The Sideshow

Archive for March 2002

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Sunday, 31 March 2002

19:54 GMT: Permalink
Can you tell the boys from the girls?

18:05 GMT: Permalink
The amusing Simon Hoggart tells me something I didn't know:

Back to Gareth Gates, who apparently has yet another latest best-selling single of all time. Which turns out to be, once again, Unchained Melody. There seems to be a law that this song is a number one hit every 10 years or so. Before Gareth it was Robson and Jerome; before that the only version worth remembering, by the Righteous Brothers (it was the theme of the film Ghost in 1990); before that Jimmy Young, and even Liberace and Leo Sayer, plus innumerable other American versions. I've always vaguely wondered where it came from and how it got that stupid title, so I decided to find out.

Early in the 1950s someone called Kenyon J Scudder wrote a book called Prisoners Are People, which must have seemed a pretty communistic notion in the America of that time. In 1955 the book was filmed under the title Unchained, starring Barbara Hirsh, and Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch - who will ever forget him? The movie, set in a California prison camp where the governor pursues a policy of enlightened liberality in order to rehabilitate his charges, was so bad that in spite of its worthy sentiments, Halliwell's film guide gives it a no-star rating, which translates as "couldn't be worse if it tried".

The music however was written by Alex North, a blacksmith's son from Pennsylvania, who most people haven't heard of but was one of the most brilliant of all film composers. His jazz score for A Streetcar Named Desire was so sensuous that the Legion of Decency called it "carnal" and insisted that the solo sax was removed from the parts. He also wrote a dazzling soundtrack for 2001, but Kubrick ditched it for classical music. In all he was nominated for 15 Oscars, and never won one, so in the end they gave him a special award.

The words came later, and were written by Hy Zaret, whose only other recorded work, so far as I can see, was It All Comes Back To Me Now, in 1941. I suppose if you listen to his lyric for Unchained it might be vaguely about a prisoner looking forward to going home, though it lacks the gritty realism of Tie a Yellow Ribbon or Jailhouse Rock.

Wow, I'd sure like to hear that music he wrote for 2001, not to mention the original version of the score for A Streetcar Named Desire.

Elsewhere in The Grauniad, John O'Farrell on The joys of war:

Twenty years ago this week the news came through that Argentina had invaded the Falkland Islands. Details were sketchy in those first few hours, though some people thought the islands might be in the Indian Ocean, or perhaps near Australia.

While the Foreign Office were still leafing through their big dusty atlas with the British Empire bits coloured in pink, Margaret Thatcher had already decided to go to war. Almost overnight she went from being a vulnerable and deeply unpopular prime minister to being an unassailable politician who was in a position to do to British industry what she'd just done to the Belgrano. A fascist dictatorship was toppled in Argentina, but, apart from that, everything went the way she wanted it.

Now, in the same way, George Bush has been turned from discredited leader to popular national hero by embarking upon military action overseas. They are rewriting the lyrics to Edwin Starr's classic peace anthem. Now it goes: "War! Hurr! What is it good for? Approval ratings for national leaders, yeah! War! Hurr! What is it good for? Deflecting attention from complex domestic problems! Say it again!"

Actually, O'Farrell is historically incorrect here: Maggie's "landslide" in the next election was accomplished with fewer people voting for her than had in the previous election. It was not the war that increased her support in Parliament, but (a) the fact that Maggie had increased the number of seats in Parliament altogether, and (b) the helpful David Owen, who by forming the SDP split the anti-Thatcher vote even more. (O'Farrell is Jeremy Hardy's replacement - Hardy got the boot even though he tended to be more accurate than O'Farrell, on the grounds that he wasn't as funny.)

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Uri Avnery says in the IHT that Arafat can't press a button to turn off the bombers:

When a whole people is seething with rage, it becomes a dangerous enemy, because the rage does not obey orders. When it exists in the hearts of millions of people, it cannot be cut off by pushing a button. When this rage overflows, it creates suicide bombers fueled by the power of anger, against whom there is no defense. A person who has given up on life is free to do whatever his disturbed mind dictates.
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Jackson Diehl must be writing a humor column for The Washington Post:

The inauguration of George W. Bush last year raised hopes in the Middle East that he would repeat one of his father's greatest achievements: using forceful and creative U.S. diplomacy to drag Israelis and Palestinians away from a steadily worsening conflict and into a peace process.
Who did this "raise hopes" for? Were they watching the election campaign at all? Governor Bush went out of his way to let people know he was going to ignore the Middle East and pretty much everything else except cutting taxes. Don't these people pay attention?

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Check out the Buzzflash interview with Paul Begala:
Part One
Part Two

Saturday, 30 March 2002

20:02 GMT: Permalink
Josh Green says in The Washington Monthly that President Bush doesn't believe in polling---just ask his pollsters.

This wasn't a stray comment, but a glimpse of a larger strategy that has served Bush extremely well since he first launched his campaign for president---the myth that his administration doesn't use polling. As Bush endlessly insisted on the campaign trail, he governs "based upon principle and not polls and focus groups."
But in fact, the Bush administration is a frequent consumer of polls, though it takes extraordinary measures to appear that it isn't. This administration, unlike Clinton's, rarely uses poll results to ply reporters or congressional leaders for support. "It's rare to even hear talk of it unless you give a Bush guy a couple of drinks," says one White House reporter. But Republican National Committee filings show that Bush actually uses polls much more than he lets on, in ways both similar and dissimilar to Clinton. Like Clinton, Bush is most inclined to use polls when he's struggling. It's no coincidence that the administration did its heaviest polling last summer, after the poorly received rollout of its energy plan, and amid much talk of the "smallness" of the presidency. A Washington Monthly analysis of Republican National Committee disbursement filings revealed that Bush's principal pollsters received $346,000 in direct payments in 2001. Add to that the multiple boutique polling firms the administration regularly employs for specialized and targeted polls and the figure is closer to $1 million. That's about half the amount Clinton spent during his first year; but while Clinton used polling to craft popular policies, Bush uses polling to spin unpopular ones---arguably a much more cynical undertaking.
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Did I mention that broadcast "news" isn't worth much these days? Sean Smith thinks so, too:

But over the last decade, while the elite media weren't looking, a funny thing happened: Letterman, Jay Leno, Oprah Winfrey, "Saturday Night Live" and MTV became the deliverers of the news mainstream Americans want. Pop culture shows pay more attention to politics and give it more time than their counterparts in the news division. According to the Center for Media and Public Affairs, a research group funded by the MacArthur, Ford and Pew foundations, among others, the average sound bite in the 2000 election fell to a mere seven seconds, three seconds shorter than in 1988. Voters who wanted to hear Gov. Bush or Vice President Gore couldn't rely on the network news. After Labor Day, the center found, reporters filled 74 percent of the airtime in the average evening news piece, while candidates talked 11 percent of the time. Other sources filled the remaining 15 percent.

By contrast, the pop culture shows offered viewers a chance to actually see and hear the candidates. When Bush went on Letterman in October 2000, he got 13 minutes of airtime. That's more time than he received on all the network news programs during the same month.

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It's absolutely true that a right-ward shift on public television tracks with attacks from the right in Congress and fear of losing funding - it's been going on for a long time. Whether this story represents evidence of it is another question, but it might very well be true; understand, I know absolutely nothing about the columnist, the show, or his case.

MONTPELIER — Senate leaders plan to meet with the head of Vermont Public Television to try to sort out allegations by well-known columnist Peter Freyne that House Republicans tried to influence the content of the weekly program "Vermont This Week" by cutting funding to the station.

Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, D-Windham, and Sen. Vincent Illuzzi, R-Essex-Orleans, decided Wednesday they would sit down with VPT president John King to get to the bottom of the controversy.

"Shumlin and I are setting up a meeting with John King to go over this," Illuzzi said. "I think it's important to talk with him. ... They're allegations right now. It’s hard to prove one way or another ... The fact that we’re meeting is a message."

Illuzzi said he was concerned about accusations leveled by Freyne, a political columnist for the Burlington-based weekly newspaper Seven Days. In his weekly "Inside Track" column Wednesday, Freyne said House Republican leaders tried to send a message to public TV officials to remove Freyne the weekly news-in-review show. Freyne alleges the Republicans cut $200,000 from a project that would allow the station to move toward a digital system.

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Mary McGrory is having fun with McCain-Feingold Follies:

Who says he's a sore loser? Who says he just couldn't give John McCain his moment in the Rose Garden, a ceremonial signing of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill? Who says he would rather look petty than go through the gripping and grinning and pen-handling that a White House ceremony entails?

Who? Just about everybody, after George Bush dashed off his signature between bouts on Iraq with Condoleezza Rice and the vice president. Then he dashed off to raise funds.

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Why waste time attacking the far left when you can go for the much more serious problem of the Democratic leadership? Thank goodness Frank Rich is putting things in perspective:

It isn't treason for a party out of power in wartime to talk about these matters. If anything, it's the Democrats' patriotic responsibility not just to hold up their end of the national dialogue over the war's means and ends, but to say where they want to take the country in peace. Yet now that they've capitulated on issues ranging from fuel-economy standards to gun control, the sum of a Democratic social vision these days often seems to have dwindled down to a prescription drug program for Medicare patients. For the party itself, however, nothing short of a spine transplant may do.
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Buzzflash is pointing to a story by James Higdon at Online Journal about the FCC and media concentration:

The province and the responsibility of the Federal Communications Commission is to defend and enforce FCC rules and regulations. Under the stewardship of Michael Powell, the FCC has clearly joined the other side. Powell has worked tirelessly with corporations that already own too sizable portions of the national media and with the Republican right wing to overturn regulations that limit the share of the media market that individual corporations may own. And he is now succeeding in getting Republican appointed appellate court judges to play along.

A US Court of Appeals recently sided with the corporate right wing in allowing a single corporation to own essentially 50 percent of the voice in a given market. While the case now moves to the Supreme Court, what happened on December 12, 2000 (the disenfranchisement of the entire American electorate), has proven that there are five Supreme Court justices (a voting majority) who are a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party. My prediction is that Powell will succeed in fully disrobing the FCC.

And Paul Krugman provides one example:

Modern political economy teaches us that small, well-organized groups often prevail over the broader public interest. The steel industry got the tariff it wanted, even though the losses to consumers will greatly exceed the gains of producers, because the typical steel consumer doesn't understand what's happening.

"Blinded by the Right" shows that the same logic applies to non-economic issues. The scandal machine that employed Mr. Brock was, in effect, a special-interest group financed by a handful of wealthy fanatics — men like the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, whose cultlike Unification Church owns The Washington Times, and Richard Mellon Scaife, who bankrolled the scandal-mongering American Spectator and many other right-wing enterprises. It was effective because the typical news consumer didn't realize what was going on.

The group's efforts managed to turn Whitewater — a $200,000 money-losing investment — into a byword for scandal, even though an eight-year, $73 million investigation never did find any evidence of wrongdoing by the Clintons. Just imagine what the scandal machine could have done with more promising raw material — such as the decidedly unusual business transactions of the young George W. Bush.
Slate's Tim Noah, whom I normally agree with, says that Mr. Brock tells us nothing new: "We know . . . that an appallingly well-financed hard right was obsessed with smearing Clinton." But who are "we"? Most people don't know that — and anyway, he shouldn't speak in the past tense; an appallingly well-financed hard right is still in the business of smearing anyone who disagrees with its agenda, and too many journalists still allow themselves to be used.

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I wish I could afford to fly back home and go to West 24 for An Evening with Julie Hiatt Steele.

Friday, 29 March 2002

15:45 GMT: Permalink
Back on the other side of reality The Washington Post continues to publish Michael Kelly.

Four new explorations of aspects of the phenomenon that was President Clinton have been published. They are: "The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton," by Joe Klein, the artist formerly known as Anonymous; "Starr: A Reassessment," by Washington Post editorialist Benjamin Wittes; "Final Report of the Independent Counsel in Re: Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan Association," by Robert W. Ray; and "Justice Undone: Clemency Decisions in the Clinton White House," by the House Committee on Government Reform, chaired by Dan Burton.
But there is a common theme, which has to do with the quality that, in the end, made Clinton a most unusual president. It is not, Klein's valiant efforts notwithstanding, a positive quality. What comes across as the most important source of Clinton's uniqueness as president is the nearly unbelievable degree of his essential unfitness to be president -- his profound immaturity, his pathological selfishness, his cynicism, above all his relentless corruption.
Wittes, on his way to convincingly criticizing Starr's disastrous confusion between truth and justice, notes that Clinton's conduct in the investigation was "consistently venal," that Clinton "consistently placed his own interests ahead of the public interest," that Clinton "had committed crimes and was determined not to face any accounting for them," and that Clinton had "a pathological aversion to the truth." This, mind you, in passing.
The pardoning spree perfectly illustrates -- even more than the campaign finance scandals, even more than the Lewinsky scandal -- the exceptional nature and degree of personal corruption that Clinton brought to and spread through the White House.

In his last bit of time in office, Clinton used his last bit of power to issue 140 pardons and 36 commutations to friends, family (his brother Roger) and an array of well-connected, well-heeled special pleaders.

To do this, the report notes, Clinton "deviated from all applicable standards" governing the use of clemency power. He "granted pardons and commutation to individuals who never would have received clemency but for the fact that they hired individuals close to the president to represent them. . . . He granted clemency to 13 individuals convicted in connection with independent counsel investigations of the Clinton administration. . . . He sent the message that he had two standards of justice -- one for the rich, and one for the poor. . . .

"By pardoning fugitives from justice [Marc Rich and Pincus Green], he undermined the efforts of law enforcement officers everywhere. . . . By commuting the sentences of Carlos Vignali and Harvey Weinig, [he] undermined U.S. efforts to fight the flow of illegal drugs into the country."

This was an abuse of power unique in American history, and it was the abuse of a power at the absolute heart of the presidency, a power over life and death, a power over law.

Now that is exceptionalism. This is what Clinton will be, and deserves to be, remembered for above all.

Is there no one left at the Post who remembers the administration that preceded Clinton's? None of Clinton's pardons are all that horrifying when looked at clearly - and certainly none of them compare to those of President Bush, who pardoned his own co-conspirators in serious crimes to evade being the subject of their pending testimony. Clinton did not simply dismiss all charges against drug lords like Bush did, either. Nor is it true that Clinton let Marc Rich off the hook for the other charges against him. Clinton has falsely been accused of having given blanket pardons to people when he only reduced their charges to more closely fit the crimes they had actually committed; the complaints about the Bush pardons are much more serious.

I was initially irritated by the Rich pardon, but not for the reasons everyone else claimed to be, and once I understood why Rich had been pardoned it no longer concerned me. I forgot my initial reasons for that irritation, though, in the ensuing furor over the pardon. It was only later, when even Democrats had started condemning Clinton for it and I was wondering why they were jumping on this astounding Clinton-hating bandwagon, that I finally remembered why someone like Barney Frank would be joining the chorus. Oh, of course, it had nothing to do with the charges against Rich or whether Clinton might have had his influence purchased by Rich's wife! It was because it was Marc Rich! You remember Marc Rich, don't you? Long before he became a hunted criminal, back in the days when he was an exemplar of fine modern business practice, Marc Rich was loathed on the left for his union-busting activities back in the States.

Doesn't change the facts, though. The only real reasons not to pardon Rich were largely political, and with even big shots in foreign governments (not to mention three Republican lawyers - including Dick Cheney's chief of staff) asking Clinton to pardon him, he had good reasons to do it. The fact that Rich would also be able to be at the bedside of his dying daughter without fear of prosecution was just a matter of simple compassion. So he heard about it because he personally knew the girl's mother? Yeah, so what? Compared to G.H.W. Bush, Clinton still stands out as a remarkably honest and uncorrupt president.

Thursday, 28 March 2002

16:50 GMT: Permalink
Peter Beinart in The New Republic on Bad Faith in the Bush administration:

A month or so ago, in a speech to the National Religious Broadcasters' annual convention, Attorney General John Ashcroft said the following: "Civilized individuals, Christians, Jews, and Muslims, all understand that the source of freedom and human dignity is the Creator. Governments may guard freedom. Governments don't grant freedom. All people are called to the defense of the Grantor of freedom, and the framework of freedom He created." And with those words, Ashcroft encapsulated everything that is admirable, and everything that is awful, about the Bush administration's understanding of religion in the United States.

Conservatives seemed genuinely puzzled by the outcry over Ashcroft's words. "I think General Ashcroft was quite inclusive," said Ken Connor, president of the Family Research Council. "He made reference to Christians, Jews, and Muslims all recognizing the Creator as the origin of freedom." And in a sense, Connor was right. Not long ago a conservative cabinet member from a conservative administration, speaking before a conservative Christian audience, might not have mentioned Jews and almost certainly wouldn't have mentioned Muslims. Ashcroft was being ecumenical in a way that, say, Ed Meese probably wouldn't have been.
As TNR's Gregg Easterbrook and others have noted, conflict between religious denominations has declined in recent years as traditionalists from various faiths have joined in solidarity against what they perceive as a growing secular threat. Conservative Catholics and Southern Baptists have put aside their theological hostility to make common cause against abortion. Evangelicals and Orthodox Jews have come together to push for government support of religious education.
After September 11, any American president would have insisted that most American Muslims do not support terrorism. But Bush, as TNR's Franklin Foer has noted, made a particular point of absolving Islam itself. Influenced by conservative intellectuals who argue that nothing truly religious can be evil, Bush quoted the Koran and declared that "Islam is peace." Last November, Bush hosted the first-ever White House dinner marking the start of Ramadan. Muslim dignitaries were invited to pray in the East Reception Room before listening to Bush tell the assembled that "America seeks peace with people of all faiths."

And with that line, Bush exhibited the same moral blindness as his attorney general. Of course the United States seeks peace with people of all faiths. But what about people of no faith at all? In fact, the Bush administration never mentions nonbelievers; it never suggests that they, too, possess a moral sense that leads them to abhor terrorism and defend freedom. To the contrary, Bush has said, "The true strength of America lies in the fact that we are a faithful America by and large." He has described the job of political leaders as "call[ing] upon the love that exists not because of government, that exists because of a gracious and loving God." As Vice President Cheney put it last year, "Every great and meaningful achievement in this life requires the active involvement of the One who placed us here for a reason."

Don't get me wrong. It's perfectly fine for Bush, Ashcroft, and Cheney to declare their faith. It's even fine for them to speak about the good they believe religion does in the world. But Tony Blair has done that as well, and yet he's also said, "This atrocity is an attack on us all, on people of all faiths and on people of none." As far as I can tell (and the website chronicles George W.'s statements on religion), President Bush has never uttered a similar thought. And when he and his top advisers, in hundreds and hundreds of statements, never miss an opportunity to exclude nonbelievers, it's hard to believe the exclusion is purely accidental. Consider, again, Ashcroft's speech last month: "Civilized individuals, Christians, Jews, and Muslims, all understand that the source of freedom and human dignity is the Creator.... All people are called to the defense of the Grantor of freedom...." Are individuals who don't see "the Creator" as "the source of freedom and human dignity" uncivilized? And how can "all people" be "called to the defense of the Grantor of freedom" if some people do not believe the Grantor exists? In lauding the attorney general's ecumenicism, conservatives ducked the real issue: that for this administration, celebrating the dignity of all believers has become a way to impugn the dignity of those who believe in no religion at all.

