The Sideshow

Archive for February 2003

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Friday, 28 February 2003

14:05 GMT: Permalink

In case you haven't noticed, Teresa Nielsen Hayden is back and blogging, and has an obervation:

Over the years I’ve seen way too many people—aspiring authors, e-publishing entrepreneurs, other wanna-bes—who not only don’t understand how the publishing industry works, but who are unaware that they don’t understand it, and who resist all attempts at enlightment.

My theory is that this invincible ignorance is a function of the ease with which one can construct a model of how publishing ought to work. This model will be simple and logical. It may even be elegant. Unfortunately, the way publishing actually works is so unintuitive that entry-level newbies need six months to a year of immersion training before they start to have a reliable grasp of it. Trade publishing is neither simple nor elegant. Its only virtue is that most of the time it works.

Anyway, it’s that seductively logical model that keeps people from assimilating the fact that they don’t understand how the industry works.

(This is either a digression or illustration: The trade publishing universe has a constantly shifting population of production and editorial freelancers. Some are between in-house jobs, or combine freelancing work with part-time in-house work; others are career freelancers. Basically, they’re an available pool of talented and experienced labor: editorial ronin.

Now: Remember all those e-publishing and POD startups that flourished during the dotcom boom? Hundreds of millions of dollars in startup capital, heaps of employees, painful-to-recall announcements about how they were going to remake publishing? Most of ‘em now worth about as much as a burnt-out match?

Unless you want to count a couple of former editorial assistants, office juniors, who wound up working at Simon & Schuster Interactive (which is stretching things on both counts), I know of no one with any industry experience who was hired or even approached by any of the dotcom-boom publishing startups.)

There's a lot of that going around. I've complained before about the huge influx of owners and managers over the last 20-some years in almost every field who seem to place no value on - indeed, seem unaware of - the history and lore of the industries they are now controlling. These people, in turn, hire others who are similarly ignorant and all too often so oblivious to the way things work that don't even try the novice trick of reinventing the wheel, because they don't see the value in having the wheel in the first place. That is, they get rid of existing practices that work for the industry, without understanding (or caring) why those practices were in place, and then they implement new practices that confound the goals and efficiency of the organizations they run.

A lot of people latched on to 'net publishing as a business thinking they could start fresh and ignore everything that has been learned in centuries of publishing because the Internet presented a whole new paradigm that simply threw out all the old knowledge, by-passed it completely. If you look at a lot of the discussion of other aspects of social organization, such as civil liberties as related to the 'net, you see much of the same thing - people who indulged the fantasy that the Internet made all discussion and activism with regard to free speech and privacy obsolete.

But none of it was true. The connective nature of the 'net may make it impossible to completely eliminate something that has already been written and posted, but it doesn't change the fact that the author is vulnerable to repressive government. (And the fact that you can easily change fonts and colors doesn't mean you should have multiple fonts and colors on a single page, either. It still looks crummy and hard to read. And spell-checkers are not an adequate substitute for copy-editors and proof-readers.)

But it's worse than just a huge influx of amateurish people with delusions of expertise. With our top Ivy League business schools teaching students that the goal is personal wealth rather than competent business management, what we've seen is an invasion of out-and-out pirates taking over formerly successful enterprises and tearing them to pieces. The instruction your young MBA receives is simple: Get in, make your personal fortune in three years, and get out before you have to take responsibility for the damage you've done to the organization in pursuit of lining your own pockets.

Note that three years is well within the window of opportunity for even the most appallingly incompetent one-term POTUS.

13:39 GMT: Permalink
Zogby poll results on Iraq are...interesting. Pay attention to this question in particular: "In your view, what poses the greater danger to the US, is it North Korea, Iraq, Al Qaeda, or some other international country or force?" (But also note that support for the invasion goes down if your son or daughter have to go to Iraq to fight.)

The Draft Gore movement wants help from the blogosphere since the illiberal media is giving them little notice. I have to say it really irritates me that no one seems to be asking Al's opinion about anything lately.

I found a weblog called Small Flashes in my referrer list. It has some interesting pieces on the war and voting machines and other things.

Thursday, 27 February 2003

12:15 GMT: Permalink

Michael Tomasky takes a look at What the media doesn't get about Howard Dean:

Former Gov. Howard Dean (D-Vt.) was the winner by TKO of the first major Democratic beauty pageant, held at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters over the weekend. "He just blew those people away," said Joe Klein on Face The Nation. "It was one of the most effective speeches I've ever seen a candidate give." Klein has seen a speech or two in his life and tends to choose his words with analytic care, so if he says it, it's believable. Besides, virtually everybody else is saying the same thing.
But the media sees him as unelectable. I don't think so. But then, the media really treats Democrats as altogether unelectable - and worse, the Democrats have been treating themselves that way, which hasn't helped. One of Dean's virtues is that he just doesn't accept that helplessness.

An interesting side-note in the same column:

Multilateral, in Bush's Washington, has become a dirty word, despite the fact that most Americans consistently support multilateralism. I wonder how these same Americans would regard the news that last week, during a World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, the Bush administration unilaterally shot down a long-sought agreement to allow poor nations to buy pharmaceuticals at cut-rate prices. [...]

The WTO's 144 member nations had agreed in Qatar in 2001 to loosen patent laws so that poor countries could buy cheap versions of pharmaceuticals capable of treating a broad range of diseases. Last December the Bush administration backed out. Guess which industry donated $60 million to the Republican Party in the last elections? After a stink was raised by member nations, Bush trade rep Robert Zoellick offered a "compromise" that was, in the words of The Wall Street Journal, "essentially a unilateral implementation of the American negotiating position." And the reason I quote the Journal? It was the only major American newspaper to cover the story.

11:39 GMT: Permalink
Max explains WHY A RIGHT-WINGER CAN'T BE A POPULIST. You should definitely read this if you haven't already.

Liberal Oasis interviews Greg Palast.

Caught on Film - Bush versus reality.

Press corps finally can't keep a straight face, Laughs at Ari!

Rittenhouse Review is disgusted with The Washington Post.

Senate Democrats finally say what's as plain as the nose on my face: Bush has a "credibility gap".

Wednesday, 26 February 2003

23:13 GMT: Permalink

Blair on shakey ground

Both major parties are split, and the Liberal Democrats are united against the war. Scuttlebutt is that if it came to a real vote on invasion, many people who voted with Blair tonight would not do so again. Frank Dobson (former Labour MP, once Tony Blair's candidate for Mayor of London) made a strong speech opposing invasion. No government has had so much resistance within its own party in a hundred years. Says Auntie Beeb:

Tony Blair's position on Iraq suffered a setback on Wednesday as his government's motion sparked the biggest rebellion of his premiership. An estimated 122 Labour backbenchers lined up to vote against the government.

A total of 199 MPs from all parties backed an amendment to the motion in which they said the case for war had not been proven.

Though the amendment itself was defeated, it's significant that many loyal supporters of the Blair government are now opposing the invasion openly. Chris Smith, a former Blair cabinet minister, said:

We must say here today in this chamber that now is not the time, that the case has yet to be fully made, and that war and all its consequences cannot be the present answer.
Kenneth Clark, one of Margaret Thatcher's cabinet Ministers, said that the next time a bomb goes off in a western city, or the next time s secular government is replaced by Muslim extremists, we will have to ask ourselves whether the push for invasion is responsible.

18:19 GMT: Permalink
About that oil...

Charles Kuffner may have detected a flaw in the popular wisdom:

I haven't seen anyone blog about this Salon article, which rather surprises me. The article discusses why Big Oil really doesn't want war with Iraq, at least not now. A lot of the points this article makes are quite sensible when you think about it: We don't need to go to war to free up Iraqi oil, we could simply drop our sanctions against Iraq instead. Given that the US is easily the biggest consumer of oil, it hurts Iraq a lot more than it hurts us for their oil to be unavailable to us. Most critically from the point of view of US oil producers, once Iraqi oil is freely available on the world market, the price will go down as the supply has increased.

This doesn't mean that the United States doesn't have a vested interest in securing Iraq's oil. There's a whole lot of oil in Iraq, and it's certainly in our long term economic interests to have that oil be under the control of a government that's not as loony and despotic as the current one.
Yes, the one country which will undoubtedly profit from an invasion of Iraq is none other than France, that beacon of Old European obstinacy. One can only wonder if their stubbornness and threatened Security Council veto isn't actually part of an elaborate scheme to strengthen Bush's resolve and possibly whip up American support for an invasion. Since everyone knows that anything the French oppose must be good for America, the best way for them to facilitate an invasion and thus reap the eventual rewards is to appear to be blocking our every step. It's a rope-a-dope strategy that's as brilliant in its audacity as it is in its subtlety. I can't believe Stephen den Beste hasn't already written 50,000 words on it.

15:09 GMT: Permalink
Politics as unusual

It's long been obvious that the W-Team doesn't recognize any obligation to be truthful on their part, but the press finally seems to be noticing it. Here's Dana Milbank this week in The Washington Post:

For those who argue that President Bush's support for limiting jury awards has nothing to do with politics, a complication has emerged: His top political adviser, Karl Rove, has taken credit for the issue.

In an interview for a book published this week, Rove claimed responsibility for talking Bush into the subject of "tort reform" when he was packaging Bush for the 1994 Texas gubernatorial race.

"The two issues, education and juvenile justice, were on his agenda list," Rove told Wayne Slater and Jim Moore in an interview for their book, "Bush's Brain." Rove, noting Bush's interests in "compassionate conservatism" and "faith-based institutions," said: "Later, we added tort reform. I sort of talked him into that one."

Though Bush has said a civil liability revamp, specifically his plan to limit medical malpractice awards, "is not a Republican issue, it's not a Democrat issue," Rove's claim of paternity suggests otherwise. As Slater and Moore write, Rove was then a consultant to Philip Morris, an advocate for tort reform.

As part of his work for the tobacco company, Rove in 1996 provided advice on a "push poll" to see how best to damage then-Texas Attorney General Dan Morales, who was threatening to sue the tobacco industry. Rove presented a copy of the findings to Bush's office.

Rove's claim of responsibility for the tort reform issue is somewhat at odds with a deposition he gave during the tobacco lawsuit. Asked whether he discussed overhauling civil liability law with then-Gov. Bush, he replied: "I can't say that I did. But I can't say that I didn't. I do not recall. I know that tort reform was a significant part of his legislative agenda but it was not my area."

Of course, this is one of the lesser lies of this administration, but it's significant that Milbank is actually prepared to nibble around the edges of Rove's credibility. This is the same Dana Milbank who just knew that Al Gore was a liar (despite a lack of evidence) but who had been unable to notice the howling whoppers that came out of the Bush campaign throughout 2000 and set the tone for the even more egregious mendacity that has been emanating from the White House ever since they were installed.

The White House has had a difficult time staying "on message" with Bush's proposed $670 billion tax cut. The president's own economists have contradicted his and other aides' assertions that the cut would pay for itself and that deficits do not increase interest rates. Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan has raised doubts. And now, a survey of private economists has accused Bush of misrepresentation.

On Thursday, Bush implied that the private economists who participate in the "Blue Chip" forecast had based their estimates on his tax plan, saying his proposal "makes sense when analyzed by the economists behind the Blue Chip forecasts."

The survey's editor, Randell Moore, called the White House to complain that Bush "made it sound as if Blue Chip economic forecasters had endorsed his plan." The economists had assumed only that some generic stimulus would pass.

Newsday ran a headline shouting, "Editor: Bush Cited Report That Doesn't Exist." Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) said Bush is "making up imaginary supporters."

Not that making things up is a new thing for Bush - this is, we must remember, the same guy who unashamedly proposed and implemented budget policies that defied simple mathematics (while denying those policies in public debate), and now he is lying us into war - into invading another country principally so that he and his pals can run it themselves rather than having to deal with their former designated middle-man.

A lot of people hedge their criticism of Bush's invasion plans with the admission that it's possible the administration knows something we don't know - something they can't tell us - that might actually justify their urgency to get the bloodbath started. But as each new piece of information comes to light, the suggestion appears to be that they do know something we don't know, but it's something that actually contradicts any reason to invade. Here's on the latest, from MSNBC:

Newsweek reports, "Hussein Kamel, the highest-ranking Iraqi official ever to defect from Saddam Hussein's inner circle, told CIA and British intelligence officers and U.N. inspectors in the summer of 1995 that after the gulf war, Iraq destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons stocks and the missiles to deliver them... Kamel was Saddam Hussein's son-in-law and had direct knowledge of what he claimed: for 10 years he had run Iraq's nuclear, chemical, biological and missile programs... Kamel's revelations about the destruction of Iraq's WMD stocks were hushed up by the U.N. inspectors, sources say, for two reasons. Saddam did not know how much Kamel had revealed, and the inspectors hoped to bluff Saddam into disclosing still more. And Iraq has never shown the documentation to support Kamel's story. Still, the defector's tale raises questions about whether the WMD stockpiles attributed to Iraq still exist." Bush has LIED to the world - stop the war and impeach Bush now!
Gee, and here I was at least assuming that the Bushistas might know Saddam had something because Cheney sold it to him.

Meanwhile, Bush's proud "coalition of the willing" turns out to be a coalition of the bribed and blackmailed, much as I've suspected all along. Britain's price hasn't made the US press, but Rumsfeld's reaction to Germany is eerily parallel to what Greg Palast says Blair was threatened with by the Bushies after the 2000 Selection. As far as I can tell, there is no one outside of Ariel Sharon who just plain thinks invading Iraq is a good idea - or who would be willing to support the invasion even if Bush wasn't bribing or blackmailing them into going along with it.

So we've got Bush emptying the treasury, installing an anti-civil libertarian theocracy, over-extending our military, alienating our allies.... If anyone doesn't believe we can "win" a war with Iraq that is ultimately a humiliating defeat for America, they just haven't been paying attention.

This leads me to another question: You remember all those jokes we had last year about how "If X happens, the terrorists have won"? Well, now I'm becoming curious. Just exactly what are the conditions under which the terrorists will have lost? I don't think turning the US into a repressive theocracy and attacking Osama's enemies qualifies as a defeat for him.

13:20 GMT: Permalink
Tech help?

This is probably a question for someone in the UK who uses Demon, but I'm not having much luck getting the laptop to work. It may be a waste of time - the thing really is too old and slow - but I can't seem to get it to connect to Demon's evening & weekend surftime number, and I don't know why. I had no trouble connecting to the Sideshow provider, no trouble creating a new connection for the account that holds We Want the Airwaves!, and no trouble getting the old Demon "purple" number - but surftime just won't fly. There's just no way I can afford to stay connected without surftime. So maybe this whole laptop thing just isn't gonna work.

But even if I can figure out how to keep using my desktop during The Ordeal, (which I'd much prefer), I'd still like to know if I can get the laptop to work for surftime, for when I'm travelling inside the UK. So if anyone has any ideas about how to fix this, I'd much appreciate the advice.

Tuesday, 25 February 2003

12:05 GMT: Permalink

'Splain me this

Something's been bothering me for a while. Now, I want you to understand that I really love The West Wing, I think it's a neat show, and I love the Bartlett character in particular, but I keep waiting for it to be what everyone says it is - a liberal show - and I haven't seen any evidence of it yet. In fact, in almost every case where issues are discussed, the conservative case is the only one that's ever made - and it frequently wins.

Over here, broadcast television got the show a lot later than the US did - we've just reached the point where an independent prosecutor has been appointed (and Donna met a Republican for a blind date) - and Bartlett was a real wish-fulfillment fantasy in the wake of the appointment of Bush to the White House. At first, it seemed like it might be okay when Bartlett stared-down some guy who wanted to pass an amendment to the Constitution to prohibit flag-burning, but that was a relatively minor victory. What was more worrying was that Donna spent an entire episode following Josh around and demanding to know why she couldn't have her $400 back. That was an argument for lowering taxes, and at no time did Josh ever explain why it wasn't a good one. In fact, his line on the matter was, "Because we're Democrats."

In later episodes, the policy boys continually lose political arguments over issues to the cute blond not-Ann-Coulter character - who not only shames one of them on television, but actually changes his mind. I'm still waiting to see the episode (if there is one) in which a liberal position actually comes out on top of the debate rather than just beating the process. Okay, the show is about operations more than about issues, but if the right-wing positions are the only ones that ever get to win the real argument, I'm seeing politics, and they ain't liberal.

In the storyline we're presently seeing, CJ is attempting to manipulate events to replace the reasonable prosecutor who is investigating Bartlett with someone who will be perceived by the public as partisan and nasty - perhaps a cute joke on Sorkin's part, but in no way parallel to the outrageously corrupt process of back-room dealing among Republicans by which an honest prosecutor was replaced with Ken Starr. Oh, yes, and whatever you may think of public lying about a candidate's health, Bartlett is actually being investigated for something he did, rather than something that was invented by the RNC. Yeah, it's fiction, and it would be difficult to portray a truth that is so much more sinister than fiction in an engaging way, but still....

True, given the current Republican leadership, you could almost identify as "liberal" anything that didn't qualify as "completely insane", but this really isn't good enough for me - I prefer to identify loonies as loonies and mainstream as mainstream, and so far, on issues, The West Wing has tended to give a fair shake only to issues that are to the right of the mainstream.

So I guess this means the show is "liberal" because the Democratic Party controls the White House. But, c'mon, let's be honest: that still has nothing to do with being liberal. After all, even Zell Miller is a Democrat.

