The Sideshow

Archive for April 2002

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Tuesday, 30 April 2002

20:28 BST: Permalink
I decided I can't go on living a lie, so I've changed all the spurious GMTs to BSTs, since it's been British Summer Time all month. I considered changing the time stamps to actual Greenwich Mean Time instead, but then I thought, "Nah...."

I've had a hell of a time trying to get this stuff posted today. There's been an interruption of great duration at every stage, every time I thought I was going to have time to finish up and go online. Some of this stuff is more than 24 hours old.

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Well, this just bites: Dave Weingart says he saw this on fr.rec.arts.sf:

On apprend le décès de John Middleton Murry Jr, beaucoup plus connu sous le nom de Richard Cowper ("Les gardiens", la trilogie de Corlay, _Le crépuscule de Briareus_ et bien d'autres belles choses). Il était né en 1926.

C'est décidément l'horreur, dans la SF et ailleurs, ce mois-ci. :-(

I haven't been able to find this confirmed anywhere yet, but damn. Cowper is one of very few authors I re-read - why, just the other month, I suddenly found I had to read "Piper at the Gates of Dawn" and of course ended up reading the whole of The Road to Corlay again. Probably read the other two books again shortly. Yes, it has been a bloody awful month for SF, as elsewhere.

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Nancy Kuhn at Buzzflash on The Latest Crime of the Stolen Election:

The latest crime of the stolen 2000 Presidential election is blaming the victim of the stolen election - Al Gore - for the numerous illegal acts committed by the Bush campaign and its surrogates in their broad daylight theft of the Presidency. Both the evidence that has collected in its extensive investigation of the stolen election, and the election laws and procedures of the state of Florida, prove this "blame the victim" attack to be totally wrong.

As someone who lived in Florida for 16 years and volunteered on numerous Democratic campaigns while I lived there, I know both the disputed territory and Florida election law extremely well. It pains me greatly that two of the people involved in this unjust attack are none other than two of my favorite Democrats in the entire world, James Carville and Paul Begala. Also involved in this false attack is my favorite journalist Greg Palast, and two authors whose books do an outstanding job of documenting many of the illegal acts that the Bush campaign used to steal the election - Jeffrey Toobin and Jake Tapper.

These false attacks range from accusing Al Gore of not fighting hard enough to win in Florida to blaming Al Gore for the pro Bush media's unprecedented campaign against him. They include allegations that Gore abandoned African American voters who were illegally purged off of the Florida voting rolls, that he vetoed public demonstrations, that he did nothing to promote voting reform and counting all of the votes. The truth is that there was nothing short of starting a civil war that Al Gore could have done to have gotten the uncounted, legal votes in Florida counted.

The Gore campaign followed Florida election law to the letter. In contrast, the Bush campaign broke numerous Florida and federal laws to steal the election in a broad daylight coup d'etat. Governor Jeb Bush and Secretary of State Katherine Harris grossly abused their offices to aid in the theft of the election.
It was Jeb Bush who sent out a letter to registered Republicans with an older version of the Florida state seal urging them to vote in the comfort of their home by absentee ballot. Florida election law very specifically states that only voters who will be more than 100 miles from home on election day, in the hospital or a nursing home or an election day worker can request an absentee ballot. Florida is not a vote-by-mail state. In addition, Florida election law states that the state seal cannot be used for political purposes.

It was Jeb Bush who threatened Florida law firms that they would never get any more business from the state government if they represented the Gore campaign in this dispute. It was Jeb Bush who continued to work behind the scenes to help steal the election as evidenced by his phone records and his also allowing numerous state employees to do the same. These are all clear violations of Florida law, which clearly prohibits elected officials from abusing their public offices for personal purposes.

I haven't previously seen that item about Bush threatening Florida lawyers. I'd like to get some documentation on it, 'cause if it's for real, it's dynamite. All of the other points in the article are pretty well documented, though, so I'm definitely keeping this one at the top of my Indictment File.

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I didn't get around to reading parts 1 & 2, so I'm not sure what it's the case for, but your paranoia report for today is part 3, September 11: The circumstantial case:

April 24, 2002—The terrorists could not have picked a better time to attack America for the Bush administration. George W. Bush's conservative agenda was bogged down in a newly Democratic Senate. The week of the attacks, Newsweek ran a cover story detailing the Bush campaign's skullduggery in the Florida election debacle. The George W.'s overall approval ratings were slipping into the 40 percent range.

All that changed on September 11. Once the butt of late-night stand-up comedians, Bush became a national hero literally overnight. His approval ratings rose to never-before-seen levels. The man who lost the election to Al Gore by almost half a million votes was now ranked among the greatest presidents of all time in opinion polls.

Plans were pushed through Congress for conservative policies which had nothing to do with the war. Opposition, even to items such as corporate tax cuts, was now labeled unpatriotic.

This just shows you how shiftless and lazy I am, I don't even know if it's really paranoid without reading whatever comes before it. If it's an indictment of the Bush administration for exploiting 9/11 in order to push through a whole bunch of polices that would normally be unacceptable to a lot of people who have been in a state of paralysis or even paranoid dementia since the attacks, it works pretty well. Let's see, they've suspended a load of Constitutional rights, they've set up a shadow government composed of their friends, and they've installed a bunch of conspiracy specialists - that is, specialists in creating criminal conspiracies - into the current administration.

I guess that last bit sets off a couple of bells, but I suppose it's not completely deranged to ask why you would hire those people if you didn't have some use for them in mind. On the other hand, I reckon it could just as easily be more of that famous Bush Family loyalty thing, and anyway the Republicans are still angry over the fact that Democrats mercilessly investigated, indicted, and frequently convicted them merely because they had committed high crimes, so maybe it's all just a way to spit in our eye by letting us know that even catching 'em red-handed won't keep them from running the government they believe is theirs by divine right. Nevertheless, the fact that they have made a point of hiring known criminals strikes me as reason enough to throw the bums out.

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Farber points out this article in New Scientist introducing vibrating phones. Not just vibrating when they ring, but vibrating while you talk, in response to deliberate squeezing to punctuate your conversation. Biggest laugh I had all day.

Gary also discusses the lame legal struggle in this story:

School officials in upstate New York will go to federal court today to battle a lawsuit that blocks them from silencing a 5-year-old girl who says grace before her kindergarten snack of cupcakes and milk.

The controversy began Jan. 15 when teacher Lori Maragno hushed Kayla Broadus for saying, "God is good. God is great. Thank you, God, for my food."

Board officials later declared in a letter and press release that the child was prohibited from praying aloud in school. Kayla's mother, Cheryl Broadus, responded by filing a lawsuit Feb. 1 with help from civil rights lawyer Thomas J. Marcelle.

My standard free speech rant would be redundant here, but what I can't help but wonder is whether the kid was actually taught to say the prayer that way or if it was some idiot reporter who missed the rhyme scheme and reversed the first two phrases. (Are you old enough to remember being taught in school to say that prayer over your milk and Graham Crackers? I am. Being force-fed Bible stories, praying in school, and pledging allegiance to the flag are what made me the raving godless left-wing loonie I am today!)

But the whole case still irritates me. Jesus was against public displays of piety, and not without good reason. I bet that, like me, that kid was taught that God could hear her thoughts, too, so why does she have to pray aloud? It's free speech, sure - but as guerilla theater, not religious worship.

Gary is also defending the NYT's lack of bias. There is some good, objective reporting in the paper, it's true, but c'mon, Gary, this is the same paper that published those spurious "Bush still wins" stories after the NORC count showed that Gore won, the same paper that seemed to think the coup in Venezuela was democracy but counting the ballots in Florida was not, and the same paper that thought President Clinton's love life was a more important crime than the combined illegalities of President Bush and his two sons, Governor Bush and Governor Bush. Granted, they do take the occasional "liberal" position (although, in truth, most of them are more mainstream than the right-wing would have you believe), but they spend remarkably little ink defending those positions. They are to the left of Fox News, but that doesn't make them unbiased; 80% of America is to the left of Fox News.

An objective news organ would have insisted on factual reporting of the real Whitewater case (a business partner of Clinton had embezzled), sans the dissembling about how it was all just too complicated to figure out. Their reporter would not have identified the false-witnessing and hatred of Clinton by old-line Arkansas segregationists and criminals as merely "murky" local politics without even an explanation. They would have fired journalists who repeatedly invented nasty stories about Al Gore and would have pulled Frank Bruni off the Bush campaign as soon as they noticed he'd fallen in love with Bush and wasn't covering issues. They would have corrected the record about the debates, demanded that ballots be counted in Florida, and checked the claims of RNC propaganda before publishing them as fact. Rather than leading the pack to try to get Clinton impeached, they would have identified the persecution of the President as what it was: libel and slander. Ditto the smears against Gore.

You can say that "Monica" was an interesting news story, but you can't say that about the orignal Whitewater charges, without which there would have been no "Monica" in the first place, but they kept it fuelled instead of throwing cold water on it early like they should have done. Meanwhile, the current administration is composed almost entirely of well-known perjurers and other criminals, some of whom were arguably guilty of treason, and hey, where's the outrage? Smells like bias to me.

Okay, it isn't as bad as The Washington Post, but, still.

I realize it's the conventional wisdom - that is, the "reasonable, sensible" view - that we should scoff at claims from right and left that the Newspapers of Record are biased, but since it's the same papers that are telling us that, well, they would say that, wouldn't they? And, you know, I'm not really interested in being perceived as "responsible" and "sensible" if it requires me to agree with things I know are not true. I have worked in and written for big city newspapers and I have always known what stories you're allowed to cover and how you're supposed to cover them, and I promise you that even before most of them were owned by huge corporate conglomerates, they always had a conservative bias and it's very definitely gotten worse. It was noticible in the '60s and '70s, worse still in the '80s, but with the advent of very noisy and influential right-wing media (Fox, The Washington Times, etc.) who are taken seriously far out of proportion to their relevence to mainstream American concerns and certainly unjustified by their willingness to properly source their stories, these papers have swung even further to the right, now treating seriously views that were once way too far out in right field to dignify with such treatment, without any corresponding coverage of the progressive left (let alone the correspondingly far left).

Again, consider: A huge majority of Americans (including Republicans) tell pollsters that they would be willing to pay higher taxes for an NHS-style healthcare system, but it gets nary a word of consideration from the mainstream papers, nor does single-payer. More than 60% of those polled during the Florida recount (including Republicans - and including many Bush voters) said that it was important to take the time to count the ballots correctly, but the media instead insisted that speed was of the essence and that Gore, the probable winner, should concede. Most Americans want to preserve Social Security, but the press has for the last several years given far more play to the right-wing canard that the system is about to fail than to the truth. Most Americans want their kids to go to public schools, but the ink goes to Republican talking points about the failure of public schools and the virtue of phony vouchers to send everyone to private schools (yeah, right).

A bit of ineffective lip-service to ending the death penalty because it is "barbaric" or unfair, while spending virtually no ink at all discussing alternatives and why they can work, does not balance out this visible conservative bias. Apparent even-handedness on reproductive choice while adopting right-wing terms like "partial-birth abortion" for late therapeutic terminations isn't really so even-handed. Even editorials condemning censorship don't balance out news stories that explain the Computer Decency Act as a measure to protect children from "smut".

The New York Times is a whole lot better than most newspapers, but your standards have fallen pretty far if you regard it as unbiased.

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Here's a good picture Declan McCullagh took of Whit Diffie.
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Kip Williams told me about this. I can't see much of anything in it but it's called Deep ASCII and it's supposed to be a version of that famous porn film.

Monday, 29 April 2002

18:18 BST: Permalink
No, I can't work out why that black banner below looks wrong in IE (even though it looks fine in Mozilla). If anyone knows what's wrong with my HTML, please don't keep it from me. (Update: I've found something that centers properly but I still preferred the long banner.)

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Even at The Houston Chronicle they know that Tom DeLay is a fanatic:

DeLay proves he's far outside conservative mainstream

Rep. Tom DeLay is entitled by law to his views. However, his advice to parents not to send their children to Baylor or Texas A&M University is conclusive evidence that the House majority whip's views are unfounded and lie far outside the mainstream of conservative thought in America.

At Pearland's First Baptist Church last Friday, DeLay urged about 300 people to pressure state legislators to "bring God in" to Texas' public universities. His implication that religion is banished or discouraged on state campuses is false, as the Sugar Land Republican well knows. State campuses are amply furnished with chapels, chaplains, comparative religion studies and student denominational associations.

DeLay disparaged Baylor apparently because professors of that well-regarded Baptist liberal arts school do not reject evolution and embrace creationism to his satisfaction. His comments, amplified by his press aide, Jonathan Grella, show complete ignorance of Baylor's mission and desire to inculcate Christian ideals. Before spouting off again, DeLay, who was kicked out of Baylor in 1967, should accept the school's invitation to visit, so he might acquaint himself with reality.

DeLay said his daughter attended A&M and was shocked by male and female students who spent weekends together in coed dormitories. His daughter was not so dispirited by her A&M experience that she could not stay on for the full course, graduating in 1995.

Particularly egregious is the view of DeLay and his staff that the powerful congressman should be exempt from public scrutiny. Does DeLay think he can give speeches to hundreds of constituents in quasi-public settings in secret?

DeLay's distaste for Baylor and Texas A&M is part and parcel of his rejection of distinguished scholarship and scientific inquiry and his fanatical desire to transform American government into a theocracy. House Republicans who value reason should reconsider their bizarre commitment to have DeLay replace retiring Rep. Dick Armey as Republican leader in the House.

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This interview of Robert Young Pelton by Mark Scheffler in Salon isn't new but it does give you an insight into why the news we're getting is, um, uninformative:

That's the thing. You hear a lot about the press talking about how they have such limited access, but the military actually says that they can go wherever they want to go.

Well you'll hear this from the military. Every time you ask the military, "OK, I want to be put on a plane and I want to go to the front lines and I need to be back by 5 o'clock," they just laugh, because it's not their responsibility to chauffeur people around and to entertain them and feed them and protect them. But it's also a different country -- it's Afghanistan -- so if you want to go to the front lines in Afghanistan you have to talk to Afghans, and nobody seemed to talk to Afghans. I talked to Afghans. If I want to go into a country, whether it's Algeria or the Philippines or whatever, I don't ask the government's permission.

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Feorag at Pagan Prattle found this one at Ananova:

Sex shop 'haunted by messy prostitutes' ghosts'

The owners of a sex shop in Kent claim their store is haunted by ghosts which throw bras and knickers on the floor.

Staff at Pillow Talk in Margate arrive most mornings to find it in a mess.

Boss Alan Butler thinks the shop is haunted by the employees of a brothel which once stood on the site.

Alas, as the ghosts are so untidy, they are thinking of bringing in a psychic to try to clean the place up permanently.

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Mac Thomason at says:

Ethanol is stupid; it takes more energy to grow, harvest, and refine than it produces. Maybe someday we'll find a better way, and we should experiment, but right now it's nothing but a farm subsidy.
But me, I don't know about this. I can remember that when they did a study to see what it would cost to use alcohol as fuel, they based it entirely on corn. Well, yeah, but you can make alcohol from garbage, so maybe another study is in order first.

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Nicholas Confessore on Leiberman's true colors:

But the best example is Enron. One major reason Democrats have failed to get traction on the issue is that Lieberman has, so far, been unwilling to play hardball as chairman of the Senate's Governmental Affairs Committee. (It's not the only committee investigating Enron, but it has primary jurisdiction over fraud and corruption within the executive branch.) Three months after Lieberman said he would launch an investigation of Enron's collapse, the committee has held only a handful of hearings and has yet to subpoena a single Bush administration official. Instead, Lieberman recently sent "requests" for information to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, and others -- the congressional equivalent of "pretty-please-with-sugar-on-top." (They ignored the deadline for responding.)
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An editorial in The Arkansas Times advises that we Pray Hard:

A mass will be held May 1 at St. Andrew's Cathedral in Little Rock to pray for the judicial system. The judicial system has never needed it more.

The Arkansas lawyers and judges who attend should aim some of their prayers at a special guest, Justice Clarence Thomas of the United States Supreme Court, who will speak at a luncheon following the mass. The blood of democracy is on Thomas' hands. He was one of five justices who rushed past judicial activism all the way to judicial assault, forcing an unelected president on the American people.

District of Columbia Circuit Judge Laurence Silberman needs tons of prayer. He may need impeachment too. In his book, "Blinded by the Right," David Brock, once an intimate of Silberman, says the judge reveled in guerilla politics, conniving with Clinton-haters and conservative crackpots. Silberman is lying low.

A colleague of Silberman's at the D.C. court, Judge David Sentelle, has much to answer for. Sentelle was chiefly responsible for assigning Kenneth Starr to investigate President Bill Clinton, even though he knew Starr was a savage partisan with a personal grudge against Clinton. Exactly the sort of person who should never be appointed "independent counsel," in other words.

The judges of the 8th Circuit Court in St. Louis could use some high-intensity praying, particularly the trio of Pasco Bowman, James Loken and Clarence Beam, who accommodated Starr by removing Judge Henry Woods of Little Rock from one of Starr's Whitewater cases. The judges evidently feared, and with good reason, that Woods would preside impartially. Judicial impartiality was poison to Starr's causes. Like Roy Cohn, he was always more interested in having the right judge than in having the right law.

It'll take long, hard prayer to save Judge John F. Nangle. Nangle not only dismissed ethical complaints brought against Starr by a public-spirited Connecticut lawyer, he ridiculed and threatened the lawyer. When the federal district judges in Arkansas raised similar questions about Starr and asked for an investigation, Nangle denied their request too, and he ordered both request and denial kept secret. Robert Ray, who succeeded Starr, spilled the beans about the judges' petition when he filed his final report on the Whitewater affair. Despite a clear public interest in full disclosure, Nangle keeps the file sealed, for no apparent reason except to shield Starr.

More judicial sinners are the judges who dallied with the Federalist Society, an elitist group funded by Richard Mellon Scaife, the dotty right-wing millionaire who also financed much of the anti-Clinton movement and was a patron of Starr's. Some of the complaints against Starr were about conflicts of interest stemming from the Scaife connection.

The federal court system began to degenerate when Ronald Reagan made conservative ideology and party loyalty the principal qualifications for judicial appointment. It was that kind of judge who appointed George W. Bush president, and now President Bush is appointing that kind of judge. A vicious circle, indeed. One mass will not be nearly enough.

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One day my sister said to me on A.I.M. that she had met Ralph Nader that day and shook his hand and said, "Thank you for giving me someone to vote for." I bit my tongue.

Sunday, 28 April 2002

20:36 BST: Permalink
George Alec Effinger
Remembered with love

Yes, I was one of the many; I adored him. I laughed when he would phone out of nowhere and greet me with, "Do you hate me?" (It was a stitch at restaurants watching waitresses kill themselves to provide attentive service after he'd ask them plaintively, "Why do you hate me?" even though they'd done nothing that should have earned that. He just knew how to get to women, the bastard.) He used to leave open bottles of Coke all over the place (even the edge of the tub) so there'd always be one handy. But he wrote Felicia and When Gravity Fails and a lot of other things, and offered to write another Planet of the Apes Book to pay for it when he knew I had something medical worrying me (I said no; he needed the money for his much more pressing medical problems far more than I did), and he provided a frank and very useful answer when asked about a tricky subject, and for all of those things I owe him a debt of gratitude.

I know we're lucky to have had him as long as we did. Surgeons had carved a tree and branches up and down the front of his torso, removing tumors that would always be replaced by new ones. At one point he ran out of money and a hospital tied up his rights for non-payment, which is why we never had a fourth Marid Audran book, I guess.

I've missed him since moving to England, but you know how it is: you just assume you will see them again because they're an important part of your life, your history. And then they're gone.

Good-bye, Piglet, and thank you for it all.

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Reading the papers:

UK: The big story in Britain is the acquittal of teenagers accused of murdering 10-year-old Damilola Taylor. Big public hue and cry about the outrage of these villains getting off, "failure of justice" blah blah blah. The Telegraph disagrees:

THE acquittal of the four children accused of murdering Damilola Taylor is not necessarily the "failure of British justice" which it has been called. When a jury reaches a "Not guilty" verdict, it is not necessarily the consequence of "something profoundly wrong" with the police or with the judicial system.

On the contrary, one of the strengths of the adversarial system of justice is that the prosecution's evidence is tested in as strong a way possible. If the jury is not convinced that the evidence passes those tests beyond reasonable doubt, then it is their duty to acquit.

Mary Riddell at the Observer agrees:

British justice was registered dead in the moment an Old Bailey jury cleared two brothers, aged 16, of the murder of Damilola Taylor. The trial, with its candyfloss prosecution case, had seemed a travesty. The Taylor family had been betrayed and so had a society illogical enough to think that pity and revulsion could force a popular outcome. But the case fell apart, and the 'untouchables' walked free. There is, some papers mourned, no justice.

The opposite is true. If the fiasco of the Taylor trial proves anything, it is that justice works. Its component parts, from shoddy police work to Crown incompetence, may be damaged. The judge's decision to allow a troubled 14-year-old liar to be torn apart by the defence seemed unwise. But the jury's delivery of the correct and only possible verdict was not a catastrophe for British justice. It was its triumph and its vindication.

Worryingly, though, the Telegraph reports that the Boys cleared of Damilola killing could be tried again:

THE Metropolitan Police hope to find new evidence with which to bring fresh charges against the teenagers who were acquitted last week of the murder of Damilola Taylor.
This is, of course, outrageous. Prosecutors should bring people to trial only after they have compiled a case, and not before. Justice is not served by this kind of thing.

