we are neither vain phantoms nor true soldiers, we are the spirits of those who were killed

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No Questions Asked, Rather than press China's president to liberalize, the White House imports his muzzle on the media.

FOR HU JINTAO, the substance of his summit meeting with President Bush today will occur before it ever begins — with the 21-gun salute the Chinese president will receive on the White House lawn. Broadcast back to China, the reception will be offered by the communist regime as proof that Mr. Bush regards Mr. Hu as a strategic partner in managing global affairs. But there's another signal moment of the day's events, which will occur just after the Bush-Hu talks. Contrary to the standard protocol for visiting heads of state, there will be no news conference at which American and Chinese journalists can ask unscripted questions.

The White House's acquiescence to a Chinese demand that Mr. Hu not be subjected to possibly embarrassing queries about political prisoners, religious freedom or censorship of the Internet symbolizes a major element of Mr. Bush's policy — his willingness to relegate China's worsening performance on political freedom and human rights to a back burner.

China has an abysmal human rights record, possesses nuclear weapons, has threatened to veto any sanctions against Iran, yet Bush is not only invites them to visit and discourage trade barriers with them at the same time he demonizes Iran. Iran, also repressive, but does hold elections, does not yet anyway possess nuclear weapons, and has been fairly responsible member of the oil exporting community. This administration keeps leading reasonable moderate Americans back to the same head stretching observation, why are some repressive regimes good and some repressive regimes bad. How is it that Bush supporters in the business community cab rationalize falling head over heel to do business with China, yet the idea od nuking Iran hardly raises a brow.

The enemy we face is brutal and determined. The terrorists have an ideology. They share a hateful vision that rejects tolerance and crushes all dissent. They seek a world where women are oppressed, where children are indoctrinated, and those who reject their ideology of violence and extremism are threatened and often murdered. – G.W. Bush, February 24, 2006

So Bush has said, but does not by his actions actually mean that he opposes those that "rejects tolerance and crushes all dissent". China would be a front-runner in a nation's race to crush dissent. Protester gatecrashes Hu visit as China and US fail to make progress

Instead Mr Hu was embarrassed by noisy protests on the streets of Washington, and a protester who managed to disrupt the high pageantry unrolling on the South Lawn of the White House.

Moments into Mr Hu's speech, a woman in a charcoal suit perched on the top tier of the stands reserved for the press began screaming in English and Chinese: "President Bush stop him. Stop this visit. Stop the killing and torture."

She also managed to unfurl a banner in the yellow and red colours of the Falun Gong spiritual movement before being bundled away by White House security.

Her outburst – directly opposite Mr Hu's podium – was captured by CNN and other networks. The Associated Press later identified the protester as Dr Wang Wenyi and said the pathologist had obtained a press pass on behalf of the Epoch Times, a Falun Gong newspaper.

The heckler, and the hundreds of protesters around the perimeters of the White House, underscored the difficulties behind the Bush administration's drive to improve economic ties with China.

Mr Hu began his visit in Washington state, where he was feted at the home of the Microsoft mogul, Bill Gates, and toured a Boeing plant. He is to visit Yale University today.

In public, Mr Bush gave only glancing mention to human rights, noting in his speech on the South Lawn that "China can grow even more successful by allowing the Chinese people the freedom to assemble, to speak freely and to worship."

It is like the flickering images of some old 16mm film, dictator appears with smiling authoritarian style president, honor guard from a civilian controlled military, an en-passioned plea from a Chinese dissident, dissident dragged off by authorities, authoritarian president mutters a few words about freedom to assemble and freedom of speech. Though all very real, it all seems surreal. Was this a huge historic moment in which Bush betrays what neocon Francis Fukuyama called modern conservatism's Trotskyite roots or was it just a forgettable embarrassing moment. It depends, for those trying to keep up with the unraveling of neocon conservatism, the visit of Hu is based on the premise that despite China being a bigger military threat then Iran, and probably more repressive and intractable in its policies we have a huge financial stake in China in terms of them floating our debt, as a market for American goods, and a source of cheap labor for American business. One of the inferences that could be made from this is that since China is already a nuclear power, well what the hell, but what kind of message does that send to Iran or even North Korea. While I can't completely reject that theory based on appearances, it seems more likely that Bush's policy differences between China and Iran are like a blood hound that has been trained to follow the money. Though it could also be that Iran is the snotty nosed kid on the block that happens to have lots of oil. Oil that China and Bush both want; which way is easier to get that oil, drop a few bombs on snotty kid or China. You don't gear up for wars with other super powers that you can't win, you wage war against small non-nuclear countries. If its even marginally the case that continued trade with China and thus more cultural contact will bring about more liberalism in China, then wouldn't that be the case with Iran too. Iran does export terrorism, but how long would they continue to do so if it endangered their economic and social reforms; reforms made possible by at least China style relations with the west. At this point with such a fractured foreign policy, the Bush Doctrine being on the taxpayer's respirator, are these grand wizards of conservative foreign policy just flying by the seat of their pants. Having abandoned all international institutions and traditional allies they're clinging to the the only thing they really know, money and tax cuts. China is underwriting the tax cuts which are to be paid in the future by everyone under 40. Certain American business interests get cheap Chinese labor and a little more access to the Chinese market. China continues to be as tyrannical as its always been while Bush wags his finger in damning disapproval. Meanwhile the realists with a little idealism left in their heart are left hoping that America who a few short years ago held all the aces isn't further weakened for lack of a coherent foreign policy.

