Thursday, August 31, 2006

Today's Hypershrill

Right-of-Center Washington Post security analyst William Arkin:

Rumsfeld's Enemy: It's Us - Early Warning: Either Rumsfeld has delivered one of the most important speeches of the modern era, or he's gone crazy. I think the latter, not just because I think the secretary is wrong on his intellectual characterization of terrorism, and not just because he is wrong about the media and its intentions, and not because he is so pugnacious, or because he has been wrong so many times before.

Rumsfeld is so wrong about America... his argument... not only polarizing but ineffective.... This is not the first time that Rumsfeld has shown himself to be so out of touch, so contemptuous of America.... Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld pushed a losing strategy in Afghanistan... declared "mission accomplished" long before President Bush stepped on to the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln... wrong in fighting and too quick to declare victory thereafter.... And even as Iraq has become one of the biggest hornets' nests in history, the secretary has convinced himself over and over that progress is being made and victory is just around the corner...

Right-of-Center Gregory Djerejian:

The Belgravia Dispatch: Unity, Then and Now: Time constraints have prevented me from analyzing Donald Rumsfeld's dishonest and repulsive speech... Rumsfeld's transparent demagoguery...

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The New York Times Editorial Page Is Shrill

Good to see:

The Falling Paycheck - New York Times: After huddling with his economic team at Camp David this month, President Bush emerged from a meeting and... announced to reporters, "Things are good for American workers.

The comment is preposterous. As The Times's Steven Greenhouse and David Leonhardt reported yesterday, the economic expansion that began in late 2001 is on track to become the first since World War II that fails to offer a sustained lift to the real wages of most American workers. Although the nation's economy has grown and productivity has been strong, American employees have not shared in the wealth they've helped to create.... Until recently, the decline in real wages has been masked in large part by the housing boom that allowed many Americans to borrow and spend, even as their pay was squeezed. But now the housing market is flagging and with it, the Bush-era economy -- without American workers having ever experienced a period of solid prosperity.

Unfortunately, there's little likelihood of meaningful improvement anytime soon. When Mr. Bush and his advisers are not insisting that everything is fine, they're promising more high-end tax cuts as a cure-all, or painting the problem as one of impersonal market forces for which there are no government solutions.

Those are not the paths out of the predicament. Just the opposite, they are approaches that have contributed to it.

The Editors Are Shrill

Tremble before their eldritch beaks:

The Poor Man Institute: the conduct of our current war leaves me with no doubt that, had Rumsfeld & Friends been in charge during Kosovo, we would all be speaking Serbian right now...

The Shillness of William Arkin Surpasses All Bounds

Arkin Fhtagn!!

Rumsfeld's Enemy: It's Us - Early Warning: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld delivered a fire-and-brimstone speech at the American Legion's annual convention yesterday -- after acknowledging young soldiers serving in Iraq and giving the boy scouts a shout-out, the secretary wove an elaborate picture of an enemy made up of terrorists, morally misguided Westerners, disagreeable military strategists, and a cynical news media.

Rumsfeld stated there could be no appeasing the enemy and any "any moral or intellectual confusion about who and what is right or wrong can weaken the ability of free societies to persevere."

The "who" Rumsfeld is talking about is himself.

Rumsfeld is the "who" that is right, and everyone who disagrees is not only wrong, but a danger to freedom.

Within minutes of the conclusion of Rumsfeld's speech yesterday, I received an e-mail from Thayer C. Scott, the secretary's speechwriter, serving up talking points.

The Defense Department then took the unusual step, usually reserved for its broadsides against Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker, of issuing a statement saying that the Associated Press coverage of Rumsfeld's Salt Lake City remarks mischaracterized them.

Either Rumsfeld has delivered one of the most important speeches of the modern era, or he's gone crazy.

I think the latter, not just because I think the secretary is wrong on his intellectual characterization of terrorism, and not just because he is wrong about the media and its intentions, and not because he is so pugnacious, or because he has been wrong so many times before.

Rumsfeld is so wrong about America. His use of World War I history and the specter of fascism and appeasement, and his argument about moral weakness or even treason in any who oppose him, is not only polarizing but ineffective in provoking debate and discussion about the proper course this country must take to "fight" terrorism.

This is not the first time that Rumsfeld has shown himself to be so out of touch, so contemptuous of America. Rumsfeld as secretary of defense has displayed a contempt from long before 9/11 for anyone who disagrees with him, particularly in his initial wars against those in the uniformed military.

Moreover, Rumsfeld's declaration of war yesterday follows from his basic view that the Defense Department has to do it all: He has created an intelligence bureaucracy because he is distrustful and contemptuous of the CIA and all others. He has built up a secret army and covert capabilities in special operations forces because he wants to control and to rely only upon his own warriors. He has created a homeland security apparatus that looks over the shoulder of the Department of Homeland Security and is the ultimate arbiter of security. He has created his own FBI in the Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), and fought to ensure that the NSA stays under Pentagon control. He has created his own law and his own human rights policy. He has subverted Congress through unexamined supplemental budgets and super-secret programs.

Even as a military strategist, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld pushed a losing strategy in Afghanistan. This is not just because he went to war with an initially small force. After all, the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda began just weeks after 9/11 and that was what could be mobilized in that short period. The tragic error was that Rumsfeld continued to think that the terrorist threat existed in the form of a small army to be routed by his fabulous "transformed" warriors.

It is Rumsfeld who declared "mission accomplished" long before President Bush stepped on to the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. Rumsfeld has been wrong in fighting and too quick to declare victory thereafter.

Rumsfeld declared victory in Afghanistan, in addition, because he was twitching to move on to the next enemy, and the next and the next. But even when the weaknesses and problems became apparent about how the Afghanistan war had been fought, Rumsfeld still pushed an identical military strategy in Iraq, brushing aside any criticism as naïve and appeasing and out of touch with the new gathering storm of weapons of mass destruction.

And even as Iraq has become one of the biggest hornets' nests in history, the secretary has convinced himself over and over that progress is being made and victory is just around the corner. America, Rumsfeld says, is not to blame, conflating a just war with a preemptive American strike. America is not to blame and therefore Rumsfeld is not to blame: no missteps, no errors of judgment. The secretary just wants his soldiers to believe now that he anticipated all along that the enemy was totalitarian and fascist and that Iraq was part of the big plan.

If I were the conspiratorial type, I'd say Rumsfeld was a particular menace to America because in his view of a monolithic and totalitarian terrorist enemy, and in his analysis of the weakness of American society, he can only come to the messianic conclusion that he indeed needs to takeover the country in order to save it. And this might even be worth speculating about were it the case that Rumsfeld reflected the views of those in the military leadership, or were it the case that Rumsfeld could actually engineer such a coup.

But alas, the secretary would get the intelligence wrong, employ too few troops and send tank columns on thunder runs through Manhattan and Hollywood, prematurely declaring victory and then being befuddled about the American desire to recover and preserve its way of life, which is not the Rumsfeld way.

"Can we truly afford to return to the destructive view that America -- not the enemy -- is the real source of the world’s troubles?," Rumsfeld asked yesterday.

This has got an easy answer: World troubles? Rumsfeld is the source of troubles much closer to home.

Fire Donald Rumsfeld. Impeach George W. Bush. Impeach Richard Cheney. Do it now.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Gerard Baker is Shrill!

The screaming sound you hear is The Times' US editor Gerard Baker waking up, alarmedly pointing out the government is naked, being told he must be wrong, and realizing the awful truth: there, under the cold uncaring stars, the emperor has no clothes.

“HOW’M I DOIN’?” was the question the quixotic Ed Koch used to ask New York’s voters during Hizzoner’s eleven turbulent years as the city’s mayor. For a man who governed the globe’s most neurotic metropolis in the style of a rolling public psychiatric consultation, it was a fitting question.

But as the world contemplates the nervous breakdown of American policy in the Middle East, it is something President George Bush should surely be asking himself, or at least his fellow Americans. How’m I doin’?

Let’s see. You invaded Iraq because you argued you would be able to bring about a peaceful, democratic society in the heart of the Arab world, a step vital to the eradication of modern terrorism. Many of us supported the project because we believed the stakes were so high that you would not stint in committing the resources necessary to achieve it.

But you tried to do it on the cheap. If many of us miscalculated the scale of the threat Iraq posed, there was no excuse for the woeful lack of preparation by your Administration for the task of pacifying the country.

The outcome? A broken nation on the verge of civil war, prey to the avarice of tyrannical regional neighbours, violently immolating itself and nurturing new generations of terrorists.

How’m I doin’?

You're doing fine, Gerard. fhtagn.

Monday, August 28, 2006

You Go to War with the President You Have, Not the President You Wish You Had

TBogg writes:

TBogg - "...a somewhat popular blogger" : Shorter Victor Davis Reductum Ad Absurdum Hansen:

It is possible that using the most inarticulate and stupid President in my lifetime to explain the war on terror to the yokels was a bad idea.


Victor Davis Hanson on At War on National Review Online: the president must explain the pathologies of the Middle East to such a degree as to warn Americans of our mortal danger, but not to the point of excess so that we feel that there is no hope for such people. He must somehow suggest that jihadism could not imperil us were it not for the moderates who tolerate and appease it--while this is the very same group that we feel duty-bound to offer an alternative other than theocracy or dictatorship. And he must offer a postwar plan of reconstruction to the citizens of the Middle East at a time when many of them do not feel that their romantic jihadists have ever really been defeated at all.

Even the eloquence of a Lincoln or Churchill would find all that difficult.


Finish the thought, Victor!

Even the eloquence of a Lincoln or would find all that difficult, but the ineloquence of a Bush makes it impossible.

It's not shrillness, exactly, but we will not be picky. It will do.