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Robert J. Samuelson writes in The Washington Post on a Stranglehold on Speech:

Free speech is not selective speech, respectable speech or popular speech. Free speech does not exist unless it can include speech that you -- and perhaps most people -- despise. People must have, as individuals and as groups, the routine right to express themselves, even if their expressions offend. Somehow these truths escape the supporters of "campaign finance reform," whose crusade threatens free speech.

In the final 60 days before the 2000 election, more than 135,000 political advertisements were run by sponsors who weren't candidates or the political committees of candidates, reports the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. The new campaign finance legislation -- known variously as McCain-Feingold and Shays-Meehan after its main Senate and House sponsors -- aims to remove many (if not most) of these ads by non-candidates from the air. Unless political advertisements aren't "speech," this represents a massive suppression of free speech. If you doubt that's the intent, listen to Senate supporters in recent debate.

"This bill . . . is about slowing political advertising and making sure the flow of negative ads by outside interest groups does not continue to permeate the airwaves," said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.). "We must also close off the use of corporate and union treasury money used to fund ads influencing federal elections," said Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). "I cannot believe the Founding Fathers thought that the right to put the same commercial on 5,112 times was intended to be protected by the First Amendment," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

I have to agree with Samuelson; I think something needs to be done about campaign finance, but I think this is pulling the wrong thread. There is nothing sacred about the final 60 days in a campaign that makes it all right to say that during that period I shouldn't be entitled, if I can afford it, to buy space to plead for a cause I believe in and/or condemn a legislator who disagrees, or praise one who shares my position. I don't see how you can question that this is speech.

But the real problem here is that we have to rely on advertising in the first place. We're talking about people paying money to broadcasters to state their positions - positions which might be vital and factual but also might be lies. It would be in the public interest to examine those issues in the broadcast media outside of political advertising - and broadcasters are permitted to monopolize the airwaves only in exchange for serving the public interest. At least in theory. What's really going on is that I may have no other way to state my truths on an issue but to buy advertising for the use of my own airwaves.

Yes, they are mine; I'm the public. Broadcasters think they own them because they have "invested" in running them in the past, but that's rather like saying that I don't have to pay my mortgage anymore because I've already invested a lot in my house. GE is not entitled to declare that it no longer has to pay the rent for its use of my airwaves just because they've spent a lot of money on making them profitable to use.

This is what news programs used to be for - to examine the issues and the candidates, in the public interest. These days broadcasters no longer feel they have any obligation to inform the public and so they have devolved their news budgets and staff to the point where stories aren't researched and panels of idiots sit around spouting uninformed opinions on Sunday and thus make things even more muddy than they were before. It's cheap, and anyway it helps serve the candidates and causes they happen to support.

What happened in the 2000 election was that the "news" media shilled for the Republicans and the Democrats had to pay to get their positions across. Nearly every time they made the mistake of allowing Al Gore to speak on television, he picked up votes, so then they had to spend the next few weeks telling us why we shouldn't believe our own eyes. Gore still won the election, but with the help of the media he was denied the White House. It has taken a combination of 9/11 and more than a year of Gore being out of the public eye to finally convince the public that they didn't really want him after all. Every time he pokes his head above the parapet they slash and burn him just in case he starts to catch the public's eye again.

So that means that with this stupid campaign finance bill, the Republicans will continue to get free advertising from the "news" media during those last 60 days before an election but the Democrats won't be able to buy airtime to dispute it. Is that a good thing?

Broadcasters aren't going to obey the law when they know they can buy a Bush White House that will install Michael Powell to tell them there is no law, no requirement to serve the public interest. It's up to you to demand that the damage is undone, because your legislators can't afford to annoy the broadcast media by making sure they have to spend the money on real news.

Wednesday, 27 March 2002

20:50 GMT: Permalink
I haven't found anything on the web yet for this, but I just saw a report on television that Dudley Moore is dead. For those who are too young to remember, don't let the stupid remake stop you from seeing the original Peter Cook & Dudley Moore Bedazzled, still an ace movie all these years later. (I saw them live, once. They were funny guys. I miss them.)

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Michael Tomasky has an interesting review of Blinded by the Right:

My sister-in-law, a historian and researcher in alternative medicine, once told me of a doctoral dissertation she'd happened across in which the writer interviewed a number of committed liberals and conservatives for the purpose of drawing conclusions about their governing emotional equipment. Liberals, the student found, feel most at home with guilt. Conservatives, as you might expect, don't have much truck with that; instead, they do anger.

It may be hard to call these findings shocking ones, and I do not know whether the candidate's advisers concluded that he or she had sufficiently advanced the literature so as to earn a doctorate. But I can say from personal experience that the liberalism-guilt correlation rings true, and, after reading David Brock's Blinded by the Right, I can certify on the strength of Brock's eyewitness--and often eye-popping--account that conservatives really do anger. Anger as trope; anger as strategy; anger as immutable biological condition; and anger just because it's fun. Yes, we knew this. But we didn't know it the way Brock knows it. Let me put it this way. Throughout the Clinton era, I read every major newspaper and all the magazines and a lot of the websites and most of the pertinent books; I didn't think there was much more for me to learn. But once Blinded by the Right kicks into gear, there is a fact, anecdote or reminiscence about the right's feral hatred of the Clintons every ten pages or so that is absolutely mind-boggling. And, as often as not, these stories are also about the rancid hypocrisy (usually sexual) that underlay, or probably even helped cause, the hatred. In sum: You cannot fully understand this fevered era without reading this book.

Gary Farber, meanwhile, points to another examination of the differences between liberals, conservatives, and libertarians from John Scalzi, who hates your politics, no matter what they are:


Defensive and peevish even when they're right. Under the impression that people in politics should play fair, which is probably why they get screwed as often as they do (nb: 2000 Presidential election).
(I wish I could say he's wrong, but I can't.)


Conservatives have no volume control on their hate and yet were shocked as Hell when Rush Limbaugh went deaf.
Libertarians secretly worried that ultimately someone will figure out the whole of their political philosophy boils down to "Get Off My Property." News flash: This is not really a big secret to the rest of us.
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Not much I can say about this.

17:28 GMT: Permalink
Some of the best (and most revealing) writing in The Washington Post is in the letter columns. I have wondered for years how the paper could have failed to notice the scandalously partisan behavior of Kenneth Starr. For that matter, I never understood why they didn't express outrage when Fisk was removed from heading up the investigation and replaced with someone who was so obviously unfit for the job. Ah but now, all becomes clear:

A Whitewater Farewell, at Last" [editorial, March 22] said Robert Ray's "angry denunciation" of President Clinton for his criticism of the Kenneth Starr investigation was justified, but it conveniently forgot to remind readers that it was Mr. Starr's written opinion for the the D.C. Circuit Court that in 1987 overturned a million-dollar libel verdict against The Post.

Apparently, we are to believe that the ruling on behalf of The Post has nothing to do with the newspaper's eagerness to agree that it is somehow unfitting for President Clinton and his allies to question the motivations behind an investigation conducted by a cigarette lawyer and completed by a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.

Though loyalty is a wonderful virtue, it should have its limits -- especially when it collides with other ethical obligations. The Post's fawning editorial treatment of Mr. Starr over the years is a disgrace.

I am able to look back on my role in the Whitewater "non-scandal" with pride and a deep sense of conviction that I did right by my country, right by my conscience and right by my president.

The Post's editorial writers, looking back over the same period, can give themselves credit for only one thing -- repaying a debt of gratitude to Ken Starr for letting them off the hook. [James Carville]

What makes me think Andrew Sullivan will not be writing at length to condemn the clear violation of ethics the Post displayed in continuing to defend their benefactor (and slander his victim) long after the rest of the world could see that Starr was an obsessed madman with no sense of decency who was, among other things, abusing his office and breaking the law?

Of course, I'd have known all this way back when if I'd seen this piece by Todd Gitlin at the time:

Meanwhile, how did Starr secure his comfort level? In 1991, the sociologist Michael Schudson, interviewing Bob Woodward, was surprised when Woodward told him that, as a watershed in the history of journalism, Watergate was less important than a 1987 Court of Appeals decision in a libel suit involving The Washington Post. The suit in question was filed against the paper by Mobil Oil CEO William P. Tavoulareas and his son, and the Court of Appeals, reversing an earlier decision by a three-judge Court of Appeals panel, found for the Post in April 1987. Two months later, that decision was upheld by the Supreme Court in what Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee hailed as a great "victory for responsible journalism." The author of the Court of Appeals decision, as the reader will by now have guessed, was Judge Kenneth W. Starr.

The reader had to guess, most likely, because reporting of this fact has been next to nonexistent in publications for non-specialists. In February 1998, Mollie Dickenson noted it in Salon, adding that Ben Bradlee had spoken effusively of Starr in public. I found a C-SPAN tape of an American Bar Association meeting on February 7, 1997. There, pre-Monica, commenting on what he called the "swamp" of Whitewater, which he thought quite unlike Watergate in either clarity or gravity, Bradlee added about Judge Starr: "He's a man for whom The Washington Post has this tremendous respect because he finally got rid of a $2 million libel suit against the Post, and as far as I'm concerned he can do no wrong." To be sure, Bradlee, a Whitewater skeptic, went on to say; "They could get an indictment against anyone they wanted, I think, and they haven't got it. It isn't there." Nonetheless, the matter of Starr's decision in the Tavoulareas case has never been reported in a general-interest national medium. It suggests an atmosphere. Bradlee told me that now, as for Starr, "I don't know if I have any [opinion] or not," and that as for Clinton, "I don't think he should be hung at midnight."

Bradlee's longtime presumption in favor of the judicious Judge Starr was representative. On Nov. 2, after Judge Johnson had found prima-facie evidence of Starr's illegal leaks, Bradlee's wife, Sally Quinn, could still write: "Starr is not seen by many Washington insiders as an out-of-control prudish crusader. Starr is a Washington insider, too. He has lived and worked here for years. He had a reputation as a fair and honest judge. He has many friends in both parties. Their wives are friendly with one another and their children go to the same schools. He is seen as someone who is operating under a legal statute."

Gittlin is so very right in the rest of the article, which I highly recommend to those who didn't see it back in December '98. Those were my very thoughts at the time. Because at the time, the reason I couldn't resist reading the impeachment story in the papers was not because I cared one way or another about whether Clinton had had sex with Lewinsky (I assumed he had, but so what?), but because the press was the story; I just couldn't believe they were sinking so low. I'm sure I wasn't the only one.

(I've often said that I never understood why the press was so in love with Clinton in 1990 and as their hatred of him seemed to grow after the election I remarked that they were behaving like a jilted lover. It all seemed so out of proportion. Gitlin's explanation of that is kinda scary.)

And finally, Joe Conason sums it up:

Almost exactly a decade after Whitewater commenced with a confusing article in the New York Times, the great pseudo-scandal finally concluded last Wednesday with the release of a mind-boggling, five-volume report from the Office of Independent Counsel. Ten years of investigative mania, partisan malice and misplaced ambition haven't improved the story, but merely inflated a footnote into an epic.

To read the contents of the 2,200-page document produced by the OIC -- at $73 million, or more than $33,000 per page, probably the costliest publication in human history -- is to marvel at how stubbornly these prosecutors evaded the obligation to admit that their primary targets, Bill and Hillary Clinton, were innocent. Even now they cannot confront that damning verdict without resorting repeatedly to the weasel phrase that has become their fraternal motto: "insufficient available evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt."

It is likely by now that most Americans have forgotten what, exactly, Kenneth Starr and his persistent assistants were attempting to prove. The Whitewater allegations were vague and constantly shifting, as each headlined accusation quietly evaporated. The few clear and pertinent questions about the defunct development deal were answered with finality at least seven years ago.
"Insufficient evidence" is putting it mildly. But Ray has spent the past few months preparing to run for the Senate in New Jersey, where he must think that smearing Hillary Clinton will impress Republican primary voters.

With all its discussion of obstruction and concealment, this report is itself a form of cover-up. Its massive size and complexity are designed to obscure the fundamental truth. This case was dead as early as July 1995, when the Clintons were cleared by the Pillsbury report (a comparative bargain at only $3.5 million), and no later than January 1997, when Starr made his first abortive attempt to resign in frustration.

There was never a "Whitewater case." There was only a political prosecution that was transformed from a failed financial investigation into a successful sexual inquisition, encouraged by a media elite that ought to have exposed rather than applauded this gross abuse of prosecutorial power.

Tuesday, 26 March 2002

05:05 GMT: Permalink
Mad Cops: Bill Thompson is my friend and colleague. I met him in 1989 at the annual general meeting of the National Council for Civil Liberties ("Liberty") and was immediately impressed by his vigorous defense of civil liberties, his energy, and his command of the facts. He is one of very few people I know who has actually read more research on pornography effects than I have. His book Soft-Core came out the same year as my book Nudes, Prudes and Attitudes and he gave me a great blurb for the back cover; true to his word, when he thought Reading University might allow him to require only one book for his criminology course that year, he told me it would be my book and not his.

Bill is also a registered expert witness for the UK government. That means he is one of the rare people who are immune from prosecution for viewing and possessing materials that are illegal - in the case of his area of expertise, this includes child pornography. But Bill doesn't get the material from the net, and certainly not on his own computers. I've known Bill pretty well for a long time now and I can assure you he has no personal interest in the material. And yet, I learn from The Daily Telegraph, Bill has been raided.

Bill Thompson is a lecturer at Reading University. He's a criminologist and has built up an international reputation as an expert on sexual assaults on children.

He testifies as an expert witness - analysing the evidence presented by the prosecution and assessing whether it proves what the prosecutors claim it does.

His expertise has been accepted by the courts and appears to have convinced juries and appeal court judges: in every one of the 20 cases he has been involved in over the past two years, the side on whose behalf he has given evidence - and it is almost invariably the defence - has won.

Two weeks ago, Dr Thompson found that the door to his home had been smashed in, his house searched, and his computer and many of his files seized. The same happened in his office at Reading University.

The raids were organised by Thames Valley Police.

Officers asserted they had information that Dr Thompson was in possession of child pornography and obtained a search warrant from a local magistrate before entering his premises.

Here's a fact about UK law that I continually object to and no one seems to care: Bill will probably never learn who this "information" came from. I'm willing to bet it comes from "child protection" activists who run around slandering people they regard as the opposition - entirely fabricated. But it's unlikely Bill will get to confront his accusers.

Unfortunately, the police did not tell the magistrate that Dr Thompson was an expert witness in a myriad of child sex cases.

Detective Sergeant Kate Ford, of the Marlow Child Protection Group, who supervised the raid, explained that omission to Dr Thompson's solicitor by saying that: "Dr Thompson claims to be an expert witness, but he is not on any expert witness list we checked."

Dr Thompson is baffled by that claim. "I am on the Home Office website as an expert who has been consulted on the sentencing of paedophiles. I am a practising associate of the British Academy of Experts, which is recognised by the courts as an authenticating body.

Experts employed within the criminal justice system and academics conducting research are two of the six categories of people specifically singled out by the Child Protection Act of 1978 (and its amendment of 1988) as having a statutory defence against any criminal charge of possessing child pornography.
Dr Thompson has given lectures to police officers in which he has explained the anomalous position that he and other experts such as him occupy in relation to the Child Protection Act.

"We have a statutory defence against any prosecution," Dr Thompson explained. "But it does not stop a prosecution from taking place. Under the law as it stands, people like me can be charged and prosecuted, even though no prosecution should succeed.
The police say that, in raiding Dr Thompson, they were simply responding to "several" claims that Dr Thompson was downloading "massive amounts" of child pornography from the internet.

Oh, really? And how would anyone even know that? The police broke a man's door down on such obviously unfounded allegations? Yes, dammit, this is Britain.

"That claim is demonstrably false," insists Dr Thompson. "And its falsity will be demonstrated the moment they go through my computers." Dr Thompson has no doubt that he can dispose of the allegation that has been made against him. He doubts that he will even be charged. Still, it will not be so easy for him to restore his reputation: mud sticks.

He has been suspended form his university post while the allegations are investigated. And merely being the subject of a police raid has meant that Dr Thompson has been dropped as an expert witness by the lawyers for several defendants on whose behalf he was due to appear.

"You make a lot of enemies when you point out that not everyone accused of sexually assaulting children is guilty," Dr Thompson notes wearily.

"People say you are an apologist for paedophiles, that you are trying to make the world safe for them. Of course it's nonsense. I want people who are guilty of sexual assaults against children put in prison.

"The problem with the way cases are prosecuted at the moment is that it is often not sex offenders who are being sent to prison, it is innocent people."

Needless to say, this is horrific news for those of us who want effective action taken to protect innocents - both abused children and those who are falsely accused.

Monday, 25 March 2002

23:59 GMT: Permalink
Hal O'Brien writes:

Looking over the Bush comment in your 19 March entry, it just confirms the odd position Bush and Cheney appear to be taking: That somehow advice can't be "good and honest and open" unless one can lie about it later. What other purpose is there for "confidentiality" in this context other than plausible deniability?

The question left unanswered, of course, is why Bush and Cheney find the advice of known liars so valuable.

* * * * *
I'd like to take a moment to get back to Patrick's point about officially-accepted journalists and the criticism of independent journalism as represented by not just Vanessa Leggett but bloggers, and why it's reasonable to cry "Foul!" on the sort of sideswipe Alterman made at Andrew Sullivan for being a blogger. Almost exactly six years ago I wrote in public about this subject for the first time (on Cix), in response to a stupid television special about how awful the Internet is. Here (with the names of innocent bystanders edited out) is what I said at the time in response to a particularly annoying comment by the editor of Private Eye:

Most astonishingly, guest talking-head Ian Hislop (of all people!) complained that you cannot check information on the 'net, as everyone has equal credibility out there. Now, I don't know about you, but I read Usenet from time to time, and one thing I've noticed is that unlike the paper and broadcast media, people demand citations when they read statements on Usenet, and people who are trying to create some credibility for themselves - or just make a case - provide citations a great deal of the time. Checkable citations. And I don't mean citations like, "Mary Kenny says in the Evening Standard" or "Ray Wyre has said," but actual, empirical, documentary sources. When does the Telegraph, the Guardian, Newsnight or Private Eye do this?

