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Sunday, 31 August 2003

Prosecutors fight to keep innocent men in jail

The article is actually called Prosecutors Fight DNA Use for Exoneration, but that is being too kind.

SHARPES, Fla., Aug. 26 — After seeing more than 130 prisoners freed by DNA testing in the last 15 years, prosecutors in Florida and across the country have mounted a vigorous challenge to similar new cases.

Prosecutors acknowledge that DNA testing is reliable, but they have grown increasingly skeptical of its power to prove innocence in cases where there was other evidence of guilt. Defense lawyers say these prosecutors, who often relied on the same biological evidence to convict the defendants before DNA testing was available, are more committed to winning than to justice.

The fight has become particularly heated in Florida, where prisoners will soon be barred from seeking DNA testing for old cases under a 2001 law that set an Oct. 1 deadline for such requests.

In this state, the cases of two prisoners illustrate both the power and limits of DNA testing.

In one case, Wilton Dedge was convicted of rape based in part on two light-brown hairs found in the victim's sheets here in 1981. It was the only physical evidence against him. The hairs were, the prosecutor said at his trial, "microscopically identical" to those of Mr. Dedge.

In a 1983 trial of another man, Richard McKinley, for the rape of an 11-year-old girl in Homestead, the prosecutors told the jury that semen recovered from the girl matched his blood type.

DNA testing, which was not available at the time of either trial and which was performed recently only after fierce resistance from two sets of Florida prosecutors, showed that the hairs and the semen could not have come from the defendants.

Yet both men remain in prison serving life terms, and the prosecutors who relied on the biological evidence to convict them now say the DNA testing is not proof of their innocence.

Other Florida prisoners may never have the chance to argue about whether DNA evidence exonerates them. In 2001, the state Legislature opened a two-year window for DNA retesting in older cases. The window will close on Oct. 1, after which courts cannot hear the cases of hundreds of inmates who say that testing could free them, and lawyers across the state are in a race against time to file motions on behalf of such clients.

While prosecutors concede that DNA can prove whether someone is associated with a given piece of biological evidence, they insist that is not the same thing as proving whether a defendant committed a crime.

But in Dedge's case, it was the only piece of evidence that might have meant anything; everything else was at best highly debatable.
The tests were performed in 2000. Though the victim said that only she, her sister and the rapist could have left the hairs in her sheets, the tests excluded the sisters and Mr. Dedge.

But prosecutors say that Mr. Dedge has not proved his innocence or his entitlement to a new trial. They rely on three other pieces of evidence against him.

But if only the rapist, the victim or the sister could have left the hairs, and it matches none of these three people, then how could Dedge be the rapist? Looks pretty solid to me.

The victim, who was 17 at the time, identified him. But she first said that her assailant was 6 feet tall, weighed 200 pounds and had a hairline receding to the point of baldness. Mr. Dedge is more than six inches shorter than that and weighs about 145 pounds; at the time of the crime, according to court records, he was about 125 pounds. He still sports a full head of hair.
So he didn't fit the original description given by the victim.

After-the-fact eye-witness identification is actually pretty dodgy. People will pick a face that looks familiar even if it had nothing to do with the crime; in one study, another bystander to a staged crime was placed in the line-up and identified as the perpetrator by many subjects. This is because they remember seeing them at all. Additionally, the police have little tricks they use to make their chosen suspect easier to "identify" by a witness, such as allowing the witness to see the suspect already cuffed and in custody before holding the line-up. Such identifications can't be relied upon.

A prison informant testified that Mr. Dedge had confessed to him in a passing conversation. The informant received a 120-year reduction in his sentence in exchange for his testimony. A truck confiscated by the state was also released to the informant's wife as part of the same deal.
Whew, 120 years off and a truck for the wife. Did 120 years make the difference between staying in jail forever and getting out in this lifetime? A lot of people might consider that well worth lying for. Again, this kind of jailhouse "witness" is extremely difficult to trust.
And an expert witness was allowed to testify that his dog had compared the victim's sheets three months after the rape to a selection of sheets from the local jail and had picked out Mr. Dedge's sheets. Such "scent line-ups" have since been questioned by the Florida courts.
I don't know much about "scent line-ups" but, again, I wouldn't want to have to pin a man's freedom on something like this.
In June, a trial judge, J. Preston Silvernail of Brevard Circuit Court in Viera, ruled that Mr. Dedge could pursue his motion for exoneration.

"There is," he wrote, "a reasonable probability that the defendant would have been acquitted if the DNA evidence excluding the defendant as the contributor of the pubic hair had been introduced at trial." Prosecutors appealed that decision.

Robert Wayne Holmes, the prosecutor in the case, did not return repeated calls for comment. In court papers, he emphasized the justice system's interest in finality, the hardship that a retrial would inflict on the victim and the strength of the remaining evidence. "The fact that it can now be said that the defendant was not the source of the hair has little significance," he wrote.

Mr. Dedge, a steely man who wore a bright-red prison jump suit, handcuffs and leg shackles during an interview at the detention center in Cocoa, Fla., disputed that.

"They used it against me," he said of the hair evidence, "and now they say it doesn't matter."

Mr. Dedge, now 41, presented six witnesses at his trial who said he was working as an auto mechanic and was on the job at the time of the rape.

Oh? Gosh, do you think they are less reliable than a jail-house snitch?

The thing that worries me the most is this idea prosecutors seem to have lately that "finality" is a more important value than the guilt or innocence of the accused. To what kind of mind is that a meaningful argument? Justice is irrelevant; they just want to be able to say, "We won, tough."

Again, we see members of the legal system who seem to believe that this "justice" thing is just a game, like it's a football match or something. Yeah, maybe the refs made a bad call, or your manager didn't do all that well by the players, but hey, too bad! It doesn't matter if the real rapist is running around free, it doesn't matter if an innocent man goes to jail, it just matters that, "Our team won!" As if the accused - and society - doesn't have a somewhat more significant interest in the outcome.

(I originally saw this story in the paper version of IHT, as "Prosecutors fight back as DNA appeals rise and prisoners go free," although I note that in the online version it's DNA trial reversals under challenge. Then I noticed the link at Tapped to the longer NYT version.)
23:48 BST


Words & Pictures

To celebrate Labor Day, I'm officially hating the Bushistas all weekend because of all the nasty things they are doing to people who actually have to go to work every day. LiberalOasis has more on that story. And you can hate all their friends, too, for things like this.

From Altercation: What personal responsibility looks like in a Democracy[.] And what it doesn't[.] Also, Democrats share blame for stalling King's dream by Stuart F. Feldman; A Failed Israeli Society Collapses While Its Leaders Remain Silent. And Charles Pierce has his say on the Ten Commandments story, noting that, y'know, these people are closet sheet-wearers. And readers contribute their opinions on what the worst thing about Bush is. Plus: How to ruin a great country in two easy steps.

Movie: Arnold Schwarzenegger Diaries: Chapter 2
16:56 BST


Saturday, 30 August 2003

Rip-offs

From Buzzflash

Anyway, it just so happens that if the U.N. Security Counsel had actually sanctioned our invasion of Iraq, all of those Gas Oil and Pipeline reps at the VP's Energy Summit would have been forced to competitively bid for their "rebuilding" contracts against France, Germany, and the rest of "Old Europe's" businesses. So invading Iraq without the UN security counsel's approval has cost us dearly in soldier's lives as well as billions of dollars. And the cost will continue unless we're willing to do something about it.
And from Gregory Palast, THE GRINCH THAT STOLE LABOR DAY
In celebration of the working person's holiday, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao has announced the Bush Administration's plan to end the 60-year-old law which requires employers to pay time-and-a-half for overtime.

I'm sure you already knew that -- if you happened to have run across page 15,576 of the Federal Register.

According to the Register, where the Bush Administration likes to place it's little gifts to major campaign donors, 2.7 million workers will lose their overtime pay -- for a "benefit" of $1.53 billion. I put "benefit" in quotes because, in the official cost-benefit analysis issued by Bush's Labor Department, the amount employers will now be able to slice out of workers' pockets is tallied on the plus side of the rules change.

Nevertheless, workers getting their pay snipped shouldn't complain, because they will all be receiving promotions. These employees will be re-classified as managers exempt from the law. The change is promoted by the National Council of Chain Restaurants. You've met these 'managers' - they're the ones in the beanies and aprons whose management decisions are, "Hold the lettuce on that."

Could it get any more depressing? Yes, and it is.

(Oh, yeah, Buzzflash also interviewed Palast again, on the question: "Was the Iraq War a Bush Cartel Effort to Divert Attention from Saudi Arabia, the Home and Chief Financier of bin Laden?")
18:42 BST


Philip Gold quits

The Conscience of an (ex-)Conservative

The proximate cause of my recent departure from Discovery Institute, Seattle’s main conservative think tank, was my opposition to President Bush’s Iraq war. But I also left because I could no longer abide the purposes of the movement. Over the last several years, I’ve become sadly convinced that American conservatism has grown, for lack of a better word, malign. Not exactly a congenial conclusion for someone who started out with Goldwater in ’64 and ended up writing defense memos for Steve Forbes in 2000.
[...]
After 30 years, I realized why. Deep down, these people — these people who can be so gracious and so decent in their personal lives — believe that they’ve been deprived of their proper place at the center of the universe. Deep down, they know that, were the world right, everyone would be like them, or at least aspire, or pretend to aspire, to be like them.

Or be compelled to be like them.

(Via Pigs & Fishes.)
17:31 BST

Reading matter

At TomPaine.com, Jobs Without Power: For at least half their waking hours, the American people live in a dictatorship. At home or in public places, Americans enjoy a measure of freedom and liberty envied by most people around the world: freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of association (true, John Ashcroft is trying to change all that but that's another story). But, the moment Americans walk through the doors of their workplace, they enter into a world that strips away all their basic rights. Within the walls of the workplace, the whim of the corporation is more powerful than the U.S. Constitution.

At Black Box Voting, "Conflict of interest: It's worse than we thought." [Diebold CEO Wally] O'Dell attended a strategy pow-wow with wealthy Bush benefactors - known as Rangers and Pioneers - at the president's Crawford, Texas, ranch earlier this month. [...] In a recent fund-raising letter O'Dell wrote that he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year." There's more below, after a short piece explaining the crippling restrictions that will be placed on the hack challenge mentioned below.

Skimble is packed with stuff about a judge with tender feelings for Enron, Clear Channel's clever new plan to shut performers up, and more exciting crony capitalism.

Digby says: I honestly think that one of the keys to the Bushies' "success" is the sheer volume and magnitude of outrages they perpetrate. It's exhausting keeping up with them and the resultant static makes even a hard core news junkie like me want to pick up a cheap novel or mindlessly watch TVLand just to keep my head from exploding. But go read her on slickness and "the death of reputation and credibility by a thousand small smears."

In the IHT, William Pfaff reminds us just how clueless these neocons really are: They resemble Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, who in 1997 expressed astonishment at the gangster capitalism that had emerged in the former Soviet Union, and which still exists. He said he had assumed that dismantling communism would "automatically establish a free-market entrepreneurial system."

Direct from The Smirking Chimp: Randolph T. Holhut: 'The Bush administration's shabby treatment of our soldiers', which, among other things, answers my question about whether Bush has bothered to visit our wounded GIs: The soldiers there have been treated well and have gotten visits from all sorts of celebrities from Michael Jordan and Hulk Hogan to Sheryl Crow and Jennifer Love Hewitt. But one group of people have been conspicuously absent from Ward 57 - President Bush and the members of his administration. Not one of them have shown up to see the human cost of their misguided war. Also, Heather Wokusch: 'Lawsuit for Gulf War veterans targets WMD businesses' - now that they know who exposed them to WMD in the previous Gulf War, some people aren't very happy.

And via Smirking Chimp: Jim Hightower: 'Living in a kleptocrat nation' and Paul Rogat Loeb: 'Lootocracy'. Plus: Rep. Henry Waxman: 'Who forged the Iraq evidence and why?' and, finally, Erik Wemple: 'Heads in the sand': With their arguments falling apart in the rearview mirror, warmongering editorialists in recent weeks have undertaken a harrowing task: Make recent revelations somehow jibe with their previous work crusading for the invasion of Baghdad. There's not much precedent for publications running retractions of their opinions, so the task becomes one of eating crow without making a face.

And Alun has posted a short report on the funeral at PNN.
14:52 BST


DLC disarray

In The American Prospect, Garance Franke-Ruta looks at the split between the Democratic Leadership Council's founder, Al From, and, well, everyone else in the party:

Al From is quivering with rage. It's the end of a long day in late July at the Wyndham Philadelphia, and with a sheen of sweat coating his face, he gleams with emotion as he launches into the closing speech of the day at the DLC's annual conference. It's a grim speech, delivered in rousing, impassioned tones more vehement than any other speech that day. "We cannot allow our party to be hijacked!" thunders From, railing against the leftists who have been his bête noire since he founded the DLC in 1985. "The future of our party and more importantly the future of our country is at stake."

Surrounded by supportive state senators and fresh-faced New Democratic governors, From, CEO of the DLC, is in his element. His anger has been foreshadowed by other discouraging conference speakers, whom The New York Times found "glum," "combative" and tending toward "pessimism" and The Washington Post dubbed "defensive" and "gloomy." "What we're fighting for is the definition of the party," From later told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "And this is probably the most bitter fighting -- or maybe intense is a better word -- in nearly 20 years. But it's because the left wants to go back to the way things used to be."

Well, yeah, if you mean the way things used to be when the media and Congress were both a little more mainstream/status quo instead of right-wing crackpot. From and the DLC ceded even the center of the discourse and handed it over to the far-right. Gee, thanks! Of course we want to go back to "the way things used to be" - who in their right mind doesn't?
Whether the left is truly trying to drag the party back in time is a matter of heated dispute in Washington. What's clear is that after two decades at the pinnacle of the Washington power hierarchy, From's ideas have triumphed beyond his wildest dreams, and the central role he's played as a policy entrepreneur in the 1990s is unquestioned. But by publicly involving the DLC in an increasingly nasty battle with Howard Dean, From is causing some of his erstwhile allies to wonder if he's finally lost his touch.
Someone really ought to ask the question of whether, politically speaking, From ever had "touch". What he actually did was put together an organization that briefly captured the attention of a (conservative-leaning) mainstream media and, ultimately, helped to elect a president. They did so largely by creating momentum and staying behind him, helping to unify the party long enough to get him into the White House. Frankly, though, they went kind of watery during the orchestrated attacks by the far-right on the man they elected. (And anyone who thinks Clinton owes more to From than to Perot is out of their minds anyway.)

But where the hell were they in 2000? Gore was the party nominee and the DLC, rather than backing him up, was sniping from the sidelines. Even as his numbers were surging, they where whining about how he was throwing away the election by swinging "to the left". The DLC's version of "the left" seemed to be, basically, emphasizing the needs of ordinary Americans who, you know, have to show up for work in the morning. Wow, what a whacked out, far-left constituency that is!

When Gore was obviously winning the election and the Republicans were spinning it as a loss, where was the DLC then? They were sitting on their hands. They did not get behind their nominee - a DLC nominee! They weren't "saving" the party, they were handing the country over to anti-democratic thieves.

So what is From doing now? Well, of course, he's trying to make Howard Dean sound like some kind of far-left loony-tune who is "hijacking" the party. And what is the loony, far-left position Dean is taking? Why, he opposed completely betraying America's ideals and haring off on an insane program of costly and wasteful empire-building. Does From actually believe that mainstream America ordinarily endorses making war for its own sake? That we just prefer to be at war? Defending the country is one thing, but just randomly attacking other countries isn't really the sort of thing we tend to go for - especially when it's coming out of our pockets, closing our schools, eliminating our economic stability. What kind of a jackass thinks it helps the Democratic Party to label such mainstream views as some kind of fringe-left whackiness?