Kevin Drum has an interesting revelation about a missed opportunity, Cheney and Iran, TALKING TO IRAN

THE ABBOT of Ursperg, in his Chronicle, year 1123, says that in the territory of Worms they saw during many days a multitude of armed men, on foot and on horseback, going and coming with great noise, like people who are going to a solemn assembly. Every day they marched, towards the hour of noon, to a mountain, which appeared to be their place of rendezvous. Someone in the neighbourhood, bolder than the rest, having guarded himself with the sign of the cross, approached one of these armed men, conjuring him in the name of God, to declare the meaning of this army, and their design. The soldier or phantom replied, “We are not what you imagine; we are neither vain phantoms nor true soldiers, we are the spirits of those who were killed on this spot a long time ago. The arms and horses which you behold are the instruments of our punishment, as they were of our sins. We are all on fire, though you can see nothing about us which appears inflamed.”

from The Ghostly Warriors of Worms Ernes Rhys

Or they twist ..in the slow twist…of the wind

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from Richard Mabey's God and Me

Hardy called it 'dimmity', the moment when the certain shapes of the world dissolve. In the emptiness of the Wessex marshlands, against the twilit mass of Glastonbury Tor, the air begins to quiver, to fill with dark scribblings. More than a million starlings are homing in on this ancestral swamp for their nightly communion. They stream in from every direction, joining, breaking ranks, floating free, like some black aurora. Suddenly, they become plasmic. They are one immense organism, pulsating like a single cell. They swing up to the sky and then skim the reeds in folds and falls of black. They fill out great parabolas and helixes, with a symmetry you do not expect from living things. Then, birds again, they fall into the reeds.

It is experiences like this that are supposed to fill us godless folk with intimations of the spiritual. A glimpse of the universal geometry that lies behind the chaos of life, of the workings of a group consciousness outside anything we can imagine—surely this must bring on feelings of immanence, a sense of some order beyond the surface of things. The trouble is, I know these birds away from their dusk rites. They are a long way from being aerial ectoplasm. They're urchins, opportunists, prodigious mimics.

Granta ran a series called God's Own Countries about politics and religion around the world. I was tempted to put up an excerpt from John McGahern, but while I have a certain romantic fascination for that peculiarly Irish mix of religion, bleakness, hope and the mystical it is not a common taste. Mabey's essay is a little more universal. Personal epiphanies occur looking out at a sunset, touching a lover's hand, recoqnizing a reflection in a shop window, gazing at a spring cloud from Austin to Tel Aviv. Some little bits and pieces of thoughts suddenly gather up into a sharp realization of a truth. Some to their great credit collect those truths over a lifetime so that when the mind may no longer be able to remember every dwarf or reindeer its judgements are tempered with wisdom. Or so we hope.

Bush Blunders Go Nuclear

A once swaggering President, who so convincingly wielded a bullhorn and modeled a flight suit, now has assumed the pretzel pose of a supplicant attempting to cajole our old enemy in Tehran into dropping its nuclear ambitions while simultaneously initiating talks with Iran aimed at bailing us out in Iraq. After the fiasco of using the blunt instrument of military force to "democratize" Iraq, Bush now resorts to mild talk of UN sanctions on Iran, the very weapon he had derided in relation to quarantining Hussein. Bush's nutty nuclear braggadocio on Tuesday–"all options are on the table"–was a sign of weakness, not strength, hobbled as he is by various self-created impediments.

One is that he has lost the trust of Americans, foreign leaders and even many Republicans by lying about Iraq–crying wolf, in essence–and then fumbling the occupation. Another invasion would be a tough sell, both here and abroad.

Two, Iran is, as Republican Senatir Richard Lugar put it subtly, "part of the energy picture." In other words, they export gobs of oil. US-Iran tension already has sent crude prices above $70 a barrel. "I believe, for the moment, we ought to cool this one," Lugar warned the White House. "We need to make more headway diplomatically to be effective."

Three, the United States is highly dependent upon Iran-trained Shiite religious factions in Iraq for what is left of the tattered welcome mat Bush & Co. told us to expect when we came to overthrew Hussein. Key Iraqi Shiite leaders have stated they would support Iran, in the event of a US attack.

Cozying up to the Shiite fundamentalists in Iraq is a bargain with the devil, born of weakness, the pattern for this President.

This presidency, and Congress for that matter is ripe for a science fiction plot where conservatives have managed to switch the electrodes on the reality machine, weakness is the new strength, losing is winning, a spinning bottle determines which despotic regimes they'll do business with and which one's they'll bomb, tax breaks that benefit mostly the wealthy are good for America, toxic air is good for children, values are like buying a used car they're negotiable.

Josh Marshall gets the quote of the day for his post on Tony Snow replacing little Scottie,

Fox is reporting that Fox's own Tony Snow may be Scott McClellan's replacement as White House press secretary.

Isn't that more like an interdepartmental transfer than a job change?

SMOKE of the fields in spring is one,
Smoke of the leaves in autumn another.
Smoke of a steel-mill roof or a battleship funnel,
They all go up in a line with a smokestack,
Or they twist … in the slow twist … of the wind.

If the north wind comes they run to the south.
If the west wind comes they run to the east.
By this sign
all smokes
know each other.
Smoke of the fields in spring and leaves in autumn,
Smoke of the finished steel, chilled and blue,
By the oath of work they swear: “I know you.”

from Smoke and Steel by Carl Sandburg

it was seen that the Figure of the Lost Soul had toppled from its cornice and lay now in a broken mass

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As history turns, Party in Search of a Notion

For many years — during their years of dominance and success, the period of the New Deal up through the first part of the Great Society — the Democrats practiced a brand of liberalism quite different from today’s. Yes, it certainly sought to expand both rights and prosperity. But it did something more: That liberalism was built around the idea — the philosophical principle — that citizens should be called upon to look beyond their own self-interest and work for a greater common interest.

This, historically, is the moral basis of liberal governance — not justice, not equality, not rights, not diversity, not government, and not even prosperity or opportunity. Liberal governance is about demanding of citizens that they balance self-interest with common interest. Any rank-and-file liberal is a liberal because she or he somehow or another, through reading or experience or both, came to believe in this principle. And every leading Democrat became a Democrat because on some level, she or he believes this, too.