11:45 GMT: Permalink
Prosecutors See Limits to Doubt in Capital Cases

Judge Laura Denvir Stith seemed not to believe what she was hearing.

A prosecutor was trying to block a death row inmate from having his conviction reopened on the basis of new evidence, and Judge Stith, of the Missouri Supreme Court, was getting exasperated. "Are you suggesting," she asked the prosecutor, that "even if we find Mr. Amrine is actually innocent, he should be executed?"

Frank A. Jung, an assistant state attorney general, replied, "That's correct, your honor."

That exchange was, legal experts say, unusual only for its frankness.

(Via Metafilter.)

The word we have for killing innocent people is "murder". If our legal system places abstract notions of procedure above protecting lives, it needs one hell of an overhaul.

Monday, 24 February 2003

22:28 GMT: Permalink

I usually try not to wonder about the ten bucks I might have made by now if I'd had a Paypal thingy up top, or the books and records I might have if I were posting an wish list. But then I see something like this and wonder if I'm out of my mind. I mean, hell, I don't even have a DVD player. I'd say, "Just send large checks," but they probably wouldn't be large enough, since last time I looked my bank takes a charge of nine pounds out of any dollar check it cashes for me. (Of course, if you're really feeling that generous, the contact details are here. Sterling travellers checks are nice.)

But now I know I will be completely housebound for a few weeks in April after my eye surgery, so feel free to send me books, or even volunteer a day or two of baby-sitting me if you're around London.

But then, Atrios is doing some pretty important stuff, so go read him, and send him money, and at least that way I'll have his site to read on my ancient laptop with doinky modem.

22:07 GMT: Permalink
What really gets me about this creep Michael Savage isn't Savage himself, but the fact that MSNBC gave him a TV show but not, say, Eric Alterman. Jeez, I'd even think seriously about getting cable for that. But instead we get this guy:

But there's more to Savage than the sum of his hateful quotes. Known before his radio career began as Michael A. Weiner, he's also an ethnobotanist with a Ph.D. from the University of California who wrote a number of books about natural healing and nutritional supplements with titles like "Herbs That Heal." Savage became an author after he failed to get an academic position, a result he blames in his book on affirmative action and his status as a white male: "For here I was, a 'manchild in the promised land,' denied my birthright for matters of race."
Nevermind. I'm reading Alterman's What Liberal Media. So far, it's good, but I'm not really that far in. I'll let you know.

14:19 GMT: Permalink
I am relieved to see that Epicycle now has permalinks for each day's entry, so now I can link directly to this one:

Interesting news at CNN of a new study showing that it can be surprisingly easy to implant false memories in some people. In a recent test at UC Irvine, more than a third of the subjects claimed clear memories of hugging Bugs Bunny at Disneyland (impossible, as Bugs is not a Disney character) having had the idea subtly suggested to them in earlier interviews. One of the keys, it seems, is to associate some sensory impression with the "memory". Mentioning a taste, sound, smell or, in this case, the feel of stroking Bugs' fluffy ears, when the information is supplied seems to greatly increase the chance of it being accepted subconsciously as a genuine experience. "If you imbue the story with them", says psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, "you'll disrupt the memory process. It's almost a recipe to get people to remember things that aren't true."

It's nothing very new, I suppose, and has always been one of my standard explanations for UFO phenomena and other paranormal and religious experiences, but I'm glad to see that researchers are still active in the field. I can still vividly remember the Orkney ritual abuse debacle in the early nineties, and it's quite clear that the authorities and the media have learnt little from all the analysis and discussion that has taken place since - until terrorism drove everything else out of the news, the witch-hunt for the less-Satanic types of paedophile was becoming depressingly familiar...

Aside from having spoken directly with some of the victims of "the Orkney ritual abuse debacle", I also once had the misfortune to see someone close to me become taken with the "my father sexually abused me" fad with no evidence, after being in contact with some "survivor" people and reading all their standard texts. Having read the books, she started having nightmares that played out the scenarios described therein, and was convinced that these dreams represented suppressed memories. Why had she gotten hooked up with this crowd? Well, I'm sure the fact that her life hadn't turned out as well as she'd expected had a lot to do with it. So now that she was in her 40s and the world had stopped going her way, it had to be the result of some weird suppressed memory. And how convenient to fall in with a bunch of people who ascribe such failures to things that, by definition, you don't remember.

My own childhood was far from ideal, and though I can trace some of the mistakes I've made in adulthood to stupid things my parents did when I was a kid, I know it's way too late to leave the responsibility with them; if I'm going to survive, I'm just going have to figure out how to do it myself, or else get very lucky. (Hell, even if I could prove in court that my parents were rubbish, it wouldn't fix anything, so why bother?) My folks were doing the best they knew how, even though a lot of what they knew was wrong.

But while their mother was fighting desperately to try to regain custody of her children, here is the false memory that the kids from the original family that was victimized in the Orkneys were left with: "Your mother doesn't want you. Your mother doesn't want to see you. You're mother doesn't love you." You can't do much worse to a child than that.

03:49 GMT: Permalink
Will Hutton in The New York Observer asks: Does Old Europe Hate New America, Or Just President?

It wasn't only in London, Paris and Berlin that hundreds of thousands took to the streets on Saturday, Feb. 15, in protest against war in Iraq—there were plenty of protesters on the streets of American cities. To characterize "old Europe" as peopled wholly by cheese-eating surrender monkeys and the U.S.A. by a warrior race uniformly and bravely behind military action is to traduce reality. As George W. Bush's ratings fall to new lows, the conservatives around him—and the right-wing American commentariat—might reflect that many of the attitudes they detest as "old Europe" are alive and well in America.

Europeans—to the extent anyone on this continent of 370 million conforms to the generic stereotype—are baffled and extraordinarily anxious at the rhetoric now emanating from the world's most powerful country. Mockery of President Bush's linguistic faux pas has given way to the realization that he and the people round him are very different from the American elites we've become used to. Europeans expect America to live up to the high standards it sets for itself—and, at key moments over the last century, it has done so. Now there's a realization that Mr. Bush is not of the same ilk; he is potentially very dangerous both for America and the world.
This is what troubles and infuriates Europeans. Whereas Mr. Schröder sacks ministers for making offensive remarks, Mr. Bush indulges his own; Donald Rumsfeld or Paul Wolfowitz or Condoleezza Rice can say anything that comes into their heads—some of it downright untrue and offensive—and there's no penalty. This is, of course, the prerogative of the powerful throughout the ages, but Americans should not be surprised if their interlocutors bridle and chafe. The wonder is that there's not more resentment.
It’s not Europeans and liberal Americans who are the isolated, dangerous eccentrics who menace peace, order and the rule of international law. It’s Mr. Bush’s Washington.

Via Ken Hatch, who also posted this graphic.

03:39 GMT: Permalink
'Genie' blamed for mysterious circumcision (via The Pagan Prattle). Oh, and Lego tarot.

Thanks to Gregory Harris for this link to a gorgeous snow picture from Indianapolis.

Media Whores Online joins Keith Olbermann and Sandy Koufax at being disgusted with Rupert Murdoch.

Oh, yeah, if you haven't seen the Error message yet, check it out now. Don't miss the internal links, either.

Arianna Huffington thinks Cheney is an exemplar of moral relativism: "And in 2000, just months before pocketing his $34 million Halliburton retirement package and joining the GOP ticket, Cheney was lobbying for an end to U.N. sanctions against Saddam."

Cursor sez: "In an interview with Italy's Corriere della Sera, Art Spiegelman explains why he resigned from The New Yorker, which he criticizes for 'marching to the same beat as the New York Times and all the other great American media that don't criticize the government for fear that the administration will take revenge by blocking their access to sources and information.'"

President Clinton's deputy chief of staff says Don't Put The Blame On Clinton: "By the way, if any leading Republicans were calling for military action against Afghanistan during the Clinton administration, it is hard to find evidence of it in the public record of that time. Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush certainly did not."

And I enjoyed this photo cartoon I found at Bartcop.

Sunday, 23 February 2003

09:58 GMT: Permalink


Brent Staples in the NYT on The Trouble With Corporate Radio: The Day the Protest Music Died:

Pop music played a crucial role in the national debate over the Vietnam War. By the late 1960's, radio stations across the country were crackling with blatantly political songs that became mainstream hits. After the National Guard killed four antiwar demonstrators at Kent State University in Ohio in the spring of 1970, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young recorded a song, simply titled "Ohio," about the horror of the event, criticizing President Richard Nixon by name. The song was rushed onto the air while sentiment was still high, and became both an antiwar anthem and a huge moneymaker.

A comparable song about George W. Bush's rush to war in Iraq would have no chance at all today. There are plenty of angry people, many with prime music-buying demographics. But independent radio stations that once would have played edgy, political music have been gobbled up by corporations that control hundreds of stations and have no wish to rock the boat. Corporate ownership has changed what gets played — and who plays it. With a few exceptions, the disc jockeys who once existed to discover provocative new music have long since been put out to pasture. The new generation operates from play lists dictated by Corporate Central — lists that some D.J.'s describe as "wallpaper music."

Recording artists were seen as hysterics when they complained during the 1990's that radio was killing popular music by playing too little of it. But musicians have turned out to be the canaries in the coal mine — the first group to be affected by a 1996 federal law that allowed corporations to gobble up hundreds of stations, limiting expression over airwaves that are merely licensed to broadcasters but owned by the American public.

When a media giant swallows a station, it typically fires the staff and pipes in music along with something that resembles news via satellite. To make the local public think that things have remained the same, the voice track system sometimes includes references to local matters sprinkled into the broadcast.

What my rock 'n' roll colleague William Safire describes as the "ruination of independent radio" started with corporatizing in the 1980's but took off dramatically when the Telecommunications Act of 1996 increased the number of stations that one entity could own in a single market and permitted companies to buy up as many stations nationally as their deep pockets would allow.

The new rules were billed as an effort to increase radio diversity, but they appear to have had the opposite effect. Under the old rules, the top two owners had 115 stations between them. Today, the top two own more than 1,400 stations. In many major markets, a few corporations control 80 percent of the listenership or more.

Liberal Democrats are horrified by the legion of conservative talk show hosts who dominate the airwaves. But the problem stretches across party lines. National Journal reported last month that Representative Mark Foley, Republican of Florida, was finding it difficult to reach his constituents over the air since national radio companies moved into his district, reducing the number of local stations from five to one. Senator Byron Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, had a potential disaster in his district when a freight train carrying anhydrous ammonia derailed, releasing a deadly cloud over the city of Minot. When the emergency alert system failed, the police called the town radio stations, six of which are owned by the corporate giant Clear Channel. According to news accounts, no one answered the phone at the stations for more than an hour and a half. Three hundred people were hospitalized, some partially blinded by the ammonia. Pets and livestock were killed.

Interestingly, that paragraph was deleted from the version of the article published in the International Herald Tribune, though it's a strong illustration of "the public interest" being abandoned. Meanwhile, they did print this letter in response to Paul Krugman's article on the transatlantic divide:

Regarding "The great trans-Atlantic media divide" (Views, Feb. 19) by Paul Krugman: The media divide runs not only between the United States and Europe, it also goes right down the middle of one of the biggest English-language media institutions, CNN.

CNN America and CNN International often seem to have little in common. While the former seems almost exclusively geared to the American point of view, the latter brings many different national perspectives - both for and against - discussions and interviews with different people, from different countries and often with widely differing opinions. Unfortunately, as far as I know, viewers in America don't get to see these. [Jacqueline Giere, Wiesbaden, Germany]

09:32 GMT: Permalink
Go read GailOnline about the theft of your rights, desktop piracy, and other things.

09:14 GMT: Permalink
Art Against Invasion

T.V. Smith lets you download his song "Not in My Name" from his site for free. I'm told that when people asked him to release it as a single, he said that would be profiteering from the war, and he'd leave that to Blair.

nth position has a pdf download of 100 Poets Against the War (not to be confused with 101 Poets Against the War).

09:05 GMT: Permalink
The new Dumbledore

Saturday, 22 February 2003

18:46 GMT: Permalink

Atrios has an important post on race and test scores, which you should read. It's important to remember that the reason folks like us regard The Bell Curve as the work of charlatans is because we already know things like the structure and background of the whole "intelligence" testing regime, and the scads of research on economic and social background and how they interact with success. We know how to evaluate these theories within a scientific context. And we know that when someone neglects all of those things so that they can say that blacks are dumber, it's really just because they want to say that blacks are dumber, and that ain't science.

18:30 GMT: Permalink
The week's headlines

Republicans blackmailed GAO into dropping suit against Cheney: "Threats by Republicans to cut the General Accounting Office (GAO) budget influenced its decision to abandon a lawsuit against Vice President Dick Cheney, The Hill has learned."

Inspectors Call U.S. Tips 'Garbage': "In fact, the U.S. claim that Iraq is developing missiles that could hit its neighbors – or U.S. troops in the region, or even Israel – is just one of the claims coming from Washington that inspectors here are finding increasingly unbelievable. The inspectors have become so frustrated trying to chase down unspecific or ambiguous U.S. leads that they've begun to express that anger privately in no uncertain terms."

Godwin's law suspended: "This is the same reasoning used by such notables as Adolf Hitler and General Tojo, who used military invasion to reform Europe and the Pacific to suit their own purposes. As distasteful as these parallels may seem, the question must be asked: What makes our rationale for invasion any different?"

Iraq and Al Qaeda: No evidence of alliance; however: "Al Qaeda is growing. For every Al Qaeda and Taliban member captured or killed in Afghanistan, the group has been able to recruit another one or two members. For every terrorist support cell detected and disrupted, even in Europe, Al Qaeda has been able to establish a new cell to disseminate propaganda, raise funds and recruit."

Black Box Voting: Who's Lying? "According to, Diebold Election Systems, now denies that a program patch was ever applied to the Georgia voting machines: 'We have analyzed that situation and have no indication of that happening at all.' Well okay. But did everyone in the Georgia Secretary of State's Office imagine this last-minute voting program fix?"

Crown Prince Floats Islamic Occupation Force for Iraq: "The Saudis are proposing that after Saddam Hussein's fall, Saudi Arabia should lead a coalition of Islamic nations to occupy Iraq while a transitional Iraqi government is established, with Turkey playing the leading role in the Islamic force."

Bill Clinton interviewed by Katie Couric on Mark Rich, the invasion, the media, his Elvis collection, and a lot of other stuff. "It's interesting, that some of the people say I should have done more, now, were ridiculing me for doing too much then, and saying I was obsessed with bin Laden. I had the same level of obsession with bin Laden that I think a lot of the current administration has with Saddam Hussein. And I thought then, and I think now, that Al Qaeda's the number one security problem in the world."

13:29 GMT: Permalink
He's not so popular:

Among Americans registered to vote, 47% disapprove of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 45% approve. When it comes to Bush's handling of the economy, 51% of registered voters disapprove and 38% approve. More Democrats now disapprove of the way Bush is handling the economy (91%) than Republicans approve of the way Bush is handling the economy (78%). These job approval ratings are in an environment where 56% of all Americans say the national economy is getting worse.

Friday, 21 February 2003

13:10 GMT: Permalink

It seems like a worldwide outbreak of hyper-stupidity, doesn't it? Reagan had Alzheimer's and he wasn't as bad as these guys. Now that Bush has revealed himself to be in the throes of both a messiah complex and a giant temper tantrum, Chiraq has decided to try to act just like him, thus missing his own opportunity to keep his trap shut. But Yuval Rubinstein has found what gets my award for Best Non-Bush Administration Stupidity:

Many of us who are opposed to a pre-emptive war in Iraq spend a fair amount of time ridiculing the Likudnik neocons who hold sway in the Bush administration. But what are the real Likudniks thinking as the long-awaited invasion looms? Well, let's just say that Dick Perle and Paul Wolfowitz ain't got nothin' on these brain donors:

The military and political leadership yearns for war in Iraq, seeing it as an opportunity to win the war of attrition with the Palestinians. According to their approach removing Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat from his position will signify Palestinian surrender. Major General Amos Gilad, Coordinator of Government Activities in the West Bank and Gaza, expressed the army's position Saturday, saying that a U.S.-led attack on Iraq would remove the Iraqi threat, and would be an example for "the removal of other dictators closer to us who use violence and terror."

Senior IDF officers and those close to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, such as National Security Advisor Ephraim Halevy, paint a rosy picture of the wonderful future Israel can expect after the war. They envision a domino effect, with the fall of Saddam Hussein followed by that of Israel's other enemies: Arafat, Hassan Nasrallah, Bashar Assad, the ayatollah in Iran and maybe even Muhammar Gadaffi. Along with these leaders, will disappear terror and weapons of mass destruction.

Israel has long been regarded as having one of the savviest and most effective counterterrorism operations in the world. If this is indeed the case, how in the hell do you explain the astonishing naivete demonstrated in this last paragraph? I suppose a quick 'n' easy victory over Saddam will also solve the global AIDS pandemic and childhood obesity in one fell swoop, right? It goes without saying that this giddy triumphalism, both in Washington and Jerusalem, is a really bad omen as the Likudnik wet dream of geopolitical domination of the Mideast appears tantalizingly close. Zoinks!
You know, you can almost make sense of people who live in, say, Texas, or DC, or even New York, who think in terms of starting a big war way over there and don't comprehend what it means to be in a war rather than just making war elsewhere, but you have to be way past crazy to assume that things are just gonna fall into place if there's a great big war in your own neighborhood.