Chatter among presidential campaign staffers in the weeks since the DLC conference suggests that From's grip on the younger generation of his ideological compatriots is weakening. "I don't think anyone thinks of From as a leader," says one senior aide to a presidential candidate regularly praised by DLC heavyweights. "People don't like Al From," remarks a campaign operative with a different DLC-backed presidential candidate. "People like [DLC President] Bruce [Reed]." Adds an aide to a third DLC-supported candidate, "I think they've gone out of their way to pick a fight with Dean to satisfy their need to stay relevant."

Those are surprising words from people whose candidates' might be expected to benefit from From's harsh talk and the DLC's now 4-month-old "Stop Dean" campaign. But an increasing number of Democratic elected officials, consultants and campaign operatives are beginning to suggest that the DLC's campaign against Dean involves a fundamental misreading of today's political environment. In Newsweek, James Carville advised Democrats to "give [Dean] a chance" and challenged the DLC take that an anti-war candidate is unelectable. "It's not if you're against the war that matters," he said. "It's how and why you're against the war." At the DLC forum, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell cautioned against "name calling." Washington state Rep. Laura Ruderman, a John Kerry supporter, rose with dismay at the conference to decry the "rat hole" into which the DLC-Dean conflict was dragging the party. "Quite frankly, it's the kind of eating each other alive that drove Jim Jeffords out of the Republican Party," she said.

More importantly, it's the kind of attack on mainstream values that drives most young people and other natural Democratic voters away from the Democratic Party - and away from the voting booth altogether.
Perhaps the most unexpected salvo came in early August during Al Gore's speech to the online activist group MoveOn.org. Simply speaking to the anti-Iraq War group was an affront to the DLC, and in his remarks, Gore called for Democrats to respect dissent and questioning of the war, a position From and Reed have decried as "weakness abroad."
It's "weakness abroad" to not want to alienate all of our allies, break treaties and invade countries for no apparent reason, terrorize the planet. It is "strength", I guess, to endorse a program of war at any price.

Al From thinks that Bill Clinton won the elections in '92 and '96 solely because he was a DLC-style candidate, a so-called "centrist" who was in fact to the right of the mainstream economically. But the truth is that Perot's candidacy played a crucial role in electing Clinton, who did nowhere near as well as Al Gore did in 2000 after his alleged "swing to the left". And much of Clinton's early momentum with the press had to do with his apparent social liberalism, something the DLC is allergic to on most days of the week. In reality, Al From has never gotten a president elected. And by allowing the liberal discourse to be suppressed, he handed the right-wing culture warriors everything they needed to lead the Democratic Party and the country "into the wilderness".
10:41 BST


Friday, 29 August 2003

Kiss John Edwards good-bye.

Monkey Media report says Once again, with feeling: Edwards doesn't have a chance in hell, and gives nine reasons why. Then he finds another one:

You won't read about it in the N&O, but John Edwards has been under attack for the last week by a New Hampshire group that advocates for the legalization of medical marijuana. Members of Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana have challenged Edwards with questions and signs at least three times in the past week - enough to fluster the candidate's handlers, apparently, and raise questions about his commitment to free speech in public settings:
...on Sunday, for the third time in less than a week, Edwards' campaign staff tried to block GSMM members from peacefully expressing their views in a public space. At a town hall meeting in Keene Central Square Park in Keene, New Hampshire, five GSMM members tried to enter the public park with signs protesting Edwards' position favoring the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA's) raids on medical marijuana patients in states that protect patients from arrest. Several campaign staff members stopped them.

When a campaign worker said, "We'll not allow you in with the signs ... this is our park," GSMM Campaign Coordinator Aaron Houston replied, "We have the right to be here," and entered with GSMM volunteers and signs. Edwards' campaign staffers then held their own signs in front of the protesters to prevent voters and journalists from seeing the GSMM placards.

This angered some audience members. An unidentified woman approached an Edwards campaign worker -- who was blocking a sign that read "Stop Arresting Patients" -- and asked, "What are you afraid of?" Under audience pressure, Edwards' staffers eventually withdrew and stopped blocking the signs.

Not, it turns out, that any of the Democratic contenders are all that good on the marijuana issue - the best Dean could come up with was a promise to, "require the FDA to evaluate marijuana with a double blind study with the same kinds of scientific protocols that every other drug goes through." But Edwards won't even go that far, and refusing to even let people hold up signs at a rally in support of a position that a majority of Americans are behind is cowardice of an unusual scale.
11:40 BST

40th Anniversary

Billmon reminds us of the ugly past we are trying to climb out of, and watches a dream come true.

The Sources of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Dream, from The Right Christians.

Wood s lot with words and photo.

Jeanne D'Arc provides a link to this Ariel Dorfman essay about what a Chilean took home from Martin Luther King.
11:14 BST


About that hack...

Dare accepted on electronic voting machines:

In the end, Friday's two-hour discussion of whether computers should be the sole tabulators of Georgia voters' ballots came down to a challenge.

Roxanne Jekot, a 51-year-old computer program developer from Cumming, said she and a few expert friends could crack Georgia's $54 million touch-screen voting system in a matter of minutes.

Bring it on, said state election officials.

(Via Epicycle.)
10:23 BST

Running the gamut

The weather was grey, as I suppose is fitting for a funeral. Had a good cry. Hugged a lot. And then we drove for a long time and when we got home I looked at the web.

I see Alan has said just the sort of thing I've been thinking all along about Diane Feinstein, now that she has jumped right in to support the other side. Great going, Diane! But we already wanted to get rid of her.

Max talks about whether we can afford single-payer...or any healthcare at all. And Tom Walker asks, What hath Grid wrought? (But here's the serious low-down.)

Jeff Cooper, taking up slack for Bashman while he's holidaying, says: Yes, it's that Dean: In American Booksellers Foundation v. Dean (pdf link), the Second Circuit considered a challenge to a Vermont statute barring the distribution to minors of sexually explicit material "harmful to minors" over the internet. In an opinion by Chief Judge John Walker (yes, it's that W), the court concluded that, as applied to the plaintiffs' internet speech, the statute violated both the First Amendment and the dormant Commerce Clause.

Protest sign

Harley Sorensen is good on what a brave boy George Bush is: Can you imagine Mr. Bring-'em-On in a street fight? Try to picture him lipping off in a bar: "Hey, buddy, keep it up, and my bodyguards will pound the snot out of you." He's the personification of the "let's you and him fight" syndrome.

Here is Nathan Newman's most recent post on the advantages of a higher minimum wage. Then just keep reading down....

Lots of cool stuff from Planet Swank, like pictures of Mars, an online Rubik's Cube, a retouched photo gallery, and a Zombie Infection Simulator.
01:18 BST


Thursday, 28 August 2003

Here we go again....

In Laying the groundwork for the next (?) war, Eli at Left I on the News (a very Fair and Balanced weblog, by the way), takes a look at some of the foreign policy discussion he's been running into lately:

What's required is a willingness to chip away at Kim's post-Iraq paranoia by responding seriously to his shrill and unbending demand for a "non-aggression pact." No U.S. president would sign such an agreement, and Congress would never ratify it. But the U.S. delegation could break the ice by making an unambiguous statement that America does not intend to strike militarily at North Korea.

The statement would carry more weight than past assurances because it would be witnessed in a formal context by North Korea's sympathetic former benefactors, China and Russia, who are party to the talks along with U.S. allies South Korea and Japan.

A "shrill and unbending demand" for a "non-aggression pact"? What a downright dastardly, bellicose thing to ask for! It speaks volumes that North Korea is asking for such an elementary thing, and that the author thinks that "No U.S. president would sign such as agreement and Congress would never ratify it." And then, almost laughably, he procedes on to claim that we could solve this problem not with a "non-aggression pact" but with a "statement from Congress" that was "witnessed in a formal context." This just has to be the funniest thing I've read in quite a while. The U.S. tears up treaties (e.g., the ABM treaty) it decides are no longer in its best interests, it has its president sign treaties which it then renegs on (e.g., the international criminal court). And Schoenberger thinks that a "statement from Congress" would be worth anything more than the paper it's printed on?

Readers can make up their own minds about the nature of the North Korean state, I won't address that here. But whatever your opinion on that front, you should be aware that the ground is being prepared, and your minds are being prepared, to make North Korea the next "enemy" "threatening our national security" and "putting us at great risk" who we "must" invade or take other military action against immediately. It is up to those of us who can see through these lies to make sure this doesn't happen.

I have a feeling that, at this point, even a number of Republicans are starting to see through the lies; certainly Democrats would be less likely to fall for them this time around. But hey, maybe it's a completely different dodge; maybe all this bellicose talk about North Korea is actually a chance for Bush to pretend to demonstrate some last-minute prudence just before the election by not committing our over-committed troops to another stupid war. Wouldn't that be something?
07:42 BST

Wednesday, 27 August 2003

All around

Bloomberg says Blair Sought Change to Iraq Dossier Before Release, FT Says (that's the Financial Times), and the Indy says Auntie Beeb is fighting back against attacks by Murdoch.

The Poor Man is Phair and Palanced.

Talk Left reports Udall seems to be already presenting a serious challenge to incumbent Ben Nighthorse Campbell (who is only five points ahead of him), and he hasn't even declared yet. Also from TL, a worthy cause to send those dollars that are burning a hole in your pocket to, the Life After Exoneration Program. (Note to self: Follow her link to the new blog about autopsies.) (You should read the whole page, you know - it's full of fascinating stuff every damn day.)

Over at Pandagon, it seems that some parts of the right have noticed, finally, that Ashcroft is out of line. But only once. However, here's something from my old employer back home: Try as he might, Mr. Ashcroft can no longer dismiss opponents of the USA Patriot Act as a small but whiny band of liberals. Some of the nation's top conservative groups as well as a huge majority of the Republican-led House of Representatives -- in other words, the Bush base -- are now leading the drive to eliminate portions of the law that allow secret spying on anyone.

Rantavation has a series of posts that you gotta read - starting with the one about the racist misunderstanding people have of welfare and continuing down, it's a nifty look at the difference between perception and truth in economics, both nationally and in California. Whew!

Meanwhile, from Fox, Clark Alleges White House Pushed CNN to Fire Him. (PS. He looks better in the suit than Bush did.)
21:51 BST


Republicans: The Party of Spanking New Ideas

From Josh Marshall (link fixed):

The broader point, however, is that this should have been friggin' obvious from the start. In those earlier debates you can almost imagine (and frankly I've heard) grizzled CIA operators saying, "Wow, and all this time we were tossing Mossadeq, keeping Mubarak in power, and making nice with the Saudis, we could have just built western democracies instead. Why didn't we think of that?"
Of course, everybody thought of it, but most people realized it would be damned hard to do. Not that I'm all that thrilled with what was done instead, but could the people who are running this show really have been so dumb, so naive, so bloody out of it, that they thought they could just run right in and invade a country and it would just fall into place? (Did you?)

Or was this the plan all along?

Meanwhile, Josh finds more Bushian diplomacy:

Now, given that one of the Iraqis' big suspicions is that we're after their oil, you might think that rerouting almost half of the country's oil through Israel, and using a pipeline last used when Palestine was ruled by the British, might at least create some perception problems.

But that doesn't seem to be all of it. That oil from the Kirkuk oil fields is now transhipped through Turkey. And folks in government circles in Jerusalem seem to think that these American hints about the Kirkuk to Haifa pipeline are, as Ha'aretz says, part of an "attempt to apply pressure on Turkey."

This deserves more attention. Why are we even remotely considering this scheme to send half of Iraq's oil through Israel? And why do we seem to be trying to sow discord between two of our most important allies in the region?

Now there's a question. I guess you never really know who your friends are.
17:42 BST

Punishing New York

They even lied about whether the air was safe breathe. Krugman:

All in all, the people running Washington, while eager to invoke 9/11 on behalf of whatever they feel like doing, have treated the city that bore the brunt of the actual attack very shabbily. In September 2004 the Republicans will hold their nominating convention in New York. Will New Yorkers take the occasion to remind them about how the city was lied to and shortchanged?
And then they're going to rub it in our faces when they hold their convention. Bastards.
17:11 BST

But we're not supposed to care

Patrick quotes Teresa from a comment thread at her weblog, on a subject I think of often:

My problem with "creative destruction" is that when I hear the phrase, I think of what happened when Ron Perelman got hold of a large segment of the comics industry. He very nearly destroyed both Marvel Comics and the existing comics distribution system.

Comics is full of guys who've put years and years of hard work into learning demanding and highly specialized skills. Ron Perelman never studied under Joe Kubert. I doubt he knew more than one-point-five nanosquats about the Marvel or DC continuities. But he leveraged his leverage into enough leverage to grab hold of Marvel, and proceeded to wreck the hopes and livelihoods of half the people in the industry. Maybe more than half. […]

The more I watch how people build their lives, the less I like large upheavals. All of us are forever trying to spin out some modest little web of opportunity and possibility in the gaps and angles formed by the much larger economic entities around us. And when the lords of this earth bring their creative destruction down upon us, we weep for the wreck of our small schemes.

This is pretty much the kind of thing I think of when folks start talking about how the Invisible Hand is going to sort things out for us in the latest upheaval. I think of ordinary people with plans and hopes for their lives and their families, suddenly tossed into the meat-grinder of "competition". I think of dreams lost, jobs and products disappearing from the landscape, shops closing, whole communities turned into ghost towns. I look at this and wonder who can possibly be so abstracted, so divorced from human society, that they can talk about "market adjustments" as if they have some meaning above and beyond those splintered lives, as if they are not agents of wholesale tragedy. What is an economy for, I wonder, if not to preserve the chances of ordinary people like us to secure our futures, to practice our crafts, to reach for our dreams?
12:42 BST

How to lose your cherry

Via Arthur Hlavaty, a memoir by Realist editor/publisher Paul Krassner:

My second columnist was Robert Anton Wilson. I had already published his first article, "The Semantics of God," in which he wrote, "The Believer had better face himself and ask squarely: Do I literally believe 'God’ has a penis? If the answer is no, then it seems only logical to drop the ridiculous practice of referring to 'God’ as 'He.’" Wilson’s column was titled "Negative Thinking."
[...]
In New York, the son of the owner of a newsstand in front of Carnegie Hall became my distributor. In Chicago, the Realist was distributed by the manager of an ice cream company. Steve Allen became the first subscriber, and he gave several gift subscriptions, including one to Lenny Bruce, who in turn gave gift subs to several others, as well as becoming an occasional contributor. I was publishing what was considered to be the hippest magazine in America, but I was still living with my parents, and I was still a virgin.
[...]
At this point, attorney Gerald Lefcourt filed a suit on my behalf, challenging the constitutionality of the abortion law. He pointed out that the D.A. had no power to investigate the violation of an unconstitutional law, and therefore he could not force me to testify. In 1970, I became the only plaintiff in the first lawsuit to declare the abortion laws unconstitutional in New York State. Later, various women’s groups joined the suit, and ultimately the New York legislature repealed the criminal sanctions against abortion, prior to the Supreme Court decision in Roe vs. Wade.
[...]
In 1964, I assigned Robert Anton Wilson to write a feature article, which he called "Timothy Leary and His Psychological H-Bomb." A few months later, Leary invited me to his research headquarters in Millbrook, where I took my first acid trip. When I told my mother about LSD, she was quite concerned. "It could lead to marijuana," she said. Mom was right.
You'll love the part about how he lost his virginity on Bill Gaines' office couch.

(I met Krassner once, shortly after I'd lost my own virginity. It was the day Abbie and Jerry were chasing that Pig around on the Ellipse, and Abbie got arrested for wearing that shirt. But I was trying to pretend to be sophisticated, so we didn't talk about anything interesting.)

