A Little Something to Fight the Poison

Friday, July 18, 2003
DON'T TRUST THOSE DURNED COMMIE QUEERS! According to the Washington Post's gossip page, the White House prodded Matt Drudge to breathlessly report that Jeffrey Kofman, an ABC reporter who did a story on the low morale of U.S. troops in Iraq is...wait for it...not only [hysterical all caps]OPENLY GAY BUT ALSO CANADIAN[/hysterical all caps].

David Frum and Mark Steyn had best watch out--Ashcroft is gonna be coming for them next. On a related note, is it worse to be gay and Canadian or an obtuse hack and Canadian?

(via Eschaton)
MORAL NON-EQUIVALENCE: Sometimes I can't even believe how some people "do" politics in America. The 'Net left has a funny, semi-self-depricating slogan going around: "When Clinton Lied, No One Died." More of a joke than a real rallying cry, since I doubt any Dem would run that as a tagline. And the right, in general, is happy enough to uncomfortably chuckle at it, since they know it's for internal consumption only.

And then there's former GOP congressional leader Dick Armey, who last week actually tried to make the positive argument that stretching the truth (and likely straight out lying) to support a possibly unnecessary war isn't nearly as bad as lying about sex. Katrina vanden Heuvel was around to verbally smack him around for this ridiculousness, but she really needed a taser to give him what he deserved.
MAKE THAT 0-FOR-2: Remember that Iraqi nuclear scientist who dug out an enrichment-centrifuge from under a Baghdad rose bush last month? A chap by the name of Mahdi Shukur Obeidi. So that part is still true, but what the CIA and the Bush Admin didn't mention is that there was more buried in that story than just the centrifuge. The AP reports that Obeidi also confirmed that a certain claim a certain President made in a certain State of the Union Address about Iraq purchasing aluminum tubes for nuclear production was...drumroll please...false.

But if you were on the sane side blogtopia (all hail king skippy!), you were pretty sure the tubular claim was very sketchy, so no surprise there. Better late than never, I suppose. And it looks like the "official" mendacity count for the State of the Union's going to break the 30-word barrier.

I fully expect that Tapped will be working on a name for this scandal that will rival Yellowcakegate or Urain'tium. I don't have much to contribute myself, although if this thing does really blow up, we may need a more euphonic name for Obeidi. May I suggest the Tubesgate Messiah?

Another note: one has to wonder as to the identity of the "trusted source" who leaked the goods on the scientist to the UN. Considering the limited number of people who had access, a CIA leak is very plausible. Could this be another sign of CIA reprisal (warning: insightful Demosthenes commentary) against the Bush Admin's bullying?
Thursday, July 17, 2003
TONY BLAIR'S speech before congress today provided some pretty good evidence of why more Americans trust him to do the right thing than Bush.

UPON FURTHER REVIEW: Applause watching was especially interesting, considering the PM's decidedly internationalist line clashes with the Bush Admin's on more than a few small details. For example, only polite applause instead of a standing O when he said, "let us start preferring a coalition and acting alone if we have to, not the other way round. True, winning wars is not easier that way, but winning the peace is." Note the locution start preferring. Also no standing O for "I believe any alliance must start with America and Europe," nor, if I recall correctly, for his remarks on Africa. He eventually got a standing O for his comments on the environment and sustainable development, although I have to wonder how hard it was for Cheney to keep from swallowing his tongue when Blair asserted that "frankly, we need to go beyond even Kyoto."
BACK IN AFGHANISTAN: Canadian troops hoist the flag for their second tour in Afghanistan, this time under ISAF. I'm actually more comfortable with this, since doing it under the UN banner is really more in line with the Canadian character. And, with luck, the other UN forces will avoid bombing our troops during the mission.
CAROL SHIELDS passes away.

Very sad, not least because, as her daughter puts it, "she had many books left to write."
Wednesday, July 16, 2003
RESOURCE SHARING: As opposed to that last post, these links are actually funny:

--TBogg makes a graphic observation about recent U.S. deficit history.

--Go to the bathroom before reading this annotated list of sublimely bad baby names. A sample:
"The girls names dh and i have decided on...Malaijah (malaya) Jayne For boys dh and I have no clue, what do you think for first names? ~ Kamden ~ Raiden...We like these for middle names........ ~ Clor" Comment: I just spent 45 minutes under my desk shivering because of this one. I hope you're happy, little Malalalalaijah Raiden Clortrimiton! (Side note: My boyfriend has just informed me Raiden is a Japanese thunder god, but is more commonly known in the west as a character from the Mortal Kombat games. Malalalalaijah Raiden Clortrimiton wins! FATALITY!!!!) [Dorky Ed--This is inadvertently made even funnier, if it's possible, if you've actually played the MK games and are familiar with the sound Raiden makes when he does his...oh, never mind...]

(via Sisyphus)

--Recent VRWC convert Dennis Miller gets knocked down a peg by the only guy qualified to do the job--the young Dennis Miller. Oh Dennis, we hardly knew ye... (actually a pitch perfect Rick Chandler in disguise; via Mad Kane)

--Last week's Best Yellowcake Affair quote, IMHO:
SECRETARY POWELL: I did not use [the Saddam is trying to purchase uranium from Africa claim] in the formal presentation I made on the 5th of February because by then there was such controversy about it, and as we looked at all that we knew about it, it did not seem to be the kind of claim that I should take into the UN. [emphasis added]

What are we, the United States of Chopped Liver? Can't we get the non-bogus intel briefing too?

