Friday, February 06, 2004


When George Bush announced that he was acceding to demands he have an independent investigation of the "intelligence failures" that led to the decision by his administration to invade Iraq on the basis of its possession of weapons of mass destruction, a friend of mine wondered why he was giving in.

"So he can appoint Henry Kissinger to head the commission, of course," I joked.

Little did I suspect Bush would actually top that by doing this:
The panel will be co-chaired by a Democrat and a Republican: Former Sen. and former Gov. Chuck Robb of Virginia, and former U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Laurence Silberman, a conservative who served in the Nixon and Ford administrations.

This description beggars the reality about Silberman. He's not merely a conservative. He's a jurist who has a proven track record of making decisions, and enforcing policy, based not on the law, reason or basic principles of fair play, but purely on how they will benefit or harm the Republican party. "Rabidly partisan" is an understated description.

On his track record:
-- Playing a central role in the "October Surprise" scandal by serving as the Reagan team's main contact with the Khomeini faction in Iran.

-- Overturning the Iran-Contra conviction of Oliver North on specious grounds.

-- Threatening colleague Abner Mikva: "If you were 10 years younger, I'd be tempted to punch you in the nose."

-- Trying to overturn the independent counsel statute on behalf of a Federalist Society colleague, Ted Olson (currently the Solicitor General), in a ruling shortly overturned by the Supreme Court on an 8-1 vote.

-- Conspiring with another Federalist Society colleague, David Sentelle, to have Robert Fiske replaced as the Whitewater special counsel with Kenneth Starr.

-- Blocking the Clinton legal team's attempts to track down the leaks emanating from Starr's office and blocking any attempts at discovery in the matter.

-- Accusing Clinton of "declaring war on the United States" by trying to shield Secret Service agents from being forced to testify against Clinton.

From the Salon piece above:
Silberman also has attacked as too liberal a number of respected journalists who cover the federal courts, including Pulitzer Prize-winning Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times and National Public Radio's Nina Totenberg, whom Silberman once alluded to in speech as "the wicked witch of the airwaves." He has publicly assailed the reporting of the Times' Neil Lewis as "obviously distorted and tendentious," failing to mention that Lewis had written about Silberman's threat to assault Judge Mikva.

Of all the people likely to produce a fair and thorough investigation of the WMD matter, Silberman should be last on anyone's list. That he is now heading up this supposed probe tells us all we need to know in advance about its quality.

This will not be a real investigation. It will be a whitewash. And no amount of spinning should convince anyone otherwise.

There's a great deal about Silberman in David Brock's Blinded by the Right, incidentally, as well as in Gary Sick's October Surprise text. I'll post excerpts from both this weekend.

UPDATE: Dan Conley has put together a thorough post on Charles Robb, Silberman's co-chair on the panel -- and someone clearly beholden to Team Bush.

Ricin attack: What homeland security?

Can anyone tell me, exactly, why the nation is not now at Code Red? Or at least Code Orange?

After all, the nation's capital -- indeed, the United States Senate -- was just a few days ago the victim of a terrorist attack. Problem is, no one in charge of securing the nation from terrorist threats seems even to recognize it yet.

If you visit the Department of Homeland Security's Web page devoted to the Homeland Security Advisory System, you'll find that under the conditions it outlines, we should be seeing some kind of significant alert right now:
4. High Condition (Orange). A High Condition is declared when there is a high risk of terrorist attacks. ...

5. Severe Condition (Red). A Severe Condition reflects a severe risk of terrorist attacks.

I'm not sure you can get much higher a risk than actually suffering a terrorist attack. But then, maybe that's the problem. Do we need a Code Flaming Magenta or something?

Then, if you visit the Department of Homeland Security's main Web site, you'll have to look long and hard for any reference to the recent ricin attacks. In fact, you'll find none at all. Though if you check out their press releases, you can find info about such imminent threats agricultural terrorism (not to be confused, of course, with Mad Cow Disease, the gross neglect of which just seems to be the USDA's way of terrorizing consumers).

The real problem, of course, is that for the Bush administration, it isn't real terrorism unless it's committed by brown-skinned foreigners. This isn't simply a blind spot. It goes beyond even the underlying silliness of the whole "Code Alert" system. Ultimately, it is a problem directly related to the basic hollowness of our so-called "war on terror" -- which is not a serious attempt to combat terrorism, but is instead, simply, a political marketing campaign at its core. A very, very costly one.

As I pointed out earlier, there was a high likelihood that the ricin attack was actually an act of domestic terrorism. It turns out that was a sound assessment; officials now link the attack to someone from a trucking firm who is objecting to changes in trucking regulations.

Now, because of that, the people in charge of investigating the ricin case are insisting it is a "criminal matter." This elides the point, of course, that terrorism is also a crime; moreover, it minimizes the reality that domestic terrorists are every bit as capable of inflicting extreme harm on the American homeland as international terrorists. Or does anyone in this administration remember Oklahoma City?

Warbaby at World in Conflict has been doing outstanding ongoing analysis of the bizarre language being used both by officials and the media in the ricin case. As he points out:
The early news reports were all aflutter with mention of Al Qaida, ricin and terrorism. Then there was a quick shuffle of language and the attack became not terrorism, but a "criminal incident." Evidently, the trigger was the belated realization that an American, very likely a participant in the violent right wing that produced 95 percent of the terrorist incidents of the previous decade like the Oklahoma City and Olympics bombings. So if the actor is domestic, it's ipso facto NOT terrorism?

Just so we get this straight: if somebody sends a potent biological toxin through the mail, attempts to kill people in the office of the Senate majority leader, shuts down the Senate offices for testing and decontamination and causes about twenty Senate staffers to go through decontamination, whether or not it is terrorism depends on the racial or ideological identity of the perpetrator? That's nuts.

Interestingly, at least a few Democrats have gotten it mostly right. Among them is Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, whose office was one of the victims of the 2001 anthrax attacks. Though he mixed the "terrorism" and "crime" language, he still managed to make the main point:
Tom Daschle, the Democratic leader in the Senate, said: "I believe that it is an act of terrorism. The question is, who is responsible? How widespread is this act? And to what extent will be the repercussions, the implications of another act such as this?"

But he added: "Terrorist acts, criminal acts of this kind will not stop the work of the Senate."

Even more rigorous in questioning the behavior of top national-security officials in this was Massachusetts Rep. Edward Markey, who pressed the Terrorist Threat Integration Center folks for answers two days ago:
During a House Homeland Security Committee hearing, Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., questioned whether TTIC officials knew the White House was the target of a ricin attack last fall and failed to inform other government agencies and Congress before the deadly poison was found in a Senate building this week. Markey noted that TTIC was specifically created last year to integrate and share intelligence information across federal agencies.

