The Sideshow

Archive for March 2003

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Monday, 31 March 2003

16:32 BST: Permalink

We Want the Airwaves!

Those of you who check the We Want the Airwaves! page from time to time may have noticed that posting has been somewhat sporadic. This is partly due to the clumsiness of my posting set-up - one I can't possibly continue while I'm recovering from surgery next month but, let's face it, it was too slow anyway. So Lisa English and I have been setting up a weblog at Blogspot to make it all easier. We haven't done any real writing on it yet but we've more or less got it together now and there are some articles linked that you might find of interest if you are interested in preserving the free speech that is vital to our democracy.

So: the We Want the Airwaves! blog is now online. As always, your advice concerning relevant links is always appreciated - Contact us!

Also NEW! at The Sideshow: I've put up a little picture page.

Please note that I've changed the Sideshow e-mail address as well; Cix doesn't have useful webmail for my account type so I've opened a Hotmail account (for avedoncarol) to make it easier to handle mail on the laptop. Bear in mind that this means if you're writing to me on a list, your mail may be blocked unless you first mail me individually to arrange to unblock it.

15:32 BST: Permalink
Paul Corrigan at Bear Left tells us what he has learned from George W. Bush. Reading this list, I couldn't help thinking that the rest of the world might eventually think something must be done about that great big rogue state he's turning America into....

14:09 BST: Permalink
Yeah, Maureen Dowd gets it:

Some of their soldiers are mere children. We know we have overwhelming, superior power, yet we can't use it all. We're stunned to discover that the local population treats our well-armed high-tech troops like invaders.

Why is all this a surprise again? I know our hawks avoided serving in Vietnam, but didn't they, like, read about it?

Sunday, 30 March 2003

It is now British Summer Time. Remember, spring forward, fall back.

22:59 BST: Permalink

And only wealth should buy you justice

Nick Kessler provides an instructive look at a recent Supreme Court case:

The Supreme Court on Wednesday, by a 5-4 vote (O'Connor joined the four moderates), upheld the use of Interest On Lawyers' Trust Accounts ("IOLTA") programs. PLA explained these programs very thoroughly (link via Atrios), but the short version is that lawyers often hold cash deposits from clients that are too small to earn interest in individual accounts. Under IOLTA, these small deposits are pooled into a big account, and the interest goes to legal representation for poor people. Conservatives went to court, claiming that the IOLTA programs were unfair because the interest belongs to the clients. But as PLA noted, this has nothing to do with money lost by lawyers' clients. It was driven by conservatives who want to "defund the left."
Scalia's Rude, Pathetic Dissent

Even in this opinion, we see that the right isn't finished with IOLTA. Scalia's dissent is a clumsy exercise in dishonesty, pretending that IOLTA is "taking" something from individual clients even though IOLTA accounts create money that these clients could never earn themselves. Scalia's response to the majority's simple holding is typically obnoxious, and he refuses to genuinely address the facts of the case. Instead of reasonable argument, he gives us what we always get from conservatives--constant repetition of his massively flawed conclusion and a steady tone of triumphant arrogance.

You can be damned sure that Scalia would never express such an opinion if this were, say, me suing the phone company for the fact that they "estimate" an overcharge on my standing order every month and then I have to pry the money back out of them. They take the money from my account on the billing date rather than the deadline, too, so that's more interest they deprive me of. They will pay back the overcharge when I demand it, but I can just imagine the laughter if I ever suggested they should give me the interest back as well. Just about every company in the world expects retail customers to pay them immediately (or they charge you interest), and just about every company delays paying you as long as possible - and never pays you interest on that money.

You should go over to Nick's post and read the quotes to appreciate the pure chutzpa of Scalia, who pretends that money that would not otherwise exist at all is being stolen from "those who own it". Make no mistake: This is about eliminating money that helps fund people who would otherwise be unable to find redress through our legal system. There is no true "theft of property" principle at stake; these people genuinely mean that justice really should be available only to those who have the money to buy it.

[Note for Jim Capozzola (D-PA): Yes, it's a musical allusion that you won't get!] [PS. I think you're wrong, Jim - they've intended this all along, and they've been talking about it for a lot more than a week, and anyway if they were going to give someone the boot for being an embarrassment Ashcroft would have been gone a long time ago. They love Rumsfeld, he's their macho stud, they have no idea how he looks to the rest of us - and besides, they don't care.]

22:02 BST: Permalink
It's well worth checking out this post at Altercation for Eric Rauchway's evaluation of who the worst president was. The short version:

  • Worst on economic policy: Benjamin Harrison has the title so far, but though it's too soon to tell, Bush seems primed to take it from him.
  • Worst foreign policy: James K. Polk, but Bush definitely headed for the top.
  • Contempt for American people: Warren G. Harding was the standard, but Bush is already neck-and-neck with him.
You should read the whole thing to find out why. Eric also treats us to an exasperated comment on inflated "coalition of the killing" claims from reader J.P. Trostle:


Want a big international COALITION? Tired of getting spurned by hot European girls because of your "unilateralism"?

Now, YOU can experience the COALITION ENLARGEMENT you’ve always wanted with a MASSIVE accounting breakthrough!! 100 GUARANTEED!!!


This fits in rather neatly with Jordin Kare's comment that, "When I heard Colin Powell say that there were 15 nations that were offering support but preferred not to be identified, I realized that the U.S. Government has been reduced to claiming that 'the lurkers support us in email.'"

21:17 GMT: Permalink
Like talking to a Post

Two letters to the formerly-good newspaper:

As a regular reader who has found your paper's coverage of the Iraq conflict conspicuously skewed in support of the administration's position, I was initially pleased to see the March 21 editorial "Speaking Out in Wartime," making the case that the voices of protest in wartime should not be condemned as treasonous. It's unfortunate, however, that the editors could not commit even to this basic democratic concept without dedicating more than a third of the editorial to a critique of Sen. Tom Daschle's position. What could have been a reasoned voice for the importance of maintaining open minds and sustaining civil discourse in painfully difficult times instead ended up eviscerating its own merits by taking unmistakable sides. Readers may be forgiven for inferring the message, "They're wrong, but it's the democratic way to let them speak anyway." [Winafred Brantl]

It was chilling enough to read that the Bush administration brooks no criticism of or dissent from its policies ["Bush's Strong Arm Can Club Allies Too," news story, March 21]. Then I turned to your "yes, but" editorial, which singles out Sen. Tom Daschle's critics in Congress but fails to note that the president's press secretary led the parade [news story, March 19]. I always thought your paper could hold two conflicting ideas at once, but its support for the president's war has clearly colored its usually sound judgment. The omission in the editorial does a disservice to us all by implying that it is only Daschle who has a political agenda; yet I suppose to do otherwise would be to criticize the president, and now we all know what that gets one. [Tom Hicks]

20:56 GMT: Permalink
Check out The Daily Howler on the ludicrous Kurtz and Sullivan's attempts to portray the BBC as being biased because they lack pro-war bias.

13:52 BST: Permalink
Electoral smash-and-grab

As if things weren't scary enough, GOP seeks to cut primaries in 5 states:

Democrats protest, call proposal for '04 biased

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Republican-led legislatures in five states believe they have found a way to ease the budget crunch: eliminate the 2004 presidential primaries.

President Bush is unlikely to face serious opposition in the Republican run-up to the election, so any budget-driven change to the primary would affect the growing field of Democratic candidates.

State Democratic lawmakers are crying foul, arguing that their GOP colleagues are politically motivated.

In Arizona, Kansas, Missouri, and Utah, Republican lawmakers have taken the initial steps either to replace the primary with a caucus that would involve party delegates or to scrap the primary completely.

In three of the four states - Arizona, Kansas, and Missouri - Democratic governors would probably veto a Republican-crafted bill to change the election system.

A measure in Utah, where Republican Mike Leavitt is governor, has a better chance of becoming law.

Colorado was first out of the chute. Elimination of that state's presidential primary was among a dozen budget-cutting bills intended to slash $800 million from the 2002-03 budget.

Signed into law March 5 by Governor Bill Owens, a Republican, the measure eliminating the Colorado primary gives the state a one-time savings of $2.2 million.

In Missouri, one House committee has slashed the $3.7 million set aside for the Feb. 3, 2004, primary; another has voted to repeal the law allowing the contest.

Last year, Missouri lawmakers moved up the date of the primary to draw more national attention. But this year Republican lawmakers are citing a projected budget shortfall of $1 billion and the 19 percent voter turnout in the 2000 primary.

"If we're only getting low turnout, why would you want to spend close to $4 million in a tight budget year, when we could use that money for something else?" asked Representative Bill Deeken, a Republican and a former county election official. "I think it's a waste of money."

Countered Representative Jim Seigfreid, a Democrat: "I think there is some politics involved."

Folks, you need to be fighting to preserve the democratic process.

12:58 BST: Permalink
War Hero objects to Dubya Dubya Three

U.S. planning more invasions, McGovern says:

Former U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern charged Wednesday that President Bush intends to invade North Korea and Iran after finishing with Iraq.

"Even now, these wars are being planned by the current administration," McGovern said. "I'm positive, based on conversations with people close to the White House, that plans are in place for the next invasions."

McGovern did not disclose who his sources were, and attempts to get a response were not successful before deadline.

McGovern was in Milwaukee to speak at the Great Decisions conference Tuesday night, and at the First Unitarian church Wednesday. He noted that American soldiers still patrol Korea, more than 50 years after the war there, and predicted the Bush agenda could involve American soldiers overseas for decades.

McGovern, a decorated World War II veteran who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1972 as an opponent of the Vietnam War, said he supported the Gulf War but opposed the current action.

"This is clearly an American invasion. The chance of Iraq attacking the U.S. is about the same as attack from Mars," McGovern said. "Everybody knows Osama bin Laden was the man who conceived the 9-11 attack, but by harping on this, (the Bush administration) has gradually convinced 51 percent of the American people that Saddam was behind it."

McGovern said the Sept. 11, 2001, attack was done by religious extremists, whereas Hussein is "a hard-bitten atheist. I don't think he'd give Osama the time of day."

McGovern compared the action in Iraq to Japan's sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.

"The Japanese tried to put out that line, that they thought America was going to attack them, and this was a pre-emptive strike. That didn't sell at the war crimes trial (after World War II)."

Noting that Japan's plotters were found to be war criminals, McGovern said, "it's quite possible an action of that kind (by the World Court) would be brought against Bush if there are a lot of people killed in a country we've invaded."

McGovern, who was a history professor before going into politics, predicted the doctrine of pre-emption could tie the hands of future presidents. "If we were to protest a pre-emptive attack by Pakistan on India with nuclear weapons, we'd have no influence at all if we ourselves had used that doctrine in Iraq and probably in places to come. We'd have no moral or political foundation to stand on," he said.

McGovern, who is 80, was president of the Middle East Policy Council from 1991 to 1998 and currently serves as the United Nation's global ambassador on hunger. He said America's international standing has declined markedly because of the Iraq war.

And it's worse than that, as Josh Marshall has pointed out. Rumsfeld has really made a hash of things. And then there's this:

Humanitarian relief? This report is good news, bad news. Luckily more of the former than the latter, at least in the medium to long term. According to this AFP report, refugees streaming south to avoid fighting gave food to US Marines. That's a good sign of goodwill from Iraqi civilians -- possibly a sign of underlying support, kept in check for the moment by fear of Saddam's reprisals. But it does rather beg the question of why our troops are having to get food from Iraqi refugees. Isn't it supposed to be going the other way? Numerous news organizations are reporting that Marines at the tip of the spear have had to ration their food, limiting themselves to one MRE (meal) a day, because of supply-line disruptions farther south.
This administration sure finds ways to stiff US soldiers, doesn't it? Didn't even give them enough food. Cheapskates.

Marshall also discusses Operation Chicken Hawk Down.

12:10 BST: Permalink

Jeanne D'Arc says: The "best newsman in Afghanistan" was, until recently, reporting for the Christian Science Monitor in Iraq. Last week, U.S. Marines escorted him out of Iraq after the Pentagon accused him of revealing too much information in an interview. The CSM insists that the information was already available in maps and in US and British radio, newspaper, and television reports.

Freedom of speech threatened, Gore says:

With fewer companies owning more media outlets, the lack of tolerance for opposing views increases, former Vice President Al Gore told a college audience here last night.

Using recent attacks on the Dixie Chicks that followed anti-war comments by one group member as an example, Gore said big corporations threaten the true meaning of democracy because representatives — through various media outlets — try to stamp out opposing views with financial retaliation.

Earlier this month, Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines criticized President Bush for the war on Iraq while she was performing in Britain. As a result, many radio stations across the country stopped playing the group's songs.

"They were made to feel un-American and risked economic retaliation because of what was said," Gore said. "Our democracy has taken a hit. Our best protection is free and open debate."

Gore's concern over limiting opposition was one of the topics in his lecture at Middle Tennessee State University to about 250 students, faculty and community members. As head of the John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies, Gore talked about how the mass entertainment media has affected the American family and democracy.

"Mass media has had a pervasive impact on families. Most families don't have dinner together — and of those that do, a television is on during the entire dinner."

Besides substituting ffor family communication, Gore said the entertainment industry has contributed to immobility, debts, lower voter participation and increased cynicism.

He said his biggest concern is people's inability to hear and express an opposing view. He called it "an extremely serious problem."

MTSU student Ada Egenji agreed. She said she noticed that peace rallies haven't gotten much coverage since the war started last week.

11:13 BST: Permalink
Iraq invasion quiz

Is this a great name or what? Why Your Wife Won't Have Sex With You (via Skippy).

The Bushies thought the Iraqis would not fight. Osama thought the US was "weak" and would not fight. Hmmmm.

Gary Hart's weblog

Saturday, 29 March 2003

15:37 GMT: Permalink


It's going to be pretty tough to use my Cix mail while I'm doing the recovery thing from the surgery. I'm trying to make alternative arrangements and I'm hoping to set up comments on the Sideshow emergency weblog to reduce the problem. Meanwhile....

Many thanks to John Robinson for sending a better link for the Zen Garden, and to Dr. Plokta and Hal O'Brien, both of whom sent this alternative link.

Erik V. Olsen and John Kozak both took exception to the Michael Bérubé statement quoted below that went:

Fine, let's run with the stupid analogy: Imagine Allied officials in June 1945 saying, "Hitler is dead and Germany has been defeated, but you know, a lot of these here Nazis know a great deal about running the country, they have over a decade of experience, we think they're the people to work with in this crucial time of rebuilding."
Erik said:

Except, of course, that's exactly what three of the four allies occupying Germany did. The fourth, the Soviets, did denazify the East German Government, but "denazify" had a much more sinister connotation in the Eastern Bloc.

15:02 GMT: Permalink
Blimey, this was actually in TIME: "F___ Saddam. We're taking him out." Those were the words of President George W. Bush, who had poked his head into the office of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. It was March 2002, and Rice was meeting with three U.S. Senators, discussing how to deal with Iraq through the United Nations, or perhaps in a coalition with America's Middle East allies. Bush wasn't interested. He waved his hand dismissively, recalls a participant, and neatly summed up his Iraq policy in that short phrase. The Senators laughed uncomfortably; Rice flashed a knowing smile. The President left the room.

Terry Jones now understands how to fight terrorism.

Friday, 28 March 2003

15:34 GMT: Permalink

Crazy Soph says:

As long as I'm in this groove, another LJ friend found this letter (at the top of the page, at least when I saw it) from science fiction writer Iain Banks. Does anyone else, er, any fan of a genre, find it fun (in a slightly inappropriate to the topic fashion) to see a writer they know then turn their hand to something completely different, like this kind of protest letter?
That's the letter in the Grauniad that begins:

I'm writing on behalf of myself and my wife. This immoral, illegal war is not being waged in our name, yet now we're told we must support "our boys" (Blair appeals for national unity, March 21). What sort of support is it to accept a course of action which places them in such mortal jeopardy?
Well, it's not a surprise to me. Back in '99 Feoreg called me one day to report some anti-porn looniness up in her area and asked if FAC had any people up there who'd be good for some sort of counter-activism. "Forget FAC," I said. "Fandom. Think about who you know." Well, who we know up in Scotland includes some excellent sf writers, one of whom is so famous they used his face on a sherry ad that kept startling me on the Underground for a while. I believe it was Charlie who actually wrote the letter:

2 December 1999

This month, Edinburgh City Council (in conjunction with Scottish Women's Action Network) are using public funds to promote a torchlit political demonstration followed by a public book-burning. They may be calling it a "PORNFIRE ", but let us be clear about it: Scottish Campaign Against Pornography are burning books and magazines they disagree with on Calton Hill this Thursday.

The occasion of this event, with its echoes of bookburnings at Berlin, is "Sixteen Days of Action against violence against women". Nobody wants to oppose such a worthy cause, and indeed we unreservedly condemn violence against anyone. However, there is a second programme being promoted by this campaign; an attack upon our freedom of speech and thought, justified by an assertion that pornography causes violence against women. Violence against women pre-dates pornography. Violence against women is endemic in countries and cultures that have the strictest of censorship laws (such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan). Studies have repeatedly failed to demonstrate a link between pornography and violence against women.

We do not agree with the politics of censorship; regardless of whether it is presented as gagging pornographers or defending public morals, it subverts the basic right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. Burning books of any kind, whether they are pornography or prayer books, is wrong.

We believe that Edinburgh City Council has no business providing support for politically-motivated book-burnings and witch hunts that attempt to blame society's ills on an unpopular group. We call on the Council to respect the civil rights of all citizens equally, and to distance itself from the politics of intolerance. Expressing indignation about violence against women is not an acceptable justification for abolishing freedom of expression.

For further information, see

Mr. Yaman Akdeniz, Director - Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK)
Sister Athletica de la Bain, Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
Iain Banks, Author
Paul F Burton, Senior Lecturer, University of Strathclyde
Kay Carmichael, Writer
Avedon Carol, Feminists Against Censorship
David Donnison, Emeritus Professor - University of Glasgow
Owen Dudley Edwards, Historian
Dr Ian D Goodyer PhD
Alex Hamilton, Lawyer
Sharon Hart, Editor-in-Chief - MacNow Magazine
Mary Hayward, Campaign Against Censorship
John Hein, Editor - ScotsGay Magazine
Karen Hetherington, The Liberal Party in Scotland
Mike Holmes
Colin Johnson MA, Consultant Philosopher
Ken MacLeod, Author
Stiubh Macmhicean, Edinburgh Freethinkers
Michael Meadowcroft, President of The Liberal Party
Dr Arabella Melville, Author - 'Difficult Men'
Chris Morris, Editor - Outcast
Helena Ravenscroft, Author - Erotic Fiction For Women
Charles Stross, Author and Journalist
Peter Tatchell, Queer Rights Activist
Ruth Morgan Thomas, Prostitutes' Rights Activist

The Herald printed the letter with the full list of names. The local paper turned it into a two-day story that quoted pretty much the whole letter in the text. The Telegraph, however, decided to cut the list and use only five names:

There's no question about which of those names made it into a real story.

Thursday, 27 March 2003

16:24 GMT: Permalink

In some ways I've had less to say lately because others have been laying it on the line a lot more often. Like, for example, Josh Marshall:

Over-estimating the extent of one's own power is the best sign that someone or something is heading for a fall.

This is something the Bush administration has been doing for months now. We're extremely powerful. But we're not all-powerful. Almost, but not quite.

An example of such over-reach is our current decision to threaten almost every country on the planet with payback for not following our lead on Iraq. Such threats aren't just ill-advised. Worse than that, they lack credibility since we're just not in a position to stick it to every country at once. Here at TPM we've been focusing on Turkey. But Dan Drezner has an excellent post on another country we're now threatening with payback: Canada ... (Drezner's post plays off this article in The Globe and Mail.)

It's not that Marshall hasn't been doing great stuff all along, it's just that, well, as each month goes by he seems to be saying it that much more straightforwardly. He's not the only one.

It seems to me that liberals divided into two different camps in the shock of 9/11: Some needed to believe that no administration could fail to respond appropriately, and were therefore willing to suspend disbelief in the competence and integrity of the Regency in Washington; others had already seen the writing on the wall in 2000 and the first half of 2001, and were terrified of what those people in the White House would do to exploit this enormity and turn it into an even bigger disaster. As time has gone by, more and more of the first group are joining the latter as our worst predictions have not only come true but been exceeded. These days even a lot of Republicans who had been cheerleaders for the Bush regime are starting to withdraw their support. What's baffling is that there are people - some of them liberal Democrats - who are at this late date still willing to give BushCo the benefit of the doubt. I don't get it.

11:05 GMT: Permalink
Quick picks

Cool pix: Space imaging (via Sore Eyes, who also tell you where you can download a zen garden for your PalmOS PDA. I want one! But when I click to download, it says, "The page cannot be found." *sigh*).

More cool pix: Rocks rock! (Via Making Light.)

Mac Diva now has a webblog.

Emma explains Political English.

Wednesday, 26 March 2003

20:06 GMT: Permalink

I've been doing a slow burn about this, but Seeing The Forest is in full fireball mode:

Senate Democrats Vote For Huge Tax Cut!
It appears that Senate Democrats have voted FOR a $350 BILLION tax cut! I'm trying to find the exact count on this, but it appears a number of Democrats voted FOR this atrocity! WHAT WERE THEY THINKING???!!

The country has massive deficits, we are at war, programs that help the public are being slashed - and Democrats vote for another tax cut!

It looks like they got rolled again. Please read Getting Rolled.

I am completely dismayed by this. This takes away the Bush economy as a campaign issue! This takes away the deficits as a campaign issue! WHAT WERE THEY THINKING???!! Is it time to start recall campaigns to we can get some people in there who will represent US?

Update - Well, now I know what they were thinking. The person answering the phone at Senator Boxer's office portrayed this as a Democratic victory because Bush was asking for $750 billion and "only" got $350 billion. I'm thinking I should call back and demand $2 million! I sure could use the million that it appears I'll get! What a bunch of loons, thinking this is a victory!

