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July 21, 2012
Guns Don't Kill People, People with Freely Available Automatic Weapons with 100 Bullet Drum Magazines Do

Mag AR-15 5.56x45mm C-Mag Beta Mag 100 Round Capacity Plastic Construction Clear Rear Cover Made In U.S.A.Opinions You Should Have joins the scores of gun enthusiasts who insist that, if Colorado allowed its citizens to carry concealed weapons, there would have been far less bloodshed in Aurora -- not counting the additional people who would have been shot by civilians attempting to shoot the assailant in the dark in a completely crowded theater filled by panicked people trying to escape.

This has been an Opinions You Should Have incredibly brief editorial.

Posted by Tom Burka at 3:45 PM in CommentaryEditorial | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 9, 2009
On The LiberalOasis Radio Show

People have been wondering where I've been. All over the place, actually, but my most recent absence has been caused in part because I was in Washington, D.C. chasing down a contribution to Bill Scher's great LiberalOasis Radio Show. He's gone to a new format where he combines his usual top-notch political commentary and interviews with segments from contributors. It's like This American Life on steroids (or participating in Major League baseball).

This week's show includes a podcast I hunted down from Congressman Roy Canunkabunk, the only Blue Dog Democrat in Massachussetts. He's acquired many accolades and been called many things while in Washington, the most recent of which is "a real piece of work." Check it out.

Also on this week's show: Sierra Club's Josh Dorner speaking about a real energy bill that's going to come out of the House, Tom Pappalardo with a very funny and nostalgic piece about 1980s computers, Dianne Bilyak with an interesting take on "Facebook" lists and WHMP's Glenn Johnson reporting from Northampton's Gay Pride day.

The show is broadcast on WHMP every Saturday at 10 a.m., and you can listen, download, or horde it at these links: (iTunes / XML feed / MP3).

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:31 AM in CommentaryLinksNoticesannouncements | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 29, 2008
More To Come

A note on the blog's silence: I was asked to do some writing for another publication, so that's what I've been doing. I'll let you all know what and where you can find it, hopefully within the next couple of days.

Posted by Tom Burka at 5:01 PM in Commentary

January 29, 2007
Opinions You Should Have Named Publisher of One of the Top Ten Internet Satire Stories of 2006

finalist.gifFor the second year in a row, Humorfeed has placed one of our stories among the Top Ten Satire News Stories of the year. This year the honored story was "Prominent Male Hooker Forced To Step Down Amid Accusations Of Sex With Sleazy Evangelical Leader."

While you're waiting for our next post ("*ahem* -- it's coming, I promise you -- *cough*), why don't you check out the other finalists and see which one is your favorite?

Posted by Tom Burka at 7:36 PM in Commentary

March 7, 2006
Veto Corleone

Bush wants a line-item veto. It makes sense, since general vetos are only good for getting rid of bills that increase the security of the United States.

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:13 AM in Commentary

March 3, 2006
When the Levee Breaks

I now know what the levees felt, because I have had it up to here, to say the least. I certainly feel like I have been breached, and not a little violated. In the wake of the release of the video showing Bush being briefed on the impending Katrina disaster, hearing the Republican nonsense that Bush was only warned that the levees would be overtopped, not breached, is beyond the pale.

It is safe to say that the breach of the New Orleans levees was the single most anticipated disaster of the past hundred years. Louisianans, in discussions with the Federal government and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, spoke of it for many years before it occurred -- there were government studies on how to prevent it, Congressional orders -- discussions, meetings, articles, forums, simulations-- for at least five or ten years before Katrina. It was, in and outside of the disaster planning community, a constant refrain. To paraphrase Robert Klein, remote tribes of aborigines could have told you about it.

To hear the Republicans talk about it, it was as if, last August, pigs had fallen from the skies until an American city was destroyed by raining swine.

Click "Below the Fold" to read more.

Read More »

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:15 AM in Commentary

December 20, 2005
Getting To No: The Inside Story of the New York City Transit Strike

A story rarely circulated in the behind-the-scenes coverage of the strike and the negotiations leading up to it is that of the book on which both parties relied in coming to the table: "Getting to No: The Art of Ridiculously Hardball Negotiation". Both the MTA and the TWU consulted the author, Professor Saul Apt, on positions to take during their talks. In yet another example of famously poor judgment, Apt shared some suggested "discussion openers" with us:

"What the hell is your problem?"

"I'll have you know that the author of the Taylor Law, John Taylor, is my next door neighbor."

"Pensions are so overrated. Look at Enron."

"My cousin retired at 55 and she's been bored to tears ever since."

"I understand we have a huge surplus -- but a billion dollars just doesn't go as far as it used to."

"I know the Mayor and he looks nothing like that."

"Paying for your own health care gives a person a real sense of accomplishment."

"Surpluses are overrated. Everyone knows you get better results by doing more with less."

"I have a friend who won the lottery and it only brought him misery."

"You know you're going to raise the fare soon anyway. This way, if you give in, you'll have a convenient excuse."

Also on the transit strike: I and some other folks provided the New York Times with some non-satiric views on the strike (subscription required).

Posted by Tom Burka at 11:53 PM in Commentary

September 3, 2004
The End Of Hate Week

Brought To You By The Ministry Of Truth

Life, if you looked about you, bore no resemblance not only to the lies that streamed out of the telescreens, but even to the ideals that the Republican Party was trying to achieve. Great areas of it, even for a Republican Party member, were neutral and non-political, a matter of slogging through dreary jobs, fighting for a place on the subway, looking for a parking spot at the mall, eating a corn-dog, watching reality TV.

The ideal set up by the Republican Party was something huge, terrible, and glittering -- a world of steel and concrete, of monstrous machines and terrifying weapons -- a nation of warriors and fanatics, marching forward in perfect unity, all thinking the same thoughts and shouting the same slogans, perpetually working, fighting, triumphing, persecuting -- three hundred million people all with the same face.

Posted by Tom Burka at 11:40 AM in Commentary

July 31, 2004
Hobnobbing With Celebrities And Politicians Leaves You Exhausted

It's over -- but it's not over. I still have a couple of "convention posts" to get up here. Someone should have warned me that no one sleeps at these conventions -- you get up at 7 and stay up til 3:30 a.m., and do it all over again the next day. A number of technical problems -- undoubtedly caused by the vast right-wing conspiracy -- plagued me on the first day, and for a while some bloggers couldn't publish to their web sites from the Convention Center because of a mysterious "proxy cache" problem. (At least there wasn't a check caching problem.) Dave Johnson's computer showed signs that his hard drive was dying the first and second day -- his computer would just shut down and check itself now and then -- and those problems simply disappeared later in the week.

I scheduled an interview with a congressman (Carol McCarthy of NY) and they brought me the wrong congressman (the great John Lewis of Atlanta). I should have asked Congressman Lewis about all these New York issues I had questions about anyway, but an intern so touched to meet Lewis that she began sobbing shut me down. (I gave them some privacy.)

We bloggers didn't know what to do when we got there and neither did anybody else. More than a couple reporters and seasoned conventioneers told me they had no idea what they were going to write about.

Read More »

Posted by Tom Burka at 1:25 PM in Commentary

July 29, 2004
Hope Has Arrived


Posted by Tom Burka at 11:11 PM in 2004 Year In ReviewCommentary

July 17, 2003
Bush Sets New Standard For Personal Responsibility

Ayn Rand Posthumously Shrugs

Asked if he would take personal responsibility for the words in his own speech, Bush said, "I take responsibility for putting our troops into action. And I made that decision because Saddam Hussein was a threat to our security and a threat to the security of other nations."

- Bush's remarks during visit of Tony Blair, July 17, 2003

Or, in other words, "No."

Posted by Tom Burka at 11:28 PM in Commentary

April 18, 2003
Too Soon To Judge the War?

There's an excellent post by "Jkstraw" (Jack Straw?) which led to a spirited debate over at The Daily Rant. Many conservatives jumped on the "lefties were wrong in their doom and gloom outlook" bandwagon, referring to liberal perspectives on the course of the war, the aftermath of the war, and the failure (so far) to find WMD, which they now say was not the justification or goal for the war to begin with, and not proffered as such by Bush. I liked my response there so much I reprint it here:

It's fair to say that the administration trumped up and overestimated both the strength of Saddam Hussein's weapons, his possession of WMD, and his imminent or eventual threat to the U.S. or to the security of the area to make the case for an urgent war where no such urgency existed. The left, which the conservatives here like to say have been proved wrong at every turn, said all along that Saddam had been significantly, perhaps irrevocably weakened by the 1991 war and that he posed very little if any threat to our national security. So far, we (I'll put myself in with those lefties, since I said the above many times) have been proved completely correct.

