The Sideshow

Archive for November 2001

Friday, 30 November 2001:


George Harrison

Thank you for the music.

16:10 GMT: I loved all four of them, but when I was twelve, he was the target of my libido. I'm having a Beatles festival in my room today.

The BBC will be showing a tribute to George at 7:00 PM GMT.

AP: Ex-Beatle George Harrison Dies at 58

From the Guardian:
George Harrison, 1943-2001
George Harrison: A Life in Pictures
All things must pass

From The Times

* * * * *
We now return you to our regularly scheduled patriotic fervor.

James Carroll has a piece called "This war is not just" in the Boston Globe that I hope he doesn't get fired for:

IN RECENT DAYS, sage editorial writers, religious leaders, politicians, liberal pundits, and admired columnists have joined in the Donald Rumsfeld-Condoleezza Rice chorus praising the American war in Afghanistan as "just."

The Taliban are described as all but defeated. The "noose" around bin Laden grows ever tighter. Afghans are seen rejoicing in the streets, and the women among them are liberated. All because the United States turned the full force of its fire power loose on the evil enemy. Anyone still refusing to sign onto this campaign is increasingly regarded as unpatriotic. Next, we will be called "kooks."

Not so fast. The broad American consensus that Bush's war is "just" represents a shallow assessment of that war, a shallowness that results from three things.
This "overwhelming" exercise of American power has been a crude reinforcement of the worst impulse of human history - but this is the nuclear age, and that impulse simply must be checked. This old style American war is unwise in the extreme, and if other nations - Pakistan, India, Israel, Russia? - begin to play according to the rules of "dead or alive," will this American model still seem "just"?

Third, wrongly defined use of force. This war is not "just" because it was not necessary. It may be the only kind of force the behemoth Pentagon knows to exercise, but that doesn't make it "just" either. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 could have been defined not as acts of war, but as crimes. That was the first mistake, one critics like me flagged as it was happening.

As perhaps the most savage crimes in history, the terrorists' acts should have been met with a swift, forceful response far more targeted than the present war has been. Police action, not war. The criminals, not an impoverished nation, should be on the receiving end of the punishment. [more]

* * * * *
Jack M. Balkin says the administration is Using our fears to justify a power grab:

In times of fear, authoritarian impulses are less constrained and people feel less able to complain about them. After all, no one wants to be thought unpatriotic when the country is in such grave danger. And when there is no check on government officials certain of their own rectitude, the temptation for them to act unilaterally and arbitrarily becomes irresistible. Such is the problem we face today, with a president and an attorney general who have dedicated themselves to stamping out all evildoers both outside the country and within it.

An increasingly authoritarian tone is pervading the Bush administration. We have seen it in the so-called USA Patriot legislation hastily pushed through Congress. We have seen it in the presidential order authorizing military tribunals without traditional due process protections and without a right of appeal to anyone but the president himself. We have seen it in new federal policies that permit eavesdropping of confidential communications between attorneys and their clients. And we have seen it in new regulations that allow the attorney general to imprison noncitizens indefinitely, even if an immigration judge has ruled that there is no evidence to justify holding them against their will.
Authoritarianism never attacks the institutions of freedom at their strongest point; it always attacks them at their weakest. Even before Sept. 11, the country's immigration laws were often arbitrary and highhanded. Therefore it is no surprise that the administration's latest grabs for executive authority have targeted noncitizens, who have no right to representation and no natural constituency to defend them. The present conflict may not be a war on Islam. But it is increasingly turning out to be a war on noncitizens.

The members of this administration do not want to be dictators. They simply do not want anyone getting in their way. They do not want to be autocrats. They simply do not want to be second-guessed when they know that they are right. They do not want to be antidemocratic. They simply want to be able to act unilaterally in the interests of righteousness. If we would merely allow them to go about their business in secret, and with as much authority as they feel they need, they will take care of things for us.

In times like these, it is a tempting offer, but we should refuse it. For what profit has a country if it shall control the whole world and lose its democratic soul?

He gives them more credit than I do. I don't think Bush's attempt to keep the public from being able to review the papers of past presidents is about wanting to do the right things without fuss, but about wanting to do the wrong things without having to answer to anyone.

04:00 GMT: Permalink
Joshua Mica Marshall has another go at that swine-for-all-seasons Mitch Daniels:

The problem with Daniels' analysis is that adults take responsibility for their actions, something he himself seems congenitally unable to do. Daniels' implicit argument seems to be that so much has happened in the last few months that whatever you might have said about the tax cut, now it's just old news. But this overlooks a pretty obvious point. There are three reasons the economy is moving back into deficits. The economic slowdown/recession, the totality of the effects of the 9/11 attacks, and the Bush tax cut.

We can argue about which is first, second, and third in order of importance. But these are the three factors. Two of them are beyond our control: the business cycle and murderous terrorist attacks from abroad. One is a conscious and deliberate public policy decision. Policy is always the part of the equation we can change and manipulate. The vicissitudes of fortune are the ones we can't. In other words, the tax cut is the one decision we could have made differently. It's the one part of the equation that someone has to answer for.

And of course don't forget that, according to Daniels, reducing the surplus was the aim of the tax cut.

* * * * *
Meanwhile, the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), also known as "CDA II", is facing its day in court, thanks to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU):

The law "threatens to transform this dynamic medium into a medium fit only for children," Ann E. Beeson said during oral arguments in the case of Ashcroft v. ACLU, No. 00-1293.

But Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson, representing the federal government, countered that the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), passed by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1998, effectively addresses the free-speech concerns expressed by the Supreme Court in a 1997 decision striking down an earlier anti-pornography law.

* * * * *
Okay, guess who said this:

"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."