OK I took out the comment about voting Green. No sense in that.

Update - Ruminate This agrees with me, Atrios disagrees. Obviously Ruminate is brilliant! Atrios, well... I know - HEY Atrios, give me $2 million right now! :-)
Well, you know I love Atrios, but this was something that should not have passed at all. Not at all. Really.

13:17 GMT: Permalink
Liberal Oasis has an interesting round-up of claims made about how US forces will be seen by the Iraqi people as "liberators", and what the Iraqis themselves have to say. Like this:

We [in Baghdad] have 11,000 years of history. I know it sounds facetious, but it gives you resilience.

We complain about things, but complaining doesn't mean cooperating with foreign governments.

When somebody comes to attack Iraq, we stand up for Iraq. That doesn't mean we love Saddam Hussein, but there are priorities.

Sound familiar?

12:54 GMT: Permalink
From Tapped:

WHAT NEXT? CONT'D. So now that the war is begun, what do liberals turn their energy towards? The University of Illinois' Michael Bérubé suggests, for starters, taking to task the Bushies for their apparent consideration of rehabilitating the Iraqi Ba'ath Party once the war is over.

I wonder whether the sane left couldn't start agitating now for a fairly simple but critical postwar position: No Ba'ath Party officials in a post-Saddam government. This is supposed to be a war of national liberation? Saddam is supposed to be Hitler, and antiwar liberals are being likened to Chamberlain? Fine, let's run with the stupid analogy: Imagine Allied officials in June 1945 saying, "Hitler is dead and Germany has been defeated, but you know, a lot of these here Nazis know a great deal about running the country, they have over a decade of experience, we think they're the people to work with in this crucial time of rebuilding."

The point of this position, of course, is to hoist the Bush imperium by its own petard, and -- incidentally -- to get the antiwar left to be serious about coming up with a postwar agenda more plausible and cogent than "US Out of Everywhere." I'm now in the process of printing up 500,000 "Peace-Loving Americans for de-Ba'athification" buttons and bumper stickers-- a really catchy slogan, I think, even better than "No Blood for Oil."

Sounds good to us.
Not sure I like the idea that "the point" is merely to "hoist the Bush imperium on its own petard" or even to "get the antiwar left to be serious". That is to say, I don't like the idea that everything is about the politics - one would hope that the point was right up there on the surface - we've always disliked Saddam's government, and, especially given the claim that this is about creating "liberation" in Iraq, we don't much like the idea of leaving essentially the same people in power minus only the target of the Bush Family Feud. Whatever this is about for Bush, it should surely be about more than that for the rest of us.

But that's just quibbling about phrasing. The real point is that if we want to make the world a better place, we're going to have to find ways to do it in spite of Bush, and if exploiting his own rhetoric will help us do that, well, then do it.

11:08 GMT: Permalink
Reading The Washington Past

DEMOCRACY: Be Careful What You Wish For:

There were two striking results in an opinion survey conducted earlier this month by Zogby International in six Arab countries -- Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon.

One was that a huge majority of people in those countries said that, if given the choice, they would like their Islamic clergy to play roles bigger than the subservient ones currently prescribed by most Arab governments.

Equally impressive, less than 6 percent of those polled believed that the United States was waging its campaign in Iraq to create a more democratic Arab or Muslim world. Close to 95 percent were convinced that the United States was after control of Arab oil and the subjugation of the Palestinians to Israel's will. The survey, commissioned by University of Maryland professor Shibley Telhami, also showed that overwhelming margins said that terrorism was going to increase, rather than decrease, as a result of the U.S.-led invasion.

President Bush has said that the invasion of Iraq, and the establishment of a new government there, would be a "catalyst" for change in the region. But what kind of change? Rather than leading to liberal, pro-Western democracy, as Bush suggests, the war in Iraq is likely to bring only more radical Islamic fundamentalism. After all, the Islamic fundamentalist parties, grouped under the big tent of the Muslim Brotherhood, are the only forces with the organization, capability and ambition to take power if democracy were to become an option in the Arab world.

William H. Gates Sr. and Chuck Collins:

Last week we saw something unprecedented in American history: a push for tax cuts targeted to the wealthy in a time of war. As U.S. jets prepared to bomb Baghdad, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) offered an amendment to the federal budget legislation accelerating the repeal of the estate tax. It is a provision that would benefit less than 2 percent of the wealthiest taxpayers. It passed by a narrow vote of 51 to 48.

There is something unseemly about Congress's obsession with repealing the estate tax, the nation's most equitable tax on accumulated wealth, at a time when life and death are at stake.

On the same subject, E. J. Dionne says there is No Excuse for Tax Cuts:

Do the leaders of Congress really want to make their branch of government look foolish?

The attention of Americans is focused on the war in Iraq -- the successes, the sacrifices, the capture of American fighting men and women, the march on Baghdad.

Congressional leaders should not exploit this moment to push narrow ideological agendas. Ramming through enormous tax cuts is not the best way to unite the country or -- the phrase is on the lips of every politician -- to show our support for the men and women in uniform. At a time of war, we should not feel we are witnessing a political Ponzi scheme.

10:22 GMT: Permalink
Paul Krugman on Channels of Influence, about how the big radio networks are behind the "patriotic" rallies:

There's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear, but a good guess is that we're now seeing the next stage in the evolution of a new American oligarchy. As Jonathan Chait has written in The New Republic, in the Bush administration "government and business have melded into one big `us.' " On almost every aspect of domestic policy, business interests rule: "Scores of midlevel appointees . . . now oversee industries for which they once worked." We should have realized that this is a two-way street: if politicians are busy doing favors for businesses that support them, why shouldn't we expect businesses to reciprocate by doing favors for those politicians — by, for example, organizing "grass roots" rallies on their behalf?

What makes it all possible, of course, is the absence of effective watchdogs. In the Clinton years the merest hint of impropriety quickly blew up into a huge scandal; these days, the scandalmongers are more likely to go after journalists who raise questions. Anyway, don't you know there's a war on?

00:32 GMT: Permalink
From Wampum:

As I suggested two weeks ago, the latest move by Senator Frist to push through legislation indemnifying Eli Lilly and other pharmaceutical campaign contributors might in all actuality be worse than the provision tacked onto the Homeland Security Legislation last fall, but removed in January, at the behest of my own Maine Senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. Well, it is in fact worse. Much worse.
There's no putting a stake through this thing's heart with Frist around. That means people are really gonna have to write to their reps if they want it to die. And you really should want it to die.

00:01 GMT: Permalink
CalPundit catches O'Reilly in another whopper - this time claiming that only male demonstrators were arrested at Monday's protests in Chicago. He also says fear sells. (He has a point. The success of Limbaugh is that he has promoted fear of liberals. The failure of liberals is that we were insufficiently alarmist about him.)

Tuesday, 25 March 2003

23:21 GMT: Permalink

Mark Evanier reviews his predictions and the ceremony for the Oscars. He also has an answer to why people who were present weren't aware of much opprobrium for Michael Moore's comments, whereas it was pretty loud on broadcast:

ONE MORE THOUGHT on the booing (or not) of Michael Moore's remarks. The prevailing thought throughout Hollywood today seems to be that the booing heard on the telecast was more from stagehands than Academy members. It's all a function of where the microphones are. The ones over the audience are pretty far away from them. If Jack Nicholson stood up and screamed in the middle of the ceremony, you probably wouldn't hear it too well at home -- perhaps not at all. But the stage crew, which tends more towards the conservative side, knows where the open mikes are. Some of them, knowing what Moore was likely to say, may even have moved into position to register disapproval. Apparently, a couple of them did give the filmmaker a pretty rough time backstage, as per Steve Martin's comments. This may explain why Moore, in backstage interviews, said he only heard about five people booing. They may not have been booing down front.
I happened to see a clip of the event after reading that, and from the camera shots you didn't see anyone in the audience booing - in fact, they all seemed to be smiling and clapping.

Elayne Riggs also did predictions, but hasn't reviewed them (yet), alas.

04:29 GMT: Permalink
Tim Grieve in Salon says, Shut your mouth:

As radio giants censor antiwar musicians, TV networks bully pro-peace actors, and Attorney General John Ashcroft prepares a new assault on civil liberties, a climate of intimidation creeps over America.

02:44 GMT: Permalink
Nick Kessler has a very fine post up about the dishonesty of the Republicans when it comes to judicial nominations:

Of course, once Clinton left office, Republicans somehow forgot their heartfelt belief that judicial vacancies were best left unfilled: "Helms, a Republican, spent eight years blocking nominations by President Bill Clinton to the court, arguing that adding more judges was a waste of taxpayer money. But suddenly Helms is not so defiant. 'It's his call,' Helms told The Observer, referring to President Bush's anticipated nominations of at least one conservative North Carolinian to the court."
And you really can't trust those Republican "moderates", either:

The administration got its latest upper-income tax cut thanks to votes from Congressional Republican "moderates."

02:00 GMT: Permalink
From HugoZoom:

Why aren't liberal bloggers talking about the war? Are they afraid of being wrong? For my part, I'd like to be wrong. Rumsfeld just announced that one soldier was killed in combat, in addition to the British and American soldiers killed in a helicopter accident. The Guardian said it was two, which may be an honest error. I'm willing, to an extent, to trust the administration on things like that, but I'm still suspicious that the net effect of Gulf War II will be a change from one Ba'ath dictatorship to another, more amenable one, that is just as brutal to its people, but has declared its chemical, biological, and nuclear programs dead. But what's to stop them from starting over after US forces, their new pals, leave? Let me make myself clear-- I'm not suggesting some kind of immutable flaw in the Arab character, but rather, that the Bush II administration is almost as afraid of a really democratic regime in Iraq as the Saudis are. As I said, I hope I'm wrong . Since this war is on, let's support our troops, as opposed to the administration that sent them there, and keep our eye on said administration.
I guess we're not talking as much about it as you'd like, Hugo, because we're actually hoping we are wrong. But there's been the fear all along that this war would just replace one tyrannical regime with another. (Among other things.) It seems the way to bet.

Monday, 24 March 2003

19:17 GMT: Permalink

You drive me crazy!

You're a very nice person, but your mail client is not so nice. Nice people send me e-mail all the time on their not-nice mail clients. (Outlook and Outlook Express definitely qualify as not-nice.) So please, please READ THIS and take it to heart. (And thanks to Erik V. Olsen for finding this page.)

14:14 GMT: Permalink
Orcinus has received an interesting response on his series on "Rush, Newspeak and Fascism" from a reader who is a Freemason:

This weekend I had an opportunity to hear John D. Keliher, who is the Grand Chaplain of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Washington. He was speaking on the topic of responding to professional haters (my term, not his). As someone who is familiar with conspiratorial literature and professional haters, you can imagine how hot this topic is among serious Masons. The conspiratorial community is divided as to whether the Masons are tools of the Jews (as stated in the first Protocol of the Elders of Zion) or vice versa.

In short form, his advice for confronting haters was: Don't; they thrive on attention, let them wither away in the darkness. He recounted the story of a brother who called him asking how best to respond to a professional hater who was making a well-supported presentation in his community. Keliher recommended not even attending the presentation. He continued: if you must attend the meeting, remain silent. If you must say something, don't confront him. If you must confront him, don't get personal. If you must get personal, keep my name out of it. Sadly, the brother ignored his advice at all levels.

The writer, John McKay, says some illuminating things about how conspiracy-mindedness affects his own little community, and then criticizes those who react against "haters". But, like me, Mr. Neiwert is not quite in agreement, there:

I think there's an obvious contradiction between my analysis and Keliher's, in that I obviously advocate standing up to the haters in our society and shining a spotlight on them. My own experience made very clear that simply ignoring them in the hope they'll wither on the vine is a good way to have your home overrun with vines.

On the other hand, I strongly agree with the thrust of his point, and it's one well worth exploring further.

The choice isn't merely between ignoring and responding; there are smart ways to respond, and there are dumb ways that make matters worse. James A. Aho, in his This Thing of Darkness: A Sociology of the Enemy, explores the way opposition to hate groups and assorted Patriot activities often contributes to extenuating the cycle of paranoia and violence that is their raison d'etre.

Hate groups are built around the demonization of some class or clan of people. Though the common caricature of most people drawn to such groups is of a loathsome scumball, in truth these people see themselves as heroic, which is hardly an uncommon thing in our society, as Aho puts it: "To use Becker's phraseology, human beings need to know themselves as heroes." The worldview of haters is such that the marginalization they receive at the hands of broader society is actually confirming evidence of the rightfulness of their beliefs.
Aho goes on to explore the way that heroes and their enemies have a symbiotic relationship. Each needs the other. And after awhile, each comes to resemble the other. They are locked in a Manichean struggle of "us vs. them" that seems never to cease, unless the cycle itself is broken.

There's more, and you should read it all. And then I want you to think about this: What is going on in society that makes people focus on a group (Jews, blacks, liberals, whoever) as their "enemy"?

I was tired last night when I posted the article below, or I might have written something about my quibbles with Dawkins' contention that, "Evil is a miscellaneous collection of nasty things that nasty people do."

I don't think this is true. I think, in fact, that all of us participate in evil, and that often we are at our most evil at precisely the moment we think we are most righteous. We may know that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing, but unless we are very careful the "something" we do in response has the potential to be an even greater evil. Witness, for example, the vigilante justice meted out by those who learn that a "sex offender" lives in their neighborhood and proceed to burn that person's house down - with a child inside of it. Those people think they are doing good.

This extreme of violence may seem obviously over the top to us, but don't we know that something like this can happen the moment we begin the process of relieving people of their rights, their privacy, in order to "protect just one child"? And how many people shrug off the false accusations that wreck the lives - and families - of the unjustly accused in the name of protecting "just one child"?

I stand close the roots of this mushrooming evil, back in the '70s when all we were asking for was an acknowledgment that child sexual abuse is something that really happens and that when young people complain of abuse it would be wise not to assume - as was routinely done in those days - that it was all a fantasy and did not really happen. Understand: The issue was not simply the abuse itself, but the fact that well-remembered experiences were being denied to people who recounted these situations in their lives. "You didn't see it, you didn't hear it...." It was not just the primary abusers saying that it didn't happen; it was the standard assumption of the entire psychological and medical community, thanks to Dr. Freud. None of us imagined that within 20 years it would become just as standard to hear people insisting that all sex involving anyone under the age of 18 was "abuse", and that by now we would be denying that a minor could willingly agree to sex and enjoy it and not be "abused". (Nor did we imagine that children would be led to make false charges by well-meaning social workers who would then maintain - against all evidence - that kids never utter falsehoods!) Now psychologists are just as insistent that a minor should rue every sexual event as they were decades ago that abuse never happened at all. This significant problem - the denial of experience and the imposition of guilt - is perhaps even more of a problem than it was back then. Both versions constitute emotional abuse, the one a denial of remembered experience, the other a denial (and stigmatization) of natural sexual feeling. The modern version, however, affects far more young people and is much more likely to escalate into violence and murder by people who think they are doing good.

This does not, of course, mean we should do nothing about child abuse, but we seem to have embarked on a course that creates tremendous tragedy and does little if anything to prevent actual abuse of children. Because we were not careful.

We do large and small things, well-intentioned or merely petty indulgences, that help to create evil. Among them is the way middle-class people talk about "rednecks" - people we perceive as stupid, illiterate, slobs whose idea of a cultural event is to go out shooting things, swill beer, eat burgers, smoke cigarettes, and read Hustler. It infests our language in a thousands ways - a thousand ways that we make perfectly ordinary heterosexual attractions sound like perversion, natural impulses to make yourself feel good seem like some kind of attack on society or even the whole planet.

Consider the supposedly-good movements of the last 30 years that have explicitly attacked things that were long associated with the (largely white) lower economic classes: cheap mainstream porn, cigarettes, beer, guns. Nothing exemplifies nastiness like the word "McDonald's". We all know that a taste for big boobs is tacky (as are the women who sport them, who are also regarded as not too bright - as "bimbos"). Lager beer and tobacco are, of course, well-known lower-class drugs of choice. Low-income rural whites really do go out hunting and eat what they shoot, something that's relatively alien to most of the suburban middle-class. (And then, of course, there's country music....)

In middle-class language, the poverty of blacks is worth bemoaning and not their fault, but poor white guys are just redneck losers. It's not that no one in the middle-class cares about white single mothers, poor white families, or even guys who get their hands dirty in tobacco farming - it's just that we don't seem to think about them much. (Trust me, the guys who run RJR won't suffer if tobacco sales are finally banned, but a lot of low-income jobs are going to disappear when cigarettes can no longer be sold legally.)

You can only treat people with contempt for so long before they start to hate you, and this kind of thing has kept those poor white guys simmering for decades. It may seem bizarre that they hate "liberals" even more than they hate the rich guys who have kept them poor, but at least the rich guys had been happy to sell them beer, burgers, and butts. It is perhaps instructive that Hillary Clinton was burned in effigy in California after she banned smoking at the White House.

Sure, low-income white folk have bigger issues to worry about than beer, butts, and boobs, but so do we, and the fact that we've allowed those issues to take on such magnitude is what gave the likes of Rush Limbaugh the opening he needed to stir up all that resentment. Combined with marginal economic circumstances and residual racism, not to mention the confusion of changing sexual mores, that's a powerful lot of anger to work with.

These are people who should have been on our side of the class war, but instead we allowed our own little class war to get made on them, and they don't like it. So, see, our own thoughtless little evils have their own rewards.

01:14 GMT: Permalink
For Richard Dawkins, it's Bin Laden's victory:

Osama bin Laden, in his wildest dreams, could hardly have hoped for this. A mere 18 months after he boosted the US to a peak of worldwide sympathy unprecedented since Pearl Harbor, that international goodwill has been squandered to near zero. Bin Laden must be beside himself with glee. And the infidels are now walking right into the Iraq trap.
The claim that this war is about weapons of mass destruction is either dishonest or betrays a lack of foresight verging on negligence. If war is so vitally necessary now, was it not at least worth mentioning in the election campaigns of 2000 and 2001? Why didn't Bush and Blair mention the war to their respective electorates? The only major leader who has an electoral mandate for his war policy is Gerhard Schröder - and he is against it. Why did Bush, with Blair trotting faithfully to heel, suddenly start threatening to invade Iraq when he did, and not before? The answer is embarrassingly simple, and they don't even seem ashamed of it. Illogical, even childish, though it is, everything changed on September 11 2001.

Whatever anyone may say about weapons of mass destruction, or about Saddam's savage brutality to his own people, the reason Bush can now get away with his war is that a sufficient number of Americans, including, apparently, Bush himself, see it as revenge for 9/11. This is worse than bizarre. It is pure racism and/or religious prejudice. Nobody has made even a faintly plausible case that Iraq had anything to do with the atrocity. It was Arabs that hit the World Trade Centre, right? So let's go and kick Arab ass. Those 9/11 terrorists were Muslims, right? And Eye-raqis are Muslims, right? That does it. We're gonna go in there and show them some hardware. Shock and awe? You bet.

Dawkins suggests that something is wrong with the US Constitution because, well, look how Gore won the election but lost the presidency. I don't think Dawkins understands that it's stretching things rather a lot to pretend that the Supreme Court's intervention in the Florida election was Constitutional. In fact, the US Constitution clearly reserves the method of choosing electors to the individual states according to their own laws, and Florida's laws explicitly required that the overvoted ballots be hand-counted. The real problem is not that the Constitution allows debacles such as what happened when the Felonious Five stuck their nose in and invented an absolute deadline that was spurious, but rather that there is no form of law that can protect you once you allow your government's institutions - like, for example, the courts - to be hijacked by thugs. By failing to resist the appointments of people like Thomas and Scalia, we permitted that to happen years ago.

I forget who it was who said that no law can protect liberty if the people do not treasure it, and that no law is necessary to protect liberty when the people do treasure it (or something like that, sometimes attributed to Brandeis but I don't think it was him), but it certainly applies here; if we had cared enough to protect our Constitution when these people were nominated, they would not have been there to subvert it in 2000.

00:29 GMT: Permalink
Jesse Taylor says: "Shock and Awe? Well, it's the LeMay strategy from every war since WWII (he was the one who coined the phrase "bomb 'em back into the Stone Age"). It's the way that the Air Force wants to fight a war - you bomb until you're done. And then you bomb some more just to show that you can."

From Body and Soul:

There isn't a lot of shame in this administration. A great deal that is shameful, but no capacity to be ashamed. They'd like us to believe that the rules and constraints we think exist aren't really there at all. The Constitution is a pretty, but fragile little tchotchke -- something you might need to put out of sight until things calm down. International law does not exist unless a great power wants to invoke it. Moral standards apply to things like sex and drugs, not war and peace, not compassion. There are no standards, there is only power and expediency (but just for the hell of it, we'll call that morality). A person who believes that whatever he does is good, simply by virtue of the fact that he is the one doing it, is not shameable. He's made himself into a little god, and a god is never embarrassed.

00:06 GMT: Permalink
Sam Heldman says a few words about Scalia's strict textual interpretations of the Constitution.

A bunch of pix of Tahiti

Sunday, 23 March 2003

16:14 GMT: Permalink

Scooby Davis says it's a Must Read, and he's right:

"Stonerwitch on the spiritual warfare meme and how George W. Bush contributed to the spread of this meme which views the world as a battle between God's people (born again Christians) and the devil (everyone else). Some people like me view Bush's Christian piety as a sham to play to the sectarian right. But in practical terms, this is irrelevant. The damage is being done. I had hoped that Bush would have retreated from his sectarian rhetoric when he put his foot in his mouth--referring to the fight against terrorists as a "crusade." No such luck; this meme has escalated--a particularly noxious example has been Rush Limbaugh's portrayal of Tom Daschle as the devil. Let us pray."
Definitely do read it, it's scary as hell.