Saddam is the worst oppressor of his people in the world? (as one poster above said) No way. North Korea is a perfect example of a more despicable regime. China is considered not big on human rights. The debate -- when it is justifiable to use military intervention to cure human rights violations -- is an entirely different debate than the one Bush and his pals led the country in when they made the case for war (it was all about WMD -- e.g., Powell's pitch to the U.N.? WMD). When liberating the people from Hussein was thrown into an administration argument for the war, it was in the context of "WMD (and he's a brutal dictator, too)."

If you say it's too soon to judge the need for the war based on the lack of WMD, then you have to admit also that it's too soon to judge whether the war was wise or justifiable. What will the next government be like? Will the region become more or less unstable? 5 or 10 or 20 years down the line, will the i people (who we claim to be helping) be better off, or worse? Will American security (and let's face it, we were never acting on behalf of anyone's interests but our own) be better? Will our foreign relations be better for us? Will the war damage us domestically?

My position is that the Bush administration's actions are short-sighted, reckless, and dangerous. My opposition to the war was (and still is) based on the fact that the war was an unnecessary gamble that risks too much and stands to gain too little; that it has produced problems which you can see immediately and could foresee yesterday (with the international community and the domestic economy to start) -- and that the administration has not been the slightest bit honest about its aims or goals,so I can't even trust them on their judgment.

Those who blindly support the administration in its claims, moves, pronouncements, wars and other actions are the ones who are being hasty.

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:57 PM in Commentary

April 6, 2003
Where are those chemical weapons? An Example of Media Bias in CNN Reporting

William Schneider, Senior Political Analyst of CNN, just proffered several reasons why many of the doom and gloom scenarios in Iraq have not come true. These involved the possible use of chemical and biological agents on U.S. troops, blowing up bridges, etc. One of the prime scenarios involved the use of chemical weapons. Schneider opined that the reason these agents have not been used may be because the command and control structure of the Iraqi resistance has been severely damaged (and there are certainly indications of that), or (and he placed special emphasis on this) that those in charge had been scared pantsless by George W's threat to try those who use them after the war as war criminals. Schneider thus seemed to highlight Bush's tough talk as a possible major factor in the Iraqi failure to use non-conventional weapons while completely ignoring the more plausible explanation that these weapons simply do not exist in the quantities or manner which Bush and his pals would like us to believe. That these weapons may not exist now is certainly more credible than that idea that Iraqi forces -- who seem bent on genuinely resisting the invasion -- would refrain from using weapons available to them because of the threat of trial. In a war where people are willing to blow themselves up to eliminate the invaders, it is difficult to accept the premise that these same people would be afraid of a little American jail time.

I'm not saying that Hussein does not have these weapons. I'm saying that the complete omission of a news commentator -- who holds himself out as special "analyst" (meaning a guy who speculates about stuff based on a couple of rumors and sometimes facts, just like you and me) and reporter -- is unforgiveable. Not mentioning the option -- that Hussein has less of these weapons than we had believed -- can only be demonstrable of conservative bias; especially since no chemical weapons have yet been found anywhere so far. (The many boxes of "suspicious" white powder found in a chemical factory -- reported with great gusto by every American news media outlet -- have been tested; intial tests indicate that they are "not chemicals," according to a CNN banner. I have to ask, if they are not chemicals, what are they? Talc? Chalk? Concrete dust?)

It is exceptionally surprising that no chemical weapons have been found, in light of the American intelligence which reported in the 48 hours preceding the war that there were strong indications that Republican Guard units southeast of Baghdad -- controlled by the famed Iraqi Commander nicknamed "Chemical Ali" -- had been supplied with them, and in light of our allegations that Hussein had them. Certainly, one would think that the goal of the Iraqi military would be defend Baghdad with whatever weapons they could find.

Schneider also opined that perhaps Hussein would be afraid to use chemical weapons in this war because of the "proganda" tool using them would hand the U.S. Look, if Hussein has these weapons, when would he use them if not now? After his exile or death? Does Schneider really think Hussein is more worried about how it would look than about staying in power? Hussein has been comfortable with getting caught in a lie or two before.

And then there is the interesting (and convenient) rumor circulating (Schneider said nothing about this) that Hussein moved his WMD to Syria so we would not find them when we invaded. This certainly is plausible as a convenient excuse to invade Syria later ("Look! Another dictatorship that harbors terroists that has WMD! And it's right over there! We must invade today!) but not believable in the context of common sense. I find it hard to accept the notion that someone who goes to the trouble to get WMD to stay in power and to increase his power would give away the very weapons that might help him retain his power on the eve of an invasion of his country.

Posted by Tom Burka at 12:12 AM in Commentary

April 4, 2003
That Silver is For Us; Brilliant Congressmen Pass Bill To Bar France and Germany From Helping Rebuild

According to NPR, when Congress approved Bush's request for $75 billion today for the war, someone sipped in a rider barring France and Germany from being allowed to contract to rebuild . Some irate confressman said, "We're not sending our boys in harm's way so that the French and German can stand back and hold their hands out for ten pieces of silver!"

Um, that's a pretty effective stance. Except that Bush's plan to rebuild gives the lion's share of the rebuilding contracts to -- have you guessed it -- U.S. businesses! Our boys died to help put a couple of pieces of silver into some major CEOs' pockets. The Wall Street Journal reported:

The Bush administration's audacious plan to rebuild envisions a sweeping overhaul of i society within a year of a war's end, but leaves much of the work to private U.S. companies. . . .
[M]ore than $1.5 billion in work being offered to private U.S. companies under the plan, just $50 million is so far earmarked for a small number of groups such as CARE and Save the Children.

Also, isn't it a tad inconsistent to claim that the U.N. should have broad participation in rebuilding when you pass laws denying security council members the ability to allow their businesses to have a hand in the reconstruction? Might that not impede efforts to involve the U.N.?

Posted by Tom Burka at 8:49 AM in Commentary

SARS Is From Mars

It seems clear to me that the outbreak of SARS is directly related to those people who claim to have been picked up by UFO's and later, after lengthy journeys, adventures, and encounters of all numeric kinds, get dropped back on Earth because the aliens on board clearly could not stand them. This claim that viruses like SARS just "spring up" -- isn't that like the claim that Spinoza made -- that life just "bloomed spontaneously" from inanimate matter? Doesn't it make more sense that those aliens are depositing people back on Earth after they've infected them with some biological agent? I mean, why would an alien go to the trouble of dropping an abductee back on Earth instead of just putting them in the space waste chute?

By the way, I was so pleased to see a local news station -- or it may even have been MSNBC -- say that, CDC researchers were that much closer to discovering a treatment plan for SARS because they had determined that it was a type of virus -- specifically, a coronavirus. My, that's reassuring. Coronaviruses are the same kind that cause the common cold. We've been really successful at figuring out a cure for that. so this SARS thing will be licked in no time.

The really hopeful thing is that we kind of have to find a cure for SARS. Until we do, we're going to be quarantining the heck out of populatations and, as reported universally, SARS will have a chilling effect on world business. Actually on world business travel, which one would think we have almost no need for in today's electronic age. Maybe SARS will promote the growth of videoconferencing technologies far beyond where they are today -- so that videoconferencing gets to the point where you can artificially shake your Hong Kong business partners hands without really touching them. (We have a technology for that, actually -- they're called "gloves.")

No, we find an effective treatment plan for SARS, pump money and good old fashioned research into cracking that illness -- and if we do, maybe we will be that much closer to discovering a cure for the common cold.

Posted by Tom Burka at 8:20 AM in Commentary

March 29, 2003
Bush Did Not Want To Hear Of Possible Iraqi Resistance Before War
It was not all that many months ago that Ari Fleischer was... boasting, I guess... that Ari Fleischer actually said that "[General Tommy] Franks wasn't invited to the next strategy meeting because 'the president doesn't have time to listen to what the president doesn't want to hear,'" and one of the things the President did not want to hear was that Saddam's forces might fight bravely.

This (and Rumsfeld trying to cover his behind) courtesy of Brad Delong's weblog.

Posted by Tom Burka at 8:51 PM in Commentary

Boy, Those War Games Sure Are Worth Every Penny

The Guardian reports:

If the US and Iraq do go to war, there can only be one winner, can't there? Maybe not. This summer, in a huge rehearsal of just such a conflict - and with retired Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper playing Saddam - the US lost. Julian Borger asks the former marine how he did it.
Whole article here.

