The Sideshow

Archive for January 2005

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Monday, 31 January 2005

On the web

The Center for American Progress has a report up on how well Bush has followed-through on the proposals of his previous State of the Union addresses.

One of the cool things about the Internet is that magazines that had to stop publishing way back when because it was just too expensive to produce them are able to come back to life with the reduced work and costs available via the web. Intervention Magazine is one that did.

Maryland voters might be interested in supporting the bill for a voter-verified paper audit trail currently working its way through Annapolis. TrueVoteMD has the details. (You know, of course, that I personally support paper ballots to be hand-counted on the night, but since Ehrlich has already brought in the machines, this is better than nothing.) Via Thomas Nephew's Newsrack.

Amanda at Mouse Words examines the essential political question: Are people inherently depraved? (Also: Abstinence-only education doesn't work.

Why Now? has the shortest summing up I've found of the election and what's being said about it. However, wasn't that before this revelation?

Bill Scher says of the election in Iraq, This Ain't Democracy. (And via Bill, how the Iraqi election turn-out was calculated.)
23:55 GMT

Readin' the paper

The Washington Post editorial on the Killing Good Government project (Civil Service Reform):
Finally, and most worrisomely, the new system appears to undermine government trade unions in ways that are hard to justify. The government already has the ability to bypass unions -- and in particular their right to negotiate working conditions -- in case of a national emergency. Now administration spokesmen argue that they may also need to bypass unions in case of potential emergencies, or simply because they need flexibility. John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, calls this claim "disingenuous" and argues that the changes simply use homeland security as an excuse to "remove employees' rights in a much broader area." It would be nice to believe the administration's fervent denials of a plot to destroy the mostly Democratic unions. But before we do, we'd like to see some clearer arguments from the administration about what the elimination of union bargaining has to do with either the nation's safety or civil service performance. "It would be nice to believe" it. Heh.

Kevin Drum actually has an op-ed in the WaPo today, Resist the Filibuster Fiat - but I'm not sure who he's talking to. The title (which is probably not his fault) suggests he's telling Democrats not to filibuster, but the text points out that the filibuster wasn't usually necessary when the other rules were in place - rules the Republicans generally resorted to with eagerness. Now that they've got power over the whole of government, the filibuster is pretty much all that stands between the American people and the undemocratic ambitions of a group of legislators who are actually far to the right of the people. (And speaking of Kevin, check out this post at Political Animal with its spooky parallel between the weekend's election in Iraq and the 1967 election in Vietnam.)

Peter Edelman and Deepak Bhargava, quoted by William Raspberry in Cutting Out the Poor:
The federal budget is not just an accounting tool. It is a statement about our priorities and our values as a nation. But because of decisions this president made to benefit an elite few -- at the expense of the rest of us -- we're now facing a set of budget choices that are unsupportable, immoral and dangerous. Middle-class Americans are mistaken if they think this won't affect them.

Edward Markey (D-MA) has a letter in today's paper suggesting that torture and extraordinary rendition are bad stuff and Alberto Gonzales needs to answer for his position. And here are letters explaining why elections are important and have something to do with freedom. Can someone tell me why? I mean, if you can't vote safely and verify the ballots, what the hell difference does it make? The Iraqis used to be able to vote before, too - and with just as little verifiability.
21:30 GMT

Things to read

In The Star Tribune, Bill Moyers: There is no tomorrow: One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office and in Congress. For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington.

In The Washington Post, Don't Mind Me. I'm Just Doing My Job: But now the art of press handling has evolved into actual manhandling. The Bush team has expanded the use of "minders," employees or volunteers who escort journalists from interview to interview within a venue or at a newsworthy event.

Progressive News on The Widening Chasm among Conservatives: The deteriorating situation in Iraq has precipitated this very scenario. The rift we allude to, has, in fact, developed into a yawning chasm; pitting one faction of conservative elder statesmen against their antecedents in the Bush administration. This battle of the giants can be expected to grow exponentially as the principle characters clash over the future of the Iraq occupation.

Now go read Digby on the proper attire of the modern political artist and others.
16:24 GMT

On the blog

Wampum has the finalists for Best Post up now, and there are so many of them they needed two posts to list them all. I'm not making any recommendations - for one thing, I haven't read them all yet - but as long as we're on the subject, everyone should read What I hate from the late, great Skimble.

Raed in the Middle says it's all lies - that Iraqis were told they would not get their food rations if they didn't vote, and many have voted solely because they believe it. And that the percentages of voters we are hearing about aren't of eligible voters, but of registered voters - but that the number who registered is actually pretty small.

Paperwight has more proof that the Bull Moose definitely doesn't belong in the leftward column, and says: Let me get this straight. Lieberman signed up for and provided political cover for the Bush Campaignistration agenda on lying to start a pointless war, lying to continue a pointless war, and promotion of incompetence and mendacity in our government, and those of us to the left of Lieberman need to reach out to him? What about those of us who just think that lying to the American public and getting thousands of people killed as a result is wrong, and that people ought not be rewarded for that? Since when is that a lefty value? Then Mr. Wittman follows up with tactics I've seen most often used by right-wing talking point blog trolls: moral equivalence, alleging intolerance, calling the left childish. You really can't take the Republican out of the boy, can you?

Check out Suburban Guerilla for the news that Bobby Kennedy "is only one of many mainstream figures who are starting to use the 'F' word" - fascism. And Susan has actually found an entire website dedicated to Awful Plastic Surgery. Worst shock: Janine Turner.
13:20 GMT


Paxman attacks BBC over 15% cuts in news budget
One of the BBC's most respected broadcasters, Jeremy Paxman, has criticised plans by the corporation's management to make 15% cuts in the news and current affairs budget.

Iraqi voters defy the bombers
Millions of Iraqis defied a surge of bombings and suicide attacks yesterday to go to the polls in greater than expected numbers for the first democratic elections for 50 years. The electoral commission's provisional estimate of turnout was 57%.

Buoyant Kerry refuses to rule out 2008 run
Sounding as much a future presidential candidate as a past one, John Kerry inveighed against George Bush's policies on Iraq, tax cuts and social security reform yesterday and refused to rule out a second run for the White House in 2008.

'I never let them get to me' says Scot who spent 18 years on death row in America
He came within hours of being executed, but Kenneth Richey never stopped maintaining his innocence.

Execution returns to liberal New England
Public defenders in Connecticut are making a last-minute effort to save a man on Death Row from execution by lethal injection this weekend after a stay was set aside by the US Supreme Court on Thursday.

60 pc turnout despite threats
On foot, on crutches and in wheelchairs Iraqis defied the death threats of extremists and voted in their millions yesterday in their country's first free election in half a century.

Letwin member of anti-war tax group
Oliver Letwin, the shadow chancellor, is backing plans for pacifist taxpayers to be allowed not to contribute to the Government's defence spending.
03:57 GMT

Winger watch

OK, let's see what the crackpots are up to.

Ann Coulter proving once again that she doesn't know what she's talking about, up at Crooks and Liars, where she tries to claim (despite appearing to be sober) that Canada sent troops to Vietnam.

At The Weekly Standard, High Fruitbat Fred Barnes calls Democrats The Ruthless Party. Exhibit A: Famous far-left terrorist wild-man Tom Daschle.

Oliver Willis says Oh God, He's Even Dumber Today: Glenn Reynolds says that Ted Kennedy demanding a coherent exit strategy from Iraq is the same as Strom Thurmond being pro-segregation. (Kennedy's speech at Johns Hopkins is worth reading.)

Echidne at The American Street also has a good laugh at Reynolds, who actually went so far as to state that, "It's just that the right has done a better job of muzzling and marginalizing its idiots, while the Left has embraced them." That's a good one; the left's idiots are independents, while the right "muzzles" their idiots by electing them to national office.

Jonathan Miller nominates Hindrocket as Kook of the Year after hearing him say that, "The Left has lined up behind the terrorists," and Atrios figures Greg Easterbrook deserves honorable mention after seeing Brad DeLong's take-down of Easterbrook's inaccurate portrayal of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies.
00:45 GMT

Sunday, 30 January 2005

Interesting stuff

What is the right question about the Iraq election?

Zhakora says Iran is next: The Financial Times has an article about how Halliburton is phasing out its Iranian operations. Also, a neat picture.

Stolen election: The Strange Death of American Democracy: Endgame in Ohio - lots and lots of reasons not to trust the ballot results, via Xymphora.

The Talking Dog: Accounting Firm of Harris & Blackwell to Count Iraq Votes - how else can Bush be so confident?

Billmon notices an interesting turnaround by The New York Times.

In our glorious future, you won't even get to see a doctor anymore.

Eric Alterman on The Unhappy Legacy of Michael Powell: For these reasons, among many others, Powell will be remembered, if at all, as a plaything for his party's far right.

Derryl Murphy has a spectacular series of photographs up here.
23:32 GMT

Two from The Washington Past

Oh, damn, there's still racism. A recent study reveals A Crack in the Broken-Windows Theory, meaning that nothing has changed since studies 30 or 40 years ago showing that the perception of the quality of a neighborhood declines as the number of black residents rises.

You know, everything I read about Maryland's Republican Governor makes me suspect that those voting machines are the key to it all. The guy gets into office, puts the machines in place, behaves just like Hill Republicans, and then whines that the Democrats are being uncivil.
21:11 GMT

Jim Capaldi 1944-2005

"I'd like to leave an afterglow of smiles when day is done."

Winwood: "This is a loss to me of a lifelong dear friend and to the world of a great poet, songwriter and musician. I am proud to have been his writing partner on so many songs."

Guardian obit.
02:00 GMT

Saturday, 29 January 2005

Happy birthday, Tom Paine

These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it Now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict the more glorius the triumph
Just to celebrate, go and read, even though they don't appear to have anything up celebrating his birthday. You could always read Russ Baker, who seems less suspicious of the gap between the exit poll results and the ballot tallies than I am (and who links to both sides of the debate he is having with Steve Freeman). After all, it doesn't change the basic fact that the system lacks appropriate transparency and the Republicans did that on purpose. Or read Patrick C. Doherty, who says it's time to Retire The Carter Doctrine that got us into this mess in Iraq in the first place. Or read Robert Reich's Debt For Everyone. Or read their blogstuff. On the other hand, you could just go read Common Sense.
23:58 GMT

Some good links

E&P: Senators to Introduce 'Stop Government Propaganda Act'. Dan Gillmor: Will Congress Ban Government Payoffs of Journalists?

Torture? Farber: What does Michael Chertoff, the nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security, think?

Anne Zook: Is anyone safer now, in a world where Iraqis are looking back on Saddam Hussein's regime with nostalgia?

Natasha on the end of corporate history.

Mr. M at NewsHog on Responsibility, and the Kerry I wanted to see.

Good news for humor in politics, from Jim Capozzola: Alan Keyes is thinkin' about running for Governor of Illinois.
21:06 GMT

Media thing

At Ari Berman's weblog at The Nation, the observation that the attacks on Seymour Hersh began right away:

Last week in The New Yorker, Seymour Hersh broke one of his most revelatory stories to date, alleging that the Pentagon is running secret intelligence missions free from Congressional restraints on the CIA.
Instead of denying the existence of the secret teams outright, the Pentagon and its attack dogs struck back with an extraordinary smear campaign. "Mr. Hersh's article is so riddled with errors of fundamental fact that the credibility of his entire piece is destroyed," wrote Pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita in a sharply worded statement. Washington Times columnist Tony Blankley accused Hersh of espionage. Former White House speechwriter (and "Axis of Evil" originator) David Frum said Hersh had endangered US lives. Michael Ledeen, a tireless Iranian conspiracy theorist, called the article "plain crazy," and "classic Hersh incoherence." Richard Perle--who famously dubbed Hersh "the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist" in March 2003--told Charlie Rose: "It was a typical Sy Hersh piece. That is to say it was full of inaccuracy."

But then, the Washington Post confirmed Hersh's allegations in a front-page story last Sunday. According to Pentagon officials and documents, the Defense Department has indeed created a new espionage arm--the Strategic Support Branch--reinterpreting US law to give it the broadest possible powers with the least possible oversight. The new unit has existed in secret for two years and includes the Gray Fox forces mentioned by Hersh--operating in Iraq, Afghanistan and other undisclosed countries, likely including Iran. The Pentagon is even recruiting "notorious figures" whose identities would embarrass the US government if disclosed.

The next day, The New York Times and CNN ran follow-up confirmations and DiRita quickly changed his tone. "It is accurate and should not be surprising that the Department of Defense is attempting to improve its long-standing human intelligence capability," DiRita said in a classic non-denial denial. John McCain called for Senate Armed Services Committee hearings. And Senator Chuck Hagel worried that the Pentagon had once again concentrated too much power in too few hands. "That's when a country gets into a lot of trouble, when you brush back the Congress and you don't have oversight and you don't have cooperation, and I see too much of that out of this Pentagon," Hagel said.

So Hersh was right. Now the Pentagon owes Congress an explanation, while Mssrs. DiRita, Blankley, Frum, Ledeen and Perle owe Hersh an apology.

He won't get it, though. It's built into right-wing culture that the facts are biased against them, so they must attack anyone who prints the facts they don't like; apologies are never an option. It's far more likely, in fact, that forever after we will be hearing Hersh smeared by righties about how this story was inaccurate, even though it was all true. There is no greater danger to the right-wing than a diligent and credible journalist.

In fact, Max Boot was doing it again just a couple of days ago:

Hersh, on the other hand, is the journalistic equivalent of Oliver Stone: a hard-left zealot who subscribes to the old counterculture conceit that a deep, dark conspiracy is running the U.S. government. In the 1960s the boogeyman was the "military- industrial complex." Now it's the "neoconservatives." "They overran the bureaucracy, they overran the Congress, they overran the press, and they overran the military!" Hersh ranted at UC Berkeley on Oct. 8, 2004.

Hersh doesn't make any bones about his bias. "Bush scares the hell out of me," he said.

Bush scares the hell out of everyone, in the same way that seeing a speeding train bearing down on you would. That's not bias, it's just facing reality. The rest of Boot's column is a more general smear of Hersh.

The Mahablog diagnoses Boot as suffering from a sense of entitlement:

Regarding "entitlement culture," which the Wall Street Journal seems to think is rampant in New York City (see previous post), it strikes me that nobody on earth has a bigger sense of entitlement than righties.
But I say Boot's real problem is a sense of entitlement. The Right thinks it is entitled to news stories that tell them what they want to hear. Bill O'Reilly and his temper tantrums are Exhibit A. Another recent example is the Right Blogosphere's near-worship of the Iraq the Model web site, which I blogged about here and here. As Juan Cole wrote, "Looking for token pro-American Iraqis to say nice things while ignoring all the evidence of US failure is pitiful." Yes, but typical.

And what about Bush's recent coronation, a four-day wallow in extravagence the GOP felt entitled to in spite of war and the tsunami disaster?

And I was struck by the way the Bushie crowd treated John Kerry at the swearing-in ceremony. Dana Milbank wrote in WaPo, "every time they flashed his picture on the Jumbotron, the crowd -- full of wealthy Republicans -- jeered." Although I never attended a presidential swearing-in personally, I've been reading about 'em and watching 'em on television since Eisenhower. And I have never heard of such behavior before. People in the past were gracious and respectful of the loser.

But this crowd feels entitled to act like six-year-olds: We won. Kerry stinks. Nyah nyay nyah.
But then, how does an adult deal with a spoiled six-year-old who has more power than the adult? If we can come up with an answer to that, then we'll know how to deal with the Right.

Can we put them in a really big quiet room?
19:26 GMT

Reading The Washington Post

The only article that really caught my eye in the morning paper was Tax-Exempt Hospitals' Practices Challenged, which says that the tax exemption is supposed to be in exchange for treatment of the uninsured and amount to "charity", but in fact they charge these retail patients more than they charge everyone else, and are pretty abusive about collecting, too. So a lawyer named Richard F. Scruggs is trying to get them to give uninsured and poor patients a better deal. And everything in the article makes Scruggs sound like a good guy, like he's on the right side. Certainly, the hospitals are being unreasonable with some of their patients who are trying to pay but can't possibly do it as quickly as they are being forced to - with the result that they end up with additional finance costs added to their bill. The only thing is that the article is by Ceci Connolly, who I've come to expect bad journalism from, and Scruggs is Trent Lott's brother-in-law, and I'm actually having to make a conscious effort to remind myself that it's entirely possible that these people might actually have perfectly straightforward and honorable feelings about this issue and there doesn't have to be some hidden agenda. But I can't take that for granted, can I?

Naturally, that got me to the letters column pretty quick, and I probably won't find out 'til Monday what sneaky things happened yesterday that the press didn't bother to make much of.

Michael Kinsley had a slightly tone-deaf article in last week's WaPo about the demise of Crossfire, and letters from readers appear in this morning's paper. Daniel Holloway of West Fargo, N.D., wrote:

Michael Kinsley [op-ed, Jan. 23] defends CNN's "Crossfire" by noting that it allows the co-hosts to show their political stripes. First, it doesn't. The format pushes the hosts to take their party's line, even when they would rather not.
Actually, it's worse than that, since most of the time the Democratic Party hasn't had a party line, which means that the righties shout their absurd talking points and Carville and Begala just shout objections back. Not that this changes the criticism much, but it might at least have been helpful "the left" had been able to make substantive responses. Although I'm not sure how long they could have gotten away with the natural response, which would have been to demand to know how Novak and Carlson could sleep after telling all these ugly, divisive lies. Crossfire was not the kind of show that really made room for pointing out that the Republicans are actually trying to break the country.
Second, Kinsley's defense is beside the point. The fundamental problem with "Crossfire" and related shows is that they are useless. They provide neither information in context nor intelligent commentary. Such shows are little kabuki theaters of partisan antagonism. I stopped watching "Crossfire" years ago, when it dawned on me that its sole effect was to get my pulse racing and to make me a little dumber.

Good for CNN. It is canceling a useless show after only 23 years.

Can't really argue with that, except that Crossfire was hardly the sole offender, or even the worst.

A couple of readers wrote in with their farewells to WHSF. Yeah, I remember that, too. Well, most of it - I wasn't around after 1985 to hear what happened next. But I certainly listened, and even occasionally hung out there late at night.

And after that I got bored with waiting for pages to load.
16:01 GMT

I hate this story

Well, let's see what The Black Commentator has to say about Condi Rice: "Handmaiden to evil" - gee, that's harsh! (Y'think they're listening over at The Corner?)

I'm getting a little tired of the idea that it's such a big deal that a minority woman has been nominated to such a high post, as if it's never happened before. Whenever Clinton did it, the Republicans did everything they could to knock 'em down, of course. But since Condi's predecessors at State were a black man and a white woman, it's hard to be too impressed about it all.

It seemed like a big deal at first to a lot of people when Colin Powell got the job, but only if you didn't know about his grim past as the first-level cover-up man at My Lai. And it might still have seemed like a big deal if Bush had shown even a little respect for the man, but it seemed like every time Powell stood up it was either to be used or to be shot down by the administration itself. Watching the painful public humiliation of that man was a horrible experience for anyone who cared about minority rights or foreign relations.

Rice shows no signs of even having the brains or conscience of Powell, so it's just your standard Bush administration horror show, just one more idiot who constantly surprises you with the rubbish that comes out of her mouth. Kinda like Pierce's regular Slacker Friday letter this week at Altercation:

Did I just hear Richard Perle on Nightline say that the biggest mistake we made in Iraq was not handing the country over to Ahmad Chalabi three years ago? Yes, and the biggest flaw in our national economy is that we haven't turned the Federal Reserve over to Ken Lay. Yes, and the biggest mistake I am likely to make in trying to understand this Festival of Fruitcakes is failing to have laid in enough mushrooms to get me through the State of the Union.
I mean, does it matter what sex or color they are? They are all terrible.

I am tired of being amazed at how bad it can be. I would rather be amazed by stuff like this. (I wish I could believe someone in the administration could at least do this, since it's hopeless to think they can pull their way out of a quagmire.)
04:41 GMT

Sex and politics

From the Dept. of Unsafe, illegal, and not at all rare, it becomes obvious that abortion is just the first step: Republican State Senators, led by Jeannemarie Devolites-Davis, want to limit the rights of Virginia's families to use safe and effective means of birth control. (courtesy of Maura from DFV) Maura points out that Delegate Dick Black (R-Loudon) believes that contraceptives are really "baby pesticides" and that Delegate Bob Marshall (D-Manassas) wants to ban access to contraception for victims of statutory rape. Via GOTV.

Zack Exley, who some may remember from the Kerry campaign, now has a weblog, and even though he is apparently here rather than there (and working for Tony Blair rather than for the good guys), he is still talking about DNC politics. He also needs someone to tell him how to do permalinks. (And I owe someone a link for that but my browser crashed and now I can't remember where I got it.)

Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) asked a lot of questions in Congress; they can be found at Truthout: What If (It Was All a Big Mistake)?

I wonder what this is supposed to mean: WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. (Reuters) - President Bush, faced with opposition in Republican ranks to his intentions to revamp Social Security, pledged on Friday to provide members with political cover from any fallout over the debate.

Paul Krugman explains Little Black Lies about Social Security.

TBogg offers his own entry in the contest to design an Iraq War memorial.

This is the funniest sex advice I've ever read.
02:24 GMT

UK News

Labour has managed to put their foot in it again with a poster showing two high-profile Tories as flying pigs. You wouldn't think this was a big deal, but someone complained and oh, the embarrassment. Here's the illustration-free story from the Indy:

As Tony Blair reflects on Holocaust Memorial Day, his party stands accused of making anti-Semitic attacks on Michael Howard and Oliver Letwin.
Oh, dear.

Meanwhile, I haven't been able to find the story online anywhere but when Kirstie was reading the headlines I heard her say something about an Albanian Mafia plot to kidnap Julian Clary. No, I didn't make that up.
00:25 GMT

Friday, 28 January 2005

Killing good government

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear when Zell Miller explained his sudden emergence as a Republican spokesman before challenging Chris Matthews to a duel:

MATTHEWS: Did I ask you about your role in the Democratic Party, because you have caused such a hit tonight, because you are a man of the Democratic Party? Long before this election, you had to watch as a Southern conservative the nomination by your party of people like George McGovern, Fritz Mondale, Jimmy Carter, liberal after liberal after liberal, including Mike Dukakis, perhaps the most liberal of them all. What caused you to cross the aisle tonight?

MILLER: By coming to Washington and seeing firsthand what a mess it is and how far out the Senate Democrats are.

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

And that remark did it for me, for here ol' Zeller was selling two, two, two lies in one. The first was that it was Kerry who had created the false choice between worker protections and homeland security, when in fact it was Bush who had inserted the related language into the bill. The other was that a lousy bill that Bush would never use to protect national security was more important than protecting collective bargaining and, more specifically, the non-political status of the civil service.

And now, Bill Scher brings us up to date:

Operation Destroy Good Government In Full Effect

Back in '02, Bush dared to veto a Homeland Security Dept. that didn't give him what he called "managerial flexibility."

At the time, LiberalOasis argued that Bush was willing to go so far because, in large part, he was following the Heritage Foundation's call to gut the professional civil service and politicize the entire federal workforce.

And now, Operation Destroy Good Government is in high gear. From the W. Post:

The Bush administration unveiled a new personnel system for the Department of Homeland Security [Wednesday] that will dramatically change the way workers are paid, promoted, deployed and disciplined -- and soon the White House will ask Congress to grant all federal agencies similar authority to rewrite civil service rules governing their employees
John Gage, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees has it right, telling the W. Post, "They are encouraging a management of coercion and intimidation."

Furthermore, the president of the National Treasury Employees Union, noted the greatly weaken appeals process for employees, saying, "These regulations were designed to ensure there is no outside judgment of what goes on within the department."
As LiberalOasis said last week, we've already seen "a management of coercion and intimidation" in action: with the CIA, with the Medicare actuaries, with the Social Security Administration.

And that has corrupted the civil service's ability to provide credible info instead of politicized info.

Now, the Bushies just want to make such coercion and intimidation easier, by having Congress repeal key civil service protections.

