Friday, February 07, 2003


Took a bit of skimming about to find the quote from Annie Dillard I was looking for (below). I can't resist quoting a couple more items from that skimming. (The book is The Writing Life.)

Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case.

And this, which is actually a passage Dillard quotes from a book on Hasidism:

Rebbe Shmelke of Nickolsburg, it was told, never really heard his teacher, the Maggid of Mezritch, finish a thought because as soon as the latter would say "and the Lord spoke," Shmelke would begin shouting in wonderment, "The Lord spoke, the Lord spoke," and continue shouting until he had to be carried from the room.

posted by Fred Clark 4:13 PM


Calpundit's Kevin Drum provides an insightful and enjoyable interview with Josh Marshall, author of Talking Points Memo.

Reading this, from Marshall:

Now, not long after I started the site I quit my job and started freelancing. And it immediately occurred to me, or rather I worried, that TPM was going to cannibalize my freelance writing. Obviously, you only have so many ideas and so many words in you a week. And how was I going to support myself if I was writing a lot of them on my site and not getting paid for it?

Reminded me of this, from Annie Dillard in The Writing Life:

One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.

posted by Fred Clark 4:06 PM


No smoking gun, lots of smoke and mirrors.

1. The aluminum tubes. The IAEA keeps pointing out that these tubes are not suitable for enriching uranium for a weapons program, as Powell and Bush assert. The U.S. response has been that with lots and lots of money and American high-tech science, the tubes could be altered for this purpose. This is evidently true, but it's also the opposite of Bush's original assertion that the tubes were part of an Iraqi effort to create a cheap-and-dirty weapon. The whole aluminum tubes business smells like the now familiar Bush pattern of deceit.

2. "The fine paper that United Kingdom distributed." Complete and utter hogwash. This casts suspicion on everything else Powell said before the Security Council -- including "and" and "the."

3. Powell asserted an Iraqi connection to al-Qaida. The cornerstone of this assertion is a terrorist camp in northern Iraq. (Northern Iraq, of course, is not under Saddam Hussein's control so it seems rather beside the point -- but let that pass.) The U.S. says it has months of satellite photography monitoring this hive of al-Qaida activity. This raises an obvious question: why is that camp still there?

Right now America is already at war. Remember the "war on terrorism"? (It's easy for civilians to forget about this war since the president only mentions it when it's politically expedient to do so.) The great difficulty in the war on terrorism is finding the enemy. Well, here they are. What are we waiting for?

Lawmakers raised this very question with Colin Powell yesterday and the answers -- the non-answers -- are deeply troubling. Here's the Los Angeles Times' report by Greg Miller:

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell spent a significant part of his presentation to the United Nations this week describing a terrorist camp in northern Iraq where Al Qaeda affiliates are said to be training to carry out attacks with explosives and poisons.

But neither Powell nor other administration officials answered the question: What is the United States doing about it?   
Lawmakers who have attended classified briefings on the camp say that they have been stymied for months in their efforts to get an explanation for why the United States has not launched a military strike on the compound near the village of Khurmal. Powell cited its ongoing operation as one of the key reasons for suspecting ties between Baghdad and the Al Qaeda terror network.

The lawmakers put new pressure on the Bush administration to explain its decision to leave the facility, which it has known about for months, unharmed.

"Why have we not taken it out?" Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) asked Powell during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Thursday. "Why have we let it sit there if it's such a dangerous plant producing these toxins?"

Powell declined to answer, saying he could not discuss the matter in open session.

"I can assure you that it is a place that has been very much in our minds. And we have been tracing individuals who have gone in there and come out of there," Powell said.

Absent an explanation from the White House, some officials suggested that the administration has refrained from striking the compound in part to preserve a key piece of its case against Iraq.

"This is it, this is their compelling evidence for use of force," said one intelligence official, who asked not to be identified. "If you take it out, you can't use it as justification for war."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a member of the intelligence committee, said she and other members have been frustrated in their attempts to get an explanation from administration officials in closed-door briefings.

"We've been asking this question and have not been given an answer," Feinstein said. Officials have replied that "they'll have to get back to us."

A White House spokesman said Thursday he had no comment on the matter.

The administration's handling of the issue has emerged as one of the more curious recent elements of the war on terrorism. Failing to intervene appears to be at odds with President Bush's stated policy of preempting terrorist threats, and the facility is in an area where the United States already has a considerable presence.