And so we say the words that we thought would never be said, not if we waited until the stars grew cold and the frozen armies of the Great Old Ones clashed on the plain of Megiddo:

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Victor Davis Hansen R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!!

You Go to War with the President You Have, Not the President You Wish You Had

TBogg writes:

TBogg - "...a somewhat popular blogger" : Shorter Victor Davis Reductum Ad Absurdum Hansen:

It is possible that using the most inarticulate and stupid President in my lifetime to explain the war on terror to the yokels was a bad idea.


Victor Davis Hanson on At War on National Review Online: the president must explain the pathologies of the Middle East to such a degree as to warn Americans of our mortal danger, but not to the point of excess so that we feel that there is no hope for such people. He must somehow suggest that jihadism could not imperil us were it not for the moderates who tolerate and appease it--while this is the very same group that we feel duty-bound to offer an alternative other than theocracy or dictatorship. And he must offer a postwar plan of reconstruction to the citizens of the Middle East at a time when many of them do not feel that their romantic jihadists have ever really been defeated at all.

Even the eloquence of a Lincoln or Churchill would find all that difficult.


Finish the thought, Victor!

Even the eloquence of a Lincoln or would find all that difficult, but the ineloquence of a Bush makes it impossible.

It's not shrillness, exactly, but we will not be picky. It will do.

And so we say the words that we thought would never be said, not if we waited until the stars grew cold and the frozen armies of the Great Old Ones clashed on the plain of Megiddo:

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Victor Davis Hansen R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!!

Friday, August 25, 2006

General John Batiste Is Shrill!

Welcome, general:

Think Progress: Gen. Batiste: Rumsfeld "Served Up Our Great Military A Huge Bowl of Chicken Feces": Today on MSNBC, retired General John Batiste -- former commander of the First Infantry division in Iraq -- said that it was "outrageous" Rumsfeld was still in charge of the Pentagon. Batiste added, "He served up our great military a huge bowl of chicken feces, and ever since then, our military and our country have been trying to turn this bowl into chicken salad."


Donald Rumsfeld is still at the helm of the Department of Defense, which is absolutely outrageous. He served up our great military a huge bowl of chicken feces, and ever since then, our military and our country have been trying to turn this bowl into chicken salad. And it's not working.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Ia Fred Kaplan! Ia! Ia!

Fred Kaplan gets shriller:

Office Politics: Press Conference Fallout: Fred Kaplan writes in Slate:

Among the many flabbergasting answers that President Bush gave at his press conference on Monday, this one -- about Democrats who propose pulling out of Iraq -- triggered the steepest jaw drop: 'I would never question the patriotism of somebody who disagrees with me. This has nothing to do with patriotism. It has everything to do with understanding the world in which we live.'

George W. Bush criticizing someone for not understanding the world is like . . . well, it's like George W. Bush criticizing someone for not understanding the world. It's sui generis: No parallel quite captures the absurdity so succinctly.

Fred Kaplan? Yeah, he's Shrill too....

Gone are the days when Fred Kaplan analyzed military strategy for the CATO institute. Now are the days where Fred Kaplan seems to have been driven to shrill, unholy madness by the inability of the president to use a PSAT word in context. For the "subject says it all" department in Slate, Kaplan writes, "What a Moronic Presidential Press Conference!"

As for Iraq, it's no news that Bush has no strategy. What did come as news—and, really, a bit of a shocker—is that he doesn't seem to know what "strategy" means.

Asked if it might be time for a new strategy in Iraq, given the unceasing rise in casualties and chaos, Bush replied, "The strategy is to help the Iraqi people achieve their objectives and dreams, which is a democratic society. That's the strategy. … Either you say, 'It's important we stay there and get it done,' or we leave. We're not leaving, so long as I'm the president."

The reporter followed up, "Sir, that's not really the question. The strategy—"

Bush interrupted, "Sounded like the question to me."

First, it's not clear that the Iraqi people want a "democratic society" in the Western sense. Second, and more to the point, "helping Iraqis achieve a democratic society" may be a strategic objective, but it's not a strategy—any more than "ending poverty" or "going to the moon" is a strategy.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Michael Barone Is a Member of the Order of the Totally Clueless

There is not a hint of irony in Michael Barone's denunciation of himself, and of all his friends--Bush and Cheney and Rove and Bolton and Delay and Hastert and Frist and Gingrich and all the others--who "declined to serve in the military during the Vietnam War set out to write a narrative in which they, rather than those who obeyed the call to duty, were the heroes." Not a hint of irony:

Sadly, No!: From Michael Barone's latest piece:

We have always had our covert enemies, but their numbers were few until the 1960s. But then the elite young men who declined to serve in the military during the Vietnam War set out to write a narrative in which they, rather than those who obeyed the call to duty, were the heroes.

You know who served in Vietnam? John Kerry, Al Gore and Jack Murtha. You know who didn't? George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Gavin adds: And Karl Rove, and John Bolton, and Tom Delay, and Dennis Hastert, and Bill Frist, and Newt Gingrich, and... Michael Barone?...

Though come to think of it, maybe there is no irony in Barone's piece. Maybe he's just inadvertently telling the truth...

Yep: - Michael Barone - Bio: Michael Barone joined FOX News Channel as a political contributor in 1998.... He graduated from Harvard University in 1966 and Yale Law School in 1969.

Glenn Greenwald Is Highly Shrill!

Glenn Greenwald flames the highly-intelligent and usually-reliable Orin Kerr and the blind squirrel Ann Althouse:

Unclaimed Territory - by Glenn Greenwald: Grading the law professors; apologies due Judge Taylor: [M]any of the "experts" who were widely cited to support the attacks on Judge Taylor's opinion were actually themselves quite misinformed about the basic matters governing her rulings. Here, for instance, is a post from Orin Kerr which reflects a deep misunderstanding of the issues which Judge Taylor ruled on. I'm not trying to single him out. To the contrary, he's been commendably candid about his lack of expertise in (I would even say knowledge of) how civil litigation works (a modesty and candor which many lack). Yet despite his self-professed unfamiliarity with civil litigation, he was one of the most widely-quoted law professors by those wanting to disparage the quality of Judge Taylor's opinion....

In his post, Kerr responds to a point I (and others) have made -- that a principal reason why Judge Taylor was somewhat conclusory in her analysis of some issues, and the reason she repeatedly said that certain propositions were "undisputed," is because the Bush administration either failed or chose not to dispute them. Specifically, the Justice Department was so intent on telling the Judge that she had no right to even rule on these issues (because the NSA program is a "state secret," the legality of which the court cannot adjudicate without damaging national security and/or because the plaintiffs lack "standing"), that it basically chose not to address the merits....

[T]he DoJ twice tried to convince Judge Taylor not to rule on the substance of the ACLU's claim, but instead to rule first on the DoJ's "state secrets" argument. Twice, the court refused this request, ordering the DoJ to address the merits of the case.... But the DoJ essentially refused to do so, and devoted almost all of its brief (.pdf) to arguing why the court lacked the power to adjudicate....

[T]he Bush administration's refusal to address the merits of the claims (which is part and parcel of its general contempt for the role of the courts in scrutinizing its conduct) meant that Judge Taylor was not only entitled, but was required by the Rules of Civil Procedure (Rule 56), to treat the ACLU's factual claims as undisputed for purposes of deciding the motion... Kerr... had no idea (a) that any of this (meaning the case's procedural history) had happened and (b) that on a Motion for Summary Judgment... the most basic rule is that any fact that one party fails to dispute (with evidence) shall be deemed "undisputed."...

[I]n response to my pointing out the other day that the DoJ's failure to dispute any of these factual assertions compelled the court to treat them as undisputed, Kerr wrote:

Glenn Greenwald suggests that this is correct because the DOJ's failure to address the merits should be seen as a tacit admission that the ACLU's position is correct; this seems quite bizarre to me, as surely the assertion of a legal privilege as to why a question should not be answered does not constitute an admission.

But far from being "bizarre," this proposition -- that facts which a party fails (for whatever reasons) to dispute on Summary Judgment are deemed "undisputed" by the court -- is one of the most basic principles of civil litigation in the federal courts, as any federal court litigator would know.... How can someone who is (a) unfamiliar with the case itself and (b) unfamiliar with the rules governing the key issues before the court be cited as the preeminent expert to opine that the court's opinion is so flawed?

Then we have University of Wisconsin School of Law Professor Ann Althouse, who wrote a post last night citing to Kerr's post and declaring that he "seems to be getting at what happened" in this case. She then points to what she calls "the weird repetition of the strange word 'undisputedly' throughout the opinion" and -- in bolded letters -- she criticizes the court for not even mentioning the DoJ's motion for a "stay" (i.e. its request that the court not rule on the substance of the claims until it decides the DoJ's motion to dismiss on the "state secrets" ground). But then, in an "Update," Althouse... write[s]:

Arguably, this gave the defendants an opportunity to present evidence to defeat the summary judgment motion, and they chose not to take it....

The court directed the DoJ to address the substance of the claims and the DoJ simply failed and/or refused to do so -- facts which neither Kerr nor Althouse even knew when attacking the court's opinion. And there is nothing "arguable" about it -- if one party moves for Summary Judgment and presents competent evidence supporting its factual claims (as the ACLU indisputably did here), and the other party fails to dispute those facts with competent evidence (as the DoJ indisputably did here), then those facts are "undisputed," by definition.

I seriously doubt based on their commentary that Kerr or Althouse (and most, though not all, of the other law professor critics) have been following this case at all...

