The Things You Find At BevMo

Went to BevMo Sat night to buy wine for dinner (plus some good Calvados as a treat) and my friend Mike pointed me at a display by the checkout stand – “Look at that!”
“That’s vodka, Mike. I don’t drink vodka.”
“No, dammit, look at it.”
“It’s got gold stuff in the bottom. So what? I don’t drink vodka with or without gold stuff.”

He picked up a bottle and held it to my face.


I bought it. I’ll go back and buy some more…

…and then I noticed this:


IRISH vodka? Somewhere a leprechaun is crying himself to sleep…

Coincidence? You Decide.

I’m doing a bunch of project budget stuff for four or five projects which involves sitting on the phone listening to people estimate based on data they don’t really have. But the client needs the numbers, and I timebox them anyway so the range I give upward is accurate. But it involves much sitting on the phone listening to people figure stuff out. I surf the blogs while I do that, I’ll admit, and am good enough at multitasking that I can even come back to focus on issues where my thoughts and information are useful.

So today, I’m reading Micky Kaus’ blog and had a kind of a “giggle” moment.Mickey says:

Another party I’m not invited to. And you aren’t either: Vlogging fogey lashes out at ur-whippersnapper Ezra Klein, upon learning that Klein has created a private Townhouse-like email group where liberal bloggers and editors hash out issues before they let the public in on the discussion. … P.S.: Yes, I have private email discussions too, and there are probably some advantages in having these talks in front of a group instead of one-on-one. (If, say, Sidney Blumenthal emails five leftish bloggers privately, all five might think they have an exclusive. If they compare notes, they won’t.). But the innovative virtue of Web journalism, I’ve always thought, is that it makes the back and forth process of argument and investigation relatively transparent to everyone. If the Klein Klub succeeds, isn’t there a threat that it will a) compromise independence, in part because participants will always worry if they are using something that should be kept private and will feel they owe the other members; b) will encourage groupthink, as everyone works out the tacit party line before presenting it to their sheeple-like readers; c) encourage propgandism (see (b)); and d) become the place where the real conversation happens, a conversation the non-elite public isn’t privy to. … P.P.S.: Who’s in the Klein Klub? Have they published a list of names? The sheeple demand to know at least that! … P.P.P.S.: Chait, I know you’re in it. Who else? …

Why is this funny?

Because the other day roy, over at Alicublog laid into the anti-Emohawk blogs with this:

ATTENTION COMRADES! Previous meme “Scott Thomas does not exist” is no longer operative. Please to substitute “Scott Thomas Beauchamp is a bad man” or “Scott Thomas Beauchamp is Oliver Stone” or “Scott Thomas Beauchamp is a semiotic construct” or “We’ll get Scott Thomas Beauchamp fired” or whatever damn thing you can think of.

…wonder if roy is on Ezra’s mailing list? I seem to recall another mailing list a few years ago, run by Kos; I recall a to-do when someone publicized the existence of the list.

You’d assume that someone would invite me…if there was a right-wing listserv out there, the last liberal hawk ought to get a pass, don’t you think? But no…which suggests a) there isn’t one; and b) the prog-blogs not only have one but are using rhetorical accusations that the right-blogs have one as a weapon.

Mirrors reflecting mirrors reflecting mirrors. Motes and logs, as they say. Or maybe that’s just why all the prog-blogs sound the same?

Jonathan Hari, Champion Of Free Speech

Jonathan Hari – who wrote the article on Nick Cohen’s book that I was interested in blogging about – has threatened Harry’s Place blogger david t with a defamation action for his post on Hari’s article.

My first reaction is to wonder if calling someone a “dickhead” is defamation under British law.

My second was to go to Google and look at the cached copy of david’s post; I have no clue what in the world Hari could find ‘defamatory’ in it. Go look yourself, and let me know why he’d make an outrageous claim like that. And consider yourself blessed if you don’t live in the UK where laws like that slowly choke the free expression of ideas.

It’s weird, again how the right was so into suppression when I was young, and now the Left is. Maybe they all reread their Marcuse?

News: Good, Bad, And Fake

I’ve got to do a longer response to John Quiggin’s post tagging us as the “last holdout of good news” on Iraq, and belittling the discussion of Beauchamp’s articles in TNR. But I’ve got no time so I want to get something up quickly.