I almost didn't read this article because of the title. While the donkey may need some prodding the constant litany of inward looking self-flagellation from some Democratic blogs and pundits is almost as discouraging as the right's delusion that they have anything but a fractured sense of morality. Not only does Michael Tomasky get the ideals angle right he also manages to be inspiring.

What Johnson and his advisers knew, just as Hubert Humphrey down Pennsylvania Avenue in the Senate knew, was that desegregation would fail if the matter were put to the American people only in terms of the rights of those directly affected; it had to be presented as advancing the common good.

The only thing that I would add to the idea of Democrats repeating its vows to the common good, the common interests is that while the concept of commonality is the body, it is nothing without the heart, without individual rights. One cannot live a whole life separate from the other. As Tomasky suggests and Amy Sullivan has written, Republicans have taken some pretty shabby principles and run them to ground. They took the idea of individual rights and twisted it into the glory of greed, contempt for the environment, rejection of rational thought and bottom of the barrel eliminationism. Greed does benefit some people and those that engage in it may see it as a right, but greed is a practice that undermines the common interests; as does anti-environmentalism, anti-science and anti-sound social policy, and societal fracturing based on demonizing whoever must be eliminated this week.

But diversity and rights cannot be the only goods that Democrats demand citizens accept. For liberalism to succeed, they have to exist alongside an idea of a common good.

I don't care who goes through the door first, diversity, rights, or the common good as long as they're together. It is not that this reaffirmation of American values will give conservatism its way past due relegation to the ideological graveyard, as its elements of social darwinism are so appealing to some, but it will get Democrats and the majority of Americans back on track not just having ideals, but living them.

Good ol WaPo is certainly a roller coaster ride, Moving to the Right, Brit Hume's Path Took Him From Liberal Outsider to The Low-Key Voice of Conservatism on Fox News, where in the hacktucular Howie Kurtz inadvertantly exposes Brit Hume to be the wing-nut he is.

"It bothers me a little bit," he says. "I think we look conservative to people who are not. . . . I knew the rap on us from Day One was going to be that we were a right-wing news outlet." But, he says, "I believed if we tried that, it would never work."

Hume and Fox News were among the first to jump on the charges by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth about Sen. John Kerry's Vietnam record, with Hume pushing the controversy day after day.

As the lead panelist on "Fox News Sunday," Hume said in August 2004 that the book by the Swift Boat Veterans "is a remarkably well-done document. It is full of detail. It is full of specifics. The charges that are being made of Kerry, of irresponsible and indeed in some cases mendacious conduct in his service in Vietnam, are made by people who were there."

The Center for Media and Public Affairs, in a 2004 study, found that "Special Report" coverage of President Bush was positive 60 percent of the time, while its evaluations of John Kerry were negative by a 5-to-1 margin. Hume says he was fair to Kerry and that the media gave far more scrutiny to Bush's National Guard record.

Brit like so many on the far right are so drunk on their own kool-aid that they's swear the bird bath in the front yard was a pink giraffe, Republican-funded Group Attacks Kerry's War Record Ad features vets who claim Kerry "lied" to get Vietnam medals. But other witnesses disagree — and so do Navy records.

None of those in the attack ad by the Swift Boat group actually served on Kerry's boat. And their statements are contrary to the accounts of Kerry and those who served under him.

Brit and his Swift Liars are the only ones that have engaged in " mendacious conduct". Brit continues to turn a cold shoulder to any concept of honor and integrity with this admittedly very clever twisting of words (Brit's lie), Angry Bear catches the most egregious Swiftboating Anthony Zinni. let's look at Hume's actual wording,

Anthony Zinni — the most prominent of the retired generals attacking Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld — now says that, in the run-up to the war in Iraq, "What bothered me … [was that] I was hearing a depiction of the intelligence that didn't fit what I knew. There was no solid proof, that I ever saw, that Saddam had WMD."

and the kicker,

But in early 2000, Zinni told Congress "Iraq remains the most significant near-term threat to U.S. interests in the Arabian Gulf region,"

Even applying a very dull Occam's razor to say that Iraq was threat to American interest's in the Arabian Gulf at one point in time in no way negates or marginalizes the claim that the intelligence pushed by the Whitehouse didn't match what Zinni knew about Iraq and their purported possession of WMD. If Brit made minimum wage he could argue what do you expect for a few bucks an hour, or if he had had a harsh deprived life where the circumstances were such that values were not something that he could afford at the expense of his stomach, but he has had a privledged elite life with ample time and comfort to ponder matters of principle, so we can surmise that Hume has looked honor square in the eye and told it to piss off.

There was a crackling sound in the night on the Cathedral roof and a noise as of falling masonry. The belfry jackdaw said the frost was affecting the fabric, and as he had experienced many frosts it must have been so. In the morning it was seen that the Figure of the Lost Soul had toppled from its cornice and lay now in a broken mass on the dustheap outside the verger's lodge.
"It is just as well," cooed the fat pigeons, after they had peered at the matter for some minutes; "now we shall have a nice angel put up there. Certainly they will put an angel there."

from the short story The Image Of The Lost Soul by Saki

Is all the Sea obedient to you?

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A Photo Essay on the Great Depression, the thumbnail is Bud Fields and his family. Alabama. 1935 or 1936. Photographer: Walker Evans

I'm surprised, but I'm not that some Bush supporters are still using the "UN" argument to justify invading Iraq. We know from various sources including three Bitish memos that the UN was just a prop in a play. It didn't work out completely like Bush wanted it to since ultimately Iraq allowed inspectors in, but since Saddam didn't shower the inspectors with roses and kisses Bush decided that Saddam wasn't being cooperative enough and kicked them out.

“A legal justification for invasion would be needed. Subject to law Officers advice, none currently exists.”

“The NSC (National Security Council) had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record.”

And someone at the Whitehouse was reading too many bad political thrillers, Bush 'plotted to lure Saddam into war with fake UN plane'

The two leaders were worried by the lack of hard evidence that Saddam Hussein had broken UN resolutions, though privately they were convinced that he had. According to the memorandum, Mr Bush said: "The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach."

