Mountain Sun

Mountain Sun

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christopher Hitchens and the Kings County Landfill

"It is only those who hope to transform human beings who end up by burning them, like the waste product of a failed experiment."
                              --C. Hitchens, Letters to a Young Contrarian, 2001
 On November 9, about a month ago, Christopher Hitchens' elegant statement about burning bodies and failed experiments was revealed to be not just figuratively powerful, but literally true. That was the day we learned that the nation's main military mortuary at Dover AFB had been incinerating dead soldiers (or parts of them) from Iraq and Afghanistan and tossing the remains into a Virginia dump.  The King George County Landfill, specifically.

Initially the numbers involved were not known.  But the process by which this happened was pried from the current administration by the Washington Post, following a decade of enforced secrecy on mortuary processes imposed by Bush the First and maintained through Bush II:
The Air Force said it first cremated the remains and then included those ashes in larger loads of mortuary medical waste that were burned in an incinerator and taken to a landfill. Incinerating medical waste is a common disposal practice but including cremated human ashes is not, according to funeral home directors, regulators and waste haulers.
Air Force officials said they do not know when the landfill disposals began. They said their first record of it is Feb. 23, 2004. The mortuary database became operational in late 2003.

The revelation of the process had predictable impact:

 Gari-Lynn Smith, portions of whose husband’s remains were disposed of in the landfill after his 2006 death in Iraq, said she was “appalled and disgusted” by the way the Air Force had acted. She learned of the landfill disposal earlier this spring in a letter from a senior official at the Dover mortuary.
“My only peace of mind in losing my husband was that he was taken to Dover and that he was handled with dignity, love, respect and honor,” Smith said. “That was completely shattered for me when I was told that he was thrown in the trash.”  
After four years of letters, phone calls and records requests, she received a letter from the mortuary in April stating that the military cremated and incinerated those partial remains and disposed of them in the King George landfill.
I hope this information brings some comfort to you during your time of loss,” read the letter, signed by Dean.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Karl Rove's Spectacular Lies

Photo credit: Rove Republican Racket
OK, so Turd Blossom is back and he's attacked Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, on the grounds that she is too close to Wall Street.  It's the sort of jaw-dropping, laugh-out-loud lie that has all the vista and splendor of the Grand Canyon.

I mean really.  Look at that damned lie.  It's magnificent.

Immediately, Rortybomb, Baseline Scenario, The Nation, and The American Prospect have all jumped in and assailed Rove.  Here is Mike Konczal at Rortybomb, for example:
To me, the most amusing thing about Karl Rove’s attack ad on Elizabeth Warren is that it shows how adaptable conservative attacks on liberals are.  Because I’m old enough to remember the attempts, mostly by conservatives but by several others, in early 2009 to say that Warren’s Congressional Oversight Panel was way too hard on the banks.
Adaptable?  I don't think so.  This is simply Rove's signature move, and there is nothing adaptable (if adaptable means flexible or changeable) about it.  Remember how he defeated John Kerry?  He took Kerry's strongest feature--his decorated war record in Viet Nam--and turned it upside down.  Remember Max Cleland, former Senator and author of the book "Heart of a Patriot: How I Found the Courage to Survive Vietnam, Walter Reed and Karl Rove"?  Cleland was turned from a war hero senator to a terrorist-loving former-senator in a matter of months.  This is exactly what Rove is now doing to Warren--attack where they're strongest.  

Unfortunately, in addition to the sheer spectacular grandeur of Rove's Big Lies, they are known to work on American voters.  And the fact that he's still launching these with (so far) no penalty whatsoever suggests that Democrats and the professional left have yet to find an effective response.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Disturbing Account of DHS Presence at Occupy Los Angeles

There has been much interest and speculation regarding the role DHS and other federal agencies have had regarding law enforcement/surveillance activies surrounding the Occupy Movement.  See, for example, the ongoing discussion between  Naomi Wolf and Joshua Holland on this.  

Here is a recently-released account from a member of Occupy LA that--if verifiable, is highly relevant to the topic.  A link to the video was recently retweeted by Occupy Los Angeles (@occupyla).  I have provided a full verbatim transcript below the video.

[Ed. Note:  The video linked in this post has been removed at the YouTube source, presumably by its author.  I am leaving the transcript, which I produced myself, in place here.]

One problem with this account is that the OLA member never states why he felt the individuals who picked him up were DHS personnel.  His statement shows that it is obvious to him that they were DHS, but there is nothing in the account that reveals why he is so certain that this is the case.  

If I can get any further information or verification on this, I'll update.

Full transcript begins here:

Yesterday November 25, 2011, I was at the Occupy LA site and me and several people had spotted some Department of Homeland Security agents and, basically what I did was, I started letting people know who they were.
 I started looking at [undecipherable}, basically trying to figure out who they are,  profiling them, probing them.  I walked up to a gentleman, I asked him some questions, because a few days ago he came up to me and asked me some questions.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Bombings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

(Update Below)

No doubt the response from Obama administration officials will be something like "We understand their frustrations," but the insanity will continue to chase its own tail until it drops, exhausted.  

AFP, today:

Obama burned in effigy, Karachi Pakistan 11/27/11
Hundreds of enraged Pakistanis took to the streets across the country Sunday, burning an effigy of President Barack Obama and setting fire to US flags after 24 soldiers died in NATO air strikes. 
The rallies were organised by opposition and right-wing Islamist groups in major cities of the nuclear-armed country of 167 million people, where opposition to the government's US alliance is rampant. 
In Karachi, the port city used by the United States to ship supplies to troops fighting in Afghanistan, more than 700 people gathered outside the US consulate, an AFP photographer said. 
They shouted: "down with America, stay away Americans, Pakistanis ours, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our army", while Pakistani riot police were deployed near the consulate. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Corrupt Origins and Hidden Dangers of Pepper Spray (OC) Use by Law Enforcement

Technical Note:  We've heard that some readers have had trouble posting comments at the blog.  If you've had trouble commenting, please tweet me  @Casual_Obs, and let me know what browser and OS you're using.  Thanks for reading.  --CO

Seated UC-Davis protesters bombarded with pepper spray (OC), 11/18/11.  According to internal documents from the largest supplier of pepper spray to California police, serious health risks may ensue if police spray a person with OC with more than a single burst of one second duration.
Pepper Spray (or "OC") has been commonly used in the US since long before the Occupy movement began involuntarily soaking up endless streams of it in past months. Classed as a chemical weapon by the UN, pepper spray has been prohibited for military usage through Article I.5 of the Chemical Weapons Convention. The ban became effective in 1997.  So what this officer (pictured above) is doing would be completely illegal on any military battlefield on the planet.