Anyway, that introduced him for his weekly column.
12:18 BST


Tuesday, 26 August 2003

Blogtopia

(Yes! Skippy invented that phrase! But he's on holiday.)

Off the Kuff has some polling results on the popularity of the Texas Republicans' attempt to redistrict and the Dems' walkout.

Excellent news: Cursor has posted the final version of David Neiwert's Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An exegesis in nice, clean HTML without the drag of Blogspot, on its very own pages. Cool.

Estimated Prophet also has a look at the subject of Fascism while discussing a George Will column. Figures. (Via Pacific Views.)

LiberalOasis found this quote from Howard Dean: We're not going to let them take our flag anymore. That flag belongs to everybody in the country; it doesn't belong to Tom DeLay.

The Right Christians looks at the worrying matter of George Bush's immature faith.
23:52 BST


Media

Go over to MWO and search on "Mickster", 'cause they are all over him about this moronic idea that Clinton-haters are just the same as Bush-haters. I liked this bit, quoting Kaus:

Rich Lowry thinks today's Bush-hating on the left is the equivalent of the Clinton-hating on the right. ABC's estimable The Note (which, I think, means Mark Halperin in this case) has called the comparison "insane" and "uncalibrated." Lowry answers back in today's N.Y. Post [not online, as far as I can tell]. ... I've hung out with Bush-haters, and I've hung out with Clinton-haters, and I would side with Lowry in the uncalibrated, rough-equivalence camp. Maybe marginally fewer Bush-haters accuse Bush personally of ordering Mafia-style murders--but the night is young.
It's ridiculous hyperbole to accuse Bush of ordering Mafia-style murders when there is no evidence any of them have been carried out "Mafia-style."
Indeed, as the Mafia doesn't usually murder people in broad daylight in front of God and everyone and even in front of news cameras. But when George Bush invaded Iraq on the back of a string of flimsy lies, that was mass murder. It's not an unproven rumor about suspicious goings-on at some Arkansas airport, it's established, documented fact.

Meanwhile, at The Globalist, The Washington 'PR'ess Corps: That's when you begin to wonder whether the political reporters of major U.S. papers really see it as their job to provide truly independent news and analysis — or are all eager to act as undercover government spokesmen.
19:00 BST


Arts & Crafty

PNH says you can listen to Warren Zevon's new album here, but it doesn't seem to work for me. *sigh*. (Also: check out Fanatical Apathy for Ashcroft Live!)

And TNH got push-polled by her power company, who asked a lot of questions designed to make the end-user feel responsible for over-burdening the power grid by using all these here new-fangled devices, thus fattening them up for the rate-hike. But, remember, it's not your fault.

Even Jimmy Breslin keeps being surprised by how much the administration lies: I sit here in New York and I don't believe one single solitary word of what the government says. Can you believe anything Bush says? Only if you're a rank sucker. Then you put that Rumsfeld on and he grimaces and tells you the first thing he thinks of, and here is Powell, who I thought would be our first black national candidate and he's as bad as the rest of them. But it started a long time ago, with one little tiny lie....

The Daily Kos has found more evidence that Iraq is starting to look like Afghanistan. Saddam was, whatever else you can say about him, a bullwark against Islamic fundamentalism. The US is increasingly unable to push back against the rising tide of fundamentalist in that nation. And in the long run, that may prove deadlier than an impotent Saddam. This, of course, is exactly what I was afraid of. Aside from all the killing and maiming, I mean.

Two from The Washington Post, which are not titled It's okay for Republicans to be partisan on the taxpayers' dime and Running government like a business.

Anyone remember the comical moment of seeing an actor lip-sync Gerry Adams on the Beeb because we weren't allowed to hear him speak? Well, the current amusement isn't quite as funny, but since they can't televise the hearings over whether Tory Blair is a liar, they're having actors portray the events in question. Jerome Doolittle thinks this is such a good idea that he is now holding a Casting Call for the US version. (Also: Who is Michael Terence Meiring, and is he now having beers with Osama, Saddam, and Dick Cheney in the Undisclosed Location?)

Also from BadAttitudes

10:02 BST

Monday, 25 August 2003

Not much catch-up

I was really hoping to read more last night, but connecting was a real hassle and eventually I just gave up and went to bed. OK, I was pretty tired after racing around the length and breadth of the country and London for the last week-and-a-half, not to mention the emotional roller-coaster, but still. Yeah, I looked at a lot of beautiful scenery and had some great food and all that, but I looked at an awful lot of that scenery while sitting in a variety of moving vehicles for hours on end, and my body doesn't like it. (It doesn't like sleeping vertically, either, which is one reason it doesn't like those extra-early mornings and late nights in quick combination.)

Anyway, I was trying to catch up with The Nation, which I haven't looked at lately. I did manage to pull down the following:

  • Victory at McDonald's, by William Greider, in which Micky D's has come over to our side on the issue of pumping meat full of antibiotics and is now actively working to change this industry practice.
  • Al Gore Moves On, Ibrahim Ahmad, Ari Berman & Sasha F. Chavkin's report from early this month on Al Gore's NYU speech. Nothing new here but at least it was more straightforward and honest than The Washington Post version.
  • Patriotic Gore by Eric Alterman, about how the So-Called Liberal Media (SCLM) ignored its own news pages to editorially trash Al Gore's speech at NYU in their persistent psychopathological need to disagree with anything Al Gore says while pretending that George Bush is above reproach. Yes, I did mention it earlier, but now I've actually read it.
  • Selling Dean Short, in which Katha Pollitt decides she likes him for the nomination no matter what the DLC and the Republicans (and SCLM) say. One reason is the Big Mo, but what it really boils down to is that he's campaigning like it matters.
  • California Chaos, Peter Schrag's analysis of the multi-ring circus in the recall.

Never did get past the contents page of The New Republic, but it looks like they have some interesting items, like: Compound Interest by Peter Beinart, "Tom Daschle and Nancy Pelosi v. campaign finance reform"; two items about Dr. Dean - Department Of "Not Technically A Flip-Flop" and Dean's Strategy: Flip-Flop-Proof; some stuff on the recall; and Founding Fakers - "During the cold war, conservatives romanticized rebel leaders who claimed to be anti-communist, preferring their own mythmaking to the realities on the ground. Now, in the battle against militant Islam, they're making the same mistake all over again."

I opened a bunch of pages at The Washington Past but then my machine crashed and the only page that would reopen afterwards was the Free For All letters page from Saturday. They seemed to be trying to give the right-wing nuts more space this weekend, with silly stuff like this:

What's Left?

I was surprised by the obvious bias of staff writer Evelyn Nieves in her "For Right, a Wrong Direction" [news story, Aug. 18]. First, Nieves notes that Arnold Schwarzenegger "supports abortion rights, gay rights and gun control" and that "he may even be against tax cuts." But then she says Rush Limbaugh has been "sounding the alarm" about Schwarzenegger's "moderate views."

If these are moderate views, what does it take to be a liberal? [Christopher McFadden]

Well, if the definition of "liberal" is the one the right has been using, which is: "so far outside the mainstream that they are practically soviet-style communists," I think you'd have to be further left than that, since those are pretty mainstream views. You'd have to support free abortion on demand (which means it is included in Medicaid), and you'd have to support not just gay rights but gay marriage.

As to tax cuts, most mainstream Americans support a certain degree of tax cuts for themselves - but only because they don't think their taxes are buying what they are supposed to be paying for; they say they would actually support tax raises for some added services, such as universal health care. Moreover, what a lot of people are hurting from are payroll taxes, and the Republicans, strangely, have shown no support at all for cutting those taxes.

But, most importantly, mainstream America only supports tax cuts to the extent that those cuts help them, and the more they understand who the last several rounds of tax cuts and further planned tax cuts are going to, the more they oppose them wholeheartedly; very few people believe that rich people and corporations should be immune from paying their dues to the country while the rest of us should have to shoulder the burdens they heap on us. Old-fashioned mainstream-style conservatives never used to support tax cuts only for the wealthy. They used to talk about targeting tax cuts at a virtue called "job-creation", not just tax cuts for their own sake. Aside from the fruitcakes who claim that people who actually work for a living contribute nothing to society, most people want to see the rich ante up, and indeed it is not even a particularly liberal view that the rich should pay more than the rest of us.

The country is currently in serious economic trouble and it's getting worse. It is not conservative at this point to support more tax cuts, it's simply insane. In fact, it's pretty insane at this point not to want to rescind all of the Bush tax cuts. A more liberal position would be to support tax hikes, but only on the upper brackets; however, these would be significant tax hikes over and above those of the Clinton era and perhaps going as high as they were during the Kennedy era. Placed in historical context, wanting to go back to the prosperity of that period could even be seen as conservative.
15:29 BST


Sunday, 24 August 2003

I'm back

I was in Cardiff. The diet went completely to pieces the minute I got there and was confronted with lots of pies. Meat pies, fruit pies, cheesecake, and homemade apple pie. Oh, god, they found my weakness.

Anyway, here's some stuff I found when I turned on my computer again:

FOX NEWS - Blurred and Tarnished, "a FAIR and BALANCED look at Fox News and nasty nattering nabob Bill O'Reilly."

Seeing the Forest knows you've never actually heard or read Jimmy Carter's famous "malaise" speech. Reading it now, its prescience is startling: We are at a turning point in our history. There are two paths to choose. One is a path I've warned about tonight, the path that leads to fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others. That path would be one of constant conflict between narrow interests ending in chaos and immobility. It is a certain route to failure..

Newsweek notices Bush isn't so popular.

Get Your War On.
23:59 BST


Saturday, 23 August 2003

Gone Fishin'

I'm gonna be kinda busy this weekend so go get the buzz from: Cursor, Summary Opinions, and The Hamster. They'll treat you right.
09:01 BST


Friday, 22 August 2003

Cruisin'

Matt Singer catches another: The odds seem to be when Glenn Reynolds advises the Dems to do something, they're already doing it. He just posted a rant about how Dems should be more like the Democratic Governor in his state who balanced the budget by tightening up on spending and built a reputation for keeping his word. Awesome, dude. That's almost our platform now. Yep. But, Matt, the adjective form for party members is "Democratic", okay?

Matt Yglesias kinda likes the idea of "smart card" drivers' licenses. Modulator has a couple of qualms. Me, I don't think they will stop determined terrorists, and anyway I don't want this government to be too efficient at tracking the rest of us. (Also: Slavery in the US.)

MWO provides this audio link to a radio interview of Joe Conason by a host who is - surprise! - not a liberal.

In case you were wondering how to sing "Fair and Balanced" when it comes around on the guitar, MadKane has the answer.
18:20 BST


A right to defraud

Our favorite libertarian blogger, Jim Henley, on the Castillo case:

Jesus Castillo was swindled. The State of Texas defrauded him by sending a representative under false pretences. The State of Texas came in bad faith, like a jay. Among the safeguards Keith's Comics put on their "adult" material - separate racking, warnings, prohibition on access by minors - the most important was this: if you didn't want Demon Beast Invasion more than you wanted the money in your pocket, you wouldn't buy it. A sure, deliberate barrier, albeit one requiring a certain responsibility on the part of the purchaser. His pocket full of someone else's money (the taxpayers of Texas), the undercover officer trespassed against that barrier.

Cheater. And for what? Pictures, word balloons and captions which no one needed to see who did not wish to see.

It's long been a commonplace that the state, by nature, claims a monopoly on force. Increasingly, it arrogates to itself the right to commit fraud too - for the best of reasons or the best reason it happens to have today. It's one more creeper on the bush of government that needs to be kept pruned.

[BTW, Jim, I hadn't had a chance to read 1602 until yesterday, but although I wasn't actually bored (because I trust Neil enough to assume he's just a bit slow setting it up this time), I did have a lot of the same reaction you did.]
15:42 BST

It's Clinton's fault

Atrios provides a (very) short slide-show and this little quote:


Congressman Dana Rohrbacher with Afghan rebels, 1988.
Since Sept. 11, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher has angrily—and with no small dose of irony—blasted the Clinton administration for failing to topple the Osama bin Laden-connected Taliban in Afghanistan. What the Huntington Beach Republican never mentions is a fact the Weekly reported last September: Rohrabacher himself was cozy with the Taliban. In late 1996, he assured the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs that the Muslim group did not have terrorist ties, was no threat to the U.S. and would bring "stability" to the region.
This comes, by the way, as interaction with The Poor Man, who was somewhat taken aback at the jump-for-joy response to the bombing of the UN HQ in Iraq that came from a certain hatriot. Andrew and his readers (check out the comments!) are appropriately aghast, and provide a few other examples of moral clarity from the compassionate conservatives, including some startling interpretations of the Gospels.
14:09 BST

The Healthcare Thing

From The Financial Times, Tax-funded healthcare 'could save US $200bn': Switching to a government- funded health system like Canada's would save the US $200bn a year by cutting administrative costs, enough to pay for all 41m uninsured Americans, according to two new studies.
02:51 BST


Bra of the week

And the bargain of the week is on sale for half-price.
01:13 BST


Thursday, 21 August 2003

When you're not looking

I have to remind myself that, in fact, there are several weird things going on every day and it's just a matter of catching up with them, but it nevertheless always feels as if there has been a major Insanity Dump whenever I go away for a few days.

Something that's aggravated me for a while is the fact that when BushCo got into the White House they started deleting things from the WH website that referred to the previous administration, which was outrageous enough, but now they are actually changing their own official record to keep up with their current spin. It's just way too Winston Smith. The Likely Story has details, complete with screen shots, of how the word "major" has been inserted at the beginning of the phrase "combat operations have ceased." If I were ambitious, I'd set up an entire White House mirror site showing the original pages and noting where each one has been deleted or "updated".

Meanwhile, I learn from Atrios, the compassionate conservatives climbed out of their box again:

Fresno residents and community leaders, outraged by an e-mail message in which City Council Member Jerry Duncan wished he had a "dirty bomb" to kill every liberal in Fresno, called Thursday for his resignation, recall or reprimand.

A crowd that gathered in City Hall also chastised City Council Member Brian Calhoun and his chief assistant, Ann Kloose, who wrote in an e-mail that police should "Cap" members of the Human Relations Commission.

I thought it was just supposed to be drug-addled, tie-dyed, unkempt teenagers who talked like this. But, no, I think this goes a bit beyond "Off the pig!"

Also at Eschaton, Lambert finds the Texas Republicans digging deeper into their bag of dirty tricks to try to force the Democrats to cave in to their power-grab:

The Republicans on Friday voted to enforce the fines by taking away certain senatorial privileges until the missing members return and pay the fines. ...

If the Democrats do not return and pay the fines, they and their staffs will lose parking on the Capitol grounds, state cell phone use, all purchasing for their offices, staff passes to the Senate floor, travel, use of conference rooms and subscriptions. Their postage will be limited to $200 a month.

As Lambert observes, this would cripple their ability to serve their constituents. Of course, they could just cancel the election instead....

(Also: Kerry pisses me off, but at least Hillary comes out with a good one.)
13:23 BST


Playing catch-up

As you will appreciate, things are still a bit fraught, but here are some highlights of last-night's web-crawl:

Check out BadAttitudes Journal for a theory on why conservatives really fear gay marriage that goes right back to original causes.

Julian Sanchez has an interesting little piece on why it's not a good idea to ban stuff (religion, art, whatever), and he quite rightly says that it's not merely the worry that they will someday ban your religion if it stops being popular. And much as I love Ampersand, I have to agree with Julian on this one.

Tapped found what "may be one of the most intellectually shallow articles Tapped has ever read" - an attempt by Peter Berkowitz to claim that George Bush is not a radical. Tapped takes some of it apart, but there's plenty left to go after, and I wish I was in form to do it.

