What bokononists whisper whenever they think of how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is.

By Elton Beard

There are two kinds of people in the world, those who divide people into two kinds and those who don't. I don't.

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11/10/01 09:30am link

John Ashcroft Declares Victory: on Thursday November 8th, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that America has "emerged victorious in the opening battle in the war against terrorism". His definition of "victory"? That we have managed to avoid another major attack through the hard work of law enforcement personnel and the patience and vigilance of the public. And that we have "endured the videotaped tauntings of Osama bin Laden".

Such statements give new meaning to the term "massive intelligence failure". Mr. Ashcroft must think the American people to be complete idiots, encouraged no doubt by a compliant media that reports his remarks without a trace of irony. According to the Attorney General, in this battle that began less than two months ago with the slaughter of five thousand people, we have already "emerged victorious" because no new attacks have taken place since.

And if two months without a mass murder is not victory enough, we can also take pride in having survived Mr. Bin Laden's taunts. Inexplicably, Mr. Ashcroft neglected to thank the loyal U.S. media for helping us endure this threat by bravely shielding us not just from the actual video but from any substantial transcript of it as well. Having inadvertently read a full translation of Mr. Bin Laden's latest video on the BBC web site, I can confirm that this is not a pleasant experience.

After twice issuing vague but scary warnings of "non-specific but credible threats", Mr. Ashcroft now tells us that the "two periods of extremely high threat have passed". What a relief. Now the Justice Department can focus on its more important priorities, like sending Federal agents to shut down Cannabis clubs (legal under California law) that provide relief to the desperately ill, and punishing Oregon doctors who dare to make dying a bit less protracted and painful, in compliance with Oregon law.

Mr. Ashcroft didn't mention the recent unpleasantness with Anthrax in his speech, but I hope that his people will eventually find the time to compile a list of U.S. laboratories legally licensed to work with Anthrax. They still don't have one. No, I'm not kidding.

This Attorney General makes Ed Meese look good.

11/09/01 04:45pm link

Republican Strategist Slams Bill Clinton. So what else is new? What's interesting about this particular bit of slander by Ed Gillespie is that he directly repeats the lie originated by Joseph Curl in the Washington Times and expanded upon by Andrew Sullivan. It's worth noting that after actually reading a transcript of the speech, Sullivan grudgingly retracted his original accusation:

"Still, it's not equivalent to saying that America asked for the 9/11 massacre, as I implied from what I now see was an appallingly slanted piece in the Washington Times. The speech is interminable of course. It has almost an internal contradiction in every paragraph. But it's not Noam Chomsky. For that, we should give thanks."
Ed Gillespie apparently missed the retraction. He and Democratic Strategist Kiki McLean were the guests on today's CNN Crossfire, hosted by Tucker Carlson and Bill Press. Here is how the pre-wrapup segment of the show ended (italics added):
Press (to Gillespie): Quick last word, though.

Gillespie: There is a strong contrast here, though, with the kind of leadership that President Bush is showing right now and the kind of speech that Bill Clinton gave on Wednesday at Georgetown University, in which he basically said that we are getting what we deserve in this terrorist attack because of the past history of the United States. It was despicable, and the media ought to report about it and they ought to talk about it more than they have.


McLean: Yeah, but now he's out of office. He's gone.

Gillespie: He ought to stop talking like that anyway.

McLean: He's gone.

Carlson: (interrupts) Kiki McLean, Ed Gillespie, thank you both very much.

Malicious misrepresentation of Clinton's words and deeds is standard operating procedure for a Republican Strategist. Standard operating procedure for a Democratic Strategist, on the other hand, is to roll over and play dead.

11/09/01 11:30am link

I was going to write that! Andrew Sullivan's short smear piece on former President Clinton was so rife with falsehoods and distortion, even if read solely in light of the of the Washington Times article on which it was based, that it demanded a response. Fortunately, the inimitable Bob Somerby has posted his treatment of the issue in today's Daily Howler, and he throws in coverage of Sullivan's pseudo-apology to boot. Worth reading.

11/08/01 02:15pm link

More good news. According to this CBS-MarketWatch story the NORC consortium is finally about to publish the long-awaited Florida re-count data. Stay tuned.

11/08/01 11:30am link

And now for some good news. The odds of a large asteroid hitting the Earth within the next hundred years have just been recalculated, using data gathered by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

A collision between our planet and an asteroid of a one kilometer or larger diameter is considered to be to terminal with respect to humanity on Earth, so those who favor continued survival of the species will applaud the newly computed probability of 0.0002, or a 1 in 5,000 chance of such an occurrence by the end of the century. This is a significant improvement over the previous estimate of 0.00066, or odds of about 1 in 1500.

11/05/01 08:10pm link

Here is the Seymour Hersh article from the November 12 issue of the New Yorker, which was referenced via Reuters in yesterday's posting.