One of the things I love about Usenet is that everyone starts off as a blank slate in terms of credentials and has to prove their own reliability. You don't believe something just because it's on Usenet, you take time to figure out that [innocent bystander A] can usually back up what he says and make coherent arguments, even if he is a bit single-minded at times, or [innocent bystander B] is talking from valid personal experience and makes intelligent judgments of observable social environments, even if he is a bit credulous about Fortean phenomena, and [guilty bystander] is a crackpot even if he does have a point about certain elements in the lesbian movement in the 1980s.

You have to use actual brains to sort the wheat from the chaff, and even then you have the opportunity to check facts that you never really get from the mainstream newsmedia, because most of them take for granted that they are answerable - when you say, "Give me a source for that," they will cite Justice Department statistics, or legal precedents, or whatever, that you can look up yourself (on or off the net). Good luck getting The Daily Mail or Time Out or Peter Snow to do this.

We grant mainstream journalists a credibility they have not really earned. Their expertise is in journalism (or maybe just in news presenting) rather than in any of the areas they talk about. They may be accurate enough when they say something like, "John Major said in Parliament today that..." but that is not the same thing as telling you whether or not he was talking crap. Most mainstream journalism is opinions backed up by other opinions, seldom from any reliable experts; it hardly qualifies as credible to those who actually know anything about the subjects these journalists are reporting on.

"Credibility" of the sort Hislop is talking about is actually just another form of back-door censorship of ideas - journalists only cover the ones they feel like covering, everyone is presenting their opinions or presenting something called "debate" (at best a polarized discussion in which varying opinions, at varying extremes, may all be treated as equal, and in which expertise is seldom granted any credibility at all), and no one is presenting insight into these issues.

Why are these mainstream journalist/entertainers so disturbed by the on-line world? Partly, I think, because it does challenge their credibility. And partly because they really have very little respect for even their own media and the ordinary discourse that once preceded it.

This has become even more true since I wrote it, back before The New York Times decided it was more fun to quote unchecked items from Matt Drudge than to do the fact-checking upon which that credibility was supposed to rest.

* * * * *
I might be the last to mention this Jonathan Freedland piece in The Guardian, but it'd be a shame if you missed it because I let that stop me:

So today I issue a plea, in defence of that little sliver of middle ground where I - and, apparently a good chunk of the public - want to stand. We want to be pro-America and anti-Bush. We want to applaud what the United States stands for, even as we express our dislike for this particular administration.

This should not be brain surgery. No great intellectual agility is required to laud the founding ideals of the American republic while simultaneously lambasting Washington's current masters. You can admire the 1787 declaration that we, the people should be sovereign - and still insist that bombing Iraq is not the best way to get at Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. No contradiction.

* * * * *
Cody says I took my flag down today.

* * * * *
Liberal media bias: Geoffrey Nunberg takes a look at Bernie Goldberg's contribution to the Big Lie:

For the most part, Goldberg's book is a farrago of anecdotes, hearsay, and unsupported generalizations. But at one point he strays into territory that can actually be put to a test. That's when he claims that the media "pointedly identify conservative politicians as conservatives," but rarely use the word "liberal" to describe liberals. As Goldberg explains the difference: "In the world of the Jennings and Brokaws and Rathers, conservatives are out of the mainstream and have to be identified. Liberals, on the other hand, are the mainstream and don't have to be identified."

That basic premise is sound enough -- that the media mention things that they see as being out of the mainstream more often than they mention things that they see as in it. If a major company names a seven-foot-tall Hare Krishna from Tonga as its CEO, those attributes are more likely to show up in the story than if the new chief is a 5'10" Methodist from Ohio.

[Digression: Sure. A question, though: Is it "biased" to treat something as "out of the mainstream" if it is, in fact, out of the mainstream? Because the issues in the charge of "liberal bias" have to include the definition of "liberal" (or "conservative") and whether they refer to people who are not middle-of-the-road (are politicians ever identified as "middle-of-the-road"? Does "moderate" mean that? From experience, I don't think so.)

Here's a little thought experiment: Suppose you wake up one day and discover that Congress contains two types of legislators - about half of them share the views that you hold in common with the majority of Americans, and the other half, for some unknown reason probably involving chicanery, are members of the Ku Klux Klan. ("Ku Klux Klan" may be used here as a wild card for "people who are way to the right of any sane person.") Would you consider it "biased" if newscasters referred to the KKK reps as "right-wing" but never referred to the other members of Congress as "liberal"? Because, of course, compared to the KKK, they would be liberal, even if they weren't all that terribly liberal. What would it mean if they referred to even libertarians as "liberal" because they were still to the left of the KKK?

To a certain extent, this is the milieu that liberals often feel they live in now. We know that on most substantive political issues of the sort discussed in Congress, our neighbors agree with us. A mixed economy is taken for granted - basic capitalism with a certain amount of regulation to keep it from going nuts, and a number of things best taken care of collectively through state-funding via taxes (like schools) handled by government. (That's economic liberalism pretty much by definition.) Most people think gays should be allowed to serve in the military and that Social Security should be provided for the elderly and the infirm. A majority of Americans say they would be willing to pay more in taxes for a public health care system such as Britain has ("socialized medicine" as they call it on the right; single-payer isn't much discussed, but when it is it's often treated as much the same thing). Most people believe good birth control should be available and that kids should be given good, factual sex education in the schools. And while many people feel uncomfortable with some of the reasons women have abortions and think they should behave differently, the vast majority of Americans oppose a "Human Life Amendment". Almost no one believes black people should be treated as lower than white people.

Now let's look at where the political establishment and the press stand on these issues. Obviously, there are many in Congress who support economic liberalism, but there are also clearly those who don't; they are certainly outside the mainstream. One person in Congress is to the left of liberalism; he's a socialist. The Bush administration and its friends appear to support aristocracy with no protections for the rest of us. So they are not liberals, and that makes them remarkable in the context of mainstream American society.

If the majority of Americans polled say they would agree to an NHS-style system and higher taxes to go with it, why is it that even single-payer, never mind national public health care, was unmentionable during the healthcare debate in the '90s? The mainstream media mentioned it almost not at all; it was left to Tom Tomorrow to depict an empty discourse in which the respectable pundits groped vaguely for some answer to the healthcare crisis while that bloody penguin popped up in the background, ignored, saying, "Single-payer...single-payer...single-payer..." So the popular mainstream view was too far left to get a look-in from the "liberal" media.

It looks to me like, compared to most Americans, the mass media and our politicians are actually tending to be conservative. Isn't it then misleading to single-out politicians as "liberal" when this would tend to imply that they were at least as liberal as the mainstream?

Ah, but defending that position isn't Nunberg's point, so let's get back to the show.]

In fact, I did find a big disparity in the way the press labels liberals and conservatives, but not in the direction that Goldberg claims. On the contrary: the average liberal legislator has a thirty percent greater likelihood of being identified with a partisan label than the average conservative does. The press describes Barney Frank as a liberal two-and-a-half times as frequently as it describes Dick Armey as a conservative. It gives Barbara Boxer a partisan label almost twice as often as it gives one to Trent Lott. And while it isn't surprising that the press applies the label conservative to Jesse Helms more often than to any other Republican in the group, it describes Paul Wellstone as a liberal twenty percent more frequently than that.
So there it is. The press is making a point to tell you these people are "liberal", even though they aren't more liberal than most people. And the press isn't working as hard to tell you that Trent Lott and Dick Armey are "outside of the mainstream", even though they are in fact right-wing fruitbats compared to most Americans.

Sunday, 24 March 2002

23:55 GMT: Permalink
Joshua Micah Marshall on The real Whitewater shocker:

The final report on the Whitewater investigation released Wednesday by the Office of Independent Counsel (OIC) confirmed what had been known for some time -- that after all the tens of millions of dollars and eight years of investigation, the OIC found no evidence of any criminal activity on the part of Bill or Hillary Clinton in the various dealings that fell under the catchall heading of "Whitewater."

The highlights of the report -- as judged by the headlines of the major national dailies -- were Robert Ray's criticism of President Clinton for disparaging the Starr-Lay investigation, and Ray's claim of inaccuracies in now-Sen. Hillary Clinton's testimony about billing records for Madison Guaranty, the failed S&L whose owners, the McDougals, were partners with the Clintons in a real estate company named Whitewater.

But both missed the real shocker in the report: new details of how the scandal was fueled in its early days by the Justice Department of George H. W. Bush, who was facing a daunting election against the upstart governor from Arkansas.

While the aim of the report was clearly to defend the integrity of the investigation that produced it, tucked away toward the end is information that points to an opposite conclusion. Critics of the Starr and Ray investigations have long held that the Whitewater probe was partisan from the start, born in dirty tricks and manipulation that began with the first Bush administration. Now the OIC itself is presenting facts that substantiate those claims.

* * * * *
Gary Farber makes the point on freedom of belief:
Yes-it-does, no-it-doesn't doesn't make for an enlightening exchange of ideas, nor does it convince anyone on either side. But:

Even if (and the proposal in Ohio doesn't go this far) you literally had teachers putting "God Exists" up on the chalkboard and talking about their belief in God, that wouldn't constitute a violation of the First Amendment's protection against an establishment of religion.
Yes, of course it would. Many people don't believe in "God." Those who do differ wildly in their beliefs. Many other people believe in different sorts of gods. Many other people believe in other sorts of religion without God. Saying "God exists" specifies one minority belief on this planet, and a government-run school in the US can't put down other people's religious or non-religious beliefs by such an establishment of religion.
And some of us feel that spiritual belief is both deeply personal and something that can only lose from being put into the classroom atmosphere. And that's just one little thing....

* * * * *
Ginger Stampley is wonderful on anti-feminist jerks:
If I were a man, this stuff would piss me off to no end. Does this guy think no man can want a grown-up relationship (monogamous or otherwise) on his own, without having to be led by the trouser-weasel into adulthood? Mr. Happy may be independent-minded, but there are limits. The big brain has to control the little one.
Yeah, that's what I said. When I read the Playboy interview with George Gilder where he said similarly insulting things, I thought there'd be serious objections, but no guys wrote in to take exception to being portrayed as, well, basically useless or destructive unless women made them behave.

Look, I'm well aware that young women on college campuses have been known to get really carried away with trying to make guys feel guilty about being guys, but can men seriously think that arguing that the human male is little more than a drooling wang is a useful antidote?

* * * * *
Patrick Nielsen Hayden points to yet another story demonstrating that someone is trying to remove free speech from independent voices:
Defending the battlements A Seattle judge has jailed a 70-year-old man for writing cranky and abusive things about his neighbors on a Web site--and has dismissed First Amendment objections on the grounds that the defendant isn't a paid professional reporter. Here's the story, in the Seattle Weekly. (Rasff regulars will be interested to note that the story quotes, among others, Michael J. Lowrey.)

It's entirely imaginable that the defendant's writings are nasty and untrue. As it happens, the legal system offers many remedies for people who feel they have been materially damaged by untrue speech. But if the First Amendment applies only to officially-certified reporters, we're all in deep trouble. (And if you think this is an isolated outbreak of that legal meme, google up "Vanessa Leggett" , the unpaid Texas writer who made the mistake of thinking she was entitled to the same protections as any other reporter, and spent hundreds of days in jail as a result.)

Patrick then goes on to express irritation with Eric Alterman on the subject of Andrew Sullivan - and especially the accusation that Sullivan exhibits the "will to censorship". It is true, as Patrick implies, that Alterman's little side-trip into an apparent attack on blogging is a bit greasy, but I'm not so sure about the "will to censorship" thing.

I think Sullivan's attacks on Paul Krugman are a signal of Sullivan's desire to shut down one of the few effective voices in the mainstream media critical of the administration's policies by smearing Krugman with the taint of impropriety. That may not fit the strict definition of (state-sponsored) censorship, but it does fit the more general definition - and while it may not have worked (yet), that doesn't mean it's not what he desires. If what Sullivan really wanted was an intelligent discussion of Krugman's ideas, he wouldn't be spending so much time merely trying to undermine his credibility. But since he can't attack the former, he's stuck with ad hominem. Bush lied about his policies during the campaign and has continued to lie about them since he began his occupancy of the White House; in addition, he has exploited 9/11 for his own political gain and to push through his destructive agenda. Krugman is absolutely right about this and it appears that Sullivan doesn't want it to be pointed out. The fact that he isn't officially a member of government doesn't change the fact that he sure seems to be trying to shut people up.

I should probably say here that if it seems like I'm taking issue with Patrick a lot, it's only because I pay a lot more attention to what he says in the first place, and read his page more frequently than any other. Patrick is one of the smartest people I know, and there are few people I am likely to listen to more carefully.

Saturday, 23 March 2002

18:50 GMT: Permalink
The fiddling I did last night to get margins looked fine in Mozilla but when Rob opened it up this afternoon in Windows it was cock-eyed. We couldn't figure out why so I just made a change that side-stepped the problem.

I'm also moving the permanent links up to the top of the entry, but I've only done it on the current pages so far, and not the earlier months' archive pages.

* * * * *
Martin Wisse has written to point out other reasons people oppose the war on terrorism, one of which is that they "don't trust the whole Bush administration farther then you can throw them." In this, he has a point. No one can justifiably claim that the appearance of impropriety is far from the White House these days, not least because the Bushes and their friends are so deeply entangled in the oil business. The fact that they have spent so much of their time lying to the American people about their opponents, their budget, themselves, and their commitment to American values doesn't help, either. Oh, and they also lost the election.

Obviously, I feel a lot of sympathy with this view. I don't trust these people, and I don't trust them to prosecute the war in good faith. While I believe going after Al Qaeda with force of arms is something we must do, I would feel a whole lot better if someone else was running the show. Certainly, it is hard to escape the conclusion that all this concentration on Iraq is fuelled at least in part by a desire to wipe out the standing embarrassment of President Bush's errors there during his tenure in office. There is also the unsavory fact that every time Saudi Arabians murder Americans, the Bushistas have this nasty habit of focusing on some other nation instead. Saudi Arabia is our friend. Like Saddam used to be.

Which is another thing. Even if you credit these folks with the best will in the world and nothing but honesty and integrity, they seem to have terrible taste in friends. And they make loads of disastrous decisions. Can we really trust their judgment?

* * * * *
A letter in The Washington Post demonstrates the shambles our current political discourse is in:
Michael Kinsley wonders that unless he's "crazy, 'hard left' is not an accurate description of the average Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee."

The liberal group Americans for Democratic Action rates every member of Congress on a scale of 1 to 100 based on how they vote, with 100 being a "perfect liberal score." The group gave the 10 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee an average rating of 95.5.

If Kinsley doesn't consider a group of people who vote straight liberal positions 95 percent of the time as being "hard left," then that just shows how completely out of touch he is with reality. [Kirk Stepanian]

Tootum kalook! Did no one ever tell you that it's called the "hard left" because it isn't liberal?

[Note: It's a transliteration, it doesn't matter how I spell it.]

04:20 GMT: Permalink
Glenn Kinen: Sorry about the spello, I'm dumb that way.

Jim Henley: Is that better?

Oh, damn, I left my Palm Pilot at work.

Friday, 22 March 2002

16:20 GMT: Permalink
Interesting piece by Glenn Kinen, for a lot of reasons:

Most American liberals - I like to think of myself as one - want more money for the poor. We want more foreign aid for discouraged countries. We want a more tolerant set of drug laws. Most of us want a Palestinian state. We want these things, rightly or wrongly, because we think the world needs less misery and more freedom. And the liberals I know are the most hawkish people around. This is not, as some on the right might think, a case of ideological schizophrenia, but rather a consequence of our values. We are utterly confident that America, with all its faults, rests upon a superior set of principles. We don't think that democracy, fairness, and freedom are just words, and so we bitch and criticize when those values are ignored at home. When those values are affronted by the murder of 6,000 people, it's no accident that we rush to beat the war drums. But we beat the drums with a clear mind: innocents, Afghans and Americans alike, will die. Yet a martial response is nevertheless needed to save even more Americans, and we hope eventually Afghans, from fear and death.

It's hard to see that liberals think this, because few see the point in calling themselves liberals when we're in broad agreement with the rest of the country. It's also hard to see because we're ashamed of those we once thought we agreed with. The other Left - let's not call them liberals - has also long clamored for more foreign aid, welfare, and concern for Palestinians. It was hard to tell us apart. Not anymore: the peace rallies, the wooly thinking, the knee-jerk anti-Americanism all form a jagged line between the liberals and the Left, and liberals are looking suspiciously at the sincerity of those we once thought we agreed with.

I'm always baffled by things like this. I mean, you only have to be politically awake for 15 minutes, especially if you are leftish or a Democrat, to notice that out there on the fringes there are people who are a bit out in, um, left field. Yep, you even run into the occasional actual commie (though not, to be honest, all that often). You run into a few pacifists - and though I often admire their ability to believe, I think they are terribly naive. I disagree with those who assume they are not committed to pacifism; I've met many who unquestionably are. But lots of people believe things that are at odds with reality. You go to rallies and argue with the Trots and the people who spit on women in fur coats and wonder what they are even doing there since they don't appear to actually care about what the rally is about - indeed, some of them seem to be there only to recruit for their own causes. But most of us avoid those people unless we are in the mood for an argument.

Really, all this surprise that there are people who are bitter or who don't appear to have a real commitment to human justice is a bit like a libertarian being startled to learn that some of these Republicans, like the KKK types or fundies, don't really seem to be committed to free markets and states' rights. C'mon, guys, wake up!

But overall, I think he has some interesting things to say. I also learned from his links list about the Paul Krugman Archive, which has a pointer to this article by Jack O'Toole:

Win Ben Stein's Calumny: Instapundit Glenn Reynolds links today to this open letter from Ben Stein to NYT columnist Paul Krugman, attacking the latter for his column marking the death of economist James Tobin. In addition to the fact that the entire letter amounts to little more than a foul stew of gross distortion, ideological invective, and willful misrepresentation, I was particularly struck by the following sentence: "It really is shocking that someone of your limited background in economics presumes to judge a great man like Tobin or in eulogizing him to so pervert his opinions and work..."

Let me get this straight. Are we talking about the same Paul Krugman? The one who has been honored with the Eccles Prize for Excellence in Economic Writing, the John Bates Clark Medal, the Adam Smith Award, the Nikkei Prize (with M. Fujita and A. Venables), and the Alonso Prize? Is that the "limited" economic background to which Stein refers?

On the other hand, I suppose the columnist's CV would look much more impressive to Mr. Stein if Krugman had chosen to indulge his pedagogical impulse by hosting a game show on Comedy Central -- instead of actually teaching economics in less savory spots, like Yale, MIT, Stanford, and Princeton.

And O'Toole also cops to being a DLC type, and also exposes a Congressman who is "giving aid and comfort to the enemy" by disagreeing with Bush. A Republican. Good page; recommended.