That's right. We've already seen what Bush has been doing in the areas he already has control over - career military and intelligence people are being forced out because they insisted on speaking the truth, while the people who have been responsible for a series of disasters have been promoted and otherwise rewarded. We're now looking at a process that will put everyone on our payroll at the mercy of politicos - paid by us, but working for them. That's absolutely not the way to get good government.
22:39 GMT

WaPo op-eds

Let us begin with Dr. Delusion himself, Charles Krauthammer, who says:

In parliamentary systems it is not uncommon to turn a political nomination -- or even a relatively insignificant bill -- into a way of expressing a lack of confidence in the government or in a major policy. In the United States that is far less common, but 12 Senate Democrats (plus the independent Jim Jeffords) have done precisely that over the nomination of Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state.

They have used it as a vehicle to stake out their opposition to the Iraq war. They are likely to pay a heavy political price. In this country, it is customary to allow the president to choose his own Cabinet so long as the nominee is minimally qualified. Rice is superbly qualified, and everyone concedes that. So it is mildly shocking that the Democrats mustered more votes against this nomination for secretary of state than have been cast against any since 1825.

It is a commonly heard refrain of late that "it is customary to allow the president to choose his own Cabinet so long as the nominee is minimally qualified." It is not explained why a confirmation vote is required at all if members of Congress are not allowed to hold the opinion that nominees might not be "minimally qualified". Neither is it made clear why lying about matters of the highest national interest, and performing one's job well below minimal standards, would not be sufficient to cast such qualifications in doubt.
Because of her race, her symbolism and her personal story, Rice is not a run-of-the-mill appointment but a historic one. Which makes some of the more vitriolic charges against the first African American woman ever chosen for the office once held by Thomas Jefferson particularly wounding and politically risky.
Another part of the right-wing "defense" of Dr. Rice is that she is black. Since she is black, it is apparently inappropriate to point out that her performance as National Security Advisor can only politely be described as a stunning example of mendacity and neglect. It was, for example, Rice's job as NSA to coordinate intelligence leading up to 9/11, yet when she was asked to explain why this didn't happen, she said that there was no mechanism for that. She was the mechanism for that. Why was she unable to do her job? Are we being told that we cannot hold Dr. Rice responsible for her abysmal failure because she's black?

[Update: Nice post on this subject at Pandagon, and some good comments as well.]

There is more humor in the column but I can't be bothered.

David Ignatius has a deceptively light-hearted look at, let's face it, impending doom, in A Reign On the Wane?

DAVOS, Switzerland -- There's a trace of what might be called the "Eliza Doolittle Factor" at this year's gathering here of global movers and shakers. Instead of the usual griping about tutelage from arrogant Americans -- who play the Henry Higgins role in the globalization drama -- there's a new note of independence and even defiance, as in Eliza's famous refrain: "I can do bloody well without you."
E. J. Dionne says John Edwards is out front again, talking about the Two Americas and also about conviction. All very nice, but I worry about paragraphs like this one:
But conviction politics has not been in vogue in progressive circles. This era's two great center-left politicians, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, have been resolute Third Wayers, tacking carefully between left and right. The Third Way was a tacit admission of conservatism's momentum.
Actually, it was an admission that powerful interests were not going to let a progressive win. And Blair didn't simply "tack", he capitulated entirely to Thatcherism long before he took office. It was Blair who campaigned against John Major by proclaiming, "We're all Thatcherites now," and who upon winning actually took steps that had been too right-wing even for Major.
20:17 GMT

The good, the great, and the shabby

Robert Byrd has been one of the few strong, principled voices in the Senate over the last few years. The right-wingers try to write him off by constantly referring to his past in the KKK. But Byrd was in the Klan a long time ago, and unlike his detractors, does not act like he is still in it. Byrd has atoned, and they have not. Smythe's World answers a recent use of the Byrd-the-Klansman "argument".

The Buzzflash interview with one of our favorites is a must-read: Is Wal-Mart a Person? Thom Hartmann Tells Why It Is--Kind of--But Not Really: Thus, with the founding of America, for the first time, only humans could hold rights. Institutions -- churches, civic groups, corporations, clubs, even government itself -- held only privileges. Hartmann, a real reporter who did the research, says that the only first-person account by one of the Boston Tea Party participants gives a remarkably different account than we are normally taught of the reasoning behind that event, a protest not against "taxation without representation" in the terms it is talked about now, but of a corporate tax break that would place a greater burden on "the little guy". And the case law that's used to buttress the idea that corporations are "persons" doesn't actually say that at all. And why America is about liberalism: The business of America, according to most of the founders (Hamilton probably would have disagreed), was human rights for humans, democracy, and limits on BOTH government power and ALL other forms of institutional power, from church power to corporate power.

Everyone else dressed for a solemn, formal occasion; Cheney dressed for a rock concert. "Cheney stood out in a sea of black-coated world leaders because he was wearing an olive drab parka with a fur-trimmed hood. It is embroidered with his name. It reminded one of the way in which children's clothes are inscribed with their names before they are sent away to camp. And indeed, the vice president looked like an awkward boy amid the well-dressed adults."
17:17 GMT

Words & pictures

Click for larger image. Maru provides this picture of "the huuuuge solar flare from Saturday", along with a lovely sunset, a lot of snow, and some ice. Those are direct links to the images because it takes me about a month to properly load Maru's page (on broadband!) and I know some of you are still on dial-up and I wouldn't want to put you through that, but I want you to see those pictures. Maru, I beg you, fix whatever it is that does that!

Dave Johnson reminds you of the Seeing the Forest Rule: "When you see a Republican accusing others of something, it means they are probably doing that thing." Right now they are claiming the press isn't telling the truth about Social Security (because they are allowing some of the Democratic message to get through). Of course, we already know the RNC is lying about Social Security. Dave also gives the commenter known as praktike the Comment of the Month award for a suggestion made to Matt Yglesias' call for a balancing liberal characterization of private SS accounts, which the Republicans now say should be referred to as "personal accounts". Personally, I prefer Seder's suggested "Catfood accounts." (Also: Dave on Why Republicans Win and, for the Mark of the Beast files, Democrats Fired, Not Hired.)

I seem to have missed this story: Julia reports that Not In Our Name had bought an add to appear in the NYT during inauguration week and the ad did not appear. Tell Daniel Okrent what you think of this. (Remember, be polite and be concise.)

America's messianic mission - NPR interview by Jill Kitson with former Times overseas correspondent Anatol Lieven on his latest book, America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism. (Thanks to Helga.)

From AmericaBlog: The Chilean retirement plan-model coming up short. Those who opted out of the existing system for privatized accounts got a lot less money out of the deal. Also Atrios on the same subject.

Body and Soul is a good place to go for inspiration to write to your Senators about Gonzales, with a flash movie from Human Rights First and of course more of her own words.

APOD: Shadow Set
14:29 GMT

Ohio recount update

I keep telling you we need paper ballots, not "receipts", but I also keep saying that's not enough:

Ohio recount volunteers allege electoral tampering, legal violations and possible fraud

`Why were there stickers on ballots in Clermont County, Ohio?'

Serious new election tampering allegations have emerged from an Ohio county, where witnesses allege that stickers were placed on presidential election ballots, RAW STORY has learned.

Several volunteer workers in the Ohio recount in Clermont County, Ohio have prepared affidavits alleging serious tampering, violations of state and federal law and possible fraud. They name the Republican chief of Clermont's Board of Elections Daniel Bare and the head of the Clermont Democratic Party Priscilla O'Donnell as complicit in these acts.

These volunteers, observing the recount on behalf of the Greens, Libertarians and Democrats, assert that during the Dec. 14, 2004 hand recount they noticed stickers covering the Kerry/Edwards oval, whereas the Bush/Cheney oval seemed to be "colored in."

Some witnesses state that beneath the stickers, the Kerry/Edwards oval was selected. The opti-scan ballots were then fed into the machines after the hand recount.

Allegations of ballot tampering in Ohio - which decided the outcome of the presidential election by some 100,000 votes - find particular resonance in Clermont, one of three Ohio counties which saw the biggest increases in votes for Bush from 2000 to 2004. The other counties were Butler and Warren; Warren County had a lockdown after an alleged terror threat that the FBI later denied. (Read more.)

So, here we have manual tampering on the ballots themselves. Remember, I keep telling you we have to hand-count them on the night, no messing around with machines.
00:44 GMT

Thursday, 27 January 2005

Webman Sampler
Well, sorry about that, but there weren't any chocolates called "Whitwoman Sampler".

Jonathan Schwarz at A Tiny Revolution has been doing a series on Social Security. Start here and work your way up, and marvel at Frank Luntz's explanations for why we are morally obligated to use the language of the RNC. (PS. Frank Luntz knows you are an anti-Semite.) (Via Hugo Zoom.) And Reptile Wisdom has the appropriate illustration.

Bill Scher says it's happening because you guys are finally leaning on them. Shoulda started earlier with Rice, but the Gonzales thing seems to be building up steam. Here's what happens when it works. So, where have you been all this time?

Sore Eyes warns you not to click on The Hasselhoffian Recursion or scroll down on these pictures.

More tips from Jess on how to pick up chicks, here and here.

Ringo Starr to become superhero: Ex-Beatles drummer Ringo Starr will become a superhero in a new cartoon series by Spider-Man creator Stan Lee.
17:30 GMT

All the news in bits

The monster had another one of his rare press conferences, and everyone picked out their favorite bits.

The Last of Safire: It's called How to Read a Column and it actually does have some useful advice, but do pay special attention to rule number 11. And then check out Julia's Shorter Safire farewell column.

And speaking of good-byes, Spinsanity wraps up.

Oh, yeah, didn't I tell you that terrorist alert in Boston on inauguration day made no sense?

The NYT reviewed what sounds like a really disgusting piece of crap called The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History from - yes indeed, from Regnery. Yes, it's from someone who thinks it's more appropriate to call the Civil War "the War of Northern Aggression". And yes, the wingers are actually treating it like a really smart book. The Farmer reckons it'll be right up there in the pantheon with The Bell Curve. (Also, this post points to this one by David Corn about how Newt Gingrich also left his second wife when she was ill. And I swear those Rich Little jokes sound like he's sneering at his audience.)

Carnival of the Vanities #123 - The Raving Atheist catalogs the religious landscape. Via Science And Politics.

Roz Kaveney plays a little catch-up: I had a woman at my door this morning asking me if I wanted to know more about the bible. And I said, 'I know quite enough about it already, and much of that knowledge is a burden to me.' She's also got a book launch happening in Oxford Street on Valentine's Day.
05:13 GMT

News & analysis

Sam Seder is on the radio referring to Social Security Deform as "the cat-food plan". I like that.

Reuters: Senate Judiciary Dems vote "no" on Gonzales On a party-line vote of 10-8, the Republican-led panel sent President Bush's nomination of Gonzales to become the nation's highest ranking lawman to the full Senate for anticipated confirmation, possibly as early as next week.

From Cursor: In a Financial Times commentary, Michael Lind writes that the U.S. has become 'the World's Dispensable Nation' -- while "the rest of the world is building institutions and alliances that shut out the U.S." And British Prime Minister Tony Blair says 'U.S. Needs to Integrate With World.'

Cursor also links to Democracy Now's interview with Gore Vidal, and says that Robert Kuttner agrees with Vidal's belief that America is sinking economically.

Right-wingers are confused that lefty bloggers haven't grumbled about Michael Moore's failure to win the Oscar; TBogg spells it out for them.
01:49 GMT

Wednesday, 26 January 2005

Rice vote

Senate Roll Call on Rice Nomination (AP)

The 85-13 roll call by which the Senate voted to confirm the nomination of Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state.

Voting "yes" were 32 Democrats and 53 Republicans.

Voting "no" were 12 Democrats and one independent.

Boxer (CA), Akaka (HI), Durbin (IL), Bayh (IN), Harkin (Iowa), Kennedy (MA), Kerry (MA), Levin (MI), Dayton (MN), Lautenberg (NJ), Reed (RI), and Byrd (VA) voted "no" with former Republican Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont.

The other Vermont Senator, Leahy (D), voted "yes", as did Obama (D-IL), Inouye (D-HI), Feingold (D-WI), and both Senators in Maryland as well as in New York.

Bayh, eh? I wonder what that's about.
23:49 GMT

Bits of stuff

I am going to die at 78. When are you? Click here to find out!

The delicious Michael Bérubé explains why Harvard can't find any qualified women to run their university in Women barred from Harvard presidency by "genetic predisposition," study finds.

The Shameless Antagonist locates the true liberal conspirator: The conspiracies of the left seem to surround historically important events such as the assinations of JFK, MLK, and Bobby Kennedy. For some strange reason, the conspiracies of the right seem to center around fictional characters, from Murphy Brown to Tinky Winky to Spongebob Squarepants.

I've heard Rahm Emanuel on the radio and he sounds great, but James Wolcott saw him on Meat the Press and he didn't sound too swift.

Ted Remington's The Counterpoint is the "rational counter to "The Point," this website critiques and corrects the daily editorial by Sinclair Broadcasting's corporate vice president, Mark Hyman, that is broadcast on all Sinclair-owned television stations across the country." All Sinclair stations are required to show The Point, even if it makes them vomit.

Jeralyn's tribute to Spencer Dryden, with a link to the tribute page at the Jefferson Airplane site (where you can hear some familiar finger-work if you click on the main page).
20:47 GMT

On the media

Daryl McCullough on CBS and the Bloggers: What it Really Means:

To me, though, it means the end of independent media in the US. The right-wing bloggers such as those on Little Green Footballs who held CBS' feet to the fire weren't driven by a burning desire to find the facts. There was no effort to discover the truth of Bush's service record. There is no comparable diligence in holding Bush's feet to the fire over his dishonest statements in support of the war, his tax cuts, his plan for privatizing Social Security.
That's true enough, but there's something more to it. Robert Parry at Consortium News (who really knows what he's talking about), reminds us of The Bush Rule of Journalism:
"Don't take on the Bushes" is becoming an unwritten rule in American journalism. Reporters can make mistakes in covering other politicians and suffer little or no consequence, but a false step when doing a critical piece on the Bushes is a career killer.
Parry once did some good investigative journalism on something that's become known as "Iran-Contra", and you don't see his by-line in Newsweek anymore.
A painful irony for the CBS producers was that the central points of the memos - that Bush had blown off a required flight physical and was getting favored treatment in the National Guard - were already known, and indeed, were confirmed by the commander's secretary in a follow-up interview with CBS. But even honest mistakes are firing offenses when the Bushes are involved.

By contrast, journalists understand that they get a free shot at many other politicians who don't have the protective infrastructure that surrounds the Bush family. Take for example the case of reporters for the New York Times and the Washington Post who misquoted Al Gore about his role in the Love Canal toxic waste clean-up.

The WaPo and the NYT resisted publishing corrections altogether, and when they did there was no real effort to clarify an error they still never really took responsibility for. The narrative that said Gore was prone to making up stories about how wonderful he was - and bats besides - still pokes its ugly little head up from time to time. Nobody got fired for this, of course, and:
For their part, the two reporters - the Times' Katharine Seeyle and the Post's Ceci Connolly - insisted that their accounts were essentially accurate even though they clearly weren't. At least publicly, neither reporter was punished. Both continued to write prominent stories for their newspapers. Connolly even got a job moonlighting as a political commentator for Fox News.
Neither these reporters nor Jeff Gerth, who brought Whitewater to the NYT by doing an utterly terrible job of fact-checking, have suffered for these errors, of course. Because these lies were launched against Bush opponents, and that makes them okay. People on the left (including me, over and over), have pointed out that these disasters in journalism should have generated some real soul-searching at the Newspapers of Record and throughout the media.

But right-wing triumphalists like Hugh Hewitt, flush with the successes of right-wing blogger triumphs against the mainstream media's few remaining honest journalists, pretend that their triumphs are the result of some superiority on the part of bloggers over "the MSM" (right-wing bloggers think that "mainstream" is two words), rather than evidence that Big Media is largely right-wing. The truth is that the corrections to the errors of Gerth and the Spite Girls appeared largely on the web, thanks to people like Bob Somerby, but much of the information really came from the few members of the paid media who hadn't drunk the Kool-Aid - mostly Gene Lyons at the (otherwise right-wing) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Joe Conason at The New York Observer, and Jeffrey Toobin of The New Yorker.

Lyons, by the way, wonders why a minor error on the part of CBS generated so much more heat and recrimination than some of their other errors:

Funny, but the last time CBS' "60 Minutes" broadcast an unsubstantiated, ultimately discredited story embarrassing to the president of the United States, there was no investigation and nobody got fired.

Well, let me amend that. Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr investigated star witness Kathleen Willey's allegations against Bill Clinton to a fare-thee-well before concluding what any halfway skeptical reporter would have suspected from the first: that she was an unreliable, self-dramatizing person with a habit of embroidering her own history.
So why didn't "60 Minutes" pay the price for its credulousness about Willey? Well, the answer sure ain't "liberal media bias." Even after prosecutors concluded that Willey had lied under oath, TV talk shows kept booking her to trash Clinton. She became a star.

That's also true of the infamous Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Careful reporting by The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and Chicago Tribune documented that their attacks on Sen. John Kerry's Vietnam record were provably false in every important respect. Yet they kept showing up on TV.

Embarrass somebody named Bush, however, and the rules suddenly become very stringent. A former Republican attorney general is hired to conduct an investigation.

Remember, the stories by Gerth, the Spite Girls, et al., were false, but the 60 Minutes story on Bush's National Guard service was true. Bloggers on the left have blown holes in pro-Bush or anti-Democrat stories over and over, to no effect. Bloggers on the right - most with dubious backgrounds - raised questions about a document which has never actually been proven to be a forgery, in an otherwise correct story, and - hey presto! - the true story goes down the drain, four people get fired, and Dan Rather himself backs out of his job.

You don't really need much more proof that Big Media, far from being liberal, is merely a conduit for right-wing memes, and that the right-wing blogosphere succeeds not because it is accurate (it certainly is not) but because it is right-wing.

Somehow, a few real journalists survive in the cracks. For example, Chris Hedges is still allowed to write in The Philadelphia Inquirer that Journalists' objectivity needs balance of truth:

These moments are never easy and often very lonely, even among colleagues. But real reporters never have many powerful friends. They never forget that their job is to give a voice to those who would not have a voice without them. And they know enough about human nature to be wary of all who hold power.
And that, of course, is why the right-wing, having ousted their favorite target in Dan Rather, is currently embarked on an effort to destroy Sy Hersh's credibility.
14:55 GMT

A note

Jim Henley on the most disappointing passage from Bush's inaugural address:

We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.
We used to say that no tyrant could sleep without fear so long as one man or woman breathed free. We appear now to say nearly the opposite. How depressing.
I guess it's a glass-half-empty kinda thing.
13:26 GMT

We're with the Daily Kos

The only thing I can add to this is my name. You already know how I feel.

No on Gonzales
by Armando
Tue Jan 25th, 2005 at 12:43:07 PST

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented actions. In this case, we, the undersigned bloggers, have decided to speak as one and collectively author a document of opposition. We oppose the nomination of Alberto Gonzales to the position of Attorney General of the United States, and we urge every United States Senator to vote against him.

As the prime legal architect for the policy of torture adopted by the Bush Administration, Gonzales's advice led directly to the abandonment of longstanding federal laws, the Geneva Conventions, and the United States Constitution itself. Our country, in following Gonzales's legal opinions, has forsaken its commitment to human rights and the rule of law and shamed itself before the world with our conduct at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. The United States, a nation founded on respect for law and human rights, should not have as its Attorney General the architect of the law's undoing.

In January 2002, Gonzales advised the President that the United States Constitution does not apply to his actions as Commander in Chief, and thus the President could declare the Geneva Conventions inoperative. Gonzales's endorsement of the August 2002 Bybee/Yoo Memorandum approved a definition of torture so vague and evasive as to declare it nonexistent. Most shockingly, he has embraced the unacceptable view that the President has the power to ignore the Constitution, laws duly enacted by Congress and International treaties duly ratified by the United States. He has called the Geneva Conventions "quaint."

Legal opinions at the highest level have grave consequences. What were the consequences of Gonzales's actions? The policies for which Gonzales provided a cover of legality - views which he expressly reasserted in his Senate confirmation hearings - inexorably led to abuses that have undermined military discipline and the moral authority our nation once carried. His actions led directly to documented violations at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and widespread abusive conduct in locales around the world.

Michael Posner of Human Rights First observed: "After the horrific images from Abu Ghraib became public last year, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld insisted that the world should 'judge us by our actions [and] watch how a democracy deals with the wrongdoing and with scandal and the pain of acknowledging and correcting our own mistakes.'" We agree. It is because of this that we believe the only proper course of action is for the Senate to reject Alberto Gonzales's nomination for Attorney General. As Posner notes, "[t]he world is indeed watching." Will the Senate condone torture? Will the Senate condone the rejection of the rule of law?

With this nomination, we have arrived at a crossroads as a nation. Now is the time for all citizens of conscience to stand up and take responsibility for what the world saw, and, truly, much that we have not seen, at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. We oppose the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General of the United States, and we urge the Senate to reject him.

Signed, Daily Kos Management (past and present)
[and many other weblogs]

Add yours. And don't forget: Send it to your reps.
03:06 GMT

Thank goodness I'm still a Democrat

Public Domain Progress reports on the improved Democratic performance in the recent round of confirmation hearings, including Mark Dayton's strong words. Most impressive is the headline at ABC (from AP): Democrats Call Rice Liar, Bush Apologist.

Good stuff from Eugene Oregon at Demagogue, who asks whether you trust Senator John Cornyn more than you trust Human Rights Watch. Cornyn believes several false things about the Geneva Conventions; HRW could set him straight. Man, I thought everybody knew this stuff. (Also I Hate Polls, reacting to some incoherent poll results: As I always say, there is no higher morality than that of the person willing to sacrifice their life to defend their country's immoral endeavors.)

Hugo wrote about the inauguration, and then mused further. See what inspired him to say, "I myself wince at the indelicacy of what I just wrote, but there's no other way to say it."
01:44 GMT

A couple of things

Good news - E.J. Dionne came down from whatever he was smoking on inauguration day and has reevaluated the big speech. He says: . . . Oh, Never Mind.

Obviously, I haven't been driving around listening to WHFS in the last 20 years, but it was rather a shock to learn that it's given up.
00:18 GMT

Tuesday, 25 January 2005

Stupidity report

Brad DeLong finds the Stupidest Man Alive (thanks to Jesse), and it is Donald Luskin, doing some amazing Social Security math over at NRO.

The NYT reports on yet more evidence that Hillary Clinton (a) is probably planning to run for president in '08 and (b) really, really shouldn't. Look, Hillary, people who oppose legal abortion only come in two flavors: those who haven't thought it through and those who aren't really pro-life.

The Hulk has a weblog (Via Kung Fu Monkey, who also didn't like the FF trailer.)
21:24 GMT

Recommended reading

Slacktivist looks deep into Bush's inaugural speech: Leviticus 25 is MBNA's least favorite passage. In the year of Jubilee, all debts were to be forgiven, all captives were to be freed, and the poor and propertyless were to be restored to their ancestral lands. In the agricultural society of ancient Israel, this meant that the poor and disenfranchised were to be restored their share of ownership of the means of production -- although that phrase, while accurate, may strike some as too provocative.

Steve Soto at The Left Coaster on the Democratic Agenda. There are a lot of good ones, including this: Senate Bill 20 deals with reducing unintended pregnancies and reduces abortions through increasing access to family planning services. It will also provide relief to Medicaid by decreasing the financial burden of pregnancy-related and newborn care.

There's also a proposal in that bunch to restore the protections that have been taken away from workers. Chris Bowers had a good long rant yesterday about how the left seems to have forgotten the importance of this issue (read the comments, too), and Nathan Newman came back saying that while in large part Chris is right, it's not so much Congressional Democrats as middle-class activists in the blogosphere who have been neglecting this side of things. It's an issue that really does have to be taken seriously, because it's inherently vital not just to Democrats, but to preserving (or rather, restoring) liberal democracy.
16:35 GMT


The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience by Ronald J. Sider in Christianity Today says you can't trust 'em to be good Christians just because they claim they are better than you. Via RelentlesslyOptimistic.

