The Sideshow

Archive for December 2006

Check box to open new browser windows for links.

Sunday, 31 December 2006

The hitman

A lot of people are expressing thoughts very much like mine, but I think I'll quote Jim Henley, who is quoting Josh Marshall:

Marx might say that this was not tragedy but farce. But I think we need to get way beyond options one and two even to get close to this one - claptrap justice meted out to the former dictator in some puffed-up act of self-justification as the country itself collapses in the hands of the occupying army.
That's true enough. And it's also true that the US and its Iraqi allies chose to try Saddam on one of his relatively minor crimes because if they did so they could get him safely hung before they had to try him for the major ones, the gas attacks and massacres that happened during The Years of Playing Footsie with the United States. The Dujail reprisals were a war crime, no doubt about it, a bigger sham of justice than Saddam's own trial, by two orders of magnitude. They were also the sort of war crime that people like Ralph Peters and a hundred other pundits and parapundits think the United States should be committing. Every time you read a complaint about "politically correct rules of engagement" you are reading someone who would applaud a Dujail-level slaughter if only we were to perpetrate it. Those are the people who are happiest of all about tonight's execution. Smells like - victory! It's the pomander they don against the stench.
They glory in killing - any reason will do.

Barbara O'Brien points out that not only are they glorying in it, but they are furious that the news media is merely reporting it like a news story. And she says:

I have no doubt the plan, at least in Bush's mind, was to have a glorious little war, kick Saddam's ass, and go home to a victory parade.

By now even Bush may realize there won't be a parade. Instead, he and his war culties had to settle for the next best thing - an execution. I'm sure they're enjoying the video.

Just for the record, I have refused to watch anything about the execution. Little babies eat their own excrement, but I don't have to.

13:42 GMT

In words and music

Every year when I've posted the link to the lyrics to the song, I've tried to find the actual audio online, but I never have. So I wrote to Tom Robinson and told him my problem, and just for me he has posted "Truce". Give it a listen.

Larry Taylor: "Reminds me of a story that I heard Chet Atkins once tell. He had quietly slipped into a gathering of young pickers and just began jamming with them. After an hour or so that had little or no conversation, he thanked them for letting him barge in. As he walked away, one of the youngsters yelled out to him, You ain't no Chet Atkins, but you're pretty damn good. Chet said that he just smiled and kept walking." (via)

Pam Spaulding on John Edwards on gay marriage.

Kudos from BTC News: "The best US journalism on this countrys involvement in Iraq, both before and after the invasion, belongs hands down to McClatchy Newspapers."

Kevin Hayden wants us all to see Riverbend's end of the year post: "A day in the life of the average Iraqi has been reduced to identifying corpses, avoiding car bombs and attempting to keep track of which family members have been detained, which ones have been exiled and which ones have been abducted."

MediaBloodhound, Nixon's Only Real Friend

Our friend Thomas Ware has recently been working on something that might interest you, particularly if you're in Oregon, where you might be able to listen to KPOV, Bend Community Radio LPFM on the air. And their page says they will be streaming "very soon".

I miss Elton.

02:06 GMT

Saturday, 30 December 2006

Government inflexibility

Cactus at Angry Bear got to thinking about why the government can sometimes be so damn inflexible:

Eventually, the Army has a spec that indicates even situations that a rational person would say - "This makes no sense. Everyone knows that." But the rational person wouldn't realize that when the Army specifies that no sawdust is to be used in making flour, or that no more than X parts of per million of rat droppings will be in the cookie, that the Army has a damn good reason for having that in there, namely that some upstanding leader of the community who waves a flag and is a member of the local Kiwanis actually tried to pass such things off on American military personnel. And of course, that upstanding leader of the community who waves a flag and is a member of the local Kiwanis is happy to lecture one and all about how much more efficient the private sector is than the public sector - exhibit A being the Army's specs on making a chocolate chip cookie.

17:12 GMT

Why the rich should pay higher taxes

The rich use much more of tax-paid resources than anyone else does. The court system works much more to the benefit of the rich than for the rest of us. Most people don't retain a staff of lawyers, for example. Why would that be?

And the rich always have an advantage in court over the not-so-rich. Contracts are meaningless without the court system, but they are more useful to those rich enough to make sure they are enforced. For example, it should not be possible in a just judicial system for a company to reneg on its pension obligations to its employees, but somehow this has happened. Why? Because the courts are more likely to serve the wealthy and the corporations than to serve ordinary working people. Yet the rich apparently expect ordinary people to pay taxes for a court system that protects the ability of the corporations to steal pensions from ordinary working people.

Policing tends to be oriented toward protecting those with the most property. Rich people use illegal drugs at least as much as poor people do, but the police don't roam through rich people's neighborhoods kicking in doors and trying to bust rich people for drugs. The lower you are on the income spectrum, the more likely it is that your taxes are being used against you than for you.

If you live in the United States, your taxes are being used to build a lot of prisons to house - at great expense - an ever-expanding population of individuals who, in most cases, have not done much harm. Illegal drugs account for an extraordinary proportion of that population.

Even at the local level, the rich throw bigger parties more often and use more trash collecting services, more water, more of everything.

Your taxes are also being used to finance a completely unnecessary war, with a great proportion of the money going to private companies that benefit directly from that war. Companies awarded no-bid, cost-plus contracts with no obligation to fulfill their end of those contracts have shown us in Iraq why Harry Truman called war-profiteers "traitors". Money that we thought was apportioned to equip and feed our troops has instead been handed over to private companies that don't even give our troops clean water. Money that we thought was meant for rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure has simply disappeared.

Your tax money was meant to protect your rights, not the privileges of the wealthy. It was supposed to pay for a government of civil servants, not corporate lackeys. It was meant to provide a government and court system in which no one stood higher than anyone else under the law.

Instead, your tax money is serving the rich. Why should any of your tax money be collected for this purpose? If they want wars and prisons, let them pay for them out of their own pockets. Haliburton, Exxon, Brown & Root, George Walker Bush and Richard Bruce Cheney owe you hundreds of billions of dollars. Let them pay.

13:16 GMT

Politics, art, and love

What Would Caesar and Genghis Khan and Lincoln and Washington Do?

Christy Hardin Smith, Bringing Poverty To The Table and Bringing Poverty To The Table, Part II

What the BBC News learned this year, and How the US will finally get health insurance.

An award you don't want to get: The Daily Howler Man of the Year. (And, fortunately, you didn't get it - and neither did I!)

Ted Compton recommends a movie.

Ever notice how much Cal Thomas and Thomas Sowell have in common? They're both idiots who think they are smarter than you are.

"Now you don't have to have a political doctorate in Political Science to realize it's never a good sign when you're outpolled by Lucifer."

World's worst identity politics

Susie Bright choreographed the hottest seduction scene I have ever seen in a movie, so I trust her sense of eroticism, which means I trust her when she says she has the very best latke recipe. I don't have a cuisinart (my kitchen is so small that I don't have room for a cuisinart), but if you have one, please remember, if I come to visit, that I directed your attention to Susie's Perfect Latkes On Demand, and I'd sure love to sample them some time.

City Comforts (or Viaduct, as you prefer), directs our attention to some truly nifty urban art. (And you thought it was all grey, didn't you?)

Devonshire countryside, and cows, with rainbow

Oh, yeah, I just noticed it's my birthday.

02:50 GMT

Friday, 29 December 2006

Words to the wise

From Tapped:

Ben Adler on Edwards' Shrewd Move:

While I, like Garance, will reserve judgment on Edwards' announcement speech until I hear it, there is one aspect of his entrance into the race that I think shows that he is taking the right approach: his choice of location. The Ninth Ward of New Orleans has the potential to be the Democrats' Ground Zero--a symbolic space that can be used to rally the public. Having made poverty eradication a centerpiece of his 2004 campaign, Edwards is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the Republicans' weakness on this issue. Hurricane Katrina was the most poignant example of how many Americans have been literally and figuratively left behind, and the Democrats would be wise to follow Edwards' lead in reminding the country of it.
And Scott Lemieux on Kathleen Sebelius and What's Not The Matter With Kansas:
There are two points to be made here. First, any Democratic woman who can win re-election in a staunchly Republican state as an unapologetic pro-choicer really should be discussed more when it comes to potential national candidates. Second, while pundits for whom the solution to what ails the Democrats is always to throw women's reproductive freedom under the bus are cherry-picking cases like Bob Casey and Heath Shuler to make their case, Sebelius shows there's another side to the argument. The evidence that adopting the majority position on abortion has been an electoral albatross for the Democratic Party has never been well-supported empirically or logically, and the recent election results in Kansas (not just the re-election of Sebelius, but the repudiation of Kline) are another case in point.
Elsewhere, a book to look forward to: Anatomy of Deceit: How the Bush Administration Used the Media to Sell the War and Smear a Critic by Marcy Wheeler.

19:40 GMT

Highlights of my afternoon

Huntress: Dark Knight Daughter is out with a gorgeous Brian Bolland cover and I'm really looking forward to reading it. The Helena Wayne stories are some of my favorites.

I wish someone had found this five years ago and mentioned it at least once a week, but Atrios has unearthed the evidence: "Apparently it's an enshrined tradition that former presidents don't criticize current ones. I've been hearing that a lot lately. Somebody forgot to tell Ronald Reagan, who wrote this in the New York Times about a month after Clinton took office." (And for those who've forgotten, Ronald Reagan passed the highest tax hike on working Americans in history.)

Now that the administration is lawyering up like crazy, Oliver Willis comes on board with those who think Ford should have let the Nixon administration stand trial when he had his chance, and maybe it would have saved us from having to suffer through this nightmare. I can only agree.

Jonathan Singer talks about Restoring Americans' Faith in Government - a hard job after Bush has worked so hard to destroy it.

Turn your junk mail into spam!

16:04 GMT

Links for lunch

Steve Benan has been guesting at Kevin Drum's joint, and says the fright-wingers are now enthusing about another fake item this time a photograph of John Kerry sitting alone in a mess hall, thus "proving" that his "botched joke" alienated the troops. The only trouble is, the picture is way too old to have followed the joke. Meanwhile, he notes, it seems awfully coincidental that several Republican Senators have suddenly come out against Bush's handling of Iraq, and that they're all up for re-election in '08.

Glen at A Brooklyn Bridge asks the same question I've had for quite some time about the people who praise Gerry Ford for pardoning Nixon and who insist that holding Bush accountable is a "distraction": Isn't it odd that the same people who believe that draconian punishments deter future crimes don't get it?

"President Gore, Lame Duck" - an editorial reflects on six relatively uneventful and boring years of peace, and says, The question in 2008 will be: How do we let the rest of the world know we can no longer be pushed around? (via)

Dave Johnson has an important message for Democrats: There's no point trying to include insurance companies in any healthcare plan you come up with, because even if you do, "Health Insurance Companies WILL Oppose Your Plan Anyway." Too right. So you might as well go for Medicare-for-all, because that's the one that will work.

Bill Quigley wants to know: "Why Is HUD Bulldozing Public Housing Apts in New Orleans When It's Cheaper to Fix Them?"

Jim Hightower says the public is washing our hands of them and we just wanna Throw the Bums Out and Change Direction.

Charles Dodgson on the Christmas Eve raid

13:27 GMT

"Overnight, the spirit of Edward R. Murrow was reborn"

The only reason liberal media isn't wiping the floor with the corporate and right-wing organs is because that small elite of money-men are working hard to starve it out. Nevertheless:

What a month it has been for the right wing religious conservative cabal attempting to subvert the very meaning of America. First voters overwhelmingly reject their God-anointed leader Pres. George W(orst) Bush. Then The Nativity Story is rejected not only by pagans, Jews and Muslims but most Christians. Now comes word that not only has their beloved mouthpiece of fair and balanced news reporting-Fox News-dropped out of the top ten most watched cable channels but, oh horror of horror, Keith Olbermann's nightly reminder that Bush was anointed by the Supreme Court and not God is single-handedly responsible for increasing the viewership of MSNBC 25% over this time a year ago.
Via Bartcop, with help from Maru.

01:46 GMT


I'm having a little experiment on what color works best for quotations, or whether using colors rather than italics is even a good idea. Let me know what you think:

Digby on Hickory Hillbillies:

Those of us who follow politics from far outside the beltway are often amused at the way the DC establishment has somehow convinced itself that it is a small town in middle American ca. 1937 and they are all Jimmy Stewarts and Donna Reeds. Those of us blue state heathens who live in big cities with big power centers particularly know how self serving and absurd this is.
A guest post by Herblock, "Rolling Over In My Grave:
It is not my intent to startle you by returning from the dead (actually, I'm still dead), but after watching the collective memory lapse of the American media, I am compelled to present excerpts from my book, Herblock Special Report, which was first published in 1974.
Justin Rood on How the Government Is Making You Sick: Contaminated spinach, suspicious green onions, E. coli-laden lettuce -- it seems like green vegetables are the newest threat to America.

Chris Bowers on Why Progressives Lost The Post-Election Narrative: This is because outside of the new Democratic majorities themselves, and outside of possibly Rahm Emmanuel, there are no progressive institutions that received conventional wisdom credit for the victory, and thus no progressive institutions toward which either the media or the Washington, D.C. political industry feels it must suck up to in order to remain relevant and / or seated at the Kool Kidz table.

00:08 GMT

Thursday, 28 December 2006

Politics and media

What caught my eye about Skippy's piece on the deification of ford is not what he says about Ford, but the fact that he has a new abbreviation for what right-wingers call "the MSM" and what some of us now call "the corporate media": "the MMM" - Multi-Millionaire Media.

Brent Budowsky has a post at the HuffPo talking about the Future of Democratic Leadership and the Progressive Movement, and the themes he will be discussing all week on Mark Riley's morning show on AAR.

Ampersand gives us two readings of one movie - is The Pursuit of Happyness about an Everyman who gets rich through hard work, or about a superman who does what few others could do?

John Edwards declares that Americans need to work together. And what does MSNBC think is the important thing to tell you about John Edwards?

Tom Toles pops the question.

18:47 GMT

Ford and the right-wing insurgency

My thanks to commenter KS* for alerting me to Amy Goodman's interview with Robert Parry (of Consortium News) about Gerald Ford:

ROBERT PARRY: : Well, I think Gerald Ford gets a lot of credit because of when he became President and the extraordinary circumstances, in which he became President. He was, of course, the person who followed Richard Nixon, and brought, in a sense, the end to the national nightmare of Watergate. In another sense however, he also marks the beginning of the counter-attack, if you will, against the efforts by Congress, the Press and other Americans to reign in the Imperial Presidency.

You start seeing already, in the early days of the Ford Administration, an effort to strike back against those efforts to limit the Executive Power. We have efforts in the CIA, when he brings in George H.W. Bush, to push back against Congressional oversight. To allow more space for the CIA to operate, to fight against efforts to expose some of the more corrupt CIA actions. And oddly, because of the timing of Ford's Presidency, that it sort of came after the period, the Church Commission looked at, in terms of CIA abuses, and it came before the beginning of the formal congressional oversight process, the CIA operated during that year with a great deal of freedom. And we know -- we don't know enough about some of the things that were done during that period.

So I think while Ford gets a great deal of credit, because he helped mend the nation's wounds over Watergate, it wasn't entirely this pleasant experience that some people are making it out to be. It was, in a sense, the incubator for the resurgence of the Imperial Presidency. People like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney were in the Ford White House, and many of their feelings about re-establishing that Imperial Presidency have lived to this day.

Barbara O'Brien discusses a piece Parry wrote at Consortium News about The GOP's $3 Billion Propaganda Organ, where he said:
When history tries to make sense of what happened to American politics in this era, it should take into account the extraordinary story of how a right-wing Korean cult leader, Sun Myung Moon, bought influence with the U.S. political class by pouring billions of dollars into conservative causes, including a daily newspaper, the Washington Times. Though Moon operatives have tried to hide the total price tag for this pro-Republican propaganda organ, a longtime Times employee has pegged Moon's spending at more than $3 billion in cash. The other big question is where did all this money come from? A Special Report.
Barbara ties this to the larger deep-pockets efforts of other right-wing funders, but Moon is something special.

And, in the WaPo, Gerald Ford told Bob Woodward a couple of years ago what he really thought of our current leadership, but only on condition that it not be published until after his death. He said he opposed the invasion of Iraq, and didn't sound terribly supportive of illegal wiretapping, either. So, another coward who didn't speak out when it mattered - but not a surprise, of course.

17:31 GMT

Things to catch

In the TAP blogs:

At Crooks and Liars:

  • John caught George F. Will saying: Baghdad is the problem and while we debate what to do in Baghdad, the Shiites are changing the facts on the ground in Baghdad through incremental-not at all stealthy-rather rapid ethnic cleansing. So we may get a monochrome Baghdad out of this which would be ahhh, sad, but perhaps tranquilizing.
  • Nicole Belle says There Really WAS A War on 1947.
  • Mike suggests that this could be the Magazine Cover of the Year, from Esquire.

13:37 GMT

Hot topics on hot blogs

I need to make a note of the stuff Atrios has been doing so I don't lose it:

  • Wanker of the Day David Ignatius has an infuriating article in the WaPo clucking sympathetically with our poor, overburdened Decider, who is apparently being affected by "the stress of the job". If Brad and Mary hadn't fielded this one, I'd probably still be staring at the screen trying to come up with a coherent sentence instead of just spitting.
  • "Femifascist" is a hot new word just like the old "feminazi", and Scott Lemieux has the goods on another right-wing judge who thinks it's "biased" to put the law above right-wing goals.
  • Social conservative concern trolls who "help" Democrats appeal to people who hate them by telling them to be more like conservatives on reproductive issues.

And yes, I was remembering the peace and quiet of most of Ford's term, and forgetting the fact that having Rumsfeld and Cheney back running the government is, to a large extent, his fault. Atrios, Atrios, Matt Yglesias, and Digby have this pretty well covered.

00:17 GMT

Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Turkey for breakfast

Last decent Republican President dies: Gerald Ford, our first (but obviously not last) unelected president, did not constantly embarrass us by babbling, showing signs of Alzheimer's, failing to know ordinary English words and syntax, or, most importantly, start any wars. His tenure was not marked by any significant horror stories, which left the press corps so bored that they ended up trying to make big stories out of the fact that he occasionally stumbled physically, just like a real person. Ford, a former football player, was no more clumsy than anyone else, and probably more agile than most presidents, but our press corps was never immune from being captivated by trivia, and falsely characterized President Ford as a bumbling buffoon. Personally, I remember his presidency as one of the most peaceful and pleasant we ever had.

Rob at Intrepid Liberal Journal fantasizes an announcement by Al Gore that he will run for president. (via)

I can't even begin to parse the reasoning that would cause the unforgiving prince to give pardons to these people and no one else. A handful of coke dealers, fraudsters, and of course people who commit bank fraud or rip off taxpayers while in government office (his kind of people). He could have pardoned hundreds of people with similar drug convictions, I'm sure. Must be related to big donors.

Barbara O'Brien says Ezra Klein has an article in the LAT on universal healthcare. It's nice to see a newspaper occasionally take the subject seriously. The fact that Ezra seems to be as interested in pushing this subject as I am is one of the reasons he's regarded as a hero here at The Sideshow.

And the war on tourism is working.

14:37 GMT

I saw this

At Vanity Fair, "Rules of Engagement" by William Langewiesche: On November 19, 2005, in Haditha, during Kilo Company's third tour of duty in Iraq, a land mine planted by insurgents exploded beneath a Humvee, killing a 20-year-old Marine. What happened next-the slaughter of 24 Iraqi men, women, and children-was not entirely an aberration. These actions were rooted in the very conduct of the war.