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More reasons why Ken Starr should be in jail: No one knows more about the tricky local politics in Arkansas from whence the Whitewater slander sprang and just how filthy the politics of it have been than Gene Lyons of The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Bartcop has posted the latest installment, but I know Rob won't click through to it, so:
Not long before he died last week, U.S. District Judge Henry Woods agreed to talk to me about Kenneth Starr. Never one to mince words Woods described Starr's tactics in persuading a partisan panel of the Eighth Circuit in St. Louis to remove him from a bankruptcy fraud case against former Gov. Jim Guy Tucker as "not only unethical, but unscrupulous."

Never in his lengthy legal career, Woods explained, had he seen a lawyer lose a case at trial, then launch a sneak attack on the judge's integrity on appeal by citing "unfounded and scurrilous" accusations in newspaper and magazine articles written by political foes. Not to mention political foes funded by a wack job billionaire plotting to ruin the President of the United States.

True to his oath of office, Woods did not tell me something I learned only by reading the fine print of Independent Counsel Robert Ray's final report on the Lewinsky matter: That the judges of the Eastern District of Arkansas had unanimously petitioned the Eighth Circuit to investigate "alleged prosecutorial misconduct" by Starr's office in connection with the American Spectator's vaunted "Arkansas Project" and its efforts to interfere improperly with Woods' handling of the Tucker case. (Judge George Howard recused.) They asked to have grand jury testimony from the Justice Department's own probe of the Arkansas Project made available to the investigation.

Assigned the case by lot, Woods had quashed the Tucker indictment on the common sense grounds that it was totally unrelated to the Clintons or to Madison Guaranty S & L, hence outside the independent counsel's jurisdiction. During our interview, he showed me several scholarly law review articles agreeing with his decision. Starr, however, got his ideological brethren on the Eighth Circuit not only to reverse Woods, but to remove him from the case due to an "appearance of conflict" caused by inaccurate articles the OIC submitted--including discredited canards by segregationist demagogue "Justice Jim" Johnson.

Woods had, of course, earned Justice Jim's enmity by throwing out the infamous "Johnson Amendment" to the Arkansas constitution requiring the state to defy federal laws requiring racial integration. Johnson also appeared in the notorious "Clinton Chronicles" videos accusing President Clinton of cocaine smuggling. Evidence at the Tucker-McDougal trial showed him to be in constant contact with the OIC's star witness David Hale. Yet Judge Woods was given no chance to respond.

A more cunning and cynical attack on an independent judiciary is hard to imagine. Regardless of Tucker's guilt or innocence--and the case is STILL hanging fire due to the OIC's seeming inability to prove that Jim Guy owes any back taxes due to his supposed fraud--the Eighth Circuit's decision set three terrible precedents: It gave an independent counsel unlimited power to target any citizen for any expedient reason; it invited losing prosecutors to shop for friendlier judges on the basis of "issues" never raised at trial; and it used as "evidence" grotesquely inaccurate hearsay it made no effort to assess.

Exactly as it did in the Tucker case, the decision would allow a rich crackpot like Richard Mellon-Scaife to ally himself with a common criminal like David Hale, buy the services of "journalists" like Justice Jim and others in the Arkansas Project, and smear judges who got in their way. It's heartening to see that for all their personal and political differences, all the judges in the Eastern District of Arkansas responded appropriately to the attack on their colleague. A greater tribute to this courageous jurist's honor and integrity would be hard to imagine.

Alas, it's equally disheartening to learn via the "Ray Report" that Judge John F. Nangle, appointed to preside over the judges' complaint, not only dismissed it out of hand and refused to release the "Arkansas Project" grand jury evidence, but also ordered the record sealed, thus preventing its existence from becoming known until now--and then only by way of the OIC's characteristically mealy-mouthed and self-serving version. The law says a judge "SHALL" refer misconduct charges to a special counsel. But Nangle essentially ruled that the Little Rock judges had to prove their case before it could be investigated, then denied them the means to do so. Is it even necessary to mention that Judge Nangle was named Missouri's "Republican of the Year" not long before ascending to the bench?

It's interesting to speculate what the legal and political consequences might have been had all this become public knowledge when it was all taking place between 1994 and 1999. At the very least, Jim Guy Tucker might still be Governor of Arkansas, and Starr's prosecutors even more disgraced than they are. But the lesson for Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, however, couldn't be clearer: Confirm no Bush administration nominees with a history of substituting party loyalty and ideology for facts and law.

I take issue with the description of Hale as a "common criminal"; he operated from the bench, the Justice Department had him cold on five felony counts of fraud, and Starr was letting him wriggle free in exchange for perjury against the President of the United States. Pretty big stuff, really.

03:44 GMT: Permalink
Malefactors Of Great Wealth. They own the FCC and they are trying to control your computer. They are falling in line with idiotic government ideas about "security" and "protecting the children" and phony protections of copyright that will even make it too dicey and/or expensive for ordinary folks to have websites. They want to dump Usenet. They already have a substantial part of the airwaves and a considerable amount of mainstream newspapers and magazines. I worry someday that they will control one-to-many communication like websites so totally that folks like me will be pushed back to paper, and then I'll wake up and discover that the biggest piece of blank paper an ordinary private citizen is allowed to buy is a Post-It note and anyway it'll be just too expensive to mail out an entire issue of a zine to more than five people. ("The Post Office has been stolen and the mailbox is locked.")

Other bloggers are focused on the war on terrorism, or Democrats and Republicans, or liberalism and conservatism, or a lot of other things, but to a large extent this is what drives me. I like living in a world where I can hear the opinions of diverse thinkers who don't necessarily have the approval of the FCC, GE, The Party, or whoever. Which leads me to this from Cory Doctorow:

Senator Fritz Hollings has introduced a modified version of the SSSCA, called the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act, which will do just what it says: convert our rich innovative technosphere into a one-way medium run by coked-up Hollyweird fatcats who thought that the VCR was a bad idea but that Police Academy n -1 was just dandy.

The CBDTPA (let's call it the Anti-Mammal Dinosaur Protection Act and have done with it) requires technologists to arrive at a trumped-up "consensus" with Hollywood Political Officers before they can bring any new products to market. This "consensus," reached at lawyerpoint, establishes what features every product that can store, trasnmit, display or manipulate digital files must have and which files it must not have: everything not mandatory is verboten.

If Senator Fritz has his way, no new technologies will be brought to market without a one-year review. Open Source will be dead, since there will be no way to ensure that your users don't remove your mandated copy-protection measures.

Now more than ever, it is time to put your money and time and energy behind organizations like the EFF as our technologies' very right to exist is challenged.

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Has Snopes been foxed? A poster to the Bartcop Forum says that the Snopes de-bunk of Michael Moore's claim that numerous members of the bin Laden family were evacuated in the days after 9/11 is wrong, and that a story from The New Yorker backs Moore up:
"Around two dozen other American-based members of the bin Laden family, most of them here to study in colleges and prep schools, were said to be in the United States at the time of the attacks. The New York Times reported that they were quickly called together by officials from the Saudi Embassy, which feared that they might become the victims of American reprisals. With approval from the F.B.I., according to a Saudi official, the bin Ladens flew by private jet from Los Angeles to Orlando, then on to Washington, and finally to Boston. Once the F.A.A. permitted overseas flights, the jet flew to Europe."

and this is from the NYT article that the author of the new yorker article quoted

"Most of Mr. bin Laden's relatives were attending high school and college. They are among the 4,000 Saudi students in the United States. King Fahd, the ailing Saudi ruler, sent an urgent message to his embassy here saying there were "bin Laden children all over America" and ordered, "Take measures to protect the innocents," the ambassador said.

The young members of the bin Laden clan were driven or flown under F.B.I. supervision to a secret assembly point in Texas and then to Washington from where they left the country on a private charter plane when airports reopened three days after the attacks. Many were terrified, fearing they could be "lynched," after hearing news reports of sporadic violence against Muslims and Arab-Americans."

Wednesday, 20 March 2002

15:40 GMT: Permalink
You have to watch the spin. Remember the Computer Decency Act? Conservative Democratic Senator Exon was one of its proposers, so we kept hearing about how "the Democrats" were trying to censor the 'net; strangely, we were seldom reminded that the co-proposer of the bill, Senator Coates, was a Republican. Newt Gingrich did a bit of posturing in public statements against the bill, of which we heard a lot, but few people mentioned that Gingrich had signed the management bill that said much the same thing as CDA. A great deal of hay was made out of the fact that Democratic Rep. Pat Schroeder went all wobbly and let the unconstitutional piece of rubbish reach the floor, but little was said about who voted for and against it in the end. The Republicans, the spin went, were the defenders of free speech on the net, but the Democrats were promoting censorship.

The truth is that both parties made a shameful showing in the vote against CDA. Only five Senators and 16 members of the House voted against the bill. In the House, no Republicans at all voted against it; it was just Bernie Saunders, Vermont's Independent socialist, and 15 Democrats - including Schroeder, who had since come to her senses. The sole Republican to vote against CDA was McCain in the Senate, and he then became the co-sponsor of McCain-Coates, also known as CDA II.

I haven't seen a breakdown of who exactly is behind the current travesty, the Security Systems Standards and Certification Act (SSSCA), proposed in the Senate by Fritz Hollings (D-SC) and Ted Stevens (R-AK), but I should have wondered when only one proposer's (the Democrat's) name was being tossed around. It's pretty obvious that nothing like this could possibly have legs unless plenty of Republicans were supporting it. The Dems may be in Hollywood's pocket, but most of the entertainment industry isn't owned by Democrats or even liberals, it's owned by the same people who gave the Republicans all that free advertising in 2000 via their news outlets.

And I should have been warier about accepting the spin that this is all the Dem's doing. We've all been here before.

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Radio Left did an interview with Greg Palast which is now archived.

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I dunno, I kinda miss the beard.

03:55 GMT: Permalink
I really must be more careful - everyone else seems to be so serious about that whole "Hunt the Boeing" thing, and I just thought of it as an X-Files sort of, well, joke. I even saw some guy ranting about deranged liberals and their conspiracy theories. Oh, dear.

Meanwhile, Patrick sent me a pointer to an update of the licence plate story that was actually published before I saw the original story by Ananova:

The state said Thursday that a Gainesville man can keep his personalized license plate that says "ATHEIST."
The state has issued many tags with religious references. Carol Sakolsky of New Port Richey used to have one on her Toyota Celica that said, "JESUS." She sold the car three years ago and the tag went with it.

Sakolsky thinks Miles should be able to keep his plate even though she doesn't agree with his viewpoint.

"If people can have "JESUS,' I guess he can have that, too," she said.

Patrick also noted (where have I heard this before?) that Ananova likes to print stories that make Americans look silly. Actually, the UK media in general is like that.

Gary Farber also wrote to me querying my use of the term "creative" to describe Ananova's editorial meddling in this sentence: "He intends to fight the banning order with the backing of the US Civil Liberties Union." That was what I think they call irony. By "creative" I meant, of course, "unprofessional and ignorant". There is no "US Civil Liberties Union" and it was dumb of them to make the assumption that "US" is interchangeable with "American" here. It's not like it's a government agency or something.

Okay, I'm done being grumpy now.

* * * * *
Absolutely smashing piece by Ted Barlow that does a point-by-point demolition job on the "advantages" of American commercial medicine over single-payer coverage of the sort they have in Canada and Europe. I won't try to quote from the meat of the piece but it's a real keeper on a hugely important and much mythologized subject, and you should read it (even you, Rob). Here's his conclusion:
I maintain that the resistance to a single payer system cannot be explained by the success of the American system. It can't be explained by the failure of the single payer system elsewhere. Rather, it's largely a product of ideology and self-interest. I can understand why insurers don't want to be put out of business. I can also understand that a lot of people feel bone-deep that adding capacities to the government can only cause problems. (Some of my favorite people, I might add.) But failing to consider that a single payer system could work better than what we have now, contrary to the evidence in the rest of the world, strikes me as a matter of quasi-religious faith.
On another subject, Barlow also has a pointer to this article about how Trent Lott is holding official business hostage in retaliation for the defeat of Judge Pickering:
JUDGING FROM the way Trent Lott lashed out following the Judiciary Committee's rejection of his friend and fellow Mississippian, U.S. District Judge Charles Pickering, as a nominee to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, it may be, as they say in the helping professions, that the senator has some anger issues to address. Within hours of Judge Pickering's party-line defeat, Sen. Lott moved to block a $1.5 million request by the committee to conduct a probe related to Sept. 11 miscues, obstructed the nomination of an aide to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to the Federal Communications Commission, and signaled that there may be more parliamentary choke points where those came from: "You'll see it in a lot of ways and in a lot of days," warned Sen. Lott. He is clearly behaving as a victim done wrong. That is a worrisome mind-set because, as minority leader, Mr. Lott's current impulsive, negative method of dealing with his anger could disrupt the Senate's important work.
Is that cause, however, for a senior senator to become passive- (or not-so-passive-) aggressive, striking out at his perceived enemies indirectly through acts of petty destructiveness? Sen. Lott's irrational response is only going to escalate an already unhealthy political climate in the Senate. The senator should do some deep breathing and consider the possibility that no one is out to get him, that Mississippi can do better than Judge Pickering, and that even as minority leader, he's still got a job that keeps him out of the sun.
And Glen Reynolds alludes to what actually happened to Pickering - not on his weblog, but at FOX:
acWhen it comes to the federal bench, at least, former presidential candidate Mike Dukakis was right: the real issue isn't ideology - it's

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Believe me, I hate to admit this, but Jim Henley is right about Margaret Thatcher having shown up the Reagan administration as wimps and carrying the standard for the west.

Yeah, I know, you thought this would happen before I gave Thatcher credit for anything.

Mr. Henley, who comes from the same neck of the woods I do, has also been talking about iced tea. I miss it a lot. I can make really good iced tea in my kitchen, of course (I much prefer the UK's PG Tips to your basic Tetley, McCormack, Nestle's, &etc.), but that's not the same as being able to order it at a restaurant. (Twining's jasmine is nice, too, but frankly, I consider all that other exotic stuff too bitter and largely a waste of time.) But then, you can't get good pizza here, either. (You can, however, get a thing that looks a bit like pizza that is topped with something red, some cheese, and some other stuff, called "Peking Duck Pizza". It doesn't taste anything like pizza, of course, but it has plum sauce and does taste a little like Peking duck. It's not bad, actually.) In Maryland, you can go to Ledo's and get an amazingly delicious pizza with real brewed iced tea. I dream about this.

But back to Thatcher, Charlie Stross is also right about the old Mad Cow:
acI will freely confess that I'm biased. I hate Thatcher; I hate her so much that I want her to live until all her plans and prejudices are laid out in ruins before her gaze, demolished and discredited to eternity. Whenever she shows up on the TV I have to flip channel; the hectoring drive of her voice makes me want to spit. This is a conditioned reflex -- conditioned from being on the receiving end of her party's elected dictatorship for the twelve years of her office -- and I can't help it. I feel about Maggie the way an American Republican feels about Bill Clinton, right down to the wounded angry bogglement at how in hell she managed to get away with it without doing time in prison for her crimes.

Crimes? Hell, yes. According to Private Eye her son Mark doesn't even dare set foot in the UK for fear of being arrested over the bribery kickbacks from al-Yamammah, the biggest overseas arms sale in British history. About 70% of the ministers in her government went on to lucrative non-executive directorships of FT100 companies after their retirement from active politics. She presided over the gutting of the Conservative Party -- once a relatively honourable institution -- and its debasement into the nest of trough-gobbling corruption that, under her successor, saw an average of one cabinet resignation due to bribery and scandal every two months throughout a five-year term.

And she fucked over the railways because in her view, anyone who couldn't afford to travel in a chauffeur-driven limousine wasn't worth dick. Trains were for the lower classes, which is why today I have to suffer the indignities of cattle-class air travel if I want to visit London. (No kidding. I would much prefer to use the train -- if they were up to their pre-privatisation levels of comfort and efficiency. Which, incidentally, were maintained on a much lower public subsidy than the current mess of incompetence.)

Thatcher is a proponent of privilege. This is redundant; privilege needs no champion, it's quite capable of defending itself. (But her stance should come as no surprise -- she married a multi-millionaire industrialist, after all, and if nothing else she believes in defending her own corner.) But she wasn't simply content with defending privilege; that's just about forgiveable. What she could never resist was the urge to raise a sharp knee in the bollocks of deprivation. During her term in government she didn't simply put three million wage-earners on the dole, then cut benefits and send the riot police in against strikers; she sliced away at civil liberties, and tried to ban free political speech. She presided over a gerrymandering exercise that was calculated to disenfranchise whole countries -- Scotland and Wales were written out of the parliamentary equation until a tax revolt unprecedented since 1700 and mushrooming support for full-blown independence threatened to trigger a constitutional crisis -- and a calculated and cynical scam that deprived millions of a working pension. She banned a whole strain of youth culture and music because she and her ministers disapproved of it. She spiked a major AIDS awareness initiative in the mid-eighties because she thought it might encourage promiscuity, and she urged MPs to push through the Section 28 anti-homosexuality clause in the Education Act passed by her government. (At a guess, that little lot -- and let's not get into her enthusiastic support for the war on drugs -- caused several thousand premature deaths.) And that ignores her thinly-concealed racism and blatant pandering to the nationalist-racialist vote.


Tuesday, 19 March 2002

16:40 GMT: Permalink
Patrick asked me last night if I'd seen Busy Busy Busy by Elton Beard, so I had a look. The top story there is about this recent unscripted remark by Former Governor Bush:
acFirst of all, I'm not going to let Congress erode the power of the Executive Branch. I have a duty to protect the Executive Branch from legislative encroachment. I mean, for example, when the GAO demands documents from us, we're not going to give them to them. These were privileged conversations. These were conversations when people come into our offices and brief us. Can you imagine having to give up every single transcript of what is -- advised me or the Vice President? Our advice wouldn't be good and honest and

Since when is it "encroachment" on the Executive for the GAO to ask for documents? Oh, yeah, this is the guy who was reported in The New York Times as saying he didn't want Congress to mess around with the budget - you know, like it's not their job or something. He really does seem to think he's supposed to be a dictator.

Anyway, Beard notes the latter part of the comment is essentially a lie, since the GAO is not asking for "every single transcript" of meetings. We'd noticed Cheney and Ari the Liar doing this dissembling before, but we now see that it goes All The Way To The Top.

Oh, yeah, something else I was delighted to find at Busy Busy Busy was a link to a page on Bokononism.

* * * * *
I assumed everyone would be talking about this already, but I'm dismayed by the number of sites that aren't, so I'll refer you to Patrick's posts of last week here and here about Tim O'Reilly's article and SSSCA generally. And about the fact that it's mainly Democrats who are kowtowing to Hollywood's desire to destroy your ability to control your own computer.