I've had these two pointers to media scandals from Ethel the Blog open for days and days and never got back to them, but check 'em anyway: Our National Guardian: Russ Baker writes about the story that unfortunately died. A Trojan horse bought by CBS does not exonerate the child of privilege's murky National Guard record, especially given how he's so willing to sacrifice those from the other side of the tracks. And PBS AND ADM: Edward Shanahan (via Undernews) writes about the continuing intimate connection between corporate crook and welfare queen ADM and the increasingly irrelevant PBS.

No one else seems to think it's a scandal, but does anyone remember that just about the first thing the Bush administration did when they got into office was make up a story about how their predecessors had trashed the White House and stolen the furniture on Airforce One? Oh, well. Anyway, Peter Dizikes has 34 subsequent scandals over at Salon.
02:48 GMT

Things to read

Matt Yglesias: A correspondent points me to this Newsweek story suggesting that Alberto Gonzalez is dishonest and has no respect for the rule of law. But of course we knew that already! And by appointing him, the president has made it clear that he is dishonest and has no respect for the rule of law. But of course we knew that already, too!

At the Center for American Progress, Rev. Debra Haffner on Abortion as a Moral Decision: I recently watched a special about the 32nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade. It included interviews with advocates, lawyers, women, and clergy. The only religious leaders were men opposed to abortion rights. It echoed much of the discussion about moral values following the election: to be against the right to choose an abortion is mostly presented in the media as the religious and moral position. It is not.

I haven't finished reading Tony Judt's Europe vs. America yet, but so far so good. (Thanks, Helga.)

The appeal to people on different ends of the political spectrum of Desperate Housewives is examined in The Nation by Richard Goldstein in Red Sluts, Blue Sluts. Via Deborama. (Hinckley!)

Mark Evanier has posted his own thoughts about Johnny Carson, now, and has been posting links to other people's ever since, including one from James Randi.

The Illustrated Daily Scribble gets inside Rumsfeld's ego.
00:14 GMT

Monday, 24 January 2005

Blog notes

Amblongus reports that Charlie Stross has a hopeful fan in Glenn Reynolds, who still hasn't worked out whose ideology he thinks he has. Amblongus also alerts us that someone over at Crooks and Liars has read Hugh Hewitt's book about blogging and found it nothing but more right-wing hackery. What can you say about someone who understands so little of political ideology (or is so willing to lie about it) that he would identify Atrios as "hard left"? Believing in a mixed economy is "hard left"? Jeez, what do they call actual socialists?

Just a Bump in the Beltway has all you need to know about what we really did in Falluja, and how we are losing the war all over the world.

Moral relativism watch: Check out what some people see as equivalent, and what they don't see. Nixon's dirty tricks were no worse than giving a few inauguration tickets to members of Code Pink? And, presumably, multiple lies to the nation, that caused thousands to die and are still killing more, by Bush and his administration are no worse than Clinton lying to the right-wing media about a blow job.
19:27 GMT

Sight & Sound

Via Left Edge North, Crooks and Liars has the clip of Jon Stewart with the Freedom and Liberty Bush Counter. You can also check out Wolf Blitzer interviewing Barbara Boxer. (And maybe you should carry this in your wallet.)

A cartoon

Cool pictures: Das Labyrinth im Niemandsland via An Ethereal Girl's Adventures in Cyberland

Now playing at Reptile Wisdom: Jimmy Lafave, "Bad, Bad, Girl," from "Texoma". A completely different musical reference is, "God said fire not flood next time,"* and Bush is trying to start it.

Harry Bell's photos: Ratfans, Gannets, Limpwrists, etc. (via)
12:41 GMT

Things to watch out for

In the WaPo, Secret Unit Expands Rumsfeld's Domain: The Pentagon, expanding into the CIA's historic bailiwick, has created a new espionage arm and is reinterpreting U.S. law to give Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld broad authority over clandestine operations abroad, according to interviews with participants and documents obtained by The Washington Post. Notice how Republicans are always doing this? Military and civilian participants said in interviews that the new unit has been operating in secret for two years -- in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places they declined to name. We're any of them called "Iran"? Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, deputy undersecretary for intelligence, acknowledged that Rumsfeld intends to direct some missions previously undertaken by the CIA. Oh, God, it's the Christian Jihad, too. Kevin Drum says it should be discussed publicly: After all, the only reason for the Pentagon to keep this secret even from Republican congressmen is because they suspect that even Republican congressmen wouldn't approve of what they're doing. That's reason enough to find out what's really going on.

Dave Johnson wants to know what happened to the Armstrong Williams story. He quotes from an interesting article by John Young which contains some interesting theorizing, but, then he gets back to basics: "What explained the lack of public outrage?" he asked? I think maybe the well-funded manipulation of public opinion is ... wait for it ... manipulating public opinion. He also finds a little of that good old-fashioned double-standard at Catholic University ("In other words, clearly the school's policy is that Republicans and their cronies may speak, and others may not!") and has an answer to a stupid question from right-wing trolls.

Dave also alerts me to the fact that David Neiwert is back and posting again at Orcinus. And one thing he's talking about is the fact that what most people think is just a ridiculous story is actually a lot more serious than it looks - the attack on SpongeBob is actually an attack on Southern Poverty Law Center. That's not a name you generally associate with tolerance for gays, is it? No, this is actually an attack on a group with a long and respected history of working against right-wing extremism, particularly racist extremism. But basically, this is an attack on tolerance. Go read it. And then read Talking treason, his response to Tony Blankley's suggested investigation of Sy Hersh and why it's a bit of the pot calling the kettle black.

Ron Beasley at Middle Earth Journal couldn't find anything to read at the NYT so he went over to The Christian Science Monitor for Daniel Schorr's A spin cycle out of control, where Schorr says, "Washington these days feels a little like Moscow in Soviet times when the government routinely dispensed information to the public and the public routinely didn't believe it." An Ron says it puts him in mind of the NYT's Elisabeth Bumiller, who still mysteriously has a job. Also check out Ron's other weblog, Just Pictures, especially here and here.
00:46 GMT

Sunday, 23 January 2005

The road to lampshades

He may be the most hated president ever, but this is just sheer paranoia on his part:

Somewhere in the shadows of the White House and the Capitol this week, a small group of super-secret commandos stood ready with state-of-the-art weaponry to swing into action to protect the presidency, a task that has never been fully revealed before.
Oh, come on, people, it's not like he was a Democrat or anything. And it's against the law, too, as TalkLeft reminds us:
In a nutshell, the problem with this is the Posse Commitatus Act of 1878, which prevents the U.S. Military from acting as law enforcement officers inside the U.S. Amazingly, the article quotes a single, unnamed civil liberties advocate who says that "as described" by the reporter, he had no problem with it.
Vox Populi thinks it's just a matter of time before these people are used to shoot at ordinary Americans, and:
Doesn't it bother anyone that the past predictions of the paranoid tin-foil brigade are proving to be far more accurate than those of the nice, normal, mentally-balanced naysayers? Secret commando force operating inside America? Whooh, I bet they fly in black UN helicopters with alien pilots!
Really. (via)
21:51 GMT

News and stuff

They're at it again. This time it's Tony Blankley in The Washington Times suggesting that Sy Hersh should be investigated for espionage. Apparently, when the Fourth Estate actually does its job, it's treason. Well, that sounds like your basic right-wing rhetoric, what with the facts being biased and all. Scaramouche reports: Former press secretary for Newt Gingrich, Tony Blankley, whose porcine features graces many a Sunday television political panel, has called for death of transparency and maybe the death of Seymour Hersh under the Espionage Act. By his own logic he is culpable as well, as noted by Roger Ailes (the good one). (Roger also echoes my own editorial creeb about the worsening vocabulary of professional journalists. This one is tact/tack. I've also had sightings of phase/faze driving me nuts with increasing frequency.)

Via Mark Evanier I see that Salon has an interview with Terry Jones "about becoming a political writer, the decline of the British press and how Bush and Blair have erased the line between absurdity and horror," (with a graphic that reminds me that only Graham Chapman ever looked good nude). Mark's headline, of course, announces the death of Johnny Carson at 79. Stories from ABC and AP, but Mark says he will be posting something personal later.

There's some good stuff at Alternative Hippopotamus, such as a summary of 10 pieces of specious infotainment produced by wingers, fundies, and neocons over the last year, a theory that a number of bloggers are actually part of a hoax by Andy Kaufman and other old SNL hands, a blinding photograph, a picture from my old stamping grounds of snow at Dupont Circle, and bumper stickers for Republicans.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. wants to run for Attorney General of New York State: For the past couple of years, he's been giving 40 or so speeches a year, mostly in the red zone, mostly to conservative groups. He speaks about the corporate attack on the country. "There is no difference between the reaction I get from Republicans and Democrats, because Americans share the same values," Kennedy told us. "If you talk about these issues in terms of our national values, everybody understands it." This is the guy who cleaned up the Hudson River and turned it from "a national joke" that was "dead water for 20-mile stretches north of New York City and south of Albany" ("It caught fire. It changed colors") to "the richest water body in the North Atlantic." I've listened to his radio show and he sounds to me like the genuine article. (Via Blog Party.)
20:08 GMT

The new Nixon Bush

My fascination with the reactions to Bush's speech and how his re-inauguration is being characterized continues unabated. Let's see how stealth RNC hack Jeff Jacoby did it:

What a difference a day made.

When George W. Bush took the oath of office four years ago, it was as a moderate Republican anxious to get beyond the unpleasantness of Florida and reclaim his reputation for easygoing bipartisanship. His agenda was hardly revolutionary: cutting taxes and improving public education at home, steering clear of nation-building abroad. He came across as easygoing, incurious, not given to hard thought or hard work - and like his father, unencumbered by "the vision thing."

Ahem. Well, I suppose you could look at it that way, if you don't think giving the "Social Security surplus" away to people who had paid the least into it wasn't already part of a radical agenda to speed the redistribution of wealth upward after lying about where his "tax cuts" were really going to go.
What Bush did seem to care about was the tenor of public discourse. During the presidential campaign he repeatedly promised to "change the tone in Washington, D.C." He scolded both parties for fueling "a cycle of bitterness, an arms race of anger" and promised to "restore civility and respect to our national politics." He even raised the issue in his inaugural address: "Civility is not a tactic or a sentiment," he said. "It . . . is a way to shared accomplishment."
Yeah, right, I remember him saying all that "uniter not a divider" stuff, and I also remember that the invective from the RNC was actually stepped up from the moment the polls closed on November 7th of 2000 and continued to escalate. By February of 2001, his smirking divisiveness was already well-established.
Then came Sept. 11.

It was always an overstatement to say that 9/11 changed "everything," but it certainly changed Bush.

Etc. Jacoby lives on a different planet, because I remember that the Bush agenda was so radical and destructive that Jim Jeffords actually left the Republican Party rather than continue to sign on to what Bush's machine was doing.

On 9/11, the question wasn't whether they were going to use the tragedy to accelerate the program of neutering American democracy, shrinking the middle-class, and wiping out what was left of the New Deal, but whether the rest of the country was going to let them. What really changed on 9/11 was that in those crucial moments as the towers fell, too many liberals, overcome by a mindless lust for vengeance, lost their faith in liberalism and forgot that times like these are exactly when - and why - you must work hardest to remember why you're a liberal and fight for your values.

But Bush changed only in that he became more open and arrogant about what he was doing. Early in his first presidential campaign he had kept his distance from the press, and they'd punished him for it. Then he switched to courting them and they fell for it; but once he was elected, his courtship devolved to giving them (mostly insulting) nicknames and deflecting or ignoring their questions, until finally it became obvious that he wasn't even going to make himself available for real questions. He openly stated that he was president and didn't have to explain himself to anyone. After 9/11, press "access" was further devolved to carefully-staged re-writing of recent history presented to a very limited number of A-list "reporters" like Bob Woodward who could be relied upon to provide enough PR for the "war president" in his guise as hands-on-hero.

The "nation-building" that Bush had shown such contempt for during the campaign was something entirely different from what he now pretends is nation-building. He had and still has contempt for the Clinton style of nation-building, which involved international efforts to keep peace and encourage democracy and protection of human rights. Bush has done absolutely nothing to promote such programs in his alleged "nation-building" efforts since his election, and his program in the Middle-East has clearly been one that creates chaos. His administration embraced the military dictator who had overthrown democratically-elected government in Pakistan and then aided an attempted coup against a popularly-elected leader in Venezuela. He talked then, as now, about "democracy" while opposing democratically-elected leaders and supporting dictators. But none of this should really be a surprise coming from someone who openly stole power in America by preventing votes from being counted.

Then, as now, the media pretended that Bush's past, whether it was back in his drinking days or during his governorship or just last week, had happened to someone so young and distant and changed that it might as well have been another man. His "born-again" conversion changed everything, 9/11 changed everything, anything at all changed everthing every moment so that Bush never needs to be held responsible for anything he has ever done. He's always a new man, rising from the ashes of the old with a purer vision and heart. Cut loose from any context, any accountability, every day "changed everything" so that Bush is ever-ascending from the pollution, corruption, death and destruction he has left in his wake. All brand-new, all the same-old same-old.
14:14 GMT

Saturday, 22 January 2005

Little Georgie's Big Day Out

Bill Scher says it was the Most Dishonest Inaugural Address Ever. The question I want to see asked around the blogosphere (I have little hope for the rest of the media) is this: Is Bush planning to invade Iran in order to short-circuit the slow but on-going evolution toward more democracy and openness in that country?

Susan at An Age Like This thinks Bush is still smokin' it after all.

Chris Floyd explains how Bush intends to "expand freedom".

David Brooks must have been on LSD when he heard Bush's speech, because he hallucinated all sorts of grand things and turned it into a column. At Crooked Timber, Belle Waring reckons Brooks must think Bush's mere words have super powers. And, she says: Note to outraged defenders of liberty: I think it would be great if the U.S. stopped coddling dictators in the name of stability or anti-terrorist bona fides, but that's because I'm a silly, utopian leftist. What's your excuse? She also notes that even Dan Balz at The Washington Post seems to have forgotten everything he's learned over the last five years, because he's got the fairy dust in his eyes, too.

The Illustrated Daily Scribble reads Bush's mind at the inauguration. (Also: Why you should support your favorite creators.)

The Funny Farm has a bunch of inauguration links.
21:11 GMT

Pit stops on the Information Superhighway

Democracy!Click on the orange ribbon, silly!

Magpie explains why labor unions matter.

This Maureen Dowd column would be good even if it didn't quote Sam Cooke, and it's a relief not to hear her complaining about her sex life. (Mo, you idiot, just go after smarter men. Alternatively, wear thigh-high black leather boots.)

Bull Moose nominates Josh Marshall to the shadow cabinet. (via)

Rox Populi has some good pix from the protests Thursday.

Let's see the right-wingers agitate for clean elections when the winner isn't a Democrat, eh?
12:28 GMT


There Is No Crisis: Protecting the Integrity of Social Security

Chris Bowers at MyDD on the Fairness Doctrine: Next week, as I wrote about last Friday, Representative Louise Slaughter will introduce a bill to Congress to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. The Fairness Doctrine is an extremely popular idea, but when Democrats tried to pass the legislation in 1993, conservatives were able to defeat it. They did so through the traditional conservative means: they lied.

TBogg writes about the American Idler, Condi Rice: We should be embarrassed, We should hide our heads in shame that we are so unserious about our place in the world. But when the world is already laughing at our headliner, who's really going to pay attention to the lounge act?

Mary at The Left Coaster says Michael Powell is set to resign from the FCC.

NewsHog: The US military is operating a system of collective punishment in Iraq. That means if the insurgents attack from your fields, they plow the fields, cut down the trees and blow up your local gas station. (Also: Tax Cuts for the Rich Don't Work. Plus, Mr. M reads Ann Coulter so you don't have to - and boy, was that ever a sacrifice.)

Atrios has found an amazingly loony letter from an avowed Christian: ...the glorious Constitution is there to protect the rights of Christians to profess their faith. (Oh, from what?) As Travis says, "There is often a blurry line between faith and insanity. I think our friend here just pole vaulted right over it without looking back."

Fantastic Four trailer, via Unqualified Offerings.
04:42 GMT

Fear of flying

Tresy at Corrente seeks Higher Ground:

I keep thinking of this guy I saw in one of the tsunami videos. He's standing a few dozen yards away at the water's edge, staring out to sea. He's obviously seeing something. An advance wave hits the beach and nearly knocks him over, but after recovering his balance he just resumes gazing at the horizon. Then another, larger wave hits a few feet away from the videographer, and the camera, amid rising cries, stops rolling. The last image is of him just standing there as others turn to run.
I want to beg people not to turn their backs on our country, but I guess that's easy for me to say from way over here.

And the thing is, I got this note from my mother asking if we will come and visit if she springs for the air fare. And I think: Rob is a foreign national, I can't put him through that.

It's not just the weird "security" at airports that worries me, though. I only caught a brief snatch of the excess yesterday on the news but everything I see and hear about it gives me the shudders. And that was before I read this post from PNH quoting Wolcott on the spectacle and then citing Media Matters about the fact that the talking heads who were invited to help cover the events were almost entirely conservative/Republican, and the rest were mostly the House and Senate minority leaders and Wonkette. And then he says:

In 2008, they won't even bother with Harry Reid; they'll just trot out the corpse of Alan Colmes, attach the electrodes, and before you can say Fair and Balanced, it'll be over to you, Sean, and I just can't help being amazed at how well our incoming President carries himself in his unassuming, manly uniform. Truly, he's a man of the people, don't you agree?
It's just a shame Leni isn't still around to film it. (And who says he'll be our "incoming president" and not just the same demented chimp again?)
00:59 GMT

Friday, 21 January 2005

In Blogtopia
Yes! Skippy etc!

The Poor Man on recent statements by Richard Armitage: Which is to say: remember everything we've been telling you for the past 4 years? How we're winning, how we're doing a great job, how we've never made a mistake, and All The Good News You're Not Hearing About™? Well, not so much.

Roger Ailes (the good one) finds more evidence that Mickey Kaus is just as shallow and annoying as you think, but could Kaus be hoping to get a job as the Los Angeles Times gossip columnist?

Susan Jacoby had a ridiculous article in the NYT the other day in which she blames the Scopes trial for the re-emergence of the Creationist nuts. Steve at No More Mister Nice Blog explains why this is not a terribly sensible analysis and challenges the likes of David Brooks and Instapundit to stand up on this issue.

Lex Alexander comments on Jonathan Edelstein's observation that our invasion of Iraq has turned into a counterinsurgency, and that torture, repression, and excessive force are in the nature of such things: Edelstein's solution is to get out now. A lot of thoughtful people argue in his comments that doing so would only make things in Iraq worse by allowing into power a Shiite regime that could make Iran look like Canada (my words, not theirs). I don't know whether we should get out now or stay long enough to try to fix what we broke. But I do know that they're both lousy options at this point ... and that this point could have been prevented with proper planning. Yes.

Jack K. (who uses too many ellipses) says it starts today: It's been said before, but - what the hell - piling on is a cheap and easy sport, so why deny ones own self: the Democratic party needs to start the journey now, from the county level to the national stage, delivering the message that traditional progressive values are the values of the American people. The right to be allowed to aspire to one's best is progressive; the right to be left alone by the government is progressive; the right to be allowed to worship or not worship the deity of your choice is progressive; the right to live in safety and security is a progressive value. There's more, but I'll leave it to the big-timers on the inside to hash it all out. From the outside, the quickest thing to say is that it's time, as the reinstallation of the least substantial President of my half-century-long lifetime looms mere hours away, to cowboy up and get back out there to fight the fight. It's not going to be easy (although it could be some fun, in a twisted way), but I feel like I owe it to my children to try.
17:51 GMT

As lady and I look out tonight on Coronation Row

Robin Cook on the coronation: One of the rare passages of the speech when Bush appeared animated by his own text, rather than engaged in formal recitation, was when he saluted the declaration of independence and the sounding of the liberty bell. But those were celebrations of freedom from foreign dominance - not to put too fine a point on it, independence from the British. He needs to grasp that other nations are just as attached to freedom from foreign intervention, including domination by America.

Greg Palast reviews Bush's coronation speech: Here on stage in Washington was the winner-class warmed and protected by cashmere and tax cuts against the strange, nipple-chilling cold. Hell had frozen over.

At AmericaBlog, this picture from the Coronation and this item suggest that the RNC is the party of gays.

Mark at Biomes Blog is justly proud of the royal portrait his kid made for the emperor's coronation.
16:38 GMT

Explaining away the exit polls - again

The New York Times has one of those articles that right-wingers will be citing for a long time as proof that the exit polls were wrong and the election was just peachy, and which I will be citing for a long time as a classic example of an article which appears to explain the exit polls but in fact doesn't actually say anything:

Study Cites Human Failings in Election Day Poll System
By Jacques Steinberg

The research firms that designed the $10 million polling system used by news organizations during last year's presidential election have concluded that the system erroneously showed John Kerry to be leading the race not because of a technological breakdown but because of more human variables. These included the relative youth of the pollsters, who were more successful securing interviews with supporters of Mr. Kerry as they left polling places than with those of the actual winner, President Bush.

You're waiting for the data on the ages of the people who were actually polled, right? Well, keep reading:
The findings by the two firms, Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International, were in a 77-page report released yesterday by the consortium of six news organizations - five television networks and The Associated Press - that had commissioned the new system.

The recommendations made by the research firms included the hiring of surveyors from a broader range of ages (half of those who worked on Election Day were 34 or younger) and doing a better job training those pollsters and working with individual communities to ensure that interviews could be conducted closer to voting sites.

While the consortium members generally praised the firms for the thoroughness of their analysis, representatives for the news organizations said they had not yet decided whether to retain Edison and Mitofsky for future elections. Such a decision is expected within the next month or so.

Hm, maybe it does say something after all - that seems to be a threat to exit pollsters that if they don't make the exits line up with the machine results, they'll be out of a job. Whoops! Better not let early poll results get leaked next time!
"We are all making up our minds as to what the next move is," said John Stack, vice president for newsgathering at Fox News, one of the consortium members. "We know it is an imprecise system. But we're providing an important service for the American public. We need to try to get the best product possible."
What is the "important service" that the exit polls supply? It would be impolite to ask, because then they might have to tell you that exit polls are vital for determining whether the election results are accurate. That's why it is disturbing that the exits and the ballot counts don't match. But no one seems to think the ballot counts should be investigated. I wonder why that is....
In an effort to prevent a recurrence of what was the most visible dissemination of the flawed results - leaks of the data, beginning in the early afternoon, to various Web logs - the consortium, the National Election Pool, announced yesterday that it would delay the release to news organizations of voter survey results during future elections by five hours - until 6 p.m., Eastern time.
Ah, yes, that'll solve the problem - make sure no one finds out what the exit polls really say before you have a chance to edit them to match the election results. Whew! That was a close one!
In positing why the overstatements of Mr. Kerry's performance were so pronounced, the researchers said they were convinced that the technical foundation on which their work was based was sound.

Instead, the report concluded that at least some of the breakdown was rooted in the "interactions" between some pollsters and some voters. In general, the surveys appeared to overrepresent younger voters, who tended to vote for Mr. Kerry, and to underrepresent older voters, who tended to vote for Mr. Bush.

Finally! A hint that younger voters "appeared" to be overrepresented - but only a hint, it seems. We are not told that they were overrepresented, nor given any figures. That "appeared" is unexplained; the words I emphasized indicate that this is all guesswork, anyway.
In analyzing the results, the researchers were careful to indicate that there was no evidence that the surveyors had embarked on any conscious effort to skew the vote.

The researchers focused instead on the median age of the surveyors, 34, and they hypothesized that perhaps younger voters felt more comfortable than older voters submitting questionnaires to younger surveyors.

Wait - was it the surveyors or the voters who were younger? What are we being told, here? Is there, in fact, any evidence that the voters surveyed actually were unrepresentative of voters in general? Again, this language sounds like it's all guesswork.