And while I was at Stonerwitch, I also found disorganized musings: the media, the next generation, racism, liberalism. It's an interesting insight into how today's college students view "the liberal media". I think I may add a comment, though, in response to what she says about the paucity of "new" liberal ideas.

14:00 GMT: Permalink
Another reason the British might not want to fight alongside America: seems they lose more of their troops to the US than to the enemy. RAF aircraft 'shot down by US Patriot missile, says the Guardian.

Government Secrets: "Making it easier for government agencies to keep documents secret, the Bush administration plans to revoke an order issued by President Bill Clinton that among other provisions said information should not be classified if there was "significant doubt" as to whether its release would damage national security." Not much of a surprise, but still.... Via Altercation, in which Eric also reveals that he has "dual loyalties". (In that sense, so do I, and I'm not even Jewish. But, of course, believing in the survival of the state of Israel doesn't translate into loyalty to the beliefs of Perle and Wolfowitz.) Eric also recommends this Michael Kinsley piece on Bush's abrogation of Congressional powers and this Eric Boehlert interview with John Brady Kiesling.

The Daily Kos says Dean is now tied with Kerry for top of the polls. There's also some very useful invasion commentary you should take a good look at.

Last week, William Rivers Pitt wrote: "An associate of mine, a former political appointee, recently spoke to a Republican friend of his who serves in a senior position in what has become the Office of Homeland Security. He reports that this official, along with many of his colleagues across the political spectrum within the apparatus of government, are absolutely terrified of George W. Bush. According to this official, the consensus is that Bush has completely lost touch with reality, and is bringing us to a place where politics will no longer matter."

Outrageous times for talk radio by Ellen Goodman, and A Double Standard On Dissent by E.J. Dionne, both via Summary Opinions.

Joe Conason finds another right-winger at The Washington Times saying what liberals aren't allowed to say: "Will Bush be impeached? Will he be called a war criminal? These are not hyperbolic questions. Mr. Bush has permitted a small cadre of neoconservatives to isolate him from world opinion, putting him at odds with the United Nations and America's allies." - Paul Craig Roberts.

Rittenhouse Review reports on the ANWR Drilling vote with one more reason to support Copozzola for Senate in 2004.

07:55 GMT: Permalink

Audio Stream: Episode #30 of the Joey Joe Joe Show (Wargasm!) is now ON THE AIR! "The global community was our last, best hope for peace. It failed."

Some posters (Thanks to Robert Lichtman for the tip.)

Saturday, 22 March 2003

13:24 GMT: Permalink

"A nation aware of its weaknesses may be said to have no weaknesses - for it will avoid showing the need to display them."

A preview of a Sean Gabb article from the upcoming issue of the libertarian Free Life Magazine:

Whatever the more nihilistic historians may claim, history does reveal certain regularities in our behaviour. One of these is that, whenever large numbers of intelligent people agree that it can only get better, the world takes a turn decidedly for the worse. The poets of the Augustan age saw that the present was better than the past, and thought the good times would continue. Instead, the Roman world got Tiberius, Caligula, Nero and Domitian. When Constantine became a Christian, Eusebius insisted this would herald an age of peace and justice. Within a century, Augustine was having to write at immense length to show how this had only apparently not happened. The Enlightenment is famous for its optimism, and we all know it ended with the Terror and a quarter century of bloodletting across Europe. The Victorian belief in progress was knocked on the head at the Somme and Passchendael, and quietly expired in the extermination camps and the Gulag.

Then, after 1945, the unexpected happened. During the central decades of the last century, good writers competed to chill our blood with their predictions for the future. We were promised Brave New World, Nineteen Eighty Four, and Fahrenheit 451. What in fact we got was penicillin, birth control pills and the Internet, all of which have greatly - even if in the case of the latter two ambiguously - contributed much to the jollity of life. For much of Europe, and all those areas of the world settled by the European races, we have now had almost 60 years of spectacular progress. And if we like occasionally to frighten ourselves that this will be ended by AIDS, or global warming, or nuclear winters, or asteroid impacts, or whatever, hardly anyone seriously believes it ever will end.

Time, therefore, to start worrying - that is, if history does indeed teach anything.

12:40 GMT: Permalink
Digby at Hullabaloo says: "This is why they are called media whores folks. Blitzer is in Kuwait City. He was responding to the same pictures that we all saw this morning. He didn't see anything we didn't see. But, like a good soldier he reported it as if he were live on the scene at Armageddon."

Wow, I didn't notice that Al Gore has another new gig. Greg Greene notices that everyone tells the story the same way - based on that old favorite about how Al invented the Internet. Of course, as we all know, Al never said he did. But he kinda did invent the Internet, you know.

From Public Nuisance: "Instapundit has yet more proof of sweeping liberal bias in the media. It seems that a reporter at a Texas newspaper sent a nasty e-mail to a group called Young Conservatives of Texas - and was fired the same day. I suppose by the wacky logic of Conservoland this makes a certain sort of sense - in spite of the fact that expressing conservative opinions probably gets you a TV pundit gig at least and expressing liberal opinions gets you fired, some journalists are still daring to express liberal opinions. Although at least one fewer than a few days ago."

Jim Henley mailed me a Red Meat Alert about this from Joseph Stromberg at "One of the much-ballyhooed reasons for voting for any swine that appears on the Republican ticket is that at least a Republican will appoint decent federal judges. This is better than nothing, you know, and you really owe your soul to a party that gives you anything more than nothing. On the historical record, this argument cannot stand much empirical testing."

Lisa English says it ain't just in America that the media concentration thing is wrecking the airwaves.

Natasha writes to Bush: "I would like to express my sincere appreciation for your actions since taking office. During the 2000 election cycle, it was difficult for me to convince some of my acquaintances that you were indeed a frighteningly unbalanced, proto-fascist theocrat with a boundless contempt for women, the environment, and all individuals making less than $400,000 per year. To my shameful delight, I have not had to endure a single "I told you so" since your ascendency to office." And while you're there, be sure to read this.

This week's cartoon from Ampersand: With God on Their Side.

Updated We Stand, with Mark Fiore's Blusterizer.

Which infamous criminal are you? (via Epicyle, which also links to a bizarre story about Tony Blair, and where you can find out how to be a gun-nut in England!)

11:08 GMT: Permalink
Atrios posted this at the New York Press Billboard:

Radio Ga Ga

Clear Channel Worldwide Inc., the nation's largest owner of radio stations (over 1200 stations in all 50 states and DC), sponsored the numerous "patriotic rallies" which were held in various cities around the country. They organized, advertised, provided speakers and entertainment for them, and even handed out numerous American flags to participants.

While Clear Channel promoted these as patriotic rallies, the attendees obviously felt otherwise. In addition to waving their provided flags, they also held signs condemning their fellow Americans - liberals, Hollywood, the Dixie Chicks. They were not so much patriotic rallies as pro-war rallies, and not so much pro-war rallies as rallies against anyone who opposes the Bush administration's policies.

There are close ties between the company and President Bush. The Vice Chair of the company is Tom Hicks, a member of the Bush Pioneer club for elite (and generous) donors. The relationship between Bush and Hicks goes back even further, however. The two were embroiled in scandal when Hicks, as University of Texas Regent, was responsible for granting endowment management contracts of the newly created (under legislation signed by Bush) UT Investment Management Co. (UTIMCO). The contracts were given to firms politically connected to both Hicks and Bush, including the Carlyle Group - a firm which has the first President Bush on the payroll and had the second one on the payroll until just weeks before receiving this lucrative business. The board of UTIMCO also included the Chair of Clear Channel, L. Lowry Mays. In addition, Hicks purchased the Texas Rangers from George Bush, making him a wealthy man through a deal that was partially sweetened by a shiny new taxpayer financed stadium, which included valuable land obtained at below market rates through the use of eminent domain.

Whether or not the close ties between the radio behemoth Clear Channel and the president have anything to do with their rallying support for his policies is unclear. If it were a small company it would not much matter. But Clear Channel is a media giant, dominating the radio and promotion industries. The potential for the alignment of big media and the government should concern us all, especially as FCC Chair Michael Powell continues to push to reduce the barriers to even further media consolidation.

I can't help the feeling that if liberals were buying up all the radio stations, Michael Powell wouldn't be so enthusiastic about it.

Friday, 21 March 2003

13:55 GMT: Permalink

Operation Deserter Storm

The Agonist has been keeping track of the news of the invasion. Is anyone else disturbed by this?

5:50 CST CNN Has just announced that the President will be going to Camp David for the weekend.
Just wondering....

Elsewhere: Sen. Robert Byrd: 'Today I Weep for My Country': "No more is the image of America one of strong, yet benevolent peacekeeper. ... Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is disputed, our intentions are questioned."

And Charles Dodgson had technical difficulties: "I got sick of what was on the local NPR news station, people talking about the war as if it was a football game. So, I switched to all-sports talk radio for a change of pace. They were broadcasting the audio from CNN."

12:48 GMT: Permalink
Geekery, please?

Since I probably won't be able to use the computer on my desk comfortably during my recovery from the impending surgery, I've been setting up my emergency Blogspot site (argh! - yes, I know!) for use on the nice laptop that Dr. Plokta has kindly loaned me (in disgust at the inadequacies of my own laptop, which he deemed insufficient for the purpose). But I really haven't a clue about how to customize the Blogger page (thanks, however, to Patrick for fixing the color scheme to my liking), and I'm at a loss as to how to do anything about things like the blogroll or anything else I'd like on the sidebar(s). I was even having vague thoughts of enabling comments, but I don't know how to do that, either. Yeah, I know there's a Help section, but my right eye is so annoying now that I couldn't even tell that those were brackets rather than parentheses...if you see what I mean. Anyway, advice from more experienced Blogspot inmates would be much appreciated.

00:45 GMT: Permalink
Like Ted Barlow, I'm not ready to say much about the war just now. (And, like pretty much everyone, I guess, I just hope it's over fast without more than the absolute minimum of carnage.)

However, after reading his page today, I feel a sudden urge to hear some Dixie Chicks (even though I normally can't stand anything that's more country than The Amazing Rhythm Aces, and I've never heard the Dixie Chicks at all), and eat a steak. (I did have a McFishburger last night, but that was an accident forged of desperation. I admit to enjoying it, though. More deliberately, I had smoked mackerel for breakfast. I actually eat a lot of fish, but nothing really makes the point like eating a steak).

[Update: I actually wrote this post before I went out yesterday, but then forgot and posted it after I got back. I had the steak - filet with a cream and brandy sauce with green peppercorns. It was delicious.]

One serious item worth checking out, which Ted quotes from an article in Newsweek:

The last point is perhaps the most crucial one. Being pro-American should not be a political liability for our allies.
Hell, yeah. But that's just the hot-seat Bush has placed them in - especially in Turkey and Pakistan, where we could end up exactly where we don't want to be with them. If there's a worst-case scenario, Bush will court it, and probably achieve it. Watch out for that.

Elsewhere in Blogtopia (Yes! Skippy invented that word!), Gary Farber discovers cute microrobots.

Thursday, 20 March 2003

15:00 GMT: Permalink

A Most Dangerous Man

From Eric Alterman's What Liberal Media? (p.74):

Listening to Limbaugh, the idea that he enjoys genuine power in the political life of the nation leaves you shaking your head in awe and amazement. But it is impossible to ignore. Limbaugh's radio audience is the largest any program on the medium has enjoyed since the advent of television. President George H. W. Bush invited him for a White House sleepover, as well as to be his honored guest at his State of the Union address, seated next to Barbara Bush, in a demonstration of fealty and respect. Shortly thereafter, in 1993, National Review termed him "the leader of the opposition." William Bennett averred that Limbaugh "may be the most consequential person in political life at the moment." When the Republicans took the House back in 1994 in a profound and humiliating rebuke to President Clinton, Limbaugh's broadcast received a lion's share of the credit. Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz even defended nonsense like the above as "policy oriented." As Newt Gingrich's former press secretary Tony Blakley noted,

After Newt, Rush was the single most important person in securing a Republican majority in the House of Representatives after 40 years of Democratic Party rule. Rush's powerful voice was the indispensable factor, not only in winning in 1994, but in holding the House for the next three election cycles. At a time when almost the entire establishment media ignored or distorted our message of renewal, Rush carried (and often improved) the message to the heartland. And where Rush led, the other voices of talk radio followed.
Alterman also notes that many people feel - probably correctly - that Limbaugh was a vital factor in securing the Republican nomination for Bush:

The influence cannot be said to have diminished markedly during the past decade, even after Limbaugh lost his most-favored targets when the Clintons left the White House. Much to his chagrin as a McCain supporter, William Kristol credits Limbaugh with rallying conservatives behind Bush during the 2000 presidential primaries. "He helped make it the orthodox conservative position that McCain was utterly unacceptable and also that Bush was fine, neither of which were intuitively obvious if you're a conservative," Kristol said. McCain's South Carolina political adviser, Richard M. Quinn, concurred, adding that the Arizona senator never recovered, in his opinion, from Limbaugh's repeated descriptions of the conservative Republican as a "liberal" in an extremely conservative state. "I never polled on the impact of Limbaugh," Quinn told the New York Times. "But anecdotally, I heard it all the time. You would hear on the street repetition of what RUsh was saying about McCain. There was a general sense in the campaign that Limbaugh was definitely hurting us."
But think about that, for a minute. The idea that McCain, a staunch conservative, is a "liberal" did not remain confined within the discourse of Rush-listening conservatives, but eventually, post-2000, became a topic of debate in such publications as The New Republic and The American Prospect. The absurdity of such a canard should have been obvious to anyone outside the far right, and yet it was seriously entertained by people who were Clinton Democrats and Gore supporters. But McCain is a "liberal" only in a context in which "liberal" is defined as "not actively wearing a sheet and burning a cross on your lawn."

As someone who was not listening to AM radio in the United States (or anywhere else) during the presidential campaign, I was unaware that this nonsense had first been heard on Limbaugh's show. It would be interesting to know whether there is any relationship between this early claim and the later currency it began to hold in the So-Called Liberal Media (SCLM), and if so, what path it took to get there.

Meanwhile, it is instructive to note that Limbaugh's power to affect the public discourse was so huge for such a long time - and recognized as such by right-wingers who at the same time were still pretending that conservatives had no impact on "the liberal media".

You do want to read this book, by the way, especially if you have any doubts at all about the rightward tilt of the media, but even if you don't. For all that it could have used at least one more proof-reader, this book is still everything that Coulter's Slander and Goldberg's Bias purport to be but are not: well-documented, honest, intelligent, and proof of a genuine media bias that infects the mainstream, composed of rabid distortions and out-and-out slanders - but of Democrats and the left.

This is the joke, for me: The right-wingers produce lists of award-winning "liberal media bias" all the time, and when you look at them virtually everything on them falls into one of four categories - stuff the right-wing spin machine made up, stuff that was said either by someone who isn't really on the left or a Democrat, stuff that was said by someone entirely marginal, or stuff that only a lunatic would find particularly reprehensible. Even the worst of it can't come close to the kinds of things that come out of the much more high-profile characters who dominate the right-wing media, or out of the Republican leadership or other elected Republicans. Cynthia McKinney herself has never sunk as low as the modern Republican version of a Supreme Court Justice, let alone Jim Inhofe. But Rush Limbaugh is out there for hours every day telling the whole country that Tom Daschle is bin Laden, Saddam, and Satan himself all rolled into one. Ann Coulter is on television all over the country, a woman who bemoaned the fact that Tim McVeigh didn't blow up The New York Times. Phil Donahue, the sole left-of-center media personality to have his own talk show on MSNBC, was fired - largely for being a liberal, despite the fact that his was their highest-rated show - and now they've added to their roster Michael Savage, someone so over-the-top hatefully right-wing that even the Freepers are complaining that he makes them look bad. And let's not forget Gordon "Headshot" Liddy....

And yet they vilify us for "name-calling" and other High Crimes of a similar type. To add insult to injury, "reasonable" commentators seem to have far more opprobrium to heap on liberals who occasionally get some small detail wrong or fool around with Howard Kurtz's (or Fineman's) name by calling him "Howie" or such other mild infractions of High Journalistic Standards, even if it's just on a weblog.

The other joke, of course, is that Rush Limbaugh still thinks he can get himself off the hook by dismissing all criticism with the claim that he is "just" an entertainer. For years he has been more influential on politics than almost anyone who is actually in politics, and there are still people who think they can ignore the horrific impact this man has on the public discourse because, after all, the guy is just a whack-job blow-hard. Well, he is, but he's oh, so much more than that.

12:02 GMT: Permalink
One hardly knows what to say about this:

CLEVELAND (AP) - Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia banned broadcast media from an appearance Wednesday where he will receive an award for supporting free speech.

The City Club usually tapes speakers for later broadcast on public television, but Scalia insisted on banning television and radio coverage, the club said. Scalia is being given the organization's Citadel of Free Speech Award.

"I might wish it were otherwise, but that was one of the criteria that he had for acceptance," said James Foster, the club's executive director.

11:41 GMT: Permalink
Alan Bostick discovers that he is the bogeyman:

National Review Warns of the Looming Specter of Polyamory

Elf Sternberg calls attention to this column by Stanley Kurtz in National Review Online:

Almost unnoticed, a court case of immense cultural importance has been filed in Canada. The case, which asks that full legal recognition be granted to three parents of a single child, gives the clearest indication yet of the real impact that gay marriage will have on the American family.

A lesbian couple from London, Ontario has asked a Canadian court to simultaneously recognize the two of them (the biological mother and her partner), as well as the biological father, as legal parents of a young boy. Rather than turn to an anonymous sperm donor, the women in question asked a friend to father their child. The father does not live with the couple and child, but is nonetheless treated as a member of the household. ...

[T]he biggest danger here is that legalized triple parenthood opens the way to legalized polygamy or polyamory (sexually based group marriage). Although in this particular instance, the relationship does not appear to be sexual (except for the initial conception), once a legal precedent for multiple parenthood has been set, it will be impossible to deny recognition to sexually bonded groups (whether heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, or a mixture of these). And just as gay adoption has set a legal precedent for gay marriage, so will group parenthood pave the way to group marriage.

Yet ... group marriage is inherently unstable in a Western cultural context. So legalized polyamory means still another radical increase in the difficulties of children. And polyamorists (not to mention polygamists) are already organized and ready to take advantage of any opening in the law. (Just try running a Google search on "polyamory.")

Once we cross the border into legalized multiple parenthood, we have virtually arrived at the abolition of marriage and the family. The logic of gay marriage leads inexorably to the end of marriage, and the creation in its place of an infinitely flexible series of contracts. Monogamous marriage cannot function if it is just one of many social arrangement. Marriage as an institution depends for its successful functioning upon the support and encouragement that the ethos of monogamy receives from society as a whole. If anything can be called a marriage — including group marriage — then the ethos of monogamy that keeps families together will have been broken, and the social reinforcement that is the essence of marriage itself will be gone. Again, it is children who will pay the price.

Apparently, heterosexual monogamous marriage is so unattractive, unappealing, and unpleasant that only the absence of an alternative makes it viable at all! One wonders if Kurtz has ever actually been married.

According to Kurtz, what holds families together is the "ethos of monogamy."

Makes you feel sorry for social conservatives, who apparently chafe under the burdens of family because, well, It's the Law, or God Said So. Their arguments against homosexuality and gay marriage usually take this form, as if it is unthinkable that they would actually want to be with members of a sex other than their own if law and custom didn't foreclose the alternative. They claim that gay marriage would destroy straight marriage, which apparently only works because it's a privilege gays don't share. Their lives would seem to be constructed entirely in the negative, lacking the bonds of love, caring, personal commitment and companionship, forced into the mold of heterosexual monogamy only because it's all that's available. (Does this mean I'm a liberal because my father loved his wife and kids and I get to be with the people I love, too?)

It's hard to escape the feeling that there are a lot more closet cases out there than anyone wants to acknowledge.

00:29 GMT: Permalink
You might have seen a few of the WWII posters Micah Ian Wright has re-captioned. Here's an article (with illustrations) about why he did them.

In a nutshell, Wright takes old advertisements and war propaganda posters from the '40s through the '60s, Photoshops out the slogans and jingo, and puts in his own. Depending on your point of view of the current administration and war, combined with the images, Wright's slogans range the gamut from being very funny to, as some have suggested, treasonous. Suffice it to say, if you are a strong supporter of the current President and his war, you may want to stop reading now.

This means you, Mr. Ashcroft.

The entire project started as a lark for Wright, who first saw a propaganda poster created by the National Security Administration. "The NSA poster used a lot of World War 2 imagery and it infuriated me that they were trying to make us think that this ethereal War on Terror was like WW2 again," Wright said. "They wanted to appeal to that anti-Nazi sentiment but without justifying it with their actions.

"So yeah, it started as a lark but grew pretty serious after about the fourth one. It just provided me an outlet for that intense anger I was feeling both about the attacks on NYC and The Pentagon -and- this Administration's weird and counter-intuitive over-reaction to it by declaring war on the Bill of Rights."

Wednesday, 19 March 2003

12:28 GMT: Permalink

MWO is packed with great stuff (as usual), and has a link to video of Robin Cook:

At location 8:45...

"Nor is our credibility helped by the appearance that our partners in Washington are less interested in disarmament than in regime change in Iraq. And that explains why any evidence that inspections may be showing progress is greeted in Washington not with satisfaction but with consternation because it reduces the case for war.

"What has come to trouble me most over past weeks is the suspicion that if the hanging chads in Florida had gone the other way, and Al Gore had been elected, we would not now be about to commit British troops."