What's really scary is that what the U.S. wargamers did is exactly what I do when I'm having a hard time in a first-person shooter. (Gamers are the same everywhere.)

Posted by Tom Burka at 8:38 PM in Commentary

White House Knew Fantastic "Edge" of American Military Was An Absurd Fiction Months Before Starting War

In Supplying the Enemy, the New York Times rails aginst the Russians for supplying is with night vision goggles, antitank missiles, and GPS jamming devices (which can essentially make "smart" weapons very dumb).

The amazing part of the editorial is this: "U.S. officials say they have been pressuring Russia for many months now to end sales of these types of equipment." They knew months in advance about this? In other words, for months before committing a too-small force to this war, White House officials had reason to suspect -- and had good reason to believe -- that had equipment which could neutralize the much-flaunted and repeatedly touted technological advantages which would supposedly enable our American forces to prevail in a fortnight, at most. (Oh, and about pressuring Russia, good job. Another diplomatic and foreign relations triumph.)

The article also notes that Rumsfeld is aware that Syria has been providing this equipment to the is for a certainty. We're back to the Reagan question here: when did he know this -- and if he didn't know it months before the war, why not?

First: it has recently been made clear that we started this war with too small a force, regardless of our "technological advantage."

Second: Oops. In street-to-street fighting in a moonlit night -- or in the desert, whatever -- the fantastic edge our guys had over the is has just disappeared. And the incredible "precision bombing" and other GPS guided weapons can now be misdirected -- to i civilians in Baghdad and, in a skirmish or major battle where our ground forces need air support, to our guys. There's enough "fratricide" and "friendly fire" wiping out our forces as it is -- without GPS jamming devices in the hands of the enemy.

Third: White House officials -- Bush, , Wolfowitz, Rumsfled -- knew or should have known that this war was going to much worse than they told the American people. And the worst part of it is, I beleive that this was sheer ineptitude on the part of the big deceision makers, who were so intent on fighting this war that they neglected to get accurate intelligence or see what the intel already showed: it was a bad choice to enter this war of choice.

And that's if you support the war. (Never mind the million other reasons not to fight it -- the world hates us -- destroying alliances that have taken 60 years to build -- screwing up the force of international law -- weakening the Geneva convention -- scads more -- but here's another one, now: destroying the deterrent effect of our threat to use military force, and diminishing the reputation of our fighting forces as an effective tool for peace and diplomacy.)

Am I saying that we're going to lose this war? No. I'm saying that it will be much longer and more drawn out than we had been led to believe or that the White House expected -- and a lot of people -- many of them our own 19 and 20 year olds -- will die needlessly as result of White House mistakes.

The Bush Administration: Inept at diplomacy. Inept at peace. Inept at war.

That's foreign relations and policy. Thank goodness they're so good at domestic stuff. (For anyone who wants to quote that last bit, you must include: "uttered with the utmost bitterness and sarcasm." Or, "And then Burka, slouching over the counter of a dark, depressing bar, downed six shots of whisky in quick succession.")

Posted by Tom Burka at 7:27 PM in Commentary

March 27, 2003
We Have Met The Enemy And He Is Us

Today, the Second Batallion came under heavy attack from Marine units farther south when they called for artillery support to protect them from an Iraqi attack in the north. 37 marines were wounded, 3 critically, and numerous trucks, armored vehicles, and humvees were destroyed.

"It's these damn cell phones," said one marine, who preferred not to be identified. "The Second said they wanted to be supported. We thought they said they wanted to be mortared." A spokesman for Sprint decried the mistake.

Sgt. Hugo Spurgeon of the Second Batallion, 8th Marine Division had this to say. "We asked for help and they gave us help. I'm just glad they weren't trying to hurt us."

General Hy "Goferit" Phlegmington said, "We have the best prepared men, the most sophicated weapons. We have stuff that can see through walls -- that's classified -- stuff that can pinpoint the tail on a donkey in a pasture on a farm in a town near a city hundreds of miles away. Just think what we could do if we could figure out if our guys were far enough from the tail of the donkey to safely blow that donkey's tail plumb off."

Posted by Tom Burka at 9:39 AM in Commentary

March 23, 2003
Bush Prolongs War With Thoughtless, Irresponsible Talk

MSNBC learned that today Powell was trying to diplomatically negotiate the exile of Hussein in an effort to end the war quickly. When asked by reporters if Hussein could still seek exile, Bush destroyed Powell's diplomatic efforts by saying "No way. I gave him his 48 hours and they're over," or some such thing.

Thanks. We can thank Bush for spilling the blood of those lost in a prolonged war -- Americans and is both.

How many Americans will support the war if 1000 U.S. soldiers die? 2,000? 3,000?

How many deaths were projected when Bush decided to go ahead?

Posted by Tom Burka at 9:27 PM in Commentary

Responsible Reporting

When a correspondent told MSNBC's Forrest Sawyer moments ago that "chemical plants" had been found, he said, "But we don't know -- they could just be chemicals," and the correspodnent said, "That's right." A news ticker crawl under Sawyer then said "Chemical Weapons Plants found," and Sawyer said,"That's not true. that crawl is unsubstantiated. Take it down." And they did.

Of course, this is the network that has "Operation i Freedom" -- a piece of propoganda -- continually emblazoned on theri screen during "news" coverage.

Posted by Tom Burka at 9:21 PM in Commentary

War Crimes and Taking The Low Road

Maybe it's just me, but it seems absurd for Donald Rumsefeld to complain about violating the Geneva convention (concerning showing captured and dead marines on TV) when we haven't had very clean hands in our treatment or prisoners, or even in the legality of the current action. We insist on others following the Geneva Convention but we violated internatioanl law by invading to begin with. We captured Taliban and others and said we did not have to follow the Geneva convention, claiming that these people were "unlawful combatants." I believe there were corroborated reports that we kept prisoners naked and hooded for hours upon hours, often during interrogation. there have been questions concerning our treatment of detainees in Cuba.

The point: We have chosen to become exactly like the very governments and people we used to criticise for human rights violations. I and many others have said that we can no longer criticize them for using practices that we have adopted.

And don't tell me 1441 authorized war. Our own U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. said, when 1441 passed, that it was not "self-authenticating" (read: self-actuating), and another respolution was needed to authorize the use of military force. We can't pretend otherwise now.

Posted by Tom Burka at 5:58 PM in Commentary

March 21, 2003
Unbiased Media

The war seems to be going well. What do I mean by that? Although I'm opposed to it -- and believe that Bush could not have handled the diplomacy worse -- up 'til A-Day, there seemed to be a concerted attempt to try and get it over as fast as possible, hitting as little as possible. Of course, I, like you, am entirely dependent on our very well-controlled media for my information. And these embedded reporters -- I question their independence. So the above serves to remind us all that there's a spin on everything. (Poster courtesy of The Propaganda Remix Project, which is a cool site full of old WWII posters that have been retooled to reflect current perspectives on today's news.)(via Orcinus)

Posted by Tom Burka at 6:32 PM in Commentary

March 18, 2003
Oh. Now We See Why We're Invading Iraq. (Because we can.)

Last night on Chris Matthews's Hardball (MSNBC), William Bennett and a former CIA Chief, enthralled with the heady bouquet that is preemptive war, outlined the real plan for this war. First we take Iraq. Then, in order to expedite a Middle East peace between Israel and Palestine, we "pressure" (read: threaten to invade) Syria to get out of Lebanon and we take Damascus. Presumably we follow up by "imposing upon" (read: threaten to invade) Iran to give up their nuclear weapons program and then we do something to Libya, too.

This plan was echoed in Paul Krugman's analysis today (get it here) in the New York Times:

It's a matter of public record that this war with is largely the brainchild of a group of neoconservative intellectuals, who view it as a pilot project. In August a British official close to the Bush team told Newsweek: "Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran." In February 2003, according to Ha'aretz, an Israeli newspaper, Under Secretary of State John Bolton told Israeli officials that after defeating the United States would "deal with" Iran, Syria and North Korea.
One of the guys on hardball last night defended this as perfectly justifiable, saying, "Well, it took 70 years for us to clean up Europe, get rid of all those petty dictators . . ." (Link to the transcript will be up as soon as MSNBC makes it available.)

These pinhead neoconservatives forget: that was a World War. And we had a true coalition of the International Community on board. (Last night Bush said we had a "broad coalition." Read: Britain, Spain, and Australia.) And that was a war of self defense. A war of necessity.

The world will not accept the U.S. plowing through the Middle East and dictating (like those dictators) who does what and how and where and what their "democracy" will look like. (Can true democracy occur when it is imposed and orchestrated by another country that is acting in its sole interest?)