Monday, August 21, 2006

John Quiggin Is Shrill

The chutzpah of Kenneth Pollack drives him batty:

Posted by John Quiggin: That was then, this is now: Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack start a lengthy Washington Post piece by observing

The debate is over: By any definition, Iraq is in a state of civil war.

and their assessment only gets gloomier.... They have essentially nothing positive to suggest except... [that] it probably would require 450,000 troops.... Since the commitment of 450 000 troops is even less likely now than it was in 2003, the conclusion is, in effect, that the situation is hopeless.

We're well past the point where admissions of error will do any good. Still, I'm stunned that Pollack could write

How Iraq got to this point is now an issue for historians (and perhaps for voters in 2008); what matters today is how to move forward

This was so brazen that I thought I must have got him confused with someone else. But no, it's the same Kenneth Pollack who wrote The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq.

The fact that the Washington Post would publish a piece by him with such a claim is yet another stake through the heart of its reputation an "objective" source of news, and another reason to give the Post as an organization a decade. The fact that Pollack would write such a claim is evidence that Brookings's money would be better spent on a different Middle Eastern "specialist."

Jim Henley Exceeds Critical Shrill Mass!

Run for your lives!

Unqualified Offerings: You Should Have Thought of That Before You Left Home, Ultimate Super Edition: Kenneth F---ing Pollack writes to tell us that civil war in Iraq is a very bad thing. Honest to god, this kind of thing is all the explanation this blog's frequent resort to profanity requires. Ken baby, it's your civil war as much as anyone's. Pollack did more than anyone to encourage the famous "liberal hawks" to provide the bipartisan patina so useful in getting the Iraq invasion started. In the Army, someone would have long since left him alone in the study with a pistol and the discreet interval required to make the only appropriate gesture of regret, genuine atonement being impossible under the circumstances. In Japan he' be a picture of the different ways light reflects off entrails and cutlery. In Washington, he gets to write new articles, as if he were an epidemiologist and not Typhoid Mary.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

James Wolcott Is Shrill!

Four octaves shrill:

James Wolcott: 40 Yard Line: This morning's Financial Times (reg. required) brings grim tidings for the Israeli leadership, numbers that correlate to Nasrallah's triumphant mug on the cover of the new Economist. "In the early days of the conflict with Hizbollah, Ehud Olmert, prime minister, and Amir Peretz, defence minister -- both of whom have little military experience in contrast to many previous Israeli leaders -- saw their ratings rise. But Mr Olmert's approval has fallen to 40 per cent from 78 per cent at the height of the war and Mr Peretz to 28 per cent from 61 per cent, according to a poll by TNS-Teleseker published on Wednesday."

That is quite a high-board dive. But the bitter irony to those of us accustomed to the toasty crunch of bitter irony first thing in the morning is that even with Olmert's facedown splat he's still got better poll numbers than Bush! If Bush clawed his way back into the forties, the Note would form a conga line and bugger each other until they squeaked, Peggy Noonan would paint herself pink and roll downhill like an Easter egg, and Presidential Historian Michael Beschloss would make the rounds of the political chat shows to muse knowingly about Bush's Reaganesque Indian summer, and his durable bond with the American people (most of whom despise him, but Presidential Historian Michael Beschloss prefers to accent the positive and dip into the pantry to fetch some wry anecdotes--"Did you know, Charlie, that just before he left office, Woodrow Wilson was carried sideways through the White House like a log?")...

Five octaves shrill:

James Wolcott: It's the burning question failing to divide America: Is Bush an idiot? Is water wet? Is Colin Farrell stubbly?... Unlike other two-term presidents, Bush hasn't grown in office, become an old familiar whose irritating traits and lapses could be accepted almost affectionately, like Reagan's dottiness. He's demonstrably diminished, dwarfed by the reality that he continues to deny and repeating himself in press conferences like a robot whose wiring is on the fritz, for whom words and phrases are nothing more than pre-programmed units of sound. He's more irritating and dangerous than ever before, because he doesn't know anything, doesn't know or care that he doesn't know anything, and yet persists in a path of destruction as if it were the road to salvation. It's finally dawned on responsible minds that Bush could take all of us down with him before he and the neocons are through...

Six octaves shrill:

James Wolcott: Servants' Quarters: Conservative New York radio talkshow hothead Bob Grant once said on the air that then-New York mayor David Dinkins (a far more elegant dresser than Grant, by the way) reminded him of a "men's room attendant". On Imus in the Morning, Imus or one of his crew once joked about the pre-Washington Week in Review Gwen Ifill: "Speaking of reporter Gwen Ifill, he's said, 'Isn't the [New York] Times wonderful? It lets the cleaning lady cover the White House.'" A week ago, Mickey Kaus's arm candy wrote, "Congresswoman Maxine Waters had parachuted into Connecticut earlier in the week to campaign against [Sen. Joseph I.] Lieberman because he once expressed reservations about affirmative action, without which she would not have a job that didn't involve wearing a paper hat." And now the cover of the latest Weekly Standard brings us Al Sharpton as a Driving Miss Daisy faithful retainer "who dares not look his master in the eye."

Washroom attendant. Cleaning lady. Cafeteria worker. Chauffeur. Notice a pattern?

No matter what height of prominence a black person reaches, conservatives will always find a way to reduce him or her to low-paid, low-status, low-skilled caricatured servitude. That's their idea of cutting black personalities down to size and putting them in their place. Whatever uniform they wear, it's still a monkey suit in the eyes and mouths of the white-makes-right contingent, which should make it no surprise that Senator George Allen, adopted son of the Confederacy, would reach back for a race-baiting jibe as his beanball pitch...

Seven octaves shrill:

No matter what height of prominence a black person reaches, conservatives will always find a way to reduce him or her to low-paid, low-status, low-skilled caricatured servitude. That's their idea of cutting black personalities down to size and putting them in their place. Whatever uniform they wear, it's still a monkey suit in the eyes and mouths of the white-makes-right contingent, which should make it no surprise that Senator George Allen, adopted son of the Confederacy, would reach back for a race-baiting jibe as his beanball pitch. It's also no surprise that George Allen would be Fred Barnes's kinda guy.

"[T]here's a rich seam of serious thought running underneath the good cheer. Mr. Allen has more thoroughly (and productively) contemplated an array of issues--education, immigration, judicial philosophy, Iraq, Iran, even abortion--than one first supposes. You're fooled by the way he talks, never rushing his words, and by his inelegant presence (he's the only Virginian I know who wears cowboy boots). It's a kind of George W. Bush effect, style overpowering substance. Soon enough, though, substance steps forward."

Fred Barnes wouldn't know a "rich seam of thought" from a river of raw sewage, but let it pass. At the end of his love-letter lunch with Allen, he relays what the mission statement of an Allen presidential campaign would be: "securing our freedom, making sure this is a land of opportunity for all people, and making sure that we preserve our foundational values." I'm going to assume going forward that "foundational values" is one of those conservative code phrases intended to connote the noble white pillars of the old Southern plantation...

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Arkin Fhtagn!!

Wow. William Arkin is really shrill today:

Israel's Failed Strategy of Spite - Early Warning: In the 24 hours before the agreed cease-fire, the Israeli Air Force carried out more than 200 air strikes, including attacks on eight "gas stations serving Hezbollah." Gas stations. If Israel and Hezbollah are fighting again in six weeks or six months, it will be because of those gas stations.

President Bush says Hezbollah was the loser. Israelis are already asking whicih mistakes allowed Hezbollah to outwit and outlast their vaunted high-tech force. What went wrong? When the smoke clears, we will discover that Israel's strategy was flawed. Not in defending itself or in attacking Hezbollah, and not even in employing airpower and showing initial restraint on the ground in the south.

It is in pursuit of some theory about punishment of Hezbollah and its Lebanese supporters that the Israelis followed the wrong course. The Israelis -- specifically the Israeli Air Force -- undertook an intentionally punishing, destructive and ultimately counter-productive air campaign, wielding high technology to Neanderthal levels of precision. Israel bombed too much, bombed the wrong targets and conducted its campaign with inexcusable abandon. What is more, Israel satisfied itself with conventional measures of "success" in the campaign -- counting rockets hit, dead fighters, destroyed infrastructure -- with utter disregard for the day after.

It all comes down to the gas stations, eight of thousands of civilian objects that were bombed in pursuit of a theory of "degrading" Hezbollah's military capabilities in the future but in the end bombed for no direct and concrete military reason and thereby rightly seen by the other side as sheer spite.

If you've been reading my commentary on the Israel-Hezbollah war here, you know that I am a fan of airpower. To me, modern precision airpower is the epitome of discriminate warfare.... The technology has become so good, and is so widely accepted as genuine, that even anti-war protestors and human rights workers no longer question the capability to put bombs on target....

The Israeli Air Force now says that it flew 15,500 sorties (individual flights) over Lebanon during Operation Change of Direction.... Israeli military spokesmen claim that the bombing predominantly focused on missile launch sites, missile launchers, weapons storage sites, radars and communications, Hezbollah bunkers and other strictly military objects. We know, however, this "Hezbollah" list includes buildings, homes, vehicles, tunnels, fuel depots and gas stations, and Israel additionally attacked Lebanese airports, electrical power distribution, oil storage, communications (including state-run and private news media), bridges and roads. Israeli press releases were practically useless in distinguishing between what was being bombed as Israel tended to use the word "structure" to describe every home and building attacked.

In pursuit of these "structures," and in carrying out its punishment campaign, Israel has left behind a shocking level of destruction outside the direct battle zone.... [W]hat Israel has wrought is far more ruinous than anything the U.S. military -- specifically the U.S. Air Force -- has undertaken in the era of precision warfare....

I'm not suggesting that Israel, as part of its military campaign, didn't have the "right" to strike objects distant from the battlefield, only that it needs to account now for what targets it struck. Of course there were missile launchers and ammunition depots and Hezbollah barracks and depots and even Hezbollah "leadership" offices and residences far from southern Lebanon.