The Torygraph also reports that Mo Mowlam wants to make drugs legal:

FORMER Cabinet minister Mo Mowlam is calling for the legalisation of all drugs, including heroin and cocaine.

Ms Mowlam - who as Cabinet Office minister was responsible for the Government's anti-drugs policy - says legalising and taxing drugs is the only way to deal with the problem.

"I think that is the most effective way because in the end I don't think you could ever stop it," she said. "Why not regulate it, take the tax from it and seriously deal with addiction which has been around since the 1900s?"

I like Mo Mowlem. We once sent out letters to MPs, protesting censorship, and the only positive response we got was a call from Mo who invited me to tea at the Houses of Parliament. "I don't like censorship," she said, and we eagerly explained to her that the things she'd heard about the dangers of pornography had no basis in fact. Not that she was in much of a position to do anything about it with the entire Labour Party doing its best to show it could be just as reactionary as the Tories, but I'm grateful for that one chance to enjoy the unique view of the river and County Hall from that lovely little tea room. It was wonderful.

I didn't see that story in the Observer, but I did find a Simon Garfield article about Linda Lovelace that strikes many of the same notes I did in mine yesterday, only at greater length, titling it Blow for freedom .

Also in the Observer, former Labour leader Neil Kinnock tells Andrew Osborn Why the Left is failing us.

US: In The New York Times, Garry Wills (at last!) addresses the issue of child-molesting priests in his usual thoughtful way with Lies of the Cardinals:

In the year 425, a scandal rocked the African diocese of Bishop Augustine — now known as St. Augustine. A priest in the community attached to the cathedral died and left his personal property to Augustine. A grieving Augustine went before his congregation to say why he felt that he could not accept the bequest. That priest, like others who had entered that community (and like Augustine himself), had sworn to divest himself of all personal property. To take the property would make the community dedicated to the truth of the Gospel a partner in a deceitful transaction.

Augustine said that he would set up a special board, including "loyal and respected brothers from your number, from you, the community," to decide on a division of the property among members of the priest's family. But that was not enough. If one man had broken his vow, why should people not suspect that others might also be doing so? The reputation of the priesthood was at stake: "Neglecting reputation is a way of being cruel to others," Augustine wrote, "especially in a church position such as ours, about which the Apostle Paul wrote to his followers: `Present to everyone a pattern for doing good works.'"
Lying for God is the worst kind of lie. Rather than lie even for a good cause, even for the church, Augustine asked himself what Jesus would do (a question some of our politicians say they use). His answer is stunning: "When I summon up, before what might be called my heart's eyes, the intelligible beauty of Christ, whose mouth never framed the slightest thing false — then, though truth glows with intensity beyond intensity, unstringing my trembling nerves, yet love of that splendor flames through me, making me wish to renounce all human ties that pull me away from such truth."

While I was at the NYT I also thought I'd have a look at the obit pages to see what I missed from last year, and found the one for Rush's role model.

At The Washington Past Mary McGrory takes a look at how democracy has flourished during the Bush administration, in Democracy Takes a Hit:

But the coup didn't work in Venezuela. Democracy prevailed. The man the White House sees as a pluperfect pain in the neck, Chavez, got his job back in 48 hours. The coup collapsed after the two-day president, Carmona, declared he would cancel Congress and fire the Supreme Court. The most conspicuous casualty? America's reputation for promoting democracy, one of the stated goals of our currently confused foreign policy.

The Bush White House insists it had nothing to do with the whole affair, which some considered almost inevitable in view of the recent appointment of Otto Reich to be the State Department's leader on Latin America. Reich is an anti-Castro zealot, and this intrigue on the anniversary of the Bay of Pigs offered a peerless opportunity to get even. The presence of Elliott Abrams on the Bush national security team was considered a factor -- he used to lecture on patriotism to legislators protesting death squads.
Democracy is taking a hit on another continent, too. The president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, is going forward with plans for a referendum on his record -- not exactly a substitute for the election he promised his people.

We are entirely beholden to Pakistan's military dictator, who seized power in a coup 2 1/2 years ago. His cooperation in the war against terrorism is indispensable. As Afghanistan's closest neighbor, he has played a key role in our successes in those inhospitable mountains. His program to crack down on domestic terrorists and Muslim extremists was much appreciated, and it was easy to close our eyes to Pakistan's terrorist activity in Kashmir. In any case, we have had no comment on his plan to hold the referendum, which would prolong his term in office by three years.

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Here's a question from the latest Zogby poll:

On a scale from 1 to 5, where one is least important and five is most important, please rate how important you feel each issue is.


1. Least important
3. Medium importance
5. Most important
Not sure

Wow, that leaves a lot of room for nuance, doesn't it? I think it's really important to rescind the Bush tax cut, but does saying you think taxes are important give someone an excuse to say that you think it's important to cut taxes even more? I wanna know.

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From memory lane: Bush brother declares martial law in Florida

"I hereby declare that a state of emergency exists in the state of Florida...The Authority to suspend the effect of any statute or rule governing the conduct of state business, and further authority to suspend the effect of any order or rule of any government entity...The authority to seize and utilize any and all real or personal property as needed to meet this emergency...The authority to order the evacuation of any or all persons from any location in the State...The authority to regulate the return of the evacuees to their home communities...I hereby order the Adjutant General to activate the Florida National Guard for the duration of this emergency."
~Florida Governor Jeb Bush,
September 11, 2001
[Idaho Observer]
There was a brief flurry of astonishment when Jeb Bush signed Executive Order 01-261 four days earlier, but something else came up, and we forgot.

Saturday, 27 April 2002

14:35 BST: Permalink
I'm actually writing this at what for me is "Friday night" but is really 2:00 AM Saturday morning (BST), but I've just noticed that Free-Online is having scheduled down time so I guess I'll be posting it after I get up in the morning (or afternoon, as is sometimes the case). Hey, at least it's not blogspot, eh?

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Vaara has pointers to some Salman Rushdie stuff and reminds me that I want to start a religious movement for Political Atheism. I call it a religious movement because I figure it's the best way to protect the spiritual from all the nasty grubbers who mercilessly exploit our spiritual feelings in the service of their own power and greed. Being a Political Atheist has nothing to do with whether you believe in god/gods/whatever but rather a public rejection of their attempts to manipulate us into playing their game, whatever our beliefs.

Charles Kuffner is looking at a good example of their games over at his site, in case anyone wondered.

Meanwhile: Imagine.

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I shouldn't let the death of Linda Boreman, formerly known as Linda Marchiano but most famously known as Linda Lovelace, pass without comment.

The public met her as the star of the first porn feature film to have that marvellous innovation, a plot. Granted it wasn't much of a plot, but in a world where porn flicks were rarely more than a bunch of sex acts (and sometimes just fragments of sex acts), the idea that a woman was systematically pursuing sex with a specific goal in mind was something new. Deep Throat made a particular type of sex act a household - well, bedroom, anyway - word, and gave us many other things, not least among them a nickname for a famous government snitch. Not to mention some unfortunate ideas about the best technique for fellatio.

Linda escaped from her authoritarian parents naive and ignorant and all those other good Christian things, and thus totally vulnerable to getting into a really bad relationship with the wrong man. (This doesn't mean he was the wrong man for Marilyn Chambers, a smart woman who does not have the same complaints about him, but he was clearly the wrong man for Linda.) Her first real autobiography, Ordeal, depicted a brutal cohabitation with a man who beat her and forced her to rent her body out for uses she didn't really want any part of. Luckily for her, one of them was starring in that now notorious movie where, she said, she experienced camaraderie with the other professionals on set and, finally, her fame gave her an escape route.

But anti-porn activists saw Linda as a victim and encouraged her to blame not her ubringing or her insensitive partner for the misery she experienced in her relationships, but pornography. No doubt feeling she was being championed (rather than merely exploited again) made her sympathetic to their cause, and she soon became pretty much the poster child for the anti-porn movement.

Yet, a few years ago, she seems to have turned her back on all that, and even gave interviews saying she would be happy to appear in porn again. Genre aficionados and professionals were thunderstruck by the statement, but Susie Bright, like me, understood and wished her luck.

She is survived by an ex-husband who still called her his best friend, two children, and the memory of that brief window in time that many still regard as the golden age of pornographic film, before the anti-porn movement messed things up and, eventually, video changed everything. She'll be hard to forget.

* * * * *
A lot of blogs are talking about books, so perhaps it's time to mention that I recently read Stinger by Nancy Kress. I might not have mentioned it here but for the fact that it's a perfect little story about paranoia and/or conspiracy theories, one of my favorite topics these days. You can find it at Amazon but I recommend against reading the reviews that give too much away.

But as long as I'm talking about books I've been reading, the thing that's really winding me up lately is George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. I rarely recommend books with kings and queens or dragons in them (unless someone's actually asking for fantasy recommendations), but I find these so thoroughly absorbing that months after reading one I still find myself obsessing on it. It's a richly plotted story with great characterizations and twists and turns and loads of interesting places and mysterious things and the suspense is killing me.

* * * * *
On 2002-04-25 04:18:02, on rec.arts.sf.fandom, Susana Serras Pereira ( wrote:

Subject: I come bearing flowers
Virtual flowers, unfortunately.

Twenty eight years and some hours ago, just a few blocks from here, tanks were rolling, the sun was coming up, and some young men were pointing guns at each other. They were all very nervous, many were very, very young, and many were crying. They were soldiers, and many of them were about to disobey orders. About to decide they would not, could not, shoot each other.

It was all so quick, and yet it seems like forever when you watch the films and read the reports. It was just one bright day for freedom to be born, but it was precarious forever. People filled the streets so quickly, so spontaneously, so completely, and when you see them now, hanging from trees, kissing each other, embracing strangers, standing on walls and tanks and yelling god knows what, yelling anything, laughing, when you see that now, it seems it was inevitable, and swift.

And yet, there were the all hours that Salgueiro Maia stood outside the Carmo, megaphone in hand, all the endless back and forth of conflicting information, all of the nervous shots, every dreadfull minute until the end of the regime was agreed to, facetiously, by a regime that thought it would probably turn it all around the next day, every stinking minute of the parley with a minister who had shit his pants, every pathetic incident, taking headquarters and finding holes dug in walls, and the rats escaped, making the final awful concession of getting a general to hold provisional power so the power "would not fall on the street", never the street, which was so frighteningly alive with the people. It was forever that day. It was precarious, fraught and slow.

And beautiful.

And twenty eight years ago. Twenty eight years we have been free, twenty eight years we have been precarious and every negotiation has been fraught and slow.

In those old films, everyone looks young -- everything was, young, and new, and scary. Twenty eight years, and the commemorations are official, stodgy, reluctant, and forgotten.

Except. Except there will be people marching today, and there are going to be carnations in the hands of people who want to remember, and to keep it all young, new, and, yes, a little scary. Being free should be frightening, it should keep you awake.

That dawn, the flower sellers, who might have been taken with the euphoria of change, or taken with the handsome soldiers, or just plain realized they wouldn't be making money that day, started giving their flowers away. The soldiers, just boys, dazed, were waving carnations in the air, sticking them in their rifles, giving them away.

Bright and red, and unplanned, I bring them, to mark that first day.

Happy 25th of April!

Happy freedom to you all! And may you guard it well, and be awake.

(I'm back, I think, but not till later today: I have to go and yell, and hug some people, and wave carnations.)

Friday, 26 April 2002

16:16 BST: Permalink
Things have gone a little weird at The Mighty Organ, so Val Stevenson has started a new website at Not much up there yet, but Tanya Reinhart does have a piece about Jenin and how the government's propaganda war is playing in Israel:

It may take a while before we (Israelis) start to digest what we did in Jenin. I don't have the words yet to speak about my shame, my horrible pain for the Palestinian people. Therefore I speak about what we did to ourselves. A dear friend of mine was murdered three days ago in a trip in Sinai - a painter and computer expert, in the draft resistance circle. By informal reports, his murderer was an Egyptian who sought revenge for the murder of the Palestinians. He could not distinguish between my friend and the nice reserve fellows from Jenin that we saw and heard so much about the last few days. In fact, they do look similar, and many of these guys are also in computer business. Itai Angel, the young journalist who interviewed reservists on channel 2 TV news last Friday night, has possibly managed to convince many in our little bubble that such nice guys, by their very nature, cannot possibly, commit a massacre. Therefore, there was no massacre - there was a fierce battle and we are OK. But outside our bubble, nobody watches Itai Angel. They watch the ruins of Jenin. We are turning the whole Muslim world against us.
* * * * *
At Online Journal, another look at George W. Bush's distinguished military career:

November 4, 2000 | Here comes the other shoe to the denials and cries of "desperation" from the George W. Bush camp: A former officer in the Texas National Guard says an aide to George W. Bush scrubbed Bush's military records to get rid of the disparities between those files and an account of Bush's military service in his official biography.

Bill Burkett, a former lieutenant colonel in the Guard, said, "As the State Plans Officer for the Texas National Guard, I was on full-time duty at Camp Mabry when [Bush aide] Dan Bartlett was cleansing the George W Bush file prior to G.W.'s presidential announcement. For most soldiers at Camp Mabry, this was a generally known event. The archives were closely scrutinized to make sure that the Bush autobiography plans and the record did not directly contradict each other. In essence it was the script of the autobiography which Dan Bartlett and his small team used to scrub a file to be released. This effort was further involved by General Daniel James and Chief of Staff William W. Goodwin at Camp Mabry."

Burkett stated, "I knew one person who worked within the records scrub who commented to me, while at the smoke area, that the Bush files really showed some problems with his 'blue-blood service record.'"

* * * * *
Before you get too complacent, it's always helpful to read George F. Will:

Judging by his nominees so far, Bush will splendidly staff the federal judiciary (half of it, if he serves two terms), but not until Republicans control the Senate. They will be more apt to do that if he campaigns on the issue of judicial activism. His tax cuts will do more than Republican congressional majorities would do to limit government activism. His education bill deeply disappointed only those conservatives who mistakenly want education reform driven by Washington. And concerning the most momentous policy problem, conservatives cannot fault either the substance of Bush's decisions on biomedical matters (cloning, stem cells) or the seriousness with which he has arrived at that substance.

Which is why conservatives in the capital should be more like conservatives across the country: on balance, quite pleased.

* * * * *
Terry Jones (yes, that Terry Jones) comments in The Observer on the Venezuelan coup:

After last weekend's shocking events in Venezuela, in which President Chavez was ousted in a free and fair democratic coup, only to be returned to office two days later on what seems to have been little more than the whim of the people, the leaders of the Free World have clearly been forced to reconsider the nature of democracy.

When asked whether the Bush administration now recognised President Chavez as Venezuela's legitimate President, a spokesman for President Bush conceded that although Mr Chavez 'was democratically elected' one had to bear in mind that 'legitimacy is something that is conferred not just by a majority of the voters, however' [sic].

Clearly, this involves a fundamental re-evaluation of what we understand by democracy, and I offer here some thoughts on the principles - other than counting votes - which might confer legitimacy.

Since its ground-breaking experiments in vote-counting in Florida two years ago, the United States has been universally recognised as the chief innovator in the field of democratic principles. Therefore, one of the factors that must surely confer legitimacy on any democracy would be approval by the United States.

* * * * *
Some people got upset at Paul Krugman for his piece in The New York Times Tuesday about The Angry People. Krugman begins like this:

A slightly left-of-center candidate runs for president. In a rational world he would win easily. After all, his party has been running the country, with great success: unemployment is down, economic growth has accelerated, the sense of malaise that prevailed under the previous administration has evaporated.

But everything goes wrong. His moderation becomes a liability; denouncing the candidate's pro-market stance, left-wing candidates — who have no chance of winning, but are engaged in politics as theater — draw off crucial support. The candidate, though by every indication a very good human being, is not a natural campaigner; he has, say critics, "a professorial style" that seems "condescending and humorless" to many voters. Above all, there is apathy and complacency among moderates; they take it for granted that he will win, or that in any case the election will make little difference.

The result is a stunning victory for the hard right. It's by and large a tolerant, open-minded country; but there is a hard core, maybe 20 percent of the electorate, that is deeply angry even in good times. And owing to the peculiarities of the electoral system, this right-wing minority prevails even though more people actually cast their votes for the moderate left.

If all this sounds like a post-mortem on the Gore campaign in 2000, that's intentional. But I'm actually describing Sunday's shocking election in France, in which the current prime minister, Lionel Jospin, placed third, behind the rabid rightist Jean-Marie Le Pen. Until very recently, Mr. Le Pen was regarded as a spent force. Now he has scored an astonishing triumph.

What appears to have upset people is Krugman drawing a parallel between the likes of Tom DeLay and John Ashcroft and France's Le Pen - and suggestion that things are worse in the US than in France, because:

Now for the important difference. Mr. Le Pen is a political outsider; his showing in Sunday's election puts him into the second-round runoff, but he won't actually become France's president. So his hard-right ideas won't be put into practice anytime soon.

In the United States, by contrast, the hard right has essentially been co-opted by the Republican Party — or maybe it's the other way around. In this country people with views that are, in their way, as extreme as Mr. Le Pen's are in a position to put those views into practice.

Consider, for example, the case of Representative Tom DeLay. Last week Mr. DeLay told a group that he was on a mission from God to promote a "biblical worldview," and that he had pursued the impeachment of Bill Clinton in part because Mr. Clinton held "the wrong worldview." Well, there are strange politicians everywhere. But Mr. DeLay is the House majority whip — and, in the view of most observers, the real power behind Speaker Dennis Hastert.

As I remarked in a comment at Oliver Willis' site, all the evidence you need that these people wish to impose their unconstitutional and unpopular views on America is right there in that quote. After all, he believed it appropriate to impeach a president merely because he disagreed with him. Meanwhile, a correspondent wrote to Atrios pointing out that Le Pen is not a million miles away from the Republican leadership in policy matters, proposing to:

-Eliminate the income tax
-Eliminate the inheritance tax
-Withdraw from international environmental treaties
-Recognize that human life begins at conception
-Outlaw abortion
-Eliminate civil unions for same-sex couples
-Reinstitute the death penalty
-Partially privatize the state pension system

Call Le Pen what you want, but don't try to tell us he wouldn't, if he were in the U.S., be right in the mainstream of the GOP.

And it wouldn't matter what else he believed or intended, because if the Republican party nominated someone with Le Pen's beliefs as their presidential candidate, the press would ignore his anti-semitism and treat him seriously, and the American public would simply find it too implausible that such a person could have received a major party nomination and thus when it was pointed out by "Democratic partisans" (as all who opposed him would be defined) they simply wouldn't believe it. This is precisely what happened with George Bush, isn't it? Too many people just couldn't accept that he was really that incompetent, mean-spirited, dishonest, and completely unsympathetic with the principal concerns of most Americans. And the only reason there hasn't been open revolt against Bush's policies, and particularly his tax cuts, is because most people simply do not believe they are what they are. (And why should they? Even most Congressional Democrats don't have the guts to come out and say that they should never have been passed and must be rescinded.)

* * * * *
Eric Alterman has a look at Frank Bruni's book about candidate Bush:

New York Times reporter Frank Bruni has written an instructive, important book about the state of modern American political campaigns and American democracy. Unfortunately, he appears to have done so by accident. Bruni's Ambling into History purports to be a laser-like examination of President Bush's character through the eyes of his most prestigious and perhaps most intimate campaign chronicler -- a Teddy White for our time. And while it's not without insight into Bush the person, it's more valuable as an exhibit -- rather than a study -- of the dangerously degraded state of our political debate.

Bruni's field of study is an inch wide and an inch deep. As difficult as it may be to imagine, this Times reporter has written an account of the 2000 presidential campaign that contains nary a word about health care, Social Security, tax cuts, the Middle East conflict, missile defense or, God forbid, global warming. Genuine issues are apparently better left to the wonks at the Brookings Institution. We learn precisely how many seconds the Bushes danced at each of the inaugural balls but precious little that would prepare us to understand what the president might be doing the next day when he went to work. We get an awful lot about Bush advisers' secret smiles, nods, and winks laden with deep meanings, and a near-semiotic reading of the syllables uttered by the book's subject in the presence of the author.

Thursday, 25 April 2002

12:55 BST: Permalink
Lewis Lapham is not happy with the media:

Lapham is most dismayed that he has been accused of being unpatriotic, when he isn't. "In a democracy, the most valuable quality is candor," he said. "Democracy works best when people try to tell each other the truth. That's not what we've got. We've got a lot of cant."
* * * * *
Let's face it, the minute you heard about Bush nominating Otto Reich to his cabinet, you had to wonder what sort of messes he'd be creating in South America. And when you heard about the coup in Venezuela, didn't you have that sneaking suspicion that Reich had to have his hand in it somewhere? Bush had to give him the job without Senate confirmation because everyone knows what kind of trouble-maker he is. The San Antonio Express-News insists he's the wrong man for the job:

After President Bush nominated him to be assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, Otto Reich did not receive Senate confirmation — for good reason.

Reich, a Cuban-born American who despises Fidel Castro, was a figure in the Iran-Contra scandal that rocked the Reagan administration in the mid-1980s.

In early January, taking advantage of a loophole that allows a president to push through nominations of non-Cabinet members when the Senate is in recess, Bush appointed Reich to a one-year term.

Now he is paying dearly. Reich was a central figure in the failed April 11 military coup in Venezuela. Long before and during the brief ousting of President Hugo Chávez, Reich was in touch with leading Chávez opponents. This nation then fumbled its response to the coup.

The United States can't afford further fiascoes in Latin America. In nations such as Mexico and Argentina, even though they are not friends of Chávez, Washington appeared hypocritical in supporting a coup against a democratically elected president.

Bush, who wants to negotiate a free-trade agreement with the Western Hemisphere nations, should reconsider his support for Reich. The White House needs someone who can mend fences in the region, not someone who is widely distrusted.