What troubles decent Americans even more than that accurate observation is the irrefutable evidence that they did go the other way.
Below that is a letter from a reader:

I was just watching Robin Cook speaking to the British House of Commons regarding his resignation over Iraq. He had just said that Iraq wouldn't be the issue it is today if it weren't for the disputed Florida vote count. All of a sudden, a FOX color test pattern appears and someone says that there has been a "technical problem." [William Walker]
But most of the page reads George's lips and finds him lying his tail off (no surprises there). Their ironic review of Bush' speech is well worth a read:

Although it's true he's told us "we're at war" since 9/11 in order to gain support for any and all items on his radical right-wing theocratic agenda, we're more "at war" now.

Besides, don't his critics understand that this man of deep faith is only trying to protect us? (As the media have told us repeatedly, there is strong evidence of his deep faith - namely that he stopped coming home drunk at the youthful age of 40, when his children were just three years old.)

George W. Bush stole the election from the American voters only to protect us.

He exploited 9/11 to justify every agenda item rejected by the American people in the election he stole, only to protect us.

In the wake of mass murder of Americans by fundamentalist fanatics, he gave up our civil liberties to fundamentalist fanatic John Ashcroft, only to protect us.

He has alienated the rest of the world thereby creating countless new terrorists and havens for terrorists. But only to protect us.

It's all for our own good. Anyone who doubts it should listen to the national mainstream media, our guardians of democracy. Even the New York Times said George W. Bush "grew" as a result of bombing the fierce and formidable Afghanistan and reading a speech.

Criticism of our all grown-up, gravitas-laden, firefighter-anointed President leads to chaos.

And we mustn't create chaos in the world.

MWO gives the full Daschle quote on Bush's failure of diplomacy and takes a look at the Republican response. A statement by Howard Dean (pointing out that America is not Iraq) is also linked on the page.

11:06 GMT: Permalink
Rittenhouse Review reports that George W. Bush has a furrowed brow!

Sean Gonsalves at Alternet defends liberal celebrities who make political statements with Eleven Reasons to Give Actors a Break.

Gary Farber says playing with time is "Neato-keano" - but I suspect it would drag on my dial-up connection. I made some other people test-drive it for me and they said it was cool.

Tuesday, 18 March 2003

23:52 GMT: Permalink

Owen Boswarva, without whom I would be lost, points out that the link I gave previously for Robin Cook's resignation speech was actually to a summary. Here is the actual speech, from Hansard.

23:31 GMT: Permalink
He loved baseball and Julie Andrews

This was all it said in the Hagerstown Herald-Mail:

Harry B. Warner Jr., 80, of 423 Summit Ave., Hagerstown, died Monday, Feb. 17, 2003, at his home.

Graveside services will be Friday at 10 a.m. at Rose Hill Cemetery, Hagerstown. The Rev. David B. Kaplan will officiate.

Arrangements are by Andrew K. Coffman Funeral Home, Hagerstown.

In 1986, Gary Farber wrote:

I jerked myself upright from my reclined position in the chair, and said "Harry Warner, Jr., need never die!" Carl and John looked at me oddly, which is what people usually do when I say things like that. "No, really," I went on. "You know how Harry has been announcing his probable imminent departure from this vale of reality since about 1936. And we all love Harry, but it has been a running joke for years about how as soon as anyone announces thqt they've just contracted Tanganyikan Flowering Rat Disease, Harry will respond by saying he thinks he might have that too. This is the man who avoids taking half an aspirin so he won't get high."
We'd almost gotten used to the idea that he would live forever.

Harry Warner, Jr., author of A Wealth of Fable and All Our Yesterdays, was world famous in our circles - but not in Hagerstown.

13:23 GMT: Permalink
Bill Scher has done his weekly round-up of the Sunday talk shows at Liberal Oasis, noting that the airwaves were dominated by war promotion (and taking Bush's latest move apart). And notes another problem:

After a few weeks where war critics were getting decent Sunday face time, Cheney and Powell hogged the airwaves and silenced criticism.

Notably, MTP's Tim Russert reverted to deferential whore mode, just one week after giving Powell relatively rough treatment.

Not only were there scores of questions Russert could have asked, Cheney actively created opportunities for tough follow-ups, and Russert missed every one.

LO will forgo a list, but one thing stands out.

Cheney continually stressed how "everything changed on 9/11."

But as LiberalOasis has noted, as well as ABC's Nightline, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz are closely linked to an organization that was pushing for Saddam's removal years ago.

Cheney's argument begged for follow-ups that probed for underlying motives.

Yet over and over, Russert simply gave Cheney a platform for propaganda and then got out of his way.

Bartcop went after the same subject in his own way:

Russert: If your analysis is not correct, and we're not treated as liberators, but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?

Cheney: Well, I don't think it's likely to unfold that way, Tim.

Russert: That's good enough for me - no need for a follow up, there.


Russert: Brent Scowcroft, a man you know well, national security adviser to Bush 41, when you were secretary of defense, talked to the National Journal and said this, "...arrogance, black eye. Eighty-five percent of Spain, 86 percent of Germans, 91 percent of Russians, all against this war. What happened? How did we lose a PR battle against Saddam Hussein in the world, and why would Brent Scowcroft say those kinds of things?

Cheney: I have great affection for Brent. We've been friends for a long time. He is occasionally wrong, and this is one of those occasions.

Russert: That's good enough for me - no need for a follow up, there.


Russert: There is a perception, if you read papers around the world, the president is a cowboy, he wants to go it alone, that he and you are perceived as ...stumbling, that if you mention the president's name, "It's like a blast furnace. He just wants to lead the world into war.' How did we get to this point? And is the competence of the foreign policy of the Bush administration being seriously questioned?

Cheney: ...the notion that the president is a cowboy—I don't know, is a Westerner, I think that's not necessarily a bad idea. I think the fact of the matter is he cuts to the chase. He is very direct and I find that very refreshing.

Russert: That's good enough for me - no need for a follow up, there.

Among others. And this as well.

12:40 GMT: Permalink
Jerelyn is back, and has posted at Talk Left about thousands of flawed FBI cases that the current head of the crime lab apparently thinks are no big deal.

I really wish Bill Altreuter would get some permalinks at Outside Counsel, but alas, you'll have to scroll for this: "Wouldn't it be interesting to see real numbers, real economic analysis, on the question of whether the tort system is damaging the economy? Wouldn't you be interested to know what the percentages are, the ratio of premiums to gross revenues as a component of overhead; the relationship between verdicts, reserves and premiums? Wouldn't you like to know if the number of medical malpractice or product liability filings has increased, decreased, or remained the same over the last ten or twenty years? And what the real damages awarded in those cases has been? And the number of those cases that have been successfully defended? Don't you think that those would be some of the things that would be good to know if you were discussing tort reform? Almost everything I know about the way the system works at present is anecdotal, and that is the basis upon which this debate is being conducted. This is not the way to go about having a discussion this important."

Josh Marshall says that even The Washington Post seems to be backing away from virulent support of the war, recommending a slow-down in order to try to get some more support. Not that we can expect much diplomacy from the administration. Later, Marshall recommends an article: "Still another TPM Must-Read. In Slate, Paul Glastris comes up with a dynamite comparison which illustrates one dimension of the administration's bungled diplomacy. Turkey's position vis-a-vis the Iraq war is quite similar to Greece's vis-a-vis the Kosovo war. How Clinton made the basket; how Bush fumbled the ball. Secret hint: it has to do with not *#$%&@# on your alliances."

03:59 GMT: Permalink
Robin Cook's resignation speech

02:35 GMT: Permalink
Part 12 of "Rush, Newspeak and Fascism" is up at Orcinus. You really oughta read it.

While doing further research on my consideration of him for the incredibly short Loyal Opposition roll, I found that Julian Sanchez has responded to my remark about libertarians being liberals. Well, yeah, I know that thing about libertarians being classical liberals, of course, but I still think the government is helpful in opposing big commericial institutions if it hasn't already been co-opted by them. Some say that's a thing that goes in cycles, too. I don't see that free markets have the potential to correct overwhelming dominance by big corporations.

Uh oh, I think Justin Raimondo is right about something. (Via Electrolite.)

We've been here before, but Peace Tree Farm is taking seriously the idea that it's all about Euros. No, really.

Monday, 17 March 2003

22:29 GMT: Permalink


There has always been the periodic article in the mainstream press purporting to examine press bias, and it always painstakingly explains that while it may seem biased to you (because you are biased), it's not really like that at all. We now have a new category, the Transatlantic Press Divide. David Greenberg says in The Washington Post that We Don't Even Agree On What's Newsworthy:

A rift now separates the United States and the world -- not just a diplomatic gap, but a perception gap. One sign of the sundering is the discrepancy in how journalists here and abroad have treated some recent stories. Repeatedly, unflattering aspects of America's foreign policy have gotten big play overseas while receiving fleeting comment or shrugs at home.
Then he provides a few examples:

On March 4, the New York Times reported that the Army was probing whether two Afghan detainees who died in December were victims of fatally abusive treatment by American soldiers; a military pathologist had officially characterized the deaths as homicides. Other domestic newspapers picked up the story, reporting the facts in measured terms and noting human rights groups' concerns. Yet the deaths didn't stimulate public outrage, op-ed pieces or cable news screamfests.
Isn't that kind of in reverse order? It's generally the op-ed pieces and, most importantly, the cable news screamfests, that generate the public outrage. If the press refuses to behave as if a story represents an outrage, it's a signal to the public that our outrage isn't going to get any traction.

Newspapers abroad, in contrast, responded with indignation. While U.S. papers used the Army investigation as the news hook, suggesting that responsible officials were cracking down on anomalous behavior, foreign journals implied that American brutality was not out of the ordinary. "U.S. Prisoners Beaten to Death," read a headline in Melbourne. The lead paragraph of the Independent of London's account saidthat the "kill[ings]" were "reviving concerns that the U.S. is resorting to torture in its treatment of Taliban fighters and suspected [al Qaeda] operatives."
Foreign newspapers responded with indignation. I guess they didn't wait for the public to tell them what to think, either.

The other two examples were of spying on the UN and the forged "evidence" against Saddam. These are all issues about which the US press should have been more outraged. That would be the same US press that was damn-near hysterical at the thought that Bill Clinton had gotten some blow-jobs without telling them all the juicy details. The ones who screamed "wag the dog!" when Clinton went after Al Qaeda. But when this administration lies to them - and us - in order to push us into a senseless war, they aren't bothered? What's that about?

What are we to make of these disparate takes on the same events? A crude interpretation would be that publishers, editors and reporters everywhere are cynically distorting the news. If you're hostile to the Bush administration's pro-war position, you might believe that U.S. journalists have downplayed these blockbuster stories because they fear they'll either derail the war juggernaut or alienate readers, advertisers and sources. Conversely, if you favor the Bush administration's approach, you're more likely to find the international press guilty of cynically magnifying molehill stories into mountainous ones either to pander to trendy anti-Americanism or to succor antiwar efforts.
Gee, what if you're just someone who thinks your leaders shouldn't fabricate evidence to drive you to war? What if you believe the United States should stand for justice and not brutality? What if you just happened to notice that it's sleazy and dishonest to beat the war drums to the tune of "a coalition of the willing" when it's really that the government is spying on diplomats so it can know how to bribe and blackmail other nations into a false appearance of agreement? Do you have to be hostile to Bush to care about those things? Shouldn't it be, rather, the other way around?

Maybe you have to be nuts to think these things are "molehills". It's possible, you know.

But the view that mainstream journalists or publishers rate the newsworthiness of stories by economic or ideological considerations doesn't jibe with reality. Generally only people without journalism experience adhere to this view. Journalists value a good scoop, regardless of whose ox is gored. Publishers prize stories that bring prestige to their papers.
Or maybe you're just too biased to see a good scoop when it's staring you right in the face?

Distortion occurs at a deeper level, too. Journalists are beholden not only to the norms of their profession but also to the premises to which almost everyone in a given culture subconsciously subscribes. Ideology and culture do shape the news, though not in the crude way posited by left- and right-wing media watchdog groups. Those who assess what's newsworthy -- whether as members of the media or observers of it -- don't question bedrock beliefs that undergird their society's understanding of the world. That's why they're called blind spots.
So what happened to the bedrock belief held by just about everyone that the United States is a democracy and chooses its leaders by holding free and fair elections in which the winner is decided by counting the ballots? Up until 7 November 2000, I would have thought that was pretty bedrock. How, overnight, did speed of outcome become more important than accuracy of ballot count?

In the case of these recent stories, most American journalists -- and most citizens -- are operating in an environment that takes an essentially benign view of our leaders. Though various American critics view the Bush administration as misguided, incompetent or overly hungry for war, few seriously entertain the claim that it's bent on conquest for self-aggrandizing or venal reasons. The natural inclination (even for reporters who are liberal or antiwar) is to infer that the beating deaths of prisoners, the spying at the U.N. and the forgeries represent not a pattern of American villainy but exceptional cases of error. The stories are reported, but relegated to inside pages, without the high-voltage language of exposés, and contextualized to fend off charges of sensationalism.
You take a benign view of our leaders? Was it lost on you throughout the 1990s that William Jefferson Clinton and Albert Gore, Jr. were our leaders? Why didn't you take a benign view of them? You didn't seem too freaked out by Ken Starr's shenanigans, or for that matter the scandal of his appointment, let alone all those re-investigations of whether Vince Foster was murdered by the President of the United States and/or the First Lady. And what about all that hooting at Al Gore, who happened to be Vice President at the time? Where was this "benign view" then?

The gulf between the dominant American orientation and that of other nations is exacerbated by differences in our journalistic practices. Since the mid-century demise of the publishing titans who stamped their views on every page of their journals, big-league U.S. newspapers have clung to such lodestar values as balance, fairness and objectivity. Despite a growing role for "analysis" pieces, the mainstream press still prides itself on reporting the news straight and confining opinion to the editorial pages. The European press, in contrast, is comfortable with partisanship. Articles you read in the left-wing Guardian, if published stateside, would more likely appear in the Nation than in the Boston Globe; the right-wing Spectator's fare resembles National Review's coverage more than USA Today's.

As a result, American journalists tend to be more squeamish than their European counterparts about setting the news agenda. If the leading political players don't get worked up about a would-be scandal, the press (usually) balks at arrogating that role to itself. European papers, on the other hand, allow themselves more freedom in deciding what's news, independent of official say-so.

Is this a joke? The US media does set the news agenda - or, rather, lets the RNC set it for them. The Washington Post lets George Will and Michael Kelly write whatever they want, right after the Republicans tell them what to say. They fire people like Coleman McCarthy. Who is setting the agenda, here?

13:27 GMT: Permalink
It's worth your time to take a trip over to Eschaton to peruse the photos and quotes from the weekend's "patriotic" rallies. There are many pictures showing the "patriotism" that inspires these people. There is a letter to the editor that seems to sum up the motivations of an awful lot of the pro-Bush crowd. Also, genuine police brutality, anti-gay bigotry, and a few words from Atrios himself on ideological correctness.

So, it's all about hating queers, hating "liberals", and, let's face it, hating America. Like the man said.

And this from Textism:

This occurred to me. Of the many stains left across the internet by the current crop of neoconservative idiotarians – rubber-stamp obviousness and desperate cries for group hugs and attention being close-to-hand examples – surely one of the greasiest is the constant grousing about the scourge of ‘political correctness’; a complaint that plays as reliably well in the echo chamber as a frontman demanding if the arena is ready to rock.

Such staying power for a term unused outside the realm of parody since, oh, 1991? It’s a drained cliché, malleable, as was its antonym long before Bill Maher smirked into view.

Yet the very same pious humourlessness, the very same shouting down of any opposing view, the very same presumptions of power, the very same claims to a higher purpose, the very same misappropriation of the suffering of strangers, that dogged the very worst of what we came to know as the ‘politically correct’ is now the breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight snack of the neocons and pseudolibertarians, the Attack Runts and the designated mourners. Easy enough to laugh at. That is, until its impact hits home.

Look, a new term: Idiotically Correct.

Sunday, 16 March 2003

17:10 GMT: Permalink

Small miracles

Washington Post Ombudsman Confesses!

Last Sunday, the Outlook section published the letter of resignation written on Feb. 27 by career diplomat John Brady Kiesling, the political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Athens, to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. Kiesling resigned because, he said, he no longer believed "that by upholding the policies of my president I was also upholding the interests of the American people and the world."

Whatever one's view of the need for war, this was a powerful recitation of dissent. Before the letter was published in Outlook, quite a few people wrote to say they had read accounts of it in other newspapers and on the Internet, and they asked why The Post had not done a story on it. The only mention in The Post had been two sentences in Al Kamen's "In the Loop" column on March 5.

In the grand scheme of things, the resignation of a diplomat, which is rare but not unprecedented, is just one small blip. What makes The Post's treatment of it noteworthy, however, is that it is part of a perplexing flaw in coverage that has persisted throughout this long run-up to a controversial war and that contrasts with the many fine reporting efforts the paper makes from here and abroad to record and illuminate what is hap- pening.

It was more than a year ago that the Bush administration shifted its public focus from Osama bin Laden to Saddam Hussein. By the end of summer, as the administration made known its strategy for preemptive war and signs of a military buildup began to appear, signs of dissent also emerged.

But looking back over Sunday ombudsman columns and reader challenges during that time and up through today, there is a pattern in the news pages of missing, underplaying or being late on various blips with respect to public voices of dissent or uncertainty.

Well, almost:

What, if anything, does this add up to? It does not mean Post news coverage is biased, although too many readers say they believe it is. They note lapses in news coverage and then assume that the paper's strong editorial and op-ed page stances are influencing that coverage. I am very confident that Post news coverage is straight, tough and fair, and that the wall between news and editorial is solid. The paper routinely contributes enterprising reporting on issues that challenge policy. For example, The Post was the first to reveal early doubts about the Iraq mission among some top active-duty military leaders.

16:27 GMT: Permalink

MWO sums it up nicely:

Alternative solutions or suggestions of an invasion as self-defeating are never addressed, as anyone who viewed last week's "press conference" or any of Ari's daily press briefings knows.

The man-on-the-street pleadings from war supporters are always along the rote lines of, "He gassed his own people," and the pathetic, childlike, "Why don't these people understand our president is trying to protect us?"  Those who offer such pitiful rationales for war indicate that they resent the anti-war movement not because its arguments are flawed but because it interferes with their successful self-delusion.

The administration hawks know, too, that if Americans begin thinking rationally, they will realize that 9/11 + inspectors in Iraq + "giant mushroom clouds," the product of nukes Iraq doesn't have, do not = Necessity for an invasion of Iraq.

They will instead calculate that 9/11 + inspectors in Iraq + an invasion of that secular power causing destabilization of the region + alienation of all traditional allies we depend on to assist in capturing individuals of a terrorist mindset =  increased chances of every American's death at the hands of terrorists.

16:12 GMT: Permalink

Crime news: New Bush Medicare rip-off planned: "The Bush administration says it is planning major changes in the Medicare program that would make it more difficult for beneficiaries to appeal the denial of benefits like home health care and skilled nursing home care."

Terror Alert: Air Force Base Authorizes 'deadly Force' Against Trespassing Protesters

Religious news: Word is made flesh as God reveals himself... as a fish: "An obscure Jewish sect in New York has been gripped in awe by what it believes to be a mystical visitation by a 20lb carp that was heard shouting in Hebrew, in what many Jews worldwide are hailing as a modern miracle. "

Health news: 'Sleep Debts' Accrue When Nightly Sleep Totals Six Hours Or Fewer; Penn Study Find People Respond Poorly, While Feeling Only 'Slightly' Tired. (Yes, I just noticed that Elaine Normandy has a weblog, Coffee and Oranges.)

The Arts: More sound! That Beethoven guy sure could hit the keys.

15:40 GMT: Permalink
Blogtopia (Skippy invented that word!)

Liberal Oasis has posted a report by Yvonne Kimmons and Bryan Williams of Less Oil for Life on how many protesters actually demonstrated against the war on the weekend of 15 February.

Electrolite points to an essay by Greg Beato that asks whether a certain type of movie violence might be leading to real violence. Beato is riffing on the current version of this theme, but in fact he's harking back to an older one that gave us the kind of media we had back in the old days of movie codes (and the comics code), where the good guys always had to obey the law and the bad guys always had to be caught and punished (but all by the book). It's a fun article, in any case, but there's a great deal more at the site, like this piece on Michael Medved.

From Elayne Riggs: "Here's a sentence I never thought I'd hear myself say: Elvis Costello should get his own talk show." Gee, I'm sorry I missed him on Letterman.

Mark Evanier says: "IT'S TOO BAD that on the entire Worldwide Web, you can't find a site devoted to the wearing of hats made out of meat. Oh, wait. You can. Thank God." Mark has also instituted a Gallery of Vintage TV Tickets on his site.

Saturday, 15 March 2003

21:04 GMT: Permalink

I think I blogged this back in January but then people told me the link was broken. I'm told that this Brian Eno article from the European edition of TIME never appeared in the US version:

The U.S. Needs to Open Up to the World
To this European, America is trapped in a fortress of arrogance and ignorance

Europeans have always looked at America with a mixture of fascination and puzzlement, and now, increasingly, disbelief. How is it that a country that prides itself on its economic success could have so many very poor people? How is it that a country so insistent on the rule of law should seek to exempt itself from international agreements? And how is it that the world's beacon of democracy can have elections dominated by wealthy special interest groups? For me, the question has become: "How can a country that has produced so much cultural and economic wealth act so dumb?"

I could fill this page with the names of Americans who have influenced, entertained and educated me. They represent what I admire about America: a vigorous originality of thought, and a confidence that things can be changed for the better. That was the America I lived in and enjoyed from 1978 until 1983. That America was an act of faith — the faith that "otherness" was not threatening but nourishing, the faith that there could be a country big enough in spirit to welcome and nurture all the diversity the world could throw at it. But since Sept. 11, that vision has been eclipsed by a suspicious, introverted America, a country-sized version of that peculiarly American form of ghetto: the gated community. A gated community is defensive. Designed to keep the "others" out, it dissolves the rich web of society into a random clustering of disconnected individuals. It turns paranoia and isolation into a lifestyle.

