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April 30, 2006
Using the Same Speech Twice
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 06:51 PM *

“… Saddam Hussein with a nuclear weapon is a grave, grave threat to America and our friends and allies.” — President George W. Bush, Savannah, Georgia, November 2, 2002

“… Iran, armed with a nuclear weapon, poses a grave threat to the security of the world”. — President George W. Bush, Washington, DC, January 13, 2006

“There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.” — President George W. Bush, Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002

April 29, 2006
O dere ghod
Posted by Teresa at 06:21 PM *

On behalf of my anglosaxon auncestres, seye I, I haf acquitted mynself well in the husholde of myn (yiddische?) (jewische?) (azerbaijani?) neighboures, includinge bot not limited to min immediate neighboures, and theire kin Ari, Miri, ond alle reste.

Hit beeth harde to maintaine oooonselfe amidsst persones whoooo trinke the Russian vodka liken unto mere beer.

“Was thu hael,” ich seyde.

“Shalom,” they replied.

Sumer is icumen inne, gardeneres singe soil amendementes. Ich wasse in myn gardene, digginge ond plantinge. Thenne i-givende herbes twon thysse Ajerbaijanis; ond thenne they asknede me two commene overere ond beeth neighborliche. Which thatte ich didde do. So there.

Stoffed caboges. Stoffed piperes ond eggeplantis. Ond brede. Ond muchel Stolichnaya vodka, myn godde ifere.

Myn hoste beeth a musician of grete virtu: clarinet, bassoon, guitar, piano, mandoline, et cetera; also perhaps un hundred oon compositiones he pleyeth; als somdeel of the rock-and-roll nature. Ich sangen alonen therewith.

“Trink,” seith myn hoste.

Beeing a polite womman, Ich trinketh.

O myn godde. Nu ich gonnen to bedde, hwyth muchel Ibuprofennea.

AEt cetera.
heer endeth:

Preye for my soule. Als myn CNS.

April 27, 2006
Tina Adams wants to sell you something
Posted by Teresa at 03:14 PM *

Many struggling writers believe there’s a magic secret that’ll smooth their path toward publication, fame, fortune, and universal respect. Some bird named Tina Adams is now saying she’ll sell it to them—assuming they’re trying to write romance:

They swear a “formula” does not exist, but I’m about to prove them wrong…

“I Wrote My Romance Novel In 3 Days! Want Me To Show You How…So You Can Do It Too?”

(Hey, Mike Resnick used to do that all that time … for certain values of “romance novel.”)

You know that joke about how the headline we never see is “Psychic Wins Lottery Again”? We also never see “Self-Appointed Writing Expert Pens Bestselling Book.”

Tina Adams is that inexplicable recurring phenomenon, the writing expert who has no perceptible expertise. She had a poetry collection called A Journey Unto Wisdom published on CD-ROM by DiskUs. It’s out of print. On her profile page at Amazon there’s a picture of a book titled How To Write A Romance Novel: A Line-By-Line No Nonsense Guide To Writing Romance Fiction, but Amazon’s own database doesn’t know the book exists. And her page at DiskUs says “She’s currently working on three romance fiction projects she hopes will soon see publication,” but it’s said that since July 2001.

This is not a writer, much less a writing expert. But not only does she have no expertise; she wants to charge you $200 for the expertise she doesn’t have:

Dear Frustrated Romance Writer:

My name is Tina Adams, and I’m the creator of THE MAGIC FORMULA. I am writing this letter because I know you are interested in learning exactly what it takes to write a romance novel and get it published, and I’ve created a home study course that teaches you exactly that, and more. I call it “The Magic Formula” because when you work through each section, completing the exercises at the end, your novel almost writes itself — like magic.

Why did I create this course?

Because when I was yet an unpublished romance author,

Note the sneaky implication that she isn’t still an unpublished romance author.

I desperately wanted…no, make that needed…a step-by-step guide that would lead me through the process of writing a romance novel. But it had to be simple and easy to understand. I had to be able to “get it”. But no one offered what I needed.

Undoubtedly true. That’s because it doesn’t exist. There are teeming hordes of aspiring romance writers out there. If it were possible to construct a workable dead-simple step-by-step system for writing romances, those teeming hordes would undoubtedly have it sussed by now.

I’m not going to make you read all her sales copy. I’ll summarize her story for you:

TA goes on a “how to write romances” book-buying spree. Takes writing courses. Attends workshops. Magic formula eludes her. Takes to the web, reads everything she can find about how to write. (Claim is obviously untrue. Someone who does that never finishes reading.) Still no magic formula. Desperate. Then one day it all just “clicks,” and she tries something different: she sits down and starts writing.

That certainly solves the mystery of why she hadn’t been getting any writing done. It’s kind of remarkable that it took her that long (twenty years, by her own admission) to figure that out. This is not someone you’d pay to give you advice.

She thinks otherwise:

THE MAGIC FORMULA Home Study Course - 100+ information-packed pages of pure romance writing how-to gold you won’t find anywhere else - 18 sections crammed with everything you need to know to plan, write, sell, and promote your romance novel

“The Magic Formula” Home Study Course is as close as you’ll get to a fill-in-the-blanks template that you can use, any time, for any romance novel you want to write, and have it actually WORK.

Introductory Offer

For the next 10-days ONLY, you can get “The Magic Formula” home study course for a mere $197, plus $12.95 shipping and handling. After that, the price will double every couple of months or so. Why? Because the competition is already incredibly fierce in this field.

As more aspiring romance writers get their hands on this information, more saleable romance manuscripts will reach the hands of editors who are in a position to publish them, and the competition will more than double. In order to help slow the inevitable, to help keep competition down, I’ll raise the price of this course.

But if you want it at this price, you have to act now. Why? Because…

There are ONLY 100 COPIES of the course available!

Yeah uh-huh sure. And Franklin Mint limited editions are sure to increase in value.