* * * * *
Ethel the Blog finds an interview with the Lebanese ambassador to the US and thinks someone might be biased:

Fox Interviewer: Mr. Ambassador, do you consider Hizbollah a terrorist organization?

Abboud: Yes, Sharon is a terrorist!

FI: Mr. Ambassador, this was not my question. I asked you about the operations of Hizbollah in the targeting and killing of innocent civilians. How do you view Hizbollah?

A: Yes, Sharon the terrorist has killed thousands upon thousands of civilians. He is the biggest terrorist out there!

* * * * *
Some links I found on rec.arts.sf.fandom:

1) More for my file on the virtues of so-called "intellectual property theft" on the 'net as a promotional tool, this time on books. The verdict from Eric Flint is that free unencrypted books make money:

Jim Baen and I set up the Free Library about a year and half ago. Leaving aside the various political and philosophical issues, which I've addressed elsewhere, the premise behind the Library had a practical component as well. In brief, that in relative terms an author will gain, not lose, by having titles in the Library.

What I mean by "relative" is simply this: overall, an author is far more likely to increase sales than to lose them. Or, to put it more accurately, exposure in the Library will generate more sales than it will lose.

As a practical proposition, the theory behind the Free Library is that, certainly in the long run, it benefits an author to have a certain number of free or cheap titles of theirs readily available to the public. By far the main enemy any author faces, except a handful of ones who are famous to the public at large, is simply obscurity. Even well-known SF authors are only read by a small percentage of the potential SF audience. Most readers, even ones who have heard of the author, simply pass them up. Why? In most cases, simply because they don't really know anything about the writer and aren't willing to spend $7 to $28 just to experiment. So, they keep buying those authors they are familiar with.

What the Free Library provides - as do traditional libraries, or simply the old familiar phenomenon of friends lending each other books - is a way for people to investigate a new author for free, before they plunk down any money.
The first title to go up into the Library was my own novel, Mother of Demons. That was my first published novel, which came out in print in September of 1997. At the time it went into the Free Library, in the fall of 2000, that novel had sold 9,694 copies, with a sell-through of 54%. As of today, according to Baen Books - a year and a half after being available for free online to anyone who wants it, no restrictions and no questions asked - Mother of Demons has sold about 18,500 copies and now has a sell-through of 65%.

2) Bruce Schneier on How to Think About Security

If security has a silly season, we're in it. After September 11, every two-bit peddler of security technology crawled out of the woodwork with new claims about how his product can make us all safe again. Every misguided and defeated government security initiative was dragged out of the closet, dusted off, and presented as the savior of our way of life. More and more, the general public is being asked to make security decisions, weigh security tradeoffs, and accept more intrusive security.

Unfortunately, the general public has no idea how to do this.

But we in computer security do. We've been doing it for years; we do it all the time. And I think we can teach everyone else to do it, too. What follows is my foolproof, five-step, security analysis. Use it to judge any security measure.

Well, he'd be the first guy you'd ask.

3) The Secret message of Coca Cola

Wednesday, 24 April 2002

17:45 BST: Permalink
I've been seeing a number of articles recently remarking on how DNA evidence has freed yet another victim from Death Row, and how this proves we really ought to have DNA testing so that we can be assured that we don't murder any more innocent people. And, of course, I do agree that we should be using every means at our disposal to assure that we don't convict the innocent. But I find it alarming that there seem to be so many people who believe that DNA evidence alone is all we need to have that assurance, as if there always is DNA evidence available in every crime. But criminals, believe it or not, may somehow manage to inconvenience us by failing to be so obliging as to leave us enough evidence. Finally, Richard Cohen looks at the issue:

Ray Krone owes his freedom to the simple fact that whoever killed Kim Ancona drooled on her. The killer also sexually assaulted her, but no semen was ever recovered, and he also bit her, leaving tooth marks that one expert in such matters said matched Krone's. As sometimes happens, another expert held another view -- but the jury was never told this. Krone was sentenced to die.

Earlier this month, he became the 100th person freed from prison after having been on death row. He had already served 10 years before a DNA test proved that the saliva found on Ancona could not have been Krone's. He was free to go on his merry way -- and sorry about those 10 years, Ray.

What would have happened, you might wonder, had the actual killer just kept his mouth shut? In that case, you would have had your run-of-the-mill murder, a stabbing in which DNA played no role whatever -- nothing to prove, nothing to disprove. This is usually the case with murder. Shoot someone from the customary 10 paces, and you get no exchange of bodily fluids. If the wrong man is convicted, tough. The wrong man is executed.

Of course, when innocent people are finally freed in cases like this, or other cases where, say, college students in Illinois give closer scrutiny to the rest of the evidence than the defense lawyers ever did, death penalty advocates insist that this proves that the system works. It works! Innocent men spent years in prison and would have lost their lives if they hadn't had the good luck to be someone's class project, and the system works. Bloody hell, murderers will grasp at any excuse, won't they?

* * * * *
Last month I cited a letter in The Washington Post that confused the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee with "the hard left". I suppose the right-wingers who complain about the "liberal media" might be making mistakes like that because the mass media seldom tells them what real liberals let alone the "hard left" actually think. But I don't think we'll be hearing anything like this from the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee:

In these dangerous times, when our hearts and our wills are tested by powers and ideologies that seek to destroy the great vision this country was founded on, it is necessary to speak clearly and plainly what it is we believe in and why we fight. We must plant our flag in the sand, we must claim and do battle for what is ours, we must strike at our enemies fearlessly and righteously with every power at our command, for our sake, and for the sake of the future.

It is necessary for us to have a goal above and beyond just confronting the opposition either personally or because of what we feel their policies are doing to damage the country and destabilize the world. It is important for people to have something to vote for. The enemies of freedom, that is, the political leadership of the Republican Party and the corporate oligarchy that supports them, are experts at pointing out in no uncertain terms the many things they are against, but they have no vision apart from that. They will say any lie, kill any person, ridicule any idea, support any evil, oppose any kindness, and ruin any government to assure their continued domination of our lives for their profit.

This entire administration is based on fraud. They have lied to the American public about their goals from the beginning, they have used the power of government to enable them to amass more money than any small group of people could possibly earn honestly, and have in turn used that money to keep and hold political power. And they will not stop until they have destroyed the freedoms they lie about believing in. They want to establish a new aristocracy; a government of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and for the wealthy. And those not fortunate enough to have been born into this wealth, or those who refuse to sell their souls to the Almighty Dollar, will spend their entire lives being wage slaves to this new aristocracy. They get away with these lies because the same people who are corrupting the government are corrupting the media, their interests are the same.

To some of you, this is hardly a new message. You work hard for a living, harder than you should, earning just enough money to cover your debts. You read in the news, or see on TV, on those rare occasions where such things are even publicized, about an incompetent CEO who got fired, only to get a severance package worth more money than you will ever see in your entire lifetime. You find yourself paying more and more taxes so that the new aristocracy can pay less. And all you see on the television and all hear (especially) on the radio is how these people have somehow earned their money, and how, by implication, you are a lower form of life, born into servitude and destined to remain there.

* * * * *
Patrick provides this astonishing quote from Microsoft:

It is a legal requirement that pre-installed operating systems remain with a machine for the life of the machine. If a company or individual donates a machine to your school, it must be donated with the operating system that was installed on the PC.
Pick your jaw up off the floor, please.

Patrick also finds another example of stupid Republican tricks.

* * * * *
In Salon, a Carol Lay cartoon explains the administration's energy policy.

Also from Salon, a look at Brock's book and wimpy Democrats offers this observation:

No news organization sullied itself more during the Clinton years than the Wall Street Journal. The tabloidization of the Journal's editorial pages in the service of the get-Clinton propaganda campaign is one of the great scandals of American journalism. It was one thing for publisher Peter Kann, long before Clinton, to encourage editorial czar Robert Bartley to turn his pages into a forum for aggressive conservatism. It was quite another to allow Bartley and his fellow zealots to publish every crackpot defamation of the Clintons that excreted its way into the right's imagination. They loudly and repeatedly suggested that White House counsel Vincent Foster had been murdered (perhaps, Brock surmises, to deflect attention from their own role in his death; Foster, clearly ill equipped for Washington's increasingly savage climate, pointed to "WSJ editors [who] lie without consequence" in his suicide note). They brooded obsessively about "mysterious Mena," the Arkansas airport where Clinton and his cronies allegedly trafficked in drugs and where "Clinton death squads" murdered two teenagers to cover up their nefarious business. It is unclear whether Bartley, who emerges as one of the strangest fishes in Brock's weird aquarium, really believed any of this Clinton frothing or whether he had simply sold his journalistic soul to the far right. But the more important question is why the top editors and executives of the Journal allowed him to get away with it. Bartley no longer runs the Journal's opinion section; he's been kicked up the corporate stairs. But in his golden years he has been awarded his very own column, where recently he took a typically wild swipe at Brock as "the John Walker Lindh of contemporary conservatism." Like his fellow right-wing propagandists, Bartley could offer nothing of substance to rebut Brock.
And also says this:

There's a chance, of course, that Al Gore has learned to become a winner during his long, dark night of the soul following Florida and what Toobin calls "the crime against democracy." But he has to prove it, and it won't -- nor should it be -- easy. The Democratic Party should treat him as just one more candidate for its 2004 nomination, putting him through the type of crucible he was largely able to avoid in the 2000 primary contest. During the upcoming primary season, the winning Democratic candidate must show that he or she can not only weather the most withering assaults, but punch back, cleanly and devastatingly. The Democrats will need a Kennedy or Clinton-style battler to face the Bush reelection machine in 2004, because the Bush dynasty has amply demonstrated it will do whatever it takes to win. And the Republican candidate will be surrounded by a movement of true believers that, as David Brock has revealed in gory detail, will do even more than that.
* * * * *
At Junius, Chris Bertram examines questions about the NHS.

* * * * *
Play miniature golf.

Tuesday, 23 April 2002

18:46 BST: Permalink
The news that MSNBC is hiring Phil Donahue has been met largely with smirks - after all, he's so old (hell, he's older than I am - this guy had grey hair back when I was still skinny), but Jeremy Lott suggests that maybe it's not such a dumb idea:

Could going the atheist-Nader route create a new television audience? Well, 2.8 million people in this country did vote for Nader, and when polled perhaps as many as 14 percent of the U.S. population describes itself as non-religious. That's not exactly a small swath of the American population. Maybe MSNBC is on to something after all.

MSNBC's brass has, at different points, whispered that it isn't interested in siphoning off viewers from O'Reilly. Normally that could be dismissed as advance spin to lower expectations -- what cable channel wouldn't give its right arm for a shot at even a third of O'Reilly's viewers? -- but MSNBC President Erik Sorenson has been saying some interesting things about the hire and about his company that force us to consider the possibility that they may be true.

In Sorenson's estimation, his hiring of the explicitly Naderite Donahue represents "counter-programming" to O'Reilly. Indeed, this appears to be the view that he is taking of the channel as a whole. A memo released to MSNBC staff on April 11 and leaked to The Associated Press said that the channel's image should be "fiercely independent." It also took a shot at Fox News's claims of being "fair and balanced" by saying that MSNBC would showcase "real fairness." Some news channels, Sorenson complained, "stack the deck with partisans from one side and offset them with patsies from the other. But our channel is not partisan and has no agenda, other than to serve the American people, serve our viewers, give them in-depth coverage and thorough analysis."

At first glance, Sorenson's notion that one highlights one's fairness or nonpartisanship by hiring Phil Donahue, a screaming leftist and atheist, seems curious. But perhaps it's not the extreme nature of Donahue's views that count so much as the fact that they're remarkably underrepresented in cable news. MSNBC may be attempting a true rarity in this media age: letting a thousand flowers bloom.

Gee, what an idea - one genuinely left-wing voice to counter, um, a whole raft of raving loony right-wingers on cable (and in Congress). I guess it's a start.

* * * * *
Salon interviews Todd Gitlin:

Is there an oversaturation point in place with the news, so that we no longer care about the real issues at hand?

Definitely. Most Americans still think violent crime is increasing, when it isn't. The local news and the cop shows cultivate this fancy. Some of these binges have more staying power than others, but they suck all of the oxygen out of the mental room. So they contribute to a national attention deficit disorder. While we're doing OJ, OJ is the biggest character in the national news, and then we're onto, briefly, Marv Albert, or Kathy Lee and Frank Gifford. Other stories have more legs. I've been realizing that during the year 1998, when bin Laden walked into national life by organizing the massacre at the two embassies in Africa, obviously that was a news story, but it pretty much came and went, while of course, the big story was Monica and Bill.

And Clinton's retaliation for the bombings was dismissed as "wagging the dog."

But that was also because of the political game the Republicans were playing, namely suggesting that there's a domestic motive for fighting against terrorists. There's a political corruption here, too. Of course, if the Democrats tried that this year, they'd be creamed for it.

* * * * *
In The Washington Post, David Bromwich looks at More Than One Evil:

If you commit acts of terror or subsidize such acts, or if you harbor terrorists, you are our enemy, and we will treat you as an enemy. That is the Bush doctrine. Israel was plainly acting in conformity with the doctrine when it began its military campaign to "uproot" terrorists from the West Bank. Yet one cannot have followed the news of this campaign without a growing conviction that something went terribly wrong.

The makers of the Bush doctrine invented a simple test, but one that does not lend itself to ready application. How do you gauge the true loyalties of people who live in the neighborhood of terrorists? The doctrine says that only evil people could fail to resist the agents of evil. It neglects the possibility that some may fail to resist because they are afraid, or because they are confused by the presence of more than one evil.

15:50 BST: Permalink
Last Wednesday J. Bradford DeLong presented:
2002-04-17: The Morrison Plan for Peace in the Middle East

A crack group of political scientists, social psychologists, techno-libertarians, socialist-technoids, and others, meeting at a secret base under the Antarctic have come up with a plan for peace in the Middle East: the Morrison Plan.

It has six simple parts:

(1) U.S. sealift command to move all Israelis to Utah immediately.

(2) U.S. airlift command to move all Palestinians to Afghanistan (alternatively, western Australia: the only desert even further from the Utah high desert than Afghanistan) immediately.

(3) No right of return for any of them, ever, to any spot in former cis-Jordan British Mandate Palestine. Any who violate this provision to be shot on sight immediately.

(4) Former cis-Jordan British Mandate Palestine to be rented out by the U.N. to the Walt Disney Corporation to establish religious-historical theme park: "Holy Land."

(5) Walt Disney Corporation to have all rights of high and low justice in "Holy Land," without appeal.

(6) Rent paid by Walt Disney Corporation to finance all other U.N. activities.

* * * * *
Let's look at Ted Rall:

You didn't have to blink to miss it. Let the record show that George W. Bush, reconstituted Cold Warrior and ardent defender of democracy, has suffered his first Bay of Pigs. Whether this experience will chasten him as much as it did JFK remains to be seen.
Hm. I think I detect a historical error, here. (And who does Rall think he's fooling with that "remains to be seen"?)

"According to the best information we have, the government suppressed what was a peaceful demonstration of the people," said Fleischer, in reference to an April 11th incident in which armed men wearing clothes indicating loyalty to Chávez shot 13 anti-government strikers to death and wounded more than 100.
I bet he was embarrassed when he found out they weren't even Chevez loyalists.

Was Fleischer suggesting that the Kent State shootings in 1970 should have precipitated a coup to remove President Richard Nixon?
Heh. Okay, I'll give him that one.

Speaking of that, August J. Pollak cited Rall for something earlier on and has posted a response to people who mailed him about it and about his complaints of a plot-change in the administration's war story.

And he also points to this article from William F. Buckley:

My vote is that Ariel Sharon's offensive is the stupidest campaign in recent memory. Defined here as a campaign that has solved nothing, increased Israel's problems, intensified Palestinian hatred of Israel, estranged many Europeans and Americans, and fanned Islamic hostility. What is General Sharon up to?
* * * * *
American Politics Journal has many juicy items, including Tamara Baker on Louis Freeh:

Here's the deal: Freeh, who had been appointed to a judgeship by Poppy Bush in 1991, was picked by Clinton to head the FBI as a way of showing evenhandedness towards his political foes. Mr. Freeh, in typical GOP fashion, did not return Bill Clinton's graciousness.

Louis Freeh, in fact, hated Bill Clinton so much that he actively worked with Clinton's enemies to undermine his presidency -- and in the meantime, enabled Robert Hanssen to operate undetected for decades.

Tamara points to stories in Business Week and The Palm Beach Post on how Freeh ignored a presidential order that required him to take note of employees who were spending beyond their means. He bungled a lot of other things, too - including Waco - but got away with it because all his Clinton-hating pals think helping them try to bring down a Democratic President was more important than protecting America and Americans.

* * * * *
Having looked at single-payer and NHS style health care, I can hardly ignore this Krugman article:

The Bush administration really, really dislikes sharing information with Congress. Dick Cheney refuses to release the records of his energy task force; Tom Ridge won't testify on homeland security; and last week Thomas Scully defied a subpoena from the Small Business Committee.

Who? What? If you are an American over 65, or are considering becoming one, you should pay more attention. Mr. Scully, you see, is the director of Medicare and Medicaid. The specific issue on which he refused to testify — payments to providers of portable X-ray machines — sounds arcane. But the real story here is the collision between tax-cut myths and fiscal reality, with Medicare caught in the middle.

The background is the recent surge in health-care expenses. During the 1990's the rise of H.M.O.'s put a squeeze on medical bills; now there is nothing left to squeeze. So H.M.O.'s are sharply increasing their payments to health-care providers, and the federal programs overseen by Mr. Scully are under pressure to follow suit. Since these programs cost more than national defense, we're talking about a lot of money here.

Still, if medical care is a priority, which it surely is for the voters, why doesn't the government simply provide the necessary resources? You already know the answer: it's hard to reconcile realistic spending increases with plans for more tax cuts.

Last year the administration claimed that it could easily cut taxes without tapping the Social Security surplus. Those claims were false, but Sept. 11 provided cover: who cares about lockboxes when we're in pursuit of evildoers?

True, skeptics have raised a few questions. Given that we face a major new demand on the budget, shouldn't we reconsider a tax cut proposed in more peaceful times? (Instead, the administration wants to make the tax cut permanent.) Don't taxes normally go up in wartime, as a matter of shared sacrifice? And isn't it a little strange, given all the martial rhetoric, that the administration's recent 10-year budget proposal allocated more money to a second round of tax cuts ($665 billion) than it did to new defense spending ($625 billion)?

But as the cartoonist Tom Tomorrow has explained, the answer to all such questions is, "Why do you hate America?" A patriotic public is in no mood to question its leader's policies.

The really amazing thing is that raiding the lockbox wasn't enough. In the name of fighting terrorism the administration has in effect diverted $2 trillion of Social Security surpluses, previously pledged to debt reduction, to cover the revenue losses from tax cuts. But realistic projections now show permanent deficits in the federal budget as a whole. This threatens the administration's story line, which says that now is the time for even more tax cuts.
And that brings us back to Mr. Scully's defiance. Any health-care professional will tell you that Medicare's payment rates are increasingly inadequate. Many physicians now turn away Medicare patients; and service providers, like the companies that do X-rays at nursing homes, are going out of business. When Mr. Scully discovered that he would have to face some of those service providers, he walked out. You can't blame him (except that he was breaking the law). After all, he's under orders to keep those numbers down.

Saturday, 20 April 2002

20:47 BST: Permalink
"Charles Dodgson" considers the commentary on the administration's performance in foreign policy, expressing something less than admiration for the rationalizers of the Middle-east muddle (yeah, yeah, it's all a clever ploy, you bet) and those who accept the Washington line on the Venezuelan coup ("With 'anti-Idiotarians' like these, who needs idiots?"):

As to putting the grownups in charge, Bush at points last week was notoriously clueless about the policy and statements of his own administration. And then there's the Venezuela business, which seems more and more like the Mad Magazine version of a novel by John le Carré.

So far, this is all just embarrassing. But a war with Iraq could make things worse in a hurry. Are we sure they know what they're doing?

And in related matters, Dodgson is also useful on another subject:

In the wake of September 11th, one of the first concrete responses from Congress was the passage of a bill which rescinded certain CIA regulations concerning dealings with thugs, imposed in 1995.

Administration war hawks claimed these rules prevented the CIA from making deals with bad actors which were necessary for it to do its job. In fact, the regulations in question did nothing of the sort. They still allowed the CIA to deal with anyone it liked. They just required that before initiating dealings with death squad leaders, drug dealers, and assorted murderous thugs, field agents should check with headquarters. Explaining why that was a bad idea is left as an exercise for Dick Cheney.

* * * * *
The Washington Post has printed responses to the article on affirmative action I referred to last Tuesday:

Goodwin Liu's brilliant, comprehensive and meticulously documented arguments against Allen Bakke's case for admission to medical school were compelling, to say the least. He's even convinced me that Bakke would not have gained admission absent a quota. But as an implicit defense of quota systems, Liu's article was a red herring from start to finish. Quota systems are inappropriate, not because they disadvantage non-minorities but because they introduce standards of selection for schools and jobs that are irrelevant to success at those schools and jobs.

I agree with Liu that measures other than the SAT and grade-point average should be considered. But improving the validity of selection methods should have nothing to do with ancestry. Whatever additional measures and standards are used should be applied equally, without regard to ethnic identity. Diversity is a reasonable social policy but only if achieved through outreach and then applied to a pool of otherwise qualified candidates capable of evolving into competent practitioners. [Angelo Mirabella]

This is an argument that looks good on the surface and which I'm sure I'd fall for if I didn't know better. The quality of a doctor can't be determined by how well they do in med school, but by how well their patients thrive in their care.