Surely this isn't the America that anyone dreamed of; it's a last resort, nobody's choice. It's especially ironic since so much of the best new thinking about society, economics, politics and philosophy in the last century came from America. Unhampered by the snobbery and exclusivity of much European thought, American thinkers vaulted forward — courageous, innovative and determined to talk in a public language. But, unfortunately, over the same period, the mass media vaulted backward, thriving on increasingly simple stories and trivializing news into something indistinguishable from entertainment. As a result, a wealth of original and subtle thought — America's real wealth — is squandered.

20:19 GMT: Permalink
Brian Linse says:

Jim Capozzola clarifies for me the reason that the story about the re-designation of french fries to 'freedom fries' on Capitol Hill annoyed the shit out of me so much these last couple of days.

It's Un-Serious.

And right now, as we prepare to start the ritual body counts, Capitol Hill should remain serious from the top of the flag pole to the boiler room in the basement. The callous members of Congress getting a chuckle out of this should be ashamed of themselves, or they should at least keep their amusement private.

Leave the cheap shots against the French to us bloggers. We've got it covered.

Also: A recommendation for a good Reason piece on the Bushista charade on Iraq, and some Weird fashion news.

20:08 GMT: Permalink
In Slate, Jack Shafer has a good laugh at the idea of a a Perle v. Hersh libel case in the UK. Timothy Noah also had a few words on the subject the day before.

More is added to the discussion started by the Four Middle-class White Guys about Iraq, at The Global Citizen.

15:00 GMT: Permalink
Two interesting items at

Dubya's Profound Double Standard:

Mr. President, in the 2000 Presidential election you promised to enact policies of "compassionate conservatism," but you have failed to honor the classical definition of either term. Recently, some commentators have begun labeling the discrepancy between your professed policies and your actions a "credibility gap." But when promises and actions are so shockingly in conflict, a stronger term is warranted. On the objective evidence, Mr. President, we are forced to conclude that you are, put simply, a liar -- and, given the particulars of the moment, a dangerous one at that. Many of our allies understand this better than we, and that is why they are facing you down.

You yourself have constantly (and justifiably) criticized Saddam Hussein for saying one thing but doing another. The time has come to hold you to the same standard.

Public Broadcasting As State Television
The Potemkin Village In Living Color

"I want to see things on public television that I hate -- things that make me think!" That’s what Pennsylvania senator Hugh Scott declared when the Communications Act of 1967 established a noncommercial, "non-governmental" Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

In its beginning, public broadcasting was seen as a forum for innovation and reasoned dissent. It would "galvanize the spirit and engage the intelligence," according to director/author Jonathan Miller's apt and exclusionary definition of entertainment. Public television would counterbalance commercial TV. At the time, people understood that public broadcast needed some protection to fulfill those high goals.

"Non-commercial television and radio in America, even though supported by federal funds, must be absolutely free from any federal government interference over programming." That was the message President Lyndon Johnson delivered to Congress on Feb. 28, 1967. His warning was not heeded.

What we needed then in America, and what public broadcasting should now provide, is what the late Morris Ernst called "the free marketplace of thought."

But American non-commercial television as a cultural force of any magnitude is feeble. Why? Because federal funding of public TV as it is currently implemented has conspired to forbid exploration.

I'm always amazed at the belief that PBS is "liberal". It's not quite as far gone as the other networks, but it is increasingly dependent on corporate sponsorship (advertising by a different name) and continuously harassed by members of Congress who cut its funding down further whenever it fails to play ball. PBS has moved to the right like everything else, and for similar reasons - corporate/Republican control of the purse-strings.

14:06 GMT: Permalink
Rebecca Knight takes a look at the proliferation of lies:

Apparently right-wingers never let the facts get in the way of their illogic. This became appallingly clear to me recently as I listened to a group of ladies discussing politics intermittently over several days.

"Bill and Hillary Clinton are responsible for the disappearance or murder of numerous people."

Huh? Where did you get that? From Jerry Falwell?

"No, I read it somewhere."

13:40 GMT: Permalink
Teresa Nielsen Hayden has found a most remarkable piece of slash fiction - and the weird thing is, it is exactly like an ordinary Paxman interview.... Another interesting find is Karl's Roy Orbison In Clingfilm Website.

13:13 GMT: Permalink
Ampersand has a useful series of posts up about passage of the "partial birth" abortion ban, why this form of pregnancy termination is very much needed, and why the right-wing spin on this procedure is a lie:

According to pro-lifers, we can't have a health exemption because "a mother could go to her doctor and say that a baby would interfere with her homework, and the doctor could then list the reason for the abortion as 'mother's health endangered.'" By telling each other campfire stories like that, pro-lifers refuse to deal with the reality of the ways their laws, if enacted, will cause grave injury to real life women. Here's the reality: Women are not the hateful monsters pro-lifers imagine ("I've got to do homework - guess I'd better kill my baby!"). Women's choices are typically made for good reasons - unlike the decision to block women from getting the medical care they need.

Friday, 14 March 2003

15:44 GMT: Permalink

Crackpot alert

Digby reads an article from National Review by Michael Ledeen which theorizes that France and Germany are involved in a long-term plot to undermine US dominance by conspiring with Muslims to attack the US. Digby says:

Somebody had a little Ecstasy with his Freedom Toast this morning.

The next time somebody says that the left is full of conspiracy theorists I'm going to pop a gasket. This guy is a MAINSTREAM Republican, writing on the National Review website, for crying out loud. His nutsy wife worked in the Reagan administration and formerly ran the Barbizon School of Dyed-Blond Former Prosecutors.

Michael Ledeen gets invited to the White House. He is crazy as a loon.

13:50 GMT: Permalink
Many good things at Liquid List, from which I learn this: "Recently, Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) introduced legislation to repeal Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, the one that deals with library records."

10:32 GMT: Permalink
Jim Henley with a point about the value of heeding the international community:

Toothless Hags - In internationalist gospel, the problem with the League of Nations was that it lacked enforcement powers and/or the power of the United States to compel states to respect its decisions. Thus it could neither prevent nor reverse Italy's conquest of Abyssinia, which aggression led, with other things, to World War II. Meantime, the United States is at least declaring that the UN can't prevent it from conquering Iraq. Critics can justly call the UN irrelevant no matter which way things shake out - if the US goes to war without the blessing of the Security Council, the UN is impotent and irrelevant. If the US actually secures authorization, the UN is nothing but a (balky) rubber stamp for determined US policy. A toothless hag like the League of Nations.

But one of the Fates was a toothless hag too. Let's turn it around for a second. Don't look at the 1930s from the perspective of the "international community." Look at it from the perspective of Italy. Would Italy have been smart to heed the clear sentiment of the League? They conquered Abyssinia, and thereby set in motion a train of events that led to ruinous war, German and then allied occupation and, not incidentally for the country's political class, the execution of much of the government.

Not such a good deal for the Italians. I'd argue that the League condemnation was a signal of what they were letting themselves in for. My point is not that US policy toward Iraq is nothing but Italian policy toward the Horn of Africa. My point is that one ignores alarms at one's peril. I would never want the UN to have veto power over US security. It's a talking shop, and should be. But what the talking shop is saying is that the "coalition of the unwilling" threatens to metastasize. We'd be fools not to take that seriously.

Also, check out this post on how U.S. law against complicity in torture is being violated by the the Bush administration.

10:20 GMT: Permalink
Max's sidekick Tom Walker, a.k.a. the Sandwichman, reviewed what he knows about a CREEPy cousin he used to have and connected some dots:

A pattern of behavior emerges from events we know happened that makes conspiracy theories plausible. That pattern is one of conspiracy and cover up. Big, messy, documented plots that the media is only too eager to "put behind us" as quickly as possible. We wouldn't want to undermine faith in our democratic institutions by actually examining whether they've been fatally corrupted, would we?

All those events are context that show only too clearly what kind of democracy the U.S.A. is today. As Paul Wolfowitz said, in connection with another regime elsewhere, "Think about it for a moment. When an auditor discovers discrepancies in the books, it is not the auditor's obligation to prove where the embezzler has stashed his money. It is up to the person or institution being audited to explain the discrepancy."

Well, think about: Watergate, Iran-Contra, Enron, Florida, Rehnquist. A signature modus operandi. It shouldn't be up to the people of the United States to have to "prove where the embezzler has stashed his money" -- or guess in which closet the skeletons are hidden. Not when the embezzler appoints the judges and the investigators. To paraphrase the Comandeer in Chief, "Fool me once, shame on me. but rarely is this question asked, is we getting fooled again?"

We is.

Bring on the bugles and the fireworks displays. Fire up the furnaces in the detention camps. Turn up the volume on the talk radio. It's morning in America. And tomorrow... the world.

09:39 GMT: Permalink
Look at the scroll bar: So I came up the other night and was checking out Bartcop and I just see: "The website you are attempting to visit has been restrained." But the background is Bartcop's usual color, and a glance to the right shows I'm at the top of a long page. So I scrolled down, and there was the rest of the issue, as always. Bart was making a comment on Ashcroft's latest actions to curtail free speech. But then I got mail from people asking me what's happened to the Bartcop page. Paranoid times....

TBogg examines Rick Santorum's "reasoning" behind supporting the late-term abortion ban. One cannot help but wonder whether Santorum's mind would have been changed had his wife died, as might very well have happened. It strikes me as fairly insane to take a very high risk of losing two lives instead of just one. They knew the baby was going to die, and it lived for only a couple of hours. Would that really have been worth the loss of the mother's life?

(Side note to Tom: Congratulations on your daughter's planned trip to Boo Radley's front porch. I've been there many times. You should go again - each new visit brings fresh rewards.)

Thursday, 13 March 2003

Here's why.

14:33 GMT: Permalink

Liberal Oasis looks at "the Jewish issue":

The most recent incident from the Left happened last week, as Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) tainted himself with anti-Semitic scapegoating:

If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this....the leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going and I think they should.
This would appear to support the contention of The Weekly Standard's David Brooks.

He wrote that anti-Semitism was dead on the "Buchananite right" and he tried to pin such sentiments on the "peace-movement Left." David Brooks probably forgot that Pat Buchanan isn't dead.

There's a nice bit of consideration of where on the left-right spectrum we find anti-semitism and how we define it (and who is guilty), but I'm still worried about what "on the left" means. In the "left" of my youth, there was simply no place for anti-semitism, period; it was a right-wing thing. Maybe I shouldn't think about it, since none of this means anything much anymore - somewhere out there, you'll find anti-abortion socialists who support the invasion, pro-choice libertarians who support it and pro-choice libertarians who oppose it, and a whole lot of other interesting combinations. God knows there are a passel of Jews who oppose the invasion, so I don't think we need to worry about any mass Jewish conspiracy to walk us into this ungodly mess. I haven't looked at Moran's voting record, so I don't know how "left" he is, but it's not my experience that most of the Democrats in Congress can easily be so characterized.

But I'm familiar with belonging to an ethnic group that contains people who are absolutely unwilling to listen to any objection to any criticism of group activism within the group or the behavior of the leaders of the nation their parents or grandparents came from. Hell, I've got odar friends who can't understand why I'm not constantly worrying about extracting vengeance against the Turks for the Armenian massacres. It's not a subject I want to spend much time discussing with Armenian activists. And some Armenian activists have influence on Congress, and that's the only reason some politicians in America have devoted time to "the Armenian cause".

And yeah, there are influential Jews who support the invasion for reasons that appear to have something to do with their quite visible support for Sharon's policies. That happens to be convenient for Bush, but if Bush really holds the religious beliefs he claims to hold, it only matters that his brand of "Christians" support these policies. The Jews, after all, are not enlightened by a bath in the blood of Christ, so why assume that they know what's good for them?

Besides, there's no evidence that it's particularly Jewish (or even particularly pro-Israel) to support Sharon or the invasion, nor any evidence that the many Jews who oppose them have any influence on Bush's thinking at all. What it really boils down to is that Bush believes what he wants to and accepts the support of people who agree with him, and if some of them are Jews it just gives him a little tingle - but he's gonna do it anyway whether they agree with him or not.

I've talked about the beliefs of what I think of as "Revelationists" before, and it's always nice to see someone else do it. Go read Bill's piece.

Update: Max knows Moran and has a few things to say.

00:03 GMT: Permalink
Just go read everything at Through the Looking Glass right now.

Atrios has found another crackpot who Republicans actually voted into office: "(St. Paul, Minnesota) Minnesota state Rep. Arlon Lindner continues to defend his position that gays and lesbians were never persecuted during the Holocaust." Also, one of my hobby-horses, why the UK libel laws are just a weapon that nasty rich people can use to hide their evil. Says Atrios: "This is just atrocious - Perle is attempting to use the courts and libel laws of another country to intimidate and silence a American journalist over something printed in an American publication." And a lot more.

Patrick is there.

Wednesday, 12 March 2003

14:02 GMT: Permalink

Jim Henley refers to the post below as "self-parody", but I just can't take seriously the idea that George Bush can somehow rise above his track record. Moreover, we have for some time been watching a bizarre fantasy show in which some candidates for the presidency - most notably Ross Perot and George W. Bush - have campaigned for office while asserting that they can solve America's problems by using their good ol' common sense to just run on up to Washington and make everyone get along, passing out their hand-shakes like sugar cubes and turning the Capitol into a veritable Woodstock Nation of political peace and love. And no one laughed. It's pretty much impossible to parody Washington anymore.

The point is that the question makes no sense except in terms of magical thinking. If George Bush were the kind of man who could fix this mess, we wouldn't be in this mess, because that kind of man would not have made this kind of mess. It's all very well asking me what I'd do if I were George Bush, but the obvious answer is that I would do exactly what Bush continues to do - alienate allies, completely destabilize the world, wreck the Constitution, etc. - because that's what George Bush does.

But of course the instinctive answer to the question of, "What would you do if you were in George Bush's position?" is, "I wouldn't be in this position." Had I been sworn in on January 20th, 2001, I would not have immediately set about showing the world that treaties with the US are meaningless, that our word is no good, that we are uninterested in cooperating with anyone else, that being our "friend" can quickly turn into being Saddam Hussein, that we hold all other nations in contempt and seek only to use them for our own political ends and then leave them to rot. I would not have decided to pretend Al Qaeda was not a threat and told our intelligence agencies not to investigate them - and then when the predictable disaster resulted, turned it into an excuse to work America into a state of terrified hysteria, dismantle the entire Bill of Rights, and make mockery of the deaths of 3,000 people. Because I'm not George W. Bush.

Unlearned Hand's question is a fantasy question and can only inspire a fantasy answer. In that fantasy, some form of magic is all that could put me in George Bush's position, and since I recognize that George Bush is what got us into this mess and the whole world knows it, I'd know there was nothing I could do to give Bush the credibility that would be necessary to undo the damage.

Except resign. By putting Al Gore in the White House and admitting that I, George Bush, had done the wrong thing by preventing Gore from taking his rightful place in the White House - that I was out of my depth and that this is a job for the man the people elected - I'd be wiping the slate clean for America and, for the first time, be a hero. Making a big show of restoring American democracy and insisting that the last two years have been an aberration and that we were now returning to our regularly scheduled program would go a long way to giving everyone a chance to sort things out.

Giving Gore the office isn't just wish-fulfillment over the 2000 election, it's about making sure that no one mistakes the gesture for a cute dodge to put some other puppet (or puppeteer) in charge to keep on doing what I (Bush) have been doing. We've already seen how Bush ignores his economic advisors and then pretends it's their fault when his programs don't magically cure the economy - and that new advisors will make it all come right, even though they will have no impact on what have always been Bush's own economic policies. There is no one in the Republican leadership who can be trusted to take over the reins without being perceived as more of the same.

Putting Gore in the White House side-steps the entire problem of the perception that yet another unelected monkey is dancing to the tune of the same organ-grinder. The rest of the world already perceives Gore as the man who should be in the office and who was actually elected to it, and they know he is no Bush lackey. Gore's hands are clean, and Gore is perceived internationally as the true winner of the democratic choice as "leader of the free world." Remember, they've seen Greg Palast's 2000 election reports on broadcast television, even if Americans have not; they know that in a state run by George Bush's brother, in a state election run by the head of George Bush's local campaign, Bush's people deliberately removed more than 50,000 legitimate (and likely Democratic) voters from the rolls and Bush went to court to prevent the ballots from being counted. As far as they are concerned, Bush is not all that distinguishable from a dictator who stole power in a putsch, there is no reason in the world why Gore shouldn't currently hold the office of the President of the United States - and he's the only guy you can say that about.

So if we're indulging unlikely fantasies, why not go all the way and fix the problem where it started?

(And speaking of fantasy, don't forget to check out Busy Busy Busy.)

12:12 GMT: Permalink
With many people expecting war any minute now, let me remind you to have a look at the joint left and right anti-war site, Stand Down, and also recommend that you read Robert Byrd's fine speech from a month ago, if you haven't already. "Calling heads of state pygmies, labeling whole countries as evil, denigrating powerful European allies as irrelevant -- these types of crude insensitivities can do our great nation no good."

11:18 GMT: Permalink
Jeff Cooper caught this in the Bush "press conference":

For the most part, the president kept his voice subdued and his facial expression serious during tonight's press conference. And, given his tendency to smirk and talk down to his audience, that's no small feat. As Kevin Drum notes, the conventional wisdom formed almost immediately: the president was "somber." But every once in awhile the president couldn't control himself. And nowhere was this more evident than when he ducked a question about the potential costs of the war. While he emphasized the costs of doing nothing, he stated (with the sly smile of a man who thinks he's getting in a good one) that, at an "appropriate" time, the administration would "submit a supplemental to the Spenders." Got that? Not Congress. The "Spenders."

The Constitution vests the power to appropriate monies in the Congress. And there's no doubt that Congress (whether controlled by Republicans or Democrats) likes to spend. But to refer to a co-equal branch of the federal government in such a derogatory way, on a supposedly "somber" occasion, was a breathtaking act of arrogance.

10:39 GMT: Permalink
A Level Gaze has A serious question:

If Iraq can be made a beacon of democracy, why can't Afghanistan?

No, really. We went in and changed the regime. What did we change it to?

Why didn't we make it democratic and enlightened? Are the people there too primitive? Is the history too complicated, the factions too long embittered? Are there irreconcilable religious or ethnic differences?

Why isn't Afghanistan suitable for improvement if we are so sure it's such an easy job in Iraq? I'd really like to know.

09:45 GMT: Permalink
John Chuckman asks, "But how is it even possible to hate so vast and complex a thing as America?". And then he says things you could pretty much say about a lot of other countries. Not that that makes it any less true.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden is getting enough cheese.

The Gadfly's Buzz is all different.

Nathan Newman explains why you should look for the union label - and a lot of other things. Also: "But it highlights the real fact-- the GOP didn't want to allow discussion of character in the case of Clarence Thomas, and they don't want discussion of legal philosophy in the case of Estrada. So basically, they don't want discussion of any Republican nominees' credentials at all."

Between Jim Henley and Patrick Nielsen Hayden, I'm fast getting the impression that I should be reading Julian Sanchez more often and thinking seriously about adding him to that very short list of the Loyal Opposition on the blogroll. In truth, I regard honest libertarians as fellow travellers who are very nearly liberals - who just haven't figured out yet that all Big Institutions can turn ugly on you, even when they are privately-owned.

Tuesday, 11 March 2003

12:24 GMT: Permalink

Unlearned Hand sent me this e-mail:

I'm trying to put together a post called "Where Do We Go From Here?" and having followed your positions on the Iraqi conflict, I'd like to include your response to this question.

What I'd like to do is hear some fleshed-out alternatives to war, now that we've gotten ourselves into this position. Starting from where we are right now (with all the bumbling and bad diplomacy), what would YOU do in Bush's place? How would you get us out of this?

Junius also received the question and has answered it here. I think Chris's response is quite thoughtful and worth reading, but it sidesteps a crucial issue, which is that George Bush has no credibility with the rest of the world and they no longer have any reason to trust a single thing he says.

Therefore, the first thing I'd have to do if I were him and actually cared about what happened to my country and the world is to restore US credibility. And the only way to do that if I were George Bush would be regime change at home.

So, if I were George Bush, and were suddenly infused with some brains, integrity, and real humility, I would have no choice but to first make it a priority to convince Dick Cheney to resign as VP. (And, failing that, find some other way to get rid of him, possibly by use of a concerted effort to finally hold him to account for the many unsightly and corrput activities he has been involved in.) Then I'd replace him with the one man in America who could convincingly represent the US as a free and democratic nation - Al Gore. Then I'd resign.

This would instantly change the whole ball game. We'd still have many irrevocable problems that Bush has created - North Korea's new circumstances, just to name one - but at least the world would know the man we elected was in the White House instead of the idiot who has brought the world to its current disasterous state.

The new Gore White House would have a hell of a diplomatic mission to lead from that moment on, attempting to undo some of the damage Bush has wrought, but I'm sure he'd handle it like a gentleman rather than like a drunken faux-cowboy who thinks too much of himself, and our allies would respond accordingly. Gore is no wimp on the issue of Iraq, so I'd expect him to make clear his willingness to back the UN with force of arms where necessary - but not to go off half-cocked on an all-out unilateral invasion. Which is the way it should be.

11:18 GMT: Permalink
T. C. MITS takes a look at the grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence, and lets you draw your own conclusions. Also, some neat shareware.

MWO supplies an image and audio clip for those who missed the "Fox news" segment of The Simpsons.

Orcinus is up to Part 10 of "Rush, Newspeak and Fascism".

Is Blair about to crack? asks Mr. Happy, referring to this article on Tony's exhaustion and "medical crutches".

Take Back the Media: Fascist Groove Thang.

