Friday, October 29, 2004

By now you know the story: among the relics of Saddam's old nuclear weapons program were bunkers containing tons of high explosive. While the inspectors were in, before the invasion, the stuff was still there; they checked. Afterwards, it vanished.

And you know the excuses coming out of Dubya's crew. Saddam somehow carted it all away, in what would have been a massive convoy, in the few days between the departure of the inspectors and the invasion. And this somehow escaped our attention, even though the area was under intense U.S. aerial and satellite surveillance. Because American troops were at the bunker at the invasion, and they didn't find any weapons. Even though they hadn't been ordered to look.

And a lot of my readers probably already know they're all wet. Video shot by an embedded reporter with those troops shows them breaking open bunkers with explosives inside, and also shows IAEA seals, still intact. Which is not to impugn the troops at all -- they obviously weren't trained to deal properly with these bunkers. And that's half the scandal. But the less interesting half.

The more interesting half of this scandal is how nakedly it reveals the character of this administration. These sites should have been guarded. They weren't. The troops who were there had other orders, and followed them; the blame is squarely on the guys who gave the orders. But faced with an obvious blunder, their first and only response is to try to find someplace, anyplace, to shift the blame. To Saddam. To al Qaeda. Even to their critics. They've actually suggested that anyone who criticizes them for this blunder must be slagging the troops. Because they cannot conceive, they cannot wrap their minds around the concept that any blame for a mistake like this could ever be attached to them.

And liberal enablers like Nick Kristof let them get away with it. Bush wants to think he's a good president. And if the facts don't support that, he just makes up stories that conflict with the facts. What Bush wants to believe is a "higher truth", and if he chooses to express his higher truth with lies, well, that's fine with Kristof

More: Dean Esmay and others are making a great deal of pictures of trucks near some of the bunkers in the days before the war. Pity the bunkers in question weren't the ones that were sealed.

Note: I've corrected this post; the video shows IAEA seals still intact, but does not show them being broken. Oops.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Babe has left the building. And sportswriter Dan Shaughnessy, who has been dining out on "The Curse of the Bambino" for years, is going to need a new meal ticket.

The Red Sox won the world series, after a decades-long championship drought, brought on largely by stubborn and ignorant front-office people alienating good players, and perpetually trading away great young talent in search of a quick fix. A lot of people are wondering what Boston will be like without a team like that. My first reaction to hearing this line of thought was that these people must not be following the Bruins or Celtics. But there was a guy on the radio, well, yesterday morning by now, who was already talking about "post-curse depression". The team, at least, is going to be perceived very differently.

Now to sign Varitek...

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Shorter Nick Kristof:

It doesn't matter if everything Bush tells you is a made-up story. He's telling you what he wants to believe; what does it matter if the facts are different, so long as he actually believes it?

A little news from Boston:

Sports radio here started the celebration early. With the Red Sox up three games to none in the World Series, needing only one more victory to close the thing out, Teddy Sarandis on overnight duty at Sports Radio WEEI was already waxing eloquent -- well, as eloquent as someone who thinks "analogy" is a fancy word for "analysis" can ever get -- on the team's glorious achievement and its place in history.

A few years ago, Rick Pitino, erstwhile coach of the Celtics, had a press conference at which he complained bitterly about the negativity of the local sports fans. (WEEI still sometimes plays the clip before the evening presentation of the "Whiner Line", a fifteen-minute segment in which callers roast local teams' personnel, the sports press, the station's own on-air talent, the mayor, and anyone else who has anything to do with the Boston sports scene). Pitino himself was not an entirely positive presence. He's remembered here for sparking a revival of his own listless team by resigning and fleeing town in the dead of night. But the man had a point. There is a certain mean-spiritedness around here, even in victory.

As an example: we complain here all the time about arrogant, overbearing Yankee fans from New York. Well, there are Yankee fans around here, too, a few of whom are regular callers to the talk shows on WEEI. One of them, "Frank from Gloucester", is someone that New York fans might think of as the anti-Jerome: a bit of a crackpot, but a crackpot with a sunny disposition, always prepared, in the face of Yankee setbacks, to cheerily say they'll be over it soon and remind you they have in the past. Unless, that is, the setback is the worst playoff collapse in the history of Major League Baseball -- winning the first three games of a seven game series, only to have the Red Sox grind out crushing defeats in each of the last four. In the wake of that collapse, inflicted by the Red Sox, Frank called the Whiner Line and left a frankly eerie message, congratulating the Sox and their fans in a quavering voice and hoping he wouldn't be dead by spring. This was an opportunity for the callers and the on-air talent to show a little magnanimity in victory, and to demonstrate what good sportsmanship is all about. Let's just say they didn't take it.

Well, the Red Sox are famous for disappointing their fans, but that victory over the Yankees was so complete and so crushing that even an ordinary World Series loss couldn't take off the glow. The only thing that could possibly be a disappointment for Red Sox fans after that would be if their team somehow managed to duplicate the Yankee collapse in the World Series, on the only larger stage the sport has to offer. The World Series is a seven-game series, and as I write, they're up three games to none.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Not too long ago, someone bored David Brooks at a dinner party. Brooks feels his boredom is so unique and endearing that he felt compelled to share it with the rest of us.

Monday, October 25, 2004

The Poor Man thinks Diana Moon has gone too far when she compares some rather heavy-handed voter intimidation in Ohio to the work of the Nazis.

And he's right. For the comparison to the Nazis to be valid, we'd have to at least see protestors, and even people just nearby, knocked around, swept up in dragnets and illegitimate mass arrests -- typical Nazi electioneering tactics before they came to power.

But seriously, folks.

What made the Nazis uniquely evil was their dedication to genocide not even as a tool of policy, but as a goal in and of itself -- in the waning days of World War II, logistical support from the war suffered greatly so they could keep the trains going to Auschwitz. You can be better than that -- a lot better than that -- and still be pretty damn bad. It's also important to remember that the Nazis become "the Nazis" overnight, or even immediately after coming to power. It took a long time for the true horror of that regime to become apparent. The anti-Semitic stuff may have been all over Mein Kampf, but some people thought it was just pandering, and even Kristallnacht didn't necessarily convince people who weren't on the scene.

So, let's consider.

As David Neiwert has extensively cataloged, there are a lot of parallels between the tactics of the Bush crowd, and perhaps a softer version of fascism, with less domestic violence. They're rabidly nationalist, they have no patience with legal niceties, and they're trying to rig the system to gain a permanent lock on power; they depict their political opponents as threats to the integrity of the state. But those are tactics in service of what goal?

Well, Hitler talked about the Jews, but no one thought he was going to do much about them. Bush talks about a crusade to bring "freedom" -- in the form of Bush-friendly governments -- to the Middle East, even though the Army is hugely overstressed with only two such projects in hand. (Bear in mind that even George Will was calling the second of the two, Iraq, an "optional war" before it started). This certainly isn't a plan as singlemindedly evil as the Nazis' work, but like Hitler's ultimate overreach in invading Russia, it isn't likely to work and has the potential to lead to disaster. Particularly in the hands of a leader stubbornly determined to pursue the danger presented by figments of his imagination, to the exclusion of real dangers on the ground.

Meanwhile, on the other side, Dean Esmay vociferously objects when David Neiwert points out that one of his posts echoes Nazi rhetoric about German soldiers getting "stabbed in the back" by the Jews. The post in question highlights a cartoon that depicts a figure carrying a protest sign running away after stabbing an American soldier in the back.

Mark Twain for President!!!