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March 24, 2004

Okay, so maybe the “moron cooties” remark was a little over the top. We’ve been pretty hard on Salon here on nielsenhayden.com, generally (though not always) over their cultural coverage. (Though never so effectively as blogger Cosma Shalizi, who gets devastatingly to the point here.) So it ought to be said: their top-of-the-page political stuff has been first-rate lately, and never more so than today’s interview with man-of-the-hour Richard Clarke. Sample:
You said on “60 Minutes” that you expected “their dogs” to be set on you when your book was published, but did you think that the attacks would be so personal?

Oh yeah, absolutely, for two reasons. For one, the Bush White House assumes that everyone who works for them is part of a personal loyalty network, rather than part of the government. And that their first loyalty is to Bush rather than to the people. When you cross that line or violate that trust, they get very upset. That’s the first reason. But the second reason is that I think they’re trying to bait me—and people who agree with me—into talking about all the trivial little things that they are raising, rather than talking about the big issues in the book. […]

The vice president commented that there was “no great success in dealing with terrorists” during the 1990s, when you were serving under President Clinton. He asked, “What were they doing?”

It’s possible that the vice president has spent so little time studying the terrorist phenomenon that he doesn’t know about the successes in the 1990s. There were many. The Clinton administration stopped Iraqi terrorism against the United States, through military intervention. It stopped Iranian terrorism against the United States, through covert action. It stopped the al-Qaida attempt to have a dominant influence in Bosnia. It stopped the terrorist attacks at the millennium. It stopped many other terrorist attacks, including on the U.S. embassy in Albania. And it began a lethal covert action program against al-Qaida; it also launched military strikes against al-Qaida. Maybe the vice president was so busy running Halliburton at the time that he didn’t notice.

Did Cheney ever ask you a question of that kind when you were in the White House with him?


One gets the feeling this guy isn’t going to be a pushover. I think I’ll go out and buy his book today.

(Back to Salon, though: Prompted by a twinge of guilt over having been quite so hard on them, perhaps, I finally subscribed, and man do they give you a lot of free stuff for your $35. I don’t mean the downloadable music and spoken-word offerings, none of which are all that exciting; I mean the fact that, for my $35, I now have free one-year subscriptions to US News, National Geographic Explorer Adventure, Wired, and Granta, and a six-month subscription to the New York Review of Books. These sorts of tie-in giveaways are typical of the insane world of magazine publishing, where the basic business model appears to be to give away freebies until you’re at financial death’s door, but who am I to criticize? Personally, I’m thinking of opening a dental waiting room.) [09:58 AM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Okay, so maybe the "moron cooties" remark was a little over the top.:

Ulrika O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 11:37 AM:

...dental waiting room

Dammit, I almost aspirated my uvula!

Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 12:23 PM:

Hi there. Glad to hear you've subscribed! Just so you know, I am the primary human who answers emails and phone calls to Salon Premium customer services.

Also: yeah, I often marvel at how much free stuff Salon Premium subscribers get. For those who don't know: the market for advertising in magazines is pretty bearish, so many print magazines are really hurting and thus are giving away free trial subscriptions in hopes of (a) "converting" readers into paid subscribers and (b) increasing their circulation numbers so they can charge advertisers more. Salon and its subscribers are getting the better end of the deal, in my opinion. But hey, even a 5% conversion rate is considered good.

Also: if you are a Salon Premium subscriber and want the magazines, please make sure that we have your correct mailing address and that you request the magazines you want!

Welcome to Salon Premium, Mr. Nielsen Hayden.

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 12:26 PM:

I like Fred Kaplan's comment over on Slate:

. . . I went to graduate school with Clarke in the late 1970s, at MIT's political science department, and called him as an occasional source in the mid-'80s when he was in the State Department and I was a newspaper reporter. There were good things and dubious things about Clarke, traits that inspired both admiration and leeriness. The former: He was very smart, a highly skilled (and utterly nonpartisan) analyst, and he knew how to get things done in a calcified bureaucracy. The latter: He was arrogant, made no effort to disguise his contempt for those who disagreed with him, and blatantly maneuvered around all obstacles to make sure his views got through.
The key thing, though, is this: Both sets of traits tell me he's too shrewd to write or say anything in public that might be decisively refuted. As Daniel Benjamin, another terrorism specialist who worked alongside Clarke in the Clinton White House, put it in a phone conversation today, "Dick did not survive and flourish in the bureaucracy all those years by leaving himself open to attack."

Sounds like the Avignon Presidency's perfect nightmare.

Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 12:45 PM:

With a dentist attached? I need one of those; my dentist couldn't give me an appointment closer than two weeks away. And my tooth aches now (a filling fell out)!

Back to the main topic. Since terrorism is a stealth activity, many of the successes in the war against it are by definition going to be stealth victories, ones that mere mortals like us are not going to see -- that there *wasn't* a bomb at LAX, or during the millennium celebrations, or (likely target here), for example. Yes, anyone responsible enough to be Vice President, or President for that matter, should realize that, and its sad that partisan politics keeps that from happening.

The phrase "part of a personal loyalty network, rather than part of the government" reminded me of
Barrayar, where everyone takes oath to the Emperor who *is* the government, and the honesty and efficiency of the government depends largely on the honor of the Emperor (or his Regent) and the people around him. This is not how a democracy, or a republic, should work, though it seems to explain much about the Bushies.

Meanwhile, this morning while watching a snatch of the 9/11 commission hearing before coming to work, there was a headline about a suspected bomb found under the subway in Paris. "Is there an election in France?" I thought. Then I realized that wasn't the point, because democracy is not the point to al-Qaeda. Democracy is not even the problem, just a symptom of the problem, which is that we all aren't living in Islamist theocracies. So they don't care about elections, or who wins them, because whoever wins is still going to be part of the problem. (Makes Ralph Nader look like an optimist by comparison.) And what happened in Spain, by this logic, was probably just a coincidence.

Am willing to listen to feedback on that last bit. It may distract me from the toothache.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 01:13 PM:

Lois, Barrayar works because enough of the people in the government have enough honor enough of the time to make it work.

To get a description of the Bush Administration, simply substitute 'none', 'any', 'any' for the three instances of 'enough' above.

Not that a Barrayaran system would work here even with honor among the governing; fast-penta is kind of useless if there's a Fifth Amendment, for example...

My only criticism about your Spain comment is that the terrorists could have been trying to get Spain out of Iraq, robbing the "Coalition" of one more country's support. Plausible only in Spain, where the opposition had promised exactly that (later mealy-mouthed out of it). So even if they hate democracy as boar hates dog, they could still have a motivation to influence that election.

Rick Heller ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 03:10 PM:

I'm watching Clarke testify right now, and I think he's gonna be a star.

His testimony is reminding me of Ollie North's -- in a good way. As some may recall, Iran-Contra was looking very bad for Reagan. Then North, whom nobody had ever heard of, testified and it stopped the momentum of the Democrats inquiry. (North got into some legal trouble later, but that's a separate issue)

Clarke is extremely impressive. He knows his shit, in precise detail. Hawks like myself who are not Bush-suckups can tell that.

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 04:59 PM:

From what I can see from transcripts here at work, I think John Dean may be a better comparison.

Michael ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 06:39 PM:

If only George W. had been raised by the Vorkosigans! Instead, I'm pretty sure we've got Mad Emperor Yuri, or Serg at best.

Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 07:00 PM:

Well, the little rubric above this box says "Chime in", so...

Some who read Patrick's blog may recall that I was down at the WTC on That Day, and that I found the entire experience deeply, among other things, terrifying. Some may recall I wrote about it more or less contemporaneously. The URL I entered here will lead you to that document, if you are interested in reading it.

I have a very deep interest in what Mr. Clarke has to say. For a number of reasons, of which I will only list two here.

One is that I really feel, as a resident of New York City, that I have a target painted on my forehead. I further feel that nowhere near enough is being done to help me peel that pesky little bull's eye off me.

The second reason is that I feel, along with Mr. Clarke apparently, that the Bush Administration by way of its invasion of Iraq has not made me safer but rather has endangered me even more. This primarily because of the waste of multi-billions of dollars on a war that has little or nothing to do with terrorism, when all that money could have been spent on things so much more useful to us in our war on terror.

And so I bought his book on the morning of the day it was first available to the public.

One brief literary comment: the first chapter will take the top of your head off. I'd call it "gripping", actually, because what you will be doing is gripping the top of your head in an attempt to keep it on. Tom Clancy has got nothing on the story this guy has to tell.

And so I watched Clarke's testimony on CNN today. Taped it in fact because I had a feeling that it would have all the makings of a Historical Document.

Anybody who has been paying attention to these hearings will know that all of the witnesses have started their testimony with a lengthy statement explaining this or that about their role in the lead up to 9/ll, much of it self-justifying, much of it saying, well, you know, we were busy with other stuff. So on and so forth.

Mr. Clarke did otherwise. His statement was brief and to the point.