The report itself is a .pdf, and I only gave it a quick scan, since in my old age my eyes tend to glaze over on these things, and I only tried to find any disparity between age of interviewer and age of voter. There did seem to be a higher completion rate with older interviewers, but that doesn't actually tell me whether a larger proportion of those interviewed by younger surveyors were themselves younger. There's also a statement in the text that the interactions between surveyor and voter tended to be rated higher if they were closer in age, and while the numbers do bear this out somewhat, it doesn't look significant to me when you add up the positives, which work out to be about the same.

The report does, worryingly, claim that they had "problems" with the exit polls with what are ordinary processes that have existed in elections as long as I have been voting. What were they doing in this job if they didn't know this stuff?

I'll wait for someone who likes to read annoying .pdfs to issue their analysis. But until then, I can't say that this report explains the discrepancy between the exit polls and the election results, and I know for certain that the NYT article doesn't. It does seem to me that if that explanation was there, it should have been in the release from the pollsters and therefore in the article. The fact that the details aren't in the article suggests that the pollsters couldn't find them to draw attention to, which surely they would have done if they'd really found the reason for that discrepancy.

In other words, this looks like yet another after-the-fact attempt to explain something that no one has a good explanation for.
01:53 GMT

While I was out...

I don't know about you, but I went out to the pub and tried to ignore it all as much as possible. Now I'm back, and I discover at enduring Friedman that the whole world has been divided up into blue and red countries by - no, not David Brooks, but the other guy. France is blue, Iran is red. God, it is so tiring.

I do feel so much safer knowing that this guy is off the streets.

I don't know who had this idea first, but the lovely MadKane has launched a whole new weblog dedicated to it: President Boxer.
00:26 GMT

Thursday, 20 January 2005

In the mix

The politician formerly known as "Conservative Democratic Senator Robert Byrd" has apparently insisted on debate over CondiLiar Rice's nomination, delaying her confirmation. Blue Lemur says Byrd will be speaking and that the debate is planned to be nine hours long. Democrats are also delaying a vote on Gonzales' nomination.

I seem to recall an announcement from Radio Left that they're doing the jazz funeral for the occasion, and that's all I have to say about that, but I see from Memeorandum that the WSJ actually has an article about how Air America is covering it. (I happen to be listening at the moment, and Unfiltered is also covering the start of the New Orleans event.)

Does it actually make any sense that Chinese and Iraqi terrorists would attack Boston? A really paranoid person would suspect that... ah, never mind.

Sidney Blumenthal in the Guardian, A New Deal to scupper a presidency: In his second term, President Bush is determined on regime change. The country whose order he seeks to overthrow is not ruled by mullahs or Ba'athists. But members of his administration have compared its system to communism. The battle will be "one of the most important conservative undertakings of modern times", the deputy to White House political director Karl Rove wrote in a confidential memo. Since the election, the president has spoken often of the "coming crisis" and he has mobilised the government to begin a propaganda campaign to prepare public opinion for the conflict ahead. The nation whose regime he is set on toppling is the United States. Josh Marshall was happy to learn from this article that Robert Rubin is on-sides on Social Security.

Your Harry Potter Alter Ego Is...? better than most quizzes (at least I don't have to choose between two movies I've never heard of), but it definitely has the worst spelling. Via Lis Riba.
17:17 GMT

Water gets hot; frog notices, too late

At Corrente The Farmer has a good laugh over another awakening:

Paul Craig Roberts, him of the former "Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. [...] Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page [...] Contributing Editor of National Review," etc... etc... fame and fortune and other adventures in stupid bad ideas - yes - that Paul Craig Roberts, has alas apparently woken to the startling realization that "Americans have been betrayed." Ding-ding-ding-ding!, the alarm clock tolls for thee, Paul C Roberts.

And it's not just him; The Farmer treats us to a link to Justin Raimondo's Today's Conservatives Are Fascists:

The idea that today's conservatives are in any way defenders of individual liberty, the free market, and what Russell Kirk called "the permanent things," i.e., the sacred traditions that have accumulated over time to constitute the core of our Judeo-Christian culture, is no longer a defensible proposition. Instead, what used to be called the conservative movement has morphed, almost overnight, into a coterie of moral monsters, whose political program is one of unmitigated evil.

My good friend Lew Rockwell has recently come to this conclusion:

"Year's end is the time for big thoughts, so here are mine. The most significant socio-political shift in our time has gone almost completely unremarked, and even unnoticed. It is the dramatic shift of the red-state bourgeoisie from leave-us-alone libertarianism, manifested in the Congressional elections of 1994, to almost totalitarian statist nationalism. Whereas the conservative middle class once cheered the circumscribing of the federal government, it now celebrates power and adores the central state, particularly its military wing. . What this implies for libertarians is a crying need to draw a clear separation between what we believe and what conservatives believe. It also requires that we face the reality of the current threat forthrightly by extending more rhetorical tolerance leftward and less rightward."
And that, my friends, could lead to liberalism. But you were too long diverted from the path by pretty lies, and you may have lost us everything.
13:27 GMT

Perfect Headline

Poll: Nation split on Bush as uniter or divider
Well, I laughed, anyway.
On the eve of President Bush's inauguration, a poll shows the nation is split over whether he has united or divided the nation, but a majority believe his inauguration festivities should be toned down because of the war.

Bush's inauguration was viewed by 69 percent, more than two-thirds of respondents, as a celebration by the winning presidential candidate's supporters rather than a celebration of democracy by all Americans, as 29 percent saw it. Two percent had no opinion.

And 79 percent of poll respondents said they believe the inauguration ceremony will not do much to heal political divisions in the country. Eighteen percent said it would, and 3 percent had no opinion.

And, on the bad news and good news front: Most people think protest demonstrations would be inappropriate - but 71% said so in 2001, and now it's down to 61%. That's sort of shockingly depressing and slightly heartening at the same time, I guess. (via)
01:25 GMT

Wednesday, 19 January 2005


Huygens lands in Titanian mud - scroll down a bit and see an animation from stills of the descent.

Special Report on Inaugural Balloons
23:53 GMT

Kerry and Boxer voted "No"

I haven't found an article yet but the vote on Condi had two dissenters. It's interesting that Kerry was the other one. I wonder what it means. Biden said he was voting for hope over experience. Is the real reason for Dem "yes" votes a fear that Frist will pull "the nuclear option" if they don't go along as much as possible?

Now go look at this gorgeous sunset.
17:23 GMT

The search for better headlines

Media manipulation, according to Xymphora, where the WMD/CBS timeline comes to this: The non-story of the CBS firings, which dominated American news and discussion for days, was neatly used to cover the huge story - almost completely ignored - that George Bush lied to the American people, Congress, and the world in order to start a war which has turned into a debacle for the United States. The White House, which presumably needed the cooperation of the disgusting American media, delayed the WMD story just enough to have it completely covered by the CBS story. Eric Boehlert compares the amount of ink expended on each story: It's worth noting that the New York Times not only kept the WMD story off Page 1 Thursday but ran just a 140-word news brief deep inside the newspaper about the end of the WMD hunt. (The "public editor" at the NYT is, of course, Daniel Okrent.)

The right-wing is soft on crime, says Jerome Doolittle, noting that "vicious, corrupt rogue cop" Tom Coleman received a slap on the wrist for kidnapping wrongfully arresting 39 innocent people and committing perjury to put them in jail. (That piece was written after the jury sentencing recommendation but before the actual sentence was announced; the judge chose yesterday to give him - yes! - a slap on the wrist.) Oh, yeah, racism is dead.

But what everyone's talking about this morning is a piece in the WaPo called New Doubts On Plan For Social Security that starts with this amusing quote: House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) predicted yesterday that partisan warfare over Social Security will quickly render President Bush's plan "a dead horse" and called on Congress to undertake a broader review of the problems of an aging nation. What makes it amusing is that the "partisan" warfare seems to be going on inside the Republican Party - Democratic objections were simply being ignored, but now that many Republicans are balking it's become a problem of "partisanship". Ho ho ho. Max says this is all just part of an exit strategy. The Decembrist appears to disagree, saying it's all part of a political game to make Republicans appear to be the dynamic, forward-looking party of opportunity. Kevin Drum is baffled but thinks Ed Kilgore is right in thinking it's a feint to trap the Democrats into agreeing to another ghastly compromise. (I'm not sure, but the Democratic leadership has been stupid that way.) Matt seems ready to sell women out because we thoughtlessly live longer.

The best news was Boxer versus Rice, with Rice acting offended at having her integrity impugned, and Boxer pointing out that she was only reading Rice's own public words. But did you ever think, five years ago, that you would ever hear a nominee to head State say things like that the goal in Iraq was "to get the mission accomplished"? (Good commentary from Demagogue, who was pleased to see Dems standing up for a change, and from Steve Soto, who observes that even Biden and Kerry fried some Rice.)
15:42 GMT

What a coincidence!

Okay, does this have "abuse of power" written all over it? This goes right into my Mark of the Beast file:

But then, the FCC has been awfully hard on Entercom -- based right here in the Philadelphia suburb of Bala Cynwyd -- since last October...or right before the presidential election, if you will. Last month, the FCC proposed a $220,000 fine -- the maximum possible -- against Entercom in a case involving lewd talk, including a game of "Naked Twister," by a disc jockey in Kansas (Kansas?). The guy sounds like a knucklehead, but there was only a complaint from one listener -- and the shows were aired some two-and-a-half years ago!

On Oct. 15 of last year, the FCC proposed a $55.000 fine -- also the maximum possible in that case -- against Entercom for comments that a Sacramento morning jock made all the way back in January 2003.

In one of those remarkable coincidences that can only happen in America, the FCC's pattern of maximum fines against Entercom started right about the same time that it came out that the company's 72-year-old founder, Joseph M. Field, was making huge donations to Kerry's presidential campaign.

How huge? Federal election records show that Field's contibutions to Kerry-linked campaign groups -- mainly the Media Fund, a 527 committee linked to Kerry backer George Soros -- totalled a whopping $1.82 million. Reports say Field is a lifelong Republican but ardent environmentalist who also soured on Bush's economic policies. His son David Field, gave another $50,000 to pro-Kerry causes.

What's more, in a story that Kerry loved to tell on the stump this fall, Field's 6-year-old grandson, William, raised $680 in quarters for the Democrat by selling bracelets over his summer vacation.

It could be a long four years for Entercom, beginning Thursday.

Via Bad Attitudes.
04:18 GMT

Stuff I saw

Bill Scher (of LiberalOasis) writes to tell me who she is: "I heard Stephanie Miller sub in once for Ed Schultz (they're both with the same network). She's fine, far as I can tell. Reliably liberal, if uninspiring. Better than Imus, though having Imus on the network will probably help lure some Beltway types to listen, since he gets politicos as regular guests." Thanks, Bill.

Results for America has new survey results showing that most Americans disagree with most of the administration's foreign policy.

From Business Today, GM health care concerns top Wagoner's worry list: DETROIT - If Rick Wagoner can't sleep at night, it could be because he's thinking about the escalating cost of health care. General Motors Corp.'s chairman and chief executive officer said his company's health care costs worry him more than other problems, including the automaker's slipping market share and the strength of its competition. I've been wondering when business is going to realize that some kind of national healthcare or health insurance is what we really need to take one big headache away from them. Via Kos and Atrios.

Also via Atrios, Sam Heldman demonstrates exactly why I have always opposed parental notification laws. (But, Sam, we supply the backlash.)
00:38 GMT

Tuesday, 18 January 2005

Points of interest

The Poor Man brings us The Good News You Aren't Hearing About in Iraq: At last we get to hear something about all the little girls who get their dollies back - news which has been cynically suppressed by the objectively pro-terrorist liberal media conspiracy. Kareem's little sister will surely never forget this heart-warming moment, and she - and all the little children of Fallujah - will no doubt be eager to repay us for all the fantastic humanitarian work we're doing. Isn't that great! Liberals would probably be happier if Saddam was still around and baby girls never got their dollies back, but real Americans know better. Just wait until John Negroponte's death squads Freedom Posses get going, and we start really turning that corner! (via)

Jesse investigates why Katie Couric is too liberal for CBS News.

Ex-Judge Roy Moore leading race for GOP nomination. Well, the race hasn't officially started, and no one is really sure who will be in it yet, but, when it comes down to it, we still don't know if the machines will vote for him, do we?

I like Warren Ellis anyway, but I've just got to read the book that Jim Henley describes as, "the kind of story you might get if James Tiptree Jr. had survived into the 90s, but with more cheesecake."

The American Taliban T-Shirt
17:53 GMT

On the radio

It looks like AAR is in DC now at WWRC 1260 AM. So I checked the line-up and noticed that instead of Marc & Mark in morning drive they have Imus. That's a shame, really, but it's Clear Channel, what can you expect? They also don't have Lizz and Rachel, which is also a shame; I don't know who Stephanie Miller is, since the bio just tells you that her father was a Republican. They have the full Ed Schultz show followed by Randi Rhodes, which is unusual, but means Majority Report isn't live and displaces Mike Malloy. Oh, well, you wouldn't expect CC to broadcast Malloy.

Anyway, Franken is doing his Coronation Day show live from DC. Stay home and listen to the radio, I'm worried about what might happen to you if you venture inside the DC city limits. (Remember: It's the easiest way to spend Not One Damn Dime.) I still think everyone who really needs to demonstrate should do it just outside the diamond at places like Chevy Chase Circle.

Actually, what I'd like is if every single person who lives and works in DC leaves the city for the day. Yeah, the Republicans can have it to themselves - see if they can find a drink or a meal when no real people are there. (And since everyone is expecting the city to be packed with protesters, that will be a non-story the press can ignore. But an empty city? They'll notice that and maybe even mention it.)
14:26 GMT

The landscape

Via Corrente, the terrific Paul Krugman interview in Rolling Stone by Eric Bates: Yes, if the trust fund is ever depleted, then something will have to be done. But you need to have some perspective on the seriousness of this whole thing. On the day the trust fund is exhausted, Social Security revenue will cover about eighty percent of the cost of benefits. Right now -- today -- if you look at the U.S. government outside of Social Security, revenue covers only about sixty-eight percent of total government spending. So on the day the trust fund is exhausted, forty-seven years from now, Social Security will be in better financial shape than the rest of the U.S. government is today.

Natasha is highly amused at the work of that comic genius, Scott McClellan.

Demosthenes was actually moved to write something about the "Ownership Society".

The Whiskey Bar is open, and putting George and Adolph side-by-side.

Jim at Rittenhouse Review notices that Bush has suddenly done something unusual: He went to church.

I just received a model e-mail from someone who I believe is politely fishing for a link: Greetings....I am a newcomer to the world of Blogs, and I just wanted to say that I've enjoyed visiting your site....thanks for the wealth of information and links....I'm at Zen Comix.

An expensive gift for your favorite PKD fan.

Map of the world
13:12 GMT

Monday, 17 January 2005

Quick notes

My pal nuveeeeena made this picture of me.

Suburban Guerilla explains how to argue with right-wing nuts, and also finds a good idea for how DC can deal with that $12m bill the Bush administration is sending them: The Inauguration Tax.

BlondeSense explains why it's not true that anti-abortion people just want to "save lives".

Just go here, admire the photo, and then click on it.

James Wolcott explains why he will not sully his site with the use of the verb "fisk".

Darth Tater
23:52 GMT

Things to read

"Personally, I grew up in a community literally built on land granted to WWII vets, and breathing the vapours from an epic struggle between Good and Evil. Clear as that struggle was, I always wondered how the 'innocent' Germans had allowed Evil to rise so easily. Living in North America today, I now know how this was possible." - "Snerd Gronk", in the 100th comment on this page.

Wired Opinion: I must be clear here: I am not necessarily arguing for a withdrawal from Iraq at this point. But I am arguing for withdrawal to be debated in terms of justice, not pride. I want a discourse on foreign policy that is driven by a commitment to human rights, not the needy demands of a dissatisfied, disconnected society's hypermasculine, militaristic ego. Via The Daou Report.

The Mahablog asks us to imagine that a good spirit comes to help Mississippi reach for excellence.

The most rehabilitated prisoner in America is retried - and gains release. Also, Riggs, Pinochet and the CIA, at TalkLeft.

There's still time to vote your values.
18:54 GMT

A collection of things

Kyle McCullough (Daryl's brother) points out that CBS' rush to air on the TANG story benefited Bush. Other news organizations were working on that story, but once the 60 Minutes story was called into question because of one possibly bad document, everyone's story on it went in the hole.

Paperwight: Ahead of My Time. Well, what did you think Gonzales was writing those memos for?

They just keep surprising me. Is the gay bomb story the stupidest thing I've heard in the last week? What are these people smoking?

Member of Democratic leadership found in New Zealand. OK, cheap shot, I know....


Flip-flop of the week: Bush to "values" voters - Thanks, suckers! Next morning: Oops!

Which country is the worst offender in the Oil For Food scandal? Aw. you guessed.

Hear The Issues.

Listen to Bruce Schneier talk about security, with pictures.
16:57 GMT

No controlling authority

Not US law, not the electorate, not the news media, and certainly not some international organization - no authority is any longer recognized by the administration as having legitimacy to set limits on what they do or how they do it.

Nor any morality. Murdering thousands - even hundreds of thousands - is not something they have compunction about. Lying, theft, and systemic corruption isn't even a consideration for them - it's not a moral issue at all, it's just what they do.

But even practicality and common sense don't restrain them:

Report: U.S. Conducting Secret Missions Inside Iran

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran to help identify potential nuclear, chemical and missile targets, The New Yorker magazine reported Sunday.

The article, by award-winning reporter Seymour Hersh, said the secret missions have been going on at least since last summer with the goal of identifying target information for three dozen or more suspected sites.

Hersh quotes one government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon as saying, "The civilians in the Pentagon want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible."

One former high-level intelligence official told The New Yorker, "This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The Bush administration is looking at this as a huge war zone. Next, we're going to have the Iranian campaign."

You know, because we made things so good in Iraq and Afghanistan, right? And now, when we have a severe shortage of troops, when we've expended enormous resources and are seriously in the hole, they want to start another war.

Interestingly, they first admit that the story is true, but still have to smear the reporter:

The White House said Iran is a concern and a threat that needs to be taken seriously. But it disputed the report by Hersh, who last year exposed the extent of prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

"We obviously have a concern about Iran. The whole world has a concern about Iran," Dan Bartlett, a top aide to President Bush, told CNN's "Late Edition."

Of The New Yorker report, he said: "I think it's riddled with inaccuracies, and I don't believe that some of the conclusions he's drawing are based on fact."

What's this about? Oh, yes, Hersh is a good, highly-respected reporter, so they need to smear him. They always need to question the credibility of the few remaining responsible journalists who don't just fall in line to make the administration look good.

The news media is supposed to provide another one of the checks and balances on government power, a control on how out-of-hand a government can get, but most Americans have no idea just how thin and broken the Fourth Estate has become. We have Sy Hersh and a few others whose work still gets some sort of acknowledgment from the wider mainstream media, but that's precisely why the right wing grabs every opportunity it can find to raise questions about the credibility of journalists who are not already bought and paid for by the Rolls-Royce Republican machine.

But, since they have packed the courts with their minions, and recognize no law, the press is all that's left, and they want to make sure there is none of that, either. Now that they got Dan Rather, they're just doing clean-up.

Update: I now have a link for the original Hersh article, The Coming Wars: "Rumsfeld will become even more important during the second term." God help us.
14:39 GMT

Election notes

Charles Kuffner asks, "So where's the fraud? Sure does look like Andy Taylor's wild claims of massive fraud in the Heflin-Vo race are melting away, doesn't it? [...] The one confirmed noncitizen who voted in the HD149 race - he got a voter's reg card despite checking the "not a citizen" box on the application, an error which one can attribute to the Tax Assessor - voted straight Republican. And Tax Assessor Bettencourt chalks this sort of thing up to mostly honest mistakes and bad paper processing.

And speaking of that sort of thing, Natasha at Pacific Views updates us on the hilarity in the Seattle race that has Republicans suddenly interested in counting every vote.

Mark Leon Goldberg at The American Prospect on why we need paper trails: Don't Count on It.
12:37 GMT

All the news that's bits

LiberalOasis says 60% of Americans oppose torture (and a majority never approved of it, even back in the high-anxiety days after 9/11), so remind your Senators that Gonzales is unacceptable.

A delightful post at Slate reminds us that liberals are worse than torture. Don't you just love those conservative values?

Another free trip to Guantanamo for no good reason.

I told you it was fake.

Why would a California Democrat say she is voting yes on odious cabinet nominees? Maybe this has something to do with it: Army contract for Feinstein's husband; Blum is a director of firm that will get up to $600 million. C'mon, there must be a credible primary challenger somewhere....

Order your Saddam Hussein Killed Laci Peterson T-shirt today!

Fiore: The Office of Truth Enhancement - because, sometimes, the truth is not enough.
01:02 GMT

Sunday, 16 January 2005


I checked out Memeorandum and the first thing I see is - bwaahaha... hahaha... oh, stop, it hurts:

President Bush said the public's decision to reelect him was a ratification of his approach toward Iraq and that there was no reason to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes or misjudgments in prewar planning or managing the violent aftermath.
As Maru would say:

Oh, yeah, he's playing soldier again. Where are those outfits coming from, anyway? Is it the same guy who gave Rehnquist his gold stripes?

The Mahablog said pretty much exactly what I was going to write, especially quoting the title of the post with Gary Farber's reaction: THE HEAD, IT DOTH EXPLODE. Actually, the rest of it is good, too, and pretty well expresses the roller-coaster ride I get from reading Bush's "answers" to questions. Like this non-response to the question of why Washington, DC has to pay out all that dosh for the coronation:

"By providing security, hopefully that will provide comfort to people who are coming from all around the country to come and stay in the hotels in Washington and to be able to watch the different festivities in Washington, and eat the food in Washington," Bush said. "I think it provides them great comfort to know that all levels of government are working closely to make this event as secure as possible."
"My nasty, petty, vengeful, racist cadre of worshippers really like it when I indulge myself by ripping off all those funny-colored people in The Chocolate City."

[Update: Jesse Taylor did a nice job on this one, too.]
18:23 GMT

Three signs

I didn't write a Sunday Morning Sermon, so go to Small Flashes and read about how Satanism is Alive and Well and why St. Augustine would probably have disapproved of creation "science".

Nathan Newman on The GOP tax on work: The GOP plan is to tax work, punish work. If you work for a living, the GOP wants to tax your sweat. Don't let them emphasize what they aren't taxing. We need to emphasize where the tax burden is going to fall.

A few days ago we had the insurer who dropped someone for being involved in her local Democratic Party. Now we have a doctor who dropped a patient for refusing to sign a petition supporting tort deform. Via Seeing the Forest, which also reports on an even bigger propaganda scandal than the Armstrong Williams story: Social Security Enlisted to Push Its Own Revision. The administration is now turning departments into propaganda mills for its policies.
16:00 GMT

Stuff I saw

Test asks deaf students to match sounds, but the Maryland Department of Education admits it's a problem and agrees to fix it: The changes follow complaints by James E. Tucker, superintendent of the Maryland School for the Deaf, that the reading section of the test asked third- and fourth-grade students to match pairs of words with similar sounds, such as the vowel sound in "castle" and "manner." Well, that was smart, wasn't it? Via Why now?

Clearly, not all of academe is liberal, judging from one professor's shilling for risk culture in the LAT. Jonathan Schwarz at A Tiny Revolution responds to him thus: "God, I love this. I LOVE IT. I love when Americans are told about the glories of economic risk by professors with tenure. It's exactly like a Soviet apparatchik extolling the glories of communism while shopping in one of the USSR's free-market, apparatchik-only stores."

Ruy Teixeira reports and evaluates three What's holding back the Democratic party?-type articles (including Amy Sullivan's much-discussed piece on why Dems need to Fire the Consultants). He reports that Jill Lawrence outlined a thought I've often had: Democrats keep nominating men of sterling character (Gore, Kerry) whose character the Democrats' inexplicably fail to defend against a deliberate Republican strategy of character assassination. He agrees that all of these articles have a grain of truth, "But none of these critiques add up to a silver bullet for Democrats' electoral fortunes."