Do you find this story depressing? Don’t. You can’t afford to. There are too many other stories just like it.

Right behind this potted plant
Posted by Patrick at 01:16 PM *

Via Glenn Greenwald: Matt Drudge, a man always willing to make his followers look stupid, has claimed that Crashing the Gate, a book by prominent liberal bloggers Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, is a flop. Roger L. Simon leads the parade of right-wing bloggers crowing over this:

Although it underscores what we already knew—that Glenn Reynolds (whose book is selling much better) has remarkable respect in the blogosphere for his integrity and intelligence—I must say I am surprised at the relatively pathetic sales figures for Markos Zuniga’s book Crashing the Gates. It could mean one of several things: 1. Kos’ audience has heard it all already; 2. Kos’ audience is not “bookish”; 3. Kos’ audience is not as big as it’s cracked up to be; 4. Kos doesn’t write particularly well; 5. Kos doesn’t have anything new to say. 6. People are tired of all this political blather anyway. (Hinderaker thinks the latter).

This is crap. As Greenwald points out, Drudge’s claim is based entirely on numbers from Nielsen Bookscan, which counts cash-register sales at a bunch of major chains and some independents. I’ve had contradictory reports about whether Bookscan does or doesn’t cover Amazon, but I’m pretty sure they’re a ways away from covering every online and brick-and-mortar bookseller. And it’s certainly not a stretch to suspect that a book by a pair of famous bloggers would see its strongest sales in some unusual venues.

It wasn’t Glenn Reynolds (a man with fine taste in science fiction) who set up a pissing match between his book and Kos’s. Indeed, while Reynolds linked to the Drudge story, he also “updated” with an expression of doubt. Just as evidently, though, Drudge really does want to play the Bookscan game. And Roger L. Simon seems to take it as a matter of established truth that Reynolds’ book is selling well while Kos’s is crashing and burning. Meanwhile, I happen to have Marshall McLuhan Bookscan access right here.

As of this morning, for Reynolds’ An Army of Davids (February 2006), Bookscan reports 1716 retail sales and 2609 “discount” sales, for a total of 4325.

As of this morning, for Armstrong and Kos’s Crashing the Gate (March 2006), Bookscan reports 2598 retail sales and 1804 “discount” sales, for a total of 4402.

In other words, despite the fact that it’s been available for four fewer weeks, Kos and Armstrong’s book has now clocked Bookscan sales in excess of Reynolds’. Notably, several hundred more full-price sales. This is leaving aside the fact that Kos and Armstrong’s book is currently at #40 on Amazon, whereas Reynolds’ is at #801.

Here’s Glenn Greenwald again:

These twin items by Drudge and Simon—equally baseless, fact-free and misleading on their face—were mindlessly recited as fact by countless Bush followers all day yesterday. The always fact-free Powerline John dutifully recited the claim that CTG “has sold an astonishingly low 3,630 copies,” and even repeats Simon’s fantasy-driven fiction “that Glenn Reynolds’ book is selling well.” Right Wing News drools: “It’s really nice to see Kos’s book nosedive into the pavement.” The Bush zombie at BlogsFor Bush echoes the script: “I’ve stopped laughing long enough” to note that “there is no mention of the pathetic book sales of Kos’s book on the site’s front page.” And PunditGuy, after celebrating the “failure” of CTG, says this:
Kos claims that Drudge�s numbers aren�t on the up and up. What-ev-eh.
Doesn’t that pretty much capture the whole sickness? “There are facts that suggest that what I am saying is not actually true. What is my response do that? ‘What-ev-eh.’” As in: “Some people claim there are facts that show that things in Iraq are not going really great. Something about civil war, sectarian hatred, anarchy, widespread violence, a total lack of security. What-ev-eh.”

Don’t they have somewhere lurking in their brain any critical faculties at all?

Oh, and Glenn Greenwald’s own book’s Amazon rank right now? Why, that would be “#1 in Books.” For the second day in a row. Darn shame that “people are tired of all this political blather anyway.”

April 25, 2006
Open thread 64
Posted by Patrick at 09:13 PM *

Vera, Chuck, and Dave.

“Fanfic”: force of nature
Posted by Patrick at 12:07 AM *

Teresa says what needs to be said about “fanfic,” but buries it in the comments here. She can’t possibly promote it to the front page. Fortunately, I have no such compunctions.

Storytelling is basic to our species. It’s one of the ways we parse our experience of the universe. Whatever moves us or matters to us will show up in the stories we tell, whether or not we have a socially approved outlet for those stories. It might surprise you to find out how many writers have works of personal erotica tucked away in their unpublished-or-unpublishable manuscript trunks. There’s no good way to get those published, but they write them anyway, because they’re writers, and eroticism is an important part of our lives.

Good fiction gets under our skin. It can change the way we see the world. But whatever its effect, it’s a significant experience. It would be a bizarre thing—unnatural, even—for writers to not engage with that experience. They always have. I could show you stuff centuries old—heck, some of it’s millennia old—that’s fanfic by any modern definition.

Of course, it would have to be a modern definition. In a purely literary sense, fanfic doesn’t exist. There is only fiction. Fanfic is a legal category created by the modern system of trademarks and copyrights. Putting that label on a work of fiction says nothing about its quality, its creativity, or the intent of the writer who created it.

The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction this year went to March, a novel by Geraldine Brooks, published by Viking. It’s a re-imagining of the life of the father of the four March girls in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Can you see a particle of difference between that and a work of declared fanfiction? I can’t. I can only see two differences: first, Louisa May Alcott is out of copyright; and second, Louisa May Alcott, Geraldine Brooks, and Viking are dreadfully respectable.

I’m just a tad cynical about authors who rage against fanfic. Their own work may be original to them, but even if their writing is so outre that it’s barely readable, they’ll still be using tropes and techniques and conventions they picked up from other writers. We have a system that counts some borrowings as legitimate, others as illegitimate. They stick with the legit sort, but they’re still writing out of and into the shared web of literature. They’re not so different as all that.