12:48 GMT: Permalink
Hesiod suspects The Blair Switch Project.

This is exactly the sort of book I'd expect Oliver Willis to write.

Via My So-Called Lesbian Life: What kind of sex toy are you? and male & female orgasms.

How Republican Are You? (Via Amygdala.)

Ha ha ha. Snowplow gotcha. (Thanks to Eva Whitley.)

Thursday, 20 February 2003

13:40 GMT: Permalink

Thanks to...

Barry Moraller, who sent a link to snow pictures from New Jersey.

Feoreg, who sent a link to her snow pix from Boston.

And to Martin Wisse, Anna Feruglio Dal Dan, Gilda Abramowitz, Alan Bostick (Hey, nice to hear from you, Alan!), and of course Digby himself for reminding me that the quote I was looking for was from an article I had already linked earlier at Hullabaloo, and went like this: "For 50 years, the United States contained the Soviet Union. What seems to be becoming apparent, at least in terms of the global ambitions and bellicose threats of policymakers in the current administration, is that for 50 years the Soviet Union may also have been containing us."

12:46 GMT: Permalink
Lisa English has more on media concentration, and a link to an article about Rupert Murdoch.

Skippy finds Paul Robeson, Jr. identifying the Bush administration as neo-confederate. (But I can't figure out why he makes "Sideshow" into two words but "Free Pie" into one.)

Ouch: TBogg sez: "After last week, Powell's credibility is approaching Michael Jackson territory."

Wednesday, 19 February 2003

16:13 GMT: Permalink

You really should read Nathan Newman:

The Israelis are building a wall in Bethlehem to separate the Arabs from the Jewish part of town, just one more wall in a catacomb of walls and checkpoints trapping Palestinians in, well...


And I mean that in the sense of the Warsaw Ghetto.

Nathan also quotes conservative Charley Reese on Bush's credibility gap:

I'm afraid that our fearless leader has talked himself into a diplomatic hole. It's hard to insult people and enlist them as allies at the same time. It will be hard to blame the U.N. Security Council if he goes to war without a resolution. The whole world knows what most Americans don't: Israel has defied more U.N. resolutions than Iraq, and it has defied them because the United States blocks any attempt to enforce them. In other words, our claim to be concerned about U.N. credibility is a sham. We use the United Nations if it suits our purpose and ignore it if it doesn't. That's been true since Day One of the United Nations' existence.

On the other hand, the president, having foolishly said he would go to war with or without the United Nations, now stands to lose credibility if he doesn't go to war. We went through this crap in Vietnam; 58,000 Americans died to save face for politicians in Washington who in the end stabbed them in the back. George Bush's credibility isn't worth a single American or Iraqi life. He can say simply, "I've changed my mind." That's a hell of a lot better alternative than war.

14:25 GMT: Permalink
Seeing The Forest

How Voting Machines Should Work
I left this as a comment over at Ruminate This.

Here's what people mean by a paper backup: The voting machine makes the voting easy and the new technology ensures that there are no invalid ballots. After you vote the machine prints out a paper backup of YOUR vote, for YOU to examine. Then YOU take that paper ballot to the desk where the voting officials are sitting, and you deposit that paper backup into a LOCKED BALLOT BOX. All the officials at the table watch you do it and watch each other to make sure everyone keeps their hands out of the ballot box.

At the end of the night that locked ballot box is opened and the ballots are counted. All the officials are watching and verifying this counting. They compare this count to the count shown by the machine. THEN the machine is allowed to transmit its totals to election headquarters where computers are able to quickly tabulate election results. The election officials write down the results of their own counting, lock the ballots back in the box, and take the box AND their written records to headquarters for use in case of a recount.

This is a foolproof system. It does not rely on accurate machines, instead using human verification of every step.

I've worked in polling places in San Mateo Country, CA, and this is similar to how it is done now, except for the improvement of technology making the voting easier and ensuring that there are no invalid ballots.

Update - Question - " I see it, your entire audit procedure relies on a separate but equal paper voting system. If that is your deal, why bother with the machines at all?"

Answer: Because good touch-screen machines make the voting easier, prevent invalid votes and confusion (like Palm Beach Jews voting for Buchanan), report reliable counts to computers at headquarters so the election is over in a few hours, and the paper trail ballots they print out are uniform, evenly marked, valid, and verified by the voter.

13:51 GMT: Permalink
Atrios learns about another creepy Bush judicial nominee, Timothy Tymkovich. Read up, folks.

Jim Henley wonders whether Jack Straw's recent remarks acknowledging the impact of the enormous turn-out for the anti-invasion demonstration in London Saturday might mean he's ready to lead the revolt against Blair in the party. Personally, Straw seems to me a pretty unlikely hero; aside from being a long-time authoritarian, he's not someone who engenders love from the party left.

Liberal Oasis and TBogg both have excellent responses to Bush's statement that, "Size of protest, it's like deciding, 'Well I'm going to decide policy based upon a focus group.' The role of a leader is to decide policy based upon the security - in this case - security of the people." LO notes that it's both a lie (they do plenty of focus group polling) and a bad idea (not knowing how you're going to play doesn't really help you get support), and TBogg says a leader ought to be able to make a case for what he's doing. Both are absolutely right.

Testify! on how Condi Rice revealed Bush administration thinking with a Freudian slip ("The problem is that in this country and in the countries that are there on television one has the right to protest...")

Patrick Nielsen Hayden learns that E-Bay doesn't want to wait for a warrant before handing over your data to anyone who asks.

Oliver at Liquid List says he's listening to Rosie Thomas and that two songs are streamed at her site.

Okay, somebody help me out, here. Last night just before my system crashed, I was looking at a good quote about how we used to think we were containing the Soviet Union, but now it appears that they were containing us, too. And then by the time I rebooted I couldn't remember where I'd seen it.

13:08 GMT: Permalink
From Howard Dean:

The Bush Administration's policies at home and abroad are reckless and just plain wrong.

We can do better.
What happened to the war against al Qaeda?

Why has this Administration taken us so far off track?

I believe it is my patriotic duty to urge a different path to protecting America's security: To focus on al Qaeda, which is an imminent threat, and to use our resources to improve and strengthen the security and safety of our home front and our people while working with the other nations of the world to contain Saddam Hussein.

Had I been a member of the Senate, I would have voted against the resolution that authorized the President to use unilateral force against Iraq - unlike others in that body now seeking the presidency.

I do not believe the President should have been given a green light to drive our nation into conflict without the case having first been made to Congress and the American people for why this war is necessary, and without a requirement that we at least try first to work through the United Nations.

12:46 GMT: Permalink
I want to thank Oliver Willis for posting his snow pictures, and also add my support for his bid to be a liberal talk-show host. (Also, check out this Laura Billings article he recommends.)

1229 GMT: Permalink
First, have a look at How news coverage of Raleigh's Feb 15th anti-war rally was biased in favor of the tiny counter-demonstration. Then see how Take Back The Media illustrated last Saturday's events. And check out Skimble on an increasingly common but still baffling media phenomenon.

Then read Behind the Great Divide by Paul Krugman:

There has been much speculation why Europe and the U.S. are suddenly at such odds. Is it about culture? About history? But I haven't seen much discussion of an obvious point: We have different views partly because we see different news.

Let's back up. Many Americans now blame France for the chill in U.S.-European relations. There is even talk of boycotting French products.

But France's attitude isn't exceptional. Last Saturday's huge demonstrations confirmed polls that show deep distrust of the Bush administration and skepticism about an Iraq war in all major European nations, whatever position their governments may take. In fact, the biggest demonstrations were in countries whose governments are supporting the Bush administration.

There were big demonstrations in America too. But distrust of the U.S. overseas has reached such a level, even among our British allies, that a recent British poll ranked the U.S. as the world's most dangerous nation — ahead of North Korea and Iraq.

So why don't other countries see the world the way we do? News coverage is a large part of the answer. Eric Alterman's new book, "What Liberal Media?" doesn't stress international comparisons, but the difference between the news reports Americans and Europeans see is a stark demonstration of his point. At least compared with their foreign counterparts, the "liberal" U.S. media are strikingly conservative — and in this case hawkish.

I'm not mainly talking about the print media. There are differences, but the major national newspapers in the U.S. and the U.K. at least seem to be describing the same reality.

Most people, though, get their news from TV — and there the difference is immense. The coverage of Saturday's antiwar rallies was a reminder of the extent to which U.S. cable news, in particular, seems to be reporting about a different planet than the one covered by foreign media.

Meanwhile... Get Your War on.

Tuesday, 18 February 2003

17:17 GMT: Permalink

From Talking Points Memo:

We were warned. And late last night the axe finally fell. Dozens of autonomous, but centrally-directed, al Qaida operatives covered every inch of exposed surface area in Washington, DC with one to two feet of crystallized H2O, mixed with trace amounts of industrial pollutants and toxic chemicals. As of 2 PM on Sunday, the attack continues.

The city is paralyzed.

Why do they hate us?

I gotta tell ya, I'm really hurtin' over not being there to see it. Back home, snow was one of the very few things that could make me take out my camera and start snapping pictures. And I just loved roaming around in 17 inches of snow listening for the sound of wheels spinning so we could help people get their cars moving.

If anyone is posting photos of the snow, by all means send me the URLs so I can indulge my homesick feelings. (But please DON'T send the images themselves, which will just join the rest of the spam in the Trash folder and get deleted unseen.)

More seriously, if you haven't read it already, do check out Josh's post about how Bush really has forgotten about Afghanistan.

14:33 GMT: Permalink
Avram Grumer responds to Instapundit:

I'd like to see the "peace" movement take some responsibility for the likely consequences of its views, and the deaths that may come from doing nothing. But those don't count, you see, because the United States isn't involved.
I'd like to see this same reasoning applied in other arguments. I'd like to see opponents of national health care take responsibility for the people who'll suffer and/or die because they couldn't afford treatment.
Yeah! You know, conservatives should be careful about trying to appeal to liberal arguments, or eventually people just might start to ask why they don't apply those same values across the board. Not that the idea of carpet-bombing a fully-populated city to protect the safety of its inhabitants makes a lot of sense, mind, but if these people claim to care about access to food and water, civil rights, and personal freedom in Iraq, folks are bound to wonder why making all-out war on that country isn't regarded as being counterproductive to those aims. Not to mention that niggling little question of why those same concerns seem so insignificant when applied to, say, poor people in America, or the Bush administration's on-going suspension of the Bill of Rights.

And given the Bush Family Empire's performance in America, just how seriously can we take their occasional flights of fancy about creating democracy in Iraq? They are speaking openly of shifting the burdens of taxation almost entirely onto those who must get up every day and work for a living, and even those who cannot make a living, and relieving the rich of any such obligations to society. They speak openly of removing whatever protections America's working people have against unsafe conditions, fraud, and broken contracts so that the wealthiest and most powerful can treat us virtually as slaves - only without the obligation to feed and house us. The administration itself is comporting itself as if it has a divine right of monarchy, and the changes it is effecting in our laws and official culture really do parallel those of the early Third Reich. If these people are so happy to accept - promote, in fact - such measures in the United States, what makes you think they have any real resistance to the idea of tyrannical leadership in Iraq? Certainly their past (and, for that matter, continuing) history in the area doesn't lend credence to their fidelity to the values of liberty for the people, in Iraq or anywhere else.

You believe in promoting freedom in Iraq? In protecting the rights and lives of its people? Well, fine, you've got a chance to prove it - in the good old US of A. Social justice begins at home, and if you don't support it there, you just plain don't support it.

12:00 GMT: Permalink
Patrick is back at Electrolite. Teresa has long delighted her associates with treasured quotes from her Granny, so we join in mourning her passing. On the other hand, congrats on the Skylark.

Jack Cluth learns that Miss Manners has no competition from Tom DeLay.

Eva Whitley recalls getting Republican shoes.

Mark Fiore's Color Coded Alert Systems
Saving the World One Color at a Time

Skippy figures out who the real Secretary of Homeland Security is.

Digby reckons it's time to repeal Godwin's law. But, perhaps more importantly, this is what it's all about.

Eric Alterman asks, WILL HISTORY FORGIVE GEORGE W. BUSH? "With Bin-Laden and company still at large, al-Qaida regrouping, and both the NATO alliance and homeland security in chaos, the attack against Iraq is one of single most irresponsible acts ever perpetrated by an American president, (and an unelected and increasingly unpopular one at that)."

Gary Farber doesn't understand what an in-joke is. (It's because the transcripts always say "Media Horse Online" when they are mentioned on Crossfire or wherever, Gary.)

Monday, 17 February 2003

22:58 GMT: Permalink

Support the filibuster

Atrios is getting his teeth into the Estrada nomination (you've all been reading Sam Heldman's posts on this subject already, right?), and doing a fine job of it. Here he addresses the interesting RNC idea that the Democrats are being unfair by doing their duty to advise and consent:

Estrada is an exceedingly nasty character. And, his non-answers to the committee make him either a liar or unqualified for the job. Any partisan warrior with a drop of ethics would be horrified that the Republicans are enabling and condoning this behavior. So, spare me your pious appeals for "fairness."
But read the whole post, and the comments, where the take-down continues, complete with a revival of the canard about Bork being treated "unfairly" and some good rapid response from the ever-faithful Atriettes.

Estrada, for those who haven't been paying attention, has close links to Ann Coulter and is suspected of being one of "the Elves" that worked so hard to use the "independent" investigation of Clinton to smear and destroy him. As a clerk for Justice Kennedy, he did some extreme partisan filtering to try to prevent anyone from ever advising any Supreme Court justice of any opinion he did not share. He's a far-right ideologue with, as far as I can tell, no intellectual integrity. He's done everything he possibly can to evade showing his qualifications to sit on the court himself, and has been so unforthcoming that one cannot help but suspect he is hiding his opinions because he knows they would horrify even moderate Republicans. Like Clarence Thomas, he has pretended to have no opinion on important issues of the day - such as Roe v. Wade - and as with Thomas, we all know this isn't true. So he's lying when he's not evading, apparently.

The RNC is touting Estrada's qualifications merely by saying he is (1) "Highly-qualified" - although his qualifications seem to be, in fact, remarkably thin - and (2) Hispanic (which in itself should tell you how qualified he is - if he was really qualified, they wouldn't be listing this as his foremost qualification). And these high-minded individuals who so deplore "playing the race card" are, of course, assuring us that the Democrats are objecting to Estrada because he is [gasp!] Hispanic. Yeah, right.

After their recent history of refusing to confirm Clinton's nominations to the DC Circuit, the Republicans are now screaming that the Democrats are being really bad for not wanting to allow the court to be packed with right-wing nuts. Back then, the GOP claimed that there were too many judges on the DC bench and that we didn't need any more; now filling the same two vacancies is apparently an urgent requirement of good government.

Again: If your legislator has publicly supported the filibuster, send flowers and thanks. If not, just send them a card or fax saying you support the filibuster and oppose the Estrada nomination, and you expect them to do the same. Do it now.

(You might also want to send them a copy of this article written by Bruce Ackerman after the Bush v. Gore decision, pointing out that it is a very bad idea to have judges chosen by men who were appointed by judges rather than elected.)

For future reference, it's worth visiting this interview with John Dean in which he describes the process that resulted in the nomination of William Rehnquist to the Supreme Court, along with his discovery of what a "strict constructionist" is:

JD: Well, first of all, Rehnquist wasn't on anybody's radar screen as a nominee for the Supreme Court. And the reason he wasn't on anybody's radar screen was he was running the radar machine. He was the one who was gathering the names for the president and the attorney general, and keeping the list of potential justices, and reading their opinions, or studying their backgrounds to see if they met the criteria of what Richard Nixon wanted -- being a strict constructionist.

Now, what I found in going through my papers, was a memo written by Rehnquist back in 1969, when he was vetting one of the nominees who was rejected by the Senate, Clement Haynsworth. And in that memo, he describes, and it is the first time I've ever seen it, as brutally and frankly described as Rehnquist does, what a strict constructionist is. And so we now have a definition, if you will, by the sitting chief justice of strict constructionism.

And what he said is, that a strict constructionist is a judge who favors criminal prosecutors over criminal defendants, and favors civil rights defendants over civil right's plaintiffs. That is about as brutal as you can be, in describing a term that has been used as recently as the last presidential election, when George Bush said he was going to select strict constructionists. I think if my definition as I found it from the chief justice gets any currency, no one is going to start using the definition of strict constructionism anymore.

So, what it amounts to is that these are people who favor large institutions (government, corporations, and lately churches) over individuals.

22:04 GMT: Permalink
As so often happens in these Teflon times, some of the best political commentary comes from the humorists. I can still remember once reading an Art Buchwald article about then-President Reagan and realizing it was the first clear acknowledgement I'd since in The Washington Post that there were serious criticisms to be made of the Reagan presidency. Over here, as in most countries, it's easier to express criticism of other governments, and columnists have been less restrained in addressing the horrors of the Bush administration, but I still find the humorists more on-target much of the time. On television, Spitting Images made a few good jabs at Maggie Thatcher but developed a disappointing tendency to make fun of pop stars while Thatcher's government was reaching heights that seemed ripe for attack. But The Two Johns, Bird & Fortune, are frequently right to the point on numerous issues even in the British government, which is what makes Rory Bremner worth watching for me. You might like some of the stuff these guys do. Click to watch or download transcripts for Channel 4's Between Iraq and a Hard Place - BREMNER BIRD AND FORTUNE.