I've said it before and will say it again. This militant go-it-our-own-way madness will unify, embolden, and fuel the terrorist opposition to this country, until what happened on 9/11 will seem like peanuts. No one and no place will be safe. It's no surprise that the New York Times reported that al Queda is using our hostility as a recruiting tool.

The philosophy espoused by Sean Connery in The Untouchables, where he said, "They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue," makes for a fine Oscar award winning speech, but in the real world, it leads to Armageddon.

Israel and the Palestinians have taught us that that cycle never ends.

Posted by Tom Burka at 9:48 AM in Commentary

March 17, 2003
This Is A Somewhat Conservative Paper?

The New York Observer certainly speaks for me when they posit Smug President Has Painted U.S. Into a Corner. An excerpt:

The callow, smug, inarticulate man who was the lead player in a farce called "White House News Conference" gave us no new reasons to go to war, no sense of the dangers involved and no confidence in his leadership. The television appearance itselfmore a blustering tape loop than exchange with the presscould only be called a national disgrace; President George W. Bushs performance in front of a docile collection of game-show hosts posing as reporters ought to frighten all of us. We live in terrible times, dangerous times, and all this man can do is mouth platitudes and assertions put on his podium cards by his war-crazed handlers. Eight times he interchanged the war on with the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and eight times he was unchallenged.

Amazingly, in the immediate aftermath of the Presidents disgraceful performance, news outlets described him as "solemn" and "determined." These pieces must have been put together before the President actually spoke, because there was nothing solemn or determined about him; "clueless" and "lost" would have been closer.

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:35 AM in Commentary

March 15, 2003
Good Evidence That U.S. Is In It For the Oil, In Part
This report about U.S. Intentions is a fairly thorough analysis of the reason 's oil is so crucial to U.S. interests in the near future (if not today). It is chock full of something you won't find in many places discussing the war: facts. The facts (in summary) are that OPEC is already producing oil at peak capacity. The demand for oil is rising throughout the world in industrialized countries, and is beginning to be larger than the supply -- hence, rising oil prices over past years. There can be no question that Bush and -- intimates of the oil business -- thoroughly understand this. The U.S. gets 1/4 of its Middle Eastern oil from . That's with 's oilfields severely damaged (from the 1991 war) and operating well below capacity due to sanctions. If 's oil fields were properly developed and if sanctions were no longer in place, would compete with Saudi Arabia as the number one source of oil imports for the United States. Any disruption of that crucial supply would be counter to our national security interests.

In an August 2002 Report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, entitled "World Areas to Watch," the U.S. Government noted that

[i]n anticipation of the eventual lifting of economic sanctions, already has signed potentially lucrative oil and gas deals (which will come into effect when sanctions are lifted) with companies from Russia, France, and China, and has invited international partners to invest in natural gas projects worth $4.2 billion. In August 2002, reports indicated that Russia and were ready to sign a $40 billion economic cooperation agreement covering a variety of fields, including oil, electricity, and petrochemicals.
Ok. So this would support the argument that France, China, and Russia were set to veto the war resolution because it would disrupt enormously profitable arrangements with the present i government. But it would also mean a potential change in the ability of the U.S. to secure sufficent oil to meet its needs; there's only so much oil to go around, and France, Russia, and China were set to grab a huge amount of the supply. They could either use this oil for their own needs, and then have none left over, or sell some to the U.S. for exorbitant prices.

It cannot be the case that, as pro-war people cynically (and I have nothing against cynicism) point out, France, Russia, and China (and the claim involves Germany as well), are basing their decisions on money and oil while we are not. If the oil in is of such precious value to these nations, it can be no less valuable to our own interests and no less influential in the decision to invade . Of course, I have already mentioned this Heritage Foundation report from 1991 which posits that no goal is "as critical to America as maintaining access to Persian Gulf oil or militarily assisting Israel."

The argument presented in the National Review that we can't be in it for i oil because, even if i oil is snapped up by others in the world market, it always gets sold back to us, is specious when viewed in light of the diminishing supply of world oil and the increasing demand for it elsewhere. Yes, the U.S. will always be a large consumer of the available oil. This, the National review argues, means that we will always be ensured access to the available supply. This is not logical.

The only other explanation for this war is plausible, and certainly plays a large part in the decision to invade : to ensure America's domination as the only world superpower. This was the world order advocated in Paul Wolfowitz's famous 1991 memo. Is it any wonder that Paul is one of the chief hawks leading the charge?

Posted by Tom Burka at 9:48 PM in Commentary

France Isn't in It For the Oil
I've heard time and time again the argument that France's opposotion to the war in is due to the worth of its many oil contracts with . I heard one person quote to me that France had $60 billion in oil contracts that would dissolve if there was a war. I never knew whether there was any truth to this -- but one of the most hawkish publications you can find anywere,Jane's Information Group, a compendium of everything about modern weaponry and military affairs, a publication that is for he who delights in all things military, says France will lose barrels of money by opposing the war:
France used to have large oil interests in , and a reasonable expectation of retaining some influence in the region. Chirac's current policy has put all this at risk.
The point is that France could have stood to gain a great deal from backing the U.S. war in , putting its hand out when the time to divvy up the oil contracts (and the other industrial contracts), but that France squandered that opportunity to enhance its standing as an international leader. I don't necessarily buy this (see above about France's oil deals with ), but, then again, France's prospective oil deals with all depended on the lifting of economic sancions against . So what's wrong with France saying, the inspection process can work, and eventually we will get Saddam to disarm, and we can lift econmic sanctions agianst him? Then everyone will be happy.
Posted by Tom Burka at 9:35 PM in Commentary

March 14, 2003
Much Better Than Dan Rather's

Mister Crunchy shares his interview with Saddam Hussein.

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:56 PM in Commentary

March 13, 2003
Who Says Those Cable News Networks Don't Really Provide Any News?
Courtesy of Eric Muller at IsThatLegal? comes proof that those pundits who cable stations pay top dollars to are worth their weight in gold.
Posted by Tom Burka at 9:26 PM in Commentary

March 9, 2003
A Damn Good Question

Mister Crunchy asks the question about the coming war with nobody else dared ask. "[E]veryone until now seems to have ignored: what does the oil want?"

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:49 PM in Commentary

Rescued From An Evil Tyrant

Ted Rall postulates a scenario where aliens come to "free us from the evil tyrant Bush." Cooperation with alien stormtroopers is compulsory. I have to admit that the alien leader looks nothing like Gen. Tommy Franks.

Posted by Tom Burka at 12:09 PM in Commentary

March 8, 2003
A Personal Observation
Today I saw a pretty girl coming out of a public restroom in Central Park. So there you have it. Pretty and brave.
Posted by Tom Burka at 11:28 PM in Commentary

Maybe It's Time To Trim That Beard
One of my numerous girlfriends (read: "My wife -- who wishes to remain anonymous on my web page--") told me that with my winter coat on, my hood up, and my sunglasses, I look like the Unabomber.
Posted by Tom Burka at 11:26 PM in Commentary

Totally Convincing
The Washington Post noted that the U.S. relied upon forged documents as "evidence" of an Iraqi nuclear arms program. The forged documents -- letters -- were replete with "crude errors," "including names and titles that did not match up with the individuals who held office at the time the letters were purportedly written":
"We fell for it," said one U.S. official who reviewed the documents.
This isn't satire. That's what our government said. Very believable. Either our intelligence officials are being -- what's the word I'm looking for -- dishonest, or they're simply incompetent.

Moreover, the same article explains that Powell's claim -- repeated by Bush in latest State of the Union address, and presented to thre U.N. is Powell's recent presentation -- that aluminum tubes ordered by were clearly intended to be used in Iraq's purported nuclear weapons program, appear to be patently false.

Bush: Reluctant. Cowboy.

I'll accept cowboy.

Posted by Tom Burka at 12:51 PM in Commentary

Totally Unconvincing

Eric Alter said what his companions (notably Howard Fineman) have failed to say:

[A]t one point in the news conference, Bush said: That happens to be my last choicethe use of force. Sounds good, but it simply wasnt believable. Everyone knows that war has been the presidents first choicenot his lastsince at least the summer of 2002. In trying to play the reluctant sheriff, Bush cast himself in a role that rang false. He has, for months, been the eager sheriff.
Alter thoughtfully contrasts Bush's actions over the past year with possible and far more reasonable paths the President might have taken if he had really wished to pursue a diplomatic solution to i disarmament. Worth looking at.