We've been through all this before over and over, and it's all rubbish. People - enough to support the industry - are perfectly willing to pay for the things they feel are worth buying. Most of the money Hollywood claims to be losing is on product it wouldn't sell anyway - friends send me .mp3s all the time of music they want me to hear because they know otherwise I won't hear it; this process works to advertise new artists to me and in consequence I do end up buying their work if I like it. (No, please don't send me .mp3s, or any other attachments.) The same has been true with tapes, but the industry wept to Congress and got extra taxes added to the cost of audiotapes so that you are now charged more for taping even recordings of yourself and money goes to the recording industry from that. Now they don't want you to be able to make recordings of music you've bought at all, and in consequence you may not even be able to record your own performances to disk.

Most people's exposure to new music is free, and this is a point the music industry seems to be willfully ignoring: we want to hear it for free first before we buy it. We don't walk into Tower Records and plunk money down on the counter and say, "Sell me some music." We choose the music because we already know, from free listening on either the radio or in other situations where we didn't pay for the privilege, that we are interested in owning it. The radio is far too limited for most of us, so we hear a lot of new music from our friends and other free sources. Things like Napster and Morpheus make it easy for people like me to hear new music for free before we decide whether to buy it. A lot of people are doing it these days. Most of them will buy online (I don't), so it isn't necessarily reflected in the sales at local music shops, but the conveyance of .mp3s across the lines is not theft at all but free promotion.

The Grateful Dead learned this lesson a long time ago with bootlegs. They figured out quickly that the only people who buy bootlegs already had all their commercially-produced work, and just wanted more than was available. They also disliked having really bad, surreptitiously-recorded tapes of their performances circulating, so they made it easy for fans to come in and record openly and get better renderings. A special area with equipment provided was set up at Dead concerts so those bootlegs could be made. While the record companies were trying to chase bootleggers out of business and prosecute them, the Dead were actually aiding and abetting them, thus contributing to far more promotion of their own material and hugely increasing their following; until Gerry Garcia's death a few years ago, the Dead were overall the world's most popular and highest-earning concert band.

Frank Zappa also worked it out. He didn't like having crummy bootlegs of his work out, either, so when he found a bootlegger, he paid him for the master tape and took it to the studio to produce a cleaner copy and sell it.

The fans have always been the most important promoters of good music, and that's what the music companies don't want you - or the artists - to think about. They aren't trying to protect the artists, but their own positions as vastly overpaid middle-men. They gouge the artists extortionately for promotion, and they gouge the consumer for the product. You pay $11-18 for a CD because you want to hear the artist's work, but the artist is assigned maybe a buck from that in royalties - all the rest belongs to the company. Okay, production, promotion and distribution costs, you think, right? Well, production and distribution, yes, but here's the rub: unlike authors, who get to keep their entire royalty payment, musicians are charged for promotion out of their royalties. And promotion is big money - enough so that what the artist gets to keep is just a small percentage of that dollar in the end.

So suppose you can go directly to an artist's website to buy the music from the artist. Now what do you need the record company for? Right, the only thing you need them for is promotion, and a lot of that can be provided by the Internet, too - free of all that Clear Channel creepiness, too.

(Alternatively: Fairtunes.)

That is something the record companies don't want you to be able to do. And to stop you from doing it, they also want to pass a law that will stop you from being able to do much of anything on your own computer.

You might want to get in touch with your local Democratic Party office to tell them how much you hate this idea. Or write to:
Terry McAuliffe
Democratic National Committee
430 S. Capital Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003

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Spinsters is a weird site. I didn't like it there, but maybe you'll find it entertaining. It reminded me a bit of Hannity & Whatsisname, only with girls. It's not a bad idea, but it's the same problem - too unbalanced, really.

* * * * *
Is The Washington Post getting liberal? No, actually, this is really a pretty mainstream position:
acFACED WITH THE challenge of defeating global terrorism, the U.S. military ought to welcome all the qualified help it can get. It ought, that is, to stop persecuting gays and lesbians eager to serve their country at a time of crisis. Instead, the armed forces continue to discharge soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who are serving honorably and well, simply because they're gay. The military also remains far too tolerant of an atmosphere in which gay and lesbian soldiers are in danger of violence if discovered. Last year, according to a report by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, the military discharged 1,250 gay service members -- more than in any year since the flawed policy of "don't ask, don't tell" was written into law in 1993.

This policy represents an enormous waste of human resources. The military has invested large sums in recruiting and training those it discharges; worse, it discourages enlistment by many well-qualified Americans. But the discrimination isn't the worst of it; the continuing toleration of anti-gay harassment is shameful. More than a third of the Army's discharges last year were from Fort Campbell, Ky., where a soldier named Barry Winchell was killed in 1999 by fellow soldiers. But the increased firings there, an Army spokesman told The Post's Vernon Loeb, are not a cause for alarm but, rather, for praise. Because soldiers known to be gay face possible violence, Col. Tom Begines said, "The increase should be viewed as preventative rather than punitive" and "all of that, I think, is to the Army's credit." In other words, the Army permits an environment so hazardous to suspected gays that the only way to protect them is to kick them out. And for this the brass wants credit?


Monday, 18 March 2002

13:12 GMT: Permalink
I checked out this article from The Washington Post because the headline caught my eye, but further down I found something that refers to what has lately become my favorite hobby-horse:
acAt stake is the outcome of one of the strangest elections since, well, that strange presidential election 16 months ago. Here's the story so far:

It began last June in Compton, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles. That's when challenger Eric Perrodin beatMayor OmarBradley by 281 votes. But Perrodin's name had been printed first on all the ballots, in violation of local election law that requires the order of names to be varied. Bradley challenged theresults in court.

Enter Jon Krosnick, professor of psychology and political science at Ohio State University. His research suggested thata candidate whose name appears first on the ballot gets about 2.5 percent more votes than if his or her name appeared last. (If this sounds familiar, you're right. Krosnick's ballot-order studies were featured in this column in May 1998.)

Based on his research, Krosnick testified that Perrodin probably got at least 306 more votes than he otherwise would have if his name had not always been listed first.


It's actually been well-known for a long time that whoever's name comes first on a ballot has a slight advantage, and to me that was always a factor in the Florida election: the ballot itself was stacked in Bush's favor. But I always just shrugged it off as one of those things - I mean, someone's name has to be first, right? It actually hadn't occurred to me to mix it up as suggested above. It sounds...expensive and fussy to have to print several different ballots for each election - especially in a situation like Florida where you had quite a few names on the ballot. But it's an answer to that problem, at least.

I also want to laugh at the copy-editing in the quoted section, of course. It makes me feel so much better about my own.

Sunday, 17 March 2002

21:55 GMT: Permalink
Ananova reports: Unholy row over 'Atheist' car number plate:

A US man must get rid of his number plate because it reads, "ATHEIST."

Steven Miles says his right of self expression is being trampled on.

But the state of Florida has declared the number plate "obscene or objectionable." It is refusing to re-issue it after receiving 10 complaints.

Mr Miles, 55, from Gainesville, Florida, has had the licence plate for 16 years. He is vice president of the group, Atheists of Florida.

But he has now been told by the state's Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, that the personalised plate is on the department's blacklist, along with swear words and slang words describing certain body parts.

Hmph. And if that isn't bad enough, Ananova decided to get creative:
He intends to fight the banning order with the backing of the US Civil Liberties Union.
Buncha amateurs.

But as long as we're on religion, let's see whether the Bible is true:
acAbraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine document.


Well, that's that, then. I mean, it's in The New York Times, it's gotta be right.

* * * * *
I can't help feeling that Benjamin Kepple has it wrong in his reaction to a comment by Oliver Willis:
acBeat Up on the Catholics, Why Don't We? Great.
I will admit I'm a bit annoyed with Oliver Willis, my colleague-in-blogging and soon-to-be fellow New Englander. Mr Willis, while expounding on what he sees as anti-homosexual bigotry within the ranks of the U.S. military and states' adoption policies, then makes this smarmy remark about the Catholic Church: "Then at the same time the "oh so pious" Catholic church hides child molesters behind its robes. Great."
But back to Mr Willis. I can't help but think that he is guilty of the same sin of which he accuses the Army and state legislators. With that one sentence riposte, he has indicted the Church, its leaders, and those who follow them. That's not only grossly unfair, it is the embodiment of holding an entire group responsible for the criminal acts a few of its members have committed. Is it simply because the Chuch is the object of his wrath? Is that it?

I give Kepple points for being one of the few people to note that this isn't pedophilia at all, but pederasty, which is something else; pedophilia involves biological children (pre-pubescents), while pederasty involves teenaged boys.

However, mislabelling aside, the same church that takes an officially oppositional line on homosexuals in the clergy is having these outbreaks of pederasty. This is also a church that forbids marriage among its clergy - a stupid idea that was always bound to lead to problems. I don't think you have to be specifically anti-Catholic to make the kind of observation Willis is making. (I don't know what Willis' background is, but some of the most scathing attacks I have ever heard on the Catholic Church come from people who were raised as Catholics, and they strike me as insider attacks - not attacks on Catholicism per se, but on thinking within a church they would like to love and trust but feel betrayed by.)

As Kepple himself points out, the current Pope has said that homosexuals should not be ordained. Why is that? No member of the Catholic clergy is supposed to be having sex, regardless of their sexual preferences, so what difference does it make whether they are gay or straight? We have no way even of knowing what the sexual inclinations of the Apostles were, so you can't play the "no Apostles were X" game they play when explaining why priests shouldn't be women.

Which means the real reason the church is coming up with this silly stuff has to be some combination of ignorance and prejudice.

01:50 GMT: Permalink
Something odd seems to have happened while I was sequestered by the NHS. Suddenly, people who didn't previously think so have become convinced that we are in serious danger of a nuclear strike by Iraq within a year's time. I'm puzzled by this. Yes, they are scumbags, and yes, they are probably trying to develop "weapons of mass destruction" and yes, they are probably getting pretty worried about what we are planning to do to them, what with all the sabre-rattling in their direction from the Bushistas and all. None of this is new. Yet it is all anyone has offered me as an explanation for the sudden zeal to attack Iraq. I don't get it.

Meanwhile, I missed this one last week by Salman Rushdie in The Guardian:
acThe political discourse matters, and explains a good deal. But there's something beneath it, something we don't want to look in the face: namely, that in India, as elsewhere in our darkening world, religion is the poison in the blood. Where religion intervenes, mere innocence is no excuse. Yet we go on skating around this issue, speaking of religion in the fashionable language of "respect".

What is there to respect in any of this, or in any of the crimes now being committed almost daily around the world in religion's dreaded name? How well, with what fatal results, religion erects totems, and how willing we are to kill for them! And when we've done it often enough, the deadening of affect that results makes it easier to do it again.

So India's problem turns out to be the world's problem. What happened in India has happened in God's name. The problem's name is God.


Saturday, 16 March 2002

16:45 GMT: Permalink
We usually don't get to hear political screeds from the spouses of members of our highest court, but Clarence's wife as been scribbling in The Wall Street Journal. Michael Kinsley looks at the far-right ladies auxilliary of the Supreme Court:
acIt seems to Virginia Thomas, by contrast, that anyone who opposes judicial nominees of Republican presidents—people like Tom Daschle and other Senate Democrats—represents the "hard left" that cares only "about abortion and homosexuality" and doesn't "think of [opponents] as human." All these accusations are made twice. Oh yes, and these hard leftists "demonize" people they disagree with! (Can you imagine someone doing that?) Whereas "Senate Democrats are actually claiming that some views are so politically incorrect that judges (or others) cannot be allowed to hold them," she and her husband and Judge Pickering are defending "a culture … tolerant of philosophical disagreement."

In reality—unless I'm crazy—"hard left" is not an accurate description of the average Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. In reality, both sides of these disputes care disproportionately about abortion. (Homosexuality seems more like a right-wing obsession.) That is why abortion is so contentious. If one side stood for single-issue "litmus tests" and the other stood for "tolerance of philosophical disagreement," we wouldn't be having these set-piece standoffs every few years. The battles happen because both sides have litmus tests, which is another way of saying these are issues they feel strongly about. In Virginia Thomas' opinion, should Republican senators vote to confirm a judicial nominee who believes that Roe v. Wade was correctly decided? Or is that view "so politically incorrect that judges (or others) cannot be allowed to hold" it—which is just an overheated way of saying you disagree?

Looking around the real world, it is especially hard to see this martyrdom that Clarence Thomas supposedly has suffered for the sin of holding views that the all-powerful hard left wants to suppress. He had a rough confirmation battle, but now he is a justice of the Supreme Court with a lifetime appointment, even though he clearly lied under oath—or at the very least willfully deceived—in claiming he had never discussed Roe v. Wade and had no opinion about it. He probably lied about more notorious matters, too. If he's in pain, it must only hurt when he laughs.


Yeah, really. If his job is making him so miserable, I'd be happy to take it for him.

* * * * *
The family that runs together:

1. Al:
acIt was after a light dinner course of fish and risotto that Al Gore finally came to life. Standing in front of some 40 guests at a private fund-raiser on the Upper East Side, wearing a beard, a blue suit and an air of supreme confidence, he tore into the Bush administration's handling of the economy, the environment and the violence in the Middle East. "It's like a bicycle," he said, by way of explaining the peace process. "If it's not moving forward, it doesn't just stop - it falls down."

In contrast with the former Vice President's public statements since Sept. 11, Mr. Gore raised strong questions about the direction of Mr. Bush's war on terrorism and said that the President seemed to have adopted a philosophy of "speak loudly and carry a small stick." And comparing his own achievements in office to those of the current President, he said that he was "damn proud" of the Clinton administration.
Representative Anthony Weiner, a Democrat from Brooklyn who was a famously reluctant supporter of Mr. Gore in 2000, was even more matter-of-fact. "He's going to be our nominee," said Mr. Weiner.
Supporters say that much of the animosity towards Mr. Gore is stirred up by "elite opinion-makers" who perpetuate the idea that the former VP is as exciting as a late-night panel discussion on C-Span. These supporters almost unanimously cite a recent, unflattering column by Maureen Dowd in The New York Times entitled "The Dude and the Dud." Mr. Gore, needless to say, was the dud. They also say that criticism of Mr. Gore's mistakes during Campaign 2000 has been blown out of proportion. "The piling on here has been unbelievable," said Mr. Zimmerman, who is a D.N.C. committeeman and a top Democratic fund-raiser. "It's coming from political pundits and other people who sit on the sidelines and never really make a difference. It's irrelevant, and if anything, it's served to rally the Gore troops. These are many of the same people who said that [Bill] Bradley was going to beat Gore in 2000."


2. Tipper:
acTipper Gore added an unexpected twist to Tennessee and national politics yesterday, telling friends she will seriously consider entering the race for the Senate seat that was held by her husband, former vice president Al Gore.

Tipper Gore, 53, cut short a weekend trip to California and planned to return to Tennessee today to meet with her family and close advisers to decide whether to follow the path of her friend Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Elizabeth Dole -- from political spouse to senatorial candidate.


* * * * *
"Out across the Hudson River
Sooty island seems to shine...."

Tribute in Light.


Series of pictures - click for the pop-up window.

I bet that really brightens your basic Hoboken Saturday Night.

Thursday, 14 March 2002

14:50 GMT: Permalink
So there I was Tuesday, fiddling around with the page, when it was suggested to me that I should come downstairs and have dinner and watch a video. And then after a bit I noticed I didn't feel so good. I will spare you the details, but I still haven't seen the end of that movie because instead I got to spend plenty of time becoming acquainted with how Newham General's Accident & Emergency entrance has been redecorated since I was last there after fracturing my ankle in October. It was cold and uncomfortable. It took a long time. Eventually they put me on some sort of a gurney and a lot of people I don't remember asked me the same questions over and over. After about 12 hours of that some doctor got really short-tempered with me because I didn't look at him when he talked to me. I kept falling asleep between answers. I was variously scanned and punctured and x-rayed and eventually, when I felt much better, they found me a bed and wouldn't let me leave. It was a nice vacation for my knees, at any rate - no stairs and precious little walking. The verdict was a virus that's been going around.

So, anyway, all this is old news you've probably seen by now, and I have no idea what's been going on for the last couple days, but when I last looked it was something like this:

* * * * *
Alterman with a guessing game about the Nixon tapes:
ac"The Jews are irreligious, atheistic, immoral bunch of bastards.... The lawyers in government are damn Jews." David Duke? Yasser Arafat? Osama bin Laden? Billy Graham?

The answer is none of the above. It was a trick question. That's Nixon again. If you've been paying attention to recent news reports, you can be forgiven for guessing Graham. But what he said about Jews was that, "They swarm around me and are friendly to me. Because they know that I am friendly to Israel and so forth. But they don't know how I really feel about what they're doing to this country, and I have no power and no way to handle them." It was his buddy, the president of the United States, who advised, "You must not let them know."

Believe it or not, the above tape, released this week by the National Archives, was edited to prevent "an unwarranted invasion of privacy," as well as for national security and other reasons. In H.R. Haldeman's diaries of the same conversation, he quotes Graham observing, "The Bible says there are satanic Jews and there's where our problem arises." Graham also blamed Jews for the dissemination of pornography nationwide.


* * * * *
Fruitcakes in review:

1. Rich Lowery:
acRecently on National Review's new Web log, "The Corner," Lowry addressed the question of what sort of retaliatory measures should be taken in the case of a nuclear detonation -- probably of a "dirty bomb" -- on U.S. soil. Judging from the e-mail he's received, there's "lots of sentiment for nuking Mecca." Nor, in Lowry's eyes, was such an idea nuts. He allowed that "Mecca seems extreme, of course" -- of course -- "but then again few people would die and it would send a signal."ac

2. The Axis of Incitement:
acWASHINGTON - White House speechwriter David Frum, who coined the incendiary "axis of evil" moniker used by President George W Bush, is leaving Bush's employ for the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI). It seems the perfect fit.

The phrase incited a diplomatic storm over Bush's next moves in his anti-terrorist campaign. Likewise, the AEI has long been a source of provocation, particularly for intelligence professionals at the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The staunchly unilateralist AEI, and its foreign-policy honcho, Richard Perle, have never been so powerful. Much to the frustration of Secretary of State Colin Powell and Washington's European and Arab allies, the Bush administration has embraced virtually all of the AEI's policy positions on the Middle East, including the right-wing Likud Party's opposition to the Oslo peace process for Israel and Palestine.

The "axis of evil" - and the policy consequences of that designation, including the option of pre-emptive military attacks against Iraq, Iran and North Korea - represents a major triumph for the AEI, which for years has denounced as appeasement US and European efforts to engage any of those three countries.

The AEI and especially Perle, who holds a unique position as both chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board and as an independent commentator, have emerged as the keystone of an "axis of incitement" - a small but potent network of like-minded, ultra-hawkish officials, analysts, and opinion-makers.

Unlike the "axis of evil", members of the "axis of incitement" share a passionate belief in the inherent goodness and redemptive mission of the United States; the moral cowardice of "liberals" and "European elites"; the existential necessity of supporting Israel in the shadow of the Holocaust and in the face of the "implacable hatred," as Frum has written, of Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims; and the primacy of military power.