10:33 GMT: Permalink
Dr. Squid at Geekpol says:

One Bill Scannell has organized a campaign to boycott Delta Airlines. Why, you may ask? Because Delta is the first airline to test the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, or CAPPS II. What it does is background checks on all passengers at booking, assigning a risk level even more simpleminded than the silly fiver-color scheme cooked up by the Shrubbery's Department of Homeland Security. Get this: it checks criminal records, credit reports and banking histories.
I wonder if it's just coincidence that most of the interesting boycotts are of things I can't or don't use anyway.

Monday, 10 March 2003

Here's why.

17:24 GMT: Permalink

Patrick is bummed out. Well, actually, anyone in their right mind is. Absorb this: We may be the most powerful nation in the world, but no one is calling us "the leader of the free world" anymore. In the free world, they don't torture prisoners, don't arrest people and hold them indefinitely without trial, don't invade countries unprovoked and without the support of their own people and the world community.

But then, in the free world, they count the ballots.

12:18 GMT: Permalink
Gun nuts

Thoughtful libertarians (like Jim Henley) and ordinary conservatives - as opposed to insane partisans and far-right crackpots - are no more enthusiastic about the invasion of Iraq than I am. The reason I know that a lot of other conservatives who support the invasion are crackpots is because they eagerly accept the dictum that if Saddam has weapons, he must intend to use them to kill people maliciously and illegally. Let me do that one again:

To have weapons indicates an intent to use them to kill people maliciously and illegally.

Any honest conservative or hawk has to laugh at such reasoning. They have to because in every other case this is precisely the opposite of basic principles held by almost everyone, even most dovish liberals, but most aggressively defended by conservatives: that weapons are a vital part of any nation's defense, and that individuals should also, at the very least, consider taking measures for their own defense - and certainly that we should have the right to take measures for that purpose. Even people who are anti-gun recognize a right to study martial arts, though such studies certainly offer the potential to use one's own body against another with lethal force.

And even I have studied karate. Yet, I haven't beat you up, have I? I haven't beat anyone up. But I know how to kill you.

I don't own a gun, but if I had one, that doesn't mean I would ever shoot anyone. Lots of people own guns and never shoot anyone. Many cops who carry guns have never shot anyone. Having the capability to use lethal force may mean you are prepared to use it, but it doesn't mean you're looking for the first opportunity to do so, let alone maliciously and illegally. And it may just mean you have it for its use as a threat - and are hoping the threat itself will mean you'll never have to use it.

The notable weapons of mass destruction used on 9/11 were commercial aircraft. These planes had been owned for many years by companies that never once used them to kill people. Meanwhile, numerous other countries have nuclear arsenals - destruction being their only purpose - and yet have never used them to do so. The one exception being the United States.

Of course, there are some people who really shouldn't be trusted with a gun. Maybe Saddam is one of them. Probably we should be pretty worried that North Korea has one. But if that kind of thing bothers you, you should be even more worried about the fact that George W. Bush has one. A lot more than one.

11:37 GMT: Permalink
Via Bartcop, a little item from The Daily Mirror

GEORGE Bush pulled out of a speech to the European Parliament when MEPs wouldn't guarantee a standing ovation.

Senior White House officials said the President would only go to Strasbourg to talk about Iraq if he had a stage-managed welcome.

A source close to negotiations said last night: "President Bush agreed to a speech but insisted he get a standing ovation like at the State of the Union address.

"His people also insisted there were no protests, or heckling.

"I believe it would be a crucial speech for Mr Bush to make in light of the opposition here to war. But unless he only gets adulation and praise, then it will never happen."

Mr Bush's every appearance in the US is stage-managed, with audiences full of supporters.

It was hoped he would speak after he welcomed Warsaw pact nations to Nato in Prague last November. But his refusal to speak to EU leaders face-to-face is seen as a key factor in the split between the US-UK coalition and Europe.

The source added: "Relations between the EU and the US are worsening fast - this won't help."

Sunday, 09 March 2003

22:58 GMT: Permalink

The Hamster picks up the thread on an item on CNN that appears to have been designed to give the impression that liberal celebrities should shut up about politics:

Amazing. There was only one point of view in the article. Pilgrim did mention the SAG statement, but does that matter? No, she simply dismissed it.

Another point that should be made, the CNN / Gallup poll, "80 percent of Americans don't care what celebrities think, adding no entertainment personality could influence their opinion on political issues." This is a transparently bad poll. Psychologists have found that people underestimate the amount of influence another person can have on them because people inherently want to think of themselves as 'independent' and unsusceptible to the influence or opinions of others. Would such a fact matter to Kitty Pilgrim? Judging by her blatantly biased report, absolutely not.

22:09 GMT: Permalink
E.J. Dionne on The 3 to 6 Gap:

The phrase "balancing work and family" is abstract. Here's the concrete part: Kids' school schedules are out of sync with their parents' work schedules. It is plain dumb that from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, we just let kids loose.

Yes, many families make heroic efforts to deal with this problem. But many others -- especially in households that desperately need two incomes -- are put in a terrible dilemma. Filling the 3 to 6 gap is one of our most urgent social needs, a point made regularly by law enforcement officials.

Some politicians understand it, too. "After-school programs keep kids safe, help working families and improve academic achievements," said the most prominent one of them all. "They engage students in service and ensure that youth have access to anti-substance abuse programs. For America's working parents, they provide the confidence that their children are well cared for after the school day ends."

Excellent points. President Bush made them in a letter he wrote on Oct. 4, 2002, to a group called the Afterschool Alliance. So why, exactly, has the president proposed to cut federal spending on after-school care by 40 percent? Under Bush's budget, federal spending on 21st Century Community Learning Centers would drop from $1 billion this year to $600 million next year.
This cut, alas, perfectly embodies what's wrong with the way this administration is doing business. The dissonance between the president's moderate, compassionate words and his spending priorities is jarring.
Bush speaks constantly of making it easier for faith-based groups to get federal funds. The 21st Century program was opened to such organizations last year. Does it help faith-based groups to let them into the program and then dry up the funding?

Miller is not alone in suspecting that this program was vulnerable because it happened to be one of former president Bill Clinton's more popular initiatives. "There's obviously been a search-and-destroy mission against anything that was Clinton," he says.
To challenge these cutbacks, I nominate a good Republican known as The Terminator. Last fall, Arnold Schwarzenegger led the fight for Proposition 49 in California, a ballot measure that will eventually provide about $430 million for after-school programs. It passed with 57 percent of the vote. "My hope is that, as goes California, so goes the rest of the nation," he declared. Arnold, where your priorities are concerned, your president is saying, "Hasta la vista, baby."

11:59 GMT: Permalink
MWO finds the spin machine at work in a Reuters item that says, "Majority Back Bush":

The South Dakota lawmaker and most top congressional Democrats voted in favor of giving Bush the authority to wage war last October. Since then, anti-war sentiment has gained momentum in the United States and around the world, although polls show a majority of Americans backing Bush.
Polls show "a majority of Americans backing Bush"?

"Backing Bush" in this context (Iraq policy) means backing a policy that allows for an attack without UN approval. The majority of Americans do not support such a policy. A majority supports an invasion only conditionally, and right now the conditions include UN approval. Without those conditions met, support drops far below a "majority." Indeed, the very next paragraph says as much:

A nationwide survey of U.S. voters by Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University found 56 percent wanted Washington to wait for U.N. support instead of going to war alone.
Pretty much everyone thinks something should be done about Saddam. I can't think of anyone who is saying we should completely ignore Saddam and let him do whatever he wants. Why is it "backing Bush" to agree with something that Bush doesn't want to do? Why isn't it, "backing Bush opponents", who actually support waiting for U.N. support?

There are a number of political leaders who actually hold the position most Americans hold - that we should give inspections time and wait for solid evidence and international agreement before using greater force of arms against Saddam. But Bush isn't one of them. Isn't it time the media admitted that Americans are backing someone else?

11:00 GMT: Permalink
Skippy sez:

bob you ignorant slut

making everyone happy except probably andy rooney, cbs has announced that bill clinton and bob dole will square off in a "point/counterpoint" like segment on 60 minutes beginning this sunday.

the two agreed to 10 segments, starting sunday night, but cbs executives say the network will consider extending the debates into next season...the segments will revive the "point-counterpoint" segments popular until they stopped airing in 1979, but will instead be called "clinton/dole" one week and "dole/clinton" the next week.
neither man would comment on reports that hillary clinton and libby dole would replace meredith viera and star jones on abc's "the view."

10:52 GMT: Permalink
Jeralyn has posted the transcript of Gary Hart's appearance on O'Reilly following Bush's "press conference". It's interesting to see how he kept O'Reilly from de-railing him - but then, O'Reilly wasn't shouting at him in his usual way.

Saturday, 08 March 2003

Here's why.

21:42 GMT: Permalink

I can only have missed this post from The Poor Man earlier on due to sleep-deprivation, dental dilemmas, and the eyeball from the Twilight Zone, but dig it:

Number 18 on Matthew White's list of the top 10 most overrated people, trends or events of the 20th Century:
Ayn Rand (1905-82)
Well, technically, I suppose I can only award her an honorable mention since I've never actually read any of her works, but life is too short to waste precious days reading books that are endlessly pushed on me by people who -- how shall I put this delicately? -- lack credibility.

The works of Ayn Rand easily rank as the philosophy most recommended by the least reliable people that I've ever encountered. They don't even attempt to make their philosophy sound appealing to new recruits. The core philosophy of all the Randites I've met seems to be "Some people are better than others -- for example, I'm better than you are -- and the better people deserve more," and "All social interaction is evil."

Hell, even Klansmen are willing to buy me a beer if I pass the color test.

Alas, I have read any of her books (they were assigned reading, if you can believe that shit), and all I can say is: preach it.
Wow, Rand was required reading in "liberal academia"? Gosh, no one ever made me read Noam Chomsky....

21:02 GMT: Permalink
I think I got this via Atrios but I can't remember now and I'm too lazy to check. Anyway, it's Wage Slave Journal, and it says:

The Scorecard of Evil is pretty inflammatory stuff, and I get my share of hate mail from fans of President Bush. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these messages rarely defend any of Bush's actual policies, or attack any of the specifics listed among Bush's misdeeds. They all say Bush is a good president, but almost never say why.

The rare messages that actually try to defend Bush inevitably rest their arguments on the imagined moral superiority of a president who has done virtually nothing worth bragging about. I recently received one such missive from a reader who asserted that in the wake of the September 11 attacks, "President Bush's morals and decisions are the only thing that have kept this country going."

Huh? What has President Bush done since September 11 that is so remarkable that conservatives fawn over his performance? How does Bush's post-9/11 record stack up against what we would expect from a truly great president after such a disaster?

And it's not a pretty sight.

20:43 GMT: Permalink
New site for ya: Hegemoney: Reflections On The Auction Of Authority In America.

This test says I'm a "geek mediator".

I found a good thing called bad things via Skimble.

Roger Ebert says 'Public prayer fanatics borrow page from enemy's script': "We started every day with classroom prayer at St. Mary's School, of course, but Sister Rosanne said there was a difference between voluntary prayer in a private religious school and prayer in a school paid for by every taxpayer--a distinction so obvious that Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft are forced to willfully ignore it." I like his distinction between vertical and horizontal prayer.

Random & Irrelevant responds to the story of fake UK intelligence reports with these words: "How the hell are we expected to believe anything these idiots have to say? First it was plagiarised academics, now this. Are they so desperate to find proof that this is what happens?" (Well, actually, yes, Sam.)

15:06 GMT: Permalink
An observation from Brad DeLong:

Perhaps... the sun rises every day... Perhaps... objects fall when dropped... Perhaps... water is wet...

Every once in a while you come across somebody advancing--diffidently and tentatively--a point that is completely blinkingly obvious that everyone over the age of five without total ideological blinders has known all the time. Today we have Unqualified Offerings and Jeffrey Tucker advancing the insight that American conservatism is not a reliable friend of human liberty.

Of course conservatism is not a reliable friend of human liberty. Conservatism is a combination of four currents: "change is bad," "things were better when my grandfather was a boy," "what our ancestors have handed down to use may be false, but we shouldn't inquire into it because it is useful," and "I've got mine, Jack, and the lower orders need to be more respectful." These are not the soil in which the tree of liberty grows.

Naturally, there's a discussion in the comments. Naturally, I added my two cents in response to some of them.

13:58 GMT: Permalink
I can't resist quoting a few paragraphs from this piece from Fanatical Apathy:

So I won't Fisk William Safire's limp column in yesterday's Times, but I'd be remiss if I didn't draw your attention to it. Safire, when he's not serving as Ariel Sharon's finger puppet these days, writes quite well. In this particular unapologetic call-to-arms he eloquently offers the most complete, concise, and coherent version of the argument for unilateral war with Iraq that I've seen.

What's remarkable is how incredibly weak and incomplete that argument really is. It's a colander with a Tupperware lid; the illusion of air-tightness is so superficial that true believers have to insist that it be viewed only at a prescribed angle and at a great distance. Anyone else looking at it can't help but see all the holes. It's a self-Fisker.

The holes are a symptom of the untreated flesh-eating disease our society has contracted during this long, fruitless lead-up to war. In another era the pro-attack right would be patching up the holes in their arguments, offering some sort of reasons why, for example, we can afford to alienate so many of our most powerful allies, why we need not fear galvanizing and inspiring the anti-Americanism of the Islamist movement, why we are so embarrassingly unable to convince the the world of Iraq's possession of illegal weapons when we claim that their existence is an undeniable fact, how we can have the gall to expect other nations to ever abide by U.N. decisions when we ourselves make such gleeful proclamations about our right to ignore them.

Safire says, "It is futile to try to reason with passionate marchers waving signs proclaiming that America's motives are to conquer the world and expend blood for oil." Is it? It's hard to say - the Bush administration hasn't even tried. Trying would involve actually replying to reasoned arguments (from the left and the right) directly, answering objections point-by-point rather than merely repeating what spurred those objections in the first place. No trial prosecutor has ever won by completely and utterly ignoring the evidence, witnesses and arguments of the defense. This is something the administration should've taken into account while failing so spectacularly to "make the case" these past eight months.

13:19 GMT: Permalink
Cowboy Kahlil has made a try at cartooning.

13:07 GMT: Permalink
Scripted Dry-drunk

Tom Shales had an interesting review of the Bush "press conference" show in The Washington Post yesterday:

George W. Bush kept seeming to lose interest in his own remarks last night as the president did that rarest of rare things -- for him -- and held a prime-time news conference. Televised live on all the major networks from the East Room of the White House, the occasion found Bush declaring this to be "an important moment" for America and the world, yet he spoke with little urgency and no perceptible passion.

Have ever a people been led more listlessly into war? It's tempting to speculate how history would have changed if Winston Churchill or FDR had been as lethargic as Bush about rallying their nations in an hour of crisis. There were times when it appeared his train of thought had jumped the tracks.

Occasionally he would stare blankly into space during lengthy pauses between statements -- pauses that once or twice threatened to be endless. There were times when it seemed every sentence Bush spoke was of the same duration and delivered in the same dour monotone, giving his comments a numbing, soporific aura. Watching him was like counting sheep.

Network commentators by and large tippy-toed around the subject of Bush's curiously subdued performance. But at least Terry Moran of ABC News dared to say that the White House press corps had definitely seen Bush "sharper" than he was last night. Tactfully and gingerly, Moran said Bush seemed to be "trying to keep his mannerisms as cool as possible" as he fielded questions and spoke of ultimatums. The lethargy was contagious; correspondents were almost as logy as Bush was.

Nobody even bothered to ask a question about Osama bin Laden, whose capture was rumored to be imminent yesterday and is still in the public mind a more reprehensible monster than Saddam Hussein.

This description seems consistent with Bush's bizarre performance in the very first presidential debate, where it was clear he had little block-speeches prepared for questions, and yet failed to deliver them in a convincing manner, once even inserting the wrong bit of script into his response to a question when he seemed to lose his way.

But a press conference where the obvious questions are never asked - and where Helen Thomas is ignored? Something is very, very wrong, isn't it?

The evidence:

Q Last night, after the fifth time has looked down at an apparent list of reporters, he smiled and he said, this is scripted.

MR. FLEISCHER: Are you going to complain he didn't call on you?

Q No, no, no. No, no. Which surely suggests that he did not write that script which gave two questions to one network, two questions to one wire service, and one to other vague and wealthy media -- but left all the rest, including Helen Thomas, ruled out in advance of any chance to ask, and left to serve only as window dressing.

And my question is, since you are always fair, Ari, in recognizing all of us, who was it that wrote that script that the President confessed to? Was it Karl Rove or Karen or who?

MR. FLEISCHER: It was me who gave the President a suggestion on the reporters to call. And the President called on all reporters, the President did not call on any columnists.


Q Wait a minute --

MR. FLEISCHER: No, Lester, we're going to go to the -- Lester, we're moving on.

Friday, 07 March 2003

15:26 GMT: Permalink

Future Senator James Capozzola (D-Not Specter) asks this question:

Has anyone else noticed the eerie but gratifying silence that has greeted the publication of Ann Coulter's latest scribblings, peddled by Crown Publishers under the title, Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism?

It's a tough world out there, Ann. Live by the faked footnote, die by the faked footnote.

So, welcome to the remainder bin, Miss Coulter.

Hey, maybe it's about the lying!

15:02 GMT: Permalink
TBogg is back from wherever he was. This is good. Tom had something to say about the Bush press conference (before the fact):

The real problem is not so much that Bush is unable to answer anything directly, truthfully, or in actual english words that 4th graders use on a daily basis. It's the press. Since Bush give press conferences about as often as Spencer Abraham gets laid, each reporter realizes that they may only get, what Eminem would call, "one shot" to get a question in. So they go with their little pads with one question written at the top...and the rest blank to scribble down the inanities.

What happens then is someone asks a good question...Bush dodges it by reciting a canned answer, and then Bush calls on someone else...who doesn't follow up on the previous question, pinning the chimp down. Helen Thomas may ask, " Why war? Why now?" which Bush will mumble his way through before calling on a Fox News correspondent who will ask about God in the Pledge of Allegiance. This allows Bush to call a hostile reporter, then follow with someone sympathetic to the Administration, whose job it will be to change the subject.

Afterwards Peggy Noonan and Howard Fineman will call Bush "masterful", recalling former President and current okra casserole, Ronald Reagan in his prime.

A little teamwork by the reporters would go a long way to exposing this weak little man who has all of the depth of a mirror.

TBogg also links to a good item from Dahlia Lithwick that includes this wonderful quote:

You really have to hand it to U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson. The man can say absolutely anything and still keep a straight face. Here he is in the Supreme Court today, arguing for a law that conditions federal funding to public libraries on their willingness to install wildly ineffective "smut filters," and he actually manages to argue—three times by my count—that these filters will enhance free speech.
A good question from Kennedy: Wouldn't it be a lot easier just to have two separate computers, a filtered one for children and an unrestricted one for adults—you, know, in the section behind the black curtain, with the bound back editions of Hustler and the very sticky floors? Olson replies that Congress could have done this lots of ways, but it chose a rational mechanism (the financial blackmail method) that is constitutionally sufficient. Olson then offers up the incredibly weird argument that this statute actually saves librarians from being inundated with lawsuits from authors suing because their book wasn't stocked. Because if the blocking software is unconstitutional, then "so are the types of decisions librarians have been making all along." This is part of Olson's whole "librarians love this" defense of a statute librarians seem to pretty universally detest—as evidenced by the fact that the named plaintiff in the case is, in fact, the American Library Association.
Don't miss this bit, either.

14:20 GMT: Permalink
Every now and then there is a moment of dissonance and I think to myself, "Wow, I'm listening to Kid Ory on my computer!

13:03 GMT: Permalink
Atrios links to John Scalzi and says, "I used to read Scalzi a lot and then stopped. Not sure why.". I expect the principle reason is that there is a lot more to read lately than there used to be. Then again, let's look at the piece Atrios is linking:

The fundamental problem with the Bush Administration is that it appears to be working from the position that being right excuses being incompetent. This presents two problems. First, when it happens that the administration is right, as it is in wanting Saddam removed at the earliest available opportunity, it blunders about being right in such a way that others would prefer to be wrong rather than to be in its company.
Well, let's not ignore the fact that it isn't right enough in Saddam's case. The administration has made it clear that its problem with Saddam isn't that he's a dictator, isn't that he's cruel to his people, isn't that he is mean to the Kurds, isn't that he is anti-democratic, and certainly isn't that he hasn't signed on to the human rights agenda. (Even if it were, that wouldn't explain the planned invasion of Iraq, specifically, when there are madder and even meaner dictators around.) It's personal, and that in itself is a rather serious error. All this business about assassinating Saddam that comes out of the White House shows - and this is putting the best face on it and giving them the benefit of the doubt - that they don't get Iraq at all. There are plenty of very nasty wannabe strong-men ready to fill the vacuum if Saddam were to be assassinated; it wouldn't necessarily change things and could actually make things considerably worse.

(I refuse to be grateful when someone acknowledges that the Bush administration is monumentally incompetent. Anyone who isn't completely blinded by partisan madness can see that by now. Pro journalists these days know it can be professional suicide to say so, but the rest of us are under no such constraints.)

We like to think the peasant revolt currently underway at the UN is simply a matter of formerly-significant states trying to stack up on top of each other, Transformer-like, to create a single powerful-but-evanescent entity to thwart the US for fun and future Iraqi oil revenues. But it has just as much to do with an absolute distaste for Dubya and his administration's methods. Let's be honest enough with ourselves to admit it takes a special kind of stupid to drive otherwise largely rational allies to prefer to be seen to side with a gleefully genocidal murderer than with you.
Cute, but... Well, I suppose, if you aren't smart enough to sort through RNC spin, you could buy that "seen to side with a gleefully genocidal murderer" line, but I don't think that's the choice Europe is making. The Bush administration is the one that's proposing to destroy a city, disable the infrastructure of a nation, instigate the killing of rather large "acceptable" numbers of civilians. So the question becomes not whether Europe would rather be seen with a genocidal murderer than with the good, decent, US of A, but rather an unwillingness to side with someone who is giving every evidence of being an even more gleefully genocidal murderer.