John says:

For the wingers, this is a continuous pattern. Before this, there was a flap about a report that failures by contractors were resulting in troops in the field not getting adequate food. Before that, it was the Jamil Hussein case, a months-long brawl with AP arising from a report by a stringer about attacks on mosques. Before that, it was reports from Lebanon of ambulances being hit by Israeli fire. And so on.[fn1] There’s too much of this to try and give comprehensive coverage, and I’m not interested in debating the details, but a search on Instapundit will usually get you started.

Well, yeah. Jamil Hussein turned out to be a cop stationed very far from the incidents he reported – the biggest of which (mosque attacks) was kinda disproved; The ambulances were pretty clearly not hit by Israeli fire; and the media management by Hezbollah was shown pretty clearly to be stage-managed, if not Photoshopped…so yeah, there have been some “issues” with the “truthiness” of the media reports. And yeah, our side does kind of sound like whiners because we always are complaining about it and pointing it out. But that’s the nature of criticism, isn’t it?

Internally, we stopped doing Good News not for macro reasons – because we no longer believe things are better than reported (although not nearly as good as we’d hope) in Iraq – but for micro reasons; Joe has stepped back from actively managing the blog and recruiting contributors (note that we no longer do Sufi Wisdom, either), and I’m working my butt off at work, leading a complicated grown-up life, and trying to start a PAC, among other things. But John’s right – this is something that’s worth some emphasis.

And it’s worth it because we’re in a fun-house mirror world in which we shouldn’t have invaded Iraq because (among other reasons) we don’t have the resources or commitment to stick it out; we don’t have the resources or commitment to stick it out because it seems so damn difficult and the outcomes seem so negative; and it seems so difficult and the outcomes so negative because – I’ll claim, and others who have first-hand experience claim – the reporting on and thus public perception of the war has been so filtered by the ‘chattering classes’ that we have a distorted view of the intensity and prevalence of the horrible things that are truly happening there.

So that lens matters, and when major idea-planting media outlets, like the Nation and The New Republic run stories that spin madly to show the moral rot of our troops – caused by the moral rot of the war – I don’t see an effort to report the truth, I see an effort to shape public opinion. And I am happy to see what I can do to counter that shaping.

But we need to get Good News started again, and I’d love to find someone who’s willing to dig through the news and put something up every other week. Because if you talk to folks on the ground over there, there is some good news.

Oh, wait – even the NYT is starting to notice.

You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me

LAT Editorial Board:

John Walker Lindh broke the law. But ‘the American Taliban’ wasn’t a terrorist, and he deserves clemency.

The president’s power to grant clemency — in the form of either a pardon or a commutation — is much maligned and occasionally abused, as was the case when President Bush used it to keep his colleague, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, from facing even a day in prison for lying and obstructing justice. But the power has its appropriate uses as well, and the case of John Walker Lindh calls out for it.

Known unfortunately as “the American Taliban,” Lindh became a symbol for fanaticism, even treason, in the early months of the nation’s response to Sept. 11. He was apprehended in late 2001 in the mountains of Afghanistan, where, at the age of 20, he was serving in the army of a nation that harbored terrorists, including Osama bin Laden. Weak and wounded, he was blindfolded and duct-taped naked to a stretcher, kept incommunicado in an uninsulated shipping container and interrogated by intelligence and FBI agents. Once home, he was charged with terrorism in a 10-count indictment, deliberately sought by the government in the Eastern District of Virginia, then still reeling from the attack on the Pentagon.

Can someone explain this to me? Use small words, I’m obviously not smart enough to understand the deep thinking behind it.

GOP Frightened Of YouTube – Or Of The Great Unwashed American People?

Mitt Romney has announced that he won’t participate in the GOP version of the YouTube debate, stating that “I think the presidency ought to be held at a higher level than having to answer questions from a snowman,” Guliani is just overscheduled.

Both of them are lame. No one gets to be a national presidential candidate without a lot of campaigns that involved kissing babies, riding on ponies, (in Rudy’s case, dressing in drag) and doing a lot of other things that many people might view as ‘beneath their dignity’.

The American people don’t all wear $2,000 suits and carry briefing books. That doesn’t mean a presidential candidate can duck their questions.

This is a B.S. decision that will cost both of them – and should. If they can’t answer unplanned – and sometimes off-the-wall – questions from the people who they want to vote for them, they don’t deserve the office.