Marc Maron's Dream Diary, animated, in which Marc has a serious nightmare.
11:15 GMT

Saturday, 15 January 2005

Blog notes

Thanks to Media Girl for passing on the news that Bill Gates is calling us all communists: No, I'd say that of the world's economies, there's more that believe in intellectual property today than ever. There are fewer communists in the world today than there were. There are some new modern-day sort of communists who want to get rid of the incentive for musicians and moviemakers and software makers under various guises. They don't think that those incentives should exist. Yes, I always found it a real "incentive" to have big companies control whether other people could hear my music. I'm sure Janis Ian did, too, just like I'm sure she enjoys having them steal her royalties. There's your "ownership society" definition, for you: If you don't believe that huge corporations should control absolutely everything, you're a communist!

NewsHog has experimented with a "Blogabout" post linking other blog posts, and there are some good ones there I hadn't seen yet. Most are from familiar sources but there's also Common Crap, which I don't recall seeing before, who gets spam from anti-abortion creeps and actually clicks on the links!

Much as I'm eager to see Man-on-dog Santorum lose his Senate Seat, I'm not sure Bob Casey is the way to do it. Is it really better to run an anti-abortion candidate than to run one who can explain that banning abortion doesn't save lives? I doubt it.

Frog in a Well looked at a list of the top 500 universities in the world and noticed that Japan has a bunch of 'em: One historical note: most of the universities on this list were the product of the US Occupation education reforms, particularly the insistence on public universities in every prefecture. Who would have guessed that in sixty years Japan would fill 1/15th of the world's best list?
17:57 GMT

Rock & Roll Will Never Die

That was the subject line of the e-mail I just got from my sister that asked if I knew that Scott Muni and Jan Berry had died last year. I didn't. These guys weren't merely an important part of my teenaged years (though they were that, too), but they were more important to the music business than you might imagine. So I looked around for obituaries.

For Scott Muni, I found an article that honored him pretty well, Radio today isn't what it was back in the day, by Kerry Dougherty in The Virginian Pilot. I know just how she feels.

My sister didn't have to tell me who Jan Berry was, of course, because Jan & Dean took up significant space in my little box of 45s back in the day. But what I didn't know then was that someday he would influence Brian Wilson in such a way that Pet Sounds would be possible. Among other things. You won't come back from Deadman's Curve....

While I was looking for obituaries I ran into a few other names of people who died last year, and discovered among them Carrie Snodgrass, who was only 57 or 58, depending on which obit you read. I don't remember hearing that, either. But when I looked for her obituary the first thing listed was the four-year-old Jack Nietzsche obit, in which she is of course mentioned. I didn't know he was dead, either. Nietzsche is the kind of guy who you know enough bad things about to feel guilty at admiring his music, but let's face it, he's one of the reasons that Performance is one of the great movie soundtracks of all time.

Skeeter Davis, well, she wasn't special to me, but I do remember that when I had one quarter to put in the jukebox at Pizza Patio, I played "End of the World." I always did love a good torch song.

And I mentioned my surprise to Potter about Muni and Berry, and she said, "And Spencer Dryden died yesterday." And, jeez, I had no idea what the last few years had been like for him. Cancer and his house burned down? Yikes.

But The Quarrymen are coming back from the dead. That's the only actual news in the BBC story that only mentions this in the 19th paragraph. The band that was once a stage of the development of some other band called The Beatles was gossiping with them while promoting the album they are releasing Monday, and they mentioned that Lennon didn't have much luck with his guitar-playing early on and that became the headline instead of "Quarrymen to release new album." Poor guys.

I guess this guitar is appropriate, in the circumstances: Skeletar. (Via Hacklife.)
13:16 GMT

On the blog

Jeralyn calls our attention to this article by Jeffrey Toobin in The New Yorker on the conviction of then-17-year-old Soto-Fong who was apparently wrongly sent to death row by a prosecutor named Kenneth Peasley, who sounds like a great guy: Last year, Peasley acquired another distinction: he was disbarred for intentionally presenting false evidence in death-penalty cases-something that had never before happened to an American prosecutor. In a 1992 triple-murder case, Peasley introduced testimony that he knew to be false; three men were convicted and sentenced to die. Peasley was convinced that the three were guilty, but he also believed that the evidence needed a push. Also: It's official, Sibel Edmonds was fired for expecting integrity and competence at the FBI.

Erasing Martin Luther King: Even a party that built its base by appealing to rancid racism can lay claim to King's legacy. The "how" is simple: The real MLK has been all but erased from our history. What's left is so anemic -- and so distorted -- that even George Wallace or Lester Maddox or, heaven help us, Zell Miller could claim kinship. Via Running Scared, where you can also read more about how we are a nation of kidnappers.

Gary Farber: DON'T YOU HATE IT when you put something away, and just forget you have it? Something like, say, hundreds of cannisters of chemical weapons that an old friend gave you? And, darn, now no one can find the paperwork!

Mark Kleiman finds the Heritage Foundation claiming that laws that restrict corporate managers from stealing are an intrusion on "our freedoms". Oh.

Electrolite points to Ryan Lizza's TNR piece on Hardball 101 and why the Democrats need to fight the Republicans tooth-and-nail on everything.
03:50 GMT

Bloggy goodness

Ampersand has done a three part series on "Equity feminism" with short, and easily digested posts.

The Gadfly's Buzz is back after a long absence, but says things will be different, now. Not yet sure what this will mean.

I was on the verge of posting something about how I was missing Leah from Corrente, but she's finally back and has posted an explanation in a catch-up post that told me something I didn't know about Susan Sontag and includes a personal remembrance of Robert Matsui.

GOTV finds religious Democrats working to promote real values.

Deborah has a paranoid thought about Michael Nedow and his insistence on pursuing trivial symbols - and how it works to further the ends of Karl Rove.

Where are you planning to be reincarnated? The Mahablog looks for the best indicators of the good life, and finds them in the countries that have legal abortion.
01:40 GMT

Friday, 14 January 2005

News & views

Arianna says: "[W]hy worry about minor little details like clean air, clean water, safe ports and the safety net when Jesus is going to give the world an "Extreme Makeover: Planet Edition" right after he finishes putting Satan in his place once and for all? Keep in mind: This nutty notion is not a fringe belief being espoused by some street corner Jeremiah wearing a "The End Is Nigh!" sandwich board. End-Timers have repeatedly made the "Left Behind" series of apocalyptic books among America's best-selling titles, with over 60 million copies sold." (As quoted by The Daou Report.) And George Bush uses coded language that speaks directly to that superstition. Does he really believe it? I don't know, but his policies sure sound like they're the result of that sort of thinking.

On the blogbeat: The WSJ did a story that tries to compare Armstrong Williams with Kos and MyDD, and it's such a long stretch that even Michelle Malkin was able to see through it. Kevin Drum says it pretty simply. Kos and Jerome were up-front (and they weren't taking public funds, either).

Right-wing crackpot Charles Krauthammer has finally brought the right-wing bloggers' favorite spin to The Washington Post: Dan Rather is biased. Dan Rather, who should have done the TANG story on Bush five bloody years ago, is biased because finally, after everyone knew it already, he decided to cover it. He refers to this as "the crime", although he tries to cover himself by pretending that the issue is that the piece featured "what were almost immediately revealed to be forged documents." Well, we still don't know that, but unfortunately Rather's production team didn't take the trouble to verify them. They should have. He calls the investigators "clueless" because they didn't conclude that Rather was biased. He bemoans the fact that CBS did not devote its energies instead to the oil-for-food scandal; that is, he's complaining that a network news show actually concentrated on something that did not fulfill the right-wingers' agenda for a change. The right-wing doesn't want to talk much about the fact CBS top-suits recently went to the White House to bend the knee and now the future of the show is "in doubt". But we're not supposed to be concerned with the appearance that one more network is edging toward being another propaganda arm of the Bush machine.

What should be the stop-press is Froomkin's revelation that Bush admitted he might sorta regret having made all those stupid macho "Dead or alive" and "Bring 'em on" remarks. Ah, could our little boy be starting to grow up? Well, probably not enough to admit what anyone with any sense always knew, that invading Iraq turned it into a terrorist breeding ground.
23:00 GMT

Things to play with

A new toy I get to play with

Hi-res images from A Scanner Darkly animation, via Epicycle.
22:31 GMT

The coronation

I missed this in the news reports, but I heard Malloy say it on the radio and I didn't believe it, so I looked it up:

Parade performers will have security escorts to the bathroom, and they've been ordered not to look directly at President Bush or make any sudden movements while passing the reviewing stand.
Now that's imperial.
12:30 GMT

Thursday, 13 January 2005

Mark of the Beast, cont'd.

NH Woman Loses Insurance Coverage for Her Politics:

The Providence Mutual Fire Insurance Co. sent her a letter last month notifying her it is not renewing her $1 million umbrella policy next month because of "the political positions the insured holds."

"If she was just a retired doctor, it wouldn't be an issue," said Dale Groves, vice president for underwriting for the Providence, R.I., company.

Johnston is vice chairwoman of her town's Democratic committee and a member of the Hillsborough County Democratic Committee. She helps campaigns by distributing posters and making calls, and she held a get-out-the-vote session for Howard Dean at her house.

Groves said that's enough.

Via Corrente.
23:45 GMT

So this is the news

I can't remember who said it at the moment, but it's pretty clear that the reason they're talking about torture, the reason they're rationalizing it, the reason they are defending it, is because they want to torture people. It certainly can't be in order to gain intelligence, because it doesn't work. And yet they have done everything they can to scuttle any restraints on torture, despite the fact that its principle effects can only hurt the US. The wingers are in such denial that they just keep pretending that people didn't have to go outside the process to bring these evils to light. (Hint: The ACLU is where you go when the system fails.)

Here's some good news - Bob Shrum is quitting the business of sabotaging Democratic presidential campaigns. Just think what could have happened if he'd stuck with Carter in '76, eh?

Slate provides the best reason in the world why Dave Barry should replace William Safire: "Readers are sometimes critical of me because just about everything I write about is an irresponsible lie." Yep, those are the right qualifications, all right.

The wingers are confused by a WaPo article from Tina Brown in which she explains that Dan Rather was jut a news anchor, not a producer or investigative reporter. The best part of the article is a quote she supplies at the end: The old Canadian press baron Lord Northcliffe's definition of news is still the only one that counts: "News is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising." That's right, and conservatives wanted to destroy CBS, 60 Minutes, and especially Dan Rather, because they provided something other than advertising for the RNC product.
17:40 GMT

That's what I want to hear

Ted Kennedy gave a bang-up speech at the National Press Club yesterday, the kind we should have been hearing all along:

I categorically reject the deceptive and dangerous claim that the outcome last November was somehow a sweeping, or a modest, or even a miniature mandate for reactionary measures like privatizing Social Security, redistributing the tax burden in the wrong direction, or packing the federal courts with reactionary judges. Those proposals were barely mentioned - or voted on - in an election dominated by memories of 9/11, fear of terrorism, the quagmire in Iraq, and relentlessly negative attacks on our Presidential candidate.
In an election so close, defeat has a thousand causes - and it is too easy to blame it on particular issues or tactics, or on the larger debate about values. In truth, we do not shrink from that debate.

There's no doubt we must do a better job of looking within ourselves and speaking out for the principles we believe in, and for the values that are the foundation of our actions. Americans need to hear more, not less, about those values. We were remiss in not talking more directly about them - about the fundamental ideals that guide our progressive policies. In the words of Martin Luther King, "we must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope."

Unlike the Republican Party, we believe our values unite us as Americans, instead of dividing us. If the White House's idea of bipartisanship is that we have to buy whatever partisan ideas they send us, we're not interested.

In fact, our values are still our greatest strength. Despite resistance, setbacks, and periods of backlash over the years, our values have moved us closer to the ideal with which America began - that all people are created equal. And when Democrats say "all," we mean "all."

We have an Administration that falsely hypes almost every issue as a crisis. They did it on Iraq, and they are doing it now on Social Security. They exploit the politics of fear and division, while ours is a politics of hope and unity.

In the face of their tactics, we cannot move our party or our nation forward under pale colors and timid voices. We cannot become Republican clones. If we do, we will lose again, and deserve to lose. As I have said on other occasions, the last thing this country needs is two Republican parties.

Today, I propose a progressive vision for America, a vision that Democrats must fight for in the months and years ahead - a vision rooted in our basic values of opportunity, fairness, tolerance, and respect for each other.

These founding beliefs are still the essence of the American dream today.

That dream is the North Star of the Democratic Party - the compass that guides our policies and sets our course to freedom and opportunity, to fairness and justice - not just for the few, not just for some, but for all.

At our best, in all the great causes for which our party has stood, we have kept that dream alive for all Americans, even and especially in difficult times, and we will not fail to do so now.

Today, as we know too well, that dream is again in peril. The hopes of average Americans have faltered, as global forces cause the economy to shift against them. The challenge has been needlessly compounded, because Republican Congresses and Administrations have consciously chosen negative policies that diminish the American dream.
We will not let any President turn the American dream into a nightmare for senior citizens and a bonanza for Wall Street.

The biggest threat to Social Security today is not the retirement of the baby boomers. It's George Bush and the Republican Party.
An essential part of our progressive vision is an America where no citizen of any age fears the cost of health care, and no employer refuses to create new jobs or cuts back on current jobs because of the high cost of providing health insurance.

The answer is Medicare, whose 40th birthday we will celebrate in July. I propose that as a 40th birthday gift to the American people, we expand Medicare over the next decade to cover every citizen - from birth to the end of life.
If we are serious about reducing the number of abortions, we must be serious about reducing unwanted pregnancy. We must adopt policies with a proven track record of reducing abortion. History teaches that abortions do not stop because they are made illegal. Indeed, half of all abortions in the world are performed in places where abortions are illegal. We do know, however, that the number of abortions is reduced when women and parents have education and economic opportunity.

Our progressive vision is of an America where parents have the opportunity and the resources - including good prenatal care - to bring healthy children into the world.
On the issue of gay rights, I continue to strongly support civil marriage. We cannot - and should not - require any religion or any church to accept gay marriage. But it is wrong for our civil laws to deny any American the basic right to be part of a family, to have loved ones with whom to build a future and share life's joys and tears, and to be free from the stain of bigotry and discrimination.
We as Democrats may be in the minority in Congress, but we speak for the majority of Americans. If we summon the courage and determination to take our stand and state it clearly, I'm convinced the battles that lie ahead will yield our greatest victories.

There's more policy stuff in the speech, including foreign policy matters, along with some history about how the Republicans fought against progressive programs that work - claiming they wouldn't work.

Senator Kennedy also reminds me to use the right word and stop calling those horrible people "conservative". Note that he does not use it, being more precise in his language. He calls the "reactionary", because that's what they are.

But this is the right stuff, this is what Democrats are about, and this is the stuff that was missing from a substantial part of the presidential campaign last year. And it's the kind of thing that can win back Kansas.
17:00 GMT

Found on the web

Yes! Anne Zook says she can't store her bile in silence any longer, and is posting again. She's Peevish at everyone.

James Wolcott is my choice for best take-down of Howard Fineman's stupid piece about the death of mainstream media in the wake of Rathergate. Fineman still has a job at Newsweek, so it looks like they are still there. (And yes, James, I.F. Stone is my patron saint.)

Limbaugh dumped for liberal show (Brattleboro, Vermont): Added to WKVT's lineup Monday will be "Unfiltered," hosted by Rachel Maddow, Lizz Winstead and Chuck D; the "Al Franken Show;" the "Randi Rhodes Show;" and the "Majority Report," hosted by Garofalo and Sam Seider. [sic] If you live in the area, thank them, and maybe ask why they aren't taking Morning Sedition and Mike Malloy.

Conservatives kill over 2,000 American babies a year. Yes, that's what our healthcare system does. Cuba turns out to have a better record.

Rathergate vs. Saddam's WMD - A Quantitative Comparison (via)

Clean your screen, via Modulator.
15:36 GMT

Social Security stuff

Via Lambert, I see that Dan Froomkin is back, and catch this quote from Little George:

The problem is, is that times have changed since 1935. Then most women did not work outside the house, and the average life expectancy was about 60 years old, which for a guy 58 years old must have been a little discouraging.
As is explained in those articles, this is completely wrong. Atrios explained it a week or two back: The average life expectancy includes infant mortality, which was considerably higher in 1935. But those children never contribute to Social Security, so they can't be counted in this calculation. If you average those who actually reach the age at which they are earning money and contributing to SS, a lot of that disparity disappears.

But there's something else wrong with that quote, because women have always had to work outside the home. You know what a farmer's wife does? She's a farmer. Women have worked in factories and shops, women have been nurses and secretaries and maids and teachers for a very long time. Middle-class women were expected to stay home as housewives for a longer period once they had children, but the middle-class, at first, was not as large as it has become. Generally, women worked outside the home or on the farm or in the family shop or other family business, but they have always worked. Except, perhaps, women like Barbara Bush.

Moe Blues explains that Social Security is good economic policy, but then catches Bush with his lips moving again:

This is a bald-faced and obvious lie. It is not physically possible for Social Security to be "flat bust, bankrupt." In order for that to happen, the entire population of the United States would have to be unemployed so that nobody is paying anything into the system. (Although, maybe that is Bush's vision for the future.)
(Yeah, that parenthetical was pretty much what I thought - his programs do seem to be aiming in that direction.) But we're used to Bush lying. This, on the other hand, should really worry you. Meanwhile, Jerome Doolittle muses on the nice neo-Nazi next door.

Josh Marshall points out that the White House appears to have been giving the impression it expected support from Hillary Clinton for Social Security Deform. If they did, they were deluded, but the Senator has written to her constituents to say she opposes the plan, just to make sure no one had any dumb ideas. Also, interestingly, the Republican who won in South Dakota, Tim Johnson, has also made a firm statement against the plan. Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn) says, according to Josh, that they don't even have Republican support, let alone "bipartisan support", for privatization.
03:00 GMT

A little night media

I had considered saying something about CNN dumping Crossfire, but Steve Soto at The Left Coaster boiled my thoughts down to the essence: Of course, it remains to be seen if Klein turns CNN back into a hard news outfit and offers multiple views and voices on the air, or if he simply has scuttled the one pundit show that had two hard fighting Democrats on it. Steve also says we can peel away GOP support for Social Security with an all-out program of truth-squadding in states where their legislators are vulnerable.

Paul Lukasiak Provides his reaction to the CBS report, and declares it "Bullshit". Since he is the guy who went over the original Bush TANG documents in detail, he oughta know.

Mainstream media tries to give criminals an out on Plame affair, suggesting that no crime was committed. It's OK If You Are Republican.
01:14 GMT

Wednesday, 12 January 2005


I guess it really is deliberate. They just keep throwing more and more outrageous stuff at us until we are too tired to say anything. Like, was Bernie Kerick just the stalking horse for this piece of garbage? (And is it a rule that people who persecuted Clinton over Whitewater have to be rewarded with a good job in this administration?)

Dick Thornburgh and Louis Boccardi. Even I was shocked to learn this. The "investigation" into CBS was done by Dick bloody Thornburgh and Louis Boccardi. I need reminding of who the latter was - another creep, but, geez, Dick Thornburgh! Greg Palast reports, with yet another detail I didn't know about why Boccardi spiked important stories at AP.

Aggravating stupidity has no nationality. At Pagan Prattle, I see this: England: Even though the Satanic abuse myth was thoroughly discredited in the 1990s, London's Metropolitan Police has found itself having to defend a decision to send 30 officers on a course to learn how to spot it.

Dave Johnson has a good post up on The "Conventional Wisdom" Machine at Seeing the Forest: I was having a conversation today about the gap between what blog readers know and the "conventional wisdom" that the "Washington Elite" -- opinion leaders, legislators, their staffs and the circles they associate with -- think they know.

Confined Space brings us up to date on the re-emerging asbestos story. I hate it, but we really do have to keep explaining things all over again. And again. And again.

Obituary for civil rights leader James Forman, who some may remember from the SNCC days. Via Prometheus, which you might want to read more of.
20:34 GMT

The bottomless pit

Are there any limits to the Right's loathing of the Left? asks Norwegianity, noting a cartoon published by people who axed Ted Rall because he was "too offensive" - and this cartoon compares being questioned by Ted Kennedy with torture. I'd say that's right up there with Clarence Thomas comparing the requirement that he answer questions in Congress and face the bare possibility that he might have to remain at his then-present level on the federal bench rather than be elevated to the Supreme Court with lynching. If there's one thing you can say about conservatives, it's that they have a really creative sense of proportion.

Conservatives like to imply, or even state outright, that Ted Kennedy is a murderer because he drove drunk and went off a bridge into the water, which resulted in the death of his passenger. Many of them seem convinced that this was actually an intentional act. And ever since, they have believed they are qualified to dismiss anything Kennedy says, no matter how obviously right he is, because Mary Jo Kopchne died. Rush Limbaugh is quoted in the post as invoking Kopechne to suggest that it's okay for Gonzales to advocate for torture because Ted Kennedy questioned him about it. And so:

OK, let's go there. Ted drove drunk and a woman died. He tried to rescue her but failed, and then, on bad advice, didn't notify the police immediately. Kopechne would still be dead regardless of how Kennedy had handled the situation. Her parents forgave him long ago, but the right delights in rubbing his nose in this tragedy (please note that I don't rip on Laura Bush for killing someone in an accident in which she ran a stop sign).

Kennedy, who lost one brother in WWII, and two to assassin's bullets, has served heroically in the US Senate. No link but I'm positive he donates his salary to charity, and he has done yeoman's work for the Democratic party. The man is a fucking monument to the concept of giving back to the country that gave him so much, but the wingnuts can't stand his guts.

Wingnuts aren't conservatives. They're America-hating fanatics who would destroy democracy just to make sure they'd never have to sweat another election. Or, as Intellectual Conservative's Bonnie Chernin Rogoff recently put it, "If only beheading victim Nicholas Berg and the others had it so good as the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay detainees." After four more years of Bush, I'm sure we'll all agree with that sentiment.

If the right-wing cared about morality, they'd be opposing torture rather than defending it. And if they cared about Mary Jo Kopechne, they'd mention Laura's victim just as often.
15:43 GMT

With passion

It's been a long time since I'd heard the words spoken aloud rather than just reading them, but I just heard Mike Malloy read this on his show, and he did it right, just like the first time I heard it, so long ago:

Don't let anybody make you think God chose America as his divine messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with justice and it seems I can hear God saying to America, "You are too arrogant, and if you don't change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I will place it in the hands of a nation that doesn't even know my name. Be still and know that I'm God."
-- Martin Luther King, 4 April 1967

05:02 GMT

Here's some stuff

Dems Undecided On Gonzales, So Give Them A Push, says Bill Scher. Yes, indeed.

I'm sure you think regularly about what would happen if you combined Elvis with Cthulhu. Well, now you know. And then you can try and answer the question: Where are the countries where conventional wisdom has worked?

I have read The Mahablog post about the Jonathan Last piece I discussed earlier, and decided that she is more right than I am.

GratisNet took my advice and added permalinks, and says God Bless America. You might want to check out this campaign, too (although I haven't listened to the .mp3s yet because I'm listening to something else).
04:28 GMT


China Miéville begins his guest post at Crooked Timber (after the spoiler warning) like this: I am deeply flattered by and grateful for the attention that the Johns, Belle, Miriam, Henry and Matthew have paid to my stuff, and by their invitation to respond. Even more than having your work liked, having it thought about means a huge amount. And after you've read that one, read the ones that follow from the CT crew. If you're into China Miéville, that is. Personally, I've been impressed with his stuff so far. And he also seems a quirky and interesting character, even though I don't like his haircut.

This looks kinda cool - "Carry your entire Internet communication system on a tiny USB drive." Via Follow Me Here.... (Also: sky-candy! The original APOD page for that one is here, but I think Eliot's reduced version has more visual impact. Plus, smart drugs and chaos crocheted.)

I agree with the sentiments expressed in this post wholeheartedly, though I'm surprised to see them expressed that way. But healthcare is a subject I have serious moral clarity about. It's a pity conservative morality holds taxes to be of greater importance than matters of life and death.