"As the Senate office building remains closed for a second day due to ricin contamination, we have learned that three months ago the White House also was the target of a ricin attack," Markey said. "However, the information reportedly was not shared with congressional leaders until after the discovery of ricin in the Senate."

The TTIC's response was especially noteworthy:
TTIC Director John Brennan testified at the hearing that he could not recall when he learned about the ricin attack on the White House. He said he would look into the matter and get back to the committee with an answer. Brennan said, however, that he did not think the hearing was the proper forum to discuss terrorist threats.

Markey continued to point out the flaws in the whole TTIC approach:
Markey also questioned the process that TTIC follows when distributing information about potential threats, especially since Brennan could not recall how he handled information concerning the ricin attack on the White House.

"You can understand that two days after this attack unfolds the fact that you don't know the answer to that question as you sit here is something that in and of itself causes some concern for those of us who are in charge of overseeing the department," Markey told Brennan.

What we have here is a failure to communicate -- and not just in this case. As I pointed out previously, the same problem -- the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing -- cropped up recently in the Texas cyanide-bomb case as well.

As Warbaby says:
This is a big problem. Terrorism is political or social violence with effects that extend far beyond the immediate target. Crime is limited in its effects and directed towards limited personal gain. The two are fundamentally different and must be addressed by different methods and policies. The recent ricin incidents are terrorism. Period.

And until that sinks into the numb skulls at Homeland Security, the FBI, the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives and the other denizens of government, law enforcement and the military, we're not facing up to the problem.

Then again, there is a tradition on the Republican side of resisting the notion that right-wing extremists are real terrorists. Recall, if you will, the remarks of Porter Goss, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, denying that anti-abortion bombers like Eric Rudolph were terrorists during hearings on the Sept. 11 attacks:
"The trouble is, 'terrorism' is a very broad word, and it lends itself to a lot of mischief for people who would abuse common sense," Goss said. He then cited bombings of abortion clinics. "To me, that's not the kind of terrorism I'm talking about."

"That's criminal law enforcement," Goss said. "But it would fit most broad definitions of terrorism because the purpose [of those attacks] is to scare people."

Of course, that happens to fit exactly the legal definition of terrorism, as provided by the FBI:
"[A] violent act or an act dangerous to human life, in violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any state, to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social goals.

Even though Oklahoma City blew a big hole in this kind of pan-Gossian thinking, in succeeding years it has been glossed over increasingly by the spread of the meme that somehow, Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols were just a couple of "lone wolf" lunatics acting on their own. This is, of course, a view directly at odds with the reality of that case.

But its success has allowed the Bush admininstration to refuse to confront terrorism as the broad phenomenon that the nation must confront if we are going to have anything approaching a genuine "homeland security." What we have been treated to instead is a "war on terror" that is in fact a marketing campaign, not a serious anti-terrorism campaign. To reiterate:
Think, if you will, about the different kinds of terror at work here. The war against international terror plays out on a global stage, and as it's been waged so far by this administration, in remote and exotic locales. When Bush invokes the "war on terror," it revolves around images of Arab fanatics and desert combat. It's far removed from our daily realities -- except, of course, for the coffins coming home on military transports, images of which are forbidden to the press.

This is a peculiar, amorphous terror to which we as individuals feel only remotely or vaguely connected. The attacks of Sept. 11 are raised to remind us it can strike here, but the source of the terror is something that seems distant and disattached to us. The less concrete it is, the more vague the potential response. Thus Saddam Hussein can be conflated with Osama bin Laden as a threat to America and an entire war campaign constructed around his role in "the war on terror," though it is becoming increasingly clear he had little if any role in the Sept. 11 attacks.

This is a highly marketable kind of terrorism, in the sense that its potential threat can be invoked at any time to justify an entire panoply of political moves, as well as to impugn the patriotism of your opponents. This sort of "war on terror" doesn't require any real sacrifices on the part of the public -- unless, of course, you happen to draw the unlucky Gold Star -- but being on the Right Side is easy, since the Enemy is The Other. He isn't The Guy Next Door.

Domestic terrorism, however, has none of these advantages. It plays out in our back yards, in our heartland, and many of its actors either dwell in or hail from rural America; they could be the rancher or the Gulf War vet next door. We all have known or encountered intense ideological believers, kooks if you will, who seem just half-steps removed from William Krar or Tim McVeigh. They are familiar. Mostly we like to ignore them as simple aberrations, unlikely to cause much harm.

In reality, a Code Red probably wouldn't have been appropriate for the ricin attack -- but that's only because the alert system itself has proven such a demonstrable sham. Its main purpose has been more to invoke the "terrorist threat" at politically opportune moments, spreading fear as a way of aligning the public behind the administration's agenda.

Does anyone think all this is actually making any of us safer?

Thursday, February 05, 2004

The spurious rise of the non-anonymous blogger

Apropos of the current discussion regarding the anonymity of bloggers, Daniel Oppenheimer of the Valley Advocate, an alternative weekly in western Massachusetts, interviewed me recently and published the story today, complete with photo:
One Nation, Under Blog
Democracy, fascism, killer whales and the blogosphere

It's a pretty thorough (and flattering) piece, though there is one minor factual error: I actually left MSNBC in late summer of 2000, and tried freelancing through the summer of 2001, after Fiona was born, at which point I realized it was fruitless and reverted to just writing books. I turned to blogging early last year as an outlet for my remaining energies. I'm also a little sorry I cut loose my tendencies toward, eh, colorful language, but what the hey.

In any event, the interview underscores for me the real silliness of the whole debate over the anonymity of certain bloggers, such as Atrios, raised by one of the most ridiculous pieces Salon has ever run, Christopher Farah's recent "The Fix" piece.

It was bad enough that Farah couldn't even figure out that Atrios' "Maria" post was a hilarious satire; on top of that, he was so self-absorbedly oblivious that he didn't understand that Greg Beato was satirizing his own worldview by calling anonymous bloggers "a bunch of misguided souls who don't understand that the whole point of blogging is self-promotion." (Chortle.)

Chiming in, Andrew Sullivan -- in the wake of his recent NPR appearance with Atrios, in which he attacked Atrios for his anonymity, which according to he and other right-wing clowns is somehow "against the rules of blogging" (wha-?) -- chimes in on his blog: "Of course, Atrios is immune from personal attacks because he's anonymous." Which is absurd, of course; Atrios is attacked personally all the time (indeed, by people like Sullivan), and knowledge of his actual identity (he's just a normal guy who lives in Philly) wouldn't alter their ability to do so. What, is Sullivan going to base his attacks by calling him a "substitute gym teacher" or something? Of course, that would match the usual quality of Sullivan's arguments, but still ...

Meanwhile the hapless Jonah Goldberg also weighs in:
About time someone else complained about anonymous blogging. Instapundit and myslef were alone for a long time (I'm sure others complained too, I just never heard about it).