But no object in lawful targeting is sacrosanct. Take the Beirut civilian airport, for example. In the opening salvo of the war, Israel precisely bombed the intersections of the runways and aprons, making it impossible for aircraft to take off and land. No human rights or international organization particularly condemned the bombing as illegal, but it was: This was not bombing of Hezbollah's air force, it was not directed at Hezbollah fighters, it was not intended to disable the airport's radars and communications. It was pure punishment....

I'm asserting... that had Israel limited its strategic bombing to purely military objects, it might have -- might have -- engendered more sympathy and support in some circles in Lebanon (or at least in the West) for its efforts. It might have achieved another objective: not creating even more fighters tomorrow....

Israel and U.S. intelligence insist on seeing the result of the Israeli military effort in the most conventional of ways: Hezbollah's six years of investment and effort to build up infrastructure in Lebanon is gone, the routes of Syrian and Iranian re-supply are gone, 70-80 percent of the long-range launchers and 50 percent of the short-range launchers are destroyed, more than half of the stock of actual rockets and missiles have been destroyed or expended, about 530 fighters are dead.

All this "damage" and yet Hezbollah has emerged victorious, more popular than ever, the force that stood up to the "best." There is no question that the conflict bolstered Hezbollah's popularity in Lebanon and the Arab world.... We accumulate statistical success not only to no political avail but to our future detriment.... "We" show no regard for civilians in our conduct, we even destroy their gas stations. Given that "they" don't have F-16s to attack us with, they are reduced to using rockets or airliners to strike back.

Israel won, whoopee.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Jonathan Chait Expels Himself from the Order of the Shrill

Jonathan Chait flushes his reputation down the toilet, and expels himself from teh Order of the Shrill by defending the defenders of Ann Coulter:

The Plank: DEFENDING IDEOLOGICAL INCORRECTNESS: Elspeth Reeve, our extremely talented reporter-researcher, penned a clever, interesting, very well-executed defense of despicable authoritarian pundit Ann Coulter.... [T]his was a piece less about the destination than the journey. What made her column interesting was... that she had thought-provoking observations about Coulter's role in the political culture.... Her piece attracted the ire of Atrios, someone named Charles P. Pierce, and other partisan hysterics. That, of course, is unsurprising. They cannot imagine the notion of measuring a piece by any criteria other than ideological correctness.... The Atrioses and the Pierces, on the other hand, offer their readers nothing but the certainty that they will confirm their ideological predilections. A world in which there are non-ideological criteria for judging an article... is a world in which they have no place.

And in so doing drives Greg Sargent shrill:

The Horse's Mouth: ANN COULTER'S LATEST COLUMN: IN DEFENSE OF ETHNIC PROFILING. Since there was a whole lot of arguing in the blogosphere yesterday about The New Republic's defense of Ann Coulter, I thought it would be useful to quote from her latest column, which has just been posted at her web site. It's a defense of ethnic profiling:

This terrorist plot -- like all other terrorist plots -- was stopped by ethnic profiling....

To pull off a 9/11-style attack now, literally half the passengers on the plane would have to be terrorists. (At least the airport screeners wouldn't have to worry about confiscating a lot of deodorants.)

I think a planeful of Arabs would attract attention -- except from people who had recently completed a government training program teaching them not to notice anyone's appearance....

What stopped last week's terrorist attack was ethnic profiling. We don't know the details of the British intelligence work that nabbed the 24 Muslims because The New York Times has not been able to obtain that classified information and publish it on its front page yet. But it is a fact that you could not catch 24 Muslim terrorists by surveilling everyone in Britain equally.

This speaks for itself, but it's probably worth pointing out that the plot was foiled with the help of a Muslim, and that scores of "planefuls of Arabs" fly around certain parts of the planet every day without "attracting attention." One can of course have a reasonable discussion about ethnic profiling. But the point is, Coulter's column isn't meant to feed reasonable debate; it's meant to feed bigotry and hysteria. The problem with Coulter isn't merely that she's "conservative," it's that what she writes is hateful, demagogic garbage. She's peddling bigotry and lies to an audience of dummies and crackpots, dumbing down our discourse and getting very rich in the process, thanks to the legitimacy she gains from network execs who cravenly grant her platforms on their shows and from quasi-liberal writers who think it's cute or counterintuitive to defend her....

Jon Chait got very upset yesterday with some people for attacking TNR's defense of Coulter. He singled out Atrios, my TAPPED colleague Charles P. Pierce, and other "partisan hysterics," saying: "They cannot imagine the notion of measuring a piece by any criteria other than ideological correctness." Chait almost certainly knows that this is false. But he wrote it anyway, probably because he'd fallen in love with his own loathsome "ideological correctness" formulation, and couldn't bear to part with it.

The obvious truth is that the objections to the TNR piece were mainly substantive, not ideological. Pierce, for instance, specifically faulted the piece for saying that it's "a little absurd to hold up a person as an expert judge of the 9/11 Commission Report...just because she lost a loved one," when in fact the "Jersey Girls" are held up as experts on 9/11 because, well, they are experts on it. Again, that's a substantive objection, not an ideological one. What's more, Pierce also linked to another piece making a long and detailed substantive case against the TNR defense of Coulter. Why Chait felt the need to mischaracterize the arguments against his mag's piece is beyond me, but he no doubt had his reasons.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

JD Henderson To Be New Grand Heresiarch?

It appears that the Honorable Anna Diggs Taylor has allowed JD Henderson to exude a new level of shrillness. He used to be an officer in the United States Army, and soon he may be an officer in this here Order.

I took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States against ALL enemies, foreign and DOMESTIC. Just because Al Qaeda is a threat does not mean other threats cease to exist. One threat is an executive branch that decides it can take power the People never gave to it.

The argument that the president can ignore the law and the Constitution because some nutbag terrorists are attacking us is false. We have faced much larger threats than Osama and company. We fought our Revolution without betraying the principles of that same Revolution. The main principle behind our system is that we have a limited government, that the government has only the power that the People give it, and that the government is subservient to the People, not the other way around.

No exceptions. Ever.

From today's decision (which is well worth reading):

The Government appears to argue here that, pursuant to the penumbra of Constitutional language in Article II, and particularly because the President is designated Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, he has been granted the inherent power to violate not only the laws of the Congress but the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution, itself.

We must first note that the Office of the Chief Executive has itself been created, with its powers, by the Constitution. There are no hereditary Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution. So all “inherent powers” must derive from that Constitution.

Any government that decides to bypass the People or the checks and balances in our Constitution becomes an enemy of the Constitution, and of the People. Supporting such a government is not patriotism, it is treason.

Today a federal judge ruled that the president has violated the Constitution of the United States. That is clearly an impeachable offense. Allowing him to get away with such behavior sets a precedent that will lead to the end of the republic.

This is so much more important than any fight against terrorists.

Joe Scarborough Is Shrill!


The Blog | Joe Scarborough: Is Bush an idiot? | The Huffington Post: For the past six years George W. Bush has been the target of ridicule from liberal circles. But now, instead of laughing at Democrats’ ill-directed arrogance, Republicans are quietly joining the left in questioning the President’s intellectual prowess. The biggest knock on Bush’s brain is his lack of intellectual curiosity. Former administration officials still close to the White House will tell you Mr. Bush detests dissent, embraces a narrow world view and is intellectually incurious....

So does it matter in the end whether our president is articulate and intelligent? You bet your life, it does.... [W]hen America is fighting a global war on terror where the battle is for hearts and minds instead of beachheads and landing strips, we need a leader who can explain to friend and foe alike why America is in Iraq, why we keep sending arms to Israel and why liberal democracy really is preferable to Islamic fascism.

Right now, George W. Bush is not that leader.

Carole O'Leary and Eric Davis Are too Cowardly to Be Shrill

Cowardly academic watch: Carole O'Leary and Eric Davis department:

Bush Said to Be Frustrated by Level of Public Support in Iraq - New York Times: President Bush made clear in a private meeting this week that he was concerned about the lack of progress in Iraq and frustrated that the new Iraqi government -- and the Iraqi people -- had not shown greater public support for the American mission, participants in the meeting said Tuesday.... [T]he president expressed frustration that Iraqis had not come to appreciate the sacrifices the United States had made in Iraq, and was puzzled as to how a recent anti-American rally in support of Hezbollah in Baghdad could draw such a large crowd. "I do think he was frustrated about why 10,000 Shiites would go into the streets and demonstrate against the United States," said another person who attended....

[P]articipant[s]... Carole A. O'Leary, a professor at American University ... Eric Davis, a Rutgers University political science professor.... [N]one of the academics openly criticized Bush administration policy...

We are so s---ed.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Joe Klein Is Shrill!

Our daily prayers for the conversion to shrillness, fairness, and reality based-ness of Joe Klein have been answered!

Great Old One Digby is on the case:

Hullabaloo: One Toe In The Waterby: digby: A lot of people are going to take issue with Joe Klein for this week's column about the Connecticut race, and with good reason. (Armando does so, here.) But I am not going to join that party. I have been very hard on Klein for years for his anachronistic political analysis, but I am sensing that something has changed and I think it's worth recognizing.

Setting aside his weak defense of triangulation as a governing strategy and his misplaced hope that after all the excitement of these last few years the political system will settle down into a nice bipartisan era of good feelings if the Democrats don't go off the deep end (tell it to Dobson, Limbaugh and Kristol, Joe), I think his piece is actually amazingly right-on in some important respects. He seems to have had an epiphany recently and finally figured out how we got to where we are, if not how to get out of it.