Fanfic means someone cares about what you wrote.

Personally, I’m convinced that the legends of the Holy Grail are fanfic about the Eucharist.

This really is a basic impulse.


In the comment thread, WillA posts in response to “Their own work may be original to them, but even if their writing is so outre that it’s barely readable, they’ll still be using tropes and techniques and conventions they picked up from other writers” :

I’ve got a joke to back up this particular point:

There was once a conjurer who boasted that he had become god-like. One god happened to overhear, and challenged him to a contest.

“Can you do this?” the god asked, scooping up a handful of dirt and making it into a bird. They watched the bird fly away.

“Sure,” said the conjure-man, and reached down for a handful of raw material.

“Hey,” said god. “Use your own dirt.”

Props to any writer who can make a story fly. None of us use our own dirt.

April 22, 2006
Annals of short-lived phenomena: Star Wars fanfic on Amazon
Posted by Teresa at 12:26 PM * 220 comments

Lori Jareo wrote a not very good novel-length work of Star Wars fanfic called Another Hope. Nothing remarkable there. However, she then put it into print without Lucas’ permission, and put it up for sale on,, and

The publisher listed for the book is Wordtech Communications, which claims to be “one of the nation’s largest poetry publishers” (“A New Paradigm of Poetry!”). Ms. Jareo is one of the people who runs Wordtech, so she definitely should have known better.

John Scalzi, who heard about this clusterf*ck from Nick Mamatas, wrote it up as The 2006 Stupidest FanFic Writer Award Gets Retired Early:

…[L]et’s see what she has to say about it in her “author interview.”

Q: Having set Another Hope in an already existing universe, I find myself wondering if there was any concern on your part regarding copyrights?

No, because I wrote this book for myself. This is a self-published story and is not a commercial book. Yes, it is for sale on Amazon, but only my family, friends and acquaintances know its there.

Let me repeat this, just to savor the juicy cluelessness of it: “Yes, it’s for sale on Amazon, but only my family, friends and acquaintances know it’s there.” I feel myself getting stupider every time I read that line, but the good news is that I have a long way to go before I would be actually stupid enough to say that line myself.

I highly recommend Scalzi’s dissection of Ms. Jareo’s innnnnnnnnteresting concept of copyright law. He’s offered to start a pool on how long it takes for Ms. Jareo’s book to get pulled from Amazon, and has laid his bet down on “Monday by 3pm Pacific.”

Jareo’s website is down now, but as one of Scalzi’s commenter pointed out, Google still has it cached: title page / Another Hope main page / author interview / excerpt from book / about the author. There’s more; I’m sure you can find it.

The book’s listing on Amazon is still up as of this writing. The customer reviews are instructive. They’re nearly unanimous in their desire to beat on Lori Jareo with a big stick. Who’s posting them? Other fanfic writers.

A list of tags from their reviews:

bad fanfic, Very Very Very Illegal, the stupid it burns, weapons-grade stupidity, blacklisted from fandom, a moron, copyright infringement, Lucas is so going to kill you, lawyer up sweetheart, crazy like a fox, CRAP, Copyright Infringement, illegal and idiotic, is yoda gonna have to smack a btch, stupid people doing stupid things, a Chernobyl-esque mistake, copyright violation, fan fiction for sale, fanfic gone very wrong, needs a good lawyer immediately or possibly a psychiatrist, only living brain donor…

See it now or see it never.

April 20, 2006
Central Europe floods
Posted by Teresa at 12:37 PM * 82 comments

They flooded last year, too. This is part of the pattern of increasingly extreme weather brought on by global warming. Have a look:

Wikipedia: 1. Flood in Znojmo. 2. Flood in Dresden. 3. Budapest under water.

BBC: 1. Central Europe floods, 30 March 2006. 2. Europe hit by floods, 03 April 2006. 3. Floods in Europe, 05 April 2006. 4. Your pictures: Europe’s floods, 09 April 2006. 5. Europe floods, 18 April 2006. Massive German floods monitored from space.

A stunning series of photos from a Hungarian site whose name I can’t make out: Tetzik a Duna.
(Later: Michael says “Tetzik a Duna” means “The Danube Peaks.” Csilla Kleinheincz adds, “Right now we have a situation on Tisza River, the highest flood in 500 years.)
The TimesOnline has a good summary and analysis, with links to related stories.

Bruce Sterling is over there right now. So is his wife.

Barbara Bauer takes action! (*yawn*)
Posted by Teresa at 11:24 AM *

Remember that thing I posted the other day about scam agent Barbara Bauer, who resents being on Writer Beware’s 20 Worst Agents list, and has been throwing around cease-and-desist letters and empty threats of legal action in an effort to suppress the list?

Who knew she reads Making Light?

This morning, Patrick and I were informed that she contacted a highly-placed Holtzbrinck exec* to complain that we’d libeled her on a Tor website, and threaten legal action. You may imagine how thrilled high corporate was to hear about that. We told them not to waste a single moment worrying about it.

Here’s how smart Barbara Bauer is:
1. Making Light is not and never has been a Tor website. Patrick and I work for Tor, and Jim Macdonald and Mike Ford are sometimes published by Tor; but that’s as far as it goes.

2. It’s not libel if it’s true. Which it was: Barbara Bauer is on the list, and she does (manifestly!) threaten legal action against sites that post it. All of which can easily be confirmed using outside sources; so what’s her gripe?

3. Fake legal threats do nothing for one’s credibility. She’s probably threatened a dozen or more websites by now. All she’s doing is publicizing her spot on the 20 Worst Agents list. Can we say Googlejuice?
Want to strike a blow against scam agents? Link to the 20 Worst Agents list. While you’re at it, link to Writer Beware and Preditors and Editors. You could even link to Everything you wanted to know about literary agents and On the getting of agents. But the 20 Worst Agents list—that’s the important one.