Well, if Instapundit is complaining about anonymous bloggers, then why does he include so many of them on his blogroll? Especially those who engage in outrageous threats against other bloggers? Or is it just the wrong kind of anonymous bloggers -- like, the ones who don't criticize Insty? (Meanwhile, of course, it's worth recalling that Jonah's mom was famous for anonymously promoting certain scandals behind the scenes, until she became non-anonymous when the value of self-promotion became obvious.)

At Atrios' comments, Melissa O (goodness, she's anonymous too!) nailed the point exactly:
Atrios gets his credibility from the place you're supposed to get his credibility--from the minds of the people who read him, check whether what he says is true or insightful, and decide in the affirmative.

The idea that credibility comes from the passive acceptance of an institutional imprimatur is PROFOUNDLY DYSFUNCTIONAL. It is exemplary of eveything that is wrong with our society today. It may sometimes be the case that, for example, a news organization gained corporate ascendancy as a result of building its credibility, but corporate dominance is not a stand-in for credibility.


It is true that Atrios isn't putting his livelihood on the line every time he publishes. And maybe it's too bad that professional journalists have to do things they don't want or like to do in order to stay in business. But if Atrios were writing garbage, no one would read him. That's all there is to it.

In the same thread, I seconded Melissa's notion:
Ultimately your credibility comes not from your radio appearances or where your work is published (whether you're a journalist or not) but the quality of what you write.

This in reality is as true of published journalism as it is of blogging.

Unfortunately, the field of journalism is crowded with people who think that credibility is something you gain by who you are and who you write for. This means always treading carefully around the people who can help you get ahead.

Blogging -- honest, non-self-promotional blogging -- is risky for a journalist if he's worried about getting ahead, because inevitably you're going to piss someone off. I gave up worrying about that when I started blogging. And ya know what? My work has benefitted from it, IMHO.

I haven't gotten much in the way of publishing gigs (and hey, Mr. Farah, that includes Salon, where I used to write all the time; guess non-anonymous blogging isn't all that hot an idea) -- but I'm writing about the things that I think are important, and I'm publishing them, even if my audience is pretty limited. It's a good deal more satisfying.

But for guys like Sullivan -- and obviously, Chris Farah too -- the idea of any kind of journalism itself is inseparable from self-promotion. Which is why their work is so fundamentally dishonest and corrupt.

Sad to say, that attitude is endemic to the journalism profession these days.

[This] is why blogs are becoming as important as they are -- traditionalist hissy fits notwithstanding.

Remember, the whole significance of blogs is the fact that they have democratized the dissemination of information, going around the increasingly corporatist filters of institutional journalism. This effectively reduces the self-importance of the egos that have come to dominate journalism in the past decade or more. Everybody, even the "somebodies," becomes essentially nobodies in the blogosphere. What counts is what you write -- nothing else.

Sullywatch makes a pointed response to Sullivan on this, while World O'Crap also responds with a couple of typically hilarious posts, the first deconstructing the whole "anonyblogger" argument, and the second rather brilliantly satirizing it.

Talkin' AWOL

Eric Boehlert's piece in Salon about George W. Bush's military record is as thorough and definitive a piece as has been written yet. He really nails the core of the matter quite well:
If Bush wanted to resolve the questions about his National Guard service, he could do so very easily. If he simply agreed to release the contents of his military personnel records jacket, the Guard could make public all his discharge papers, including pay records and total retirement points, which experts say would shed the best light on where Bush was, or was not, during the time in question between 1972 and 1973. (Many of Bush's documents are available through Freedom of Information requests, but certain items deemed personal or private cannot be released without Bush's permission.)

Releasing military records has become a time-honored tradition of presidential campaigns. During the 1992 presidential election, Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, called on his Democratic opponent, Bill Clinton, to make public all personal documents relating his draft status during the Vietnam War, including any correspondences with "Clinton's draft board, the Selective Service System, the Reserve Officer Training Corps, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines, the Coast Guard, the United States departments of State and Justice, any U.S. foreign embassy or consulate." That, according to a Bush-Quayle Oct. 15, 1992, press release.

There's a lot more there. An outstanding piece.

Meanwhile, Walter Robinson of the Boston Globe, whose 2000 reportage forms the basis of much of what we do know about the case, recaps it today, but there isn't a lot of new information there.

The most revealing interview of the day, meanwhile, came courtesy of Aaron Brown of CNN last night, talking to James Webb, the former Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan:
BROWN: Don't you hate when ancient history is in your lifetime? So, how should we think about all of this if indeed we should think about it at all? Is Kerry's service relevant to today? Are his anti-war activities when he came home fair game?

And what about the president, he managed to find one of those coveted spots in the National Guard at a time, different from today, when that was very much a safe haven from Vietnam, does that matter? Does his attendance record, a matter of much debate, matter? Does all of it or any of it matter?

We're joined tonight by James Webb. Mr. Webb served as secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration, a graduate of the Naval Academy and a decorated Marine. He is also an author of some note. We're pleased to have him with us. Is it fair game all of this stuff, Senator Kerry and the president's time 30 years ago?

JAMES WEBB, FORMER SECRETARY OF THE NAVY: I think it's not only fair game but I think there are considerations that are at play here that because they illuminate larger issues of credibility could really make this kind of nasty in a surprising way.

You have John Kerry who by all accounts served very well when he was in Vietnam. When he came home he, as you mentioned, was involved in the anti-war movement, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, which was a very small group of maybe 7,000 veterans at the most, Vietnam veterans and gained a lot of antipathy from people who served in Vietnam because of his role as a spokesman in what was called the winter soldiers or the winter crimes tribunal, which was involved in laying out a long list of allegations against the people that really hurt, stigmatized the people who served.

He also was one of the architects of the (unintelligible) [probably "rapprochement"] with communist Vietnam which, on the one hand, was good but on the other he gained the anger of a lot of the Vietnamese American community leaders because he never consulted them when he was dealing with the communists, so John...

BROWN: And -- I'm sorry, and the president?

WEBB: And George Bush did none of those things, George W. In fact, he did nothing. I mean he apparently was able to get his father's political influence in order to get him in to the Texas National Guard in 1968 at the height of the war at a time when being in the National Guard virtually guaranteed that you wouldn't have to go into combat.

He later transferred over into the Alabama National Guard. As you mentioned there is some question about his attendance records. The White House has responded in a rather confusing way by saying that these records have been lost.

I can tell you having spent three years as assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs in charge of the guard and the reserve programs it would be very unusual to lose these records.

They are important for monitoring pay, also for the credit that you get for drill that goes against satisfactory performance in the guard and these sorts of things, so there are a lot of questions out there.

And, at the same time, this is taking place against the backdrop of a war that a lot of the people who served in have sons and daughters serving in now and view as unnecessary.