He made a heart-felt apology to the American people for failing to stop 9/ll. He said he did his best. He said a lot of people did their best. But in the end, it didn't matter because they had failed the American people, most especially the victims, and the families of the victims who died on 9/11.

The members victim's families who were in the room broke into applause.

I stared at the screen shocked.

And then I, yep, I will admit it here: I started crying.

Yep. Yeppers. I wept. Copious tears.

Out of a sense of overwhelming gratitude to Mr. Clarke, I suppose.

John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2004, 09:23 PM:

([...] I mean the fact that, for my $35, I now have free one-year subscriptions to US News, National Geographic Explorer Adventure, Wired, and Granta, and a six-month subscription to the New York Review of Books. [...] Personally, Iím thinking of opening a dental waiting room.)
Go for it Patrick!
By the time you finish dental school, the magazines will be properly aged.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2004, 12:03 AM:

Sorry, the dental waiting room idea won't be in the cards until Salon starts offering _Highlights for Children._

* * *

I missed Clarke's testimony, but I did catch a wonderful interview he did with Terry Gross on "Fresh Air." Worth hunting up.

James Angove ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2004, 02:17 AM:

Strangly enough, the thing that makes me really wish I'd seen Clarke's testimony was Jon Stewart opening The Daily Show tonight. Stewart... the only word for it is _gushed_. I kept waiting for the bit to kick in, before I finally relized that he was engaging in no-shit unremitting praise. It was remarkable.

Seriously, Patrick, you're missing out. Watch the Daily Show.

Nina ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2004, 07:22 AM:

It does sound like we've found the One Righteous Man.

And all they can pull out to attack him with are ad hominems. They can't rebut him on substance. Iraq took away resources that would have been better used on the actual war on the actual people who attacked us.

The Bush administration can only keep their numbers up so long as the public "pays no attention to the men behind the cretin". Now that it's been ripped away, it's revealed to be all hot air and humbug.

Nina ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2004, 07:24 AM:

(ps - I can't recall where I stole 'pay no attention to the man behind the cretin' from, aside from Wizard of Oz, so please feel free to steal the phrase and make it a meme)

Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2004, 12:21 PM:

"Pay no attention to the man behind the cretin" is cute; but Claude Muncey's "Avignon Presidency" is priceless.

Rich McAllister ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2004, 03:32 PM:

James: really wish I'd seen Clarke's testimony

C-SPAN will stream it to you if you've got enough bandwidth and their server's not too busy.. www.c-span.org and look in the "most watched video" box.

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2004, 03:48 PM:

To be honest, I stole the term "Avignon Presidency." Of course I cannot remember where . . .

CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2004, 04:21 PM:

Xopher: Not that a Barrayaran system would work here even with honor among the governing; fast-penta is kind of useless if there's a Fifth Amendment, for example...

Fast-penta is an import; when the system works, it's usually for other reasons (such as you point out) -- cf near the end of A Civil Campaign, when the honorable reactionaries walk away from the selfish ]reactionary[ who tried ]assasination[.

Up The Organization says at one point (quoting from memory):

Hey, you out there! Think of how much good one honest man in your company could do [by taking the lid off]!

Doesn't it bother you that there isn't one honest man in your company?

Me, too.

I suppose it's a sign of hope that we're seeing honest men starting to come out of the Republican woodwork -- McCain and now Clarke. Did you notice how he stated under oath that he would not take a post in a hypothetical Kerry administration? A pity, because the country needs people like him; the only reason I'm not torn over that pledge is that there's no way he'd get a post in a future Republican administration unless they came so far back from the edge that the quasi-paranoia commonly expressed in this pair of blogs became unnecessary.

Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2004, 04:37 PM:

"Avignon Presidency" is from Charles Pierce, known for Boston Globe Magazine feature articles, NPR radio ("Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me"), and weekly letters to Eric Alterman's blog.

Erin Denton ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2004, 05:00 PM:

And nowwwwww Ms. Rice wants to meet with the commission, again, to refute Clarke. (Tho the debate about if it will be private, or under oath, rages on.)

This is the most exciting thing for our nation right now. Screw the whole "under God" supreme court thingy.

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2004, 06:01 PM:


Exactly -- Pierce on Altercation -- Thanks Jon.

Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2004, 06:16 PM:

I keep an eye on Pierce because his wife was in my high school AP history class. :-)

Daniel Hatch ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2004, 10:00 PM:

The Bushies are responding to the Clarke revelations the way they respond to everything:

They're making shit up.

As someone who gets paid good money as a science fiction writer for making shit up, I can attest to their singular incompetence at it. When you make shit up, you have to assume that people will still remember what you made up on Page 1 when you get to Page 2.