Sunday, 16 February 2003

16:33 GMT: Permalink

Mark Crispin Miller Takes Aim at Newspapers:

To be fair, Miller acknowledges that hard-hitting reporting takes its toll on a journalist, requiring tremendous stamina. Early last year, when Dana Milbank of The Washington Post began mentioning supposed untruths supplied by the Bush Administration in his articles, the White House stopped returning his calls. "There's a reluctance by many journalists to open an enormous can of worms by challenging the President," Miller says.

For the sake of brevity, newspapers often turn Bush's mangled sentences into perfect prose. "If Bush screws up, they're just going to fix it," Miller says. The public rarely sees the true man, Miller argues. Bushisms like, "The goals for this country are ... a compassionate American for every citizen," remain submerged beneath fawning news stories that make the President look stoic and resolute, Miller says.

Even the oft-labeled "liberal" newspapers can fall victim to touch-up jobs, Miller maintains. He refers to a recent Washington Post profile of News York Times columnist Paul Krugman, which described how Times Executive Editor Howell Raines barred Krugman from accusing Bush of "lying" during his presidential campaign. Yet on the same op-ed page, conservative columnist William Safire called Senator Hillary Clinton a "congenital liar."

"What if Bush is really lying?" Miller proposes. "You can't say it."

Miller fumes that such realities show how right-wing influence on the media has been growing since the late 1960s. Since then, conservative think tanks and massive influxes of money have turned the journalistic tide à droite, he says.

"The theory of bias against the right-wing is a cult-like myth that honest conservatives like William Kristol will admit doesn't exist," Miller says. "I bet Karl Rove would too -- he's got the press wrapped around his little finger."

16:00 GMT: Permalink
Check out Charles Kuffner here and here to see how Texas maintains its high standards for death penalty cases. He also notes that Jim Hightower has a blog - but that it just links to other people's articles and has no original content.

10:14 GMT: Permalink
What color is denial?

Nathan Newman nails Naderites on their claims that the two major parties are indistinguishable:

Just false. In last fall's resolution on Iraq, the MAJORITY OF DEMOCRATS IN THE HOUSE voted against the war resolution.

Let me repeat. A MAJORITY OF HOUSE DEMOCRATS VOTED AGAINST THE WAR RESOLUTION. And it was the new Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, who led the forces to defeat the war resolution. And the man who would have been President, Al Gore, came out firmly against intervention.

It's not bad arguments on behalf of Nader that bother me most. It's arguments that just flat out don't tell the truth. Maybe the Naderites are so blind that they can't even notice reality, such as actual voting tallies or the position of Gore on intervention, but it's what makes their whole position seem so ridiculous and disconnected from any kind of reality.
The Dems could of course be tougher and smarter and many things, but the Naderites should criticize them for actual failings, not ones made up that refuse to acknowledge the real differences between the parties.

As Nathan points out, the Dems at this moment are in the midst of the important work of filibustering the Estrada nomination (send faxes, cards and letters to your reps saying you support the filibuster!), and previously were able to block other Bush measures before the GOP took control of both houses last month.

It's surprising how naive the Greens have been. They perceive themselves as being more alert to what's really going on, more insightful about the "real" underpinnings of the parties, but they can't distinguish the DLC from most Democrats, and they persistently fall for the Republicans' transparent attempts to paint themselves as having the same goals as Democrats but with "better ideas" (even, laughably, "new" ideas!) for achieving them. But it's not the Democrats who are:

  • standing firmly behind the unprovoked invasion of another country (complete with blitzkrieg);
  • trying to wreck Social Security and Medicare;
  • packing the courts with hard-core, far-right, partisan ideologues who consistently back the "rights" of large institutions against those of individuals and the public at large;
  • leading the fight against women's right to control our most intimately vital piece of private property (our bodies);
  • trying to turn the clock back to the days of the robber barons;
  • trying to eliminate your right to get overtime pay;
  • planning to eliminate taxes on unearned income while imposing an extortionate and highly-regressive federal sales tax to make up for it;
  • working to restore Jim Crow; and
  • upholding Tamany Hall-style corruption right in the White House.

No, it's the Republicans - and they couldn't be doing it without the help of the Greens.

Saturday, 15 February 2003

18:49 GMT: Permalink

Some stuff that Atrios briefly linked:

Neal Pollack receives a letter:


Thought you might find this amusing and ironic.

Today we received this "security alert" from the US State Department warning us to stay away from peace rallies because they could be "anti-American" and violent. Huh?? And I thought it was a "peace" rally. Nice scare tactics they are employing. Well, regardless we'll be out there tomorrow fighting off those violent French pacifists to show our opposition to a war.

Nancy Bales

Poisat, France

The text of the "alert" is posted below the letter.

And Steve at No More Mister Nice Blog on the controversy over the scandalously bad review of Susan MacDougal's The Woman Who Wouldn't Talk in the NYT Book Review:

I don't know what the reviewer was doing, or the fact-checkers, but I don't think there was any malicious intent on the part of the Book Review's editors. I think the problem here is worse: The notion that the Clintons are simply depraved, as is anyone who hasn't denounced them, is simply so pervasive in our culture that statements utterly at odds with the facts are believed by well-educated, well-informed people so long as those statements cast the Clintons and those who have befriended them in a bad light.
While you're there, you might have a look at the post below it, where Steve made the mistake of reading Andrew Sullivan:

I keep hearing from people who insist we should try "containment" of Iraq instead of war. They don't seem to have observed that we are where we are precisely because of twelve years of "containment".
You mean totally unmolested by Saddam's weapons? Yup, that's where we are after twelve years of containment, Andy.
Good stuff.

Atrios also learns that the Office of the Vice President doesn't appear to understand the phrase, "for the purposes of trade."

18:35 GMT: Permalink
Molly Ivins: Who is still rich after taxes?

The decline in auditing rich people and corporations actually started 14 years ago. Then, audits of the working poor increased by 48.6 percent in 2001. Those applying for the EITC have a one in 47 chance of getting audited, while those making more than $100,000 have a one in 208 chance. In 1988, that number of was one in nine, according to the Institute for Public Affairs.

The inimitable B. Rapoport of Waco, Texas, puts it like this, "You earn $50,000 a year, and you pay $9,000 in income tax. That won't send you to the poorhouse, but it sure as hell makes your budget tighter. Now I make more than a million a year, I pay $400,000 in taxes, that leaves me $600,000 to live on. It doesn't affect my standard of living at all; I'm still rich."

What is it with rich people that 60 percent of a $100 million is not enough? What kind of sickness is that? You make $100 million on stock options, do you honestly think you earned it? Did you work 10,000 times harder than a guy who gets $10,000 a year for digging ditches? Even a thousand times harder? A hundred? Ten?

It is no secret that the ultimate goal of the conservative movement in this country is to get rid of the IRS and the progressive income tax entirely. The right-wing foundations have been talking about it for years. It is genuinely difficult to understand the level of greed and venality that would make someone think everyone else should pay taxes on what they make, but that he doesn't have to.

18:06 GMT: Permalink
The Horse has many interesting things up, including a President's Day special, but dig this quote from Big Tony Scalia:

Just between you and me, I don't like scruffy, sandal-wearing, bearded people who go around burning the United States flag, and if it were up to me, I would ban it.

17:15 GMT: Permalink
Susan McDougal interview by Buzzflash:

I met with the Independent Counsel's office for the first time when I got my first subpoena. And I went with the hope that they would ask me questions, and I would answer them, and I would be able to shed light on what I thought was an honest investigation. Buy when I got to the first meeting, they were not interested in asking me any questions -- they told me that was not what the meeting was about. Even though they had never met me before, they said that they would trade global immunity for a proffer against the target of their investigation, Bill and Hillary Clinton.

I told them then that I didn't know anything that I could give them in a proffer. I didn't say, "Oh, gosh, I would never say anything bad about the Clintons." Or, "I'm the Clintons' friend." Or anything like that. I said, "Look, I don't know anything they've done that's illegal. I can't help you there."

So the pressure escalated, and they started to threaten me and told me that they would prosecute me and they would put me in jail. They expected my cooperation. I repeated that I was willing to cooperate again. I said, "You have documents in front of you. Why don't you let me see them, and I'll answer any questions you have about them."

And the prosecutor for the Independent Counsel took his hand and he pushed them aside. And he said, "No. You've heard our offer. That's what we have on the table. We are very good at our jobs, and that's what we're telling you. You give us a proffer we can use, and you get to have your life back."

16:48 GMT: Permalink
Cooped Up has a spiffy new address.

You really should read this post from Orcinus: "It will raise people's taxes by $4-5,000 a year." For those of us in the middle class, that's the bottom line of the Bush administration's proposal to eliminate the income tax and replace it with a national sales tax.

Thanks to Ryan for the heads-up on this thread on Voting Machines at Slashdot.

Ziska offers a Terror Alert.

The ReachM High Cowboy Network Noose has a Red Alert.

There are some interesting contributions to the cross-blog debate on the invasion up at kelele! - the metadebate stuff particularly interested me.

Is That Legal? takes a look at the process of examining our racial past, in Greensboro and in Wilmington, North Carolina. His inspiration is this article on Greensboro, well worth reading.

Digby: Let’s see. Against the backdrop of seething resentment against the west and their own corrupt leaders, a demographic baby boom, and Intifada II, Al Qaeda declares Holy Jihad against the US and blows up the World Trade Center, all in the name of Allah. The US government decides this is the perfect time to invade a mideast country with whom they have an unrelated bone to pick and even though its purported ties to the perpetrators are laughable, it surely looks to said disaffected, resentful Muslim baby boomers that we just want to kill us some Arabs and we don’t care who they are. And just to make things perfectly clear, they decide that it’s a very smart idea for the President to conflate terrorism and Iraq into a metaphor for Satan using explicitly Christian crusading terms to do it.

Well, I don't think Devra is a religious bigot. points to Chank, which offers "Rapscallion - A piratey new free font." Hey, download it now - International Talk Like A Pirate Day is only seven months away!

03:48 GMT: Permalink
The Media Horse reminds you: Take it with you when you march.

03:30 GMT: Permalink
At first it was just more of Tony Blair sucking up to the really really rich and really really powerful, so his performance with Bush was not a surprise. But that hasn't been good enough to explain Blair's going along with the invasion of Iraq with absolutely no good reason to do it, in the face of overwhelming opposition at home and in his own party, and with the very real possibility that it will cost him the premiership. I thought there was a bit of bribery involved, but it seems increasingly clear that it must be serious blackmail. Because whatever else I think of Tony Blair, I don't think he'd really sell the whole country up the river and risk his political position just to make a few extra bucks and hob-nob with the Bush Family Empire. And I know that previous Republican administrations have meddled in Britain's affairs, so my question soon became, "What did Bush threaten Blair with?" I'm not the only one who wondered.

BuzzFlash asks Greg Palast:
"What the Heck is Going on With Tony Blair?"

BUZZFLASH: Tony Blair and Bill Clinton were very similar. They were centrists. They were able to get elected by being moderates to both sides of the aisle. And Blair, like Clinton, is known as an intelligent man, unlike George Bush. People are so surprised that Blair is not only supporting Bush's agenda, but is in lockstep, as if he's following the orders of the Bush administration. And I'm not kidding when I tell you that we've gotten a slew of e-mails from BuzzFlash readers that suggest Karl Rove must have embarrassing pictures of Tony Blair, and they're blackmailing him. And it sounds ridiculous, but how do you explain this intelligent man walking his country and his soldiers into hell following the orders of George W. Bush?

PALAST: You're getting warm. The answer is Irwin Stelzer. He is the guy who is a good friend of George Bush from the Hudson Institute, and the most powerful lobbyist in Britain representing British-American interests and, by the way, chief lobbyist for Rupert Murdoch. As soon as Bush seized the White House, Stelzer walked into Blair's office and said ‘we noticed that you were supporting Mr. Gore during the Presidential election' - even though clearly that didn't carry many states. Blair's effective endorsement of Al Gore did not go unnoticed. And there was a price to be paid. Blair was given a list of the things that would befall Britain from military subsidies and equipment, to a reduction of value in the dollar versus the pound, which would destroy England's exportability. And Blair was basically told get in line, stand up and salute or "here's your last cigarette, Tony."

03:06 GMT: Permalink
Carpeicthus has decided Hillary is not so bad after all.

Balkinization asks, "Is the President up to the Job?" (He means Bush.) It's not exactly a valentine. He's also got a good post up about voting machines that provides an interesting justification for making the current breed of electronic "improvements" illegal - based on the decision in Bush v. Gore.

02:22 GMT: Permalink says:

In Georgia, 22,000 Voting Machines Got a Program Fix - Right Before the 2002 Election
Bev Harris writes: "In early February, 2003, programmers for Diebold Election Systems admitted that they had been parking highly sensitive company files on an unprotected web site, a serious security mistake by anyone's reckoning. The very next week officials from the state of Georgia admitted that a program 'patch' was administered to over 22,000 unauditable touch-screen voting machines in Georgia. This took place shortly before the November 2002 election...Putting patches on 22,000 voting machines without looking at the underlying code has put the Georgia election results in doubt...No official at Diebold or the Georgia Secretary of State's office has provided any explanation at all about the OTHER program patch files - the ones contained in a folder called 'rob-georgia' on Diebold's unprotected FTP site. Inside 'rob-georgia' were folders with instructions to 'Replace what is in the GEMS folder with these'...GEMS is the Diebold voting program software."
Meanwhile, Blind voters allege discrimination by Palm Beach elections chief Teresa LaPore! (Thanks to Hesiod for the heads-up.)

Update: Steven desJardins points out that I missed the best sentence from that article: "People who are visually impaired or blind were told to drive there," she said.

02:10 GMT: Permalink
Harley Sorensen on Bush's 'Good Cop':

Americans love this guy.

So it's not surprising that when he appeared before the United Nations last week and made his case for war against Iraq, Americans believed him.

Heck, I would have believed him myself if I weren't suspicious of the guy to begin with, and if I didn't pay close attention to the evidence he presented.

Some of it just didn't add up.

But before I get into that, I want you to know why I don't really trust the Bush administration's "good cop," Colin Powell.

It goes back to Vietnam, where Powell served a couple of tours.

At one point, when Powell was in a command position, he was asked to investigate a substantial rumor that American GIs were indiscriminately killing Vietnamese civilians.

Powell's putrid "investigation" produced a don't-rock-the-boat report. There were no unnecessary civilian deaths, he reported, and our troops enjoyed friendly relations with the Vietnamese civilians.

Then My Lai exploded onto the public consciousness. My Lai, for those of you too young to remember, was a village attacked by American ground troops. There were no young men in the village -- just old people, women and children. They were not armed. Our guys killed them all, all 347 of them.

02:00 GMT: Permalink
Ha ha ha

Gee, I wonder who commissioned this poll from Zogby:

Findings include:
  • Best relationships waited at least 2 months before becoming physically intimate.
  • No Hispanics "terrible" at romance.
  • A majority aged 18-29 think marriage will be less desirable to future young couples.
  • The most successful blind dates are with Republicans.
Which reminds me, have you read Chris Mooney's article about Zogby? Good stuff.

Friday, 14 February 2003

13:16 GMT: Permalink

Duct and cover

From MWO:

Breaux: Not Right Time for Judicial Filibuster - 'We're at War.'

DOBBS: The filibuster tactics to block the nomination of Miguel Estrada, you are not supporting those efforts. Why not?

BREAUX: Well, Lou, I respect the right of Democrats to filibuster a nominee, but I differ on this particular nominee. I think that at a time in this country when we're under orange alert and we have advice on stockpiling water and buying duct tape and who in the heck knows what's going to happen in North Korea and Iraq, that this is not a time that we should be filibustering a nominee who has been called well qualified, the highest recommendation the American Bar Association can give a nominee...

Say what?!

Sorry, Senator Breaux. It's always "a time" for elected officials to perform their duties and obligations under the Constitution and to the people of America. And among the most important of those duties is rejecting judicial nominees whose confirmation would be severely detrimental to our country's best interests - particularly those selected by an unelected fraud who has no legitimate standing to nominate.

MWO recommends you e-mail Breaux. Ask him how duct tape will protect you from Senators who think they have an excuse to blow off their duties to the nation just because George Bush wants them to.

12:45 GMT: Permalink
From Josh Marshall:

The president and his crew are acting like that not-as-smart-as-he-thinks-he-is high school kid who's always running into reverses and always blaming it on someone else. At first you think he's getting a bad shake until you see the same thing happening over and over again. It's always someone else's fault. The South Koreans are lame. The Europeans are lame. Our Arab allies are lame. Everybody is lame. We're given excuse after excuse. But at the end of the day the result seems to be our historic alliances, if not in shambles, then at least thoroughly beat-up. After all, what profiteth a man if he gain regime change in Iraq, and yet lose the whole world order in the process?
Too right.

12:28 GMT: Permalink
I'm, like, y'know, a girl, so in my typical girly way I just never got into the Three Stooges, but this picture of them from Max really made me grin.