Hollywood Slimes – But I Repeat Myself

David Grossman is a professor of psychology, former Army Ranger, and the author of a number of books on the psychology and sociology of legitimate and illegitimate violence.

His publisher contacted Joe and asked if we’d review the new edition of his book ‘On Combat‘.

A longer review will follow, but I think I want to open with a quote that will perfectly explain my disgust with the Hollywood flood of ‘damaged soldier’ films, as well as the root of my disdain for the Scott Beauchamp / The Nation / Kos ‘Killitary’ meme that is echoing among our would-be intellectual betters this week.

The World War II generation was the “Greatest Generation” and today a new Greatest Generation is coming home. That is, if we do not screw them all up by telling them (and their families, their neighbors and their employers) that they are ticking time-bombs doomed to a lifetime of mental illness.

Here is what I believe is the heart of the matter. To harm and destroy people, you have to lie:

Lie Number 1: Ignore the vast majority who are just fine and report only on the minority with problems.

Lie Number 2: Fail to report that most PTSD cases are people with only 30, 40, or 50 pounds of PTSD, people who in previous wars would have gone undetected.

Lie Number 3: Fail to report that we are damned good at treating PTSD and that we are getting better at it every day.

Lie Number 4: fail to report that PTSD can be a step on the path to stress inoculation and that one can be stronger when they come out the other end.

Lie four times over. Lie the worst kind of lie: the lie of omission that gives only the essence of bad news. Create an expectation in veterans (and their families, neighbors and employers) that they are all fragile creatures who could snap at any time and are doomed to a life of suffering. Get veterans invested in their grievance and their role as victim. Get them to draw disability from PTSD and convince them that they will never recover.

I want the media to care, but I am convinced that most of them are a part of a mob-mentality, a pile-on, if-it-bleeds-it-leads profession that does not care about the harm they do. Remember, this is the same profession that put the Columbine killers on the cover of Time magazine twice – yes, twice – thus giving those brutal mass-murderers the very fame and immortality they wanted. This in turn inspired the Virginia Tech killer who also appeared on every news show and on the front page of every newspaper in the nation. Sadly, this too inspires countless other as the media continues to be their happy co-conspirators in a murder-for-fame-and-immortality contract.

Please forgive me if I have been harsh but the situation calls for us to be passionate. Yes, some of our veterans will suffer from PTSD and we have an obligation to give them the best possible support. But we also need a balanced, tough love, that creates an expectation that they will get over it, get on with it, and be better for the experience. that they will be the new Greatest Generation.

I prefer to emphasize the positive expectations. Positive self-fulfilling prophecies. Now there is a nice concept. But will we ever see it in the news?


If you wonder why I am filled with contempt for those who demean soldiers – as opposed to those who dispute policy – it is because in doing so, they actively harm the soldiers; it is one thing to damage the reputation or power of an actor in the political arena. It is another to damage the psyche of someone who was willing to take up arms in our name. I may strongly disagree with folks who dispute me on issues what the right thing to do may be – and some elbows may get thrown, although I hope they would be rare.

But I loathe people like the Hollywood elite mentioned in the New York Times this morning, folks like Scott Rudin, who see the souls of the U.S. military in the couple of kids who murder – while ignoring the reality that like murderous football players or music producers, soldiers who murder are rare indeed.

But let me get back to Grossman.

Grossman discusses three broad areas in this book; the psychology and physiology of human beings under incredible stress; the ways people train or condition themselves to cope with such stress; and the impact of that stress on them once it is over.

There are things Grossman suggests which I can’t quite bring myself to accept. But the problem is that everything in the book that I have actual experience of is 100% accurate.

And I’ve got to accept it when evidence pushes back against belief.

Grossman codifies academic research and anecdote into the foundations of a new discipline in understanding people under stress. I’m not aware of anyone working at his level in this area – I’d love to be pointed at others if they exist.

And in a world where good people will be required to do bad things – as we have been since time immemorial – and where the core values of society don’t readily accommodate them (I doubt that Spartans or Huns got PTSD), this discipline will be incredibly valuable at bringing those good people home.

As noted, I gave my copy to my son, who has read it and will take it with him when he reports for service. I can’t compliment the book any more than that.

Scott Thomas Had A Blog…

Scott Thomas Beauchamp of The New Republic has come out and identified himself – good.