U.S. intelligence agents are said to be operating among the Kurdish population nearby, and U.S. and British warplanes patrol much of northern Iraq as part of their enforcement of a "no-fly" zone.

We are at war with terrorism, and here is a military target -- an enemy base camp allegedly linked to "the men who brought these buildings down." Yet Bush apparently leaves it unscathed so that it's existence can be used in support of an assault on Iraq that will involve massive bombing of cities (i.e. nonmilitary targets) and the civilians therein. You're not allowed to kill civilians.

posted by Fred Clark 2:21 PM


Bush, Blair and Powell don't even bother to read their own phony intelligence.

The BBC follows up on the earlier Channel 4 report that the dossier supposedly written by British intelligence -- and commended by Colin Powell in his UN slide-show -- was actually plagiarized from a graduate student's 12-year old paper and two magazine articles.

This is the best the United States of American and the United Kingdom can come up with? A slapdash amalgam of somebody's thesis and a couple of articles from Jane's? This isn't intelligence -- it's not even competent Googling. It's an embarrassment and an insult to the Security Council. Was somebody actually paid to cut-and-paste together this irrelevancy?

"I would call my colleagues' attention to the fine paper that United Kingdom distributed yesterday, which describes in exquisite detail Iraqi deception activities," Mr Powell told the UN security council.

This translates to: "I, Colin Powell, hereby forfeit all credibility and any and all claim to your respect."

Did Powell even read this "fine paper"? The man sat there and called upon the nations of the world to wage war based in part on an "intelligence dossier" more than a decade old which hadn't even been proofread. Colin Powell asked the world to bless and justify cruise missiles and lethal collateral damage on the basis of non-existent "intelligence" that he himself hadn't bothered to read.

This is an inexcusable dereliction of duty and further indication -- further proof -- that this administration is fundamentally unserious, reckless and immature in its approach to the coming war.

posted by Fred Clark 4:43 AM

Thursday, February 06, 2003


This ain't no perfect world.

Hearing that murdered actress Lana Clarkson's Web site was called "Living Doll" I was reminded of the song by that name:

'cause everyone she'd ever known
had treated her like she was something they owned, so
1. she played the little girl
2. she was afraid of the whole wide world
3. she felt so helpless and so small
felt like a living doll

The song had a happier ending than Lana Clarkson.

(MusicWeb Encyclopedia on Tonio K.: "Tonio K. remained an underestimated songwriter; in a sane world his stylish wit would have brought more attention, but in a sane world there would have been no need for him.")

= = = = = = = = = = = =

In a semi-related vein of 1980s alt-CCM, Dwight Ozard sent a note reminding me of this Lost Dogs gem (from the possibly out-of-print Scenic Routes):

Bush League

I don't know what I think about it
But I know what I think of you
Well I know I can live without it
And I know what I want to do

I'll pack you a lunch, clear your desk
It's going to be hell to clean your mess
All I know is that you gotta go

I don't know what I think about it
But your bush league days are through
Will you give me a job I doubt it
Here's a bird in the hand for you

Next time you start a storm
You better get you a mess kit, canteen and uniform
Cause we feel like livin' so you've got to go

Your points of light are almost gone
So here's your yellow ribbon-burning song

For Millie and Danny and Saddam and nanny
Babs and Ronnie and Clyde and Bonnie
Clarence and Ollie and the Beave and Wally
And Maggie and Gorby and the new world ordey
(yodeling, fade)

Dwight's right. That song's due for a comeback.

posted by Fred Clark 5:01 PM


Tackling virtual public opinion.

So far, this poll by The News Journal in Wilmington, Del., is running 63 percent against Mr. Bush's hobby war.

(Thank you Atrios and everyone else for helping with this.)

Zizka suggests several more online polls for your perusal:

Derail Lou Dobbs' carpet-bomb express.

Mitigate Bill O'Reilly's echo chamber.

See if Fox News even bothers offering a multiple choice option you'd find acceptable. (A lot of their polls are of the "Has Bill Clinton stopped beating your wife?" variety.)

And, of course, torture Wolf Blitzer.

(NOTE: Registering one's opinion is of course no substitute for actually, you know, doing some good. I like Zizka's notion of "Nothing better to do? Freep a poll." But please also find something better to do.)

posted by Fred Clark 2:21 PM


Vote early. Vote often.

Told some friends in the online dept. that I would try to drum up some traffic for their online poll: Now that Colin Powell has made his case to the U.N. Security Council, do you support the U.S. going to war with Iraq?