April 18, 2006
Bush says he hears voices
Posted by Teresa at 03:00 PM * 67 comments

Faced with unprecedented public criticism of Rumsfeld by Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, Maj. Gen. John Batiste, Maj. Gen. Charles H Swannack Jr., Maj. Gen. John Riggs, and Gen. Wesley Clark, Army, and Gen. Anthony Zinni and Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, Marines, Mr. Bush has opted to simply ignore the whole thing. From the BBC:

In the past month, seven retired generals have called for Mr Rumsfeld to quit over the Iraq war, but the White House said it was happy with his work. Mr Rumsfeld has also dismissed suggestions that he should resign.

Asked about Mr Rumsfeld at a news conference, Mr Bush said he had “strong confidence” in his defence secretary.

“I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation,” he said. “But I’m the decider and I decide what’s best. And what’s best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defence.”

To quote Stanley Baldwin, “Power without responsibility—the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.”

One of the critics, retired Marine Gen Anthony Zinni, told CNN Mr Rumsfeld should be held responsible for a series of mistakes. The first, he said, was “throwing away 10 years worth of… plans that had taken into account what we would face in an occupation of Iraq”.

In a radio interview, Maj Gen John Riggs, a former division commander, said Mr Rumsfeld fostered an atmosphere of “arrogance” among the Pentagon’s top civilian leadership. “They only need the military advice when it satisfies their agenda,” he told National Public Radio. “I think that’s a mistake, and that’s why I think he should resign.”

Is anyone surprised? I had my hopes up there for a minute; but in end, Bush no more wants to fire Rumsfeld than a drunk wants to fire his bartender.

April 17, 2006
Amanda Marcotte—
Posted by Patrick at 10:26 PM * 42 comments

of the weblog Pandagon—is my hero for the day.

April 16, 2006
Dumbest of the Twenty Worst
Posted by Teresa at 06:14 PM *

Last month, Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware posted WB’s list of the 20 Worst (literary) Agents:

Below is a list of the 20 agents about which Writer Beware has received the greatest number of advisories/complaints during the past several years.

None of these agents has a significant track record of sales to commercial (advance-paying) publishers, and most have virtually no documented and verified sales at all (many sales claimed by these agents turn out to be vanity publishers). All charge clients before a sale is made, whether directly, by charging fees such as reading or administrative fees, or indirectly, for “editing services.”

Writer Beware suggests that writers searching for agents avoid questionable agents, and instead query agents who have actual track records of sales to commercial publishing houses.


* The Abacus Group Literary Agency
* Allred and Allred Literary Agents (refers clients to “book doctor” Victor West of Pacific Literary Services)
* Capital Literary Agency (formerly American Literary Agents of Washington, Inc.)
* Barbara Bauer Literary Agency
* Benedict & Associates (also d/b/a B.A. Literary Agency)
* Sherwood Broome, Inc.
* Desert Rose Literary Agency
* Arthur Fleming Associates
* Finesse Literary Agency (Karen Carr)
* Brock Gannon Literary Agency
* Harris Literary Agency
* The Literary Agency Group, which includes the following:
Children’s Literary Agency
Christian Literary Agency
New York Literary Agency
Poets Literary Agency
The Screenplay Agency
Stylus Literary Agency (formerly ST Literary Agency)
Writers Literary & Publishing Services Company (the editing arm of the above-mentioned agencies)
* Martin-McLean Literary Associates
* Mocknick Productions Literary Agency, Inc.
* B.K. Nelson, Inc.
* The Robins Agency (Cris Robins)
* Michele Rooney Literary Agency (also d/b/a Creative Literary Agency and Simply Nonfiction)
* Southeast Literary Agency
* Mark Sullivan Associates
* West Coast Literary Associates (also d/b/a California Literary Services)

Naturally, this list got copied and posted in other venues. One of them was Miss Snark’s blog, where Miss Snark made various worthy remarks, among them nominating the Lee Shore Agency for #21. From there the story was picked up by aspiring writer Paula Offutt, who also reprinted the list.

The word today in the AbsoluteWrite bulletin board’s 20 Worst Agents thread is that Barbara Bauer, a well-known scam agent who made the Top 20, is trying to harass Paula Offutt into taking the list off her site. Bauer wrote:

Cease and Desist: Regarding your post of the 20 Worst Agents which you have copied from an Anonymous Competitor “Miss Snark,” it is disparaging, and inappropriate as well as libelous and defamatory. Remove it promptly. Thank you. Sincerely, Barbara Bauer, Ph.D.

Website: IP:

I’m impressed. Here I was thinking Cris Robins was the only scam agent who’s stupid enough to publicly denounce the list. Apparently not.

(Why is it dumb to do that? First, because those agents wouldn’t be on the list if Victoria didn’t have them dead to rights—she’s very meticulous about documenting their practices. Second, because for all their threats of legal action, the last thing scam agents want is to go through the discovery phase of a court case. And third, because starting a dust-up about it just publicizes their presence on the list, and raises its Google ranking.)

Barbara Bauer Ph.D.’s cease-and-desisting, there and elsewhere, has had the predictable effect: it’s gotten people talking about Barbara Bauer’s misdeeds. A sample:

Dhewco: Here’s the story: A friend of mine sent a request for a brochure from Bauer’s agency. Afterwards she checked Dave’s site [Preditors and Editors] and noticed the ‘not recommended’ and ‘charges fees’, my friend asked for a response.

The response was laughable. Claimed P&E was owned by a foreign monopoly ‘with a hidden agenda to make money off writers by destroying the credibility of the American publishing industry’ and sought to direct writers to self-publishers.

Has anyone dealt with this agency? Has the woman lost it? I’ve seen nothing on Dave’s site to support such crazy statement.


Victoria Strauss: Barbara has a short fuse. I’ve heard from people who questioned her fees or claims and got abusive, profane responses.