Here’s his blog.

I’ve got to comment that semiotician John Barnes pegged Thomas as a “MFA student”; while I haven’t poked around enough to see if he was one, he certainly writes like one.

May 24, 2006
Every morning I get up and feel retarded for joining the army.
Every morning I get up and feel proud for serving my country.
Every morning I get up and dont want to get up.
Every morning I get up and wish that I was back in college.
Every morning I get up and appreciate everything that I’m learning here.
Every morning I get up and wish my roomate wasnt such a big fan of Disturbed…
Every morning I get up and I’m a little more liberal than the day before
Every morning I get up and try to recite a fact from something I read last night.
Every morning I get up and wish I was as free as the people that I’m “fighting for”
Every morning I get up and think I’m a tool for global corporations
Every morning I get up and miss my mother
Every morning I get up and shave
Every morning I get up and realize how much I love my comrades
Every morning I get up and say I’m Scott Beauchamp, in the army, living in Germany, and this is my life, and I’m going to be treated like shit today and do landscaping and janitorial work and practice killing people and there could be no other way to appreciate what I had or what I’m going to have once I get out other than enduring this now when all I really want to do is teach history and lay around and read and hustle around and repair the world (tikkun olam) and sift through knowledge and improve culture and learn how to sail and work in soup kitchens and start a family and really, I mean REALLY study the best the western civilization has to offer and facilitiate the mystery and power through everything I do, but I cant do it without getting through this army experience first, which will add a legitimacy to EVERYTHING i do afterwards, and totally bolster my opinions on defense, etc, and of course its making me a lot less lazy, just because im not use to being lazy any more, etc.
Every morning I get up

May 8, 2006 (written from Germany)
“Shit, I don’t know…put a 556 in his head”
On the street below the mans brown face dissolves into a thick red mist. The lights in the cities houses shut off in unison. Elecricity rationing. Water rationing too. You ever tried to survive for more than a few hours in hundred and twenty degree weather without water? In the streets the kids bodies start convulsing in semi-orgasmic rhythms. Their pants fill up with shit and piss and the smart ones sneak out to the fields to hidden caches of water jugs and trinkets of candy from the american soldiers.
“See that sarge, kids digging or something?”
“Well, better safe then sorry. Cap his ass Leclaire.”
“You sure sarge?”
“Well, im either right or wrong. And if I’m wrong im still right because i could have been right even though i was wrong.”
They watch the sliver of red sun fall slower and slower, silhouetting the little barbarians falling bodies. The Chaplain turns and walks back towards the FOB in contemplation. Gotta rack out early tonight. Handing out bibles in the marketplace tomorrow, early. Unintelligible rap blares out of the open doors of the HUMVEE.

Beauchamp made a series of implausible claims; let’s see how they check out now that they can be tested.

I’m making popcorn.

Yes, Hollywood Supports The Troops

In the New York Times – ‘Hollywood Quickly Bringing the Iraq War Home‘.

I wish I could be speechless – or at least senseless.

On Sept. 14, Warner Independent Pictures expects to release “In the Valley of Elah,” a drama inspired by the Davis murder, written and directed by Paul Haggis, whose “Crash” won the Academy Award for best picture in 2006. The film stars Tommy Lee Jones as a retired veteran who defies Army bureaucrats and local officials in a search for his son’s killers. In one of the movie’s defining images, the American flag is flown upside down in the heartland, the signal of extreme distress.

Other coming films also use the damaged Iraq veteran to raise questions about a continuing war. In “Grace Is Gone,” directed by James C. Strouse and due in October from the Weinstein Company, John Cusack and two daughters struggle with the loss of a wife and mother who is killed on duty. Kimberly Peirce’s “Stop-Loss,” set for release in March by Paramount, meanwhile, casts Ryan Phillippe as a veteran who defies an order that would send him back to Iraq.

In the past, Hollywood usually gave the veteran more breathing space. William Wyler’s “Best Years of Our Lives,” about the travails of those returning from World War II, was released more than a year after the war’s end. Similarly Hal Ashby’s “Coming Home” and Oliver Stone’s “Born on the Fourth of July,” both stories of Vietnam veterans, came well after the fall of Saigon.