Bill Scher says Virginia Congressman Virgil Goode's hate weakens America

Tim F. at Balloon Juice says "The ISG's Rhetorical Impact Begins To Sink In": Again, it would be a mistake to dismiss the ISG Report because it had no direct impact on Bush policy. It doesn't really matter that they proposed a weak withdrawal with a division-sized loophole because it would never he implemented anyway. It doesn't have to, it just has to move the Window enough to make withdrawal talk cool and course staying (especially escalation) very uncool. Read this by MissLaura at DailyKos and think about the impact that the ISG-driven Window shift will have on Congressional Republicans who still have to worry about things like polls and reelection. I bet that Republicans really, really don't want to fight 2008 on the same political ground as `06, and as long as the president stays his personal course the political ground will keep getting worse. The important effect of the ISG will be indirect, by making it excruciatingly painful for Bush allies to stand behind the President in the way that he needs and demands. Despite all of his deliberate Window shifting over the Iraq war George Bush is now on the outside looking in, and I doubt that he will like it very much.

Mercenaries are a bad idea. Foreign mercenaries are a worse one. Now they want to recruit people for our army from abroad. Machiavelli would have told Bush not to do these things.

Letter Christmas Card From Here

01:42 GMT

Tuesday, 26 December 2006

Items of interest

Eric Alterman on Why talk shows prefer to invite pundits who are reliably wrong to give advice on television.

Eric also reports: To celebrate the January 23 release of Grateful Dead's LIVE AT THE COW PALACE, NEW YEAR'S EVE, 1976, the Rock 'N' Roll Hall Of Famers will turn back the clock 30 years and present the entire performance on the Internet. A free online stream of the classic concert will be made available for two days at

It appears that Tennessee's new law requiring four hours of counselling before a marriage ceremony has encouraged a lot of people to decide it's easier to get married in Georgia, or not get married at all. In one county, it may have cut the marriage rate in half. (via)

I keep hoping someone will do an updated version of "Silent Night/7 O'Clock News" (preferably using Simon & Garfunkel's original track - and Walter Cronkite could do the news), but it doesn't seem to have happened, yet. However, the next best thing from the YouTube generation is "Christmas at War" from Ava Lowrey at Peace Takes Courage. (Thanks to Mark Brooks for the tip and the warning that it might make me cry.)

I hope you weren't expecting me to be done with this Christmas thing, yet - Christmas isn't over until it's really over.

23:24 GMT

Bad tenants

Bill Moyers, "A Parable For Our Times":

Toward the end of his life, Jesus preached in the Temple to large crowds, reaching the height of his power. There he told the parable that likely sealed his fate. He said there was a man who created a prosperous vineyard and then rented it to some tenants while he went away on a journey. At harvest time, the owner of vineyard sent a servant to collect a portion from the tenants, but they beat the servant and sent him away empty-handed. Another servant came, and they struck him on the head. Another they killed. Finally, the owner sent his own son to collect the back payments. "They will respect my son," he thought. But when the tenants saw the son, and knew him to be the heir, they saw their chance to take full possession of the harvest. And so they killed the son, thinking now they would owe nothing from the vineyard to anyone.

The listeners understood the symbolism: God, of course, is the owner of the vineyard, and the vineyard is Israel or the covenant, or, more broadly, the whole creation. It is all that God entrusts to the leaders of his people. And what is in question is their stewardship of this bounty.

In the parable, the "tenants" are the leaders of Israel. They hoard the fruits of the vineyard for themselves, instead of sharing the fruits as the covenant teaches, according to God's holy purposes. And the holiest of God's purposes, ancient tradition taught, is helping the poor, and the fatherless, and the widow, and the stranger-all who do not have the resources to live in a manner befitting their dignity as creatures made in God's image, as children of God.

When he finished the story, Jesus asked the people what the owner of the vineyard will do when he comes back. "He will kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others," Jesus tells them. In the Gospel of Matthew, the people themselves answered: "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time."

Political dynasties fall from negligent stewardship. One thinks of the upward redistribution called "tax relief"; of the Iraq invasion sold as critical to the "War on Terror"; of rising poverty, inequality, crime, debt, and foreclosure as America spews its bounty on war and a military so muscle-bound it is like Gulliver. It would be hard to imagine a more catastrophic failure of stewardship, certainly in the biblical sense of helping the poor and allocating resources for the health of society. Once upon a time these errant stewards boasted of restoring a culture of integrity to politics. They became instead an axis of corruption, joining corporate power to political ideology to religious self-righteousness.

19:10 GMT

Boxing Day coffee catch

Caro (of) alerts us that AP still thinks "Al Gore claimed he invented" the Internet. *sigh*.

I love the MAD magazine cover for the "20 Dumbest People, Events, & Things of 2006." And here's James Brown at the legendary TAMI show.

If there were a liberal cable station that operated like Fox, John Gibson would be quoted like this. Via Brian Flemming, via News Hounds. (Plus, the doctor who O'Reilly has been persecuting had charges against him thrown out, but that won't stop the Crusade.)

At Fact-esque, eRobin says yes, Edwards should run, but shares Matt Stoller's trust issues about him.

A neat photo of frost crystals, (via)

A credible a cappella performance of "The Carol of the Bells", and a rather less traditional instrumental version by Brian Brink that pulls out all the stops. (I'd never heard of this guy before, but I'm impressed.)

15:19 GMT

A little linkage

I'm having a long recovery from eating Christmas dinner. I didn't eat that much, but even the after-dinner walk didn't get me out of my trance. Plus, of course, there was the Patrick Stewart A Christmas Carol on television, and the Christmas episode of Doctor Who (but I even nodded out at the end of that and had to re-watch it - glad we recorded that). I did idly look at blogs during the breaks....

Susie keeps on blogging:
Buy Diebold for your state, get a job: The former head of elections for Georgia is going to work for the company that supplied the states $75 million electronic voting machine system.The former head of elections for Georgia is going to work for the company that supplied the states $75 million electronic voting machine system.
Paul Krugman is too kind to Tony Blair - Yes, he has done a bit to undo some of the Thatcher damage, but he has also done a lot to commit more damage. But you have to realize that most of what's good in Britain was already here, and Blair's tinkering has often done more harm than good. The fact is, pre-Thatcher, even Tory ministers used to be to the left of Blair.
The Santa on the buses - is a woman, and she gives money to people who really need it.

Don't be silly, we started saying he reminded us of Caligula years ago.

MahaBarb delivers a holiday message in a guest post at Crooks and Liars, and at her own place talks about inalienable rights.

Gee, even Eleanor Clift has said in print that the administration lies, and the press doesn't report it.

E.J. Dionne, blogger - at The Huffington Post, The Making of Democracy 2006: How the New Media and the Old Media Could Live Together Happily and Enhance Public Life

The big Jewish dating night of the year.

War is over, if you want it. (via)

00:28 GMT

Monday, 25 December 2006

Traditional Christmas Post

Merry Christmas, and click for larger image of my artistic photograph of this year's tree. (That is, my hand shook when I took the picture, but in the end I decided I liked it better than all the others.)

Our usual annual items for the day, culled from five Christmases of blogging, either for those who haven't seen them before or those who have but want to savor them again:

Mark Evanier's wonderful little Christmas story about Mel Tormé and "The Christmas Song". Susie has the well-known Nat Cole version posted - alas, there doesn't seem to be a Mel Tormé version, but some kind soul put up a blurry, nearly-listenable video of Mel and Judy doing it as a duet, and, if you have the patience to listen, you can sometimes hear two voices blending beautifully. And then there's the Ozzie & Harriet version, sung, of course, by Ricky, with those beautiful eyes.

Tom Robinson's song about the 1914 Christmas Truce, and the truces we make every year at this time.

And The Daily Brew's post of the letter about the truce from someone who was there.

From Jo Walton, The Hopes and Fears of All the Years.

An excellent Christmas Card from Joshua Held, Irving Berlin, and the Drifters

And I just like this.

Ron Tiner's one-page cartoon version of A Christmas Carol from an ancient Xmas edition of Ansible.

And a bit of Marley's speech:

"It is required of every man," the Ghost returned, "that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow men, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world -- oh, woe is me! -- and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!"
"You are fettered," said Scrooge, trembling. "Tell me why?"

"I wear the chain I forged in life," replied the Ghost. "I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?"

Scrooge trembled more and more.

"Or would you know," pursued the Ghost, "the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!"
"But you were always a good man of business, Jacob," faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

"Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"

And the blessings of the season to you all.

14:36 GMT

Waiting on Santa

After we watched (and enjoyed) Hogfather, Mr. Sideshow gave me my Christmas Eve present, and it's this little Christmas Bear. So it's the latest member of The Sideshow staff.

Here are some links to things I nearly wrote about but got distracted by Christmas stuff instead:

People are still having sex.

Peace on Earth, Up Yours.

The top ten underreported news stories of 2006

More signs that Republican loyalty runs one way only

What happens when a child is born in Bethlehem

Carolyn Kay, Off Balance: "Lefting" the Ship of State

Santa reads out the indictments against the Bush crime family.

The Bankrupt-Your-Family Calling Plan

You've seen one warblogger, you've seen them all.

Only by becoming the Taliban can we fight the Taliban.

01:40 GMT

Sunday, 24 December 2006

Religion thing

Mr. Sideshow waved the headline at me from the Guardian poll, saying he felt proud to be a Briton:

Religion does more harm than good

It shows that an overwhelming majority see religion as a cause of division and tension - greatly outnumbering the smaller majority who also believe that it can be a force for good. The poll also reveals that non-believers outnumber believers in Britain by almost two to one. It paints a picture of a sceptical nation with massive doubts about the effect religion has on society: 82% of those questioned say they see religion as a cause of division and tension between people.

Meanwhile, the Observer leader today says:

Christmas has not been stolen. It arrives as scheduled on the usual date, to be celebrated by millions of Britons.

As punctual as the season itself is the lament, voiced by religious leaders and conservative commentators, that the integrity of Christmas has been compromised. The allegation is twofold: first, Christian devotion is corrupted by unchristian habits of greed and gluttony. Second, traditional Christmas symbols have been withdrawn from public life as a courtesy to other faiths.

The first of these complaints is old. Rivalry between carousal and worship is as ancient as the season. The anniversary of Christ's birth sits on top of pagan solstice celebrations, like an angel perched on a bauble-festooned fir tree.

But the second complaint is modern. It belongs to the age of mass migration and anxiety that indigenous British culture is somehow devalued by competition with foreign imports.
Traditionalists do not blame other believers for the dilution of Christmas. They blame 'political correctness', a supposed conspiracy by liberals who, it is imagined, are ridden with anxiety about racism and atone by obsessive deference to other cultures.

Many of the alleged signs of 'political correctness' - the banning by town halls of Christmas trees or the imposition of atheistic 'Wintervals' - are the stuff of unsubstantiated myth. 'Political correctness' is an imaginary movement, with no headquarters, no members, no spokesmen. But it exists in people's minds because of real fears: that society is changing at disconcerting speed; that the political establishment is out of touch; that today's prosperity is fragile and could be blown away by tomorrow's global economic winds; that Britons are a target for murderous fanatics who would kill them because of their faith or lack of it.

None of this should be unfamiliar to people who live in America, where Rush Limbaugh has been attacking people who object to coercive evangelizing in the US military. Happily Mikey Weinstein strikes back with an open letter in defense of religious freedom for those in uniform:
How can we successfully battle religious fundamentalists overseas who seek the destruction of American ideals, if we carry our own brand of fundamentalism into that war?

18:33 GMT

The news filter

A couple of days ago, I linked to an article about the little victory Air America listeners had bought for The Mic in Madison, Wisconsin. Lis Riba has compared that with the failure in the Boston area of listeners to fight similar efforts by Clear Channel to kill Air America Radio.

One of the things they did in Madison is get commitments from local businesses to advertise on AAR. That was certainly the best way to go, since the network's weakness in getting advertising has been cited as a reason for dropping it from stations. But that reflects a deliberate effort on the part of some corporate advertising blocks to starve AAR, despite the fact that it has picked up an impressive listenership in most markets that have been given the option.

But as Lis' post highlights, Clear Channel's purpose in having any progressive stations at all is to jolly the FCC into perceiving them as more "balanced" - but they carry AAR with weak signals, keeping numbers down. So a concerted national effort is also needed to attack Clear Channel's ability to buy up markets and then keep progressive radio down - or out altogether.

In that letter-writing I always ask you to do, you might want to push this topic with your legislators. It should not be possible in a free country for a small number of corporatists to have virtual control of the public airwaves. And when we can change that, we might just have a free country again.

16:06 GMT

Still waking up

I have a few things to sort out before I do a real post, but here's a little something just to let you know that coffee's on:

If I hit the return before I check "Female" first:

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Most Noble and Honourable Avedon the Lackadaisical of Ofsted in the Bucket
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

If I do it again and check "Female" this time:

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Her Most Serene Highness Lady Avedon the Contrite of Larkhill under Porton
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Via Kevin Maroney.

13:19 GMT

It's time

Every time the elephants come to town, they make a mess. And every time they leave, Democrats are left to clean it up. And cleaning it up means clearing up their deficits as much as possible. Which means not getting any of our agenda taken care of.

There are two very big problems with this. One is that our agenda includes programs that ultimately save money, even though the Republicans always somehow manage to convince people that these programs are "big government programs that cost too much". The other problem is that when we don't advance our agenda, it makes it very difficult for voters to know that we have much of an agenda to start with. That means they think there's no difference between the two parties (except for the Gay Agenda), and it also means conservatives get to falsely characterize what they pretend is the "real" liberal agenda.

And the Clinton surplus just seems to have given George Walker Bush an excuse to spend it all on rubbish for rich people, which certainly hasn't helped. The Republicons tax people who work for a living, and spend and spend and spend it on the rich (and on expanding the police state and building prisons). And Democrats try to clean up the red ink and end up not spending very much at all to replenish the bare pantry.

Now, Paul Krugman says it's time to just stop the wheel and spend that money on the things we need:

With the benefit of hindsight, it's clear that conservatives who claimed to care about deficits when Democrats were in power never meant it. Let's not forget how Alan Greenspan, who posed as the high priest of fiscal rectitude as long as Bill Clinton was in the White House, became an apologist for tax cuts--even in the face of budget deficits--once a Republican took up residence.
And that's why it is only now that we are finally talking about the vital issue whose time had come thirty years ago: universal health care. So we should just do it.
By spending money well, Democrats can both improve Americans' lives and, more broadly, offer a demonstration of the benefits of good government. Deficit reduction, on the other hand, might just end up playing into the hands of the next irresponsible president.

In the long run, something will have to be done about the deficit. But given the state of our politics, now is not the time.

02:58 GMT

Saturday, 23 December 2006

Notes from a broad

I just want to laugh my hiney off when I see John Derbyshire whining about how his health insurer just jacked up his premiums by 81%, and saying, "Can they do that?" Can they do that! What, does he want the government to step in and regulate the industry and stop them from demanding as much money for their "services" as they want to? Whatever for? Hilzoy had lots of fun with this one. (Well, Derb, that's what you get when you focus all of your attention on being anti-queer.) (via)

Alan Dershowitz, who has totally jumped the shark after rationalizing torture and collective punishment, is, unsurprisingly, going after Jimmy Carter.

Told you so: A new report out of the GAO sheds some useful light on that majestic pharmaceutical industry everyone's always talking about. The GAO was asked to look into the industry's trends because, despite R&D increases over the past decade, there's been a sustained drop in the number of genuinely new drugs being submitted to the FDA. The culprits? Well, among other things, entirely 68 percent -- more than two-thirds -- of the drug company's new applications are for "me-too" drugs, knockoffs of other company's blockbusters with enough molecular differences that they evade patent restrictions.

Media note: I'm reading the IHT and notice a "Clarification" down by the Corrections section, about a story that appeared earlier in the week under the title "More Americans abroad giving up citizenship for lower taxes" (subhead: "More expats say taxes make it too costly"), and in the NYT as "Tax Leads Americans Abroad to Renounce U.S." - and, from the article itself, you could be forgiven for surmising, from all the little anecdotes from Americans abroad talking about relinquishing their citizenship because of taxes, that more American expats must actually be giving up their citizenship because of the nasty new changes in the tax laws - which is the only thing that would make it a story. But the "clarification" says: "A Page One headline in Monday's late editions mischaracterized an article about Americans who are considering giving up citizenship because of recent tax changes for expatriates. Although some U.S. citizens continue to turn in their passports, there is no documented evidence that they have done so at a greater rate in 2006." In other words, there was no story. And it was on the telegraph page.

The Liberal Agenda (via)

Ouch! (via)

23:41 GMT

Interesting bits

Steve Bates alerts me in comments* that the NYT article with redacted material has been further censored, and now all highlighting shows is xxxxes. However, before that happened, Ron Brynaert and Michael Roston at The Raw Story duplicated what they had up at the time without the blackouts, and also connected some dots.

And speaking of White House scrubs, I see Bush's fumblemouth is being fixed again. (And the NYT is publishing stupid op-eds from right-wingers again. And Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not Adolph Hitler.)

Murder-minded Lying Republican of the Day: She said, "I welcome the opportunity of having anyone assassinate Fidel Castro, and any leader who is oppressing the people." On camera. But then, of course, she denied it and accused the documentary crew of making it up.

Bob Geiger and Duncan Black on the evils the "moderates" in The Gang of 14 have visited upon us - and they're proud of it!

16:18 GMT

Evening catch

Media Matters has some year-end review stuff up, now: Most outrageous comments of 2006, Misinformer of the Year, and some highlights of the work MM did in the past year.

"A Right to Know the Truth" - and where the 9/11 conspiracy theories come in.

"Is 'Electability' Passe?" - at Political Insider, a political climate we'd sure like to see. (via)

The hilarious story of the Montana Republican's communications director who (a) wanted someone to hack his college records and (b) thought it was perfectly reasonable to have to send a photograph of a squirrel to prove he was genuine.

Via The Washington Note, "What We Wanted to Tell You About Iran" - Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann on the story the White House wouldn't let them publish in The New York Times - at least, not without redacting some meaty passages. Highlight the blacked-out bits to see what the administration didn't want you to read.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden, six years ago, in "Laws, ballots, and getting drunk on anger": Why would someone want to circumvent this system? I'll give you a hint: It's probably not because they're plotting to do us good. You can take this as a rule: No matter what else they're saying, anyone who says we can dispense with counting the ballots and observing the law is not your friend. Neither is anyone who tries to take power without having the laws and ballots on his side. Neither is anyone who withholds vital information on that score, or condones others' disrespect for it.

00:43 GMT

Friday, 22 December 2006

Media news

Here's some proof that activism can work:

Air America will stay in Madison

Clear Channel Radio has reversed an earlier decision after a backlash in Madison, saying it will keep its Air America affiliate on the air instead of switching the progressive talk format to sports on Jan. 1.

Citing the overwhelming negative reaction to the planned change, the nation's No. 1 operator of radio stations said it would keep The Mic 92.1 FM on the air as a progressive talk station.

The planned change to Fox Sports Radio, announced three days after the Nov. 7 election, sparked outrage in Madison. Clear Channel said the station, WXXM-FM, had struggled to attract advertisers despite high ratings and a sports format would be more profitable.

But thousands of people protested the end of their favorite station through e-mails, phone calls and a signed petition delivered this week. A rally last week drew 500 people, and politicians including Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, denounced the decision.

Of course, there's still plenty of bad news in Media Land:

MediaBloodhound, "Take Two and Call Me When There's News": On the same day that news of attacks on U.S. troop and Iraqi targets are at an all-time high, what does NBC Nightly News lead with last night?

Time magazine, fair and balanced even more! Time magazine has reportedly hired William Kristol, who has advanced misleading attacks on Democrats and opponents of the Bush administration's policies, as a "part-time columnist" and Michael Kinsley, who has used his columns to dismiss evidence that the administration manipulated intelligence to support its case for war, as a biweekly columnist. Yeah, that'll even things up - Bill "Always Wrong" Kristol and Michael Kinsley (studying to be a Broder clone) should round it out with Joke Line real nice.