Tbogg sez: "Hatch needs to be bitch-slapped by the Angel Moroni."

12:02 GMT: Permalink
Beat up Glenn Reynolds Day

Hesiod has apparently lost his patience with Instapundit after he wrote these words:

THE LOCAL CHAPTER OF EARTH FIRST! has partially covered a billboard for "Hooters" with this sign reading "Frodo Has Failed -- Bush Has The Ring." (A couple of them -- looking very chilly -- are "occupying" the sign, as you may be able to make out on the lower right. And yes, this is actual, firsthand photojournalism here on InstaPundit.)

Interviewed by local radio station WIVK, a spokeswoman for the group said that they were demonstrating true patriotism by putting the First Amendment into practice. Well, by that logic, so were the Nazis at Skokie, but never mind.

It's easy to understand why Earth First! -- which has an all-too-comfortable relationship with terrorism itself -- might oppose a war on terrorism. You'd think, though, that Saddam Hussein's ecological record, which includes firing the Kuwaiti oil fields and wholesale environmental destruction ("ecocide") in the war against the "Marsh Arabs," would be a target that even Earth First! would like to see bullseyed.

But, of course, you'd be wrong about that. Because to them, like so much of what styles itself the "antiwar" movement, it's not really about the war at all. It's all about Bush.

One is very nearly speechless. Sorry, Glenn, but you should be embarrassed to have written that.

Meanwhile, Bob Somerby at the Daily Howler isn't too happy with Glenn either, after this appeared in his MSNBC column:

I've been reading an advance copy of fellow MSNBC-blogger Eric Alterman's book, "What Liberal Media?" Alterman tries, sometimes successfully, to demonstrate that some claims of media bias are overblown, or reflect cultural assumptions among reporters rather than deliberate political distortion.

But what explains the treatment that major media gave the International A.N.S.W.E.R. group that organized this past weekend's antiwar protests? David Corn has written critically about A.N.S.W.E.R. both in The Nation and in the L.A. Weekly, and points out that it is a front group (yes, they still have those!) for the Workers' World Party, a "small revolutionary-socialist outfit with a fancy for North Korea's Kim Jong-Il and the goal of abolishing private property."…When such charges come from David Corn and appear in The Nation, it's hard to dismiss them as right-wing propaganda. And it's hard for journalists to claim ignorance. But most mainstream coverage of the protests makes no mention of A.N.S.W.E.R.'s unsavory connections, or minimizes them drastically.

You know, that one's even easier to answer than Bob made it look. There's a good reason and a bad reason the media hasn't covered it much. The good reason, of course, is that A.N.S.W.E.R.'s positions have precious little to do with the movement as a whole, since most people who have been going to these marches and rallies don't know and don't care. They aren't giving A.N.S.W.E.R. their money and for the most part they aren't even hearing their speeches. A lot of them are there by word of mouth from friends or websites and have no idea who actually got the permits, and A.N.S.W.E.R. has precious little to do with why they are there. It's such an infinitesimal part of the anti-invasion movement that it would be a lie to make it the big story about the demonstrations.

And to give it the kind of attention Glenn seems to want it to have would be making it the big story about the anti-invasion movement, because the demonstrations themselves have been so under-reported. Every effort has been made to down-play the widespread American resistance to the invasion, and talking about A.N.S.W.E.R. would require saying more about the movement itself. They don't want to have to do that, Glenn, so as far as they are concerned the less said about the organizers, the better.

But, really, concentrating on this point would just be more McCarthyism, a stupid reiteration of the time-dishonored charge that everyone who disagrees with the government is just a pawn of the commies. (Jeez, we'll be hearing about "outside agitators" next.) People who make a big deal of A.N.S.W.E.R.'s involvement are just trying to discredit the millions of patriotic Americans who oppose the invasion. It's not an honorable criticism and it's time someone said so. Besides, they're already calling dissenters "anti-American" and wanting to charge 'em all with treason, so it's not as if it ain't already happening.

11:08 GMT: Permalink has a bunch of really useful stuff on tort reform up at their site, including this op-ad, which appeared in Wednesday's New York Times:

Target: Juries
The Real Aim Of Medical Malpractice 'Reform'

Have you checked your auto, homeowners, or business insurance premiums lately? They're way up. Why? Because insurance companies, which like to gamble in the stock and bond markets, have taken a drubbing. They're trying to recoup by boosting premiums.

Insurers have jacked up medical malpractice insurance rates, too. Doctors are howling. In headline-grabbing strikes across the nation, they proclaim they can't practice medicine without affordable insurance. True enough.

But instead of fingering the real culprits -- insurance companies -- doctors and the American Medical Association have joined insurers in blaming injured patients who file supposedly "frivolous" lawsuits and jurors they say are eager to make huge malpractice awards.

Their solution -- limiting the discretion of jurors by capping jury awards, so-called "tort reform" -- is as fraudulent as the manufactured crisis it's supposed to address.

Donald J. Zuk, CEO of a major malpractice insurer, has said as much. Commenting on rising malpractice premiums, Zuk told The Wall Street Journal last year, "I don't like to hear insurance-company executives say it's the tort system -- it's self-inflicted."

In fact, when malpractice premiums spiked in the 1980s, many states capped jury awards. That hasn't held rates down. (California passed insurance reform in 1988 -- that worked.) And if discouraging "frivolous" lawsuits is the goal, why cap damages in successful suits, those that, by definition, are not frivolous?

The current insurance "crisis" is, in fact, just the latest push in a decades-long effort to pass "tort reform" -- a campaign by corporations, doctors and insurance companies to insulate themselves from legal accountability by tying jurors hands.

"The people pushing tort reform have used campaign contributions and lobbying to compromise elected officials and regulators," says one consumer advocate. "Juries are the last line of protection for consumers. Jurors don't take campaign contributions. They can't be lobbied. What tort reformers fear most is 12 people they can't control."

At the bottom of the page are links to the related articles.

Thursday, 13 February 2003

12:36 GMT: Permalink

Liberal Oasis is also looking at Powell:

First, it appeared that Colin Powell was the only sane member of the Administration, just chronically submissive.

Then, as he gradually moved to the attack-Iraq camp, his stature and savvy painted him an enlightened realist -- doing his best to buttress the UN, maintain our alliances, while dealing with Saddam.

Today, following his comments about the bin Laden tape, it is clear what Powell really is.

A manipulative liar.

A fake.

A phony.

With blood on his hands.

Just like the lot of them.
What is most troubling, astonishing, and terrifying about all of this is -- as Friedman's past words suggest -- this war is exactly what Osama wants.

Yet the allegedly reasonable Powell doesn't counsel caution, but urges us to ignorantly forge ahead.

Even though everyone knows, thanks to our good pals at the CIA, that this war is raising the risk of terror, and making us less safe.

While Powell surely has undisclosed locations to keep him secure, LiberalOasis -- as well as Iraqi blogger Salam Pax -- apparently are both looking for duct tape to seal their windows.

Why should anyone have expected more of Powell?

After all, he was part of Iran-Contra.

Oh, it goes back much farther than that. Colin Powell was one of the first people to try to cover up My Lai, and I expect that's where he first began to secure his position as part of America's permanent aristo-government.

LiberalOasis is as guilty as anyone for thinking that there was some intelligence and decency in Powell.

But, Colin "McNamara" Powell, is nothing but morally bankrupt.

And that's why he doesn't quit.

01:55 GMT: Permalink
A year ago, I blogged this Robert Kagan article. I haven't forgotten it, either. I hope no one is surprised now. Here are the first couple paragraphs again:

The most imposing secretary of state of recent memory, George P. Shultz, was known in respectable circles as the reasonable moderate in an otherwise hawkish Reagan administration. Liberal columnist Tom Wicker called him the "steady man" on a ship of conservative loonies. So when Shultz, at a congressional hearing in February 1985, suddenly came out swinging for Reagan's controversial Central America policies, literally pounding the table and lecturing committee members about the Communist threat in Nicaragua and El Salvador, the effect was electric. Reagan's stunned opponents were knocked back on their heels. That year and the next Congress voted more than $100 million in aid to anti-Sandinista rebels in Nicaragua. Five years later the Sandinistas were out of power. Did Shultz act out of conviction or out of loyalty to his president? No one knew, and it didn't matter. Shultz threw his prestige and his lineman's body into the pile and pushed it over the goal line. He made the Reagan Doctrine respectable.

Is history repeating itself? This past week another imposing secretary of state, hero to dovish sensibilities on both sides of the Atlantic, veered sharply to the hard line. In testimony before Congress, Secretary of State Colin Powell went out of his way to show no space between himself and President Bush in the war on terrorism. Articulately defending the new Bush Doctrine, Powell declared his support for "regime change" in Iraq and said the administration is engaged in "the most serious assessment of options that one might imagine." He even warned that the United States would deal with Iraq "alone" if it had to. Powell accused Iranian leaders of "meddling" against the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan and called on the Iranian people to "make a choice": "stop being a state sponsor of terrorism, get out of the axis of evil column." He criticized North Korea for continuing "to develop and sell missiles that can carry weapons of mass destruction at the same time their people are starving to death." And when asked to dissent from, or at least to qualify, President Bush's "Axis of Evil" doctrine, Powell stood with his president: "We will not shrink back from that clarity of purpose."

Powell has always, always, always been a member in good standing of the Bush Family Evil Empire (BFFE), and I've never had a doubt in my mind that he'd always come through for them.

00:39 GMT: Permalink
Jim Henley has a good post up about the (alleged) Bin Laden tape, and quotes Julian Sanchez:

Some folks have speculated that this tape is a fabrication of an administration hungry for war, that the timing is just too convenient. The timing is convenient. But that doesn't mean the tape is a fake, because the one person more eager for invasion than George W. Bush is Osama bin Laden.

00:17 GMT: Permalink
Charles Dodgson speculates on what would happen if End-Timers got into government:

They'd have to conceal their agenda, of course. So, while they might speak openly of being Christian, and even nominate ideological soul-mates to scientific advisory panels, they certainly wouldn't run as the "river of blood" party. That line just doesn't get votes. Which would lead to a, perhaps, unusual degree of secrecy in the administration, and even a certain amount of apparent dissembling, as they tried to come up with explanations for, policies aimed at starting a religiously tinged war in the middle east.

Take the Islamist terrorists for example. They want pretty much the same thing that our Christian Millenarians are after. (Each wants a war; after that, both sides are convinced that, as a noted Christian once said, "God will know his own"). But that, shall we say, commonality of interests, won't exactly go over well in domestic politics. So they might find themselves proposing that, in service of a nominal "war against terrorism", the US should proceed by attacking an enemy of the terrorists in Iraq, while nominally allied with reliable sponsors of religious terrorists in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

And of course, on the domestic front, we could reasonably expect a focus on the short term, since, say long-term fiscal prospects for the United States government just don't matter --- it's after the rapture. And might as well help your friends out in the meantime.

But, cute as it is to toss around a scenario like this, as I said, I just don't believe it's realistic, because there's one fatal flaw. The Christian end-of-the-world story already has a role for someone who comes to rule a great military power through dubious means, rules by deceit, and starts a massive war in the middle east for no good reason. And it's not one of the good guys. That isn't a role they'd want for themselves. Is it?

00:02 GMT: Permalink
Patrick says: Vestigial spine discovered on Capitol Hill! - but don't forget to read the comments.

Bagdad blogger Salam Pax's Where is Raed? has resurfaced with new address.

Stay of execution: Nick won a waiver on the suspension of his homecare.

Why we are handling Korea with kid gloves.

Wednesday, 12 February 2003

18:04 GMT: Permalink

Space Waitress has a big fat post on voting machines.

From The Watch: "Clearly, the reason why Republicans have problems with any type of Affirmative Action is because they're afraid that the rest of the world might abuse it as much as they do. It isn't about appointing token minorities regardless of suitability."

Liquid List is justly appalled by The Washington Post being against discussing invasion before launching it, and sickened by the latest move in Bush's war on the poor.

Dwight Meredith is examining the Era of Responsibility here and here. "The Republican Era of Responsibility is quite easy to understand. No one except Bill Clinton is ever responsible."

Tuesday, 11 February 2003

23:59 GMT: Permalink

The Rittenhouse Review notices an alarming development at Yellow Times:

I know I've had a lot on my mind lately and that I've been neglecting too many quality web sites, blogs and non-blogs alike, but when the hell did Yellow Times go down? I mean, like, for real?

This is an occasion for joy among the idiotic, group-thinking warbloggers, no doubt, but a blow to independent thought worldwide.

Nothing less than a tragedy.

In an update, Jim says people have reassured him that YT will be okay, but then he says, "I'm not so sure. Read this." And "this", an article at Scoop, says:

The campaign to stifle dissent and censor any questioning of current U.S. policies vis-a-vis the Middle East in general, and Iraq in particular, has reached new levels.

Websites which host alternative views, and/or views that contradict U.S. foreign policy are no longer tolerated on the Internet and are systematically coming under hacker attack and political pressures to "relocate." [...] has for the past six months withstood intense hacker attacks as it publishes views that directly question, criticize, and berate the U.S. official line regarding the impending invasion of Iraq.

"In addition to e-mail spoof attacks, I think they are attempting to overload our servers through denial of service attacks, forcing our website to go offline.

(Jim also has a less than lauditory take on Camille Paglia up.)

23:30 GMT: Permalink
Zizka discovers permalinks (sort of), and that Belgium does not exist:

Belgium is, and has always been, a leftist ruse; a device applied to propagate the Liberal agenda throughout the world. Hijacking a real country for this use would be difficult at best; the people living there wouldn't stand for it (i.e. the fall of communism.) Thus the idea to invent an imaginary country, insert it into the global consciousness through the perversion of history, and use it as a tool of manipulation was born.

11:49 GMT: Permalink
It walks like a duck, it quacks like duck

Atrios is, as usual, on top of the latest in Republican bigotry. Remember, these people aren't just columnists most people don't read, or some little lefty group you never heard of before, but elective officials who Republicans actually vote for.

Jim Henley has been keeping track of the disappointingly short list of right/conservative bloggers who have weighed in against Patriot Act II (I don't know why we even keep calling it that - wouldn't "Police State Act" or "Fascist State Act" be more appropriate?), and I guess there's a lot of exasperation on the left with all those people who were able to whip themselves up into such a frenzy against Bill Clinton because they suspected him of wanting to do stuff like this (though there really wasn't any evidence of it - far as I can tell, he caved in to a few Republican initiatives, but didn't have any prior record of doing things like this, unlike Ashcroft), but just don't seem to be able to get very steamed at the Bush administration for actually doing it. The most we get out of them is the suggestion that Ashcroft should be fired. For some reason, they are in denial of the obvious fact that Ashcroft didn't get there by magic and only one thing is keeping him there: George W. Bush. Bush knew who he was nominating, and if you have managed to notice what Ashcroft is up to, so has the White House. Ashcroft is there because Bush wants him there. And you know why? Because Bush is the kind of guy who likes having John Ashcroft as his Attorney General. Bush has made it abundantly clear that he doesn't believe in your civil liberties, doesn't believe in your right to question his policies, doesn't believe that folks like you have any business commenting on what he's up to except to praise him. Hell, he doesn't even believe that Congress has a right to perform its Constitutionally-mandated obligations of oversight of his office.

What are you guys waiting for? Does he have to publicly declare himself Holy Roman Emperor, or what?

11:11 GMT: Permalink
Okay, I've had a little time to calm down, with help from PNH and Jim MacDonald. I don't want to gross anyone out by writing about this here, but if you really want to know, this page has the gory details.

02:24 GMT: Permalink
At Nth Position, The Price of War.

The Discovery Channels says Sleep May Improve Memory, but I'd already guessed that. Meanwhile, "Scientists have found yet another reason to slim down: The high blood sugar so common among the overweight may contribute to the fogged memory of old age," according to CNN.

They Rule.

Monday, 10 February 2003

12:48 GMT: Permalink

Mr Blair asks us to trust him. We cannot do so, says The Independent:

But Mr Blair undermines his plea by the unconvincing and slippery arguments deployed to prove his case. On page 12 we highlight his erratic presentation on Newsnight: half-truths and subjective interpretations of past events were paraded as grounds for war. Mr Blair insisted, for example, that the central issue was Iraq's having weapons of mass destruction. Jeremy Paxman asked him why, in that case, the US and Britain were not planning to attack Syria. Mr Blair responded by saying that Syria had not invaded a neighbour as Iraq had done in 1990. So did that mean the US and Britain were dealing with the unfinished business of the 1991 war that left Saddam still in power? No, said Mr Blair. It was not a matter of unfinished business; it was a matter of weapons of mass destruction.

This happens all the time. At his Downing Street press conference last month Mr Blair was asked why North Korea, with a proven nuclear capability, was not the centre of international concern. Mr Blair replied that for now "Iraq was the focus". But it is Mr Blair and President George Bush who have made Iraq "the focus".

The American and British governments have undermined their case even more by the increasingly tortuous attempts to link al-Qa'ida with Iraq. Again Mr Blair is slippery. When challenged about the evidence for the link he responds by saying that he has never claimed that this was the reason for going to war. But the connection has been made in an attempt to beef up support for war.

The farcical shambles over last week's dossier published by the British government serves to reinforce the doubts. So desperate were Mr Blair's aides to prove the case for war they published an outdated thesis by a postgraduate student and presented it as contemporary intelligence material. The Government's junior spin-doctors have been let loose on a matter as serious as war.

