The Sideshow

Archive for May 2004

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Monday, 31 May 2004

Max versus the Three Stooges

I never did like P.J. O'Rourke. I thought maybe it was a girl thing, but I just couldn't read him without getting bored and annoyed. For a while, O'Rourke served the role of the Three Stooges here in that respect, since the Stooges themselves have no appeal to my partner, who was not exposed to them growing up.

Now Max exposes me to more of what must be humor from O'Rourke since otherwise it sounds too dim even for him:

Fascism, however, is a pointless ideology -- the graps (sic) of power for power's sake. The fight against fascism seems like Dad's war, Granddad's war. Fascism should be out of date in the purposeful, task-oriented world of today. Never mind Slobodan Milosevic, Vladimir Putin, Yasir Arafat, Somali warlords, Charles Taylor, China's politburo, the Saudi royal family, murderous Hutu rabble, and New Gringrich's career arc. . . . Fascists do bad things just to be bad. . . .
We have forwarded this vital information to our intelligence agencies. It should be a boon to the search for Islamo-fascists. The key is that, otherwise lacking in distinguishing features, the way you can find these miscreants is by looking for the bad people. Those over whom hovers the Shadow of Evil.

Ironically, it is just this contentless depiction of fascism that is itself a feature of fascist discourse. It is the invocation of an enemy other that serves as an all-purpose justification for the invasion of the month, or for domestic repression.

Sorry Charlie, a jingoist cannot be an anti-fascist, and World War II is not about 9-11.

(The other two stooges are the guy who quoted O'Rourke approvingly and of course the one and only Christopher Hitchens.)
23:40 BST

What I saw

Cuddly Cthulu

Ellen Kushner interviewed Neil Gaiman on NPR's Sound & Spirit. You can read the transcript or listen with RealPlayer. (via)

Our dangerous distance between the private and the commons

Nathan Newman reviews Control Room, about the network that gave the best coverage of the Iraq invasion and occupation - Al Jazeera. He also discusses lies and No Child Left Behind, more reasons you need civil liberties - even in a war zone, and the different branches of conservatism.
22:20 BST

Notes & quotes

Some people we link to went to the big blogger bash in Denver and apparently had way too much to drink. In a massive outbreak of dual personality, Gary Farber has written about it, twice in the same post. It's a bit silly, and I can't escape the feeling he has insulted my cosmic twin sister. (Jeralyn, here is the post you need to read.)

In a post that my cosmic twin sister is bound to like better, Gary approvingly cites an article about Sheriff Bill Masters, who has had it with the War on Some Drugs:

Every year, Masters and Sam Shoen attend Marquis's parole hearing, determined to see that he serves every day of his sentence until his mandatory release date. For Masters, one of the most outrageous aspects of the case is that Marquis was out on parole at the time of Eva's murder. He'd been charged with ten counts of sexual assault in New Mexico but pleaded to one count and served only nine years. What kind of country lets rapists go free, he wondered, because its prisons are overloaded with drug offenders?
Seth Finkelstein has been egoscanning and, like most of us, enjoys seeing himself quoted. Here's a quote that amused me, too:
[On Ralph Nader] Seth Finkelstein offers a nice comment on the claim that Gore ran a lousy campaign, the major reason he lost: Each individual straw heaped on a camel's back can say, "Who me? Wasn't me. I'm just one straw! What sort of a big strong camel is this, if he can't deal with one more straw on his back? The solution is to get a better camel!" ...
Seth is a smart guy. I've known him on the net for what must be close to a decade, now, and I still want to meet him.

Michael Kinsley, in an article in Time, says:

Stamping some issue as controversial can be a substitute for thinking it through. In the case of embryonic-stem-cell research, thinking it through does not require further study or commissions of experts. This is one you can feel free to try at home. In fact, thinking it through is a moral obligation, especially if you are on the side of the argument that wants to stop or slow this research.
Of course, you could say that about a lot of issues, and you'd be right.

Time is also finally looking at the awkward relationship between Cheney and Haliburton; everybody tried to brush it off, but they really can't do that anymore. It's corruption, dammit, just like we kept telling them. (via)

Charlie is cheered by the news that research has indicted the necktie as a hazardous element in a doctor's wardrobe.
17:19 BST


Bush may not be Harry Truman.

Who signs Nader petitions?

Pundit Pap: Bush Presidency Jumps the Shark. (via)

"The U.S. government - 'we make spammers look like small potatoes.'"

A bug
15:30 BST

Sunday, 30 May 2004

Yes! Skippy invented that word!

The Whiskey Bar is open again and serving up some excellent stuff - and a banquet of metaphor:

I must confess that I spent a good part of my week off feasting at the schadenfreude buffet - and many good things to eat and drink did I find there, including such delicacies as skewered neocon, fricasseed Judith Miller, fried huevos de Sanchez (and you know I'm not talking about eggs), Republicans on the half shell (or in Denny Hastert's case, on the half wit) and, last but certainly not least, Shrub-a-la-road, smothered in Max Factor.
Not just food metaphors, either:
It's almost as if the mainstream media abruptly awoke from a coma and realized their doctors had been slipping them sedatives and going through their wallets. Even useless tools like Chris Mathews seem to have light bulbs dimly flickering over their heads. Suddenly, the outrages the left side of the blogosphere has been screaming about for months - the crimes, the corruption, and, above all, the sheer incompetence of the "war effort" - are being splashed all over the tube. For the first time since I started Whiskey Bar, I've actually felt redundant. So for once I was content to sit back and take it all in, savoring the details of each new poll, chortling over each pathetic media mea culpa (culminating in the New Pravda's hilariously understated "editor's note") and gleefully watching the pus ooze from each new infarction in the tissue of lies that is the Bush administration.

"For the first time ever in my life, I had someone threaten to kill me tonight." Via The Left End of the Dial, where James is talking about Eliminationist Rhetoric.

Travis and David Neiwert are both talking about Osama's support for Bush. David has some strong language about the way the righties have been pushing the "A vote for Kerry is a vote for terrorism" meme.

Susan at Suburban Guerrilla explains why a certain type of disaster relief program encourages disaster.

"I made a personal appeal to John Edwards to support gay marriage."
23:52 BST

Pot, Kettle, etc.

Epicycle links to two articles at Ars Technica, one on ClearPlay film censoring technology and this one:

Also at Ars, an article on the Pirate Act, a new set of legislation aimed at criminalizing various acts of online piracy. Although the media and the RIAA always refer to file sharing as "theft" or "stealing," in the majority of cases copyright infringement is actually a civil issue and not a criminal one. The Pirate Act would change this, though, and in fact would mean that the government (and therefore the taxpayer!) would foot the bill for copyright prosecutions - as well as bringing the increased fines and longer prison sentences that the RIAA et al. so fervently wish for. All in all, it sounds like an extremely dangerous development for civil liberties. The EFF are mounting a campaign against the proposed legislation, fortunately, and as usual they are well worth supporting.
The idea of the RIAA trying to call anyone else pirates still has me steamed. But you knew that.
18:42 BST

Readers' lettuce

Sumana Harihareswara writes with a clarification of the Salon offer:

Just so you know, Salon's offer only applies to active-duty military personnel. I'm not familiar enough with the US military to know the extent to which that limits the offer.

"...all active-duty military personnel. If you are currently serving in the U.S. military and have a .mil e-mail address, send us your name and address and we will give you a free one-year Salon Premium subscription. If you are one of the active-duty GIs already receiving Salon Premium, we will extend your subscription for a year free of charge.

To take advantage of this offer just send an e-mail to [this address] with your first and last name and e-mail address and we'll create your Salon Premium subscription. Please note that we'll only be able to create Premium subscriptions for .mil e-mail addresses.


Thanks for publicizing the offer. I'm proud of it.

Oh, I think it's a very good thing, thanks for doing it.

Richard Bensam has some thoughts about Disney's attempt to shut down Michael Moore's movie:

This may be in the category of old news, but some friends were talking about the Michael Moore / Disney flap last night and I had a minor "lightbulb" moment.

Here in New York City, the tv stations have been showing an endless spate of commercials promoting tourism in Orlando...not just Disney, but also the Universal parks, Sea World, and all the other tourist attractions. This is purely anecdotal and subjective, but it really seems like the volume of ad buys for Orlando tourism has increased. I only noticed this because I particularly dislike Orlando and got annoyed at hearing it plugged every few minutes.

Then I turned up an interesting factoid. As Mayor Bloomberg pointed out during his appearance before the 9/11 Commission, the funds which New York City receives from the Department of Homeland Security come out to $5.87 per capita, and this is wildly disproportionate to other metropolitan centers. But Orlando, Florida receives $47.14 per person from the same source...eight times as much money for a city which is probably not at eight times the risk of NYC. I'll grant that it IS a potential target and I don't like to think about the prospect of a terrorist attack on Disney World; I know people who work there.

Thing is, though...aside from the PR stance that these funds are earmarked for security and emergency services, any money coming into state coffers from the federal government will ease any other state budget shortfalls, and means that state money is free to be spent elsewhere. Say, on promoting Florida tourism? So I kinda feel New York is getting shafted so Orlando can run tv ads telling us to visit there.

I haven't looked into what sort of tax breaks and/or kickbacks Disney might receive from Governor Bush, but no one could argue that there isn't a huge opportunity there for collusion and favoritism. It doesn't require trusting everything Michael Moore says to see that there's strong motive for Disney to favor the Bushes. The burden of proof should be on those who claim otherwise; who say that Disney is capable of being disinterested and nonpartisan in such circumstances. Simple logic says otherwise.

I mean, if I drop a bowling ball out my window, I don't need to prove in advance it will hit the pavement...but someone who claims it will just float there unsupported and never touch ground is going to have to demonstrate some means by which that could possibly happen before I'm gonna believe it.

Lorri doesn't doubt Al Qaeda's support for Bush:
I agree that Al Qaeda wants Bush to be reelected, but not for the reasons you gave. What's the goal of Al Qaeda? To see our country demolished. They must be jumping with joy at the division they see among us right now. But if Kerry is elected, and especially if he's elected by a wide enough margin to prevent any credible claim of a miscount, there's a chance that this country might get "back on track," do something right in the international arena, and not disintegrate into civil war at home. Therefore, it's more in the interest of AQ to see Kerry lose. If I were Kerry's people, I would give high priority to security. He may be under no actual threat, but hey, if I can think of something bad, I'm sure the people whose job it is to think these things up can think of something bad, too. Although I think, unfortunately, *any* home-turf terrorist attack would be enough to give our "great war leader" Bush the extra points he needs to be reelected.
I certainly agree that the divisiveness Bush has caused can only be good news for Al Qaeda. And it's rather a bad joke to hear the administration talk about how "they hate our freedoms" and then proceed to eliminate as many of our freedoms as they can. If they really believe AQ hates our freedoms, it's hard not to wonder this: Whose side is Bush on, anyway?
16:38 BST

The reactions

I wondered how the establishment would deal with Al Gore's speech. It wouldn't surprise me to know that that speech was the real cause of the sudden emergence of John Ashcroft to announce another unlikely terror alert. The RNC was ready with claims that Gore had "lost it", "gone off the deep end", descended into "ranting", and so on. The predictable phony psychoanalysis was, of course, available from Krauthammer, who declared that, "it looks as if Al Gore has gone off his lithium again," as The Daily Howler and Media Matters report.

Atrios has already pointed up the only other talking point the RNC has - it's Clinton and Gore's fault. They're claiming Gore has amnesia. They seem to have forgotten that 9/11 occurred on Bush's watch.

The Blogosphere was likewise predictable. Lefty bloggers each had their own ways of characterizing the speech - ranging from, "too little, too late," "Where was this guy in 2000?" and "I wish Gore had showed this much passion back in 2000" - still recriminations for Gore's campaign even amidst the praise - to wistfulness and pained regret at the realization of how much better off we would be if Gore were in the White House instead of that other guy. Many were openly moved and others apparently charmed that Gore "spanked" the Bushies. Some just thanked god for Al Gore.

In contrast, the right side of the Blogosphere was pretty much in lock-step with the RNC talking points: He's lost it. He was anti-American and full of rage. He was frothing-at-the-mouth. He was crazy. And (this is getting so original) he has officially lost it. He has careened off the rails. In other words, they had nothing to say.
13:19 BST

How it's not like Vietnam

Jack Beatty in History's Fools, in The Atlantic:

In the larger context of the Cold War, Vietnam made a kind of sense. In the context of the struggle against Islamist terrorism, Iraq is an act of self-sabotage.
Via Bartcop
02:50 BST

Saturday, 29 May 2004

Places to be, things to see

Bill Scher is at an undisclosed location somewhere so Air America's Sam Seder is sitting in at LiberalOasis and doing an amazingly good impression of Bill, looking at the spin on Kerry's position and why, as usual, you shouldn't believe it.

Iain Coleman says he has found, "the most convincingly feasible exit strategy from Iraq that I have seen to date."

Chart of gasoline prices since 1980

The stupidest thing Steve Gillard has seen all week

From Bad Attitudes: As reported in today's Washington Post, the Bush administration is notifying federal agencies to plan for budget cuts should Bush win election in November.

Kulture Kops

Salon interview with John Kerry

Torture! What is it good for? (Absolutely nothing!)

30% off the top.

Economics is a "values" issue.

Bruce Lee paperdoll (via)

A joke.
13:21 BST

Friday, 28 May 2004


I just discovered Wanda's weblog, Just Breathe, and with it the news that Dave Dellinger has died. Dellinger always looked a little bit out of place among the rest of the Chicago Eight, but he never lost his committment to peace.
18:59 BST

Who Osama supports

Atrios quotes this little outrage from CNN:

[Kelli] ARENA: Neither John Kerry nor the president has said troops pulled out of Iraq any time soon. But there is some speculation that al Qaeda believes it has a better chance of winning in Iraq if John Kerry is in the White House.

BEN VENZKE, INTELCENTER: Al Qaeda feels that Bush is, even despite casualties, right or wrong for staying there is going to stay much longer than possibly what they might hope a Democratic administration would.

One wonders what such suppositions are based on. How do they know what "Al Qaeda feels"? Where is that intelligence coming from?

I haven't said much about this because, frankly, I don't see any mileage in it, but let me say for the record that when Al Qaeda announces that they'd prefer Bush to win the election, I don't necessarily believe they are being facetious. For one thing, they tend not to lie very much about their beliefs and plans, and for another they already know from experience that when they tell the truth about what they are up to, no one in the administration pays any attention. They provided an announcement on the radio that they were going to make a big hit on us in 2001 and left more breadcrumbs than Hansel and Gretel, and no one followed it up. Their MO isn't lying, it's open boastfulness. Why should they lie? Is it going to make a difference?

And it makes sense. The administration that allowed them to commit the enormity of 9/11 already looks more friendly to them than some administration that wouldn't. You only have to read the papers to know that in terms of things that might stop real terrorism, no real changes have been made. Indeed, John Ashcroft is far too busy chasing porn and hookers and trying to turn America into a more Talibanish kind of place. Plus, the administration actually did the one thing we know Osama wanted - pulled out of Saudi Arabia. Then they opened up Iraq for the religious extremists and terrorists. What more could they have asked for? Meanwhile, George Bush is the poster boy for Al Qaeda recruitment, and everyone knows it. Kerry just doesn't hold the potential to reap such benefits for Osama's children.