Domestically, however, the use of pepper spray by US law enforcement agencies has exploded over the past 20 years or so, just as it was being prohibited internationally as a war crime.  In the US, usage of pepper spray exploded following successful feasibility testing by the FBI in the late 1980s. A report of the FBI findings was published in 1989 under the title "Chemical Agent Research: Oleoresin Capsicum." While I have not been able to access that report (more on that in a moment), it found that pepper spray could be used without harm to officers or the public, and recommended adoption.  Today, there are at least 16 US manufacturers of pepper spray, and at least two industry trade groups representing their interests.

What is perhaps less known about all this is that the original FBI work done to clear OC for widespread use involved bribery by a leading pepper spay manufacturer, and the agent in charge of the testing was convicted and spent jail time for his role in it.  From a 1996 article in the San Francisco Chronicle:
The main study cited by law enforcement agencies to support using pepper spray is apparently tainted by a conflict of interest on the part of an FBI agent who conducted the research.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Democracy Now Swings and Misses on Federal Involvement in Occupy Raids

Democracy Now broadcast, yesterday:

JUAN GONZALEZ: And I’d like to ask Chuck Wexler, this whole issue of the police chiefs trying to exchange information, was there any involvement of the Department of Homeland Security or the federal officials in the discussions with the various police chiefs?

CHUCK WEXLER: Not on our conference call at all.
AMY GOODMAN: ... But I did want to ask you, how involved is FBI and Homeland Security in these discussions, Chuck Wexler?

CHUCK WEXLER: We haven’t had—they haven’t been involved—maybe they’re involved at the local level, but nationally, at least on our conference calls, I don’t think—they didn’t have a role.

JUAN GONZALEZ: There were some press reports that there were Homeland Security presentations urging that these arrests be conducted late at night.

CHUCK WEXLER: That may have been done at the city level. It wasn’t on our conference calls. We had that—no one from, you know, Homeland Security made that kind of presentation, nor—you know, we were really—we were just comparing notes.
As I wrote recently, and as Democracy Now should have known and reported, Chuck Wexler serves on the DHS Homeland Security Advisory Council.  According to DHS, "The Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) provides advice and recommendations to the Secretary on matters related to homeland security."

So what DN did was ask a sitting member of a highly-placed DHS advisory group, Wexler, who had coordinated at least two conference calls between a reported 40 different local law enforcement agencies across the country, if DHS had any involvement in those calls.  And when he said "no", Democracy Now let it go.

At the very least, DN should have known and established Wexler's very public, formal, and clear connection to DHS.  For Wexler's part, he should have disclosed at some point that, "oh by the way, I myself am affiliated with the agency you're asking me about."  He also left open the door that there could have been federal involvement at the local level (which seems reasonably likely, given the role of DHS-affiliated "fusion centers"), but this was not pursued by Democracy Now.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Question of Federal Involvement in Occupy Wall Street (#OWS) Raids

(This story is developed further here.)

Greg Lavine writes that Mayor Jean Quan of Oakland revealed that she had participated in a conference call among 18 mayors nationwide prior to her own raid on Occupy Oakland.  Lavine quotes Quan: “I was recently on a conference call with 18 cities across the country who had the same situation. . . .”

Add to this Dan Siegel's comment (Siegel was a legal adviser to Quan who quit his job in protest of Quan's actions), during this morning's "Democracy Now" news broadcast in which he wondered aloud if federal "fusion centers" may have been involved in some way.  Wikipedia defines "fusion centers" thus:
A fusion center is a terrorism prevention and response center, many of which were created under a joint project between the Department of Homeland Security and the US Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs between 2003 and 2007.
The fusion centers gather information not only from government sources, but also from their partners in the private sector.
Fusion centers are further described in this exchange between Amy Goodman and the ACLU's Mike German from an earlier Democracy Now broadcast:  (July 28th, 2009)

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you mean, Mike, by fusion centers.

MIKE GERMAN: About two years ago, me and a colleague at the ACLU started investigating a lot of federal money going to what were called intelligence fusion centers. And I was only two years out of federal law enforcement at that point, and I had never heard this term, so I became concerned. And what these centers are is multi-jurisdictional intelligence centers that involve state, local and federal law enforcement, as well as other government entities — you know, a lot of times there are emergency services type of entities, but actually can’t involve any government entity — but also involve oftentimes the military and private companies.

So we produced a report in November of 2007 warning of the potential dangers that these multi-jurisdictional centers had, because it was unclear whose rules applied. Were we using federal rules? Were we using state rules? Local rules? And what was military and private company — what rules govern their conduct? So we put out this report in November of 2007. At that point, there were forty-two fusion centers. By July of 2008, we had found so many instances of abuse, we put out an updated report. At that point, there were fifty-eight fusion centers. Today, the DHS recognizes at least seventy-two fusion centers. So these things are rapidly growing, without any sort of proper boundaries on what activities happen within them and without really any idea of what it is the military is doing in these fusion centers and what type of access they have to US person information.
This document, downloaded this morning from the Office of Justice Programs at DOJ, clearly states that fusion centers can and do play a key role in what they term "First Amendment-Protected Events"The document, ("Law Enforcement Guidelines for First Amendment-Protected Events"), indicates important roles for fusion centers in events such as those taking place in Occupy actions across the country and at OWS specifically (fusion centers are referenced throughout the document, below is an example):

Friday, November 11, 2011

Listening to the Occupy Movement

Tag-clouds and word-clouds are probably used too much these days, but I think the format may be useful in presenting the "Occupy Movement" to the public. Word-clouds represent spoken or written speech by graphically weighting words based on their frequency of appearance.  This graphical approach may be a useful communication tool, I think, because the public appears to maintain a poor grasp of what "Occupy" is about.

