The Spine

Valerie Plame's Afterthought
September 15, 2006

Have you already forgotten Valerie Plame? Well, she's reminding us that she exists. See an article in Thursday's New York Post. To sue is to exist, and she is now adding Richard Armitage's name to that of Vice President Cheney in a civil suit in U.S. District Court accusing them both of conspiring to blow her cover as a CIA intelligence officer. (For my earlier commentary on the news that Armitage has admitted being the culprit, please see here.) Won't Ms. Plame simply go away? I don't know what's happened to her book contract.

Is "islamofascism" Apt?
September 14, 2006

Well, everybody is getting into the Islamofacsist controversy. Our Open University blog has had postings here, here, and here on the matter. Peter Beinart, as you will see in this week's TRB, does a taxonomic meditation on the aptness of linking the word "fascist" to Islam at all. I never imagined that Bush was so philosophically weighty that he could cause such an intellectual fuss. Peter is OK with the term "totalitarianism," though, even if it is somewhat heavy-handed.

Wolfowitz V. Corruption
September 14, 2006

I know that most of you know that the president of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz, is, as I am, a member in very good standing of the Elders of Zion. So it follows that anything I say in his behalf might be dismissed as an act of fraternity or, worse yet, ethnic clannishness. But there is an article by Steven Weisman on the front page of the business section of today's New York Times about a controversy in and around the Bank over the tough stand Wolfowitz has taken with regard to rampant corruption in particular countries that are recipients of the institution's loans and contracts.

Martyr Complex
September 13, 2006

Apropos my second posting on The Spine ("Patriot Games," September 11), Robert Novak has written a column, "Real Story Behind Armitage Story," published in this morning's Chicago Sun-Times, that expands in intricate and fascinating detail the circumstances of Colin Powell's now-former-deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage, becoming a sieve for classified information. It wasn't actually a big thing, this leaking that Valerie Plame was a (sort of) closeted CIA intelligence official.

Blame It On Inflation
September 13, 2006

Thank you, Jack Shafer... He has written an entire column in Slate about my blog, in which he waxes indignant over my use of "$10 words." One word that offends him is "tocsin." I'd say it's not exactly a $10 item but closer to $5. Then again, with the decline in the value of the dollar, everything foreign, especially vocabulary that originates in the Euro-zone, costs a lot more these days. And it seems my use of foreign words deeply offends him. What can I say? For a populist like Shafer, anti-intellectualism of this kind is de rigueur (oops, there I go again).

The Real "path To 9/11"
September 12, 2006

I am in New York to welcome my granddaughter into the world. It is an auspicious day: sunny, comfortably warm, but with a cool under-breeze and with many taxis on the streets, since people are taking in the air instead of riding in the city's normal daytime snail's pace traffic. Yesterday was September 11, and the weather, like today's, was as balmy as the 9/11 of history, when a half-million hapless people, most of them dazed and many in near-trauma, were walking, mostly northward, on the long journey home.

Patriot Games
September 10, 2006

Joseph C. Wilson and Valerie Plame were one of those Washington couples whose careers had ended on the lower-middle rungs. Of course, this judgment depends on what you call "lower-middle." OK, Wilson did end his State Department career as an ambassador, with the "your excellency" stuff and all that. But his last posting was as envoy to Sao Tome and Principe, two small volcanic islands situated in the equatorial Atlantic, consisting of 386 square miles and populated by 160,000 people. This republic has no yellowcake. It surely is one of those designated diplomatic hardship spots.

Lineage Of A Slur
September 10, 2006

Mike Crowley's September 8 posting on The Plank calls attention to the Republican habit of calling the Democratic Party the "Democrat Party" ... or warning about a "Democrat Congress" or, even worse yet, a "Democrat president." But this tick was a custom that went into disuse for nearly 50 years. Its origins, however, are interesting and were toxic. It was Senator Joe McCarthy who, with his twisted mouth often oozing the charming brew of beer and saliva, would snarl out the words "Democrat Party," as if they referred to vermin.

Welcome To The Spine
September 08, 2006

Everyone has a spine. But some people are spineless. I mean this in several ways. One is a common and simple thought. If you shy away from saying what you believe, most especially when men and women are being counted, you are spineless. Spinelessness is an affliction of our civilization. Sometimes it is called "prudence." Even if that's what it is called, it often seems to me weak and pithless. But spinelessness is also an expression of social politics. It is called being "correct," even if what one is saying is palpably false.