So, yes, I think it's quite possible that the Islamist crazies really do want Bush to win in November because Bush has done them more good than anyone could have been expected to do. And they may feel perfectly free to say so publicly, because they know that Americans are going to react just the way they have - by treating it as a transparent lie, and assuming that they really fear Bush. But they have no reason to fear Bush; Bush is their fairy godfather.

Atrios recommends we let CNN know what we think of the way this "speculation" is being aired:

There you go. We're fighting al Qaeda in Iraq and they think John Kerry is a wimp.



You can communicate your thoughts to Ms. Arena personally at:

And in an update he says:
You can now send your emails to Eason Jordan at He's CNN's chief news executive.
You might ask them when they are planning to discuss the speculation that the terrorists really do want Bush to stay in the White House, 'cause he's been their sugar daddy.
18:20 BST

War on kids

The thing about being a kid is that they are constantly getting you to write and draw things, put your thoughts on paper.

And there you are, maybe just trying to get through the day, or maybe taking them at their word and thinking surely they are smart enough to know the difference between the thoughts that pass through your head - things you don't express normally - and the things you actually do. Taking them at their word that they are just teaching you how to draw or write or whatever, and maybe trying to show some spark, some talent, some willingness, something. I mean, it's school, and you're a kid, and no one listens to what you say, anyway. So it turns out that an important component of the war on kids is the war on art. Hey, look, Jeralyn says another kid wrote a poem:

The California Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in a case in which a 15 year old student was convicted and spent 100 days in juvenile hall for writing a violent poem. Sample phrases:
"For I can be the next kid to bring guns to kill students at school." Another reads: "For I am Dark, Destructive & Dangerous."
You might, if you are the mother of this boy, be a bit worried about those dark thoughts, but a lot of teenagers have dark thoughts - sometimes downright murderous thoughts - and never act on them. And, maybe, you'd want your kid to get counselling if he wrote a poem like that, but he's not the one who is deranged if this happens:
What law was George T. convicted of?
The law in question, usually invoked in domestic violence cases, carries a maximum one-year term for criminal threats that convey an "immediate prospect of execution." The lower courts found that this threat met that definition, a decision the boy's attorney argued was unfounded.
The court actually believed that this poem presented "an immediate prospect of execution"? Where do these people get their ideas?

So, the first thing we're teaching kids is that when it comes to self-expression, don't do it.

And also, "Don't trust us when we tell you it's safe to be honest with us."

Gee, I wonder why so many kids hate being a kid. Grown-ups are always trying shut you up, betray you, tell you not to have fun, tell you things that aren't even true and are frequently worse than useless. Like those stupid drug ads:

The Government plans to spend $145 million this year on anti-drug ads. A new study shows they don't work. They may even prompt some kids to start experimenting with drugs.
Three of every four students reported the ads sparked thoughts that ran counter to the ads' message, the study showed. "For example, in response to ads linking drug use to the war on terror, the most frequent unanticipated thoughts were that marijuana should be legalized, the war on drugs has been ineffective, and that marijuana users should grow their own," said Czyzewska.
These kids are clearly smarter than their elders. No wonder everyone wants to shut them up.

Well, I hated being a kid, even back in the Good Old Days, and I wasn't even black. What if you are, though? TChris knows:

It's amazing that a school district couldn't arrive at this conclusion without the help of a panel appointed by the district superintendent.
Security officers in the Kent School District, the target of complaints over the discipline of black students, should no longer handcuff students or carry firearms, batons, tasers or pepper spray, a panel has recommended.
The recommendation came after the Seattle chapter of the NAACP filed several claims against the district alleging that teachers and security guards used excessive force to discipline black students.
Not that anyone is planning to pay attention to this recommendation, you understand. Yes, that's right, treat kids like criminals early so they start off feeling like outsiders. That'll really help them feel like a part of the community.

My god what a bunch of idiots. And just look where it leads.

(In other news, and in case you forgot: They knew.)
17:00 BST

Things I saw

Salon is offering free subscriptions to anyone in the military.

The most watched video list at C-Span has Gore's speech at the top. (The crowd went wild. It's kind of breathtaking to see someone in Gore's position use that kind of language, isn't it?) The third item listed, by the way, is Greg Palast on Washington Journal.

Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 from BitTorrent - for free, from 3 July. [Er, this is supposed to be a gag. Don't ask me why.]

Trent Lott says there's nothing wrong with torture.

Paul Krugman says now that the press is less enthusiastic about whitewashing Bush, he might be in trouble - if it lasts.

LNS says the networks did Bush a favor by not airing his speech.

Charles Pierce goes to Ahmad Chalabi's yard sale. (via)

Body as Billboard
13:32 BST

Thursday, 27 May 2004

Axis of Eve

"There is something so liberating and exciting about it, you've got to try it out," she said recently as she fidgeted, fully clothed, on the couch in her friend Tasha's Manhattan apartment. "I was teaching a class on imperialism, " she continued, "and I was delivering all this material that was kind of new and upsetting, and everyone was getting all worked up and upset, and I was getting all worked up and upset, and all of a sudden, all I wanted to do was flash my underwear! It was crazy," she said with a throaty giggle.

That's because she wasn't wearing just any panties. Elizabeth is part of Axis of Eve, a fledgling group of rabble-rousing feminists and anti-war activists who have taken to flashing their undies as a form of political dissent. The Eves, as they call themselves, are on a mission to sex up protest. They take to the streets wearing "protest panties" which come emblazoned with anti-Dubya double-entendres like "Expose Bush," "Lick Bush," "Give Bush the Finger" and "Drill Bush Not Oil." When the Eves flash them at rallies, the effect is somewhere between a 1970s' love-in and George Bush's worst, frat- addled nightmare of a panty raid gone awry.

17:22 BST

More Al Gore

I can't help it, he just said it so well:

Moreover, the administration has also set up the men and women of our own armed forces for payback the next time they are held as prisoners. And for that, this administration should pay a very high price. One of the most tragic consequences of these official crimes is that it will be very hard for any of us as Americans - at least for a very long time - to effectively stand up for human rights elsewhere and criticize other governments, when our policies have resulted in our soldiers behaving so monstrously. This administration has shamed America and deeply damaged the cause of freedom and human rights everywhere, thus undermining the core message of America to the world.

President Bush offered a brief and half-hearted apology to the Arab world - but he should apologize to the American people for abandoning the Geneva Conventions. He also owes an apology to the U.S. Army for cavalierly sending them into harm's way while ignoring the best advice of their commanders. Perhaps most importantly of all, he should apologize to all those men and women throughout our world who have held the ideal of the United States of America as a shining goal, to inspire their hopeful efforts to bring about justice under a rule of law in their own lands. Of course, the problem with all these legitimate requests is that a sincere apology requires an admission of error, a willingness to accept responsibility and to hold people accountable. And President Bush is not only unwilling to acknowledge error. He has thus far been unwilling to hold anyone in his administration accountable for the worst strategic and military miscalculations and mistakes in the history of the United States of America.

He is willing only to apologize for the alleged erratic behavior of a few low-ranking enlisted people, who he is scapegoating for his policy fiasco.

In December of 2000, even though I strongly disagreed with the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to order a halt to the counting of legally cast ballots, I saw it as my duty to reaffirm my own strong belief that we are a nation of laws and not only accept the decision, but do what I could to prevent efforts to delegitimize George Bush as he took the oath of office as president.

I did not at that moment imagine that Bush would, in the presidency that ensued, demonstrate utter contempt for the rule of law and work at every turn to frustrate accountability...

Every now and then I think about writing a post called, "Al woke up. It had all been a dream." It's still the autumn of 2000, and he knows this was not just a dream. He's not the only one, it turns out. Over breakfast, Tipper says, "I had the most awful nightmare last night...." He hears that a number of times during the day. Bill Clinton calls him and says, "Al, this isn't just any election. I had this dream...."

And Ted Koppel, Tim Russert, and Dan Rather, shaken by the picture of their own culpability, try to assure themselves that faced with the same choices they would not let themselves be pushed into the same laxity of professionalism, and resolve to live up to a higher standard. Michael Kelly realizes he's been playing a stupid and dangerous game and that it's time to grow-up and take his responsibilities seriously.

And four years later, the Republicans have their convention in Atlanta, and then the Democrats have their convention in New York. Gore has turned out to be a far better president than I had imagined. We may not know what changed him, but we know that somehow he has become the president we'd always hoped for. On the eve of the election, we drink a toast to the man who we know will be re-elected in a landslide, as we gaze out over the city from the restaurant at the top of the tower.
16:11 BST

Filling the ticket

Elton Beard's Shorter David Ignatius:

The best way to unite the country is to elect a president and vice president who agree on nearly nothing.
It's astonishing to me that there are actually Democrats who think McCain is in any way a viable choice for a Democratic VP. He may not be as far out in Loonyland as the bulk of the Republican leadership, but that doesn't mean he's our guy. He's actually a staunch conservative, and that's not what we need right now. He's also the head of the Arizona Bush campaign and has publicly stated that Bush should be returned to the White House. His reputation for integrity is only by comparison; he's not as wonderful as the buzz paints him, he's just a whole lot better than the gang of maniacs and liars that currently controls his party.

And anyway, what Kerry really needs is someone who will help promote the kind of liberal ideas that appeal to real working people - including the real working people who don't yet realize why they should be voting Democratic.

I think that guy is John Edwards. Wesley Clark is nice, sure, and if he wants to add his voice to the campaign that would be neat, but Edwards is the guy who has really developed a program to address the real policy needs of our country, and crowds seem to love him. Skippy thinks Edwards is the people's choice, too - although he is not from the liberal end of the party, he has a liberal understanding of the value of people who work for a living, he is engaging and thoughtful and energetic, and he seems to have a real grasp of what needs to be done. Skippy also notes that even Howard Fineman is saying Edwards is polling well.

Bear in mind that the VP candidate doesn't have to be the only guy who helps campaign for the ticket. Some Democrats have already shown a willingness to come out strong as critics of the current administration. Those who have done so should be rewarded (as Atrios keeps reminding us); those who have not should be encouraged to do so. People like Joe Biden should be spanked for being more of a hindrance than a help.

And McCain's criticisms of Bush are actually much more powerful coming from him as a Republican Bush-campaigner than if he switched parties. (Let's not forget what the Republicans did to Jeffords when he switched, eh?) I like him right where he is, thank you.
14:51 BST


Aljazeera has reported on this years PU-litzer awards from Norman Solomon at FAIR: The worst US media performances.

In Salon, the wonderful Eric Boehlert talks about Rush's forced conscripts: American Forces Radio fires a daily barrage of Rush Limbaugh at its million uniformed listeners. So why are liberals kept off the military's airwaves?

We don't get The Practice here anymore, so we missed this excursion into political criticism.

DCCC TV with Republican Survivor.
13:50 BST

The man we elected

I've been reading Al Gore's speech, and it's so good and so strong he's covered my entire range of adjectives and several of my favorite nouns. At first I was thinking, "I could have written that," and then I realized, no, it's better than what I would have written. No punches pulled, it's all there. I hear C-SPAN 1 is going to air it in a few hours (Wednesday night, 10:00 PM Eastern Time) and I hope I can stay awake for it.

George W. Bush promised us a foreign policy with humility. Instead, he has brought us humiliation in the eyes of the world.

He promised to "restore honor and integrity to the White House." Instead, he has brought deep dishonor to our country and built a durable reputation as the most dishonest President since Richard Nixon.

Honor? He decided not to honor the Geneva Convention. Just as he would not honor the United Nations, international treaties, the opinions of our allies, the role of Congress and the courts, or what Jefferson described as "a decent respect for the opinion of mankind." He did not honor the advice, experience and judgment of our military leaders in designing his invasion of Iraq. And now he will not honor our fallen dead by attending any funerals or even by permitting photos of their flag-draped coffins.

How did we get from September 12th , 2001, when a leading French newspaper ran a giant headline with the words "We Are All Americans Now" and when we had the good will and empathy of all the world -- to the horror that we all felt in witnessing the pictures of torture in Abu Ghraib.

Just about had me in tears.

If only we had a man like Gore in the White House....
00:10 BST

Wednesday, 26 May 2004

On the web

According to the blurb for a Salon article I haven't read yet: National Review pundits do battle over Bush's Iraq speech; Podhoretz says soldiers like Sivitz and England deserve their own torture. Plus: Hitchens tags Michael Moore the ultimate ugly American. Yeah, of course; after all, whatever Sivitz and England did, at least they didn't torture the right-wingers by being a liberal who gets air-time.

Media Matters for America was horrified to learn that our tax dollars are paying for Rush Limbaugh to be piped-in for the listening pleasure of our people in Iraq, and cries foul. An open letter to Rumsfeld says: As you know, Mr. Limbaugh's commentary is broadcast on American Forces Radio to nearly 1 million U.S. troops, stationed in more than 1,000 outlets, in more than 175 countries and U.S territories, including Iraq. According to a May 26 article on, the radio network was established "to improve troop morale by giving service members a 'touch of home' with American programs overseas." It is abhorrent that the American taxpayer is paying to broadcast what is in effect pro-torture propaganda to American troops. I ask you to consider removing Mr. Limbaugh from the radio network to protect our troops from these reckless and dangerous messages.

At the newly-revamped (and faster-loading) Blah3: Since we're re-naming Abu Ga-Rape...., crybabies, and conservatives to be proud of.
23:48 BST


At Through the Looking Glass, Charles Dodgson found Stanley Fish making the remarkable suggestion in the NYT that academics should stay out of politics. Well, I suppose this had to come along as soon as the righties had convinced themselves that academe is just a hot-bed of liberals. Check out the graphic he found, too. (Oh, yeah, it's still not funny.)

Mac Thomason at War Liberal and Max Blumenthal (whose weblog I just discovered via Atrios - and it's good stuff) have more examples of the latest in right-wing efforts to keep the judiciary from, you know, upholding the Constitution. Law school must be easier than I thought if these nutters managed to get through. (Max is also one of many to mention that Al Gore was scheduled to give another big speech about Iraq last night. I can barely wait to see whether the media is still going to try to pretend he is nuts or just ignore it altogether.) Read the whole page for many more exciting things - like where else the Bush administration is getting it's help, and how Britain's libel laws are being used to prevent the publication of Unger's House of Bush, House of Saud here.

Atrios is absolutely right: Mea culpas are all very well but if the NYT really wants some credibility they need to do a lot more house-cleaning. Or do they only fire black journalists (who fail to lead the country into unjustified war)?

And speaking of the NYT, check this post at Body and Soul: This morning's New York Times brings us a sad and fantastic (definition 2c) tale of how the election in Florida was accidentally stolen and African American voters disenfranchised by sheer coincidence. [...] See, when they purged the voting rolls of "felons" in Florida, they had no idea that the people kept from voting would be disproportionately African American. Nobody but a conspiracy nut or an illiterate would come to the conclusion that it was intentional.

David Yaseen says he has a stupid observation.
19:07 BST

News & analysis

Rehnquist orders study after Scalia flap: Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist has ordered a study of federal judicial ethics, a move that follows intense criticism of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia for taking a hunting trip with his friend, Vice President Dick Cheney.

The Daily Howler has completed it's latest series, a four-parter on how the press corps snoozed on the road to Iraq. It's gross misconduct, but they have their excuses all ready.