As an example, below is a word-cloud representation of an early and important declaration from Occupy Wall Street which was accepted by the OWS general assembly on September 29th, 2011.

Occupy Wall Street declaration of September 2011 as word-cloud image.

The resulting image helps to very quickly convey what this OWS statement was about.  In creating the image above, I changed one word in the original document. In the original declaration, OWS put the following statement in its opening paragraph (emphasis added):

We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice and oppression over equality, run our governments.

The declaration then goes on to list (in bullet format) a number of specific complaints against corporations, in which corporations are referred to as "they".  In producing the word-cloud, I have changed the pronoun "they" back to the entity being referred to--"corporations".   Aside from that technical change, the text being fed into the word-cloud generator (in this case, wordle, but others are available) is directly from the OWS declaration document.

Given the public's continuing lack of clarity regarding what "Occupy" is about, and given the diverse concerns present among Occupiers themselves, the word-cloud may be a useful communication tool both inside and outside the movement.


Another example, which combines Declaration texts from multiple cities in three countries (US, Canada and UK).  Included in the word-cloud below are Declarations from the following locations:  Occupy Alaska, Occupy Astoria (OR), Occupy Berkeley, Occupy Bloomington-Normal, Occupy Erie, Occupy London UK, Occupy Memphis, Occupy Louisville, Occupy Wall Street, and Occupy Tri-Cities (WA).  The geographic locations are diverse, but the consensus is devastatingly clear.

Update 11/22/11

Here is a word cloud (click on image to enlarge) done by Occupy Boston, representing survey results from a poll of Occupiers, as printed in the first issue of The Boston Occupier.   Brilliant!

Update 12/1/11

Occupy D.C. has just published its declaration.  Here it is in word cloud format:

Friday, November 4, 2011

Listening to Occupy Oakland

Occupation Oakland encampment 10/31/11

On October 31st I visited Occupy Oakland (OO, twitter feed #OO and #OccupyOakland).  I wanted to listen to occupiers in order to find out what they were thinking and doing, and more specifically why they joined the Occupy Movement.  I also wanted to get their opinions concerning whether the Occupy movement should have a central message to the larger public, and whether they themselves had a fundamental or underlying message about what the Occupy movement is about.

Ted McCoy is one of several people who run the OO Library.

Ted  McCoy

There is a media tent at the encampment, but at the time I visited the media team was likely engaged with a local TV team or two.  After waiting a bit, I went next door to the Occupy Oakland library tent and talked with Ted McCoy, one of several librarians serving the encampment.  Ted, who appeared to me to be in his 30's, is a grad student in library studies and is working his way through school working part time at the Oakland Public Library.  He also has a BA in American Studies and a JD in Law.  He lives in San Francisco.  Ted had just recently begun participating at Occupy Oakland.

McCoy's motivation for coming to OO stemmed from his concern for failing public institutions in Oakland, much of this due to budget cuts and austerity measures.  In his job as librarian at Oakland Public Library, he has become aware of how many in the community--many of them poor--are dependent on libraries for internet access and electronic communication.  The severity of the digital divide is made worse in Oakland by severe public budget cuts to the few facilities where internet access is available to the public.  He also pointed to the high rate of foreclosures in the bay area generally, and how those had given rise to a feeling of alienation and dispossession.  "People don't feel they have a stake in this community any more" he said.

Since arriving at OO, McCoy has gained an appreciation for the diversity of causes people have brought to the protest.  It's more complex than he had realized and goes far beyond his own reasons for joining.   He hasn't participated in the OO general assembly sessions, and spends his available time rebuilding the encampment library--"we lost the entire thing in the raid [the police raid on the encampment] last Tuesday".

Even though he sees the diverse concerns of the Oakland occupiers, McCoy did see an underlying common theme  in the movement message.  "It's economic injustice", he said, "and we're all vulnerable to that".

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Horse Race" Media Reporting Arrives at Occupy Wall Street

One way to avoid the laborious task of actual analysis of presidential candidates and their policies is to simply forego the "hard news" and instead focus on the "horse race"--who's ahead and who's behind at any given moment.   I imagine that, compared with hard news pieces with actual content, horse race articles almost write themselves--one simply records the latest polling data, observes that candidate Smith moved up, candidate Jones moved down.  You might add a note on fundraising status, and/or get a couple of soundbite quotes from various competing campaign staffers about strategy or spin, and send it off.   The beauty of such coverage (again, if the object is to avoid generating difficult stuff like policy content and analysis) is that one can essentially write the same article over and over simply by changing the dates and plugging in the latest polling data, rearranging the candidate names to suit the numbers.  Granted, you've also got to get new sound-bites/quotes from the campaign staffs, but you've got all those guys on speed-dial now anyway.

In addition, horse race coverage is popular, and therefore lucrative  for media companies:
Given access to a wide variety of news reports about the presidential campaign in the weeks immediately preceding the 2000 election, we find that voters were drawn to reports on the horserace and strategy. Strategy reports proved far more popular than reports about the issues.
There is a downside however.  Horse race coverage produces voters who are poorly-informed, as shown here in an analysis of how this type of coverage impacted public understanding during last year's healthcare debate:  
While there was certainly a lot of coverage of the bill, the framing and mix of what got covered may have contributed to the public’s confusion on the issue. While the largest component, by far, focused on politics, only a small fraction highlighted the issue at the core of the debate—how the U.S. health care industry actually functions.
Horse race coverage has also been found to boost cynicism, eroding public confidence in government generally: 
Although media organizations stand to profit, the overproduction of horserace news takes a toll on the political commons.  Our results indicate that exposure to this genre of campaign news contributed to increased cynicism about the candidates and the electoral process itself.  

Saturday, October 22, 2011

After Nine Years of War, Iraq Liberates the US


As has been widely noted, Obama's decision to remove all remaining troops from Iraq was the result of failed negotiations over legal immunity for any US troops that would have remained after 2011.  The number under negotiation was, according to an interesting article by Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy Magazine, anywhere from 4,000 to 20,000 troops.  Immunity, of course, would mean that any action undertaken by occupying US troops that led to property damage, injuries and/or deaths of Iraqi citizens could not be redressed under Iraqi law or by Iraqi courts.  Given our long and very bloody history in Iraq, it is intuitively obvious that many Iraqis would not want to continue granting such a legal blank-check to Obama, even if some in both countries did see benefits in keeping a small US force within the country.  Shame on the Iraqi government for representing that widespread view in their dealings with the US.