11/04/01 03:35pm link

Osama bin Laden's video (or at least what's reported about it, as we are protected from direct viewing over here) does seem to indicate a degree of desperation. Could it be that this criminal mastermind is not really a criminal mastermind?

The concern has always been that our enemies were chess players while our own leaders were more like poker players. But if Osama bin Laden is playing chess, it seems that he has just moved a pawn for lack of a better move. Which tends to mean that his game is not going well.

11/04/01 10:49am link

We all know that politicians are supposed to be venal, corrupt and dishonest. In contrast, the military is portrayed as invariably consisting of honorable, straight-shooting soldiers who would never deceive the American public.

Today on ABC's This Week, George Stephanopoulos interviewed General Tommy Franks, Commander US Central Command. Here is a partial transcript (italics added).

Stephanopoulos : "There's a report this morning in the New Yorker by Seymour Hersh. He said, in the raid on Mullah Omar's compound a couple of weeks ago, the Rangers - I mean, the forces - actually encountered fierce resistance, took twelve wounded including three seriously. That contradicts the reports that came from the military early on, that said the resistance was light, and there was no mention of casualties. Is the Hersh report accurate?"

Franks: "I, I don't, I don't think it's right for me to talk about accuracy or not. I will say this. That I think, I think we are best served when informed sources really are, really are informed. I will not characterize the Hersh report as either accurate or inaccurate..."

Stephanopoulos (interrupts): "Were there twelve wounded?"

Franks: "it depends on how one defines wounded, and I don't want to work words with you, on the thing, George, we had young people, and I think we had some pretty good video of them, who jumped in, who jumped in on one of these objectives with parachutes. We had a bunch of these, we had a bunch of these young people who, you know, had scratches and bumps and knots from rocks and all this sort of stuff and so, it's probably, it's probably accurate to say that maybe five or maybe twenty-five people were quote wounded. We had no one wounded by enemy fire, and I think that probably is worthwhile noting. in fact these objectives were overwhelmed by the forces that went in, and the forces exfiltrated precisely on the timeline that we said they'd be on."

Stephanopoulos : "General Franks, thank you very much."

Franks: "Sir, thank you very much and best of luck to you."

There was a time when President Clinton was raked over the coals for legalistically responding "It depends upon what the meaning of the word is means" during his grand jury testimony. But here we have a high-ranking member of the Armed Forces, asked a simple question by Stephanopoulos - "Were there twelve wounded?" - answering "it depends on how one defines wounded".

Not to work words, but here a Reuters report about the Hersh piece (no direct link yet):

Hersh reported in the Nov. 12 issue [of The New Yorker magazine] the fight erupted as members of the elite and secret Delta Force emerged from a house in a compound near Kandahar sometimes used by Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, who was not there.

"It was like an ambush," he quoted one senior officer as saying. "The Taliban were firing light arms and either RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) or mortars."

It was "a tactical firefight, and the Taliban had the advantage," the officer told Hersh, who reported that 12 U.S. commandos were wounded, three of them seriously.

So were 12 U.S. commandos wounded in a firefight on Oct. 20, or did they simply suffer "scratches and bumps and knots from rocks and all this sort of stuff"? Did the general even answer Stephanopoulos' question, or was he referring to a different raid carried out the same night as the raid on Mullah Omar's compound? Back to Hersh:
But Hersh ... said some U.S. officers were furious because the Pentagon showed reporters dramatic films of a separate parachute raid that night by Army Rangers on an airfield near Kandahar.
It's hard to argue with the proposition that "we are best served when informed sources really are informed", but the General's subsequent statements are more obfuscating than informative. Asked a specific question about the raid on Mullah Omar's compound, he instead answered with a rambling statement apparently about a separate parachute raid that night by Army Rangers on an airfield near Kandahar. Maybe he provided accurate information about that other raid, but he certainly did not answer the question asked.

Those who wish our military the best success in its mission of defending the United States deserve better. Refusing to divulge legitimately classified military information is not a problem, but clumsy and pointless spinning is.


July      8th - July     14th, 2002
July      1st - July      7th, 2002
June     24th - June     30th, 2002
June      3rd - June      9th, 2002
May      20th - May      26th, 2002
May      13th - May      19th, 2002
May       6th - May      12th, 2002
April    22nd - April    28th, 2002
April     1st - April     7th, 2002
March    25th - March    31st, 2002
March    18th - March    24th, 2002
March    11th - March    17th, 2002
March     4th - March    10th, 2002
February 25th - March     3rd, 2002
February 18th - February 24th, 2002
February  4th - February 10th, 2002
January  28th - February  3rd, 2002
January  21th - January  27th, 2002
January   6th - January  13th, 2002
December 10th - December 16th, 2001
December  3rd - December  9th, 2001
November 26th - December  2nd, 2001
November 19th - November 25th, 2001
November 11th - November 18th, 2001
November  4th - November 10th, 2001
October  11th - November  3rd, 2001

Busy, busy, busy.

What bokononists whisper whenever they think of how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is.


The floggings will cease when morale improves.
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