Public Broadcasting still held hostage: Warren Bell, a TV producer and National Review Online contributor named to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting board of directors via recess appointment, is an avowed conservative and Bush contributor with a record of inflammatory remarks regarding Democrats, women, minorities, and underprivileged people.

Faith, Russert and Two White Guys - Taylor Marsh discusses Tim Russert's choice of two conservative white guys to represent faith in America. (Think Progress says, NBC says the two will discuss the questions, "Can religion unite the country for the greater good and what role will God and values play in the 2008 presidential election?" As if these two divisive people want religion to unite Americans on anything.)

The Sideshow has a friend for whom the word "iatrogenic" is, let us say, very meaningful. So we're having a little fund-raiser by auctioning off a genuine x-ray of all the multitude of staples the doctors accidentally filled her body up with, which are making her sick. (Or, if you'd rather just pitch in a little, please contact the seller at e-bay.)

18:49 GMT


A couple of hot ones from C&L:

  • A somewhat amazing clip from Scarborough Country in which the words "Bush: Determined or Delusional? actually appear on the screen. Scarborough, a conservative Republican who supported the invasion, calls Bush's behavior "frightening". Mike Barnicle, who has always been at best cowardly, now says Bush is "delusional" and we should all be depressed. Also, "I don't think he knows what he's saying," and Bush continuing to throw lives away like this "...verges now on the criminal." Wow.
  • Watch Keith Ellison handle controversy like a real pro. I love the way he stays on-point - it's all about the wonder and glory of the Constitution, y'all.

Oliver Willis has a couple of the clips from John Edwards' tour of America. They're actually pretty interesting; give 'em a look.

And, on our continuing exploration of my vinyl collection, one of my all-time favorite's, P&G singing "Woman".

14:06 GMT

"Border relations between Canada and Mexico have never been better"

I don't know how commenter KS missed the fact that I have previously linked to Democracy Now, but thanks anyway for the link to Target Iran: Former UN Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter and Investigative Journalist Seymour Hersh on White House Plans for Regime Change. (In case no one's noticed, these are great pages - you can find the full transcript of the show and have your choice of streams or .mp3 download, for audio or full video.) (Note also that Amy Goodman is now doing a newspaper column.)

I'm pleased to see that Atrios is back at the old same place, and he links to this Media Matters item about how NBC's Kelly O'Donnell is happy to give a pass to the man who gave "no controlling authority" a whole new meaning. Yes, Kelly, there is a law, and yes, Bush has admitted he broke it. He thinks he's above the law, not that the law doesn't exist.

So, even FEMA can't figure out why WTC7 fell: In other countries, fire alone has never caused the collapse of a steel-frame building. Never. Theres not a single occurrence in recorded history. Other than in America, that is. Only on 9/11. Only in a building that happened to house a slew of banks, insurance companies and a host of dark tenants like the IRS, the Department of Defense, CIA, Secret Service, and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Only WTC 7. With one fell swoop of structural devastation, there went thousands of case file evidence against outfits like WorldComm and Enron.

If you ever needed evidence that the corporate media is conservatively biased, maybe the fact that more conservatives than liberals would rather watch the corporate media than get their news from the net is an indicator. (Oh, yeah, and most folks don't expect new tech geniuses to come from the USA, either - another success for George Walker Bush.)

After reading a bit too much about what we can only call sci-fi (as opposed to science fiction) for conservatives, Cernig is pitching a book.

Nominations for The Golden Winger Soggy Biscuit Award are open.

After decades of listening to nitwits interpret Lolita as if Nabokov actually admires and respects his protagonist, it was particularly refreshing to read the latest installment of Fred Clark's examination of Left Behind, "L.B.: Humbert Steele", and find the line: "It's like reading Nabokov, but with the added twist of the authors sharing in the narrator's solipsism and self-delusion." Bless you, Fred.

Have I mentioned recently that the 9/11 hijackers flew first class? C'mon, people, why should you believe any of the security you are being subjected to in airports is good for anything when well-funded fliers can avoid it all just by paying more money?

I've been obsessing on other things, but I did want to take a moment to say that life wouldn't have been the same without Joe Barbera. And, of course, the place to go for stories and samples and everything is Mark Evanier's site, where he started doing tributes before the man actually died, here, and here. And then, of course, there was more, like this and this.

I don't actually use IE itself for much, but I downloaded the new version and it doesn't appear to have a History button, which is one I happen to use a lot, and no way to get to the history, either. What's up with that? The button shows up on the "tour" MS offers, but it isn't on the browser. Anyway, it looks prettier, but I don't think I like it.

02:08 GMT

Thursday, 21 December 2006

Happy Solstice

I don't know about you, by my internets is really slow today. I'm better off than Atrios, though - he's here, if you hadn't found him yet.

'I have no future' -- Jeb Bush tells reporters - Yeah, I guess the idiot son really blew it for you, but you can't blame everything on your brother. After all, you helped put him there in the first place.

Josh Marshall: Here at TPM we spent a good part of the day trying to find out where the congressional leadership in both parties and in both houses stand on President Bush's to increase the number of troops in Iraq by 30,000 to 50,000. The basic story was pretty clear: The Democrats are united against it; and the Republicans won't say one way or another. See the details here in our tally.

Bill Kristol vs. Jon Stewart.

Since lots of people seem to be on holiday, here's a random assortment of links you could check out in the meantime:

WTF Is It Now??

Dohiyi Mir

Carpe Datum

Rox Populi


Man Eegee

Jon Swift

The Smirking Chimp


Anger Management Course

16:58 GMT

The soul of a mad dictator

You can see it at C&L: Bush: We're not wining, we're not losing and don't ask me dangerous hypotheticals.

Teresa recommends a fine post from Hilzoy on the fact that Bush is not normal, and notes Bush's open and frequent statements in public to the effect that he takes no responsibility for anything he does. He may not use those exact words, but that's what he's saying. Bush lies much of the time, but there are indeed times when he tells the truth. This is something we saw a long time ago - folks think he is "misspeaking" or whatever, but it's when he says the most appalling and ridiculous things that he is often telling you what he really intends. Mark Crispin Miller noticed a long time ago that you can tell when Bush is being honest, and it's not when you'd like him to be. And Bush will do what he wants to do without regard for the consequences, because that's what he is - a spoiled, irresponsible creep. But, "Sometimes people have a hard time wrapping their minds around the fact that someone has no limits whatsoever." And that explains the half of the press corps that isn't actually on board with the Bush agenda.

"Is it really just me? I'm not condemning him, but can the President just answer a question without being a total dick?"

15:27 GMT

The war they support

As we know, more journalists have been killed during the invasion and occupation of Iraq over the last few years than were killed in two decades of war in Vietnam. Whether they are western journalists or work for Al-Jazeera, they all seem to be targets, and from all sides. It's just one more example of how impossible it is to distinguish the forces warring with each other, to find any evidence that one side is "the good guys".

Yet reporters still feel a need to go to the scene and report on the occupation, though they get little thanks from the people who supposedly support the US effort to "bring democracy" to Mesopotamia. Persistent attacks from right-wingers on a press that fails to report "the good things" we've supposedly done in Iraq - things like building schools, of course, which, in any normal, sane situation, would not have been the responsibility of American troops in the first place - have evolved into claims that the press is actually working in concert with the insurgents. The right-wing bloggers, in addition, continue to try to re-live their glory days of finding an alleged forgery among the (legitimate) documents detailing George Walker Bush's dereliction of duty in the National Guard, so now they are trying to prove that AP got a story wrong so they can win another battle against the evil "MSM".

Eric Boehlert at Media Matters examines the warbloggers' war on the Associated Press:

According to the warbloggers, Iraqi insurgents like the AP; they have friendly contacts with the AP; and they use the AP as a conduit to advance their propaganda war. Indeed, insurgents badly want for the AP to broadcast images and write stories about bloodshed in order to create the illusion of chaos in Iraq.

See, it's really the AP's fault we're losing the war. (Plus, it's ignoring all the "good news" from Iraq.) For warbloggers who have been chronically wrong about Iraq for nearly 50 straight months, the AP conspiracy theory represents a cure-all so important that Malkin herself has vowed to travel to Iraq to wander around the bombed-out streets of Baghdad in order to prove her AP allegations. (More on that later.)

Warbloggers are obsessed with all things AP, or the "Associated (with terrorists) Press," as Malkin subtly calls it. Which brings us back to news of Lutfallah's death and the odd silence that emanated from the warblogs -- and by odd, I mean, wildly hypocritical, because the silence sprang from the fact that the circumstances of Lutfallah's murder didn't fit the warbloggers' ideological script. Namely, that Lutfallah was executed by insurgents, which completely undermined the warbloggers' theory that the AP enjoys close ties to terrorists.

According to warblogger logic, the insurgents should have made sure Lutfallah got the best film of the gun fight with police; in fact, insurgents might have even tipped him off that a battle was going to take place. That's how the drill is supposed to work. Yet insurgents in Mosul, after seeing the AP cameraman filming and then identifying him, approached the father of two and emptied five bullets into his body, took his equipment, cell phone, and press ID. They shot him like a dog in the street.

So much for the AP and insurgents working in concert.
Of course, for anybody who's paid even passing attention to events in Iraq, the killing of Lutfallah was, sadly, not unique. Insurgents for years have targeted journalists for kidnappings, beheadings, and assassinations. As CNN international correspondent Michael Ware recently noted, "In terms of the insurgency, [journalists] are seen as legitimate targets: part of the problem, not the solution."
Something doesn't add up here, and I assume it's something warbloggers don't want to address, as they cling to their anti-press fantasy to explain the Iraq debacle. Namely, if insurgents view journalists as their allies -- weapons in their sophisticated propaganda war against the United States -- then why are insurgents killing journalists at an alarming rate? The entire premise of the warblogger theory makes no sense.

With no facts to back up their allegations, warbloggers instead lean heavily on name-calling in their never-ending attempt to libel and smear journalists. "The Western press is negligently or carelessly (I'm not ready to believe knowingly) passing along terrorist propaganda disguised as news," announced warblogger SeeDubya at The Junkyard Blog. Talk about hubris -- stateside warbloggers claim they have a better handle on what's happening in Iraq than reporters who are actually there.

The warbloggers' deliberate and daily condemnation of wartime correspondents as being cowardly, unethical, and un-American is likely unprecedented in American history, as the dwindling number of Bush defenders online try desperately to pin the blame for Iraq on the media. (But not even war cheerleader and neocon columnist David Brooks is buying that line.)

Warbloggers, stressing their contempt for the First Amendment -- "The government needs to slap down the press," urged The Anchoress -- would prefer that information about the war in Iraq be disseminated only by the United States military, despite the fact the bipartisan Iraq Study Group just concluded that for years the U.S. military wildly underreported violence inside Iraq. But that's the version of history the warbloggers want Americans to embrace.

The truly bizarre flashpoint for this latest attack on the press is another step into the Bizarro universe, because AP is being accused of fabricating a story merely because they had a scoop - they got a story no one else had. But the fright-wingers insist that AP could not have had a story if other news organizations did not also have it; therefore, they made it up just to make things look bad.
The AP has stood by its story though, and the disputed, he said/she said facts didn't budge much for three weeks. Rather than being content with a possible sharp-eyed press catch and holding the AP accountable for questionable sourcing in an isolated incident, warbloggers, in need of a much larger scapegoat, franticly inflated the Burned Alive story, insisting questions about a single dispatch could negate years' worth of reporting from Iraq. That if Jamil Hussein were confirmed to be a fraud that would somehow mean Baghdad is not being ripped apart by a civil war, and reporters would be revealed for the "traitors" that they are.
And that would mean things are really going well in peaceful Iraq, after all.

These people are clearly unhinged from reality, and yet they are still invited to appear on television to provide contributions to the public discourse. From Fox, of course, we expect such things. But if you see them anywhere else, you really ought to write in to ask what the hell this crazy person is doing on your screen.

14:12 GMT

Wednesday, 20 December 2006

Baby, it's cold outside (for London)

After you read a whole bunch of good Digby, pop a few pennies in the pot to help me keep one of American's best writers on the web.

Great discussion of what we're supposed to be about from MahaBarb, in "Why Limited Government?", "And Another Thing", Oh Be Joyful", and "Republic or Empire?" Go read.

If this nightmare ever ends, we could at least be grateful that Bush managed to wreck the carefully-nurtured credibility of conservatives' incredibly stupid ideas.

Daryl McCullough's Christmas Sermon for Heathens.

American Shrines

NPR Check - You'd never know November 7th even happened.

I've never actually heard my Congressman speak in public, but from all reports (and his voting record), I'm pretty pleased to hear that Chris Van Hollen has been chosen as the new chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). Good on ya, Nancy.

George Bush wants you to help him win the war on Terra, again.

Gary Farber tells us what he really thinks about Debbie Schlussel.

Madison Guy on Self-hating towns and their residents .

The Poor Man Institute defines "embolden."

Londoners might want to help Agnes Poitevin-Navarre with her map project.

23:59 GMT

American dreaming

This isn't new and it wasn't even an old Christmas article, but it's Thom Hartmann on Scrooge & Marley, Inc. -- The True Conservative Agenda:

As Jefferson realized, with no government "interference" by setting the rules of the game of business and fair taxation, there will be no middle class.

Although this may come as a sudden realization to many, we've really known it all our lives.

For example, every year, millions of Americans revisit Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol" about Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob (and Tiny Tim) Cratchit. Yet somehow Americans fail to realize the subtext of the story (and so many of Dickens' other works). That subtext is that the middle class is not a normal thing: exploited workers are the norm. In fact, in the six-thousand-year history of the "civilized" world, a middle class emerging in any nation has been such a rarity as to be historically invisible.

As Dickens pointed out, Cratchit lived the typical life of that day's English working poor. He couldn't afford medical care for Tim, dooming his son to death or a lifetime of deformity. He had no idea where his Christmas dinner may come from, let along how to get gifts for his children, and always lived on the edge of the terror of unemployment and homelessness. Although he had a full-time job at Scrooge & Marley, Inc., he was so desperately anxious to keep his job that he worked weekends and evenings and put up with years of daily abuse from his employer.

This demonstrates the true liberal/conservative divide. Conservatives believe what business does is business's business, and government should keep its nose out of it, even when it leads to centuries of Tiny Tims and terrified-of-job-loss employees. As the Wall Street Journal noted in 1997, Alan Greenspan sees one of his main jobs as being to maintain a high enough level of "worker insecurity" that employees won't demand pay raises and benefits increases, thus provoking "wage inflation." ("CEO inflation" is fine with the cons.)

Liberals, on the other hand, subscribe to the notions of the founder of today's Democratic Party -- Thomas Jefferson -- that if the government doesn't actively participate in regulating how the game of business is played, the middle class (what in Jefferson's day were the "yeomanry") would vanish.

And this is Thom Hartmann on immigration and labor:
The Republican (and Democratic) corporatists who want a cheap labor force, and the Republican (and Democratic) racists who want to build a fence and punish humanitarian aid workers, are equally corrupt and anti-progressive. As long as employers are willing and able (without severe penalties) to hire illegal workers, people will risk life and limb to grab at the America Dream. When we stop hiring and paying them, most will leave of their own volition over a few years, and the remaining few who are committed to the US will obtain citizenship through normal channels.

This is, after all, the middle-class "American Dream." And how much better this hemisphere would be if Central and South Americans were motivated to stay in their own nations (because no employer in the US would dare hire them) and fight there for a Mexican Dream and a Salvadoran Dream and a Guatemalan Dream (and so on).

This is the historic Progressive vision for all of the Americas...

There's more, read both articles all the way through.

14:39 GMT

Stops on the Infobahn

73% of US Military is OK with gays serving openly: Seventy-three percent of US military members would accept openly gay and lesbian service members being in their units, according to a new poll released by Zogby International and the Michael D. Palm Center. See? Even our military is to the "left" of our government. (via)

Who could have predicted that Time would pick "You" as it's Person of the Year?

Isn't it nice that the Tories are opposed to ID cards? What a pity they can only take that position when Labour is in power, eh?

For love of Tom DeLay. I like the part where right-wingers never attack the left, unlike those terrible liberals who are always attacking the right-wingers.

The front-runner: Newsweek doesn't want to tell you that it isn't a Republican, and it especially isn't John McCain.

New one I found in my referrers - Foreign Policy Watch.

Here's the close-up photo of the Lego knitting machine, and there's a movie of it in action. (Also: I'm pretty sure I linked it when he did it on his own blog a while back, but it's always worth reading Jim Henley's answer to the ticking time bomb question again.) (via)

Vote for your favorite (I like the Steeples one, myself.)

12:20 GMT

Omens and guideposts

Seth Finkelstein says there's an important lawsuit about censorware in library computers going on at the moment: Whether an adult patron could have censorware disabled on request was a major factor in the Supreme Court opinions on the law. Showing such ability is not true in practice would be very significant as part of further legal challenges to censorware in libraries (this has to do with a complicated concept of two type of legal challenges "facial" vs "as-applied", which is about roughly theory vs. practice).

Reason interviews Bob Barr, who announced last week that he has left the Republican Party to become a Libertarian, even though he's still a Drug Warrior and an opponent of gay marriage. Via Wendy McElroy.

Demosthenes says the Best Damned Thing on the Internet Right Now is Occasional Superheroine's history of why she left the comics industry.

Frameshop's Jeffrey Feldman says: I have made a decision. From now on, I will stop calling John McCain "Senator." He is now "Lord McCain," ruler above the people. (He also says that Bush's Body Language Says "I'm Afraid".

Epicycle says: Taxation without representation - the payment made to Universal for each Zune music player has already raised a few eyebrows, but now it looks as if Microsoft might end up paying a second tax to the Alliance of Artists and Recording Companies. This dates back to the notorious "Home taping is killing music" campaign (yeah, like that happened) which resulted in the Audio Home Recording Act of 1982, and obliges manufacturers of recording devices to pay "voluntary" royalties to the AARC. The Zune may well fall into this category because of its facilities to record directly from FM radio and share music with other Zunes.

If you think putting kids in jail for this makes sense, you are just in too much of a state of sex panic to think straight.

Get Your War On.

02:28 GMT

Food for thought

Jay Rosen: The only piece of political journalism ever to make me cry was Ron Suskind's article, Without a Doubt, published in the New York Times Magazine shortly before the 2004 election. It was in that article that the famous passage appeared quoting a senior administration official on the myopia of the "reality-based community" when it came to understanding the government of George W. Bush. [...] This is in fact a way to discredit the press that the press has not fully appreciated. Take extreme action and a press that mistrusts "the extremes" will mistrust initial reports of that action - like Suskind's. This gives you time to re-make the scene and overawe people. There are all kinds of costs to changing a master narrative that has been built up by beat reporters and career pundits. When the press can hang on to an old and proven one it will. The Bush people understood that. They knew they could change the game on the press because the press finds it hard to act in reply. Therefore it tends to behave. (via)

At In These Times, We Are All Waiters Now: Why higher taxes would make Americans happier, and why, despite this, we still won't raise them Via Gail Davis.

Mary at Pacific Views has Advice for the Democrats, and the main substance of that advice is not to take advice from Republicans who want Democrats to "play nice". (Karl Rove has 'em all chasing their tails with claims that it's just about "revenge" and anyway impeachment will make it impossible for them to carry on the business of the nation, but of course that's bollocks; even during Watergate, plenty of work got done. Anyway, when Democrats say they are going to have hearings, that's setting the stage for impeachment, because most Americans are already on board with that program, and it won't take much to make even more Americans call for heads on pikes.)

Shirt at Down With Tyranny is still mulling over impeachment.