Since Klein is a major voice of the insider conventional wisdom, I think we are making progress. Forget all the silliness he writes about "blognuts" and and his predictable he said/she said rendition of the post Lamont challenges to both parties and get a load of this:

Much was made of Cheney's venting, and it is a bit too easy, after six years of this bilge, to dwell on the Vice President's aura and miss the essential felony of the Bush White House--that it has tried to run a war without bipartisan support. Indeed, it has often attempted to use the war for partisan gain. To be sure, there is some grist to the Republican portrayal of Democrats as a bunch of wimpy peaceniks. All too often in the post-Vietnam past--the first Gulf War, for example--the default position of the Democratic Party has been to assume that any prospective use of U.S. military power would be immoral.

But Bush's initial post-9/11 response was not one of those times. The invasion of Afghanistan and an aggressive effort to destroy al-Qaeda were supported by just about every Democratic politician. Many leading Democrats even gave Bush the authority to invade Iraq, although most did so, I suspect, for reasons of political expediency. One of the most convincing arguments offered by the bloggers is that the Democratic establishment should have been far more skeptical than it was about a pre-emptive, nearly unilateral assault on an Islamic country.

In 2004 Bush and Karl Rove managed to flummox the Democrats by conflating the war in Iraq with the war against al-Qaeda and insisting that any Democratic reservations about Iraq were a sign of weakness. This was infuriating. It was Bush's disastrous decision to go to war--and worse, to go to war with insufficient resources--that transformed Iraq into a terrorist Valhalla. It is Bush's feckless prosecution of the war that has created the current morass, in which a U.S. military withdrawal could lead to a regional conflagration.

Rove may avert another electoral embarrassment this November with the same old demagoguery, but his strategy has betrayed the nation's best interests. It has destroyed any chance of a unified U.S. response to a crisis overseas. Even the Wall Street Journal's quasi-wingnut [quasi???? --- ed] editorial page cautioned, in the midst of a typical anti-Democratic harrumph, "[No] President can maintain a war for long without any support from the opposition party; sooner or later his own party will begin to crack as well."

British Right-Wing Thatcher Acolyte Max Hastings Is Shrill

From Newshog:

NewsHog: "He who has one enemy will meet him everywhere": Max Hastings is a veteran British journalist who writes for the rightwing Daily Mail (that's Brit rightwing - a lot saner than the US rabid version) but also contributes a provocative op-ed column for the Guardian. Hastings is a colourful character and about as Tory as the come. That's why I was pleasantly surprised by his Guardian column today. It's comprehensive roasting of Bush's rhetoric of "either for us or against us" and belief in a worldwide Islamist conspiracy. You have to read it all, but here's a whet for your appetite:

George Bush sometimes sounds more like the Mahdi, preaching jihad against infidels, than the leader of a western democracy. In his regular radio address to the American people on Saturday he linked the British alleged aircraft plotters with Hizbullah in Lebanon, and these in turn with the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

All, said the president of the world's most powerful nation, share a "totalitarian ideology", and a desire to "establish a safe haven from which to attack free nations". Bush's remarks put me in mind of a proverb attributed to Ali ibn Abu Talib: "He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare, and he who has one enemy will meet him everywhere."

In the United States a disturbingly large minority of people - polls suggest around 40% - remain willing to accept Bush's assertions that Americans and their allies, which chiefly means the British, are faced with a single global conspiracy by Islamic fundamentalists to destroy our societies.

In less credulous Britain one could nowadays fit into an old-fashioned telephone box those who believe anything Bush or Tony Blair says about foreign policy. Many of us are consumed with frustration. We know that we face a real threat from Muslim fundamentalists, and that we are unlikely to begin to defeat this until we see it for what it is: something infinitely more complex, diffuse and nuanced than the US president wishes to suppose.

And more, as he cuts to the quick of the neocon's amateurish "framing" in pursuit of power rather than actual success in the "long war":

The madness of Bush's policy is that he has made a wilful choice to amalgamate the grossly irrational, totalitarian and homicidal objectives of al-Qaida with the just claims of Palestinians and grievances of Iraqis. His remarks on Saturday invite Muslims who sympathise with Hamas or reject Iraq's occupation or merely aspire to grow opium in Afghanistan to make common cause with Bin Laden.

If the United States insists upon regarding all Muslim opponents of its foreign policies as a homogeneous enemy then that is what they become. The Muslim radicals' "single narrative" portrays the entire course of history as a Christian and Jewish plot against Islam.

It is widely agreed among western governments and intelligence agencies that, in order to defeat the pernicious spread of such nonsense, a convincing counter-narrative is needed. Yet it becomes a trifle difficult to compose this when the US president promulgates his own single narrative, almost as ridiculous as that of al-Qaida.

And finally, the coup-de-grace on the whole failed neocon adventure and on the leaders who have championed it to the world - Bush and Blair:

Tony Blair - "waist deep in the big muddy", as Pete Seeger used to sing about Lyndon Johnson in the Vietnam era - clings to a messianic conviction that he must continue to endorse American statements and policies to maintain his restraining influence on George Bush. This invites speculation about what the president might do if Tony was not at his elbow. Seize Mecca?The west faces a threat from violent Muslim fundamentalists that would have existed even if a Lincoln had been presiding at the White House. As a citizen, I am willing to be resolute in the face of terrorism, which must be defeated. I become much less happy about the prospect of immolation, however, when Bush and Blair translate what should be an ironclad case for civilised values into an agenda of their own which I want no part of.

It would be a wonderfully erudite and convincing argument if a peacenik liberal had written it. That the author was a champion of old-style conservatism as editor of the Daily Telegraph for so many years, and a friend and confidante of Maggie Thatcher, is just.... how can I put this... sublime.

Tom Ridge Is One of Us

Former Bush cabinet secretary Tom Ridge is shrill:

Ridge says Cheney wrong about Lamont victory: [Responding to Cheney's claim that Lamont's victory would encourage "al Qaeda types"], former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge bridled at his former colleague's remark: "That may be the way the vice president sees it," he said, "but I don%u2019t see it that way, and I don't think most Americans see it that way."

Thursday, August 10, 2006

What part of ph'nglui mglw'nafh Ann McFeaters R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn don't you understand?

Ann McFeaters is shrill!

Opinions - ANN McFEATTERS: Bush unchanged by presidency - Before Bush went to Texas to deal with brush and ponder with Condi Rice how to get out of incredible messes without changing policy, he went to the White House briefing room to joke with reporters.... Bush's demeanor was interesting. Beset with problems that daily get worse, he was as jovial as ever. He laughingly referred to former TV newsman Sam Donaldson as a "has-been." He sparred with the press regulars, prickly disdain mixed with arm's-length bonhomie.

But what was most striking is how little the world's most onerous office has changed him... he remains absolutely convinced he is "the decider" making the right faith-based decisions....

It's now well acknowledged that Bush is happy in his bubble of self-imposed isolation. He meets with foreigners but without true give-and-take even in crisis conversations. Foreigners visit the White House as they used to go on bended knee to ancient Rome. Bush travels but sees few real people. All is scripted. He talks with advisers but rarely interacts with members of Congress, even senior Republicans.

He seems to care nothing about winning hearts and minds in other countries. Foreign leaders say he lectures but does not listen. He does not have the long telephone conversations late at night that

former President Clinton loved to keep him in touch with what others were thinking. He seems indifferent to what experts think...

Ia Sargent! Ia!

Greg Sargent is shrill and unbalanced:

The Horse's Mouth: MEDIA LETS TONY SNOW'S LIES ABOUT DEMS GO UNCHALLENGED. For the sake of argument, let's stipulate that one of the most basic tasks of journalists is to provide readers or viewers with the basic information they need to evaluate the truth or falsehood of what their public officials are saying. Can we agree on that?

OK, then. With that in mind, it needs to be said that today's coverage of White House press secretary Tony Snow's remarks amid the aftermath of Ned Lamont's victory constitutes an extraordinary across-the-board abdication of journalistic duty.

During yesterday's press briefing, Snow said this:

I know a lot of people have tried to make this a referendum on the President; I would flip it. I think instead it's a defining moment for the Democratic Party, whose national leaders now have made it clear that if you disagree with the extreme left in their party they're going to come after you.

This is not only a lie; it's an easily demonstrable lie. Most of the Democratic Party's key leadership figures backed Joe Lieberman, not Lamont. This is a matter of public record. It's a point which can be made in half a sentence. And it's a point that should have been in every single news account which carried Snow's remarks.

So was it? Nope. Far from it, in fact. Did the Los Angeles Times piece quoting Snow's lies carry this simple rebuttal? No, it didn't. Neither did Time magazine's big wrap-up of how the GOP is allegedly going to reap enormous gains from Lamont's victory. Nor did the Associated Press's account. The AP story was carried by CBS and likely by newspapers across the country. In short, anyone with the misfortune of getting his or her news from the above news orgs -- or from the perhaps scores of papers carrying the AP account -- was almost certainly deprived of the most basic info required to evaluate the White House's calculated remarks on the biggest story of the day.

As best as I can determine, the only reporter who took the elementary step of rebutting Snow's lies was Adam Nagourney of the New York Times. After quoting Snow, Nagourney wrote this:

In fact, the vast majority of Democratic Party leaders supported Mr. Lieberman in the primary, and did not endorse Mr. Lamont until after the results were in.

For God's sake, was that really so difficult? Don't the editors and reporters who failed to include that one sentence take any professional pride at all in their work anymore?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

60% of Americans are Shrill and Unbalanced!

Why, it was just last Thursday that 45% of Americans had not yet been driven to shrill, unholy madness by the incompetence, malevelence, mendacity, and sheer disconnection from reality of the George W. Bush administration. But another 6 days means another 5% are lost to us. Or, actually, gained to us, here at the order.