Please go take the poll. (It's on the right-hand side, beneath the Onion-esque WDYT blurbs.)

And remember the key to online polling: It may be a bad sample, but it's a high-traffic bad sample.

Thanks for your support.

posted by Fred Clark 3:29 AM

Wednesday, February 05, 2003


Avoid the spin machine currently in overdrive on CNN, and read the transcript yourself.

To me, the most convincing evidence laid out this morning by Secretary Powell were the before-and-after satellite photos. In the first photo, chemical weapons plants are clearly visible (labelled here as "Spanish Plaza" and "Cathedral Square"). In the second photo no trace of these plants is shown. Deeply troubling. Deeply, deeply troubling.

UPDATE: The deadly toxin ricin has been found in Missouri!

posted by Fred Clark 3:00 PM


Jamie Rubin, former State Department spokesman during the Clinton administration, is inexplicably relied on for commentary on CNN. The man just refered to France and Russia as "those who support the inspectors and support the Iraqi position ..."

His sophistry goes thus: Iraq doesn't want to be destroyed by American bombs. Therefore, anyone who questions the urgent need to destroy Iraq with American bombs "supports the Iraqi position."

If, like Wolf Blitzer and Paula Zahn, you are unable to refute this bit of illogic, please re-enroll in Logic 101 at your local community college. (Classes meet from 10:00 to 10:50, Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings on the main campus.)

posted by Fred Clark 2:46 PM


Open a new window in your browswer and go to CNN's report on Colin Powell's speech this morning. Click on the "Gallery" link to see the slideshow of images from Powell's speech.

Then open a second window and let Neil Pollack walk you through those slides picture by picture.

Yes, Neal is a smartass, but he's just as knowledgeable as the folks CNN has been putting on all morning.

posted by Fred Clark 1:16 PM


CNN is relentlessly equating the idea of war as a "last resort" with the idea of "containment," which is portrayed as effete and vaguely French.

Inspections geared toward disarmament are, of course, nothing like "containment." But let that, for the moment, pass. The point here is to remind CNN, and the Bush administration, that the idea of "last resort" precedes the idea of "France" by several centuries.

The U.S. is perfectly free to reject the sectarian ideology of the just-war tradition. This nation is no more beholden to limit itself to just wars than it is beholden to love its neighbor as itself, or to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly before God.

But if the U.S. insists on sneering at the Christian tradition, it should at least do so openly. Don't piss on two millennia of just-war tradition and pretend you're just mocking the French.

posted by Fred Clark 1:00 PM


U.S. looks like a jerk. This behavior is inexplicable.

Imagine you've lost your car keys and you're racing around the house looking for them. Meanwhile, your friend is sitting on the couch inventing arbitrary deadlines for finding the keys. Your friend mocks your competence and your intent. He says you're incapable of finding the keys, that you probably didn't really want to find them anyway, that you're weak and cowardly in your search.

You've thoroughly searched the kitchen, and can say with confidence that the car keys are not there, but you've only just begun searching the rest of the house when your friend announces "Time's up!" Then, frowning with disappointment for your incompetence, your so-called friend reaches into his pocket and pulls out the car keys.

This is a bit like what the U.S. has just done by displaying "new" evidence against Iraq today. Why, if this evidence is indeed valid, was the U.S. keeping it secret until now? It wasn't -- as the TV "experts" tell us -- to protect intelligence sources, it could have been shared with top-level allies without jeopardizing its sources in any way. No prosecuting attorney would present her case this way -- withholding the most-convincing evidence until the case is nearly lost, then suddenly revealing previously secret, "deeply troubling" evidence from a "variety of sources."

This behavior is inexplicable.
posted by Fred Clark 12:47 PM

Tuesday, February 04, 2003


Jason Roth notes that Abraham Lincoln, in 1848, was still a Whig, as the Republican Party would not be founded for another six years, so make it Rep. Abraham Lincoln (W-Ill.), who said:

Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose, and you allow him to make war at pleasure. ... Study to see if you can fix any limit to his power in this respect, after having given him so much as you propose. ... your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have always stood.

(Thank you, Jason, for an excuse to repeat again this Whiggish wisdom.)

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

Oliver Willis asks a Very Good Question:

NASA has declared how open and extensive the inquiry into the Columbia explosion will be, as it should. Why is it so hard to do the same with the inquiry into 9.11 - a much larger and expansive incident, with even further reaching repercussions?

