Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Just because

Remember this...

...the next time you hear Tea Partiers say they want "their" country back.

Update I hadn't realized, by the way, conservatives like Coburn considered the end of the Carter administration a high point of freedom in America. I guess everything went quickly downhill then, though.

ThinkProgress has more, including feminism expert Kathryn Jean Lopez saying she'd be "happy" if there were no women in the Senate.

Kirk still won't admit full truth

And his apology may be too little, too late.

I spoke to a Chicago-based reporter who was at Kirk's press conference yesterday and was told that while Kirk admitted to being counseled for conducting "partisan political activities" while on active duty, he refused to admit that the counseling was justified and that he had actually violated regulations. He's trying to admit to the punishment without admitting to the crime, so I still want to see his Annual Retirement Point Record, which I have requested from the Navy.

If he won't admit the truth, I'll get the Navy to show me the truth.

By the way, here's part of what Kirk said yesterday.
I think the scrutiny is absolutely appropriate. Many people, I should say, in the Navy, many sailors have made mistakes and I am one of them. But we live up to duty, honor, country, which means that if you make a mistake, own it, fix it, apologize, make sure it doesn't happen again.
Here's what I said he should have been saying since I first reported about the Pentagon's complaints.
You know what? I screwed up and talked to reporters when I shouldn't have and I tweeted on active duty and I got my knuckles rapped over it by the same guys who love my work as an intel officer. I was wrong and, hell, I'm proud to be a part of an organization that takes even small errors like this seriously. A dedication to a code is one of the things that drew me to the Navy.
Perhaps I should charge a consulting fee.

Unfortunately for Kirk, he's been lying so long he's become a joke.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Thoughtful reporting about the Mideast

If, like me, you've been looking for a thoughtful, even-handed take on what happened aboard the Mavi Marmara, you should read this article.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Just because

Kirk admits he lied about Nitpicker story

On June 9th, I reported that a memo from a Department of Defense Under Secretary included a claim that Congressman and Naval Reservist Mark Kirk had conducted "partisan political activities during his last two tours of active duty..."

Kirk's campaign, instead of being honest, went after me, saying that releasing the memo was a "baseless political ploy by partisans," accusing me of being a "political operative" and suggesting collusion between Nitpicker and democrats in his opponent's campaign (and/or the Obama administration). He also claimed the memo was "off the mark."

Unfortunately for Kirk, the Pentagon backed up the DoD memo, saying he had been counseled for violating this regulation.

Later, Kirk tried to pretend that a commenter to a news story--a man with whom Kirk had apparently served--had "set the record straight," suggesting that he'd never violated regulations. I pointed out there was a very simple way for Kirk to truly set the record straight. He could release his Annual Retirement Point Record, which would show when he was on duty. I even wrote that the most damning thing about the whole incident wasn't the violations themselves, but the fact that Kirk was obviously lying. Not misremembering. Not being careless. Not getting confused. In this case, if he had been so chastised, he was lying.

Today he admitted he lied.
Republican Senate candidate Mark Kirk has acknowledged twice being scolded by the Pentagon for improperly mingling politics with his military duties.

It's something his campaign had flatly denied just two weeks ago.
As I have written before, I work for no campaign or party. I just hate military fakers, as they use what is good about service in a disgusting way. Kirk served honorably, but, as a politician, he sold that honor for votes. If Illinois voters choose, they can overlook Kirk’s numerous lies, hold their noses and vote for the man, but they should at least have the courage to admit you don’t care he’s a man who has lied many, many times about his service for political gain.

There’s simply no disputing that fact.

Update: The longer AP story is up now.
After a month of eluding questions and relying on written statements by his campaign, Kirk offered the mea culpa at his first news conference since reports surfaced about his false claims, including a prestigious military award that he didn't win.

"I have made mistakes concerning certain aspects of my accomplishments and experience and I apologize for those mistakes and I pledge to correct those errors," Kirk, a five-term congressman from Chicago's northern suburbs, told supporters and reporters. "I am not perfect and was careless. I will do better and I will make sure that this never happens again."

As Kirk apologized, however, he also acknowledged something his campaign had flatly denied just two weeks ago — that he was twice scolded by the Pentagon for improperly mingling politics with his military duties.
Read the whole thing.

Goldberg should shut up

In the run-up to the Iraq war, Jeffrey Goldberg seemed to swallow everything he was fed by Donald Rumsfeld, Doug Feith and other pro-war folks to push for the war. In the wake of the Dave Weigel kerfuffle, Goldberg went all bitchy, which caused others to remember just how full of shit Goldberg was, is and, probably, will continue to be.

So he's gone into defensive mode, inviting Eli Lake to guest-blog and back him up about his reporting on Iraq, despite the fact he's been proven wrong about WMDs and connections between Iraq and al Qaeda. What's can Lake bring to the fight? The idea, in Goldberg's words, that "Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda once had a potentially meaningful relationship."

Potentially meaningful relationship? A wishy-washy phrase like that is all but an admission that Goldberg knows he's wrong. It's like the crap used to defend Bush's SOTU yellowcake claim. It's saying, there may have, maybe, kinda been a way that what I said might not have been bullshit, so -poof- I'm not a complete tool.

Goldberg has invited Glenn Greenwald to travel with him to Iraqi Kurdistan to talk to people there about opposing the Iraq War. Fair enough. I think Goldberg should travel to Walter Reed and the orphanages of Baghdad and explain to the soldiers and children how Saddam's "potentially meaningful relationship" was worth lives and limbs, friends and parents.

Update: Greenwald responds to Goldberg's invitation.

Update: In rereading Goldberg's old pieces, I found in this one the "tell" of the Iraq War bullshitter:
In a series of meetings in the summer and fall of 1995, Charles Duelfer, the deputy executive chairman of the United Nations Special Commission, or UNSCOM—the now defunct arms-inspection team—met in Baghdad with Iraqi government delegations. The subject was the status of Iraq’s nonconventional-weapons programs, and Duelfer, an American diplomat on loan to the United Nations, was close to a breakthrough.

In early August, Saddam’s son-in-law Hussein Kamel had defected to Jordan, and had then spoken publicly about Iraq’s offensive biological, chemical, and nuclear capabilities. (Kamel later returned to Iraq and was killed almost immediately, on his father-in-law’s orders.) The regime’s credibility was badly damaged by Kamel’s revelations, and during these meetings the Iraqi representatives decided to tell Duelfer and his team more than they had ever revealed before.
Here, Goldberg, as had many pro-Iraq War bullshitters before him, suggests that Hussein Kamal (as the name is spelled in the UN report) was telling UNSCOM inspectors about the "status of Iraq’s nonconventional-weapons programs." But, as I've said again and again, Kamal said that Iraq had discontinued its "biological, chemical, missile, nuclear" weapons programs around 1992. If Kamal was worth believing about the creation of weapons, he should have been believable when discussing their destruction. Those, like Goldberg, who used Kamal's testimony about weapons programs without mentioning his disclosure that those programs were ended clearly intended to mislead people in an attempt to push for war in Iraq. There's simply no other way to see it.