Their reach within the administration extends far. At the Pentagon, they include Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, whose relationship with Perle goes back 30 years, and Undersecretary for Policy Douglas Feith, whose pro-Likud sentiments led him to denounce the 1978 Camp David accords between Israel and Egypt as an Israeli sellout.

They include Vice President Dick Cheney's powerful and outspoken chief of staff, Lewis Libby, and several senior members of the National Security Council staff. In Powell's State Department, the same network succeeded in imposing the AEI's then-senior vice president, John Bolton, as undersecretary for arms control and international security. He has used this top post systematically to destroy much of the existing global arms-control architecture.

Outside the administration, the axis includes like-minded policy groups with overlapping boards of directors, such as the Center for Security Policy (CSP), the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), and the Project for a New American Century (PNAC); influential media outlets including the Wall Street Journal's editorial page and the Rupert Murdoch-financed Weekly Standard; and nationally syndicated columnists including Charles Krauthammer, A M Rosenthal, and Michael Kelly.

At the AEI, the most prominent players post-September 11, besides Perle, are Michael Ledeen and former CIA Mideast operative Reuel Marc Gerecht. They have used the Journal's and Standard's opinion pages to agitate for including Iran with Iraq in Washington's policy of "regime removal".

"Iran is ready to blow sky-high," Ledeen enthused in November, citing recent newspaper reports of pro-US demonstrations. "The Iranian people need only a bright spark of courage from the United States to ignite the flames of democratic revolution."

"On to Iran!" was the title of a recent Gerecht column in the Standard. On North Korea, the AEI's Nicholas Eberstadt and another former CIA official, James Lilly, have been among the strongest voices here against US engagement of Pyongyang since then-president Bill Clinton signed an accord to freeze its nuclear program in 1994.

Ledeen, who later played a key role in the Iran-Contra affair, was a major proponent of the theory - first advanced by journalist Claire Sterling and heavily promoted by the Wall Street Journal and Rosenthal - that the Kremlin was behind the 1981 attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II, a notion for which the CIA could find no evidence.

More recently and in an ironic parallel, Perle, backed by the Journal, strenuously argued the case - advanced by another AEI associate, Laurie Mylroie - that Iraq was involved in the 1993 bombing by Islamist militants of New York's World Trade Center, for which the CIA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) also could find no evidence. Mylroie's argument was part of an all-out offensive to tie Saddam Hussein to terrorism and the September 11 attacks.

"Someone taught these suicide bombers how to fly large airplanes," Perle told reporters on the day of the attack. "I don't think that can be done without the assistance of large governments." By the end of the week, Perle and Wolfowitz had convened a two-day meeting of the Defense Policy Board to discuss ousting Saddam and to send former CIA chief James Woolsey, another active member of the neo-conservative network, to Europe to gather evidence of a Baghdad connection to September 11Over the following months, Perle and his comrades cited as proof of that tie reported meetings in Prague between Iraqi agents and one of the leaders of the September 11 attacks, the anthrax attacks, and new Iraqi defectors allegedly willing to testify about a secret compound in which non-Iraqi Arabs were trained to hijack commercial aircraft with knives and their bare hands.

Meanwhile, the CIA and the FBI concluded that Saddam had essentially halted terrorist operations against Western targets in the early 1990s.


3. Robert Ray (from The Star Ledger via Bartcop):
acIf independent counsel Robert Ray really had the goods on criminal activity by former President Bill Clinton but decided not to bring charges, he himself might have been liable to an accusation of misfeasance in office.

Ray, of course, has nothing to worry about because this claim, made in a final report by the Clinton prosecution team, is beyond belief. There is every reason to suspect that Ray didn't bring charges because he had nothing that would convince a jury of Clinton's supposed guilt, just as Ray's predecessor and mentor, Kenneth Starr, was unable to come up with anything to bring a guilty verdict against Clinton in the Senate.

The timing of the Ray report, released by a panel of judges who have been more than friendly to Starr and his successor, also is worth noting. It comes just a few weeks before the New Jersey filing deadline for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate, a prize in which Ray has expressed interest.

If Ray wants to run for Senate on the platform that he was tough on Clinton, he must expect some skepticism. The relationship between the Starr-Ray combine and Clinton was much the same as the relationship between Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny. These big-spending prosecutors never came close to getting that cwazy wabbit.


Monday, 11 March 2002

22:20 GMT: Permalink
Yes, I've finally succumbed and put in permanent links. For those unfamiliar with this phenomenon, that means if you want to alert someone to something on these pages, you can provide the link for just the particular entry (anchored to the time-stamp) rather than to the whole index page. I'm doing this a little differently than some people are - the link already goes to the archive page for the month, which is kept in addition to the main index page. I'm also doing it entirely manually, which is a bit of a pain in the tail but, y'know, that's life.

* * * * *
I think I was reading Instapundit when I noticed a quote from the weblog of Dan Perkins. I'd been to the site of "Tom Tomorrow" before but he hadn't been doing a weblog then. He mentioned that he'd gotten the idea from having run across this site by Wil Wheaton - yes, that Wil Wheaton - which is, interestingly, much more political than Perkins' site on some occasions. Wheaton was already blogging before 9/11, so, noting his politics, I went back to see what his original reaction was, and found it was remarkably similar to my own (a reaction that conservatives instantly trashed me for on Usenet at the time). His more current posts include a little bit of hero-worship he might be trashed from both sides for - he actually stood in line to meet Michael Moore.

* * * * *
Here's an interesting piece of spin: Past Rhetoric Haunts Senate Democrats:
acEver since the federal budget picture turned grim last fall, Democrats have repeatedly blamed the Bush administration for running the nation into a "fiscal ditch," "cooking the books" to hide its mistakes and promising much more than the nation can afford.

But as Congress this week begins drafting a budget blueprint for fiscal 2003, Senate Democrats suddenly find themselves on the spot.

Now that they have assumed control of the Senate for the first time in six years, they must produce a budget plan, rather than merely taking potshots from the sidelines. Few experts believe they can craft a budget that matches their own rhetoric, leaving them open to some of the same charges they have flung at Republicans.


Of course, the real problem is Bush's irresponsible (no longer just "risky") tax cuts, and the real answer is to stand up and admit that we have to get rid of them and put things back the way they were. There's a war on, dummies!

* * * * *
To recap: Frank Rich in his Freedom From the Press article noted that Bernie Goldberg had been on TV whining about the liberal media the night before we learned of Daniel Pearl's death, saying:
acMr. Goldberg might still be telling his tale of woe, had not terrorism intervened and rendered his tale of self-martyrdom on behalf of Mr. Pearl's newspaper

Then Andrew Sullivan said:
acFrank Rich recently described the notion of liberal media bias, as documented by Bernie Goldberg as "ludicrous." That's the kind of remark one simply cannot find an adequate response

Obviously, this is a job for Bob Somerby at The Daily Howler. Especially after:
ac...he quickly "defer[red] to a young and fearless blogger," Patrick Ruffini, who had done "a quick statistical analysis of the use of the term 'right-wing' in a couple of major papers."ac

At which point Somerby quickly proceeds to prove, using Ruffini's methodology, that The Washington Times is more liberally-biased than the NYT:
acThat's right, folks. Over the past five years, NEXIS says that "left-wing extremist" has appeared in the Washington Times all of eight times total. But the term "right-wing extremist" has appeared there 72 times, exactly nine times as often. Surely this fact doesn’t mean that the paper is full of liberal bias. But that's the conclusion that Sullivan's method would force us to

16:40 GMT: Permalink
Just in case anyone is in doubt, a newspaper with a genuine liberal bias, or even no bias at all, would not have published an editorial containing these words:
acThe era left everyone tarnished. Mr. Clinton committed crimes; he got himself impeached and nearly indicted, and his legacy was indelibly marred. His political foes created a climate of perpetual scandal that never distinguished false allegations and wild conspiracy theories from real issues; many were more interested in bringing down Bill Clinton than in holding him accountable. The prosecutors failed to resolve matters in a timely fashion, which in turn was partly due to the White House campaign of stonewalling and smearing the independent counsel and his staff. The biggest loser was the public -- deprived for several years of policy-focused politics and a policy-focused president. You can hope that future presidents will be more truthful and respectful of the law, and future opposition parties more respectful of the

First, we are told that Clinton "committed crimes", although to this day we still have not been told of any "crime" other than to have had an affair he didn't want to tell the world about, which is normally not considered a crime and which pretty much every president in my lifetime (with the probable exception of Jimmy Carter) has also committed. His so-called lie under oath is unprovable since the question he was asked was not about his actions but about his intentions, something we can't know; moreover, since it was ruled not germane to the case in question it doesn't even qualify as real perjury, which puts him well ahead of George W. Bush.

Next we are told that Clinton "got himself impeached" - as if David Brock, Ted Olsen, Richard Mellon Scaife, a highly partisan Congress and the delightful Mr. Starr and his friends didn't go out of their way to make that happen despite the fact that they never found any evidence of a real crime or abuse of power. Yes, he did it all by himself, just like women "get themselves raped" and Medgar Evers "got himself shot" and the Jews "got themselves sent to the ovens". Oh, and Emmitt Till wouldn't have been wrapped in barbed wire and thrown in the river if he hadn't been such a wise-guy, by the way.

And it's true: Emmett Till wouldn't have been murdered if he'd been more circumspect, but you don't lynch a teenager just because he gets fresh, and, similarly, although Bill Clinton shouldn't have fooled around behind his wife's back anymore than his predecessor should have, no one in their right mind ever thought that was something worth impeaching a president over. When George H.W. Bush was asked by the press to comment on his own adultery in the White House, he just said, "That's a disgusting question," and the press dropped it right there. (People tell me that some of the Jews in Germany weren't always saintly, either, to which I can only say, "Duh, well who is?")

And what about this bit? "The prosecutors failed to resolve matters in a timely fashion, which in turn was partly due to the White House campaign of stonewalling and smearing the independent counsel and his staff." The prosecutors can't claim that their failure to acknowledge that they never found evidence of wrong-doing had to do with the fact that the White House and their friends were frank about knowing that Starr was highly partisan and that the whole world knew Starr's office was illegally leaking details of the case to the press. No one had to "smear" the IC and his staff - their behavior was blatantly out of order and a mere statement of fact is not a smear. And what stonewalling? You mean saying they couldn't find a file they couldn't find? A file that, when finally located, exonerated the Clintons? A file that was not in its regular spot in their filing system because it had already been turned over in a previous phase of the investigation and had been returned while they were in the process of moving to the White House from Arkansas? Yes, I'm sure it's impossible that under such circumstances a file might get lost in the packing - no one ever misplaces things when they move house - but let's not forget that they'd turned it over once and no one had found anything suspicious in it, and when they turned it over again the contents confirmed Hillary Clinton's statements.

Some seventy million dollars later, no one has ever been able to demonstrate that either Clinton told a substantive lie; only that Bill Clinton preferred to conceal his private (presumed) betrayal of his wife - as any man would, and as his predecessors had done, and as his accusers had done and were doing even while they accused (and impeached) him. He did not lie in the same way both George Bushes did, or Nixon did, about serious wrong-doing in office. The current administration entered the White House and immediately slandered the Clinton-Gore team with the claim that they had vandalized Air Force One and the White House before leaving, and the Bush team has been lying ever since. And yet the Post concludes: "You can hope that future presidents will be more truthful and respectful of the law, and future opposition parties more respectful of the presidency."

No. I can wish that Team Bush were as truthful and respectful of the law as the Clintons were, and had enough respect for the presidency to let the man the people elected assume the office. And that everyone else had had enough respect for the office to have demanded it. Especially The Washington Post.

Sunday, 10 March 2002

17:20 GMT: Permalink
Paul Krugman shows that Bush has failed the character test yet again in Testing His Metal:
acJust a few days ago, some supporters of George W. Bush hoped that he would show his mettle by standing up to steel industry demands for tariff protection. Instead he capitulated, with a cravenness that surprised even his critics.

It's quite a contrast with Bill Clinton, who — like Mr. Bush — declared his belief in the benefits of free trade, but — unlike Mr. Bush — was willing to spend a lot of political capital in support of that belief. Many Democrats are protectionists, so Mr. Clinton reached out for Republican support to pass both the North American Free Trade Agreement and the treaty creating the World Trade Organization. He defied intense bipartisan opposition to rescue Mexico from its 1995 financial crisis, which might have destroyed Nafta, and resisted pressure to limit imports, including steel imports, during the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998.

It's possible that Mr. Clinton's determination to do what he believed was right on international trade cost the Democrats the White House — not just because West Virginia's electoral votes provided Mr. Bush with his winning margin, but because Mr. Clinton's free-trade policies fueled Ralph Nader's spoiler campaign.

Now we know for sure what some of us already suspected: that the Bush administration is all hat and no cattle when it comes to free trade, and probably free markets in general.

Never mind Mr. Bush's claim that his decision to impose high tariffs on imported steel was simply a matter of enforcing the law. Nothing in U.S. law obliged him to impose tariffs — and it's pretty clear that the tariffs violate our international trade treaties.
In addition to being bad economics, the steel tariffs are terrible diplomacy. Our staunchest allies are outraged: Britain's prime minister, Tony Blair, pronounced the move "unwarranted, unacceptable and wrong." Even before the steel verdict, the United States was developing a reputation for hypocrisy — ready and willing to criticize others for failing to live up to their responsibilities, but unwilling to live up to its own. Now that our free-trade rhetoric has proved empty, who will listen to our preaching?

Let's be clear: Many Democrats were on the wrong side of the steel issue. But it was up to Mr. Bush to show leadership, to demonstrate that he really cares about the principles he espouses. I guess not.


I keep wondering when the people who voted for this phony are going to realize that Bill Clinton was the best Republican president we have had in a very long time and that George Bush is a wrong guy - absolutely the wrong guy.

* * * * *
John David Rose at the Carolina Morning News says, What? Another shadow government?:
acThe nation doesn't need to keep Vice President Dick Cheney and a bunch of bureaucrat gnomes holed up in expensive caves to run things if a terrorist attack destroys Washington. When G.W. Jr. moved into the White House, a shadow government moved in with him.

The National Rifle Association became the shadow Justice Department, Enron took over the Energy Department, Exxon and Shell pull the strings of the Department of Interior, International Paper became the director of the Forest Service, Lockheed Northrop took control of Defense Department procurement, and Microsoft became head of Anti-Trust.

If a terrorist sneaks a bomb into Washington it won't make much difference. Our government is pretty much controlled by corporate executives scattered around the country.

This was made clear with the resignation last week of one of the Environmental Protection Agency's top pollution-enforcement officials. A Republican first appointed by the senior Bush, Eric Schaeffer quit in disgust, saying that the second Bush's administration is "undermining" the Clean Air Act.


There follows a list of favors that the Bush administration has done on behalf of these corporate bosses. The sad thing is that a list like this should be surprising, and it isn't anymore. Rose concludes:
acBig shots of American industry love G.W. Bush ... they bought and paid for him. But can the rest of the United States afford him?ac

Saturday, 09 March 2002

15:40 GMT: Permalink
I spent yesterday messing up my web pages and then I had to go out for the rest of the night so I couldn't fix them. Oh, well.

* * * * *
Patrick just typed this emoticon at me: (_8^(|)

And speaking of Patrick, I hope you didn't miss his post linking to Avram Grumer's very excellent Is this what passes for conservative analysis in the blogging world? essay in Pigs & Fishes. There's also a follow-up after a conservative responded to the original post:
acBut his refutation of my main point rests on nothing but the claim that liberals are left-of-center, as if it were inherently obvious that leftists want big government and rightists small. This despite the evidence to the contrary that formed a good portion of my earlier post. He does at one point make a distinction between the bulk of the left and the fringe at the extreme left, but fails to explain why, if leftists of any kind must be in favor of big government, that wouldn't apply more to the extreme left rather than less.

The plain obvious truth of it is that the middle-ward bulks on both sides promote government solutions to problems; it's only the liberals who are willing to admit it. It's not liberals who want to use the iron fist of the state to take away women's abortion rights, and it wasn’t President Al Gore who just imposed 30% tariffs on imported steel and created a new federal agency to spy on Americans. Pat Buchanan wants the government to shield American workers from foreign competition, Jesse Helms has long been a protectionist for the textile industry. Republicans have traditionally not been opposed to spending big bucks on military projects the Pentagon doesn't even want; or on keeping federal land available for grazing cattle; or censoring TV, movies, and the Internet. It's largely Republicans in Congress who want to use the power of the federal government to ban human cloning and stem cell research.


* * * * *
Something interesting from an interview with Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation:
ac She told The Earth Times that The Nation has seen a dramatic surge in readership in the post-9/11 atmosphere, at one point receiving as many as 100 new subscriptions each day. Circulation now, she said, is "the highest it's ever been,"--over 112,000--and the magazine's Web site is getting almost one million "hits" per month.

"The magazine is thriving," she said, "in the context of too few independent voices." She added that "we are on the threshold of a permanent war economy which has little to do with fighting terror. Where is the concern in the mainstream media--especially on TV- about the administration's attempt to fight a war without end?" "Of course," she continues, "The Nation's stand on the war and criticism of what we called 'policy profiteering' by conservative Republicans in Congress (who sought to use the war as a pretext to push through their own lobbying agenda) drew virulent attacks by those on the Right who questioned our patriotism. But what is a truly democratic vision of patriotism? As Bill Moyers wrote in our pages soon after September 11, if the mercenaries and the politicians-for-rent in Washington try to exploit the emergency and America's good faith to grab what they couldn't get through open debate in peacetime, the disloyalty will not be in our dissent but in our subservience. The greatest sedition would be our silence."


* * * * *
acOne key reason for Republican reluctance to hit Democrats harder on Global Crossing, according to GOP operatives, involves the president's father, former president George H. W. Bush. In 1998, the senior Bush received Global Crossing stock instead of $80,000 in cash for a company-sponsored speech in Tokyo. Bush subsequently sold his stock for $4.45 million, Business Week reported.

A second problem for the GOP is that Global Crossing's co-chairman, Lodwrick M. Cook, is a friend of the senior Bush and one of the most prominent Republican donors of the past two decades. Cook and Winnick together persuaded Bush to take the $80,000 speaking fee in stock. Cook, the former chief executive of Atlantic Richfield Co., served until 1999 as chairman of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation.


* * * * *
CCTV pictures of the impact at the Pentagon from the BBC. I can't see a plane in these pictures, either.

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Don't miss this Tom the Dancing Bug showing how the Taliban recruits liberals and how to stop them.

Friday, 08 March 2002

16:41 GMT: Permalink
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. has an interesting piece in The American Prospect about electoral reform, examining the arguments about the Electoral College and other proposals for democratizing American elections:
acThe true significance of the disputed 2000 election has thus far escaped public attention. This was an election that elevated the popular-vote loser to the American presidency. But that astounding fact has been obscured: first by the flood of electoral complaints about deceptive ballots, hanging chads, and so on in Florida; then by the political astuteness of the court-appointed president in behaving as if he had won the White House by a landslide; and now by the effect of September 11 in presidentializing George W. Bush and giving him commanding popularity in the polls.