The Evelyn Draper.. I mean the Michelle Malkin school of Death Threats has done its daily dirty deed dirt cheap. More here.

For those that have not sent in for your secret decoder ring, when conservatives say they are pro U.S. military what they really mean is that they are pro military as long as you tow the ideological line. It doesn't matter if you're a seaman second class, a master sargeant, or a general utter one word that deviates from the Annals of Wingnuttia and you will incur the rath of the Swiftboat, Right Wing Swiftboats Generals Who Called on Rumsfeld to Resign

I wonder if Deborah Howell and her little wing of the WaPo has read Faust, Post ombudsman defended editorial's falsehoods as a difference in "views"

State Department Memo: '16 Words' Were False

Eleven days before President Bush's January 28, 2003, State of the Union address in which he said that the US learned from British intelligence that Iraq had attempted to acquire uranium from Africa – an explosive claim that helped pave the way to war – the State Department told the CIA that the intelligence the uranium claims were based upon were forgeries, according to a newly declassified State Department memo.

The revelation of the warning from the closely guarded State Department memo is the first piece of hard evidence and the strongest to date that the Bush administration manipulated and ignored intelligence information in their zeal to win public support for invading Iraq.

On January 12, 2003, the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) "expressed concerns to the CIA that the documents pertaining to the Iraq-Niger deal were forgeries," the memo dated July 7, 2003, says.

Moreover, the memo says that the State Department's doubts about the veracity of the uranium claims may have been expressed to the intelligence community even earlier.

Those concerns, according to the memo, are the reasons that former Secretary of State Colin Powell refused to cite the uranium claims when he appeared before the United Nations in February 5, 2003, – one week after Bush's State of the Union address – to try and win support for a possible strike against Iraq.

"After considerable back and forth between the CIA, the (State) Department, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Association), and the British, Secretary Powell's briefing to the U.N. Security Council did not mention attempted Iraqi procurement of uranium due to CIA concerns raised during the coordination regarding the veracity of the information on the alleged Iraq-Niger agreement," the memo further states.

Iraq's interest in the yellowcake caught the attention of Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Association. ElBaradei had read a copy of the National Intelligence Estimate and had personally contacted the State Department and the National Security Council in hopes of obtaining evidence so his agency could look into it.

ElBaradei sent a letter to the White House and the National Security Council (NSC) in December 2002, warning senior officials he thought the documents were forgeries and should not be cited by the administration as evidence that Iraq was actively trying to obtain WMDs.

ElBaradei said he never received a written response to his letter, despite repeated follow-up calls he made to the White House, the NSC and the State Department.

Vice President Dick Cheney, who made the rounds on the cable news shows that month, tried to discredit ElBaradei's conclusion that the documents were forged.

"I think Mr. ElBaradei frankly is wrong," Cheney said. "[The IAEA] has consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing. I don't have any reason to believe they're any more valid this time than they've been in the past."

As it turns out, ElBaradei was correct, the declassified State Department memo now shows.

For those that are losing track because of the flood of details, here's a good round up of all the events that lead up to the 16 words ( which Christopher Hitchens and fans refuse to read for fear their pointed heads burst), Uranium from Africa and the Valerie Plame expose (Treasongate): A Synopsis

'Is all the Sea obedient to you?'

'No,' said the Man. 'Once a day and once a night the Sea runs up the Perak river and drives the sweet-water back into the forest, so that my house is made wet; once a day and once a night it runs down the river and draws all the water after it, so that there is nothing left but mud, and my canoe is upset. Is that the play you told it to play?'

from the story The Crab that Played with the Sea by Rudyard Kipling

Her son ate the whole fucking light bulb and she said I was crazy

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I'll keep it short today. A few links of note. First is James Wimberley's post at The Reality-Based Community about the surreal policy of pre-emption, That old-time sophistry

If France and Britain had wanted to fight Hitler before they actually did, they would not have needed any dubious theory of pre-emption or prevention. They only needed to stick by their treaty commitments….

This subject is already choking on analogies so using a considerable amount of self-control I'll try at least for today to avoid the couple I have in mind. Pre-emption in twenty-twenty hind sight is a little too easy and in most of the examples, like WWII that the right is fond of using is lacking in facts as James points out. The pre-emptive invasion of Iraq was both avoidable and ultimately unneccessary. The Iraq quigmire has revealed much about the insecurity of many American's about our military might, the insecurity of conservatives in particular. Just in terms of fire power America could have squashed Saddam and the entire middle-east like a bug. To portray Saddam or any nation state in the middle-east as a threat to America is or was absurd, and probably delusional. I say this well aware of the boiler-plate rhetoric of the Clinton administration. Not in anyway to minimize the lost of life that first week in Iraq, but it was a cakewalk. Can a rational person really imagine that Saddam ever committing a true act of aggression directly toward the United States even with crude nuclear missile. It would have been an act of suicide. Now we are stuck in the middle of an insurgent quaqmire, something we will face with any other ill concieved notions of pre-emptions in the middle-east. For those that have no qulams about wiping out hundreds of thousands if not millions of innocent civilvians in a nuclear strike the mid-east puzzle is easily solved. For those with a conscience pre-emption is just a nice word for thoughtless aggression planned by pale white males that are better at shooting their friends in the face then they are at keeping the world safe and secure.

Going Nuclear

Look at it this way: More than 600 coal-fired electric plants in the United States produce 36 percent of U.S. emissions — or nearly 10 percent of global emissions — of CO2, the primary greenhouse gas responsible for climate change. Nuclear energy is the only large-scale, cost-effective energy source that can reduce these emissions while continuing to satisfy a growing demand for power. And these days it can do so safely.

Let a Thousand Reactors Bloom

"In a conventional reactor emergency, you have only seconds to make the right decision," Zhang notes. "With HTR-10, it's days, even weeks – as much time as we could ever need to fix a problem."