00:55 GMT

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Reading room

Eason Jordan and Michelle Malkin's big date - You gotta give Jordan credit, actually paying to take Malkin to Iraq to test three interesting right-wing theories: that AP makes up its stories,* that things are just peachy in Iraq, and that it's a nice, safe place for journalists. Greg Sargent is worried that Jordan is conferring some sort of credibility on this slimy little right-wing lunatic, but if she actually goes on this trip, she'll have shown more moxie than the rest of her little friends in the 101'st Fighting Keyboarders, and there's always the possibility that she will actually see something that makes her wonder whether she's been wrong.

This is probably the post you should send to every op-ed writer in the country, because he's right. Atrios has been the one person pounding this, and he's smarter than all of 'em. Bush has repeatedly said that he intends to stay in Iraq, that getting out will be a problem for a future president, and that leaving is losing so he won't leave, and he means it. (However, it's "damn it", or "dammit", but not "damnit".)

I haven't said anything about the guy who was tortured to death in Florida, but we have no reason to believe that this procedure isn't torture even when it isn't visibly "botched". The fact is that you usually just can't tell. I suppose it says something good about Jeb Bush that he called a moratorium on executions after this happened - not that he cares about torturing people to death, necessarily, but at least he cares whether people think he cares, which is almost refreshing these days. But we should care, anyway, and we should stop this barbarity.

Thanks to Dean Baker for dropping by comments* and providing the link to his 2004 paper, "Financing Drug Research: What Are the Issues?" (.pdf).

It is a great honor.

The folks at Consortium News now have a blog.

17:44 GMT

Stocking stuffers

I'm doing some Christmas stuff. Here's a couple things to read while I do that:

At Pandagon... Well. I just don't know what to say about these guys.

Reading Man Found With 27 Rockets. (Blimey, I didn't know there was a "Best Short Story since 1985" Hugo.) The subject may have been misquoted.

14:29 GMT

Monday, 18 December 2006

People are talking

Michael Moss's piece on Iraq's Legal System makes Christy Hardin Smith say, "And Justice Wept": Yes, you read that correctly, the Americans are uncomfortable with the evidence that they, themselves, are producing in order to obtain convictions.

I realize there are Washington Wise Men who disagree with this, but I'm with Jeralyn - Newt Gingrich can't win if he runs for prez. There may be some Republicans left who love him, but the rest of the country loses their cookies when this self-righteous serial-adulterer who shut down the government because Bill Clinton made him ride at the back of the plane gets out in public and reminds everyone that this creep made everyone in the world talk about a president's genitals. Ick, ick, ick!

An important word of warning from Atrios: Now, the reporter lets this comment stand without any response. The smart reader, of course, will note its Kafkaesque absurdity. They didn't have access to attorneys. They were placed in solitary confinement. They were in cold cells, with fluorescent lights left on all night. And First Lt. Lea Ann Fracasso is suggesting she checked with the Complaints Department, and found nothing, so there's nothing to see here. Overall it's an excellent well-reported story, and the smart reader who reads all the way through will understand what an absurd statement this is. Still, later today, if Rush Limbaugh decides to talk about this story he'll say "But they guy didn't even complain!!!" (But it's a mistake to say it's about the current conventions of journalism. There is nothing about he said/she said rules that requires the reporter not to go back for another round.)

A whole bunch of stuff from Dean Baker's Beat the Press you should read (don't worry, they're all short): The Death of Inflation Is Greatly Exaggerated, Yet Another Protectionist Rant at the NYT (or, don't we have protectionism exactly backwards?), If There Is Inflation, the Problem Isn't Wages, Unnecessary Instances of Breast Cancer, Yet Another Dividend of Patent Financed Drug Research (yes, now we know: Breast cancer rates are falling because fewer women are taking hormone replacement therapy), and The NYT Nails the Drug Industry Yet Again ("What has been largely missing from the NYT coverage is any economic analysis of this issue. As anyone who has ever sat through an intro econ class should recognize, these sorts of abuses are exactly what we would expect when the government gives companies patent monopolies that allow them to charge prices that are far above the cost of production.") (Or, to make life easier, just go to the first link and read right down the page.)

(I find it ironic that people are so impressed by Obama because he speaks so well. I've even heard black people calling him "articulate". Only George Bush could make people unembarrassed to say that about a black man. Because it's not, "for a black man", it's "for a politician.")

17:30 GMT


Kafkaesque - Echidne with the story from today's NYT of an American contractor-turned-whistle-blower who finds himself the victim of American military "justice" in Iraq.

Via Suburban Guerrilla an article in the WaPo warns of a coming nightmare for the GOP when moderate judges might find places on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit and fail to overturn the Constitution for them.

Digby hosted the FDL Book Salon on Tom Schaller's Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South (crossposted at Hullabaloo, but you need to read it at Firedoglake to get Schaller's responses in the discussion thread).

Bill Scher on last week's Week of Rising Hate - "We cede the debate, or handle the debate carelessly, at our peril." Also, what Dems said about the troop-surge.

The most recent This American Life looks back at the earlier Lancet study on the number of Iraqi deaths, and at the new one, "What's In a Number - 2006 Edition". And for those who missed it, let me recommend the response to America's declining freedoms, "Habeas Schmabeas" from last March.

Wolcott: "America Held Hostage by One Man's Iron Whim" (Also: some more advice from a right-wing nitwit.)

I love The Freeway Blogger, but I just can't help thinking that drivers may have taken the wrong thing from this one. Of course, we're so used to making fun of Bush's vocabulary, maybe they'll take it that way straight off.

In comments, Charles advises: "Get your brass in gear for the season."

14:02 GMT

Visions of sugarplums

Lejaby Liaisons Dangereuses half cup bra

Bra of the Week

Feòrag follows the story of what happens when Jerry Fallwell gets what he asks for.

Vacation - Apparently, it's unAmerican.

At Hullabaloo, poputonian reviews how the invisible hand is stealing your healthcare.

Cernig welcomes Matt Drudge to the "Enemedia".

Why the spite right loves nuclear power. "Solar=hippies, therefore solar=evil." (Also, we wouldn't go out with them in college.)

Jamison Foser: The bad news is that this week brought confirmation -- as if any were necessary -- that the problem wasn't with Gore, Kerry, Dean, and the Clintons: that any and every progressive is going to face the same relentless and petty caricatures at the hands of a news media that, however unwittingly, promote right-wing talking points and themes at every turn.

"Does this make me a racist?"

Glenn Greenwald says we're really Winning hearts and minds among Muslims, if you count making them like us much, much less as "winning".

From Mike's Blog Roundup: Talk To Action: Pat Buchanan said in an infamous speech to the Republican National Convention in 1992, "There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America." That's true. War has been declared by the religious right against us, and much that we hold dear. It's time we stop pretending that we don't know it. Also via Mike, Bob Geiger has a great Saturday cartoon round-up this week.

I read on Table Talk that The Bearded Ole Guy supplies "the best rant per square-inch".

How to win in Iraq in one easy lesson.

Ahmet Ertegun's shoes - I believe it was my commenter Duncan (no relation) who dropped this link. And, look, music industry honchos have always been a bunch of gangsters, so this doesn't really say anything special about Ahmet, but it is funny.

For your geeky shopping list, a cool clock. (via)

Two images I liked, via Maru: The Great Orion Nebula, and this.

"The whole nine yards"

01:32 GMT

Sunday, 17 December 2006

Person of the Year

Time copped out again, but the liberal blogosphere made a real difference this year, and though no one person deserves all the credit, I choose Atrios,* who has an uncanny sense of what's important and can dissect it down to its basic atoms. So, it is with some pride that I present The Sideshow Person of the Year, Duncan Black, Of Eschaton.

18:50 GMT


Via Kevin Drum, a thought to savor:

Gingrich cited last month's ejection of six Muslim scholars from a plane in Minneapolis for suspicious behavior, which included reports they prayed before the flight and had sat in the same seats as the Sept. 11 hijackers.

"Those six people should have been arrested and prosecuted for pretending to be terrorists," Gingrich said. "And the crew of the U.S. airplane should have been invited to the White House and congratulated for being correct in the protection of citizens."

This is the guy those "Information wants to be free" libertarians thought was a hero of free expression back in the '90s.

16:00 GMT


Carl Bloice at The Black Commentator is fascinated to know that if Dems lose the 2008 presidential election, we're supposed to blame black people. (Also, Karega Hart on Why Unions Must Support The Immigrant Rights Movement, and Part 3 of the series on single-payer, Healthcare, Not Warfare.)

I did not see this headline anywhere, but maybe you did: "Reid Cleared By Ethics Panel" - It was obvious before they started the investigation that Reid hadn't violated any rules, but that appears to be the only sort of thing they investigate these days - because they have to be able to accuse Democrats of breaking the rules. (I don't know why we haven't heard anything about the case against Jefferson, but I'm starting to wonder.)

"The Bush gulag: Where are the bodies? Press won't ask" - There are thousands of them, and they can't all be at Guantanamo - so where are they?

It'd be smart if ScotsGay had it posted at their own site, but they sent me a statement that the mag has been banned from the Glasgow LGBT Centre, and I've posted it up at the FAC blog.

15:32 GMT


There's actually some news of interest in this paragraph, but it also reminded me once again why we call it "The Grauniad". From The bookseller column:

Fifteen years after his death, Philip K Dick is one of Hollywood's biggest ideas men, with films including Blade Runner, Minority Report, and more recently A Scanner Darkly based on his fiction. But the author never lived to see his mainstream success, dying just before before Blade Runner came out in 1982. His publisher Gollancz is marking the 25th anniversary of his death with a new look for six key titles, which they hope will catapult him outside his core readership of science fiction fans. The art department's brief for the new jacket design was, says publisher Simon Spanton, to "go for the coolest look they can". Be prepared for a trendy new imagining of titles including Blade Runner inspiration Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? next March, as well as two Hollywood biopics of the author, and a four-disc edition of the film of Blade Runner.

02:37 GMT

Big liars

David Sirota has been doing great stuff on labor and globalization, lately. Here are two samples from recent articles you should read in their entirety on the rubbish about how immigrants are taking jobs at criminally low wages because "Those are jobs Americans won't do" and how all we need is education to stay competitive in a world where our jobs are being shipped to foreign shores:

1. "World Is Flat-ism Meets the Flathead Valley"

This fake lament about there not being any workers available is echoed by the highest leaders of the land. President Bush regurgitates it all the time. So does Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). You may recall he justified his support for an immigration bill by claiming that agriculture companies simply can't find Americans to do the jobs they need done. When told that people won't do those jobs because the companies pay such awful wages, McCain claimed that Americans wouldn't want to pick lettuce for $50 an hour - a line that got him yelled off the stage.

That's what the whole immigration and globalization debate is being driven by, folks - it has very little to do with World Is Flat visions of "spreading democracy." In the words of this year's Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, it has everything to do with creating a "free for all" for Big Money interests and their never-ending quest for cheap, exploitable labor.

This is evident in our immigration debate, and in our trade debate as well. Just weeks after an election where scores of candidates ran and won on their opposition to lobbyist-written trade deals, Congress went ahead and passed a free trade accord with Vietnam that has no basic labor, human rights or environmental protections. The Democratic lawmakers who provided the vote margin for the bill had the nerve to claim they supported the pact because supposedly it "will help American workers."

2. "Billionaire Tom & getting past the Great Education Myth"
Now, I'm all for improving our education system so that we have more creative thinkers. But the idea that this is the primary way to deal with globalization - and not instead reforming the unfair rules governing globalization - is insane. I mean, Tom Friedman actually sits in his 12,000 square foot mansion in Bethesda and believes that we can have an economy of 100 million workers where most workers are all their own kind of entrepreneurs - from marketing campaign directors, to book authors, to furniture designers, to Hollywood directors to Silicon Valley CEOs. Yes, that's right - in the future American economy, everyone will be a Steve Jobs, a Tom Friedman and a Steven Spielberg, and if everyone doesn't miraculously become one of those icons, then our entire country is going down the drain, because there's nothing else we can do.
On another note, if you ever had any doubts about Karl Rove's playbook, check out "When Democracy Failed" by Thom Hartmann.

00:30 GMT

Saturday, 16 December 2006

Partly sunny

Finally got the tree up, I'm happy to say. I'm still grumpy because it's fake and I miss the smell and all, but that's life.

Anyone who doubted that the Christianist officers in our armed services were discriminating against people who weren't sufficiently enthusiastic about Armageddon needs to have a look at this and see who is in control of all those destructive weapons systems.

More creationist ellipses! PZ Myers finds another example of the popular right-wing trick of using ellipses in order to make people and documents appear to say what they do not say.

So, it turns out that the Brits were telling the US all along that invading Iraq would lead to chaos, and there were no WMD, and no ties to Al Qaeda. And then Tony Blair lied about it.

Lance Mannion goes after Christopher Hitchens, who we laugh at, but not with. For the record, humor is a survival mechanism, and explains why Mr. Sideshow is still alive after committing numerous capital crimes in the kitchen for which he would have died except that, just before the axe is about to fall, he makes me laugh and then I forget why I was going to kill him.

This Divided State looks like it would make a great gift. See the trailer and clips.

More reasons to love Sophia Myles, who played Madame Pompadour in my favorite episode of Doctor Who (and is now David Tennant's squeeze): "In fact, my agent got on to me about losing some weight a while back, and I said, 'Dude, I'm not going to get laid if I lose any more weight!' Men don't fancy skinny birds. You know, I'm in shape, I keep reasonably toned, but I've got a bit of jingle-jangle. And men like that." Looks okay to me.

20:44 GMT

If we have to talk about 2008...

I see via Atrios that Evan "My father is rolling over in his grave" Bayh has realized no one wants him to be president, so he's quit. Good.

Of course, "electability", in real terms, is an issue when a candidate prepares to go on the stump, or when we cogs in the machine get ready to vote in the primary, but this is an issue that The Voices In Washington have been telling us to obsess on for way too long. The question that has to be answered before "Are they electable?" is "Are they real?"

I know a candidate who has never lost an election, and whose dedication to important issues is at this point pretty well known. His name is not Clinton and not Obama, and his earlier relationships with unsavory groups like the DLC have since been dramatically severed. He opposed the war before it was trendy to do so, he advocated for single-payer health insurance when it was forbidden to say so, and he does much better stand-up comedy than John Kerry. Why, he's even from the South, and has never lived north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Who could ask for more?

13:10 GMT

Proven: I am mainstream America

In the best poll result ever, a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll says:

More Americans express doubts about a candidate who served in Bush's cabinet (59%) than one who is gay or lesbian (53%).
So there. (via)

04:00 GMT


Taylor Marsh's interview with Scott Kesterson, embedded photojournalist in Afghanistan.

Your Talking Dog has done an interview with Trevor Paglen, co-author of Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA Rendition Flights.

"Reining In the Watchdog" - an editorial in the NYT treads lightly but suggests that perhaps there is something wrong with privatizing the job overseeing the privatized contracts the administration has been handing out.

Steve Brust on the problem with agnosticism.

The free market - A true life example from The Poor Man Institute, about which the first comment in the thread says, "Sweet stabbing robot Jesus, that was awful. It was like waterboarding, but with stupidity instead of water."

Today's paranoia report: Boston Air Traffic Controller Says 9/11 An Inside Job: A former Boston Center air traffic controller has gone public on his assertion that 9/11 was an inside job and that Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon tracked three of the four flights from the point of their hijacking to hitting their targets. In an astounding telephone interview, Robin Hordon claims air traffic controllers have been ignored or silenced to protect the true perpetrators of 9/11.

Dominic tipped me off to the page for the Beatles' Love.

The Recursive NYT Arts page.

Bob Dylan, Peter Himmelman, and Harry Dean Stanton - Hava Nagilah (Thanks to Moose & Squirrel for the tip.)

A graph

03:45 GMT

Friday, 15 December 2006

The long repair list

Greg Anrig in The American Prospect, Excess Baggage:

As David Rogers of The Wall Street Journal wrote: "Like a retreating army, Republicans are tearing up railroad track and planting legislative land mines to make it harder for Democrats to govern when they take power in Congress next month."

Rogers might just as well have been describing the entirety of what conservatives have been doing to both the executive and legislative branches of government for the past six years. It is crucial to understand that its not merely Republicans incompetence or political pandering that has left the government in shambles. Rather, many of their acts of sabotage were premeditated, often hatched in right-wing think tanks. The central if unstated mission of those idea factories, and their leading funders, is to weaken the public sector in order to minimize its capacity to tax and regulate the private sector. But because the general public doesn't actually share conservatism's deep hostility toward government, their most effective tactics rely on subterfuge and operate in ways that can't be easily detected.

Anyone remember the famous Zell Miller melt-down on Chris Matthews' show?
MILLER: By coming to Washington and seeing firsthand what a mess it is and how far out the Senate Democrats are.

They are off the chart as far as being with the mainstream of America. I think the straw that broke the camel's back was the homeland security measure, when, time after time, John Kerry and the Democrats put collective bargaining above homeland security. That did it for me.

In real life, it was Bush who was prioritizing collective bargaining - or, rather, killing the civil service by removing their protections against political appointees trying to sabotage their work. He threatened to veto the bill in question unless it included that destruction of the civil service. As usual, Bush got his way, and we've been hearing ever since of competent, diligent civil servants losing their jobs when they failed to go along with the insanity of the administration. And that's just one little thing we need to fix.

23:32 GMT

Links to watch out for

David Neiwert is doing another series, on Eliminationism in America - Part two, The Urge to Eliminate, is up now.

I don't generally agree with the libertarian approach to these things, but the reality is that if "illegals" were legal, it'd be a lot harder to use them to drive down wages and wreck unions, because they wouldn't be afraid to let anyone know they were there. Hell, maybe they could even join unions.... (via)

Oliver Willis remembers when Instahack said: "And some other people have been proven colossally, utterly, unredeemably wrong."

Two-Minute Townhall - Travis reads 'em so you don't have to.

The other war we're not winning - That'd be the War on Some People Who Take Some Drugs, and we're taking quite a beating.

The Terri Schiavo President - The Rude Pundit with more reasons why everything that emanates from the White House makes you want to cringe from the sheer stupidity of it. I swear, if the press corps had any pride, they'd refuse to attend any briefings, conferences, whatever, and just say, "Bush spoke today but it was all irrelevant, as usual." At least it wouldn't be quoted all over the world.

A look at the Center, and Waves, (via).

I didn't realize until I saw this that I'd somehow missed copying the link for Leslie Harpold's Advent calendar (which was on the list from last year, which I started from this year) when I did my Advent calendar post. (And now I realize I completely forgot to mark Advent itself.) If you've been on the net for any length of time, you've probably benefited from something she did, somewhere along the line - she was one of those giant net presences. I see there's a collection of links of people remembering her.

The Keeper: The Legend of Omar Kayyam

Trailer for the Beatles' Love album. (Thanks to PNH.)

18:58 GMT

News and views

I remember hearing Ahmet Ertegun talking about hearing "For What It's Worth" and thinking this is how kids listen to the news. I own a lot of great records on the Atlantic label, and I know who I have to thank. Now the idea of a company being owned and run by someone who's in it for the music and the artists, rather than just the money, seems to be over. Ahmet fell at a Rolling Stones concert several weeks ago, went into a coma, and died yesterday. He was 83.

John McCain trying to destroy the blogosphere: Now he has introduced legislation that would treat blogs like Internet service providers and hold them responsible for all activity in the comments sections and user profiles. Via PNH, who says: John McCain hates you. If you still think he's a sexy "maverick," you're a moron. Remember when you thought there was barely any difference between Bush and Gore? Stop this man.