I'm sure Patrick will back me up on this one.

Simon ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2004, 08:12 AM:

Michael Weholt, I made what I guess was the mistake of re-reading your 9/11 posts. It was a mistake to do so because it made me feel even more distressed than I normally am at how Bush has wasted and squandered the righteous anger and clear imperatives that event generated.

After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, FDR by agreement with Churchill put the bulk of US resources into the war with Hitler as our first priority, and I wonder if anybody thought "Hey, he's attacking the wrong enemy," as many of us thought about the attack on Iraq. Yet, if they did, there are differences: most notably that we did not abandon or ignore or shove aside the war against Japan, that Hitler had not been internationally quiescent for ten years, and most obviously that there were clear links between Hitler and the Japanese government, and we didn't have to invent meetings in Prague to prove it. (Yes, I know Hitler actually declared war on the US. But I didn't want even to have to bring that up.)

Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2004, 09:35 AM:

Hey, Simon.

Well, what's good for the gander is good for the gander, I guess... Your remark about being distressed made me go back and start reading my ~9/ll posts again.

Every once in a while I get an email from some stranger who came across those posts on the web. Being the egotistical nitwit I am, these emails usually prompt me to go have another look at what I wrote.

The strange thing is I've noticed that over the last some number of months, it's become harder and harder for me to read the piece all the way through. I have to take more and more frequent breaks. This morning, I just gave up on it somewhere around the Engine No. 5 bit.

It's occurred to me that the reason it's become harder and harder for me to read is because things have not gotten better since I wrote it. They've gotten worse. I think it is this useless (to the struggle against terrorism) war on Iraq that has finally made my posts impossible for me to read. When I try to read what I wrote, it no longer feels like the past.

It's the future, and it's too much.

It's way too much.

Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2004, 12:45 PM:

Oh, Michael - I am so in agreement with you. It's terrifying to see the same mistakes repeated again, primarily because the authors of those mistakes are willfully blind to the forces of cause and effect (The old - pardon the pun - saw: I cut it and I cut it and it's still too short! 2004 version: We invaded them and occupied them and they're still not grateful for it!).

We in DC are similarly afflicted with "target tattooed on our foreheads" syndrome. I skated as close as I get to politics on my blog when I wrote a piece called, "When in Doubt, Panic" on the 19th.

Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2004, 08:47 PM:

Heh. One nice thing in this Clarke deal. If you go to your favorite Associated Press site and look for the article named "Clarke Known As Abrasive but Efficient", you will find the sentence: "Clarke, who is single, is known as a voracious reader, from science fiction to ..."

He is a Fan!

But, a prediction: on the basis of the "is single" thing, the next Bush attack will take the form of suggesting that Clarke wants to bring the Bush Administration down because of its support for a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Heh. I hope that prediction turns out to be correct. I really do.

Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2004, 10:02 PM:

We have a government run by people with the mentality of eighth grade bullies. Of course the next thing will be calling Clarke a fag.

Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2004, 09:22 PM:

Well... sooprise, sooprise. From Krugman's column:

On CNN, Wolf Blitzer told his viewers that unnamed officials were saying that Mr. Clarke "wants to make a few bucks, and that [in] his own personal life, they're also suggesting that there are some weird aspects in his life as well."

Gosh. Whatever could they mean? That he reads science fiction, do you think?

Arthur D. Hlavaty ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2004, 09:10 AM:

Well, there you go. Clarke reads science fiction. Paul Krugman read science fiction in his formative years. We've gotta rid of that nasty stuff and make people read realistic books like Left Behind.

Dan Blum sees that it actually comes in threes like everything else ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2004, 10:53 PM:

Except this one has no proverb. I feel cheated.

Clare C. ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2004, 06:50 AM:

Michael Weholt,
I'm a reader but not contributor to this blog, but followed the link to your description of 9/11. I am a layperson, but from that diary and your posts I would say you are showing signs of someone who has Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, which should be treated professionally, and immediately. Anyone who was as close to the devastation as you were would be profoundly affected, and your current inability to read your posts of the event is worrying. Look after yourself.

David Goldfarb notices what looks really suspiciously like comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2004, 05:27 AM:

A nonsensical outburst of which every letter is a link to a different (and auto-generated-looking) URL? Looks like fodder for deletion to me.

Xopher finds totally blatant comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2004, 11:26 AM:

Nothing but a link to some travel website.

Julia Jones finds probable comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2004, 05:13 PM:

I can't read it - but it looks like comment spam to me...