During the hearings today:
n preparing to discuss the failed Times Square and Christmas Day bombing attempts, Graham asked Kagan about her opinion on Christmas — and what she was doing on Christmas. As a chorus of laughter died down, Kagan gave a wry reply.

“You know, like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant,” she said, prompting more laughter.

“That’s what Hanukkah and Christmas is all about,” Graham replied.
Which reminded me of this.

Good for Kos

Kos has released a report on the polling done on his behalf by Research 2000 and the researchers' conclusion suggests a problem.
We do not know exactly how the weekly R2K results were created, but we are confident they could not accurately describe random polls.
I have to say, this kind of dedication to getting things right, being transparent and re-evaluating one's claims is one of the things I'd love to see more of on the right. For example, Republicans love to tout the findings of Rasmussen, which seem always to lean to the right. If they were interested in the truth, they could go to, filter out Rasmussen findings, and see that, looking at an aggregate of polls with Rasmussen gone, Americans' views tend to lean more in the Democrats favor.

As Nate Silver has said, this doesn't necessarily mean that Rasmussen is biased, it could just be wrong, based on its internal filtering. He does go on to say, however:
If you're running a news organization and you tend to cite Rasmussen's polls disproportionately, it probably means that you are biased -- it does not necessarily mean that Rasmussen is biased.
So look inward, conservatives. Do you have biases based on political beliefs (which are understandable) or do you have beliefs about the world based on willful blindness?

Kos has shown himself willing to consider that he may be wrong. Can you?

As Russell King wrote, come back to us, GOP.

Update: Actually, I should give credit to those on the right who have begun to look at themselves and their own party in a new light and seek to bring our political discourse back to a place where we may not agree on solutions, but may at least be able to argue about our problems honestly. Charles Johnson made a major move in this direction in November of last year and Rick Moran wrote today that he wants to scream STOP THE MADNESS! because of
the usual nonsense from many conservatives about how Obama is deliberately trying to “destroy” the country, or is a Marxist, or wants to be a dictator, or is favoring Muslims in the Middle East because he actually is one, or is plotting to cancel the elections in November, or wasn’t born here/not a naturalized citizen/Hawaiian official says he was born in Kenya/yadayadayadayada…

God is love (whether you want it or not)

Shorter Sharron Angle:
God schedules rapes.

Mark Kirk comes out of hiding

He claims he was "careless" and wasn't thinking when he made what ABC Chicago reporter calls "misstatements" about his military career.

Look, a slip off the tongue is one thing, but ten "misstatements" about your military career you've repeated again and again make you a liar. As Jacksonville Journal-Courier columnist, Prof. Steve Hochstadt, writes:
Mark Kirk is a liar. Kirk is running for the Illinois Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama. Over his political career, Kirk has used deliberate lies about his past to promote himself as a better person. Although he has been a congressman for five terms, his lying only recently attracted attention.


Kirk lied to his Congressional colleagues, to his staff and to Illinois voters. He lied on TV, on the Internet and on paper. Kirk’s lies about his past have been compounded by his lies about these lies. He claimed that his campaign biography was “not precise.” He said a staffer wrote the false letter to Illinois voters. He has brushed off his years of lying as tricks of memory.
These reporters need to quit pretending Kirk just slipped up. They also need to ask him the right questions.

Better journalists, please!

Update: When is a press conference not a press conference? When you invite your supporters to heckle the media.
Kirk packed the press conference with a “Hallelujah chorus’’ of 100 supporters who heckled reporters and shouted “move on” when reporters pressed Kirk about his numerous mistakes on his military record. One supporter even harassed a Bloomberg news reporter after the conference.
For a Desert Storm veteran Iraqi Freedom veteran combat veteran self-proclaimed tough guy, it sure is wimpy of him to drag out a posse to take on the press.

Update: Politico points out that Illinois Republicans say Kirk micro-manages his campaigns. Wonder why they didn't tell us that when he was blaming his falsehoods on staff errors?

Update: More here.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Just because

Rick Santorum cluelessly returns to the public eye

Isn't it weird to hear a man whose parents were sending him checks to help pay the bills well into his late 40s (while he was making more than three times the median U.S. income) accuse someone else of being "detached from the American experience"? Hell, despite unabashedly mooching from his parents while making what most people consider damn good money, he actually wrote in a book that, "In far too many families with young children, both parents are working, when, if they really took an honest look at the budget, they might confess that both of them really don't need to..."

If that's not detached from the American experience I don't know what is.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

This is disappointing

As I wrote about Lara Logan a few years ago:
I worked with Lara Logan personally in Afghanistan and, to a person, every military member she came into contact with said the stories she aired about her time with them were dead-on honest... Logan was nearly killed running the Afghanistan/Pakistan border with SpecOps types. Logan is the real deal.
But, in this video, Logan really lets me down. She argues there must have been ground rules laid down in Michael Hasting's dealings with Gen. Stanley McChrystal, because, well, she just knows there must have been. While I never worked in role of military "publicist" (as Duncan Boothby seems to have styled himself) I have worked with a lot of reporters working on military stories and the only ground rules I've ever seen set were based on security concerns--don't discuss base layout, rules of engagement, etc.

Further in the interview there's this little exchange.
KURTZ: When you're out with the troops and you're living together, sleeping together, is there an unspoken agreement--

LOGAN: Absolutely.

KURTZ: that you're not going to embarrass them--


KURTZ: by reporting insults and banter?


KURTZ: Tell me about that.

LOGAN: Yes. Absolutely. There is an element of trust.
Sorry, but this wasn't a couple of grunts bitching in a chow hall, this was the general leading the fight in Afghanistan--and his staff--insulting the civilian leadership of the nation. That's unacceptable and, no matter what story Hastings intended to capture while hanging with the staff, ignoring those comments would have been tantamount to committing a lie by omission.

Logan goes on to say, "To be fair to the military, if they believe a piece is balanced, they will invite you back." She's not actually being fair to the military with this statement, because military public affairs guys (like I used to be) can't pick and choose which reporters to deal with based on which ones they feel are fair and which they feel are unfair. In fact, the military's goal of media facilitation even accepts that incorrect stories will be published. Army Field Manual 46-1 (pdf):
Commanders at every level should be interested in what is being said about their efforts. Those at the tactical level will often learn from the reporters integrated with their units or from news summaries several days old. They don’t have to like or agree with what is being reported, but they do have to understand what is being reported. The public obtains its information about the operation from the news media, and those reports help to shape public perceptions and opinion about the command’s effectiveness. With an effective media facilitation program, the command is aware of differences between what it knows to be true and what the news media are reporting.
Also, she's suggesting that Hastings is being "unfair" by reporting the words of McChrystal and his staff. I don't see it.