That's right: 60% of Americans have gone off the deep end. The newest recruits, all 14,871,813.7 of them, are currently practicing glossolalia in the break room. It's pretty crowded in there, even when only seven tenths of Hugh Franklin showed up. The other 3 tenths was last seen wandering the aisles at a Wal-Mart outside Memphis, mumbling something about "bipartisanship". But never mind that. At this rate, it will be only 48 more days before the only people left who aren't jerking their knees at the mention of the "policy" initiatives of the George W. Bush administration will be... the members of the George W. Bush administration.

Thinking of grooming your tentacles and joining up? Then sing along!

That is not dead which can eternal lie,
and with strange aeons
        your kids will still be paying off the national debt.

A Rejected Application

As much as he wishes he could be, Lawrence Kaplan of The New Republic is not shrill: / Comment / Urban planet - A military estranged from the architects of war: By Lawrence Kaplan: It is America’s fourth summer in Iraq and, quite possibly, its last. Yet the war in Iraq grinds on just as it did over the last few summers. Helicopter gunships still glide through the sky, explosions still rip through Baghdad and soldiers still choke in the heat. Gone, however, are the days when the Coalition Provisional Authority buzzed with activity. Gone, too, is any sense of momentum or expectation of a decent outcome.... In the political arena, too, opinion-makers speak of the war in the past tense. (And those, such as senator Joseph Lieberman, who do not, may pay a steep price.) Thus, Robert Shrum, Democratic campaign adviser, recently told The Washington Post: “The war in Iraq is over except for the dying.”

Alas, someone forgot to tell the US military. From top officers down to young captains, its loyalists suspect the US army has been orphaned in Iraq. “We’re left holding the bag,” a young officer told me on a recent trip to Iraq, “and it’s full of garbage.” The officer corps’ resentments rarely spill into public view. An exception was earlier this year when retired generals, claiming to speak for their active-duty counterparts, called for the head of their one-time boss, Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary....

64 per cent of the military was confident of victory in Iraq, a much higher percentage than the broader public and roughly twice the percentage of civilian elite. Having bled so much there, the military has very little use for the suggestion it did so in vain. Then, too, there is the simple truth – felt more keenly in Baghdad than in Washington – that, if not for US forces, Iraq would come apart at the seams.

When the army comes home, there will be a reckoning. The possibility of defeat has set the top brass manoeuvring in the capital to ensure that political leaders, not military commanders, take the fall. Frankly, they should.... While there is enough blame to go around... most of it lies squarely with America’s civilian leadership. Whether measured by the refusal to solicit (much less heed) military expertise or to devise even the broadest outlines of a coherent strategy, the problem in Iraq has never been lack of capability but confusion – at the top – over how to use it...

He is not shrill because he writes the words "America's civilian leadership" where he should write "George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, George Tenet, Paul Bremer, Condi Rice, Colin Powell, and all the others."

We will consider his reapplications when he can actually utter the names. As long as he finds them unutterable, he is not qualified for membership.

Right-Wing Thinker Thomas Barnett Takes Up Residence Here at Miskatonic U.!

Thomas P.M. Barnett is perhaps the most subtle, interesting, and intelligent strategic thinker coming at the problem of American grand strategy from the right. He holds tight to and thinks in a rational way about the Big Question: What should America be doing now to raise the odds that the world of 2100 will be one in which our descendants can live happily?

Thomas Barnett is a sane, reasonable, non-shrill guy--or was. But now he too has been driven mad. He too has joined us--those who were once sane, reasonable, and well-anchored in reality who have been driven into shrill unholy madness by the mendacity, malevolence, incompetence, and total disconnection from reality of George W. Bush, his administration, their acolytes, and their apologists.

Yes. Bernard Lewis has driven him over the edge and into the gulf, and now he too ululates his shrill screeds of madness beneath the dead uncaring stars:

Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog: Now we have regional experts telling us who's undeterrable?:

OP-ED: "August 22," by Bernard Lewis, Wall Street Journal, 8 August 2006, p. A10.

Front page of WSJ promised analysis of MAD (mutual assured destruction) working in Mideast, so I figured we'd see someone who's an expert address this issue systematically, pointing out how it's worked the world over, including in the Mideast with Israel, for decades.

Instead we get numerology worthy of Louis Farrakhan from Bernard Lewis.

Thus is the pathetic state of the strategic discussion on Iran right now, after Tehran very strategically and very rationally and very cleverly outmaneuvered the Bush administration by launching this proxy war in the West Bank and Lebanon, very artfully deterring any serious possibility of any significant military option by the U.S. through the rest of the Bush second term.

The logic is awfully strained: Ahmadinejad promises a response on the latest U.S. nuke proposal by 8/22. August 22 equals the 27th day of the month of Rajab in the year 1427. On this night, many Muslims mark the night flight of Muhammad on a winged horse, which he flies to the Jerusalem and then to heaven and back.

Got it?

Here's the clinching analysis:

This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary the world. It is far from certain that Mr. Ahmadinejad plans any such cataclysmic events precisely for Aug. 22. But it would be wise to bear the possibility in mind.

Now there's some useful speculation that's merely a cover to declare Iranian leaders irrational on the basis of religious imagery instead of the historical record since 1979 (quick, spot the suicidal strikes by Iran!).

Then Lewis trots out an old blustery quote from Khomeimi promising "annihilation" of the "world devourers."

That's it. Lewis offers an ass-covering, quasi-prediction of a world-ending strike by Iran on 22 August. I guess the whole thing might seem implausible because Iran has no nuclear-armed missiles, but why bother noting that when you're spinning Jack Van Impe-style tales from Iran's Shiite version of the Book of Revelation?

Bernard Lewis as Nostradamus of the Middle East. This is what the neocons have devolved into?

Lewis claims the mindset of Iran's leaders means that "MAD is not a constraint, it is an inducement."

Wow! Nice leap of assertion there.

So MAD is now all of a sudden madness, so sayeth Lewis.

Wasn't madness for genocidal Stalin or "we will bury you" Khrushchev. Wasn't maddness for the greatest mass murderer of all time, Mr. "you're nukes are just a paper tiger" Mao Zedong. Hasn't been for "irrational" foes Pakistan and India. Or theocratic "never again" Israel. We easily deterred Gotterdammerung-promising Saddam (twice) on that score.

But those are just historical facts.

But Iran? Surely it breaks down here, and all you need to prove that is Muhammad's night flight to Buraq.

Let's stick to reality, not rhetoric on Iran.

Bush is an evangelical. Do we interpret everything he does by the Book of Revelation?

Worked for Jimmy Carter, our first born-again prez, did it not?

Ah, Iran had its revolution on his watch? Coincidence?

I am stunned the WSJ would publish and promote just a goofy op-ed.

Lewis goes to the back of the classroom for this, complete with dunce hat.

Regional experts are very dangerous and very biased sources of strategic analysis. They simply know too much, being such vertical drill-down artists, that left to their own devices they will pepper us with crappy pseudo-analysis like this.

72 "virgins," or is it 72 "raisins"? Gotta get these apocalyptic translations right before we launch any tubes, okay?

Bush and Co. thought they were slowly but surely setting up Iran for some end-of-term miltary strike. Iran's leaders weren't stupid enough to sit still for that, so they pre-empted in a very calculated, safe and effectively deterring manner.

Trying to mask all that strategic failure with gobbleygook like this is just plain sad.

Monday, August 07, 2006

The New York Times Is Not Shrill Enough!

The New York Times. They always blame the Democrats first:

A Timetable Isn't an Exit Strategy - New York Times: As America's military experience in Iraq grows ever more nightmarish, it is becoming clear that President Bush's strategy comes down to this: Keep holding to a failing course for the next 29 months and leave it to the next administration to clean up the mess. That abdication of responsibility cannot be allowed to continue at the expense of American lives, military readiness and international influence. With the Republican majority in Congress moving in perpetual lock step behind the White House...

You would think that would be the beginning of an editorial about how voters nationwide should dump the feckless Republicans from Congress. Sadly, no! The editorial goes on:

the job of pressing the issue has been dumped in the laps of the Democrats. Unfortunately, they have their own version of reality avoidance. It involves pretending that the nightmare can be ended by adopting a timetable for a phased withdrawal of American troops.... The Democratic timetable spins a different fantasy: that if the Iraqis are told that American troops will be leaving in stages, at specific dates, their government will rise to the occasion and create its own security forces to maintain order.... Democrats are embracing the withdrawal option because it sounds good on the surface and allows them to avoid a more far-reaching discussion that might expose their party's own foreign policy divisions. Most of all, they want an election-year position that maximizes the president's weakness without exposing their candidates to criticism. But they are doing nothing to help the public understand the grim options we face...

What does the New York Times suggest that Democrats do to "help the public understand the grim options we face"? What is the New York Times doing to "help the public understand the grim options we face"? Wouldn't an editorial laying out those grim options and demanding action from Senate Republcians be a much more fruitful use of its space than yet another exercise in blaming the Democrats first?

Perhaps a clue to the peculiar mental universe that the New York Times inhabits can be gained by looking at this from Washington Post reporter Tom Ricks, where he says that he could not write the stories that needed to be written in the runup to the attack on Iraq because:

Congress didn't hold hearings in which credible information was presented that said, no, the administration's case is wrong.... Congress is kind of the engine of Washington, the engine of government. And if Congress is asleep at the wheel, if war seems inevitable, at some point your editors say, why do you keep writing about doubts about this war, when it's going to happen?... You've written a lot of stories about the doubts about the war. Give us more stories about the war plan...

I think the same thing is going on here with the New York Times editorial board. They no longer think--did they ever think?--that their principal reason for being was to inform their readers. They think, instead, that their principal reason for being is to be stenographers: to transcribe what the powers that be are saying.