You can't judge by their performance as your doctor. The same practitioner who provides excellent care to the white residents of Chevy Chase can turn out to be an abysmal doctor to poor black kids. A lot of it has to do with how well people relate across race and class barriers, and many doctors who do a fine job within their own race and class might just as well be trying to breathe in water if you take them out of their neighborhood. Some of it is about racism on the part of doctors, or about cultural ignorance on their part. Some of it is just a bit more specific to biological concerns, and you may find that a doctor who is not from your ethnic group simply doesn't recognize what is normal within it. Some of it has to do with how fully the patients trust the doctor; unhelpful prejudices can work in both directions. There are a number of factors but the bottom line is that minorities need access to minority doctors.

Again: your class full of high-quality, all-white graduates will provide no better care - and possibly even worse care - to minorities than the lower-performing minority graduates who were admitted under affirmative action programs. What this means is that no matter how good your graduating docs are, if they are all white, the standard of care for minority patients will decline. In a perfect, color-blind world this would not be an issue, but we don't live in that world. For the present, there must be minority doctors, and if affirmative action is the only way to get them, then we really do need affirmative action.

* * * * *
Atrios is defending my position in regard to Cynthia McKinney's statement after Charles Kuffner disagreed with me. I think the points Atrios makes are good ones, but where I take issue with Kuffner is where he says:

I agree with Carol that McKinney asks some good questions, but I don't think a government investigation is needed to answer them. I'm quite sure there are plenty of reporters and writers who are looking into all of these questions and more, and should any of them find something damning to the Bush presidency, I've no doubt it will the top story for weeks. If there's one thing we did learn from the Enron investigation, it's that Congressional committees are more about facetime for the panel chairs than getting to the bottom of things. Our press corps is frequently and justly maligned here in blogland, but there are a lot of pros working out there, and an actual smoking gun would be a hell of a coup for one of them.
I'm afraid I can't accept that point at all. Kuffner is placing an entirely unearned faith in a corps of reporters who work for organizations that have demonstrated a dwindling willingness to provide good news budgets, especially for projects that question the performance and integrity of this administration and those close to it. Our press has already shown how much vigor they are prepared to devote to those "good questions" - by mercilessly attacking the person who asked them. Lip service to the goodness of those questions is no substitute for the demands they should already be making for an investigation into what went wrong on 9/11. I'd like to believe Kuffner is right, but I can't help the feeling that if he were, the press would have been asking those questions first, and with even more energy than they devoted to their attacks on McKinney. And:

Beyond that, it's the way McKinney framed her charges. It's not that she's blaming "us", it's that she's charging deliberate negligence on the part of the administration for the purpose of enriching their cronies in the oil and defense industries.
This may or may not be what she meant, but it is certain that the Bush family has close ties to the bin Laden family and it's also certain that when they took over the White House the administration stepped back from investigating the bin Ladens. They may have done that because the bin Ladens are their friends, or because they are their business associates, and they wanted to protect them, or because they just can't believe that the people they associate themselves with could be involved in anything bad.

Whatever the case, the fact remains that the administration is now resisting the investigation that I believe most of us simply assumed last September would be taking place ASAP. That no moves were made immediately could be written off as shock and preparation and a lot of other things, but it's getting kind of late now and it not only hasn't happened, but the administration and the Republican leadership are openly engaged in obstructing such an investigation. It should be obvious that they would be demanding that investigation themselves if 9/11 had happened on a Clinton or Gore watch. Which answers another of Kuffner's questions:

And I said that McKinney's charge was disingenuous. I say that because I'm also willing to bet that Al Gore, who is no stranger to oil money himself , has friends and cronies in the same businesses that are profiting right now from the war and related buildup in defense spending. Politics is full of rich people, and many of them have a few questionable income sources in their pasts and presents. We here on the left-hand side of the equation frequently point out that the GOP loves to score points off Democratic misdeeds while overlooking the same peccadilloes when a fellow Republican is involved, so I have to ask: Would McKinney be saying the same thing if 9/11 had gone down as it did with Al Gore in the White House? I kinda doubt it.
Right, because she wouldn't have to. Let's face it, Clinton was not coming from way out in left field when he said that if Gore had done things the way Bush has been doing them, the Republicans would have tried to impeach him after 9/11.

But of course, it's very unlikely Gore would have done things the same way. As even The Washington Post admitted, the Clinton administration had been obsessed with terrorism and bin Laden and it's very likely much of that would have carried over into a Gore administration. (This is, after all, the same Al Gore who authored the report on airport security.) It is certainly doubtful that Gore would have restrained the FBI from investigating the bin Ladens. And I cannot imagine that he would have been coming up with excuses to stave off an investigation of the 9/11 tragedy.

And it is that last point that makes it not quite so disingenuous after all to raise the issue of the Bush family relationship to the Carlyle group and the bin Laden family. The rest you might just shrug off as coincidence, but why are they so hostile to an investigation? You don't have to be some sort of lefty kook to wonder what they're trying to hide.

In related news, Atrios also points to this article in which David Corn wonders why McKinney received more opprobrium for her remarks than James Inhofe (R-OK) got for his speech on the Senate floor asserting that Israel is entitled to the West Bank, and, "One of the reason I believe the spiritual door was opened for an attack against the United States of America is that the policy of our government has been to ask the Israelis, and demand it with pressure, not to retaliate in a significant way against the terrorist strikes that have been launched against them." Or, as Corn interprets it:

In other words, on Sept. 11, God allowed airliners to be piloted into the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon because U.S. actions related to Israel were not to His/Her liking. How else to interpret Inhofe's words? A "spiritual door opened" for the attack? Well, who's in charge of spiritual doors -- and opening and closing them?
Corn seems to see an equivalence between McKinney's statements and Inhofe's, but, no, I can't agree; this one is from fruitbat territory.

In other news Kuffner offers a short memorial to those who died seven years ago at the Alfred Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma, along with some more amusing items on Stupid Texas Tricks.

* * * * *
I hate the stupid signs in the London Underground warning people not to give money to buskers. I hate the fact that the Underground authorities forbid busking. I really used to enjoy walking by the string quartet that illegally performed in Charing Cross station back when I used to work in the neighborhood. I was appalled when a number of stations in central London decided to drive the musicians out by playing their own approved canned music over the stations' loudspeakers. The Washington Post is on the same page with me on this one:

This being Washington, there will be those who prefer silence in which to read the briefs in their laps, and other assorted naysayers -- the ones who like it dull and dark. T. Dana Kauffman, who represents Fairfax on the Metro board, says the only music he wants to hear is the ding-dong of the door closing as he takes a seat. The staunchest resistance may come from transit police, who have, we acknowledge, a lot to worry about in these security-conscious times. But New York City offers a good model: There, musicians are licensed by a program called MUNY (Musicians Under New York), which schedules gigs for them, while casual buskers also compete for unofficial spots. The musicians may accept, but not solicit, tips. We see no reason such a system can't work here. The more music and the less regulation the better. Youth choruses. Harmonica players. Bring 'em on. Heck, if we were greeted, going home, by an off-key chanteuse singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," we'd gladly, even then, throw change.

Friday, 19 April 2002

15:20 BST: Permalink
Tons of interesting stuff around the web, but I don't have much to say about 'em. There's the Crossfire transcript with Kerry's appearance, for those who are looking for a Democratic candidate for 2004. Personally, I'm not impressed with his failure to admit that Bush's tax cut should be rescinded.

Meanwhile, Atrios finally has a webblog (about bloody time!) and he's pointing to J. Bradford DeLong on the question: Does it matter that George W. Bush is dumb and lazy?

Defenders of Bush say that the fact that he is a slow study with a weak general knowledge base who doesn't crack the books too hard and doesn't think too fast doesn't matter. Why not? Because Bush has smart people to do his thinking for him: Condi Rice, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, et cetera. In Bush's own words, "My job isn't to try to nuance. My job is to tell people what I think. And when I think there's an axis of evil, I say it. I think moral clarity is important..." Once the President has given his people clear moral clarity as to what the important things are, they will have their marching orders, and good policies will emerge.

The first problem with this is that the President's words are actions, and should be considered actions. If you have a potential adversary that you are trying to isolate--Iraq--and if its largest neighbor Iran hates Iraq more than it hates you, you should not pop up and in your State of the Union address say that Iraq, Iran, and North Korea are an "axis of evil." That instantly gives the country you are trying to isolate two new allies. There would be substantial benefits to having a President smart enough to know, while his State of the Union address was being written, that Iraq, Iran, and North Korea were not an "axis"--an alliance--of any sort. And there would be substantial benefits to having a President who would think far enough ahead to consider whether his State-of-the-Union rhetoric might make his diplomats' task of isolating Iraq needlessly harder.

In The Washington Post, Richard Cohen looks at a similar question:

Today's multiple choice quiz: George Bush is president because (1) some chads hung in Florida, (2) Al Gore stopped wearing earth tones or (3) Andy Hiller asked the wrong questions. The answer, I now feel certain, is (3). Hiller was the journalist who asked Bush during the campaign to name the leaders of Pakistan, Chechnya, Taiwan and India. Bush flunked and, on account of that, went on to win the presidency.

Why, you ask? Because the leaders in question were obscure and it was somewhat understandable that Bush could not name them. Had Hiller asked, instead, about France, Germany, Canada and China, Bush might have whiffed on them, too, and that would have been a different matter. Hiller not only held Bush to an unrealistically high standard, he inoculated him against further suggestions of intellectual insufficiency. The presidency was his.

Now we are beginning to see that Hiller was on to something. More and more the administration appears inept at foreign policy. Recently, for instance, it failed to instantly condemn the Venezuelan coup, somehow forgetting that the United States favors democratically elected governments, especially in this hemisphere. Someone should have looked it up.

Of course, there may be other reasons why Bush dropped the ball on Venezuela. Patrick is pointing to questions both by Josh Marshall and by Greg Palast, who also wants to set the record straight:

Here's what we read this week: On Friday, Hugo Chavez, the unpopular, dictatorial potentate of Venezuela, resigned. When confronted over his ordering the shooting of antigovernment protestors, he turned over the presidency to progressive, democratic forces, namely, the military and the chief of Venezuela's business council.

Two things about the story caught my eye: First, every one of these factoids is dead wrong. And second, newspapers throughout the ruling hemisphere, from the New York Times to the Independent to (wince) the Guardian, used almost identical words - "dictatorial", "unpopular", "resignation" - in their reports.
The resignation myth was the capstone of a year-long disinformation campaign against the populist former paratrooper who took office with 60% of the vote. The Bush White House is quoted as stating that Chavez's being elected by "a majority of voters" did not confer "legitimacy" on the Venezuelan government. The assertion was not unexpected from a US administration selected over the opposition of the majority of American voters.
There remains the charge that, in the words of the New York Times, "Chavez ordered soldiers to fire on a crowd [of protesters]." This bloody smear, sans evidence, stained every Western paper, including Britain's newest lefty, the Mirror. Yet I could easily reach eyewitnesses without ties to any faction who said the shooting began from a roadway overpass controlled by the anti-Chavez Metropolitan Police, and the first to fall were pro-Chavez demonstrators.

(Another cool thing at Patrick's site is a RealAudio link to his interview on NPR about Damon Knight. It's short, Rob, you can spend the time listening to it without going broke.)

And The Alternet is looking at why Palast himself is working in Britain rather than the US.

Also in media news, Eric Boehlert says the preferential treatment Bush is getting from the media is worse than you think. Clinton was always getting hammered for supposed spotlight-hogging, but when you saw him on TV it was always in connection with matters of state; with Bush, every campaign speech seems to be getting free on-air advertising.

Atrios also has a pointer to a Boston Phoenix article that says Judith Levine's new book calls for honest debate about children and sexuality. She’s hit the right’s gag reflex.

Patrick gave me a heads-up on a Slate article called My Sharon that basically says Sharon has thrown Hamas right into that briar patch:

Sharon refused to hold talks with the Palestinians until they abstained from violence for 10 straight days. Under pressure from the United States, Sharon cut the demand to seven days, then dropped it entirely, but only for discussions about a cease-fire. Discussions about the shape of a Palestinian state would have to wait, he said. "Peace negotiations can commence and move forward only after terrorism has ceased," Sharon reaffirmed on April 8."

If the terrorists wanted those negotiations to move forward, Sharon's policy would make sense. But they don't. Don't take my word for it. Take Israel's. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs catalogs the worst suicide bombings perpetrated since December, when the current wave of terrorism began. Of the six attacks documented during that period, the ministry attributes five to Hamas. "The teachings of HAMAS utterly reject the peace process, which involves the surrender of 'Islamic land' and the recognition of Israel's right to exist on this land," says the ministry's most recent background paper on Hamas, dated September 1998. "HAMAS has recently become the moving spirit among those opposed to the peace process."

* * * * *
And Hal O'Brien mailed me that paragraph from Dahlia Lithwick's article, also in Slate, about Justice Kennedy's bizarre idea that you are only entitled to your rights if you assert them. Which is great if you're a well-dressed white person (preferably female), but I promise you that while I want my nephew, who is black, to know what his legal rights are, I will not be telling him to assert his rights and refuse to submit to an illegal search in the face of cops who are looking for an excuse to beat the hell out of someone. But, by all means, know your rights, and spread it around:

What, specifically, am I talking about? Ladies and gentlemen, if a police officer boards the bus/train/plane/subway car upon which you are riding, and without having any suspicion of wrongdoing on your part asks to search your bags or your person, you have the absolute right to tell them no. Once more, and you should teach this to your babies (or have your nannies do so): The Fourth Amendment protects you from causeless, suspicionless searches by the government. You can just say no. I agree with Justice Kennedy on this one point, which he makes four or five times this morning: This democracy will be a much healthier one when Americans know their rights and assert them loudly and forcefully toward the police. I can't bring myself to agree with Kennedy's policy prescription, however, which seems to be that we should incarcerate anyone who doesn't know or assert their rights, until we are left with a citizenry consisting of those 400 citizens who are well-informed. So please cut and paste this paragraph into an e-mail and send it to 10 people, along with the threat that something terrible will happen to them if they don't forward it to 10 more. This isn't one of those woo-woo something-special-will-happen-to-you chain letters. ... Something really terrible will happen to you if you don't spread the word. Just ask Christopher Drayton and Layton Brown.
* * * * *
How kids fare in new welfare era
Bruce Fuller, a study director from the University of California, Berkeley, calls the report a "sobering warning that simply requiring single mothers to work more in very low-wage jobs is not likely to boost the well-being of young children. We can't put all our eggs into forcing women to work more hours in low-wage jobs, if the policy goal is to improve young kids' environments."

President Bush's answer to that challenge is to fund new efforts to promote higher marriage rates – since poverty rates are highest for single-parent families.

Aside from the political controversy over that proposal, such a result may be difficult to achieve. As Connecticut women in the study began working more, their newfound financial self-reliance apparently had a wider impact: They married less often than those who faced less pressure to work, researchers noted.

Fuller also challenges Bush's proposal to double the work requirements for mothers with very young children. "He doesn't want to spend any more money on child care. Our findings suggest that an investment in quality child-care centers would help accomplish the goal of improving child well-being."

I like it when people have a firm grasp of the obvious.

* * * * *
The Congress Moves to Block A New King George, and Richard Reeves testifies:

The official subject of the hearings was "The Presidential Records Act of 2002" introduced by Rep. Stephen Horn, a California Republican, who said: "The 1978 act was a landmark law. It declared for the first time that the official records of a former president belong to the American people. ... It allowed former presidents to restrict disclosure of certain confidential records for up to 12 years after they leave office. The authors ... considered this sufficient to prevent a 'chilling effect' on a president's ability to get confidential advice."

Bush wanted to give former presidents -- and current ones, too -- control over such papers for their lifetimes and the lifetimes of their descendants and their descendants' lawyers. In other words, forever. (It should be noted here that records concerning "national security" can be kept secret by the government itself. One of the points made by professor Kutler was that the most important archives of World War I are still classified and kept from historians.)

The Horn bill would simply roll the clock back to last Oct. 31, the day before the White House made its power grab. The last line of his opening statement was: "Finally, the bill provides that Executive Order 13233 shall have no force and effect."

This is a great and important fight -- and it has been going on for more than 200 years. My contribution was to try to make the point that presidents have often tried to use executive power -- control the levers of process and procedure in the executive branch -- to diminish, even eliminate, the powers and influence of Congress.

The best example, I argued, was President Richard Nixon's ability to hide his diplomatic initiative to China and his economic initiative taking the U.S. dollar off the gold standard and leaving a stunned world to floating currencies and the beginnings of globalization. For better or worse, those startling initiatives were never debated nor considered by Congress or the American people. Nixon simply went on television and announced them.

That is probably how most presidents would like to govern, more like ol' King George did it. Certainly it would be quicker and easier. But quick, easy and secret are not what makes American democracy great. I had the impression that the members of Congress we saw last Thursday agreed with that -- and America will be better off if the Horn bill becomes law.

Wednesday, 17 April 2002

13:56 BST: Permalink
J. Bradford DeLong does his taxes:

At this point, here on the world wide web, I am supposed to rant about how this--heavy--tax burden is an unsustainable burden, an oppressive violation of my natural rights, crushing the spirit out of America's creative and entrepreneurial minorities, reducing us to a nation of ingenious tax cheats on the one hand and those desperate for a suck on the government teat on the other.

I say, "Bull****!"

From my perspective, my taxes are well-spent--a way of buying a lot of very important things I could never get any other way.

* * * * *
Michelle Cottle looks at a recent study and suggests parental guidance:

For starters, the standards used in the study seem suspect. Researchers found that kids (average age of 14) who watch between one and three hours of television a day are much more likely to later exhibit aggressive behavior than those who watch less than one hour a day.

Less than one hour a day? I'm sorry, but these days, kids who watch less than one hour of television a day--be it "Sesame Street," "Barney," or "Wrestlemania"--are simply not normal. I mean that in the best way possible. Maybe their parents are deeply religious. Or hyper-intellectual. (Most of us know an idealistic academic who at some point threw out her TV set.) Or simply super-concerned with their child's upbringing. But any household in which youngsters are not watching even one hour of television per day almost certainly has some other socializing influence far more important than the presence--or absence--of "Power Rangers" on the tube.

No kidding. Plenty of other researchers have noted that the strongest indicators for violence are found in peer groups and parents.

But wait - what about those studies that found that kids who commit crimes actually watched less television than others did? What are we missing, here?

* * * * *
Joshua Green wants McCain to run for the Democratic presidential nomination. I dunno, an anti-gun conservative - is that a good idea? (The oddest thing about this article is that it identifies Zogby as "the independent pollster". I think it's more accurate to call him conservative, too.)

* * * * *
Stupidity as a bipartisan effort: Bush Pledges Support for Constitutional Amendment on Victims' Rights

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush endorsed a constitutional amendment Tuesday that would guarantee rights to crime victims that include possible payments by criminals, calling it "one of those rare instances where amending the Constitution is the right thing to do."

The proposed amendment is sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and John Kyl of Arizona - "one a Democrat, one a Republican, both great Americans," Bush said.

A Bartcop Forum poster wondered what happened to:

the manly virtue of taking what the world throws at you, of not whining about your fate, of standing up to the wimpy whingeing victim culture of Oprah and Donohue. Or so we've been told. But if you are a wimpy woman Democrat you can come along with a constitutional amendment valorizing the victim culture as long as it gives the ruling caste of judges and magistrates an opportunity to exact yet more vengeance and punishment. Sure thing, shweetheart.
* * * * *
Supreme Court Strikes Down Ban on Thoughtcrime:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The government went too far in trying to ban computer simulations and other fool-the-eye depictions of teen-agers or children having sex, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

Youthful sexuality is an old theme in art, from Shakespeare to Academy Award-winning movies, the court found in striking down a 1996 child pornography law on free speech grounds.

The law would call into question legitimate educational, scientific or artistic depictions of youthful sex, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for a 6-3 majority.

"The statute proscribes the visual depiction of an idea -- that of teen-agers engaging in sexual activity -- that is a fact of modern society and has been a theme in art and literature throughout the ages," Kennedy wrote in a decision joined by four other justices. Clarence Thomas, one of the court's most conservative justices, wrote a separate opinion agreeing with the outcome.
Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer signed Kennedy's opinion. Thomas, in a separate concurring opinion, said the court's ruling appropriately strikes down a ban that was too sweeping but leaves a window for future regulation of some kinds of virtual child pornography.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor partially agreed with the majority and partially disagreed. The law is indeed too broad, but a portion of it could be salvaged, O'Connor wrote.

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justice Antonin Scalia dissented, arguing that the law need not be read to ban the kind of artistic material that concerned Kennedy.

And now I find that Gary Farber has a good take on Ashcroft's predictably unhappy response.

* * * * *
Media Whores Online finds Bob Woodward with a case of amnesia:

A quick look at the record of President Clinton's TV interviews alone -- not accounting for many times that amount for print outlets, including several with the Washington Post, and, of course, a lengthy interview with Mr. "Woody" Amnesia himself -- shows that Bob Woodward's claim that Clinton never gave lengthy interviews is absurd. Woodward told an audience in Providence, Rhode Island, fawning about George Bush's giving him an interview: "Certainly Richard Nixon would not have allowed reporters to question him like that. Bush's father [former President George Bush] wouldn't allow it. Clinton wouldn't allow it. As a journalist I like somebody who is straight and direct." Who doesn't? Even in journalists.
* * * * *
Is this piece by Elisabeth Bumiller in the NYT an admission that Clinton was right, or just another excuse for Bush's bumbling?

