two field grade officers, within sight and sound of numerous witnesses, openly expressed the opinion that the federal judge in the Terri Schaivo case should be shot for issuing the opinion that released that poor woman from the living hell that Senator Frist, a conservative uncompassionate Congress and the "religious" right wished her consigned to. Anyone expressing a liberal or progressive viewpoint was viewed with suspicion and hostility. It seems that many in the military are forgetting just what Constitution it was that they swore to uphold, especially those officers undertaking their commissions requiring that they do just that. (Of course, it doesn't help that the Commander-in-Chief considers the Constitution a scrap of paper to be adhered to only when convenient). Part of the problem may be that the progressive folk so needed to add a "loyal minority's" perspective fail to enter military service (for whatever reasons); but I see a military a far cry in attitude and outlook from those GI's who actually did liberate countries and peoples during World War II. Don't know what the answer is, but it seems we are headed for a military out of touch with many of the citizens it is protecting, if we aren't already there. But heck, you can't say that, because it's not fashionable, is it?

Name: Brian P. Evans
Hometown: San Diego, CA

I realize that you're not TomDispatch, but I have a question for LTC Astore:

Who are these "progressive critics" that "consider the military 'so tainted, so baneful' that they can't see its appeal at all"? Names and quotes in complete context, please. Otherwise, this is nothing more than a conservative talking point that liberals hate the military.

Instead, the only criticism I have ever seen out of progressive/liberal critics is that the use of the military is tainted and baneful. They all have tremendous respect for the military in general. What they don't have respect for are Chiefs of Staff who only seem to find the ability to stand up to the President after they have retired. What they don't have respect for is a Commander who will go before Congress and lie through his teeth in order to provide substance for a planned presidential race in four years.

And what they don't have respect for is a Commander-in-Chief who starts unnecessary wars that gets the boots on the ground killed in vain (yes ..."in vain"). That's why they don't understand why people would still go to the recruitment centers. They expect people to act in their own self-interest: If the military is being led by a Commander-in-Chief who insists that the Soldiers are going to be stuck in a never-ending occupation where they can be killed for no good reason, leaving ourselves vulnerable to attack and disaster due to all our personnel and materiel being overseas, then why would somebody join? Who would rationally take a job where you would immediately be lied to regarding the amount of time you were going to have to spend being shot at and lied to again regarding why you have to go?

So once again, I have to wonder: Just who are these "progressive critics" that seemingly hate the military? This is nothing more than the conservative tactic of accusing the other side of what you're doing first so that they can't use it against you. If they can claim the left sneers at the military first, then everybody will be stuck on the defensive rather than paying attention to the actions the right has taken to destroy that which they claim to love so much.

Since when did wanting to save our military become hating it? How does not wanting our Soldiers to die mean one thinks they are "tainted and baneful"?

Name: Paul Goode
Hometown: Redmond, WA

Of course Dean Acheson didn't like Lyndon Johnson. Johnson was a poor boy from Central Texas. Acheson was a bow-tie and striped pants wearing, East Coast Brahmin snob. Johnson attended public schools; Acheson went to Groton, Yale, and Harvard Law. No doubt Acheson saw nothing humorous in telling a British diplomat that sometimes he (Johnson) had to "hunker down like a jackass in a hailstorm." Those of us who didn't go to Groton, though, might find it pretty damn funny and likable.

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