For the record, she asks or has asked for a number of different kinds of fees, including a $50 reading fee, a $650 upfront marketing fee, and a flat “representation” fee of $1,000. As far as I know, she has no recent record of book sales.

No doubt there’s more to come. Dealing with subjects you want to have go away by prompting online public discussions of them is, as always, its own reward.

April 14, 2006
Digby: scary tinfoil hat and a secret war
Posted by Teresa at 10:30 PM * 138 comments

Digby thinks it’s possible that Bush and Rumsfeld have already started a secret war in Iran, and that these calls from generals for Rumsfeld to resign are an attempt to stop the Iran operation. Which is scary, because Digby is a knowledgeable and insightful blogger.

I have no trouble believing the part that’s about the guy who says he’s found more than 50 demonstrably false stories planted in the press during the run-up to the Iraq war.

The rest of the world can’t afford to let us go on this way.

Night of the Generals
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:34 AM * 153 comments

Michael Brown isn’t the first, or most dangerous, of the incompetents that Bush has appointed to office. And unlike some, Brownie is gone.

First on the list of Dangerous Clowns is Donald Rumsfeld. You’d have to go back to Robert McNamara to find another Secretary of Defense who was so incompetent. Now we’re hearing criticism of Rummie from an unexpected source: the generals themselves.

These are retired generals, no longer under military discipline and able to say aloud what they’ve long thought privately. The list of who’s come out and said Rumsfeld should go is like a who’s who of stars:

Major General Charles Swannack, former commanding officer of the 82nd Airborne in Iraq:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The general who led the elite 82nd Airborne Division during its mission in Iraq has joined the chorus of cadre calling on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to leave the Pentagon.

“I really believe that we need a new secretary of defense because Secretary Rumsfeld carries way too much baggage with him,” retired Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack, told CNN’s Barbara Starr on Thursday.

“Specifically, I feel he has micromanaged the generals who are leading our forces there,” Swannack said in the telephone interview.

“And I believe he has culpability associated with the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and, so, rather than admitting these mistakes, he continually justifies them to the press … and that really disallows him from moving our strategy forward.”

Major General John Batiste, who led the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, 2004-2005:

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Another retired general called for the resignation of US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, adding to a drumbeat of pressure from the military for new leadership and fresh thinking on Iraq.

Major General John Batiste, former commander of the US Army’s 1st Infantry Division, criticized Rumsfeld for ignoring military advice and failing to provide sound military planning.

“You know, it speaks volumes that guys like me are speaking out from retirement about the leadership climate in the Department of Defense,” Batiste said in an interview with CNN.

His was the latest in a groundswell of calls for Rumsfeld’s resignation by respected retired generals who served in Iraq or key positions in the military hierarchy. Batiste led the 1st Infantry Division during a year-long Iraq tour in 2004 and 2005.

“We need a leader who understands team work, a leader who knows how to build teams, a leader that does it without intimidation,” said Batiste.

“Conversely, I think we need senior military leaders who understand the principles of war and apply them ruthlessly, and when the time comes, they need to call it like it is,” he said.

General Anthony Zinni, commander US Central Command:

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A former senior US military commander, Anthony Zinni, called for the dismissal of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over critical mistakes made in the Iraq war.

Zinni, who headed the US Central Command from 1997 to 2000, was asked if anyone should lose their job over how Washington has managed its Iraq policy.

“Secretary of defense to begin with,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.

“Integrity and getting on with the mission and doing it right is more important than loyalty. Both are great traits, but integrity, honesty and performance and competence have to outweigh, in this business, loyalty,” the former Marine Corps general said.

“There’s a series of disastrous mistakes. We just heard the secretary of state say these were tactical mistakes. They were not tactical mistakes. These were strategic mistakes, mistakes of policies made back here,” he said.

Lieutenant General Anthony Newbold, director of operations to the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

In the current issue of Time magazine, another retired Marine, Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, writes an extraordinary viewpoint calling for Rumsfeld’s ouster.

In it, the former three-star general and director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff said he should have spoken out more publicly before the war:

“After 9/11, I was a witness and therefore a party to the actions that led us to the invasion of Iraq — an unnecessary war. Inside the military family, I made no secret of my view that the zealots’ rationale for war made no sense. … But I now regret that I did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat — al-Qaida. I retired from the military four months before the invasion, in part because of my opposition to those who had used 9/11’s tragedy to hijack our security policy. Until now, I have resisted speaking out in public. I’ve been silent long enough.”

Like many war critics, Newbold says simply pulling out now would be a mistake. But he pulls no punches about how we got to this point:

“The consequence of the military’s quiescence was that a fundamentally flawed plan was executed for an invented war, while pursuing the real enemy, al-Qaida, became a secondary effort.”

And, with a note of bitterness, he charged that, “My sincere view is that the commitment of our forces to this fight was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions — or bury the results.”

What to do?

“We need fresh ideas and fresh faces. That means, as a first step, replacing Rumsfeld and many others unwilling to fundamentally change their approach. The troops in the Middle East have performed their duty. Now we need people in Washington who can construct a unified strategy worthy of them.”

We agree.

Major General Paul Eaton, tasked with training the new Iraqi army:

Former Fort Benning commanding general Paul Eaton, in a Sunday op-ed piece in the New York Times, has called for Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld to resign, claiming Rumsfeld “is not competent to lead our armed forces.”

Retired Maj. Gen. Eaton, who served as post commander from October 2001 to June 2003, when he was sent to Baghdad to train the Iraqi army, has been an outspoken critic of his old boss since retiring from active duty on Jan. 1.

“He has shown himself incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically, and is far more than anyone responsible for what has happened to our important mission in Iraq,” wrote Eaton, who now lives in Fox Island, Wash.

He added: “Mr. Rumsfeld must step down.”