Not surprisingly, many former members of the Clinton administration think so. They argue that the president's delay in getting actively involved in the Middle East was part of an ABC policy — Anything But Clinton — that began with minor things, like wearing coats and ties in the Oval Office and being on time. Mr. Bush would also deliver shorter State of the Union addresses, never read political polls and stay away from Hollywood swells.

But soon the ABC policy, Clinton advisers assert, moved on to the serious business of foreign policy. Mr. Bush, they say, was so convinced that Mr. Clinton was overly involved in the Middle East that he decided early on that injecting himself would be a terrible mistake.

* * * * *
Lois Erwin says:
I support Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney's call for an investigation into the events leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I do not comprehend how calling for such an investigation can even be deemed unusual; what I find unusual is that every senator, congressperson, media person and American is NOT demanding the same investigation.

Good grief, it was the worst terrorist attack on American soil in our nation's history, and a House member is being criticized for believing we, as a country, need to know everything that is knowable about the failure of our government: (1) to see it coming, and (2) to be prepared to fend off the attack once it was known that the unprecedented hijacking of four airplanes had occurred almost simultaneously!

Why do we have a Republican former Senate Majority Leader, Trent Lott, threatening to cut off funding for such an investigation? Whom is Lott protecting? I thought the Sept. 11 attack was an attack against America, not just an attack against Democrats.

Why don't Republicans and Conservatives want to know how such a failure of our Intelligence community could happen?

Why isn't our president DEMANDING a full investigation of Sept. 11? Does he have something he needs to hide?

Why in heavens name isn't every news organization calling for an investigation of Sept. 11?

Why is Congressman Cynthia McKinney being reviled by right-wingers for calling for an investigation that every American should be calling for?

Looking at McKinney's statement, I'm having trouble figuring why it is she, and not the administration and the Republican leadership, that is being publicly reviled. These would seem to be the most contentious paragraphs:

The need for an investigation of the events surrounding September 11 is as obvious as is the need for an investigation of the Enron debacle. Certainly, if the American people deserve answers about what went wrong with Enron and why (and we do), then we deserve to know what went wrong on September 11 and why.

Are we squandering our goodwill around the world with what many believe to be incoherent, warmongering policies that alienate our friends and antagonize our allies? How much of a role does our reliance on imported oil play in the military policies being put forward by the Bush Administration? And what role does the close relationship between the Bush Administration and the oil and defense industries play, if any, in the policies that are currently being pursued by this Administration?

We deserve to know what went wrong on September 11 and why. After all, we hold thorough public inquiries into rail disasters, plane crashes, and even natural disasters in order to understand what happened and to prevent them from happening again or minimizing the tragic effects when they do. Why then does the Administration remain steadfast in its opposition to an investigation into the biggest terrorism attack upon our nation?

News reports from Der Spiegel to the London Observer, from the Los Angeles Times to MSNBC to CNN, indicate that many different warnings were received by the Administration. In addition, it has even been reported that the United States government broke bin Laden's secure communications before September 11. Sadly, the United States government is being sued today by survivors of the Embassy bombings because, from court reports, it appears clear that the US had received prior warnings, but did little to secure and protect the staff at our embassies.

Did the same thing happen to us again?

The thing is, they are all legitimate questions. The suggestion of impropriety in the Bush family relationship to the Carlyle Group and the bin Ladens is certainly more compelling than the one that still obsesses the Republicans about the Rich pardon, but there shouldn't even be questions asked? The warnings from before September 11 are well known and were known at the time even to observant members of the public. The FBI itself has complained about being actively prevented both before and after 9/11 from investigating the bin Ladens - including Osama. And George Bush's arrogance toward other world leaders, both before the tragedy at the WTC and since then, has not exactly ameliorated world tension. He appears to be throwing away the victory in Afghanistan and to have exacerbated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I've heard it said that McKinney is just blaming "us" for the attacks on 9/11, but I seem to have missed the part where she says that. As far as I can see, it's pretty generally accepted that bad guys arranged for those planes to fly into those buildings, and those bad guys aren't "us" - there is no need to keep reiterating this. But if there was incompetence and neglect in Washington that left us unnecessarily vulnerable to actions against us by others (or even natural disasters), then we need to know about it and make sure it is corrected. The absence of an investigation is itself more neglect. In fact, it is astonishing that there is anyone who is resisting such an investigation - unless, of course, they actually have something to hide. If you don't believe me, just ask your insurance company how they feel about you leaving your car unattended with the doors open.

Once again: The people who planned and executed the 9/11 attacks are the ones who are responsible for the attacks. But if the administration's neglect resulted in leaving us more vulnerable and unable to prevent the attacks or the amount of damage they did, we need to know - and if it's true, than it's not "us" who is responsible for that neglect, it's them. I'm not George Bush and I take no responsibility for his arrogance and incompetence. After all, we didn't even elect this guy.

* * * * *
Whose weblog are you? I'm Neil Gaiman's journal. And from there I learn that you can find out which one of the Endless you are. (I'm Desire. But it didn't really give me choices I liked. Which, perhaps, stands to reason.)

Tuesday, 16 April 2002

01:50 BST: Permalink
Patrick reports that Damon Knight has died. I'm sorry to hear that. He wasn't someone I really knew, but he meant something to us all.

* * * * *
Check out Josh Marshall noting more Bush out-of-the-loopness.

* * * * *
Thank goodness Ted Barlow is back. Going after Bill Bennet, too. Missed ya, Ted!

* * * * *
Thanks to Patrick for telling me about this Ron Rosenbaum article:

It was a disgraceful period, the Jim Crow era in the South; it was similar in kind if not in degree to the treatment of the Jews in Germany in the 1930's, and it had the broad support, alas, of one and a half of America's two major political parties. The Republicans were eagerly and shamefully seeking ways to exploit racism for their "Southern Strategy." And the Democratic Party tolerated a racist "solid South" wing that ruled Congress and protected segregation with committee chairmen like Thurmond and Eastland and Howard Smith (the longtime House Rules Committee boss).

And where were the current conservative champions of human rights in China and morality in America back then? Well, those old enough to make a choice to join Dr. King on this most fundamental question of human rights were, with very few exceptions, hiding their faces behind disingenuous "states' rights" arguments - when they weren't actively scorning and attacking the civil-rights movement. And where are the conservative human-rights activists of today, who may not have been old enough to be held responsible for their position on Dr. King when he was alive? Making cracks about "affirmative action," without ever having taken on the racism that gave rise to it. Slandering the 60's as nothing but Marxists and hippies in a disengenous refusal to see that the defining aspect of the 60's in American history was the civil-rights movement – because to admit that would force them to face the shameful history of conservative cowardice, hypocrisy and often outright racism in the '60s.

Am I going too far? Then remind me of the conservatives who did speak out against apartheid in the South. Who were they again? We know the rise of the Bush political dynasty was cemented by Daddy Bush's disgraceful vote against the 1964 Civil Rights Act as a Texas Congressman – which made him acceptable to the "Southern Strategy" Republicans.

Show me the editorials in the conservative periodicals which said, "We disagree with civil-disobedience tactics, but then, as conservatives who believe in human rights, we have an even greater responsibility to do everything in our power to change ugly racist laws in traditional ways – and to repudiate conservatives who support racism."

Did I just miss reading them, or were conservatives too busy spreading scurrilous rumors about Dr. King's sex life to concern themselves with the real moral issue at hand?

It's all true. (This is why I laugh at people who complain that bad things happened when the "liberals" were the majority in Congress. Those days never existed; the Democratic Party of the time was not liberal, and the most powerful of those Democrats are now either dead or Republicans.) Moral relativism is a conservative thing.

But conservatives have been whittling away at affirmative action for quite some time, and many people cite the Bakke case as evidence that it hurts whites significantly. But let's take another look at it in light of the upcoming Gratz case:

Any day now, a federal appeals court in Cincinnati will issue a decision in a major test lawsuit challenging the use of race as a factor in selective admissions. In that case, the University of Michigan denied admission in 1995 to a white undergraduate applicant named Jennifer Gratz. Charging reverse discrimination, Gratz said, "I knew of people accepted to Ann Arbor who were less qualified, and my first reaction when I was rejected was, 'Let's sue.'"

The Michigan case will likely end up at the Supreme Court. If it does, Gratz will try to follow in the footsteps of Allan Bakke, a rejected white applicant who won admission in 1978 to the University of California at Davis's medical school after convincing the high court that the school's policy of reserving 16 of 100 seats each year for minority students was unconstitutional. For many Americans, the success of Bakke's lawsuit has long highlighted what is unfair about affirmative action: Giving minority applicants a significant advantage causes deserving white applicants to lose out. But to draw such an inference in Bakke's case -- or in the case of the vast majority of rejected white applicants -- is to indulge in what I call "the causation fallacy."

There's no doubt, based on test scores and grades, that Bakke was a highly qualified applicant. Justice Lewis Powell, who authored the decisive opinion in the case, observed that Bakke's Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores placed him in the top tier of test-takers, whereas the average scores of the quota beneficiaries in 1974 placed them in the bottom third. Likewise, his science grade point average was 3.44 on a 4.0 scale, compared with a 2.42 average for the special admittees, and his overall GPA was similarly superior. Given these numbers, the only reason for Bakke's rejection was the school's need to make room for less qualified minority applicants, right?

Wrong. Although Justice Powell pointed out that minority applicants were admitted with grades and test scores much lower than Bakke's, he did not discuss what I found to be the most striking data that appeared in his opinion: Bakke's grades and scores were significantly higher than the average for the regular admittees. In other words, his academic qualifications were better than those of the majority of applicants admitted outside the racial quota. So why didn't he earn one of the 84 regular places?

It is clear that the medical school admitted students not only on the basis of grades and test scores, but on other factors relevant to the study and practice of medicine, such as compassion, communication skills and commitment to research. Justice Powell's opinion does not tell us exactly what qualities the regular admittees had that Bakke lacked. But it notes that the head of the admissions committee, who interviewed Bakke, found him "rather limited in his approach" to medical problems and thought he had "very definite opinions which were based more on his personal viewpoints than upon a study of the total problem."

Whatever Bakke's weaknesses were, there were several reasons, apart from affirmative action, that might have led the medical school to reject his application. Grades and test scores do not tell us the whole story.

* * * * *
Farber links to this article in the NYT about the Judith Levin book that has already stirred controversy before its release:

When the University of Minnesota Press agreed more than a year ago to publish a book called "Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children From Sex," it was clear that it would be controversial. Other publishers had rejected the manuscript, including one who said it was "radioactive" because of its argument for providing children with more sexual education and responsibility.

But neither the press nor the author, Judith Levine, a journalist, could have guessed that the book would be released in the midst of a global scandal over sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests.

Although it will not arrive in bookstores until May, it has already been branded an apologia for pedophiles by talk radio hosts and conservative critics across the country, and Tim Pawlenty, the Republican majority leader of the Minnesota House of Representatives, has called for the university to cancel the book.

I've gotta save this article to brandish the next time some libertarian tries to tell me it's liberals who want to censor people. (Not that I don't have plenty of articles already that make the point, of course, but there's no harm in collecting more.)

Um, what are liberals doing while all this is going on? Oh:

A number of civil libertarian groups signed a letter written by the National Coalition Against Censorship saying that the move undermines academic freedom and "invites future attempts at intellectual blackmail."
Gary's right, of course: You just can't talk about this - or anything remotely related to it - and expect people to behave sanely. Folks who are all in favor of hate speech legislation have no compunction at all about spreading hate speech about pedophiles, even though most people who abuse children aren't pedophiles. You even get people who think that sex with a 17-year-old man is "child abuse" and that sex with someone that age is no different from sex with an infant. It's crazy. So:

The book does not, in fact, endorse pedophilia. What Ms. Levine does argue is that the fear of pedophilia is overblown and that the age of consent should be lowered in certain circumstances. Ms. Levine tries to separate what she sees as real risks — H.I.V. infection, unwanted pregnancies and sexual violence — from risks she calls exaggerated or even invented. She argues forcefully against abstinence-only education and what she sees as a pervasive tendency to view all manifestations of childhood sexuality as dangerous or disturbing.

"The reaction to the book is an example of the kind of hysteria I'm writing about," Ms. Levine said. Conservative groups started attacking the book after she gave an interview to Newhouse News Service.

Ms. Levine, a New York writer who specializes in questions of sex and and gender, also makes a carefully argued — if untimely — case that the danger presented by child molesters has been vastly exaggerated, and that prosecutors put ever greater resources into tracking pedophilia and child pornography that would be better spent elsewhere. For instance, while prosecutors sometimes claim that child molesters have an extremely high rate of recidivism — one of the justifications for sex-offender registration laws — Ms. Levine has statistics suggesting that it is in fact relatively low. She cites a 1996 study by the National Center for Institutions and Alternatives that concluded that only 13 percent of former sex offenders were rearrested for sex crimes, compared with a 74 percent rearrest rate for criminal offenders overall.

And, of course, anyone who has made an honest study of child sexual-abuse can tell you the same thing, but oh, no, we can't talk about this stuff.

(Once again, the vocabulary check: Pedophiles are people who are attracted to pre-pubescent children; many of them will never abuse a child. Child-molesters are child-molesters - we know them by their acts. And most abused children are abused by their parents - parents who are not normally attracted to children. If every actual pedophile disappeared from the face of the earth tomorrow, this would make very little difference to the number of children who are abused. Really.)

* * * * *
The situation in the Middle-East is so depressing I tend to shy away from talking about it, but here's an interesting exchange from rec.arts.sf.fandom:

Robert Sneddon wrote:

It's the Arafat phenomenon. Mandela was the president of the ANF while in jail. Members of the ANF killed opponents and "traitors" by necklacing, so Mandela is responsible for the deaths. Similarly, Arafat, trapped for weeks in Ramallah by the Israelis, is personally responsible for strapping explosives onto deluded kids and waving them on their way to martyrdom.

Of course, what tends to be forgotten (or carefully overlooked) nowadays is that Nelson M. was arrested back in the Sixties while driving a car with a bomb in the trunk, on his way to plant it. He was a terrorist, same as many Israeli government ministers past.

And Lis Carey responded:

Of course, Mandela and De Klerk(sp?) between them managed to bring about a fairly peaceful transition from apartheid to majority rule in South Africa. Mandela's terrorist past matters, but how he changed in prison and what he did with his carefully manufactured iconic status when he got out also matters, and is likely to be far more important to South Africa's future.

Mandela and De Klerk each had an enormous laundry list of truly outrageous things the other, or the other's allies, were responsible for, which could easily have been grounds for refusing to deal under any circumstances with Those Evil People. They chose instead to look past those things, to the kind of future they wanted their country to have. At least provisionally, the same thing seems to be happening in Northern Ireland--enough people are focussing on the result they want, rather than on the impossibility of doing deals with Those Evil People on the Other Side, to keep the peace process alive. The Middle East is suffering from the fact that the hardliners on both sides who are clinging to the principle of only negotiating with friends and never doing deals with Those Evil People, have got control of the machinery of political power and are winning the internal propaganda war. There is no peace because nobody wants to make peace; they only want to win.

Neither side seems particularly attractive to me at the moment, but if it proves impossible to break them out of this cycle of revenge and the only thing left to do is make a choice, one side or the other, well, Israel is still the only democracy in the Middle East.

Earlier I saw Sharon on TV saying he won't make peace with Arafat. I guess that sounds good until you ask yourself just exactly who he can make peace with.

Last week Bartcop (who doesn't have permalinks and the only way to find it is to click for the previous page at the bottom and search for the word "Oklahoma" until it turns up) was saying all problems could be solved if we moved Israel to Oklahoma. But I think Idaho is nicer, and they're trying to improve their image (they say they've kicked out most of the white power types), so it would be much more attractive.

Sunday, 14 April 2002

19:35 BST: Permalink
Returning to our theme about the invisibility of Democrats in the news, Howard Kurtz reports that the Democratic leadership is irritated about it, too:

In an unusual letter to the heads of the three cable news networks, Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) and House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) complained about "the lack of television coverage of press events featuring elected leaders of the Democratic Party."
Privately, Democratic officials said party activists often complain that Daschle and Gephardt aren't doing much because the two men are rarely seen on cable newscasts.
Perhaps the newspapers are being sensitized to the charge (did David Lytel's letter to the Post prick their conscience?), because there have actually been a few articles posted on the Washington Post and NYT websites. The WP actually had a piece yesterday by Dan Balz presaging the event, and another Balz article this morning recounting the speech:

ORLANDO, April 13 – Former vice president Al Gore plunged back into the political arena here today with a sharply worded attack on the domestic priorities of President Bush, asserting that on issues from the economy to the environment, the Republican agenda is "wrong for America."
He urged Democrats "to speak out boldly" against what he argued is a "right-wing" effort to use the war on terrorism to implement a harmful domestic agenda.

Republicans, he charged, are "selling out America's future" for short-term gain. "America's economy is suffering unnecessarily," he said. "Important American values are being trampled. Special interests are calling the shots."

NYT had the unfortunate Richard Berke on the story, headlined In a Forceful Speech, Gore Criticizes Administration, but he kept his anti-Gore spin to a minimum:

Mr. Gore even dared to do what many Democrats had said he was afraid of doing in the 2000 campaign: embrace President Bill Clinton. "I think Bill Clinton and I did a damn good job," Mr. Gore said, practically shouting.

While Mr. Gore has spoken numerous times in the 16 months since the acrimonious 36-day standoff over the counting of votes in Florida — and offered sharp criticism of Mr. Bush at a meeting of Democrats in Tennessee, his home state, in February — his address here carried particular weight because this was the first political event he has attended with other Democrats who have designs on the White House.

It was also a crucial first test of whether Democratic loyalists here would stand behind him in a rematch with Mr. Bush in 2004. His certainly received a hero's welcome, with delegates often jumping from their feet and waving placards proclaiming, "Still Gore Country!" over an outline of the state of Florida.

I watched on C-Span, and I think "practically shouting" is a weird thing to say about what was clearly a rallying speech - most such speeches are "practically shouting", so you'd think an alleged political reporter would not consider it worth remarking on. Berke makes a valiant try at excusing the lack of coverage of Gore's other speeches, but it only works if you forget that at the same time, these papers have been printing articles blaming Gore for the fact that his words haven't been appearing in their pages. If journalists themselves are asking why Gore isn't saying anything, then journalists bloody well ought to be listening and reporting when he does say something, even if Kerry, Edwards et al. don't happen to be around at the time.

Over here, the Guardian covered the story without much editorializing and provided this hilarious quote:

GOP spokeswoman Mindy Tucker said it "sounds like the same old Al Gore, all negative attacks and no positive proposals."
Gee, after all those complaints about how Gore "lost" the election because he refused to fight back with negative attacks and instead kept talking about issues, you gotta wonder where they get this stuff. Oh, yeah, that's right, it's the usual rule - if the Republicans are accusing the Democrats of it, it's what the Republicans are doing.

* * * * *
Department of not getting over it: Let's add up some of the evidence against Theresa LePore (photo). Her parents were Republicans and she registered as one, changing her affiliation only in time to run for office. She referred to "her" party as "the Democrat Party". She altered the ballot to one that was more complicated and is well-known to create errors. She left a contact number for use on election day to a phone that was off the hook all day.

Although she was unavailable throughout, when problems began to arise, the news media (which was getting most of its info from the RNC) just happened to "know" that LePore's motives in making this change to the ballot were good-old liberal helpful idiocy and that it had been approved by the rest of the FL Democrats. I have never once seen either of those "facts" sourced. As I mentioned a few months back, it turns out to be false that Florida Dems signed-off on the ballot change.

Since this lie entered news stories in tandem with the explanation for why LePore did it, I've always been suspicious of that one as well. A lot of people want to give her the benefit of the doubt, but to me the circumstantial evidence is just too strong. The fact is that the information about why she did it could not have come from LePore on election day since no one could reach her. It certainly didn't come from Florida Dems, who would not have claimed to have approved something they didn't approve and surely would not want to take undue blame for. So who did it come from, and why did they happen to have that information handy on the day? Why, it's almost as if someone knew in advance that there would be questions and had a story ready - knowing that LePore wouldn't be around to have to lie or dispute it.

Still, her alleged motives were good ones and people want to believe in them. Supposedly, she wanted to be able to use larger print so that people with impaired vision - like older people - wouldn't have as much trouble reading it. Personally, I think that one falls apart when you take one look at the ballot and realize that putting everything on a single line would have been much clearer. One might even get the impression that the real intention here was to "prove" that liberals are stupid and that when they try to provide aid to people with physical impairments they only make things worse. But LePore showed so few signs of being a liberal that it's just plain hard to credit that she even gave a damn about things like that. It sounds more like Republican crocodile tears over the alleged sexual harassment of Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky that were defended on the "hoist on your own petard" grounds - inaccurately. And then there's this from Slate: Did Adnan Khashoggi Throw the Election to Dubya?

"Madame Butterfly" Theresa LePore wasn't always an embattled Palm Beach ballots chief. In the 1980s, she moonlighted as a flight attendant on private planes owned by Saudi weapons dealer Adnan Khashoggi, a middleman in Reagan administration arms sales to Iran.
So she was hanging around with these Bush cronies even then. Sorry, no, I just can't give this woman the benefit of the doubt anymore. I can't read her mind - I can't prove that she wasn't just a very stupid woman who thought that making a ballot more confusing would make it clearer - but the circumstantial evidence is that she was precisely the sort of person who, like Kathy Harris, would outright cheat for Bush.