BROWN: Let me -- let me ask the question this way. Whatever each of them did back then or didn't do back then they were a little bit more but not much more than kids. I mean they were, you know, 20, 21, 22, 23 years old. What does that tell us really about who they are today and how they would deal with the issues of today?

WEBB: Well, I think that's a really good question first of all and a valid question because first of all we make decisions all through our lives that we have to live with for the rest of our lives. And, second, the most important question really is who is the least dangerous in terms of the situation that we're in right now?

I say that because there's an enormous amount of concern about what the Bush administration has done in terms of the Iraq War and I personally would never even have thought that large numbers of Vietnam veterans would be moving toward John Kerry because of the anger toward him from before, but you're seeing this happen now largely just because of concern over the management of the Iraq War.

BROWN: Do you think that, you know, some day our kids are going to be sitting around talking about his that this will never go away or is there something about the moment that we're in, this kind of odd moment we're in where this may be the moment where we really do as a country come to terms with Vietnam?

WEBB: Well, you know, first of all I think that all historical events that are major events in a life of a country become assimilated. They don't go away. They become a part of the national dialogue forever and that's going to happen with Vietnam.

I had two ancestors die fighting for the Confederacy in the Civil War. That's something that still resonates through the communities and the families. But the situation now is different, as you said.

The issue of Vietnam when Bill Clinton was running was different because it was sort of intergenerational. He was running against World War II veterans. This issue the last time around with Al Gore I personally think that both sides were sort of holding back heavy artillery.

They didn't want to throw it out there but there is some volatility in both -- on both sides. Both of these people have some negatives that could hurt them and since Kerry's record is already out there, he's got a long record, everybody knows what he did in the anti-war movement and this sort of thing that it's natural for the Kerry campaign strategically to go after what George W. Bush did because their guy's stuff is already out there.

It's the issue that Republicans are wishing would just go away.

And guess what? It isn't. At least not until Bush actually releases his records.

And the fact that he's not actually indicates that doing so would just confirm the worst -- and maybe more.

Finally, a quote worth remembering, for all those Republicans out there claiming Bush joined the Guard out of love of country and honor and all those good American things, and who are Democrats to question his service? Why, you're smearing everyone who served in the Guard! Well, here's Bush's own characterization of his choice, from an interview he gave the Houston Chronicle 1994:
"I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun in order to get a deferment. Nor was I willing to go to Canada. So I chose to better myself by learning how to fly airplanes."

And of course, no day would be complete without checking in on Bob Somerby's incomparable Daily Howler, which yet again carries a searing and incisive account of the press' continuing and gross mishandling of this story. You know what to do. Just click here.

An AWOL aphorism

It's becoming abundantly clear that the Rovean spinners are trying (rather desperately, I might add) to cast the questions about George Bush's military record as criticism of the fact that he served in the National Guard -- a potent talking point, if they're allowed to get away with it, because the Guard is playing such a critical role in Iraq right now.

And of course, it's completely bogus. No one's attacking Bush for serving in the Guard. The question is: Why didn't he live up to his obligations in doing so?

All together now:
"It's not the Guard duty, it's the failure to fulfill it."

[Edited to alter one word in the aphorism, by way of sharpening the point.]

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

AWOL: The next question, please

Well, you can't imagine how relieved I am to see the matter of George W. Bush's military record finally receiving the attention it deserved back in 2000.

Suffice to say that it is immensely satisfying to watch White House spokesman Scott McLellan squirming during yesterday's press conference about the subject. Noticeably, the best McLellan could do was this:
Q The Democrats have been attacking the President for months on a lot of issues. Why this issue -- why is it that you're choosing to respond to this particular issue, where in the past you've --

MR. McCLELLAN: The reasons I said. It is really shameful that this was brought up four years ago, and it's shameful that some are trying to bring it up again. I think it is sad to see some stoop to this level, especially so early in an election year. The President, like many Americans, was proud to serve in the National Guard. The National Guard plays an important role in the security of America. And the President was proud of his service.

He refused to answer any questions about it today, of course.

It was also satisfying to see the issue being addressed reasonably well by Lois Romano in the Washington Post (and hey, Orcinus was mentioned in the WaPo's White House Briefing column yesterday, too).

It's also tempting to chastize the press for its behavior. Why, we're all wondering, wasn't this story properly explored in 2000? Because every reporter in the country (even Walter Robinson, it must be noted) was too busy flogging the "Gore is a liar, Bush is a straight shooter" script we were all handed.

I have to mention that I tried my damnedest to bring this story to the attention of my editors and colleagues at while I was there the summer of 2000, and later (after I'd left the newsroom) that fall, as well. The interest, sadly, just wasn't there.

Bob Somerby pointed out yesterday (and explores even further today, by way of pointing out the flaws in Josh Marshall's otherwise superb summary of the matter) that even the latest examinations of the matter are falling rather short.

As Somerby observes, the problem with Romano's story is that it omits any discussion of the supposed "exculpatory" evidence offered by Team Bush in 2000 that supposedly demonstrated that Bush had put in duty in November 1972 -- namely, the torn document that doesn't even have Bush's name on it.

Somerby put it this way:
But note the problem with Romano's account. Clearly, the Post has decided to ignore the torn document. But Romano doesn't even mention the document's existence -- and she doesn't say why the Post has decided to disregard it. Has the Post decided the doc is a fake? If so, that means that the Bush campaign has been peddling a fraud for the past four years. Or has the Post decided that the document is too ambiguous to be trusted? In that case, shouldn't the Post at least tell readers that the famous torn document exists?

In today's post, he carries the point to the next logical step:
Meanwhile, let's pause to note an obvious point: If the "torn document" turns out to be fake, this story becomes much more serious. Indeed, if the "torn document" turns out to be bogus, this story becomes quite an A-bomb. This may be why papers are tiptoe-ing hard ...

... Can we offer one final thought about the way this tale has been covered? Let's go back to that puzzling "torn document." Clearly, the Post has refused to credit the doc; today, the Times seems to back away in its vagueness. But if the famous torn document is judged invalid, an awkward fact is thereby created -- it means that the Bush campaign, for the past four years, has been peddling a military document that is phony. Our guess would be that none of these papers wants to step into that ugly mire. Our guess? Both these papers are hiding behind desks, hoping this story expires.

It's especially worth observing that this torn document was not provided to the Post in 1999 in response to its FOIA requests for Bush's military records -- but it was given to the Boston Globe in 2000, as well as to Iowa citizen farmer/public hero Marty Heldt, whose dogged legwork in the case has been largely responsible for keeping the story alive all these years. (Here is the complete set of documents compiled by Marty: The Military Records of George W. Bush.)