Seth Finkelstein is blogging about blogging - which isn't surprising, considering that he's been a net activist for a very long time (although he is souring on that project). So, naturally, he has a lot to say about the phenomena surrounding blogging, such as influence, triumphalism, and of course the reaction to the CBS Memo Report.
01:03 GMT

Tuesday, 11 January 2005

The definition of short-sightedness

Talk about missing the point! Lawsuit Over Ohio Voting Dropped:

Three dozen voters challenging the presidential election results in the Ohio Supreme Court asked to drop their lawsuit Tuesday, saying it is moot with last week's certification of the electoral vote and the upcoming inauguration.
It's moot? Are they sure there will never be another election, then? We don't need to do anything about transparency in voting? Are they kidding? Gee whiz.
23:53 GMT

Media media

It doesn't matter whether a nation went to war using forged documents and phonied-up excuses to kill thousands of people. It doesn't matter whether someone at highest levels of power deliberately exposed a CIA operative's identity for political reasons. It doesn't matter whether a cabinet nominee for the job of fer-chrissakes Attorney General was uninterested in the fact that torturing anyone is already clearly illegal under US law. But it's really really important that Dan Rather and 60 Minutes might have been biased, even if there's not really any evidence that they weren't just trying to get a scoop.

However, Jonathan Last is half-right; when he says that the firing of Mary Mapes is an injustice, he's certainly right. It's clear she wasn't responsible for using the "Killian Memo". And Last asks a good question, too:

Where did the documents come from? We are told Bill Burkett informed CBS that a woman named "Lucy Ramirez" arranged a drop of the documents to him. We are also told that Burkett declined to cooperate with the panel. And that's that. But what of Lucy Ramirez? Who is she? What was her role? Does she even exist? We don't know. Ramirez is referenced seven times (on pages 35, 210, and 211). Here is the report's final mention of her: "[CBS News, after the story aired] sent personnel into the field to attempt to find Ramirez and thus possibly to confirm the new account. This effort proved unsuccessful." Exit Lucy Ramirez, stage left.
The main "evidence" the righties have for the presumed "political bias" of 60 Minutes in producing the segment is that they clearly wanted to get the story on the air in a hurry, presumably before the election.

But there are two wrong assumptions in that formulation, one of which is that a news team would not prefer to get material about one of two major candidates in a race on the air while it was timely. It doesn't matter who you support in a case like this; if you have the truth about the candidates, you put it before the public.

And that's the trouble with the other assumption. This isn't something that would normally have been questioned as news judgment just a few years ago. While it's true that you certainly should concern yourself with whether such allegations are true, we already know they were true, so that's an uninteresting argument, and certainly not one conservatives make when the victim is a falsely-smeared Democrat, a much more frequent event. Once you have evidence that a candidate is not what they purport to be, you have good cause to want that information to be put before the public. CBS aired a true story that genuinely revealed the falseness of George Bush's claimed history. One piece of evidence, which was unnecessary to making the case, turned out not to be as good as it looked, but so what? The story was true, and the public really did have a right to know. Just as we had a right to know that the "yellowcake" documents were forgeries. Just as we had a right to know that the Bush administration was looking for an excuse to invade Iraq and just made one up despite the fact that they were doing exactly the opposite of what they had been charged to do, which was to protect us from terrorism.

But conservatives are not concerned that none of these things were on the air over the last five years when they should have been. Conservatives are only interested in getting the tiny handful of newspeople who aren't completely partisan hacks for the administration off the air. Dan Rather, although he did not push liberal values, failed to push conservative causes with enthusiasm, and that is their only concern - not that he was biased, but that he wasn't biased in their favor.

I'm sure they're patting themselves on the back about the Armstrong Williams story - after all, they are happily tut-tutting about how one of "their" guys got caught doing something bad and they are all full of indignation, but how convincing is this? They haven't been screaming for the heads of Judith Miller, Jeff Gerth, et al. - because those people actually misled us. 60 Minutes did not, in fact, mislead us; their story was true.

More importantly, however, the payola scoop continues to be "the Armstrong Williams story" instead of "the administration propaganda and corruption story", and as long as we pretend it's about Williams and not administration corruption, everyone's eye is kept off the ball.

C'mon, right-wingers, let's hear you scream bloody murder about all the newspeople who have been on the Social Security propaganda train (doesn't matter who pays 'em) telling the public falsely that private accounts will be more efficient than SS will. No, of course not, you'd rather complain about Paul Krugman, who tells you the truth.

19:45 GMT

The boy-king and his courtiers

This post at Mahablog has a good point about Newdow's latest crusade: Personally, I would think an atheist would approve of the religious trappings of the Bush inaugural. If Bush takes the oath of office with his hand on a Bible and is not struck by lightning, that's proof there is no God.

But my attention was caught by an earlier part of that post, which talks about an aspect of the inauguration that has me fuming once again about the utter contempt Bush shows for the people of Washington, DC. Actually, Republicans have always been contemptuous of the private citizens of Washington, a majority of whom are black and an extraordinary percentage of whom are women. And Republicans have been amazingly profligate with DC's funds - funds better spent on the people of Washington - for purely partisan projects such as re-naming the airport after their then-current icon and forcing DC to pay for changing all the signs, and now stealing money from the city to pay for this giant inaugural orgy, although inaugural funding usually comes from the federal budget. Hey, party like it's 1939, guys.

I confess, I had my mind on other things at the time and paid very little attention to the whole Istook affair, perhaps thinking that everyone reads Josh Marshall and he sure seemed to have it covered. But if Josh covered this bit, I missed it. It seems that the "accidental" language that gave legislators the agency to stick their noses into everyone's tax returns is worse than I thought, because it puts that power at the discretion of the majority party, Alex Frantz notes.

All things considered, what could be a better name for a liberal website than
18:23 GMT

Stuff I learned from my friends

The equatorial ridge around Iapetus, seen by Cassini, makes it look fake, or like an artifact. Which could be a bit stefnal, really. (Via Yawl.)

"One of the reasons for my anger is that the Evangelical Christians are lying again," says Roz Kaveney, discussing the fake outrage and attempt at a blasphemy prosecution generated in reaction to a broadcast of Jerry Springer: The Opera. "One of the reasons why I am not a Christian is that it seems to me that to worship any sort of God human minds are capable of creating is to commit idolatry - we are not big enough or clever enough to know what sort of being inhabits the spiritual realm." The result, of course, is that this type of "Christian" invents a god so small and crippled that its best party trick is to spread hatred.

If someone told me that Jackson Pollack and a lot of other "art" that seems senseless and pointless and annoying is actually some kind of CIA plot, I might just believe them.

Join the United Corpuscular Appeal, an illustrated guide to helping Little "Mikey" get a decent beer. (Also: Hellion Spitzer and something worth fighting for.)

Charlie just found a good reason to boycott Waterstone's in Edinburgh, or at least send their head office a letter. Actually, given the influence "Joe" has had on sales throughout the chain, it's probably a good idea to let them know that you won't be bothering with them if they are no longer going to have his wisdom guiding their decisions. Yes, that's right, a bookstore employee was fired for having a blog!
17:07 GMT

Will the frog notice the heat is rising?

I see via NewsHog that it's in the news again that the Republicans are formalizing plans to make it easy and legal for them to take over the government:

Usually, 218 lawmakers - a majority of the 435 members of Congress - are required to conduct House business, such as passing laws or declaring war.

But under the new rule, a majority of living congressmen no longer will be needed to do business under "catastrophic circumstances."

Instead, a majority of the congressmen able to show up at the House would be enough to conduct business, conceivably a dozen lawmakers or less.

The House speaker would announce the number after a report by the House Sergeant at Arms. Any lawmaker unable to make it to the chamber would effectively not be counted as a congressman.

The circumstances include "natural disaster, attack, contagion or similar calamity rendering Representatives incapable of attending the proceedings of the House."

Now, why would they need to do that? The Constitution already has provisions for dealing with such situations. It's not like we've never had threats that could incapacitate lawmakers before. But we never "needed" this kind of legislation before.
Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.), one of few lawmakers active on the issue, argued the rule change contradicts the U.S. Constitution, which states that "a majority of each (House) shall constitute a quorum to do business.

"Changing what constitutes a quorum in this way would allow less than a dozen lawmakers to declare war on another nation," Baird said.

There's your strict Constitutional constructionism in action.

You know, if I were a Democratic member of Congress, or even just any Democrat working on the Hill, I think I'd be pretty paranoid at this point. I doubt Republicans would be making plans like this if they were taking into account the possibility that a majority of the available legislators at such a moment could be Democrats.
14:11 GMT

I heart Atrios

God, I am so glad The Revered Mr. Black has finally stopped being on holiday, I was really missing him, but now he's on fire.

And yes, I can say this in all honesty: I swear that I have never taken money -- neither directly nor indirectly -- from any political campaign or government agency -- whether federal, state, or local -- in exchange for any service performed in my job as a journalist (or commentator, or blogger, or whatever you think I should be called). [But I'd rather say it with better punctuation and without the "neither".]

And there's that really good post demonstrating that "Rathergate" proves there's no liberal media, which you should definitely read. (This story provides quotes from one of the victims axed by CBS.)

People looking for the Mel Gibson quotes that are making the Freepers explode can find them here: "I feel a kind of strange kinship with Michael," Gibson said. I mean, they're trying to pit us against each other in the press, but this is all just a hologram, you know. They've really got nothing to do with one another. They were used as some kind of divisive left-right thing."
03:46 GMT

Stay home and drink plenty of liquids

Paige says that smart companies are beginning to think twice about a problem that the rest of us thought was obvious:

Presenteeism, the opposite of absenteeism, has been a common occurrence in the workforce for many years. A sick worker is so devoted to his/her job, that he/she comes in to work, running the risk of infecting others, and causing even worse workforce problems.
According the LAT, this sudden spate of sense has been set off by the shortage of flu vaccine. Maybe they're starting to realize that shrinking people's sick leave, and punishing them for using it, wasn't such a money-saving idea after all.
02:37 GMT

Our proud and patriotic past

Left2Right posts in defense of The Port Huron Statement:

The reason The Port Huron Statement remains an important document is that it is a model political manifesto of the American left. It puts forth a simple but very powerful idea, democracy that enlists the active participation of its citizens in its institutions, and it uses this idea to analyze the social conditions of its time, to criticize, in view of those conditions, the political and economic institutions that produced them, and to propose remedies that would move the country toward being a more truly democratic republic. The American left, as far as I'm aware, has produced nothing like it since.
This post is a response to Christopher Hitchens' book review in the NYT, Where Aquarius Went, which gets The Port Huron Statement entirely wrong, as a letter from Tom Hayden, its author, points out:
Its 1962 publication preceded the phenomena of the counterculture, hippies and "back to the land."

In the film "The Big Lebowski," several decades later, the stoned "dude" played by Jeff Bridges claims to have written the Port Huron statement. Perhaps that is where Hitchens took his cue, for it certainly didn't come from reading the document.

The Left2Right post has a lot more, but I had to hunt down those NYT links because they weren't supplied by the post's author. Tsk, tsk.
01:21 GMT

Monday, 10 January 2005

More bloggy goodness

The penny just dropped that the blog formerly known as VLWC has moved to Semidi, where I got tipped off to this Dan Balz article saying that Congressional Democrats have finally had a penny drop, themselves: "The president's idea of bipartisanship is, 'Here's what I want to do, join me,' " said Rep. Robert Menendez (N.J.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. "It isn't about negotiating. It isn't about compromise. It's almost this belief that they have the monopoly on what's best for the country." About bloody time. (Also, conservative attire.)

On the other hand, David Sirota isn't impressed with rewarding turncoats rather than loyalists, and asks, "Have Dems Learned Nothing?"

Blog for Arizona discusses how to defeat Senator Strangelove - a strategy people should be thinking about for other races, in other states, as well. Via Gail Online.

Nathan Newman has a few words to say about "black racism" and a cartoon that has the right-wingers all upset.

Attaturk (of Rising Hegemon) recommends this article from The Boston Globe about the victims who don't count.

The Koufax Awards always amp-up Wampum's bandwidth costs, so you could always drop a few pennies in the tip jar over there. Meanwhile, check out some of the items on the Best New Blog list - there are plenty there I'd never heard of before.
23:59 GMT

Found on blogs

In The New York Review of Books, Mark Danner: Many of the Bush supporters I spoke to were educated, well-informed people. They watched the news and took pleasure in debating politics. And yet they clung to views about important matters of fact that were demonstrably wrong. Via Corrente.

That most odious book, The Bell Curve, is still invoked by right-wingers as a stellar example of liberals rejecting a book - and a position - just because we're politically correct knee-jerk liberals. For those who came in late, Atrios provides another good take-down on the subject, along with a neat little point about Social Security.

Charles Dodgson says that the "tradition" of giving the president wide latitude for cabinet appointments is just as fictional as all of the other "traditions" we've been hearing about for the last four years that miraculously make life easier for Bush.

Brad DeLong says: The first lesson of the George W. Bush administration is that it is always worse than you imagine, even though you've taken into account that it is always worse than you imagine.

Jon Stewart book banned in Mississippi libraries. Via WTF Is It Now?.
22:22 GMT

Items of note

Good question: Charles Kuffner asks, "Is there any entity which does not have eminent domain powers?" after learning that the Texas Medical Center appears to have this power, although it is supposed to be only the government that can acquire private property against the will of the owners this way. (Also, a reminder that the cause of malpractice suits is bad doctors.)

Damn, who's going to keep me updated on Ken Lay's status, now?

Dwight Meredith looks at Republican Class Action Hypocrisy, which is remarkably like all their other hypocrisy about "activist judges" and pretty much everything they claim to believe about the courts.

Frank Rich says the only place you can still find the actual war against terrorism is 24. Via Daily Kos.

The Mahablog is having lots of fun with the Armstrong Williams story and how Jonah Goldberg attacked Steve Gilliard for racism because he assumed Steve was white. I must admit that this whole thing is giving me a good laugh, in a disgusted sort of way.
16:00 GMT

Sunday, 09 January 2005

Good stuff

Alan Bostick has a model letter to a Senator on Social Security Deform. Check it out to see how it's done. Alan also has a good post on why we have to care about voting integrity.

Pacific Views has a number of good pieces, like this on the miscarriage bill

It's been pretty clear that the US right would start doing this now that they completely control the federal government. But this bill introduced into the Virginia state legislature is pretty extreme even by right-wing standards:
When a fetal death occurs without medical attendance, it shall be the woman's responsibility to report the death to the law-enforcement agency in the jurisdiction of which the delivery occurs within 12 hours after the delivery. A violation of this section shall be punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.
So not only does this bill require the reporting to the state of all abortions, it requires reporting of all miscarriages - which would obviously include those induced by 'morning-after' contraception. If there's any purpose to this bill other than restricting a woman's right to decide whether and when to carry a pregnancy to term, that purpose totally escapes us.
And a response to the "Salvador option" story that begins:
You can still find people in Washington State that call themselves 'Jackson Democrats,' by which they mean that they are now Republicans. The former Democratic senator was a formidable power player, and according to an article about Henry "Scoop" Jackson in the P-I, snidely known by colleagues as the "Senator from Boeing." He was also one of the people we have to thank for the rise of two of the most vile perineal perforations of our modern era; Saddam Hussein and Richard Perle
And, of course, one on the fact that, now that Christine Gregoire has been declared the official winner in Washington, Rossi is going to court to overturn the election. Says magpie, "We'll just note that Rossi and the Washington Republican party weren't talking about 'errors, negligence, and misconduct' when it looked like Gregoire had lost."

Oh, right, one story I forgot to mention earlier, but Mary didn't: My former colleague at the late, lamented Daily News Online, Tom Burka, also of Opinions You Should Have, has an opinion piece in the NYT that purports to be a news report on Donald Rumsfeld's visit to tsunami victims. It must be hard to come up with ways to parody these people.

And sex! I found Noli Irritare Leones via Technorati, and lo and behold it's a lengthy discussion of whether/why men like sex more than women. What makes this worthwhile is that this assumption isn't just accepted, but actually considered.
22:16 GMT


Let's see what's being talked up at Memeorandum:

According to The Washington Times, that twerp Michael Newdow, formerly famous for taking the Pledge to court, is now suing to keep Christianity out of the Inauguration. I don't see why; there's been no evidence that all those religious trappings have anything to do with Christianity. But that's another story. Nedow is right on the details but every time I see him interviewed I cringe that he is so very bad at making his case. They don't seem to make celebrity atheists like they used to. Naturally, all the wingers are discussing this story, but the left-blogosphere so far seems to be ignoring it. Maybe there is something more important to talk about, but as we all know, the right-wing is much more interested in finding reasons to hate liberals than in anything else.

The ever-appalling David Brooks has another inane article in which he tries to convey the false belief that the only reason to oppose Social Security Deform is partisan politics: Second, it will be hard to get Democratic votes for a bill that includes personal accounts. Democrats oppose them for the same reason that Republicans support them: because they think the accounts will create Republicans. People who have them will start thinking like investors.

There's a dismaying story in Newsweek that says: What to do about the deepening quagmire of Iraq? The Pentagon's latest approach is being called "the Salvador option" - and the fact that it is being discussed at all is a measure of just how worried Donald Rumsfeld really is. Ah, death squads, that's the kind of thing America could be proud of! Obsidian Wings reminds us of what happened when we did this stuff in the real El Salvador.

In The Chicago Sun-Times, Mark Steyn reminds us that right-wingers are too stupid to understand any of the words that the Black Caucus and Barbara Boxer used in their objection to the vote certification: It beggars belief that Rev. Jesse on the steps of Congress, and the Congressional Black Caucus in the House, and Barbara Boxer in the Senate would start the new term with yet another reprise of the same old song from the last four years -- that Bush, the World's Biggest Moron, somehow managed to steal another election. That makes three in a row. The GOP's obviously getting better at it. Of course, every single one of them said they did not believe that John Kerry had won the election. They specifically said that George Bush had won the election. So, you nitwits, they must have been saying something else! Why the hell doesn't it bother Republicans that, if they had to, they could not prove that George Bush won the election, because there simply isn't enough of a paper trail to account for all of the votes? In a democracy, you have to be able to prove that. You have to.

I don't see this up at Memeorandum yet but I'm sure it's a meme someone hopes will catch on and I do see it at Uggabugga, which says George Will wants to mess with your head because he has a whacked-out piece insisting that only Republicans can predict the future. I think if we follow Will's logic, we must ban insurance companies and make a law that everyone has to blow lots of money at casinos, in order to create civic virtue. I don't know why there is more civic virtue in gambling on the stock market than in paying into a national insurance program, but there you are. Perhaps Bill Bennett can explain it for us.
20:05 GMT


She was my age. She was our friend. She didn't like having her name in fanzines and we never understood quite why, but she was very private that way. Sometimes she could be opaque, confusing, hard to communicate with. But then, sometimes everyone is. I only mentioned her here because it was the best way to be sure that friends who'd lost touch with her knew. It's been so long since I've seen her that to me she still looks the same way she did the last time I saw her, back in the late '70s. Good-bye, Anna.
17:47 GMT


Democratic Party presidential candidate speaks

Answers to Written Questions from the Floor:

Q: How far is the Congress from proposing a comprehensive national health program?

A: I think that at the next session of the Congress, that comprehensive national health is going to be one of the major items of legislative business. We have sitting, in various committees right now in the Senate and in the House, many health insurance bills that have been placed there: the Kennedy bills, the Mills bills, all kinds of bills. And I've been reading the fine print; a lot of legislators don't read the fine print. And I'm finding out with these bills there are a lot of hidden agendas.

Now, if you're going to talk about a comprehensive national health program, we have to be very sure that comprehensive national health programs will benefit the people of this country and not the insurance companies that are lobbying for certain bills that are put into the committees. And there is a lot of fine language that three of us have decided to get together and read very, very carefully. Because some of these bills that are coming out here are not as jolly as they appear to be. But, you know, we get taken in by slogans and words, comprehensive national health, aye, that's the thing. You'd better read what's in the bill and better read and find out whom is it going to benefit first of all? We need to have a comprehensive national health program in this country, but we better be sure that it's really going to benefit the people first of all. -- Representative Shirley Chisholm (D-NY), 6 May 1972

Three decades ago we were just beginning.... and now we aren't even started.
17:24 GMT

Stuff I saw

Jeff Crook, "the Ceci Connolly of the Left", brings us the Untrue Fact of the Day: During his Senate confirmation hearing, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales avoiding explaining a memo in which he defended horsewhipping troublesome children (see fact of the day for 1/4/05) by restricting the definition of horsewhipping to instances of aggressive corporal punishment when a horse is present. Via Marty at Bartcop E!

Via Memeorandum I see Newt Gingrich hinting at a presidential run, and even the wingers don't seem too happy about the idea. On the other hand, Lambert at Corrente thinks it's great news until realizing it's just Newt hawking his latest book.

Via The Daou Report, I see some Kerry-positive stuff from Light Up The Darkness, which says, "Kerry Was Right to Stay Away," and Athenae at First Draft, who is similarly pleased that Kerry has been in Iraq rather than in Congress recently.
03:18 GMT

Saturday, 08 January 2005

Stuff to check out

Thom Hartmann on the Get Corporations Out of Our Vote! movement:Exit Polls Right, Tallies Wrong?

Worse Than Fiction - Paul Krugman says we're living in a bad novel. I guess he could write it, but who'd believe him?

So, whose idea was it that Tim Roemer, Republican Noise Machine Lackey, should head the Democratic Party? Richard Scaife's travelling zoo, that's who.

TBogg finds another humdinger when Barbara Boxer's tearful formal objection to the certification of the election, and Democrats' objections to appointing The Torture Lawyer as Attorney General, are disparaged by the misuse of the refrain from "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll": So, if I'm not mistaken, the Big Trunk defends the Administration's enabler of torture, by citing a song describing the beating death of a black maid by a rich white man who then walks away with a slap on the wrist.

Belle Waring at Crooked Timber finds an interesting post from Jane Galt and some rather astonishing commenters in the thread. And generates a few more. (I would just like to say for the record that I was able to complete college because I was smart enough to have parents who could support me while I went to school. Man, I must be a genius!)

Eye On Ohio: The Informed Citizen's Guide To The 2004 Election is, unfortunately, a .doc file, but has a lot of interesting stuff in it if you're still an unbeliever or trying to convince those who are. (And if there is an .html version of it somewhere, let me know.)

If you can stand the wait through the commercial, this should be the video of the Michael Moore interview Today with Katie Couric. The page takes too long to set up, but it does, eventually.

Zombie Republicans sighted at Tapped.

Whenever I go to Reptile Wisdom I hear a great track by Jimmy LaFave.
23:08 GMT

Afternoon favorites

What he said: One way to keep torture from becoming just another partisan weapon would be for multiple Republican Senators to come out against Gonzalez and insist that the White House withdraw his nomination. Bingo, instant bipartisanship! It's worth asking why they don't do that. But their failure to do so doesn't mean that the proper course for Democratic Senators is to fail to do their own duty (however groteque some of the results).

Slacktivist on Religious profiling: Reading this part of the story you reflexively, defensively reassure yourself with all the reasons you can think of that it can't happen here. You do this all the more urgently the more you begin to suspect that maybe it could. You realize that the madness that swept Rwanda did not come about suddenly, but as the result of a thousand small steps in that direction. And some of those small steps seem familiar. Also, seven questions you should ask the media to ask their readers or viewers, and ask your representatives to ask their constituents.

Steve Gilliard explains exactly why you should support liberal bloggers. And I do mean liberal bloggers. Anyone can see that the DNC does not send anyone talking points - unlike the right-blogosphere, it's clear that we express no one's opinions but our own. If you have the cash, by all means support Gilliard - he's damned good.