* * * * *
Charles Kuffner has loads of neat stuff at Off the Kuff, including a tale of how he got first-hand experience with Frank Luntz's polling methodology:

The survey started off with questions about the state of health care in America. If there was any doubt as to what angle the questions were coming from, it was erased when I was asked the question "Which of the following groups would you say are the most untrustworthy?" The choices were, and I swear I'm not making this up "Lawyers, litigators, plaintiff's attorneys, and politicians". Another question was "Who do you trust more, doctors or lawyers?" After I reeled off a list of family members who are lawyers (father, sister-in-law, father-in-law, uncle, various cousins), I very emphatically chose the latter.

Eventually, the questions focused on the prescription drug OxyContin. I was previously unaware that there's a controversy over this drug, as it is an opioid and thus rather addictive . The questions focused on whether a drug "that brings great relief to millions of people" should be banned because "a few hundred teenagers have died from abusing it". Some of the questions were truly outrageous, asking if the pharmaceutical executives should be arrested because of this. I believe in individual responsibility, and I understand risk/reward ratios, so I sided with those who want to keep the drug available. Many of the questions put the choice at total freedom for the drug manufacturers to innovate and make our lives better without interference versus the safety of drug-abusing teenagers. There was no middle ground. I refused to answer several questions because of that.

After ten minutes of that, the questions shifted to intellectual property. How did I feel about downloading music and movies for free off the Internet? Once again, the bias of the questions was obvious - brave and righteous content producers versus amoral copyright infringers. There was some lip service paid to the artists, but not too much. When the questions got around to enforcing copyright protection laws so that content producers could continue to enhance our lives, I went off on a rant about the CDBTPA, fair use, and bad business models. Unfortunately, I don't think the surveyor had any space on her answer sheet for that.

Partisans take note: Luntz is a very conservative pollster, so think about what those last questions were meant to do.

Saturday, 13 April 2002

21:20 BST: Permalink
The Washington Post post, many years later, catches up with Patrick Nielsen Hayden:

When I was a high school social-studies teacher in Vermont, one of my duties was to instruct a state-mandated unit on alcohol and illegal drugs. Our curriculum encouraged us to lead "discussions" about these substances, but there was one fact we could never discuss: They make you feel good.

That's right: They make you feel good. You read it here first.

Patrick's been saying this for so long that I honestly can't remember when I first heard him say it. It would seem obvious, but it's nice to know that one of the Newspapers of Record has finally decided this idea isn't too radical for its pages.

I have quibbles with some of the article's other content, though. With both sex and drugs, one of the mistakes adults make is to play down the pleasure because they take for granted that it's always a component of kids' motivations for doing 'em, so they leave out another message that could be even more useful: There is no drug, and no sexual activity, that is always pleasurable. If you don't happen to feel like it, there's not much point in doing these things. "Because I don't want to," was never suggested to me as a reason to refrain, by anyone.

But then, that's not a message that the adults in my life wanted me to get clued to. The flip side of "wanting to feel good is okay" is "not wanting to feel bad is okay." Some people seem to think the answer to that is, "You should want the things I think you should want; I'll permit you to have those things, and then you won't feel bad." There are limits to the usefulness of that strategy.

* * * * *
Thanks to Farber for the pointer to, the website of Rosana Hart, where she talks about growing up as Paul Linebarger's daughter and rediscovers her father's work. Smith is one of the few things Terry Carr and I disagreed about, and while I can see Terry's point, stories like "The Ballad of Lost C'mell" and "The Game of Rat and Dragon" always were a glorious read for me. Not many cat-fanciers can be so blatant and get away with it with me.

* * * * *
Molly Ivins says:

AUSTIN, Texas -- Across the length and breadth of this great land of ours, from the mountain to the prairie, from every hill and dale comes the question, "Where are the Democrats?"
But a few days ago E. J. Dionne asked in The Washington Post where Al Gore was; David Lytel (of responds:

Where's the Press?

E. J. Dionne Jr. wants to know where Al Gore went and why he hasn't heard more from him lately [ op-ed, April 8]. In fact, Gore has been sharply critical of the Bush administration in a number of dimensions and a number of places. It is just that all national political reporters -- including your paper's -- have cut off Gore's microphone.

Dionne should take a step back and look at the record: On March 26, in another of a seemingly endless series of failures of the commercial news media, it was not reported that the candidate for president in the most recent election (who received more votes than his opponent and according to polls is the leading contender to challenge the president at the next election) gave a speech sharply critical of the current government's energy policies. At Tennessee Technical University he blasted the administration for its collusion with the energy industry and for undermining a generation of laws guaranteeing citizens an open and transparent government. But it was not in your paper or any of the nation's other newspapers, nor was it reported on network television news.

On Feb. 15, the most powerful environmentalist of his generation to hold high national office called for Congress to overturn the administration's decision to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, calling the decision bad science and bad policy that completely circumvented due process. His statement was widely circulated on the Internet but almost nowhere else.

On Feb. 14, the Democrat Whose Name Dare Not Be Mentioned blasted the Bush administration's laughable substitute for the Kyoto accords to reduce worldwide pollution. His articulate and strenuous objection to the Bush administration was ignored by your paper.

On Feb. 2 this same politician -- the most popular opposition politician in the nation -- urged Congress to pass real campaign finance reform, blasted the current administration's environmental policy and was highly critical of its mishandling of the economy. This merited a brief mention in your paper's political column, but nowhere else.

And on it goes. Al Gore speaks, but the only person in commercial news or broadcasting who seems to be able to hear him is Jay Leno. So the question for Dionne to be asking is not where is Gore, but where are Dana Milbank, Dan Balz, Ed Walsh and all the other journalists who get paid by your paper to ignore Al Gore?

Friday, 12 April 2002

16:40 BST: Permalink
Epicycle says Gateway is joining the fight for your right to download free music:

Not content with (reportedly) lame animations, though, they're also providing legally downloadable music at their site, giving away blank CD-R disks at their stores, and hosting free "digital music clinics" where the IT-illiterate can learn how to copy audio CDs!
Update 14/04/02: A slightly more direct link has been added for the Epicycle page.

* * * * *
This has been bugging me for days:

Chatterbox has noted before (see "Gödel, Escher, Brock" and "Gödel, Escher, Brock, Part 2") the unique difficulty posed by any narrative that begins, "I'm a liar, here's my tale."
This is Tim Noah giving yet another iteration of the "How can we believe Brock when he admits he's lied?" play. I have another question: How can we believe people who pretend they've never lied?

I say this because every journalist who reports something that isn't true is implicitly lying: they are presenting items as things they know to be facts as if they have researched them personally. And we see this happen several times a day - how else did the phony story of how Ken Lay slept in the Clinton White House get into major papers? Or the claim that Hillary Clinton set up a gift registry for herself at a big department store? How about the claim that there was no mechanism in Florida law for counting overvotes? Or The Washington Post claim that Bill Clinton "committed crimes"?

And those are just the small examples. Tim Russert knew when he called Florida for Bush that it wasn't exactly true. Same again for the media hounds who suggested that Al Gore dissembled during the first debate, or those who pretended to know that Gore was a pathological liar. Every journalist who eagerly reported the White House/Air Force One vandalism story but didn't offer a scandalized correction later lied - egregiously - by omission. (And the administration proved with that little caper that we can believe nothing they say. But then, we already knew that.)

Of course, people who pay attention to the news were already aware that these things were lies - all of them, including Brock's additions to the heap of phony charges against the Clintons and an entire book of spin about Anita Hill and her defenders. Since most of us already knew about Ted Olsen's contribution to the Arkansas Project, we knew it was Olsen, and not Brock, who lied under oath to Congress about that connection. Why should I consider Brock a liar when he's saying things I already knew were true?

The difference between Brock and all the much more respectable liars who contributed to this litany of bearing false witness is that Brock came clean.

Of course, if you have a remarkably narrow, shallow, and absolutely wrong idea of how human beings function, that won't mean anything to you, because you aren't old enough (or self-aware enough) to understand that redemption is possible, people change - sometimes they really do have epiphanies, and sometimes they change so slowly over time that they don't know they're doing it, and sometimes they remain in apparent stasis for a long time while they do a lot of work inside their own heads, but people do change. People rehabilitate themselves, or are rehabilitated with the help of others. (Yes, even prison rehabilitation programs work, when they are good programs carried out in good faith.) People change, in large ways and small. They make minor course-corrections or they change in ways that make them virtually unrecognizable to former associates.

It requires no stretch of the imagination at all to believe that Brock has genuinely decided to clean up his act. Hell, most of the lies he cops to in his book were in themselves small things, made large only by circumstance. Even Brock couldn't have known at the time how much damage mentioning some unknown "Paula" would do. (And nothing Anita Hill, her defenders, or Brock did or could have done can change the fact that Clarence Thomas' performance in the hearings where he pretended to answer Hill's charges was disgraceful; he did not acquit himself in anything like a dignified manner. Seeing how he answered Hill told me all I needed to know about that man and why he should never have been seated on the bench. Even if Hill were lying outright, there is no excuse for the things he said and the way he behaved.)

My main reason for believing David Brock is that he's only saying what I already knew - what was, for the most part, documented. If his memory is a little twitchy, well, that would be human. But the idea that we can't believe him now because he admits to having lied in the past is just plain stupid. Kathleen Willey had to be re-immunized by Starr three or four times because she kept changing her story but she still hasn't admitted that she lied. "White House sources" still haven't admitted they were dissembling about the White House vandalism story. Tim Russert still hasn't admitted that he called Florida for Bush when he knew it was too close to call (and probably knew that Gore had likely won). And then there's Otto Reich.... There are plenty of unrepentant liars out there, including many of Brock's current detractors - but Brock, alone among them, has apologized. That makes him a comparative mensch.

Thursday, 11 April 2002

13:40 BST: Permalink
Charlie is pointing at a good letter by our pal Wendy Grossman on a certain rancid piece of legislation:

I am increasingly concerned about the future of intellectual property and digital media. Intellectual property matters have long been the province of specialists, who were the people primarily affected by them in the days when only businesses had the wherewithal to make copies of movies, books, or recorded music. What is happening now is a protectionist backlash, in which the entertainment industry seeks to further its own interests at the expense of the public and creators alike.

All copyright law has always been a balance between the interests of creators and those of the public. This balance is in danger of being lost.

One of the entertainment industry's most unpleasant rhetorical devices is to claim that they are acting on behalf of creators – artists and writers who need to be paid for the intellectual property they produce. It is true that creators need to be paid; but the entertainment industry has a long history of doing its best not to pay them. One example: in March 2001, after suing the file-sharing service Napster to death citing the need to pay artists, the RIAA asked the the Copyright Office to let it avoid paying royalties to songwriters and song publishers on its own "legitimate" online music services.

* * * * *
The cruelty of Mark Shields:

Saint Matthew wrote that in the Sermon on the Mount, Christ spoke these words:
"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." If that, in fact, turns out to be the case, then one day soon the sedated and submissive Senate Democrats will be land barons.

* * * * *
CBS news uncovers our favorite murder cover-up conspiracy story:

It may be the biggest outstanding mystery in the Enron story: the death of Cliff Baxter, a former top Enron executive. He'd just agreed to testify to Congress in the Enron case. A congressional source tells CBS News that Baxter wasn't a target in the probe, he was to provide evidence against others.

But on the morning of January 25th he was found in his car - shot dead.

Police were criticized for calling it a suicide before investigating, so they kept the case open. The fact that it's still open more than two months later has made the Cliff Baxter case prime fodder for murder conspiracy theories, reports CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.
The experts found several things highly unusual. First the peculiar ammunition: not regular bullets but something called "rat-shot".

"This kind of ammunition cannot be easily or readily traced back to the gun from which it was fired," explained Wecht.

"It's not as frequently used by people for any reason. It's not the type of ammunition one finds in guns - it has a specific purpose: shooting at snakes and rodents in order to get a distribution pattern of the small pellets contained within the nose portion of the bullet. It's not something that a person is likely to have and to use if they intended to kill themselves," said Wecht.

Other unanswered questions include mysterious wounds on one hand and unexplained shards of glass in Baxter's shirt. All reasons to look deeper to rule out murder.

But Wagner says glaring police errors may make it harder to close the books on the Baxter case.

First, nobody wrapped the hands to preserve evidence.

"When the body did finally arrive for the autopsy, the hands hadn't even been bagged," said Wagner.

"I'm just amazed frankly that the hands were not bagged," Wecht said.

"From what I've seen looking at the vehicle, it doesn't appear they even fingerprinted it," continued Wagner.

"The police narrative is vague for this type of investigation. It's important to get a timeline of the events that took place through the course of investigation - that appears to be lacking in the original report from the crime scene. Without that, without being able to piece together what was done when, it's very difficult to understand the events that took place and how they unfolded from that report," said Wagner.

The gun and other evidence were moved before photos were taken. The body was moved as well. There's a puzzling mention of blood outside the car from someone laying Baxter on the ground.

Wagner says that only should have happened if rescuers pulled him out to revive him. But even that scenario doesn't add up - the body is back in the car when the funeral home arrives "and that's something that is not explained in the police reports," said Wagner.

"I think there were some very important things omitted from the original investigation report that should have been included in it. I would like to have known what were the first couple things the Fire Department did to treat the victim allegedly as he was sitting in the car and from that point how did they change the initial crime scene. What was moved? Did they remove the body from the vehicle? It's actually unclear how they treated the actual scene," Wagner said.

Incredibly, even though an autopsy is required by law, none was ordered. By the time that decision was reversed, Baxter's body was being processed at a funeral home.

The coroner says police still won't tell her exactly who handled and who saw the body before it finally reached her and won't even give her routine information.

Hey, let's investigate it five times!

* * * * *
The Washington Post helps the administration keep nearly anonymous:

Top government officials often prefer to talk to reporters on background as "senior administration officials." This gives them a chance to get their spin out without being identified -- or held accountable.

Reporters don't like the game, but if they want the quotes and a better sense of administration strategy, they have to play along, even though at times calling some of those characters a "senior official" can be a bit of a stretch.

Despite the cover, it's not too hard sometimes to figure out who's doing the talking. Guess who the "senior administration official" is in these two recent press backgrounders.

The first is from the White House after President Bush's April 4 announcement that he would send Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to the Middle East.

"But I think we have reached the point," the anonymous official told reporters, "where I need to also go out and follow up on the president's vision, the principles he set forth today, and U.N. Resolution 1402, and work with General[Anthony C.] Zinni. He will be with me during my trip. And we will work together as a team. And I think I can take it to a higher level of involvement as the secretary of the state and as the president's designee to do this."

Or try this equally difficult one on March 8, when a "senior administration official" briefed reporters on what to look for as Vice President Cheney took off for the Mideast.

"These are important relationships [and] we work on a continuous basis," the secret official said. "And that's I think how we'll judge my trip. . . . And I will emphasize for my hosts the extent of which we do not anticipate a return to September 10th. . . ."

Still stumped?

Here's another clue: "Well, I would not take the Zinni mission or my mission out there as any shift or change in U.S. position with respect to the Israel-Palestinian conflict."

Wednesday, 10 April 2002

19:35 BST: Permalink
Pagan Prattle has found more wisdom from Fred Phelps:

According to a Westboro Baptist Church press release issued on April 2nd, the Queen Mother ("The mother of harlots & abominations of the earth") is in Hell because of the actions of "her evil daughter - Queen Elizabeth II", "her whoremongering grandson - Prince Charles", "her harlot daughter Margaret" (who apparently "fornicated her way all over the British Isles & Commonwealth") and "the Elton John whore, Diana".
Gee, and some people thought Hitchens was too hard on her.

* * * * *
Noted in Kausfiles, some interesting news about an apparent vulnerability to HPV among women who take The Pill:
Women infected with the common sexually transmitted human papilloma virus have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer if they have taken birth control pills for more than five years, new research indicates.

Experts say the study supports what many gynecologists have long suspected -- that there is a causal connection between the pills and cervical cancer.

Previous studies have not ruled out the possibility that women who take the pill may simply be more likely to be infected with human papilloma virus, the main cause of the cancer.

Nearly all sexually active women will be infected by HPV sometime during their lives, but in most cases, the immune system quickly eliminates it. The key issue is why, in some cases, the virus does not go away. If the infection persists, the chances of cancer increase enormously.

Condoms are looking better and better. I realize there are still people who groan at the thought of them (and some people who, for political and religious reasons, like to suggest that they don't work), but when used properly condoms really are a great method of birth control and provide pretty decent protection against most sexually transmitted disease. As a birth control counsellor, two of the most frequent reasons I found for people not using them properly were: (a) a false belief that you don't need to use them each time (yes, conception can even take place during menstruation); and (b) the mistaken impression that an oil-based lubricant was better than no artificial lubricant at all. But both of these were topped by lack of faith; people who don't believe condoms are really effective just aren't as likely to use them each time.

* * * * *
I don't want to forget this one; I won't quote it, but for those who don't regularly read USS Clueless, I do recommend the piece from a few days ago about the psychological reaction to suicide bombers in your own family. Aside from anything else, it's a fine and thoughtful piece of writing.

* * * * *
Amygdala refers us to The Nixon Quote Quiz:

12. True or false: According to Nixon, marijuana is worse than alcohol because, while people drink "to have fun," they smoke pot "for the purpose of getting high."

Monday, 08 April 2002

15:10 BST: Permalink
When I first moved to England I was not impressed by the telephone system, and a couple of years later, when we moved, I was pretty disgusted with having to wait two months to have the phone hooked up in our new place. I gather that the Thatcher government was deliberately running down the system in order to make privatization more attractive. They were refusing to upgrade their antique components, refusing to employ a reasonable complement of engineers, refusing to maintain the existing structure up to standard. At that point, Britain had the worst phone system in Western Europe. Eventually, people's disgust with the government turned to desperation with the phone system, softening the blow when the government finally sold it off, and there was outright relief when it was upgraded.

I'm not going to write a long screed here about all that, but suffice to say that none of this was necessary - they could have improved the system at any time and from what I can see it would have cost the public no more than privatization did, since a lot of the money that eventually went into the upgrade actually came from the public purse. A similar trick with the rail services has actually ended up costing us more while devolving services; all it's done is create middle-men who exist to siphon money off from the transport system - with much of that money still coming out of taxes.

Which brings me to the National Health Service (NHS), which did not always have long waiting lists and rigid controls against changing doctors. It used to be a lot more flexible before it became a full-time political football. The question is, once that happens, is it possible to get it back to its former standard?

I can still remember a mere ten years ago when my doctor sent me to specialists and I saw them in a matter of days; now you can generally rely on waiting weeks and months to get the same visits. I can remember when a query to my doctor's office resulted in having him drop by my house after work to speak to me directly, and when an emergency call on a Sunday evening netted a good old-fashioned house-call. Those days are gone. As each new rule - meant to "modernize" the service - is added, the system has lost more of its flexibility and added new layers of danger.

A while back I referred to Ted Barlow's fine enumeration of the advantages of single-payer healthcare over the US commercially-based system. Shortly thereafter, Patrick referred me to a piece from October 2001 by Anthony Browne, the Oberserver health editor, Why the NHS is bad for us, and asked me what I thought of it.

The article enumerates systemic failures in the NHS, and those things happen, to be sure; indeed, I'm currently having my own problems with the way the system is messing me about. But when I talked to others and recalled my own earlier experiences with the system, I was forced to wonder how much of this is in the nature of the NHS itself and how much is instead a direct result of the meddling that started with the Thatcher government and has actually worsened under New Labour. Certainly at the time the article was written, Browne had no justification for saying that the Blair government had shown any commitment to the NHS; on the contrary, Blair himself was showing signs of being even more committed to selling off what remained of the family jewels than his predecessors were, and for less convincing reasons.

Not sure Blair is on the same page with him, but Gordon Brown has recently hinted at an about-face in this regard, as Michael White reported last month in this article:

Gordon Brown yesterday rejected claims that Britain's unique reliance on general taxation to finance the NHS has been made obsolete by hi-tech modern health care systems and insurance-based methods of paying for them.

He ruled out the US, French and German models and even ridiculed what is thought to be Tony Blair's private belief that people should pay a small charge to see their GP to reduce unnecessary visits and missed appointments. Britain's GPs get fewer visits than their counterparts in those three countries, even with a free-at-the-point-of-use system.
In a well-aimed blow at the US system Mr Brown described how 26% of American families have forgone health care in the past year because they cannot afford it, and that 40m Americans have no insurance.

Yet medicare for the elderly and medicaid for the poor, together with the cost of tax relief for those who buy insurance, already cost the US taxpayer $500bn (£352bn) a year - 7% of GNP, roughly what Britain spends in total on health, he said.

The overall US health budget is 14% of GNP. But Mr Brown claimed the system leads to a less flexible workforce because workers fear losing their job-based insurance scheme, less fairness, and - in a market-driven system where there should be more choice in theory - less choice for patients.
Though exponents of the French model argue that separate sickness funds - the equivalent to ring-fencing cash - give a greater sense of ownership and therefore greater public support, employers end up footing the bill.

Not only did most people need top-up insurance to pay for costs the main system does not cover in France, but the Jospin government has had to step in to provide state cover for low income groups.

"So even insurance-based systems have had to find ways, financed through general taxation, of tackling the two-tier system and the unemployed ... as the French funding system moves towards Britain it would seem strange for the British funding system to move towards the French," he said.

I'd have to do a bit of fact-checking to know how much faith I can put into Brown's evaluation, but I can say from experience that I've been no more casual about seeking a doctor's care here than I was back in the US when I had to pay a bill for it. It's not really my experience that people go to the doctor just for the hell of it - it's just not something we like to do. But I can assure you that I'm really, really glad that with all the other misery and fear that came with my little trip to the emergency room a few weeks ago, I didn't have to worry about what it was going to cost me.