Indeed, Marty -- who posted much of the material at Salon's Table Talk forum beginning in 1999, which is where I first encountered the information -- had this to say today in TT:
The papers don't want to face the fact that the documents Bush uses to defend his Guard record are the documents his campaign had placed into the record.

How can that be ignored by journalists?

I keep going back to what we have here with Lloyd because I find it truly remarkable that this old acquaintance of Bush is first the currator and then the discoverer of the very documents that Bush uses to defend his record.

It's time that somebody calls it what it is, a coverup.

Eventually, they may get around to that. It depends on how long the Bush folks insist on trying to ignore the press' questions -- particularly the most germane one raised so far, namely: "Why doesn't Bush release his military records like every other presidential candidate?"

In the meantime, there is some more material to ponder regarding the potential coverup of Bush's records that likely occurred back when he was preparing to run.

Recall, if you will, the story that was just breaking on the eve of the election regarding Bush's military records -- a former National Guardsman named Bill Burkett stepped forward and told the Times of London he had watched Bush aides -- notably Dan Bartlett, who is now the White House Communications Director -- "scrubbing" Bush's military files.

The Times story appears no longer available, but Bob Fertik at the partisan has this summary:
Bill Burkett, a Lt. Colonel who was the State Plans Officer of the Texas National Guard at the time, said Bush operative Dan Bartlett headed a high-level operation to "scrub" Bush's Air National Guard record, to make sure it was in synch with the biography that the campaign was preparing.

Fertik also points to the dubious quality of the "torn document" as suggestive of a coverup:
Thus, the assertion by Bill Burkett that Dan Bartlett and his operatives may have modified Bush's Air National Guard records takes on exceptional significance. Bartlett's "scrubbing" operation in 1997 could have inserted these mysterious documents, or removed significant information from the torn document. In addition, Bartlett's operation could have removed or altered other revealing documents.

Indeed, there is corroborating evidence that Bush campaign operatives have devoted considerable effort to "scrubbing" public records to conceal other evidence of Bush's wrongdoing. For example, Bush got a new driver's license after he was elected Governor, which appears to be completely unprecedented. This prevented reporters from discovering Bush's DUI arrest in Maine in 1976.

Burkett shortly backed away from claiming he had observed anything untoward or serious tampering. But he did say this:
"I stated that the way this had been handled by the Bush staff including knowledgeable military officials at the Texas national guard, that it left the implication that the Bush staff had first incompetently provided an incomplete military file for the Governor which was consistent with his autobiography. I further observed that they probably did not anticipate that the file would be scrutinized to the level that it was. Whenever someone determined holes is service "big enough to drive a Mack truck through," additional information [all of which was unofficial and some in pencil notations] were then submitted to the press to answer questions. I further observed the this 'trust me, I'm the Governor' approach had worked throughout Texas for George W. Bush within his tenure and the media had given the Governor a free pass without the same scrutiny as the Vice President until the eleventh hour revelation of the DUI. But this still left the basic question: Why didn't Governor Bush simply release his military pay files and retirement points accounting records, which are the only OFFICIAL records that will show that he satisfactorily and honorably completed his service commitment?"

Awhile later, Burkett conducted an interview with journalist Greg Palast, the contents of which are recounted here:
Palast interviews retired Lt. Colonel Bill Burkett of the Texas Air National Guard (TANG), who states on camera that shortly after George W. became Texas' governor in the 1990s, he witnessed a speakerphone call from the Texas governor's office to TANG, and overheard the caller tell Guard officers to "clean [Bush's] records from his files." Palast says that after the call, Burkett "asked the officers if they'd carried out the questionable orders, and they said 'absolutely.' They pointed, and Burkett saw in the [shredding designated] trashcan George W. Bush's ... pay [and retirement points] records."

The reason Bush is not releasing his records may very well be that they no longer exist. Which in itself raises a whole cauldron of nasty new questions.

The first of which is: Will any reporters be brave or smart enough to ask them?

Strawberry Days forever

Tom Takeo Matsuoka, at age 98

I got some good news the other day that I wanted to share here: My historical account of a Japanese-American community destroyed by the internment is being published next year:

Strawberry Days: The Rise and Fall of a Japanese-American Community

It's being picked up by Palgrave/St. Martin's Press, publishers of my second book, Death on the Fourth of July: The Story of a Killing, a Trial, and Hate Crimes in Modern America. That's due to hit the shelves in July, for those interested.

I'm awfully pleased to see Strawberry Days getting into print. It's actually the first book I wrote -- the original manuscript dates back to 1995. It originated with an award-winning series I wrote while news editor of the old Bellevue Journal American back in 1992, for which I conducted the original interviews that are its basis. In the ensuing years, I've conducted numerous more interviews and compiled even more research (the original version was not very good, to be frank). It's really been a 10-year project for me, and I'm very proud of the result. Unfortunately, many of my original interviewees have since passed away, including the book's main figure, a 98-year-old Nisei (and a great human being) named Tom Takeo Matsuoka, whose portrait appears above.

Kudos to my agents, Greg Dinkins and Frank Scatoni at Venture Literary, who continue to do a bang-up job for me. And many thanks too to Brendan O'Malley, my editor at Palgrave.

[While I'm on the subject, I hope everyone has been checking out my extended series at The American Street titled "Slouching Towards Manzanar," which springboards from the experitise I picked up in the writing of Strawberry Days to explore the ramifications of the World War II internment for America in the post-9/11 environment.]

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Ricin and terrorism

It's hard to tell at this point about the nature of the recent appearance of a suspicious white powder, which tested positive for ricin, in the U.S. Senate Building's mailroom.

Like anthrax, mailing a powder is only a partially effective way to attack anyone with ricin. It is most effective when either injected or ingested, though it is certainly feasible to make it in a powder form that, like the anthrax attacks of 2001, can be relatively deadly, depending on the nature of the powder and how readily it becomes airborne. (The 2001 anthrax powder was quite sophisticated and was clearly produced by someone with advanced skills and specialized knowledge and equipment.) Its effects are almost immediate. It is a real poison, not a disease-inducing pathogen like anthrax.

Whoever did this was clearly trying to scare the Senate, and probably by "piggybacking" off the anthrax attack fears -- which themselves clearly "piggybacked" off the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. As with the anthrax attacks, if they really hoped to kill someone with ricin, they were not terribly competent about it.

Notably, of course, the early media reports -- like the MSNBC version -- have so far mostly focused on the possibility that this was the act of Al Qaeda or some other international terrorist. The possibility of domestic terrorism has not been discussed:
Police found traces of ricin in a north London apartment last January and arrested seven men of North African origin in connection with the virulent toxin that has been linked to al-Qaida terrorists and Iraq.

A package containing ricin was also found at a post facility serving Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in South Carolina in October.

However, the CNN version at least notes that the latter incident involved a "typewritten letter [that] was addressed to the Department of Transportation and demanded that changes in truckers' sleep/work schedules not be implemented." Not exactly a concern for Al Qaeda.