As much as I've respected Logan's reporting over the years, it seems to me she's actually reinforcing Michael Hasting's argument that another reporter wouldn't have reported McChrystal's words out of fear of losing access. If anything, she's making an excellent argument for sending fewer military beat reporters to combat zones.

Update: More here, from Michael Calderone.
In addition to anonymous officials making allegations against Hastings, criticism has come from another reporter who’s spent considerable time on the front lines: CBS chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan. Logan, yesterday on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” suggested—based on her assumptions, not with any actual evidence—that Hastings must have acted unethically in publishing some caustic quotes from McChrystal and his aides aimed at the civilian leadership, including President Obama.

“It's hard to know—Michael Hastings, if you believe him, says that there were no ground rules laid out,” Logan said. "And, I mean, that just doesn't really make a lot of sense to me, because if you look at the people around General McChrystal, if you look at his history, he was the Joint Special Operations commander. He has a history of not interacting with the media at all. “ (The Economist reported otherwise on Friday, noting that McChrystal regularly spoke to the press and did so with notable candor).
Read the whole thing.

Update: Logan gets Taibbi'd.
...when I read this diatribe from Logan, I felt like I'd known Hastings my whole life. Because brother, I have been there, when some would-be "reputable" journalist who's just been severely ass-whipped by a relative no-name freelancer on an enormous story fights back by going on television and, without any evidence at all, accusing the guy who beat him of cheating. That's happened to me so often, I've come to expect it. If there's a lower form of life on the planet earth than a "reputable" journalist protecting his territory, I haven't seen it.
Update: Glenn Greenwald gets ticked.
Logan sounds like the most devoted member of McChrystal's P.R. staff or even his family: so furious is she that Hastings would publish an article that reflected negatively on this Fine, Great Man (whom she supposedly covers) -- so devoted is she to the interests of this military official -- that, at one point, she drops the neutral journalist mask and shows her Bill Kristol face, and actually spat: "Michael Hastings has never served his country the way McChrystal has."
Is it just me, or does that line remind anyone else of Heinlein's Starship Troopers take on civilians as people with their shirttails out and nothing on their minds?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Just because

Friday, June 25, 2010

Colonel revives Nazi myth to bash Rolling Stone reporter

I can't believe Ken Allard, a retired colonel, wrote this, as one of the lessons the "professional military should take away from President Obama's relief of Gen. Stanley McChrystal":
4. Never, ever trust the press. If you think I’m kidding, just enter the words “Dolchstoss” into your browser and see what comes up. Call it a myth, but betrayal-by-media has a long and checkered history going back at least to the post-World War I German army.
If you don't know what the Dolchstoss Myth was, here's a concise rundown from Corporal Hitler and the Great War 1914-1918: The List Regiment, by John F. Williams.
The November 1918 spectacle of returning divisions of comparatively well turned out German troops, marching proudly through the towns and villages of the Reich, was an illusory one. It provided, however, admirable fodder for the Dolchstoss myth. It was easy to believe this was no defeated army, rather an army betrayed, whereby the German soldier had been forced--with victory in sight to lay down his arms, not because of enemy superiority, but through an act of treachery by political traitors on the home front. This was nonsense. Although it was far from obvious in the comportment of the returning troops, the sorely tried, demoralized, outnumbered, ill-fed and materially inferior army could not have survived into 1919 without being overrun, and with that opening the way for an Allied invasion of the Reich itself. Knowing this, the all-powerful military duumvirate of Hindenburg and Ludendorff had demanded the Kaiser seek an armistice; a fact left unreported by the media of the day.

On every count the Dolchstoss was a myth. Yet a convenient and comforting myth will always win out, in the short term, over an unpalatable truth. Although the Dolchstoss was regarded by liberal-democratic elements within Germany as a dangerous lie, there were more than enough festering support for the idea as a historical fact that it became a causal factor, 14 years after the Armistice, in the ascent to power of Adolf Hitler. It was still pressed into service, as a revanche-driven motivational device for German soldiers in 1939, by which time it was no longer necessary to utilize the idea as a means of achieving the political changes that would make Germany great again. Hitler and his National Socialists had seen to these, suppressing Germany's fragile democracy and bringing in its train measures repressing or even eliminating Jews, Socialists, Marxists and others deemed to be undesirable or opponents of the Hitlerian new order. Nevertheless, with revenge for the betrayal of 1918 still treated as an article of faith, the Dolchstoss had an important role to play. (Emphasis mine.)
The fact that Colonel Ken Allard (ret.)--who taught Information Warfare at the National Defense University and should, therefore, know the meaning of propaganda--doesn't understand the Dolchstoss was a myth is bad. That he tries to revive, to modernize and, backhandedly, to smear Michael Hastings with the myth is insane.

Austrian right-wing caricature of a Jew stabbing the German Army in the back with a dagger. The capitulation was blamed upon the unpatriotic populace, the Socialists, Bolsheviks, the Weimar Republic, and especially the Jews. (1919) Found at Wikipedia.

P.S. As Scott Horton and Kevin Baker have pointed out, the right has been working on this revival for a few years.

P.P.S. A nitpick: The Orwell quote he uses is also false.

Quote of the Day

Dan Gainor of the conservative Media Research Center:
(Dave Weigel) looked at the conservative movement as if he was visiting a zoo. We’re more than that.
You heard it here, folks: The conservative movement is not just a zoo.


Unnamed sources in the Pentagon are going after Rolling Stone.
...the command has concluded from its own review of events that McChrystal was betrayed when the journalist quoted banter among the general and his staff, much of which they thought was off the record. They contend that the magazine inaccurately depicted the attribution ground rules for the interviews.

"Many of the sessions were off-the-record and intended to give [reporter Michael Hastings] a sense" of how McChrystal's team operated, according to a senior military official. The command's own review of events, the official said, gleaned "no evidence to suggest" that any of the "salacious political quotes" in the article were made during a series of on-the-record and background interviews Hastings conducted with McChrystal and others.

The official, one of many subject to a Pentagon advisory not to discuss the situation without authorization, spoke on condition of anonymity. He said he was motivated by what he described as untrue claims made by Rolling Stone.

Two others with direct knowledge of the command's dealings with Hastings offered similar accounts.
This is bullshit. Journalism is not a game of Red Light/Green Light. There doesn't have to be "evidence" that the comments were made on the record because it doesn't work that way. If someone requests something to be off the record and the reporter uses it, that's a violation, but the subject doesn't have to say something's on the record for it to be used. I would say that goes double for embedded journalists.