Posted by Tom Burka at 12:33 PM in Commentary

March 7, 2003
Some Good News

According to the latest Quinnipiac poll, if President Bush were to run today against Democratic Candidate X, he would lose 48-44. That's either percentage points or numbers of Justices on a greatly expanded Supreme Court.

The Unnamed Candidate does fine. The problem is when you name him. (Or her.) Then, according to the poll, Bush wins.

That's why I think we should get someone unnamed to run for the Democratic Nomination. An anonymous nominee. (Say it three times fast.) The anonymous candidate. He could run with a big bag over his head, like the unnamed comic. (Who was that guy, anyway?)

Posted by Tom Burka at 2:00 PM in Commentary

Is the Media biased? Is Pat Kadell a ticking human bomb?

This is what I mean by media bias. After the President's press conference, the media fawned over him with the same degree of repressed pride that a parent might exude after a successful performance by a child as a shepherd in a school nativity play. Chris Matthews of MSNBC's "Hardball" repeatedly called the President's speech "dramatic," and other stations reported the event with all the journalistic integrity of a puff piece in Vanity Fair. Howard Fineman seemed to go out of his way to paint the President in a light that just wasn't there. He called him "a reluctant warrior," and likened him to Shane, strapping on the guns because he has to:

FINEMAN: If he's a cowboy, he's the reluctant warrior, the Shane (ph) in the movie, strapping on the guns as the...
MATTHEWS: Because he has to.
FINEMAN: ... last resort because he has to, to protect his family, drawing on the emotions of 9/11, tying them to Saddam Hussein, using the possible or likely rejection vote from the U.N. as a badge of honor.
That may be what the White House wants us to think, and how they wanted Bush to appear, but it is astonishing to see someone who purports to be an objective journalist spinning the speech for the White House in this way. There was certainly no attempt to explore this pose, and no attempt to contrast that image with the facts: that the White House agenda has been all-Iraq all-the-time since Bush's 2001 State of the Union address, painstakingly and methodically built up into an international crisis -- and a diplomatic disaster -- by Bush. Bush has crammed a war with Iraq down our throats -- speaking for Americans and the world at large. There was no comment about the fact that the White House carefully chose Bush's pose last night -- some found Bush's tone almost somnambulant -- to be deliberately calm, not aggressive. The Republicans want and need to paint Bush this way so they can turn the facts on their head. The "reluctant warrior"?! Bush is more like war's peppiest cheerleader. He has so doggedly and determinedly sought this war that it makes his push for tax cuts seem half-hearted and unenthusiastic. The only thing he was reluctant about was going to the U.N.; I understand he was practically dragged kicking and screaming to them. It is understandable that he plans to ignore the U.N. now, since he never honestly sought U.N. intervention, oversight, opinion, or investigation. It was his intention to go to war a year ago and nothing will dissuade him from that path. Reluctant indeed.

In this context -- the factual context -- the treatment Bush received from Matthews and Fineman was astounding. The tone of their "analysis" and discussion was as of those who had learned a great deal from an accomplished elder statesman, and whom they were lucky to see in action.

Nor did they comment upon Bush's failure to meaningfully answer questions put to him about the war. (Instead, they praised him for his "Viet Nam" answer, where he said we knew what we were going to do, had a "clear goal," in , and praised his saying we were planning to win this war. Were we ever planning to lose Viet Nam? Were our goals that vague -- or any less strongly articulated than our "goals" and "reasons" for the war are today?) And the failure of the media here, regardless of the personal belief of any journalist, is the failure tp examine the manner in which Bush presents himself in light of his chosen actions and the perceptions of the millions upon millions of people who see his actions toward differently. The media should not be just channeling the President's message to viewers and repackaging it for them to digest. The story is that the message has been packaged -- and why and how much?

Aaron Brown of CNN, interestingly enough, asked his correspondent-on-the-scene about his impression that the President did not seem to be answering the questions asked of him, and even pointed out that one or two of the answers seemed to have nothing to do with the questions asked. However, the correspondent sidestepped any consideration of Aaron's actual question, instead muttering something about the briefing and rehearsal the President had received for the conference but concluding that the President "sought to reassure the nation that" blah-blah-blah -- essentially shrugging off the fact that the President did not answer any question that demanded a substantive answer about the rationale for going to war in the face of worldwide anti-war sentiment, about the economy, about the cost of the war, or about the need for it. (Yes, Bush did reasssure the public that he believes we need to do it, and that it is in the interest of our national security, but he avoided elaborating meaningfully on those conclusions.)

Pat Caddell, a democratic pollster who appeared on MSNBC, did nobody a favor by pointing out that the vast majority of Americans do not support the war, because he seemed actually to foam at the mouth as he did so. He was so angry (who can really blame him?) that he appeared to be free associating about how the American people were not going to take this or something to that effect, while his Republican counterpart ably and calmly spun the press conference into another bang-up performance for this "very effective" President that the country loves and wants to support:

(Caddel said) I'm not representing any party, but the audience needs to know. When I looked at The New York Times pieces, when I talk about - - there are all kinds of different lies. This New York Times piece about this-your memo about the Republican Party about obfuscating, about global warming and the environment...
the problem I'm having is how the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) did we get from 9/12 when the entire world was standing with us, when we were going after the people who killed those 3,000 people to a war with Iraq, which is on the agenda of these Jacobins as I call them, the cabala Jacobins for the last five years or 10 years.
See? The substance may be correct, but he seems to be gibbering.

Which is a shame, because Pat Caddell is a smart pollster and a skillful advocate. He was, like many of us, so angered by the treatment of Bush and the Republicans in the press that he was, frankly, almost incoherently sputtering. i think the point he meant to make was that, for the most part, the media is now in the position of republishing, without analysis or question, fact-checking or investigation, anything the White House says. One of the reasons for this is that the news cycle -- the time between the event and the reporting of it -- has diminished to such a degree that reporters really don't have time to do much more than relay the information received directly to their viewers and readers. It doesn't really help people much to throw in "commentary" from one Republican pundit and one Democratic pundit and say that's the story.

There are still some great investigative reporters out there. Seymour Hirsch comes to mind. But there doesn't seem to be a lot of journalistic integrity. (Unless you're Aaaron Brown. Kudos to Jon Stewart too.)

Posted by Tom Burka at 1:50 PM in Commentary

March 5, 2003
A Modest Reposte to Jingoism

Bill Moyers, on Patriotism and the Flag, makes some fine points, among them:

The flag's been hijacked and turned into a logo - the trademark of a monopoly on patriotism. . . . So I put this [flag pin] on as a modest riposte to men with flags in their lapels who shoot missiles from the safety of Washington think tanks, or argue that sacrifice is good as long as they don't have to make it, or approve of bribing governments to join the coalition of the willing (after they first stash the cash). I put it on to remind myself that not every patriot thinks we should do to the people of Baghdad what bin Laden did to us. The flag belongs to the country, not to the government. And it reminds me that it's not un-American to think that war -- except in self-defense -- is a failure of moral imagination, political nerve, and diplomatic skill.

Posted by Tom Burka at 11:31 AM in Commentary

March 3, 2003
Confused American Citizenry Wonder When War Will End, Already

Tired of the endless barrages of rhetoric raining down upon them daily like rain, millions of terrified Americans hoped for the end of "this horrifying war," although the war had not yet started.

"It's like, relentless," said Sherry Clark, a mom from Duluth. "It's on all the channels. The endless wrangling. The sharp retorts. I just want it all to be over."

A recent joint poll by Zogby, ABC News, Harris, Time, and Newsweek all showed that people were anxious for the war to end. (A poll by Fox News indicated that over 70% of Americans wanted the White House to "bring it on," and "let's wrassle," but was based on an interview of a group of guys outside a Hardees in Lubbock, Texas.) Over 70% of Americans polled indicated that they were willing to make almost any sacrifice to avoid the neverending stream of speeches, presentations, warnings, pie charts and bar graphs released from the White House almost every day. Polls also suggested that incendiary rhetoric and "tough talk" was wearing down people all over the world. Both "old Europe" and "new Europe" denizens organized for antitalk talks in the face of escalating gibberish.

Negotiators for Americans sought a U.N. resolution in favor of stopping the proliferation of abusive rhetoric. However, experts have said that any chance at a resolution may be stalled by a proposed ban on the use of similes.

Posted by Tom Burka at 5:08 PM in Commentary

Saddam destroyed his biological and chemical arsenal in 1995?