Actually, ricin has a long and colorful history among members of the American far right, and suspicions of domestic terrorism certainly should be raised here.

Here is a fact sheet on ricin from the Center for Defense Information. It notes, particularly, the following incident:
In 1995, members of the Minnesota Patriots Council, an extremist American anti-government organization, were arrested for plotting the murder of a U.S. marshal using ricin. They had planned on sprinkling the substance on the door handles of the marshal's vehicle as well as the car heater fan. The incident illustrates the potential common danger even a small and relatively unsophisticated organization can wreak. Indeed, had those who carried out the 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subways used ricin -- which is far deadlier and easier to produce -- the results could have been catastrophic.

The Minnesota case was not the only one. Numerous figures associated with America's extremist right have over the years dabbled with ricin.

For instance, there was the bizarre case of Larry C. Brown, the Irvine, Calif., gynecologist whose strange double life came to light in early 2000 after he tried to have his business partner killed, unsuccessfully. Two days later, Brown himself committed suicide. Investigators found a large cache of weapons and vials of pathogens, including a large cache of ricin that was stored with a blowgun and darts in the family room. They also found, as the story described, that Brown was "a man with ties to racist, antigovernment groups in the United States who also developed a relationship with apartheid South Africa's secret biological and chemical weapons program, Project Coast."
After his death, Detective Ray said, the authorities learned that Dr. Ford had been a consultant to Project Coast, which has been accused of creating weapons for use against enemies of apartheid. They also discovered that he had held extreme racist views and had once told a girlfriend that to understand him, she should read "The Turner Diaries," the anti-Semitic and white supremacist novel, popular among far-right groups, that was prosecutors say inspired the Oklahoma City bombing.

There have been other cases involving right-wingers caught with ricin, and instructions for making the stuff are often described in far-right survivalist manuals. One white supremacist arrested in Chicago in 2002 fantasized about killing the 850 African American residents of a housing project with ricin as part of a plan to start a race war.

A recent case in Spokane also involved ricin. A Boy Scout leader named Kenneth Olsen bought a CD-ROM from an Arkansas right-wing survivalist named Kurt Saxon that contained details on how to make ricin; Olsen made the stuff, which he purportedly planned to use to kill his wife. He was convicted and given a 13-year sentence.

There have been other cases over the years as well, including the 1999 case of James Kenneth Gluck, an antigovernment extremist who threatened Colorado officials with ricin.

The point, of course, is not to conclude that this ricin attack is necessarily the work of domestic terrorists -- rather, it is to point out that they should be considered co-equal suspects in this case.

That was, after all, the ultimate conclusion in the anthrax case. But it took far too long for everyone to realize that -- and perhaps as a result, that killer is still roaming free. Indeed, there is at least some likelihood that today's news may be a direct reflection of that fact.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Push-polling The Passion

As predicted, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ is turning out to be not just another religious movie -- it's being transformed into a major front in the Culture Wars by a coalescence of the religious right, conservative-movement ideologues and right-wing extremists. They evidently see it as a major event in promoting hardline fundamentalist beliefs, but most of all see it as an opportunity to crush rampant liberalism for its alleged "persecution" of the film.

You see, anyone who hates this film is "anti-Christian." This of course includes all the Jewish leaders and Christian theologians and Catholic scholars who have raised doubts about its content.

The latest evidence of this is an online poll being run by the far-right transmitter Web site NewsMax, in a classic case of push-polling that rather closely resembles the American Family Association's phony online poll on gay marriage:

1) Do you support Mel Gibson in producing "The Passion of Christ"?

I support Mel / I don't support Mel

2) Do you believe Mel Gibson is an anti-Semite?

Anti-Semite / Not an anti-Semite

3) Should Mel Gibson have portrayed Jesus' death so accurately?

Should have / Should not have

4) Do you believe Gibsons' "Passion of Christ" should be shown in theaters?

Yes, it should be shown / No, it should not be shown

5) Will you go to see this movie if it is in your local movie theater?

Yes, I would like to see it / No, I would not see it

For anyone needing clues, here's the handy Orcinus Guide to Phony Mel Gibson Polls:
1) Gibson of course has the right to make any damned movie he wants -- though one wonders when he transformed from action-flick hunk to theologian -- but he doesn't have the right to expect it to be immune from criticism -- especially if it turns out to be a piece of violent anti-Semitic propaganda disguised as "art."

2) For background on the question of the film's anti-Semitic elements, as well as the likelihood that Gibson harbors anti-Semitic beliefs, see the posts here, here and here.

3) The film's "accuracy" -- or that of any Passion Play -- was recently assessed in this Los Angeles Times op-ed. All we can add to this is that we have scanned the Gospels, and are still looking for those scenes in which A) Jewish leaders pass out bribes to assure Jesus' execution, B) the cross is constructed in the Jewish temple, C) Jesus' shoulder is yanked out of its socket, and D) his cross is dragged face-down through the streets after he has been nailed onto it.

4) Well, we just don't believe in censorship. But neither do we believe in patronizing theaters that condone anti-Semitic propaganda.

5) Some of us are forced to attend this film in order to report back to our readers. But otherwise, we'd have a tough time seeing why anyone would want to endure two-plus hours of gruesome sado-masochism disguised as a religious experience.

Hope this helps.

In the meantime, be sure to check out the collection of reviews of the film compiled by that icon of religious patriotism, Jesus' General. You'll observe, of course, that its supporters run precisely the gamut described above: religious-right fundamentalists, movement conservatives, and right-wing extremists. (And this rundown even manages to overlook the gushing reviews from such fine organs of intellectual and religious probity as the anti-Semitic La Voz de Aztlan and the Australian Holocaust-denial outfit The Adelaide Institute.)

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Domestic terror in perspective

Well, the Associated Press has finally picked up on the Texas cyanide bomb case. Its version of the story has appeared in numerous papers, and on the CNN Web site.

For Orcinus readers -- or, for that matter, readers of the New York Times, Los Angeles Times [and Seattle Times] or Christian Science Monitor -- this story will be old hat. There's very little in the way of fresh detail here.

However, the AP reporter, Lisa Falkenberg, overall did a nice job of putting together the basic facts of the case. She properly emphasizes its domestic-terror aspects, particularly the pure-luck aspects of the known arrests so far, and how that fact does not particularly reflect well upon the investigation. She also interviews Dan Levitas and gets in his perspective, which is important to keep in mind:
"I have no doubt whatsoever that had these men been affiliated with al-Qaida, we would have heard more," said Daniel Levitas, author of the book "The Terrorist Next Door: The Militia Movement and the Radical Right." "There is something of a blind spot within the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., when it comes to the violent potential of America's own homegrown version of al-Qaida."