Subservient Tony Blair. I got responses for beg, sit, heel, war, and pray - let me know if you find any other good ones. Also Megaman Rhapsody and Penguin diving, via Biomesblog.
16:47 GMT

On the blog

Charles Pierce's usual Slacker Friday letter at Altercation is well worth the read, as always:

They're being very clear that they have embarked on a historic mission not only to demolish Social Security, but to salt the government so that nothing like it ever arises again. (They're even bragging about the lies they're going to tell in order to accomplish it.)
Because sometimes it's just good to say "no," simply for the sake of saying it, because doing so lessens your complicity in a comfortable politics in which the destruction of American ideals is more admired for its clever tactics than it is condemned for its lasting damage. This is a government of vandals, and shame on anyone too dumb to realize it, or so ambitious that they'd make peace with it. Shame on any Democratic legislator who didn't line up with Boxer yesterday, especially the ones that gave pretty speeches and voted the other way. Shame on any Democrat who votes to confirm Alberto Gonzales. Shame on any Democrat who attaches himself to any Social Security plan while this administration is in office. This is a time to say no, just for the pure hell of it. Trust me, there's no political price to be paid that you're not already paying, piecemeal, out of your souls.
Also found in a letter at Altercation, but easier to go to directly at The Big Picture, Barry Ritholtz looks at the 2004 CD sales numbers and finds the UK doing higher sales than the US, and, by the way, peer-to-peer not hurting sales in any discernable way.

Daryl McCullough has started a blog called Combing the Sphere. I've always liked Daryl's comments on other weblogs so I'm pleased to see it. Go see why he used to be a libertarian but changed his mind, and ponder with him the truly puzzling question of what it means to have a sexual preference.

More Koufax categories: Best Expert Blog, Best Single Issue Blog, Most Humorous Blog.

Hey, I just noticed that Ignatz is back!
13:10 GMT

Seeing the sites

Public Domain Progress has an interesting bunch of posts up, like Why I am not Libertarian and Creeping Fascism is Creepy. And the analysis-by-Google search on Social Security.

I haven't had time to keep up with everything at Consortium News, but there's a lot of great stuff, and Robert Parry's Will John Kerry Report for Duty? from Tuesday has now been answered with Sam Parry's Kerry's Last Flip-Flop. I guess it took an extra day because RP was busy writing It's the Media, Stupid! in between: Indeed, what may be more amazing than the predictable success of this latest smear campaign is that national Democratic strategists always seem surprised by this media dynamic. One of Kerry's closest advisers told me that the campaign knew the Swift boat attacks were coming but didn't believe that CNN and other mainstream news outlets would give them any credence.

Norman Solomon's Media Beat column points out that the effects of corporatization of media - and society - are spreading to other parts of the world. In Britain, the press has been limp in watch-dogging Blair, but at least they've done more than America's press has. But it's not just the media that's changing for the worse. (Thanks to Helga for the tip.)

If everyone who didn't vote for Bush wore one of these, how many bare wrists would we see? (Via Bartcop.)
01:04 GMT

Friday, 07 January 2005

Torturers and cowards

Patrick has updated at Electrolite, and his most recent post is a study on morality and courage in the form of salient quotes from Unfogged, Pandagon, Digby, and The Poor Man (who are always good), along with a fine example of MoDo when she's actually showing that her power can be used for good.

The inspiration, of course, is the appalling spectacle of a Congressional hearing in which someone who clearly advocated for torture is seriously being considered for the office of Attorney General of the United States. And Democrats, of course did not show courage and morality in taking a clear stand against this atrocity.

None of this sat well with the Democrats on the committee, but they know there's nothing they can do about it. It takes a simple majority to confirm a cabinet appointee. The Republicans can provide that on their own, and some Democrats -- including Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar, who introduced Gonzales at the meeting -- are likely to cross over and join them.
This is unacceptable. It's not mere politics anymore. In fact, if we keep treating things as if they are merely strategic political matters, we automatically lose. This is about whether we, as a nation, are going to torture people; this is real.

Moreover, if we do not act outraged, if we do not speak with passion and make clear that there is no justification, no rationalization, that makes this tolerable, there is no one saying so. It's not good enough to have articles in newspapers - even newspapers that endorsed Bush in 2000 but can now see what he's brought us - when our representatives in Congress do not stand up for the things we are supposed to believe in. Let the other side rationalize the virtues of torture all they want to, but this is no time for moral relativism based on despair or cynicism; this is torture, for Christ's sake, this is vicious and hateful (and counterproductive) policy that cannot be countenanced. It doesn't matter if we can win the vote; we have to stand up, because if we don't, nobody else will - but if we do, we make clear what the argument is about. We can shame them just a little, just enough, because they know this is wrong and they don't like being reminded - or having their constituents reminded.

And, as Digby says, this is also about courage - if Democrats are seen as spineless, as having no real beliefs, as standing for nothing, it's because our leaders do appear to stand for nothing. That's what standing up is about.

Yeah, maybe they will get anthrax letters, but that's what standing up is about, too. Maybe we need to start nominating progressives who aren't afraid to die for what they believe in. Instead, we have legislators who seem to be afraid of every damned thing.
18:02 GMT

Thursday, 06 January 2005

Watching the defectives

Ted Barlow at Crooked Timber noticed that a quote from Jesus that a lot of us have been thinking of lately was actually used by Tom DeLay at a Congressional prayer service! You know the one, you've probably been seeing it quoted for weeks in the blogosphere: And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. Weird. (And hey, Crooked Timber guys, fix your Sideshow link!)

This must be the psychological equivalent of being skinned alive, with yet another announcement of what Bush is planning to do with Social Security: President Bush is expected to unveil his plan for a Social Security overhaul in late February, with administration officials eyeing investment accounts that would hold two-thirds of workers' annual payroll taxes. Oh, really? Is this exercise meant to numb us to the point that by the time we actually have a plan in writing we are just grateful that they aren't planning to take old people out and shoot them? (Via Memeorandum)
16:56 GMT


This is the day when my family church celebrates Christmas, just so you know. (This year I kept wishing that Simon & Garfunkel (or someone) would do an updated version of "Silent Night/7 O'clock News" for the occasion.) And the last Christmas tree picture of the season. And if you didn't like it, tough.

"Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., signed a challenge mounted by House Democrats to Ohio's 20 electoral votes, which put Bush over the top. By law, a challenge signed by members of the House and Senate requires both chambers to meet separately for up to two hours to consider it. Lawmakers are allowed to speak for no more than five minutes each."

Wampum has started posting Koufax Award nominees. The first two categories posted are Best Group Blog and Best Overall Blog (by a Non-Professional).

Man, I'm glad I finally got around to seeing this post at Under a Blackened Sky so I could learn how to play rock and roll.

Shop at Staples to say thanks. (This is such a relief - I love Staples.)

I tried and failed to find a source for this earlier, but now Atrios has posted the story from The Nelson Report about how Bush only wants to hear good news from his subordinates: Our sources are firm in that they conclude this "good news only" directive comes from Bush himself; that is, it is not a trap or cocoon thrown around the President by National Security Advisor Rice, Vice President Cheney, and DOD Secretary Rumsfeld.

It's official - Fox news had to argue in court that it's not illegal to deliberately broadcast false "news". But the journalists who were forced to whitewash the story on Monsanto are fighting back, and Seeing the Forest says we should help them (and is correct).

Paranoia report: Is Bush just really lucky (over and over and over), or is this why the Democrats are such fraidy-cats?

I guess we all make our own truths.

See the Aurora Borealis and the Aurora Australis at the same time, courtesy of NASA. Via The Infinite Stitch.
14:54 GMT

From the notebook

Tim Dunlop overhears two people on a train on The Road To Surfdom: Then she said words to the effect of, don't give me any of this Red-State/Blue-State nonsense. "Four boys from my street are dead."

John Yoo has a fruity piece in the LAT about why Clarence Thomas is wonderful, but skip that and just read the take-down at The Liquid List.

Ahistoricality on Wal-Mart v. Libertarians (and the rest of us) - it's not their dream, either. Well, if they're real libertarians, that is.

Bob Fitrakis, Steve Rosenfeld and Harvey Wasserman say The presidential vote for George W. Bush does not compute, and provide the top ten reasons why: 3. Of the 147,000 combined provisional and absentee ballots counted by hand after Election Day, Kerry received 54.46 percent of the vote. In the 10 largest Ohio counties, Kerry's margin was 4.24 to 8.92 percent higher than in the certified results, which were predominantly machine counted. As in New Mexico, where George W. Bush carried every precinct whose votes were counted with electronic optical scanning machines, John Kerry's vote count was significantly lower among ballots counted on Election Day using electronic tabulators.
02:14 GMT

Wednesday, 05 January 2005

Two from Common Dreams

Jesse Jackson says Senators Should Object to Ohio Vote. I say all of them should. At least let people see it's serious. If Harry Reid, the new leader of the Democratic minority in the Senate, has any sense, he will lead members of the caucus to support their colleagues from the House and demand a debate that will expose the irregularities in Ohio. If Kerry wants to establish his continued leadership, he will stand first to join with Conyers and demand a debate.

Helen Thomas says Liberal Voices Disappearing From Mainstream Media: Bill Moyers was the last liberal voice on national television. Now he's gone into retirement.
20:10 GMT

Evil is as evil does

White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales chaired the meetings on this issue, which included detailed descriptions of interrogation techniques such as "waterboarding," a tactic intended to make detainees feel as if they are drowning. He raised no objections and, without consulting military and State Department experts in the laws of torture and war, approved an August 2002 memo that gave CIA interrogators the legal blessings they sought.
This is the man George W. Bush has nominated to be our new Attorney General. It should not be necessary to explain why he should not be in government. It should not be necessary to explain why he belongs in jail.

Did you know that the insurance industry has an exemption from anti-trust rules? That's right, they can charge whatever they want, they can price-fix, they can play fast and loose and there's nothing anyone can do. That's why they can jack up the price of insurance whenever their investments tank - you get to pay for their bad decisions. They don't have to pay the consequences of them. You do, I do, and your doctor does.

Another place you pay for other people's mistakes is in malpractice itself. Malpractice charges stem largely from malpractice. That's why there's malpractice insurance.

So there are two things we have to do if we really want to reduce malpractice insurance costs. The first, of course, is to eliminate the anti-trust exception for insurance companies. The second is to do whatever we can to reduce malpractice. Naturally, George Bush just wants to punish the rest of us for bad doctors and greedy, irresponsible insurers.
17:58 GMT

Challenge it

Do this: You have all day today to bombard your Senators (both of them) with demands that they stand up with John Conyers and contest the election. Make a phone call, send a fax. Insist on an investigation. Say George Bush should have to be able to prove he won the election, and if he can't, we don't know that he did.

Lenny Bailes, coming to a conclusion, has found the perfect image to represent the question of the Ohio election results.

The moment some of us have been waiting for: "Exit Poll Results Leaked Out, Causing Even More Questions," says Steve Soto at The Left Coaster. In case you're wondering, the exit poll results make the election results look even stranger than they did before. I mean really, really strange. I mean, downright suspiciously strange. I mean, gosh, what could it mean?

David Neiwert has had a front-row seat in the whole vote-counting show in Washington state. He calls the piece "Replaying Florida in Washington", but this one has a different ending, since the courts and the (Republican!) Secretary of State both played by the rules, counted the votes, and gave the election to the Democratic winner. So, how did the Republicans respond when their PR campaign against counting ballots didn't work? Go read and see.
16:46 GMT

Assorted items

The Runcible Ansible

Tom Tomorrow explains.

Will Durst's CD would make a great gift.

Obscene snowpersons

Frost crystals and frozen fog and Belt of Venus Over Reelfoot Lake

Literary Soon-to-Reads (annotated) - point your cursor to a book and find out what it is. Via Lean Left.

One of the very fine gifts I received for my birthday last week was an Artie Shaw collection, which I have really been enjoying. The day after my birthday, there were notices I didn't see at the time: Jazz giant Artie Shaw dies at 94, Obituary: Artie Shaw, Artie Shaw, jazz clarinettist and big band legend, dies aged 94, Artie Shaw: Discontented jazz clarinetist with a genius for putting sounds together, whose classy and classic bands helped define the age of swing.
14:15 GMT

Bloggy sampler

Alterman: Did you know that the entire attack on Kofi Annan by the conservative press is wholly manufactured and untrue? Did you know that Annan has not even been accused of any form of wrongdoing?

Via Contrariwise, some "Christian" bullies: "They're in your face, kind of rude about it, saying 'You're going to die, you're going to burn in hell.'" ...a religious group might be using the school as a way to "have a private school but not have to pay for it." ... In addition to the harassment, the school's pro-Christian leanings make a hostile environment for non-Christian students.

In Salon, The year of the sucker punch: Bush's reelection was a body blow to liberals, but right-wingers hit below the belt from the start. From O'Reilly to Limbaugh to Lott, a look at 2004's lowlights from the right. Via The Left End of the Dial, which also recommends This Week's Fascist America News 01-02-05 over at the Daily Kos.

Bill Gibson has a correction: Oops... It looks as though you may have to be an actual Canadian in order to have the Canadian government match your donation, as I stated here recently.

GOTV: Steve Gilliard is holding a fund raiser and that got me to thinking. As we know WETA is trying to raise $5 million dollars this year. Suppose we raise $5 million dollars for lefty bloggers. GOTV is purely a hobby, but Gilliard, Seeing The Forest, Atrios, Kos and others need money to be able to devote the time necessary to publish an informative and entertaining blog. [...] How would you like to see Robert Parry replace Jim Lehrer? Or Joshua Micah Marshall replace Bob Scheiffer on Face the Nation? How would like to see Steve Gilliard or David Johnson become syndicated columnists? It can happen, we just need to show that we are serious, and only money can do that. Actually, it's possible that a barrage of letters and blast-faxes and phone calls could do it, too. Why are you lefties so shy?

Heart, Soul & Humor: With neither Congressional approval nor oversight, and without Judicial review, President Bush has successfully implemented his vision of doling out multi-billions of federal taxpayer funds annually to faith-based groups to supplement or support social services programs.
04:58 GMT

Back into the fray

Paul Krugman is back, and beginning a fresh series on Social Security with Stopping the Bum's Rush:

There are only two things that could endanger Social Security's ability to pay benefits before the trust fund runs out. One would be a fiscal crisis that led the U.S. to default on all its debts. The other would be legislation specifically repudiating the general fund's debts to retirees.

That is, we can't have a Social Security crisis without a general fiscal crisis - unless Congress declares that debts to foreign bondholders must be honored, but that promises to older Americans, who have spent most of their working lives paying extra payroll taxes to build up the trust fund, don't count.

Politically, that seems far-fetched. A general fiscal crisis, on the other hand, is a real possibility - but not because of Social Security. In fact, the Bush administration's scaremongering over Social Security is in large part an effort to distract the public from the real fiscal danger.

There are two serious threats to the federal government's solvency over the next couple of decades. One is the fact that the general fund has already plunged deeply into deficit, largely because of President Bush's unprecedented insistence on cutting taxes in the face of a war. The other is the rising cost of Medicare and Medicaid.

So, really, the only thing we have to fear is Bush itself.

The Mahablog incorporates Krugman's article into a good piece on "Economic Darwinism" that also reminds us once again why she calls David Brooks "the Cabbage".
02:14 GMT

Some news and views

In The Washington Post, the Bush Social Security Deform Plan is revealed, and it's every bit as ghastly as you might expect. You need to read Max about what this really means - the WaPo chose, of course, to simply play steno and provide us with administration spin rather than tell us that retirees would do worse under the alleged rescue plan than under the projected "bankrupt" SS program that would exist if nothing at all was done to "save" it. Ah, but you knew that anyway, right?

Also in the WaPo, Gonzales Nomination Draws Military Criticism: A dozen high-ranking retired military officers took the unusual step yesterday of signing a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee expressing "deep concern" over the nomination of White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales as attorney general, marking a rare military foray into the debate over a civilian post. This isn't the first group to take this step, but being senior military personnel is seen as highly unusual, and just demonstrates how offensive this nomination is at every level.

And the Republicans have changed their minds about their embarrassing relaxation of ethics standards - but I think they want us not to notice that instead they want to change the rules so that you can't lodge ethics complaints against members of the other party.

Chris Bowers of MyDD reports on a Pew study showing an impressive increase in the number of people reading blogs since the spring of 2003. It seems the increase was not particularly related to the campaign, but the fact that they are in the Blogosphere means they are more likely to be running into political blogs, eventually.

Steve Gilliard debunks an "insane rant by Federal Judge Richard Posner" that claims the threat of terrorism is much more dangerous than everything else. Posner has Bush Brain Infection, the disease that makes people believe - or appear to believe, I'm never sure which - a lot of astonishing alarmist rubbish.

Noting the post-election polls showing Bush with the lowest approval ratings ever, Xymphora says: I'm wondering when the cognitive dissonance in the brains of those Americans who can't admit that the American election was rigged will cause their heads to explode. Is acceptance of Bush's "presidency" a massive act of suspension of disbelief?

Mark Kleiman proposes the categories of "sophisticated" doctors and patients to get around some restrictions on pharmaceuticals. I do know that patients often know considerably more about their own treatments than their doctors do, and there should be some mechanism by which such individuals could override the need to convince a doctor of what you already know, in order to get a drug you need.
00:32 GMT

Tuesday, 04 January 2005

Will Eisner, 1917-2005

He was the creator of The Spirit and a lot of other things, and he kept on doing it until the end.

Mark Evanier is who I always go to for the best obituaries, and he didn't let me down this time, providing personal thoughts and the sketch from a thank-you note he'd been sent in reply to a letter from Mark advising Eisner that he'd been given an award.

For those of you not deeply familiar with comics, Newsarama's obit provides background that even I was startled by - I had no idea just how much he was responsible for. But it's not unexpected; consider the fact that the most coveted award in the industry is probably the Eisner Award - named for him while he was still alive, a rare honor indeed.
20:14 GMT


For a long time liberals begged their legislators to "do something" about Afghanistan's Taliban, whose murderous policies were depriving women not just of schooling but of virtually all medical care. The question was what, short of invading the country and taking it over, could be effective. We were not seeing very much in the way of political will aimed in this direction diplomatically. The Bush administration, disturbingly, gave $43m worth of aid to the nation; however, it was tied not to more enlightened social policies, but to suppression of the drug trade.

9/11 seemed to, at least, create an opportunity to instigate a new initiative to relieve the people - and particularly the women - of Afghanistan of brutally oppressive rule. That doesn't seem to have worked out too well.

Eric Alterman says:

It's a clichT that liberal commentators, to preserve their mainstream cred, often feel a need to point out that not everything George Bush does is bad, and to bash other liberals to prove one can be trusted. Nicholas Kristof is the King of All Media in this regard, as he recently blamed the left for what's going wrong in Iraq. Jacob Weisberg did this in his New York Times Book Review bash of three anti-Bush books, though in every case he happened to choose, he got his facts garbled. One place liberals are always eager to give Bush credit is Afghanistan. In fact, U.S. policy there has been almost as a much a failure as it has everywhere else. The Taliban has been allowed to regroup. Al-Qaida has reformed and enjoys more recruits than ever. Bin-Laden is partying on in some cave somewhere, laughing at Bush and planning his next attack. And most of the country remains impassable except under the control of local war lords. We alienated much of the Moslem world with our population bombings and killed a lot of innocent people. Now, as the icing on the proverbial cake, we have made the country safe again for the exportation of grade-A heroin to our streets. It's become a narco-mafia haven, with poppy-growing increasing at a rate of 60 percent a year in 2004. Congrats to everyone involved. Next stop, Social Security. (And thanks again, Ralph)
The war lords had been so horrifying that Afghanistan's people were willing to take their chances with the Taliban. At least the latter didn't treat women as being universally available to them at a grab. But because the US did not make the most of its opportunity, the Taliban and the war lords are again vying for power and nothing has been done to head off a repetition of the situation that got us here in the first place.

Of course, with Bush at the helm, this was bound to happen. And of course, it could be predicted that those who treated bombing Afghanistan as an imperative were going to overlook the mistakes that were about to be made until it was too late. Well, they did. We told you so. Don't blame us for your mistakes.
19:07 GMT

A few good links

Yuval Rubinstein on kulturkampf

The Anti-Christmas Conspiracy

The selling of Elvis

Seen in the referrers: Flan and Heraldblog.

The Amazing and Versatile Food Suit, and a short QuickTime video showing that Bush is brilliant, via Biomes Blog.

Why give money to PBS when you can give it to the real liberal media?

Lisa Rein's stolen election round-up page (Thanks to Dominic for the tip. He's also supplied links to a diagnosis of Gollum's health problems and a new way to unlock your car in emergencies.)
18:29 GMT

About your state tax deals...

Removing federal taxation from corporations and other wealthy earners has consequences beyond the size of the national treasury: It also means starving individual states of resources they need to meet their obligations to residents. As I said earlier, the Reagan/Bush/Bush-style "tax cuts" really amount to a tax hike:

Now here's the deal: If taxes for "the general welfare" are collected at the federal level, the whole country is covered, the blame is spread around, and it doesn't pit the states against each other. But if each state individually has to raise taxes from within its borders, you run into governors trying to hustle business to come into their state and create jobs by offering them tax breaks that are not available in another state, and offering similar deals to local business to try to discourage them from leaving - which means taxes will have to go up somewhere else and services are likely to go down as well.

The entire process is destructive: As businesses move from state to state, they leave trails of destruction behind them as local economies that depended on those businesses fall apart. And with each move, these businesses are of course putting less into their new locations than they did into their old ones - that's the point of the move.

So your federal taxes actually help protect your state from this kind of plundering - if enough of what you pay out is being returned to your local economy. What the Bush "tax cuts" really do, therefore, is raise your local taxes and user fees, make it harder to start new businesses, allow your infrastructure to decay, reduce your services, and make sure less of the federal tax bite you do pay in comes back to you.

Which explains why some people have been looking to address the competition between states directly. Such as Paul Glastris, sitting in at Political Animal:
A while back I suggested that if Democrats are interested in playing a little offense, they could do worse than champion the cause of eliminating the ability of footloose corporations to extract tax concessions out job-hungry state and local governments.

These are some of the least-productive of all corporate giveaways. They add no jobs to the nation as a whole, yet happen routinely because city A knows that if it doesn't offer up the tax breaks, the corporation in question will send--or at least threaten to send--its jobs to city B. Obviously, the extortion could end tomorrow if every state or local government agreed not to play the game. Then they could compete solely on criteria that really matter: availability of land, skilled employees, reliable public services etc.

The nation's governors have on occasion talked about creating a pact to stop the bidding war, but it's never quite happened. What's needed is federal action--a statute that would block these unproductive giveaways. Such a statute ought, of course, to come from Congress; Democrats and enlightened Republicans should offer up one. But meanwhile, as I noted before, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati has taken the initiative, with a ruling last fall that in essence defines the grossest of these giveaways as a violation of the Commerce Clause.

It was Charles Dodgson who originally alerted us to the Sixth Circuit case, but when Glastris originally raised the point, he got a lot of comments from people who didn't agree with that ruling. "Since then," he says, "one of the attorneys who made the winning argument to the court, Peter D. Enrich of Northeastern University School of Law, sent me an email defending his views. I post that email here with his kind permission."
Second, for those who argue that these incentives are essential to provide jobs, it's important to note the broad body of econometric research which debunks the notion that state/local taxes or tax incentives are a significant factor in business location decisions. The simple fact is that state/local taxes represent, on average, only about 1 percent of a business's costs; they're far too small a factor to play a real role in rational decisionmaking. Probably the best recent survey of the economic literature is Robert Lynch, Rethinking Growth Strategies (Economic Policy Institute 2004), although similar results are reached by a broad array of others (referenced in Lynch's book) with less "political" connections. The only demonstrable effect of the incentive competition is the dramatic reduction in the share of the costs of state and local government that are borne by businesses, not any increase in -- or shift of -- levels of investment or employment.

The political challenge is that it's very hard for any state or local official to urge his jurisdiction to be the first one to "unilaterally disarm." That's where the Commerce Clause argument becomes useful. However, the courts can't solve this alone. In fact there's already legislation pending before Congress that would undo the decision. So, what we need now is political support for getting the states out of the "race to the bottom" business, and for refocusing their energies on the positive functions (schools, roads, amenities, etc.) that can truly improve business climates...