Dwight Meredith is good (as usual) on frivolous lawsuits. (Remember the Republican rules: Lawsuits against big corporations that screw you are always "frivolous"; nuisance suits by wealthy and powerful people who just want to shut you up are not.) Also: You've already paid for that new BMW.

Via MWO, a good review in the Chicago Sun-Times by William O'Rourke of Joe Conason's Big Lies, Thunder from the Left, and Salon is posting excerpts from the book. They also provide a link to an Alterman article in The Nation that I haven't read yet - but will - about the way The Washington Post reacted to Gore's speech about Bush's, uh, "mistaken impressions". I also haven't been to Orcinus yet, but MWO already has, and offers this quote with reference to the California recall:

Democratic institutions are the heart of our stable society; and by consistently disrupting and overthrowing these institutions in the blind pursuit of power, Republicans betray their own basic untrustworthiness when it comes to holding the reins of American governance. And when they consistently demonstrate that they are not willing to abide by the rules, nor respect traditions and institutions, we also have to ask: Just how conservative is this movement anyway?
Josh Marshall catches Tom DeLay in another example of up-is-downism. And speaking of DeLay, Josh has Wesley Clark's response to more of the idiot's lame attacks: "Well, first of all, I'd be happy to compare my hair with Tom DeLay's. We'll see who's got the blow-dried hair."

Note to self: Follow links from this post at Body and Soul on Christians vs. Christianism. Also: Yikes, is this kinky or what? He said it in public, so I'm going with "what".

Also via Body and Soul:

Paul Newman Is Still HUD
By PAUL NEWMAN

The Fox News Network is suing Al Franken, the political satirist, for using the phrase "fair and balanced" in the title of his new book. In claiming trademark violation, Fox sets a noble example for standing firm against whatever.

Unreliable sources report that the Fox suit has inspired Paul Newman, the actor, to file a similar suit in federal court against the Department of Housing and Urban Development, commonly called HUD. Mr. Newman claims piracy of personality and copycat infringement.

In the 1963 film "HUD," for which Mr. Newman was nominated for an Academy Award, the ad campaign was based on the slogan, "Paul Newman is HUD." Mr. Newman claims that the Department of Housing and Urban Development, called HUD, is a fair and balanced institution and that some of its decency and respectability has unfairly rubbed off on his movie character, diluting the rotten, self-important, free-trade, corrupt conservative image that Mr. Newman worked so hard to project in the film. His suit claims that this "innocence by association" has hurt his feelings plus residuals.

A coalition of the willing — i.e., the Bratwurst Asphalt Company and the Ypsilanti Hot Dog and Bean Shop — has been pushed forward and is prepared to label its products "fair and balanced," knowing that Fox News will sue and that its newscasters will be so tied up with subpoenas they will only be able to broadcast from the courtroom, where they will be seen tearing their hair and whining, looking anything but fair and balanced, which would certainly be jolly good sport all around.

Paul Newman, an actor, is chief executive of Salad King.

Thanks, I needed that.
12:06 BST

Wednesday, 20 August 2003

The Grid

As always, LiberalOasis was there to decode the Sunday talk shows:

Fox News Sunday's Brit Hume drew out the most important point yesterday, while interviewing Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham:
HUME: …you're saying with certainty here, sir, and others are as well, that we need to upgrade the transmission facilities, and you've been trying to do that.

ABRAHAM: Right.

HUME: But you're not yet sure that there was a failure in the transmission facilities, are you?

ABRAHAM: Well, here's the bottom line.

Regardless of whether the problem was related to the transmission operations, we need more transmission capability.

The real bottom line is everyone in the electricity game is trying to exploit the blackout for their own ends.

Even though we don't know yet what exactly caused the blackout, and hence, cannot possibly know what the solution should be.

But investing in infrastructure sounds nice enough.

As long as environmental standards are in place, it's good ol', job-creating, public investment. Right?

Although, we do have that nasty deficit. Who's gonna pay?

On that, here's Abraham, being interviewed on CBS' Face The Nation by Bob Schieffer:

ABRAHAM: Ratepayers, obviously, will pay the bill because they're the ones who benefit.

And that's where most of the responsibility ultimately will be assigned.
[...]
SCHIEFFER: So you're saying the customers are going to have to pay for this?

ABRAHAM: …that's the kind of long-term investment that will be needed, to keep the transmission system in a situation where we have the ability to both avoid blackouts on the one hand, and deliver power to people at an affordable level.

You heard right. Your rates need to be jacked up, in order to keep your rates affordable.

And why is it that this falls on you?

Because, as almost every pol will tell you, you're the reason the grid is strained.

As Bill shows, what they're claiming is that you mere end-users have doubled demand on the system - and it's not true. Guess who's straining the system:
Basically, power that used to just go from point A to point B -- from the plant to you -- is now shuttling back and forth between wholesalers, straining the system.

Thanks to deregulation.

That's a deregulation that pretty much no regular citizen ratepayer ever asked for.

Dereg came about because of upstart power companies wanting to score big, led by Enron, and large corporate power users wanting cut costs.

Yet, as Abraham said plainly yesterday, you, Joe Ratepayer, will foot the bill for their deal.

Unsurprisingly, deregulation's role in weakening the grid didn't come up much on Sunday.

And as Bill also points out, this is not an issue where the Democrats look good - they look just like the Republicans.
16:45 BST

Sort of a holiday

The thing I love about going away is being completely disconnected from all the responsibilities I normally deal with every day. I took my cell phone with me in case of emergency but I didn't expect to be using it so I didn't even bother taking the charger with me, just turned it off. I'd expected to just spend a few days basking in the gorgeous scenery and relaxing.

Then it occurred to me that I needed to send a text message to my boss reminding her that I wouldn't be there (I was right - she forgot), so I turned the phone on and found two voice messages waiting, one from Martin Smith's mother asking me to call her, and the other from Cedric, saying he had gone over to Martin's flat and tried to rouse him but didn't get an answer. Margaret Smith's line was busy when I rang back, so I called Cedric and told him to speak directly with her. I was hoping the news was that she'd dragged Martin off to a dry-out hospital or something. It wasn't. After I'd talked to her on the Tuesday she'd tried to reach him and started to worry by Thursday when she still was getting the BT message service. She had the police break in and they found him in front of the television. The coroner says he probably just fell asleep and slipped away, and that's what we all choose to believe.

There's no getting around it: he drank himself to death. Presumably the destruction of his liver was what brought on the startling onset, at the age of 40, of Type I diabetes that hospitalized him only a couple of months ago. We'd thought at the time that it was a wake-up call for him, and he'd seemed sobered by the experience and resolute about taking care of himself, but once he was back in his flat alone he sank into his stupor again. I already knew he was an alcoholic, I'd wanted him hospitalized even before that, but now everyone else saw the urgency of it and they were all trying to help him. It was already too late. I can't help suspecting that they'd known that at the hospital when they treated him but decided it wouldn't be a kindness to tell him.

The thing is, Martin had for as long as we'd known him managed to get to work every day, turn up where he was expected, organize various events, and be charming and sweet and friendly wherever he went. He was never mean, never started fights, never did most of the obnoxious things you associate with out of control alcoholism. To me it was obvious that he was a drunk, but to everyone else he just seemed like a guy who liked to have a bit too much when he was in a partying environment, and I didn't realize that the problem wasn't as visible to others as it was to me. But even I thought we had a couple more years to help him pull himself together.

Well, we have to put up a memorial page to Martin, and we're working on that now, although the whole business has been exhausting. I enjoyed the Isle of Mull (and even bought some postcards), but through the whole thing I kept being brought up short by the realization that there'd be no joking around with Martin at the weekly pub meet anymore, no new stories (all amazingly true) about the latest porn star or hooker or lesbian who had decided Martin was adorable and let him charm the pants off of her, no new episodes in The Martin Chronicles. No more hugs. This well and truly bites.

Martin will be cremated next week; friends are invited to send messages and to contact us if they'd like to attend.
09:37 BST


Thursday, 14 August 2003

Connection, I just can't get no...

Don't know what was going on with Demon last night and this morning but I couldn't get the surftime connection. Which means I missed my last chance to web-crawl for the next few days in all probability, since I am off to a little Scottish island where I won't have access to all my toys and don't even know whether I can get a modular jack-in. Won't be able to post here but if I have a chance to find anything it will be at Avedon's Other Weblog. Meanwhile, here's a few things I managed to pull down before Demon fell apart on me:

Who'da thunk it? Another motorized bar stool story.

Uggabugga has the pictures of Ralph Nader being hit by a pie. Among other things, including some important Fair and Balanced news.

The great Swedish crime spree.

More reasons to love Lisa English. I can never pick just one.

Crazy Soph (of Woolgathering) sent me the link for another cursor toy.
09:59 BST


Wednesday, 13 August 2003

You heard it here last

You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he's really sick and they won't take him.

And if two people, two people do it, in harmony, they may think they're both faggots and they won't take either of them.

And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin a bar of "Fair and Balanced" and walking out. They may think it's an organization.

And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of "Fair and Balanced" and walking out. And friends they may thinks it's a movement.

And that's what it is , the Fair and Balanced Anti-Pravda Movement, and all you got to do to join is sing it the next time it come's around on the guitar.

With apologies to Arlo.
21:09 BST

Playing catch-up

Like Susan at An Age Like This says, this must have been just a tiny selection of the dissenting mail The Washington Post received in response to its idiotic editorial on Al Gore's speech.

"Its your money." But corporate criminals are stealing it to finance their crimes.

Economists in hell, and the price of a soul.

Greetings to Kindred Spirits.

David Chin of A Picture's Worth wrote to tell me where I can find the full-sized version of that thumbnail I mentioned below.
19:02 BST


Those Compassionate Conservatives

Space Waitress had some vandalism at her home recently, and then:

But in talking this incident over with my roommate, I found out about something far worse. She has spotted bumper stickers around town (including at the State Capital) in Wellstone's signature green saying "He's dead, get over it."
She also has a pointer to yet another story of someone who was investigated on a tip. You Remember Marc Schultz, the guy who was reading while bearded in a coffee shop? Well....
Marc Schultz was one of the fortunate suspects. He's middle-class, educated and articulate, connected through his father, a lawyer, to people with influence. Not so fortunate was a middle-aged man identified only as M., profiled by Elizabeth Amon in the current Harper's. Arrested by the FBI on no charge (a co-worker said he wore a surgical mask "more than necessary"), denied bail, M. spent five months in a New Jersey jail with rats, roaches, and rapists, by his description. He was released still uncharged, $30,000 in debt from the experience, guilty only of being a resident alien and a Pakistani.

Under the abominable Patriot Act, Franz Kafka's "The Trial" is coming true in America, in comic and tragic versions, just under the mass media radar, just off the front page.

Sometimes you just have to wonder whether the goal of all this isn't to just find the thing they can do that is so shocking, so outrageous, so far beyond the pale, that it finally leaves us speechless.
11:57 BST

We get the airwaves!

Turn Your Radio On - The Unions' Answer to Right-Wing Static
by Thom Hartmann

"If America's largest and most conservative corporations can own and influence big chunks of the American media," some have asked, "then why not our most established and respected unions?"

It turns out that unions can get into the media business - and one already has, creating what has recently become America's only operational commercial liberal talk radio network, officially introduced to the industry this month with a prominent ad in Talkers Magazine.

KKBJ-AM Talk Radio 1360 discovered the union-owned network's liberal programming on a stormy night back in June when one of the Minnesota talk station's satellite receivers died. To avoid dead air, the station flipped to the program stream coming down on a second satellite receiver, tuned in to i.e. America Radio Network's 9 pm-midnight host, Mike Malloy. Malloy was in fine form, ranting about the "Bush crime family."

The next day, KKBJ's Chuck Sebastian got some feedback from listeners who had just heard their first bit of liberal programming on a station that otherwise carries mostly right-wingers. "One guy said that it was a breath of fresh air to finally get somebody who knows what he's talking about," Sebastian said. He added, "Another said it was 'nice to hear somebody with an opinion the opposite of Michael Savage's ranting and raving.'"

This revolution in talk radio has come about because four years ago the United Auto Workers union (UAW) acquired a struggling talk radio network from its owner in Florida. In the intervening years, they renamed it the "i.e. America Radio Network," moved it to Detroit, and invested in state-of-the-art studios, satellite uplinks, and internet stream servers.

The network brought in top-notch radio industry management, technical, and programming talent, and built an entire business week of high-quality left-leaning programming and an assortment of non-political weekend shows. The i.e. America Radio Network now feeds the ABC Starguide III satellite, which beams down a broadcast-quality signal that can be carried by virtually any radio station in North America - for free on a barter basis (of the 14 minutes in a broadcast hour, the local station can sell nine minutes and the network keeps five).

Over 115 stations across the nation have now taken them up on the offer. The i.e. America Radio Network has also joined with the Sirius Satellite Radio system (standard option on Ford/Chrysler/Mercedes/Jeep and many other cars) to providing live programming for "Sirius Left," stream 145.

Openly liberal/progressive in their programming, the i.e. America Radio Network is shaking up the world of talk radio, causing many in the industry (including an outspoken VP at Clear Channel) to openly question the conservative conventional wisdom that AM listeners only want to hear rants of the right-wing variety.

This is not, of course, news that right-wing radio talk show hosts want you to know.

In the August 1, 2003 issue of the radio industry's "R&R" magazine, Rush Limbaugh said, "Liberal Talk radio isn't going to work. Who wants to listen to a bunch of people run down the country and run down the institutions and traditions that made this country great?"

Apparently Limbaugh has forgotten his own performances during the eight years of Clinton's presidency, and hasn't bothered to learn about the many forward-thinking and positive visions of America being put forth by the Democratic presidential candidates.

The reality is that liberal talk radio is the conservatives' worst nightmare, and - as Clear Channel's Randi Rhodes has proven for years in Florida - in those markets where it's well established it regularly draws huge market shares. As Limbaugh knows - and fears - Liberal Talk radio could lead one of the most important political trends in modern American media by balancing the dialogue to which Americans have access.

Read the rest.

Malloy currently airs in the 9:00 PM to midnight slot, and Thom Hartmann from noon to 3:00 PM, eastern time.
11:08 BST


Trying to keep the internet open

Been over to Peacefire lately? I don't go there that often (because Bennett doesn't update that often), but there's always something interesting there, like maybe this:

Report on double standards for anti-gay "hate speech"
Peacefire created four pages, on free servers such as GeoCities, which consisted of anti-gay quotes copied from four different conservative Web sites: Dr. Laura, Concerned Women for America, Family Research Council and Focus on the Family. Using anonymous HotMail accounts, we then sent the URLs of the newly created pages to six blocking software companies, recommending that they block the newly created pages as "hate speech". After the companies had agreed to block the sites we created, we told them that all the quotes on those pages had been taken from the four conservative Web sites, and recommended that they block those Web sites as well. The blocking companies did not block those Web sites and did not respond to our inquiries.
They've also developed more software for circumventing blocking schemes.
10:16 BST

Tuesday, 12 August 2003

Movie Star?

Via Counterspin Central

And just in case anyone's wondering, here's what another actor told Playboy.
23:06 BST


Looking around

I managed to look at The Washington Post Outlook section. Jim Hoagland is disgusted to know that the administration is preparing to accept help from the man whose name is spelled differently every time I see it, in this case "Moammar Gaddafi". ("Morally, that price is too high.") In these times of moral clarity, however, it must be okay to deal with mass-murderers because Democrats don't like them.

Rich Lowry still hallucinates that George Bush is compassionate. Do these people really believe this stuff?

Saletan sees something suspicious in the way supporters of the Pryor nomination are the only people bringing up the fact that Pryor is a Catholic, just like they were the people who brought up the fact that other judges (who were believed to be pro-choice) were Jewish. Of course, real Catholics know that being Catholic - even being a good Catholic - doesn't mean you are anti-abortion or want to make your religious feelings about homosexuality into law. In fact, many Catholics were taught in Catholic schools that making your faith into the law of the land is wrong.