But the story is also notable for what it misses. It concludes thus:
[U.S. Attirney Brit] Featherston said hundreds of subpoenas were issued and the Texas case was investigated just as thoroughly as foreign cases.

"There's international terrorism and domestic terrorism, but they're all terrorism," he said. "I don't care which one it is or what color their skin is. If their intention is to do harm to the citizens of this country, then all the resources necessary from the local level to the federal level will be put into the case."

Featherston's protests seem reasonable, except that there are demonstrable problems with it. There is substantial evidence, in fact, that the investigation has fallen far short of a vigorous one.

Recall, if you will, the revelation that, eight months into the investigation, the FBI failed to communicate with its own offices in locales where these bomb-building extremists supposedly met:
The list in Krar's car included Winchester and Roanoke; Harrisburg and Scranton, Pa.; Chattanooga, Bristol, and Knoxville, Tenn.; Jackson, Miss.; and Shreveport, La.

One year later, local law enforcement officials are in the dark.

"I have received no information from anyone prior to this that Winchester was a designated meeting area for terrorists," city Police Chief Gary W. Reynolds said on Thursday. "This particular incident, if true, certainly needs to be fixed."

? The FBI office in Dallas led the investigation, said Lawrence Barry, chief division counsel for the Richmond Division of the FBI.

Though his division did not handle the investigation, information-sharing among law enforcement is supposed to have become standard practice since Sept. 11, 2001, Barry said.

The AP report also had the virtue of finally catching the attention of Glenn Reynolds, whose first reaction was that of someone encountering this story for the first time.

Perhaps this is why Reynolds, somewhat predictably, uses the story to springboard into his two favorite themes when it comes to right-wing extremists: A) they might form an alliance with Islamist extresmists! and B) they might form an alliance with left-wing extremists! These are his two favorite themes, of course, because the root of all evil in Reynoldsland are the twin threads of dark-skinned Muslims and left-wing antiwar liberals. Associating right-wing extremists with these two factions is much easier for someone like Glenn than associating them with a perhaps more logical faction, like, for instance, right-wingers. Ah well.

There is some truth, in fact, to the possibility that American right-wing extremists and Muslim extremists have been forming alliances. However, these alliances are superficial at best, and at this point any associations are nascent. Most of these associations have been through anti-Semitic activism, fomenting hatred of Jews, and Holocaust denial. The most recent example of this was the appearance of former neo-Nazi Bill Baker on the fundamentalist Muslim speaking circuit.

There has, in other words, been very little association with Muslim terrorists. Moreover, American right-wing terrorists are not terribly likely to actually form these alliances, since most of them are in fact Klan-type racists who have even less tolerance for brown-skinned people than your average white conservative Republican apologist.

But Reynolds really goes off the deep end when he links to this post by Justin Katz, which postulates the following:
The scary thought to which this led me is that these extremists will realize that the Z.O.G. has already reached the highest tiers of our government (hint: the name with which they disguise themselves starts with "neo"). When they figure that out, the right-wing nuts will find that they have common cause with the left-wing nuts, who have common cause with the "diverse" "third-world" nuts, who already have common cause with the sort of people who have maps to bomb shelters and weapons caches tattooed on the soles of their feet.

I'm not sure if I've encountered anything as laughably convoluted and ludicrous in the blogosphere before, but this post sets a new low watermark. World O'Crap gives it a proper thumping:
Yeah, because, as we all know, "neocon" is code for "Jew," and the left-wing nuts hate the neocons. So, as soon as the white-supremacist/militiaist nuts like Krar (who already hate the government and the non-Aryans, but never realized that Jews were running things) figure this out, they will join up with the left-wing nuts who denounce Feith, Perle, Wolfowitz, etc., for being too warlike -- and then both groups will team up with the Arabs (who also hate the Jews), and their combined forces will DESTROY AMERICA.

Reality check: There are instances of right-wing extremists circulating belief systems (notably currency and "constitutional law" scams) among left-wing extremists, and they definitely share conspiracy theories (the "contrails are poisoning us" theory is popular with both sets, for example). However, right-wing extremists loathe the far left almost as much as they do brown people, and there have been no known associations of their violent factions whatsoever.

At least Reynolds' own musings are better grounded, if well short of the mark:
Though domestic extremists are a different breed, and often seem to view the accretion of huge arsenals as an end in itself -- they're waiting for some future date when war breaks out against the "Zionist Occupation Government." That provides only limited comfort, however, as one can never be sure when they'll decide that the time has arrived.

Actually, the problem posed by domestic terrorists like William Krar goes well beyond this. As I pointed out some time back:
It is important to keep in mind that the same folks who brought us Oklahoma City are still out there, still looking for opportunities to strike. And they have explicitly recognized that the post-Sept. 11 environment is ripe for taking action that benefits them.

After all, their agenda is to create as much social chaos as possible -- to so disrupt society, and divide it, and create as much terror and fear as possible, that eventually people come to believe (as they do) that democracy is a failure, that it cannot keep them secure; and so, they believe, eventually the white populace will swarm to their authoritarian agenda when that becomes clear. That has been their agenda for some time, and was the driving purpose of Oklahoma City.

They clearly see the chance now to piggyback off the Al Qaeda and anthrax attacks as prime opportunities for creating serious chaos. Consider, if you will, one of the last radio addresses made by the late William Pierce, author of The Turner Diaries, remarking on the post-9/11 environment:

"Things are a bit brittle now. A few dozen more anthrax cases, another truck bomb in a well chosen location, and substantial changes could take place in a hurry: a stock market panic, martial law measures by the Bush government, and a sharpening of the debate as to how we got ourselves into this mess in the first place."

This is one of the reasons the focus, from both the media and from the upper levels of government, on international terrorism generally and Al Qaeda particularly is terribly short-sighted.

What Sept. 11 -- especially viewed in conjunction with Oklahoma City -- demonstrated irrevocably is that the threat of terrorism to America's well-being is not merely substantial but multi-faceted. Trying to tackle the problem on only one front merely leaves another exposed.

Domestic terrorists matter not because of whatever alliances they may seek with international terrorists, but because they themselves represent a distinct threat. More to the point, they are highly opportunistic, and will only see the current environment increasingly as giving them an opening. The levels of fear that have been stirred up not only by Islamist terrorists but by our own government -- waving "orange alerts" in our faces that only underscore their incompetence and the unlikelihood of keeping us secure, putting the vice president on national television to warn us that terrorists are likely to strike at any time -- only enhance this environment.

Any domestic terrorist -- like, say, the anthrax killer -- already knows that, in this milieu, he can strike with relative impunity, and rest assured that law enforcement and media attention will operate primarily for the first few days and even weeks on the presumption that any attack was perpetrated by Islamists -- giving them more than enough time to ensure the trail will grow cold, and enhancing the likelihood they'll get away with it. So far, the anthrax killer has.