Hm, so another truism turns out not to be true, and once again we need the political will to fix its pernicious effects. How soon do you think that will happen? Think your state leaders have the guts?
16:32 GMT

When the system doesn't work

Bob Herbert discusses a case where the weight of evidence says the guys in jail aren't guilty of the night-club murders, but the DA just won't let them out. This story comes complete with eye-witnesses who say they didn't even see the guys there, a confession by one of the actual participants, and the rather telling information that the "witness" the prosecution relied on was elsewhere - in prison - at the time of the event.

That did not mean, said Mr. Kindler, that Mr. Lemus and Mr. Hidalgo were innocent. He said they could all have been involved.
Susan discusses another case where an innocent was held for a crime he wasn't guilty of. He served eight years before pressure from the media (who, says Susan, did their job that time), "put the political heat on the D.A. and increased the pressure for a new trial. McCracken was freed - but irreparably harmed. The last I'd heard, he'd moved out to the country and was a biker now."

But these are only the cases that make it into the paper. (I remind you once again that sometimes people say they're innocent because they are.)
14:30 GMT

Monday, 03 January 2005

Don't just give up

"So far," says the farmer, "not one Senator has joined Conyers in challenging Ohio 2004. Not One." Write to your Senators and tell them you want them to challenge Ohio with Conyers, for the sake of keeping democracy in America alive.

You know, maybe Democrats are having so much trouble agreeing on why Kerry lost because Kerry never actually lost. Take a look at the breakdown by county of voting problems in Ohio and tell me you can't believe it.

Via King of Zembla, where Simbaud reproduces one reader's letter asking Senators to stand with Representative Conyers.
23:54 GMT

Nasty thoughts

Democrats aren't the only people writing new platforms. has this:

Newt Gingrich lays out the plan for America's greatness, Amazon, Jan 10, 2005

  • including how to win the war on terror,
  • reestablish God in American public life,
  • reform Social Security,
  • restore patriotism, and
  • make American health care the global standard for excellence and accessibility.
Do you think that last one means what it looks like - force America's wretched healthcare system on the rest of the world?
17:44 GMT

Shirley Chisholm, Bob Matsui

She was the first black woman elected to Congress, and she ran for president, too.

She ran for the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 1972. When rival candidate and ideological opposite George Wallace was shot, she visited him in the hospital - an act that appalled her followers.

And when she needed support to extend the minimum wage to domestic workers two years later, it was Wallace who got her the votes from Southern members of Congress.

"Well, I'll say it: She had guts," says Charles Kuffner. She did. She was 80 years old.

Bob Matsui was only 63, and still serving in Congress:

Matsui was the third-ranking Democrat on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, where he was his party's point man on Social Security legislation. He also recently chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

His office said the congressman had been diagnosed several months ago with myelodysplastic disorder, an often-fatal form of bone marrow cancer. The congressman's family said he entered the hospital on Dec. 24 with pneumonia.

A lot of people are going to miss this guy, and it's not like we could afford to lose him. For a lot of reasons.
14:33 GMT

Sweet land of liberty

It goes like this:

US plans permanent Guantanamo jails

The United States is preparing to hold terrorism suspects indefinitely without trial, replacing the Guantanamo Bay prison camp with permanent prisons in the Cuban enclave and elsewhere, it was reported yesterday.

The new prisons are intended for captives the Pentagon and the CIA suspect of terrorist links but do not wish to set free or put on trial for lack of hard evidence.

Rorschach is speechless, and quotes it without comment.

Well, okay, Richard Lugar isn't quite speechless - he says it's a "bad idea". And Carl Levin says that you have to have "a modicum" of due process. Wow, that's telling 'em, eh?

NewsHog, fortunately, does not bite back the words:

Call it a concentration camp or a gulag, for that is what it is. That is what you call it when you lock up people for the rest of their lives without any due process of law whatsoever.

Is it possible to overstress how important this matter is? One of the fundementals of any civilised democracy is that someone is innocent until proven guilty. Now, here we have BushCo planning, and proudly crowing about planning, to take this right away from people (who may well be bad people) that they cannot prove are bad people even in a military tribunal set up so that they could try these people without the worrisome constraints of civil law!

If this goes through, then for as long as it exists, America will be unable to say word one about infringement of human rights by other nations, and the American people will have to hang their heads in shame. When Bush said he would export democracy, he didn't tell us he would be exporting it all, leaving none at home.

I know the lefties out there are going to be disgusted by this, but are the right truly such sheep as to let this go by? I challenge the right to speak out in condemnation of this terrible "solution" in full and clear realisation that the only solution more awful would be the final one.

I saw that via Joe Gandelman, but read the comments to that post and weep for our country.

What a face we present to the world. And each other.
14:19 GMT

In Blogtopia

Yes, Skippy invented that word, and Skippy has news of some real persecution of a Christian - by the US Marines.

Kathryn Cramer learned something new about autistics pleading not to be cured.

Nice consideration by Marie of The Slippery Slope of Abortion at the invaluable Left Coaster along with Mary on Successful Societies and the decline of empire.

Henry at Crooked Timber and Matt Welch (in Reason) join Matt Taibbi (It's amazing how useful a bad writer can be in exposing the vagaries of mainstream thought) in critiquing various sorts of idiocy ranging from Time magazine to right-wing blogger triumphalism.

ScribeStalker takes off on my earlier discussion of the difference between Michael Moore/Randi Rhodes and Ann Coulter/Sean Hannity and adds more.

RDF at Corrente gets ready early to celebrate Martin Luther King Day. And Lambert conveys a plea from a reader for us to stop calling the Lying Right-Wing Media the "SCLM". And speaking of them, Poor Richard's Anorak reminds us of The 2004 Falsie Awards.

GratisNet would be much improved by ordinary permalinks.

Just go read everything at Suburban Guerrilla.

Heaven's eye
08:53 GMT

Sunday, 02 January 2005

A bit of blogginess

Maru asks, Is it too early to start puking? after reading this story in the WaPo: We're not calling it an inauguration," said Jack Nargil, head concierge at the Hay-Adams Hotel, as he gazed across the street at the White House last week. "Because the president's supporters believe he has a mandate, there's going to be, in effect, a coronation." (I felt better after I scrolled down and found another one of Maru's neat pictures.)

The latest installment in Brad DeLong's "Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?" series of posts looks at another remarkably lame new column from David Brooks, who has labored to show us just how inane and trivial you can be when you try to fit something like the tsunami into the tiny little box of Brooks' perspective. (Brad also has another good post on Social Security, in which he disputes David Wessel's grading system for the various positions in evidence on SS Deform.)

The Modulator is willing to give credit to Lew Rockwell for getting it "close to right". Rockwell said: What is the most pressing and urgent threat to freedom that we face in our time? It is not from the left. If anything, the left has been solid on civil liberties and has been crucial in drawing attention to the lies and abuses of the Bush administration. No, today, the clear and present danger to freedom comes from the right side of the ideological spectrum.... But, Steve explains, he's missed a bit.
20:30 GMT

A few things

Ooops, sorry about messing up the RSS links for the last couple of days. Should be fixed, now. [Update: Okay, now it should actually be fixed.]

Ken McLeod is thinking about his next book: I have three ideas knocking about in my head at the moment. The first, on which I've actually done some research and note-taking, is The Bright Command (formerly pencilled in as The Dark Queen's Day), an addition to the still small sub-genre of Dark Lord revisionism. (That's where the multiracial horde with lowly accents and ugly faces who build noisome factories all over fantasyland are the good guys. I like Lord of the Rings, don't get me wrong, but aren't there moments when it feels a bit like Gone With the Wind without the frocks?) It won't be fantasy. It'll have some fantasy look-and-feel, at least at first, but it's straight SF. That's from his catch-up post, but read The Strange Death of Socialist Scotland while you're there.

E.J. Dionne wrote up some Lessons for Democrats and pointed out that Bush had ignored the conventional wisdom while the Dem leadership fell for it, and look who won. Well, we don't know that Bush actually won the vote (I sincerely doubt it), but he's right about one thing: You can't just pretend it's a fair fight when it's not. The RNC was prepared to lie about Kerry and Kerry did little to fight back. The conventional wisdom was that "going negative" alienated voters, but if you're running for office you have to demonstrate that you have some reason for thinking the other guy shouldn't be in the job - or else why are you running? Whether Kerry really did lose or not, what Dionne says is true, and of course the right-wingers are laughing at it because they actually believe the lies about Kerry. They believe any old thing the RNC tells them, and can turn on a dime when they get contradictory messages.

Happy birthday, Patrick!
18:05 GMT

What nature doesn't do to us...

I did warn you that invading Iraq, far from liberating its women, would actually make them less free. For those who haven't been keeping up, The Washington Post had another article on the subject the other day, Head Scarves Now a Protective Accessory in Iraq. Ann Coulter, take note: Fearing for Their Safety, Muslim and Christian Women Alike Cover Up Before They Go Out. What a favor we've done them!

To me, it's the Really Depressing News Story of the decade, but an astonishing number of people in the media just seem to be shrugging it off: bosses who "ask" their employees to work for free. It's been less official for the past few years, with a startling number of employers hiring part-time workers and expecting full-time hours, or just insisting on free overtime here and there. Wal-Mart we are increasingly aware of, but at least everyone knows what they are doing is illegal. But this thing where an airline publicly announces that they are asking employees to give up their Christmas holidays to work free for them, well, that is a whole 'nother level. We'll soon be back to the 84-hour week, I'm afraid. (And Steve gets points for calling this post "Volunteers of America". Ouch.)

Just to prove that the left is really mean-spirited compared to the sweet, decent, conservatives, Kevin Myers has a piece in the Telegraph called I wish I had kicked Susan Sontag, in which he also regrets not having set her up to get killed. It's so nice to see the conservatives showing their civility.
15:55 GMT

Full Employment, Fair Care

King of Zembla sums up:

  • We can employ everyone;
  • We can feed everyone;
  • We can provide medical care for everyone;
  • We can educate everyone;
  • We can reward excellence.
What Simbaud is summing up is A Platform for a Party of the Left, posted at Belisarius by Chuck Dupree, who we know from Bad Attitudes. It's amazing how much broader your horizons become if you just don't care that right-wing jackasses are going to call you a commie.

Don't be fooled into thinking this is all pie-in-the-sky, unrealistic, unworkable stuff. It makes a damn sight more sense than the fantasy that you can invade a country, take away everyone's jobs, send corporate pirates in to suck up the resources, torture people, and earn their love because it magically flowers into democracy.
14:52 GMT

Late stolen election round-up

The Free Press notes something I hadn't found an article on so far, pre-punched ballots with votes for Bush on them, among other things:

The unusually high number of Ohio votes discarded for double-punching remains unexplained. A possible reason was shared at this hearing by a voter from Cuyahoga County who stated that she inspected her paper ballot prior to voting and was shocked to notice that it was pre-punched for Bush. She also noticed another ballot had the same tampering problem. A voter from Niles came to the polls and noticed someone else had signed their name into her signature box. A voter in Precinct D of Warren Township came to the polls and discovered that someone else had already voted in her name. John Williams of Niles stated that after the election officials in Mahoning County refused to give him a precinct breakdown of the vote. Russ Buckbee noted that there seems to have been a pattern of expunging inactive registered voters from inner-city precincts but not the suburbs. Several testifiers complained about long lines at the polls causing many voters to leave in frustration. Maureen Lauer-Gatta, who observed the vote recount in Trumbull County, wondered how many votes where lost due to a last-minute change of voting sites on Election Day itself. She said there were "several" such voting site changes on November 2. Ariel Vegosan, who observed the vote recount in Mahoning County, noticed baskets full of votes not counted and wondered if there were "missing baskets of votes" in Mahoning County. She called this to the attention of election officials who seemed unconcerned about this irregularity. The legitimacy of the whole recount was called into question by Prof. Lovegren due to malfunctioning machines and other problems.
People have paid special attention to Ohio this time because it was the last state that "mattered", but while Ohio, New Mexico, and of course Florida had obvious "problems" this time around, it would be foolish to assume that these were the only states targetted with election fraud by the Republicans. It's easy to see where literally millions of Kerry votes were made to disappear into the Bush column.

A December 28th story at the same site says Ohio GOP election officials ducking subpoenas as Kerry enters stolen vote fray. Other voting irregularities are discussed, including write-in votes being recorded as votes for Bush.

And this:

The Free Press has also obtained a list of all voting machines assigned in Franklin County, including serial numbers. The list contains at least 42 machines originally assigned to predominantly African-American and inner city wards that voted 80% for Kerry, and where voters waited in line for three hours and more on Election Day. These 42 machines were blacked out on the list, raising the question of whether these were among the 68 machines the Franklin County Board of Elections has admitted holding back in the warehouse despite obvious shortages at certain polling places. Affidavits from poll workers confirm that numerous requests for more machines were made through election day, but that few if any were delivered.

Franklin County Board of Elections Chair Bill Anthony claims that low-level poll workers refused to accept the machines assigned by high-ranking election officials. But he has yet to provide specific details. Anthony has repeatedly claimed that he was a watchdog for Democratic interests in the election, but he was a political appointee of the Republican Secretary of State.

The article also says that, "The challengers are seeking a January 4th hearing before the Ohio Supreme Court." William Rivers Pitt is also continuing to cover the story.

What Really Happened is continuing to post links to related articles, and provides one to a New Year's Day story, Pollsters, Media Implicated in Vote Fraud, which says:

Immediately after the election, American Free Press reported that the Associated Press had direct access to the mainframe computer that tallied the votes in Chicago and Cook County - as it tallied the votes on Election Day. This provides evidence that the mainstream media consortium that replaced the disgraced Voter News Service (VNS) has remote access to the machines that count the votes.
The Brad Blog has a recent update noting that another local paper actually covered the Feeney story and managed to get an interview - but Feeney insisted it be entirely off the record.

The most recent irregularity posted at Voters Unite, on Christmas Eve, says: Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron failed to find -- and then denied the existence of -- 2,087 phantom votes in the certified results of the presidential election in New Mexico.

Ohio Counts wonders if we "bounced" an election. (I don't like this term, because when you bounce a check, its legitimacy isn't recognized by the involved institutions.) New Mexico, it seems, has been riddled with the same problems that we have become familiar with, including a state Supreme Court judge who refused to recuse himself even though his own election was on the table.

Democracy in America? Dream on, kids.
13:30 GMT

Saturday, 01 January 2005

Annoying stuff

Some days it's just hard to believe in a rational universe, you know? The right wingers respond to political disagreement with lies and hate and death threats and anthrax mail, but Jeff Jacoby thinks comparing the Bush administration with Nazis is hate speech. No, it isn't, it's just pointing out that those similarities are getting increasingly hard to ignore.

The NYT says James Dobson is flexing his muscles and threatening to target six Senate Democrats if they don't lay down and let Bush appoint any crackpot he wants to the judiciary. He singled out Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Dayton of Minnesota, Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Bill Nelson of Florida. All six are up for re-election in 2006. Jeralyn at TalkLeft says: Who does he think he is, Popeye?

Jeralyn also has the infuriating story of the judge who has told a woman that she can't divorce her abusive husband while she is pregnant, even though she says the child is not his. The judge seems to have been writing his own law. (Jeralyn also says that Rehnquist is leaping to the defense of the independence of the courts. Every now and then he says something so sensible that I nearly forget what a bastard he really is. Then I check my wallet.)
23:06 GMT

It came in the mail

I was having so much fun the last few days that I completely forgot to check my mail, and have barely responded to any I've received through the holidays. Well, let's see what we have:

Helga can't resist sending me links, like the one for The Truth About Terrorism by Jonathan Raban in The New York Review of Books:

If you live, as I do, in an American city designated as a likely target by the Department of Homeland Security, the sheer proliferation of security apparatus in the streets assures you that there is a war on. Yet the nature and conduct of that war, and the character-and very existence-of our enemy, remain infuriatingly obscure: not because there's any shortage of information, or apparent information, but because so much of it has turned out to be creative guesswork or empty propaganda.

To begin with, it wasn't a war. In the immediate aftermath of September 11, the attacks were spoken of, like the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, or the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, as acts of criminal atrocity for which those who were responsible could, the President said, "be brought to justice." But within nine days the war was underway. At the joint session of Congress on September 20, Bush described it as a new brand of war, "unlike any other we have ever known," of "covert operations, secret even in success." In Dick Cheney's words, it was to be fought "in the shadows: this is a mean, nasty, dangerous, dirty business. We have to operate in that arena."

And then it got worse.

Helga also quoted (but forgot to send a link for - tsk!) the Xymphora year-end piece that starts: Was 2004 the worst year in the history of the United States? Go read it to learn the answer.

For my morning seethe, Helga sent me an article from the NYT in which the idea is floated that Social Security Underestimates Future Life Spans, Critics Say. The story is supposed to be that since America has a lower life-expectancy rate than a lot of other countries do, we're likely to improve in the coming years and shoot up in life-expectancy and therefore break Social Security. Anyone who has studied related issues recognizes this as bollocks, of course; we're not suddenly going to start living longer just because it's possible - we would have to change a great deal more for that to happen to any but the wealthiest few. For the rest of us, things are worse and getting worse still. But it looks like the latest ingredient in the right-wing spin is this fantasy that we're all going to live to be a hundred and Social Security won't be able to pay for that. Well, Social Security won't have to, but if it really worries you, get the rich to pay some goddamn taxes and then you can quit worrying.

And just for fun, Helga told me about The hottest tickets for the new year in London, if you happen to be here with time on your hands. I don't have a lot of time on my hands, though, so I'll wait to see the new Johnny Depp version of Willy Wonka when it comes on TV.

Jonathan Dresner alerted me to this bit of guest-blogging at The Weblog that should remind those whining right-wing journalist who get mail with unfriendly language in it that things could be worse, because if people think you are left-wing, this can happen: Since my response was published I have had 3 death threats, uncountable blocked calls in the middle of the night, a dog gutted and slung over my mailbox, and a flaming bag of doo flung at my front door. I bought a shotgun and a locking gas cap for my car.

Bryan Rasmussen pointed me to a post at Better Angels of our Nature responding to some pretty ignorant and hateful quotes:

While skimming my morning reading, I came across two disturbing passages, courtesy of Duncan Black.

First, he quotes CNN's Barbara Starr as saying:

What is very interesting is several days later now nobody is criticizing the soldier. He made a valid point but there's no real evidence yet that anyone has demonstrated soldiers are going through landfills finding scrap metal and bits of glass to bolt onto their vehicles. So, you know, truth always lies, as we know as reporters, always lies somewhere in between what everybody is out there saying.
Then he quotes one Joe Richardson, who wrote to Editor & Publisher:
Joe M. Richardson: "The duped soldier should be put at the very front of the action, no armor. The cooperating sergeant's career should be over and maybe become MIA. Pitts and all his cronies should be executed as traitors. We are fighting a war, the debate is over, you're either for us or against us, there is no middle ground. I say start executing the leftists in our country, soon."
If you're wondering how we got here, and where we might be heading, those two passages are as good as any. To the first: Lady, you don't know jack 'bout what you're babbling about. How do I know? Because I used "hillbilly armor" my own darn self! We used scrap iron as doors and passenger cages for our softskinned HMMWVs when I was in the Balad area. And I was attached to one of the infantry battalions of the 4th ID. The vast majority of HMMWVs in the Army are unarmored, so the threat--and unavailability of armor and other resources, for that matter--made the usage of scrap iron for protecting ourselves imperative.
And while we're at it, it's folks like Barb Starr that allow dunces like Joe Richardson to believe that if only we got rid of the facts, then everything would just be peachy.
It's not just facts that are missing from those quotations, though, and that really worries me. (Note to Arkhangel: You really ought to read Fortean Times some time before you compare it to Fox - it's a slur FT did not earn.)

Moose & Squirrel didn't actually e-mail me this but he has some interesting guest-blogging from the Middle East up that you might want to have a look at.

Randolph Fritz mailed me this link to the speech Alex Steffen wishes Bush had made instead of popping his head up from his continuous holiday (temporarily located at his fake ranch) to tell the world he has no soul.

Carolyn Kay of Make Them Accountable advises that if you're planning to stay home on January 20th, you could listen to the jazz funeral that Radio Left will be doing in honor of the occasion.

Jack K. advises me that he has currently lost all contact with Lisa English and that he doesn't actually have administrative privileges at RuminateThis, so he's having a bit of trouble with the site upkeep, but has taken refuge at The Grumpy Forester.

Sara Messenger sent birthday greetings and a link to the Inkwell Beat Sampler. (Good goin', Z.)

Thanks to all who sent holiday greetings, and my best wishes to you all. I'm trying to stay hopeful for the new year, even though at the moment I can only see through one eye again (they warned me I'd need cataract surgery soon as a result of the other procedure, and I'm apparently pretty lucky it took this long). It hasn't all been easy, because some of the other things that have come in the mail hit closer to home and included the news that Anna will probably be gone soon. The good-byes are always hard. So love while you can, because these are the things that matter.
18:07 GMT

A big old new idea

Nick Denton says:

The progressive agenda:If the Democratic party is truly in the market for a big new idea, why not a big old idea? That, in the US, anyone can make it. It's a powerful national myth, increasingly threadbare, and in need of reworking. A damning analysis in the Economist: Meritocracy in America.
The Economist says America ain't what it used to be:
Most Americans see nothing wrong with inequality of income so long as it comes with plenty of social mobility: it is simply the price paid for a dynamic economy. But the new rise in inequality does not seem to have come with a commensurate rise in mobility. There may even have been a fall.
That fall has already been noted by liberal analysts, but this is a conservative magazine saying it. (Okay, some people might describe it as neoliberal, but that's just a word that means "economic conservative but we don't want to admit it.") And I'm with Nick on this (but you knew that): As I've said before, upward mobility used to be what we were about, but the fact is that America has less of it than all those "socialist" countries in Europe. I don't think it could hurt the Democrats at all to get into this issue.
13:55 GMT

News & stuff

Bill Gibson says: The Canadian government, until January 11th, will match any donation to major relief operations working from Canada. [...] Donations to Oxfam Canada, the Canadian Red Cross, World Vision Canada, UNICEF Canada, Care Canada, Doctors Without Borders, World University Service of Canada , Salvation Army, Canadian Food for the Hungry International, Save the Children Canada, and SOS Children's Villages will all be doubled by the Canadian government -- but only until January 11th.

Media Girl has a list of important stories that would have been on your network news this year if we really had a liberal media: So here are links to some other news stories that them liberals never managed to get out. (Losers!) When you read, be very careful. They're sneaky-like and will try to confuse you with facts. If you're not careful, if you're not ever vigilant, you may end up learning something, and then where would you be? (via).

GOTV has some good posts up about scary Republican privacy-invading get-out-the-vote tactics, and what Democrats need to do to fight back (and here). She also has a good response to a fundraising letter from WETA (I really hope she sent that), and a nice quote from Howard Dean. Scroll down to get to the posts - Alice, it's time to fix your blogroll.

Quiddity found a nice description of Joe Republican's day. Pass it on to those people you know who haven't worked it out yet.

Republicans set to solve their ethics problem - it's simple, really: Nothing is a breach of ethics.

Norwegian 10-year-olds more generous than Jerry Fallwell.

The Justice Department has mostly reversed itself on torture and sorta slid back to the old definition. As Lambert notes, however, not only does this come just in time for consideration of Gonzales' nomination, but the new torture memo doesn't retract that thing about presidents having the inherent authority to ignore the law. (Also: Write to your nearest Democratic Senator about this, will ya? Conyers needs Senators to help him challenge the Ohio vote.)

Deborah wishes us all peace in 2005. And I wish you all love.
04:26 GMT

Happy New Year!

I am all wined up so I'm not going to make some silly graphic this time but it's 2005 now and you people are livin' in the past and Jools Holland just did the first song of the year with Eric Clapton and it was "Stop Breaking Down." Rob announces that right now live Eric Clapton is singing "Stop Breaking Down" and I think Greg Pickersgill must be creamin' his jeans if he's watching this thing. "You gotta admit, it's a great name for a fanzine," I say. "If I was gonna have a three-word name for my fanzine that's what I'd wanna call it." "I'd have thought you'd call it Hot Lesbian Sex," says Rob. I consider this but think it would really be going too far in the hustle for a high hit-rate. I should stop now. Enjoy yourselves.
00:43 GMT

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, January 2005

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

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