I would also point out to the "officials" in the Pentagon that Army policy on this issue is explicit. As the Army Public Affairs Handbook puts it (pdf link):
Before beginning the interview, collect your thoughts, remind yourself of the ground rules, and remember there is no such thing as “off the record.” (Bold in the original.)
The handbook also has a message for the staffers who couldn't keep their mouths in check.
Set the ground rules with the reporter. Tell him you can talk about what your unit does, and its mission, minus details that compromise OPSEC. Remind him not to ask you to speculate about the future or answer questions outside your area of responsibility. (Stay in your lane).
And, I would add, Don't speak for the general.

The Pentagon "officials" are also complaining the Rolling Stone fact-checker didn't ask about the most damning quotes in Hastings' article. Guess what? Hastings has said he was openly using a recorder for most of the conversations, so why would a fact-checker have to check on statements which were recorded?

As Hastings said after the fact, no one has come forth to defend McChrystal's statements. For someone in the Pentagon to decide to go after Hastings with this weakass crap is ridiculous.

P.S. Byron York v. Michael Hastings.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Just because

Ur Doin It Wrong

Meg Whitman says that physically assaulting an employee is just "one of things [sic] that happens in business." I didn't know that. I would like to give Ms. Whitman a little advice, though: Next time go with the Belgian Takedown. That way the employee won't know who assaulted her and it won't cost your shareholders a quarter of a million in lawyers' fees and settlement money.

Also, try not to buy other companies for a billion more than they're worth. Just sayin'.


So, if this guy hadn't accepted a million dollars from the federal government, would he be able to afford to put up a billboard calling people who take money from the federal government "parasites"?

I know your anger, I know your dreams...

Well, I think Obama made a genius move yesterday by canning McChrystal and assigning Petraeus to lead the Afghan fight.

It also seems I was dead on when I said it seemed McChrystal had allowed a cult of personality to spring up around him.
Beginning in the early afternoon, a cadre of military and civilian soldiers loyal to Gen. Stanley McChrystal began to spread rumors throughout the capital city: that ground commanders in Afghanistan were threatening to resign ... that the CIA's chief of station in Kabul had stepped down ... that the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), William McRaven, was irate and wanted to step down ... that commanders of the "special mission units" like McRaven's former subordinates at DevGru (SEAL Team Six) would refuse taskings from the National Command Authority ... that buried secrets were about to be exposed, like who actually leaked the McChrystal Afghanistan review to Bob Woodward.
While it's clear these were just rumors--Ambinder points out the CIA chief of station hasn't changed--if any of the Blue Falcon McChrystal aides who thought it would be fun to show their asses to a Rolling Stone reporter were involved in actively spreading this gossip, they should be sent immediately to the tiniest, dustiest FOBs to take charge of crap burning. Yes, McChrystal seems to have created a command climate in which senior officers thought badmouthing the chain of command to reporters was a good idea, but those officers aren't puppets. They chose to open their mouths and assisted in the downfall of their hero.

McChrystal admitted his actions had "compromised the mission" in Afghanistan. Any officer who doesn't understand that isn't acceptable and thinks the answer is to further compromise the mission doesn't deserve to where the uniform. As Obama said yesterday, "The war is bigger than any one man or woman."

One nitpick with Ambinder's article: What the hell is a civilian soldier? There are soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines over there. There are also civilians and contractors, many of whom are former service members. Civilian soldiers, however, don't exist. The phrase is an oxymoron.

Update: John Cole is pissed, too.
People that willingly talk like this need to be exposed, rooted out, publicly humiliated, stripped of their ranks and their pensions, and a message needs to be sent. The military is supposed to be a weapon used when diplomatic policies fail, not a political wing of the national security state.

Good for the AP

The AP's Christopher Wills writes up a horse race article that has one of the best rundowns of Mark Kirk's falsehoods I've seen in the traditional media.
A letter from his office said he served in the first Gulf War when he didn't. He has also referred to serving in the invasion of Iraq, although his duties kept him stateside. He said his Reserve work sometimes includes running the Pentagon war room, even though he oversees only the intelligence operations.

Although he had clearly described coming under fire while flying missions over Kosovo and Iraq, Kirk began to hedge and say the he couldn't be sure his plane was targeted by the anti-aircraft fire. And he didn't mention that he rode along on only a handful of flights — perhaps just three.

Kirk's campaign also denied he had ever improperly mingled political activity with his military duties, only to have the Pentagon confirm that he had done exactly that on two occasions.

The New York Times also found that Kirk taught middle school in England but only for one school year. And his stint at a nursery school apparently was as an aide, not a full-fledged teacher.
It's incomplete, but at least it shows someone in the traditional media is paying close enough attention he can write a clear, concise and accurate summary of Kirk's BS. NPR finally caught up to the story, but provides a less complete inventory of Kirk's lies.

Now Kirk's evading the press, hoping weeks of silence will undo years of self-aggrandizement. No matter when he comes out of hiding, I'll be here to remind the press he's still got questions to answer about his military service.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


This guy's right. This is the best video of reaction to Landon Donovan's goal. Look how sad everyone as the video begins...

How weird to think I was cheering with Nebraska fans. #K-StateRules

The National Review bears false witness against itself*

During the 2004 presidential campaign, ran a web contest inviting amateurs to create anti-George W. Bush ads. Of the many they received, two compared Bush to Hitler. The ads weren't produced by Move On and, as soon as they were pointed out, they were removed from the web site. To this day, however, conservatives continue to claim Move On compared Bush to Hitler.

To be honest, there were numerous lefties at anti-war rallies who compared Bush to Hitler. On the other hand, there were probably as many people dressed as psychedelic Uncle Sams wearing signs warning about Mayan eschatological prophecies as there were Bush=Hitler protesters, so I never took those people too seriously. It's the same reason I haven't made a big deal about all the Obama=Hitler folks at Tea Party rallies.

But, when Thomas Sowell writes an article in The National Review which compares Obama's deal with BP to set up an escrow account to Hitler's use of the Reichstag fire to suspend civil liberties, well, that's a whole different kettle of fish. And when a Republican congressman quotes that essay with admiration on the floor of the House, we're in full on crazy territory.

Remember what the writers of The National Review said about comparisons of Bush and Hitler? I do, and, if you don't, I've provided an incomplete list of their statements below. Once you've read those statements, drop a line to Review editor Rich Lowry ( and ask him how he can justify Sowell's continued affiliation with the magazine after such an article. Because it's simple: Either the National Review writers were completely full of shit (which is possible) or Lowry will kick Sowell to the curb immediately.

And now a walk down Memory Lane:

Rich Lowry:
...the whole thing seemed, as far as I could tell, to be motivated by an incoherent and sputtering animus toward Bush.
Jonah Goldberg: polite and supposedly sophisticated circles in America today it is acceptable to say George Bush is akin to a Nazi and that America is becoming Nazi-like. Indeed, in certain corners of the globe to disagree with this assertion is the more outlandish position than to agree with it.