--the normally judicious Joshua Micah Marshall

WINNING POKER STRATEGERY If the 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq can't go home, then perhaps the Pentagon will at least give them some new playing cards?
The sergeant at the 2nd Battle Combat Team Headquarters pulled me aside in the corridor. "I've got my own 'Most Wanted' list," he told me.

He was referring to the deck of cards the U.S. government published, featuring Saddam Hussein, his sons and other wanted members of the former Iraqi regime.

"The aces in my deck are Paul Bremer, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush and Paul Wolfowitz," he said.
I don't know if granting this request is such a good idea, since it might decrease morale even further by making it easy to cheat:

"Hey, you've got a Dick Cheney up your sleeve!"
"Calm down, I have no idea how he got into that undisclosed location..."
Monday, July 14, 2003
PATRIOTISM, REDUX: Ampersand and Andrew Northrup got into a sharp exchange over patriotism--given my recent post, I can't lay off this one. Although Ampersand does a better job of keeping his cool in saying "whatever" to patriotism, I unsurprisingly think that Andrew is correct in arguing that patriotism is a crucial part of establishing the solidaristic ties necessary for promoting social justice. As Andrew seems to have become frustrated, I will try to pick up the torch and respond to Ampersand's latest set of arguments:
"All my life, in mostly quiet and invisible ways, I've benefited from advantages I shouldn't have and don't deserve. This is why I support affirmative action, and reparations, and almost every reasonable measure I’ve come across for fighting racism, sexism and homophobia (and classism, and imperialism, etc etc)....

'There's a lot that's wonderful in our history (read Howard Zinn), but also a lot that's shameful, and you know what? I can't take pride or shame in any of it, because I wasn't around then, and I'm not the author of the good or the bad things those folks did.' (from Ampersand's original post)

I phrased that sentence with care, and I stick by it. I’m not ashamed because of all the wrongs that have been done to women, to minorities, to gays in the USA. I didn't do these things, and if I could I'd reverse them; so why should I feel guilt or shame?"
The reason you should feel shame (but not guilt), Ampersand, is because until you tear up your passport and renounce your right to vote in American elections, you are an American; even after that, you would still probably be American. You, Ampersand, were (I presume) born in America and you live in America. This doesn't make you guilty of or personally responsible for causing America's past acts, but it does mean that they symbolize you, just as, say, the way you dress, the complexion of your skin, or your family name might be considered a reflection of who you are. The difference is that your nationality goes a little deeper--unlike your clothes, your nationality makes up, or one would expect it to make up, a constitutive part of your identity that you can't just remove. If it doesn't, other people would immediately assume it did as soon as they heard your accent or read your driver's license, and that means something; namely, it means something symbolic.
"As for the Poor Man's linkage of responsibility and patriotism, I just don't see it. Some of the most patriotic people I've met seem to feel no responsibility at all for trying to fight bigotry and prejudice. Maybe The Poor Man sees a connection there, but I don’t."
How are responsibility and patriotism connected? Assume (for the sake of argument) that the average German and Germany itself today bear no personal responsibility for causing the holocaust, nor retain any material advantage from the horrors they inflicted upon Europe's Jews and Roma.

Yet if you travel to Germany, you will find many people who quite rationally feel responsible for what their ancestors did to the Jews. Why? Because they feel ashamed of what their country and their ancestors did to the Jews. I would argue that this is a perfectly reasonable sentiment--unless they are willing to move to another country and renounce their citizenship, they would like to be able to say that they are German with some degree of dignity, and, yes, pride.

They still feel a special responsibility toward Jews and Roma, a responsibility that one wouldn't expect, say, a Chinese national to feel out of "basic human decency. They feel this special responsibility because they were born as Germans and therefore born with the mark of belonging to a certain country with a certain history, a country whose name and common identity they want to do something to rehabilitate. The responsibility such a German would bear to try to expediate such a rehabilitation clearly goes beyond the basic love one feels for humanity in general, just as the responsibility one might feel for helping, say, a hard on his luck uncle with whom one has only recently become acquainted exceeds any responsibility one would be expected to feel to help a down on his luck stranger who shared no ties of blood.

And we are all born, not as atomistic individuals (as libertarians might think), or as merely as human beings qua human beings (as extreme Kantians might think), but rather as the nationals of a certain country with a certain history, and, yes, certain obligations, and these attributes become automatically attached to us and can only be renounced with a good degree of effort. Yeah, using the "L"-word might have a bit of a low blow, but I'm a bit surprised Ampersand doesn't recognize this, considering the contribution that feminists and other identity theorists have made in highlighting the importance of the "always already" existing nature of attributes like race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. Maybe running a blog in libertarian-dominated cyberspace has had more of an effect on Ampersand's politics than he'd realizes...

ADDENDUM: Stephen Bates, always a more than worthy interlocutor, finds a concrete and current illustration of the distinction between guilt and shame.