In response, General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff has supposedly leapt to his feet to defend his boss. Last we heard from General Pace, he was being openly contemptuous of Rumsfeld (as we blogged here). Now:

(CNN) — The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff defended Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from new criticism by former Pentagon brass Tuesday, telling reporters that “nobody works harder than he does.”

“He does his homework. He works weekends. He works nights,” Gen. Peter Pace said. “People can question my judgment or his judgment, but they should never question the dedication, the patriotism and the work ethic of Secretary Rumsfeld.”

What’s interesting about Pace’s remarks is that they don’t say a thing about the actual charges, which are that Rumsfeld is incompetent. Pace doesn’t argue with that. What he’s effectively saying is, “Well, yeah, but he’s trying really hard” —which in a command position is no defense at all.

No one’s questioned Rumsfeld’s dedication, his patriotism, or the hours he works. No one said Rumsfeld doesnt arrive early or stay at his desk late. For all we know he comes in on holidays. Maybe he hasnt taken a vacation in years.

But that isnt why hes being criticized. The word we’re hearing, from the people who would know best, is that Rumsfeld is incompetent.

On that point, General Pace is tellingly silent.


President Bush said today in a written statement that embattled Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has his full support and deepest appreciation. “Earlier today I spoke with Don Rumsfeld about ongoing military operations in the Global War on Terror,” the statement said. “I reiterated my strong support for his leadership during this historic and challenging time for our Nation.”

“Heckuva job, Brownie.”

Update 2:

The game may be going into extra innings. From today’s New York Times:

But there were also signs that the spate of retired generals calling for Mr. Rumsfeld’s departure was not finished. Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, who is retired from the Marine Corps, said in an interview Thursday he had received a telephone call from another retired general who was weighing whether to publicly join the calls for Mr. Rumsfeld’s dismissal.

<*cough*> Locus Poll
Posted by Teresa at 09:45 AM * 1 comments

I’m terrible at this kind of thing. My ability to tell someone else how they should vote, in anything but a general election, is approximately nil. But if you’re interested in SF and fantasy, you might want to bear in mind that we’re coming down to the deadline on the 2006 Locus Poll.

Note: You don’t have to be a subscriber. If you do subscribe, they want you to put your subscriber number on your ballot; but it’s not required.

April 12, 2006
How is a trailer like a smoking gun?
Posted by Teresa at 05:58 PM *

Return with us (with the help of the Washington Post) to those thrilling days of May 2003:

On May 29, 2003, 50 days after the fall of Baghdad, President Bush proclaimed a fresh victory for his administration in Iraq: Two small trailers captured by U.S. and Kurdish troops had turned out to be long-sought mobile “biological laboratories.” He declared, “We have found the weapons of mass destruction.”

Iraq’s supposed stashes of more conventional WMDs hadn’t turned up. Joseph Wilson and others had long since made it clear that Iraq had not been buying yellowcake (an atomic weapon precursor) from Niger. It was increasingly obvious to everyone but Tony Blair that the supposed WMDs simply weren’t there.

The U.S. military certainly didn’t believe Iraq had WMDs. How do we know that? Because they massed their troops and supplies on the Iraq border, and left them there for months in known locations. Donald Rumsfeld may be a complete incompetent, but the military leaders responsible for those arrangements weren’t insanely stupid—which is what it would have taken for them to mass troops and supplies in a fixed location if they thought there were any chance that the other side had WMDs.

Since the conventional WMD claim wasn’t working out, the Bush Administration’s next best dodge was to claim that Iraq had instead been making biological weapons. They’re the poor man’s WMDs: smaller, cheaper and simpler to produce, and the equipment used to make them isn’t all that different from that used in a wide variety of other applications. This meant Bush & Co. could, for a while at least, point at captured equipment and claim it was being used to make bio weapons.

The claim, repeated by top administration officials for months afterward, was hailed at the time as a vindication of the decision to go to war. But even as Bush spoke, U.S. intelligence officials possessed powerful evidence that it was not true.

A secret fact-finding mission to Iraq—not made public until now—had already concluded that the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons. Leaders of the Pentagon-sponsored mission transmitted their unanimous findings to Washington in a field report on May 27, 2003, two days before the president’s statement.

Odds that Bush didn’t know about that: approximately zero.

The three-page field report and a 122-page final report three weeks later were stamped “secret” and shelved. Meanwhile, for nearly a year, administration and intelligence officials continued to publicly assert that the trailers were weapons factories.

The only reasons I can see why Bush hasn’t been brought up on impeachment charges are that (1.) the Republicans have a majority in both houses; and (2.) many of those Republicans love their positions and their power far more than they love their country.

The biolab claim is only one in a series of claims about terrorists and Weapons of Mass Destruction, many of which later proved false, that were used as justification for the U.S. war on Iraq. They were also used to justify the Bush administration’s demand that within the United States they be allowed to exercise extraordinary and unprecedented power without commensurate accountability.

Someone has to declare a dividing line. I’m doing it. After this, there are three reasons to publicly support Bush, or to insist there must be an excuse for his actions:

1. You’re stupid.

2. You know there’s no excuse, but you’re too dishonest and unpatriotic to say so.

3. You’re bound by solemn oath to make a public show of supporting him (i.e., you’re in the military, and your job requires it).

Pick one.

Addendum, from the comment thread:

Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2006, 06:22 AM:

…there are three reasons to publicly support Bush, or to insist there must be an excuse for his actions…

Actually, I think there is essentially only one reason and that reason is: you think it is the duty of America to dominate the world. Pax Americana, and all that. You are a Realist with the heretofore unglimpsed courage to do whatever needs to be done. We owe it to (America’s) children. The lies and deceptions and so forth are only flathead screwdrivers in the Toolbox of Democracy. None of this would be necessary if America hadn’t been such a pussy in the past. You do what you have to do and trust that the world will eventually thank you for it. And even if it doesn’t, screw ‘em: the American Colossus will nevertheless bestride the world. We had to destroy freedom and prosperity in order to save them, but never you mind: we were man enough to do it when it needed to be done, and when the courage of others failed us.