I don't say this because I feel a passionate need to defend George Bush. I would make the exact same points if Al Gore were president. I would make the exact same points if anybody running for the Democratic nomination were president. This has nothing to do with partisanship. It has to do with the fact that such comparisons are slanderous to the United States and historical truth and amount to Holocaust denial. When you say that anything George Bush has done is akin to what Hitler did, you make the Holocaust into nothing more than an example of partisan excess.
Of course, the real irony here is that Goldberg wrote a book calling liberals fascists, complete with a cover illustration of a smiley face with a Hitler mustache. In other words, it's wrong to compare Bush to Hitler, but in Goldberg's mind, it's perfectly fine to say that people who support helmet laws are "informed by" "classical fascism." Nazism and liberalism, he said, are "related, they're in the same family, they share a lot of genetic traits, but they're not the same thing."

Also, the Tea Partiers have used Goldberg's own book as a sort of nutjob Rosetta Stone, believing they've deciphered the liberal plan. Despite his earlier statement, Goldberg has not stood up and made "the exact same points" against Nazi comparisons now that Obama is president.

Victor Davis Hanson:
So what gives with this crazy popular analogy—one that on a typical Internet Google search of “Bush” + “Hitler” yields about 1,350,000 matches?

One explanation is simply the ignorance of the icons of our popular culture.


The flood of the Hitler similes is also a sign of the extremism of the times. If there was an era when the extreme Right was more likely to slander a liberal as a communist than a leftist was to smear a conservative as a fascist, those days are long past. True, Bill Clinton brought the deductive haters out of the woodwork, but for all their cruel caricature, few compared him to a mass-murdering Mao or Stalin for his embrace of tax hikes and more government. “Slick Willie” was not quite “Adolf Hitler” or “Joseph Stalin.”

But something has gone terribly wrong with a mainstream Left that tolerates a climate where the next logical slur easily devolves into Hitlerian invective.
I just Googled "Obama" + "Hitler" and got 15,900,000 hits. Yes, it's a stupid and meaningless measurement, but it's the one V.D. used above. By his standard, that means rightwingers are 11.8 times as ignorant and extreme as lefties.

Daniel J. Flynn:
Rosenberg was hardly a lone nut in comparing George Bush to Hitler or by conjuring up visions of an administration welcoming the 9/11 attacks.


A truthful look at this weekend's protest confirms that the demonstrators should frighten people — even other opponents of a war in Iraq — here in America.
Byron York:
A staple of Bush-hating is the portrayal of the president as a Nazi. That has, of course, been a prominent part of other attacks against other presidents, but today it seems to be deployed with particular aggressiveness against Bush. There are thousands of references, across the vastness of the Internet, linking Bush to Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich.
Deroy Murdock:
Few things divide more quickly than invoking the Nazis. Yet the Left repeatedly detonated this rhetorical A-bomb.
Stanley Kurtz:
Pervasive liberal vitriol against the president has convinced some Bush supporters that they are in danger. Anti-Bush signs and graffiti seem to be at least as common as pro-Kerry signs. The slogans range from "Bushit," to "Bush is a Stupid A** Moron," to bumper stickers that substitute Bush/Hitler or Bush/Satan for Bush/Cheney.
Bill Bennett:
portrayals of Bush as Adolf Hitler — as we saw and heard in the "human-rights" protests — betray an ignorance of liberty, an ignorance of right and wrong, an ignorance of commonsense.
Update: Radley Balko catches Sowell arguing with himself.

*The hypocrite's crime is that he bears false witness against himself. What makes it so plausible to assume that hypocrisy is the vice of vices is that integrity can indeed exist under the cover of all other vices except this one. Only crime and the criminal, it is true, confront us with the perplexity of radical evil; but only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core. -Hannah Arendt, On Revolution, 1963

On fourth thought...

Joe Barton is a wonder.

First he apologized to BP. Then he apologized for his apology. Then he pimped a story from the American Spectator which said he was right. Now he's taken that link down.

Update: I guess when 65% of your constituents think you did the wrong thing, it might not be worth it to try to argue you were right. (h/t Think Progress)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Gone (or not)

Joe Klein tells Newsweek McChrystal has resigned.

Update: Joe Klein clarifies. McChrystal hasn't officially resigned, but has "offered to resign."

P.S. In response to an emailed question, the reason I decided he had to go was simple. I think someone leading the fight in Afghanistan who badmouths the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan and the Special Representative to Afghanistan in print doesn't have the judgment necessary to do work that requires political deftness.

Also, I personally felt the article's description of McChrystal's team (which could be misleading) suggested a poor command climate. Everybody in the military bitches about the higher-ups, but, if McChrystal's team really "pride themselves on...disdain for authority," then he's created one unprofessional little personality cult there.


Mark Kirk antagonizer Andy Martin is not worth listening to.

Mark Kirk's worst lies

Apparently, Kirk used his position as an intel officer to claim secret knowledge of WMDs in Iraq, saying in a debate:
You don't support the war because you don't have the security to know about the photographs of the Weapons of Mass Destruction that I know about.
There were more such lies, including the "Hussein Kamal" falsehood, which, as I've argued, is proof positive the Bushies and their allies were willing to lie us into war.

A quick reminder. Kirk said:
On December 7 of last year, he told the U.N. that he owned 30,000 chemical weapons, but he forgot where he put them. We have not even found the chemical weapons that Saddam admitted to the U.N. he made. There are over 500 WMD sites in Iraq, and we have inspected less than half of them.

Remember Dr. Hussein Kamel? The U.N. inspected Iraq for 4 years between 1991 and 1995 and found no nuclear program. Dr. Kamel then told us that 40,000 Iraqis worked on nuclear weapons, but our intelligence missed it all.
Hussein Kamal's testimony to the UN was used multiple times by advocates of going to war with Iraq. Clearly, they had read it in order to reference so frequently. Yet, time and time again, those who argued for war refused to acknowledge that, if they felt Kamal was trustworthy when he spoke about the nature of Saddam's weapons projects, they should have taken his word that those projects had been shut down and the weapons destroyed.

This isn't one of those areas where Kirk can simply claim all intel agencies thought Saddam had weapons. Kirk is saying he saw evidence of those WMDs with his own eyes, due to his top secret clearance. This couldn't possibly be true because we know now there was no evidence to see. To point to Kamal's testimony as evidence of WMDs is proof positive of a willingness to lie by omission in order to start a war.

Kirk has told lie after lie about his own military service and I find that repugnant. This, however, is much worse.

Hell no, he shouldn't go! (Yet.)

Update: Now that the article's online and I've had the chance to read it, I'm forced to agree with Oliver. McChrystal needs to go and he needs to take his staff with him.