I read George Will's most recent stupid article and rolled my eyes at the usual right-winger refusal to recognize that Bork was rejected because he was an anti-constitutional nutbar, and the same is true of quite a few of George Bush's nominees. Then I went over to Geekpol and found this: Shorter George Will: The GOP has trampled tradition in their series of power grabs. This is the Democrats' fault for rejecting Bob Bork.

Elsewhere in blogtopia (Y!SITP!):

Prairie Point has some nice photographs up - I particularly liked the varying colors and textures on the birdbath photo.

Carpe Datum reports that Fox is apparently suing Al Franken for the use of the phrase "Fair and Balanced" in the title of his book. Jeez.

Billmon looks at Ashcroft's latest spooky idea and asks: Don't these friggin' people ever read? Or is this their idea of a sick joke?
22:13 BST


The Intellectual Elite

Well, I tried to read The Washington Post over the last few days, but it was just too boring. Fortunately, Elton Beard takes care of that sort of thing (so you don't have to). My god, what a right bunch of crackpots. This is the intellectual cream of conservatism, folks, an absolute abyss in the fabric of reason. The Post would be vastly improved if they hired Beard and were forced to read his Shorter versions of their articles before they went to print.

Not that the NYT is without sin. Just how long can Tom Friedman go on pretending that invading Iraq was the road to democracy in the Middle East? He's been writing the same thing over and over for about a year or more now and it never made sense but becomes more ridiculous as every day goes by and reality overtakes his continuing delusion. For a long time people put up with it because he had a reputation for "understanding" the region, but it's become increasingly clear that all he understood was that he didn't like it much and he understood even less about how human beings work. Don't believe me? Charles Dodgson had a little look at Friedman (and others) on the subject and couldn't help but notice that these people cannot tell the difference between democracy and Roman emperors. And our businessmen are people who think an admirable leader of a "successful government" is Adolf Hitler (and that it's okay to say so in public). And that this version of "democracy" is being led by people who set up situations like this:

Intel engineer Mike Hawash has plead guilty to assisting the Taliban. The slashdot comments on the story include this one, which brings up the case of the Lackawanna six -- who were advised by their lawyers to plead guilty, because, in their words, "We had to worry about the defendants being whisked out of the courtroom and declared enemy combatants if the case started going well for us." There's also this comment, pointing out that the confessions in Stalinist show trials were at least as convincing. But the most depressing comments are the ones like this, which argue that since he agreed to a plea bargain, he must be guilty, because the Feds would never, ever deploy the big guns against an innocent man.
Not to mention this.

God only knows what these people mean when they talk about "democracy" if this is it.

"Freedom" is an interesting word, too, and it's not just the Ashcrofts who have a problem with it. Dodgson also has a look at what it appears to mean for some libertarians:

A homeowner puts a UN flag on his front lawn. Some local bureaucrats tell him to take it off; having that flag is against the rules. He's refused, and will probably wind up in court. If the local bureaucrats were government officials, libertarians would be all over this as an example of the silly excesses of the nanny state. But the bureaucrats are members of a private homeowner's association, and some libertarians seem quite pleased: [quote elided]

What's interesting here is that if the homeowner's association were a formally constituted government body -- say, a zoning board -- the homeowner would face pretty much the same set of choices that he does against a private body: fight in court, petition the board to change its policies, or run for a seat on the board and start to work from the inside. And the argument that "he know about the association when he chose to buy his house" applies just as well to a zoning board. The main difference is that, as our libertarian commentators are quick to point out, there are restraints on government, like the first amendment, which do not apply to private bodies and cannot be used to defend against them.

Which all might give some people the feeling that there's something ever so slightly wrong with libertarianism. (At least if you think it's supposed be about empowering people and not corporations; if the latter, there's no problem at all).

Indeed, the whole idea was supposed to be that if big corporate entities try to put their boots on my neck, I have something bigger than myself - the government - fighting on my side; otherwise, it's my money against their money, and their money is always going to win. Can the government get big and scary, too? Sure, but as long as they are operating in opposition to big private interests rather than in concert with them, they create checks on each other; if they are working together against me, I haven't got a chance, and neither do you, so quit dreamin'. You can't be too smart if you can believe that corporations, if given the option, won't be every bit as terrifying as governments; historically, they already have. (Yeah, governments have cops and armies - but when they can, so do corporations. Don't kid yourself that they won't go back to using brute force against us if we give them the chance. We've just had a temporary lull in our part of the world, but it's a relatively new - and local - phenomenon.)

Meanwhile, in the scrappy bits of the media that can honestly be called liberal, Ted Rall on 9/11 is painfully on the money. If you can stand to use RealPlayer, Mike Malloy interviewed Dennis Kucinich on his radio show, with questions for the candidate sent in by listeners. And Jerome Doolittle found something good in the press, too, but read his own intro to it, which is pretty fine in itself. Oh, and lest I forget, Krugman responds to more lies about the tax cuts.
14:26 BST


News, views, and chews

Have you written that letter to The Washington Post yet? I'm not kidding, you know.

Talk Left has some more heartening news about the Patriot Act.

Eucalyptus has a good laugh at the new weekly tabloid version of The Washington Post.

Nathan Newman has the news that: Illinois's governor just signed a law waiving the "sovereign immunity" under the 11th Amendment that the rightwing Court had said protected states from those lawsuits.

Wallybrane's Martian Adventures has a rant about CD prices.

Roger Ailes (the good one) finds Katherine Harris abusing her office again. Well, no surprises there. They can say what they want about corrupt Democrats, but Harris was actually elected for being corrupt.

Go read Charlie's Diary, he's in a fun mood today.

Feoreg checks out Japanese UFO sightings and also finds an exciting bargain.

John David Rose asks, Arrogance, or something darker? But perhaps the Bushies had a reason for ignoring the warnings. Something brushed over in the Congressional 9/11 report suggests the possibility of one of the worst conspiracies of American history. [...] Here's the chilling kicker: To convince the American people to spend extra billions for defense instead of on Social Security, Medicare, etc., PNAC suggested it would take a "catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor." (PNAC's exact words.)
00:38 BST


Monday, 11 August 2003

Are you partisan?

Mark Evanier is asking a question about whether your position on supporting Arnie in the California Governor's recall election would be the same if he were a Democrat rather than a Republican. Or, more specifically, whether Republicans who support him would feel the same way if he were a Democrat. But I suppose you could apply it either way.

Obviously, support for Arnie presupposes support for the recall, which is itself an essentially anti-democratic measure, and part and parcel of what has clearly become the Republican strategy and ideology. Most of Republican rhetoric these days is that opposing or criticizing them or their projects in any way, or supporting a Democrat or "liberal", is by definition partisanship (at the very least - if not actual treason), or else about some sort of pathological hatred of George Bush as a person, and has nothing to do with how you stand on issues and what you believe is best for the country.

This is, obviously, typical Republican projection; as we have already seen, you can bet that if the Republicans are accusing Democrats or liberals of something, it's something the Republicans are either already doing or are about to embark on.

The GOP has spent most of their modern existence attacking liberalism, and particularly the social liberalism of racial equality, cultural diversity (up to and including different haircuts), women's liberation, sexual openness, and weakening of the drug laws. Arnold Schwarzenegger has both talked the talk and walked the walk of social liberalism as long as anyone can remember, having even gone so far as to toke de reefer on camera. He has even stated that he is socially liberal. He has said he was ashamed of his party when they impeached Clinton. And unlike aWol*, he has never hidden or repudiated his dissolute past. He is exactly the sort of person who, the Republicans have been telling us for years, is too degenerate to be allowed in elective office. If he hadn't told people early on about his recurring dream of being king of the world, it would be hard to understand why he was a Republican at all.

So if you are part of the corporatist elite that doesn't actually care about "lifestyle issues" as long as you support their criminal takeover, it's easy to understand why you'd support someone like Arnold. But for those who oppose him, the question isn't partisan, it's likely to be either precisely because he is a liberal, or one of the following:

1. The recall is part of an anti-democratic effort by the Republican Party to invalidate any election that does not result in a Republican victory. The GOP has made it clear that taking over governorships is part of a larger plan to redistrict and otherwise shift the vote away from the majority in large population centers, further skewing elections to the unrepresentative right. There are too many reasons to believe that his party is supporting Schwarzenegger's candidacy for precisely this reason. No one who wishes power to reside with the people can support such an effort. Allowing any Republican to win is to reward the Republicans for these tactics. One therefore votes against the Republican not because one is a Democrat, but because one is a democrat.

2. A candidate for governor of California needs to show the ability to offer California and the nation something more than quotes from movies. So far, quotes from his movies are exactly what the Terminator has offered in response to questions about how he will ameliorate California's problems. Leaving aside the refusal to engage the issues, there is something very worrying about a guy who thinks such quotes are appropriate to the occasion, given that he originally uttered them in a mission to destroy the human race.

3. The Republican Party as a whole has been consistently backing numerous efforts to loot, disenfranchise and impoverish the people of the United States. They are only barely trying to hide this fact, and now casually dismiss questions about their corruption and dishonesty, making clear that they don't accept the right of the people to question them at all. No one with any integrity can support a party that behaves this way. If Schwarzenegger still wants to be associated with these people, we have no choice but to question his integrity and his intentions in standing for office.

4. Issues matter. Since Schwarzenegger is running as a Republican, we can't assume he doesn't really mean it. Republicans have made clear that they have no further interest in fiscal responsibility, keeping government intrusion into the private sphere limited, creating jobs, national security, or social responsibility. They may occasionally produce phony science (such as The Bell Curve) to rationalize their activities, but it's clear they don't care much about science or the truth, either. Republicans claim that programs that work for the public don't work, and that programs that are proven failures do work. They have spent decades trying to overturn nearly all of the Bill of Rights. Those of us who believe in Constitutional democracy and who want government to perform efficiently without interfering with our private life will simply have to oppose the Republican Party as long as it is operating so clearly in opposition to the rest of us.
14:10 BST


Who owns this dream?

William Rivers Pitt gave a speech to Veterans for Peace, called We Stand Our Ground:

This is America. At bottom, America is a dream, an idea. You can take away all our roads, our crops, our people, our cities, our armies - you can take all of that away, and the idea will still be there as pure and great as anything conceived by the human mind. I do very much believe that the idea that is America stands as the last, best hope for this world. When used properly, it can work wonders.

That idea, that dream, is in mortal peril. You can still have all our roads, our crops, our people, our cities, our armies - you can have all of that, but if you murder the idea that is America, you have murdered America itself in a way that ten thousand September 11ths could never do. The men and women within this current administration are murdering the idea that is America with their Patriot Acts, their destruction of civil liberties, their lies, their daily undermining of even the most basic tenets of decency and freedom and justice that we have tried to live up to for 227 years.

Go read it all.
09:30 BST

Sunday, 10 August 2003

Eye-candy

Elaine Riggs has a pointer to A Picture's Worth, which doesn't seem to have an extensive gallery yet but I liked this little thumbnail:

...but couldn't find the enlargement, alas.

Happily, there is a larger version of this one:

...and this doesn't nearly do it justice.

(That reminds me: Would someone please tell me the code for the equivalent of an "alt" tag on a text link as opposed to on an image as above? I can't remember where I saw it to copy the source code.) (Update: Got it.)

PS. It broke 100 today.
23:02 BST


Hot Tips

I'm not someone who is normally much affected by the heat, but it's 97.9 degrees in here and my brain is cooked. There's a rumor that it might actually hit 100 in Britain this week for the first time ever. Oh, joy. At least in America you can go stand in the frozen food section of the supermarket to cool down for a bit, but it makes no difference here. Anyway, here's some stuff to read:

Palast: 90,000 legitimate voters in Florida still not returned to the voting rolls.

American Caligula. Oh, wait.

Todd Gitlin finally reviews Blumenthal's Clinton Wars.

Transcript: Blitzer talks to actual liberal, media critic Norman Soloman, about the California recall, celebrities in politics, and Iraq.

At TomPaine.com, James Carville's Rx For Democrats

I've been wondering when Soros was going to get in the fight. It's about time: In a statement describing his reasons for giving $10 million, Soros said, "I believe deeply in the values of an open society. For the past 15 years I have focused my energies on fighting for these values abroad. Now I am doing it in the United States. The fate of the world depends on the United States and President Bush is leading us in the wrong direction."

Mark says A. Whitney Brown is smart and funny. I think I missed his era on SNL but he does get in a few. We can all use some of that right now.

And Now, the Queer Eye for Straight Marriage by Frank Rich: And with friends like Rick Santorum, the family-values Republican senator from Pennsylvania, does marriage need any enemies?

Those undergarments are a lot cheaper in the US.
17:38 BST


Rush, Newspeak and Fascism

At Orcinus, David Neiwert has now begun to post as HTML the updated version of his excellent series, with the new material, starting with Part 1: Projecting Fascism.
15:22 BST


Who's no fun?

No More Mister Nice Blog read the in-flight magazine and found an article about the Coney Island roller-coaster, the Cyclone:

Here's what one rider says about the Cyclone:
"It is a roaring, churning, dropping, body-freezing, politically incorrect, this-can't-be-happening horror."
What is the point of "politically correct" in that sentence?

Look, I know the answer. To this guy, and to a lot of other people, lefties are anti-fun. We're buzzkill. We're thou-shalt-not. To this guy, that notion has detached itself from politics and has taken on a life of its own -- on some level, this guy thinks anything that restrains you is political correctness.

And meanwhile, we're the ones who say, "You want to marry someone of your own gender? Go for it! Put elephant dung on a painting of the Virgin Mary and hang it in a museum? Hey, I'm there!" But we still have the spoilsport rep, not Rick Santorum. It sucks.

It's the smoking thing - remember, they burned Hillary in effigy over it.
14:15BST

Saturday, 09 August 2003

Things

We do stupid things is a blog newly inspired by the man responsible for the quote, Paul Wolfowitz.

A little musical thing from Fresh Laundry.

It is perhaps a small thing in the great scheme of things, but this would make me happy.

But then, so would one of these:

I love this color, too.

or this, or this, or this, or maybe this, or a very useful-looking (but way too expensive) this. (Come to think of it, they are all too expensive.)
21:23 BST


Now this is news

I thought War Under False Pretense was just an ordinary article about how Bush lied and blew it and all that until I realized it was from the Bircher mag.

Update: Steven Cohen e-mailed to say:

Actually, the Birchers have been anti-war and anti-Bush for some time now. Last winter I attended a public forum where public affairs were being debated. I made some sort of anti-Bush rant and as I was leaving, I was accosted by a dweeby guy who said, "I guess you don't like Bush, we don't either" and proceeded to hand me some John Birch Society literature. I was as surprised as you are, and I got away from him as fast as I could, but in retrospect, I probably should have talked to him. I would like to know by what circuitous path the Birchers and I have wound up on the same side of an issue like this. I suppose that with the fall of Communism they've become somewhat disoriented, or maybe it's just the paleo vs neo conservative thing.
I've noticed that some of the freepers are getting restless, too.
16:29 BST

More stuff

Don't forget to write that letter to The Washington Post. I mean it!

It is of course a pleasure to be in Florida - the state whose motto is, "It ain't over until your brother counts the votes!" - Julian Bond. Here's a pdf of the speech.

Hesiod compiled a response to claims about "legitimate" reasons for invading Iraq.

Napalm by another name: Pentagon denial goes up in flames

I just listened to the stream of Gore's speech in NY, which I'd only read before, and it makes a world of difference. Not that the written version of the speech doesn't have some great lines, but there are some things in there that on paper merely look earnest but are more obviously humor when you hear him say it. And toward the end, the emotional pitch changes to a much more passionate and straightforward condemnation of the mendacity of the administration.