I haven't noticed whether this is hitting the US news at all, but we seem to be having another case of someone running around killing prostitutes, and there had been five killed in ten days, the last I looked. The killer hasn't picked up a nickname yet, which seems a bit odd. He apparently strangles them (so not another "Ripper"). "Sussex Strangler" seems to be likely, although Mr. Sideshow remarked that, since they are all found nude, he could always be called "Jack the Stripper".

More wise words from Atrios: I'm not a super smart political strategist, but if I were looking at data which told me that Generic Democrat was kicking ass by 18 points, and Real Live Democrats were not, it might occur to me that the way to win an election was to stop the triangulation bullshit and start running as a proud Democrat. But, hey, I'm just some lunatic on the internets.

Skimble says, "The Enron fairy tale is getting at least a partial happy ending," but in my fairy tale every single one of them would have had to give their money to all those Enron employees who lost their pensions.

Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson

15:37 GMT

Thursday, 14 December 2006

A few good links

Have a look at the remarkable piece of dialog between Chris Matthews and Elizabeth Edwards that Somerby quoted at The Daily Howler (second item), and - well, you know, I had to try to believe Matthews said it.

Richard Cohen gets something right.

What was the most important thing for Sean Hannity to talk with the troops about while he was in Iraq? Yes, that's right - John Kerry's famous botched joke.

The Missing Rap Sheet: Government Records on Corporate Abuses: Preventable corporate negligence frequently results in violent injury or loss of life, and estimates of the economic cost of corporate criminogenic behavior range as high as $200 billion per year. In comparison, estimates of the cost of all street crime range from $3 billion to $4 billion.

Terry Jones says, "Julius Caesar had Gaul; Bush just has gall": The point I'm trying to make is that there is absolutely no comparison to be made between Julius Caesar's invasion of Gaul in 58-50BC and George Bush's invasion of Iraq.

17:15 GMT

The neocon miracle

Greg Palast tells the truth about Tinker Bell, Pinochet and The Fairy Tale Miracle of Chile:

In 1973, the year General Pinochet brutally seized the government, Chile's unemployment rate was 4.3%. In 1983, after ten years of free-market modernization, unemployment reached 22%. Real wages declined by 40% under military rule.

In 1970, 20% of Chile's population lived in poverty. By 1990, the year "President" Pinochet left office, the number of destitute had doubled to 40%. Quite a miracle.

Pinochet did not destroy Chile's economy all alone. It took nine years of hard work by the most brilliant minds in world academia, a gaggle of Milton Friedman's trainees, the Chicago Boys. Under the spell of their theories, the General abolished the minimum wage, outlawed trade union bargaining rights, privatized the pension system, abolished all taxes on wealth and on business profits, slashed public employment, privatized 212 state industries and 66 banks and ran a fiscal surplus.

Freed of the dead hand of bureaucracy, taxes and union rules, the country took a giant leap forward . into bankruptcy and depression. After nine years of economics Chicago style, Chile's industry keeled over and died. In 1982 and 1983, GDP dropped 19%. The free-market experiment was kaput, the test tubes shattered. Blood and glass littered the laboratory floor. Yet, with remarkable chutzpah, the mad scientists of Chicago declared success. In the US, President Ronald Reagan's State Department issued a report concluding, "Chile is a casebook study in sound economic management." Milton Friedman himself coined the phrase, "The Miracle of Chile." Friedman's sidekick, economist Art Laffer, preened that Pinochet's Chile was, "a showcase of what supply-side economics can do."
By 1982, the pyramid finance game was up. The Vial and Cruzat "Grupos" defaulted. Industry shut down, private pensions were worthless, the currency swooned. Riots and strikes by a population too hungry and desperate to fear bullets forced Pinochet to reverse course. He booted his beloved Chicago experimentalists. Reluctantly, the General restored the minimum wage and unions' collective bargaining rights. Pinochet, who had previously decimated government ranks, authorized a program to create 500,000 jobs.

In other words, Chile was pulled from depression by dull old Keynesian remedies, all Franklin Roosevelt, zero Reagan/Thatcher.

New Deal tactics rescued Chile from the Panic of 1983, but the nation's long-term recovery and growth since then is the result of - cover the children's ears - a large dose of socialism.

To save the nation's pension system, Pinochet nationalized banks and industry on a scale unimagined by Communist Allende. The General expropriated at will, offering little or no compensation. While most of these businesses were eventually re-privatized, the state retained ownership of one industry: copper.

For nearly a century, copper has meant Chile and Chile copper. University of Montana metals expert Dr. Janet Finn notes, "It's absurd to describe a nation as a miracle of free enterprise when the engine of the economy remains in government hands."

Copper has provided 30% to 70% of the nation's export earnings. This is the hard currency which has built today's Chile, the proceeds from the mines seized from Anaconda and Kennecott in 1973 - Allende's posthumous gift to his nation.

Agribusiness is the second locomotive of Chile's economic growth. This also is a legacy of the Allende years. According to Professor Arturo Vasquez of Georgetown University, Washington DC, Allende's land reform, the break-up of feudal estates (which Pinochet could not fully reverse), created a new class of productive tiller-owners, along with corporate and cooperative operators, who now bring in a stream of export earnings to rival copper. "In order to have an economic miracle," says Dr. Vasquez, "maybe you need a socialist government first to commit agrarian reform."

So there we have it. Keynes and Marx, not Friedman, saved Chile.

But the myth of the free-market Miracle persists because it serves a quasi-religious function. Within the faith of the Reaganauts and Thatcherites, Chile provides the necessary genesis fable, the ersatz Eden from which laissez-faire dogma sprang successful and shining.

What a pity no one told the truth to those sweet little tyros the administration sent off to Iraq to build the shining neocon utopia.

14:47 GMT

Closer than they appear

A lot of interesting things via GOTV:

  • John Warner needs serious scrutiny: The recently passed John W. Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2006 has some fine print that should concern everyone. The new law--PL109-364--should be reviewed by many. The provision that is so alarming is entitled, "Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies."
  • The war on some of the people who do drugs: Under Federal law, possession of half a kilo of cocaine - about $10,000 worth - draws a mandatory 5-year minimum sentence. Possession of only 5 grams of crack - about $500 worth, since prices per unit weight are higher at retail - draws the same 5-year mandatory. That's the notorious "100-to-1 crack/powder ratio." It's lost on no one that while dealers of large amounts of cocaine are sometimes white, retail crack dealers are almost invariably black or Latino. Anyone with half a kilo of cocaine is a substantial dealer, though under the laws of conspiracy very minor participants (e.g., drivers) can be punished as if the cocaine was all theirs. But someone can easily have 100 rocks of crack - it doesn't even to have to be all at one time to count - without being more than a trivial player.
  • Coalition forms to press for paper trails and audits in Virginia elections: Delegate Tim Hugo and Senator Jeannemarie Devolites Davis have announced plans to introduce legislation to mandate voter-verifiable paper audit trails and require random audits. The Verifiable Voting Coalition of Virginia invites all Virginians who care about the security and integrity of our democratic process to join with us to support these necessary reforms. Interested citizens are invited to contact us at

"Nuke Iran, Stop Global Warming" - Cernig hopes Jules Crittenden is joking, but you never know.

I guess it's reassuring to know that I'm not the only person who believes that Yeltsin, by breaking up the USSR, derailed it - and Russia - from the path to Democracy.

Obama's jacket and no tie continued: I guess Greenfield's libelous coverage of Hillary Clinton was just a joke, too.

If Matt Groening created Battlestar Galactica (Thanks to Dominic (of) for the tip.)

04:00 GMT

Wednesday, 13 December 2006

Taking notes

ThoughtCrime has another steamed take-down of the WaPo's ghastly praise for Pinochet: The notion that it's just...well...different if a free market or Christian society tortures and murders someone as opposed to a Communist or Moslem society torturing and murdering someone has become increasingly popular in this country. It's so popular, in fact, that the difference between, say, someone wearing an Iraqi Republican Guard uniform beating a prisoner's legs to a jellied pulp in 1990 and someone wearing an American uniform doing it in 2004 is frequently dismissed as too obvious to dignify the comparison with an argument. To make such comparisons, we are frequently told, is "offensive." It "trivializes" the suffering of "true victims," insults them.

Check out Blackwhite on Punishing Workers Instead of Bosses. - and then read TPM Muckraker about separating people by color.

Altercation: Speaking of which, I had breakfast with Ms. Franke-Ruta the other day in Cambridge, and she sat down and immediately said something profound: "So George Bush is the only person in the world who understands Iraq. Just what do you think are the chances of that?" It was kinda funny at the time, but who would have thought that anyone would actually claim it? Well, guess what? Here is Andy Card saying Bush "knows more than any of these people who are serving on these panels." Good God, what a crazy country this is.

Things I'm watching on TV right now:

I rather like the new "Belong" ad from Carling.

Sacha Baron Cohen appeared as himself to collect his award at the Comedy Awards show, and said: "Borat would be here tonight but he's guest of honor at the Holocaust Denial conference in Tehran."

Also, all the big shops have ads on for holiday eats that are pure pornography. Also the Lindors ad. So I'm licking my lips a lot.

22:28 GMT

They think America is a "cancer"

Lambert has even more on the Christianist war on freedom, and it's worth sitting through the ad at Salon to read all of Alex Koppelman's interview with Mikey Weinstein, the former Air Force lawyer who founded Military Religious Freedom Foundation after seeing that Christianists are trying to take over our military. He quite rightly says that, "These people should be court-martialed" - and remember it next time someone whines to you about how secularists don't respect their religion:

These are the people who, when I talk to senior members of the military at the flag-level rank -- I don't know if you're familiar with what that means, that means admiral or general -- that have looked at me and said, "Come on, Mikey, what's your problem? We have the cure to cancer. If you had the cure to cancer, wouldn't you want to spread the word?" They don't realize when they say it, they don't have the mental wherewithal to understand that to a person who isn't an evangelical Christian, you're calling our faith a cancer.
Understand, they aren't just attacking atheists and self-described Pagans, they're attacking everyone who doesn't share their peculiar version of Christianity. That includes not only Jews, but many Christians. But most of all, they are attacking the secular basis of the United States of America. And they are running our military.

17:52 GMT


Krugman, "The Great Wealth Transfer": It's a good story with a comforting conclusion: Education is the answer. But it's all wrong. [...] Being highly educated won't make you into a winner in today's U.S. economy. At best, it makes you somewhat less of a loser. [...] In addition, the statistical evidence shows, unequal societies tend to be corrupt societies. When there are huge disparities in wealth, the rich have both the motive and the means to corrupt the system on their behalf.

Olvlzl: Why is it that workers who produce all of the wealth don't have at least as much ownership of a company as the one-time investor gets in perpetuity? Investor ownership is eternal. Stock can be sold over and over again without a single cent of additional capital investment in the company being made. Yet a worker who works for the company from the beginning till her job gets outsourced when the eighteenth owner of the stock decides that slave-labor overseas will maximize the value of the stock, has no legally protected ownership rights at all.

Neddie remembers Pinochet: It's utterly impossible to understand, in a cosmopolitan democracy, the raw, adrenaline-pumping fear that can gnaw at your vitals when you can be hauled off the street at any instant for the way you dress. [...] There is no comparison. I came to dread with a sickly nausea those knee-trembling moments when a machine-gun-wielding cop would pick me out of a crowded sidewalk, step in front of me, and accost me for my ID: "A ver, joven..."

Madison Guy: "Note to Washington Post: Nothing can justify Pinochet's killings and torture." (And another note: the reason brutal dictatorial regimes are "more likely to pave the way for liberal democracies" is that they are overthrown.)

15:24 GMT

More things, Horatio

Lambert has a whole bunch of theocracy outrages:

You know, this stuff is entirely unconstitutional, but it's getting to be a habit. But, seriously, these people are a threat to our democracy and should get kicked out pretty damned quick.

"Outsource This" - MahaBarb in soliloquy with Paul Krugman*, an appropriate follow-up to her previous post, "Katrina's Children".

More and more people, including cops and even Republican judges, are coming around to the view that the war on drugs is as disaster for us. Wouldn't it be nice if our legislators would also get the message?

Jim Henley is forming a posse, because he's ready to march again, and he wants folks to join him.

"Guess What? Bush Doesn't Care About Poor White People, Either" and other useful slogans.

When I went up north last September, I saw something unusual at the B&B where I stayed.

Send some flowers.

02:12 GMT

Tuesday, 12 December 2006


I've said this before, but: When I was growing up no one hesitated to point out that some legislative proposal had the stink of the Nazis - and the people around me who were saying were Jews who'd escaped from Germany. Then people who didn't want us to say that what they were doing had the Nazi stink on it started telling us we were using "extreme language" and being "insensitive", and next thing you know, people who wanted to sound "reasonable" were picking it up. Now it's de riguer to balk at hearing such comparisons even when you're talking about a government that is restricting its citizens' right to travel, putting people in concentration camps, torturing them, and generally designating some as unpeople. I'm glad I'm not the only person who is complaining about this.

We didn't used to have to listen to people pretending there was no such thing as what used to be called shell-shock. But now it's another one of those right-wing industries, I guess.

Hmm, Contradicting Bush, Rumsfeld Claims He Was Replaced Because Of 'The Outcome Of The Election', and also that It Is Not A War on Terror.

The right-wingers have been a bit baffled that Glenn Greenwald is calling Rahm Emmanuel out for prevaricating, and John Cole tries to explain it for the hard of thinking.

I think if you go here there's a little picture of Lincoln Chafee on the right, and if you click on it you can see Jon Stewart's interview with him. You have to ask yourself: "Why didn't this guy cross the floor?" There's just no sense in it.

So, is Obama, like, magic? And I am totally with Ezra on this: Vote for The Moderate Voice for best centrist blog. Remember, you can vote every 24 hours.

23:58 GMT

Things that matter

Susie Madrak on the delay in a report on the Sego Mine disaster: Maybe the families were expecting additional information about the more than 200 citations [link (at bottom of post)] for safety violations that Sago received from the Mine Safety and Health Administration in 2005. But that report is going to blame...lightning. (Also via Susie, no surprises that the WaPo is hiring the awful John Solomon away from AP.)

I realize that a reduction of ad revenue is hurting newspapers, but I don't think Will Bunch has the right answer with The "lone nut" theory of the American newspaper assassination. And, the fact is, newspapers are still making money, they're just keeping it instead of spending it on staff. And it shows - which is what has annoyed subscribers. (And, anyway, if you have extra profits, you should put them into independent journalism itself.)

When Cllinton lied about something important, nobody cared. No one in Congress or the Washington press corps, anyway: Saeb Erekat told me what Clinton had told him when the former president was visiting the region in the spring of 2001 and had dinner with Erekat, who asked Clinton why he falsely told the world that Arafat had rejected his parameters. "I was with [Arafat] when he told you 'I accept your parameters with the following reservations and qualifications'!" Erekat exclaimed to Clinton, who sheepishly replied, "I was told if I didn't say this there would not be a peace camp in Israel-that Barak would be over."

18:55 GMT

Things I saw

Oh, my god, we're talking about potential candidates clothes again! I can't stand it. Yes, Jeff Greenfield, the man who enthused once upon a time that "the grown-ups are back in charge", has noticed that Barack Obama wears a jacket without a tie, and says this should remind everyone of someone else: But, in the case of Obama, he may be walking around with a sartorial time bomb. Ask yourself, is there any other major public figure who dresses the way he does? Why, yes. It is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who, unlike most of his predecessors, seems to have skipped through enough copies of "GQ" to find the jacket-and-no-tie look agreeable. And maybe that's not the comparison a possible presidential contender really wants to evoke. Except that it's Greenfield, not Obama, who is making the comparison, since to any normal person a jacket without a tie is what hundreds of celebrities wear whenever they appear on television, as do many of our friends, and the jacket-and-no-tie look is so common that it would never have occurred to anyone who wasn't a right-wing creep that Obama is dressing "like" the president of Iran. (And then he goes on to mention Obama's middle name. I almost expected him to go on to mention that he was "awfully dark, too.") (via)

If you haven't read Glenn Greenwald's "Neoconservatives -- exposed, scorned, but still in control" yet, do it now, and ask yourself why anyone thought the arms dealers on the Baker side were going to save us from the rabid neocon hate-mongers who have Bush in their thrall. And then ask yourself: Do you really want to wait two more years before we can have any serious discussion of getting out of Iraq? Is there any honest justification for not doing everything possible to hold the administration to account and get them out? Because, really, if you want to get out of Iraq and start the business of repairing our country, I don't see how you can not consider impeachment of Bush and Cheney an absolute necessity.

The Agitprop Weekend Wingnut Roundup

Sore Eyes has an update on the Grand Canyon Skywalk, now slated to officially open in March.

Ooh, Sam Seder is about to interview Amy Goodman on AAR.

15:36 GMT

Last night's links

Bill Scher watched Baker and Hamilton monopolize the Sunday talk shows about the ISG report, and said: We're going to keep having breathless, tedious, useless discussion about tactics until Democrats start talking about fundamental course changes -- scrapping the neocon, unilateralist policy goals in the region.

Richard Seymour: Picture a necrotic, sinister, burned-out wasteland -- a vast, dull mound of rubble punctuated by moments of bleak emptiness and, occasionally, smoking. Those of you whose imaginations alighted instantly on the Late Christopher Hitchens have only yourselves to blame, for I was referring to Fallujah. (via)

The Party of Paul Wellstone

Desperately Seeking Ethics

Shrines To America

A warning from Doonesbury

13:25 GMT

Monday, 11 December 2006

Love they neighbor as thyself

Digby is talking, as are others, about how scandalous it is that so many of our legislators - including those who seemed quite comfortable supporting the invasion of Iraq - are now so surprised to learn about the religious split between Sunni and Shia. And everyone is aghast that these people can't work out what "sectarian violence" is about, and why it was predictable, and all that.

But you know what? I think we could have invaded pretty much any country and behaved the way we have and we'd still be having most of these problems.

If Adolph Hitler had marched into Poland and France and destroyed the infrastructure and taken away people's jobs and mostly made it into wasteland, he probably wouldn't have had any resources left for annoying any other countries, because he would have been too busy fighting insurgents.

But, although Hitler was a maniac with a disgusting ideology, he was not a brain-dead neocon who'd never actually had to do anything real to pay the rent. So he just replaced the people at the top in the countries he invaded and left the civil service and pretty much everything else intact. Of course, he got carried away and went after Russia, which just goes to show what happens when everyone is afraid to tell you when you have stupid ideas.

Face reality: We were in Afghanistan, we'd unseated the Taliban - who everyone hated and was happy to see the back of - and we needed a Marshall Plan to make the whole thing come out right. George Walker Bush would have been a hero if he'd done that.

But no, he took his eye off that ball and went after Saddam. That idea was simply insane. We were already in a war and he just wandered off as if he was bored with that toy and needed a new one. Our resources have been poured into the cesspool he created and with them that most fragile and magical of all, the reputation we had as a strong but fair nation that could be trusted in world affairs.

None of the "liberals" who supported the invasion have been able to explain it in any terms other than that, well, they needed to flex the testosterone because they have fey little desk jobs where they never get to be macho and they had to use other people's blood and bone to show the world how manly they are by bravely sacrificing other people's lives and safety to The Cause.

This isn't really about the Sunni and Shia. If Iraq had been entirely B'hai, we'd have the same mess, because people just hate it when foreigners come in and ruin their economy, eliminate their ability to get water and electricity, and randomly shoot (or abduct and torture) all kinds of people because you can't even tell your enemies from your friends (they all look alike to you).

Right now a lot of people in Iraq are jostling for power. They may be using religion as their political base, but you'd see much the same in any country where civilization had broken down. New religions would probably see a rise in influence, fringe elements might even rise to power. (How did a Sunni government come to power in largely Shia Iraq to begin with? How, for that matter, did a collection of far-right fringe lunatics with highly unpopular views manage to put a gutless moron in the White House?)

