The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Saturday, March 08, 2003


There's been an occasional bit of conventional wisdom among those who support military action in Iraq, and that is that if we back down after putting 250 thousand troops in the area and spouting off all the rhetoric that we have, then we will appear weak in the eyes of the world.

It's the "since we've gone this far, there's no turning back" argument.

This disturbing piece from the Village Voice shows that such reasoning has possibly entered the consumer sector:

While Pentagon war planners may be gunning for an attack on Iraq by mid March, heavily armed soldiers have already quietly seized a strategic position: your Easter basket. National retailers like Kmart and Walgreens have stocked their shelves with baskets in which the traditional chocolate rabbit centerpiece has been displaced by plastic military action figures and their make-believe lethal paraphernalia. Tri-state Rite Aid, Genovese, and Wal-Mart stores promise their martial Easter baskets will arrive soon.

At the Astor Place Kmart, the encampment is on display just inside the main entrance. A camouflaged sandy-haired soldier with an American-flag arm patch stands alert in a teal, pink, and yellow basket beneath a pretty green-and-purple bow. Within a doll-arm's reach are a machine gun, rifle, hand grenade, large knife, pistol, and round of ammunition. In the next basket a buzz-cut blond with a snazzy dress uniform hawks over homeland security, an American eagle shield on his arm, and a machine gun, pistol, Bowie knife, two grenades, truncheon, and handcuffs at the ready.

One must hunt a little harder to find the Easter sniper at Walgreens, but what lies in wait among the bunnies and chicks there is perhaps even more surreal. The Super Wrriors (sic) Battle Set and Placekeepers (sic) Military Men Play Set bristle with toy assault rifles and machine guns, tanks, troop transports, bomber planes, commanded by armored men with shaved heads and sunglasses. The assortment also includes a space-age ray gun and other imaginary hardware for orbital combat. Packets of jellybeans are tossed in as if an afterthought, nestled in the cellophane underbrush like anti-personnel mines.
Here's what we're talking about:

And if we don't go to war, what are we gonna do? Tell these companies to get rid of all the GI Joe baskets and bring back, you know, bunnies? Yes, this is surreal.

(link via patrick)

I appreciate the value of sacrifice on some leves, and due to that, I have been pondering Lent.

I am not Catholic, nor even Christian, but I know a good sacrifice when I see one. Nevertheless, I have a curious thought: Jesus wandered around for years, gave up his possessions, urged others to do so, and gave his life to save the world and its inhabitants (or so the story goes). He's supposed to be impressed that some girl who drinks herself halfway to death on Mardi Gras decides to give up chocolate for a few weeks? It doesn't wash.

Well, by the Catholic church's reasoning, "yes". So what the heck? I might as well do something for Lent. I hadn't an idea of what I wanted to sacrifice (i don't watch much tv, i don't eat sweets really, etc). But then it hit me:

Centrist male movie stars of the action/drama variety.

I live with a bunch of film majors and movie buffs, and only one of them (official TFM roomate Josh) has significant extra-mainstream movie preferences. As a result of the other film buffs who monopolize the tv from time to time, I am subjected to the greatest hits of TNT, USA, and occasionally AMC. And it's always the male summer blockbuster stuff from the 80's and 90's. Or it's the Scorsese subset of Italian male movie stars.

For 40 (well, 37) days, they gotta go. That means:
No Bruce Willis
No Harrison Ford
No Mel Gibson
No James Bond movies
No Robert De Niro
No Al Pacino
No Nicholas Cage
There, that should do it. I hope you're proud, Jesus!

Bush orders sanctions against Mugabe's government.

I'm not a fan of Mugabe, I admit.

But where there's irony to point it out, I'm your guy!
"Over the course of more than two years, the government of Zimbabwe has systematically undermined that nation's democratic institutions, employing violence, intimidation and repressive means including legislation to stifle opposition to its rule," Mr. Bush said in announcing his executive order.
Careful, George!
He said the Mugabe government not only harmed Zimbabwe's people but also poseed an "unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy interests of the United States."

The announcement today came as no surprise because the United States and numerous other Western nations have accused Mr. Mugabe of election-rigging
Again, careful George!
and bullying his opponents and journalists who have been critical of his government.
I'll just ask Helen Thomas, Dana Milbank and Paul Krugman about that one.

Mugabe kicks white farmers off their lands. Bush kicks black voters off the rolls because they're "felons".

(uh oh! moral relativism! you want that guy from the comments to come back, huh? -ed no no, this is just for me)

France Russia and China are decidedly not cool with the US/British proposal of a March 17th deadline on Iraqi compliance w/1441.

This comes right on the heels of the revelation that documents used to show that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger were faked.

I'm holding out hope that this war can be averted. I'm amused, though, at the mind games the Bushies are trying to play. Think about it: Their whole game so far has been to say that Saddam is evil and deceitful, etc. Then when they see that the inspections and disarmament efforts are taking time, they come out with all this shock and righteous indignation (the diplomatic equivalent of "well I never!") in saying Saddam is "not disarming, but deceiving". This attitude opens an interesting window to the sheer intellectual dishonesty of the entire campaign.

It doesn't matter though, no matter how much or little Saddam complies, the Bush administration will just move the goalposts.

Remember, as those first few thousand bombs rain down: Two of the most significant elements of America's "case" for war -- the content of Colin Powell's dossier at the UN a month ago, and the Niger uranium report -- were either plagiarized or absolute bullshit. But really, remember the Maine!

Great headline on the far right: Fox News Reporter Asks The Questions Others Are Too Smart To Ask.

Only problem is, they show this person's picture:

The day I refer to Sean Hannity as a "reporter" is the day I stick a plunger on my face and use it to forcibly remove my eyeballs.

I'll stick with "childish loudmouth shmuck Rush-wannabe with a bulk-order bestseller, but hey, at least he's not Coulter"

Friday, March 07, 2003


This is nothing new, of course, but there's some buzz that transcrips of last night's Bush press conference were cleaned up.

Just remember, this was part of their case for war:
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The head of the U.N. nuclear agency said on Friday that the documents backing U.S. and British allegations that Iraq had attempted to import uranium from Niger were "not authentic."

"Based on thorough analysis, the IAEA has concluded ... that these documents, which formed the basis for the reports of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger, are in fact not authentic," International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei said in a report to the U.N. Security Council.

"We have therefore concluded that these specific allegations are unfounded," he said.

Britain and the United States have alleged that Iraq had tried to revive an ambitious atomic weapons program that was neutralized by the United Nations before inspectors left in December 1998.

The claim Iraq had attempted to import the uranium was vital to the U.S. accusation, since it would not have needed the uranium for anything other than a nuclear weapons program.

"After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq," he said.
(link via hesiod) As if it weren't clear enough already, people may be about to die because of lies and fabrications like this.
Thanks to what appears to be some meticulous work, Uggabugga appears to be Bush press conference analysis central.
American military officials acknowledged yesterday that two prisoners captured in Afghanistan in December had been killed while under interrogation at Bagram air base north of Kabul – reviving concerns that the US is resorting to torture in its treatment of Taliban fighters and suspected al-Qa'ida operatives.

A spokesman for the air base confirmed that the official cause of death of the two men was "homicide", contradicting earlier accounts that one had died of a heart attack and the other from a pulmonary embolism.

The men's death certificates, made public earlier this week, showed that one captive, known only as Dilawar, 22, from the Khost region, died from "blunt force injuries to lower extremities complicating coronary artery disease" while another captive, Mullah Habibullah, 30, suffered from blood clot in the lung that was exacerbated by a "blunt force injury".

US officials previously admitted using "stress and duress" on prisoners including sleep deprivation, denial of medication for battle injuries, forcing them to stand or kneel for hours on end with hoods on, subjecting them to loud noises and sudden flashes of light and engaging in culturally humiliating practices such as having them kicked by female officers.

While the US claims this still constitutes "humane" treatment, human rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have denounced it as torture as defined by international treaty. The US has also come under heavy criticism for its reported policy of handing suspects over to countries such as Jordan, Egypt or Morocco, where torture techniques are an established part of the security apparatus. Legally, Human Rights Watch says, there is no distinction between using torture directly and subcontracting it out. (full story)
I recently had a discussion section where torture was the topic of discussion. A number of people in the class said that if America was using torture tactics, that they wouldn't want to know about it. I have to say, I disagree rather emphatically. I want to know about this. And certainly, whichever of our 250,000 men and women who are probably about to enter battle in Iraq would like to know what we're doing, especially if they end up POW's. We're America, the idea we've always been told is that we're supposed to be better than those who resort to such paleolithic tactics. Then again, we're spying on the UNSC, so why wouldnt we do this. Argh.

...John Ashcroft losing an election to a dead guy?

or Bush polling behind a person who is "as yet unnamed"?
The "as-yet-unnamed" Democratic presidential nominee has a slight edge over President Bush, according to the latest national Quinnipiac poll.

Almost half of those surveyed -- 48 percent -- said they would support the Democratic candidate, while 44 percent said they would vote for Bush. The poll of 1,232 registered voters, conducted Feb. 26-March 3, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Of course, that unnamed person needs to have a backbone, and hopefully not be named "Joe" or "Richard".

Resident Bush is afraid of an 82 year old woman.

(link via atrios)

Thursday, March 06, 2003


Here's a rundown of Bush's news conference tonight.

In short, he doesn't give a flying fuck about getting a UN vote, and will go to war anyway.

Also, most of what he said tonight was essentially a found poem of every little soundbyte that's come out of his mouth since, say, september. He dodged questions, including Terry Moran's "what went wrong with our allies?" one and another's "what of the developing British compromise idea?", going off into the usual mindless found-poem sililoquy's that seem to be his trademark.

Let's see, I took notes...

-He bitched about hotels in Baghdad bing bugged. Oh, for shame! Because Bush is so much better than that!
-You realize, George, that Iraq's army is one third the size it was in 1991. the man is deterred. (thanks to Congressman Barney Frank, who was on CNN's Crossfire right before the conference, for mentioning that again)
-Bush's terminology changed a slight bit. What exactly are "weapons of terror"? You realize, people, that box-cutters and shoes have been weapons of terror. Does "disarming" include Saddam having to remove his shoes?
-The way Bush dodged Terry Moran's question was annoying. His response to the differences of opinion on going to war is that he got a unanimous vote from the UN Security Council for 1441, thus they'll get behind him on a new resolution. But... 1441 was a disarmament resolution, while the new one would be an implicit authorization of a bloody war. There's a difference, chimp.

According to CNN's Aaron Brown, he mentioned 9/11 eleven times.

It was Bush's 8th news conference in almost 26 months in office. That's, um, not a lot.

For video, go here.

The Horse evokes a sentiment that has been stirring in the back (and sometimes the front) of my mind since election day 2000:
Megalomania and its consequences

As the 3,000 "shock and awe" bombs rain down on Iraq in a period of 48 hours, killing tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians and enraging legions of newly-created al Qaida recruits who hope to commit mass murder against you and your family here in America, don't lose sight of the most important thing: All will die for what Ralph Nader has suggested is a good cause -- destroying America in order to drive enough voters to such abject desperation they will stampede to the polls to empower him to rebuild it.

On behalf of the many innocents whose lives would not end violently, painfully, and tragically in the next few days or weeks but for your 2000 candidacy: Thanks, Ralph.
A "cold shower" with international reprecussions?

Just curious (and i'm upset right now): Show of hands, how many people want a second term of this? Are you gonna let Ralphie be complicit in this?

Again, I'm upset. I'll talk about Bush's news conference in a little bit.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

From Drudge (and no, I will not link):
CBS NEWS plans to revive commentary segment 'Point/Counterpoint' on 60 MINUTES -- With Bill Clinton and Bob Dole, beginning this Sunday night, newsroom sources say... Clinton has signed for 10 weeks in a deal reportedly worth $1 million... Spot will be 45 seconds a week, about 90 words; $100,000 for each commentary, and over $1000 for each word
It'll be nice to hear a president who can talk. Also, for you smart-asses out there, he'll be the person in the room less likely to have an erection, thanks to the miracles of medical science.

Oh great, not another one.
At least 15 people were killed and more than 30 wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a bus in the northern Israeli town of Haifa, the first bombing in the Jewish state in exactly two months.

Most of the victims were thought to be students as the bus was ripped to pieces while travelling between a residential area on the Carmel heights and Haifa university, public television said.

Ten of the wounded were said to be in serious condition.

The suicide bomber was wearing a belt packed with several dozen kilos of explosives and nails to cause maximum carnage.

Hardline Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad said the blast, which created chaos and carnage in the city, was revenge for a string of bloody raids by the Israeli army into the Gaza Strip in recent weeks.

But the Palestinian leadership condemned the attack, saying it would divert international sympathy away from the far higher Palestinian civilian death toll.
Ugh. This happens just as the Palestinian Authority has been talking about a new Prime Minister, government reform and perhaps the rekindling of the peace process.

At some point in the next week, we will see video of a refugee camp being bulldozed again, and the cycle of bullshit continues.

If I'm Arafat and the Palestinian Authority right now, I'd keep the focus on reform, getting the new elections to take place, etc. Stopping the suicide bombers is very tough (especially given the only partial power the Palestinians have over their territories, since Wye River). However, marginalizing them in the theatre of public opinion (in terms of what the public does and doesn't see as constructive) is much more within their grasp.

Obviously, this goes hand in hand with ending the arrogant occupations and settlements on Israel's part. Until then, it's suicide bombing (3-20 dead) on Page 1A, bulldozed camp and precision missiles/"assassinations" (50-100 dead) on Page 32D. Hmm, I imagine some high-profile 3rd-party world leader could help. Maybe that guy from America, perhaps. Or is he preoccupied with something at the moment? And could that something (hint: ends with "q") exacerbate tensions in the region? Oy.
Stephen Downs, 61, was charged with trespassing in a mall after he refused to take off a T-shirt that said "Peace on Earth" and "Give peace a chance."

Mall security approached Downs, and his 31-year-old son, Roger, on Monday night after they were spotted wearing the T-shirts at Crossgates Mall in a suburb of Albany, the men said.

The two said they were asked to remove the shirts made at a store there, or leave the mall. They refused.

The guards returned with a police officer who repeated the ultimatum. The son took his T-shirt off, but the father refused.

"I said, `All right then, arrest me if you have to,'" Downs said. "So that's what they did. They put the handcuffs on and took me away."

Downs pleaded innocent to the charges Monday night. The New York Civil Liberties Union said it would help with his case if asked. (full story)
As the article mentions, today there was a protest numbering in the hundreds at the mall, near Albany NY. Nevertheless, there's always room for one nitwit:
The group marched through Crossgates Mall at noon. At one point, there was a confrontation between one of the marchers and a man carrying a sign that read "9-11."
Something tells me that fellow was among the 50% of Americans who have somehow come to the belief that there was at least one Iraqi among the 19 hijackers. Nevertheless, is that guy objectively pro-nonpeace?

And remember, this isn't some rowdy kid, it's a 61-yearold guy we're talking about here. Then again, it's guys around 60 (Bush, Cheney, Rummy) who are the problem.

Also, the man was SHOPPING! He was stimulating the economy! Isn't that supposed to be a good thing for the Bushies?

Reluctant up until this point, the UNSC trio of France, Germany and Russia -- an alliance that might make Eddie Izzard rethink some of his routines -- has gone ahead and said "fuck it, we'll veto the thing if we have to". Ok, they didn't go that far, they're still saving up the V-word, though my guess is it could come to that.

If only they could have talked to Dick Gephardt before it was too late.

Memo to Bush, Rove, Fleischer, the State Dept, the Pentagon, etc: Just because the countries aren't explicitly saying "veto" right now, it isn't a sign of weakness or that they'll bend to your will eventually. They're hoping not to have to use the veto, it wont be an issue until crunch time. Anyway...

Tuesday, March 04, 2003


I've been trying as hard as I can to avert my eyes from this week's Newsweek story on Bush and his love affair with that guy, God. The picture at the top of the link is surely reason enough. Make sure you're wearing an expendable shirt if you decide to read the drivel from Howard.

What also bothered TFM was the interactive poll on the left column:
Does George W. Bush's religious faith inappropriately dictate policy?

34% Yes. Church and state are supposed to be separated.

63% No. What's wrong with bringing morality to the White House?

3% I don't know.
Um, excuse me Newsweek, MSNBC and Bill Gates. Let me be absolutely clear: Morality and religion are two completely different things. Yes, there's some overlap, and the two concepts could probably be best presented as cocentric circles. I, for example, am moral but not religious. Others, certainly, are religious but not moral. And my guess is that across the earth, a plurality of people are both religious and moral. Therefore, the online poll is, well, fucked up and biased. Are they trying to tell us that Laine Hanson, the fictional VP nominee from The Contender (played masterfully by Joan Allen) would be an immoral leader because she is an avowed non-religious person?

The increasing number of people in America without health insurance (44million by last count), for example, and Bush's upcoming attempts to privatize such services, coupled with meager amounts of money for Medicare, tell me something about the acting president's morality.

And look out, CEO's, Sheriff Buffet (he's like Soros, only domestic, hmm then again...) is back in town.

...go ahead and try to blame Gray Davis if you want.
California gave federal energy regulators more than 3,000 pages of confidential documents Monday that Gov. Gray Davis said prove energy companies manipulated the state's power market to drive electricity prices to record highs.

A public summary of the documents filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said that most companies that sold power in California during the state's energy crisis in 2000 and 2001 engaged in improper practices similar to those described in Enron Corp. memos that were made public last year.

Sellers of wholesale power withheld electricity, colluded by sharing nonpublic information, routed power to other states to avoid price caps and submitted false electricity schedules that gave the impression of congested transmission lines, said the state.

The state is seeking $9 billion in energy refunds for 2000 and 2001, when power prices soared and the state faced energy shortages and rolling blackouts.

The documents "establish an industrywide pattern of cheating and stealing from California ratepayers," Davis said.
But the red states are allowed to rob the blue states, right? Right?

Russia threatens a veto on the US version of a new UN resolution on Iraq.

Wouldn't now be the time for those George W Bush "see into his soul" powers to snap into action regarding "Pootie-Poot"?

hehehe, thanks paul.

Think of it as a small-scale version of what Bush is trying with Turkey, Mexico, Colombia, Cameroon, etc.
Jake Tapper of Salon on our lovely spying at the UN. (enjoy the AmEx commercial before viewing the article)
SAM: They're going to tell stories about you. Frodo the Incredibly Cute.

It took me chance and a couple of months, but I found one. For your laugh-ass-off pleasure, enjoy this Two Towers parody. Including:
EOWYN: Hal-lo, handsome!

ARAGORN: Hi. You handle pointy things very well.

EOWYN: Yes. My only fear is dying a virgin. Hint, hint.

ARAGORN: Okay! Well, let's move along.
Odds are you've already seen it. I don't know. Anyway, enjoy!
Daily Kos is having a Bush 2004 reelection campaign slogan contest! Among the hits (in the comments):
Who needs regime change?

Ok, so I'm really a divider

Bush: Because I Was In Office On September 11, 2001

After The Past Four Years, No One Else Will Hire Me

In your heart you know he's nuts

Reformer with No Results!

Don't make me steal it again

Resistance is futile (hehe)

Avoid another long national nightmare of peace and prosperity

Bush: the only Enron investment that paid off

All your votes are belong to us


Bush: A man hated by 97 of 98 Iraqi opposition groups can't be all bad

I'm not fiscally irresponsible, I've just got deficit attention disorder
Be sure to check out the literally hundreds more.

It only took 72 hours, but AP has picked up the spying story

Monday, March 03, 2003


There is nothing like living in a six-person flat, where the other five people in the house simultaneously discover Homestar Runner.


How in the heck did I miss this???

Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) has decided against running for president.

Probably around 1-2% of America, perhaps of Connecticut, knew he was thinking about running.

Now if only we could get that other Conn. senator off the campaign trail...
Kos discusses Bush's/America's refusal to give up on Turkey, and how we're leaving our ships right around there, as well as the prospects for another parliament vote:
Whether the Turkish parliament will vote again remains to be seen. Some cabinet members have suggested the government will call a new vote, while the PM has said he won't. And Parliament itself, which will reconvene Tuesday, doesn't appear to eager to revisit the issue (which has hung a political albatross on every legislator who voted "yes").
To me, in terms of Dubya, it's not as much that he won't take no for an answer. It's that he never hears "no". This would explain every inch of the administration's ineptness in its diplomacy. Bush, still a schoolyard kid, understands threats, blackmail, and yes, spying, much more than he understands productive diplomacy. Why in the heck did we dismiss Canada's UN proposal just like that? (you know, brendan, if you talked about russian lesbian popstars more, you'd get more traffic -ed. shut up!)

It took about 48 hours, but the American press (outside of Drudge, who slung some mud at it) has finally picked up the US/UN dirty trick operation story.

And even better, not a mention of the linguistic nonsense conservatives tried to throw at it. I figured that would go away once the Observer made the appropriate explanation, which it did.

First it was Zogby. Now the Horse links to a Gallup poll that has Bush's "re-elect" numbers below 50 percent.

And from the Fox News recap of the poll:
Support to re-elect President Bush has dipped slightly in the last year, but the much of the shift has been from "undecided" to an unnamed Democratic challenger. When asked how they would vote if the 2004 presidential election were held today, a plurality says they would vote to re-elect Bush (42 percent) and almost as many (38 percent) say they would vote for the Democrat, up from 21 percent who said they would support the Democratic candidate in January 2002.
This, of course, is providing that the "Democrat" has a "spine".

Still, re-elect numbers under 50% are big, biiiig trouble for Smirk.

"We in South Africa wanted democracy and we asked the world, 'Please help us. We want to be free.' We didn’t say, 'Bomb us into democracy.' We said, 'Please apply sanctions.' "

--Desmond Tutu, on the just-cancelled "Donahue"

(from bartcop)

Sunday, March 02, 2003


Wampum links to a piece about that other group of people on American soil who've experience five hundred years of terrorism: Native Americans:
America is now experiencing the fear American Indians have felt for more than 500 years. Our ancestors never knew what act of violence or terror would befall them from the American invaders. But death did come. It came in the form of biological warfare when small pox tainted blankets were distributed to the unsuspecting victims.

It came to them from the muzzles of guns that did not distinguish between warriors, women, elders or children. It came to them in the ruthless name of Manifest Destiny, the American edict that proclaimed God as the purveyor of expansion westward.

At Wounded Knee in 1890, a slaughter took place that the white man often called the last great battle between Indians and the United States Army. It was not a battle. It was the last heinous action against innocent men, women and children. Their bodies were strewn across the valley known as Wounded Knee under the barrage set down by the Seventh Cavalry.

They died not knowing why. They died in fear. They died in the frozen snow of that bitterly cold December day while fleeing to find safe harbor among the Oglala Lakota. These Lakota experienced terrorism heaped upon them by a government that did not consider them to be human beings.

When human beings can be publicly acknowledged as less than human, their deaths become meaningless. By portraying all Indians as murdering savages, rapists, kidnappers and worse, the national media of the day laid the groundwork for Wounded Knee. The media laid the groundwork for the expansion west that would claim thousands of lives. Horace Greeley wrote, "Go West, Young Man, Go West."
The growing smallpox paranoia of white Americans is always colored with irony.

Digby is all over today's Friedman column.

And for your extra reading pleasure, I know it's an oldie but it's a goodie, The American Prospect's Tom Friedman parody (from digby's comments). Here's a taste:
I was changing planes at the new airport in Jakarta the other day, on the way to Stockholm from Vladivostok. Three young Bangladeshi boys sat in the passenger lounge, watching The Power Rangers on satellite TV. Their mother--garbed in the traditional sari--talked to her cousin, a migrant worker who sold German-designed Walkman knockoffs in Hong Kong, on a shiny new Samsung cell phone. Sitting to one side of them was a young Chinese émigré on his way to Toronto to work for a software company, and on the other a business-suited Rastafarian making a connection to Bratislava. Meanwhile, a couple of Tuareg tribesmen sat cross-legged in front of the ticket counter, cooking yams over a flaming mound of ticket stubs.

What's my point? I don't actually have one--but opening my columns with strings of clichéd cultural juxtapositions really cuts down my workload. You see, since the Cold War ended, we've gone from superpowers to spreadsheets, Pershings to Pentiums, the Berlin Wall to suburban sprawl, olive trees to Lexuses. Are you ready? Because the whole world is changing. Unless you are one of the eight-tenths of humanity who at this moment are either hungry, illiterate, or field-stripping an AK-47, in which case I'll get back to you in some future column.

My take on today's column? Even though his metaphors are stupid, as well as borderline-shameful, I think his readers (particularly left-leaners whose support for an Iraq war has been tenuous up to this point) will be more affected by reading the column than Friedman was by writing it. The short, short version of his column is: "Ok, the Bush administration has fucked up on just about everything foreign policywise up to this point, but this is a really great idea if they can do it right!" I hope Tom knows how ridiculous that sounds. Next thing you know, he'll turn up wednesday with a column arguing that the Bush administration will be successful in an Iraq war/occupation/etc because "Hey, they're due".

Thus, in a strange way, his column helps a lot more than it hurts. It's helped some moderate supports of war, as well as others on the fence, to see how dubious this really is. For example, in the blogosphere, CalPundit is jumping ship, Yglesias has questions, and The Agonist has many doubts. Still, Friedman, you remain on probation, until you strangle that childish cheerleader voice inside you.

After the London Observer/Guardian broke the story of a leaked email document revealing a dirty tricks operation by the US on the undecided members of the UN Security Council pertaining to the Iraq vote.

Ahh, the lovely Bush-Nixon parallels have reached critical mass!

Obviously, conservatives realized (realised?) they have some ass covering to do.

STRATEGY #1: "Half the diplomatic corps of the authoritarian states in the UN are spies" (as said by conservative blogger Mark Harden in the comments at Eschaton) . . . But America, and Bush (haha), are supposed to be better than authoritarian states, and not resort to such things. If we're spying on other countries' delegates, doesn't that hamper Bush's "moral clarity" a bit?

STRATEGY #2: "The spelling of the email, as printed in the British paper, uses the Queen's English (i.e. "organised" instead of "organize"), would an American spell words like that?" (as argued by Drudge) . . . My suspicion when this complaint was first raised was that the Observer had altered the written text to have English-style spelling, making this a non-issue . . . And gee golly, I was right!

"There seems to be some confusion over the Anglicised (or Anglicized) spelling in our reproduction of the email online and on the front of the newspaper. This was done for editorial reasons to standardise (standardize) spelling throughout the newspaper. Following the many queries from the United States we would like to make it cleart that the original document had American spelling and this will be corrected on the online version of the email".
Face it, conservatives: this is what the Bush people do. If we had a real president, then I should have been surprised by this story.

Here's the timeline:

--Inspectors find missiles in Iraq

--Inspectors tell Iraq to destroy the missiles, which go beyond the prescribed UN range

--Iraq agrees to destroy the missiles

--Iraq begins destroying the missiles

--Bush calls the above "a game of deception"