Poll: Is Bush Doing a Good Job? - Go vote.

I like this little graphic:

From Steve Kemp's Livejournal

15:06 BST

You might find out

From Asia Times:

WASHINGTON - On most days, the Pentagon's "Early Bird", a daily compilation of news articles on defense-related issues mostly from the US and British press, does not shy from reprinting hard-hitting stories and columns critical of the United States Defense Department's top leadership.

But few could help notice last week that the "Bird" omitted an opinion piece distributed by the Knight-Ridder news agency by a senior Pentagon Middle East specialist, Air Force Lt Col Karen Kwiatkowski, who worked in the office of Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith until her retirement in April.

"What I saw was aberrant, pervasive and contrary to good order and discipline," Kwiatkowski wrote. "If one is seeking the answers to why peculiar bits of 'intelligence' found sanctity in a presidential speech, or why the post-Saddam [Hussein] occupation [of Iraq] has been distinguished by confusion and false steps, one need look no further than the process inside the Office of the Secretary of Defense [OSD]."

Funny they left that one out....
14:20 BST

OK, it's clobberin' time

The Washington Post has now worked it's way down to the level of papers like White Power with this:

And, to add insult to injury, the Terminator further showcases the grave disarray of the Democrat Party: When the only Kennedy who might get elected governor is a Republican, the party may be worse off than a mere $200 million gap in fundraising might suggest.
Never mind that the rest of that paragraph, and indeed the entire article, is a specious pile, that Democrat Party thing is an old Bircher/McCarthy-ite slur intended to suggest that the Democrats aren't democratic. It's also (a) grammatically incorrect (and sounds bloody illiterate) and it's, by the way, (b) not the name of the party. Which gives you three different reasons to expect not to see it in the Post.

I have been in a complete snit over this since I saw it at Eschaton during a break at work tonight. I want everyone to write a letter to the editor right now! Ask them what the hell they think they are doing - or suggest that they have misspelled the name of the other party and offer your suggestions, such as "Republic Party", or "Republan Party", or "Retaliban Party".
07:00 BST


Friday, 08 August 2003

The Truth

Al Gore spoke in New York, and I haven't yet read what others who were present have had to say about it, but I did find his speech. He talked a lot about how there was a lack of appropriate debate before the invasion, and how decisions are made on the basis of unfounded beliefs. And he said things like:

Millions of Americans now share a feeling that something pretty basic has gone wrong in our country and that some important American values are being placed at risk. And they want to set it right.
[...]
I remembered all that last month when everybody was looking for who ought to be held responsible for the false statements in the President's State of the Union Address. And I've just about concluded that the real problem may be the President himself and that next year we ought to fire him and get a new one.
[...]
Whatever the reasons for the recent failures to hold the President properly accountable, America has a compelling need to quickly breathe new life into our founders' system of checks and balances -- because some extremely important choices about our future are going to be made shortly, and it is imperative that we avoid basing them on more false impressions.
[...]
And speaking of the Patriot Act, the president ought to reign in John Ashcroft and stop the gross abuses of civil rights that twice have been documented by his own Inspector General. And while he's at it, he needs to reign in Donald Rumsfeld and get rid of that DoD "Total Information Awareness" program that's right out of George Orwell's 1984.

The administration hastened from the beginning to persuade us that defending America against terror cannot be done without seriously abridging the protections of the Constitution for American citizens, up to and including an asserted right to place them in a form of limbo totally beyond the authority of our courts. And that view is both wrong and fundamentally un-American.

I do like a man who can see the obvious. Yes, I've said most of these things so often I'm just about wondering whether Al Gore reads The Sideshow.

But I want to correct the impression I may have left that I think Al Gore is flawless. He's not. I don't blame him for having been publicly uncritical of things undertaken by the Clinton-Gore administration, but someday I'd like to see a recognition that there were some quite serious faults in the Reinventing Government program that sought to privatize many things that should never be in the hands of private industry. I'd like an apology for legislation that expanded control of media for a small number of powerful entities while reducing the variety of voices heard in the public sphere. I'd like to see a statement that it is a mistake to export industry in the name of "globalization" without also exporting with it our belief in (and requirements for) worker safety and dignity. These things laid the growndwork for much of what Bush is doing now, and they've made the world - and America - a nastier, harsher place to live.

None of this, of course, changes the fact that right now, I'd be delighted to see Gore in the White House instead of that other guy.
19:23 BST


From the referrer logs

Well, y'all sure liked that Bob Hope PSA. I must say it's been interesting watching my web stats break all previous records. It's not unusual to get a high click-through from a mention at Eschaton, but I've never seen a spike like this before. And I was getting so many referrals from Atrios that they just about flooded out all other referrers and I nearly missed a few (and very possibly have missed others). Why, even Arthur Silber appended the link to an earlier post of his in which he dances on John Derbyshire's head. It's always worth dancing on Derbyshire's head, so go enjoy it if you hadn't already seen it. And while you're there, click on over to the main page and look at that great picture of the New York skyline. (And also find more reasons to distrust James Baker, as if his anti-democratic activities in 2000 weren't enough.)

Thanks to A Brooklyn Bridge for the compliment, but please note that my name is correct at the top of this page. Thanks also to Real Art, and of course it's always an honor to get a mention from the ever-popular Uggabugga.

Some people who linked to me earlier: I haven't mentioned TC MITS in a while but he sure is good for my ego. Edgewise completely misinterpreted an earlier post of mine, but it was in good faith and very polite. Mapleberry Blog and Progressive Gold have had a kind word. And there are a couple of others I was going to mention but I just accidentally closed a window and can't get it back without going online. (Which reminds me: I'd really appreciate it if you'd all check your Sideshow links and make sure you are using this version and not the other one - it'd make my life ever so much less cluttered.)
18:18 BST


Getting wise

This item by Philip Bowring may be more important than it looks:

HONG KONG The worm has turned. The early repayment by Thailand last week of $12 billion borrowed from the International Monetary Fund at the time of the Asian crisis was not just a technical one made possible by its now buoyant external financial conditions. It was a conscious rejection of the neoliberal doctrines known as the Washington consensus, whose influence reached their high-water mark following the Asian financial crisis. Those doctrines are themselves now suspect at home as the U.S. economy shows many of the signs that characterized pre-crisis Asia.
IMF aid comes with a heavy price tag, requiring recipients to "restructure" in ways that ultimately devastate their economies. That Prime Minister Thaksin Shinwatra has resisted the bounty that is offered to national leaders to encourage them to sell-out their countries is really quite heartening. And we could use a bit more of that at home.
13:59 BST

Thursday, 07 August 2003

Blogging around

Brief Intelligence on security risks. (Hey, Kimberly, what is the center?)

Talk Left reports that there are now two court challenges facing the Patriot Act - and not a moment too soon. I'm so grateful that folks all over are waking up and there are now even legislative challenges to this evil piece of dung, too.

Paranoia strikes deep - and Patrick surprises me by actually citing Bartcop's Diebold Magic? page. (We've all been following this story since at least early February, but if you came in late, please read "If You Want To Win An Election, Just Control The Voting Machines.") Meanwhile, Rittenhouse Review found some idiot taking a swipe at the TNH comment quoted in Patrick's post. RR doesn't link to the idiot's blog, and neither will I, although I've read the blather in question. There's not much to it, anyway.

Altercation has an interesting look at how retroactive analysis of the reasoning behind the Hiroshima bombing by modern critics and apologists sometimes overlooks the essential viewpoint of military weapons use at the time. And the discussion of whether "the Jews" killed Jesus is more interesting than you might expect.

The always invaluable Tapped has a neat sum-up of the Barnes smear of Robinson that slowed Gene Robinson's elevation to bishophood, and also some choice words for Lieberman and From's assertion that nominating Dean will lead Democrats into the wilderness - pointing out that thanks to the likes of Lieberman and From, we are already there and need someone else to lead us out. But check out this longer item on the inferiority of Lieberman's approach to that of even Gephardt, and also why Edwards is actually more conservative than Lieberman (though he makes much better speeches).

Bob Somerby looks at some questions that aren't being asked. I'm not sure who he means down at the bottom when he refers to "the CIA" - I mean, which CIA? We're getting all kinds of different messages from "the CIA".

Read Skippy, just because it's more fun than not reading Skippy.

Note: "The Washington Past" and "press corpse" were not typos. Sheesh.
13:47 BST


Boiling the frog

I really like Body and Soul's new design and am delighted that it is no longer on Blogspot. And I want to recommend this article in which Jeanne talks about overlooking what should be shocking news stories because...well, I guess because there are now so many of them that our ability to react is being leeched away.

God forbid I should misquote William Bennett, but where's my outrage?
At The Agora, Douglas admits he was "the poster boy" for this phenomenon, until reading a piece in Slate:
The Wall Street Journal reports that Attorney General John Ashcroft has ordered government lawyers to report on federal judges who hand out soft sentences and to appeal those sentences more often.
Is there any other way to read this other than an attack by the Executive branch on the Judicial? And isn't it the separation between the branches of the federal government that are supposed to protect us just the kinds of abuse of power that we have seen since January 2001?
Stepping up the Justice Department's battle with federal judges over sentencing guidelines, Attorney General John Ashcroft has directed government lawyers to report on judges who give out softer sentences and to start appealing those sentences in far higher numbers.
There is a kind of sapping of certain emotions that occurs as you see the train coming, and coming, and coming...and you try to tell yourself that you're being paranoid, that the train isn't really headed straight for you, that it's not happening. It all seems so extreme.

I returned one night to the home I shared with my parents in Maryland to find the place full of smoke. At three in the morning, my parents were surely asleep and I couldn't explain it away by thinking my mother had had an unlikely accident in the kitchen mere moments ago - but I tried to, anyway, because the alternative just seemed too much. I looked around to confirm that the smoke really was caused by fire, located the source downstairs in the laundry room, stood for a moment trying to assimilate that, yes, the house was on fire, considered doing nothing (because nothing was actually happening, I was sure), until I realized that my folks would burn to death in that event, and then went to wake my parents. And even as I was saying, "Wake up! The house is on fire!" a part of me was sure that this was just completely theatrical behavior, that I was being extreme, over-stating things. Then I ran next door to wake the neighbors so I could use their phone to call the fire department, and though they've known me all my life, they wouldn't let me in until they could look next door and see the flames flickering through the basement window.

The whole thing has this air of unreality, and though a part of you anticipates a great deal of inconvenience, another part just can't anticipate it and simply doesn't believe it.

And anyway, if it is true, surely there is something you should be doing? But aren't those things you should have been doing already, shouldn't you have planned for this? I had walked out of the house without taking my overnight things, as if I expected to go back inside and spend a normal night in my own bed after the fire engines left. (It would be more than six months before I would sleep there again.) And now I've failed to become disgustingly wealthy so that I can have the power to act against the wrongs that are being committed by the people who have criminally taken over my country. I'm unprepared. It can't be happening.
01:08 BST


Have a look at...

Another thoughtful piece by Dwight Meredith, on presidential promise-breakers: George Bush 41 and Bill Clinton were willing to break campaign promises and suffer political damage to steer a course they felt was best for the country. George W. Bush is unwilling to fulfill a campaign pledge that would improve the political discourse of the country if the cost includes any degree of political damage to him. Which is the greater sin?

Michael Medved vs. Captain America. (Cap wins, of course.)

Seeing the Forest, where there is a list of links demonstrating that the administration really is planning to sell off our parks.

Slacktivist on the privatization of everything and Javert Syndrome.
00:31 BST


Wednesday, 06 August 2003

And now, for gay rights: Bob Hope!

And I learn something new. You can watch this public service announcement:

On behalf of GLAAD, Bob Hope addresses the camera in a tuxedo, and says, "I'm proud to live in this great, free country and I'm proud of our commitment to free speech. And I'm proud of our country's commitment to protecting the rights of its citizens to work and live free from bigotry and violence.

"That's why I was amazed to discover that many people die each year in anti-gay attacks and thousands more are left scarred, emotionally and physically.

"Bigotry has no place in this great nation, and violence has no place in this world, but it happens. Prejudice hurts, kills. Please don't be a part of it."

This ad came about after Hope was on "The Tonight Show" in 1988 and used the word "fag" in reference to someone's colorful tie on the show that night, motivating GLAAD to request an apology. Hope took it a step further by creating this spot at his own expense.

Because this was a public service announcement in an era when GLAAD couldn't afford to pay for the media time, this ad aired only on paid-access programs such as Gay Cable Network in New York City and The 10% Show in Chicago.

Via Monkey Media Report, which has a lot more to say on the subject.
19:55 BST

The grown-ups

From The Houston Chronicle, by recently retired Air Force lieutenant colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, The Pentagon has some explaining to do:

After eight years of Bill Clinton, many military officers breathed a sigh of relief when George W. Bush was named president. I was in that plurality. At one time, I would have believed the administration's accusations of anti-Americanism against anyone who questioned the integrity and good faith of President Bush, Vice President Cheney or Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

However, while working from May 2002 through February 2003 in the office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Near East South Asia and Special Plans (USDP/NESA and SP) in the Pentagon, I observed the environment in which decisions about post-war Iraq were made.

Those observations changed everything.

What I saw was aberrant, pervasive and contrary to good order and discipline. If one is seeking the answers to why peculiar bits of "intelligence" found sanctity in a presidential speech, or why the post-Saddam occupation has been distinguished by confusion and false steps, one need look no further than the process inside the Office of the Secretary of Defense. I can identify three prevailing themes.

· Functional isolation of the professional corps. [...]

· Cross-agency cliques: Much has been written about the role of the founding members of the Project for a New American Century, the Center for Security Policy and the American Enterprise Institute and their new positions in the Bush administration. Certainly, appointees sharing particular viewpoints are expected to congregate, and that an overwhelming number of these appointees have such organizational ties is neither conspiratorial nor unusual. What is unusual is the way this network operates solely with its membership across the various agencies -- in particular the State Department, the National Security Council and the Office of the Vice President.

Within the Central Intelligence Agency, it was less clear to me who the appointees were, if any. This might explain the level of interest in the CIA taken by the Office of the Vice President. In any case, I personally witnessed several cases of staff officers being told not to contact their counterparts at State or the National Security Council because that particular decision would be processed through a different channel. This cliquishness is cause for amusement in such movies as Never Been Kissed or The Hot Chick. In the development and implementation of war planning it is neither amusing nor beneficial for American security because opposing points of view and information that doesn't "fit" aren't considered.

· Groupthink. Defined as "reasoning or decision-making by a group, often characterized by uncritical acceptance or conformity to prevailing points of view," groupthink was, and probably remains, the predominant characteristic of Pentagon Middle East policy development. The result of groupthink is the elevation of opinion into a kind of accepted "fact," and uncritical acceptance of extremely narrow and isolated points of view.

The result of groupthink has been extensively studied in the history of American foreign policy, and it will have a prominent role when the history of the Bush administration is written. Groupthink, in this most recent case leading to invasion and occupation of Iraq, will be found, I believe, to have caused a subversion of constitutional limits on executive power and a co-optation through deceit of a large segment of the Congress.

So, as with everything else, the cause of the miscommunication between agencies which the administration has blamed for (allegedly) being blind-sided on 9/11 also seems to originate not in the intelligence structure, but in the cabinet. Someone needs to tell these people that playtime is over. (Via Seeing the Forest.)
13:16 BST

Check it out

Have a look at the July Scorecard of Evil.

Nathan Newman explains why the soldiers are living in squalor: privatization. (Am I the only one who thinks Nathan's page takes an unusually long time to load?)

The Village Voice says Bush knew. Or, if he didn't, he may have been the only one. They're quoting John Dean: "In sum, the 9-11 Report of the Congressional Inquiry indicates that the intelligence community was very aware that Bin Laden might fly an airplane into an American skyscraper," says Dean. "Given the fact that there had already been an attempt to bring down the twin towers of the World Trade Center with a bomb, how could Rice say what she did?"