22:38 GMT: Permalink
Mark Kleiman notices a misapplication of terms:

The New York City Council proposes to ban realistic-looking toy guns. (Since 1998, NYPD officers have shot twelve people holding what turned out to be toy guns; there's no count of how many people with toy guns got shot by non-cops.) The Manhattan Libertarian Party decides to protest by handing out toy guns in East Harlem, a Latino neighborhood. A number of East Harlemites aren't happy. (If the law passes, the children could be arrested for possessing the toys the Libertarians were handing out.) Some of the kids to whom the guns are given smash them. One local politician suggests that the Libertarians -- of whom apparently none are from East Harlem -- hand out toy guns in their own neighborhoods.

This strikes the usually acute Dr. Manhattan as an instance of racism. So far, he and I agree.

But he thinks the label applies to the behavior of the community leadership, rather than the folks who came into a neighborhood inhabited by people who don't look like them to hand out what the locals, who probably know the local conditions better than outsiders do, think are dangerous toys.

Shouldn't the decision about whether the children of East Harlem have about-to-be-banned toy guns be made by the parents of those children, rather than by the Libertarian Party?

What on earth were the LP thinking?

Mark also comments on the voting machine problem.

16:59 GMT: Permalink
Well, I went to the eye hospital and had my little consult. They said I have a couple weeks to decide. Right now, I'm not sure I can do that. I consider my only reasonable option to be the use of magic. This all just bites.

Sunday, 09 February 2003

12:05 GMT: Permalink

Lisa English is into the disappearance of an item of importance:

Here's an interesting story.

It's an important one, and it's not being covered.

After Colin Powell spoke to the UN Security Council yesterday, a bi-partisan bill was introduced in Congress by Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Ron Paul (R-TX). It wasn't just any bill - this is legislation that looks to repeal the Iraq Use of Force Resolution passed by Congress in October.

If you're wonkish about these things, you might recall that similar legislation was put forward a couple of weeks ago by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX). It didn't get more than a mention here or there in the press, but it's important to note that DeFazio and Paul's bill is different. Jackson's "sense of the Congress" bill, if passed would have taken the body's "temperature" on the issue. That's all.

DeFazio and Paul's effort goes beyond the thermometer. Faced with the administration's Rush to War, DeFazio and Paul are looking for a prescription. If they were to get this one passed, the outcome would be legally binding, and the October bill then outright repealed. Congress could at that point thoughtfully revisit the issue of Iraq - the danger it presents and the costs of war.

Big story. Right?

So, where's the media?

Yesterday, DeFazio and Paul conducted a press conference that the major media outfits were invited to. Did you see it on C-SPAN? Nope. CNN? Nope. Did you read about it in the New York Times? Nope. They were all invited to attend the news conference. How about the Washington Post? Nope. But the story nearly saw daylight there. Almost. Almost? Almost.

"We decided not to run it," says a low-level staffer.

Why not?

"Hold on," I'm told, as he runs to check.

"Because our editor decided not to run it."

It's as simple as that. One gets the sense that one best take it or leave it.

10:18 GMT: Permalink
Chris at Interesting Times hasn't called for impeachment until now:

But, consider this:

1) The administration has known about an Al Qaeda camp for months (at least that is what they claim).
2) It knows that it is producing deadly toxins (at least that is what they claim).
3) Yet it has done nothing about it (but won't explain why they haven't done anything about it).
4) But, having now talked about it in public at the UN, the camp, if it ever actually existed, has probably been torn down and its occupants spread to the four winds.

In other words, in order to win people over to its side on the Iraq war question, the Bush administration may have deliberately endangered the lives of Americans by allowing this camp to exist for so long. And, they may have further endangered Americans by blowing the cover on this camps existence in order to win public support for a war on Iraq.

I would say that a President who, by his actions, knowingly endangers the lives of Americans for political gain, has violated his oath of office and ought to be duly impeached and removed from office.

What say you all?

Well, I was ready to impeach him the minute I found out he'd ordered the FBI and the CIA not to investigate Al Qaeda when he got into office, thus leaving us defenseless against them on 9/11. He didn't even reverse that order when Osama announced that he had a big attack on America in the works. He didn't even reverse it when our allies sent intelligence that virtually spelled out what was coming - even named some names. He left us wide open. He was warned, and he refused to allow anyone to do anything about it. That can most charitably be described as criminal negligence. This latest offence might be a lie, or it might be an admission that they've never actually cared about going after Al Qaeda - but we already knew that, didn't we?

Of course he should be impeached. You have to be stupid to think otherwise.

09:40 GMT: Permalink
So, why war?

I haven't really written any substantive posts about the war in a while, partly because I think I find the whole thing surreal at this point - a war no one wants, "backed up" by myths and legends but few facts, and everyone knows it, and yet, here we are, starting a war. It feels like I'm reading a comic book - it's like Bush is Doctor Doom, only without the brains.

But I'm one of the original cast of characters from the combination right-and-left anti-war weblog Stand Down (which everyone should read), and I still haven't changed my mind since my first post. When people start talking about making war, I assume that something major must have happened to inspire such an extreme course, and I ask, "Why? What's happened?" And so far, no one has told me.

And now Gary Farber asks people who oppose the war to present a case to him to oppose it. There are many good and interesting things up on his page, but his post on why he is leaning toward war is just kind of embarrassing, especially since these first two paragraphs appear at the top of the piece rather than later on:

I'm still on the fence about war with Iraq. But I have been leaning a bit more heavily on the pro side with each passing week, for a number of reasons.

One reason is that so few of the anti-war arguments I hear hold up, or are based on assumptions I know to be false, or are logically and factually fallacious.

This is just so, so wrong. (Here's an illustration.) It's up to the pro-war side to make a solid, honest case for war that they can back up with reliable facts. The two compelling requirements that must be met are these:

  • that the target presents a significant threat that cannot be contained in any other way; and
  • that war will in fact eliminate that threat.
The administration has presented a lot of "arguments" for the first point, almost all of which seem to have been inventions. The only thing everyone can agree on is that Saddam is a dictator who doesn't treat his people very well, but that doesn't explain why, of all the nasty dictators in the world, he alone is our target. Moreover, there is not really a convincing case that eliminating Saddam, let alone launching a blitzkrieg against Bagdad, will alleviate the problem. And the Bush record, particularly in Afghanistan, makes any claims to an intention to create a free and democratic state in Iraq sound false; there's not a single piece of evidence to support the belief that Bush & Co. will do any such thing, or that they even want to. Indeed, there are many reasons to believe otherwise. If there is one thing we know about this administration, and this so-called leader, it is that they have a tendency to use high-sounding words when they are about to do the opposite of what they claim.

At the third paragraph, Gary gets round to acknowledging that War is Bad. I'd feel a bit better about his position if he'd started with that, but here is the problem: He gives the impression that he didn't. And this seems to be the difference between the pro-war and anti-war faction: Only one side seems to perceive not-war as the default position, with war the one that must be justified. For me, war hasn't been justified, I'm still waiting. Gary says:

But I think the War For Self-Defense Argument is ultimately the primary moral argument, though there's a compelling secondary case for The War To Liberate Iraq's people -- particularly in light of, as the left justly and correctly points out, the immense moral responsibility the US has for past degrees of support of Saddam Hussein, as well as for the betrayal of those who rose against Hussein in 1991.
More putting the war before the course. Sure, self-defense would be a good argument, but I've yet to hear a convincing case that Saddam is really a threat to the US, or even to his neighbors, under the circumstances. In fact, I think there's a pretty good case that Saddam is more of a threat to his neighbors if we start a war; after all, his power to harm his neighbors is the main threat he has to hold out against us in his own defense, since he can't very convincingly threaten the US itself. Look, he once started a war with Kuwait after we made him think we wouldn't stop him, but we did stop him anyway, and he hasn't tried to invade anyone else since. Where is the reason to think that for some reason he will go ahead and try it again knowing that we are likely to intervene? There just isn't one. The world is watching him, now, and he knows it. We've contained him for a decade, and we could keep right on doing that. What has changed?

As to the rest of the paragraph, the fact that Saddam is in large part a creation of the US is not marshalled as a defense of Saddam, it's evidence that the people who created him have never shown the slightest sense of morality over it and given us no reason to think they have changed enough to be trusted with cleaning up their own mess. These are people who thought they could fix things by playing "Let's you and him fight" between Iraq and Iran. These are people who thought creating an insane army of religious fanatics (the Mujahadeen) was a cool way to deal with a USSR that was already trying to move toward democracy anyway. These people are nuts - and that's, again, the charitable view. If they actually knew what they were doing, they are even worse than that. They've shown no evidence of caring how well people are treated by their government, after all - I mean, doesn't Patriot Act II tell you that much?

So, why war, why Saddam, and why now? None of this has been made clear, and until it is, there's no good argument for war. And until there's a good argument for war, based on a solid foundation, the anti-war side doesn't really need a counter-counter argument, because the default, always, must be that War is Bad. And it's the US, not Saddam, who wants to start a war. If the administration is unprepared to back that up - and they clearly are - then they are not yet in position to make Saddam the bad guy. A bad guy, sure - among many - but not the bad guy. And in any normal, sane reality, the invader is the bad guy.

So, there is Gary, asking why we shouldn't have a war, and I'm still saying, "Why? What's happened?" And no one can tell me.

09:10 GMT: Permalink
Counterspin Central suggests:
THE LIBERAL MANHATTAN PROJECT: I have a task for any enterprising reader or readers out there who really want to strike a blow against rightwing propaganda.

Here it is: Create accessible, on-line transcripts for Rush Limbaugh's daily radio program.

Right now, the only way you can get transcripts is through newsgroups, or downloading zip files. I want a more easily accessible hyperlink version.

You don't need to get his archives. I think just transcribing everything he says from now on will suffice for our purposes.

You see, it's easy to fact check his ass when his words are available for everyone to read. It's easy to discredit his hot gas when it's open for examination.

He should be held under much closer scrutiny than he is.

Can you imagine the rich material for bloggers to "Fisk?"

Saturday, 08 February 2003

11:00 GMT: Permalink

[I've been having a bit of trouble with my connections and it interferes with being able to ftp, so this gets posted when I finally can get it up there. If I unexpectedly don't post for a while, you can go check where I've started keeping notes, which is also my emergency blog, here. There's not much writing but there are links I wanted to keep a note of.]

As you've probably guessed, I have steam coming out of my ears, so until I calm down I'll keep my comments minimal.

Washington Post nearly notices that something's wrong: U.S. May Seek Wider Anti-Terror Powers

The Justice Department is considering legislative proposals that would significantly expand the federal government's power to investigate, detain and punish suspected terrorists in secret and without court supervision, according to a preliminary draft of the bill disclosed yesterday.
Under the draft, the government could declare individuals, not just groups, "foreign powers" subject to clandestine surveillance under looser standards than would apply in criminal cases, and it would permit such surveillance against a U.S. citizen suspected of spying for a foreign power, even if the alleged suspicious conduct was not itself criminal.

Taken as a whole, the proposals would constitute a far-reaching invitation to Congress to ratify the Bush administration's get-tough legal approach to the war on terrorism. The Jan. 9 document, labeled "confidential -- not for distribution" and titled the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003, was posted on the Internet by the Center for Public Integrity, a Washington-based nonprofit organization.

Democratic aides in Congress grumbled privately that the Bush administration's proposals are timed to take advantage of the Republican takeover of the Senate, and that the administration has brushed aside inquiries about its deliberations until now.

That was their criticism? The timing? What is wrong with these people?

And the proposal would make it easier for the government to strip U.S. citizens of their citizenship if they serve in a foreign enemy army or terrorist group. Under current law, such service must be done with clear intent to renounce U.S. citizenship. The proposal would make service in a foreign army or terrorist group, such as John Walker Lindh's assistance to the Taliban, evidence of intent to renounce U.S. citizenship that the citizen would then have to rebut.
So, what does that mean? Whereas before, you had to intend to be a terrorist, now you don't? Are they just going to declare the entire Democratic Party a terrorist group, or what?

More on this from Oliver Willis.

Friday, 07 February 2003

02:06 GMT: Permalink

This one's from Charlie:

Government plagiarised Iraq allegations from student essay

A rather interesting press release from CASI, the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq, is circulating in the UK today and really bears reading. In particular, it looks as if the British government's dossier on Iraq, "Iraq - Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation", cites as "intelligence material" -- and indeed uses for the bulk of its contents -- text copied (without permission) from a paper in last September's Middle East Review of International Affairs entitled "Iraq's Security and Intelligence Network: A Guide and Analysis" written by Ibrahim al-Marashi, a postgraduate student at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Even his typos and grammatical errors found their way into the Downing Street dossier.

It gets better: CASI alleges that the two other main sources in the paper were plagiarised from Jane's Intelligence Review by Downing Street: Ken Gause "Can the Iraqi Security Apparatus save Saddam" (November 2002), pp.8-13, and Sean Boyne, "Inside Iraq's Security Network", in 2 parts during 1997.

As CASI remark in their press release, "None of the sources are acknowledged, leading the reader to believe that the information is a result of direct investigative work, rather than simply copied from pre-existing internet sources. The fact that the texts of these three authors are copied directly results in a proliferation of different transliterations (eg different spellings of Ba'th, depending on which author is being copied)."

Thursday, 06 February 2003

16:54 GMT: Permalink

Editorial at Consortium News: Bush's 'Nation of Enablers':

But more than "a nation of patriots" or "a nation of pirates," the United States has been behaving for the past two years like "a nation of enablers." At times, it seems that the U.S. political system is dedicated to treating George W. Bush like he's some addicted adolescent in a family that won't confront the youngster's behavioral problems and "enables" the problem to get worse.

Virtually no one in the major news media will admit that Bush's personal behavior has been downright strange, from raging at enemies in ways that complicate already tricky diplomacy to treating those under his authority with disdain to viewing his own powers as beyond challenge or question. [For details, see's "The Bush Exit Ramp."]

Bush simply isn't held to the same standards as other politicians, a pattern evident since Campaign 2000, when the national news media praised even Bush's faltering appearances. After campaign debates and Bush's early presidential speeches, pundits routinely praised his performances as "better than expected," a subjective measure based on the fuzzy notion of what had been "expected." The more recent spin point is that Bush always surprises those who underestimate him.

It really makes you wonder what the media "expected" of Bush to begin with. Personally, I expect the presidential nominee of one of the two major parties to be, at the very least, able to deliver a campaign speech convincingly - at minimum, to give the impression that he knows about the major issues of the day. But this guy consistently demonstrated that he was neither qualified to discuss these issues intelligently nor even qualified to perform as an actor playing the role of someone who is. Nevertheless, the press talked about him as if somehow he had managed to meet the standard of the job.

Of course, compared to a real candidate, Bush proved himself as someone from whom you couldn't expect much. And yet, he still manages to disappoint. By the time he was installed in the White House, we expected him to have little on the ball, but we never expected him to tell our intelligence services not to investigate the dangerous and threatening terrorist group that had been murdering Americans all over the globe and had already once tried to destroy the Twin Towers. If we'd run a lottery for the job and it was won by an illiterate janitor, we would still have expected him to know better than to do that. Just how bad can you be? Well, that bad, apparently, but that's still the low end of the curve - you'd expect a man who had every educational advantage to at least achieve mediocrity, and he hasn't even accomplished that.

And still the press pretends that he is Mr. Leadership, though he was nowhere to be found on the day he was most needed, and has never yet shown the slightest inclination to take responsibility for anything. The press believed that because he started giving them better food on the plane and patted their backs, he was a "nice" guy who would be a moderate. But he'd been telling them all along that he planned to destroy the Social Security "surplus" and give it all away in tax breaks to the rich. They just didn't seem to be listening.

The press ignored reality and put George Bush in the White House, and because George Bush was in the White House, no one was looking out for America on 9/11. And the press...they're just along for the ride.

The U.S. press corps continues to flatter Bush over his political genius, even as the economy slumps, as two million jobs have disappeared, as budget surpluses have sunk into deficits, as al-Qaeda continues to threaten Americans across the globe, as North Korea readies a nuclear arsenal, as anti-Americanism swells worldwide, and as close allies object to Bush's rush to war with Iraq.

13:30 GMT: Permalink
Did you read Paul Krugman's Dead Parrot Society yet? First he talks about how other columnists are now (euphemistically) saying what he's been saying all along - that "the Bush administration lies a lot." And how they get punished, and why:

More generally, Mr. Bush ran as a moderate, a "uniter, not a divider." The Economist endorsed him back in 2000 because it saw him as the candidate better able to transcend partisanship; now the magazine describes him as the "partisan-in-chief."

It's tempting to view all of this merely as a question of character, but it's more than that. There's method in this administration's mendacity.

For the Bush administration is an extremely elitist clique trying to maintain a populist facade. Its domestic policies are designed to benefit a very small number of people — basically those who earn at least $300,000 a year, and really don't care about either the environment or their less fortunate compatriots. True, this base is augmented by some powerful special-interest groups, notably the Christian right and the gun lobby. But while this coalition can raise vast sums, and can mobilize operatives to stage bourgeois riots when needed, the policies themselves are inherently unpopular. Hence the need to reshape those malleable facts.