Welcome, Larry Kudlow!

One of our eldritch servitor beasts, half-man, half-mollusc (PGL) writes:

Angry Bear: I never thought I'd see the day when we welcomed Lawrence Kudlow to the Order of the Shrill. OK, I may be just a mere servant in the order, but let me turn the microphone over to Larry:

Top generals John P. Abizaid, the head of military operations in Iraq, and Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are strongly suggesting that Iraq may be sinking from a state of violent sectarian unrest into a true civil war.... Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, now estimates that corruption costs in Iraq have reached a startling $4 billion per year. This is vital taxpayer war money - money you'd think would be safeguarded by the GOP Congress. But nothing, it seems, could be further from the truth. A Wall Street Journal story on the subject states that "the Bush administration continues to wind down its ambitious Iraq reconstruction program, which has spent ten of billions of dollars on rebuilding efforts that have largely failed to restore basic services such as water or electricity to pre-war levels." And why has this spending failed? Sen. Susan Collins (R., Me.), the chair of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee that overseas the war money, says this is a story of "mistakes made, plans poorly conceived, overwhelmed by ongoing violence, and the waste, greed, and corruption that drains dollars that should have been used to build schools, improve the electrical grid, and repair the oil infrastructure."

True enough, corruption is a big part of this problem, in particular the oil smuggling that continues to siphon off what could be precious oil revenues for Iraq. U.S. Comptroller General David Walker says 10 percent of Iraq's refined fuels and 30 percent of its imported fuels are being stolen. But Bowen says this is a problem that began at home: "the Bush administration's overall handling of Iraq contracting - from relying on no-bid contracts even when major fighting had ended, to failing to standardize contracting regulations to help prevent fraud - was deeply flawed." He goes on to say that the U.S. has not provided the proper contracting and procurement support necessary to manage reconstruction efforts that were begun three years ago, and also cites widespread mismanagement among competing U.S. government agencies.

Larry recommends Congressional oversight and the return of Harry Truman...

Shrill Talking Memo, by Joshua Micah Marshall

Josh Micah Marshall is, for a minute, left alone without his keepers with the Washington Post editorial page. We apologize for the mess, and assure all innocent bystanders that it will never happen again:

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: August 06, 2006 - August 12, 2006 Archives: There's no party more smarmily mendacious in the Social Security debate than the Washington Post editorial page. As long-time readers know, for several years the GOP has been trying to fool voters and protect vulnerable incumbents with unpopular positions by continually forcing changes in the name of their policy on Social Security. For literally decades they called their private account policy 'privatization'. But when support for the policy began to go south they insisted that the name for the policy was actually a slur. They even went so far as to say it was a name of denigration devised by Democrats.

Friday's Post editorial on Social Security actually went so far as to ape not only the 'it's not privatization' bamboozlement but even took the GOP's lead banning the phrase 'private accounts' in favor of the better poll-testing 'personal accounts'.

From the Post ...

Yesterday an e-mail sent out on behalf of Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, dismissed Henry M. Paulson Jr.'s comments on "privatizing" Social Security, adding that this policy has been "soundly rejected by the American people."

The Social Security reform that President Bush pushed last year involved personal retirement accounts. But it did not involve "privatization": The accounts, which were to be optional, were to be designed and administered by the government, with no opportunities for Wall Street salesmen to foist enormous hidden fees on unsuspecting workers.

On one level, semantics is certainly not as important as the substance of the underlying policies words describe. In this case, 'privatization', by every relevant standard and criterion, is the appropriate word for the policy in question. But editorial pages are supposed to forums for forceful discussion and advocacy of policy unencumbered by either sides spin and bamboozlement, but especially by one side's intentional efforts to deceive voters. In this case the Post really is an arm of the RNC.

David Broder Is too Much of a Moral Coward to Be Shrill

Now he tells us:

Roger Ailes: Shorter David Broder: "Bush has gambled and lost in Iraq (and driven reactionary views in this column within parenthesis), but maybe history will spin him (and me) out of it."

Doubling Two Bad Bets?: By David S. Broder: If you think there is an echo in the air when officials discuss the twin crises in Iraq and Lebanon, you're not hearing things. In both cases the argument for carrying on the destructive current policy comes down to a claim that "we can't afford to let the other guy win."

President Bush says over and over that cutting short the occupation of Iraq would turn that country over to the terrorists and embolden them to carry their wicked plots ever closer to our shores. He also endorses -- implicitly -- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's view that an early cease-fire with Lebanon would strengthen Hezbollah and make its prime sponsor, Iran, even more of a threat to its neighbors. That political support enables Olmert to wage the kind of campaign he has in Lebanon....

In both cases, the argument is not that continuing on the present course will necessarily or probably yield a positive result. On the contrary, it is basically a claim that it is unacceptable to change -- because the other side will claim a victory.

But if Hezbollah in Lebanon and the insurgents in Iraq really are deadly threats to Israel and the United States, respectively, then those nations should have used their full military might -- which is overwhelming -- to deal with the menace.... In both cases, the leaders of government failed to make the kind of commitment that could have produced a lasting victory.

Now they are reduced to saying that they cannot accept defeat.... But once the hope for victory is gone, the issue remains: What do you do? The answer from Bush and from Olmert is: Carry on. Do not waver. And do not question the logic of prolonging the agony....

The point is that history and economics have their own logic. A military mission that fails to yield a victory does not always presage disaster. Today, virtually no one argues that we should have continued fighting the North Koreans or the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese.

Can we think about the costs of carrying on, without an end in sight, against Hezbollah and the insurgents in Iraq?

Sorry. That's not shrill enough.

The New York Times Is Not Shrill Enough

Gail Collins and the rest of the New York TImes are not shrill enough. They write:

The Sound of One Domino Falling - New York Times: It's been obvious for years that Donald Rumsfeld is in denial of reality, but the defense secretary now also seems stuck in a time warp. You could practically hear the dominoes falling as he told the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday that it was dangerous for Americans to even talk about how to end the war in Iraq.

"If we left Iraq prematurely," he said, "the enemy would tell us to leave Afghanistan and then withdraw from the Middle East. And if we left the Middle East, they'd order us and all those who don't share their militant ideology to leave what they call the occupied Muslim lands from Spain to the Philippines." And finally, he intoned, America will be forced "to make a stand nearer home."

No one in charge of American foreign affairs has talked like that in decades.... Americans are frightened by the growing chaos in the Mideast, and the last thing they needed to hear this week was Mr. Rumsfeld laying blame for sectarian violence on a few Al Qaeda schemers. What they want is some assurance that the administration has a firm grasp on reality and has sensible, achievable goals that could lead to an end to the American involvement in Iraq with as little long-term damage as possible. Instead, Mr. Rumsfeld offered the same old exhortation to stay the course, without the slightest hint of what the course is, other than the rather obvious point that the Iraqis have to learn to run their own country.

By contrast, the generals flanking him were pillars of candor and practicality. ... The generals tried to be optimistic about the state of the Iraqi security forces, but it was hard. They had to acknowledge that a militia controls Basra, that powerful Iraqi government officials run armed bands that the Pentagon considers terrorist organizations financed by Iran, and that about a third of the Iraqi police force can't be trusted to fight on the right side.

As for Mr. Rumsfeld, he suggested that lawmakers just leave everything up to him and the military command and stop talking about leaving Iraq.... Americans who once expected the Pentagon to win the war in Iraq have now been reduced to waiting for an indication that at least someone is minding the store. They won't be comforted to hear Mr. Rumsfeld fretting about protecting Spain from Muslim occupation.

The natural, the logical final paragraph to such an editorial would be something like this:

A president and vice-president who regard Donald Rumsfeld as their best choice for Secretary of Defense are unfit for office. Not only should Donald Rumsfeld leave the Pentagon this morning, but for the sake of America George W. Bush and Richard Cheney should resign as well.

Yet they don't say that: they are not shrill enough.

Peter Galbraith Is Shrill!

One of the Great Old Ones speaks:

The New York Review of Books: Mindless in Iraq: While I was in Iraq in June, American forces killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and, on the same day, Iraq formed its government of national unity. President Bush greeted these developments with unusual restraint and announced he was convening a two-day Camp David summit to review his Iraq strategy. Any hopes that there would be a serious rethinking of Iraq policy were dashed when it turned out that the summit was really a ruse so that Bush could fake out his own cabinet by appearing on a videoconference from Baghdad when they expected to see him at the presidential retreat for breakfast. The President was so impressed with his own stunt that he had the White House press office put out the word that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had only five minutes' notice of his arrival, not understanding that this undercut both Maliki and Bush.

On his return, Bush held a press conference during which, it seemed, he could barely contain his enthusiasm. In response to a question about progress in providing electricity, producing oil, and controlling violence, he swerved into a discussion of his encounter with the speaker of Iraq's parliament, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani. The President didn't seem to recall his name but readily remembered his religion:

The Sunni--I was impressed, by the way, by the Speaker--Denny Hastert told me I'd like him; Denny met with him. And I was impressed by him. He's a fellow that had been put in prison by Saddam and, interestingly enough, put in prison by us. And he made a decision to participate in the government. And he was an articulate person. He talked about running the parliament. It was interesting to see a person that could have been really bitter talk about the skills he's going to need to bring people together to run the parliament. And I found him to be a hopeful person.

They tell me that he wouldn't have taken my phone call a year ago%u2014I think I might have shared this with you at one point in time%u2014and there I was, sitting next to the guy. And I think he enjoyed it as much as I did. It was a refreshing moment.

