Dave Gilson

Dave Gilson

Senior editor

Senior editor at Mother Jones. Obsessive generalist, word wrangler, data cruncher, pun maker.

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Dave Gilson is a senior editor at Mother Jones. Read more of his stories, follow him on Twitter, or contact him.

Everything's Coming Up Rummy

| Fri Aug. 4, 2006 5:21 PM EDT

Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committe yesterday, Donald Rumsfeld managed to keep a straight face when he tried to correct Senator Hillary Clinton's assertion that he'd been feeding Congress "a lot of happy talk and rosy scenarios" about the war in Iraq. Responded Rummy: "I have never painted a rosy picture. I've been very measured in my words. And you'd have a dickens of a time trying to find instances where I've been excessively optimistic." No mention if anyone in the room did a spit-take. NPR's Mixed Signals blog has since contacted Clinton's office, which had something less than a dickens of a time coming up with a detailed list of Rummy's "measured" statements on Iraq over the last few years. A few samples:


The Gulf War in the 1990s lasted five days on the ground. I can't tell you if the use of force in Iraq today would last five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that. —November 2002

We know where [the WMD] are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat. —March 2003

The residents of Baghdad may not have power 24 hours a day, but they no longer wake up each morning in fear wondering whether this will be the day that a death squad would come to cut out their tongues, chop off their ears or take their children away for "questioning," never to be seen again. —July 2003

The increased demand on the force we are experiencing today is likely a "spike," driven by the deployment of nearly 115,000 troops in Iraq. We hope and anticipate that that spike will be temporary. We do not expect to have 115,000 troops permanently deployed in any one campaign. —February 2004

The level of support from the international community is growing. —June 2005

Q: One clarification on "the long war." Is Iraq going to be a long war?
Secretary Rumsfeld: No, I don't believe it is. — February 2006

Sen. Robert Byrd: Mr. Secretary, how can Congress be assured that the funds in this bill won't be used to put our troops right in the middle of a full-blown Iraqi civil war?
Secretary Rumsfeld: Senator, I can say that certainly it is not the intention of the military commanders to allow that to happen. The—and to repeat, the—at least thus far, the situation has been such that the Iraqi security forces could for the most part deal with the problems that exist. —March 2006

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Castro to CIA: "Beep! Beep!"

| Thu Aug. 3, 2006 3:26 PM EDT

Apparently the exploding cigars were just the beginning. The U.S. has tried to kill Fidel Castro 638 times, or so says one of his former security guys. Many of the plans—which might have been taken from the reject pile of Wile E. Coyote—never got off the drawing board, like this classic:


Knowing his fascination for scuba-diving off the coast of Cuba, the CIA at one time invested in a large volume of Caribbean molluscs. The idea was to find a shell big enough to contain a lethal quantity of explosives, which would then be painted in colours lurid and bright enough to attract Castro's attention when he was underwater.

Now that its bivalve budget has been slashed, I assume the CIA has moved on from trying to off Fidel. But as it goes after our current crop of international enemies, you have to wonder what kind of half-baked, brilliant-in-their-stupidity kind of ideas it's been tossing around. Why do I have a hunch that someone in Langley is desperately trying to find out Osama bin Laden's favorite candy bar?

The Boyfriend Crisis

| Fri Jul. 21, 2006 3:26 PM EDT

In its July issue, Esquire gets its boxers in a twist over what editor David Granger calls "the looming crisis in manhood" [sorry, article not online]. No, not the growing ranks of men who wear black shoes with tan suits and don't recognize Tom Hanks as the "official man of American men", but the so-called "boy crisis" (short version: after centuries of getting high test scores, boys are coming in second to uppity girls). In rehashing the stats that supposedly confirm the emergency, the glossy notes that for every 58 women in college and grad school, there are only 42 men. Which prompts this somber conclusion: "That means one in four female students can't find a male peer to date." Esquire's worried about a collegiate sex ratio skewed in favor of straight guys? Things really must be serious...