What remains puzzling is the long-term strategy. Despite Mr. Bush's control of the bully pulpit, he has had little success in changing the public's fundamental views. Before Sept. 11 the nation was growing increasingly dismayed over the administration's hard right turn. Terrorism brought Mr. Bush immense personal popularity, as the public rallied around the flag; but the helium has been steadily leaking out of that balloon.

Right now the administration is playing the war card, inventing facts as necessary, and trying to use the remnants of Mr. Bush's post-Sept. 11 popularity to gain control of all three branches of government. But then what? There is, after all, no indication that Mr. Bush ever intends to move to the center.

So the administration's inner circle must think that full control of the government can be used to lock in a permanent political advantage, even though the more the public learns about their policies, the less it likes them. The big question is whether the press, which is beginning to find its voice, will lose it again in the face of one-party government.

Of course, none of that will matter if the Katherine Harris method of running elections is used by the people who own the voting machines....

13:05 GMT: Permalink
So, it turns out that Bush said he'd been to NASA, but he really hadn't. Here's a letter to MWO from a reader:

Dear Horse,

Wasn't a certain presidential candidate ridiculed by our beloved media for erroneously stating that he visited a natural disaster site in Texas with James DeWitt, then head of FEMA? While this certain candidate, DID IN FACT VISIT THE SITE, he was accompanied by a lesser FEMA official than James DeWitt. The scorn by the media was relentless for what they deemed, a cold and calculated LIE.

Now contrast what we hear from the media when the president of the United States, falsely states he visited the Johnson Space Center in Texas, while he was the governor. The silence is deafening.


Paul Salazar
Austin, TX

12:39 GMT: Permalink
Liberal Oasis Reads his lips:

Bush broke his promise. He wants to raise taxes on veterans.

Last year, George Bush told the nation, "not over my dead body will they raise your taxes."

Yet in Bush's budget proposal, certain veterans would have to pay a new tax to enroll in a veterans health care program.

12:17 GMT: Permalink
Find a transcript of the O'Reilly freak-out at The Sacred and Inane.

Molly Ivins: 'Fooled on the Hill' : "Masterfully deceitful State of the Union might even have convinced Bush himself." Molly goes through it and reminds us that it's a load of old cobblers.

Terry Gilliam interview - boy, he sure doesn't like the Smirk Machine. (Via Bartcop.)

Mysterious Purple Streak is Shown Hitting Columbia 7 Minutes Before It Disintegrated

The ReachM High Cowboy Network Noose has a new address. And says to go read this.

The Rittenhouse Review is underwhelmed by Estrada's qualifictions - particularly since even his supporters don't have much to say on his behalf.

The Word Spy is a cool little site that will enrich your vocabulary.

Wednesday, 05 February 2003

23:28 GMT: Permalink

What? The NYC authorities are refusing march permits for Feb. 15. Under no circumstances, they say, will there be a march bigger than 10,000 people. Why? Because the police cannot contain it. The following are *excerpts* of notes from Co-chair Leslie Cagan of the United For Peace and Justice Coalition(admin. committee notes.) (Via Sassafrass Log.)

Riba Rambles about Bush's economic policies, with quotes from all over.

Emma considers the state of modern journalism.

TBogg finds our nation's capitol's "liberal" newspaper doing the RNC's bidding again - advising Democrats to roll over and play dead on the Estrada nomination. (Actually, you should be sending a fax to each of your reps telling them to filibuster this agent of evil [scroll down or search on "estrada"].)

Mike Finley is worried about the world his kids are growing up in.

23:01 GMT: Permalink
Poll Finds Lieberman, Kerry Are Threats to Bush, says The Los Angeles Times:

The share of Americans favoring President Bush's re-election in 2004 has fallen below 50 percent, while Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut and John Kerry of Massachusetts have emerged as the leaders for the Democratic nomination to oppose him, a new Los Angeles Times Poll has found.

Just 45 percent of registered voters said they are now likely to support Bush for re-election, while 40 percent said they were inclined to back the Democratic nominee, the survey found. Fifteen per cent said they don't now lean in either direction.

17:34 GMT: Permalink
In my previous post I talked about the difference between what Bush claims to be doing and what he's really up to. Liberal Oasis looked at this issue yesterday as well, and has a lot of interesting things to say. The heart of the matter, again:

And the long-term game plan isn't really about ensuring a healthy economy.

It's about starving the government coffers, destroying the network of government services and paying off wealthy benefactors with tax cuts and privatization.

In the past I've mused about the kind of people who support this administration, and I've never been terribly kind to them. It's easy to try to divide them up into two clearly defined categories (greedy scum and uninformed dupes), but of course it would be lazy to pretend it's as simple as that. There are, of course, the people who rely on the headline news to tell them what's going on, and if the headlines tell them that Bush is proposing to safeguard Medicare and Social Security, to improve our education system, to make it easier for older people to afford prescription drugs, and to make our country safe from terrorism, then that's what they believe. (What's more baffling is why, at this late date, Christopher Hitchens still claims to believe that Bush is interested in fighting terrorism. Read Atrios on the subject - and also the comments - and see if you can figure out what Hitchens really believes. One gets the impression that he genuinely is just saying what he's paid to say, writing in British papers about what an abysmal "president" Bush is, but being utterly pro-Bush in the American media.)

It is abundantly clear that the administration itself represents people who are very rich and seem to feel that their own interests are the only ones that matter. They feel no empathy with ordinary people who have to work for a living, nor for the poor who can't find a way to make a living. They feel no responsibility for trying to make this a good society for all of us. They simply don't care about the way they have been degrading our culture. These are bad and short-sighted people, but at least you can see where their self-interest is at work - that is, they are taking care of themselves, and when they claim what they are doing is what's best for the country, they're not fooling themselves.

But there are smarter people who I think are fooling themselves. Some of them are simply too young to realize that all those liberal programs they think they hate are precisely the programs that helped to make our country as strong (and enviable) as it became in the 20th century. They have been lied to so consistently over the last 30 years that they simply don't know how bad things were before and why we have those programs. They've never read up on industrial history, they're unaware that the reason some of those liberal programs stopped working so well is that conservatives introduced poisoning legislation that was meant to sabotage them, they're oblivious to how thoroughly immersed they have become in false rationales for opposing programs that actually did work before conservatives turned them into failures - or, when they haven't actually failed at all, where they have used intensive spin to portray them as failures.

These people actually believe that somehow life will be better for everyone if we just get rid of all that liberal stuff like Social Security, public schools, Medicare, Affirmative Action, student aid, and so on. They imagine that they will have more earning power if they don't have to pay SS taxes. They believe that if no one does anything to redress racism, it will just magically sort itself out. They think regulations only hurt, and never help, creativity and industry. They indulge the curious fantasy that smart and able people will always succeed if only the government doesn't try to help anyone. They actually think they will like what Bush is doing. But they won't.

The Bush administration is sending signals to both groups, one false and one true. For people who never had any interest in all this policy wonkery but who like programs such as Social Security and public education, they say they are "strengthening" those programs. But for people who want to eliminate those programs and will look a little deeper into what the administration is doing rather than just what it's saying, they are promising - and delivering - a radical dismantling of liberal America.

However, they are really defrauding both groups, because the outcome of what they are doing will not be an even playing field, a meritocracy, economic efficiency, or even national security. What they are really re-creating is the pre-American aristocracy to which America was once the answer.

13:50 GMT: Permalink
"Under Bush, The Era of Big Government is Back," writes

Howard Kurtz writes, "Imagine President Gore [how dearly we wish!] standing in the House chamber and delivering his annual address to the nation. He calls for spending $400 billion over the next decade to strengthen Medicare and launch a prescription drug program. He calls for $450 million to bring mentors to disadvantaged students and children of prisoners. He calls for $600 million for treatment programs for drug addicts. He calls for $15 billion over five years to combat AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. He calls for $1.2 billion to develop clean, hydrogen-powered automobiles. What do you suppose the Republicans would be saying about Al Gore? Big spender? Wild-eyed liberal? ... Wouldn't there be lots of accusations of fiscal irresponsibility - especially when the $417 billion in new spending is coupled with $674 billion in tax cuts? But no one in the GOP that we've seen is suggesting that George Bush's brand of compassionate conservatism is, well, kind of expensive."
I guess Kurtz doesn't realize that they'd be saying those things because they'd know Gore would actually mean it. What Bush means is to shuffle more money to his friends at the pharmaceutical houses, and in the insurance business, and the HMOs and what have you - while actually starving the programs he claims to be fortifying or "saving". These guys don't mind "big government" at all - that's just their fake reason for attacking Democrats. What they mind is government that works for the people and not just for them.

13:36 GMT: Permalink
Bob Somerby has been trying to figure out just how much income goes to "the top 1%" every year, and observes that it's not easy to find those figures, even without all the attendant spinning. It seems to me that back when I was in college it wasn't that hard, and I'm wondering why, what with the net and everything, people are having so much trouble. Is this another bunch of information that's been disappeared? It's daytime, I don't want to go online and look for this stuff at metered rates, but I wonder if it can really be that much lower than it was in my student days. I'll tell ya, it was a lot more than 36%, and they paid taxes in roughly inverse proportion to the their wealth. But Somerby reckons - and I agree - that our media should being doing this research and getting the facts to the public. But they're not, so I guess we'd better.

Somerby also observes that even the well-known "fact" that "Saddam gassed his own people" is of dubious provenance, and wonders why the press hasn't made more of this story.

13:02 GMT: Permalink

I'm told that Jason Mraz is pretty good. I'm also told that he's got some stuff you can listen to at his site ("not the good stuff, really"), but that he encourages sharing at his forum, where you can get lots more. I haven't listened to it, though, because I was getting crummy connections last night.

Streaming: Bill O'Reilly loses it. Last night's show had the big phony shouting "Shut up!" at the family member of someone who died in the WTC on 9/11 and who was making no secret of his distrust of Bush's dedication to the security of our country. Highly recommended to raise your blood pressure.

12:19 GMT: Permalink
You've probably already heard the thing about Picasso's Guernica, but Lisa English has a picture of it on her site, and says this:

It's important to remember Guernica, as it's important to remember Auschwitz and the Khmer Rhouge; as important it will be to remember Baghdad. The photograph above is that of the original Picasso masterpiece, Guernica, which is on permanent display at the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid. The piece depicts the nightmare that was Guernica on that April day; the children, their families and animals all screaming out in horror as the bombs drop upon them. A reproduction of this painting can be found at the United Nations in New York. It was installed there as a reminder. We should never forget. It is now draped and hidden from view, apparently at the request of the United States.

George Bush wants us to forget because it sends the wrong message, as the Fascist Bush Administration sets out to Guernica-ize Baghdad.

Hide the painting. Silence the poets. What they don't see/hear, won't hurt 'em.

Think about it.

Tuesday, 04 February 2003

13:02 GMT: Permalink

From Body and Soul:

While it is certainly reasonable to be concerned about whether Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, or is anywhere close to acquiring nuclear weapons, could the major media spare a small measure of concern about the fact that George Bush not only has his hands on nuclear weapons, but seems to be making serious plans to use them?
I heard that.

12:02 GMT: Permalink
I learn via Dan Gillmore's blog that there's a new Janis Ian article on file-sharing up at The Los Angeles Times:

Don't Sever a High-Tech Lifeline for Musicians

The Recording Industry Assn. of America recently won a court ruling that effectively will cut off the recording artists it represents from new listeners.

In RIAA vs. Verizon, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that anyone suspected of downloading so-called "infringing" files on the Internet -- usually an MP3 of a song -- could be sued. No evidence is required. An accuser fills out a form for a court clerk and the machinery is set in motion.

The record companies say this decision will mean more money for musicians, but they have it backward. The downloaded music they're shutting off actually creates sales by exposing artists to new fans.

If this ruling stands, many smaller musicians will be hurt financially, and many will be pushed out of the music business altogether.

I've been a recording artist for nearly 40 years, with top-selling songs such as "Society's Child," "At Seventeen" and "Jesse." Six months ago, I began offering free downloads of my songs on my Web site. Thousands of people have downloaded my music since then -- and they're not trying to steal. They're just looking for music they can no longer find on the tight playlists of their local radio stations.

That's how many artists gain new listeners these days -- through the Internet.

After I first posted downloadable music, my merchandise sales went up 300%. They're still double what they were before the MP3s went online.
The RIAA says it is doing all this to make more money for me and other artists like me, but don't be fooled. Many musicians would lose money, many fans would be denied a universe of new choices and the possibilities of Internet music would be cut off before the revolution even begins.

See, I told ya!

11:43 GMT: Permalink
Seeing the Forest is talking more about voting machines, especially here:

For now let's not get hung up on whether Nebraska's Hagel, or Georgia's Chambliss or anyone else won in 2002 because something was rigged. There is no way to know, and it's over, and nothing is going to change anything. Instead, let's just look at what we have here:

- Really rich, far right-wing "Christian Nation" fanatics involved in the ownership of the companies that make the voting machines. That alone should set off alarm bells.

- Electronic voting machines that leave no verifiable, auditable trail beyond what the machine reports as the vote count. You can't verify that whatever was recorded as your vote was what you actually voted, and there is no way to do a recount of the totals other than what the voting machine itself reports. That alone should set off alarm bells.

- Voting machines that come with contracts forbidding looking at the code, so there is no way to check what the machines are actually doing. You can't look at the code that comes with the machines to see if it is set up to download special code on election day. You can't set one up on election day to see if it is downloading code, unless you steal the machine. (And there are ways to tell if the machine is being checked. For example, you don't send code to any machine that someone working for the company isn't looking at, in a polling place, and checking that the modem line isn't monitored.) These contracts alone should set off alarm bells.

- These are voting machines with modems, supposedly to report results, but modems can receive as well as send. The RAM can't be checked because you have to turn it off to move it to check what's in RAM, so the contents of RAM are wiped. And you can't run pre-election tests because the machines might be testing for the right time-and-date before downloading special code.

Who would have imagined that any district would EVER buy such machines? But they do. What competitive company would design such a thing? But they did. The unaccountability of results is suspicious enough, but when you learn WHO is involved with these companies this goes over the top.

(Also found a link there to a Hunter Thompson interview in Salon.)

Testify! has even more stuff on voting machines.

And a story I meant to note and forgot about a few days ago, the fabulous "the ballots needed to disappear" item from Florida - well, Public Nuisance didn't forget.

11:21 GMT: Permalink
Much thanks to Alicia, who found this:


I play it cool
and dig all jive
that's the reason I stay alive

My motto as I live and learn
is: dig and be dug
in return.
-- Langston Hughes

I only remembered from "as I live and learn," and of course I was searching on the phrases after that and misguessed the punctuation. I'd only heard the last couplet recited, so I never knew what it was from.

10:50 GMT: Permalink
Some things really are unpardonable. MWO has posted a link for a PDF of a flier from a right-wing religious group celebrating the Columbia disaster. Who hates America?

10:14 GMT: Permalink
"Democracy is imaginary", says Mac Thomason, quoting this:

The Senate confirmed Mr. Snow on a voice vote that was considered unanimous even though only two senators were on the floor.
Oh, for god's sake!

Monday, 03 February 2003

17:48 GMT: Permalink

I got yer Moral Clarity right here

From Matt Yglesias:

Probably the clearest example of media bias out there to be found is the fact that supply-side economics (i.e., lying about economics) is considered to be a legitimate alternative to actual economics so that disputes between supporters of not lying and supporters of lying are treated in the same "he said/she said" manner as disputes about whether a fetus should have the same legal rights as an already-born human. There's nothing wrong with trying to be neutral between the advocates of taxation and those who feel that taxes are morally wrong, but trying to stay neutral in a factual dispute is just bias in favor of the side that's wrong.
Or the side that's lying.

And that's why I absolutely take issue with people who characterize Paul Krugman as "partisan" or "shrill". Krugman is telling the unvarnished truth. The administration is demonstrably lying about its economic policies and everything else as well. These people aren't simply guilty of gracelessness, they're not merely arrogant (although they are that, too), and they aren't even just wrong - they are lying, and they are trying to overturn our precious Constitution and to keep the truth from us. They deliberately prevented our intelligence agencies from investigating Al Qaeda prior to 9/11, virtually guaranteeing that nothing and no one could stop the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon - and they sure don't want a public investigation to make that clear to the world (and, more importantly, to the fools who voted for them). They are now embarking on an absolutely irresponsible war that will cause hellacious damage to us and to the world, and they are uninterested in even obeying the restraints the Constitution itself places on them. They are emptying our treasury and funnelling your Social Security money into the pockets of the immorally rich. Any wholly disinterested party would be able to see it and say so.

They are anti-constitutional, they are lying, they are dangerously negligent and worse, and they are thieves. That's the unbiased way of saying it. Anything more "polite" is itself dissembling.

17:04 GMT: Permalink
Kiss your future good-bye

Charlie is looking at a projection of the real economic costs of war with Iraq - but Calpundit is even more scary.

But you don't have to be clairvoyant to know that things are going to get very, very bad indeed unless someone stops it from coming to fruition. Nathan Newman isn't just whistling "Dixie" when he talks about how Roth 401(k)s will protect the rich from paying taxes forever:

Forget the Estate Tax-- these kinds of tax-free savings accounts are a way to leave not just money to children and grandchildren, but leave them the right to tax-free income for the rest of their lives! But combine the elimination of the estate tax with Roth-style savings accounts left to one's heirs, and we have the making of a new kind of inherited plutocracy whose income streams are untouched by taxation.