Computer Voting Expert Ousted From Elections Conference.

Playing dress-up.
12:39 BST


The Washington Past

I'm coming a bit late to the Sunday door-stop, but here it is:

Michael Getler fielded a lot of complaints about what made the front page of the Post last week. He also has a few words about the appointment of a "public editor" at the NYT.

Senator John Ensign (R-Nevada) tries to pretend that Bush's indefensible behavior deserves no criticism from Democrats because, after all, they objected to the Republicans' refusal five years ago to acknowledge that Clinton's concerns about Saddam were legitimate. Someone should remind the Senator that there is one big difference: When Clinton went after Saddam, Iraq really did have a weapons program.

David Broder studiously fails to acknowledge that what the Republicans were trying to do was kill Head Start, not save it.
12:08 BST


That bloody woman

Here's a fun review of Coulter's book:

Be it from ignorance or malice, Coulter also makes other unsubstantiated assertions. For example, on page 97 she claims that transcripts from the National Security Agency's "Venona" project, in which communications between Moscow and its foreign missions were intercepted and decoded, "absolutely" prove that the late journalist I.F. Stone was a Soviet spy. Yet, two reputable scholars, John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, concluded in their book "Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America" that "[t]here is no evidence in Venona that Stone ever was recruited by the KGB."
I like a review that can dig right in.
11:31 BST

Tuesday, 05 August 2003

Quickies

I'm not sure what this picture is but it looks kind of neat.

Pat Oliphant unkind to Poindexter.

Jerome Doolittle introduces a Ted Rall cartoon.

Jim Beam brings down the house.
10:51 BST


Is that it?

This is a complete post from Atrios:

Bush Gets Physical, Visits Wounded While at Bethesda

Headline you didn't see.

I've been wondering about that myself. Am I just not seeing the stories about how our brave boys and girls are being visited by their Commander in Chief? (And, just for the record, the building locals refer to as "Navy Med" in Bethesda is about six or seven miles from the White House. It's not exactly a long, arduous trip. It's the DC suburbs, it's full of military-related medical facilities in easy reach of the Capitol.)
18:10 BST

Riced

Bob Somerby is still all over the National Security Advisor who is being tipped as a possible Secretary of State if her boss gets a second term:

Rice couldn't imagine planes used as missiles? Rice hadn't read last October's NIE? Wouldn't you think that actual journalists would want to ask about such matters? Our question: Is PBS' Gwen Ifill a real journalist? Or does she just play one on TV?

WAXING RICE: According to Rice, she didn't know that State and CIA had concerns about uranium-from-Africa. How absurd is Rice's account? Congressman Henry Waxman has sent Rice a detailed letter on the subject. We suggest that you read it in full. You know what to do. Just click here.

As is typical for this crowd, Rice appears to have distinguished herself as someone who doesn't do her job. That's not a recommendation for giving her another high-profile gig. Send your suggestions for interview questions to your press corpse member of choice.
17:38 BST

The laziest man alive

A black friend of mine once quoted her mother to me as saying that, "White people are lazy." Her mother, who worked as a maid to put her kids through college, had good reason to think so: after all, she made a living off the fact that so many white people couldn't even clean up after themselves, and she was sure that she'd never have been able to make that living if other white people had been willing to take her work on. But at least you can say that domestic service is not the sort of employment that is understood to be particularly interesting, high-salaried, high-status, or exciting. I, for one, would rather not do it.

George W. Bush, on the other hand, has a truly interesting job, one that I think many of us would find challenging and exciting. Yet Little Lord George simply can't be bothered to pay attention to it. His idea of engagement is to run his mouth during a difficult diplomatic crisis and worry about whether American personnel who, for example, have fallen out of the sky over China, have Bibles. Oh, and he takes lots of vacations. I like Skimble's take on this:

If it's August, this must be Crawford. The World's Laziest and Most Incompetent Leaders have left the White Building.
Heh.

Skimble also makes a recommendation:

"Subverting all of the values to which they give lip service." Elaine Pagels is a theological historian and author I have admired for years. Her perspective on the political motives of religious ideas and rhetoric was always fascinating, but never more so than at this moment in America. It was thrilling to find this interview about Christianity and politics at www.edge.org that I will not excerpt because I would just end up copying and pasting the whole thing.
I haven't actually read it, yet, but it looks like it should be good. Skimble also has a fantasy about Tom Hanks not glossing over the story of how Charlie Wilson brought Mujahadeen blow-back to our doorstep.
17:12 BST

Under no management

Dwight Meredith is back from the beach, but before he left he went back over his points from last year about Bush's decision-making process. He hasn't changed his mind: "The Bush administration's reliance on Revealed Truth instead of hard data in its decision-making is dangerous."

Dwight also looked at debt-management under Republican presidents:

From Ronald Reagan's first budget through George W. Bush's FY 2004 budget, the total debt incurred under Republican-submitted budgets is $3.54 trillion dollars. By way of comparison, the debt incurred under budgets submitted by Presidents Carter and Clinton was $192 billion, or about 1/18th of that incurred under Presidents Reagan, Bush and Bush.
[...]
President Bush is fond of reminding us that he cuts taxes because "it's your money." The debt is yours, too. There are about 100 million households in the United States. On average, each household pays $1,870 per year (or about $150 per month) for interest on the RBB debt.
And I hope you didn't miss the flying underpants story, which Dwight accuses of "a complete absence of in-depth reporting."
16:31 BST

Liberal media again

LiberalOasis pointed out:

As the corporate-backed Democratic Leadership Council met in Philly yesterday, the headlines from the wires made it sound like the Dem party rift was getting wider.

AP: Centrist Democrats: Don't Vote For Dean

Reuters: Moderate Democrats Warn Party on 2004 Prospects

But that's not the story.

It's old news that the rise of Howard Dean riles the DLC.

The new news from the DLC meeting is that the olive branches are slowly emerging, as indicated in this MSNBC.com report.
[...]
Most importantly, DLCer Dan Kogovsek said if Dean's the nominee, even though he's worried about the result, "we'd support him."

That is key.

It appears that even the DLC can learn - but can the press?
16:16 BST

Cruise meter

Billy Jack: Open Internet Impeachment Trial of George W. Bush and Richard Cheney

Billmon also read that article about Hispanic political positions, and has the details on just how dishonest the headline was (and how hard the author worked to make the numbers appear to favor Bush).

Check out this beautiful sunset shot from Elaine Normandy.

Teresa has her say on gay marriage...and whether the proposed Constitutional amendment is a serious issue.

Josh Marshall, here and here, examines the parallels and dissimilarities between Clinton-haters and Bush-haters.

Ken McLeod liked my suggestion that a few lefties should make loud noises about hacking voting machines so that righties would get paranoid about it and jump on the bandwagon for more secure and checkable facilities - so he projected a little scenario of getting the far-left to do something useful.

I note that Bartcop had a letter up this weekend about what the war is costing reservists. I was curious about that myself, so here's a page that tells you a bit about their employment rights.
13:04 BST


So, is it safe for me to visit my mom?

I've mentioned this issue before, when a peace activist and, separately, a member of Nader's campaign staff, discovered they were on the "no fly" list (and everyone named David Nelson discovers they are on the secondary list), but I learn from Electrolite (did I mention he was back?) that there's another article about it in the Indy:

US anti-war activists hit by secret airport ban

After more than a year of complaints by some US anti-war activists that they were being unfairly targeted by airport security, Washington has admitted the existence of a list, possibly hundreds or even thousands of names long, of people it deems worthy of special scrutiny at airports.

The list had been kept secret until its disclosure last week by the new US agency in charge of aviation safety, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). And it is entirely separate from the relatively well-publicised "no-fly" list, which covers about 1,000 people believed to have criminal or terrorist ties that could endanger the safety of their fellow passengers.

The strong suspicion of such groups as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is suing the government to try to learn more, is that the second list has been used to target political activists who challenge the government in entirely legal ways. The TSA acknowledged the existence of the list in response to a Freedom of Information Act request concerning two anti-war activists from San Francisco who were stopped and briefly detained at the airport last autumn and told they were on an FBI no-fly list.

Don't think this is just more of the "David Nelson" story - it's not just a confusion of names, and it's not an accident that so many of the complaints come from peace activists, as I think Frederick Sweet's story shows. Nathan Newman says this is early-stage fascism. It's certainly fascist tactics, no question.
11:13 BST

Performance review

It's an A+ for The Liquid List and the usual F- for the Bush administration as Tarek finds another clinker from Santorum and this on the successful war against terrorism:

Politics: Great Job

From the New York Times comes this reminder that Iraq's future can be viewed with only a short hop over the Islamic Republic of Iran into our old friend, Afghanistan:

The assassination, witnesses said, was trademark Taliban: two men on a motorbike, the passenger opening fire with a Kalashnikov rifle, the driver making a quick getaway.

But the choice of victim signaled a new turn for the Taliban, the fundamentalist Islamic movement that was ousted from power and has been running a campaign of attacks against foreign and Afghan government troops in southern Afghanistan for months. This time, the assassinated person was Maulavi Abdul Manan, known as Maulavi Jenab, a member of the local district religious council, shot as he left his mosque last week. He was the third senior Muslim cleric killed by Taliban assassins here in the last 40 days.

And that's just how it starts.

Then shudder in fear of Tarek's Worst Thought Ever...and then get a little comic relief from Oliver's discovery of something actually worth linking at The Weekly Standard.
00:24 BST


Gary Hart Interview

In Buzzflash:

This is kind of the last refuge of scoundrels –- to say that anybody who disagrees with you is unpatriotic. It’s almost not worthy of response. Anybody who says "my way or the highway," including the President of the United States, or any party that says "we define patriotism and if you don't agree with us, you’re unpatriotic," hasn't read the Constitution or doesn't have a clue about what the history of this country’s about.
Too right.
00:02 BST

Monday, 04 August 2003

More reasons to get rid of Tony Blair

From the Observer:

Tony Blair knows it is one of the most delicate of subjects. When asked about it he squirms and tries to change to a more comfortable line of inquiry. But quietly the Prime Minister is putting religion at the centre of the New Labour project, reflecting his own deeply felt beliefs that answers to most questions can be found in the Bible.

The Observer can reveal that Blair is to allow Christian organisations and other 'faith groups' a central role in policy-making in a decisive break with British traditions that religion and government should not mix.

The Prime Minister, who this weekend becomes the longest continually serving Labour Prime Minister in history, has set up a ministerial working group in the Home Office charged with injecting religious ideas 'across Whitehall'. One expert on the relationship between politics and religion described the move as a 'blow to secularism'.

Yes, that's what we need, here, a good strong injection of crackpot religion into the body politic to foment even more hatred. Good goin', Tony, you ol' dose of salt for the wounds.

Oh, look:

The working group will be chaired by the Home Office Minister with responsibility for what is called 'civic renewal', Fiona Mactaggart. The members will include Estelle Morris, the former Education Secretary who is now the Arts Minister, and Christian organisations including the Evangelical Alliance. Known as the Faith Community Liaison Group, it will have an input into controversial policy areas such as faith schools, which are allowed to select their pupils on the basis of their beliefs, and religious discrimination.
Fiona Mactaggart. Remember back when I was saying all those mean things about the National Council for Civil Liberties and the party hacks who make a name for themselves by serving in it and betraying civil liberties in the process? Well, one of my colleagues on the executive was Fiona Mactaggart. I don't have a lot of admiring things to say about Fiona, but: When The Satanic Verses came out and there were calls from some quarters to apply the blasphemy laws to insults to Islam, Fiona was the very person who asked Roz Kaveney to write the paper on keeping religion out of government that spelled out NCCL policy.

(Yes, the call to use the blasphemy laws to defend a faith that blasphemes against the state religion was silly, but then blasphemy laws make no sense anyway. It must be said, however, that this particular suggested application is one of the most incoherent and senseless ideas I've ever heard.)

I can't wait to see what Roz writes about this.

Some No 10 officials are concerned that the Government will fall victim to unfavourable comparisons with the Republican administration in America, where President Bush makes no secret of his religious faith and right-wing religious organisations have a powerful input into policy-making, particularly on sensitive issues such as abortion.
"Concerned", are they? Well, they bloody should be.
14:32 BST

Bits o' stuff

This is an article about how the Hispanic vote stacks up (with an extremely misleading headline - where's this new culture of responsibility we're supposed to be seeing at the NYT?), but I was interested in this sentence: "And 44 percent of Hispanics said abortion should not be legal, compared with 22 percent of non-Hispanics." Interesting. I keep hearing that the country is "split down the middle" or similar phrasing on that issue. Of course, I've also seen surveys that do indeed put support for an abortion ban at somewhere around 20 percent, or even less. You'd think "the liberal media" - or even a balanced media - would emphasize the latter point more than the "split down the middle" claim a bit more.

Flash Movie: Grand Theft America (via Elayne Riggs, who's found some other public service announcements, too).

Atrios reveals that "in order to look into newsroom conduct in the aftermath of the egregious acts committed by Jayson Blair, the New York Times used none other than... Yep, Jeff Gerth." And the laughs just keep on comin'.

Hey, look, AP and Josh Marshall finally caught up with me: This article from the Associated Press fleshes out the theory that Saddam had actually shuttered his WMD programs but intentionally kept the world guessing to produce the deterrent effect of having people believe he still had them. Well, of course.

"Don't you agree that only management should be allowed to vote?"
13:32 BST


My Bob Hope Story

I guess it was around 1970 or something, and my friend and I were at Dulles Airport waiting for someone (I think it was her boyfriend). We'd been wandering around freely, watching people come in from various flights, and then shortly before one plane arrived the staff got all fussy and roped up one arrival gate. A little gaggle of people, mostly women, gathered around looking all excited. We weren't a great distance away but, unusually, we were prevented from getting close enough to ask the participants what was going on at normal conversational volume. Eventually the gate opened and Bob Hope and his entourage walked out. The little straight-looking women all cheered and swooned and things like that. Nothing particularly interesting happened, which was pretty much the experience I always had of watching Bob Hope. It was the late '90s before I one day saw a series of early clips of Hope that were actually funny. So I guess there was a reason he was so popular, once, but by the time I'd been old enough to watch television he had just seemed to be some guy who was famous for no apparent reason and had a patriotism thing going.

In related news, Mark Evanier responds to Hitchens, and has a follow-up as well. (And while you're there, he's got a few words on the California recall you might want to check out, and also notices something about a criticism of Magruder's claims about Watergate.)
11:02 BST


Sunday, 03 August 2003

It's official: He's first-tier.

From Blog for America, the official Howard Dean site:

Disaster?  After what we've got now?Would the cover of the Rolling Stone have made it a Trifecta?
23:20 BST


A quote to give you the shakes

Patrick mentioned this to me in conversation:

"He's the most ruthless man I ever met... and I mean that as a compliment."
- Henry Kissinger on Donald Rumsfeld
Yikes.
23:06 BST

Paranoia Report

Last night as we were enjoying a pleasant evening in the garden (although we noted the suspicious absence of the Plokta Cabal), a certain journalist mentioned to me that as far as he knew only one bare allusion had appeared in the press (a couple of weeks ago) to the more-common-than-you-might-realize doubts that Kelly's death was actually a suicide. Although the article appears to dismiss such suspicions, what is interesting is that it points out some of the questions that have been raised everywhere outside of the public eye. What it doesn't point out is that quite a number of journalists (and not the flakey ones, mind you) believe, but will not say, that the suicide theory does not hold water. Nor do I think the explanation offered here really does, either. See what you think.
19:10 BST


Reading the IHT

Another peaceful Sunday afternoon catching up with The Irrational Herald Tribune over breakfast, even though I know that I can see the fuller versions of the articles in (mostly) the NYT online. (I'd still rather read the paper on paper, you know.) Let's see, first we have Frank Rich, observing that Mel Gibson's peculiar promotional method for his new movie has been to complain that Jews are or might be attacking it - before anyone had said a word about it - then admit to previews only those who would already be willing to suspend disbelief in his even more peculiar interpretations of the Gospels. Hmm.