* * * * *
WTF Is It Now?? found this at US News:

New CNN 'Crossfire' has GOP turning the channel
Maybe it was Paul Begala's opening comments on the first day of CNN's revamped Crossfire that it was time to "kick a little right-wing ass" that angered Republicans. Or when cohost James Carville kept interrupting GOP Chairman Marc Racicot. Whatever, Republican leaders are blackballing the show. "The word is out: Don't go on; you'll get screwed," says a top Senate aide. Adds a House colleague: "It isn't a total boycott, but the show's last on our list to do." That's a blow for CNN, which has struggled to snare GOP guests as it battles with conservative-friendly Fox News. The complaints: Combative liberals Begala and Carville, both Democratic Party operatives, are too good at what they do, and conservative journalists Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson, who might see a nuance now and then, can't keep up. And they hate the live George Washington University audience. "It's like Jerry Springer," gripes a GOP-er. Says CNN's Ali Weisberg: "Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson are tough and smart on the right, and they can certainly hold their own. ... Crossfire always tries to keep its guests – and now its live audience–balanced."
I can't help but wonder if liberals will actually start watching things like this now that their own views will be getting a little more representation.

* * * * *
Patriotic Posters.

Sunday, 07 April 2002

23:50 BST: Permalink
(I'm lying, you know; it isn't really BST at all, it's British Summer Time, but I figured that would confuse people even more.)

Oliver Willis is watching Editor & Publisher Mapping the Ideological Divide:

When it comes to sales, the most widely syndicated Op-Ed writers include conservatives Cal Thomas of Tribune Media Services (TMS), with 540 papers, and George Will of the Washington Post Writers Group (WPWG), with 400-plus -- 20 to 30 more papers than run the most popular liberal commentator, WPWG's Ellen Goodman.

One reason for more right-leaning columnists is that Creators Syndicate -- the firm with the biggest Op-Ed roster (more than 35) -- has twice as many conservatives (12) as liberals (6). Creators President Rick Newcombe said this is partly a result of buying Heritage Features Syndicate a decade ago, "which gave me 15 conservatives in one fell swoop" -- some of whom are no longer around.

Does Creator's Syndicate even carry anyone who is as far to the left as George F. Will is to the right?

Most syndicates said that when they consider a new columnist, ideology usually isn't the main criterion. "We look for quality of writing and clarity of voice," said Mott.

"We don't sit around saying, 'Gosh, we need another liberal or conservative,'" added Shearer. "We look for the best writers with a journalism background."

Really? Then how do these people explain Michael Kelly?

* * * * *
Ginger is hot on what women are supposed to look like:

Remember, "Twiggy" was not originally a compliment.
Twiggy wasn't originally an adult, either. She was - what, 13? Not a look a grown woman would normally aspire to.

And, judging by the comments from the men that were posted at the bottom of the article, guys agree with me. Guys will think you're hot if you don't look like a human Tinkertoy. Who knew? Not anyone reading Vogue.
Me! Me! I did! I didn't diet - I ate like a horse, in fact - but for some reason it didn't stick. It's not that guys didn't find me attractive before (I always had knockers and hips), but when I got a little older and put on some pounds, they all kept telling me how much better I looked.

* * * * *
Farber reminds me that I'm forgetting something. It's not Howard who is Bush's most fawning supporter, it's Peggy. Scott Rubush has his own take on her:

I'm not a huge fan of Peggy "Puff Piece" Noonan's weekly GOP press release on the pages of the Wall Street Journal, but she really pulled out the kneepads today for her article on Bush's decision to go soft on Arafat. Let's go to the tape
What a disgusting piece of trash from this washed up White House lackey. Why in the world does the Wall Street Journal, which in my view has the best op-ed page in the country, continue to print her rambling, uncritical articles week after week?
Many people have been asking that question...although I'm not sure most of them would agree about the WSJ's whacky editorial pages.

* * * * *
Fergal Keane at The Independent says Sharon's military tactics should not surprise anyone:

Bush could have consulted a few of the American diplomats who have known Sharon over the years
04:05 BST: Permalink
I was wandering around today at The Uncon. Tomorrow Lionel Fanthorpe will be speaking about the most fortean thing in the world. I've had enough of stairs, though, I'm staying home and getting some rest for a change. I guess that means I will miss another sighting of Lionel's leather suit and dog collar.

* * * * *
Nat Hentoff on one of Ashcroft's outrageous violations of the Constitution:

John Ashcroft's war on terrorism includes the most far-reaching gag order in First Amendment history -- preventing the press from reporting on the FBI's seizure of the lists of books bought or borrowed in bookstores and libraries by noncitizens and citizens suspected of terrorist activities. Under the omnibus USA Patriot Act, the FBI has the authority to get an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court -- a secret body composed of rotating federal judges -- to seek "any tangible things (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items) for an investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities."

The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the American Library Association (ALA) have particularly alerted their members to part of the law that prevents booksellers and librarians -- once the FBI has come calling -- to reveal that a search has been made. The law states: "No person shall disclose to any other person ... that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has sought or obtained" these records.

This means that the press and, therefore, the public cannot find out how often and where these searches have taken pace -- and what books, as well as readers, are under suspicion. Customarily, when a court imposes a gag rule on pretrial or trial participants, including the press, it is fought in open court by the press and often overturned.

Now, however, this chilling incursion on the First Amendment right to read remains as hidden as some of the security operations of the People's Republic of China.

* * * * *
Patrick has pointed me to a useful weblog by someone who knows something about economics, J. Bradford DeLong. He writes about other stuff, too.

* * * * *
I missed the post from Charles Kuffner last week about this article on dietary fat:

Meanwhile, obesity in America, which remained constant from the early 1960s through 1980, has surged upward since then--from 14% of the population to over 22%. Diabetes has increased apace. Both obesity and diabetes increase heart disease risk, which could explain why heart disease incidence is not decreasing. That this obesity epidemic occurred just as the government began bombarding Americans with the low-fat message suggests the possibility, however distant, that low-fat diets might have unintended consequences--among them, weight gain. "Most of us would have predicted that if we can get the population to change its fat intake, with its dense calories, we would see a reduction in weight," admits Harlan. "Instead, we see the exact opposite."

In the face of this uncertainty, skeptics and apostates have come along repeatedly, only to see their work almost religiously ignored as the mainstream medical community sought consensus on the evils of dietary fat. For 20 years, for instance, the Harvard School of Public Health has run the Nurses' Health Study and its two sequelae--the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and the Nurses' Health Study II--accumulating over a decade of data on the diet and health of almost 300,000 Americans. The results suggest that total fat consumed has no relation to heart disease risk; that monounsaturated fats like olive oil lower risk; and that saturated fats are little worse, if at all, than the pasta and other carbohydrates that the Food Guide Pyramid suggests be eaten copiously. (The studies also suggest that trans fatty acids are unhealthful. These are the fats in margarine, for instance, and are what many Americans started eating when they were told that the saturated fats in butter might kill them.) Harvard epidemiologist Walter Willett, spokesperson for the Nurses' Health Study, points out that NIH has spent over $100 million on the three studies and yet not one government agency has changed its primary guidelines to fit these particular data. "Scandalous," says Willett. "They say, 'You really need a high level of proof to change the recommendations,' which is ironic, because they never had a high level of proof to set them."

* * * * *
Someone at the Bartcop Forum found a letter in The Iowa City Press-Citizen that refers to Bush the way so many mainstream journalists refer to Clinton:

I'm tired of stories about sexual abuse by Catholic priests. Doesn't sexual misconduct occur in other religions? Among Protestant clergy? Muslims? Buddhists? Rabbis?

If the media is going to cover sexual misconduct then it had better start being evenhanded. Every allegation about Bill Clinton, no matter how spurious, was publicized. Now the same sensationalist atmosphere is building against priests, almost all of whom are not sex abusers.

I realize child abuse is especially harmful. So why doesn't the media report an allegation that George W. Bush had sex with a 15-year-old girl and then arrangements were made for her to have an abortion in Texas?

They don't have to report every time Mr. Bush is accused of having an affair. That would take too long and be as bad as what was done to Clinton.

But if the media keeps associating the words "pedophile" and "priest" then considering the evidence they may want start using the phrase "pedophile president."

There has been an organized effort to undermine certain groups with selective coverage of sexual misconduct. The targets reveal a conservative Protestant Republican media bias.

The next group targeted by this defamation campaign could be yours. [Jay Miller]

* * * * *
Eric Boehlert says The Wall Street Journal is running a smear campaign against the competition for the Pulitzer Prize.

Saturday, 06 April 2002

01:55 BST: Permalink
Alterman on the limits of lying in government:

How cool is Jennifer Harbury? She is currently arguing her own case before the Supreme Court, demanding the right to sue the government because, she maintains, its leaders deliberately misled her about the murder of her husband, a Guatemalan rebel leader named Efrain Bamaca Velasquez who was killed in army custody during the counterinsurgency war in Guatemala in the early 1990s.

Harbury has a case. The State Department has confirmed that Col. Julio Roberto Alpirez, who was present during Bamaca's interrogation/murder, was a paid CIA asset. A CIA report alleges that Alpirez did the dirty deed himself. When then-State Department official Thomas Nuccio informed Senator Robert Torricelli of that, Nuccio immediately found himself the target of a Justice Department investigation. A federal prosecutor accused him of betraying America by conspiring with Torricelli to blow Alpirez's cover, of destroying CIA officers' careers and of being an agent of the guerrillas. Although the United States offered no official charges or accusations, in a highly unusual move the CIA demanded that the State Department strip Nuccio of his security clearance, thereby depriving him of his livelihood. Harbury endured a thirty-two-day hunger strike to force those officials to come clean. She is now arguing that she could have saved her husband's life through the US court system had she known the truth during the period between his capture in March 1992 and his murder in 1993 or 1994.
But the sorry truth is that the question of the government's right to lie is a lot more complicated than it looks. The Supreme Court has repeatedly enshrined in law the extremely provocative statement enunciated in the aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis by Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Arthur Sylvester: "It's inherent in [the] government's right, if necessary, to lie to save itself." Dishonest officials have stretched the "national security" definition beyond recognition to protect not only thuggish murderers but also narrow political interests. But the principle itself is not wholly unsound. Although lies undermine the confidence in, and practice of, democracy, in the wake of the September 11 attacks, one can imagine circumstances in which a temporary lie might save lives without endangering the Constitution.

The problem is how to set enforceable limits. Government officials lie all the time. And while it is a crime to lie to Congress and to commit perjury, these acts are prosecuted in such a haphazard and nakedly political fashion that they can hardly serve as much of a deterrent. Lawrence Walsh's legitimate prosecutions of Reagan Administration officials who lied about matters of state were mocked by allegedly high-minded pundits like David Broder and George Will and overturned in a cowardly fashion by defeated President George H.W. Bush after the 1992 election.

Meanwhile, a fanatical cabal inside the Republican Party and Kenneth Starr's office manipulated these same laws to impeach President Clinton and disarm his popular agenda over a private lie not about a matter of state but a routine case of almost adultery. Given that hundreds of thousands if not millions of Americans have told this same type of lie to protect their families (or themselves) from humiliation, they saw this partisan gambit for what it was, punishing its perpetrators in the 1998 election. But the self-righteous pooh-bahs of the punditocracy--many of whom celebrated the Reagan-era liars and quite a few of whom told their share of adulterous lies--behave as if their hypocrisy were somehow patriotically inspired.

Jennifer Harbury continues to fight not only for justice for her husband but also for a reasonable definition of the government's right to lie. Bully for this brave woman who, despite her personal tragedy, takes democracy more seriously than its alleged protectors. She is a patriot to put the pundits to shame.

* * * * *
I was horrified back when Carter was elected, because all that "Born again Christian" stuff really scares the hell out of me - and I'm not just talking about the stuff they do at home. Now and then you have to remind folks that some of the most anti-semitic folks around are hardline Zionists, but that with "friends" like these, Israel really doesn't need enemies. Now people who are much more scary on the subject than Carter ever was hold sway over the White House. Joe Conason knows why this is not a good thing:

Yet if Mr. Sharon's approach has been dangerous and deplorable, it is probably the inevitable result of the Palestinian Authority's inability (or unwillingness) to lead its own people toward compromise. By refusing to seize the opportunity offered by the government of Ehud Barak, and by failing to suppress the rejectionist murderers of Hamas and Hezbollah, Mr. Arafat not only brought his worst enemy to power but instigated an atmosphere of despair in Israel. He has given the Israeli public no reason to regard him as trustworthy, and hundreds of reasons to think him treacherous.

In short, these antagonists are behaving no differently than any experienced observer would have predicted—and the United States cannot be blamed for that. But the Bush administration's decision to abstain from diplomacy in the Middle East—and even to mock former President Clinton's strenuous engagement—was a disastrous mistake, with consequences yet to be fully revealed. The "tough-minded" foreign-policy veterans surrounding George W. Bush ought to have known better than to abandon Mr. Clinton's unfinished business, no matter what they might feel about him or his policies.

Just as disturbing as the limp policy posture of the White House are the hints that Mr. Bush is guided by domestic political considerations on this crucial issue. He is said to believe that his father's Mideast diplomacy, which helped to bring about the Oslo accords, led to Republican defeat in 1992. How he might have reached such a conclusion is mysterious, since the dominant issues in that election were economic; foreign policy—the singular preoccupation of the first Bush Presidency—was scarcely mentioned. Jewish voters overwhelmingly supported the Democratic candidate, in an ethnic tradition that has remained virtually unchanged for decades.

Perhaps Mr. Bush is worried about the reaction of the religious right, his most faithful base of support, if he puts any real pressure on Israel. Far more than American Jews, whose support of the Jewish state has been influenced in recent years by Israel's internal debate, it is the Christian fundamentalists who have become the most intransigent advocates of Zionism. If he is listening to these people, the President should keep in mind that they look forward happily to Armageddon.

Those of us who hope to preserve this world would be better served by renewed engagement and resolve on the part of American diplomats, whose duty is to rescue the Israelis from the excesses of their own government, and to prevent the catastrophe of a wider war. The only path back from the brink is for the United States and its allies in Europe to induce a cease-fire that can eventually lead to more talking and less killing.

* * * * *
Bill Press reviewing Brock's Blinded by the Right:

Sparing no one, he relates how Gingrich and company steered the Republican party from fiscal conservatism to moral absolutism. How, knowing they could not defeat Clinton's policies, they determined to go after his personal life. How they manipulated the mainstream media into spreading lies, sleaze and ugly rumors. How they reversed their belief in constitutional protection of the presidency to launch a campaign to impeach Clinton. And, how, long before anyone ever heard of Monica Lewinsky, they designed the Paula Jones lawsuit as a trap to catch Clinton in a lie about consensual sex -- thereby creating a crime that, otherwise, might never have been committed.
* * * * *
Votemarch writes about Greg Palast and reminds me of another pardon scandal:

...the Barrick Goldstrike scam – the Canadian company that counts G. H. W. Bush as one of its board members, allowed to purchase, during the latter's administration, a $10 billion gold mine in Nevada for $10 thousand. This venture was financed by one of the Iran-Contra conduits, Adnan Khashoggi, whose cohorts Bush Sr. pardoned before leaving office.
Oh, and by the way:

Nostalgically recalling his employment in this country, where he used to work on the second floor of Tower 1 of the World Trade Center, Palast jumped to a new scenario. The FBI left a file in his office, giving him one-half hour to forty-five minutes to peruse it. In it he found documented the board membership of two of bin Laden's brothers, Abdullah and Omar, in the Carlyle Group, a merchant bank focused on defense companies; (these brothers were at a Carlyle meeting on 9/11); the document also linked them with terrorist organizations in this country. But the FBI is blocked from investigating this connection until September 12 of this year, when it will also be allowed to follow up evidence it amassed of a meeting between Saudi Arabians and Al Quaeda in 1996 in which the billionaires were donating to the terrorists. Have we heard anything of this previously? The news was headlined in Great Britain, said Palast.
* * * * *
Cynthia Tucker has a question:

Dear, um, Sen. Miller:

It seems odd to address you so formally. Just a few years ago, when you were Georgia's governor, there was nothing stiff or formal about you. You were an old-fashioned populist and Southern original -- not fancy, not stage-managed, not overly concerned with polls or political fashion. Most days, you did what you thought was right.

But now you seem a stranger. The progressive leader I had come to admire has gone into hiding. He has been replaced by a duplicitous and scheming politician who covets the spotlight.

Who stole the real Zell Miller?

Friday, 05 April 2002

03:09 BST: Permalink
Please tell me this is the NYT's April Fool's joke:

Earlier this year, Onion River Radio, an Internet radio station that describes itself as "classic rock, singer-songwriter, with slightly granola leanings," was optimistic about its chances of surviving as an alternative to the usual broadcasting available in its home market of Montpelier, Vt. Its audience was growing fast, and advertisers were slowly beginning to take an interest.

Then in February, a panel appointed by the United States Copyright Office recommended music licensing rates that would compel Onion River, along with thousands of other fledgling Webcasters, to pay more than half its revenue in royalty fees to the recording industry.

"It's a bankruptcy royalty," said Frank Schliemann, Onion River's founder, who traveled to Washington to complain to Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont. "It's a losing situation."

The proposed royalties, which the copyright office has until May 21 to revise or approve, have radically dimmed the prospects for the legions of entrepreneurs and hobbyists whose radio stations — from to Radio Margaritaville — have for the last two years provided free access to a startlingly wide range of music. Last week, lawyers for the Webcasters and the recording industry submitted their final comments to the copyright office, with the record labels urging the agency to increase the rate and the Webcasters pleading for a lower alternative.

Hundreds of Internet stations have plastered their sites with requests that listeners write to Congress and with links to, an advocacy and information site. "It's not an exaggeration to say the number of Internet radio stations will shrink from tens of thousands to four or five if this goes through," said Kurt Hanson, editor of Radio and Internet Newsletter.
Record labels have been reluctant to license their music for online distribution, not wanting to supply listeners with more material to copy free over file-sharing services like Napster and Morpheus. But Webcasts are similar to conventional radio and do not carry the same risk of being recorded and copied.

In a 1998 copyright law, Congress gave Webcasters an automatic license to stream copyrighted music so long as they paid a royalty fee to be agreed on later. Like broadcast radio stations, Webcasters already pay about 4 percent of their revenue to compensate composers and music publishers. But American broadcasters have never paid a royalty for using sound recordings, which are typically owned by a record label, successfully arguing that record labels are already compensated by the promotional benefits of having their music played over the air.

Webcasters argue that the recording industry should recognize that it derives a similar benefit from music that is streamed over the Internet. In an arbitration panel proceeding supervised by the copyright office, the Webcasters proposed a royalty rate about equal to those paid to composers and publishers, 5 percent of revenue. The recording industry asked for 15 percent of revenue, or a comparable per-performance fee.

In February, the arbitration panel proposed a formula of 0.0014 cent per song, per listener. Conventional broadcasters who stream simultaneously on the Internet would pay half that rate. The rate falls between what the two sides asked for. But because there is no option to pay a percentage of revenue, and because so few Webcasters are making money on advertising, it works out in some cases to far more than a station's total revenue.

For, one of the highest-ranked independent Internet radio stations by the Arbitron (news/quote) ratings service last year with more than 100,000 unique listeners a month, that could mean an additional $100,000 in costs a year, at a time when the station has yet to break even. The Webcasters are also accountable for four years of retroactive payment.

Kevin Shively, director of interactive media for, thinks his station's market will grow as classical music becomes harder and harder to find on broadcast radio. He says the Internet would seem to be an ideal distribution medium for an audience of devoted fans who are geographically scattered. But he said the station, which is owned by Marlin Broadcasting, might well go under before that happened.

"What really baffles us is why they would see us as an enemy and not a friend," Mr. Shively said, adding that listeners bought $20,000 in compact discs through the site last year. Especially in genres being played less now on broadcast radio stations, like classical music, jazz and blues, "we can provide an avenue of promotion that they would not otherwise get."

Compared with broadcast radio, of course, the market for Internet radio is tiny. A study by Arbitron found that 95 percent of Americans listen to broadcast radio in a given week, while only 9 percent listen to Internet radio. Webcasts over America Online, Microsoft, Yahoo and RealNetworks have the largest audiences, and the royalty payments are unlikely to pose a problem for such large companies, which can afford to subsidize their radio operations until they become profitable.

But critics say that such a scenario will simply re-create on the Internet the pattern of consolidation that has lumped conventional radio under a handful of owners and led to rigid formats in every major market — something that has been widely criticized as formulaic.

Thursday, 04 April 2002

15:15 BST: Permalink
Gary Farber claims my permalinks "have disappeared again." Is this true? They look okay from here, but is anyone else running into this problem?

Gary is also pointing to a rejection letter dated 21 June 1968 to literary agent Virginia Kidd returning a novel from one of her authors, Ursula K. Le Guin. It describes The Left Hand of Darkness as "unreadable".

* * * * *
Lately there always seems to be another reason for me to have ten minutes of hate for Judge David Sentelle:

FCC Ordered to Rewrite Media Rule
WASHINGTON (AP) - An appeals court has ordered federal communications regulators to rewrite yet another rule limiting media ownership.

The ruling, handed down Tuesday by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, criticized the government's restrictions on companies that want to own two television stations in the same market.

For decades such double station ownership was banned outright. The Federal Communications Commission last year relaxed the rule somewhat to say that a company could own two TV stations in one market as long as one of them is not among the top four and if at least eight broadcast competitors remained after the deal.

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. sued over those changes. The appeals court agreed that the eight-competitor requirement, and the FCC's decision not to count cable, direct broadcast satellite, radio or newspapers as one of those independent voices, is "arbitrary and capricious."