Someone in Digby's comments suggested that not knowing the difference between Sunni and Shia before invading Iraq is analogous to a British Prime Minister not knowing the difference between Protestants and Catholics, but while this is more-or-less true, we really don't have to know jack about sectarian differences. All you have to know is that if you break into your neighbor's house, wreck the place, and steal their stuff, they aren't going to want to let you keep doing it, and they might just shoot you to make you stop.

* * * * *

On a lighter note, Cory Doctorow found a really cool radially-expanding dinner table, and if I win the lottery (and can get a house with room for it), I want one.

20:42 GMT

Why sales are falling at the NYT and WaPo

That nitwit cabbage wrote another egregious column in the NYT (behind the pay wall, but it's a crime that it's anywhere in the paper). EZ writer at DKos has a nice takedown (which quotes a lot of the actual column), and Ezra Klein has written a heartbreakingly good parody, except that it's too good to be funny:

LOOKING BACK. In fall 2006, the United States turned on the NeoCommentators. Infuriated by their smug, wrongheaded chatter had help lead the country into a catastrophic war and then, without missing a beat, turned to condemning those who sought to end it, readers nationwide began agitating for their removal from op-ed pages, magazine columns, and television roundtables. And so began the Pundit Purge of '07 -- the first time in recent history that the predictive failure of an ideology led to actual occupational consequences for its peddlers.
Don't I wish.

Go read the whole thing, and then Duncan Black's comment.

Duncan also has something very wise to say about one of the current fantasies about fixing Iraq:


People seem to be fretting about all the bad things that could happen if we leave Iraq, and also fretting about all the bad things which could happen if things just continue as they are. So, everyone's busy concocting Cunning Plans so that neither of those scenarios happens. But, uh, helping to forcibly partition a country? Relocating people at gunpoint based on their ethnicity?

Iraq might end up being partitioned. That partition might include neighborhood ethnic homogeneity. But why on Earth would anyone think we either should or could have anything to do with that? Why would we have to participate in such a thing? What possible benefit would our presence add to such a process, even if it became inevitable?

Please, Quiet Americans, just stop. Really.

Thank you. I can't remember when I first started hearing of partition as a great idea for solving the problem of Iraq, but at the time I just threw a comment into the thread (wherever it was): "You mean because it's worked so well all the other times and places?" Because, you know, it doesn't generally work too well at all. And it may very well be that if we leave Iraq, the Iraqis themselves will end up withdrawing into their separate corners and putting up walls between themselves, but there is no reason in the world why we should get our fingers dirty on that project - and on their own heads be it.

Ezra is relatively young, and Atrios is deceptively casual (and profane) about what he posts, but I think for all-round comprehension of issues and the political environment around us, as well as generally good explanations in plain English of what they're trying to convey, these guys have it all over just about anyone in the pundit corps.

18:31 GMT

Food for thought (and diversions)

Via C&L, emptywheel at The Next Hurrah (cross-posted at Daily Kos) has A Quiz for Lawmakers to ask them if they know the basics. Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings follows up with a Pop Quiz. The threads all have more, some of which are pretty sharp (and often quite funny). Add your own. (The puckish bit of me wants to ask: "Our rights are endowed by (a) the President; (b) the Constitution, (c) our Creator." But that would be mean.)

Also via C&L, FAIR on Glenn Beck's flirtation with fascism.

Impeach: The Four Reasons for Responsible Citizenship.

"Yeah, when I said women talk more, I really meant women nod more" - Amanda Marcotte analyzes a remarkable book and PR campaign.

I really do wish privatizers would pay more attention to the results of these little pilot programs for trying to de-nationalize programs that worked perfectly well before they started getting their fingers into them. Like how "At least a dozen NHS hospital trusts are technically bankrupt, with no chance of meeting a legal obligation to balance their books, a Guardian investigation has revealed."

Neat EPOD: Surf Dog.

Santa Clause is Comin'.

16:30 GMT

Blog Survey Project

A number of bloggers are participating in a blog survey, and they want to survey our readers as well - you can participate here. It doesn't take all that long and most of the questions aren't too taxing. You don't have to give personal identifying information (although it asks for things like household income and level of education).

14:17 GMT

Soft on crime

I was just thinking this morning that if the European courts were considering war crimes charges against Bill Clinton or a member of his cabinet, the media would probably be talking about it constantly and the Washington Press corps would ask Tony Snow what the White House plans to do about it, and Snow would say something to the effect that it was a grave matter and so on. And the question would not be whether there was justice in the charges, but whether it was appropriate to allow an American president or cabinet member to be tried in a foreign court, and whether the US should recognize any authority from such courts. But that question doesn't arise as long as no Democratic administration is so accused; the press corps politely ignores the fact that George Walker Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and Henry Kissinger are all being called war criminals and there's quite a bit of talk about trying at least Rumsfeld for war crimes (and a third of Americans probably think the whole administration ought to be in the dock in the Hague). And then I remembered that Jonathan Schwarz had recently posted something about the time Peter Jennings actually did ask the question of Henry Kissinger.

12:59 GMT

Lazy linking

Triumph Amourette 300 underwired bra

Bra of the Week (And, although it's not the same bra, Cleavage of the Week.)

Bill Scher advises the Democrats on Turning Lame Into Lemonade.

Susie has an old clip of Hunter S. Thompson being interviewed by a nitwit.

Looks like Joe Biden just can't stop having one more for the road.

PNH alerted me to something I didn't know about Obama.

Bob Geiger has the Saturday cartoons.

The General presents "The Fighting First Family". And how did Drudge miss this on-air call to Jimmy Carter about his "raw sexual energy"?

Abigail Nussbaum's reviews "The Screwfly Solution".

Nicholas Brendon says hi.

00:12 GMT

Sunday, 10 December 2006


Just when you think you're going to have to put it in your own words, you find something like this in an Eschaton comment by RT:

On the WaPo op-ed page this morning, Robert Kagan asks:
How did we wind up in Iraq in the first place?
A. Because of you and your fellow neocons, Bob. This was your war. You asked for it, you got it - Moqtada.

Of course, Kagan attributes it to America's "messianic impulse" in foreign policy; Bob and his friends were just the passive instruments of the national will, I guess.

I don't actually have anything to add to that.

17:30 GMT

What we don't learn from history

As usual, I'm assuming you're reading everything at Hullabaloo, but I just went into a state of shock after reading a quote Digby caught from one of the Wise People who were on the Iraq Study Group:

SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR: We might go all the way back to World War II, where the United States continued to have discussions with Stalin. He was the enemy, not our friend, but we continued to have discussions. And I think we pretty much have to do the same here.
She's older than I am, and she doesn't know? Jeez.

02:20 GMT

Saturday, 09 December 2006

What they're saying

This is what conservative economics is actually about - keeping inflation down by (as Alan Greenspan once explained) maintaining a high level of insecurity among workers. Everyone knows that inflation is "bad" - so bad that it's worth wrecking the middle class in order to keep it down. What no one tells is that there are some good things about inflation - like higher wages, better jobs, and more return on your savings.

It's all about them: Josh Marshall notes that Rumsfeld says his worst day as Secretary of Defense was not 9/11, but the day the abuses at Abu Ghraib became known. Interestingly, his little display yesterday makes a big deal of Abu Ghraib, although at the time he made it all sound like just some minor bad behavior by a few low-level types. I guess he really feels a need to distance himself from that, more than from 9/11, although both were massive (and criminal) failures on his part.

Atrios is quoting Eleanor Clift's article about how Bush41 probably broke down crying because if Jeb had won his first bid for the Florida governorship, Bush666 wouldn't have been bumped onto the White House track, as a result of which he has managed to ruin his family legacy. It's interesting to see this in Newsweek, but probably would have been more impressive if either (a) I hadn't already seen more than half a dozen bloggers make the same point or (b) Clift had credited at least one of those bloggers with having said it first.

Here's George Will doing the "primitive wogs" thing - you know, those Iraqis, they just don't appreciate freedom - without reference to the fact that one reason they are so pissed off now is that we invaded their country, wrecked their infrastructure, took away their jobs, and sold off their economy to foreigners, not to mention failing to provide a functional judicial system (rule of law being the foundation of democracy as well as effective capitalism in a free society). And here's Joshua Holland giving Will the business: This is a particularly disgusting bit of historical revisionism, but it's also quite familiar. It recalls 19th-century Europeans (and Americans) who embraced the idea that colonized peoples were infantile and incapable of self-governance. It shares the same roots as Jim Crow, which was largely justified by the idea that the newly freed slaves were incapable of functioning without the guidance of their former masters. It's social Darwinism, as clear as day.

You could always do this.

16:16 GMT

How we did it

Raul Fernandez in the WaPo, "Uploading American Politics":

Technology won the 2006 elections for the Democrats. No, not electronic voting machines, but the power of the Internet, fueled by innovative applications that let citizens create and publish their own content. The Internet not only changed the balance of power in the House and Senate, it also helped sack the secretary of defense. Welcome to viral democracy.
In modern American political history, perhaps only the coming of the television age has had as big an impact on our national elections as the Internet has. But the effect of the Internet may be better for the long-term health of our democracy. For while TV emphasizes perception, control and centralization, Internet-driven politics is about transparency, distribution of effort and, most important, empowerment and participation -- at whatever level of engagement the consumer wants.

It's unclear what the impact of technology on elections will be over the next 12 years. But one lesson should already be clear to politicians: In a world where cellphones are cameras and video recorders, every word that you utter (or text), and every nap you take, can and will be used against you on YouTube.

I think some people have already realized that the ground-up nature of the Internet is a threat to the prevailing order, which is why they are trying to impose both legal and economic impediments to ordinary people like us being able to do what we do. Make sure your reps know that you regard any opposition to net neutrality as an assault on democracy.

13:48 GMT

On the Infobahn

"Echoes of Diallo" - A highly-recommended post by Steve Gilliard on the recent murder of Sean Bell by police in New York, the failure of elective officials to respond appropriately, and why people still have time for Al Sharpton.

To cover the story on the right-wing meltdown over Mary Cheney's pregnancy, Sam Seder joined Keith Olbermann on Countdown (where Keith also invoked the holy name of Bill Hicks). Meanwhile, the right-wing, who used to reckon David Gregory was the most unbiased White House reporter, have now decided he is too partisan. (And the loony "Black Jesse Helms", Vernon Robinson, may be saying good-bye to politics!)

I keep saying this but it's nice to see someone else doing it.

Don't open MS Word files. Also, some troubling news about housing prices.

Jim Macdonald is right about this - they're not stopping terrorists, they're stopping the rest of us. (It's also part of the war on tourism.)

Isn't modern science wonderful? Today, when you shake hands with a murderous thug, the pictures are of much higher quality.

The Red Flag Over Washington?

You know, this really doesn't look like "supporting the troops" to me. (via)

Roll a saving throw vs. deliciousness - the 20-sided pecan pie. (Also: Best title for an election post.)

I just want to say that Gracie Allen was funnier than Christopher Hitchens.

12:05 GMT

Recommended reading

James J. Kroeger discusses the difference between real wealth and financial wealth: The only reason why money has any value to us is because it gives us a claim on the productive efforts of others. How wealthy you actually are depends more on what others are doing than it does on your personal accumulations of paper notes.

Despite the fact that the Iraq Study Group was stacked with people who would go easy on Bush, they did offer some findings that were pretty strong, scary, contradicted almost everything the White House has tried to tell us - and the media still won't mention it.

Paul Krugman, like me, and probably like most readers of The Sideshow, is a member in good standing of the unofficial Society of Cassandras. We all wanted to be wrong, but we knew we wouldn't be - and we were right about that, too. Today, in "They Told You So", Krugman honors those who were not wrong: At worst, those who were skeptical about the case for war had their patriotism and/or their sanity questioned. The New Republic now says that it "deeply regrets its early support for this war." Does it also deeply regret accusing those who opposed rushing into war of "abject pacifism?" Via Digby, who also has a cracking good post on what's wrong with NARAL. (And scroll upward and downward for posts on the real Washington Establishment.)

Howard Dean has joined in to call for a new election in Sarasota: "This election is not valid. There are 18,000 people who may have voted, and we don't know what happened to their votes," Dean said. "You can bet that if the Republicans were 500 votes short they'd be calling for a new election, and they'd be right."

Al Gore has a website, and wants you to throw house parties to show An Inconvenient Truth, among other things. Show the love, folks.

I find this BBC Radio 2 ad amusing.

01:12 GMT

Friday, 08 December 2006


Bob Somerby can barely believe it when Andrea Mitchell, Joke Line, and Cynthia Tucker have this exchange:

TUCKER (12/3/06): She gives a better answer [about her vote] than John Kerry, who said something like I voted against it before I voted for it.

MITCHELL: There is no worse answer than John Kerry's.


TUCKER: Absolutely. I also think that the peacenik wing of the Democratic Party may have learned a lesson from their failures in Connecticut, where Ned Lamont lost in the general election to Joe Lieberman. The simple fact of the matter is, every serious Democrat who was in the Senate at the time voted for the waror voted to authorize the presidentand Al Gore was one of the few Senate Democrats who voted in 1991 for the first Gulf War.

I didn't want anyone to miss that little "Right" from Klein, there. These are the people who lecture everyone else about being serious, and they can't even remember what that was about? We spent months hearing about that damn thing, and they don't even remember why? (And how could anyone get it backwards? We heard it over and over and over, "for it before I was against it," blah blah blah. You'll probably remember it on your death bed.)

The bizarre thing is that even though they are actually talking about John Kerry's vote for the force resolution (which he never voted against or even expressed any doubt about until everyone else already had), they can't remember it. Someone really needs to ask Klein if he has ever paid attention to anything that's happened in the last six years.

21:11 GMT

Slow glass

I was just over at Fred Clark's incredibly long Election thread from last month and noticed this first-person report on voting in Virginia: There are a ton of Webb/Kellam signs in my predominantly Republican neighborhood. And the folks going in and out of the voting station looked mostly like Democrats. And there were none of those dressed-to-the-9s-whiter-than-rice-smarmy-superior Pat Robertson/Regent/Christian Coalition types standing out front handing out Republican literature!! That is a first!!!! I see this kind of thing and I think, "If that's what the "predominantly Republican" neighborhoods looked like, who was it who was voting for Allen? Not that this is the first time I've wondered just how rigged these "close" elections really were....

This is what Sidney Blumenthal wrote about the Iraq Study Group before it reported. Today I heard him on the radio saying that Democratic support for it, in the face of Bush's rejection of it, gives the Democrats cover - Bush had the entire US foreign policy establishment advise him, and he told 'em to bugger off. It sounded really good the way he explained it, so I'm looking forward to his article about this. Keep an eye open for it. But Russ Feingold has a different take. And David Wallechinsky says people should pay more attention to Recommendation #72 of the report: "Costs for the war in Iraq should be included in the President's annual budget request, starting in FY 2008: the war is in its fourth year, and the normal budget process should not be circumvented. Funding requests for the war in Iraq should be presented clearly to Congress and the American people. Congress must carry out its constitutional responsibility to review budget requests for the war in Iraq carefully and to conduct oversight." That's a good recommendation - after four years, funding for Iraq should not be part of an "emergency" package.

Worst presidential polls ever.

I could link to all the various articles taking apart the Christopher Hitchens theory of female humor, first look here, for the illustration.

If you're looking for someone to support instead of NARAL, Neil Rest recommends Medical Students for Choice.

Winston Churchill & The Ancient Order of Druids

DDB still needs help identifying people in the photos from Discon II.

More Harbin ice sculptures! These things are such a pleasure.

17:8 GMT

A little thought for Advent

I've been getting the usual flood of seasonal begging letters in my in-box, and I think this year I will mention it. I seem to recall Atrios doing it recently, as well.

Most of your favorite bloggers or news sites probably aren't making all that much money, and you and I know that none of us could really afford to throw any significant amount of money into the tip-jar on every trip to their page. But you should know that those PayPal buttons and even the ad strips don't really generate all that much cash - the lucky ones break even on costs, which for many people means that maintaining a Blogger account doesn't cost anything but doesn't generate anything, either.

But even if a blogger is doing it for love of country and to work out some rage and try to fix things, some could really use an infusion of cash (well, most could, to be honest), and some people are spending a lot of money on high-bandwidth accounts just to bring you their valuable info. And some actually spend money to bring you original reporting and high-quality history and analysis.

So, think about all those links I send you to, and the people behind them, all the pages you read and think, "This is a good site, I'm glad it's here," and then send them a little something if you can (or at least mark your calendar to send them something once you've paid off your Christmas bills).

I'm not just saying this out of the goodness of my heart, you understand. I see pages going dark because people feel like their efforts aren't appreciated, and others that I'm afraid won't last because they can't afford to do what they do unless they get a little subsidy now and then. And then there are the people who haven't updated their pages since November of 2004 because they felt like it was hopeless, and no one helped them feel hopeful; and those who stopped blogging last November because they think we won and everything's okay now, and no one reminded them otherwise. And I wanted to be able to keep reading those sites, and I want to be able to keep reading, Suburban Guerrilla, Consortium News and the like for a long time to come, because we still need all that stuff.

[Update: I actually wasn't talking about The Sideshow - and it's worth noting that sites like Consortium News often post snail-mail addresses where you can send a check if you don't like making transactions online.]

03:03 GMT

Thursday, 07 December 2006

The cancer

I haven't said much about the Iraq Study Group report because it didn't strike me as having much potential, and I don't seem to have been wrong. Admittedly, it shifts the discourse from "Iraq is wonderful and we should stay the course" to "Iraq is a mess and we must stay the course." I suppose that's progress, of a sort.

It shifts the discourse because, as Dr. Duncan Black* has been pointing out, the Permanent Washington Establishment, whose president is actually David Broder, believes only what it tells itself. Now that one section of that Establishment - the ISG - has told the rest of itself that things are bad in Iraq, people like Tim Russert are allowed to say so.

But they're not going to be allowed to say that we should get out until enough of their little cells get together in an official capacity (preferably with an approved title) finds some way to say it. And, apparently, they cannot say it until some time in 2009.

It's possible that Democrats are going along with all of this ISG fog just to get the first half of the equation on the table - an admission that it is a mess - but what we need is some reality.

17:30 GMT

Your happenin' world

"Kicking An 82 Year Old Man: The Right Attacks Jimmy Carter. Again." Our memories of Jimmy Carter are memories laced with the poison of a right wing smear campaign because when Jimmy Carter encouraged us to face the facts of the energy crisis, he faced off against the Oil Companies and as the decades passed, it has become sadly clear that the nuclear physicist Naval Officer peanut farmer came out the worse for it. He was portrayed as naive and as a simpleton. He was routinely mocked. A good man's legacy was taken down. Carter also warned that we were facing an economic fork in the road between a liberal economy and a corporate/monetarist economy, and they couldn't stand that, either.

Isn't it funny how Republicans so often suggest that consumption taxes (e.g., sales taxes and various user fees) should replace income/property-based taxes, unless it's a tax on using their cars? (via)

Don't you just want to cry a river for those poor Republicans who are faced with the prospect of having to work when Congress reconvenes? I love the whining about how having to be in Washington will take them away from their families. ("Keeping us up here eats away at families. Marriages suffer. The Democrats could care less about families - that's what this says." - Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia) Like my old man used to say: Tell it to the marines.

Atrios has an excerpt from a discussion between Jay Rosen and departing WaPo political editor John Harris in which Harris explains what he thinks "the center" is, and it's a bunch of right-wing think tanks. Says Duncan, "In other words, as I've long said, the acceptable positions in Official Washington range from the New Republic to the Free Republic."

Taylor Marsh has an update on the SEIU nurses' lock-out - They've been allowed to get back to work. "BUT JUST TO BE CLEAR, this is not over. There are still some very bad people running UHS. I intend to keep the pressure on and you should too."