The new argument coming from conservative critics of this decision is that Obama "bungled" these negotiations by insisting that the Iraqi Parliament (and not just Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki) must sign off on any immunity agreement.   Iraqi nationalist anti-occupation and anti-immunity sentiment there was apparently strong enough to block any agreement that would keep American forces in Iraq beyond the 2011 calendar year, a deadline previously established between Iraq and the Bush administration.  Behind these criticisms is a vague, unproven, and yet constantly echoed argument that Iraq is going to invite Iran in, as soon as it is finished kicking the US out.  Such claims have never been substantiated, nor are they consistent with Iraqi national identity.

Leaving aside the issue of a supposed shadowy and evil Iranian presence lurking in the background, it is hard to envision how such an agreement could be undertaken without the participation and approval of Iraq's elected parliament, but Rogin's article provides a platform for conservative critics such as Marissa Cochrane Sullivan (based at the Neoconservative "Institute for the Study of War") who are critical of how the negotiations were handled, using the familiar refrain that Iraq is a special case, and that normal measures such as parliamentary approval simply don't apply:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Barney Frank Blames Occupy Wall Street

Did you see this segment on Rachel Maddow last night?  Check it out.

I like Barney Frank, and I'm glad he said what he did. But his complaint that Occupy Wall Street (twitter feed #OWS) should have been in the trenches in 2009, and that OWS really needs to think about voting more Democrats into office in 2012 seems to overlook an important historical fact. In 2008 voters gave the Democrats commanding majorities in both houses of Congress, and they delivered Barack Obama to the White House. In 2009, Democrats assumed the opportunity, the power, and the mandate to deliver change. They overwhelmingly failed to do so.

Instead, in 2009 Frank's Democratic Party began launching a series of policy moves to extend and expand disastrous US foreign military actions along with a series of corporate-friendly domestic policies in the finance, health-care and energy sectors. Most recently, Obama has produced disastrous job-killing federal austerity budget cuts and the largest "free trade" deals since NAFTA (with three pacts to be signed by him this coming Friday). He has alienated his own environmental base to the point of having their leadership arrested at the gates of the White House, and he has overseen the expansion of constitutional infringements and government secrecy, in some cases exceeding those of the Bush era up to and including the unlawful assassination of multiple US citizens without an iota of due legal process. He has done precious little to halt a tsunami of home foreclosures sweeping the country (an estimated 800,000 foreclosures this year alone), many of them clearly involving criminal fraud by banks. Instead of forcefully protecting citizens in their troubled homes, Obama has mouthed vague rhetorical sympathies while protecting his benefactors in the megabanks.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

"I've Got Nothing For You On That"

Thanks to Jake Tapper (ABC News) for asking:

Let's face it.  This administration simply doesn't get the civil liberties thing.  And for any law students who were at Chicago when Obama was on the faculty there, I'd suggest you request a refund.    Credit to this blog for posting this video segment.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Pathetic Left

Pathetic, as in:

"For green groups, President Barack Obama’s retreat on ozone standards is another reason to question how aggressively they want to support his reelection in 2012.  Even more bruising: the realization that they may not have much choice.

“We have no place else left to go but home,” said one official at a major environmental group, speaking on background Friday. “So the enviros come out looking weak once again because of today and we’re all screaming bloody murder.

“But you know what,” the official said. “At the end of the day, I don’t think the White House is unhappy to hear us complain.”

Thus the "environmental Left" is just as pitiable and pathetic as any other segment of the Left, for the same root causes:  

  • The Left self-identifies as an abused hostage of the Democratic Party--one that has "no place else to go"; 
  • Even while "screaming bloody murder" about its abuse at the hands of the Democrats, environmentalists and other segments of the Left clearly, repeatedly and loyally state their support for the party in the next election--thus guaranteeing that the abuse continues, because of; 
  • The Democratic leadership's calculus that they gain political benefits from kicking their base in the teeth from time to time, and that no harm will ever come to them from doing so.

Until the Left identifies some way to effectively change their own behavior, none of this will change, regardless of how many branches of Govt. the Democrats control, or who the party leadership is.  This "I'm mad as hell at the Democrats but will always remain completely loyal to them" tactic is clearly not working.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Rick Perry's Climate-Science Whoppers Not Shared by Texas State Climatologist

Texas Governor and GOP Presidential front-runner Rick Perry:

“I do believe that the issue of global warming has been politicized. I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. I think we’re seeing it almost weekly or even daily, scientists who are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change. Yes, our climates change. They’ve been changing ever since the earth was formed. But I do not buy into, that a group of scientists, who in some cases were found to be manipulating this data.”

 WaPo's "FactChecker" blog quickly assessed Perry's claim on two key points--first, that climate scientists have manipulated data in order to obtain funding for research, and second, that a growing number of climate scientists are questioning the consensus of climate change.  In both cases, Perry's claim earned WaPo's "four Pinocchios" category.  To earn that, Perry had to go beyond the lesser sins of "shading the truth", "significant omissions and/or exaggerations", and even "significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions" (this last covered in their "three Pinocchios" category).  No, Perry's four-Pinocchio fabrications were graded by the WaPo in a single word:  "Whoppers"

Perhaps not surprisingly, Perry can't get any help on his claims even from his own Texas State Climatologist, a Bush appointee and Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University.  The scientist, John Nielson-Gammon, writes an excellent blog at the Houston Chronicle.  I'm guessing neither Perry nor his staff have read it.  If they had, the Governor might have a much fuller understanding of the very-real nature of anthropogenic global warming, and he also might better understand how climate science came to be so politicized:

Most scientific research is not politicized. So it hums along, with funding levels driven by scientific opportunity, agency and societal needs, and opportunities for commercialization.

Climate science is not like that. The present and recent past have seen all three possible funding consequences of the politicization of science. For the sake of argument, I’ll broad-brush Democrats as being in favor of reductions in Tyndall (greenhouse) gas emissions and Republicans as being opposed to reductions in Tyndall gas emissions.