I have to say, I think Oliver is jumping the gun by calling for Gen. Stanley McChrystal to be fired. As Talking Points Memo's Justin Elliott points out, most of the negative comments about the Obama administration don't come from McChrystal, but from aides who are not named.

McChrystal does seem to have poked Biden on the record, but A) if anyone can understand putting one's foot in one's mouth, it should be Joe Biden; and B) his comment about Biden--"Who's that?"--doesn't seem to rise to the level of "contempt" and could just as easily be seen as a self-effacing reference to his earlier clash with Biden.

(On the other hand, one of the general's aides does say "Biden? Did you say: Bite Me?" which could be easily considered an Article 88 violation, which is when "(a)ny commissioned officer...uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President" or other, specific officials.)

As a former military public affairs guy, though, the worst part of the article is that McChrystal's aides piss on civilian leadership while talking about McChrystal's feelings. The "Boss" thinks this or the "Boss" felt that. That's some major Blue Falcon bullshit right there and those aides should be embarrassed. You don't speak for the general, dammit. I don't know whether the aides weren't reminded by public affairs staff that they're supposed to speak only for themselves when expressing opinions or, hanging out with a reporter for a "cool" publication, they forgot the guy was a journalist and were trying to one-up each other with edgy comments, but if McChrystal goes down, it will be because of his staffer's big mouths.

On the other hand, if the full article seems to show this is the command climate McChrystal has created and supports--one in which soldiers forget they serve at the pleasure of civilian leadership and feel comfortable in deriding that leadership in the press--then, yeah, he's gotta go. I just don't think the stories about the story have yet provided enough evidence to make that call.

Update: Grumpy, Droopy and Huckleberry say they're cool with McChrystal being fired.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Still waiting

A week ago, I pointed out that, if Mark Kirk wanted to prove he wasn't lying about conducting partisan political activities while on active duty, he could simply release his Annual Retirement Point Record. His office won't return my calls or emails.

Are there any journalists out there who can get Kirk to say whether or not he will release this document?


If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know I changed the tag line above about a month ago, but, until that change, the tag line had read:
"You know, this war is so fucking illegal." - Pat Tillman
Tillman has always been one of those larger than life characters and, the more I've learned about him since his death, the more I wish I would have met him.

The Pat Tillman story is a story that highlights the best characteristics of the American soldier, the confusion of war and the dangers of politicizing the military.
So it goes without saying I'm looking forward to this movie.

In defense of Mark Kirk

It's no secret I'm no fan of Mark Kirk, but even he deserves journalists who can get their facts straight. In a scathing column about how Kirk fled from reporters after a Metropolitan Planning Council luncheon, Chicago business blogger Greg Hinz wrote:
Mr. Kirk, of course, has been under increasing scrutiny for falsely suggesting that he was named the naval intelligence officer of the year, commanded the Pentagon's war room, came under fire while deployed abroad, and declaring he learned about the impact of guns while teaching at a British prep school for a year and at an Upstate New York nursery school.

In addition, a Pentagon official has said Mr. Kirk improperly engaged in political activities -- media interviews and Tweets -- while deployed overseas.
That's incorrect. Pentagon officials did say Kirk violated restrictions against politicking while on active duty, but those activities took place in the U.S.--while on training in preparation for his two-week stint in Afghanistan and while on duty in the Pentagon.

I have been very careful in my claims about Kirk's actions. I find it disappointing that I don't see the same care in the "professional" media.

Get Free Government Money Now!

Let Arizona anti-government-spending candidate J.D. Hayworth show you how!

Is it just me or does J.D. Hayworth look like a Spitting Image parody of himself?

Update: Hayworth's defense against claims the group he's shilling for is a scam? Hey, I was just selling out, so how was I supposed to know the organization to which I was lending my name, credibility and reputation got an "F" rating from the Better Business Bureau? Google?

Let's get Tony Hayward to a shelter

Shorter Reihan Salam:
Obama getting BP to set aside money for the victims of its massive fuck-up is just like a guy beating his wife.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Open letter to Bon Appétit magazine

Look, I don't mind that your new blogger has named his blog "The Nitpicker," but did y'all really think that name through? When I started using the name in 2002, I knew the literal sense of the term--picking the eggs of lice out of hair--was, well, gross.

But you know what? Politics can be gross. I saw the name working in my favor two ways: Yes, it does alert people that I may, at times, be overly critical of small transgressions, but I saw it also as a way of suggesting I would be trying to correct small errors before they grew any bigger. In other words, I wanted to clean the "bugs" from the political system.

To use the name for a food blog though? As someone who's done a small bit of branding work (and a subscriber), that strikes me as an extremely bad choice. The last thing two things I ever want to connect in my head are delicious food and the act of picking out tiny, nearly invisible parasite eggs.

Wrong answer

Former Marine and FrumForum writer John Guardiano doesn't know what he's talking about.
...a blogger by the name of Terry Welch has been raking Kirk over the coals because, Welch alleges, Kirk apparently wrote political tweets and gave political campaign interviews to the media while on active duty. And this, Welch lectures, violates Department of Defense prohibitions against partisan political activity by U.S. military personnel on active duty.

Welch is wrong, and for several reasons
Actually, it was not I who alleged Kirk violated regulations. It was Deputy Secretary of Defense (Plans) who said he did, writing that he must submit a document in writing before he would be approved for duty in Afghanistan, because of "concerns arising from his partisan political activities during his last two tours of active duty." When I contacted the DoD, they confirmed Kirk violated regulations. With the Pentagon's verification, it makes no sense for Guardiano to argue I'm "wrong."

Guardiano, however, seems to have no grasp of the facts. Let's look at the list of reasons he says I'm wrong.
* First, Kirk is a reservist who absolutely is entitled to a civilian life separate and distinct from the military.
Yes, but once he's on active duty orders, be they AT, ADT, ADSW or deployment orders, he falls under UCMJ regulations like any other active duty service member.
* Second, even if Kirk were not a reservist, he nonetheless is entitled to off-duty time during which he is free to engage the public dialogue, either as a civic-minded citizen or candidate for political office. Active duty military members are absolutely forbidden for running for public office. They are allowed to give their political opinions, but there is a list of forbidden activities, including any work relating to partisan political campaigns.
* Third, Kirk’s political tweets and political interviews were conducted during off-duty hours.
Actually, the tweets were conducted while on duty in the Pentagon. One actually began, "On duty @ the Pentagon's National Military Command Center." As for the interviews, Kirk still couldn't take part in those interviews involving Blagojevich, because he was on orders and they were comments involving himself and another politician.
* Four, Pentagon bureaucrats to the contrary notwithstanding, Department of Defense directives and regulations do not trump the Constitution of the United States, which protects free speech.
This is absurdly obtuse. There are a number of limits on service members' free speech, including Article 88, which outlaws "contemptuous" speech against the president. More than 115 prosecutions for this article have occurred in our nation's history (pdf link), including at least two such prosecutions under the Bush administration. Heck, service members lose their Fifth Amendment right to self-incrimination completely, so why would you think it impossible for the military to limit the First Amendment right? [I was incorrect. Article 31 of the UCMJ allows for rights against self-incrimination. Thank you, Steve, for pointing that out.]