Dave Barry hasn't been as interesting to me lately as he once was, but this week's article on an exciting innovation in ladies' undergarments is actually worth the time it took to read it.

Boston woman gives birth on train actually originates in The Boston Globe, and I particularly enjoyed the way all those people kept offering their help (as if they would have the faintest idea what to do) over her protests when she obviously had complete control of the situation and they were just getting in the way.

"Well back it up, try to find a place to start, and do it again," is my favorite line from Sam Phillips' obituary detailing the crucial moment in Elvis Presley's career. Since I am a compulsive tangentializer, the story sent me musing on the need for a catch-all term for what we used to call "underground music" - the stuff that's bubbling under the surface but can't yet be called "popular music" because either the particular performer or the relevant sub-genre isn't yet charting and in the popular consciousness. Remember when only you and your musician friends were listening to the Steve Miller Band, who no one else seemed to have heard of? (Here I went into a reverie about seeing a mostly-unknown performer called Jimi Hendrix at a place that when I last saw it was a parking lot - and then was brought up short for a moment when I couldn't recall either the name of the theater or which streets it was on. This is a little scary when it was only the central intersection of the Adams Morgan area, at 18th and Columbia, and it was of course the Columbia Theater. Old old old!)

I can't seem to find the Safire article in the online IHT, so we'll go directly to the NYT for it. This is one of those columns when you think Safire has dug really deep to get somewhere that even he must know you can't get to from here. You know Mark Crispin Miller's thing about how when Bush says weird, awful things when speaking off the cuff, he's more likely to be exposing the truth as he sees it? Well, Bush, being something less than a scholar of nuance and stuff like that there, knows a wall when he sees one, and on seeing what is unquestionably a big, concrete wall, referred to it as - you got it - a "wall". Yes, for once, Bush was absolutely right, and used the common, everyday word for what any schoolchild would recognize as a wall, that word being "wall". Amazing. And Safire explains that this was wrong!

Beyond the physical barrier is the chance to change the diplomatic dynamic: "Arafat's strategy is to make terror a part of political negotiation. When you don't get all you want, you use terror — you start an intifada. The security fence, when it is finished, will close off this strategy. Losing this negotiating weapon bothers them."

Apparently it bothered some in our State Department as well, and President Bush took to adopting the Palestinian characterization of the barrier as "a wall." That word has echoes to Jews of a ghetto wall, and to Americans of Ronald Reagan's "tear down this wall!" Mr. Bush has since returned to using "the fence," and in his long-awaited news conference yesterday, he refrained from taking an opportunity to criticize it.

That makes sense. Robert Satloff, the most perceptive of the Middle East analysts, writes in The Baltimore Sun, "After having committed the prestige of his presidency on promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace, President Bush should not find himself on the wrong side of an initiative that may actually offer a chance to produce it."

Yeah, 'cause partitioning has worked so well in so many other places.

Others have already cited this editorial bemoaning Bush's typical performance at his press conference last week, although I suppose it was unfair of me to have used scare quotes when I referred to it previously, since reporters actually did ask a couple of important questions, forcing Bush to go on the record with more inanities:

Throughout his political career, President George W. Bush has been famous for sticking to a few issues, and repeating a few well-burnished talking points over and over. Wide-ranging news conferences do not play to his strengths, and as president, he has generally avoided them. Having decided to make a rare exception on Wednesday, Bush should have been able to come up with better responses to two big and obvious questions: why he ordered the invasion of Iraq and why he pushed for tax cuts that have left the United States sinking into a hopeless quagmire of debt.

Bush continued to cling to his most tired buzzwords, however. Iraq was a "threat" - just as the tax cuts were "a job-creation program." The president and his advisers obviously still believe that constantly repeating several simplistic points will hypnotize the American people into forgetting the original question.

It's nice to see that the NYT has finally started calling Bush on this sort of thing, and we can only hope for more. But I'm getting pretty tired of politically correct statements like this one:
Saddam Hussein was certainly a threat to his own people, and there is still an enormous amount to be gained if the United States can foster a prosperous, open society in Iraq.
With my trademarked bluntness and utter lack of tact, let me jump on that with both feet:

1. There was never a chance that Bush was going to foster a "prosperous, open society" in Iraq. It is irrelevant that Bush apologists made up this excuse for invasion before the fact; it wasn't even close to being the primary reason the administration gave, and their performance in Afghanistan (where they had also babbled nonsense beforehand about installing freedom and democracy - but then got amnesia about it as they were somehow distracted by Iraq) certainly did not bode well. Why should anyone have believed they were dedicated to doing any such thing when they couldn't even be bothered to prove themselves by finishing what they'd started in Kabul? The mess they've made was entirely predictable.

2. Yeah, yeah, Saddam was a bad man - congratulations to those who have finally caught up to what those crazy liberals have been saying all along. Saddam was a bad man, and we were crazy hippies who lacked appreciation for practical matters by constantly pointing out that the US was holding hands with a nasty dictator. But: Making war on a country, dropping bombs on a country, destroying the infrastructure of a country is, you'll pardon me for saying so, destructive to the people of that country no matter who is doing it. Merely getting rid of Saddam before there's any sign that you understand the consequences by no means guarantees that he will be replaced by something better. Sorry, but dictators like Saddam are not unique, they're a dime a dozen and it's a lot harder to find wise and incorruptible leaders than it is to find greedy, tyrannical bastards. The truth is that the chances of the vacuum being filled by someone who is even worse than Saddam were always pretty good - but at least if Saddam was left where he was, the people of Iraq had a better chance to get drinking water.

3. The Bush Family Empire has a long, unhealthy track record of coddling and encouraging anti-democratic regimes. This particular Bush was holding hands with the people who exported and funded Islamofascism, both before and after 9/11; why should anyone trust him to make things better in Iraq?

4. Interestingly, pro-invasion wingers have been in many cases remarkably silent on the elimination of Constitutional rights in the US post-9/11. I've even seen it argued that the loss of those rights is inconsequential because, "If you think about it, you have not personally suffered in any way from the changes in law." This is a somewhat incredible position for people who present themselves as believers in freedom and liberty, amounting to a pretty straightforward, "It doesn't matter if thousands of my countrymen are rounded up and deprived of their liberty, their livelihood, even their families, as long as I am not personally affected by such intrusions." If oppression of others is not real oppression, then the same holds true for the people of Iraq: If they keep their heads down and go about their business, and don't publicly do things that will call the regime's attention to themselves, they aren't oppressed, either. The people who dissent from their government are just troublemakers, right? Normal people have nothing to fear.

5. A point that bears repeating: How dare anyone ask me to trust this administration to bring a "prosperous, open society" to Iraq when they were already blowing their chance to do so in Afghanistan? Afghanistan was their chance to show us what they were good for, and they were showing us that they were good for nothing. Why should someone who is walking out in the middle of a job be trusted to complete the next one? It's a bit much to be demanding a second chance when you still have - but are refusing - the choice to make good on your first chance. That kind of irresponsibility doesn't deserve rewarding, let alone trust in their reliability. What were you people thinking?

In short, I'm sick of the obligatory sigh of relief at getting rid of Saddam in favor of an illusory utopian future for Iraq. There is every chance that the people of Iraq are and will be worse off now that nasty old Saddam is gone, so just cut it out. Yeah, he was a bad man, placed there and supported by other bad men, who happen to be the same people who promoted and ran the invasion. Their infighting is no excuse for the deaths and maiming of American service personnel and Iraqi children.
18:08 BST


Talent on loan from Satan

A liberal Rush Limbaugh (via Bartcop).
16:30 BST


Saturday, 02 August 2003

Beneath the skin

Patrick is still officially not posting, but something ticked him off enough that he did anyway.

Atrios finds a startling admission from CATO: But perhaps we are being unfair to former President Clinton. After all, in inflation-adjusted terms, Clinton had overseen a total spending increase of only 3.5 percent at the same point in his administration. More importantly, after his first three years in office, non-defense discretionary spending actually went down by 0.7 percent. This is contrasted by Bush's three-year total spending increase of 15.6 percent and a 20.8 percent explosion in non-defense discretionary spending. Also, a useful post on the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill.

Slate is into touch-screen voting: The report claims the code is riddled with "unauthorized privilege escalation, incorrect use of cryptography, vulnerabilities to network threats, and poor software development processes" (Ack! A geek's worst insult!) before spelling out a scenario in which a middling hacker steals the vote by stamping out fake voter smartcards using a $100 desktop printer. Maybe some wild-haired lefties should start talking loudly about hacking the machines, so that Republicans can start worrying about this stuff, too.

Buzzflash interviews Conason - and he's all over the much tawdrier, nasty, hypocritical Republicans and their crotch-sniffing, which they do both on and off the field. But when it comes to morality, they have been promoting themselves on the basis of the lie that they are morally superior in some way to their opponents. And that's just demonstrably false. He's got details.

If I wasn't expecting to be very busy today, I would write at length about the hilarious announcement by The New York Times that they intend to introduce an ombudsman. Everybody write them letters! Ask why Jayson Blair was fired and Gerth, Berke, and Miller have not been. Demand to know if there is any truth to the rumor that Berke is being tipped for a BIG promotion and ask how they can claim to be sorting out their culture of arrogance and irresponsibility while he is still on their staff at all.

From Asia Times, Why the US needs the Taliban. Sure, play patty-cake with Pakistan while you invade Iraq. I'm sure that really upset Al Qaeda.

CalPundit explains what it means that in Britain, "Boardroom pay rose seven times as fast as average earnings last year, with the senior directors of the UK's biggest 100 companies receiving an average 23% rise." Getting more Americanized every year - but in a bad way.

Fans of Greg Palast already know that the corporates have been turning treaties into disasters, but TomPaine.com notes that now even they are freaking out about GATT. Turning The Trade Tables says: From Wall Street, to K Street, to business-funded think tanks, an eerily familiar lament is sounding about the WTO's attack on democracy as CEOs borrow lines from the past statements of Ralph Nader and the Sierra Club.
14:02 BST


Mr. Death's scythe misses

From Talk Left:

Attorney General John Ashcroft was denied the ability to seek the death penalty in a trial in Puerto Rico Thursday when the jury acquitted the defendants of all murder charges.

How fitting! Ashcroft picks a case in which he thinks the crime is so bad and the defendants so awful that his intervention is warranted. So while the Puerto Rico Constitution does not allow for the death penalty, Ashcroft says tough, the feds will step in and make you have one. The case is tried to a jury the past few weeks, and after three days of deliberations, the jury finds both defendants not guilty. No conviction, no penalty....no death penalty.

That's a relief. But Ashcroft's love of killing people still makes me sick to my stomach.

Also at Talk Left, check out this article:

A prosecutor is threatening to have a defense attorney arrested for possessing file copies of the alleged pornographic photos he received in discovery from the state.
A judge had already authorized counsel to possess the material, but:
MacArthur said when Goettsch didn't like Gates' ruling, she then took it up with another district judge. That judge, Michelle Leavitt, threatened to hold MacArthur in contempt.

...Fellow defense attorneys labeled Goettsch's threat of arrest as outrageous. "It's infantile, it's wrong and it's petty," said Lawrence Goldman, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. "There should be some common sense here," Goldman said. "It's either prosecutorial mania, an obsession with child pornography, or it's an opportunity for a prosecutor to be a jerk."

Las Vegas defense attorney JoNell Thomas, speaking on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, called Goettsch's threat "insane." "The tactic of threatening to have criminal defense attorneys arrested for doing their job is outrageous," she said.

Insane, certainly, but the record suggests that Bush's loony Attorney General would approve.
13:09 BST

Thank the Democrats

At least they are blocking some truly repulsive court nominations. Sam Heldman has been covering the issue and has a lot of fine posts on why Pryor should not be confirmed. Here is his most recent post on the subject.
12:36 BST


Friday, 01 August 2003

Think and feel

Natasha has a very worthwhile post up at Pacific Views about ... well, about not turning this campaign into a Monty Python routine.

Sold down the river.

I know Max knows a lot more about this stuff than I do, but I suspect that if more people understand who has had tax breaks and who hasn't - and who is getting the shaft (which is most people) - voters will happily support Democrats who offer to shift the tax burden back to the wealthy. Remember, it's not "big-spending Democrats", it's "cheap-labor Republicans". The problem, as always, is getting that message out. (PS. I coulda told you about fishing. I never found it very interesting to begin with back in the days when the grown-ups used to make me do it, but Joe Haldeman used to try to get me to come and fish with him when I was getting crazy, and that was a reminder that the whole point of fishing is to not be doing anything.)

Rittenhouse Review discusses an article about Ann Coulter. I have to take issue with his final lines, in which he quotes the headline, "Archconservative cutie Coulter says she's thrilled to be panned," and then says: "Yeah, right. Every writer likes it when his work is universally eviscerated." Well, I'll tell ya, if my books had been universally eviscerated, that would have meant they were reviewed in a lot more publications, and I'll bet they would have sold a lot more copies, too - because the people who would have been eviscerating them would undoubtedly have been disagreeing with them, and in so doing alerted quite a few more people that these were books they might agree with. Just as I'm sure the bad reviews of Coulter's books make more right-wing loons aware that there's another book they can buy that says horrible things about liberals. Since that seems to be their one hard-and-fast bit of ideology, it's their red meat. (The fact that she has long blond hair doesn't hurt.)

Scoobie Davis sticks it to Limbaugh, and on the way quotes our last elected President: "If they insist on being irresponsible with our common liberties, then we must be all the more responsible with our liberties. When they talk of hatred, we must stand against them. When they talk of violence, we must stand against them. When they say things that are irresponsible, that may have egregious consequences, we must call them on it. The exercise of their freedom of speech makes our silence all the more unforgivable. So exercise yours, my fellow Americans. Our country, our future, our way of life is at stake." Yeah, what he said.
13:43 BST


What it's all about

Atrios, back from his undisclosed location, quotes a letter from The New York Times:

the Editor:

Re "President Denies He Oversold Case for War With Iraq" (front page, July 31):

President Bush let slip some crucial information at his news conference when he said, referring to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, "In order to placate the critics and cynics about intentions of the United States, we need to produce evidence."

If the Iraqi weapons exist, we need to find them not to placate critics but to prevent them from being used for devastating attacks on the United States! The weapons that the administration described before the war could be used by whoever now possesses them to kill us by the thousands or millions.

The fact that President Bush did not express concern about this prospect, but instead described the stakes as a matter of political credibility, indicates that he privately assumes that the weapons do not exist.
ALAN M. MACROBERT
Bedford, Mass., July 31, 2003

Or else he doesn't care, because he's sure they won't get him or anyone who matters to him. After all, most of the people who were killed on 9/11 were mere New Yorkers - and you know about them.
11:46 BST

The lurking draft

Among the many interesting things at Under a Blackened Sky, this rather disturbing item:

More viciousness on state-sponsored stupidity: Jack Duggan writes about the contingency plan to draft health care workers in time of war. "The Health Care Personnel Delivery System (HCPDS) was approved by Congress in 1987. All it needs is a signature from the US President and a war. Probably any "war" will do, such as that with Iraq or declaring a "terrorist attack" an act of war, even by an unknown individual or group. Perhaps even in the face of a "possible" terrorist threat by "possible" terrorists. Look at who gets to decide whether a person is a terrorist threat."
We are also advised to Wake up - and there's a chart comparing our current administration with the government of Babylon 5.
00:21 BST

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, August 2003


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