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Democrats generally saw global warming as a looming problem requiring action and supported increased amounts of climate research to help pin down the magnitude of the problem and guide policy actions. Meanwhile, Republicans generally saw action to curb global warming as premature and unjustified and supported increased amounts of climate research as an excuse to delay policy actions. With strong support from both sides, climate science boomed.
The outcome of the bulk of the research to date has been to confirm global warming as a looming problem requiring action. Thus Democrats continue to support climate research, for the original reasons as well as to lend further support to policy actions. Meanwhile, Republican support for climate research has declined tremendously as most new scientific results making the news confirm the magnitude of the problem and tilt public opinion toward policy actions. Inaction is now better served by as little new science as possible.
In other words, global warming deniers had no problem with politicization of science so long as it served the purpose of delaying any form of policy change.  But once 98% of the scientists involved had reached consensus that global warming was real, and that humans were a significant cause of it--only then did politicization of climate science become an objectionable issue for Perry and his fellow Republicans.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Conversion of Osama bin Laden

Neither the short- nor long-term legacy of America's killing of Osama bin Ladin are clear.  Never the less, it is possible to make some fragmentary observations that I think will be relevant going forward.

In no particular order:

  • Put most plainly, OBL is not as important as he once was, nor is al Qaeda.  This is not so much because the capabilities of AQ have been diminished (they have), but because the events of the Arab spring have eclipsed AQ, and OBL, just as they have eclipsed (to a lesser extent) US dominance/relevance in the region.

  • Speaking of the "Arab Spring", it is highly likely that both the US administration and OBL viewed the Arab Spring in the same light:  unwanted.  I think they largely shared that view.

  • The attempt to deny a martyrdom shrine to OBL by burying him at sea won't work.  The US strike on Obama's compound was not just a killing.  It was actually more of a conversion.  What that conversion will be depends largely on how the US behaves in the region going forward.

  • For US Middle East policy, OBL's death will provide fuel for both sides of a debate: those wishing to remove the US from Iraq, Afghanistan, etc., and those wanting to stay engaged there.  One side will point to the nominal mission being accomplished.  The other will see it as proof that progress in our wars, occupations, and "kinetic military actions" is possible, and that we should "stay the course".  Regardless, it is likely that OBL's death will be viewed as general support for the thesis that American militarism works.

  • Ultimately, the meaning of OBL's death and the US role in it has yet to be established.  However, if there is a significant shift in US policy towards disengagement, his death will have been highly significant and beneficial to the nation he attacked on 9/11.  If, on the other hand, the US continues its current policies and actions unchanged, America by its own actions will render OBL's death meaningless. After all, how important could it be if it changes nothing?    Ultimately, the true meaning of the event is what the US makes of it through its own actions--not the event itself.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Hard Times

Washington's bipartisan response to joblessness continues down the wrong and damaging road of austerity strategies and budget cuts.  

I can't help but be reminded of Stephen Foster's classic "Hard Times Come Again No More."  Written prior to the American Civil War, the song is frequently treated as a historical piece.   It shouldn't be--the theme of economic despair and extreme disparities between rich and poor is once again the soundtrack to our current American economic folly.   Here are two covers for this remarkable song.  First, Mavis Staples.

Let us pause in life's pleasures and count its many tears, 
While we all sup sorrow with the poor;
There's a song that will linger forever in our ears;
Oh Hard times come again no more.

Chorus:Tis the song, the sigh of the weary,
Hard Times, hard times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door;
Oh hard times come again no more.

While we seek mirth and beauty and music light and gay,
There are frail forms fainting at the door;
Though their voices are silent, their pleading looks will say
Oh hard times come again no more.


There's a pale drooping maiden who toils her life away,
With a worn heart whose better days are o'er:
Though her voice would be merry, 'tis sighing all the day,
Oh hard times come again no more.


Tis a sigh that is wafted across the troubled wave,
Tis a wail that is heard upon the shore
Tis a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave
Oh hard times come again no more.


Another excellent version by the supergroup composed of James Taylor, Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, and Mark O'Connor.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Next Disappointment: Obama to Back Simpson-Bowles as Budget Debate Starter

Booman: "I don't get disappointed by a whole lot because my expectations are so low."
And when the president makes budget cuts at a time when increased federal spending is one of the only ways to reduce unemployment, of course it is frustrating. But I think it shows a degree of political immaturity to not understand that the president is going to take credit for brokering a deal that both lowers the deficit and keeps the government open. The alternative wouldn't have helped unemployment either. The alternative wouldn't have prevented a lot of people from being hurt or inconvenienced. 
Part of what is annoying me is that everything is being put through this prism where government spending goes in and a rainbow of awesome stuff comes out. Yes, in the particular situation we finds [sic] ourselves in, more government spending makes sense. But, as a general matter, our government spends way too much fucking money, which is why we are trillions of dollars in debt with no end in sight to the bleeding. When I hear people moaning that the president is legitimizing budget cuts, it just rubs me the wrong way.
Well yeah, if you view Obama as nothing more than "a broker"--a disinterested neutral party who's sole task is to establish an agreement between two competing sides, then he did everything he should have done.  But we didn't elect Obama to be a neutral broker.  And liberals didn't expect that Obama would be using the other side's talking points.  We didn't expect that he'd simply abandon our own arguments and inhabit theirs.  If calling out Obama and most other Democratic leaders on that point rubs Booman the wrong way, I'm very sorry about that.  Get used to it.

While Booman does see the need for deficit spending now, his belief that government spends too much generally is both unsubstantiated (at least by Booman)  and untimely.  Now is not the time to worry about deficits.  One reason liberals are angry, I think, is that there are a bunch of economists out there who strongly disagree with all the deficit kool-aid being drunk by people who should know better--including Obama and most of the current Democratic leadership. Liberal economists tend to see the deficit scam, including efforts like the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Commission, as economically harmful.  Premature deficit-reduction measures, they argue, are highly damaging to an economy in which true unemployment is hanging in the vicinity of 16% or so (I haven't seen the latest U6 unemployment number but it is somewhere in that area).  Instead, they see the entire deficit argument as an attack on vital socioeconomic institutions that huge numbers of Americans depend on.  But such economists, like this one, either can't or won't be heard by Obama:
The Simpson-Bowles Commission, just established by the president, will no doubt deliver an attack on Social Security and Medicare dressed up in the sanctimonious rhetoric of deficit reduction. (Back in his salad days, former Senator Alan Simpson was a regular schemer to cut Social Security.) The Obama spending freeze is another symbolic sacrifice to the deficit gods. Most observers believe neither will amount to much, and one can hope that they are right. But what would be the economic consequences if they did? The answer is that a big deficit-reduction program would destroy the economy, or what remains of it, two years into the Great Crisis.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Who Won the Budget Deal?