Eric Alterman points out a Newsweek article indicating that valuable information from a top Iraqi defector -- noting that Saddam had destroyed his bilogical and chemical weapons stockpile years ago -- was "hushed up" by Iraqi inspectors. This also begs the question of Powell's recent presentation to the U.N., where his evidence of Saddam's nuclear evidence was weak, and in whichhe correspondingly played up -- even holding up a vial of "play Anthrax" -- Iraq's purported biological and chemical weapons programs. As Alterman notes, "This crucial piece of information of seems to have been deliberately buried, but if it can be verified, it could disable entirely the argument for war." Wisdom. And, I might add, excellent grammar.

Posted by Tom Burka at 2:58 PM in Commentary

March 2, 2003
If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck . . .

I used to think Tom Friedman was a really smart guy. Until he started touting Bush's war. It was ok, he said. It was even ok to have a war with Iraq for oil, he said. Without any provocation. He said the war would be a good thing, but only as long as Bush could do a bang-up job of rebuilding Iraq, while simultaneously noting that Bush is terrible at rebuilding -- or for that matter, building -- anything. Today he somehow notices that Bush is a moron, but Friedman still supports the war. He mentions that if he, Friedman, had been planning on invading Iraq and "installing" democracy there, he would have done all the smart, foresighted things Bush has neglected to do-- i.e., not alienated the world by blowing off the Kyoto treaty, not proposed huge tax cuts on top of other massive tax cuts when the government needs the money, "rallied the nation for real energy conservation and initiated a Manhattan Project for alternative energies so I would not find myself with $2.25-per-gallon gasoline on the eve of this war," and Friedman would have made tough new demands on Iraelis and Palestinians to try and direct the Middle East toward a lasting peace.

His conclusion: Bush's vision of domino-directed democracies in the Middle East, fueled by a military ouster of Saddam Hussein and a forced U.S.-led occupation of the country, is a "big, bold, gutsy vision." Hey, Tom, if it smells like a myopic pinhead, if it walks like a myopic pinhead, if it acts like a myopic pinhead, then any of its "visions" are the hallucinogenic fantasies of a myopic pinhead.

I don't know if anyone noticed it, Tom, but you can't swap out government types like agitators in washing machines. You can't "install" a democracy. Governments aren't modular components, like circuit boards in some huge electronic machine. They're infinitely complex and dynamic societal systems.

On the same page, Maureen Dowd highlights some facts which show how myopic and short-sighted -- and utterly imbecilic -- the Bush plan for Iraq is. It was being touted by Bush's lackeys -- or should I say, his superiors? -- as early as 1992, when and Wolfowitz were championing it and Bush's dad was -- never believed I'd be writing this -- smart enough then to reject it. 1992? This administration is so short-sighted that double-thick coke-bottom-bottle glasses couldn't help them out.

Posted by Tom Burka at 7:18 PM in Commentary

The American burka?

Those folks at Metafilter opine that "the HAZMAT suit [has become] the American burka." Let's be clear. I'm the American Burka. The HAZMAT suit is just one of my lackeys.

Posted by Tom Burka at 5:25 PM in Commentary

March 1, 2003
The Right Hand and the Left Hand. And you know what they use the left hand for . . .

Do These Men Work for the Same Government? quotes from Bush and Powell this week on the proffered rationales for using military force in . Guess what? Powell: Disarm. Bush: Regime change and we want to install democracies all the over the Middle East like little houses in Monopoly.

Posted by Tom Burka at 11:33 PM in Commentary

February 28, 2003
Dennis Miller Becomes a Wimp

Perhaps because of old age, perhaps because of his terrible stint on Monday Night football, Dennis Miller loses his ability to courageously oppose insane warmongering Republicans. Most disturbing is when Miller says he's for the war because Bush must know what he's doing. If I were his wife, I'd be getting him an MRI stat to find the brain tumor. Read the whole sorted tale here.

Posted by Tom Burka at 3:40 PM in Commentary

George Soros Says I Am Absolutely Right

Not a big surprise here. But he's worth billions and I'm worth a little bit less than that. Annoying. In any case, Soros says that Bush is pursuing "an Imperialist vision," and what the world really needs is for "the Bush administration to live by the rules it seeks to impose on the rest of the world."

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:44 AM in Commentary

The Death of a Wise Man

Anyone who heard Davy Rothbart's extraordinary interview of Mr. Rogers as broadcast on This American Life can now relive it in his op-ed piece in the New York Times today, A Friend in the Neighborhood. A comparison of the pics from the episode (showing Davy meeting Mr. Rogers when Davy was 3 and again 20 years later reveals that Davy dyed his hair blonde when he was three. If you listen to the actual interview (at the This American Life website -- just find the episode "Neighbors" from May of 2001), you'll hear how Davy initially could not believe that Mr. Rogers really invited his family -- based on the receipt of a fan letter -- to spend a day of Mr. Rogers's vacation with him. He wondered if he had imagined it, or if Mr. Rogers did this all the time. Turns out Mr. Rogers invited scads of his fans -- all of these young kids -- to visit him, and he would give each family the royal treatment. Sounds like he spent his every waking minute -- including his vacations -- catering to others. The main impression you get from the interview is -- hard to believe about a guy who meticulously changed his shoes and put on his comfy sweater at the beginning of every show -- a wise and enlightened person. If only Fred Rogers had had a show for adults. I guess he did.

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:12 AM in Commentary

February 26, 2003
Great Minds 3

Chas Freeman, in The New York Times writes:

The last war with Iraq greatly enhanced American prestige and influence. The irony is that this war with Iraq, intended by its proponents to consolidate United States hegemony, may erode and undermine it. Even if things go well, it could yield weakened American alliances and influence, a more anemic presence overseas, a diminished capacity to project power, fewer options and allies in the Middle East, and an increased threat of terrorism. From here, it looks like a bad bet against long odds.

Posted by Tom Burka at 8:54 PM in Commentary

February 19, 2003
A Reasonable Republican Voice?

I'm a little stunned by the extremely moderate tone struck by funny Republican Christopher Buckley. He concedes that protestors should be at least spoken to in Another March of Folly?, and also reveals that he is against the war unless all of our allies support it:

For what it's worth, I do not support a war with Iraq unless we all defined as a clear majority of the American people, plus New Europe and good "Old Europe," as feckless and posturing as they are ultimately agree that it is the only way to make the world safer. If we can't agree, I say: contain Saddam Hussein with all means at our disposal. Indeed, contain him with extreme prejudice.
That's two uses of feckless I've seen this week. (One below.) An investigation into the decrease in the world's supply of feck is in order (with U.N. sanctions, if appropriate).

The amazing thing about this is, I've seen Republicans scoff at the anti-war protests ("do they really believe that the war has anything to do with oil????") and make fun of the notion that millions of people really might care about people killing innocent Iraqi civilians. It's nice to see a conservative voice acknowledge that those that oppose the war deserve to have their opinions treated with respect.

Here on this page that's we're all about. Respect. I respect everyone's opinions, even the opinions of utter morons.

Posted by Tom Burka at 8:21 AM in Commentary

February 17, 2003
Great Minds Think Alike 2

While Bush and his pals have made the war completely inevitable, Jonathan Schell courageously continues to lay out The Case Against the War, among other objections noting the weakness of the "Saddam will give nukes to terrorists" argument:

It has turned out that the supplier of essential information and technology for North Korea's uranium program was America's faithful ally in the war on terrorism, Pakistan, which received missile technology from Korea in return. The "father" of Pakistan's bomb, Ayub Qadeer Khan, has visited North Korea thirteen times. This is the same Pakistan whose nuclear scientist Sultan Bashiruddin Mahood paid a visit to Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan a few months before September 11, and whose nuclear establishment even today is riddled with Islamic fundamentalists. . . . Indeed, an objective ranking of nuclear proliferators in order of menace would place Pakistan (a possessor of the bomb that also purveys the technology to others) first on the list, North Korea second (it peddles missiles but not, so far, bomb technology), Iran (a country of growing political and military power with an active nuclear program) third, and Iraq (a country of shrinking military power that probably has no nuclear program and is currently under international sanctions and an unprecedented inspection regime of indefinite duration) fourth. (Russia, possessor of 150 tons of poorly guarded plutonium, also belongs somewhere on this list.) The Bush Administration ranks them, of course, in exactly the reverse order, placing , which it plans to attack, Iraq first, and Pakistan, which it befriends and coddles, nowhere on the list. It will not be possible, however, to right this pyramid. The reason it is upside down is that it was unworkable right side up. is being attacked not because it is the worst proliferator but because it is the weakest.
I made the same point here. (Boy, am I good!)