This unusual margin of safety isn't merely theoretical. INET's engineers have already done what would be unthinkable in a conventional reactor: switched off HTR-10's helium coolant and let the reactor cool down all by itself. Indeed, Zhang plans a show-stopping repeat performance at an international conference of reactor physicists in Beijing in September. "We think our kind of test may be required in the market someday," he adds.

Some folks are already getting their dainties wrapped too tight over this issue. Relax, nothing in the way of new reactors dotting the landscape like cheesy all-nite markets is going to happen tommorrow or the next few years for that matter.

The Slideshow has more on who is crazier, conservatives or liberals,

There is nothing in what Mary Scott posts at My Left Wing, or in what The Great Rude One posts at The Rude Pundit, that sinks to the level of nastiness that appears on right-wing blogs – and I do mean on the blogs, not just in the comment sections. (It's fascinating to me that newspaper people never quite get it that comment sections are like letters to the editor of a newspaper – before they have been edited and a few selected for the op-ed page. Since of late WaPo is continually telling us that the comments they get are vituperative, abusive, and full of nasty language, mightn't we also surmise that the WaPo is just as deranged as the blogosphere?) You'd be hard-pressed to find a liberal blog that has a post on its front page advocating killing right-wingers, for example. But right-wingers do indeed advocate killing liberals, not just on their blogs, but on television and in books.

Maybe the right is just using the whole anger issue to deflect from the fact that they just can't seem to win the Great Debate on the issues.

TURKLE
Well, Miss… I would say… I
would say, yes. Yes, he's crazy.

ROSE
I thought so.

TURKLE
Is he in an asylum?

ROSE
He's dead.

TURKLE
Oh, I see. He was a very sick man.
Very sick.

ROSE
That's what I told his mother. And
she said I was crazy. Her son ate
the whole fucking light bulb and
she said I was crazy.

TURKLE
I don't know anything about that,
Miss. I would have to examine you
first…
from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Bo Goldman, Lawrence Hauben and Ken Kesey 1975

they could understand each other perfectly, for they all spoke the lizard language

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Libby Filing: A Denial and a Mystery

Defense attorneys for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby said in a court filing late Wednesday that the former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney doesn't remember a conversation he had with a State Department official in June 2003 in which the official told Libby that Valerie Plame Wilson worked for the CIA.

But the conversation did take place, according to current and former administration officials and attorneys who have remained close to the two-year-old CIA leak probe. At least a half-dozen witnesses who testified before a grand jury over the past two years said that they were at the meeting when Marc Grossman, the former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, told Libby that Plame Wilson worked for the CIA, according to attorneys and US officials close to the two-year-old CIA leak probe. Grossman also told Libby that Plame Wilson got the CIA to send her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, on a fact-finding trip to Niger in February 2002 to check out reports that Iraq tried to purchase uranium from the African country. Wilson took the trip and reported back to the CIA in March that he found no evidence that Iraq tried to acquire uranium.

"It's not just Mr. Grossman's word against Mr. Libby's," said one former State Department official knowledgeable about the substance of the conversation between Grossman and Libby. "There were other people present at the meeting at the time when Mr. Grossman provided Mr. Libby with details about Ms. Plame's employment with the agency. There is an abundance of evidence Mr. Fitzgerald has that will prove this."

It should be assumed that as cautious and methodical as Fitzgerald has been he would have some solid evidence both in terms of witnesses and documentation that lays out what was said and when.

E-Mails Tie Former GSA Official to Abramoff

Federal prosecutors last night released hundreds of e-mails documenting the business and personal ties between former White House aide David H. Safavian, lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and a network of congressional representatives and staffers.

Within days after becoming chief of staff at the General Services Administration, for example, Safavian began discussions of government property opportunities with Abramoff. In other e-mails, Abramoff suggested that then-GSA Administrator Steve Perry join them on a $130,000 golfing trip to Scotland.

I saw this article as it broke yesterday and it didn't take long for the righties to sieze on it, The Left, Online and Outraged. I call this this chit chat school of journalism and while I might get a smile out of it if it was about the vitiolic right I would tend to regard it as not very consequential. The thing is I would be wrong. I want the the field of political debate to be about important issues, but frequently it is reduced to these careless character snapshots. Mistaking caricature and generalization for journalism

The tactics in the article are as intellectually lazy and empty as they are transparently deceitful and trite. There is no cheaper or emptier form of argumentation than to isolate a specific individual, describe her, and then, without any basis, ascribe those attributes generally to some larger group — in this case, a much, much larger and more diverse group — of which she is ostensibly a part. Anyone who has even minimal exposure to "the blogosphere" knows that it is insusceptible to the sort of sweeping generalization oozing from every misleading paragraph in this article.

It is difficult to assign motives to people without benefit of esp, you're left putting together pieces of evidence, what was said or done, motives stated (Finkel hilariously said that he "didn't have in mind any angle." But "[h]e did have a phrase weaving in and out of his mind: 'The Angry Left.'") , and what could have been said, but wasn't. Has Finkel ever visited lsf, free republic, protein wisdom, or a couple of dozen right-wing sites who's unhinged vitriol flows like a broken dam guring a flood. There are degrees of anger and while I wish that some of those that are at least marginally on my side would keep things to a simmer rather then a boil, in general terms the center-left is the pennacle of calm rational debate compared to the right. Though to really understand this ground we need to step outside the anger framing and cover an odd phenomenon that is a combination of feigned civility and suppressed rage. It is a deeply dishonest argument to only categorize disturbing behavior solely in terms of anger, just remember the Max Cady/Danielle Bowden scene from Cape Fear, Norman Bates, or Evelyn Draper in Clint Eastwood's Play Misty for Me. Cady, Bates, and Draper were capable of appearing sane, rational, and even charming, but obviously they were not. I'm not giving this right-wing zealot a link, I pulled this off an on-line aggregator,

Betsy's Page:
If you're at all like me, you just don't have time in your day to check out the lefty blogosphere. I can see what they're talking about through various aggregratfors and by what the MSM chooses to focus on without having to wade through all that venom and Bush Derangement Syndrome.