In case you're wondering, I didn't even notice we were having a tornado until this afternoon, when I saw Rich's comment* providing this link.

I keep forgetting I had this open - "Myth-Busting Mondays: Feminists don't like rough sex." Cracked me right up.

Neat: Carved Crayons. (Thanks to Dominic for the tip.)

14:43 GMT

Odds and ends

I'd like to take a moment to enjoy Thomas Nephew on one of my favorite objects of loathing in "To be Judge Posner must be to feel like a King":

This seems as good a time as any to mention Tamanaha's comment that the Chicago Council of Lawyers concluded in 1994 that A very substantial number of lawyers believe that Chief Judge Posner routinely does not pay sufficient attention to the facts, or leaves out crucial facts, in order to reach desired conclusions. Chief Judge Posner feels less constrained by precedent, history, and the proper limits on appellate judging than, in the Councils view, he should..."

Tamanaha concludes with a somewhat anticlimactic warning to "be wary of the pied piper of pragmatic adjudication." I'll go a little further than that: to me, Posner's rejoinder to Heymann ought to peremptorily disqualify Posner from further judicial advancement, if Congress intends for its laws to mean anything at all.

Indeed, it occurs to me that while it may not seem "fair" or "legal" to less keenly honed minds than ours, dear readers, simple prudence and pragmatism may dictate that we wiretap, impeach, arrest, convict, and imprison Judge Posner as soon as possible. Secretly, of course.

In other news:

I heard Paul Krugman on the radio earlier, and he said: "If Hayek was right, there'd be all these Swedish refugees."

Labor Dispute: Gambling With Patient Care In Las Vegas: On Monday, approximately 800 Las Vegas nurses were locked out of their hospitals after trying to negotiate for increased staffing and improved patient care. They had been intimidated by union-busters, suspended for supporting unions, and working without a contract since June.

Via Oliver Willis, Matt Stoller muses on The Insider-Driven Obama Campaign.

03:05 GMT

Wednesday, 06 December 2006

Afternoon links

MahaBarb has a good little post on Poppy Bush and his sons. "I still think it's significant that the words Poppy choked on were decency and honor." (And a lot of other good stuff.) Also via Maha, Neil Cavuto calling Paul Krugman a liar.

American Stranger asks, "Why is the EPA going into shred mode?"

"Gore To Bush On Iraq: It's Not About You: This was worst strategic mistake in the history of the United States. And now, we as a nation have to find a way, in George Mitchell's words, to manage a disaster. But I would urge the president not to - to try to separate out the personal issues of being blamed in history for this mistake and instead recognize it's not about him. It's about our country and we all have to find a way to get our troops home and to prevent a regional conflagration there.

Libertarian traffic rules might actually work. Maybe.

Kevin Drum links to a useful piece on how to secure your personal financial information (and highlights one I hadn't thought of and need to know), but doesn't seem to know that Pelosi didn't keep Harmon because she had reached her term-limit. Also, reading the "Liberaltarians" post made me think that "libertarianism" is just far-right conservatism for people who aren't puritans and don't particularly care to hate black people (largely because they don't see many of 'em anyway.) And just don't understand how money works, of course.

From comments, Chris provides a link to the NYT article on the story of the voting machine panel, and Rich directs us to neat pictures of the pyramids.

18:07 GMT

Flunking democracy

Well, here's a disappointing little story in The Washington Post:

Federal Panel Rebuffs Guidelines That Insist on a Paper Trail

By Cameron W. Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 5, 2006; Page B06

A federal advisory group rejected a measure yesterday that would have discouraged states from using electronic voting systems that lack an independent means of verifying their results, according to a spokeswoman for the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Members of the Technical Guidelines Development Committee, a group created by Congress to advise the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, deadlocked 6 to 6 on the proposal at a meeting held at the NIST headquarters in Gaithersburg. Eight votes are needed to pass a measure on the 15-member committee.

The story quotes Ronald Rivest, "a computer science professor at MIT who heads a subcommittee on transparency and security," the proposer of the measure, saying that paperless machines could allow that, "an election result is wrong and you have no evidence to show that it's wrong." And for the opposing side:
Committee member Brit Williams, a computer scientist who has conducted certification evaluations of Georgia's paperless electronic voting system, opposed the measure. "You are talking about basically a reinstallation of the entire voting system hardware," he said.
Yes, because it doesn't do the job. The fact that you'd have to change it is no justification for not changing it.

But that's all you get, at least from this story.

Subject: Voting machines

Your story "Federal Panel Rebuffs Guidelines That Insist on a Paper Trail" by Cameron Barr (Tuesday, December 5) was disappointing on a number of levels, and not just because the panel members seemed to be unaware that the public relies on them to secure for us a transparent and accurate count of our votes.

So, here's the report card:

  • Nine members of the committee didn't perceive accuracy and verification of the vote as a priority. For failure to do their duty to ensure voting integrity, the committee gets an F.
  • Cameron W. Barr did not bother to press the committee members who voted against the proposal for an explanation of why they considered it satisfactory to leave in place an easily-hackable, bug-riddled, and unverifiable voting system (or explain why no such explanation was forthcoming). For failing to expose the negligence of the members and better inform the public, Barr gets an F.
  • The editors at The Washington Post were satisfied with this incomplete story, and buried it on page B6. For failing to demand that reporters get the real story, hold officials accountable, and fully inform the public, the WaPo gets an F.

Write to The Washington Post and ask them why they didn't give this story the coverage it deserves - and get an A.

(Via The Brad Blog.)

12:44 GMT

A bunch of stuff

I actually don't think an eight-week fetus has the sensory equipment to need anaesthesia, but the right-wing loony fetal pain bill offers us Reason #4 to send NARAL a Dear John letter: While the measure has provoked strong opposition from Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation, NARAL Pro-Choice America, perhaps the nation's leading abortion rights group, has stayed neutral. Jane Hamsher rips NARAL president Nancy Keenan, and Amanda provides a list of the groups that really deserve your support instead.

In a way, America already has a sort of patchwork national healthcare system, but just in a really expensive, inefficient way.

Boy, that Terrorist Targeting System sure is good.

Joe Vecchio writes to the NYT about the superiority of hand-counted ballots over machines.

V goes to Washington. Via a big, fat, linky post at NewsHog.

At Pacific Views, Mary's father makes the conversion: But one thing being a petroleum geologist did is made my dad a naysayer about global warming. [...] Imagine my surprise when I was visiting my folks during the Thanksgiving holidays to find a copy of Al Gore's book, An Inconvenient Truth, on his end table where he stacks the books he's reading. At first I didn't actually think that he'd changed his mind because he had gotten a copy of Earth in the Balance long ago and he had thought that Gore was missing the big picture. Not any more. He finds Gore's latest book quite credible and was quite impressed with the man who should have been our president. And my dad was finally convinced that global warming was a problem we humans need to deal with now.

Sarah Silverman has a message for Santa: "Give the Jew Girl Toys". (via)

Gazprom City, via Bill Gibson.

FaithStreams Advent Calendar

What you get for your FOIA request.

I noticed something pretty in a shop window so I took a couple of pictures.

02:37 GMT

Tuesday, 05 December 2006

Terrible people

Teresa has a cracking good post over at Making Light called "Why I blog" which is of course about what's really wrong with the Washington press corps, and which links to a whole bunch of other really good posts you ought to read, by Jonathan Schwarz, among others.

And, in related news, Atrios' Wanker of the Day can be found in Glenn Greenwald's post, "Howard Kurtz speaks on Jose Padilla: just some leg shackles for the Dirty Bomber", about how the press acts like this treatment of an American citizen is just, you know, perfectly normal and acceptable and no one should be worried by it.

(PS. Hey, Teresa, check out the Advent calendar that's on the home page at the Doctor Who site at the moment!)

19:36 GMT

The tightrope

I've written from time to time about the narrow path women are expected to walk in public - sexy enough, but not too sexy; professional, but not "afraid to be feminine". Someone once pointed out that women are expected to wear a certain amount of make-up, not out of vanity or an attempt to be more attractive, but to "show willing". And this is true whether it's to go clubbing or to sit at a desk and type. (As near as I can tell, the only way you get out of this is to let your hair go white and your body plump up and dress like your granny.)

Echidne on Running As Woman In Politics:

Women such as Segolene Royal or Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi have to pass a test before they can be taken seriously as politicians, a test which I shall call the Fear Of Insufficient Womanliness Test. This is where the woman must prove that she is still a conventional woman in all the important ways, that the children she has will not suffer if she runs, that her husband won't have to eat frozen dinners, that she will still try to look and act feminine. That doing all this AND being a president or the Speaker or a senator is necessary suggests one reason why so few women bother with politics.

Add to the first test I just discussed the second test these same women must pass, one which I shall call the Fear of Excessive Womanliness Test, and it's no wonder that the number of viable women candidates starts shrinking rapidly. In the second test the woman must prove that she is not at all like any of the worst stereotypes about women, not at all. She is not catty, nosir. She is not overly emotional, nope. She is not weak, a pushover or unable to call for people to be killed if needed. Just imagine if men like Tony Blair or George Bush would have to pass a similar Excessive Manliness Test where they'd have to prove that they won't suddenly go all red-faced and bulgy-eyed with anger, that they won't get carried away with penis-comparisons, that they won't fail to see social cues in the behavior of VIPs from other countries. Just imagine what that would do to the number of men representing Americans in the Congress.

It's hard to imagine, because we see men, especially white men in the U.S., as individuals, not as icons of their sex and/or race, and individuals carry a lot less weight on their shoulders than do walking representatives of a whole sex or race.

(Via CathiefromCanada.)

18:16 GMT

The root of all evil

I was out, sorry. Here's a little bit more of that Greider article on Milton Friedman to give you something to read until I get some coffee and finish the book I'm reading:

His most profound damage, however, was as a moral philosopher. He championed an ethic of unrelenting, unapologetic self-interest that effectively pushed aside human sympathy. In fact, humans' responsibility to one another has been delegitimized--portrayed as an obstacle to the hardheaded analysis that maximizes returns. Friedman explained: "So the question is, do corporate executives, provided they stay within the law, have responsibilities in their business activities other than to make as much money for their stockholders as possible? And my answer to that is, no, they do not."

Pay no attention to the collateral consequences. Your only obligation is to the bottom line. Friedman's message was highly appealing--he promised people a path to freedom--but it triumphed, ultimately, because it served the powerful forces of capital over labor, economic wealth over social concerns. Government was indeed failing on many fronts, especially inflation, and liberalism had no answer. Friedman's answer was alluringly simple. Get rid of government.

People everywhere now understand what Friedman's kind of "freedom" means. America has been brutally coarsened by his success at popularizing this dictum--millions of innocents injured, mutual trust gravely weakened, society demoralized by the hardening terms of life. Most people know in their gut this is wrong but see no easy way to resist it. Friedman's utopia is also drenched in personal corruption. The proliferating scandals in business, finance and government flow directly from his teaching people to go for it and disregard moral qualms. When you tell people in power that their highest purpose in life is to maximize their own returns, there is no limit to how much "good" they will do for the rest of us. I don't recall hearing Friedman express any discomfort. Perhaps he regarded looting and stealing as natural features of capitalism that market forces would eventually correct.

16:58 GMT

Webcrawl catch

A Judge's Sharp Opinion: U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler issued a blunt indictment Friday of the Bush administration's legal handling of prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. Frustrated with the plight of prisoners held without charges for years at the base, Kessler expressed disgust with the federal government's repeated efforts to block courts from hearing detainees' complaints. This is almost funny to read.

Rachel Maddow on another "Leaked" memo (and ABC News' strange way of bylining a story).

Gosh, it's almost like Festivus is some kind of non-right-wing "Freedom Fries".

Krugman, Two More Years: You can understand, if not condone, the way the political and media establishment let itself be browbeaten by Mr. Bush in his post-9/11 political prime. What's amazing is the extent to which insiders still cringe before a lame duck with a 60 percent disapproval rating. [...] Well, here's a question for those who might be tempted, yet again, to shy away from a confrontation with Mr. Bush over Iraq: How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a bully's ego?

Glenn Beck is a racist creep - but whose fault is it that he's on the air?

How Iraq is like a really bad boyfriend.

Another reason why Time should fire Joe Klein.

Thanks to jurassicpork for the link to Greider on Milton Friedman.

Did I mention that Jimmy Carter endorsed Al Gore for President?

Note to Fontana Labs: The age of consent in Canada is 14. The child porn laws in Canada, on the other hand, are truly Draconian - it is illegal to posses any sexual material involving people under the age of 18, even if it is written. That is, a 15-year-old writing about her own legal sexual explorations in her diary has created and is in possession of illegal "child porn", and can be prosecuted for it.

02:30 GMT

Monday, 04 December 2006

Open windows

"Guess It's Not Terror If You're Not Muslim" - Nicole Belle at C&L directs our attention to another piece on The other kind of terror - that is, the kind that America has experienced for a long, long time and which continues to threaten Americans daily - covered by Dave Neiwert at Orcinus. A guy who hates America was convicted last spring of "attempting to obtain a chemical weapon and possession of stolen explosives" was sentenced to 30 years - and it "didn't even make the local paper."

"Why Network Neutrality Will Be Law in 2007" - Jason Pontin in the HuffPo thinks the Democrats will be much better on this issue, but I'm not going to relax, 'cause their record is hardly perfect, and they get money from the telcos.

Presidential historians have a list of the worst American presidents and why they were bad - and now they've acknowledged that not only has Bush done all of those things that made everyone on the list rank among the worst, but he's done them even more than anyone else did. So, yeah, he's the worst president ever, and even the WaPo headline didn't try to hide it. (Mind you, it's only the B section, and on a Sunday, but at least it was the front page of the B section.) (via)

I think the strangest thing about this story is that Rush Limbaugh has a cat. Isn't that the kind of pet that, y'know, queers and women have? Isn't it a kind of, y'know, liberal girly-man sort of pet?

This just grossed me out. (via)

Anyone have a copy of William Greider's "Friedman's Cruel Legacy" from The Nation? I'm always interested in reading about what a disaster Milton Friedman's contribution to economics has been, but the rest of it is behind the pay-wall.

18:48 GMT


Jose Padilla is an American citizen whose name was leaked, along with what now appear to be spurious charges of involvement in a "dirty bomb" plot, by the administration, at a time when they needed to distract and frighten the public again.

Every American schoolchild used to learn that our rights are inalienable - not as American citizens, but as human beings. The purpose of our Constitution was to secure those right to everyone under the jurisdiction of the United States of America, both legally and as a matter of policy. Bush and his apologists first tried to obscure this by insisting that people who weren't American citizens were not entitled to the protections the Constitution grants, then declared a new category called "enemy combatants" that distinguishes such people from human beings. Jose Padilla, an American citizen, was so classified.

Padilla is only slated for trial within the legitimate American legal system because his lawyers' attempts to bring him under due process were about to force a serious challenge to George Bush's illegitimate claims of authority to deprive citizens of such rights. To evade that challenge, they moved him out of their new system to make the case moot.

The claims about the "dirty bomb" plot have vaporized, and the criminal indictment against Padilla contains no reference to it. Moreover, he is not charged with anything that could incur the death penalty or even a life sentence, and the "evidence" against him, such as it is, is so thin that he stands a good chance of acquittal.

But he is so damaged by his treatment at the hands of our government that many experts now argue he is incompetent to stand trial.

In The New York Times, Deborah Sontag describes the video:

"Today is May 21," a naval official declared to a camera videotaping the event. "Right now we're ready to do a root canal treatment on Jose Padilla, our enemy combatant."

Several guards in camouflage and riot gear approached cell No. 103. They unlocked a rectangular panel at the bottom of the door and Mr. Padilla's bare feet slid through, eerily disembodied. As one guard held down a foot with his black boot, the others shackled Mr. Padilla's legs. Next, his hands emerged through another hole to be manacled.

Several guards in camouflage and riot gear approached cell No. 103. They unlocked a rectangular panel at the bottom of the door and Mr. Padilla's bare feet slid through, eerily disembodied. As one guard held down a foot with his black boot, the others shackled Mr. Padilla's legs. Next, his hands emerged through another hole to be manacled.

Wordlessly, the guards, pushing into the cell, chained Mr. Padilla's cuffed hands to a metal belt. Briefly, his expressionless eyes met the camera before he lowered his head submissively in expectation of what came next: noise-blocking headphones over his ears and blacked-out goggles over his eyes. Then the guards, whose faces were hidden behind plastic visors, marched their masked, clanking prisoner down the hall to his root canal.

Gosh, he must be a dangerous man.
In the brig, Mr. Padilla was denied access to counsel for 21 months. Andrew Patel, one of his lawyers, said his isolation was not only severe but compounded by material and sensory deprivations.
One of Mr. Padilla's lawyers, Orlando do Campo, said, however, that Mr. Padilla was a "completely docile" prisoner. "There was not one disciplinary problem with Jose ever, not one citation, not one act of disobedience," said Mr. do Campo, who is a lawyer at the Miami federal public defender's office.

In his affidavit, Mr. Patel said, "I was told by members of the brig staff that Mr. Padilla's temperament was so docile and inactive that his behavior was like that of 'a piece of furniture.'"

Somewhere they came up with the idea that every single person detained by the military as an enemy combatant was not just guilty, he was not even a human being. And so they did this stuff almost as if to make sure the person was not treated as a human being in any way. Perhaps it tested their own assumptions too much if they were seen as people instead of pure personifications of evil.
Glenn Greenwald:
There are punishments as bad as, and in some cases worse than, execution. It takes a truly authoritarian mind -- and a decisively un-American mentality -- to want to vest the power to mete out those punishments in a Leader unburdened by the need to prove guilt.
As commenter kuff6 says in the thread following Glenn's post:
Looks like Room 101 is open for business.

16:23 GMT

American dreaming

The fifth chapter of Sam Seder and Stephen Sherrill's F*U*B*A*R (America's Right-Wing Nightmare), "The New American Dream", begins like this:

Ah, the America Dream, you work hard, play by the rules, you get rich, get a nice house, your kids go to college and do better than you.

Savor those memories. Because those days are gone. That particular dream had a nice run, but the expiration date on it just passed. But don't despair. It's been replaced by a new American dream. And this one's a lot simpler.

We've distilled each of them into a handy chart that should show you the difference:

Old American Dream: get rich.
New American Dream: be rich.
Which is about right. Our form of government was deliberately set up to prevent the rise of a powerful aristocracy, but the neocon/neoliberal flat-earthers, who bear a remarkable resemblance to the people who opposed the Revolution and the Constitution, may very well have won the war against freedom at last.

Bear that in mind when you listen to your leaders telling you why we can't do anything about NAFTA, CAFTA, or King George. We have a lot of damage to undo.

13:20 GMT

In the big swamp

One of the stupid things we have to go through every four years is the specter of Joe Biden running for president, and ending up as a damp squib hardly remembered a few months later. So far, this had been acceptable, but lately it's become too insulting to bear. He voted for the bankruptcy bill and although he made a lot of noise about being against torture early on, he seems to have lost his vigor remarkably quickly. And now he's gone and joined the George Allen/Trent Lott camp it seems, along with cheerleading Republicans to "get back up" after their recent loss. What gets into these people?

Following up my remarks below about Obama, PNH alerts me that Obama is emphatically not in the DLC. While this is reassuring, I still hope he quits having those Sister Soldya-out moments that have been driving so many of us crazy. Not only are they annoying, but he also tends to be wrong when he does it. And for someone who makes a show of being all moral, it would have been nice if he had (a) led on opposition to torture instead of waiting until it was too late to make a difference before making a good speech, and (b) made the moral case against torture along with that pragmatic opposition. At least he didn't vote for the bankruptcy bill (or for cloture). (There was good discussion of this subject in the thread to this post from Hilzoy back in October.)