If you've missed the story of how the people sent to Iraq by the White House to run the country were chosen not for their expertise (they had none) but for the fact that their rTsumTs were posted on the Heritage Foundation site, Nick Confessore has the gist at Tapped. He's also got something on the little K Street war between Dick Armey and Tom DeLay and a look at how Fox gets it's fair and balanced voices, and recommends this interview with Bill Moyers, who is retiring from PBS. And Matt wonders why the Bush-supporters seem to think that having their dear leader give a speech is all that's necessary to fix things.

The more I look at this picture from Salon, the more it cracks me up. (And then there's this, from Drudge.)
13:17 BST


A few reactions to the speech:

Approximately Perfect does the newspaper round-up.

No one at Salon was impressed.

Fake Plastic News explains what he said in terms even Bush could understand.

In any case, I don't think that speech is going to help this.

He's got a grab-bag full of campaign lies, so we'll see how that works.
00:20 BST

Tuesday, 25 May 2004


I hear Bush bravely came out against beheadings last night. What a hero.

Another way for the FCC to restrict our freedom of speech?

Bush's priorities

Triumph of the Will & Grace
18:44 BST

Altercation digest

Alterman claims his correspondents rendered him irrelevant, and declared a Slacker Monday.

From "SSG Van":

I am not stealing any thunder from our Officer Corps, we have some really awesome leaders, but an LT doesn't have years of experience, that Staff Sergeant did. He took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, and he failed. Bored, pissed off, or God forbid, following orders, he had a moral obligation to do the right thing. Just like it's always preached, the hard right over the easy wrong. He had control over his men, and was with them, constantly. If stuff was ordered that wasn't right, he had the power and the right to say no. If they told him to do it anyway, he could have refused and had it taken care of further up the chain of command. Same situation Bateman was talking about, refusing an unlawful order. That Staff Sargeant is the direct link where the metal hits the meat and he failed the Corps of Non Commissioned Officers. There is another saying you may or may not be familiar with, that the Corps of Non Commissioned Officers is the backbone of the Army. That NCO lacked any backbone. He needs to fry for dishonoring everyone of us.
It's hard not to share that feeling. "Just following orders" is not a legitimate excuse in the US military. While we recognize the difficulty of refusing an order in the field, the fact is that American soldiers are legally obliged to do so in the face of an illegal command - and torture is unequivocally illegal under US law, no matter where that order is made. (And, contrary to this administration's famous weaseling, the Geneva Conventions are clear that any captured combatant is entitled to GC protections at least until a tribunal is held to determine their status.) Simple morality is one reason, and the inefficiency of torture is another, but there's another reason why even "evil" nations were prepared to sign on to the Geneva Conventions, as Tim Wilkins reminds us:
I cannot imagine anything that would be adequate punishment for anyone who would offer or accept the advice that America should not abide by the Geneva Conventions, or not listen to the ICRC about prisoner abuse. Let me explain my thoughts.

My only uncle, Major James V. Wilkins, was a USMC-Reserve fighter-bomber pilot in Korea. He was shot down during a bombing attack in the first months of the Korean War. He was badly injured parachuting from his plane, and was captured. He was tortured both physically and psychologically, and forbidden any communication with his family for most of four years. Many, if not most, of those imprisoned with him died in captivity.

After his release, he told us that one of the few things that kept him sane and alive in horrific conditions was receiving some of the packages sent to him by the family through the ICRC, and infrequent inspections of his prison camps by the ICRC, which pressured the North Koreans to comply with the Geneva Conventions.

He, along with the others who came home, only returned to us because of the influence of the ICRC and international pressure. He was proud to know that no U.S. prisoner could ever have been treated as savagely as he was.

What sort of "quaint" punishment would be appropriate for those traitors who would advise the country to weasel out of the Geneva Conventions, and thus put our soldiers forever at risk of torture, abuse and worse?

The practical safeguards the Geneva Conventions and the International Red Cross provide to our military personnel are vital, and it is simply astonishing that we ever had an administration that would so easily dismiss them, let alone that Bush's lawyer would actually put it on paper that it was all a bunch of old-fashioned rubbish. Quaint? To try to prevent the torture of your own people? Quaint for an administration that invokes morality at every turn to advocate torture of others? What kind of people are they?

Maybe "Old retired Navy guy" Nicholas Pisano is trying to answer that question:

If the political rhetoric in the wake of 9-11 and through both the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions is any indication, the Baby Boom belief system seems to be that our birthright as Americans makes us omniscient when it comes to dealing with the rest of the world. That this comes at a time when we seem to have little concern for domestic democratic processes, republican institutions or the social and economic welfare of our fellow citizens is hypocritical and an indication that our elites possess a hubris that is about ready to set us up for a big fall--as if Vietnam wasn't bad enough. That these elites have learned to take advantage of their own tremendous self-righteous and self-serving miscalculations and scandals to further erode civil institutions and democratic virtues is even more galling and perhaps an indication to anyone paying attention (including Stupid) that it may be time for the public to bring democracy back to the United States and concentrate on applying our own principles and living up to our own promises at home.
This may be a good description of the administration and their supporters, but I don't think you can hang this on "baby-boomers". These guys were never much like the rest of us.

The column finishes out with Jim Dwyer's pocket bio of Sy Hersh's career highlights, a downright classy consideration of The Sopranos as an exploration of loyalty and morality, and a few final words for Tony Randall. Good stuff.
14:30 BST


Is the press soft on Bush?

A joint project by the Pew Research Center and the Project for Excellence in Journalism reveals a darkly pessimistic view of the profession among its own members, often echoing the criticisms of the public at large.

The 55 percent of national journalists, and 37 percent of local ones, who see the media as soft on Bush may well be reflecting their own views of the president. At national outlets, 34 percent describe themselves as liberal, 54 percent as moderate and 7 percent as conservative. (The local split was 23-61-12.) Nearly 7 in 10 of the liberal national journalists criticized the Bush coverage.

Via Pandagon.
13:13 BST

Stuff I saw

Helen Thomas: Message To Kerry: Time To Protest War Again

Thom Hartmann: Liberal Talk Radio - Let The Water Cooler Wars Begin

More blood from a stone

Suicide economy

Enron Tapes Hint Chiefs Knew About Power Ploys (via)

What Hunter Thompson said.

And congrats to Oliver Willis for joining David Brock at Media Matters for America
01:07 BST

Monday, 24 May 2004

Things to read

PNH has three short posts up with links to articles that he says tell us about Our Future. You should check them out.

Last week Jim Henley responded to the alleged discovery of an alleged actual chemical weapon in Iraq with a point-by-point explanation of why it doesn't change anything. This is the sort of thing that should be kept on file in case any more of this stuff turns up.

Senators Demand Explanation

(Thanks to Steve Smith for the tip.)
21:37 BST

Monday morning leftovers

Time travel - 1954 to 1963 in less than a year.

For Crying Out Loud, It Worked Against HITLER, Dude!

Congratulations to Michael Moore on winning the Palme D'Or.

Unfreep the Pelosi poll, says Skippy, who also says you can download Eric Idle's "The FCC Song" here for free.

Roger Ailes produces the illustrated "The Way We Were", with pictures like this one. (via)

In praise of John Brunner. [And speaking of SF, the Hugo short fiction nominees are up online to read, now. (via)]

Cooking by numbers
14:01 BST

Sunday, 23 May 2004


Josh has all the straight dope, of course, but my pick for the topic is Teresa Nielsen Hayden and her merry gang of commenters on the story of The Mouse That Played "Let's you and him fight." If Iran really did manage to scam the US into invading Iraq they have pulled off a masterful sting that is tremendous pay-back for the way we embroiled them in a war with Iraq not so long ago.

And it was easy for them, because it was what the Bushistas wanted to do anyway. Only a mark who was detached from reality in truly Nabokovian dimensions could have fallen for it, but hey, it turns out we weren't misunderestimating Bush after all!

And anyway, I'm sure it must be Clinton's fault - even though the neocons haven't yet figured out how to "prove" it, yet. (Well, they don't call him "Slick Willie" for nothin', eh?)

Those who have figured out it's FUBAR but can't quite bring themselves to blame Bush think Rummy's head is the only one that has to roll, but I think Skimble, referring to another aspect of the Iraq story, has it right:

Terror alert level: Ignored. Fred Kaplan in Slate correctly focuses on the aspect of the White House culpability story that is being drowned out by the disgusting spectacles of Abu Ghraib and Nick Berg: the deliberate negligence of Zarqawi:
It's a tossup which is more disturbing: a president who passes up the chance to kill a top-level enemy in the war on terrorism for the sake of pursuing a reckless diversion in Iraq-or a president who leaves a government's most profound decision, the choice of war or peace, to his aides.
The "failure of leadership" meme that Taguba made public last week has the shape of a much larger theme that applies to the entire Bush White House.
I'm sure the administration will go through it's entire wardrobe of excuses and distractions to try to make us forget to look for the man behind the curtain and all that (did they kill Hubble because that would find him?), but since even several members of the Washington press corpse have started to get the feeling something could be wrong, bits and pieces are leaking into the public consciousness. As Josh observes, even The Candidate Himself is making dark jokes:
Kerry told reporters in front of cameras, 'Did the training wheels fall off?'
I pushed a button for whatever tape was in the deck and somehow this song just seemed so relevant:
Take a look at the Lawman
Beating up the wrong guy
Oh man! Wonder if he'll ever know
He's in the best selling show
Is there life on Mars?
[Skimble also has a round-up of Berg video conspiracy theories, the latest on Skilling, Lay, Baxter, and the Enron heist in California, and more "potential felons" to be removed from the Florida voting rolls.]

Update: Gary Farber says it was crack cocaine. (And thank you for changing the colors, Gary, it's a relief.)
16:20 BST

Support America

Terry Jones says so:

Tony Blair tells us that we should do everything we can to support America. And I agree. I think we should repudiate those who inflict harm on Americans, we should shun those who bring America itself into disrepute and we should denounce those who threaten the freedom and democracy that are synonymous with being American.

That is why Tony's recent announcement that he wishes to stand shoulder to shoulder with George Bush is so puzzling. It's difficult to think of anyone who has inflicted more harm on Americans than their current president.

I sure can't think of anyone.
01:43 BST

Saturday, 22 May 2004

Lookin' around

No good under a tee-shirt, I bet.

I learned on Air America that "evangelist" is an anagram of "evil agents".

Thanks to Owen Boswarva for a heads-up on Barbara Ehrenreich's reaction to Abu Ghraib. (I didn't have this reaction. Even leaving Margaret Thatcher aside, we should know this from our own experience - I mean, we went to highschool with other women, and it wasn't all nice.)

Armageddon Christians breaking the law.

Josh Marshall:
We know Chalabi leaked, but who leaked to Chalabi?
Democratic candidate dogged by full-time Republican stalker.

Via Atrios:
Hawks Eating Crow by Eric Alterman at The Nation.
Excellent take-down of Andrew Sullivan by Juan Cole, and it's more than a mere Gotcha!
20:50 BST

From the invaluable Smirking Chimp

From Alexander Bolton at The Hill, Who let bin Ladens leave U.S.? Bush refuses to answer 9/11 commission's queries: The Bush administration has refused to answer repeated requests from the Sept. 11 commission about who authorized flights of Saudi Arabian citizens, including members of Osama bin Laden's family, from the United States immediately after the attacks of 2001.

Molly Ivins: 'How fascism starts': It's pretty easy to get to the point where you don't want to hear any more about Abu Ghraib prison and what went on there. But there are some really good reasons why Americans should take a look at why this happened.

From Steven Thomma at Knight Ridder Newspapers, Once-solid Republican Southwest in play for presidential election.
15:15 BST

Fixing the vote

They're voting in committee about voter-verified ballots for their voting machines in Fairfax County. GOTV is looking at who makes those machines:

Advanced Voting Solutions is the new name of another voting company, Shoup Voting Solutions. Their current top management, Howard Van Pelt and Larry Ensminger, were executives for Diebold-Global until last year. Officers of Shoup Voting Machine Co. were indicted for allegedly bribing politicians in Tampa, Florida in 1971, according to the San Francisco Business Times. Ransom Shoup was convicted in 1979 of conspiracy and obstruction of justice related to an FBI inquiry into a lever machine-counted election in Philadelphia. Shoup got a three-year suspended sentence. Meanwhile, Philadelphia has bought new voting machines from Danaher-Guardian, which appears to only sell voting machines formerly known as the "Shouptronic."
Uh oh.
12:52 BST

Friday, 21 May 2004

Class of '84 passes the torch

Jon Stewart's Commencement Address:

But it has always been a dream of mine to receive a doctorate and to know that today, without putting in any effort, I will. It's incredibly gratifying. Thank you. That's very nice of you, I appreciate it.
Lets talk about the real world for a moment. We had been discussing it earlier, and I.I wanted to bring this up to you earlier about the real world, and this is I guess as good a time as any. I don't really know to put this, so I'll be blunt. We broke it.

Please don't be mad. I know we were supposed to bequeath to the next generation a world better than the one we were handed. So, sorry.

19:15 BST

Read this now

Frank Rich on Fahrenheit 9/11, Beautiful minds and ugly truths

Wasn't it just weeks ago that we were debating whether we should see the coffins of the American dead and whether Ted Koppel should read their names on "Nightline"? In "Fahrenheit 9/11," we see the actual dying, of American troops and Iraqi civilians alike, with all the ripped flesh and spilled guts that the violence of war entails. We also see some of the 4,000-plus American casualties: those troops hidden away in clinics at Walter Reed and at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where they try to cope with nerve damage and multiple severed limbs. They are not silent. They talk about their pain and their morphine, and they talk about betrayal. "I was a Republican for quite a few years," one soldier says with an almost innocent air of bafflement, "and for some reason they conduct business in a very dishonest way."
Speaking of America's volunteer army, Moore concludes: "They serve so that we don't have to. They offer to give up their lives so that we can be free. It is, remarkably, their gift to us. And all they ask for in return is that we never send them into harm's way unless it is absolutely necessary. Will they ever trust us again?"
I didn't expect Rich to be won over easily, and I don't think he was. I want a DVD of this thing as soon as it's available, just like Atrios does.
18:40 BST

Are you better off than you were four years ago?

The Democrats are now officially asking the big question, with charts and graphs and a floor speech by Tom Daschle:

So we felt it was appropriate that we have some analysis of our circumstances today in the year 2004. Are we better off than we were in 2000? Are we better off in education today than we were back then, having passed but not funded the No Child Left Behind Act? Are we better off with our own national security and homeland security today than we were in 2000? Are we better off in our fiscal policy, our economic policy? Are we better off with regard to crime statistics? Are we better off with infrastructure? Where is it that we are better off?

I dare say no one could possibly say we are better off.

I kind of liked this:
We have heard a lot about the death tax, the so-called death tax, which is the estate tax paid by some who have large property transfers from one generation to the next. I do not hear my Republican colleagues talk about the birth tax.

There is now a birth tax of more than $20,000 because of fiscal irresponsibility and mismanagement. That birth tax is paid not just by people who inherit but by every single American child when they are born.

I wonder if they can get that meme off the ground.
18:04 BST

Hot media news

I was hoping I would never have to ask this question again: Is that supposed to be funny?

The Poor Man learns science from talk radio.

Eric Alterman with a news flash: Thirty-seven years after its anticipated release, an all-new studio recording of SMiLE - often referred to as the most famous unreleased album in history - will be made available worldwide by Nonesuch Records on September 28, 2004. SMiLE will be produced by Brian Wilson and will feature the ten-member band that has supported him on tour over the past five years, augmented by The Stockholm Strings and Horns.

Less is Moore in subdued, effective '9/11', says Roger Ebert.

No Wizard Left Behind: Harry Potter and Left Behind are more alike than you might think. (Via Slacktivist)

Mr. Pierce reports on Mr. Christ's appearance with Mr. Russert.

Ruben Bolling scoops Washington Post!
16:30 BST

More real journalism

In honor of the release of the third edition of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Buzzflash interviews Greg Palast again:

I have a new chapter called "Oil Slick Jim, the Third Ring, and One Million Missing Ballots," and a whole bunch of new stories. The big story is that there were over a million missing ballots from African-American voters across the U.S. in the 2000 election -- even this kind of knocked me out.

I've been working with the statisticians from the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and Harvard Law School. In the year 2000, 1.9 million votes were cast and not counted across this country -- 1.9 million votes. And of those 1.9 million votes, about a million were cast by African-Americans. This investigation was conducted by Harvard and the Civil Rights Commission, and I grabbed the material. There's a 1965 Voting Rights Act that gave black people the right to vote, but not the right to have their votes counted.
For example, in black counties in Florida where paper ballots were used, if you made a mistake on a ballot -- a single wrong mark -- your ballot was thrown out and your vote wasn't counted. If you voted in predominantly white counties, and you made a wrong mark, your ballot was handed back to you. You were given a fresh ballot, and told to vote again and told how to correct your mistake. How about that?
Oh, it gets better, because the trick of this apartheid "spoilage rate" -- that's the technical term -- the trick to lose a million votes or make them disappear is to keep radically changing the system. Because what happens is that technicians fix the systems. In Florida, they fixed the problem with the paper ballots, and, therefore, they had to throw out the paper ballots. For example, the blackest county in Florida is Gadston. One in eight voters -- one in eight voters! -- had their ballots thrown out in the blackest county in Florida. It had the worst spoilage rating, and they knew it. They knew that there was going to be this problem with their ballots in advance.

Democrats had warned election officials and warned Katherine Harris and Jeb Bush that this was going to happen, in advance of the election, and nothing was done. After the election, it was fixed. And in 2002, there were basically no spoiled ballots in Gadston. So now that black people have their votes counted in Gadston, they've now been ordered to switch them over to computers. Because the system currently works -- it's been fixed -- and that can't stand.

There is, of course, a whole lot more to Palast than just the election story - although boy is that a big story - but you may recognize this feeling:
BuzzFlash: You were one of, if not the first, to cover the relationship between Bush and the House of Saud. Since then, several books have been released about these two powerful families and their history of money and oil contracts. I think you can take credit for people talking about this.

Greg Palast: I'm laughing. You know why? I write all this stuff way in advance or broadcast them on BBC television and write them in the Guardian newspapers. And then I'm called a conspiracy nut. So the definition of a conspiracy nut is someone who reports the news a year before The New York Times.

Greg talks more conspiracy nuttery in this interview - and, remember, he's got the documentation.
13:54 BST

Indecent exposure

Sidney Blumenthal, on The religious warrior of Abu Ghraib: Boykin was recommended to his position by his record in the elite Delta forces: he was a commander in the failed effort to rescue US hostages in Iran, had tracked drug lord Pablo Escobar in Colombia, had advised the gas attack on barricaded cultists at Waco, Texas, and had lost 18 men in Somalia trying to capture a warlord in the notorious Black Hawk Down fiasco of 1993.

Krugman on The Wastrel Son: He was a stock character in 19th-century fiction: the wastrel son who runs up gambling debts in the belief that his wealthy family, concerned for its prestige, will have no choice but to pay off his creditors. In the novels such characters always come to a bad end. Either they bring ruin to their families, or they eventually find themselves disowned.

Skippy wonders if it's payback time in Washington.

Reuters, NBC Staff Abused by U.S. Troops in Iraq: U.S. forces beat three Iraqis working for Reuters and subjected them to sexual and religious taunts and humiliation during their detention last January in a military camp near Falluja, the three said Tuesday.
12:33 BST

Peche a la frog

Here's a couple of headlines from Reuters:

Democrats Demand Payback of Illegal Medicare Videos: "Republicans should not be robbing Medicare to pay for political ads," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. The fake public service announcements were "justified" on the grounds of a requirement to inform the public, but they weren't actually informative; their main content seemed to be that, gosh, George W. Bush sure is nice to us!

Catholic Leader Open to Hearing from Lawmakers. (That was the version I found at Google News, but I liked this headline from the Salon AP wire: House Democrats issue warning to Church.) No mention of how they really ought to lose their religious exemption status if they've become an arm of the RNC.

From Jane's: Marching valiantly into the quagmire: According to the report, secret discussions may be under way concerning the Polish-commanded south-central multinational military division. There has been continuous speculation that the Poles, one of the biggest contingents in the Coalition force, will withdraw. (Thanks to 56K.)

From Arthur Silber: Log Cabin Republicans still stupid. (via)

From Gallimaufry: Free speech/free thought: Briefly, in March 2003, a young girl in an Albuquerque high school wrote a poem critical of the Bush administration. The principal and "a school military liaison" accused her of being un-American. They fired the girl's teacher and ordered the girl's mother to destroy her poetry.
01:24 BST

Thursday, 20 May 2004

Real journalism

Scott Rosenberg reminds readers that - as I was saying earlier - Salon has some real independent reporting going on, with its very own non-embedded reporter in Iraq, Phillip Robertson, reporting from outside the Green Zone.
16:09 BST

Quick check

The War on Terror: Victims Turning Perpetrators: Commencement Address to the Columbia School of International & Public Affairs, by George Soros.

Josh Marshall gives Safire a much-deserved drubbing. And man, is he right. How does he get away with this stuff? (And by the way, Bill, Hillary still hasn't been indicted, so where's that apology?) Also see: Shorter William Safire at the usual venue.

Washpost: U.S. Faces Growing Fears of Failure

Channel 4's 100 Greatest Movie Stars. Gregory Peck isn't on this list, so it bites. (However, I watched the end of the show, and it was kinda neat, and they're showing it again this weekend, in case you're interested.)
12:40 BST

His finger on the pulse

I went out and enjoyed the sunshine and did a meeting and talked to friends and stuff like that. When I came back I checked Eschaton and was frankly amazed at what the wingers have been up to.

Here, it's obvious that Glenn Reynolds isn't even vaguely interested in defending freedom anymore, as Roy Edroso has discovered. It seems there's too much free speech around lately, what with the press failing to worship the administration as perfectly as they were doing two years ago. This is exactly what Arthur Silber predicted. I didn't, but he knows them better than I do. Oh, yeah, I expected it from Bush and Ashcroft and all, but I really thought old Glenn was a more honest edition. Well, okay, not lately, but still....

But then Atrios points to a post at Off the Kuff noting that the Texas Comptroller is trying to rescind the Unitarian Universalists' tax exempt status on the grounds that they aren't a real religion.

Oh, yeah, and the internment of the Japanese was a great idea, apparently.

On the bright side, both Business Week and the voters (by wide margins) think the Catholic clergy who've been saying Kerry shouldn't be given communion are wrong - and that includes Catholics.

Atrios' real job is about to go away, so really, if you have any, you should give him money. We've got a big election coming up, we need this guy.
01:54 BST

Wednesday, 19 May 2004


Even the cops supported Kamala Harris when she ran for district attorney promising not to seek the death penalty for any case. So now she's sticking to that promise, and a lot of people are unhappy - including Senators Feinstein and Boxer, and especially the cops.

Anne Zook had a deep bout of heavy peevishness yesterday. "No, no, no," she says, to a whole bunch of propositions. And that was after her depressing look at desegregation and resegregation.

Did the Justice Department Lie to the Supreme Court?

Jim Capozzola ran a poll of his readers' most admired Republican. God, you people are easy. (My most admired Republicans were not on the list. But then, they aren't in Congress anymore, either.) Jim also interprets Nick Berg's last words.
13:10 BST

Things to read

Gene Lyons: "It's a betrayal of everything it means to be an American."

Joe Conason wants to know why the NYT has so many good things to say about the RNC's scumbag-for-hire.

Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 wows Cannes: While inescapably a partisan and flatly polemical work, Fahrenheit 9/11 makes its case meticulously and convincingly, and uses all of the pop cultural rhetorical methods that have made the director not only the most popular documentary maker of his generation, but one of the most prominent American figures lashing out against the Bush administration: He knows how to talk in the language of TV.

Donna Shalala says, "One of the greatest challenges facing our country is getting affordable, accessible and stable healthcare coverage for all Americans." She also says politics should be put aside - but this is what politics is really about. (via)

Atrocities in Iraq: 'I killed innocent people for our government': Q: The reports said the cars were loaded with explosives. In all the incidents did you find that to be the case?
A: Never. Not once. There were no secondary explosions.

02:18 BST

Tuesday, 18 May 2004


From TalkLeft: I'm still having trouble (in spite of everything) believing that this is really happening:

The U.S. is suing Greenpeace over an 1872 law. Trial began today. We've written about the background of the case and criticized the Government for it several times--calling it an example of the Justice Dept.'s "out of control prosecution policy" and warning that:
If successful, will have an extreme chilling effect on the right of all protest groups to aggressively exercise their First Amendment rights.
I feel so safe, in these perilous times, knowing that the government is protecting me from for-godssakes Greenpeace, 'cause I was really being kept up nights, cowering and fear and all, about the danger they pose to us.
23:33 BST

Tony Randall

I saw him once on Cavette, and he was asked how he managed to keep looking so young for so long. He said he'd been taught, "Don't eat anything that won't spoil, and eat it before it do." He gave a great interview.

And, as always, Mark Evanier has his own recollections of a fine actor.
20:51 BST

Sermon from New York

From In These Times, Kurt Vonnegut foresees Cold Turkey:

How about Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes?

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.

And so on.

Not exactly planks in a Republican platform. Not exactly Donald Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney stuff.

For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that's Moses, not Jesus. I haven't heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.

"Blessed are the merciful" in a courtroom? "Blessed are the peacemakers" in the Pentagon? Give me a break!

Via King of Zembla
20:32 BST

Stuff I saw

Well, it's kinda cute.

And they wonder why I call them dupes: A voice from the hallway said, "That must be the stupidest thing Pete McCutchen has ever posted on rec.arts.sf.fandom." I thought: That's going some - this is the guy who previously announced that racism in America is over. But this is pretty dumb.

Interesting catch by Hesiod: Anybody else notice the title and thrust of this English language Al-Jazeera story? "Bloggers doubt Berg execution video".

Children raised badly should not be given the keys to the White House.

Again: Marijuana is not addictive. And, as even Harry Anslinger admitted, it wasn't a "gateway drug" until it was made illegal.

Outrage report.

Hesiod reports again on the Bush league: An Ohio manufacturing plant that George W. Bush used last year as a backdrop to show how his economic policies were working...has shut down.

Homophobic parish to waste money
00:40 BST

Monday, 17 May 2004

Editor's notebook

I tend to veer between assuming my readers know what I'm talking about - and therefore using sloppy phrases that short-hand rather than explaining - and over-explaining and repeating things to make sure they do know what I'm talking about. Someday I will find the perfect balance and become the greatest writer in the world. In the meantime:

Dear Avedon Carol:

Thank you for your time.

May I ask why you say that the Brock and Boehlert articles are worth reading even though they are at Salon? I am just wondering why the fact that an article is at Salon makes it less worth reading.

I enjoy your site and the service you provide.

Sumana Harihareswara

Disclosure: My very polite reader is customer service representative for Salon and of course has more than a passing interest in what appears to be a criticism of their content.

But, sloppy me, I wasn't talking about content at all. In fact - and I should say this more often - I think Salon is A Good Thing, which is why I link to it so often, despite the fact that, yes, you have to sit through what are sometimes fairly annoying commercials. But they actually spend money on original reporting and it has to come from somewhere since people like me (and you too, I'll wager) just can't afford to subscribe to every good thing they see on the web.

For those who never click on these links, an explanation: If you want to read Salon these days, you can click on their "Free Day Pass", sit through whatever the current sponsor's message is, and then read the whole of Salon for free for the next 18 hours. Most of the ads aren't really all that much of a hassle (and I say this as someone who is on dial-up), and sometimes they are downright illuminating. (The one I hate the most is the Salon house ad, which makes me click through several frames telling me that they will give me Free Stuff if I subscribe. The car ad was fun, though.)

At the other end of the spectrum, Gary Farber wrote:

Also, links to a site that most people won't link to because it requires one to sit around for many minutes while it cycles through ads are not the best possible link. Particularly when they are are from AP, and, literally, available from thousands of other sites, say, via, Google News. Linking to Salon in such a case suggests that you can't be bothered to spare a minute, but want us to waste five or six minutes instead. Not a good message, I murmur.
The impatient Mr. Farber knows what I mean about Salon ads, but didn't notice that the post he refers to contained links to two different versions of the AP story, and that I was actually making note of the fact that one version was clipped. I had checked a second site for the sake of redundancy; it wasn't necessary to follow that link at all.

I do find it irritating, however, that Gary is suggesting to me that most (responsible?) "people" won't link to Salon because of the ads and that somehow I should feel obliged not to do so. While it's true that there are numerous other sources for AP wire stories, it's also true that Salon has some pretty good content from time to time. In fact, Salon is one of the few places where original reporting is still developed without quite as many corporate hooks hamstringing reporters. That's the sort of thing that should be rewarded, not punished.

In other editorial news, Tim Porter at First Draft has a list of must reads on the subject that I will check out now that it's surftime.
19:10 BST

RIAA must be Republicans

Moses Avalon discovers a little discrepancy:

When speaking this month to a representative from Soundscan, the company that provides much of the data for the Billboard Top 200 Chart, I learned things that would contradict reported statements by the RIAA. Mainly that US labels have had a significant reduction in sales over the past three years. Cary Sherman, president of the RIAA, responded personally, put his rebuttals on the record and in the process exposed intriguing insight into the way the RIAA calculates "losses."

Soundscan is a service owned by Nielsen, the company that computes TV ratings. Soundscan uses the barcodes on CDs to register sales at record stores. The correlated data contributes to the Billboard chart listings, as well as much of the market research that record companies use to determine which artists are worth keeping under contract.

- For the first quarter of 2003 Soundscan registered 147,000,000 records sold.

- For the 1st quarter of 2004 Soundscan will report 160,000,000 records sold.

That's 13,000,000 more units, almost a 10% increase in sales since last year. He also confessed that 1st quarter "album sales" (as opposed to overall sales) had increased 9.4% since 2003.

What gives? Didn't Cary Sherman recently attest to the "fact" that there was a "7% decrease in revenue since last year." (This quote was taken from Mr. Sherman's speech to Financial Times Media at a Broadcasting Conference in London.) And didn't he name piracy/file-sharing as the main reason? Yes, according to more than one source. ([link])

So, I asked the Soundscan rep, who would only speak to me if I didn't use his name, "Would you disagree with what the RIAA is implying?"

"I would NEVER disagree with the RIAA," he said.

Of course he wouldn't; the RIAA is, after all, arguably Soundscan's biggest sycophant. But he did do the most amazing thing; he proceeded to explain the rational that would allow both of these seemingly inconsistent realities to exist in the same universe, "The RIAA reports a sale as a unit SHIPPED to record stores. Whereas Soundscan reports units sold [to the consumer] at the point of purchase. So, you're talking about apples and oranges."

Aha! So there's actually greater efficiency - orders and shipments are more closely reflecting actual sales figures (which, among other things, means fewer returns). But as far as the retail consumer is concerned, this is irrelevant; whatever else you, oh retail consumer, are doing, whether it involves file-sharing or taping or anything else, you're still buying more music, and the industry is getting more money from you.

Something Avalon's article doesn't tell you is that this was bound to happen anyway, since methods for accurately accounting for what is actually sold over the counter have been slowly tightening up over the last 20 years. Because, for most of my lifetime, the chart position for a recording was based not on actual sales figures, but on guesswork from surveys of counter personnel. Those perceptions were often highly inaccurate - a fact that wasn't understood until some traders started to adopt Soundscan. Nowadays, the process for retailers can take the real sales figures into account, whereas once upon a time their orders were based on biased assumptions rather than real sales data.

But in order to cry poor, the record companies give you a figure that doesn't reflect actual sales at all.

Why are sales up? It might have nothing to do with file-sharing; this, too, might be a result of the fact that stores are more likely to order the recordings people seem to be buying.

There are alternative explanations, of course, and one could be that file-sharing helps promote the music. But there is no evidence that file-sharing is hurting sales.

All the RIAA's whining and prosecutions are there to try to get legislators to vote them more free money for something they do not deliver, just as they did by imposing a tape tax that pays not into the public treasury but into the recording industry - and is not delivered to the creators whose royalties the RIAA claims to be defending, either. If everyone suddenly understood that the industry is taking in more money rather than less, and that file-sharing is not in fact hurting their sales (and neither did taping), their line to all that free money will dry up.

And then, who knows, maybe people will begin to start talking more seriously about the way the industry rips off performers by failing to properly remunerate them.

(Via Epicycle)
14:22 BST

More news and views

American Stranger is having a party at the new, improved Blah3 - and he says the pi±ata is Bush. He also supplies a link to this video clip of the curiously interrupted interview of Colin Powell by Tim Russert. Hm.

I don't know what I said to inspire it, but Lawrence Krubner is asking some helpful questions about the usefulness of compromise in government.

Corporate Political Censorship Runs Wild. Disney, Sinclair, and: The most shocking act of blatant political censorship has been on the Internet by Yahoo. Yahoo has canceled the email account and Yahoo discussion groups of Florida Democratic radio talk show host Andy Johnson. This was done without good reason or advance notice. The action keeps him from having access to all his emails or addresses. It cripples his radio show. All his contact information has essentially been seized by Yahoo!

Holes Appearing In Berg Murder Story - collected questions.
01:30 BST

Sunday, 16 May 2004

By their works you shall know them

Here's a piece of your Sunday morning sermon from The National Catholic Reporter:

Is John Kerry a good Catholic?
ByJoan Chittister, OSB

Pope Leo XIII, in his encyclical "Rerum Novarum," clearly thought Catholic morality had to do with establishing balance between capital and labor. John Kerry supports increasing the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation. That's a very Catholic position.

Pius XI wrote that being a good Catholic involved working against financial monopolies that restrict enterprise. Kerry intends to stop the offshore banking that hides corporate profits from the tax rolls and shrinks the revenue needed to provide public goods and services. That's a very Catholic position.

Pius XII wrote that the right of private property is a lesser right than the rights of all to the goods of the earth. John Kerry promotes legislation designed to support U.S. farmers, the reunification of immigrant families and the restoration of benefits for legal immigrants. Those are very Catholic positions.

John XXIII condemned sexism, the arms race and systemic poverty. John Kerry opposes the wage gap that now exists between men and women workers. He supports arms control and non-proliferation measures. He supports welfare programs. Those are very Catholic positions.

Paul VI taught that social justice includes the obligation of rich nations to honor the rights of poor nations. Kerry has denounced the policies of unilateralism and preemptive war. He promises to renew U.S. alliances around the world so we are seen as an international partner not a bully. Those are very Catholic positions.

The 1971 bishops document on "Justice in the World" called social sin as immoral as personal sin. Kerry sponsored legislation to stop the arms trade to nations that are undemocratic. He worked to create the UN genocide tribunal in Cambodia. Those are very Catholic positions.

John Paul II, in his encyclicals calls for the transformation of structures that oppress the poor in capitalist countries. Kerry has spoken out against racial profiling. He supports the restoration of affirmative action. He has pledged himself to restore civil liberties, lost during the Ashcroft era, to the United States itself. Those are very Catholic positions.

And all of them -- along with subsidized housing programs, educational supports, minimum wage proposals, child-care credits and anti-capital punishment propositions -- are essentially, fundamentally and profoundly pro-life positions.

Can Catholics vote for him in good conscience? If "good conscience" has something to do with upholding the highest ideals of the faith and its commitment to all human life, they can.

Or you can go directly to source and note that Kerry's positions seem a lot more consistent with the teachings of Jesus than do those of George Bush, making him not just a good Catholic, but a much more convincing Christian.

(Which reminds me, I've now re-posted the first five of my DNO articles at Avedon's other weblog, the most recent one being It's the Christianity, Stupid.)
14:00 BST

Saturday, 15 May 2004

Things I learned at the pub

Credit: Fortean Times / Paul Taylor
Much thanks to FT for allowing me to post this.

At the pub we talk about the news, the TV documentaries, and the weird stuff scattered in the atmosphere. Like more reasons to be extremely grateful for the National Health Service.

And I recently learned that all European royalty is really German, even Phil the Greek, who is Danish. And the Romanoffs, who are Prussian. And Catherine the Great, after whom they made a law that women couldn't be in charge anymore.

I also learned about Nazi families. I learned that Hitler had two nephews who ended up in the United States and who appear to be the last of his line. They changed their name, of course, and have vowed that the line dies with them, to avoid any future unpleasantness (like having an heir turn out to decide to be the new Führer).

Which reminded me of an earlier evening at the pub when I learned about a man who was a rather impressive hero who saved many Jews in Germany. His name was Albert Goering, and he loathed the Nazis, but fortunately his brother was very fond of him and so Albert managed to get away with a lot, even getting Hermann to sign documents to rescue Jews. There's a lovely anecdote about Albert one day coming upon a scene in which a bunch of Nazis decided to humiliate some Jews by making them get down on their knees and scrub the street. As soon as he realized what was going on, he also got down and started scrubbing with them. The Nazis knew who he was and couldn't do anything to stop him - but they also couldn't let him keep scrubbing the street, either, so they let the Jews stop.

Kind of an inspiring guy, really.
23:50 BST

Stuff to see

Kevin Drum has a nice little graph showing the progress of Bush's poll numbers.

Creepy parallels

Carnival of Crime Watchers

Josh Marshall on Bush as his own yes-man

Todd Gitlin: It's an ancient dream of empire-builders to unify the world, but George W. Bush's way of being a uniter, not a divider, is surprising and unique-he's united the world against himself.

Atrios' Saturday morning headline says that Al Neuharth of USA Today says Bush should go: As a former combat infantryman in World War II, I've always believed we must fully support our troops. Reluctantly, I now believe the best way to support troops in Iraq is to bring them home, starting with the "hand-over" on June 30. [...]Maybe Bush should take a cue from a fellow Texan, former president Lyndon Baines Johnson, who also had some cowboy characteristics. Lyndon, of course, declined to run for a second term.

Write your own propaganda.
23:01 BST

Headline in my dreams
Lieberman resigns from Senate; cites "blogswell of outrage"

Washington, DC (MB)-- Shocking political observers across the nation, Joseph Lieberman (D in name only- CT) resigned his seat in the U.S. Senate yesterday. "I am deeply saddened by the blogosphere's reaction to my remarks in the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Friday," Lieberman said in a prepared statement. "I have long looked upon blogs as a vital resource in our fair nation, challenging our official media from a wide variety of political positions and giving voice to ordinary American citizens in every walk of life. I know that if I have lost the support of bloggers, I have lost the support of the people. I have therefore decided not to serve out my term of office between now and 2006. To do so under these circumstances, I feel, would make a mockery of democracy itself. I thank the good people of Connecticut for allowing me to serve as their representative for these past sixteen years, and I look forward, as I remarked in my October 2000 debate with Dick Cheney, to rejoining the private sector."
Sources close to Lieberman pointed specifically to remarks by Washington-based reporter Joshua Micah Marshall, as well as to the website of an obscure literature professor in central Pennsylvania. "Apparently this guy had an ordinary little blog that got about seven or eight hundred visitors a day," one aide said, "and then he puts up this thing on Lieberman, and before he knows it, he has something like ten thousand hits in twelve hours. For the Senator, I think that was the tipping point- we took one look at the traffic stats at and we knew it was time to throw in the towel."

Don't ya just wish.
20:16 BST

Paranoia report

Mark Perkel enters into tin-foil hat territory - or is it? Do the terrorists shop at the same trendy furniture store that was the source of the fine decor at Abu Ghraib prison? You be the judge.
14:11 BST

Conservative dictionary

Supremes decline to stop gay marriage:

The Supreme Court refused Friday to block Massachusetts from allowing gay marriages beginning Monday, removing the last legal impediment to what will be the nation's first state-sanctioned same-sex weddings.
Mathew Staver, president and general counsel of the Florida-based Liberty Counsel, which sought the stay, said he was disappointed by the ruling.
Liberty Counsel. I just love conservative names for things. Up is down, war is peace, freedom is slavery, and liberty is not letting other people get married. You gotta love their...originality.
13:33 BST

Friday, 14 May 2004

At Altercation

Pierce today has a good encapsulation of the media landscape:

Elsewhere, McCain grilled that Cambone character to a fine medium-well. He walked out on the revolting Senator Jim Imhofe (R-Plankton). Then, on Tuesday night, talking with Ted Koppel, he single-handedly redeemed Nightline, which otherwise spent the week looking down from a very great height upon The Shark. On Tuesday, McCain was preceded by a filmed report that seemed designed as an apologia for the indiscretion of reading all those dead people's names last week. It was all about how the murder of Nick Berg had put the prisoner scandal into perspective, and how Pat Roberts had read the dispatch in close to real time in the hearing room, and some more raving from Imhofe, and a lot of ends-justifying-means thumb-sucking. (Which was followed up the next night by a show on the theme "How Much Torture Should We Allow?" which included a package in which the views of Michael Ignatieff were paired off with those of the producer of Fox's "24." Nice.) Then McCain came on and threw a bucket of cold water on the whole parade, arguing that torture is, pretty much, well, torture, no matter under which flag it is inflicted.
And could this letter be from our girl?
Name: Media Whores Online
Hometown: ?
After saying he wouldn't attend his daughters' college graduations because he didn't want people to have to go through security, Junior will be doing at least 3 commencement speeches.
Yesterday Eric reported that Tom Friedman has withdrawn his support for the administration on Iraq - and Max Boot says Rumsfeld has to go. Well, it's a start, eh?

And Eric said:

The only thing that prevents me from asking how this war could possibly have gone any worse is the fact that every time you think that what you've just heard about this administration is the worst possible outcome, they always manage to outdo themselves. It's amazing, really, and one has to exercise tremendous self-discipline to avoid giving into despair, particularly given how little of these basic truths make it through the SCLM. Once again, it proves Philip Roth's oft-repeated observation that the most vivid novelist's imagination is no match for reality, though that is hardly much comfort.
His quote of the day came from "The communist Financial Times": He is not up to the job. This is not a moral judgment, but a practical one. The world is too complex and dangerous for the pious simplicities and arrogant unilateralism of George W. Bush.

And there's too many links to check them all now but they all look interesting, especially the one to his article about David Horowitz. And speaking of crackpots, I'm honestly not sure if this letter is supposed to be parody, although seeing some of the things the right-wingers have been writing, it's really not unrepresentative:

Name: Rob Braswell
Hometown: Salisbury, NC
I find it interesting that you show your leftist bias so brazenly. THere has been no proof of torture by American soldiers at Abu Ghurib prison. Oh mercy! A few criminals had to take their clothes off and were humiliated for a while, call out Amnesty International, call out the Peace Corps, call out Ralph Nader and Heck, call out Hugh Hefner, doesn't he publish Playgirl,which is basically all these photos equal. Where is the outrage at the exponentially greater scandal, the Food for oil doozy that is blowing the lid off the UN and its totally corrupt ways of doing business. Yet John Kerry is UN this and UN that, when now we see that the top UN officials were making millions off the misery of the Iraqi people, and whoa, wonder of all wonders, good ol' Hans Blix' name shows up as a receipient of money from the Hussein treasure chest, no freakin wonder he never found WMD. This so called prison scandal is a grain of sand in the wind that Democrats are trying to fluff up to hide the leviathan UN Food for Oil Scandal that will no doubt implicate some Democrats when it is blown wide open. Thank God for Pat robertson and the 700 CLub. MSNBC and CNN might actually get some ratings if they produced professional and quality news like FOXNEWS and the 700 Club.
Oh, yeah.

Much more. Go to Altercation see more great stuff, like this earlier Quote of the Day by Rob Corddry:

Corddry: How does one report the facts in an unbiased way when the facts themselves are biased?

Stewart: I'm sorry, Rob, did you say the facts are biased?

Corddry: That's right Jon. From the names of our fallen soldiers to the gradual withdrawal of our allies to the growing insurgency, it's become all too clear that facts in Iraq have an anti-Bush agenda.

Ah, there's the problem!
18:59 BST

Not apologizing

I am still seeing articles claiming that Rumsfeld "apologized" last week for the torture of Iraqi prisoners. This just isn't true. What he's really said amounts to being sorry that the pictures got out. He's sorry people have been upset by the pictures. Most of all, he's sorry the pictures escaped his control.

Monday's Guardian leader notes that there are some things he did not say:

Mr Rumsfeld did not apologise for the Red Cross reports of unarmed Iraqi prisoners being shot to death by military personnel in watchtowers. He said nothing of the "interrogation techniques" developed by US intelligence agencies and taught to security services the world over, including here. He expressed no regret for employing private contractors to question people who were accused of no crime, then hiding their sadistic behaviour from public scrutiny. He never mentioned how sorry he might be for turning over captives to other governments using even cruder torture methods. He showed no contrition for continuing to hide hundreds of people in Guantanamo Bay away from the law. Such leaders have placed themselves outside the bounds of international law, their own code of justice and their much-admired constitution. In doing so, they have also removed the protection of law from those who follow their orders.

Neither did he say that it was a mistake to suggest that prisoners in US custody were not entitled to the protections of the law.

And saying those things would be the only worthwhile apology. Without saying them, he cannot take responsibility, which would entail both publicly acknowledging these errors and doing something about it. But doing something about it would mean a recognition that his entire approach, his entire view of the matter, has been wrong from the outset.

He claimed to take responsibility, of course, but as always this appears to mean only saying the words. He says he's responsible, but only because he happened to hold the title of Secretary of Defense while these things went on. Not because anything he did helped create the conditions under which these things occurred. And, therefore, there is nothing he thinks he can or should do to make it stop.

And Cheney and Bush say this man is a great Secretary of Defense, because they understand no more about responsibility than he does. It's not good enough for only Rumsfeld to go. Everyone who thinks this way has to go.

Obviously, they need to be replaced with people who understand these things. Atrios cites an article about someone who does:

"This administration has made a grievous error in the laxity of command control," Kerry told the Fox News Channel in an interview. "And I am convinced this didn't happen just because six or seven people decided to make it happen in a prison. It happened as a matter of what was going on in terms of interrogation and the laxity of command up and down."

Choosing Fox News to deliver the attack made it all the more pointed. The station is a favorite of conservatives.

Kerry blamed Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for first casting doubt on the protections afforded prisoners by denying detainees from Afghanistan formal standing under the Geneva Conventions.

"I would never have thrown out the door or window, the obligations of the Geneva Conventions. Why? Because I know as a former combatant, that had I been captured, I would have wanted our moral high ground, with respect to those Geneva Conventions, to be in place," Kerry said.

"By being selective and saying they (the Geneva Conventions) apply here, then they don't apply here, and so forth, we invite others to be equally as selective and it puts American troops in greater danger."

You can't just claim the moral high-ground, you must actively do the right thing so that others can see that you have the moral high-ground without your having to say so. The Bush administration thinks that merely saying we are good is the same thing as actually being good. (The same way that saying they are compassionate is the same thing as having compassion.) It isn't. And since we aren't doing the right thing, we look to others like villains. And they are treating us accordingly.
16:47 BST

Partisan notes

First read this Michael Bérubé post; then read this thread on Electrolite.

Digby is getting tired of a meme that has infected many of us. I get torn between "Why don't the media report what the Democrats say?" and "Why aren't the Democrats saying anything?" I know the press only seems to want to quote Zell Miller, Joe Lieberman, and "unnamed Democrats" who are always either supporting the administration or at the very least running Kerry down, but it's hard to remember when the only thing you see is the Dem back-biting. It doesn't help when some of the more sensible Dems go on the record to say things that really sound like they're waving the white flag. We do need to keep reminding them that the press eats this stuff up precisely because it makes us look bad. But Digby is right: We do have to remember that Dems are fighting back, and the press just isn't reporting that stuff. And we should complain when the press does that, and we should reward the Dems when they speak up.

And speaking of media, Amanda says: Limbaugh seems to be falling apart now that he is going to be held accountable for what he says on his show. It's really quite amusing reading his escalating anger about Media Matters on Media Matters everyday. Or am I the only one who thinks it's funny?

And speaking of Media Matters, check out the Sean Hannity babble they found: The mainstream media is liberal. Three major networks, two cable networks, most newspapers, and talk radio. Heh.
13:25 BST

Thursday, 13 May 2004

Rats, ship, etc.

Okay, I guess they aren't really rats. Well, not all of them. But finding out that we've done no better than to replace Saddam's odious regime with an odious regime of our own, complete with torture and rape rooms and all that, well, it does seem to have clarified a few minds out there. It's not just bloggers like Farber and Sullivan, either; now Atrios reports that even Tucker Carlson, the other side's enthusiastic representative on Crossfire, has joined the chorus:

"I think it's a total nightmare and disaster, and I'm ashamed that I went against my own instincts in supporting it," he said. "It's something I'll never do again. Never. I got convinced by a friend of mine who's smarter than I am, and I shouldn't have done that. No. I want things to work out, but I'm enraged by it, actually."
You know, a lot of people seemed "smarter" precisely because they were promoting a theory that was blatantly counterintuitive, that went against everything we'd all learned throughout our lives: That war doesn't usually make things better and can generally be expected to make things worse. Plus, you know, it kills people. (And didn't these people ever read Catch-22? Didn't they see that it was a whole lot more than jokes?) It's that whole "thinking outside the box" thing that's really no more than reinventing the wheel by people who simply can't figure out that wheels actually work. And there are always going to be tyros coming along who think we're all too old and diminished to take their daring path, because they don't get it that we don't go "outside the box" because we already know what's out there. (Hey, we were young and foolish once, too, you know.)

This is really how the whole "conservative" Thing works - simply dismiss what is known, write off all of the lessons of the past, dump all empirical evidence, run right back to the stone age and pretend that thousands of years worth of civilization that brought us out of the caves and into the light was just a silly liberal mistake.

That's right:

  • It's a mistake to try to bring prosperity to as much of the populace as possible.
  • It's a mistake to coordinate the infrastructure of a city, a society, out of the community treasury, so that the rich and poor alike are protected from plague and misery that affects everyone.
  • It's a mistake to invest in the future of your community, your country, as a whole.
  • It's a mistake to bind the powerful to the rule of law and thus prevent successful villains from immiserating the populace.
  • It's a mistake to try to educate, feed, and house the children.
  • It's a mistake not to leave your old people on ice floes.
  • It's a mistake to create space in society for artists and thinkers whose strength is not in their economic or physical muscle but in their ability to provide intellectual pleasure and ferment.
  • It's a mistake to respect the honest labor of ordinary working people.
  • It's a mistake to try to help everyone become productive members of society.
  • It's a mistake to recognize that greed, ambition, and ruthlessness are not necessarily virtues.
  • It's a mistake to cut people a little slack and give them a chance to redeem themselves from their own errors of the past.
  • It's a mistake to refrain from invading other countries or from provoking other nations into unnecessary wars that make them and the rest of their neighbors eager to rise up against you.
But those things were by no means mistakes. They were the intelligent, reasoned response to barbarity, to wide-scale misery.

And liberalism is the understanding that those things are not mistakes. We argue that poverty hurts us all, that peace is better than war, because we do understand them. The surprise we are seeing now from those who supported the invasion is a result of the fact that they did not.

And Snowden lay dying in back.
17:30 BST

War stories

The Left Coaster: War is failure. War is the breakdown of the veneer that is civilization. War may be necessary, but we should not seek it, glory in it, revel in it. War is, in some ways, a simplistic crucible that reveals fundamental traits and forges powerful bonds through sacrifice, terror, and toil.

Sidney Blumenthal, Strategic decision: Growing sentiment in the Army: Support our troops, impeach Rumsfeld.

Stupid WarFlogger Question: Liberals said the war in Iraq was "all about the oil." "No blood for oil," they said. If the war was about the U.S. stealing oil (as opposed to giving it to the Iraqi people so they could use the income - rather than Saddam to build more palaces & to bribe UN, French, and Russian officials) - then why is the price of gas so high right now? Handily answered by UnFair Witness.
15:03 BST

Web crawl

Wal-Mart's healthcare plan: They make you pay for it, whether you shop there or not. And "free trade" is hurting people everywhere.

Bring 'em on.

Letters to W. - and may I say that I deeply approve of the simple and elegant appearance of this weblog - nice color, tasteful white space.

Kerry's education proposal (via)

We're number one!

Disney Gives in to Fahrenheit 9/11

13:01 BST

It takes a winger

Just one right-wing journalist is all it takes to make the difference. See, he didn't like the jokes on Air America:

During a day of torture by radio, I heard ads for Hewlett-Packard, Greyhound and, especially, General Motors. I asked GM why it appeared in such shows.

Ryndee Carney, GM's manager of marketing communications, said the ads were wrongly picked up from an earlier deal with WLIB. She said the station was ordered to "cease and desist" yesterday, and added: "GM will not advertise on any Air America affiliates."

Damn, wish I could do that.
00:42 BST

Wednesday, 12 May 2004

Hypocrite of the Day

My choice is Marc Racicot, RNC superhack.

I saw this AP story on headlines from AIM and was expecting the whole thing to be on the Salon wire news as well, but it's been chopped. Here's the meat, from Salon:

Kerry names replacements for Rumsfeld

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said Wednesday any number of people, including Republican Sens. John McCain and John Warner, could replace Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, rejecting concerns that a change in Pentagon leadership could hurt the war effort.

"If America has reached a point where only one person has the ability in our great democracy to manage the Pentagon and to continue or to put in place a better policy even, we're in deeper trouble than you think," Kerry told broadcaster Don Imus. "I don't accept that. I just don't accept that. I think that's an excuse. The fact is that we need a change in policy."

Asked who he would put in place as defense secretary, Kerry first named McCain, R-Ariz., and then listed Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., Warner, R-Va., and William Perry, who served as defense secretary under President Clinton.

"There are any number of people who are unbelievably capable. This notion that we have to continue with a policy that's wrong and taking us down the wrong track is absurd," Kerry said.

Kerry had called for Rumsfeld to resign months before the Iraq prison abuse scandal, citing what he said were numerous miscalculations in the prosecution of the war in Iraq.

But the Republican response was clipped, so here it is from AOL:
In a conference call with reporters, Bush-Cheney campaign chairman Marc Racicot slighted Kerry for criticizing Bush's leadership in Iraq and the prison abuse scandal.

"If there was ever a time to refrain from partisan politics, this is it. But all we see from the Kerry campaign and from John Kerry is political exploitation for political gain," Racicot said.

So it's "partisan" to say that one individual administration member can be replaced - with any number of others, Republican or Democratic. But apparently it's not supposed to be partisan to object when Bush's abysmal leadership is "slighted".

It's also interesting to note that Racicot has changed the content of Kerry's statement from a criticism of Rumsfeld to one of Bush. Of course, that criticism is implied, since Bush seems unwilling to take responsibility for putting someone qualified in position despite the fact that it is his responsibility. But Bush deserves far more criticism than this if he is going to say that America is bereft of qualified personnel to fill important leadership roles, so we have to stick with someone who has made a shambles of the endeavor. Of course, that would be the only excuse to keep Bush in the White House, too.
20:13 BST

Good catch

By Elton Beard at Busy Busy Busy, who noticed that Wolf Blitzer had to have it explained to him by, of all people, Ahmad Chalabi:

BLITZER: Do you understand why, apparently, some thought it was necessary to have these prisoners stripped naked and humiliated in the way they were as a potential way to soften them up and get them to talk about secret information that they may still have had?
You live in a world where some people are more outraged by Ted Rall cartoons than they are by torture. And today's conservatives are so morally bankrupt that even Ahmad Chalabi stands above them as a moral authority. Like the man said, "There is no such justification for this behavior at all."
18:40 BST

Around the web

Another hidden cost in Iraq

Mickey Kaus is a creep.

Here's that must-read Michael BTrubT piece that puts Joe Lieberman in his place.

Most exciting explanation for torture

They think like CEOs - they can't figure out why they can't just fire us. (They've forgotten that they work for us.)

An unusual thing we can do for national security

War wounds (via)

Amy Sullivan is on Wafer watch.

Andrew Sullivan admits he was wrong. Still misses the final conclusion, though.

The cruelest thing the anti-choice movement does is to call abortion the "easy way out".

You know, I can't recall a newspaper advertising for liberal letters....
13:08 BST

It's all about them

Josh Marshall is hoping for the grown-ups to step in.

Rumsfeld: the record

Afghanistan is slipping.

What's important is the last two words.

Hot new trivia question

Secrecy and wishful thinking - John McCrory reads Seymour Hersh.
04:13 BST

Tuesday, 11 May 2004

Media twofer

These are both at Salon, but worth reading:

The mighty windbags, by David Brock, who has a new book:

My view is that unchecked right-wing media power means that in the United States today, no issue can be honestly debated and no election can be fairly decided. If California voters recall their governor in the belief that the state budget deficit is four times higher than it actually is, if Americans think Saddam Hussein was behind September 11 before hearing any evidence, if 19 percent of the public thinks it is in the top 1 percent tax bracket, if Americans view criticism of the government's national security policies as tantamount to treason -- thank the right-wing media and those who abet it.
And in Busting big fat liars, the wonderful Eric Boehlert - this is his beat, after all - interviews Brock. From his introduction:
In his 2003 book, "Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative," former self-described "right-wing hit man" David Brock chronicled his flight of disillusionment from the conservative movement. Now, with his new book, "The Republican Noise Machine: Right-Wing Media and How It Corrupts Democracy," about to be published and the launching of his Web-based research and information center, Media Matters for America, Brock sees himself engaged in a 24/7 political war of images and ideas. It's a war, as Brock details in his new book, that conservatives have been waging, often brilliantly and effectively, for more than 30 years.

The right-wing media warfare naturally is most visible during presidential election years. "I've been saying for six months, no matter who was running for office this year, the right has a system in place to caricature that person," says Brock. "This is what I realized after 2000 -- that what happened to the Clintons during the '90s really had very little to do with the Clintons because the same thing happened to Gore in 2000. And then it happened to [Sen. Tom] Daschle when the Senate changed hands in 2001, and it happened to the mourners of [the late Sen.] Paul Wellstone in 2002. It goes on and on." After witnessing how this Republican "noise machine" again worked so well in shaping the caustic and undermining press coverage of Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000, Brock is trying to awaken the public from slumber about these techniques.

Brock, who once did this job for the right-wing noise machine itself, explains why he started Media Matters:
So then I started working on "The Republican Noise Machine" in the fall of 2002, and a few things occurred to me. I had done extensive research on the conservative organizations that police and monitor the media, tracing back to the establishment of Accuracy in Media in 1969. I concluded that monitoring was a foundation piece of the entire conservative communications apparatus. Those groups had monopolized the conversation about the media so that all one ever hears is "liberal bias, liberal bias, liberal bias." There hadn't really been an institution with research capacity to engage that issue from the left. I certainly read Eric Alterman's book ["What Liberal Media?"] and Al Franken's book ["Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them"], and I realized there was an active conversation going on and maybe the time was right.
I'm sure Brock is right about this. As he says, progressives are behind the curve on the problem, and we have at the moment little more than a few small magazines, one small AM radio network that is just getting started, and a lot of blogs.

We have one other thing, though: Progressive bloggers aren't minions of a unified party who will simply take the leadership's talking points and run with them. This could be seen as an organizational problem, but it needn't be. What must happen, though, is that the Democratic leadership itself will realize that we are the sources of the talking points that they should be running with.
17:44 BST

American notebook

U.S. reopens probe of Emmett Till murder. It is safe for Mr. Ashcroft to investigate racists if they are already dead.

Okay, it's not all bad, but don't forget to find the missing words.

This quote is a month old but I still like it: Max Weber wrote a famous essay on the ethos of responsibility that the grave obligations of public office require, which he titled, "Politics as a Vocation". The Bush Administration's understanding of responsibility is a lot closer to "Politics as a Vacation."

Greetings from Klan World- Wish you were here!!

Perfect Doublespeak

What we excel at: Wackenhut. Corrections Corporation of America, Correctional Medical Services. The private contractors who said they could do it better in the wake of the Attica massacre three decades ago have come up short, creating a culture that covers-up abuse, complete with lobbyists who grease legislators and right-wing think tanks who pimp the cause.
14:14 BST

Monday, 10 May 2004

Where we are

Bruce Schneier has an article up at Newsday, Curb electronic surveillance abuses:

Much of the rhetoric on the "security" side of the debate cloaks one of its real aims: increasing law enforcement powers by decreasing its oversight and accountability. It's a very dangerous road to take, and one that will make us all less secure. The more surveillance technologies that require a warrant before use, the safer we all are.
I find it somewhat horrifying that we have actually reached the point where it is necessary to argue that warrants are a good idea before we allow the authorities to spy on citizens.
23:09 BST

On the blog

South Knox Bubba goes politiking (and the folks in that first picture sure do look familiar).

Larry Kestenbaum says: It's pointless to debate with those who deny the existence of Idaho.

It is my opinion that stories about IQ tests are themselves IQ tests. (via)

Yellow Dog Blog has a guest post at by Richard Morrison, who will be running against Tom DeLay in the election.

Hugo on steroids, definitions of feminism, and what it might mean "to believe in women" (via)

The military is pissed off. Also, Paul Wolfowitz really is such a dope.
21:34 BST

What's around

I never trust modern conservatives to teach me history. They come up with weird theories in which their side is smart and productive, and then they completely warp history in order to "support" the theory. Ladies and gentlemen, George F. Will! (And anyway, you idiot, we were still playing dodge ball in school in the 1960s.)

But even the conservative Washington Post has realized there is something wrong with Donald Rumsfeld. Mr. Conventional Wisdom himself, David Broder, says Rummy and Tenet "have failed the president and the country." I can only be astonished at the degree of denial in that sentence. Rumsfeld could do what he did because he was working for a man who exemplified the worst in dysfunctional CEOs. Tenent hustled for Bush because Bush insisted on it. Yes, Rumsfeld is a disaster - an arrogant, blinded, self-aggrandizing disaster - but he's mostly just a PR disaster in Bush's terms, and Bush doesn't care what sensible people think.

I meant to note this one earlier - Greg Palast, in The Nation, on Vanishing Votes: The state admitted Steen's innocence. But a year after the NAACP won his case, Steen still couldn't register. Why was he still under suspicion? What do we know about this "potential felon," as Jeb called him? Steen, unlike our President, honorably served four years in the US military. There is, admittedly, a suspect mark on his record: Steen remains an African-American.

TChris at TalkLeft notes that the White House is no longer in control of the message to the extent that they were, at least in part because they seem to have their knives out for each other, now. And there's also this disturbing case:

As TalkLeft reported yesterday, there's some uncertainty as to whether a fingerprint found in the van used by the persons responsible for train explosions in Madrid belongs to Brandon Mayfield, an Oregon lawyer who was arrested last week. The government arrested Mayfield before checking to see if he'd been to Spain (his family says he hasn't). It's now clear that Mayfield's activities as a lawyer contributed to his arrest.

Mayfield represented Jeffrey Battle in a child custody dispute. Battle was convicted of conspiring to help the Taliban fight against the United States. The government acknowledges that it views Mayfield's choice of clients with suspicion. An official says it would be different if the print matched "some little old lady in Peoria."

People are only slowly becoming aware of the unreliability of fingerprinting, which throughout my lifetime has generally been treated as unassailable. Here the possibility of error appears to be getting some acknowledgment, but the fact that this guy might have had to be in two places at once, thousands of miles apart, seems to be getting brushed off merely because the guy was someone else's lawyer (in a custody dispute!). Lawyers represent all kinds of people - they have to. If things like this go on, no lawyer will dare to represent anyone who ever has the potential to be accused of a crime, because this kind of guilt-by-association psychology can too easily make them suspects.
15:10 BST

Read this

Timothy Burke of Easily Distracted lets out a Primal Scream:

"Stop with the hindsight", says one writer. "Be patient," says another.

Oh, no, let's not stop with the hindsight. Not when so many remain so profoundly, dangerously, incomprehensibly unable to acknowledge that the hindsight shows many people of good faith and reasonable mien predicting what has come to pass in Iraq. Let's not be patient: after all, the people counseling patience now showed a remarkable lack of it before the war.

One of my great pleasures in life, I am ashamed to say, is saying "I told you so" when I give prudential advice and it is ignored. In the greatest "I told you so" of my life, I gain no pleasure at all in saying it. It makes me dizzy with sickness to say it, incandescent with rage to say it. It sticks in my throat like vomit. It makes me want to punch some abstract somebody in the mouth. It makes me want to scrawl profane insults in this space and abandon all hope of reasonable conversation.

That's because the people who did what they did, said what they said, on Iraq, the people who ignored or belitted counsel to the contrary, didn't just screw themselves. They screwed me and my family and my people and my nation and the world. They screwed a very big pooch and they mostly don't even have the courage to admit it. They pissed away assets and destroyed tools of diplomacy and persuasion that will take a generation to reacquire at precisely the moment that we need them most.

Noah Millman, for one example, is a very smart person who says many useful and valid things, but I find it impossible to understand how he can give George Bush the credit for being right on "big principles" like the principled need to defend liberty, while conceding that Bush appears unable to understand the complicated constraints of real life. The principled defense of liberty is nothing if it cannot be enunciated within the terms of social reality. It's just an empty slogan, and worse, one that makes no distinctions between political actors. Does Millman really think John Kerry-who he sees as inadequate to the task of leadership-is a principled critic of liberty? Just about everyone besides Robert Mugabe, Kim Il-Jong, ANSWER and Doctor Doom believes in the principled defense of liberty. George Bush gets no credit for being right in this respect, and deserves to be soundly rejected for being so, so wrong where it really counts, in the muck and mire of real life. That's the only principled defense that counts: the one whose principles can be meaningfully reconciled with human truths. A policy that insists on living in a squatter's tent in Plato's Cave is a non-policy.

There is a struggle against terror, injustice, illiberalism. It is real. It will be with us all our lives. We must fight it as best we can. The people who backed the war in Iraq, especially the people who backed it uncritically, unskeptically, ideologically, who still refuse to be skeptical, who refuse to exact a political price for it, who refuse to learn the lessons it has taught, sabotaged that struggle. Some of them like to accuse their critics of giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Right back at you, then. You bungled, and you don't even have the grace or authentic commitment to your alleged aims to confess your error.
So now the oscillations grow more extreme. To fight insurgents, one must sabotage liberty, become not just occupiers but oppressors. To promote liberty, one must be vulnerable to insurgents, and even risk losing the struggle outright to them. You can have the rule of law-but if you do, you can't have prisoners kept forever as "enemy combatants" or handed over to military intelligence for reasons of expediency. The law must bind the king as well as the commoner or it is worth nothing, teaches no lessons about how a liberal society works. Yes, the enemies of liberty will use that freedom against you. That's where the real costs of it come in. That's where you have to sacrifice lives and burn dollars and be vulnerable to attack. That's where you take your risks.
Hindsight is 20/20, but some of us had 20/20 foresight. You could have it, too-it would just take joining us in the difficult messiness of social and historical reality.

Absolutely do go and read the rest which says a whole buncha more things that very much need saying. (via)
02:12 BST

Stuff I saw

Moral Relativism: Republican senator James Inhofe and Kathleen Parker at, who think being tortured by American soldiers is just good clean fun. As long as it's not Saddam, of course.

A few quotes I missed earlier

Conservative worried that a Democrat might get in and make use of Bushian precedent

Kenneth Starr wrote something about The Pledge. Busy Busy Busy supplies the shorter version, of course.

Tom Burka is making a game try but he says the antics of the administration are so bizarre that they are inducing a satire crisis,
01:16 BST

Sunday, 09 May 2004

Wedded bliss

Lawrence Krubner asks:

Why don't we pay people to get married

Um, the government is going to spend $300 million to promote marriage? Might it be more efficient simply to pay people to get married? The couple getting the money could treat the marriage as a job, and get money for as long as they stick together.

I'm kidding, of course, but surely those groups that are supporting this initiative should take a long moment and think about whether they want really want the government to undertake this initiative?

He may be kidding, but paying people to be married makes at least as much sense as anything else. Economics already plays a pretty big role in why people get married, stay married, or split up. For people who have nothing to lose and can just move back in with their parents, money may be the one thing that could keep them hitched up, if that's what really matters to you.

Of course, we'd have to be talkin' real money....
23:53 BST

Now you know

American Stranger is at temporary digs during another re-fit for Blah3...and watched the hearings.

Damn, I'm going to miss the cicadas again. (via)

Media Revolt: A Manifesto, by David Neiwert at Orcinus. Lambert found this inspiring.

Michael Moore says his problems with Eisner are not good for his movie.

Think like a swing voter: Bush Isn't Decisive, He's Rash.

Wesley Clark's Democratic radio address: But apologies are not enough.

Katherine Harris too stupid to fill out a ballot

A Democratic Senate? Fred Barnes, of all people, thinks it's a real possibility. Whoa.
21:13 BST


They didn't notice the woman in a gorilla suit.

Nancy Reagan reiterates support for human embryo research

Slash fiction I never imagined: Spike, I can't say it. (via)
16:30 BST

Complete idiots

I should apologize to Charles Dodgson - I didn't mean to imply there was anything wrong with being obsessed with it. We are all obsessed. I am. Last week I got downright weepy about it.

Even some Republicans are starting to worry. Atrios, invaluable as always, cites this post at Bad Attitudes quoting a remarkable speech by Republican Senator Pat Roberts:

"It seems to me that in fighting the global war against terrorism, we need to restrain what are growing U.S. messianic instincts - a sort of global social engineering where the United States feels it is both entitled and obligated to promote democracy - by force if necessary."
With his usual acuity, he responds:
I'm all for promoting democracy, but we haven't yet moved beyond our tendency to define democracies as "countries who are on our side" and to call everyone else not-democracies. And, much like the War on Terror or the War on Drugs or the War on Poverty, the idea of a War Against Not-democracies is just another poorly chosen (though thankfully not in common usage) metaphor which allows those who think insufficient use of force is at the root of all of our problems to slant the debate in their favor.

Military force can be used to topple regimes, kill people, and destroy cities. But, that's basically where its usefullness in "spreading democracy" ends.

No kidding. And just how old do you have to be to know that beating people up isn't the way to make them like you? Can we please put some real grown-ups back in charge, now?

It seems like it should be obvious to everyone, now, but as Atrios says, over on the right there are still all too many of them who seem to think this is all some noble project. It's not. Good god, is it not. But they don't see it at all, somehow. It's almost inexplicable. Speaking of which:

LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Secretary, the behavior by Americans at the prison in Iraq is, as we all acknowledge, immoral, intolerable and un-American. It deserves the apology that you have given today and that have been given by others in high positions in our government and our military.

I cannot help but say, however, that those who were responsible for killing 3,000 Americans on September 11th, 2001, never apologized. Those who have killed hundreds of Americans in uniform in Iraq working to liberate Iraq and protect our security have never apologized.

LIEBERMAN: And those who murdered and burned and humiliated four Americans in Fallujah a while ago never received an apology from anybody.

Lieberman is making one of two points. Either he's just saying "USA! Not quite as bad as the worst people on the planet!" Or, he's saying "I just want to point out that some brown people unconnected to this event did some bad things!"
Lieberman has to be insane to bring up 9/11 in this context. No, really.
Senator Joseph Lieberman
706 Hart Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Fax: (202) 224-9750

Senator Lieberman;

Please explain why you felt it necessary to suggest that Iraq owes us an apology for 9/11.

You know Iraq did not do this. You know this was done by Osama bin Laden, a sworn enemy of Saddam's secular government.

Why must you contribute to misleading the American people about this matter?

Stop it. Just stop. We have had enough of lies.


Atrios also introduces us to a weblog I wasn't previously aware of, Approximately perfect, who are on idiot watch:
I can't read all the rightwing blogs out there (Oy!) so I cruise over to Instapundit on occasion to gauge the general drift of things in Wingnut World. And let me tell you ...

Amid the demands for Teresa Heinz's tax returns (This just in: She's rich), misspellings of John Kerry's last name ("Kerrey" is a popular variation) and nostalgic posts about the UN's oil-for-food pseudo-scandal, they have actually taken some time to address that little problem in Abu Ghraib.

The verdict? The Instapundit gang is bored, frankly, by all this talk of torture and the steady drumbeat of voices calling for Rummy to go. It has become a distraction from the more entertaining debate over whether John Kerry threw his medals or his ribbons over the White House fence in 1971. They believe there's a "lynch mob" forming around Rumsfeld, part of a "partisan, crass, politically-motivated campaign" on the level of the Starr investigation (Wait -- now conservatives think Starr was a political hack? Finally!). And, as usual, there are dire predictions for the Democrats, who, in the minds of the Instapunditry, wouldn't be so bad if they would just, you know, start acting more like Republicans. (Paging Senator Leiberman!)
At Instapundit, every time a cabinet member is hauled before Congress to answer for the latest screwup, it's a dignified and statesmanlike performance. (If we get much more of this "statesmanship," we're really going to be f--ked.

At Instapundit, every time a former ally criticizes the U.S., it's a cold political gambit. (I'm shocked. Shocked! Did you know that some of these countries actually believe their opinions matter?)

At Instapundit, every time the U.S. botches something else in Iraq, we are reminded that Saddam killed little babies and once shared a cab with Osama bin Laden's third wife's fourth cousin.

At Instapundit, every time the media shows flag-draped coffins returning from Iraq, it could be running stories about that school Halliburton painted (for a mere $100,000).

They believe this because they must believe it. Once they concede the point -- any point -- the dam will break. They, like the president, are ardent believers in the continuum that drives the GOP strategy -- 9/11=Muslim=Patriot Act=Saddam=war=orange alert -- to the point that it is a mantra to be repeated ad nauseum, a quasi-religious statement of belief, an article of faith long past the need for any empirical evidence.

Instapundit is a veritable festival of equivocation, which is always the last line of defense. America's infantile (and toxic) obsession with firearms is rationalized by the occasional (and truly unusual) gun murder in Europe. Strom Thurmond's recalcitrant racism is negated by Robert Byrd's youthful (and long since disavowed) association with bigotry and the Klan. The daily death toll in Iraq is likened -- favorably -- to the risks incurred by drivers on California's Interstates. The Bush administration has gutted the EPA and sold out to Big Oil, but John Kerry owns an SUV.

Go read the whole thing. No, go read the whole blog.

Me, my head has been filled with lines from poems and songs that were written about other things but somehow seem to apply here, in the light of non-apologies and non-prosecutions and non-admissions of culpability....

Oh, but you who philosophize disgrace
and criticize all fears,
Bury the rag deep in your face
Now is the time for your tears.
It is shattered glass, it cuts and stings, and Robert Byrd's words continue to burn: Today I weep for my country.

In the glare is the face that pretends to represent us to the world, belligerent, red, smirking, and I think: I wonder if I hate him yet.
12:20 BST

At last

Gary Farber says:



I'm sorry.

I have no excuses. I was wrong.

I thought from early on that we should hold, however imperfect, elections in Iraq, but I only spoke up very weakly, barely.

We should now hold those elections, flawed as they will be, in the next two months, and follow the desires of that government.

If we don't, I have no truck with what our government does in Iraq, I will not honor it, and I will not stand by it.

I have nothing but apologies for those I have led wrong in this. I feel nothing but shame. I don't know why you should ever listen to me again.

Thank you.
01:10 BST

Saturday, 08 May 2004


A map

A typo

Sinfest (Thanks to PNH for the heads-up.)

What would Buffy do? (via)
19:17 BST

Animate your news

New Mark Fiore: "Lets Get Physical"

Osama bin Lotto: What's your bet?

Oldies but goodies: Timeline. No warnings, eh?
17:15 BST

"How do you explain what is happening to a seven-year-old?"

I sometimes get emails asking me to propose solutions or make suggestions. Fine. Today's lesson: don't rape, don't torture, don't kill and get out while you can- while it still looks like you have a choice... Chaos? Civil war? Bloodshed? We'll take our chances- just take your Puppets, your tanks, your smart weapons, your dumb politicians, your lies, your empty promises, your rapists, your sadistic torturers and go.
--Riverbend (via)
14:03 BST

An eye on...

Double Rainbow & Trailer, Vale of Neath

Martin J. Powell's photographs supply much rewarding eye-candy and a loving view of some of the beauty this island has to offer. There's quite a range, too, including the solar eclipse at Cornwall, a spectacular red sky over Cardiff, bits of Yorkshire, and a whole lot of other stuff. He also has some stereoscopic pictures that I actually managed to get the effect of (although it didn't seem like he described it - when I relaxed my focus, I got a third picture in the middle that had the stereo effect). Er, did I mention the sheep?
05:14 BST

Friday, 07 May 2004


The kind of prayer God is looking for this year.

Bonus Info

But for those who differ...

The sheer moral clarity of our true believers

What we believe

A proper socialist view
18:45 BST

Some liberal media

I need something to cheer me up, and this little .gif made me laugh when Julia posted it, ages ago, at Sisyphus Shrugged, saying, "For your inner liberal." Only when I looked for it the other night the original link seemed to be dead, so I had to find it elsewhere. I'm considering having a Cthulu of the Week feature, seeing as how it's getting hard to find inspiring lingerie photos.

Something actually worth reading at The Washington Post: A Wretched New Picture Of America, by Philip Kennicott - But these photos are us. Yes, they are the acts of individuals (though the scandal widens, as scandals almost inevitably do, and the military's own internal report calls the abuse "systemic"). But armies are made of individuals. Nations are made up of individuals. Great national crimes begin with the acts of misguided individuals; and no matter how many people are held directly accountable for these crimes, we are, collectively, responsible for what these individuals have done. We live in a democracy. Every errant smart bomb, every dead civilian, every sodomized prisoner, is ours.

Sidney Blumenthal: 'This is the new gulag': The same day that Rumsfeld added his contribution to the history of Orwellian statements by high officials, the Senate armed services committee was briefed behind closed doors for the first time not only about Abu Ghraib, but about military and CIA prisons in Afghanistan. It learned of the deaths of 25 prisoners and two murders in Iraq; that private contractors were at the centre of these lethal incidents; and that no one had been charged. The senators were given no details about the private contractors. They might as well have been fitted with hoods.

Norman Solomon celebrates the rise of the Country Joe Band.

Privacy International is holding a public meeting on the proposed national ID cards, on 19 May at the London School of Economics.
14:21 BST

Things to see

RELIGION, POLITICS AND BUSH'S 'GANG OF FOUR': They're the most unappetizing gang of hypocrites and liars ever, these spawn of the "Reagan Revolution." We're talking about Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Jerry Fallwell and Rep. Henry Hyde.

"Junk science" my ass, says Joel Caris of Nightmares For Sale, responding to the arguments used against FDA approval for over-the-counter availability of the morning-after pill. Joel is right. The FDA is wrong.

10 years jail for false ID - Blunkett PR deploys rattle of shackles; and argh! (via) (On the other hand...)
01:13 BST

Thursday, 06 May 2004


Through the Looking Glass is having a bit of an obsession with recent events in Iraq. There are those things that have been reported widely in the American press that never occurred, for example. And then there's those telling little details. And God's little joke.

Eschaton, as always, is packed with info, and Atrios has found a cracking good quote from Father Greeley:

I subscribe to the consistent ethic of life that the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin enunciated some years ago. I believe abortion is wrong. I believe the death penalty is wrong. I believe preemptive war is wrong. I will take seriously the "pro-life" enthusiasts when they are ready to protest against and denounce the death penalty. I will take them seriously when they also denounce criminally unjust wars.
Atrios also links to Matt Gunn on a new right-wing organization pretending to be men who served with John Kerry (but didn't) in Vietnam, Swift Boat Veterans.

Josh Marshall:

Yesterday in a Q & A with editors from Detroit area newspapers President Bush said he was "shaken" by reports of abuse of prisoners in US military custody in Iraq. Yet, according to his press secretary this morning, he hasn't even looked at the Taguba Report, the one people around the world are buzzing about in disappointment and outrage and half of Washington seems already to be reading.
The point here isn't that the president is stupid, but that he seems blithely indifferent to what is a huge setback to American goals and standing in the Middle East and indeed throughout the world.
And here, on Rumsfeld's attempt to redefine "torture"; and here, on taking the administration's seriousness seriously.

Via Bartcop, Gene Lyons is quoting Orwell, and Joe Conason interviews Joe Wilson:

First of all, I think you're absolutely right that it's appropriate to call this a conspiracy, by people very close to the center of power in the United States, who decided that their political agenda was more important than the national security of the country.
And everyone already knows about Disney blocking release of Michael Moore's latest film, right?

At Altercation, Eric reviews a six-CD collection "by everybody's favorite four-and-half fingered guitarist, Jerry Garcia." (I'm not enough of a Deadhead for this, but I know a lot of people who are.) And something more substantive here:

It is hard to imagine that people will actually buy the rhetoric about the economy. A recent report found that more than half of the labor force is very concerned about the job security of those currently working. Two-thirds of workers feel now is a bad time to find a quality job-up from 16% three years ago. This pessimism stems from workers' experiences. Lay-off notices became a reality for one out of every five workers at some point during the last three years, and of those who were lucky enough to escape lay-off themselves, one third worked with someone who wasn't. No wonder people are reluctant to buy into the idea of recovery--more than half of all workers think there are no steps they can take to reduce the likelihood being laid-off over the next three to five years. Surprisingly, employers are even more pessimistic-fewer than 30% believe they can reduce the probability of having to lay people off in that same time period.
Even the neocons are starting to notice, according to Eric. Meanwhile, a reader named Joe Yanoschik writes:
If Mrs. Kerry wants to help John, she'd immediately announce that she will use the bully pulpit afforded a first lady to call attention to, and improve the lot of the military family. The military has done a fine job in educating military children, but things like housing for enlisted families is atrocious at best. She'd get mileage out of a "fact finding tour" of military housing for our enlisted families. Might even turn out the military vote for John.
I agree! Someone suggested early in the primary season that candidates should pledge real material support for our enlisted, and I think Ms. Heinz-Kerry would be a great person to drum this point into people's heads - Bush is letting our soldiers down bigtime, and it has to be set right. There's also a letter from Barry Ritholtz detailing Dick Cheney's five draft deferments, and Eric supplies a link to Create your own Thomas Freidman op-ed column.

On Slacker Friday, there was, of course, Charles Pierce, who Eric says is now an online columnist for The American Prospect.
17:30 BST

Censorship watch

For those who haven't seen it yet, go right now to Unqualified Offerings to learn about the exciting new legislative proposal to ban the Internet. (And as long as you're there, go on to read this post.)

Editor-In-Chief of U.S.-Funded Iraqi Newspaper Quits, Complaining of American Control.

Anti-censorship web service censors itself.

Anger over porn show plans
14:25 BST

A little bit of knowledge....

Appointing a judge: "Do you believe in separation of church and state?" "It depends on the circumstances."

I can't begin to count the ways this is wrong, but Jeff made a nice start, and Resource.full took a shot. I think the author reads too much rubbish by Sullivan and Instahack, m'self. (via)

I have been remiss in not mentioning David Neiwert's series on the OKC bombing: One of the most disturbing aspects of the Oklahoma City bombing is how quickly it seems to have receded to the shadows of our national memory, even before the events of Sept. 11.

That stinker Paul

Unpublished data reverses risk-benefit of drugs: Unpublished studies on the effects of anti-depressant drugs on children suggest some are both ineffective and potentially harmful, according to a new review of research. (via)

Toward a new heart of darkness

Apparently, the reason we haven't heard much from William Burton lately has to do with Asus tech support. However, before all this began, he found out who really has the most liberal voting record in the Senate, and it sure ain't John Kerry.

Editorial comments on the attack on Justice Souter.

An evil wish. Maybe.
00:47 BST

Wednesday, 05 May 2004


The word "conspire" means, literally, to breathe together. And in those days, the whole world did.

In the news clips, we saw them - older and younger, but most in their teens - bringing flowers and pictures to the memorial, dark eyes filled with tears. Over the weeks, the memorial grew in a profusion of colors as they mourned and at the same time expressed their hopes for unity and peace.

What must they feel now, they who stood in the desert and cried? There, in mid-September, they wept for us. They were real people, those Iraqi children, joining the whole world - and us - in our conspiracy of grief. In that moment, they were among those who agreed with that now-faded headline: We are all Americans now.

What must they feel, today?

They wept for us.

Oh, gods, what have we done?
19:10 BST

The campaign trail

Kerry's funnier than Carrot-top. (via)

Why The Rude Pundit should be John Kerry's campaign advisor (via)

A Kerry landslide? (Also: Colin Powell Wants Out.)

LiberalOasis says Kerry's ad campaign is good.
14:28 BST


In The Progressive Populist, Allen Brill says that The Christian Left is the Progressive Stool's Third Leg.

Nick Confessore at Tapped, on Good Catholics and Bad Catholics, says that abortion "does not really trump the death penalty in the degree of importance to which each is accorded under Catholic doctrine." He's got links to recommended articles, including one by Andrew Sullivan.

John Gorenfeld has more details - and some astonishing pictures - from the Senate coronation of Sun Myung Moon as the Messiah.
12:00 BST

Stuff I saw

George Will finally wrote a decent column - but Patrick says he still got one important point wrong.

Max's May Day post

Medicare Drug Cards A Sham

More RIAA lawsuits, some propaganda aimed at school children, and Tennessee rejects Napster/RIAA tax. (via)

Outrage fatigue

I'm Seattle, too. (via) (And also this.)

Umbrella Gothic Lolita (via)
03:43 BST

Tuesday, 04 May 2004

Read it and weep

From Billmon, a good cache.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden on Abu Ghraib, and why she has taken down her flags. (Also: something really scary.)

Josh Marshall on the prognosis: This president is too compromised by his deceptions, his past lack of accountability and his acquiescence in failed policies, ever to correct the situation.

Where the jobs went

Paul Krugman, Battlefield of Dreams

Bill Maher: Invade Canada now.
23:01 BST

Sex laws

Some hilarity from Auntie:

Flashing, voyeurism, cottaging, grooming - they are just some of the sexual practices facing tightened laws coming into effect in England and Wales from this weekend.

In debating the new Sexual Offences Act politicians and civil servants wrestled with many tricky problems of the correct role of law in modern sexuality. Dogging, for instance, escaped an explicit ban. But necrophilia (sex with a corpse) has not, becoming an offence for the first time.

In the government's efforts to protect children from abuse, however, the law also forbids under-16s from engaging in any sexual activity - ranging from "touching" to full intercourse.

Sexual touching, the Act says, includes doing it "with any part of the body", "with anything else", and "through anything". Depending on one's definition, that could technically include snogging as well as the gamut of sexual activities that teenagers often get up to. The guidance notes from the government say it could include "where a person rubs up against someone's private parts through the person's clothes for sexual gratification".

The most unusual aspect of this new law, however, is that the authorities have no intention of enforcing it. Police officers will not be snooping through school children's curtains to see if they are getting up to no good rather than doing their homework.

You'd think after all this time that they wouldn't fall for this one anymore.

Of course, there is nothing "unusual" at all about the fact that the Home Office claims they have "no intention" of using the law as designed. No, no, we are just putting all these things on the books, but - oh dear me no! - we would never think of actually arresting people for the things we have made into crimes!

The proper response to which is, "That's what you said last time." And last time, just like all the other times, they bloody went and did it anyway. If you put laws on the books, you can expect someone to enforce them if it becomes convenient for them. It will happen.

The excuse for this is always the same, too: We can't let people think we approve of such behavior; we want to discourage it, we want to let them know we disapprove. It is apparently too much to ask that they just use the normal methods of saying, y'know, "We disapprove." No, far better to set out the game so that anything not compulsory is prohibited.

Not that adults have any business interfering with a bit of messing around on the part of teenagers. This is pretty normative behavior we're talking about, and making it illegal just discourages kids from looking for adult advice when they need it.

But passing laws you try to pretend you are not passing is counterproductive at the very least. The only reason we know about the details is because people are objecting to them. What makes these people think that the kids they are supposedly aimed at will even know they are breaking the law? No one's going to sit down and read the criminal code to kids as soon as they hit puberty. In fact, they were trying to slip them by us without advising us too loudly of what they were doing. So who are these things really for?

What they're usually really for is just what we fear most: to be able to harass kids we don't like but can't go after for other reasons. They aren't breaking any real laws that we know of, but they annoy us, so we'll bust them for something most kids are doing anyway. Selective enforcement is our favorite method of control. Laws of this nature aren't there to protect anyone, they are there to threaten and to harm.

Let me say it again: For 15 years, Feminists Against Censorship has been pointing out that proposed laws are being written in such a way that they allow the police to arrest people for normal behavior, and for 15 years we've been told that these laws will not be used that way, and for 15 years we've seen those laws passed over our objections and then used precisely the way we warned they would be used. Once passed, they are virtually impossible to overturn. This is not something new. There are no excuses: If you don't want this to happen, you don't pass these laws.

[Via Amygdala]
13:59 BST

Playing catch-up

The big news while I was out seems to be that David Brock has started a new website called Media Matters for America, which:

will document and correct conservative misinformation in each news cycle. Media Matters for America will monitor cable and broadcast news channels, print media and talk radio, as well as marginal, right-wing websites that often serve as original sources of misinformation for well-known conservative and mainstream media outlets.
In other news:

Whistleblower's identity revealed The whistleblower who alerted officers to the torture of Iraqi prisoners of war was Specialist Joseph Darby, 24.

The only people who didn't know what was going on were us.
13:20 BST

Monday, 03 May 2004

Did ya miss me?

I have returned from my undisclosed location and am trying to catch up on all the news I missed while Feoreg, Charlie and I evaluated each other's latest hair-dos. I interacted far more briefly than intended with C. Doctorow (and still wonder why I ever let Rob win any arguments around here). So far the only thing I've had time to read is Brian Hunter's short smack-down of yet another stupid George Will column I haven't read yet. See ya when I get more.
19:14 BST

Saturday, 01 May 2004

The Flesh Failures

On the just-plain-politics side, Micah Holmquist has some final words for April on the spin vs. fact on "class warfare" but then follows it with brief words on the torture story. Gary Farber has updated his much longer (and more link-heavy) piece on the subject. Everyone warns against looking at the pictures unless you have a very strong stomach. I don't, and my imagination is bad enough.

Gary said in e-mail:

Fill in your own words there, because mine fail. I just want to cry.
But I don't have any words, either.

Update: Thank God for Terry Jones.
12:48 BST

Deep Dilbert

At Epicycle:

I've just finished reading "Inside Linda Lovelace", the original 1974 version of her autobiography, written just after the movie "Deep Throat" had catapulted her to fame. In it she describes the (then) upcoming sequel, "Deep Throat 2", and it turns out that the leading male actor was to be a computer geek named "Dilbert"!
Wow, secrets of the universe revealed!
05:02 BST

Throwing the bums out

SUGARLAND, TX -- A Congressional poll shows that the continuing corruption controversies swirling around Tom DeLay have clouded the Majority leader's chances of re-election to his District 22 seat southwest of Houston.

Oh, please let this be true.
02:15 BST

Calling Raoul Duke

So you have this gonzo journalist writing a drug-induced screed about how the emperor is getting way out of hand and oppressing unbelievers in his religion - especially your bunch of unbelievers, oh man oh man, it's gonna be a bloodbath. Way back when, just like HST, he was writing about his own world. Or so it's always seemed to me.
01:32 BST

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, May 2004

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

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