Finkel, coincidently or not has tapped into one of the right's favorite tactics of the last six years, a tactic that that has festered out of the right's deply rooted psychological projections, to portray the center-left as angry and incoherent. Betsy is thus reassured, without benefit of actually researching the issues, reading the essays, or going through any careful step by step philosophical breakdown of liberalism, that liberalism is anything and everything she finds objectionable in America. Ironically as part of a group that lays sole claim to patriotism she'll never have to face the fact that the entire concept of democracy is the jewel of liberal political thought. Conservatives from the early sixties until today have made no contributions of note to democracy; on the contrary they have weakened it, they have used democracy the way a pickpocket uses a trusting tourist, they have taken what they wanted when they wanted it and said damn the consequences. From Betsy's echo chamber again,

I think that this venomous, over-the-top quality of the lefty blogosphere is a bonus for conservatives. They can talk amongst themselves and agree with each other that Bush, Cheney, and Rove are demons coughed up by Satan to torment the world, but they aren't going to win converts to their beliefs with such talk. They'll just reinforce each other in their beliefs and deceive themselves on how widespread the repulsion against this administration is. People might not approve of Bush, but the great majority don't despise him. That's what shocked them when they couldn't defeat this smirking Bushhitler chimp in 2004. And, guess what, he's not on the ticket again.

I'm not sure what half of this means. It does have that calm repressed rage of Evelyn Draper. I have to confess I've called Bush bunnypants, but I've never called him "Bushhitler". Betsy is kind enough to recommend some reading material by another member of the Norman Bates school of political framing, Michelle Malkin who was problematically rational and reasonable when she wrote, Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild, not as cowardly as Ann Coulter's Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism , both of these bombastic invectives we're to assume are descinded from the refined intellectual heights of political discourse to which liberals could never attain. Pardon me if I pass on the kool-aid there Betsy, Michelle, and Ann, or shall we say The Evelyn Drapers of the Right, unhinged, rabid, vicious, cold, phoney, character assassination, vitriol, lies, and half truths are the stock and trade of the right, without these essential ingredients, well, you'd be liberals.
See Ezra Klein for Angry for a Reason and hilzoy for other subjects that Finkel could have written about center-left blogs, Oh, Please.

Lastly, A Bad Leak

President Bush says he declassified portions of the prewar intelligence assessment on Iraq because he "wanted people to see the truth" about Iraq's weapons programs and to understand why he kept accusing Saddam Hussein of stockpiling weapons that turned out not to exist. This would be a noble sentiment if it actually bore any relationship to Mr. Bush's actions in this case, or his overall record.

Mr. Bush did not declassify the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq — in any accepted sense of that word — when he authorized I. Lewis Libby Jr., through Vice President Dick Cheney, to talk about it with reporters. He permitted a leak of cherry-picked portions of the report. The declassification came later.

And this president has never shown the slightest interest in disclosure, except when it suits his political purposes. He has run one of the most secretive administrations in American history, consistently withholding information and vital documents not just from the public, but also from Congress. Just the other day, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told the House Judiciary Committee that the names of the lawyers who reviewed Mr. Bush's warrantless wiretapping program were a state secret.

Obviously, we do not object to government officials talking to reporters about important matters that their bosses do not want discussed. It would be impossible to cover any administration, especially one so secretive as this, unless that happened. (Judith Miller, who then worked for The Times, was one of the reporters Mr. Libby chose for this leak, although she never wrote about it.) But the version of the facts that Mr. Libby was authorized to divulge was so distorted that it seems more like disinformation than any sincere attempt to inform the public.

SEVERAL large lizards were running quickly into the cleft of an old tree; they could understand each other perfectly, for they all spoke the lizard language.

“What a noise there is in the old Elfin mound!” said one of the Lizards. “What a rumbling and uproar! For two nights I have not been able to close my eyes, and might just as well have had a toothache, for then I certainly should not have slept.”

“There is a something going on there,” said the other Lizard. “They let the mound stand on four red poles till the crowing of the cock, to have it thoroughly aired; and the Elfin damsels have learnt new dances, in which there is some stamping. A something is going on, I’m sure.

from The Elfin Mound by Hans Christian Andersen

if you come to me with your friendship, your loyalty, then your enemies become my enemies

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As much as I'd like to ignore this story, it is the elephant in the room, Cheney Authorized Leak Of CIA Report, Libby Says

Vice President Dick Cheney directed his then-chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, on July 12, 2003 to leak to the media portions of a then-highly classified CIA report that Cheney hoped would undermine the credibility of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, a critic of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, according to Libby's grand jury testimony in the CIA leak case and sources who have read the classified report.

Moreover, on July 12, 2003, the same day that Libby spoke to both Cooper and Miller, Libby and Cheney traveled aboard Air Force Two for the dedication of a new aircraft carrier in Norfolk, Va. During the flight either to or from Norfolk, Cheney, Libby, and Cathie Martin, then-assistant to the vice president for public affairs, discussed how they might rebut Wilson's charges and discredit him, according to federal court records, and interviews with people with first-hand knowledge of accounts that all three provided to federal investigators.

That is the folly of spreading slime it always leaves a trail. Firedoglake looks at the Bush-Cheney revolving door classification/declassification process, Cheney Ordered Libby To Leak Classified Information . It is odd that Joe Wilson's report (Wilson didn't actually write the report) is still classified, but then so is most of the NIE of that period. Prairie Weather and I are on the same track. If Bush-Cheney Inc. thought that they had a solid case why did they do all the sneaking and leaking,

What does Cheney do? Does he go on the air to explain? Does he go to the New York Times and carefully refute Wilson's offending statements? Does he call the miscreant into his office and chew him out, pressuring him to recant and apologize? No. He hides behind his principal aide and lobs iceballs at the evil-doer's wife, for god's sake!