Posted by Tom Burka at 2:27 PM in Commentary

February 14, 2003
Fair and Balanced Reporting at Its Best

The New York Post is so classy. Today, their front page was this huge photo of the U.N. with weasel heads pasted on over the heads of the French and German delegates. The headline? "Weasels to hear new evidence."


I don't care what you say, this paper has a lot more journalistic integrity than the Enquirer -- although their work seems somewhat derivative: this is the same technique used by the guys in my old shop class when they pasted a dog's head on the shop teacher's photo in every yearbook. That was wicked funny.

If I figure how out to post that image here, I will.

Posted by Tom Burka at 11:02 PM in Commentary

Decision Making At the Highest Level

Adventures with George, Ari, and Karl @ OliverWillis.Com gives us a fine look at the inside workings of the White house.

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:28 PM in Commentary

Great Minds

Today, Paul Krugman, showing how brilliant he is, made the same point I made yesterday on this page. Great minds and all that. Krugman: "[bin Laden's] tape calls Saddam Hussein an 'infidel' whose 'jurisdiction . . . has fallen,' but says that it's still O.K. to fight the 'Crusaders' and Mr. Powell claims that it ties Saddam to Al Qaeda. Huh? All it shows is that Al Qaeda views a U.S. invasion of Iraq as an excellent recruiting opportunity."

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:14 PM in Commentary

February 13, 2003
Best Headline of the Week

North Korea Wonders What It Has To Do To Attract U.S. Military Attention

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:57 PM in Commentary

Tenet Understates Truth To Power?

Notably, according to the Associated Press, CIA Director George Tenet told Congress today that the ties alleged between Iraq and al Queda were weaker than has been described. (Strangely, Tenet also warned about a "dirty bomb" being exploded despite the fact that the primary source for this "intelligence" was an Iraqi "defector" who had never been polygraphed. And when he was, they concluded the defector was lying. See : Alert Partly Based on Lies. This tends to undermine any sense I might have that Bush and his folk are making well-considered decisions based upon secret information that they have kept from us. I would not put a lot of stock in an Iraqi defector's statements unless they were well corroborated.)

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:49 PM in Commentary


Amazing how times change. The Washington Post editorial board has become a haven for conservative thought (Bush cheerleaders but without those nifty uniforms) and the New York Times editorial board has tilted a little to the left. Today, in an editorial entitled "The Perils of Passivity," the Post correctly noted that attacking Iraq is ratcheting up anti-American sentiment and that the path to war is a dangerous and reckless (I would even say feckless) path. Astonishingly, the Post concluded that those who feel this way do not advocate peace because it might promote a stable and safer international and domestic envornment; they do so simply because of "anxiety." The Post further argues that diplomacy has been exhausted and that war is the only option available to America.

The New York Times editorial board today came out with precisely the reverse conclusion: the U.N. may still resolve the problem of Saddam Hussein, if given a chance, and America cannot and should not go to war without U.N. approval.

Frankly, the Washington Post's reasoning is almost entirely circular: the reason for the increased threat of terrorist action is not because of the fiery rhetoric and warmongering of the Bush Administration, they posit; it is because we didn't do anything before. The beasts were always there, but we're just rousing them by moving to meet them in open battle.

This argument entirely misses the mark. If only we were meeting the beast in open battle -- that beast being bin Laden. The Post fails to make any meaningful distinction between Saddam Hussein and bin Laden even though the links between them are incredibly weak. Bin Laden's recent radio address was careful to avoid any praise for Saddam -- he referred to him merely as the "communist government" and his appeal was to Iraqi moslems. We have given bin laden the opportunity to reach out to Iraqi Moslems because of our reckless campaign against Saddam Hussein. (Hey, that rhymes!)

The beast has many arms, surely, but Saddam Hussein is not one of them. When America wars against Iraq, we're playing right into bin Laden's hands.

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:33 PM in Commentary

February 11, 2003
When Attending A Wedding

When attending a wedding, eat as many of the hors d'ouvres at the reception as you can. The dinner following will never be as good as the food served earlier, and it will be a good two to three hours before the main course comes anywhere near you.

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:19 PM in Commentary

This American Life

This American Life is the finest show on the radio, and possibly the best on TV, or anywhere.

Latest episodes:

Somwhere in the Arabian Sea
"Last year, during the conflict in Afghanistan, the staff of This American Life spent two days aboard an aircraft carrier stationed in the Arabian Sea. This week, as more and more troops deploy to the Gulf in preparation for a new war, we rebroadcast that hour of stories from the people on the ship, about what life is like fighting in the war on terrorism." This episode includes the profile of a woman who spends 12 hours a day simply restocking the vending machines with Cheez-its and a Navy sailor who got there because, in Texas, they offer military enlistment as an alternative to prison. When asked how he liked being there, he replied, "I hate it. This is like a big prison on the ocean."

Why We Fight
An exploration of the reasons for and against the war with Iraq, which includes some thoughtful explanation by foreign policy experts on the reasons for and against the war.

Time to Save The World
"The story of a standardized test, just eighteen questions long, created by scientists, that not only can tell you things about yourself that will haunt you for weeks, it can diagnose just how good you are ... and how evil. That and other simple schemes to make the world a better place. "

This American Life covers this stuff -- American life -- in a way you'll never hear or see on the news programs, reality shows, anywhere else. (Every episode ever aired is available at their site.)

Posted by Tom Burka at 1:42 PM in Commentary


Is attacking Iraq increasing our security or is it greatly heightening tensions and endangering us? One thing is for sure, it is helping Muslim extremists band together: Hamas is joining the fray.

Posted by Tom Burka at 1:25 PM in Commentary

The war is already hitting home . . .

The war is already hitting home. I haven't been able to post because this very good friend of mine -- ok, my wife -- has been very concerned about the threat of a terrorist attack and I've been scurrying around getting supplies for the next disaster. We live in New York. (Don't try to find me -- I have an intelligence network on the street that will sweep you up and spirit you away to an undisclosed location in the Bronx. Ok, Yankee Stadium, but you won't get out of there until you buy a $6 Coke and a humongous soft pretzel for $10.)

The spectre of 9/11 looms large here. I don't know a family who doesn't have a disaster plan or kit or something. (My single friends are like, I'm prepared. I have voicemail and stuff.) I have a friend who keeps 20 gallons of water somewhere in his small, cluttered apartment and rotates his stock once a month.

I notice that Tom Ridge has been careful to say that the elevated terrosist threat alert has "nothing to do with Iraq," and today the White House is suddenly handing out detailed advice on how to prepare for a chemical or biological attack but saying that "there is no specific, credible intelligence that says an attack using chemical or biological weapons is imminent."

Just an amazing coincidence.

Our disaster kit includes calamine lotion in case someone gets smallpox. I don't really think that will be much help.

I'm not sure how much the kit will help us in an emergency. I know that stocking the kit is giving us some sense of control -- that there's something we can do to prepare us for a disaster. And how I wish that there was something we really could do, that there is something that we can do today, besides putting some bacitracin in a bag, to make us all safe.

My wife just returned from the hardware store triumphant. She got the last roll of plastic sheeting. It all sold out today.

Posted by Tom Burka at 11:12 AM in Commentary

A good rant is worth,

A good rant is worth, like, a picture.

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:24 AM in Commentary

War is Cathartic

America loves a good war. They like the drama, they like the excitement, they like the idea of really teaching somebody a lesson -- the lesson being that if push comes to shove, America will kick your booty if you don't shape up. Americans love the spectacle and the notion of American Might, and the illusion of American Might Makes Right. In our role as "global policeman," (a role which Bush campaigned on relinquishing), we have sent troops helter skelter and willy-nilly all over the world ousting dictators, rebuffing attempts to annex other countries, promoting human rights, even stopping warlords from stealing the food from the mouths of the hungry. Since Vietnam, almost all of those conflicts has been very small and involved the use of American force against small armies, or merely organized militant bands. (The sole exception is, of course, Operation Desert Storm, rebuffing the invasion of Kuwait by Hussein.) The action in Afghanistan did not seem like a real war because, while it took place in that country, we were not at war with the country but really only at war with terrorists who had set up bases of activity inside of that realm.)

It's been too long since we've had a really good conventional war, one where there is some real opposition, one where we can send in lots of reporters who can be right on the battlefield, attached to actual units, transmitting pictures and dispatches from the front lines. Very soon American television will be filled with wall-to-wall coverage of the war. When they're not showing us clips of the battles or summaries of the action, they'll be interviewing every military pundit they can find, all of whom will be filling us in on each particular weapon and explaining how they are used and how effective they are.

Every sports event will begin with a jingoistic salute to our men and women of the armed forces fighting the good fight for us overseas (it's already started -- remember the Superbowl?) They'll be plenty of pro-military press and a lot of rah-rah-ing from us lucky folk they're defending.