We’d feel bad about it, I guess, except we don’t.

It’s all necessary, see. That’s what all you whiners don’t seem to understand.

April 11, 2006
Posted by Teresa at 07:48 AM *

Over at Unqualified Offerings, Jim Henley put up a one-word post saying “Blog.” Its comment thread didn’t so much follow as blossom, or perhaps effuse. It’s brilliant. Have a look.

Addendum: Mike Ford’s being brilliant again. From the comment thread of our own instantiation of “Blog”:

You people have no inkling of the facts.
You people just don’t see the situation.
You people sit alone and grind an ax.
You people start and bring your own damn nation.
You people sleep with partners made of straw.
You people’d unconvert old Johnny Knox.
You people sturmed the drang off Godwin’s Law.
You people, get your hands out of your socks.
You people, by the merest act of saying,
“You people,” spin the prop atop your beanie;
“You people” is your one-string banjo playing,
“You people” goes da capo senza fine.
Here sits a church, the browser is its steeple:
Open the tab, and see the typing people.

Further addenda: There have been moments, reading this thread, when I’ve honestly thought I was going to injure myself by laughing immoderately. I can’t do justice to the whole, but here are a couple of sequences. The first were all posted by Greg London:

sheepish comment by latecomer, with apology for not being overly funny due to self deprecating excuse.
“in a snowstorm, uphill, both ways” post referencing ancient computer hardware.
completely unrelated comment by frequent poster.
apology by frequent poster confessing that recent post was put on the wrong thread.
“I know I’m being pedantic here but” post invoking philosophical arguments to the meanings of several terms used by previous poster ending by proclaiming the previous poster is an idiot, for some definition of “idiot”.
flamewar ensues
attempt by a third party to mediate ongoing flamewar which only reignites topics that had been previously buried and forgotten.
original flamers flame mediator
mediator drops off list.
haiku is posted
which conveys some new insight,
rhymes with “Nantucket”.
picture of rabbit with a pancake on its head is posted.

Ajay’s sequence:

ajay ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2006, 05:21 AM:

Plaintive remark that I blogged this two weeks ago, in detail. Link to blog named after obscure part of human brain.

ajay ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2006, 05:27 AM:

Blindingly erudite post in foreign language (German?). Reply in more obscure foreign language (ideally dead; Latin? Sumerian?). Learned chortle from third poster at unsuspected ambiguity in Sumerian post. Question about making replica clothes of obscure Oriental dynasty. Long conversation between at least four people who know all about said clothes and wear them in their spare time. Offer to sell mysterious item of clothing, nature unknown except to above four people. Parody of Dante. Reference to Early Church Father. Interjection about emergency medicine.

ajay ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2006, 05:31 AM:

Long, bloodcurdlingly detailed advice from James D. Macdonald about what to do in event of some dire emergency (heart stops, house floods, leg falls off, children attacked by whale, etc.) Posters stunned into silence. Long, contemplative pause as commenters look thoughtfully at own houses, children, legs, etc. Timid, Piglet-like question. Terrifyingly learned and hope-destroying reply.

April 10, 2006
Seizing control of the debate
Posted by Teresa at 04:50 PM *

As Kayjay put it, “[A]pparently the conservatives even need instructions on how to be rude visitors.” She was referring to the quite stunningly something-or-other How to Handle an Open Thread on Liberal Blogs*, by one Butler Thomas:

Liberals, being the lazy sons of guns that they are, often have open threads on their blogs. That way they can keep visitors interested in talking amongst themselves, keeping them on their blogs without having to actually do any work.

Do you suppose he means us? He could always try it himself, and see if he gets the same results.

For us conservatives this presents a wonderful opportunity, if we choose to act on it. Remember, anyone is allowed to post on an open thread. There is no determined topic. This is your chance to take control of the blog and direct the flow of conversation the way you want it to go.

The conservatives I grew up with had much better manners than this.

Rule #1: Attack. Hit the liberals where it hurts. This is your time to take control of the debate. Don’t pull any punches. You want them on the defensive the minute you’re there.

Andrew, owning a black leather duster is not enough.

Liberals generally aren’t very quick thinkers, if you hit them hard in the first post they won’t know how to respond.

(Rolls about on the floor laughing.)

Rule #2: Attack …

(Wipes eyes.)

If we’d ever been hit by a rightwing attacker who was capable of that, things might have gotten interesting, by which I mean “interesting.” Usually those guys are aggressive but otherwise very, very dull. They don’t engage, they don’t substantiate, they don’t build on previous discourse, they don’t keep track of their own arguments, and they never respond well to being lampooned in verse.

Just look at ol’ Butler here. There’s far more useful and interesting advice he could be giving people who want to pull off the kind of maneuvers he advocates. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know any of that advice. His one good point is Rule #4:

Join in the side chatter. Remember, this is an open thread and there will be discussion that isn’t directly pointed at debate. While you shouldn’t let it sidetrack you from the topic at hand (the topic that you began), joining in non-debate discussion will ingrain you into the community.

Quite true. If you join a civil discussion with the intention of disrupting and forcibly subverting it so you can turn it into a venue for your own sloganeering, it’s a good idea to make conversation along the way. This will trick the locals into treating you like a human being, instead of the troll and vandal you really are.

What’s funniest is that BT characterizes liberals as being rude when he’s in the middle of writing instructions for behaving like a complete boor. This boy lacks insight into his own condition.

I’d tell him so on his own weblog—okay, what I’d actually post is “Don’t even try it, sucker”if it were possible to do so. Too bad, can’t do ithis weblog is configured to only accept comments from people who have registered Blogger accounts.


Open thread 63
Posted by Teresa at 09:09 AM *

schadenfreude/sour grapes

April 08, 2006
The life and times of young Porco Bruno
Posted by Teresa at 10:28 PM * 43 comments

[Cross-posted from my LiveJournal.]