The court ordered the FCC to reconsider the definition of competitors as well as the number.

"The commission has failed to demonstrate that its exclusion of non-broadcast media from the eight voices exception is 'necessary in the public interest'" as required by law, the court wrote.

U.S. District Judge David Sentelle agreed with the majority's conclusions, but said the court should have thrown the rule out entirely rather than send it back to the FCC.

The decision is just the latest calling federal media ownership rules into question, leading to speculation that a wave of big media industry mergers will result. The trend has consumer groups worried that more consolidation will lead to a handful of companies controlling all the information people receive as well as how they receive it.

* * * * *
Now and then I look at some deeply geeky weblogs, even though I don't understand most of it. If you are interested in that kind of thing, you could look at Epicycle or markmceahern.

* * * * *
Is it just me, or is this editorial from The Selma Times Journal weird?

In the past week, people in Selma and Dallas County surely have seen the small pieces of publicity given to automotive manufacturer Hyundai. There's a chance that company could build a plant within 30 minutes of our county. If that happens, the job opportunities - the spin-off companies created - would be countless and beneficial for our community.
We want to explain to our readers why there aren't more details about the possible new industry. We want you to know why, right now, we can't tell you about an industry that literally would create thousands of jobs in the Black Belt.

Big companies do not like pressure. They don't like to be told where they should move, and they sure don't like ordinary citizens like us telling them they better move to our community. Big companies like to do things their way. They like to visit communities like ours, eat at our restaurants, and ask us how much money we can give them to help build the plant.

When media get involved, when members of the press ask questions and get pushy about details, big companies get angry. They ask media to leave them alone. They ask state officials to stay quiet. And if state officials know what's best, they do stay quiet.
So for now, we'll remain quiet on Hyundai, just like every other media organization in Alabama should do.

* * * * *
The Washington Post notes that the Supreme Court just doesn't seem to believe there's such a thing as a conflict of interest:

THE RIGHT to be represented by a lawyer in a criminal case has taken some serious blows in recent years. Still, the case of Walter Mickens Jr. didn't seem like a tough one. If the right of a capital defendant to have a lawyer means anything at all, surely it means that an accused murderer cannot be unknowingly represented by his victim's lawyer. Alas, it turns out the Sixth Amendment right to counsel doesn't even mean that. Not, at least, according to the five justices of the Supreme Court of the United States who last week affirmed Mr. Mickens's conviction and death sentence. The decision offers a window on just how little the court majority cares about ensuring the most basic elements of fairness in criminal trials.
Or in civil cases, either. Of course, after Bush v. Gore, that was obvious, wasn't it?

The court's reasoning is perverse. Under its logic, a convict is entitled to automatic reversal if his lawyer is ethical enough to object to a conflict. But if the lawyer hides the conflict from his client -- and the judge does nothing to ensure conflict-free representation -- the accused has a heightened burden. The client, in other words, gets punished if his lawyer, in addition to being conflicted, behaves unethically. Moreover, Justice Antonin Scalia's opinion seems to suggest that there is no conflict so total that -- even without an objection -- it mandates reversal. This can't be right. Could the victim's brother have represented his accused killer? Or maybe crime victims themselves may represent accused criminals without informing their clients. There has to be some line -- and these facts cross any reasonable line one could draw. As Justice John Paul Stevens put it in dissent, "A rule that allows the State to foist a murder victim's lawyer onto his accused [killer] is not only capricious; it poisons the integrity of our adversary system of justice."
You have to be awed at Scalia's grasp of logic, it must be said. He doesn't even seem to be embarrassed to write these fruity explanations for his "judgments".

* * * * *
I hope Bartcop fixes the very unfortunate typo he made at the top of this important piece by Paul Krugman:

Remember the "bring out your dead" scene in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail"? It's the one where the old man declares, "I'm not dead!" "Yes, he is," insists his younger companion, who persuades the undertaker to hit the old man over the head and cart him away. Now you understand the Bush administration's policy toward Social Security.

Ordinarily, the annual trustees' report on Social Security is released at a morning press conference, and simultaneously posted on the Web; this gives reporters a chance to read the material and discuss it with outside experts before filing their articles. Last week, however, the first copies were made available late in the afternoon, leaving hardly any time for analysis. One wag joked that the information was being closely held to keep it out of the hands of terrorists.

But the real reason was surely to avoid too much attention to the report's unwelcome conclusion: that Social Security is in very good shape. True, the rest of the government is running big deficits, and borrowing heavily from the retirement fund — but Social Security isn't the source of that problem.

The introductory summary — which, unlike the report itself, is mainly a political document — does its best to make the worst of a good situation. But the bottom line is that the long-run sustainability of Social Security looks better than ever. The staff of the Social Security Administration, using conservative assumptions, now says that the system could operate without any changes at all — no cuts in benefits, no additional revenue — until 2041, three years longer than it projected last year.

I hope this satisfies readers who, when I criticize bogus arguments for privatizing Social Security, demand to hear my answer to the crisis. There isn't any crisis: the system looks good for 40 years, and with a bit of extra resources can survive indefinitely.

More specifically: The long-run actuarial shortfall of Social Security is less than half the revenue that will be lost due to last year's tax cut. The common perception that the tax cut was no big deal, but that Social Security faces a terrible crisis, is completely upside down. But the powerful forces that want to dismantle Social Security won't take yes for an answer; they insist that the system is doomed.

And of course, when the new, bigger-than-ours generation of baby-boomers gets into the workforce (which won't be all that long from now), Social Security will be even healthier. Say it with me, now: Social Security works.

* * * * *
MWO points to yet another astonishing piece of fawning by Howard Fineman, but this time it really does sound like damning with faint praise:

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, George W. Bush revealed a gift for simple, eloquent leadership in public and decisive action in the councils of a war to defend America. But now, good instincts and good character aren't enough. Bush also showed himself to be the kind of leader who likes decisive victories and clear moral choices. That was just what the country needed after the Twin Towers fell: a man with a bullhorn. But now, as violence roils the Middle East, easy answers are impossible to find, and painful ambiguity the order of the day.

IF YOU THINK of the presidency as a form of higher education, you can see the challenge the president confronts in the brutal war raging between Israelis and Palestinians. This is the toughest Ph.D. program of all, calling for deep knowledge, experience, a feel for nuance — and at least one top-shelf White House adviser who knows the topic like the back of his or her hand. But Bush starts with none of these things. In effect, he now must go for his doctorate after one (albeit impressive) year as an undergraduate.

You mean one dismal year in the 1st grade, Howard. And, personally, I'm not so sure we couldn't have done better than "a man with a bullhorn", either.

But that, in retrospect, was an easy call compared with the no-good-option situation now. Bush's inner circle is genuinely divided between anti-Yasser Arafat hawks (Cheney and Rumsfeld) and we-have-to-make-the-best-of-it doves (Powell and Rice). For the first time, this president has to make up his own mind without the solid, unified guidance of his advisers.
Oh, no, not his own mind! Boy, are we in trouble.

The lack of experience has real world impacts. That was the case during Dick Cheney's trip to drum up support for a move against Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Initially, Bush thought that Sept. 11 had given him the freedom to move against Saddam unencumbered by other matters. But if he had known the region better, he would have realized that it was unrealistic to expect Arabs and Muslims to separate the war on terrorism from the fight in Palestine. He would have known that America's foes would try to use the issue of Palestinian rights to distract world attention from sources of terrorism elsewhere.
And that's from Bush's most adoring shill.

I so wish we had a real president.

Wednesday, 03 April 2002

20:45 BST: Permalink
I have been to the dentist. It was okay, and I didn't get jaw-strain, but the shot is wearing off now and I don't like it much. So let's have some Readers' Lettuce:

Hal O'Brien writes:

"Jonathan Alter interviews the last elected President of the United States..."

In the same way an actor says they're "between jobs", I am optimistic enough to think this should be "most recently elected President", or some such. I would hate to think he's the last.

The jury is still out on this. Remember, they haven't arrested Katherine Harris yet.

Ross Nordeen:

I'm sure your opinion of libertarians isn't much higher than your opinion of conservatives, but I beg you to run a correction on the subject issue. If you take a look at Goldberg's past columns (an unpleasant task, to be sure) you would see that he bashes libertarians on a regular basis.
I have a pretty good relationship with the Libertarian Alliance here in Britain, and have been known to sit around with Chris Tame and have a good laugh with him at silly stuff written by "libertarians" who wear their "scratch me and find a social conservative" badges too close to the surface. (What is it with so many American "libertarians" that they just happen to think state laws against abortion are a good thing that the Supreme Court shouldn't have interfered with and that the National Endowment for the Arts would be okay if they didn't fund people like Serrano and Karen Finlay? Why do I have to explain to them that if the NEA funded only conservative art, it would be just a government propaganda organization? The liberal position is that we should avoid that by funding both; the libertarian position is that we do so by funding neither. Who do these so-called "libertarians" who want to fund NEA for non-challenging art think they are fooling?)

I think of Jonah Goldberg as a fruitcake rather than as a libertarian, and my writing the other day was sloppy - I meant my reference to young libertarians as an aside. I think a lot of older conservatives are lying when they tell these stories and that younger people have been misled by a lot of this stuff. Yes, Andrea Dworkin is an alienating nutcase and young women need to get over the idea that men are attracted to them, but that doesn't mean that the Republicans have been particularly good defenders of liberty in the last 50 years. Dworkin and MacKinnon wouldn't have gotten very far without the likes of Meese and Schlafley inviting them to aid their censorship drives. Regnery funded Judith Reissman. James Dobson put Ted Bundy's self-serving excuses on the air. Let's not pretend this was liberalism at work. Banning pornography and making all things sexual about reproduction and the frail sensitivities of the female sex is only superficially about liberal causes like women's liberation anyway; in truth, these are good old-fashioned social conservative causes and it's no accident that the right-wing latched onto them and elevated them to the status of bills in Congress.

Thanks to James Langdell and Keith Thompson for the information that Alex North's music for 2001 is available on CD, which they both say is pretty good.

* * * * *
Joe Vialls doubts the whole story of Barbara Olsen's call to her husband from Flight 77. I don't think this actually qualifies as a paranoia report, since even if he's right it has nothing to do with conspiracy or foreknowledge or anything like that; it could just be a "story too good to check" tale of the media getting carried away again.

* * * * *
The Independent on something that worries me, The first casualty:

Downing Street said al-Qa'ida was using chemical weapons: it was wrong. The Pentagon said Saddam Hussein was to blame for the anthrax attacks on the US: it was wrong.
Look, it's not that I expect the White House and the DOD to keep me informed of every little detail of the war. In fact, there are some things I think we should actually be hearing less of. But I think some of these things we've been told have nothing to do with national security; they are convenient for the administration and in many cases are meant to manipulate us into accepting policies which are not in our best interests. Was the alleged connection between anthrax and Iraq a deliberate lie intended to soften us up for an attack on Saddam (and make us forget just how nasty American right-wing extremists really are), for example? I think the release of scary rumors that were discredited months earlier was out-and-out fear-mongering meant to distract us from the fact that this administration has been behaving contemptuously (and, of course, contemptibly). And I think if we really had good war strategies, we should hear about many of them only after the fact. And maybe, for all I know, the administration is secretly doing all the things I think it should be doing covertly - but given their performance generally, I just don't think that's the way to bet.

* * * * *
Transcripts of the first Crossfire with Begala and Carville added to the mix; Tom Daschle in the hot seat.

12:17 BST: Permalink
A Tiny Polemic from Robert Dobbs:

They have gone completely MAD.

The little Dr. Strangeloves of this administration have won the White House power struggle - and now every other nation has an excuse to arm themselves with nuclear weapons.

This bunch has gone completey mad. We must begin impeachment proceedings at once.

The only way to stop them is to immediately elect a heavily Democratic House and Senate, and then take every possible action to bind them, thwart them, frustrate them, and keep their illegitimate coup from having any more lasting effects.

* * * * *
Test yourself on the Human Virus Scanner. (It says I suffer from Politics.)

* * * * *
Let's revisit the Rich pardon with Gene Lyons:

But what about the substance of the Rich pardon? It did pique my curiosity when Len Garment, former White House counsel under Richard Nixon, told New Yorker that "I don't know why he did it, but I think Clinton did the right thing." A former attorney for Rich, Garment was, of course, paid to have that opinion. So was Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Richard Cheney's chief of staff, whose law firm was paid more than $2 million to represent Rich between 1987 and 2000. Libby hasn't been taking calls from reporters, but at the insistence of Democrats he did testify last week before the House committee probing the Rich pardon.

I'd like to think that the reason you read nothing about Libby's testimony in the Democrat-Gazette and precious little anywhere else is that Republicans kept him on ice until almost 9 p.m., after TV evening news broadcasts and print reporters' deadlines.

Even so, Libby's appearance was covered live on C-SPAN. A transcript is available on The Washington Post Web site. But in a climate in which overheated pundits have denounced Clinton's action as a "sacrilege" (Charles Krauthammer) or a sign of mental illness (Andrew Sullivan), you'd think you wouldn't have to search for the sworn testimony of a high-ranking member of the Bush administration.

Particularly not in light of what Libby said. U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., led him systematically through a widely mocked New York Times article Clinton wrote explaining the pardon. Was Clinton right that other oil company executives who structured transactions like Rich did hadn't been charged with crimes?

"[T]o the best of my knowledge," Libby said, "those were generally handled civilly."

Had the Energy Department found similar transactions proper? Libby confirmed that Clinton was right about that, too. Had tax experts from Harvard and Georgetown concluded that Rich's companies hadn't cheated on their taxes and owed the government nothing? They had. Had Rich settled with the IRS for $200 million anyway? Libby confirmed it. And had the Justice Department since rejected using RICO laws in corporate tax cases?

"That's my understanding of the Justice Department manual," Libby said.

So was Clinton right when he concluded that Rich had committed no crimes?

"[B]ased on the evidence available to the defense," Libby said, "that would be correct, sir."

Uncomfortable in the spotlight, Libby did call his former client a traitor for dealing with Iran, although not in any legal sense, he made clear.

Turns out he'd phoned Rich on Jan. 22 to congratulate him on the pardon.

A dogged and resourceful attorney, Libby bobbed and weaved for quite awhile until a Democratic staff lawyer finally backed him into a corner.

"[B]ased on everything you know . . . [do] you think you could have put together a good strong case for a pardon and a defensible case if the president so issued, based on what you know?"

"Yes," Libby answered.

Lyons also recounts a few of the Bush pardons just to keep things complete.

* * * * *
I'd heard vaguely of Chris Rock. I'd heard he was funny. I can't tell from this transcript, although the audience seemed to like him - maybe it's all in the delivery. But at least now I know he's black.

* * * * *
Jonah Goldberg breaks a promise:

A while back I promised not to write any more Clinton-bashing columns.
Well, okay, you know what comes next, right? But the main thing I noticed about this article is that this guy goes on at length about a whole lot of history he doesn't know. One thing the Clinton-obsessed conservatives of his generation seem to have in common is that they can recite all the talking points but they have no idea what actually happened. For example:

This may sound juvenile, but they started it. It was the cultural Left which declared that the "personal is political." Indeed, that was a feminist slogan. In the 1980s it was conservatives who argued, in effect, "boys will be boys" and it was the Left who said "not on your life." Liberals disinterred the archaic verb "womanize" in order to lay siege to John Tower. Liberals — agents of the government no less — invaded Robert Bork's private life, investigating his video rentals. Liberals chanted "you just don't get it!" with Maoist fury over the perfidy of Clarence Thomas's alleged joke about a pubic hair and for asking a longtime employee and friend to go out on a date. The whole thing was like Milan Kundera's The Joke — except liberals weren't laughing.
Actual liberals went after Bork on the basis of what he had written, like his only-when-I-feel-like-it only-on-certain-days ideas about what kind of speech is protected by the 1st Amendment. It's funny how the young libertarian right seems entirely unaware of this.

Now, let's see. As a general proposition, who was the champion of sexual-harassment laws? Hmm, seems to me it was the party of Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, and Chris Dodd.
Yep, and conservatives opposed every aspect of sexual harassment law, including the idea that women shouldn't be hounded out of their jobs or forced to agree to sex with their employers in order to keep their jobs.

And here's the funny thing: Sexual harassment laws never went so over-the-top as to demand that people who work in the same office or the same company can't date - and a good thing, too, since that's where a substantial proportion of people meet the folks they end up marrying. What this means is that SH laws were never as loony as the cases the Republicans tried to hang Bill Clinton for, where the evidence was clear that Clinton never threatened anyone's job and in the case of Monica Lewinsky he didn't even make the first pass. The Republicans have apparently exaggerated the evils of sexual harassment law in their minds to the point where it really is that absurd, so they tried Clinton for violating a "crazy feminist law" that didn't exist.

Meanwhile, Ken Starr, who was nominally the man in charge of defending these laws liberals put in place, was denounced by liberals across the spectrum because, in the words of Richard Cohen, Clinton was being "mortified, subjected to an Orwellian intrusion by the gumshoes of the state." I don't remember liberals feeling that way when they picked Ken Starr to invade Bob Packwood's privacy and read his diary — an intrusion far worse than anything Clinton went through.
"Liberals"? It wasn't liberals who hung Bob Packwood out to dry. Here's the big secret you never hear about this story: Liberals liked Bob Packwood.

Anyway, as Avram Grumer notes, now that Clinton has been exonerated, Goldberg wants us to finally, at long last, get over it. Ha ha ha. (Avram's permanent link for that entry doesn't seem to work, but it's the second item for 31 March. He's also got a nice response to Patrick Ruffini on Roe v. Wade.)

Update 03/04/02: Avram's permalink seems to work, now.

Monday, 01 April 2002

03:40 BST: Permalink
Jonathan Alter interviews the last elected President of the United States in a Newsweek cover story; he doesn't get it about the Rich pardon, of course, but here's another tip:

Often the smile and the knife are delivered as one. Last week Clinton was chuckling over the fact that his first post-presidential interview is going to NEWSWEEK, a magazine he calls "the house organ of Paula Jones." Then, out of nowhere, Clinton the Score Keeper made a cryptic reference to the obscure case of an anti-Castro terrorist named Orlando Bosch, who blew up an airliner in 1976, killing 73, and was freed from jail in 1990 by the then President Bush under pressure from his son Jeb and Cuban exiles. "I swore I wouldn't answer questions about Marc Rich until [former president] Bush answered about Orlando Bosch," he says with a forced grin. But he did, admitting for the first time that his hard feelings toward prosecutors in his own case played a role in the Rich decision.
* * * * *
Mark Shields on chickenhawks:

Kerry took off the gloves in a New Hampshire speech where the much decorated combat hero confronted his critics: "Let me be clear tonight to Sen. Lott and to Tom DeLay. One of the lessons that I learned in Vietnam, a war they did not have to endure ... was that if I ever reached a position of responsibility, I would never stop asking questions that make a democracy strong."

That exchange prompted Marshall Wittman, the conservative iconoclast, to note the irony that "today, the left is implicitly accusing the right of draft dodging! Both DeLay and Lott apparently found other things to do than to fight in a war they supported." Wittman added, "It is striking that virtually all the GOP draft-age leadership did not serve in uniform in Vietnam. ... It is ironic that those who proclaim themselves the most fervent defenders of freedom missed freedom's call."

There were patriots who fought in Vietnam and patriots who actively opposed the war - and then there were those who did the one first and then came back and did the other - but the "patriots" of the Republican party were extremely brave on behalf of other people getting killed. They all had something "more important" to do (like fighting the war on bugs). Phonies.

* * * * *
William Rivers Pitt on the administration's peace-making abilities:

Recent events in the Middle East have proven beyond a shadow of doubt that the Bush administration's complete lack of engagement with Israel and Palestine will stand as a historic example of deadly poor judgment. What we see is an administration that is hopelessly in over its head, groping for a solution far past the time when one could be reached, and all the while hedging its bets to keep a conflict with Iraq on the table.

Consider the timetable of events: The Bush people came to Washington filled with scorn for the peacemaking efforts of the departing Clinton administration. On the eve of the election of hard-liner Sharon as Israeli Prime Minister, the Bush administration refused to send a peace envoy to the last-gasp talks between Israel and Palestine in Egypt. Weeks later, Bush pulled out the highly visible CIA brokers who had been stage-managing a cessation of the conflict. All the while, Bush and his people parroted the same asinine rhetoric: we'll help make peace once y'all stop shooting at each other...or, to put it another way, we'll help make peace once you make peace.

As scenes of horror flash across CNN today, Israeli and Palestinian representatives speak out. Salting their comments are heartfelt laments at the absence of Bill Clinton and American engagement in any peace talks. Sadly for them and their people, the days of American engagement are long past. The current administration's opinion of the efforts made by Clinton were summed up by White House press secretary Ari Fleischer last month, who stated that, "You can make the case that in an attempt to shoot the moon and get nothing, more violence resulted." Though he was later forced to apologize for the claim that Clinton's peace efforts led to war, there is no mistaking the truth that Fleischer was stating the opinion of the Bush White House.

Attempting to explain the Bush administration's appalling negligence in dealing with this conflict requires an examination of several factors. Foremost among them is what appears to be an astounding lack of ability among Bush's foreign policy people. The one true 'policy wonk' on the staff, Condoleeza Rice, is a world-renowned expert on a nation that no longer exists - the Soviet Union. No one else seems capable of dealing with the complexities of the issue. Beyond that lies a deep fear of failure: no one in the White House wants to make an effort at peace in that region and risk the appearance of falling short. This combination of ignorance and cowardice has borne bloody fruit.

A registered Republican writes to Bartcop and says: "If Bush is the answer, it must have been a stupid question."

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, April 2002

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