Two weeks ago, prior to much of the budget insanity we've been subjected to, Salon's Andrew Leonard wrote a piece titled  How to tell if Obama is losing the budget showdown .   It was subtitled "A quick and dirty scorecard for would-be judges".   I suggest we all need to be judges of what just transpired, because this showdown was not a final act.  It was not "High Noon".  High Noon is still in front of us. There are much more important budget battles to come, and how our leadership performs in these battles is going to impact everything, going forward.  The Tea Party fully understands this.  Just after the deal was cut, Lawrence O'Donnell reported that leading Tea Partiers had already called for a primary against Boehner.  Their pressure on him and their House Reps. will be non-stop.

Photo: André Karwath via Wikimedia Commons 
In spite of Obama's "pragmatic" rhetoric during the battle, budgets are not just about getting the mail delivered and the potholes filled.  They are in fact moral documents that show what the social and political priorities of the nation are.  And because there are such radical and reckless conservative views holding sway on the other side, we had better pay very close attention to how the Democratic side did. This isn't a political beauty-pageant.  This stuff matters.

One thing I like about Leonard's piece (excerpt below) is that it was written prior to much of the latest manueving we've seen, and obviously long before the final decision was reached last night, by which time both sides were busily spinning how each had won the battle.  Leonard posed three tracks along which the budget negotiations might travel [emphasis added]:

So here are three scenarios that could play out in the next two weeks that will allow us to score this fight.
1) The Democrats offer cuts equaling the House Leadership's original proposal, minus social policy riders. Facing a rebellion from hard-line members, House Republicans reject those cuts as insufficient and force a government shutdown.
Score: Big win for Democrats. Public perceives them as willing to compromise, while judging Republicans too extreme. This, in turn, dramatically affects ensuing fight over raising the debt ceiling, as well as negotiations on the 2012 budget and entitlements. 
2) The Democrats offer cuts equaling the House Leadership's original proposal, minus social policy riders. House accepts.
Score: Win for Republicans. Speaker of the House John Boehner plays his hand perfectly, gets bigger cuts than the conventional wisdom expected originally, avoids blame for government shutdown, strengthens position for follow-up. 
3) The Democrats offer cuts equaling, or exceeding, the House leadership's original proposal, plus some social policy riders. House accepts.
Score: Huge win for Republicans.  

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Hopeless Left, As Obama Launches Re-election Run

I recently had the lucky opportunity to attend talks by two well known and influential liberals who work in different fields--one of the many benefits of living in a town with a big university.  The first of these was Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law Professor whose effort and concern focuses on US campaign finance reform, election reform, and the like.  The second was James Galbraith, a liberal economist.  Among other things, Galbraith is concerned with issues of economic equality (more specifically, the lack of it).

I'd heard or seen both speakers before, but this time I heard their talks about a month apart, in person.  Galbraith's was just a couple of days ago.  Both were excellent, and both were presentations that had been given before, to other audiences.  Lessig has since uploaded the particular version I heard and so it is placed below.  Warning: this version is just under 40 minutes long.  Those wanting a shorter but equally excellent version can see it here at an earlier post on this blog (hit link and go to bottom of that post).

In his concluding unscripted remarks, Lessig posed a rather hopeless view of the money-in-politics problem.  He likened our republic to a patient suffering from some horrible and fatal illness (no argument here), and admitted that in such circumstances a doctor might choose to go on treating that patient, even though there wasn't any reasonable hope for a cure.  Lessig was saying that he didn't see victory or anything like it on the horizon, but is choosing to struggle on is the only thing he can do.  It struck me as a surprisingly pessimistic statement for a liberal leader to make in public.

Galbraith's talk focused on another problem altogether, that of economic policy and the great bank failure of '08.  The talk was essentially identical to this one which he first gave about four months ago--just after the disastrous midterm elections.  When first given, the piece was ambiguously-titled "Closing Remarks".  A few weeks later, it bore the much sharper heading "Whose Side is the White House On?", published at New Deal 2.0.    Finally, AlterNet made it personal and published the piece as "Galbraith: Whose Side is Obama On?"   It is the angriest talk I have heard or read from Galbraith.  Read the entire thing--it's short and absolutely non-boring.  Here are some representative bits [bolding added]:

Saturday, April 2, 2011

"One Toke Over the Line" by Lawrence Welk

And now for your weekend viewing pleasure here is Lawrence Welk doing "A modern spiritual", One Toke Over the Line.  Commentary by Mr. Welk following the number.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Job Growth Continues Positive in March, But Do Public Sector Layoffs Threaten Longer Term

Employment had respectable gains in March, with all 216,000 new jobs coming from the private sector.  The growth helped to extend a continuing decline in unemployment rates--both for new unemployment claims (U3--the one typically used in media discussions on employment) and for the more comprehensive (and realistic, I think--U6) "Total and Marginally Unemployed".  The two unemployment rates are now under 9 percent and 16 percent, respectively.

Here's a chart showing where we are currently on both unemployment measures (click on graph for larger, interactive version).

Reuters reporting on today's numbers includes the following:

The private sector accounted for all the new jobs in March, adding 230,000 positions after February's 240,000 increase. Government employment fell 14,000, declining for a fifth straight month as local governments let go 15,000 workers.
If public sector job loss remains at these levels, it may be that they will not threaten this very modest recovery.  But it seems more likely that the worst of the public layoffs are yet to come.  For example, this estimate from the Texas Legislative Budget Board for the next biennium anticipates budget-related job losses to be in excess of 271,000 jobs in the coming fiscal year, and over 335,000 lost jobs the year after that (Texas state budget is appropriated on a two year cycle).  Let's pause a moment to consider these figures.  If I'm reading the numbers right, we're talking about just over 600,000 jobs lost through public budget cuts in just one state over the next two years.  That's an averaged job loss of 25,000 per month for the next two years in Texas alone (the actual losses will of course not be so evenly distributed).  Of this total, it appears that over 340,000 public jobs would be lost directly from budget cuts, with the remaining 260K losses coming indirectly, as the impact ripples through the larger state economy.  For more on the Texas situation, here's one of several good articles from the Texas Tribune.