"The fundamental maxim of republican government," observed Alexander Hamilton in the 22d Federalist, "requires that the sense of the majority should prevail." A reasonable deduction from Hamilton's premise is that the presidential candidate who wins the most votes in an election should also win the election. That quite the opposite can happen is surely the great anomaly in the American democratic order.

Yet the National Commission on Federal Election Reform, a body appointed in the wake of the 2000 election and co-chaired (honorarily) by former Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, virtually ignored it. Last August, in a report optimistically entitled To Assure Pride and Confidence in the Electoral Process, the commission concluded that it had satisfactorily addressed "most of the problems that came into national view" in 2000. But nothing in the ponderous 80-page document addressed the most fundamental problem that came into national view: the constitutional anomaly that permits the people's choice to be refused the presidency.


Schlesinger notes that tampering with only a small number of votes in a large state where the balloting is close can throw an entire election to the loser of the popular vote, a point that will stand out for anyone who has given much thought to any one of the (many) ways in which voters were disenfranchised in Florida. Just as an example, the Gore votes that went to Buchanan were alone enough to change the outcome in Florida, even if all the other chicanery is ignored.

So it seems pretty obvious that something ought to be done. I've long been a defender of the Electoral College, and remained one right up until the Supreme Court illegally intervened in Bush v. Gore. Since then, the idea of direct election has become tempting, but it doesn't deal with some of the problems that are likely to result. Schlesinger's suggestion is interesting:
acThere is a simple and effective way to avoid the troubles promised by the direct-election plan and at the same time to prevent the popular-vote loser from being the electoral-vote winner: Keep the electoral college but award the popular-vote winner a bonus of electoral votes. This is the "national bonus" plan proposed in 1978 by the Twentieth Century Fund Task Force on Reform of the Presidential Election Process. The task force included, among others, Richard Rovere and Jeanne Kirkpatrick. (And I must declare an interest: I was a member, too, and first proposed the bonus plan in The Wall Street Journal in 1977.)

Under the bonus plan, a national pool of 102 new electoral votes -- two for each state and the District of Columbia -- would be awarded to the winner of the popular vote. This national bonus would balance the existing state bonus -- the two electoral votes already conferred by the Constitution on each state regardless of population. This reform would virtually guarantee that the popular-vote winner would also be the electoral-vote winner.


11:49 GMT: Permalink
Oliver Willis sez:
acI did note one instance of bias on tv news last night, though it was more in the vein of "stupid ass local reporter" (I don't have a lot of respect for local tv news). But this guy, I think it was Chuck Henry on KNBC, called Gray Davis "the very liberal Gray Davis". If Gray Davis is very liberal, I'm going down to Green Party HQ in my sandals with my backpack slung over my shoulder containg Chomsky, etc. and signing

* * * * *
Media Whores Online has posted the statement from John Conyers blasting Robert Ray's illegal partisan activities:
ac Conyers: Ray Report Like a Broken Record of Ken Starr's Greatest Hits

Congressman John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee issued the following statement regarding the release of Independent Counsel Robert Ray's final report on President Clinton:

"This report plays like a broken record of Ken Starr's greatest hits. When it came time to prove his case, Independent Counsel Ray did not have the evidence to indict President Clinton. Now, in what is perhaps an illegal effort to bolster his extreme right wing credentials in advance of a run for the Republican Senate nomination in New Jersey, the Independent Counsel wants to have his cake and eat it too. Plain and simple, Robert Ray never came up with the proof, but nonetheless insists on smearing President Clinton.

This is a clear cut example of 'been there done that.' After seven years and $70 million, one of the most expensive and intensive investigations in history, they have told us nothing new. Our country and former President Clinton have moved on, it's time for Robert Ray to do the same.

The legacy of the Clinton Administration is the best economic growth in history, the lowest crime rate, the lowest employment rate, and countless advances by minorities. That record will not change no matter how many times Republican partisans try to replay the impeachment debacle."


And Robert Ray seems to have one of these.

* * * * *
After having religion shoved down our throats by self-righteous sleazebags for the last decade, Americans losing faith.

* * * * *
Ever wonder what those Clinton vetos were actually about? Though the press said little about the details, they make for some pretty interesting reading. Take a look at Clinton's letters to Congress explaining why he was returning a series of bills without his signature.

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You too can play Hunt the Boeing.

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George Bush waves at Stevie Wonder (scroll to bottom).

Wednesday, 06 March 2002

13:56 GMT: Permalink
Like a lot of people, there are times when I would rather believe in fairy stories, especially this one, but this editorial in the Post Gazette is probably right:
ac Both black boxes were found, various U.S. government agencies have analyzed them as well as the tape, but all is still being deemed a secret by the FBI and withheld from the public. Why?

If some of the information from the three sources could be needed in eventual criminal proceedings, and revelation of it at this time might damage its validity as evidence in court, then officials should say so, omit those parts and release the rest.

If something said on the tapes isn't in accord with the version of what happened on Flight 93 now moving into the realm of mythology, set the record straight now. The American people shouldn't be treated like children, to be spoon-fed fairy stories instead of being told the truth.

Besides, there is nothing to be gained by holding out on the American public in a matter of this sort. Whatever actually happened will eventually come out, one way or the other. And if the facts don't back up the current story, the government's credibility will be damaged.

What are Washington officials going to say to us, "We thought it was better if you didn't know what really happened"? Tell us about Flight 93, now.


* * * * *
Frank Bruni's book on following the Bush campaign gets a review in Salon that tickled me:
ac The truth, as Bruni might say, is more complicated. I don't doubt that Bush is a kind, decent, compassionate man. He's also a man who, like most of us, knows how to act grown-up when the situation demands it. But, short of that, Bruni hasn't convinced me that Bush wouldn't rather be making fart noises with his armpit. (Bruni gives Bush special praise for not yukking it up while looking down at the ruins of the Trade Center. But what 8-year-old couldn't do that?) That may be fine for the lead in some screwball romantic comedy. It may even make you want to talk baseball with the guy over "near-beers." But president? Let's be

Also on the campaign trail with Bush, Alexandra Pelosi's documentary film on that subject is coming up; Richard Roeper reviews it:
ac"What's it like being . . . with all these animals back here?" Pelosi asks.

"These are my people," the president-to-be replies. "It takes an animal to know an animal. And, uh, I'm not admitting I'm an animal with 60 days to go in the campaign, I am admitting I like the animals. Non-alcohol beer."

Bush holds up a bottle of imported Buckler "near beer," label facing the camera, and says, "You're back here with my people. You're back here with the tequila drinkers, yeah. What you need is to go up there and make a little whoopee with the tequila drinkers, get to know them better."

"No, they scare me," Pelosi says. "I'm afraid of them."

"Well," Bush says. "Maybe they're afraid of you."

Maybe we should all be afraid.


No kidding. And then there's his performance since then, too:
ac For all this, the Bush administration is demanding a free hand on the world stage, wartime allegiance at home, and a blank check on military spending, even if most of the coming billions are to be spent on weaponry useless in the war on terrorism or any foreseeable war. So the response to a few powerful Democrats on Thursday who questioned the direction of the war and the president's imperial wish list should not be "How dare you," as Trent Lott, the Senate minority leader put it, but "What took you so long?" And "Why so few questions?"

It's an election year. Congress is naturally timid to seem critical of a president whose approval ratings are still flirting with stardust. But the nation's loyalty is turning into groupthink. How else explain a president who, playing on the war's most visceral slogan, gets away with justifying an obscene corporate tax cut as "economic security," a build-up of defense industry stock as "homeland security," and an exploitative assault on the nation's most pristine lands as "energy security"? How else explain his contempt for Congress, his Nixonian fixation on secrecy, his administration's junta-like demeanor in Washington since September?


Tuesday, 05 March 2002

22:01 GMT: Permalink
Patrick's new format seems to load faster than the old one, and I like it much better, too. And I can't wait to see what he and Gary Farber think about this Christopher Hitchens article:
acPublic opinion was also becoming used to a war without pain. And then, not often included in the circuit of compassion, one might spare a thought for those who hope to see American troops in their own far-off front-lines. Consider Ahmed Chalaby. He has been for some years the symbolic and actual head of the Iraqi opposition. In Kurdistan, he has stood between contending factions at the risk of his own life. His supporters, in the nightmare city of Baghdad, have produced and distributed newspapers which mimic the official masthead on the front page and contain witty and subversive abuse of the Saddam Hussein regime on the inside pages.

His other supporters, risking a frightful death, have been collecting information rather than distributing it, and have amassed some information concerning the whereabouts of the Ba'ath party's weapons of mass destruction or, as we now laconically refer to such things, WMDs.

Why should it be, then, that during Chalaby's most recent visit to Washington, the Bush administration should behave as if he does not exist? One or two reporters were willing to meet with him, but the attitude of officialdom was to affect a polite surprise that he should have turned up in the capital of the free world at all. (At least this may have helped Chalaby to escape the earlier insult hurled at him - namely that he was a pliant tool of the CIA and a puppet of American design.) As far as anyone is allowed to know, or tell, he left town with no more than a promise that Washington would help him with a radio station on which to broadcast some anti-Saddam propaganda.

But what a contrast between this almost shame-faced policy and the operatic, grandiose themes of official Bush administration bombast. To hear the off-the-record whispers and promises is to give ear to the most splendid themes. An army of 200,000 Americans and Europeans, slowly forming on the old frontier of Mesopotamia. A bold stroke across the border, taking the capital and rousing the masses. Depending upon which briefing you hear, a possible Turkish incursion from the north, bringing Nato troops into possession of the oilfields of Kirkuk and Mosul (and thus at last allowing the West to wave two fingers at the gruesome Saudis and their oilblackmail).

These and many other fantasies are eagerly debated in the District of Columbia. But one has to inquire how it is that an American government, so apparently decided on a new Iraqi regime, can afford to be so indifferent to the actual Iraqi opposition. One could phrase the question in this way: what does America want? The options are these. Suppose you design an Iraqi dictatorship tailored to the requirements of the West. This would be a Sunni Muslim military government, based on a strong and centralised Baghdad system, and preferably organised through and by a secular and nationalist political party.

Everybody in Washington, and I mean everybody, has long thought that this is the ideal solution. Well, the problem - moral and diplomatic - is that this is the Ba'ath Party system as it exists today. Except that the ideal regime is led by a megalomaniac with a potential Saladin complex. "The Bush administration," one Iraqi dissident put it to me," wants Saddamism without Saddam." Let us hope that this is not true.


I found that article, by the way, via the paper route - not hard to collect copies of The Evening Standard on the Underground in rush hour. But while I was going through it, I also found this one; do imagine it in Brian Sewell's prissy upper-class voice:
acIf nothing else, the word should be respected for its age and originally dignified status. It has an ancient Greek parent, a Latin one too, futuere, from which come the Italian and French fottere and foutre; we got it from the German ficken. It is both noun and verb, transitive and intransitive. Strictly it is a term for sexual connection and has been a vulgarism only since the 16th century-It has subsidiary meanings as prefix to beggar, finger, fist and hole, and in the 1960s an American lexicon listed no fewer than 82 variations on the

16:48 GMT: Permalink
Suddenly, IE refused to re-open pages offline. It didn't matter that I'd closed it only seconds ago, it insisted on going back online to retrieve it again. Consultation with my geek revealed it as an undocumented bug he'd seen before but it had gone away without him ever knowing why. I cleared the cache and history and rebooted, but the problem persists. So Patrick suggested I download Mozilla. You know, I'd forgotten all about Mozilla? Well, it's free, and I grabbed it and it's neat. I've been finding my way around it instead of paying close attention to what was on the web last night. I still haven't figured out a couple of things, though, like those little bits of customization that make life easier.

* * * * *
For those who were confused: Aaron McGruder.

Monday, 04 March 2002

18:46 GMT: Permalink
Sideshow Housekeeping: I look at other people's sites and think how neat it is that they have all those nice links down the side of their page, plus the permanent links, and so on. (And I probably will get around to doing permanent links of some sort eventually.) But one big reason for the format I use is that I'm on a dial-up connection with a clunky V90 and it's so slow that very little is more important to me than speed and clarity in a webpage. (During the day, I even have to pay a metered rate for the use of a phone line.) I want it to load fast, and I also want to be able to open it in any size window and still be able to read both ends of a line without playing with the side-to-side scroll-bar. It takes me about a fortnight to load some of my favorite pages, like Electrolite, Amygdala, Talking Points, and so on. I want my pages to show up a whole lot faster on my screen, and I know there are others who appreciate that sort of thing, too.

This is why I try to remember to move stuff off the front page and into the archive every week or so rather than allowing a whole month's worth of babbling collect on the page, and why I've continued to resist the temptation to put a table down the side with links to other sites. But I also appreciate that list down the side on other sites where I can see a whole bunch of links at a glance. But, as I said, those pages load awfully slow for me. I wanted a simple start page for myself from which I could branch out, so I decided that that's what I'd do, for the time being, at least, with The page doesn't contain everything I look at regularly by a long shot - in fact, there are a few pages I check daily that aren't listed, because I wanted the page to be short. It does have the disadvantage of frames that I can't do anything about, but I long ago developed the habit of right-clicking to open links in new windows, so it works for me. If you can use something like that, now you know where to find it. The page also has links to some other stuff about me and what I do, of course, and somewhere in the back of my mind there are plans to put up other stuff that's only on paper at the moment.

Of course, since there's no table at the side, and since I don't want any more stuff up top than I already have, you have to scroll all the way to the bottom to find my e-mail address, which you're welcome to use and I might even write back. This is my completely-overrun-with-spam address, though, so if you want me to be able to distinguish your mail from all the stuff offering me the opportunity to see naked women, enhance various parts of my body including those I don't have, make money fast or shower my largess on the needy, let me implore you to turn off counter-productive MIME and HTML rubbish that makes such mail look like gibberish in my security-conscious mail-reader. (This is deliberate; please don't bother explaining the wonders of anti-virus software to me, either.) And don't ever, ever send attachments to the Cix address. If there's something you're absolutely sure I have to see and you can't just send a URL for it, I have another address for that sort of thing; mail me first to ask if you can send it to me.

* * * * *
Patrick writes in e-mail: "You may have picked up on it already (I linked to it, for instance), but Ginger Stampley wrote a very good piece on all this on her weblog." Yes, and I noticed that mere minutes after posting my entry on the Killer Mom, but thanks for reminding me.

* * * * *
David Corn is looking at conspiracy theories and finding them wanting:
acGet the hint? Washington either did nothing to stop the September 11 attacks or plotted the assaults so a justifiable war could then be waged against Afghanistan to benefit Big Oil.

One email I keep receiving is a timeline of so-called suspicious events that "establishes CIA foreknowledge of [the September 11 attacks] and strongly suggests that there was criminal complicity on the part of the U.S. government in their execution."

I won't argue that the U.S. government does not engage in brutal, murderous skulduggery from time to time. But the notion that the U.S. government either detected the attacks but allowed them to occur, or, worse, conspired to kill thousands of Americans to launch a war-for-oil in Afghanistan is absurd. Still, each week emails passing on such tripe arrive. This crap is probably not worth a rational rebuttal, but I'm irritated enough to try.


Corn makes some good points about the specific charges, but he also trots out some arguments I've heard before about conpsiracy theories that just don't work for me. One of them is that there would be leaks, that we'd hear about this stuff if it were real.

Okay, let's say there were leaks and the story got out; then what would happen? How would we distinguish the story from a phony conspiracy theory? "That we'd hear about it" doesn't make much sense since we hear about the conspiracy theories, too. You mean it would be in the mass media? In The New York Times and Newsweek? Maybe it would come out in the San Jose Mercury News, and then the CIA would deny it to The Washington Post, and then the NYT would quote the CIA and the Post story as proof that it wasn't true, and then The Los Angeles Times would quote the CIA and both of the other two papers and write a scathing condemnation of the SJMN for publishing such scurrilous rubbish, and all the newspapers would roundly condemn the original story and the paper that published it, until finally the reporter's career was ruined. Then, in the years that follow, tiny pieces would appear in all of those same papers releasing details of the same story, in isolation, each confirming a separate fact from the SJMN story (without referring back to it), in a few lines between big advertisements, unremarked by any high-profile commentator. Which is of course exactly what happened with the CIA-crack story that was broken by The San Jose Mercury News.

Or maybe it would start with a single detail in one local paper, another detail in some other paper, a story on the BBC, an investigation by the relevant commission finding massive wrong-doing, only to be drowned out in a flood of RNC spin and shrugged off as a load of partisan whinging, as happened with the vote in Florida.

Or maybe it would start off with a roar before Newsweek misstated the facts and convinced everyone that it was all impossible, like they did with the "October Surprise" story, and we'd be left with a a passel of unindicted co-conspirators. Maybe they could all pardon each other, just to be on the safe side.

And then we'd be told to "Get over it."

Unfortunately, Corn's rebuttal rests primarily on this argument and the belief that the accusations are unthinkable and therefore would not ever be carried out. But the problem is that the people who have been circulating these conspiracy theories have already watched this administration do things, in front of the whole world, that a couple of years ago qualified as unthinkable; how can it still be unthinkable that the Bush administration would cross the line when they already have? The rest of us know that the media has also overlooked major stories and reported others in such a way as to treat them as unimportant. We've heard them faithfully repeat RNC spin that is obviously the reverse of the truth. We've even seen Bush take unprecedented steps to make sure that his papers and his father's papers never see the light of day. How will we ever find out if any of the charges against them are true?

In the meantime, virtually unremarked by the high-profile commentators, The Washington Post has published a series that in some part backs up one of the less contentious charges about the Bush administration's negligence in protecting the nation: that they pretty much ignored the emphasis the Clinton transition people gave them about the seriousness of the terrorist threat and proceeded to act as if no such threat existed, even after bin Laden announced that he had something big in the offing and allied intelligence backed it up with specifics. It is virtually impossible that anyone knew just how big a disaster would result, and I dismiss anyone who suggests that the administration had any inkling that the Towers would fall, let alone that they planned for it, but it's not only thinkable but is pretty much documented that Team Bush shrugged off the need to keep a close eye on terrorism within the US. But what are we hearing from the media? Well, that it's a good thing it was George W. Bush and not Al Gore who was in the White House on 11 September - and anyway, it's all Clinton's fault.

* * * * *
Secret Service Lapse Probably Just an Accident, He Says

ac"Like most people, I've been on edge since September, but I have to say that when I saw Cheney on Jay Leno last week, it made me feel so much better," said Michelle Gagnon, a systems analyst in San Francisco. "I thought to myself, 'Wow, we've really turned a corner. We're now strong enough to absorb the loss of the Vice President'"

"That's not what it means!" said Cheney.