The second problem is that when the administration thinks it is right but is not (a condition that encompasses roughly every other aspect of its thought-making process aside from the two mentioned above), we're stuck with it being merely incompetent, and that's no good for anyone. Bill Clinton was famously obsessed with his ranking among Presidents.
Cite? I used to see a lot in places like Time and The Washington Post about how Clinton was obsessed with his "legacy" and all that, but I never once saw a single attribution for it. Journalists (who hated him) would simply state baldly that this was what was on Clinton's mind - without even referring to an unnamed source. You will recall that mind-reading the Clintons was itself a major obsession of the press corps for quite some time. The only trouble is that they were usually wrong, since the basis for their analysis appeared to be the belief that the Clintons were a couple of conniving monsters who were slyly hiding their copious sins and crimes. But I can't recall a single documented quote from Clinton himself, or even a named White House aide, that supports the theory that Clinton was "obsessed" with his standing among ex-presidents, his "legacy", or anything related. The only people who actually said stuff like that were journalists who were trying to run him down.

I don't suspect it will ultimately be especially high -- as two termers go he's right up there with Grover Cleveland -- but he can take comfort in the fact that at this rate Dubya's going to rank somewhere near Franklin Pierce, who as these things fall out was about as bad as you could be without being James Buchanan.
I guess it all depends on which historian writes it, in the end. Clinton did a lot of things I didn't like (I suspect Pakistan would like the US a lot more if Clinton hadn't been so accommodating toward corporations who were exploiting them locally), but he also did a lot of very admirable things (the Irish have not forgotten) and tried to do others (and might very well have succeeded if the Bushistas hadn't been interfering in US foreign policy). In the face of the corrupt partisanship of both the media and the Supreme Court (not to mention the ludicrous performance of Congress), I'm not sure anyone could have done better than Clinton did.

Meanwhile, it is not clear that Bush won't ultimately sink to James Buchanan's depths. He sure seems to be trying.

This is, of course, a tremendously depressing thing. It's never an especially good time to have an incompetent rubbing against the furnishings of the Oval Office and marking it as his territory, but some times are better than others. Warren Harding was a monumentally bad President, but he was also President during a time when he (or his thieving cronies, which is more to the point) couldn't do a tremendous amount of lasting damage.

Alas, today is not one of those times, and in any event Dubya and his pals aren't the sort to be content with mere graft. They're not crooks (though they like their stock options), they're ideologues with a deep and abiding moral clarity, both economic and religious, that's dreadfully inconvenient to those of us who prefer that moral clarity not trim away our budget surpluses or, come to think of it, so many of the basic freedoms afforded to us in the Constitution. Bush's administration would never be good one, but I wish we lived in a time where it could at least be harmless. This isn't that time.

They're not crooks? They make previous corrupt city and federal administrations look like pikers by comparison. Bush may actually be too stupid to realize that the money he is taking out of Social Security does not belong to the rich because it was not paid in by the rich, but I bet Cheney and his pals know it.

I won't dispute that they are "ideologues", but what does that mean? Lots of criminals - including ordinary burglars - manage to create some rationalizations in their mind for why they have the "right" to steal from others. Most murderers seem able to "justify" their crimes ("The bitch was asking for it!") - but we don't normally explain away the moral and social implications of such crimes by saying "ideology" keeps it from being theft, murder, whatever. If "moral clarity" means no more than, "I think I'm right," Bush certainly has no monopoly on it.

Let's get this straight: It's a mistake to think that it's a choice between regarding Bush as incompetent or as mean-spirited, conniving, and dishonest. He is all of those things. His "morality" is not born of strength, but of weakness - he has always done exactly what he wants, and he is now in a position to pursue his self-indulgence to heights few have ever dreamed of outside of the pages of comic books. His true ideology, like that of his friends, is that doing what he wants to do - what serves him personally - is morally justified. That's all. It's not about the struggle to do what is right even when you'd much rather do something else, which would be real moral strength.

Clinton lost the moral struggle against his own libido, but he made other hard moral choices that did not serve him. I've never seen anyone acknowledge that pardoning Marc Rich was one of those choices. Understand this: Clinton knew that Rich was unpopular with the unions and that pardoning him would not be a politically safe choice for a Democrat. He knew that pardoning Rich was the right thing, but he also knew that if he didn't do it, Bush certainly would, and at no political cost to himself. But when that choice was in his own hands, he took that responsibility, even though he knew it could hurt him. That's moral clarity - doing the right thing, even when it hurts. You'll never see Bush do something like that.

10:23 GMT: Permalink
Free .mp3s from Barry Thomas Goldberg's Empire Moon.

Here, Digby predicts the content of Bush's press conference. Here, he sums up what actually happened. And here is Atrios on the same subject: "what the hell was that 'this is scripted' remark... All I have to say is if these questions are pre-approved, the fucking press has an obligation to tell us." Oh, so it wasn't really a press conference at all.'s current feature is What Liberal Media?, with a challenge to Coulter and Goldberg, some Eric Alterman, and a bunch of other media criticism.

A shadowy group with ties to important Islamic terrorists stalks the US. They are, of course, in the White House.

Americans increasingly looking to British media for non-xeonphobic news.

Paranoia Report on the 9/11 highjackers. Speaking of which, I suspect that this episode of The Lone Gunmen will never be aired in the UK - so if anyone happens to have it on tape, I'd love to see it.

Thursday, 06 March 2003

17:02 GMT: Permalink

Eric Rauchway sat in for Eric Alterman yesterday and wrote a useful piece about WARS FOUGHT AND BOUGHT for the occasion. I liked it all but thought I'd mention this bit:

Let's forget about Vietnam for a moment; talking about the United States in Vietnam is an argumentative dead end. Think instead about the last time the United States set itself apart from the decadent powers of Old Europe and set forth to liberate a people and teach them democracy. Before and during the Spanish-American war, President McKinley, like President Bush, swore he had "no intention" of governing his new possessions, and reminded the world that all peoples had the right to govern themselves.

McKinley's intentions succumbed to divine intervention. He told the Christian Advocate, "I went down on my knees and prayed Almighty God for light and guidance" — like President Bush, he trusted his relationship with God more than his relationship with his earthly advisors and allies.

God didn't really turn out to be such a great advisor, though.

16:17 GMT: Permalink
Three middle-class white guys wrestle over Iraq.

Jessie writes: "This is important, a part of a North Korean ICBM was found in Alaska, and this was a test missile not designed to land on U.S. soil.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden looks at an article on nerds: "Graham's basic thesis is that nerds are unpopular because their interest in other subjects makes them unwilling to devote themselves exclusively to the struggle for popularity."

16:09 GMT: Permalink
Notes from a diet

Last year's Gary Taubes article in The New York Times, What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?, was instrumental in encouraging a lot of people to go on the Atkins diet, including a number of bloggers. It happened to appear at a time when I was struggling to heal a knee that had been injured by dramatic over-use while my other leg was in a non-weight-bearing cast - and it wasn't healing. I soon realized that only losing some excess weight was going to make the difference, but I was at a loss to know how. When someone told me to read the article and join them in going on Atkins, I grabbed hopefully for what looked like a chance to lose the weight. It worked.

For the most part, I've always tended to eat what most people would regard as a healthy diet - seafood, lots of veggies, and my snacks are usually things like cherry tomatoes and almonds. Sure, I like chocolate, but I can buy a bar of my favorite (Lindt, of course) and have it sitting in a drawer for weeks without remembering it's there. And yeah, I love chocolate pudding (American version - I've never been a fan of cake, and especially not really rich, dense cakes), but even though my friends bring me care packages of the best of all possible chocolate pudding mixes (My-T-Fine), I rarely make it, and when I do I share with several friends. But ever since I moved to England, I've had trouble keeping the pounds off. Some of this was clearly because the staple foods I was used to were unavailable and the substitutes just weren't working out, but I'm not sure what else caused it. I was running up and down an awful lot of stairs instead of driving, but I kept out-growing clothes. But slowly - until some time in 1998 when I started having some weird stomach problem that no one could ever determine the cause of.

I won't go into the details here, but eventually enough people were advising me to cut down on fats that I started doing that, and that's when I really started to put the pounds on.

The fat reduction wasn't really taking care of the stomach problem, either. And another weird thing was that for the first time in my life my doctor started asking me how much fat I eat. I get routine blood tests twice a year to monitor my thyroid condition, and I'd never had any problems about cholesterol before, but now my doc was concerned. I couldn't even begin to work out what I was doing wrong.

I was managing to live with it until I fractured my ankle, and then the real panic set in. So Atkins was a godsend.

But now here's this Reason article that says the Taubes piece was a crock. And I have no reason to believe that Michael Fumento isn't correct, but the bottom line is that reducing fat did not seem to have done me much good, but going on Atkins healed my knee and got me back into that lace burgundy balconette bra I haven't been able to wear in years.

So what is it about Atkins that's working for me? (And boy is it working for me! The stomach problem is gone, my cholesterol levels are back to normal, and so on, and so on.) Well, I don't think it's that I'm really eating that much more fat. After all, if you can't eat toast, you can't put butter on it. If you can't have pasta, you don't have the Alfredo sauce. But having cream instead of milk in my morning coffee does seem to make me fuller - and less hungry - than I used to be in the mornings. Another thing about Atkins is that it emphasizes drinking water, and the more I drink, the more comfortable I seem to be.

Of course, what really works for me about Atkins is that you cut out those spoons of sugar in your tea and coffee, with cream the replacement. I've always hated to drink things that didn't taste like sugar, so that was the hardest thing to get used to, and almost certainly the most important. Well, that and the exercise. Something I like about Atkins is that though they tell you to get daily exercise, they don't make you feel like you have to spend an hour a day in the gym to be able to say you've done it - "even if it's just a walk around the block," they say, which is a pretty low-pressure bit of instruction. Since I couldn't stand much stress on my wrecked knee, there wasn't a lot I could do, but I could free-wheel on the exercycle for half an hour each evening in front of the television. Combine that with the stairs and corridors on the Underground a couple-few times a week, and you know at least that you're not a complete lump.

I know there are people for whom this diet can't work. I know there are people who have more luck on other diets. And I know I'm going to eat that lemon mousse thing in the display case at my favorite cafe the next time I'm feeling self-indulgent. But I also know I'm more comfortable than I've been in a long time, and it's not the hassle I thought it would be. I'm a pretty self-indulgent person, so when I say it's not so bad, I'm not going all stiff upper-lip on you or anything.

I miss the hell out of Coke, though.

15:15 GMT: Permalink
Chris Mooney has a good couple of posts up about the latest disposition of the Pledge decision:

From the perspective of an atheist activist -- the type prone to stamp "get this religious graffiti off our money" on dollar bills bearing the slogan "In God We Trust" -- the words "Under God" are a matter of serious offense and cause for serious anger. I know this because I've known many of these people. Believe me, they're pissed off. In fact, I myself used to be similarly angry. I've chilled out quite a bit since then, and no longer think the Pledge is a serious civil rights issue or anything, but I must admit that I do still find the words "under God" pretty annoying.

Anyway, one of these atheist activist types, Michael Newdow, brought the original lawsuit in this case -- see here for his explanation of why he did it. Newdow has plenty of kindred spirits (granted, probably not the best choice of words) in this country. So if all these atheists are offended by the Pledge, that alone should be proof that the words "under God" aren't simply about "ceremonial deism."

Similarly, the fact that folks at the Wall Street Journal editorial page are so piously outraged by the Ninth Circuit's refusal to reverse the Pledge ruling says to me that the court actually did the right thing. Remember the Journal's crazy line about how U.S. troops are "about to go to war to defend the principles the Pledge extols"? This suggests the Journal actually thinks our troops are out to defend not just Country but God. In my opinion, such a view richly deserves a legal rebuke of the sort that the Ninth Circuit has provided, even if America's atheists aren't exactly the most oppressed people in the world.

We also award points to Chris for correct use of the word "loath". Here, for your reading pleasure, from the Oxford Concise:

loath // predic.adj. (also loth) (usu. foll. by to + infin.) disinclined, reluctant, unwilling (was loath to admit it).

loathe // regard with disgust; abominate, detest.

03:53 GMT: Permalink
It came in the mail....

*From:* "Ronn Pires"
*To:* "Media Whores Online"
*CC:* "NYT, Letter to the Editor" "Another Day in the Empire" "Sideshow"

Are you people all going nuts on me? Nicholas Kristof says that 46% of Americans are Evangelicals or born-agains, and all you folks have to say is that you are offended by how he says the media treats this 46%? Duh? What 46%?

Ooops. Well, yeah, that would have been worth mentioning. We were lazy. (However, I reserve the right to go nuts.)

Before I get into my figures, think of this: The last time you ate in a restaurant, did you see half of the tables around you stopping to say grace before they ate? Half of the people you sat with? How about the time before that? And before that still. You were lucky if you saw more than a handful of tables here and there do that. I guess Evangelicals don't patronize restaurants? Or they "politely refrain" from saying grace in public places? Give me a break. That's ludicrous. Kristof's claim is stupid, even on the surface.

So let's get some actual numbers from that Gallup poll. I don't see any 46%; do you? Now I see a 39%, but even that is a Republican-only percentage. Indedepents and Democrats are 27% and 34% respectively. So now we are down probably close to one-third. That is a 38% error on Mr. Kristof's New York Times numbers. But let's not stop there.

Let's go back to the restaurant deal. Were one-third of the tables around you saying grace? Maybe in some places in the country, but certainly not many, and certainly not in any of the population centers.

But let's take another look at those Gallup numbers. Just how large was their sample? 1,002 people. One in every 200 thousand adults? Get it? This survey is meaningless! You simply cannot construct a survey of 1,000 people and get an accurate pulse of what this country is thinking in terms of religion. ±13%? Give me a break!

Perhaps then, we should look elsewhere for numbers, and when I saw the first rumblings regarding Mr. Kristof's claim (I did not know it was he at that time that was generating this huff), I did exactly that:

-From an ARIS study (±10.3%) of over 50,000 a year ago: 37% of American adults consider themselves to be "religious", and 38% only "somewhat religious". For this to concur with the Gallup poll, almost every single one in the "religious" category would have to declare themselves Evangelical or born-again. This is nonsense. Many Americans have never had a gap in their faith, and many who have not are not Evangelical.

-Let's go a bit further, The Pew Research Center report for 2002: 18% of the 2,000 surveyed cite their religion as the one true religion. It might be difficult to clearly define "Evangelical" and "born-again" to survey participants, but "one true religion" is certainly a major portion of both.

Now, you can go through these various surveys forever on the internet and get wildly different numbers from reputable polling organizations, all referring to the same time periods, all of which suggest strongly that results are extremely dependent upon the exact questions asked. And this is consistent with the very topic of religion. Most Americans are especially sensitive to specific wordings when they respond to questions on their religious beliefs.

But let's get back to Mr. Kristof's statement regarding Evangelicals AND born-agains, for his greatest fraud is here. These clearly are grouped together in the Gallup study, but are explicitly singled out because they are not the same thing. So what is the difference? Born-agains are people who at least for a time lost some of their faith only to later find a renewed and greater belief in it. But not every "religious" person is "born again"; indeed many of them have never suffered periods of doubt. Evangelicals are a subset of both of these groups, but they go further in that they actively try to "sell" their religion to others, and always as the "one true religion". From above (if we trust statistics), this group is less than 1 in 5. Indeed, a Barna Ressearch study in 1999 indicates that a mere 8% of American adults fall into this category, and this number tracks closely to other studies on this matter I have reviewed.

So how does this all relate to Mr. Kristof's claim in the New York Times? First, the study he cites doesn't even come close to the number he claims. And this from the New York Times? An editor there cannot even do a 2 minute look-up of the study itself? That alone should have dismissed this article from publication. But then he goes on to say Evangelicals AND born-agains, as if they were one and the same. They are not. Quite clearly, they are not.

The fact is that most Americans are quite willing to allows others to believe as they do, and do not mind the strength of their neighbors' convictions. It is only the Evangelicals do not. They have a need for confirmation from those around them. And it is only a portion of these Evangelicals who add the government of the United States to the list of those that must be converted. A portion of this 8%. And Mr. Kristof has a bitch that this portion of Americans do not receive some glorious coverage by the U.S. press? If it was his 46%, then well he should. But his proposition is foolish from the outset. It is less than 8% that he is complaining for, and that makes him a liar, the New York Times a shabby publication for trusting him without even a basic review, and the rest of us "Not Guilty" as charged.

P.S. for New York Times: Don't trust my numbers or even my links. Get off your asses and do the research yourself like you should have the first time ... and then print a freaking retraction! Or are we getting a bit too "yellow"?

02:47 GMT: Permalink
Another new weblog: The Chimes at Midnight.

Jack Kemp at says Don't forget Afghanistan. (Via Summary Opinions, which also has blog entry on how candidates need to work the press. In addition, there's a link to a Ralph Nader article about how MSNBC killed the Donahue show.)

Wednesday, 05 March 2003

17:26 GMT: Permalink

Media Whores Online, among others (including me) is offended by this Nicholas Kristof article:

But liberal critiques sometimes seem not just filled with outrage at evangelical-backed policies, which is fair, but also to have a sneering tone about conservative Christianity itself. Such mockery of religious faith is inexcusable.
On the contrary, it's kinder than they deserve. We should be calling them what they are: blasphemers. Pretending that Bush is personally anointed by God - a fiction in which Bush himself clearly takes part - is blasphemy. So is Sun Myung Moon's claim to be the Messiah.

American society hardly dares go a moment without invoking some version of monotheism. Leaving aside our current political "leadership", US television rarely gets through a season without some nod to the power of prayer, some "miracle", some allegorical Christian tale, not to mention the ever-present Christmas episode. It's hardly as if atheists are characterized as sensible heroes; in fact, atheists rarely get to make a case at all. The idea that Christians are some kind of underprivileged minority who never get to express themselves is a lie of monumental proportions.

Meanwhile, Jesus spoke of love and forgiveness, of charity toward the poor, of sharing; his gift was redemption. Where do these stingy, contemptuous, unforgiving hate-mongers fit in to all that?

The fundies believe the Bible "literally"? Well, literally, there can only be 144,000 of the saved - all male, and all virgins - and the rest are not saved, no matter who they are or how pious they claim to be. The "saved" have no business trying to pretend that they represent Americans, America, or its values. If we believe the Revelation, America contains more atheists than those who are "saved"; more practicing Wiccans, probably even more self-proclaimed Klingons and Jedi. All others claiming to have had the great epiphany, the personal infusion from Jesus, are either deluded or lying. That is, unless you completely ignore John's hallucinatory fantasy and just go with Jesus, who promised eternity - unmediated by any other human, unmodified by sectarian preferences - to any who believed in him.

Bush claims that Jesus is his favorite philosopher, but where's the evidence? Virtually everything he does stands in stark contrast to the teachings of Christ. Much the same can be said for the so-called "Christian" fundamentalists who claim to believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, in their own salvation, and in the love of Christ, while promoting hatred and war.

So where do these promoters of such a corrupt and heretical version of "Christianity" get off demanding "respect" for a belief system that is an overt slap in the face not only to unbelievers or believers in other faiths, but a direct insult to the core beliefs of Christianity itself?

As long as Bush continues to pretend he can speak for God, and as long as he and his friends have no problem with Sun Myung Moon, they are heretics, blasphemers - and they are in a constant state of insulting all other faiths as well as Americans' right to believe in no God at all. We don't owe them any respect at all.

Update: Patrick Nielsen Hayden points out that Slacktivist has his own angle on this one.

16:43 GMT: Permalink
Bartcop reccommends an article:
There have been, though, no cable-news talk shows debating the nature of neurotic obsession - the son's dealing with the father's issues. (Obviously, though, given his repeated delineation of Bush the Father and Bush the Son, this is on Saddam's mind.) Nor even has there been much discussion of the possibly cynical nature of all this: that it worked so well once before, so why not do it again?

There's been scant wag-the-dog talk here—not like with the Clinton adventures, when you could make that reference and suggest a large and conspiratorial subtext and have lots of people eager to believe it. There have been few Strangelove references, either (even about Wolfowitz).

That's a good point - there's not even any discussion about this. When Clinton was president, they'd FABRICATE topics like, "What if Clinton strangled a prostitute?" and then they'd get their little round table and go around and get everybody's reaction to that evil Clinton killing again.

But when the unelected fraud drags us into a never-ending war, all we hear is "traitors" and "treason!"

This is what happens when Republicans own all the airwaves.

(Also, a cartoon.)

12:54 GMT: Permalink
Small Flashes reminds you why the Dirty Harry method of interrogation is not a useful way to acquire intelligence:

Torture is very effective at producing confessions. It is, however, almost totally ineffective at getting correct information. Torture subjects will say anything to get it to stop -- but their information is almost certainly false. You still have to investigate everything, which takes time. You might as well use the resources for real police investigation, and if you're doing that, you don't need the torture.

12:22 GMT: Permalink
Have I mentioned the Rush Limbaugh Transcription project lately? Well, your help will be welcomed warmly. Preserve his BS for posterity so everyone can point to it later and say, "See? See?"

Ralph Nader, shake-down artist.

Mitch Wagner talked to people who think spam is a serious crisis. (Only 40%? You should see my mail.)