Those Language-Hijacking Conservatives

| Mon Jul. 17, 2006 6:22 PM EDT

Over on the always interesting if often arcane Language Log, linguist Geoff Nunberg reveals another weapon in conservatives' linguistic arsenal: the object+present participle compound. Those are syntactic constructions like "tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking", which make for handily efficient epithets. He writes: "In fact you could trace the whole history of the right's campaigns against liberals via those compounds -- from tree-hugging and NPR-listening back through the Nixon era's pot-smoking, bra-burning, draft-dodging, and America-hating, until you finally excavate the crude origins of the trope in nigger-loving, the ur-denunciation of white liberal sentimentality."

The subtitle of Nunberg's great new book, Talking Right, lists some of the right's favorites, including the current codeword for treachery, "New York Times-reading." Somehow he left out "Mother Jones-reading," which a Google search finds to be a nice standby for would-be Frank Luntzes seeking to expand their repertoire. A few examples:

"hardcore, Lenin-goateed, Mother Jones-reading left-wingers" .... "pasty-faced tofu-munching, Mother Jones-reading, socialist-vegan-liberal…" .... "the Volvo driving, Mother Jones reading, sprouts eating crowd…" .... "Until later you Volvo driving, latte drinking, Mother Jones reading, leg warmer wearing, liberal." .... "clove-smoking, Birkenstock-wearing, Mother Jones reading, granola crunchers" .... "the Nader-voting, Strawpleberry Mocha Frappucino-sipping, Mother Jones-reading, hipster-dirtbagger Francophile Lefty progressives"
That leg warmer one hurts. And for the record, that would be a decaf, fat-free, fair-trade Strawpleberry Mocha Frappucino.

Al Qaeda vs. The Trees of Mystery

| Thu Jul. 13, 2006 12:48 PM EDT

As we've often been reminded, we're fighting the terrorists abroad so we don't have to fight them in the streets of Indianapolis. But should that horrific day ever come, let Al Qaeda be warned that we shall fight in the petting zoo; we shall fight on the beach at the end of the street; we shall fight in Jay's Sporting Goods and in the mall at Sears; we shall fight in the Frontier Fun Park; we shall never surrender. Terrorists could target those places and 77,000 more, at least according to the Department of Homeland Security's database of "crtical infrastructure and key resources." As reported yesterday, the list is chock full of what the DHS's Inspector General politely calls "curious" and "out of place" entries, such as the aforementioned suburban battlegrounds. It seems that when DHS asked the states to indentify potential targets, boosterism combined with antiterrror zeal (and just perhaps the prospect of some sweet homeland security pork) to erase the distinctions between nuclear power plants and strip malls. But then, maybe terrorists don't make such distinctions. If you hate America, maybe hating The Trees of Mystery is just part of the package.

Here's the complete list of less-than-critical assets identified by the DHS IG report [PDF]:


Old MacDonald's petting zoo
Mall at Sears
Bean Fest
Nix's Check Cashing
Amer. Society of Young Musicians
Trees of Mystery
Car Dealerships
Kennel Club and Poker Room
Historical Bok Sanctuary
4 Cs Fuel and Lube
DPW Landfill
Kangaroo Conservation Center
Assyrian American Association
Right to Life Committee
Association for the Jewish Blind
Insect Zoo
Bourbon Festival
Theological Seminary
Jay's Sporting Goods
Nestle Purina Pet food Plant
Auto Shop
Veterinary Clinic
Groundhog Zoo
Sweetwater Flea Market
High Stakes Bingo
Petting Zoo
Community College
Restaurant
Frontier Fun Park
Travel Stop
Mule Day Parade
Beach at End of Street
Amish Country Popcorn
Pepper and Herb Company
Psychiatry Behavioral Center
Order of Elks National Memorial
Ice Cream Parlor
Bakery & Cookie Shop
Inn
Donut Shop
Sears Auto Center
Wine and Coffee Co.
Sports Club
Casket Company
Bass Pro Shop
Muzzle Shoot Enterprise
Several Wal-Marts
Property Owners Associations
Apple and Pork Festival
Rolls Royce Plant
Pepsi Bottlers
Yacht Repair Business
Anti-Cruelty Society
Tackle Shop
Elevator Company
Center for Veterinary Medicine
American Legion
UPS Store
Heritage Groups
Parcel Shop
YMCA Center
Brewery
Mail Boxes Etc.
Night clubs

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