* * * * *
Boy, he's actually proud of that quip, and his fans lap it up. Click here to download .mp3 of Bush doing his hilarious "trifecta" joke yet again.

Sunday, 03 March 2002

21:29 GMT: Permalink
E.J. Dionne defends A Judiciary Worth Fighting For:
acIf Pickering is defeated, you will hear that he was done in by unfair accusations. The anti-Pickering campaign did get ugly. Liberal groups dug deep into Pickering's past to make charges about his racial attitudes. On this front, Pickering was defended by African Americans from his home town. But the Democrats ended up opposing him on other grounds. They questioned why he was so often reversed on appeal and whether his record showed respect for precedent.

And then there's the central issue. Liberals are angry that during the Clinton years, Senate Republicans blocked one presidential nominee after another. The idea was to keep lots of judgeships open in the hope that a Republican president would some day name conservatives to the empty jobs.

The strategy worked, and Bush has many slots to fill. But now a conventional wisdom pushed hard by conservative groups holds that Democrats, having denounced Republican obstruction, should avoid delaying tactics themselves.

This reasonable-sounding view ignores the obvious: If Democrats roll over, they will be rewarding past obstruction by allowing the conservative nominees to dominate the courts for decades. To say Democrats shouldn't oppose weaker Bush nominees such as Pickering and 3rd U.S. Circuit appointee D. Brooks Smith is to argue that Democrats have an obligation to let Bush pack the courts. If Democrats can't fight these guys, who can they fight?

"To a large extent, the White House has taken the position that the Senate's obligation is not advise and consent but advise and rubber-stamp," says Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who chairs the Judiciary Committee.


* * * * *
Why Can't the Democrats Get Tough?

* * * * *
You just know that if the US media had actually covered the election back in November of 2000, Al Gore would be in the White House. What makes me bring this up again is this:
ac Posted 3:45 PM by Paul Orwin
Now, I am generally in favor of letting go of the 2000 presidential election, admitting that it was a tie, and that randomness interceded (along with a narrowly divided Supreme Court) to make GW Bush president, but then I read something like this
[sideshow link] and I have to wonder whether this has really been investigated enough. Based on this admittedly rather unsubstantiated story, did Kathleen Harris steal the election in FL for W, and then get rewarded with an ambassadorship? I saw a bit of this stuff, mainly squelched as "Boo hoo, some felons didn't get to vote, who cares?", but it seems important to me, if there was any intention of deliberately disenfranchising people who deserved to vote (i.e., people with no record, or misdemeanors, who were allowed to vote in FL). I am still in favor of keeping W for the duration of his term, but a bit more inspection of Ms. Harris might be in order. Is the leftie blogosphere the only place that this is being investigated? Maybe someone should put it together and publish the story (assuming they haven't already).

I guess the first thing I'm looking for up there is a definition of the term "unsubstantiated". As far as I can tell, Greg Palast, the author of the story in question, is just about the only guy who was ever given a real news budget to investigate the theft of the election in Florida, and he has interviewed relevant sources, presented documentation, checked the record - I mean, what else do you want? For most coverage of this story, the public in the US has largely relied on unsubstantiated claims that came direct from the RNC; many people still believe that there were no mechanisms in Florida law for counting the overvotes.

As I've said before, it's interesting what things we "knew" by November 8th about Florida law (that didn't happen to be true), not to mention what we "knew" about the thinking processes of Teresa LaPore (despite the fact that she was inaccessible on election day) - a whole host of "facts" that the RNC just happened to have handy for the press when they were needed, many of which only a very little checking of sources proved to be false (and the rest misleading).

Of course, much of this has indeed been put together at sites such as Failure Is Impossible and Make Them Accountable (and at Greg's own site as well as the BBC site), including the fact that Florida isn't the whole story. In Tennessee, for example, all those motor voters who thought they were registered never had their voting forms processed, so when they turned up at the polls they couldn't vote. In addition, Tennessee also used a felon-purge to remove voters from the rolls; the difference here was that Tennessee does not forbid felons to vote in the first place, so the very act of trying to purge felons from the rolls was itself a crime.

But that goes back to the "Boo hoo, some felons didn't get to vote, who cares?" argument, which of course never made sense to start with. Denying legal voters their legal right to vote is itself a criminal act, and people who excuse it are no better than aiding and abetting a crime themselves. If you buy the argument that it's okay to illegally remove felons from the voting rolls, what makes you so special that you ought to be able to vote? After all, you're showing no more respect for the law than they did. And if you need to commit a crime in order to get your man into the White House, then that's just one more reason that your man shouldn't be in the White House.

We were being told to "get over it" within mere days of the theft of the election. By that reasoning, we should never bother to convict criminals, since it usually takes at least six months for a felony to get to trial. Now, why is it that we don't normally use that reasoning? Oh, yeah, it's because if we did, those criminals might get away with their crimes and even commit more of them. Right now George Bush is in possession of stolen property; he shouldn't be allowed to keep it.

Last year I ran all this by a good friend of mine who is an editor of a major city newspaper and who nevertheless knew none of the real story of Florida. At first he simply didn't believe me, responding with all the usual lines you've read in the major papers and seen on television news about how if it's anyone's fault, it's Al Gore's for not winning a landslide, and that there was nothing to be done about it after that. Eventually I gave him enough citations to convince him that those excuses didn't hold water; he looked a bit dejected but finally fell back on, "But it's too late to do anything, now." "Well, as long as you're saying that, it will be true," I said. Because that's the bottom line: If the top editors of the nation's major newspapers cannot be bothered to object to the theft of a national election, there is no force that will move those who stole it to let go of their booty. Nor anything to stop them from stealing the next one.

* * * * *
Several people took issue with Michael Kelley in The Washington Post:
acMichael Kelly's churlish column faults the Carter administration for doing nothing in the face of terrorism. But it wasn't the Carter administration that exchanged arms for hostages, thereby giving terrorists the idea that they could extort favors from our government. It was Ronald Reagan. After the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon that killed hundreds of American Marines, again it wasn't the Carter administration that failed to retaliate and instead withdrew American troops, giving terrorists the idea that Americans would never face up to a fight. I believe that was also the Reagan administration.

And wasn't it the Reagan administration that did nothing when the Beirut bureau chief of the CIA was tortured and murdered? Wasn't it, in fact, the Reagan administration that made it clear that it would do just about anything to prevent images of dead Americans on American television screens? I think that is where terrorists got the idea that killing a few Americans would result in an instant retreat. They recognized that the Reagan administration was long on verbal bombast and short on follow-through.

Kelly's nasty attack on the man who indisputably holds the high moral ground in American politics makes it clear who the fool is. [Mary K. Garber]


* * * * *
Ellen Goodman has a think piece on A Mom Who Murdered that steps right around the elephant in that room:
acBOSTON -- Unless you live in northern Texas, you might have missed the story. The dateline was Throckmorton, and it was only a paragraph long. A father killed his three children as he was returning them from a custodial visit to their mother.

The deaths of Corie, Casey and Chase Smallwood didn't make the evening news. There are no debates on whether their father, James, was sane. No one will ask whether he deserves the death penalty for shooting his children -- because he administered that penalty to himself.

I noticed this murder only because way south of Throckmorton, in Houston, a mother is on a trial. Andrea Pia Yates has kept the country horrified and tuned-in ever since last June, when she methodically drew a bath, drowned her five children and then wrapped four of them as if she were performing a final bedtime ritual.

Because she is a mother who murdered, the story is news. Because she is a mother, People magazine has made her its "celebrity" cover girl, asking the question, "Villain or Victim?" Because she is a woman who committed filicide, we've had a debate that goes to the heart of our prejudices.

When the murders of Noah, Paul, Luke, John and Mary were first reported, there were some who saw in Andrea Yates a desperate glimpse of every exhausted mother who ever snapped. There were activists who saw her as a chance to bring postpartum depression and psychosis into the public dialogue.

On the other side, opponents defined any Yates sympathizer as a collaborator. They dismissed postpartum psychosis as a feminist "Twinkie defense," an excuse abuse and maybe even a way to categorize motherhood itself as madness.

I was not entirely surprised that this murder got so mixed up with cultural messages about mothering. The perfectionist who home-baked cakes, home-made costumes and home-schooled her children told the psychiatrists, "My children were not righteous. I let them stumble."

She told the police that their deaths were her and Satan's punishment for "not being a good mother." Death, she implied, was her last chance to protect them from the fires of hell.

The motherhood grid she placed over this case was enough to justify the gender argument. And then there was the opening statement of her lawyer, who told the jury that postpartum psychosis "takes the very nature and essence of motherhood -- to nurture, to protect and to love -- and changes the reality."

The makings of a mommy case were everywhere. Perfect love, protection, nurturance are "natural." The failure to be the perfect mother to produce perfect children is proof of the devil -- or as a pastor told Yates, proof of Eve's downfall.


I haven't been following this case, and at this remove I'm not able to pick up a sense of what's been said on the nightly news, but the feminism/motherhood thing isn't news. However, this is the first place I've seen those little quotes that take it beyond that argument. Parents who kill their children because they aren't "righteous" enough are men at least as often as they are women. They usually beat them to death because they needed "discipline", but other than that I'm not seeing any big gender issues. What I'm seeing is yet more evidence that America has bred a kind of "Christian" that really does believe in killing their own children "for God". It rather brings out the irony of that lovely little quote Cal Thomas attributed to that righteous man, John Ashcroft: "Islam is a religion in which God requires you to send your son to die for Him. Christianity is a faith in which God sends His son to die for you."

Saturday, 02 March 2002

14:40 GMT: Permalink
This brave American hero stands up against political correctness to tell the truth. And looks cool doin' it, too.

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Remember John Ellis, the Bush cousin who made the original false call for Bush in Florida? Well, he's written an interesting rant on his weblog about the whole economy/Enron scandal/corporate culture thing that could have been written by any number of alert liberals, except for the part where he refers to Democrats as "they".
acDisgust with corporate greed, corporate ethics, corporate malfeasance, corporate dishonesty, corporate felonies is the long political stock of this year. We’re just getting started. The number of companies that have had to "restate" earnings in the last year has doubled. The number of bankruptcies has risen dramatically. The Enron "pump and dump" scam, in which management hyped a $120-per-share price target as they sold their own holdings as fast as they could, will be an ongoing news story, as the SEC investigation tightens the noose. And we haven’t even begun to hear about the "round-trippers" and the "Lazy Susans" and the pension gains being counted as earnings and on and on and

Editorial note: I have, as I usually try to do, changed the "smart quotes" to regular straight-up-and-down quotes in the excerpt above. I do this because I hate smart quotes. I hate them because whenever I quote something that contains them to post on Usenet or put into an e-mail, I'm bound to forget to change them, and thus they will be turned to gibberish in the mail or Usenet readers of numerous people who are smart enough to use readers that are ascii-only. That and the fact that unless you are actually printing out whatever it is you're typing, smart quotes don't usually look any better and sometimes look worse than ordinary standard quotes. Indeed, they frequently look dumb as rendered in HTML. So I hate them. So there.

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You know, this whole shadow government thing is custom-tailored for paranoid conspiracy theories. If this were a Hollywood political thriller (starring Warren Beatty and Robert Redford), you'd be watching the screen for that tell-tale moment when the entire Republican leadership just happened to be out of town on the day when lots of the highest-ranking Democrats were gathered in Washington....

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Frank Rich on Freedom From the Press noting the ironic comparison of Bernie Goldberg complaining on television about how he has suffered as a journalist on the night before we learned of Daniel Pearl's death, the secrecy of the current administration, and, by the way, a bit of graft and corruption:
acLast summer, when Enron was still in clover, the administration announced that its ethics watchdog, the White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, had found Karl Rove innocent of any conflict of interest after it was revealed that Mr. Rove owned thousands of dollars of Enron stock while deliberating on national energy policy with Enron executives. What the White House did not announce was that its ethicist, Mr. Gonzales, was himself a past recipient of serious Enron campaign money in Texas. President Bush has done his best to minimize any further revelations about the history of his team's relations with his biggest backer by depositing his Texas gubernatorial papers not in the Texas State Library and Archives, where they'd be subject to the state's tough Public Information Act, but at his father's presidential library, where they may not

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Graft & corruption: offers a description of influence-buying:
acWaxman states that Enron "managed to become one of the most influential voices in Washington and a significant presence for both parties. It was able to persuade the federal government to adopt policies that resulted in less oversight and contributed to Enron's demise."

Prominent among the litany of examples of potentially improper influence by Enron that are set forth by Congressman Waxman in his letter are the following:

The White House Energy Plan includes no less than 17 policies requested by Enron, including further deregulation the company sought.

Vice President Cheney's has opposed price caps despite California's soaring electric prices. Enron opposed the price caps too, and told the Vice President so.

The White House assisted Enron in its negotiations with the government of India regarding the sale of a $2.9 billion power plant. Indeed, Vice President Cheney personally intervened.

The Alternative Minimum Tax repeal was recommended. This was a tax change Enron lobbied for, because it would reap a huge benefit -- receiving a $254 million windfall, after paying no taxes.

The President made appointments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission of persons specifically requested by Enron.

The Bush administration reversed the Clinton administration's crackdown on offshore tax havens. As a result, Enron was able to shield the transactions of more than 800 offshore subsidiaries, and did not pay taxes on their income.

In addition to citing these and other instances of apparent Enron influence on the Bush administration, Congressman Waxman also attached to his letter copies of his earlier correspondence with Bush administration officials. He had requested information about innumerable publicly reported connections between these officials and Enron. While he received polite responses, the administration provided virtually no information in response to his inquiries.

Although Congressman Waxman has made a compelling case for investigation of Enron's political activities, it is doubtful that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is going to undertake the investigation that has been requested. A Republican House does not want to cause problems for a Republican White House.

Nor is it likely such an investigation will be mounted in the Senate. Senate Democrats, I am told, don't want to appear partisan -- a problem that does not trouble Republicans. Rather they want to see how this scandal unfolds on its own.


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Court Orders New Trial in Liddy Suit is an article I found while perusing the ever-bizarre, where it's taken for granted that you can trust the word of G. Gordon Liddy over that of John Dean.

Friday, 01 March 2002

15:49 GMT: Permalink
David Broder thinks they are Clueless in the Nation's Capital:
acWashington has become a wartime capital, and its preoccupation with terrorism has widened the gap between its officials and hometown

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Charles Dodgson has several excellent entries over the last few days on Fritz Hollings' creepy hustle to require copy-protection in all software, the perfect libertarian state (Pakistan!), Dick Cheney selling weapons of mass distruction to the Axis of Evil, and how the US Civil War really was about slavery and certainly not about states' rights.

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Jonathan Chait calls Andrew Sullivan on his attacks on Paul Krugman. Supply-siders have of course been looking for excuses to attack Krugman for a while now, but the fact that he once took money from Enron doesn't necessarily undermine his credibility. For one thing, he disclosed it before he took the job as columnist for the New York Times, unlike the right-wing pundits who also took their money but didn't disclose it until much more recently. For another, Krugman was an economist, while those others were not; what do economists do for a living? Well, one thing they do is advise companies. He's had a job-change since then. But most importantly, Krugman has been critical of Enron, so it's hardly as if taking their money has corrupted him into a full-time cheerleader for them, is it? That would undermine his credibility; the facts do not. But none of that makes an impression on his critics, as Chait notes:
acYou'd think eventually Sullivan's interest in this one bit of media news would eventually wane. And it has. Yet, instead of dropping away, it has simply metastasized into a broader personal attack. "As Paul 'Enron' Krugman has asserted, the war is not actually a war against terrorism, but a war for corporations," he wrote recently, distorting Krugman's views so wildly as to venture into pure fantasy. (Krugman complained that Bush was using his relatively small defense hike to cover for budgetary shortfalls that would have happened anyway.) This week he has begun publishing letters from economists urging him to, as one put it, "keep pounding on Krugman."

Do these economists want Sullivan to pound Krugman because he violated their exquisite sense of journalistic ethics? Not at all. One letter complains that Krugman is "grinding political polemics instead of offering enlightening and insightful commentary." Another accuses him of becoming "intellectually slack"--the only evidence for this charge being that Krugman described "the immediate implementation of the 2001 tax cut retroactive to the beginning of 2001" as an "advance on future tax cuts." Is there a real difference between the two? No, it's just shorthand, which you'd expect from an op-ed columnist trying to reach a popular audience and facing tight space restrictions.

None of these writers, then, have presented any decent evidence that Krugman makes economic errors in his writing. Yet however weak such protestations may be, Sullivan treats them as proof positive of Krugman's general untrustworthiness. "[T]he constant chorus I keep getting from professionals suggests that the Krugman credibility problem is now much deeper," he writes. So now Krugman's "credibility problem" isn't just about Enron, but about anything he writes. Somehow I suspect that if he stopped writing influential polemics against Bush his "credibility problem" would disappear.


The Daily Howler's Bob Somerby goes into further detail on this in his 25 February page where he discusses another media lie:
acWhen the Tribune reported the Lincoln Bedroom canard, it cited no source for its claim. But two days later, the Washington Times’ Bill Sammon wrote this in the White House Weekly:
SAMMON (1/15/02): As cyberjournalist Matt Drudge recently pointed out, McLarty was later hired by Enron. Lay slept in the Lincoln Bedroom, played golf with Clinton and became an energy adviser to the Democratic administration, which helped Enron get a gas pipeline contract in Mozambique.

Uh-oh! Sammon seemed to trace the LB claim back to Drudge. And sure enough! On January 11, Drudge had put the bogus claim into play: DRUDGE (1/11/02): McLarty was later hired by Enron. Lay also played golf with President Bill Clinton and slept in the Clinton White House. A master of political manipulation of both parties, Lay served as an adviser to the Clinton White House on energy issues.


It's all easily checkable, especially if you're a journalist at a major news organ with paid access to the most comprehensive databses. Somerby has located the only part of this that seems to be true:
acClinton began his vacation with a bipartisan golf match Saturday at the Country Club of the Rockies in Vail, Colo., teaming up with fellow Democrat (and golf pro) Jack Nicklaus to take on the Republican duo of former president Gerald Ford and Houston businessman Ken

And while Lay had indeed slept in the Lincoln bedroom, it wasn't during the Clinton administration, but during his predecessor's.

There's more on this in his column for 27 February.

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By now everyone knows that Ari the Liar blamed the violence in the Middle East on Bill Clinton and then retracted it, but Buzzflash recalls this from July of 2000:
acThe Middle East peace talks at Camp David became the subject of a political scandal in the US last night when reports emerged that one of George W Bush's foreign policy advisers had warned the Israeli delegation to be prepared to walk out of negotiations.

Richard Perle, a veteran cold war warrior and former assistant secretary of state, urged the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, not to agree to any settlement which left the future status of Jerusalem unresolved, according to the New York Post website.


Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, March 2002

February 2002
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And, no, it's not named after the book or the movie. It's just another sideshow.