As attorney Dean Falvey has written, "The military is perhaps not the best career choice for someone bent on the vigorous exercise of civil liberties."
* Five, we should encourage military personnel to speak out on great and pressing public-policy issues because this will enrich the public dialogue. Indeed, more free speech is better for all of us and our country.
Politicizing the military is, I believe we all should be able to agree, a bad idea. It led to the fall of democracy in Rome and countless military coups, which rarely lead to freer societies.
* Six, as a practical matter, given the ubiquity of new social media networking tools and 21st communication technologies, conflicts over free speech within the military are bound to become more commonplace.
The fact that more people are likely to find themselves in conflict with the regulation does not negate the regulation. Yes, it does raise issues about the need for proper education of military members, but as Falvey reminds in the article linked above, drill sergeants are known for reminding young recruits that they're in the military to "defend democracy--not to practice it."

Guardiano is welcome to argue the regulation is wrong and should be changed, but that's distinct from the argument he's making, which is that Kirk didn't violate the regulations at all. It should be added, though, that not even Kirk has argued he should be allowed to conduct partisan activities while in uniform..

As I have said before, however, the biggest issue here is not Kirk's violations, but the fact that, as minor as they were, Kirk felt compelled to lie about them. According to the Pentagon, Kirk was counseled about the infractions, meaning he knew they existed, yet he claimed they never happened. Because of this easily verifiable falsehood, it lends more credence to the idea that Kirk's other nine lies about his military service. The fact that only 10 percent of Illinoisans believe Mark Kirk has told the truth about his military experiences does not bode well for a man who claims to be running on themes of "Experience, Integrity, and Reform."

Most military folks understand that they live by a different set of rules. As a former Marine, Guardiano should know better.

Update: Guardiano has asked for some time to formulate an answer to the uniformly negative response of the commenters to his post. He seems to be preparing for a defense of the First Amendment in military settings. I agree that service members should have the right to speak on issues of public import, but I would point out that Kirk isn't accused of speaking his private mind while on duty (which would be allowed). Kirk’s accused of acting as a partisan politician while in uniform, which is forbidden. Those interviews weren’t “man-on-the-street” interviews in which reporters just pulled aside a service member and asked for a veteran’s personal opinion on Rod Blagojevich. Those reporters called a politician by the name of Mark Kirk, who should have said, “I’m on active duty right now, but I’ll get back to you in a couple of weeks.” It’s not a stretch to extend Guardiano's argument only a bit further to defend Kirk giving a political speech from Afghanistan while on duty.

So, can the DoD limit free speech? Guardiano already admits that it can, but argues in comments that...well, there's not much of an argument made, actually. Unfortunately for Guardiano, there are numerous Supreme Court cases on this topic, including Parker v. Levy. In that case an Army physician said publicly he didn’t “see why any colored soldier would go to Viet Nam: they should refuse to go to Viet Nam and if sent should refuse to fight because they are discriminated against and denied their freedom in the United States.” He also called Special Forces soldiers “liars and thieves,” “killers of peasants,” and “murderers of women and children.” He was charged with conduct unbecoming an officer and challenged his conviction on a First Amendment basis.

William Rehnquist wrote in the opinion of the Court:
“While the members of the military are not excluded from the protection granted by the First Amendment, the different character of the military community and of the military mission requires a different application of those protections. The fundamental necessity for obedience, and the consequent necessity for imposition of discipline, may render permissible within the military that which would be constitutionally impermissible outside it.”
Also, in Chappell v. Wallace Chief Justice Burger wrote:
The need for special regulations in relation to military discipline, and the consequent need and justification for a special and exclusive system of military justice, is too obvious to require extensive discussion; no military organization can function without strict discipline and regulation that would be unacceptable in a civilian setting...In the civilian life of a democracy, many command few; in the military, however, this is reversed, for military necessity makes demands on its personnel "without counterpart in civilian life."...centuries of experience have developed a hierarchical structure of discipline and obedience to command, unique in its application to the military establishment and wholly different from civilian patterns.
Update: Ellen of the Tenth's Carl Nyberg reminds us that the service of Mark Kirk (and other Reservist politicians) is inherently unconstitutional.

This post has been edited, as I initially misspelled Mr. Guardiano's name.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Such a weird thing to lie about

Mark Kirk was a preschool teacher in the same way he was a combat vet. That is to say: not.

The pot calling the pot the pot

Never in the history of America has a public figure been less self-aware than Glenn Beck. The man actually said this when speaking about one of the characters in his book.*
My point is that there is a great danger in the way facts can be spun or strung together to give credibility to what is otherwise a wild-eyes conspiracy theory. It is our responsibility to look at everything with a skeptical eye, and also to be aware that many will try to twist reality to serve their own agenda or reinforce their worldview.

* As Noah Kristula-Green points out at FrumForum, Beck's ghostwriter couldn't actually bring himself to make the conspiracy theorist a bad guy. Instead the character gives speeches to Tea Party groups who, sadly, think he's making good points. I'm starting to think that ghostwriter is a subversive super genius.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I don't think that word means what you think it means...

Mark Kirk has released a new fundraising letter (below). Something stood out to me.
Our campaign's theme is "Experience, Integrity, and Reform and those aren't just words, those are the hallmarks of my life...

My integrity has been earned one decision at a time, striving to do the right thing, and standing up to corruption every time it rears its ugly head.
It seems to me it takes a lot of cojones to claim that integrity is one of the "hallmarks" of your life when you've been busted for lying about your military career at least ten times. If you're counting that's one lie for every person in a hundred who believes Kirk actually has integrity. Public Policy Polling:
Do you think Mark Kirk has been truthful about his military record?

Yes 10%
No 45%
Unsure 45%
Kirk Letter


Rich Miller at The Capitol Fax Blog:
Mark Kirk is an accomplished, decorated Naval veteran who blew that reputation out of the water with unfathomable exaggerations about his military record. He’s an intellectual graduate of the London School of Economics who lied about his experience with liberal nursery school students carrying guns.

These accusations against Mark Kirk are no longer about mere “embellishments” or “exaggerations.” This campaign is now about whether anything he says is true, and why.
Apparently, everyone' out to get Mark Kirk. If it's not the Iraqi Air Defense, it's toddler thugs.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

They call me MISTER KIRK!

I'm still mostly concerned about his military career (and that story's not done yet), but Ye Gods! is there nothing Mark Kirk hasn't lied about?