The incurious White House press corps never asked the obvious question: Why had the United States jailed al-Mashhadani? According to Sunnis and Shiites at the top levels of government in Iraq, al-Mashhadani was a member of, or closely associated with, two al-Qaeda-linked terrorists groups, Ansar Islam and Ansar al-Sunna. The first operated until 2003 in a no man's land high in the mountains between Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran while the second has been responsible for some of the worse terrorist attacks on Iraq's Shiites and Kurds. The Iraqis say they gave the Americans specific intelligence on al-Mashhadani's affiliations with those groups and his actions in support of terrorists.

None of this seems to have mattered to a president who is as casual in his approach to national security as his defense secretary. At the same press conference Bush repeated that "the American people have got to understand that Iraq is a part of the war on terror."

Friday, August 04, 2006

Tom Friedman Joins Us!

For lo these many years Tom Friedman has been not only un-shrill, but a criminal cheerleader for violence who believed that the real reason for the U.S. to attack Iraq:

Tom Friedman: which was never stated, was to burst what I would call the "terrorism bubble," which had built up during the 1990s. This bubble was a dangerous fantasy, believed by way too many people in the Middle East. This bubble said that it was OK to plow airplanes into the World Trade Center, commit suicide in Israeli pizza parlors, praise people who do these things as "martyrs," and donate money to them.... This bubble had to be burst, and the only way to do it was to go right into the heart of the Arab world and smash something--to let everyone know that we, too, are ready to fight and die to preserve our open society. Yes, I know, it's not very diplomatic--it's not in the rule book--but everyone in the neighborhood got the message: Henceforth, you will be held accountable. Why Iraq, not Saudi Arabia or Pakistan? Because we could--period. Sorry to be so blunt, but, as I also wrote before the war: Some things are true even if George Bush believes them...

But now that we have thoroughly, thoroughly created the conditions in which batshit-insane sectarian madmen have smashed Iraq to bits, Friedman has a change of heart.

Now he too is shrill!

Time for Plan B - New York Times: It is now obvious that we are not midwifing democracy in Iraq. We are baby-sitting a civil war.... [T]hree years of efforts to democratize Iraq are not working... "staying the course" is pointless... it's time to start thinking about... how we might disengage with the least damage.... The Sunni jihadists and Baathists are as dedicated as ever to making this U.S.-Iraqi democracy initiative fail. That, and the runaway sectarian violence resulting from having too few U.S. troops and allowing a militia culture to become embedded, have made Iraq a lawless mess....

Since the Bush team never gave us a Plan A for Iraq, it at least owes us a Plan B.... I think we need to try a last-ditch Bosnia-like peace conference that would bring together all of Iraq's factions and neighbors.... [T]he U.S. would probably need to declare its intention to leave.... What would be the consequences of leaving without such a last-ditch peace effort, or if it just fails? Iraq could erupt into a much wider civil war, drawing in its neighbors. Or, Iraqis might stare into this abyss and actually come to terms with each other....

If Iraq opts for all-out civil war, its two million barrels a day will be off the market and oil could go above $100 a barrel.... Some fear that Iran will be the winner.... Yes, the best way to contain Iran would have been to produce a real Shiite-led democracy in Iraq, exposing the phony one in Tehran. But second best is leaving Iraq. Because the worst option -- the one Iran loves -- is for us to stay in Iraq, bleeding, and in easy range to be hit by Iran if we strike its nukes.

Finally, the war in Iraq has so divided us at home and abroad that leaving... might also make it easier to build coalitions to deal with post-U.S. Iraq, Iran, Hezbollah and Syria... We need... a broad coalition. The longer we maintain a unilateral failing strategy in Iraq, the harder it will be to build such a coalition, and the stronger the enemies of freedom will become.

Another One Driven Shrill by America's UnPress Corps...

Mike Peterson of Glenn Falls, NY, is shrill:

Poynter Online - Forums: Topic: Letters Sent to Romenesko
Date/Time: 8/2/2006 1:01:38 PM
Title: Subject: Trust, don't verify
Posted By: Jim Romenesko

From MIKE PETERSON, Glens Falls, NY: Britt Robson asks, "Is it the rightful job of reporters to try to verify allegations or implications of a personal nature that surface in a partisan mud-slinging battle?"

Absolutely not. They should just pass them along to readers (and voters) without any attempt to verify them. This is the shape of modern reporting: Pass it along, and try to balance it with something roughly equivalent and equally unverified from the other camp.

Then send your intern to the mall to ask people if they've heard about it, and if it's going to influence their vote in November. Run a political cartoon making a joke about it. Run a story saying it has become the hot topic of the blogosphere (make sure you use the word "blogosphere," preferably in the hed).

But verify? Ha ha! That is so typical of the MSM with its postmodern 20th century groupthink! The bloggers will straighten it out -- it's not the job of the dead-tree MSM to impose their arbitrary notions of "truth" on people!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

55% of Americans are Shrill and Unbalanced.

This just in:

A Gallup poll reveals that of Americans want U.S. troops out of Iraq. That's almost half as many as the number of Iraqis who are so glad to be liberated they're setting off firecrackers in passing American jeeps.

And 54% think our invasion of Iraq was a big mistake. Do they hate America? No, they just been driven to shrill unholy madness by the incompetence, malevolence, mendacity, and sheer disconnection from reality of the George W. Bush administration.

54% of 299,386,641 people is 161,668,786 people. Professor Derleth and 7 volunteer shoggoths will be calling you soon to help raise money for a bigger conference hall.

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh my fellow Americans R'lyeh wagn'nagl fhtagn! Aaaaiiiiii!!!!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Joe Lieberman Is Not Shrill

Joe Lieberman is not shrill. He has faith in George W. Bush. The mighty brainpower of the president will win the war in Iraq, where the insurgency is in its "last throes." Billmon--who using his tentacles can prepare ten drinks at once at the Whiskey Bar--writes:

Whiskey Bar: Day Dream Believer:

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman said on Tuesday that he remained confident that the United States could begin withdrawing troops from Iraq as early as the end of this year . . .

According to U.S. Army officials, the withdrawal of troops from war-rattled Iraq has been delayed for four more months past their scheduled departure. The news came as U.S. President George W. Bush agreed to send more U.S. troops into Baghdad to curb the sectarian violence there . . . The Pentagon also identified four other additional Army and Marine Corps units consisting of about 25,000 troops due to deploy to Iraq in the future, enough to maintain the U.S. force at about 130,000 troops for a year . . .

Pretending to live on a different planet doesn't seem like a very smart campaign strategy to me, but then I'm not from Connecticut. Maybe it's the nutmeg.

Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations Is Shrill!!!!!

Yes. We can now reveal that the New York City office of the Order of the Shrill is in the sub-basement of the Council on Foreign Relations's Upper East Side townhouse. Thanks to CFR head Richard Haass for the keys: he is, of course, ONE OF US!

Via Greg Djerejian, who can hit five octaves above middle C himself, on a good day, who prays for Richard Armitage to save us:

The Belgravia Dispatch: What, Me Worry? Opportunity's A-Knockin': Bush, a couple days back with Blair:

We agree that a multinational force must be dispatched to Lebanon quickly, to augment a Lebanese army as it moves to the south of that country. An effective multinational force will help speed delivery of humanitarian relief, facilitate the return of displaced persons, and support the Lebanese government as it asserts full sovereignty over its territory and guards its borders.

We're working quickly to achieve these goals. Tomorrow, Secretary Rice will return to the region. She will work with the leaders of Israel and Lebanon to seize this opportunity to achieve lasting peace and stability for both of their countries. Next week, the U.N. Security Council will meet, as well. Our goal is a Chapter 7 resolution setting out a clear framework for cessation of hostilities on an urgent basis, and mandating the multinational force.

WaPo, today:

Haass, the former Bush aide who leads the Council on Foreign Relations, laughed at the president's public optimism. "An opportunity?" Haass said with an incredulous tone. "Lord, spare me. I don't laugh a lot. That's the funniest thing I've heard in a long time. If this is an opportunity, what's Iraq? A once-in-a-lifetime chance?"

Bush's elephantine innocence about the Middle East increasingly has us staggering about the region like purblind ignorants. Meantime, his rhetoric is getting increasingly uneven. Note this part of the same press conference, where he mixes up Syria and Iran, and appears to state one or the other already has a nuke:

Q Thank you. Mr. President, and Prime Minister Blair, can I ask you both tonight what your messages are for the governments of Iran and Syria, given that you say this is the crisis of the 21st century?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Want me to start? My message is, give up your nuclear weapon and your nuclear weapon ambitions. That's my message to Syria -- I mean, to Iran. And my message to Syria is, become an active participant in the neighborhood for peace.

As I said, uneven, sloppy rhetoric. Bush, who struggles to understand even the broadest contours of the Middle East canvas, clearly cannot effectively imbibe the myriad complexities (dreary details!) of this so complicated region. And, alas, this is not a situation like we had with Ronald Reagan, where a leader of limited intellect and strong core convictions, at least could delegate to serious players. Now instead, we have Rumsfeld and Cheney-- in short, discredited, damaged goods. Meantime, Rice has her hands (very) full, and has lost in Bob Zoellick a talented deputy. I again repeat my call for Richard Armitage to be urgently appointed Secretary of Defense. These are times of significant crisis, and the bench is far too thin. While bridges between the Bush-Cheney camp and Powell-Armitage one may have been mostly burned (this is sheer speculation, of course), I have heard some accounts that Bush felt more comfortable around Armitage than, say, Powell, and had even bonded with him on occasion. And while I'm no Plameologist a la Tom Maguire, I trust Armitage is eminently confirmable. There will be quite a few military-centric, diplomatic security issues to grapple with in the Middle East over the coming months, and Rumsfeld won't have nary a clue how to broach them. We need someone like Armitage, badly--whose combination of long military (four Vietnam tours, rather than deferments) and diplomatic experience would be a major asset.

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