Initially the support for the war will be high -- finally, many people will think, we're going to get that bastard Saddam -- and polls will indicate popularity for the President and his position on the war. Bush's ratings will go up even as the economy continues to tank.

As the war goes on, and it is discovered that the effort involves a prolonged and difficult, bloody ground attack, with street fighting in Bagdad that never seems to let up, this initial swell of support will erode, at least to some degree. There will be reports of civilian casualties, U.S. losses caused by friendly fire, tragic mistakes and missteps, and grisly photographs. The reality of war will come home to some people.

The Bush administration will try to shore up support by aggressively controlling the media and by manipulating the information released to demonstrate that the war is justified. There will be news of the truly horrific crimes Saddam has committed against his people, people liberated from torture, and many, many claims of discoveries of prohibited weapons and weapons facilities, and much evidence presented of how close Saddam was to using them.

Inevitably, because he has nothing to lose, Saddam will use his weapons of mass destruction -- certainly on the battlefield and perhaps, if he can, in the U.S. -- and the Bush administration will point to this as confirmation of every prediction they ever made. (There will certainly not be any acknowledgment of the fact that invading will be the direct cause of the unleashing of these weapons. Indeed, absent a U.N. resolution calling for war, U.S. actions would be in violation of international law while Saddam's -- defending an invasion of his country --- would not.)

The war is inevitable. There will be a massive anti-war protest in cities all over the country on February 15. More people will turn out than did at the beginning of the Vietnam war. (I'm pretty sure of this -- the recent demonstration in Washington, D.C. at the beginning of the awful January cold snap satisfied this statistic.) The war will probably begin the week after. (Maybe two weeks after, but certainly no later than early March.)

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times puts forth a cogent and compelling argument that containment is a far more effective solution to any threat posed by Saddam Hussein here.

It's too bad that no one in the Administration is listening to him, or us.

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:22 AM in Commentary

February 10, 2003
Jon Stewart of The Daily Show on Ashcroft

Jon Stewart of The Daily Show, commenting on John Ashcroft's recent announcement of the elevated Terrorist Threat Status from yellow to orange: "Can't we get someone to make these announcements who makes us want to survive?"

Posted by Tom Burka at 11:16 PM in Commentary

Baby back ribs are definitely

Baby back ribs are definitely superior to beef ribs.

Posted by Tom Burka at 6:57 PM in Commentary

February 9, 2003
I'm new to this

I'm new to this blogging stuff, and I'm a little confused about my voice. I try to have a wry, sometimes sarcastic but always incandescent humor, and I overwrite frequently (this is a good example), but my first post here confused all (read both) of the readers.

For one thing, my tone is meant to indicate sarcasm, but my tone isn't coming through. Guess what? I don't really think that we can mount a special op to rid of Saddam Hussein and his "weapons of mass distraction."

My last post was colored by the information that the age group with the lowest voter turnout is 18-24. These guys don't vote at all, hardly. There are, I think, huge numbers of them, but, according to a recent All Things Considered piece (the great news show on NPR), they don't believe that there are any issues which affect them. I'm told that, when polled, college students who supported the notion of going to war with were also entirely against being drafted. I had the faintest whiff of an idea that this blog could take the voice of a fellow 18-24 year-old speaking to others about politics and the world but perhaps the world and I are not ready for this development.

I don't think we should go to war with Iraq. Preemptive war -- based upon the idea that someone or some country might commit an act of war in the future -- is an offense to democratic principles and the most firmly established principles of international law. The U.S. has, in the hands of the present -- what's the word I'm looking for? -- lunatics running the White House, totally destroyed its credibility as a forthright nation doing good all over the planet and undermined its position as the model for democracy. The blatant erosion of civil liberties -- the most firmly established and basic rights accorded Americans by the Constitution -- is now being accompanied by what many properly see as opportunistic, imperialistic behavior.

The reason I mention the vast divide between our policy toward Iraq and other nations that pose the same, or greater, threats than Iraq is to call into question the reasons proffered by the administration for urgently seeking to invade Iraq. Another good piece of evidence that we haven't heard truthful motives for the war is that, as many have pointed out (Maureen Dowd comes to mind, for one), that the White House has proffered many different rationales for this war, some at the same time. There's disarm, there's regime change -- Bush then redefined regime change by saying that if Saddam changed his mind about using weapons than that would constitute regime change -- and others. (If Saddam changed his shirt would that constitute regime change? If he gave us four quarters for a dollar bill, would that constitute regime change?)

No less an authority than Al Gore (can't believe I'm referring to him) has described the war as a "distraction." There are many reasons to suspect that Bush and his pals may, at least in part, be using the war to distract from many things, the tanking economy, and the failure of the Bush administration to combat al Qaeda (the CIA reports that it as strong as it was before September 11) among them.

Part of my skepticism springs from Bush's lack of credibility with me. We have to "trust him" that we need to do it, based upon information the Administration won't reveal (I know, the dog and pony show at the U.N. revealed something but I'd like to see all the information in context -- I'll explain later). This is the most secretive administration in the history of the U.S. I cannot trust a group of people who believe that I shouldn't have meaningful information about Iraq and input into the most important decisions facing the President.

Why all the secrecy? If there's nothing to hide, let us know about it. Let us know how decisions are made, the processes used, the people consulted, the information upon which the White House relies. The only reason that information is kept from normal citizens like you and me is that this would diminish support for the actions which this Administration is taking. Don't talk to me about "chilling" the President's ability to make decisions, Mr. Cheney. We want him to make decisions with us in mind. I'm not saying he should be poll driven, but he should derive his power from the people. That's what democracy is all about.

Posted by Tom Burka at 5:43 PM in Commentary

February 6, 2003
Hey! What's with this Powell

Hey! What's with this Powell slideshow and all? Was that PowerPoint? Couldn't he have a made a really cool movie instead?

That Powell guy has all the vocal enthusiasm of a tenth grader reading a thousand-page contract aloud during detention. I heard his speech on the radio, in a cab, thinking this isn't Rush Limbaugh, but some right-wing AM talk-show host whose following must be the over-70 crowd. His delivery reminded me of Paul Harvey, who used to announce his page-turns on the air -- as if he couldn't distinguish between the real copy and the scripted instructions to the announcer -- but without the verve and flair that made Harvey beloved by those people who beloved him.

I found his speech much more compelling when I read it the next day in the paper.

For the non-politically minded, his speech boiled down to: Hey! That Hussein guy really has a lot of weapons he was supposed to have ditched a long time ago! And he's trying get more! And he's lying about having them!

Dude, was this a shock to anyone except for people who don't know American Idol is a show on Fox? The question is, like, should anyone do anything about it?

Is this guy really dangerous, or what?

And then there's this question: Man, should we just be bombing these guys when those French and German dudes don't think we should be doing it? Does that German guy really wear a helmet or is that, like, his name?

Seriously: How big a priority is getting rid of Hussein and how doable is it? Can't we just bomb their weapons facilities? We've seen a lot of Mission Impossible lately and the IMF force should be able to just go into Iraq and straighten the whole mess out --- I'm guessing frame Saddam's son for plotting a major coup while Barney destroys the weapons facilities. Couldn't something covert and special ops-like be worth trying? (I don't really think so.)

And what about North Korea and, especially, Pakistan. Pakistan has members of Al Qaeda completely protected in their strange southern wasteland, which is known as the "lawless region" -- I'm guessing something like the old west badlands but without sheriffs (plural should be "sherr-i"?), marshals, or posses -- you know, like that place James Brolin hid out in Westworld after he broke out of the jail.

Plus, the SIS -- the Pakistani secret service -- is openly sympathetic to terrorists, those that invade India, as well as al Qaeda. So, members of the Pakistani government work with al Qaeda, basically. And the anti-al Qaeda faction, if you will, including the general who leads the country after a successful coup -- not the most stable form of government there, mind you, and wholly undemocratic -- cannot reliably be counted upon to hold these other forces in check, or to stay in power at all. And they have a whole bunch of nuclear weapons. How hard would it be for some of that processed uranium to find its way to a suitcase bomb?

And of course, Russia has bombs -- and biological weapons -- which they have not accounted for and for which there are no inspections, and how secure is that stuff and where is it? Shouldn''t we know?

So why does the current administration refuse to sign onto any nuclear non-proliferation treaties -- and refuse to sign any treaties providing for meaningful inspections related to worldwide biological weapon control and non-proliferation?

Posted by Tom Burka at 9:49 PM in Commentary