And if William Krar indeed has associates out there with cyanide bombs he constructed -- well, so far, so have they.

Link note: For anyone wanting quick licks to this site's coverage of the Krar case, you can find them -- in more or less chronological order, here:

The wrong kind of terrorist

Why domestic terrorism matters

Cyanide bombers: an update

Levitas weighs in

Armed to the teeth

Missing the threat

Marketing terror

More on Tyler

The Tyler case

Missing the connections

Cyanide bombs

'The American Taliban

AWOL again

bolo boffin has cobbled together an incisive analysis of the questionable documents offered by the Bush campaign to explain away the large gap in his National Guard Service in Alabama.

Of course, as previously noted, it's open question whether these documents are even legitimate or not. As Bob Somerby observes, this "absurdly strange document" consists of "a torn piece of paper in his Guard records, a statement of points Bush apparently earned in 1972-73, although most of the dates and Bush's name except for the 'W' have been torn off."

But even if the documents are legit, as boffin demonstrates, they actually do very little to actually exculpate Bush:
But from 26 May 72 until 28 Nov 72, Bush blew off his Guard duty to work in Winston Blount's failed Senatorial campaign. He applied for one transfer to an Kansas unit and moved before the transfer was approved (it wasn't). In September, Bush applied again for an Alabama unit and was ordered to report for duty in October. He didn't.

He also blew off his piloting license. He missed his physical, because of his own admission that he no longer "intended" to fly, this despite the years of training at government expense. Do Guardsmen get to decide unilaterally what they will and will not do in the Guard? Bush was allowed this sovereignty.

But not forever. By my reading of his record, Bush got some form of talking-to in November. He showed up for some makeup days somewhere. But all was not well in Lt. Bush's life. That Christmas, he took an underage Marvin out drinking and challenged his dad to settle their differences "mano a mano." When he sobered up from that one, he got back into a routine of attendance, getting the points he needed for the quarter.

Regardless of the documents' legitimacy, the matter of Bush's absence from early May 1972 through late November 1972 -- a period of over seven months -- has gone undisputed. Oddly enough, the people who deny that Bush went AWOL completely ignore this gap in his service -- as do the reporters who continue to profess (and demonstrate) real ignorance about the facts of the case.

The most recent case of this came with David Halbfinger's recent New York Times report on the John Kerry campaign. It featured former Sen. Max Cleland's remarks:
It was former Senator Max Cleland of Georgia, who lost three limbs in Vietnam, who delivered the most scathing attack on President Bush on behalf of Mr. Kerry, a decorated Vietnam War veteran.

"We need a real deal, like John Kerry, not a raw deal, like what's in the White House now," Mr. Cleland said, as his voice fell nearly to a whisper. "We need somebody who felt the sting of battle -- not someone who didn't even complete his tour stateside in the Guard."

Mr. Bush was in the Air National Guard in Texas from 1972 to 1973, but did not appear for duty from May to November 1972 when he was working as the campaign manager for Winton M. Blount, a Republican Senate candidate in Alabama. A National Guard official and Mr. Bush's spokesmen have said he made up the dates, as Guard regulations allow.

Actually, the Times itself reported in 2000 that Guard regulations were rather stricter -- and in fact require servicemen to make up lost dates within the three-month period in which they occur:
Colonel Turnipseed, who retired as a general, said in an interview that regulations allowed Guard members to miss duty as long as it was made up within the same quarter.

For some reason, the NYT -- along with bloggers like Bill Hobbs -- considered Turnipseed's remark exculpatory, and it was, insofar as his Alabama service went (if you find that torn document credible).

But it is quite damning concerning the May-November gap. Bush clearly did not make up the time lost beginning May 1972 -- and for the next seven months -- within that quarter.

Of course, all this could be cleared up at a moment's notice if Bush -- like every other major presidential candidate of the past half-century -- were to release his military records. Funny thing about that.

Mirror, mirror

Atrios links (hilariously) to this piece from last spring by the Weekly Standard's Jonathan Last, in which he gloated -- rather prematurely -- that the antiwar folks had been proven wrong, wrong, wrong about the invasion of Iraq.

Oddly enough, nearly all of the instances Last cites have, in the intervening months, been proven right, right, right. Most notable is this, from Salon's Scott Rosenberg:
But, as we have heard the military saying goes, "Hope is not a plan." The plan was Bush's and Cheney's and Rumsfeld's, and as a result of it, hundreds of thousands of American and British soldiers are now stuck in what could prove to be a much more harrowing situation than those planners promised. . . .

And this, from Tina Brown in the London Times:
The pre-invasion hype had all been about festive Iraqis stocking up on flowers to give the kind of toothy colonial welcome the Queen gets from dancing Maoris on a royal tour. Now look what's happened. Our boys are faced with a medieval siege of Baghdad, and the reprisals of Saddam's death squads, with nothing to prepare the American public but the DVD of "Black Hawk Down."

But the most accurate assessment, in the end, was Last's conclusion -- though it probably did not occur to him that it would ultimately apply directly to his own work:
But why should anyone take them seriously? They've been proven wrong on the question of the day and then failed to demonstrate any serious capacity for introspection. They're not public thinkers. They're not journalists. They're activists.

Indeed, Jonathan.

By their friends shall ye know them

Now joining forces with the Traditional Values Coalition, Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, American Family Association and a whole host of conservative pundits -- as well as certain members of the Bush administration -- in the valiant fight against that dire threat, homosexual unions, to that great American institution, marriage ...

... the National Alliance!
Far right weighs in on gay marriage

[T]his week, a far-right group called the National Alliance distributed fliers on many Roslindale driveways stating that same-sex marriages are the "latest attack on our family values, which have formed the very basis of White society for time immemorial."

... The Transcript obtained one of the fliers, and it listed a post office box in Hathorne, a small town outside Danvers, as well as a phone number to call. When called, the group's leader explains the group's mission to "take our society back."

The group, based out of West Virginia, has a Web site that encourages bigotry, homophobia, antisemitism, racism and white supremacy.

The group even has a campaign to free a Ku Klux Klan member imprisoned for six counts of firearm possession.

This does not mean, of course, that mainstream conservatives' arguments that gay unions threaten the institution of marriage are the same as those deployed by white supremacists.

They are, however, identical in their logic -- or lack thereof. And it neatly illustrates the way outfits like the NA capably hijack conservative issues as a way to recruit from the mainstream.

Making enemies

You know, I can't help but think that blaming the CIA for cooking the WMD books in Iraq is not really a very smart move on the part of the Bushites. As Jimmy Carter learned to his everlasting chagrin, the intelligence community has a way of making you pay -- dearly -- when you piss on them.

Of course, maybe Team Bush has already written off the CIA, which is evidently quite out of sorts about Valerie Plame.