So looking forward, one question is whether the modest job growth occurring exclusively in the private sector right now can withstand what may be a pretty substantial wave of public layoffs at the state and local level.   Wonder how the above might impact the 2012 election cycle...

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lawrence O'Donnell, Rand Paul, and Constitutional Pretzel Logic on Libya

Last night Lawrence O'Donnell practiced an amazing bit of constitutional pretzel logic.  He fiercely (and rightfully) assailed one Republican lawmaker (Eric Cantor) for completely failing Constitution 101.  Cantor had made this completely buffoonish statement that a house bill would become law even without passage of the required senate companion bill, or the president's signature.  Only God knows what the hell Cantor thought he was talking about.  It was the lowest of low-hanging fruit for O'Donnell, but was an amusing segment and made for fun television.

But O'Donnell then jumped into constitutional fantasy-land himself in an attack on Republican Senator Rand Paul.  Paul is arguing that Obama's Libya military aggression lacks congressional authorization and is thus unconstitutional.  Congress has weighed in on this issue before, with the War Powers Resolution:

(c) Presidential executive power as Commander-in-Chief; limitation
The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to
(1) a declaration of war,
(2) specific statutory authorization, or
(3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.

Paul's position, when viewed through the plain wording of the constitution and the War Powers Resolution is certainly reasonble.  O'Donnell responded to it last night by attacking Paul via Senate Resolution 85, which passed on March 1st by unanimous consent.  O'Donnell seems to think S. Res. 85 provides some form of congressional authorization for Obama's action in Libya.  It just doesn't.  It does nothing of the kind.

First, here's O'Donnell's segment:

Now, here is the Senate's own summary of what its bill actually does (bullets added):

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Triumph of Sanctimonious Democratic Purists in Wisconsin

Andrew Kroll has an interesting piece out just now in Mother Jones about the huge spike in fundraising by Wisconsin Democrats in the past two months ("The War in Wisconsin=Big $ Cash for Democrats").  Kroll reports that Democrats have raised more (1.4 million) in the seven weeks between Feb. 1 and March 21 than they did in all of 2010.  So let's see.  At their current rate, Democratic fundraising is on pace to outstrip last year's performance by roughly 1000%, an order of magnitude.

As Kroll explains, the Democrats have raised funds on different aspects of the remarkable Wisconsin story as it has evolved--when the 14 state Democratic senators left the state to prevent Walker's 'budget reform bill', they fundraised on that.  After the senators returned, the Democratic party has continued to successfully fundraise off the active recall program that seeks to unseat a number of their GOP colleagues.

It's obvious that the Democratic base both inside and outside Wisconsin is fired up and contributing heavily.  But it should also be stressed that this tsunami of money and highly motivated volunteers has materialized because these Democratic officeholders have found their base and bound themselves tightly to it.

Imagine for a moment what would have happened had the Wisconsin 14 and their Democratic colleagues in the state assembly acted differently than they did.    What if, instead of joining tightly with their desparately protesting base in the capitol, they had responded to the growing protests with something like the following:
 Now, we know that people are upset with the Governor's budget.  We don't like it either, and we've fought it as hard as we can.  We simply don't have the numbers.  We know our Wisconsin constituents may get angry with us for giving up, but we're just facing reality.  And if our constituents don't like that, and get angry with us for giving in,"if that's the standard by which we are measuring success or core principles, then let's face it, we will never get anything done. People will have the satisfaction of having a purist position, and no victories for the American people. And we will be able to feel good about ourselves, and sanctimonious about how pure our intentions are and how tough we are. ... That can't be the measure of how we think about our public service. That can't be the measure of what it means to be a Democrat."
Obama scolds his base after his extension of the Bush tax cuts.
The Wisconsin Democrats could have said something like that.  And in fact the italicized text above was taken verbatim from an Obama press conference in which he lashed out at his own base when they criticized his surrender on the Bush tax cuts, as he had previously surrendered on healthcare.  Ironically, the Wisconsin Democrats were, in part, fighting a similar tax-cuts-for-the-rich move by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.  Obama and Walker have that much in common.  So the Wisconsinites could have done that--could have criticized their base for being unrealistic and unreasonable, called it a day, and gone home.  But had they done that, they would right now be consumed with worry about future electoral losses, beset with fundraising difficulties, and pondering how to motivate an angry, dispirited and resentful base.

President-Elect Barack Obama on Bradley Manning

For those involved in the Bradley Manning fight, I hope you know that you once had a friend in Barack Obama.  Back in those heady days when Candidate Obama was morphing into President Obama, this is what he promised:

"Protect Whistleblowers: Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process."

Yes, thank you very much.  Ancient history, I know.  The transition has indeed ended, and the administration has taken over.  Never look back.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Juan Cole, US Intervention in Libya, and the Left's Constitutional Myopia

I'm amazed (and admittedly frustrated) that people like Juan Cole and Digby can so blithely ignore constitutional process in this country. I have already discussed Digby's startling disregard for constitutional process here. Today, Juan Cole has offered an "Open Letter to the Left" in which he lays out his support for the Libyan invasion, and includes a summary of how the Left has been split by the military action there. Nowhere in his synthesis does Cole observe the simple fact that the Libyan military action by US forces is an Article I violation and is in violation of the War Powers Act. Nowhere in his letter does he admit that this might be a basis--to any extent--for some on the Left to be critical of our role in the current conflict.