And, since I'm on the subject, where was Senator Clinton when they held the vote on the bankruptcy bill? [Update: Oh, okay.]

As for Vilsack...Oh, please. Whose idea was that? I mean, why? Not gonna happen, anyway.

02:53 GMT

Sunday, 03 December 2006

A small package of value will come to you, shortly

Beau Bra Reflection padded

Bra of the Week

Frank Rich asks, "Has He Started Talking to the Walls?": It turns out we've been reading the wrong Bob Woodward book to understand what's going on with President Bush. The text we should be consulting instead is The Final Days, the Woodward-Bernstein account of Richard Nixon talking to the portraits on the White House walls while Watergate demolished his presidency.

Josh Marshall spent a little time critiquing an absurd excuse from Stanley Kurtz for why Little George's Iraq Adventure hasn't worked out so well - mainly, because "we" were hamstrung by the fact that so many Americans thought it might not be a good idea in the first place, or that it might make a mess, or some silly thing like that. (You can see that here, here, here, and here.) And while Josh does an able job, of course, Tristero suggests that it's a mistake to address silly people like Kurtz seriously, as if they deserved our respect, when in fact they happen to be out of their tiny little minds.

How Republicans Fight The Minimum Wage

Some great pics in this photoset.

I think I did find this Advent calendar last year, but missed it when looking this year. (via)

22:50 GMT

On the landscape

Wow. Mercury Rising links to a piece in the Observer that exposes an outrageous DEA scandal that "led to Washington and a cover-up that went right to the top" - and is being covered up by the media. It includes, among other things, drug terrorism in west Texas, a series of murders abetted by an informer with the knowledge of his DEA handlers, and a number of George Walker Bush's close associates. Naturally, there's a whistle-blower who was forced to resign. (Early on, when the White House told us we were fighting a "War on Terror", many wags suggested that it would be just as successful as the War on (Some) Drugs, and that seems to understate the case.) I bet all those right-wingers who kept carrying on about Mena Airport have nothing to say about this.

So, it turns out that Rumsfeld admitted that the Iraq policies were not working just two days before he was asked to resign. But, as Juan Cole notes, he's not prescribing a real remedy: Rumsfeld spends more time plotting out how to manipulate the American public than how to win the war. Everything is about spin, about giving the image of progress even in the face of a rapid downward spiral into the abyss.

Digby: If they can use "acid, amnesty and abortion" against the Democrats for thirty years, the Democrats can use "corruption, cronyism and incompetence" against them. Every time they talk about Democrats "taxing and spending" the Democrats should counter with "taxing and stealing." These people have shown over and over again that they will rob the citizens of this country blind and then blame it on black people or single mothers or the working man who didn't happen to be born rich. The Dems have a chance to turn that back on them for a generation if they do this right.

Just a little reminder of who Tom Friedman really is - and why his pronouncements on the wonderfulness of deregulated global monetarism because he cares so much about lifting up the poor of India should be laughed out of the room.

13:18 GMT

Three good things

People are so used to the assumption that "politicians lie" that they seem to have developed a psychosis about it, says paradox at The Left Coaster. (And I'd just like to point out that, in fact, I don't take lying for granted. I've known politicians to soft-peddle some things, not bother to mention certain things, and dress a few things up, but there really are pols who don't make a career of lying. It's just not something we've seen a lot of, lately.)

"The Tom Friedman disease consumes Establishment Washington " - When a reader complained that Glenn Greenwald had been remiss in failing to critique Friedman, Glenn dutifully reviewed Friedman's work and came to the conclusion that the Moustache of Understanding was the very emblem of the psychosis that infests the Hill.

Obama lookin' good on Leno - high likability factor, very relaxed, good sense of humor (appears entirely spontaneous, unscripted - anyone know if he's done those jokes before?). I liked the bit about "like no one outside of New York eats Dijon mustard." The honesty about the pot-smoking comes across as a natural bravery. His affect is firmly American middle-class, easy to identify with. He's positive, smiling, warm, and utterly believable - in other words, great chops. You feel like this guy can win the presidency. Watching him, I want to like him so bad. Want him to be for real. Want to believe that he's learning and growing in the course of the last couple of years, becoming something more than just another pretty face from the DLC. Thinking: It could happen.

03:02 GMT

Saturday, 02 December 2006

Interview with Sam Hamm about scripting The Screwfly Solution

I was pretty surprised when the same guy who wrote the wonderfully political Homecoming for the Masters of Horror series told me he was planning to do Raccoona (Alice) Sheldon's "The Screwfly Solution" next. The very idea of seeing such a thing on television had simply never occurred to me. So, I had to ask....

AC: Homecoming wasn't scary at all, it was mostly hilarious fun using a handy horror trope. Did you make a deliberate decision to go all the way in the other direction in choosing your next project? I mean, Alli Sheldon's stuff is generally pretty upsetting, and "The Screwfly Solution" is one that goes right beneath the skin.

SH: Actually, when Joe Dante first approached me about writing an episode for MASTERS OF HORROR Season I, he was hoping to do "Screwfly" -- a story that had been under his skin, and mine, for quite a few years -- but we were unable to get the rights. In fact, we got brushed off by a couple of authors and authors' estates before we got lucky with Dale Bailey's "Death and Suffrage." The positive critical response to HOMECOMING gave our intrepid MOH producers a handy bargaining chip when they undertook a second round of negotiations with the Tiptree/Sheldon estate.

So I'd have to say the tonal switch is more accidental than deliberate. You're correct to say that HOMECOMING is fundamentally a comedy (albeit one that violates the classical definition of comedy, because all the lead characters die): apart from the obvious satire, it does offer a happy ending of sorts, and the prospect of justice being done -- which is probably the most fantastical element in the show. But even in HOMECOMING we made every effort to follow the horror-movie convention of a scare and/or gross-out effect every eight minutes or so. The gag structure of comedies and the shock structure of horror movies are more or less congruent, which is one reason the two genres can be blended together successfully. Pornography is another close relative. But that's a topic for another discussion.

I wouldn't say that the scares in SCREWFLY are necessarily scarier, per se, than the scares in HOMECOMING. It's just that the surrounding material is so much grimmer. There's no consolation. You know? They call it comic relief for a reason.

AC: How hard was it to write this script, given that there is so much in the story that jabs at some open wounds in the relationship between the sexes? It seems it might have been very emotionally taxing to have to think about those things.

SH: The script was very hard to write, and I hope the full misery of the experience comes through to the viewer. Just kidding, ha ha. Only not really. Ha fucking ha.

For readers who are not familiar with Alice Sheldon / Raccoona Sheldon / James Tiptree, Jr.'s original story, I should point out that "The Screwfly Solution" is a tale of virally-transmitted misogyny, its obvious (or perhaps not so obvious) point being that violence against women is violence against humanity. There's a plague, of unspecified origin, that affects only men; once you're infected, sexual attraction manifests itself as sheer aggression. The result is an epidemic of "femicide."

Once the plague is underway, "ordinary" male behavior becomes much harder to read. Bad temper, bad manners, condescension, unwanted sexual attention, etc., etc. -- another harmless case of "boys will be boys," or a symptom of incipient homicidal rage? Our ostensible hero, Jason Priestly, starts out as a "good feminist," but his natural, and genuine, goodwill eventually gives way to -- well, it's not exactly biological determinism. Let's call it a Higher Power.

So in the course of the piece you get to see the full spectrum of hostility toward women -- sexism, overt and subtle. There are moments of over-the-top hey-baby-nice-hooters sexual harassment by construction workers, and of course it's easy to distance yourself from those guys, who are stupid and crass. But then we start to see little eruptions of hostility from the nice guys too, and we have to wonder: is this everyday behavior, the sort of boys-will-be-boys stuff we're mostly conditioned to accept as normal, or is the virus taking over? Are we seeing the first symptoms of full-blown virulent misogyny? Every aspect of male-female relations becomes tainted by context. And the drag of it is, there's no release at the end. We follow Ms. Sheldon's logic to its bleak conclusion. Now Joe and I are good feminists, like our hero, and we believe in rapprochement between the sexes, and do everything we can to encourage it; we're sweet-natured and respectful of women and big fun on dates (which is irrelevant, since neither of us will ever have another date after Dec. 8). We don't actually believe that men are irredeemable, and we especially don't like to contemplate the possibility that there is some sort of surly misogynistic brute deep down inside us, lurking behind all those layers of wit, charm, and sophistication. But that's exactly what this little thought experiment required. In some weird gender-inverted way it was like being Andrea Dworkin for six weeks. Six long weeks.

The other issue we were dealing with, which is unavoidable in the horror genre, was trying to stay on the right side of that fuzzy line that separates analysis from exploitation. We knew going in that a large portion of our audience would be tuning in to see what the network executives used to call "women in jep," and had probably not read their Carol Clover and their Angela Carter as closely as they should have; in fact, we used to joke that, if there were such a thing as viral misogyny, horror movies would be the perfect transmission vector. And our producers were kinda shocked when sunny, good-hearted Joe Dante turned in such a dark, rough episode. Guys carving up strippers? Gun-toting hunters chasing terrified chicks through the woods -- with beagles, yet? Damn, you'd almost think you were watching an episode of Masters of Horror. But of course, that's part of the interrogation process that the show, if it's working, ought to invite. Male viewers! Why exactly did you tune in for this gorefest? Do you find the prospect of viewing violence against women amusing? -- titillating? -- erotic? Female viewers! Does that lump on the sofa next to you find this sort of stuff amusing? -- titillating? -- erotic? And if so, what's up with that?

We hope we've got the balance right, but as that famous wag J-L Godard once quipped, the only artistically valid propaganda is the kind that runs the risk of making converts to the wrong side.

AC: The country is being run by people who seem not unsympathetic to the religious views that emerge from the "solution" - did that affect your own feelings of horror as you were working on it?

SH: I'll toss out a brief quote from Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion, in which he discusses the evolutionary survival value of the human predisposition toward religion -- or more exactly, the notion that religion is a byproduct of other, more useful traits: "Natural selection builds child brains with a tendency to believe whatever their parents and tribal elders tell them. Such trusting obedience is valuable for survival . . . . But the flip side of trusting obedience is slavish gullibility. The inevitable by-product is vulnerability to infection by mind viruses . . . The child cannot know that 'Don't paddle in the crocodile-infested Limpopo' is good advice, but 'you must sacrifice a goat at the time of the full moon, otherwise the rains will fail' is at best a waste of time and goats." Later on in the same book he wonders: "Could irrational religion be a by-product of the irrationality mechanisms that were originally built into the brain by selection for falling in love?"

So Mr. Dawkins might argue that humankind is already in the grasp of a pernicious mental virus that, among its other virtues, codifies and perpetuates sexism in most of its nastier manifestations. I would never make that argument myself. Coming from me it would seem glib and impertinent.

What scares me most about the religious right is the extent to which it's become, politically speaking, an authoritarian personality cult. John Dean writes at length about the mindset in Conservatives Without Conscience -- the need to submit to, and thereby come under the protection of, a powerful leader: the craving for "moral clarity"; the complete subjugation of the individual to the group; the ferociously-guarded unwillingness to recognize, much less admit, the leader's fallibility. You see all this encapsulated in the documentary Jesus Camp, when small children are taught to prostrate themselves before a cardboard cutout of George W. Bush.

And the authoritarians in the White House, some of whom are certainly aware that a fundamentalist is a sap by definition, have been extremely canny in their appeal to the weak-minded. (D'you think they've read Dawkins?) Close to thirty percent of Americans are willing to sign off on lies, incompetence, torture, bogus wars, the wholesale shredding of the Bill of Rights, and other transparently non-Christian activities because they know in their hearts that George Bush -- who believes, as they do, in the imminence of Armageddon and the turpitude of queers -- is God's lieutenant. No need to evaluate the individual policy. If Maximum Leader wants to do it, it's ipso facto good.

Religion is always at its most powerful when it validates the unwholesome prejudices of the devout. In the South Carolina state senate, during the secession debates, there was much florid rhetoric about the moral righteousness of the Peculiar Institution. The future fathers of the Confederacy genuinely expected the entire civilized world to rally behind their cause, because -- as anyone who owned a copy of the Good Book could tell you -- God himself sanctioned slavery.

And you know what? They were right. He did. So go back and read through all of Mosaic law. If your bride is not a virgin, to cite one example, God wants you to stone her. Are you 100% certain he doesn't want you to go out and murder every woman who arouses your lustful instincts?

The US premiere is on Showtime Friday, Dec. 8.

19:06 GMT

Stuff to check out

Joshua Scheer interviews Rep. Dennis Kucinich about healthcare - Our present commercial system requires massive (and expensive) bureaucracy and adds enormous costs to that because it is a for-profit system. Kucinich and John Conyers have a bill in Congress called "Medicare for All" that has the support so far of only 75 House members. You might want to call your own representative and ask whether they are supporting it.

"Protect the Vote Locally" - We've been seeing electoral abuses and manipulations since the Bush Administration took power. [...] To prevent similar future abuses, Illinois Senator Barack Obama's Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act would make it a felony to deliberately give misleading information on the time, date or location of elections, or about voter eligibility. New Jersey Congressman and former Princeton physicist Rush Holt has offered the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act, which mandates a verifiable paper trail for all election machines, requires random audits to insure ballots are properly counted and bans wireless connections to make machines less vulnerable to hacking. Holt's bill had the support of a majority of House members even before the midterm election, and should have an irrefutable additional argument with the meltdown of the machines in the Jennings/Buchanan race--not to mention the inability of Republicans to do comprehensive recounts in states like Virginia, where most machines lacked a paper trail. An even stronger alternative would be Dennis Kucinich's HB 6200, which would require paper ballots to be hand-counted at the precinct level.

You can watch this discussion about blogging between Atrios, Peter Daou, Ana Marie Cox, and Micah Silfry, moderated by Jeff Jarvis, from the other day (skip to the three-minute mark to avoid the intro). Since I didn't watch it live, I couldn't pipe in to point out that there were several different goals in supporting the Lamont campaign, and though it would have been delightful to simply get Lieberman out of the Senate and replace him with a promising legislator who hadn't been bought, we still won. We won because we made it clear that Joe Lieberman doesn't really represent Democrats. He'd been showing contempt for Democrats for some time - making a career of it, in fact - and the fact that he lost the primary actually made Democrats look better, not worse. This is a good thing. Lieberman has been an alienating presence on the national scene, and letting people know that he is no favorite of ours was great PR. It also put the fear of The People into some pols who had lost that fear. And that's a very good thing.

Barney Frank versus Bill O'Reilly at C&L. (And someday we really must talk about "Draconian taxation" so people like O'Reilly can't keep using it as a gotcha question.)

12:47 GMT

From the Infobahn

John Ikenberry: Now is the time for an honest post mortem of Bush foreign policy. Bush foreign policy has failed not just because of incompetence or bad luck in Iraq. The entire intellectual edifice of Bush foreign policy - such as it is - is deeply flawed. And let's be clear. The Bush administration's grand strategy is not simply a variation on earlier postwar liberal internationalist grand strategies - as some conservatives and liberals suggest. It was a radical departure from America's postwar liberal hegemonic orientation - and the world has bitten back.

Chris Bowers is talking about The Importance of Generation Y only in the context of voting demographics, but it's a point I've raised a few times in relation to discussions of Social Security, and I want people to remember it: The claim in support of the proposed failure of Social Security is that there will not be enough people in the workforce to support the baby-boomers when they retire, because the baby-boom generation was the largest ever known. But that's no longer true; Generation Y is just as big.

Who is this "everybody" who Chris Farrell claims agrees that we need to do things like raise the retirement age to "solve" the Social Security "problem"? And, what, exactly, do they think this "problem" is?

I think it's Thom Hartmann who was saying we should always refer to it as the Republican depression. Anyway, here it is, in color.

Explain this to me: They carted all those nasty, funny-colored poor people out of New Orleans. So they are all somewhere else, right? So how come now crime in N'awlins has risen so much that it's become The "Most Murderous" City in America?

At The Daily Howler, Bob Somerby reminds us that Froomkin and Yglesias are both forgetting that it's not just that the press doesn't call BS on politicians, it's that they also generate the BS.

Take the citizenship test. (Some questions anticipate next January 20th.) By the way, Cheney flunked the test.

03:08 GMT

Friday, 01 December 2006

Any time now...

I have spent most of the day telling myself I would do things in a few minutes, and never getting around to any of them.

Demosthenes explains why the Washington press corps says anything Bush wants them to say (and with a great deal more economy than I did in "How you became crazy"). Also, a warning about why the Kiddy Porn Angle really is the thin end of the wedge (and why we should all want ISPs to have common carrier status).

"Throwing Good Money After Bad" - Jim Macdonald with the latest installment in the long childhood of George Walker Bush.

Charles Dodgson thinks about Iraq ... and Riverbend, who hasn't been heard from in nearly a month, again.

Your Talking Dog has interviewed the lovely Michael Bérubé, and also writes about the "non-finding findings and non-recommendation recommendations" of the Iraq Study Group.

Quiddity on The Tom Friedman solution (and more here from Chris Floyd).

Fox News uncovers a liberal plot against Fox News.

22:14 GMT

Avedon's war on Bill O'Reilly's war on Christmas

In my continuing effort to fight the cold and dark by making Christmas-Solstice-whatever last as long as possible, I'm going along with the apparent tradition in Advent calendars that don't start on Advent, but rather on the first day of December, with my first seasonal post.

To get started, a little music: "The Carol of the Bells".

The following Advent calendars all start today, so I might as well post them now:

Episcopal Diocese of Washington Advent Calendar

North Pole Advent Calendar

Woodlands Junior School Advent Calendar

Religion & Ethics Advent Calendar
Radio 3 Bach Christmas Advent Calendar
Leicester Faith Advent Calendar

And also: Auntie Beeb's Christmas recipes

15:23 GMT

Fighting for America

Keith Olbermann had a nice, passionate defense of the American ideal and free speech against Newt Gingrich. (Remember when Gingrich was the hero of all those silly little libertoonians who thought Republicans were going to protect their freedoms?)

Two from Glenn Greenwald, on "Rule of Law 101 and Neoconservatism" (or why Lanny Davis is still a jerk), and "The Bush administration and denial of habeas corpus and due process rights" (or a case study in not having rights).

Joe Vecchio in support of the Popular Vote Initiative.

"What Union Members Understand" - This should get passed around a lot.

13:33 GMT

Still there'll be more

Jimmy Carter wrote a book called Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. So now the Dems have to try to rebut him.

And apparently no one told Pelosi how important progressives were to her Speakership, and the unions, and how everyone is finally beginning to admit that Rubinomics was a mistake.

My brother-in-law had to pound the pavement looking for a job when he graduated law school. Now, you might say it was because black lawyers just don't get good grades, but I think it probably has something to do with the fact that there's a lot of racism going on at law firms. Since my brother-in-law graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School, I don't think the problem was his grades.

I've been thinking all along that Iraq is actually worse than Vietnam, for a number of reasons. Josh has another one.

Josh also concludes that "the cardinals of DC punditry are constitutionally incapable of believing that George W. Bush has ever -- in the real sense -- gotten anything wrong or that they, the Washington establishment, has gotten anything wrong over the last six years." But Sirota just says "The Sociopaths That Have Taken Over the Op-Ed Pages." And Froomkin says it's time for them all to start calling BS - but I don't think they know how.

Peter Whoriskey suggests another reason why votes are missing in Florida - confusing ballot design. But that, too, is a well-known method of messing up people's votes.

Oliver Willis' statement on the linkage between himself and Jessica Alba.

I dedicate this song to the "centrists" and the punditocracy.*

03:56 GMT

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, December 2006

November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
Is the media in denial?
Back to front page

And, no, it's not named after the book or the movie. It's just another sideshow.

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by