So much of what Cheney does shows the fear-driven madness of the bully challenged.

Some people react to being challenged in a way that is argumentative or borderline hostile, but after a few minutes of blowing off some steam, the best these guys could come up with was a petty personal smear ( This must be something that afflicts the conservative world view, take away the petty obsessions and right-wing blogs and pundits would hardly have any content). Shouldn't the American people be entitled to a little better judgement from high ranking administration officials or is this the new national standard of sleaze brought to us courtesy of the party of values.

Women of Independent Miens

When they showed their first films at Sundance in 1996, Mary Harron and Nicole Holofcener made two of the most promising debuts of the festival, Harron with "I Shot Andy Warhol," a striking period drama about the artist and his fateful encounter in 1968 with feminist activist Valerie Solanas; and Holofcener with "Walking and Talking," a wry, closely observed comedy about female friendship, starring the then-unknown Catherine Keener and Anne Heche. Ten years later, having successfully avoided the dreaded sophomore slump, both directors will release their third films here on Friday: Harron's "The Notorious Bettie Page," starring Gretchen Mol as the 1950s pinup model, and Holofcener's "Friends With Money," an ensemble comedy-drama starring Keener, Jennifer Aniston, Joan Cusack and Frances McDormand as Los Angeles women of disparate economic stations.

DON CORLEONE
You never think to protect yourself
with real friends. You think it's
enough to be an American. All
right, the Police protects you,
there are Courts of Law, so you
don't need a friend like me.
But now you come to me and say Don
Corleone, you must give me justice.
And you don't ask in respect or
friendship. And you don't think to
call me Godfather; instead you come
to my house on the day my daughter
is to be married and you ask me to
do murder…for money.

BONASERA
America has been good to me…

DON CORLEONE
Then take the justice from the
judge, the bitter with the sweet,
Bonasera. But if you come to me
with your friendship, your loyalty,
then your enemies become my enemies,
and then, believe me, they would
fear you…
from the screenplay THE GODFATHER by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola

the uniform somberness of the coast, seemed to keep me away from the truth within the toil of a mournful and senseless delusion

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Grilled cheese sandwhiches. It was inevitable that they too would go the way of coffee and be haute cultured, teflon coated, and California dry tomatoed, but they do look good, The Greatest Grilled Cheese Sandwiches in America . In my formative years I knew of no other grilled cheese then those prepared in a cast iron frying pan. In the south as we have had the well known and never ending war over the best barbeque; there has been a battle of lesser glamour, that of the proper way to season a new cast iron skillet. There is actually only one way to begin, of that there is little doubt, though we could look at as the fraternal twins of seasoning. Take a big spoon full of bacon drippings saved from a previous fry and place in pan. Then fry either some more bacon, at least six stripes or six slices of fat back ( bacon's fat brother). You heard me, fat back. If you don't know what it is just go have a caffe latte and some frozen yogurt. Cook the fat back or bacon and remove. Let the fat set in the pan overnight. The next day warm up the bacon/fat back grease just enough to make pourable and save for another day. Wipe out the pan with paper towels. Do not wash with detergent. No, at this point your pan is not seasoned, that will take at least a couple months of repeating this process, but you can fix a decent grilled cheese. Bread should be buttered first on both sides. I'm not a snob about cheese, whatever you like, except those little slices that come wrapped in plastic. If you use plastic wrapped cheese you will grow a wart on your nose and your nose will eventually fall off is all I'm say'n.

I don't know that humanity as a whole has had a firmer grasp of reality in the past sans TV, radio, and the internet; only that modern media have replaced to some degree the town cryer, the pamphleteer, chuch edicts, and junk mail. Defining reality has always been a contest between those of a more rational bent, and those that seem to prefer a made up world shaped by the desire to see things in a certain way regardless of the evidence. Empirists of every generation have dragged the rest of the world kicking and screaming into a more rational world view, from Galileo to Richard Feynman. Rational and empirical is a hard road, but once taken, and there are many that will never understand this, there is no going back. Reality in Desuetude (or, Iran So Far Away)

Libby Says Bush, Cheney Didn't Authorize CIA Agent's Name Leak
Not exactly the point. No one in the administration had the authority to reveal a CIA agent's identity or authorize someone else to do so.

Terrorists are bad, except when they're not, On Cheney, Rumsfeld order, US outsourcing special ops, intelligence to Iraq terror group, intelligence officials say and thanks to Preemptive Karma for this background at Global Security, Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK or MKO)

MEK was founded in the 1960s by a group of college-educated Iranian leftists opposed to the country’s pro-Western ruler, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Although the group took part in the 1979 Islamic revolution that replaced the shah with a Shiite Islamist regime, MEK’s ideology, a blend of Marxism and Islamism, put it at odds with the postrevolutionary government. In 1981, the group was driven from its bases on the Iran-Iraq border and resettled in Paris, where it began supporting Iraq in its eight-year war against Khomeini’s Iran. In 1986, MEK moved its headquarters to Iraq where it received its primary support to attack the regime in Iran. During the 2003 Iraq war, U.S. forces cracked down on MEK’s bases in Iraq, and in June 2003 French authorities raided an MEK compound outside Paris and arrested 160 people, including Maryam Rajavi.

Activities

The group has targeted Iranian government officials and government facilities in Iran and abroad; during the 1970s, it attacked Americans in Iran. While the group says it does not intentionally target civilians, it has often risked civilian casualties. It routinely aims its attacks at government buildings in crowded cities. MEK terrorism has declined since late 2001. Incidents linked to the group include…

A friend is my friend when my enemy is also an enemy of my friend's cousin if its Tuesday and the moon is in the house of the raising sun. Now is everyone clear on the whole fighting terrorism thing.

These terrorists kill not merely to end lives, but to disrupt and end a way of life. With every atrocity, they hope that America grows fearful, retreating from the world and forsaking our friends. They stand against us, because we stand in their way.