From Capitol Hill Blue, Who listens to conservative talk radio? "Mainly frustrated white guys, says one poll. Conservative radio's niche is disappointed people, mostly men. Andrew Kohut, the highly regarded pollster for Times-Mirror, has described "the typical Rush Limbaugh listener" as a "white male, suburbanite, conservative [with a] better-than-average job but not really a great job. Frustrated with the system, with the way the world of Washington works. Frustrated by cultural change. Maybe threatened by women." Somebody, in short, who is not as rich, powerful or famous as he thinks he should be, and who wants to blame outside forces. The talk-show hosts help. They blame cultural (but rarely economic) elites and the government for the world's ills and regularly reinforce the listener's sense of being scorned and ridiculed. No wonder liberal talk radio is doomed."

And from Geoffrey Nunberg, "But hold it right there. If we're really looking to understand the success of right-wing talk radio, we needn't go much further than people's readiness to start sentences with "Liberals are . . ." and to go on to describe liberalism as something between a personality disorder and a market segment." (Via Tapped.)

11:57 GMT: Permalink
Wolf Blitzer's QUESTION OF THE DAY for March 4th:

Who's the number one threat facing the United States:

Saddam Hussein
Kim Jong Il
Osama bin Laden

Seems to me they left a choice out.

11:28 GMT: Permalink
It's An Unenviable Situation:

Some of My Best Friends are Anti-Semites.

There's another skirmish over T.S. Eliot. Only in this country could we still get in an argument over an intelligent man's lack of purity; the Germans have an easier time with the Stasi. The literary critic Dwight McDonald was an anti-semite. How do I know? Because one of my best friends grew up around him. McDonald was a friend of his father. Joshua laughs. They used to sit around and watch "Taxi" together. Dwight loved "Taxi."

McDonald was an anti-semite who used to sit around the house with a fat Jewish sculptor from Milwaukee and his teenage son and watch Judd Hirsch and Andy Kaufman. When Eliot had lunch with Groucho Marx all he wanted to talk about was "Duck Soup."

(I always wonder about that picture on his blog. It's a great face.)

Tuesday, 04 March 2003

11:30 GMT: Permalink

G. Jefferson Price III of The Baltimore Sun reminds you that Negroponte knows a lie when he hears one - and so do several other Bush administration members who were once famous for telling lies:

Whenever Negroponte speaks of lies and deceptions, I can't help thinking there's something wrong with this picture.

Not that Hussein isn't dangerous and lying about what he has and where it is. I'm sure he's lying and concealing and dangerous.

What's wrong with the picture is Negroponte, who has engaged in deception and covering up in his time. A veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service, the British-born Negroponte's career seemed to have gone dry after three ambassadorships, but was miraculously revived after George W. Bush became president. Negroponte and a few others from the Reagan administration's cahoots with bad guys in Central America two decades ago have been restored to power.

One is Elliott Abrams, now serving on the National Security Council. Abrams pleaded guilty in 1991 to two misdemeanor charges of withholding information from Congress about a secret U.S. campaign to support the Nicaraguan contra rebels at a time that Congress had banned it. Bush's father pardoned him in 1992.

Another is Otto Reich, also on Bush's National Security Council, who was tied to the contra rebel scandal while he was in the Reagan administration.

If you don't remember the history of all this, do check out the article.

10:51 GMT: Permalink
I disagree with a number of things in Richard Blow's Repeat After Me, I'm Liberal And I'm For (Fill In), but it has its moments:

Truth is, since the end of the Carter administration and Walter Mondale's crushing defeat in 1984, Democrats have been struggling to figure out just what it means to be liberal -- or if that's something they even want to be. During Carter's term in office, liberalism came to mean a well-meaning but sometimes naïve idealism; foreign-policy haplessness, due largely (if unfairly) to the Iranian hostage crisis; and a touchy-feely, Donahue-like vulnerability. Remember those cardigans? Carter's collapse during a road race? The man was smaller than life.

The Mondale campaign further tarnished the party's image as prostrate before special interests such as labor, minorities, teachers, trial lawyers and government employees. Then in 1988 Michael Dukakis single-handedly destroyed any political advantage from wearing the liberal label. It wasn't the way that the Bush apparatchiks defined liberal to mean someone out of touch with mainstream values. It was Dukakis' refusal to stand up and say, "This is what it means to be a liberal, and I'm proud to be one, so scuttle on back to your cave."

But Blow still buys the idea that the media's preponderance of "effective" conservatives has to do with the ineffectiveness of liberals in articulating liberalism, rather than recognizing that effective articulators of liberalism simply don't get called in for those media gigs in the first place. As just about anyone who is paying attention can tell you, the closest thing we get to "liberals" on television is "centrist" Democrats (who are actually somewhat to the right of the mainstream on most issues) and conventional reporters who feel a professional obligation toward ideological balance. Successful liberal radio personalities like Randi Rhodes and Jim Hightower - that is, people who are actually popular and command a large listenership in their markets - don't get syndicated on Clear Channel or called for regular appearances on the TV news-talk shows, they get fired. Donahue was not fired because he was a failure, but because MSNBC was afraid he was about to become a draw for an enormous audience that is hungry for left-leaning (and anti-invasion) news-talk.

Yes, liberals absolutely do need to learn how to stand up and be counted. They need to learn how to define what they stand for in clear and uncomplicated news bites. We do, after all, have the best bumper stickers, so that shows we can do it. But unless the owners and producers in media decide that balancing corporate conservatism with liberalism is a good idea, that is not going to matter. And right now, all of those news institutions are run by corporate conservatives, so I don't think that's a likely scenario. Barb Streisand was right: We need a liberal network that will put liberals up front; conservative media (which is what we have now) is not going to do that.

10:19 GMT: Permalink
The Mahablog says: "The catch is that people who know a thing or two about the Middle East believe that the United States is about to open the gates of hell."

How to use duct tape.

Monday, 03 March 2003

23:59 GMT: Permalink

I know I'm gonna love this: I'm reading offline and find this from Jim Henley:

The Evidence is In - Radley Balko put together an entire series of "Ashcroft Sucks" posts. Scroll up from this one to the conclusion:

Seems to me, one could have made one of two conclusions vis-a-vis Ashcroft at the time: either he's a racist, or he's a principled "states' rights conservative," willing to weather the racist label in order to uphold the principles of federalism.

Seems clear to me now that Aschcroft doesn't give two shits about states' rights or federalism (see the five posts below). Seems to me he's hellbent on imposing his morality on the rest of us, the Tenth Amendment be damned.

Draw your own conclusions.

23:40 GMT: Permalink
Digby has a few good words about the serious case of denial that Thomas Friedman and those like him are suffering from:

This wishful thinking is running amuck among people who are even less dazzled by the President's manufactured machismo than Tom Friedman. They cling to the idea that even though this administration has fouled up every single foreign policy initiative, that they wasted all of the U.S. moral authority emanating from 9/11, that they have been proven over and over again to be the boldest and most shameless liars to ever occupy the White House, that somehow they "Just Have To" do this one right. The long bomb "Just Has To" connect.

I think it's time for everybody to start considering just what we are going to do in the event this thing, like every single other thing this administration has done, goes wrong? What are we going to do when the "It Just Has To Work" theory of geopolitics fails?

12:13 GMT: Permalink
Even if you haven't gotten around to reading the first five parts of the series on fascism at Orcinus, please do take the time to read Rush, Newspeak and fascism: Part 6. Well-written, clear, thoughtful, and scary as hell.

11:06 GMT: Permalink
Media Whores Online supplies this interesting quote from Bill Maher from last Wednesday's Larry King Live:

I think people, if they want to know what's going to happen in Iraq, consider this analogy. Now they've tried to present it like it's all going to be rose petals on the liberators as they march down the streets in Baghdad.

No, what you should picture is Waco.

Iraq is Waco. Saddam Hussein is David Koresh.

He's a real bad guy, an evil man who's got an arsenal that we don't like. And, of course, we shouldn't like it, but I think right wingers always defended David Koresh because the idea was, 'Well, he's not using it. It's just going to make matters worse if we go in there.' And that's what -- I've seen this movie. And in this case, our army is the FBI and he [Saddam] is David Koresh.

And I know how it ends. The FBI gets decimated when they go in and the nut bar takes the whole place with him rather than give up his weapons. He uses them.

We are forcing this guy to use his chemical and biological weapons when I don't think -- for 12 years he has not so much crossed against a red light and suddenly he has become this menace who is about to attack us.

10:40 GMT: Permalink
From The Left Coaster:

FCC Keeps Us in the Dark on Consolidated Media Ownership

One of the benefits that George W. Bush has in maintaining a constant state of "war" is that he can work with the large corporate media to keep issues of mutual benefit that are adverse to the public's interest under the radar screen of our citizenry. An excellent case in point is the move afoot by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to push through a rule change that would relax restrictions on how many media outlets can be owned by the same corporation. A recent poll by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, commissioned by the Project for Excellence in Journalism of Columbia University reveals that only 27% of those polled knew a little or a lot about the proposed FCC rule, with 72% saying they knew nothing at all.

Given the inherent conflict of interest for the media to be covering this story sufficiently, one could argue that it would be even more important for the FCC to be educating the public about this issue and allowing for public comment. Yet Michael Powell appears to want to keep this issue under the radar screen: the FCC scheduled only one public comment hearing on such a sweeping change for this past Thursday in Richmond, Virginia, an area of some religious and conservative media concentration. (note how the Post buried this story away from the main section and slanted it somewhat in favor of the industry).

Now it could be that Powell was distracted by the challenges facing his father in maintaining what is left of his credibility and being the only adult in the White House foreign policy operation. Or it could be that Powell is still stinging from a rare defeat for a FCC chairman when he was outmaneuvered in a vote last month by a recent White House appointee over the issue of allowing state regulatory agencies more say in controlling telephone long distance services in their states. In that case, Powell wanted little or no state regulation and Bush appointee Kevin Martin split the difference and pushed through an alternative on a 3-2 vote that granted some control to state agencies while still squashing the competitive ability of smaller companies to go up against the Baby Bells.

Most likely however, Powell doesn't want this issue to get much sunlight. The media concentration issue before the commission now is relatively straightforward in how this change would allow a smaller and smaller number of conservative conglomerates to own numerous media outlets, thereby limiting the breadth of information available to the public. Much of the corporate media is a large contributor to George W. Bush, and their coverage of the 2000 election and his first two years in office reflects this support.

But an issue of this importance needs as much sunlight and opposition as possible. The only way to slow this down and possibly derail it is for members of Congress to apply pressure and start asking questions. But they will only do that if you tell them it is an important issue to you. And the recent poll shows that thanks to the media's intentional lack of attention on this issue and Michael Powell's willingness to keep this quiet, much needs to be done to overcome this stacked deck.

(Thanks to Reading & Writing for the pointer to this site.)

10:19 GMT: Permalink
Josh Marshall finds Zbigniew Brzezinski saying some smart things to Wolf Blitzer:

BLITZER: Dr. Brzezinski, how much damage do you believe there will be in U.S.-Turkish relations if the Turkish parliament does not reverse itself and authorize the deployment of some 62,000 U.S. troops to Turkey?

BRZEZINSKI: I think there would be resentment here, obviously, and understandably so.

But one has to take into account that one of the costs of pressing Turkey into this war, in addition to bribing them, which is pretty expensive too, in any case, might be significant political instability in Turkey. And this is another reason why I feel we ought to let inspection and verification run its course. The political costs we're going to be paying for this, whether in Turkey or in Pakistan, probably in much of the Middle East, already in a great deal of Europe, throughout the world in fact, are going to be so high that, unless there is an imminent threat -- I repeat the word "imminent," which we're not using actually -- I think we can afford to let this process go forward.

BLITZER: But you heard Dr. Kissinger say, you have 200,000 U.S. troops, you can't keep them cocked at ready to go forever. And if you start withdrawing, then it's basically all over, and it underscores U.S. weakness in the face of Iraqi defiance.

BRZEZINSKI: You know, admittedly the Middle East is not Europe, and the climatic conditions are more adverse. But the fact is that we kept war-ready troops in Europe, war-ready, poised for war, for several decades, and we have far greater rapid-redeployment capability today than we ever did.

So the argument that we have to go to war because we deployed troops to press the other side to concede, I think, is not a sufficient cause for a war, which could be very costly, very destructive, and which, at least in the near future, is not necessary.

There's more, leading Josh to wonder: "How much of the diplomatic capital we've built up over the last 50 years can we spend down in a few short months? I guess we're about to find out."

Marshall also sums up the Bush team's foolishness on this road to ruin:

But if you want some evidence of this administration's diplomatic incompetence, consider this. We publicly sold out the Kurds to get this deal. We really should have made sure we had a deal before we tipped our hands to the Kurds about the price we were willing to pay for it.

Now we have no deal and no Kurds. I don't think we should have sold out the Kurds regardless. But if we were going to do so we should have been clearer with ourselves about who we were in bed with, the Turks or the Kurds.

10:03 GMT: Permalink
Shock & Awe is a neat little site that looks at "The Global Assault on Liberty and Justice" under the "shock" heading, and "True Tales of Courageous Resistance in the "awe" column. Do have a look.

Pandagon finds right-wingers "playing the race card" once again, asking, "Is The Sierra Club Racist?" He also discovers that our last elected president is making no attempt to avoid jury duty, and lets off a bit of steam over Orrin Hatch's specious rhetoric regarding the filibuster of Estrada's nomination.

Counterspin has more on the strange way Bush Co. cites intelligence that it probably knows isn't true. Hesiod also notes that warbloggers are spinning a story's authenticity based on whether words in an Observer article should have been spelled using The King's English. Well, sorry, guys, but you just can't rely on that as proof of anything other than the reluctance of the British press to use American spellings. Note to Hesiod re this item: My friends in Westminster who actually work with Blair are convinced that his reason for supporting the invasion is that he is scared to death of what Bush will do to Britain if he doesn't go along with it. I don't have much time for Blair, but I've believed for some time now that this is almost certainly the case.

Cursor says: "Supreme Court rules that antiabortion protesters can't be sued under RICO act."

MWO gives the Bush administration a failing grade on freeing Afghanistan of repressive Taliban influences.

Atrios finds yet another really good reason why we need Social Security.

Sunday, 02 March 2003

23:25 GMT: Permalink

I haven't said much about the firing of Phil Donahue from MSNBC, partly because his show sounded pretty annoying. Part of me thought it wasn't an entirely bad thing to have a TV show hosted by someone on the left-ward end of the spectrum, but the rest of me realized it was just another Naderite who is there to attack Democrats. It might have been useful if it put Dems up against Greenies instead of just "balancing" with more right-wing fruitcakes, but I don't really have much patience with giving those whackos even more airtime, and I'm definitely not in favor of more Anti-Democratic All the Time television.

Still, the fact that Donahue was essentially fired because some right-winger decided he was a liberal, and that now MSNBC will be carrying the way-out-on-Saturn Michael Savage (thanks to Max for that link), really does rankle. If you haven't been following this story, a few facts:

MSNBC (or "BSNBC", as they call it on the message boards), uses the excuse that Donahue's ratings were lower than right-wing crank Bill O'Reilly's, competing in the same time-slot, but what they don't tell you is that old Phil had their own network's highest-rated show. Chris Matthews' show is even lower rated, but MSNBC didn't give him the axe.

MSNBC's fear is having an anti-war talk host criticizing the administration in this time of "patriotism". Given the American public's ambivalence about the war, that would seem to be a pretty stupid strategy - Donahue was poised to corner the market, there. Why compete with the right-wing hawk network when there's a huge market out there that isn't currently being served at all? It's lame - even lamer than Donahue.

[Note to defensive right-wing readers who like to accuse me of name-calling: Listen guys, the way these folks use the terms "liberal" and "Democrat", that's name-calling enough right there, so get off your damn high horse. And people like Savage and O'Reilly are right-wing cranks.]

(Speaking of Max, check him out on why the blood for oil argument is not stupid/crazy/etc.)

23:01 GMT: Permalink
If you missed Sunshine Patriot: Tom DeLay and the party of appeasement by William Saletan, check it out now. Others have said it before, but this really spells it out nicely. (Well except for the spelling of "flout".)

On Wednesday, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, called Democratic opponents of war in Iraq "reckless." DeLay assailed last weekend's "outrageous" speech by former Gov. Howard Dean, D-Vt., to the Democratic National Committee. The applause that greeted Dean's speech "proves who the Democrat Party is," DeLay told reporters. "They are fast becoming the appeasement party."
If you don't already know this one, you might enjoy the kicker punchline at the end. (Unless you're the sort of right-wing whacko who doesn't even flinch when you hear a member of Congress use the phrase "Democrat Party".)

14:36 GMT: Permalink
Still stupid enough

Kevin Marony writes to alert me to the fact that by failing to actually go back and check the link to the article on the pseudo-child porn bill, I missed the fact that Leahy was criticizing its current form:

Unfortunately, I cannot support all the changes that Senator Hatch seeks to make part of the bill we have introduced. I believe that some of them go too far and would subject the bill to the same constitutional limbo and risk that brought down the earlier law. Most notable among these is the new prong of the pandering crime that Senator Hatch and I worked so hard to craft last year. It would allow prosecution of anyone who "presented" a movie that was intended to cause another person to believe that it included a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct, whether or not it was obscene and whether or not any real child was involved. Any person or movie theater presenting films like Traffic, Romeo and Juliet, and American Beauty would be guilty of a felony. The very point of these dramatic works is to cause a person to believe that something is true when in fact it is not. These were precisely the concerns that led seven justices of the Supreme Court to strike down the 1996 Act. We do not want to put child porn convictions on hold while we wait another 6 years to see if the law will survive constitutional scrutiny.
Okay, right, that was pretty lazy of me. But. If Leahy knew all that, why hasn't he realized that this really pretty much sums up what the bill is about in the first place? You can't put your name to a bill that is intended to censor fiction without realizing that, ultimately, it is going to censor fiction. That's the point.

06:36 GMT: Permalink

A picture is worth a bunch of words: All you need to know about "tort reform".

Alan Bostick has started a weblog.

Real Live Preacher on The Bible & homosexuality.

CLG interviewed Greg Palast.

Monkey Media Report says Zombies have sucked Glenn Reynolds' brain dry. Also:

Saturday, 01 March 2003

02:27 GMT: Permalink

Stupid law made more stupid

Amygdala with more to worry about:

BACK TO THE WELL: Another child porn bill. This seems somewhat better than the previous idiotic bills, but -- I'll need to see more detail -- probably only somewhat so.

The new legislation, sponsored by Orrin Hatch (R.-Utah) and Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.), hopes to avoid the court objections by not defining computer-generated images as obscene and, instead, prohibits the pandering or solicitation of anything represented to be obscene child pornography.

The bill, which passed on an 84-0 vote, requires the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that person charged with producing or distributing child pornography intended others to believe the product was obscene child pornography, which is not protected by the First Amendment. Persons accused under the new law would have to prove that real children were not used in the production of the material.


"Any person or movie theater that presented films like Traffic, Romeo and Juliet, and American Beauty would be guilty of a felony," Leahy said. "The very point of these dramatic works is to cause a person to believe that something is true when in fact it is not."
D'oh! Yeah, that would not be a good outcome. Sigh.
I'd say "indefensibly stupid" would describe it. Traffic, Romeo and Juliet, and American Beauty have never been represented as anything other than fiction, and Patrick Leahy should know better than to claim that audiences are expected to believe their contents to be true. Most people are smart enough to figure out that the roles are played by actors, most of whom are not the same ages as the characters they portray, and none of whom have actual sex or actual death on stage or on screen, despite whatever special effects may be used. This may be the single dumbest thing I've ever seen a US Senator say. It doesn't require a knowledge of history or a knowledge of law. Little kids know better.

So, Slate doesn't know what "flaunt" means, and Leahy doesn't know what "fiction" means. It's amateur hour all over, folks.

02:14 GMT: Permalink
Demosthenes has an interesting response to the discussion of The Bell Curve that's mostly been running at Eschaton, addressing not the book itself but the problem with answering its false assertions. Atrios points out that we can't be expected to defend our position with a 50,000 word treatise every time the question comes up, and that ultimately it comes to seem like the question is raised just to waste our time repeating what is already well documented.

What grabbed me was the general problem: that every time an idea of phenomenon that has been thoroughly and scientifically discredited is brought up as discredited, inevitably it prompts the sort of response Atrios mentioned.

It's actually a fairly effective technique. It decreases the S/N ratio of any commentator it's aimed at, because he or she must spend insane amounts of time refuting these assertions, and sometimes the refutation of a simple assertion can be relatively complex: witness the conflict of evolutionary science vs. creationism. It can win over people who don't know the truth, because there is (I believe) a natural human desire for a simple and understandable answer- such as "intelligence is a function of race", instead of a complex and difficult answer- such as "IQ is the function of a blizzard of different influences, of which genetics is only one... and race is such a baggage-laden concept that it's damned near useless". It can also prey on the desire of people to be "fairminded", because giving equal time to two people will privilege the one spouting a whole bunch of simplistic attacks- the person with the more complex answer simply doesn't have the time to deal with it, because the answers take longer than the questions.

That's true. On the other hand, it's a mistake to simply ignore the dissemination of falsehoods because they are too whacky or poorly supported for anyone familiar with the subject to take seriously, or because they've "already been discredited". They obviously haven't been descredited for the person who repeats them in good faith, or the person who hears the claims made and doesn't know why they aren't taken seriously by people who know the field. And it's amazing how many people there are for whom all of these issues are new. You may never educate the jerk who keeps raising the same phony issues over and over, but the people who are overhearing probably need your help. And you know what the price of liberty is, right? Education is much the same.

02:00 GMT: Permalink
Black Box

Avram Grumer looks at voting machines and is worried by the claim that if anyone messes with the program to get it to falsify votes, "It will not compile right." Hell, even I know that's rubbish, and I've only written a handful of (very small) programs in my life. Either this guy knows about nothing how these things work, or he's hoping that you don't. Neither possibility makes me comfortable.

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, March 2003

February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
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June 2002
May 2002
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March 2002
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December 2001
November 2001
Is the media in denial?
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And, no, it's not named after the book or the movie. It's just another sideshow.