“Media in general responds much more quickly than ever before,” said Scott Rudin, a producer of “Stop-Loss.” “Why shouldn’t movies do the same?” He said his film was deliberately scheduled to be released in the middle of the presidential campaign season. (emphasis throughout added)

That impetus for immediacy is driving other filmmakers and studios as well. In October, for example, New Line Cinema will release “Rendition,” in which Reese Witherspoon plays a woman whose Egyptian-born husband is snared by a runaway counterterrorism apparatus. Paul Greengrass, the director of “The Bourne Ultimatum,” in which the bad guys belong to a similar rogue unit, is adapting Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s book about the Green Zone in Baghdad, “Imperial Life in the Emerald City,” for Universal Pictures.

Brian De Palma’s “Redacted,” focusing on an Army squad that persecutes an Iraqi family, is to be released in December by Magnolia Pictures. And Sony Pictures is developing a film based on the story of Richard A. Clarke, the former national security official and Bush administration critic.

Among the new films, “Valley of Elah” is sure to be one of the most closely examined, thanks to Mr. Haggis’s credentials – he shared an Oscar for writing “Million Dollar Baby” and was nominated for another as co-writer of “Letters From Iwo Jima” – and because of his opposition to United States policy in Iraq.

This is not one of our brighter moments in America,” Mr. Haggis said in a telephone interview from London, where he is still working on the film’s music. “We should not have gotten involved.”

Still, Mr. Haggis insisted that “Valley of Elah” – the title refers to the site where David fought Goliath – was not intended to enforce his point of view. Rather, he said, it is meant to raise questions about “what it does to these kids” to be deployed in a situation where enemies are often indistinguishable from neutral civilians, and the rules of engagement may force decisions that are difficult to live with.

Despite some obvious fictionalization – the Fort Benning case did not involve the authority-challenging local detective and single mother played by Charlize Theron – the film hews closely enough to fact that Mr. Haggis is considering a dedication to Specialist Davis.

But whether the case truly speaks for returning veterans will not be easily settled, even with help from Warner Independent. The studio plans to supplement some of its promotional screenings with panel discussions of post-traumatic stress disorder, a factor raised in the movie.

“The issues are similar to what a lot of us are coping with,” said an approving Garett Reppenhagen, an Iraq veteran who saw “Valley of Elah” last week at one of the first such screenings in Washington. Mr. Reppenhagen, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, helped recruit viewers for the screening.

By contrast, Dennis Griffee, a wounded veteran who is national commander of the Iraq War Veterans Organization, said he turned down a request to become involved with the film after learning that Susan Sarandon, a vocal opponent of the war, had a prominent role.

“At the very least it is offensive,” Mr. Griffee said of what he sees as a widespread refusal to acknowledge the troops’ pride at achievements in Iraq. He added that virtually every member of his platoon wound up in college, not jail, on return.

Ilona Meagher, who wrote “Moving a Nation to Care: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and America’s Returning Troops” (Ig Publishing) and has joined Warner’s promotional effort, acknowledged that the Davis case was among the most extreme of some 170 stress-related episodes she had documented since 2005. “We all know that human beings respond/are moved by stories that are more extreme in nature,” Ms. Meagher wrote in a follow-up e-mail message.

I saw Crash, and it was a film that could only have been made by someone who never set foot outside of Brentwood without a bodyguard. And from a culture that produced “Saw”, “Hostel”, and “Captive”, these films may be a step forward.

But the truely vile impact of our wealthiest – and spiritually poorest – citizen’s cultural output is best explained by Col. Dave Grossman.

I’ll post an explanation from his book ‘On Combat’ tomorrow.

The Queue…

Here’s what’s backed up in the blog queue right now. Take a look and let me know what you think would be the most interesting…

1. I’ve just finished reading Geoffrey Stone’s ‘Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime‘. Reading this raised three interesting issues for me:

* The role of law in our society;
* The balancing act between building support and freedom to dissent;
* The history of dissent and debate in wartime America.

Each of these ought to be a long and thoughtful blog post and discussion; if I’m lucky I’ll get one post out of it.

2. I never finished my comments on Nick Cohn’s ‘What’s Left‘, and now Johann Hari has his own – which I strongly disagree with – and which is deserving of some comment, which will also give me a chance to extend my comments on Cohn’s book.

3. I was in New York (in a hotel with TV!) and got to watch the Democratic debates. I’m depressed, but still think it’s vital that a Democrat win for a variety of reasons. I probably ought to explain those and try and convince you all…