The Bush administration has set aside $3 million for the investigation into the deadliest attack ever on American soil. This is only slightly more than the Philadelphia Phillies have set aside to pay Placido Polanco for the 2003 season. The Bush administration seems to think this investigation is only as important as a journeyman infielder.

= = = = = = = = = = = =

Go buy Dr. Alterman's new book, What Liberal Media?

(Rittenhouse has a meticulously helpful post on this -- although he did neglect this link for those who would like to buy Eric's book from Denver's fine independent bookstore, The Tattered Cover.)

= = = = = = = = = = = =

A popular song describes an idealized, eschatological, utopian vision of kingdom come and heaven-on-earth. Yet the song begins, "Imagine there's no heaven." Discuss.

= = = = = = = = = = = =

Have you read about this "black hole" in a Minnesota lake? This thing is like the crop circle in Guffman:

"It's uniformly warm from the bottom to the top, surprisingly so. That's what's keeping the lake open," said scientist Alan Cibuzar. "I have never seen anything like this."

Since the black hole opened up last year, it has frozen over only once. Not in sub-zero temperatures, but on a balmy 40-degree day.

posted by Fred Clark 4:42 PM


1. In a Washington, D.C., hotel room watching the frivolous, antic weekend edition of Today. The anchors suddenly sobered up, announced that NASA had lost contact with the shuttle Columbia and began continuously showing that footage which could mean nothing other than what it clearly meant.

2. Avoided the president's speech. The man has worked too hard to lose our respect. On occasions like this, which require respect, the burden falls to us to dignify this undignified, pervasively dishonest man and to offer back -- for the sake of the fallen -- all the gravity he has fumbled away from the office he holds. Too much work. Easier for all concerned to read Michael Gerson's (or Ann Hughes') words in the newspaper where they would not be filtered through a smirk and I could avoid being embarrassed by and for this president and the nation in his reckless charge.

3. Saturday night, saw a giddy, delightful production of Twelfth Night at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Transported to Illyria, I forgot entirely the news of the Columbia. This later made me feel vaguely guilty.

4. Reading this and this made me sad. Reading this and this made me angry.

5. Inevitably when something like this happens, someone will feel the need to point out that seven other people somewhere else were killed the same day and we're not making a big deal about them. There may be some value to this egalitarian sniping about priorities, but this is probably not the most constructive way to raise this point. This argument reminds me of the communion scene from Places in the Heart and I imagine Sally Field and Danny Glover breaking bread with the Columbia astronauts, and with the nameless Nigerians killed in that bank explosion, and with Gus Grissom and Ed White and Roger Chafee, and I remember that there's room at the table for all the forgotten and the honored dead and all of us, the living.

posted by Fred Clark 2:06 PM


Buy union and fight the hegemony of average-sized people.

Most stores do not sell pants with a 36" inseam, reducing the available options for high-waisted, long-limbed customers such as myself.

The Gap, for instance, almost never carries my size. This seems odd. I am 6'2" tall. This is tall-ish, but not like freakishly, NBA-tall. It's not tall enough for me to fit in at the "Big & Tall" stores. ("You're barely tall," the clerk said, looking me over. "And you sure ain't big.")

Yet inquiring about 36" inseams at The Gap or Old Navy or Structure or any of the other interchangeable men's casual stores produces this look of wide-eyed wonder, as though the idea of yardlong pant-legs was material for a Ripley's special on Fox. (And these stores all carry khakis in sizes like 48 x 30 -- which makes me picture poor Violet Beauregarde being rolled away by the Oompa Loompas.)

It turns out these clothing chains apparently don't even make pants with a 36" inseam -- which means they're missing out on a lot of business. But if they did start carrying my size, the chains may object, how are they supposed to make room in their stores for all this new merchandise?

Simple -- add another row of shelves above the existing sizes. Don't worry, we'll be able to reach it, and it'll be out of the way of the rest of you.

Or, whether you're too tall for Old Navy or not, you could just order a fine pair of jeans from Diamond Cut Apparel. Stylish, comfortable, union-made in the U.S.A., and they even sell a 36" inseam.

posted by Fred Clark 4:52 AM

Monday, February 03, 2003


This administration embraces everything that is wrong with our national game. First, Bush appoints Ari Fleischer as his designated hitter, so the president can make his pitch without ever stepping up to the plate. They're also in love with astroturf and seem obsessed with aluminum bats.

Plus they made John Rocker head of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.

posted by Fred Clark 2:08 PM

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