I perceive a double-standard at play here. We on the Left love constitutions. Everyone should have one. But we can't be bothered with our own. This view is illustrated to some extent by Cole, but it goes much wider than him. Cole's most recent posts covering North Africa and the Middle East have been loaded with references to a recurring, universal demand by populations throughout the region, namely new constitutions or substantially reformed constitutions and constitutional processes-- specifically:

"The Arab crowds are investing their hopes in a new era of parliamentarism, in elections and constitutions, in term limits and referendums, in the rule of law and the principle that governmental authority must derive from the people."
"Some 6000 protesters marched in Jordan on Friday. They said they wanted to transform the Jordanian monarchy into a European-style, constitutional monarchy and to return to an unamended 1952 constitution."
"Thousands came into the streets of Casablanca on Sunday to put pressure on the king to follow through on his pledges. But the crowds added another demand, of a new constitution to be approved by the people."
"Michael Hudson surveys the wreckage in Bahrain, where the Shiite majority had demanded constitutional reforms in aid of popular sovereignty from the Sunni monarchy, but got imported Saudi Wahhabi troops instead."

"The government has appointed respected jurist Tareq al-Bishri to head a committee charged with amending the 1973 constitution, which had been subject to large numbers of changes that benefited the ruling National Democratic Party. "

Friday, March 25, 2011

US Government Develops "Panic Button" Software to Protect Activists from "Repressive Governments"

This is a good one, from Reuters:

Hillary Clinton, protector of cellphone privacy.
US develops 'panic button' for democracy activists
by Andrew Quinn
WASHINGTON, March 25 (Reuters) - Some day soon, when pro-democracy campaigners have their cellphones confiscated by police, they'll be able to hit the "panic button" -- a special app that will both wipe out the phone's address book and emit emergency alerts to other activists.
The panic button is one of the new technologies the U.S. State Department is promoting to equip pro-democracy activists in countries ranging from the Middle East to China with the tools to fight back against repressive governments...
The United States had budgeted some $50 million since 2008 to promote new technologies for social activists, focusing both on "circumvention" technology to help them work around government-imposed firewalls and on new strategies to protect their own communications and data from government intrusion.

So glad that the US government is doing this.  I wonder if this critical information has gotten out to the democracy activists habitually being delayed, harrassed and having their communications gear searched and/or confiscated illegally.  There have been some serious difficulties in this regard with repressive government behavior (from boingboing):

Wikileaks volunteer detained
by Rob Beschizza  
A volunteer for Wikileaks was detained by officials Thursday while entering the country at Newark International Airport.
Jacob Appelbaum, noted for his work with the Tor online security project, was searched and "interrogated" for three hours before being released, according to a source who asked to remain anonymous
According to the source, Appelbaum was stopped by customs officials and spoken to for at least three hours by a team that included a U.S. Army investigator. Army Pvt. Bradley Manning was named last week as a possible Wikileaks source in relation to the classified logs.
Appelbaum's interviewers demanded that he decrypt his laptop and other computer equipment, the source said. After his refusal to do so, they confiscated it, including three cellphones. The laptop was returned, apparently because it contained no storage drive that investigators could examine. He was also asked about his role in Wikileaks and informed that he was under surveillance.

Here's another case (from cnet) that the State Department might want to investigate. They really need to help this guy out:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Constitutional Process Matters, Except When Digby Knows Better

People keep asking me if I support Dennis Kucinich's call to impeach Obama for failing to get congressional authorization for the operation in Libya. Actually no, and not because Obama swears [sic] my team jersey. It's because I know that if he had gone to the congress to get authorization he would have gotten it, so the whole question seems a little bit irrelevant. They always do. Sometimes it's by acclamation as it was with Afghanistan or it's a little bit tougher as it was in Gulf War I. But the congress is not going to deny the president his prerogative to make war. Certainly, the Senate isn't going to do it --- they all look in the mirror every morning and see a future president and they want to be able to make their own wars when the time comes.

All this talk about process obscures the real question of whether or not we should have intervened in Libya and I have little doubt that if the great debate everyone thinks should have happened had happened, it wouldn't have changed the outcome one bit except to give the imprimatur of congress to the administration's decision. So, that's a big whatever. Process matters, but in this case, it's only barely relevant to the real question before us.

Regardless of Digby's prophetic powers,  I would have preferred that my congressman have his say on the floor.  I think he might well have spoken against it.  And I'd like to have given any senator a chance to do a "Bernie Sanders" for a few hours on CSPAN.   Who knows?   Some grandstanding Senator might have pushed the hour late enough that France Sarkozy would have jumped into Libya without us.  In spite of Digby's impressive claim to be able to foretell the future, I'd rather have played that particular game out.   You just never know.  A little time in debate might make a big difference.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fareed Zakaria's Call for US Intervention in Libya

"If there is one lesson for U.S. foreign policy from the past 10 years" Fareed Zakaria recently wrote, "it is surely that military intervention can seem simple but is in fact a complex affair with the potential for unintended consequences."

Zakaria's article, "The Libyan Conundrum" appears to take precious little time to consider those possible consequences.   Instead, he uses the essay to urge Obama to take aggressive action. Left on its own, Zakaria argued, the Libyan opposition might well turn into an al Qaeda "area of strength."  His reasoning behind why Libya would be more or less vulnerable to al Qaeda influence than a host of other relevant countries including Tunisia, Sudan, Egypt, Yemen or Bahrain is not provided.

Zakaria should be familiar with unintended consequences. Here he is in 2003, just prior to the Iraq War, in an article sometimes cited as evidence of his journalistic "willingness to call out our government's missteps in Iraq:"

"In one respect, I believe that the Bush administration is right: this war will look better when it is over. The military campaign will probably be less difficult than many of Washington's opponents think. Most important, it will reveal the nature of Saddam's barbarous regime. Prisoners and political dissidents will tell stories of atrocities. Horrific documents will come to light. Weapons of mass destruction will be found. If done right, years from now people will remember above all that America helped rid Iraq of a totalitarian dictator."

All the above indeed did come to light, except for the WMDs of course.  But Zakaria expected those revelations to stem from Sadam's abuses.  Instead, they were our own, and are now too numerous, persistent and diverse to quantify.  Indeed, Nir Rosen recently guessed that the mountains of dead from our Iraq "missteps" will likely never be adequately documented.

But how about Zakaria's  missteps?  If the US government can be fairly accused of  screwing up Iraq beyond all recognition (which few would dispute), how can we possibly decouple that same damning assessment from journalists like Fareed Zakaria, who justified and approved that war?  And above all else, how can the American public and American policymakers continue to listen to pundits like Zakaria without remembering how badly wrong they were last time, just a few short years ago?