We are not deceived by their pretenses to piety. We have seen their kind before. They are the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century. By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions — by abandoning every value except the will to power — they follow in the path of fascism, and Nazism, and totalitarianism. And they will follow that path all the way, to where it ends: in history's unmarked grave of discarded lies. -G. W. Bush September 2001

The idleness of a passenger, my isolation amongst all these
men with whom I had no point of contact, the oily and languid sea, the
uniform somberness of the coast, seemed to keep me away from the truth
of things, within the toil of a mournful and senseless delusion. The
voice of the surf heard now and then was a positive pleasure, like the
speech of a brother. It was something natural, that had its reason, that
had a meaning. Now and then a boat from the shore gave one a momentary
contact with reality. It was paddled by black fellows. You could see
from afar the white of their eyeballs glistening. They shouted, sang;
their bodies streamed with perspiration; they had faces like grotesque
masks–these chaps; but they had bone, muscle, a wild vitality, an
intense energy of movement, that was as natural and true as the surf
along their coast. They wanted no excuse for being there. They were a
great comfort to look at. For a time I would feel I belonged still to
a world of straightforward facts; but the feeling would not last long.
Something would turn up to scare it away.

from Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

That the Captain they trusted so well Had only one notion for crossing the ocean, And that was to tingle his bell

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The Great Wall

The Great Wall winds its way west Ward over the vast territory of China from the bank of the Yalu River and ends at the foot of snow-covered Qilianshan and Tianshan(mountains). It climbs steep mountains and cuts across pasturelands and deserts. A mostmassive barrier, it involves difficult engineering work and has a very long history. It is seldom that we see such a gigantic project in China or elsewhere in the world.
According to astronauts who looked back on earth from the moon, of all projects builtby man, the Great Wall is the most conspicuous seen in space. The magnificent Great Wallis a wonder of the world and pride of China/

There are some small, but good quality photos of the Wall (6,352 km (3,948 miles long). There is in fact some dispute over being able to see the wall from space, Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei has said he couldn't see the wall from space. While American astronaut Gene Cernan has said that it can be seen. At the very least you have to be looking for the wall, have good visibility and already have an idea where to look for it. There is a satellite image here, which suggests that if you weren't already very familiar with satellite imagery, you'd have a difficult time picking the Wall out. One last note, the gentleman that put up the site has a particular world and historical view that I don't completely endorse, the site is an interesting undertaking never the less.

Perrspective has fleshed out some details on yesterday's story from the NYT, White House Shelved Iraqi Trailers Report, in which they look at the findings of the Jefferson Project, Trailer Trash: Bush's Bogus Bio-Weapons Claims

The Bush administration shelved the report of the "Jefferson Project," as it was called, and continued its claims throughout the summer of 2003. On May 28th, one day after the technical team delivered its unanimous report, the CIA and DIA jointly issued a report ("Iraqi Mobile Biological Warfare Agent Production Plants") ignoring their findings and stating their confidence that the trailers were used for "mobile biological weapons production." By June, Secretary of State Powell, who had vigorously made the case for the existence of the mobile bio-weapons labs during his February 2003 presentation to the United Nations Security Council, declared the American "confidence level is increasing." In September, Vice President Cheney declared the Iraqi trailers "mobile biological facilities" capable of producing smallpox and anthrax.

As it turns out, not so much. By October 2003, Iraq Survey Group head David Kay, who had not seen the classified report, reported to Congress that the ISG found no banned weapons in Iraq and could not verify the potential bio-warfare uses of the trailers. The final Duelfer Report from the Iraq Survey Group in October 2004 concluded definitively that the trailers were not in fact rolling bio-weapons labs:

Documents Show Link Between AT&T and Agency in Eavesdropping Case

Now Mr. Klein and a few company documents he saved have emerged as key elements in a class-action lawsuit filed against AT&T on Jan. 31 by a civil liberties group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The suit accuses the company of helping the security agency invade its customers' privacy.

Mr. Klein's account and the documents provide new details about how the agency works with the private sector in intercepting communications for intelligence purposes.

The documents, some of which Mr. Klein had earlier provided to reporters, describe a mysterious room at the AT&T Internet and telephone hub in San Francisco where he worked.

The documents, which were examined by four independent telecommunications and computer security experts at the request of The New York Times, describe equipment capable of monitoring a large quantity of e-mail messages, Internet phone calls, and other Internet traffic.

The equipment, which Mr. Klein said was installed by AT&T in 2003, was able to select messages that could be identified by keywords, Internet or e-mail addresses or country of origin and divert copies to another location for further analysis.

The security agency began eavesdropping without warrants on international phone calls and e-mail messages of people inside the United States suspected of terrorist links soon after the Sept. 11 attacks.

To me it seems counter intuitive to say that you're doing large scale data mining, while at the same time saying that you're just spying on suspected terrorists. If in fact the FBI or NSA has reason to believe that someone is engaged in some kind of suspicious activity that would indicate probable cause and sufficient grounds for a warrant and would also suggest that large indiscriminate data mining dragnets on domestic targets are an unneccesary breach of current wiretapping laws. Purely international calls and other communications outside the US is another matter, spy away. Being something of an iconoclast I would make the argument that we don't need "leaders" as much as we need competent insightful managers, perhaps one that would have made his case to Congress and the American people that in his and his advisor's opinion he needed a widening of surveillance powers. Invited Congress to have oversight and invited public opinion; rather then claiming unprecedented presidential powers. This cabal just keeps tripping over its own hubris. Some conspirical ghost of a liberal media that doesn't exist didn't force them to lie about bio-chemical trailers or treat the entire nation like a giant pool of suspects, they did that all on their own.

This was charming, no doubt; but they shortly found out
That the Captain they trusted so well
Had only one notion for crossing the ocean,
And that was to tingle his bell.

He was thoughtful and grave–but the orders he gave
Were enough to bewilder a crew.
When he cried "Steer to starboard, but keep her head larboard!"
What on earth was the helmsman to do?
from THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK by Lewis Carroll