And remember that parents and grandparents can also build up the tax-free income of their hiers while they are alive by giving directly to their IRA or, now, Lifetime Savings Accounts. By the time every rich kid is 21, they'll likely have something like $300,000 in assets in their Roth-like accounts. Compound that by the time they retire -- or need a home or anything else they can use the accounts for -- and they'll be living pretty tax-free while the tax burden falls only on those earning wages day to day.

Let's be clear, if progressives ignore this danger, we are missing the greatest class war designed on behalf of the non-working rich in American history. This is a plan to leave the investment class completely untaxed over generations, while leaving all tax burdens on those living by wages alone.

Remember, folks, the whole idea of The United States of America was to get rid of aristocracy and thereby put the power - and liberty - into the grasp of The People. But so-called "conservatives" are trying to reinstate aristocracy in the US. They are claiming these are "new" ideas, but they're just full of it. America was the bright, bold, new idea, and it's still a better one.

16:12 GMT: Permalink
About that "free press" thing....

I can never find anything at The Evening Standard site, so I'm typing out this item from A.N. Wilson's page today:

Bring back Freddie

ALMOST the only bits of the Today programme that I have enjoyed in recent years were the fortnightly essays in which Freddie Forsyth, right-wing novelist, and m'learned colleague and fellow-columnist Will Self, lefty novelist with anarchist tendencies, alternated with a Saturday essay. Rod Liddle, the programme's producer, revealed yesterday that he had been ordered to axe this slot because Number 10 didn't like Forsyth's trenchant opinions. It is not exactly surprising but it is scandalous. And it makes you wonder why Rod Liddle didn't resign on the spot rather than allow his editorial integrity to be interfered with by the Blairites who evidently control the BBC's news coverage.

(That's the whole thing.)

Sunday, 02 February 2003

22:04 GMT: Permalink


'The Republican Party Will Not Survive its Invasion of Iraq'
Right-winger Paul Craig Roberts says, "The Republican Party will not survive its invasion of Iraq... likely the most thoughtless action in modern history. It has the support of only two overlapping small groups: neoconservatives infused with the spirit of 18th century French Jacobins who want to impose American 'exceptionalism' on the rest of the world, and foreign policy advisers who believe that the primary aim of U.S. foreign policy is to make the Middle East safe for Israel. 'Regime change' is a dangerous concept, particularly when neoconservatives are declaring their intentions of changing every Middle Eastern regime and deracinating Islam, as well. These expressed intentions have radicalized Pakistani Gen. Aslam Beg, previously a voice of moderation [who] called for an immediate Pakistani military alliance with Iran in order to protect their nations from the Bush Doctrine, which he compares to Hitler's legitimization of 'war as a weapon of national policy.'"

21:42 GMT: Permalink
My deepest apologies to Vaara for not being able to remember what I'm doing from one second to the next.

21:14 GMT: Permalink
Maureen Dowd says: "The Bush administration has made fuzzy evidence against Saddam Hussein sound scarier than it is, and scary evidence against Kim Jong Il sound fuzzier than it is."

Boondocks looks at "Affirmative Access".

20:38 GMT: Permalink
Quote: "Remember when we had a president who lied about his sex life, instead of lying about risking the lives of a half million of our bravest?" - Bartcop.

And Bart finds a good quote, too:

There's a -- some of the greatest programs, initiatives come out of our faith-based programs or faith-based churches or synagogues or mosques.
Faith-based churches.

*long pause*

I guess I don't have to tell you who said that. Jeez Louise, you normally have to read slush piles to see stuff that hopeless.

20:06 GMT: Permalink
Eva Whitley has just barely dipped her toe in the water of blogdom. Developing....

19:51 GMT: Permalink
Here's a piece of freeware that lets you schedule recording on the net, called Messer.

14:08 GMT: Permalink
The Arts

Wow! Take a look at these awesome photographs from Bill Atkinson (via Making Light).

And, for more eye-candy, some gorgeous computer artwork from Fireheart.

Happy birthday Langston Hughes, from wood s lot. (Which reminds me, there's a Langston Hughes poem I'm looking for that I can't find on the net. Big Langston Hughes mavens are invited to offer help....) [Update: Yes, I've already been to the poetry site that purports to help you find poems. They didn't have it either. When I wrote to them, they just told me how to search for it. I'm telling you, it's not there.]

13:10 GMT: Permalink

Hearings on Clear Channel had Don Henley on the attack, noting that artists who didn't play ball with CC promotions had been blackballed from the network. My favorite paragraph:

But Clear Channel had few defenders besides Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and National Assn. of Broadcasting president-CEO Eddie Fritts.
Mays also said the promotion division represents only 7% of the company's revenues. When pressed, Mays said that percentage translates into $100 million. "Yes, we are a big company," he added.

Too big, said Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), who earlier this week introduced the Competition in Radio & Concert Industries Act. The bill would give the FCC a mandate to pull the license of radio stations that use "cross-ownership of promotion services or venues" to muscle artists or industry rivals out of the market. More broadly, it would direct the FCC to keep a close eye on market concentration and put a cap at current levels on local-market ownership, preventing future expansion.

11:48 GMT: Permalink

Mike Finley knows his Bible a lot better than people who invoke Jesus' name in defense of war do.

Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden both spent Saturday watching the news about the space shuttle; there are some interesting comments on their posts (especially from Mike Ford). I find myself with nothing to say, so I'm glad so many others have done it.

Atrios has a pointer to a hilarious investigative article on the African-American Republican Leadership Council by Gene Weingarten, who discovered that this group is awfully...well, white. Atrios is also right to the point about the way the media "balances" issues by having spokespeople from respectably large organizations with thousands of members (NOW, NAACP, etc.) against phonied-up groups like AARLC or "Concerned Women for America, an organization with few actual members but big donors. Just say no to Republican front groups!"

Elton Beard finds a solution to Bush's finger-pointing problem.

Jim Henley posts some e-mail he received from The Talking Dog (see link at right) about the conviction of Richard Reid, which lays it on the line about the virtue of using our federal courts to try terrorists. Jim also points to a really ace summing-up of the SOTU by Julian Sanchez and a really specious article by David Boaz. (Sorry, Jim, but it's dumb.)

Saturday, 01 February 2003

18:22 GMT: Permalink

If you haven't read "If You Want To Win An Election, Just Control The Voting Machines" yet, read it now; if you've already seen it, read it again.

Maybe Nebraska Republican Chuck Hagel honestly won two US Senate elections. Maybe it's true that the citizens of Georgia simply decided that incumbent Democratic Senator Max Cleland, a wildly popular war veteran who lost three limbs in Vietnam, was, as his successful Republican challenger suggested in his campaign ads, too unpatriotic to remain in the Senate. Maybe George W. Bush, Alabama's new Republican governor Bob Riley, and a small but congressionally decisive handful of other long-shot Republican candidates really did win those states where conventional wisdom and straw polls showed them losing in the last few election cycles.

Perhaps, after a half-century of fine-tuning exit polling to such a science that it's now sometimes used to verify how clean elections are in Third World countries, it really did suddenly become inaccurate in the United States in the past six years and just won't work here anymore. Perhaps it's just a coincidence that the sudden rise of inaccurate exit polls happened around the same time corporate-programmed, computer-controlled, modem-capable voting machines began recording and tabulating ballots.

But if any of this is true, there's not much of a paper trail from the voters' hand to prove it.
The respected Washington, DC publication The Hill
[link] has confirmed that former conservative radio talk-show host and now Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel was the head of, and continues to own part interest in, the company that owns the company that installed, programmed, and largely ran the voting machines that were used by most of the citizens of Nebraska.

Back when Hagel first ran there for the U.S. Senate in 1996, his company's computer-controlled voting machines showed he'd won stunning upsets in both the primaries and the general election. The Washington Post (1/13/1997) said Hagel's "Senate victory against an incumbent Democratic governor was the major Republican upset in the November election." According to Bev Harris of [], Hagel won virtually every demographic group, including many largely Black communities that had never before voted Republican. Hagel was the first Republican in 24 years to win a Senate seat in Nebraska.

Six years later Hagel ran again, this time against Democrat Charlie Matulka in 2002, and won in a landslide. As his [website] says, Hagel "was re-elected to his second term in the United States Senate on November 5, 2002 with 83% of the vote. That represents the biggest political victory in the history of Nebraska."

What Hagel's website fails to disclose is that about 80 percent of those votes were counted by computer-controlled voting machines put in place by the company affiliated with Hagel. Built by that company. Programmed by that company.

"This is a big story, bigger than Watergate ever was," said Hagel's Democratic opponent in the 2002 Senate race, Charlie Matulka [link]. "They say Hagel shocked the world, but he didn't shock me."

Is Matulka the sore loser the Hagel campaign paints him as, or is he democracy's proverbial canary in the mineshaft?

In Georgia, Democratic incumbent and war-hero Max Cleland was defeated by Saxby Chambliss, who'd avoided service in Vietnam with a "medical deferment" but ran his campaign on the theme that he was more patriotic than Cleland. While many in Georgia expected a big win by Cleland, the computerized voting machines said that Chambliss had won.

The BBC summed up Georgia voters' reaction in a 6 November 2002 headline: "GEORGIA UPSET STUNS DEMOCRATS." The BBC echoed the confusion of many Georgia voters when they wrote, "Mr. Cleland - an army veteran who lost three limbs in a grenade explosion during the Vietnam War - had long been considered 'untouchable' on questions of defense and national security."
Bev Harris of and has looked into the situation in depth and thinks Matulka may be on to something. The company tied to Hagel even threatened her with legal action when she went public about his company having built the machines that counted his landslide votes. (Her response was to put the law firm's threat letter on her website and send a press release to 4000 editors, inviting them to check it out.

"I suspect they're getting ready to do this all across all the states," Matulka said in a January 30, 2003 interview. "God help us if Bush gets his touch screens all across the country," he added, "because they leave no paper trail. These corporations are taking over America, and they just about have control of our voting machines."

In the meantime, exit-polling organizations have quietly gone out of business, and the news arms of the huge multinational corporations that own our networks are suggesting the days of exit polls are over. Virtually none were reported in 2002, creating an odd and unsettling silence that caused unease for the many American voters who had come to view exit polls as proof of the integrity of their election systems.

As all this comes to light, many citizens and even a few politicians are wondering if it's a good idea for corporations to be so involved in the guts of our voting systems. The whole idea of a democratic republic was to create a common institution (the government itself) owned by its citizens, answerable to its citizens, and authorized to exist and continue existing solely "by the consent of the governed."
When Bev Harris and The Hill's Alexander Bolton pressed the Chief Counsel and Director of the Senate Ethics Committee, the man responsible for ensuring that FEC disclosures are complete, asking him why he'd not questioned Hagel's 1995, 1996, and 2001 failures to disclose the details of his ownership in the company that owned the voting machine company when he ran for the Senate, the Director reportedly met with Hagel 's office on Friday, January 25, 2003 and Monday, January 27, 2003. After the second meeting, on the afternoon of January 27th, the Director of the Senate Ethics Committee resigned his job.

Meanwhile, back in Nebraska, Charlie Matulka had requested a hand count of the vote in the election he lost to Hagel. He just learned his request was denied because, he said, Nebraska has a just-passed law that prohibits government-employee election workers from looking at the ballots, even in a recount. The only machines permitted to count votes in Nebraska, he said, are those made and programmed by the corporation formerly run by Hagel.

Matulka shared his news with me, then sighed loud and long on the phone, as if he were watching his children's future evaporate.

Got that? Right. Now do you understand how important exit polling is? We need good, solid, independent oversight of elections, and we need it desperately. And I think we're going to have to be the ones to do it. I know there are people who worked at VNS who are pretty angry right now, and I think an all-volunteer force of exit pollers can be put together that can use the same well-learned polling science to make it work.

I also think we need local activism to demand in every locality that only simple, paper ballots be used. And that hand-counting be made mandatory.

Meanwhile, people need to be reminded of why both words in the phrase "democratic republic" are important. One of the values of the "republic" part is that the mob alone cannot rule - it's democracy, but it's not unrestrained democracy; that's why we love the Bill of Rights. But no small, powerful group is entitled to rule, either - that's the democracy part. As Tom Paine said, being able to vote protects those rights, and without that, we are reduced slavery.

The consent of the governed: Free and fair elections are a necessary part of it. Fight for it, or kiss it goodbye.

17:00 GMT: Permalink
Vaara is doing red meat again! Yay! And here's a post that probably calls for an Insty alert or something. ("Hey, guys, this is your side!")

14:04 GMT: Permalink
UK Report

Oh, I've said before that the laws that have been passed over the last decade provide the structure for a police state, should they be enforced, but post-9/11 a lot of people really do seem to be getting carried away. Even Margaret Thatcher permitted the Poll Tax protest, preferring instead to have the police terrorize the crowd, turn it into a riot, and then pretend that the crowd violence had preceded, rather than been a reaction to, police violence. Complete bans are another thing entirely, which this Guardian leader quite rightly condemns:

Only a minister with no concern for this country's history would go along with the attempt to keep next month's anti-war rally out of Hyde Park. Yet this, incredibly, is what the culture secretary Tessa Jowell has done in backing the ban by the Royal Parks on the February 15 demonstration. The state of the turf, ostensible reason for the ban, is surely less important than the state of the world.

The right of assembly in the heart of London was hard won - and it was won above all in Hyde Park and in Trafalgar Square. In both cases it was won in the face of persistent government and police opposition. A century and a half may have passed since the Duke of Wellington insisted it was "absolutely necessary to keep the parks, that is Hyde Park, the Green Park and St James's Park, clear from mobs". But not much else has changed. Just as Ms Jowell is the successor of the Duke of Wellington in attempting to stop the protests, so the anti-war protesters now need to see themselves as the successors of those who were forced to champion the right of assembly in order to get their point across.

But this morning's paper suggests a climb-down, in any case.

Meanwhile, how's that collective bargaining thing going? Well...

The TUC has asked for an urgent meeting with the deputy prime minister, John Prescott, to discuss a government threat to impose a pay deal on striking firefighters.

Andy Gilchrist, the general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said the latest move had raised "issues of concern" to all unions.

"This goes to the heart of free trade unionism," he said. "John Prescott's announcement also raises issues that go to the heart of local democracy."

Legislation will be rushed through parliament over the next few weeks, giving the government new powers over the fire service. They will allow Mr Prescott to specify the pay of firefighters, reintroducing centralised powers that were scrapped in 1959.

The general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, Bill Morris, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that the move showed ministers were intent on "delivering a CBI agenda".

He said it was not long ago that the government had insisted the negotiations had nothing to do with it, but added that it was now "drumming up obselete laws" with which to deal with the firefighters.

"Are we going to put them in jail? Is this what a Labour government was elected for - to enact draconian laws on workers?" Mr Morris asked.

What else are they trying? FIPR reminds me that this was the last week to make submissions regarding the proposed UK ID Card. Unfortunately, I've been so obsessed with the Occupation's plans for World Domination all week that I forgot my intention to point people over to Stand and their excellent action page. Stand does deliver some possible good news:

The Government's consultation on "Entitlement" Cards has now closed. Many thanks to the thousands of people who took the time and effort to write a response to the Home Office's proposals and/or let their MP know about their feelings regarding ID Cards.

The proof of the pudding is in the legislating, but it certainly looks like you all had an impact. The Government's rhetoric has moved rapidly since just before Christmas when Lord Falconer's over-hasty self-congratulation woke us up.

Over 5,000 of you responded to the ID card consultation via this website, of which several thousand went on to use to inform their MP of their concerns.

Allow yourselves a brief, gentle glow of pride... but keep 'em peeled.

But, you know, it's not too late to fax your MP about this, and it could just be time for you to contact your MP about the direction of this government on all of these matters - a war no one wants, suppression of public dissent, and so on, and so forth....

In other news, Sky News phoned Thursday to ask my opinion of the new proposed sex laws. I haven't really had a chance to look at the whole thing yet, but if it bears any resemblance to the original proposals, there's some pretty nasty stuff in there. The things the newspapers were talking about aren't that bad - some changes in the definitions and penalties for public sex - but I do think six months in jail is a bit much even for people who did it in a train carriage. And I hope they thought the better of some of the moronic ideas they had about, say, extending the sentence for flashing to two years. (Flashers used to gross me out, but they never actually do anything, for goodness sakes. Two years!) And then there was the bit about getting life imprisonment for having sex with someone who was drunk....

Oh, no, I'm gonna have to read another Sex Offenses document. I can't stand it.

13:30 GMT: Permalink
Upon hearing the latest buzz, David Lawrence observes:

Apparently it is impossible to come to any opinion or conclusion that is in conflict with the Bush Administration's view of the world through independant intelligent reasoning. If you don't agree with King George, it must be because you are being used as a dupe by nefarious anti-American forces or are in fact deliberately working against the best interests of the United States and world peace.

If you are a peace activist or even privately hold the opinion that war might not be the best idea at this particular juncture of world history, it's obvioulsy because you are under the influence of and are being used as a dupe of the Communists of A.N.S.W.E.R.

And the French, ahhhh, the French. They are not only withholding their approval of the Bush War Plan, they are actively spying FOR Iraq.

Give me a break.

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, 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?
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And, no, it's not named after the book or the movie. It's just another sideshow.