Porco Bruno is my new hamster, successor to the much-missed Arthur. PB’s young, high-strung, and athletic. Recently while handling him I noticed what may be a scar across his face, running upward diagonally from the outer edge of his right eye (which eyelid droops a bit) past the centerline up between his ears. If so, I’m mildly impressed that he survived it. I’m wondering now whether his tendency to go into sudden thrashing panics might be a bit of brain damage, or possibly the hamster equivalent of PTSD, or whether he came from a careless hamstery that wasn’t good about socializing their young. Hamsters have to be handled, just like kittens, if they’re to grow up to be human-friendly pets.

It could be that PB’s just young. I’m going with that theory, since it’s the one I can work with. I’ve been cultivating his acquaintance, establishing my character as Nice Human With Lettuce. He’s still twitchy, but he’s learned the “come here, I have a snack for you” noise. I’ve moved him to the old CritterTrail cage so I can get hold of him more easily. PB initially foiled this plan by moving his seeds and bedding up to one of the observation areas, from which he could instantly jump down and hide in the access tube. You’d swear he had bat in his ancestry. He’s perfectly happy hanging upside-down in his tube, eating sunflower seeds from his seed stash in its bottom right-angled curve.

PB’s antics in the tube were fun to watch, but he wasn’t getting socialized that way, so I temporarily put domed stoppers over the bottoms of his two access tubes. This limits him to the main cage area. He’s rejected the little dome-shaped hamster house I gave him, and instead has bermed up his cage litter and dug a foxhole in the corner under the wheel, with a thicket of paper towel strips stuffed in above it. He makes little noises while he works on it.

That’s one of the weirdest things about Porco Bruno: he’s vocal. Most hamsters are silent, or nearly silent except for an occasional squeak of dismay. The day I brought him back to Tor from the pet shop, he expressed his displeasure by I-swear-to-ghod roaring — sounding, as our intern Torie said, either like bad plumbing, or an extremely small velociraptor. He hasn’t roared much since he got here, I assume because he’s never been that upset again. But he continues to express himself with a wide variety of squeaks, growls, peeps, chirps, and other strange sound effects.

Yesterday afternoon, when I was working at home and he was curled up asleep in his nest, he suddenly let out a seriously distressed hamster-scream, followed by a series of loud squeaks. I went over to see what was the matter and found him hazily thrashing around, feet-up, obviously half-asleep. I cupped my hand around the corner of the cage and held it there so his nest would be dark and warm, and he soon went back to sleep.

I know hamsters dream; all mammals from the marsupials up exhibit REM sleep. Besides, I held Arthur while he was sleeping during his final illness, and he was definitely going in and out of dream sleep. What I want to know is, do hamsters have nightmares? Because that’s exactly what this looked like.

April 06, 2006
Darwin fish found
Posted by Teresa at 08:58 AM *

Tiktaalik roseae.

Here’s a big shout-out to all those Creationists who’ve said they couldn’t believe in evolution because there weren’t enough “transitional forms”:


Addendum, 12 April 2006:

In today’s news, another transitional form—and this one’s in the human lineage: Australopithecus anamensis. It’s a very solid piece of evidence.

April 01, 2006
April Fools, 2006
Posted by Teresa at 09:00 AM *

As usual, Google has an elaborate AFD hoax.

Via Jim Henley, Civil War Reenactors Come to Lebanon.

ThinkGeek has once again come up with an assortment of AFD merchandise. This year’s offerings include the iZilla Digital Media Monster, the USB Desktop Tanning Center, a 1Up Mushroom Growing Kit, an RFID Blocking Kit T-shirt that’s “free while supplies last,” Wireless Extension Cords, the Buzzaire Metered Dose Caffeine Inhaler, and a heavily hyped product called The Screened Sphorb.

The Register reports that Bush & Co. are drafting a memo laying out Bush’s wartime authority to remain in office past 2008:

Bush preps historic Third Term - memo It’s war. It’s a ‘Continuity Presidency’

Exclusive The US Department of Justice (DoJ) and the office of the White House Counsel are preparing a draft document laying out the President’s wartime authority to remain in office past 2008, The Register has learned.

The scheme is described as an emergency “continuity presidency,” made necessary by the extraordinary circumstances and unique challenges of protecting the United States from the threat of international terrorism.

“The world changed on 9/11,” a confidential DoJ memo obtained by The Register explains, “and no Administration is US history is better suited to adapt productively to those changes than this one.

“The Attorney General supports the basic framework in the White House Counsel’s draft proposal for a future Executive Order establishing a Continuity Presidency, with two provisos: 1. There must be at least the appearance of a time limit, which the AG believes might be satisfied by tying the duration of the Continuity Presidency to the duration of the GWOT [global war on terrorism]; and 2. The House and Senate Majority Leaders and the Chairpersons of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees must issue a written certification that they have approved the plan. …

Wikipedia is compiling a list of AFD 2006 hoaxes. So far, my favorite item from their list has been’s articles on animated tattoos and the U.S. military’s hydro-ordnance weapons system.

Wikipedia lists spoofs at a great many gaming sites, few of which strike me as particularly funny. One exception is the Dark and Shattered Lands MUD, where the administrator started a locked topic in the main forum titled “The Anti-Christian Sentiment Here,” where he posted:

I’m tired of it and with every comment you heathens make, the less I want you around my creation.

For now on, only the saved can play DSL.

The rest of you can go to hell.

When you try to log in, you get this prompt: Do you renounce Satan and accept Jesus Christ as your lord and saviour? Y/N. Only saying “yes” will let you log in and play.

Urgo is also compiling a list of AFD pranks.

Along with their own brief list of AFD hoaxes, the BBC has thoughtfully compiled a list of current news stories that could be mistaken for hoaxes, but aren’t.

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