00:10 GMT: Permalink
There's something Bartcop really wants you to know, so much that he's done a shorter-than-usual page and let it run for three - no, four - days.

* * * * *
You gotta see Avram Grumer's weblog, Pigs & Fishes, which has some great stuff on it about...oh, lots of things.

* * * * *
I Want Media has an interview with Kurt Andersen in which he talks about what's happened to magazine journalism:

IWM: What should magazines do to recover?

Andersen: Behave more like Martha Stewart Living and Maxim, I guess -- take chances and put passionate, damn-the-torpedoes visionary geniuses in charge who are obsessed with giving readers what they want.

* * * * *
Teresa Nielsen Hayden reviews A bizarre, perverse, and profoundly unChristian book.

* * * * *
Headline over at The Brains Trust: "RECESSION GENE" DISCOVERED IN BUSH DNA (Oh, and definitely do click on the banner at the top.)

* * * * *
Andrew Stephen in The New Statesman says Bush dumps American values:

Despite the protestations of the Bush administration that the perpetrators of the 11 September atrocities will never prevail in their attempt to overturn the American way of life, they have already succeeded in doing so. Amid all the triumphalism over military operations overseas, the transformation of the US into a police state has gone largely unnoticed. Britain may be up in arms about David Blunkett and his dismissal of airy-fairy rights and liberties, but what is happening in the UK is benign and gentle compared to the situation here. "American values", a phrase much used of late by President Bush, have been tossed out of the window. More than two centuries of painfully accrued constitutional checks and balances have been discarded. In the words of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Bill of Rights is now "distorted beyond recognition".

* * * * *
A little something to while away the hours...or just go to image 48, which is what it's all about.

* * * * *
Ever wanted to listen to the Nixon tapes? Well, now you can!

Thursday, 29 November 2001:

04:00 GMT: Permalink
Over at Online Journal, Richard Kropp is asking, Will we be safer?

November 25, 2001—Over the last few days it has been comforting, in a feel-good sort of way, that I have appeared to have taken the safe, (some would say cowardly), way out by begrudgingly accepting and justifying our new anti-terrorism laws, cleverly called the USA Patriot Act of 2001, on surveillance, detention, immigration, and wiretapping.

But while I am taking the politically safe and seemingly "patriotic" position on these new laws, will they make my family and me safer? I have to think more about that.

I think we can safely say, "No." And I'm not the only one who thinks so:

The aggressive FBI dragnet -- championed by Attorney General John D. Ashcroft -- has provoked much commentary and criticism for its impact on civil liberties. Now, in a series of on-the-record interviews, eight former high-ranking FBI officials have offered the first substantive critique of the Ashcroft program, questioning whether the new approach will have the desired effect.

The executives, including a former FBI director, said the Ashcroft plan will inevitably force the bureau to close terrorism investigations prematurely, before agents can identify all members of a terrorist cell. They said the Justice Department is resurrecting tactics the government rejected in the late 1970s because they did not prevent terrorism and led to abuses of civil liberties.

* * * * *
Joshua Green over at The Washington Monthly is worried about Why the biggest threat to Bush's war strategy is not coming from Muslims but from Christians.

Wednesday, 28 November 2001:

23:50 GMT: Permalink
Rush Limbaugh has been quoting Rich Galen to the effect that feminists are hypocrites who don't hate the Taliban enough to support the war (not true; even Ellie Smeal is supporting it), and further wondering why Hillary Clinton never spoke out against the Taliban. If anyone doubts that these people don't know what they're talking about, check out this ancient article from The Washington Post that demonstrates otherwise:

Adopting the term "family feminist," Hillary Clinton gave a full-throated exhortation on the rights of women.

She condemned the Taliban fundamentalist movement that controls Afghanistan, called on the Senate to ratify an international convention opposed to discrimination against women and decried attempts by conservatives to condition payments to international organizations on new restrictions on family planning services.

* * * * *
The Republican habit of launching independent foreign policies that operate against that of their country's government and its interests shouldn't be forgotten, since they kept right on doing it during the Iranian hostage crisis and there's no reason to think they didn't keep right on doing it. This piece by Jack Valenti in today's Post serves as a reminder:

The United States tried everything: bombing, speeches, bombing pauses, secret diplomatic entreaties by third-party countries, etc. In fact, Johnson told me just after his surprise speech on March 31, 1968, announcing he would not seek reelection that he made the announcement because he thought if he could convince the North Vietnamese that he had no more political ambitions, they might begin talks. Which is what happened.

Then, to his mounting anger, the South Vietnamese leaders were reached by Richard Nixon's minions, who convinced them they could get a better deal from Nixon -- whereat they stalled and squirmed and refused to sit down.

* * * * *
Rush Limbaugh need never worry about what his hearing problem will do to his ability to inform the public when the "liberal" media - in the form of The Washington Post - is willing to give him space:

As I watch such liberal leading lights as Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy denounce President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft for detaining certain aliens to stem future terrorist atrocities against Americans, and hear them rail against the constitutionality of reinstituting military commissions to bring terrorist murderers to justice, I have to wonder: Would their views be different if their hero, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, were president today?

Well, of course, liberals have long criticized Roosevelt's violations of civil liberties during WWII, as Limbaugh certainly ought to know. Gee, Rush, already wrong, and it's only the first paragraph!

I guess, though, that someone whose fans call themselves "dittoheads" wouldn't understand the idea of admiring some of the things Roosevelt did and yet not admiring all of them.

More interestingly, Limbaugh goes on to remember FDR's attempt at court-packing - something only a president can do, but no president can do all by himself - and then compare it with Leahy's refusal to rubber-stamp all the far-right yahoos Bush is attempting to stack the courts with, pretending that it's Leahy who's trying to do the court-packing.

This is classic Republican spin. For eight years, the GOP refused to confirm President Clinton's appointees, hoping to delay long enough to get one of their own in the White House so they could pack the courts with far-right loonies like themselves. The result is that there are now far too many openings on the bench, and the far-right are trying to exploit this by doing just what they planned. Leahy, like most Americans, doesn't really want to see this happen. But even the head of the Senate judicial committee can't pack the courts - only the executive can nominate. It's up to Congress to decide whether they are going to let him do it, and Leahy is the only person who is in a position to make sure he can't. Good for him - maybe he's finally taken his blinkers off.

* * * * *
There are two Duncan Campbells writing for The Guardian. I told the one I know that one of them really ought to start using a middle initial, but to no avail, so I don't know which one of them wrote this article with downright satisfying news about someone I regard as a professional liar:

Otto Reich, a Cuban exile, was nominated by the US president this year as under secretary of state for the western hemisphere. This week a source for the Senate foreign relations committee, which has to confirm the appointment, said that Mr Reich's chances of being confirmed were now almost zero.

He was already a controversial choice because in 1987, in his previous government role as director the office of public diplomacy, he had been investigated by the comptroller general who found that he had "engaged in prohibited, covert propaganda activities" on behalf of the Nicaraguan Contras then engaged in a guerrilla war against the elected Sandinista government.

* * * * *
When liberals complained that Bush looked like a hot-headed cowboy, they were written off as "partisans" who just refused to acknowledge the wonderful way that George had "grown into" the job since 9/11. According to Newsweek, then, I guess there's a secret Democratic partisan sleeping in the White House:

NEW YORK, Nov. 25 /PRNewswire/ -- When President George W. Bush remarked that he wanted Osama bin Laden "dead or alive," First Lady Laura Bush thought the macho talk made him look more like a hot tempered cowboy than a cool-headed statesman, writes White House Correspondent Martha Brant in the December 3 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, November 26). Since Bush can't stand being lectured, the first lady decided to use humor to make her point. Sidling up to him later, she gently barbed, "Bushie, you gonna git 'im?" The president got the point and for days later he told people that Laura hadn't "approved" of his choice of words.

* * * * *
George Harrison Reportedly Losing Cancer Battle.

* * * * *
02:45 GMT: Permalink
Eric Boehlert in Rolling Stone takes the press to task on its coverage of the 2000 presidential campaign in The Press vs. Al Gore:

"The press responds to critics on the right by bending over backward not to look liberal," says Geneva Overholser, a professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism and former ombudsman for the Washington Post, referring to the common conservative criticism of the so-called liberal media. "The cumulative effect is the opposite: They're tougher on Democrats." She, too, is convinced there was "something fundamentally wrong" with the 2000 election press coverage.

Last year, a review conducted by two nonpartisan groups, Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Pew Research Center, found that a stunning seventy-six percent of the Gore campaign coverage in early 2000 centered around two negative themes: that he lies and exaggerates, and that he's tarred by scandal. "We call it the metanarrative," says Tom Rosenstiel, director of Project for Excellence in Journalism. "Journalists are looking for a story line, a narrative device, that plays out over weeks and months, and there's nothing wrong with that. The problem is if they let the narrative overwhelm the facts, then it becomes a distorting lens. It can lead journalists to ignore and mischaracterize facts as they try to fit them into the story."

* * * * *
And then, of course, there's that pesky election itself, still a hot topic among real patriots - you know, the kind who believe in democracy? And real journalists like Mark Mayfield, who says in the Gainsville Sun that Al Gore was the genuine choice of a majority of Floridians:

Under any scenario where all of the votes are counted, Gore won. The only scenarios where Bush won were those where significant numbers of votes were simply not counted.

Eric Alterman is also talking about it, and the unpleasant result of putting the wrong man in the White House, too:

Now that we know that Al Gore not only beat George Bush by roughly 537,000 votes nationally, but also handily defeated him among legally cast votes in Florida, I suppose we can expect accelerated efforts on the part of the President to try to counter his proven political illegitimacy. This is actually a pretty frightening notion. Well before we received the much-misreported results of the Florida recount, the Administration gave every indication of being so addicted to secrecy that it would happily stretch the bounds of democratic accountability beyond their breaking point.

* * * * *
Censors are always trying to impose their tastes on things they don't understand. Here in England, we're all too familiar with the protectors of our innocence thinking it's their job to be film critics for us. I don't know what excuse the ones in Canada were using when they refused to pass Fat Girl:

French drama "Fat Girl," which follows the relationship between two teenage sisters during a summer holiday, has been rated "not approved" on appeal by the Ontario Film Review Board.

The ruling means the film cannot be shown in Toronto, Canada's largest city, or in Ottawa, the nation's capital.
The Ontario board ruled 3-2 against the film, with two members taking the unprecedented step of filing public dissents. It ruled that in order for the film to be approved, additional cuts totaling 15 minutes would need to be made. Co-distributors Cowboy Pictures and Lions Gate Films have indicated they have no intention of cutting "Fat Girl."

Dissenting board member Sara Waxman wrote: "This intelligent handling of a controversial subject, adolescent sexuality, does not glorify or glamorize the subject. If anything, this is an anti-sex film."

Board member Roger Currie felt "the nudity in question was not gratuitous and was a legitimate choice for the filmmaker to make. I feel strongly that in such a situation, the board should exercise discretion."

Tuesday, 27 November 2001:

17:55 GMT: Permalink
What if the Bush administration dismantles the Constitution and the news media acts like nothing is wrong? Joel Bleifuss at In These Times notes that the media is falling down on the job keeping an eye on government, resulting in Creeping Authoritarianism:

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, whose district includes the World Trade Center site, accused Bush of using the attacks "as an excuse to destroy our Constitution and the protections of liberty that we pride ourselves on." He asked, "Will we rise up and assert that we can fight a war and keep our constitutional traditions and not junk them in the name of national security?"

The administration is betting we will not, and with good reason. What the administration can do (and get away with) depends on how vigilantly the news media perform their duties as public watchdogs. Mainstream media have the power to define the tone of public debate and set the limits of what is acceptable. Some newspapers, such as the New York Times, have inveighed against Bush’s action. Yet the television networks have tended to soft-sell Bush’s audacious, dangerous and precedent-setting use of executive orders to circumvent Congress and the judiciary.

* * * * *
This week Joe Conason takes us back to November 2000, when the crime of the century was being pulled off in front of our eyes:

Seizing upon their home-court advantage, the Republicans controlling the process in the Sunshine State cheated and lied. As Florida’s Secretary of State, Katherine Harris was required by law to ensure a full automatic recount of every ballot in every county, because the margin separating the candidates was less than one-half of 1 percent. Both Mr. Bush and Mr. Baker continuously pointed to this statutory recount as proof that all the votes had been "counted and recounted."

In fact, as Mr. Toobin reveals, some 1.58 million votes cast in 18 counties were never recounted as the law prescribed — an extraordinary violation that Ms. Harris and her aides knew but never mentioned, let alone remedied. If the mandated recount had been completed in a timely and lawful fashion, Mr. Gore might well have pulled ahead by a few votes in the first week, changing the entire complexion of the post-election struggle.

And things have been going pear-shaped ever since.

03:32 GMT: Permalink
My favorite newsgroup has a thread running at the moment about Ashcroft's attacks on civil liberties, and some participants have referred to the Palmer raids for comparison. It occurred to me that some people might not be familiar with that period in history and could use a pointer.

The "Red Scare" reflected the same anxiety about free speech and obsession with consensus that had characterized the war years. Two documents included here point to the absurdity of some of these fears. In the case of "The Most Brainiest Man," a Connecticut clothing salesmen was sentenced to sixth months in jail simply for saying Lenin was smart. A story that same year in the Washington Post noted with approval how in Chicago, a sailor shot another man merely for failing to rise during the national anthem. Finally, a satirical essay by the humorist Robert Benchley mocks the public's hunger for enemies, invented enemies if necessary. The Red Scare suggests how quickly legal rights can succumb to hysterical rhetoric and public fear.

* * * * *
Buzzflash is running an interview with Gene Lyons.

BUZZFLASH: No, I'm not kidding. BuzzFlash has read "Hunting of the President." We swear by it. Now, let's hypothetically say Gore was elected president in 1992. Would we have seen the same vendetta against the sitting Democratic president? Or do you believe it was something intrinsically about Clinton, which seemed to develop a pathological obsession in the right wing in the Republican Party?

GENE LYONS: Hypothetically, had Gore been elected, the right wing would have tried to do many of the same things to him as they did to Clinton. The specifics would have been different, but the means would have been the same. Now in the last election, I don't think Gore ran a very good campaign, and one of the things that was wrong with it was he failed to react to this ceaseless barrage of personal abuse from the right: That he didn't know who he was, that he was a congenital liar, that he made up this or he lied about that, et cetera.

Just to go all the way back to the beginning of the Clinton years, there was a tsunami of scandal generating. I think it's clear to anybody who's conversant with BUZZFLASH or any of the websites that are keeping the candle lit in the great dark of contemporary journalism, the right took effective control of the Washington media apparatus at some point during the Reagan and Bush years. The right worked very hard to do it after Watergate. The way to make a name for yourself as a media celebrity in the press is to be a right winger, because there are lots of millionaires throwing money around.

* * * * *
From Clarence Page at The Chicago Tribune comes a Friendly warning from a lover of liberty:

NEW YORK CITY -- Priests, burglars and psychiatrists know the same truth about human nature: Sometimes it takes the eyes of an outsider to let us know how much we have and how easily we can lose it.

Argentine journalist Horacio Verbitsky offered such a valuable outsider's view Tuesday at the annual Press Freedom Awards dinner, sponsored by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

Sometimes called "el perro" (the dog) for his terrierlike pursuit of corruption and other abuses of government power, Verbitsky was one of four journalists from around the world honored for practicing excellent journalism in spite of government opposition.

He thanked the gathering of major American media editors, executives, anchors and reporters on behalf of the 100 journalists who have been kidnapped, tortured and killed under Argentina's state-led terror and 30,000 other people who have "disappeared."

Then he turned the tables a bit by offering some timely and memorable advice to us, his American colleagues, now getting a first-hand taste of the terror with which he and other independent Argentine voices have lived with for years.

"After the appalling Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the United States may be tempted to erode its high standards of free expression, to restrict its own liberties and to ignore the suffering of other people," he said.

"We read in the American press that due process is at stake and even the possible use of torture is being debated. We hear your president talk of being either 'for us or against us.'

"Worst of all, we see the huge popularity of this approach.

"In this context Argentine experience can be useful, in spite of our obviously different political cultures and history.

"In our country we learned that sacrificing civil liberties and human-rights standards in the name of security has devastating effects; that under every circumstance the civilized values cannot be protected by any means; that our commitment as journalists must be to the truth, not to any government; that fights between absolute good and evil, as theology teaches us, usually lead to Apocalypse."

Thank you, Horacio. Indeed, the differences between the American and Argentine experiences are "obvious" but the similarities are chilling. [more]

* * * * *
In the NYT, the wonderful Paul Krugman nails it:

Most political reporting about the stimulus debate describes it as a conflict of ideologies. But ideology has nothing to do with it. No economic doctrine I'm aware of, right or left, says that an $800 million lump-sum transfer to General Motors will lead to more investment when the company is already sitting on $8 billion in cash.

As Jonathan Chait points out, there used to be some question about the true motives of people like Dick Armey and Tom DeLay. Did they really believe in free markets, or did they just want to take from the poor and give to the rich? Now we know.

* * * * *
Safire takes a sharp look at Bush's military Kangaroo Courts:

Spain, which caught and charged eight men for complicity in the Sept. 11 attacks, last week balked at turning over the suspects to a U.S. tribunal ordered to ignore rights normally accorded alien defendants. Other members of the European Union holding suspects that might help us break Al Qaeda may also refuse extradition. Presumably Secretary of State Colin Powell was left out of the Ashcroft try- 'em-and-fry-'em loop.

Thus has coalition-minded Bush undermined the antiterrorist coalition, ceding to nations overseas the high moral and legal ground long held by U.S. justice. And on what leg does the U.S now stand when China sentences an American to death after a military trial devoid of counsel chosen by the defendant?

Hm, I just noticed that Patrick Nielsen Hayden has this and a bunch of other neat stuff blogged. He cites Christopher Hitchens noting that it seems to be more the right than the left reacting against this administration's incursions against civil liberties. But I think someone has to be reminded that when Democrats or liberals publicly depart from Bush's agenda, they get attacked in the illiberal media, equated with Satan on talk radio, and maybe even sent anthrax mail.

* * * * *
It's official: U.S. in Recession Since March, Panel Confirms, says Glenn Somerville on

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The struggling U.S. economy slipped into a recession in March, snapping a record 10-year-long expansion on its anniversary date, a panel of economists that dates U.S. business cycles said on Monday.

The National Bureau of Economic Research said that, after considering the extra blow the economy suffered from the Sept. 11 attacks, it had decided the economic slowdown was so pronounced that the economy was in fact in recession.

* * * * *
Patrick just messaged me to tell me that he's been getting laughs from today. But I need to upload all this and go to bed.

Monday, 26 November 2001:

18:35 GMT: Permalink
I always forget the simple rules, like, "Clear the cache." Naturally, it should have been the first thing I thought of when I suddenly couldn't open the washpost pages, and naturally, I didn't think of it until my Alpha Geek reminded me so I could check out the latest in my home-town paper.

Reading The Washington Past: Yesterday, in the "Outlook" section, Jim Hoagland pointed at one of the elephants in the room:

America's oil habit helped turn U.S. citizens into targets of choice for the butchers that al Qaeda chose for the grisly work of Sept. 11. Remember that the next time you climb into a fuel-inefficient SUV or leave the furnace thermostat set higher than is needed.

* * * * *
Meanwhile, an editorial tracks the progress of gay rights in Maryland:

IT SEEMED that fairness had won the day back in February when the Maryland General Assembly finally passed a bill outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation. The vote was an important step for lawmakers and a personal victory for Gov. Parris Glendening, who had battled to include gay people in the state's protections against bias in housing or employment. But it turned out that the fight wasn't over. Opponents launched a petition drive to take the question to the voters in a 2002 referendum. The measure, which should have taken effect Oct. 1, was blocked. It wasn't until Wednesday, when referendum organizers acknowledged that they didn't have enough valid signatures to reach the ballot, that it became law.

* * * * *
Turning to today's paper, Sebastian Mallaby tries tearing apart the Bush administration's approach to using aid to poor countries as a way to undercut the support for terrorism:

JFK boosted aid to poor countries by a quarter, arguing that "without exception, they are all under Communist pressure." Yet when Britain recently made a Kennedyesque appeal to double aid, the Bush administration poured cold tea on it.

This seems a little crazy. Kennedy's national security argument for aid seems just as credible today: Al Qaeda has sprung from the impoverished chaos of Sudan and Afghanistan; it has dabbled in the diamond fields of Sierra Leone; it has connections in Somalia. But Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill sees aid as an ineffective tool. "Over the last 50 years the world has spent an awful large amount of money in the name of development without a great degree of success," he said a week ago.

Not for the first time, O'Neill is both wrong and interesting.
Still, O'Neill raises an interesting question because really poor states -- the ones most likely to harbor terrorists -- often pursue policies that ensure that aid is wasted. Twenty years ago, donors thought they had an answer to this problem: They would make aid conditional upon policy improvement. But critics such as Easterly have documented the failure of this strategy. Between 1970 and 1997, for example, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund made 22 loans to Pakistan that were tied to reductions in the country's budget deficit. Yet the deficit stuck at 7 percent of gross domestic product throughout the period.

Mallaby goes on to find holes in O'Neill's thinking, but there's one question he doesn't address: Have the policies the World Bank has forced on the nations that receive aid from them been those that are likely to succeed?

I referred the other day to a story by Gregory Palast on just that subject that suggests the answer is, "No, quite the contrary." [Fantasy break: Numerous readers fax that same Palast article to Mallaby.]

* * * * *
William Raspberry makes what he calls a Good-Faith Argument for School Prayer, but it looks like muddy thinking to me:

"Every culture, ours included, has religious elements," he told me last week. "And that's because every culture worthy of the name reflects human nature in all its richness -- and does so publicly. We don't live the most significant aspects of our lives in private. We don't smuggle babies home from the maternity ward. We don't usually elope in dead of night or furtively bury our dead. Why should expressions of belief be different?"
"A public school system that pretends to have a comprehensive education but resolutely says nothing about religion for 12 years is not comprehensive at all. Indeed, it sends a powerful message to our children that religion is at best an optional aspect of their human nature -- and in doing so, it lies about who and what we are. When a public school sets aside space for children who wish to pray, it sends the opposite message: that faith is a natural part of life. Levy wasn't pushing Islam; he was sending a message of respect."

Oh? We don't have sex in private? And isn't sex one of "the most significant aspects of our lives"? And don't the chief proponants of school prayer do their best to keep us from even acknowledging it publicly, let alone representing it in our arts and entertainment?

But all that's just a quibble, of course. The article rather elides the difference between school prayer and religion classes. And I certainly have no objection to religion classes that treat all faiths equally, as neither truth nor lies. Still, in my experience, nothing makes school prayer proponants change their minds like the suggestion that atheism, too, would have to be taught in schools. Suddenly they get the idea that schools should be secular environments.

* * * * *
And on to today's letter page, where a number of readers have joined with interesting comments about Bush's military tribunals:

While it has been reported that Abraham Lincoln established such a court in the 19th century, it has not been stated that the Supreme Court later struck it down as clearly unconstitutional and against the grain of our society. The institutionalization of the president's order would be a terrible contemporary breach of our social structure.

And here is a truly American letter.

* * * * *
Liberal Media Alert: Maria Heller interviewed Bob Fertik of on her web radio show, where Fertik talked about the stolen election and the NORC ballot report, and freedom in America generally. (The first half of the program features an interview with the Green Party's Nancy Oden, who talks about her little episode at the airport.)

Sunday, 25 November 2001:

22:25 GMT: Permalink
Do I understand that neither George Bush nor Dick Cheney bothered to make a Thanksgiving visit to our troops last week? Don't presidents usually visit troops in a war zone on Thanksgiving? Oh, that's right, he's not really the president.

* * * * *
How does John Ascroft tell the difference between an Arab terrorist and a Jew? He doesn't, according to Matt Drudge. (Drudge cites a Washington Post story as well, but for some reason I can't seem to get to the Post at the moment.) Says Drudge:

Controversy surrounds Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Justice Department's detention of at least 60 Israeli Jews in the United States as part of America's September 11 terror probe.

Some of the Jews have been jailed for up to 60 days on the pretext of minor offenses involving working papers and other violations.

None of the detainments have produced a single public charge in connection with Sept. 11.

* * * * *
Jon Carroll predicts Ashcroft will have even more up his sleeve:

Those suspected of thinking like terrorists will be arrested under a special executive order. They will be taken to an undisclosed location different from the undisclosed location where Dick Cheney lives. They will be tried in secret, sentenced and executed.

Unless they're innocent, of course. Ashcroft does not think it likely that many will be innocent.

12:41 GMT: Permalink
I'd like to believe this article from The New York Times by Harold Hongju Koh that says:

NEW HAVEN -- If we should capture Osama bin Laden or his accomplices in the days ahead, where should we try them? Two unsound proposals have recently emerged. The first, and by far more dangerous, is already law: the president's misguided and much criticized order authorizing secret trials before an American military commission. The second, more benign approach, offered by prominent international lawyers, is to try terrorists before an as yet uncreated international tribunal.

Both options are wrong because both rest on the same faulty assumption: that our own federal courts cannot give full, fair and swift justice in such a case. If we want to show the world our commitment to the very rule of law that the terrorists sought to undermine, why not try mass murderers who kill American citizens on American soil in American courts?

But then I remember that Tony Blair has admitted that the evidence the Bush administration gave him againt bin Laden probably wasn't enough to hold up in a court of law. Even before that, his claim that the evidence was strong lacked a certain solidity:

Describing the evidence as "overwhelming", Mr Blair said the attacks bore all the hallmarks of a Bin Laden operation, including meticulous long-term planning and a desire to inflict mass casualties.

Gee, doesn't that sound sorta...circumstantial?

* * * * *
On the paranoia front, Robert Lederman addresses George Bush's warning against "conspiracy theories", noting that the evidence against bin Laden isn't really any better than the evidence against the Bush network:

The official story as told by the Bush administration and the U.S. corporate media is constructed of "evidence" the government frankly admits would not be admissible in any court of law. If anything, the Bush administrations' version of events is itself a very weakly constructed "conspiracy theory" challenged at every turn by an enormous amount of exculpatory evidence, much of it from the Bush administration itself. No wonder Bush insists on trials by military tribunals for suspected terrorists, trials in which virtually none of the evidence will be revealed to the defendants or their Bush-appointed defense attorneys.

* * * * *
Betty Bowers writes a speech for Laura Bush. You know, I think I detect a certain lack of reverence from Betty....

02:37 GMT: Permalink
Patrick Nielsen Hayden has pointers up on his weblog to the work of David Horsey, a cartoonist with whom I was unfamiliar. Interesting stuff, check it out.

* * * * *
Here's an article at The Eye by Sky Gilbert that puts that whole Fear thing in perspective:

As you may have guessed from my sarcastic tone, I'm not afraid of anthrax. Why? I don't deny that there have been four anthrax deaths recently, just as I don't deny the Twin Towers tragedy really happened. But we have become incapable of perceiving these events as real happenings.

Instead they have come to mean only one thing: fear.

Do you want to know a quick way to tell the difference between a dishonest, manipulative public official and a political leader with true integrity? It all boils down to their attitude to that one little word.

When there is a real threat to our lives, a statesman of integrity -- like Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- tells people that "there is nothing to fear but fear itself." When a corrupt statesman wishes to turn history to his political advantage, he exaggerates terror. This happened after the Depression, when Hitler scapegoated the Jews. And it's happening now as George W. Bush scapegoats the East and hectors us about terrorists and anthrax.

How can I remain so cool and collected in this time of crisis? Well, if you're a gay man, anthrax makes nary a blip on your emotional radar screen. For the last 20 years we've been told by doctors that if we have a nagging cough, diarrhea or a tiny spot on the leg, we might very well have only a few months to live.

Most gay men have wisely decided that it's impossible to live in a continuous state of fear. So, an old faggot like me might just be able to offer you some valuable insight into dealing with new terror tactics -- which, by the way, are being used not only by the American government but also by our own.

Right-wingers know that a fearful populace is easily manipulated. They know that through anti-terrorism legislation police power can be expanded and human rights (including freedom of speech) can be constricted. Fear of anthrax (and of terrorists) is a great way to ensure public support for those in power, and to stifle dissent. [more]

Saturday, 24 November 2001:

2:15 GMT: Permalink
Emily Eakin at The New York Times finds An Organization on the Lookout for Patriotic Incorrectness:

The Rev. Jesse Jackson made the list for remarking to an audience at Harvard Law School that America should "build bridges and relationships, not simply bombs and walls." Joel Beinin, a professor of Middle Eastern history at Stanford University, earned a place on it for his opinion that "If Osama bin Laden is confirmed to be behind the attacks, the United States should bring him before an international tribunal on charges of crimes against humanity." And Wasima Alikhan of the Islamic Academy of Las Vegas was there simply for saying "Ignorance breeds hate."

All three were included on a list of 117 anti-American statements heard on college campuses that was compiled by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a conservative nonprofit group devoted to curbing liberal tendencies in academia. The list, part of a report that was posted on the group's Web site ( last week, accuses several dozen scholars, students and even a university president of what they call unpatriotic behavior after Sept. 11.

I say the people who compiled this list are Un-American.

1:51 GMT: Permalink
John Ashcroft is a man of many superstitions, even one that apparently compels him to force pain and misery on people who are already ill or even dying. Among others:

Shortly after becoming Attorney General, John Ashcroft was headed abroad. An advance team showed up at the American embassy in the Hague to check out the digs, saw cats in residence, and got nervous. They were worried there might be a calico cat. No, they were told, no calicos. Visible relief. Their boss, they explained, believes calico cats are signs of the devil. (The advance team also spied a statue of a naked woman in the courtyard and discussed the possibility of its being covered for the visit, though that request was not ultimately made.)

* * * * *
Sam Dash makes his opinion known:

Anti-Terror Wiretap Rule Is Illegal
By Samuel Dash
Samuel Dash, former chief counsel of the Senate Watergate committee, is a professor at Georgetown University Law Center.

THE ATTORNEY general's new anti-terrorism directive - authorizing electronic interception of the communications between lawyers and jailed terrorist suspects without probable cause or court permission - violates the Fourth Amendment.

Under the circumstances, prisoners must talk in jail to their lawyers either in person or on the telephone. Such communications have been protected as confidential throughout our history as an essential ingredient of our system of justice.

In addition, interception of private communications without warrants has been declared illegal by the Supreme Court under the Fourth Amendment and by a federal statute enacted to implement the high court's ruling.

Ominously, this overreaching by the attorney general has a dangerous precedent. During the 1973-74 Watergate period, Attorney General John Mitchell ordered, under the guise of national security, wiretaps of citizens who openly dissented from the president's policies. Mitchell claimed that the crisis at the time - the violent protests against the Vietnam War - justified the wiretaps. The Supreme Court ruled that such electronic surveillance violated the Fourth Amendment and that the attorney general and the president were under the law, not above it. [more]

Psst! You remember Sam Dash, don't you?

Friday, 23 November 2001:

20:54 GMT: Permalink
I wish I'd saved a link, but a week or two ago I was noticing babble about how, what with anthrax being such a threat and all, we could just do away entirely with the Post Office. After all, you can use e-mail and Fed-Ex for everything, right? Yeah, like I'm gonna Fed-Ex mom's birthday card, you bet. And I'm sure she'd be happy to settle for an e-mail message instead. But just aside from bankrupting Hallmark, I suspect the people who think this is a great idea could have something else in mind - like the fact that it's much harder to spy on ordinary snail mail, which doesn't even have to have a return address. I mean, look at this:

The FBI is going to new lengths to be sure it can eavesdrop on high-tech communications, secretly building "Magic Lantern" software to monitor computer use.

Separately, the agency is urging phone companies to change their networks for more reliable wiretaps in the digital age.


* * * * *
Gay Republicans have no pride. Arizona Rep. Jim Kolbe volunteers every Thanksgiving at a shelter to help out, but last year he was told his services were unwanted:

A letter to Kolbe from a mission board member said the decision was "based on your publicly announced sexual orientation that is diametrically opposite to admonitions in the Bible."

When the snub became public, the group quickly recanted, apologized and invited him to this year's meal.

You know, I'm sure he could have found some other place that wanted him. It's not exactly like food from Unitarians tastes any worse than food from bigots.

* * * * *
I had to laugh when I got to this paragraph in a story about getting Republicans behind the move to rename the Justice Department building after Robert F. Kennedy:

When Joe Kennedy was in the House of Representatives, he led several efforts to pass a bill to name Justice after his father. When he left, Rep. Tim Roemer (D-Ind.), who heard Kennedy speak when he was 10 years old and never got over it, and Joe Scarborough, a since retired Florida Republican who was 5 when he heard that Kennedy had been shot, took over the task. They had considerable luck in rounding up Republicans -- they even had Tom DeLay and Dick Armey -- but could never get Speaker Dennis Hastert to sign on. "Conservatives think of Bobby as a bleeding-heart liberal and a ruthless political operative," explains Scarborough.

This crop of Republicans thinks RFK was a "ruthless political operative"? Compared to them?

17:35 GMT: Permalink
After all the howling from Republicans about how Bill Clinton befouled "our" White House by having sex and guests in it, you'd think they'd be equally disturbed by the way the Bush administration is turning it into nothing more than George's personal bunker. No Easter Egg hunt, and now no Christmas. Who do they think they are? Oh, yeah, right, they are the occupation government that's gonna pay back those people in DC who overwhelmingly voted against them. A better question would be, "Who did the Washington Post think they were when they let their own journalists soft-ball Bush while producing lies and innuendo about the Democratic nominee and the election that turned Gore's impending landslide into the Bush League's putsch?"

12:52 GMT: Permalink
Robert Parry at Consortium News counts the Florida ballots and finds that not only did Gore win but that the consortium of news organs that commissioned the National Opinion Research Center(NORC) count spun the result wildly to produce false pro-Bush headlines in their reports. As he notes in So Bush Did Steal the White House:

The New York Times, for instance, used the word "would" and even declarative statements when referring to Bush prevailing in hypothetical partial recounts. By contrast, the word "might" was used when mentioning that Gore topped Bush if all ballots were considered.

And what was the NORC re-count for if not to determine how the people of Florida actually voted? Nobody needed to be told that the tangled mess that Bush activists and the Supreme Court created twisted the result to show a Bush "win"; that was obvious a year ago. What the headlines should have told us was that the plurality of Florida voters marked their ballots for Al Gore, and that thus the state's electoral votes, and the presidency, were illegitimately awarded to George Bush.

13:10 GMT: Permalink
Yesterdays news, 'cause I suddenly wanted to go to bed and I hadn't uploaded the new stuff yet. And I still can't go anywhere without a car; I must consult more people on how long your leg remains alien after you get the cast off.

* * * * *
Now things are getting serious! John Conyers is having second thoughts, according to this story in the Free Press:

On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, asked for congressional hearings on Bush's order to let military tribunals try terrorist suspects who are not U.S. citizens.

"We stand on the verge of a civil liberties calamity in this country," said Conyers, who spoke at a forum at the federal courthouse in Detroit. "The Constitution applies just as forcefully after Sept. 11 as it did before Sept. 11."

Remember, this guy was a sponsor of the so-called Patriot Act.

* * * * *
I don't know how Aaron McGruder gets away with Boondocks, but I'm glad he does.

* * * * *
It seems to be a habit of the Bush family to try to run their own foreign policy in opposition to the US government whenever there's a Democrat in the White House. I wonder what causes that. And why they don't get arrested....

Thursday, 22 November 2001:

23:50 GMT: Permalink
This week Gene Lyons is talking about the media spin on the Florida ballot count:

Next time some knucklehead complains about the left-wing press, ask him to explain the spin placed on the Florida election recount by the media consortium that sponsored it. The press interpreted the results to enhance President Bush's "legitimacy" and explain away the Supreme Court's shameful decision to prevent the votes from being counted. "Study of Disputed Florida Ballots Finds Justices Did Not Cast the Deciding Vote," headlined the New York Times. "In Election Review, Bush Wins Without Supreme Court Help," said the Wall Street Journal. wrote "Florida Recount Study: Bush Still Wins." The Los Angeles Times reported that "Bush Still Had Votes to Win in a Recount, Study Finds," and the Washington Post "Florida Recounts Would Have Favored Bush."

In plain fact, the numbers by themselves showed almost the exact opposite: had every legal Florida vote been counted, Al Gore would be president. In order to reach the conclusions they did, the journalists ran the data through a legalistic blender, interpreting it according to the arguments of the Bush and Gore campaigns to the U.S. Supreme Court.

* * * * *
I don't own a gun, and I don't want to. Just as well, since I'm in England, isn't it? But I don't own a pool table, either, and I don't want one. (Just as well, since I don't have room in my house, yeah?) Here's a link for people who want to think about guns. You can even take a test!

* * * * *
Robert Sheer is another guy who is worried about the civil liberties impact of "9/11":

Sadly, the old slander that a liberal is someone who has never been mugged is turning out to be true. The Sept. 11 attacks were so close to the center of the intelligentsia's power and consciousness that they have propelled many civil libertarians to abandon their long-held principles.

I'm getting the sense that people are slowly starting to shake out of it a little, but slowly, slowly. I hope Sheer is talking about something that is only a temporary phenomenon. After all, I know what it's like to be in a crisis state, and I lost it pretty thoroughly for a while, but I did get better, eventually.

* * * * *
Larry Flynt isn't happy that reporting from Afghanistan is so restricted. But he doesn't get to send reporters there, either.

02:46 GMT: Permalink
Remember that poor guy who was given ten years in prison for writing disgusting things in his own diary? He's still trying to appeal the conviction, with the help of the ACLU.

* * * * *
It's 2001; do you know where your President is?

* * * * *
It's Anthony York at Salon Premium, so I only get to see the first few paragraphs, but we might as well come out and say it: The reason why only two Democrats (and no Republicans) have been targetted by anthrax hate mail is that the sender is an American right-wing nut. You know it's true, they know it's true, and maybe some day the mainstream news media will even admit it.

* * * * *
Just in case you don't see anyone you don't know climbing into a crop-duster that doesn't belong to you, be assured that your fellow citizens are ever-vigilant, as this story in the Houston Press shows:

In this time of hyper-patriotism, is a charcoal drawing of George W. Bush trapped behind a metal trellis really enough to send out the feds? Apparently somebody thinks so -- and complained loudly enough to get two agents dispatched to sniff out supposed anti-American activity at the tiny Art Car Museum last week.

Wednesday, 21 November 2001:

23:59 GMT: Permalink
Good news! Joshua Mica Marshall says he is getting back to his pre-9/11 form in a piece today recommending another welcome article by Paul Krugman, which says:

These days, only diligent newspaper readers know that George W. Bush has backed off his personal pledge to provide aid to the battered city. And only serious policy wonks know that this is part of a broader picture - that the economic measures now being discussed in Washington will impoverish state and local governments across the country.

Yeah, yeah, read his lips. