Playing cards in the dark ...


"Web Site Assembles U.S. Prewar Claims," here. Is this the worst headline ever? You'd almost think The New York Times was covering its own backside given how frequently its pages provided a conduit for these lies, unedited and unchecked. It's hard to dispute that's hed is far superior. It reads:

Study: Bush led U.S. to war on 'false pretenses'

Hundreds of false statements on WMDs, al-Qaida used to justify Iraq war

A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The study concluded that the statements "were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."

The study was posted Tuesday on the Web site of the Center for Public Integrity, which worked with the Fund for Independence in Journalism.

That's here. In fact, the words "hundreds of false statements" is also misleading. The number is 935.

The full study is here.

Somebody should write a book about this kind of thing and call it When Presidents Lie.

And by the way, in case you were wondering how many New York Times reporters it takes to cover the death of an actor with just a few movies to his credit, the answer is fifteen.

Mickey is usually wrong about everything, but he's right about this. Obama has already come out in favor of class-based affirmative action. Making it a center-piece of his campaign would be both brave and smart.

Speaking of Iraq, George Zornick notices that Politico reports (via Think Progress) that the Iraq Study Group may be getting a second shot:

Legislation pushed by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), which is now law, directs the U.S. Institute of Peace to support a second version of the commission that would send former Rep. Lee Hamilton and former Secretary of State James Baker III and two other commissioners to Iraq to assess the situation. Hamilton has told the Institute that he is prepared to go, according to Hamilton and an Institute spokesman.

Take it away, George:

To refresh your memory, when the Group last convened and produced recommendations in December 2006 calling for a gradual troop withdrawal and direct dialogue with Iran and Syria, its report was summarily trashed by neoconservatives as "incoherent" and "not a serious document," Baker and Hamilton were caricatured as "surrender monkeys," and the administration followed up by not only ignoring the report, but doing the exact opposite by initiating a surge of U.S. troops. More than 900 U.S. soldiers have died since.

The argument for ISG 2.0 is that Wolf's bill calls for a report by the end of March, which is also the time that Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker are to report to Congress on the progress of the "surge" and Iraqi political reconciliation. Congress may also be considering another supplemental funding bill for Iraq around then.

A strong media cycle in March that focuses on the war sounds nice, but the problem, obviously, is that the administration will be only months away from conclusion and has already proven, time and again, to be unwilling to consider any advice on Iraq that conflicts with their own delusions. So why waste the money and effort? Unless, of course, they slyly recommend the opposite of what they really think Bush should do ...

By not only getting Chris Matthews to apologize, but by also forcing the rest of the press -- post-New Hampshire -- to back off its, at-times, overtly sexist coverage of a prominent Democratic contender, the liberal blogs have already had more impact on how the traditional press covers this presidential campaign than they did during the entire 2004 White House run. Read more here.

From The National Priorities Project:


The Army failed to meet its 90 percent benchmark for new recruits having at least a regular high school diploma by nearly 20 percentage points, with a rate of 70.7 percent in 2007, according to a county and state-level report on 2007 military recruits released today by the National Priorities Project (NPP), a non-profit research group releasing its fourth annual analysis of military recruits.

NPP based this analysis on military recruitment data obtained from the Department of Defense through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Since 2005, the percentage of recruits with at least a high school diploma dropped almost 12 percentage points in two years, according to NPP. Department of Defense (DoD) studies have shown that a high school diploma is a powerful indicator for recruits' success, with around 80 percent of those with regular high school diplomas finishing the first term of enlistment compared to only half of those without a diploma.

At the same time, the percentage of 'high quality' recruits continued their downward trend, dropping 12 percentage points since 2004, from 60.9 percent in 2004 to 44.6 percent in 2007. The DoD defines 'high quality' to include recruits who have at least a regular high school diploma and have scored in the upper half of the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT).

"The Army's increased failure to meet its own benchmarks really speaks to the much larger failure of the Iraq War," said Greg Speeter, executive director of the National Priorities Project. "Young people are naturally thinking twice before signing up to fight an unnecessary war with no end in sight," Speeter continued.

National Priorities Project's analysis also found that in 2007, upper-middle and high-income neighborhoods, or those with median household incomes of $60,000 and greater, were under-represented by an even larger margin than in 2004. Meanwhile, the percentage of recruits from low and middle-income neighborhoods ($30,000 to $54,999) grew since 2004. Click here for income breakdowns by neighborhood.

"Once again, we're staring at the painful story of young people with fewer options bearing the greatest burden," Speeter noted. "Instead of spending millions more on new enlistment bonuses, we need to change the terms of where these soldiers are fighting and why they're taking the risk of never coming home."

County, city and state-level findings include:

  • Harris County, TX, Maricopa County, AZ and Los Angeles County, CA had the highest absolute number of recruits.
  • Edwards County, TX, Dixie County, FL, Galax city, VA and Turner County, GA had the highest recruitment rates, all over 10 per 1,000 youth.
  • Alabama, Montana and Maine had the highest recruiting rates for the states.
  • Nevada, Montana and Mississippi had the lowest percentages of recruits with a regular high school diploma or better.
  • Mississippi, Louisiana and Nevada had the lowest percentages of 'high quality' recruits.
  • States with higher recruiting rates correlated with lower percentages of 'high quality' recruits.

Click here to find recruitment data on a particular county or state or to see the full analysis of Fiscal Year 2007 active-duty Army recruits by ZIP code with data on race, ethnicity, age, citizenship, educational attainment and Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT).

The National Priorities Project (NPP) is a 501(c)(3) research organization that analyzes and clarifies federal data so that people can understand and influence how their tax dollars are spent. Located in Northampton, MA, since 1983, NPP focuses on the impact of federal spending and other policies at the national, state, congressional district and local levels. More information is here.

From TomDispatch:

As global stock markets threaten to tank and the U.S. economy seems increasingly balanced on a dime (and a ton of debt), renowned author of The Blowback Trilogy, Chalmers Johnson, returns to with a magisterial piece (and video clip) on the potential for American imperial bankruptcy -- why it might happen and what it would mean. This is a definitive analysis of how the mightiest guns the Pentagon can muster threaten to sink our own country.

Johnson explores why "in the current fiscal year (2008) we are spending insane amounts of money on 'defense' projects that bear no relationship to the national security of the United States," while keeping the income tax burdens on the richest segments of the population at "striking low levels"; and why "our devotion to militarism" is putting us into genuine danger.

He offers facts and figures on the American investment in the Pentagon -- "conservatively calculated" at $1.1 trillion for 2008 -- and delves into the debt burden we now carry and the way the American economy is being hollowed out before concluding:

Our short tenure as the world's 'lone superpower' has come to an end. ... Some of the damage done can never be rectified. There are, however, some steps that this country urgently needs to take. These include reversing Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for the wealthy, beginning to liquidate our global empire of over 800 military bases, cutting from the defense budget all projects that bear no relationship to the national security of the United States, and ceasing to use the defense budget as a Keynesian jobs program. If we do these things we have a chance of squeaking by. If we don't, we face probable national insolvency and a long depression.

Alter-reviews: Pink Floyd, The Wire and A Stone of Hope

Oh By The Way -- Pink Floyd

This collection contains the entire musical career of Pink Floyd -- all 14 albums from 1967's The Piper at the Gates of Dawn through 1994's The Division Bell are reproduced on 16 discs, all with the original artwork, LP dust sleeves and inserts. There is also a 20" x 30" fold-out poster of Storm Thorgerson's artwork for the band, and two coasters. Released by Capitol Records, it obviously aimed at an extremely selective market but will also become a collector's item. All that's missing, as far as I could tell, were some of the extra tracks from Relics, but that's not a period of the band I particularly like. The overall box itself could have been a bit more elaborate, methinks, but the reproductions are pretty much perfect. It sells at Barnes & Noble for $232, here.

The Wire: And All the Pieces Matter -- Five Years of Music from The Wire

The first release of soundtrack music from the The Wire comes from Nonesuch this month, containing 35 tracks that were featured on the drama about the Baltimore drug trade. It contains several versions of the show's opening theme song -- Tom Waits' "Way Down in the Hole" as performed by The Blind Boys of Alabama, The Neville Brothers, and DoMaJe, a group of Baltimore teenagers -- and a tune by Steve Earle. It also has an assortment of Baltimore club and hip-hop tracks that have never seen a major label release. The CD jacket features essays from hip-hop journalists and writers of the series. It's over my head in that respect, but perhaps not yours. The Barnes & Noble page is here.

A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow, by David Chappell

David Chappell, who teaches history at the University of Arkansas, examines the fall of segregation and Jim Crow and argues that, rather than liberal ideas, the power of religious tradition was ultimately responsible for civil rights triumph. It's an interesting and important argument and Chappell is a fine writer. Now's a good time to pick it up. The book was released by the University of North Carolina Press, and the Barnes and Noble page is here. UNC has also released a new edition of Gordon Wood's seminal study The Creation of the American Republic, and also the Adams-Jefferson letters, which ought to be on your bookshelves if you consider yourself to be a student of these matters. The key pages in Wood remain 562-565, and it's inspiring to recall how well democracy once worked (for white, property-owning males, of course, but still...)

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Luba
Hometown: Detroit

Being in the minority sucks sometimes. I often have meetings or cultural events scheduled on major Eastern Orthodox holidays--no one ever takes this into consideration, although they would never schedule anything on Western Christmas or Easter. I suppose the Hindus and Muslims have similar complaints.

That being said, many western nations have elections scheduled on Sundays to increase participation. (Saturday is a workday in many countries, albeit often a half day.) I would welcome a similar change here in the USA. It won't happen, though, as long as the right has any say, both for religious and practical reasons (they're into vote suppression, not expansion of the franchise).

To make it fair to everyone, though, voting by mail would be the best solution, and one that has been embraced by Australia with great success. (Then again, they have MANDATORY voting.)

Name: Bob Rothman
Hometown: Providence, RI

While the nation bathed itself in the warm glow of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, readers of the Washington Post got a welcome reminder that it was not always thus. Allison Silberberg, who was an aide to Senator Edward Kennedy at the time, reminds us of some of the hateful invectives, most notably from Jesse Helms, that poured out during the 1983 Congressional debate over the holiday.

I covered that debate and remember it well. I also remember Ronald Reagan, whose name is spoken so reverently this campaign season, making a snide remark about Dr. King at a press conference. When asked if he thought Dr. King was a Communist, Reagan replied, "We'll know in 75 years, won't we?" (Dr. King's papers were sealed for 75 years.) Reagan later called Coretta King to apologize, but Silberberg told me that a White House spokesman later clarified that Reagan's call was an "explanation," not an apology.

Name: Mark Cashman
Hometown: Yonkers

John Stewart passed away early Saturday morning. He was an important songwriter too little appreciated in his own land. Just ask Rosanne Cash, Nanci Griffith, or Dave Alvin. Ironically enough, this obituary from The London Times Online is one of the best I have seen. If you are not familiar with John's California Bloodlines album from 1969, you're missing out on one of the great albums of the last 40 years. Rest in peace, John. You gave so much more than you ever received in return.

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