Tea Partiers v. Thomas Jefferson

Yesterday I bemoaned the fact that Tea Partiers are so ignorant of the history they use to justify their threats of rebellion that to begin explaining it to them seems nearly pointless. After all, where would one start?

Well, how about here? Greg Sargent:
Here's another one that could be tough for Sharron Angle to explain away: In an interview in January, Angle appeared to float the possibility of armed insurrection if "this Congress keeps going the way it is."

I'm not kidding. In an interview she gave to a right-wing talk show host, Angle approvingly quoted Thomas Jefferson saying it's good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years -- and said that if Congress keeps it up, people may find themselves resorting to "Second Amendment remedies."
Sharron Angle is right. Jefferson wrote, in a famous letter to William Stephens Smith, "God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion."

Let's begin by highlighting the word such. Jefferson is referring to Shays' Rebellion and is writing that America should have rebellions just like it. So, is the "rebellion" suggested by people like Sharron Angle, Rep. Michele Bachmann, Rep. Steve King and many, many Tea Partiers such a rebellion? Would Jefferson have supported it?

I think he would.

Let me explain: While Tea Partiers (and others who want to stir up trouble) appear to consider Jefferson's letter holy writ, they only seem to know two sentences of it, the one I quoted earlier and Jefferson's claim that "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants." Were they to read the whole letter, however, they would find Jefferson describing a rebellion much like the one they suggest and would not be happy with the comparison.

The point of the section of the letter so often quoted is that the Europeans had been suggesting America was falling into anarchy, based on their understanding of Shay's Rebellion. Jefferson asks, "Yet where does this anarchy exist? Where did it ever exist, except in the single instance of Massachusetts?" The rebellion had mostly consisted of acts of government interference on the part of aggrieved veterans and, once actual shots were fired, four of Shays' compatriots were dead and, shocked by the fact they had been fired upon by those they expected to join their fight, Shay's militia fled. It seems likely that an abrupt end would come to any Tea Party led rebellion as well. A poll conducted in April found that only four percent of Americans have attended a rally or donated to the Tea Party, but they believe their values reflect the values of most Americans (pdf link). In other words, like Shay's militia, if the Tea Partiers were to take up arms they would likely find themselves lacking the support they believe to be waiting in the wings to commit treason. The conflict would end quickly and decisively, just as Jefferson seemed to like it.

Jefferson would also recognize the Tea Partiers by their beliefs. Returning to the letter, Jefferson says Shay's followers weren't bad people, they just didn't know what they were talking about.
They were founded in ignorance, not wickedness. God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, & always well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have had 13. states independent 11. years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century & a half for each state. What country before ever existed a century & a half without a rebellion? & what country can preserve it's liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it's natural manure.
Read that very carefully. Jefferson is saying:
  1. The Shaysites weren't bad people, they were "ignorant."

  2. It is better for these people to rise up now and then than for them to just stay quiet and ignorant, because that leads to the end of liberty.

  3. Resistance keeps rulers alert, but the answer to rebellions such as these is to teach the ignorant and "pacify" those who would not learn. That he goes on to say the loss of a few lives is no large matter suggests he doesn't mean the rebellious should be pacified by being given what they want.
Do we recognize the Tea Partiers' motives in the Shaysite's? Well, 64 percent of them believe that Obama has increased taxes (pdf link) when he has actually cut taxes for 98.6 percent of working households. That certainly sounds like a group of people who need to be "set...right as to facts."

Jefferson even would have recognized the way our media and representatives have blown the Tea Party out of proportion, writing to Smith that the Philadelphia Convention "has been too much impressed by the insurrection of Massachusetts..."

The single most important thing to point out about Jefferson's letter, however, is that, despite its being used as a call to arms by admittedly angry Tea Party activists and other anti-government types, Jefferson wrote the letter with his tongue firmly in his cheek. He ends the letter by saying he really didn't have many facts to share, so he got a bit jokey.
The want of facts worth communicating to you has occasioned me to give a little loose to dissertation. We must be contented to amuse, when we cannot inform.
Get that? He's saying simply that he's being snarky.

And the Tea Partiers took that silliness and made of it a battle cry.

Of course, it should be noted that Jefferson's willingness to make a joke of Shay's Rebellion might have hinged upon the fact he was writing from Paris, where he was serving as ambassador. Here at home, a retired general named George Washington found it much less amusing, writing that, if the rebels had a point their demands should be met, but, if they didn't, it was time to decisively end their uprising.
If they have real grievances, redress them if possible; or acknowledge the justice of them, and your inability to do it in the present moment. If they have not, employ the force of government against them at once. If this is inadequate, all will be convinced, that the superstructure is bad, or wants support. To be more exposed in the eyes of the world, and more contemptible than we already are, is hardly possible. To delay one or the other of these, is to exasperate on the one hand, or to give confidence on the other, and will add to their numbers; for, like snow-balls, such bodies increase by every movement, unless there is something in the way to obstruct and crumble them before the weight is too great and irresistible.

These are my sentiments. Precedents are dangerous things. Let the reins of government then be braced and held with a steady hand, and every violation of the constitution be reprehended. If defective, let it be amended, but not suffered to be trampled upon whilst it has an existence.
As a result of Shay's Rebellion, Washington argued vehemently for a stronger federal government, finding allies in the likes of James Madison, who wrote that "liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty, as well as by the abuses of power...and that the former rather than the latter is apparently most to be apprehended by the United States." In other words, the Tea Partiers arguing against a strong federal government have their ideological forebears to thank for it, at least in part.

It remains to be seen whether the Tea Party will ever actually embrace the violence its members repeatedly espouse. We will also have to wait to see what effect its existence will have on the future of our nation. However, as the movement appears to already be losing steam, it seems the history of the Tea Party itself will, like that of the Shaysites, be one of a short-lived movement that was ignorant and bombastic, but ultimately impotent.

Jefferson would have loved it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Get me 100 cc of WTF, STAT!

I know it must be hard to come up with ways to defend the oil industry and oppose the drilling moratorium, but what the hell is Rep Joe Barton (R-TX) talking about?
Assume that this oil rig that's had the accident were a patient. You pick the patient up and take him in the emergency room. The emergency room doctor comes in and looks at the chart. You ever been in here before? Never been in here before. Your vital signs are pretty good? Vital signs look pretty good. What's the problem? Well, we've got some bleeding and we can't stop it. What's the prognosis? Well, we just kill the patient. That doesn't happen!
Um, Joe, the "oil rig that's had the accident" don't know how to tell you this, but that patient was D.O.A., big guy.

Now, if by "the patient" you mean the oil industry, well, I found the patient's medical record and, um, it seems he may have been hiding some pre-existing conditions from you.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Noted without comment:
Barton, former chairman of the House energy committee and now the panel's senior Republican, has collected more than $1.4 million since 1989, the oldest data available. That includes $27,350 from BP, making him the third-biggest recipient of BP money in the House.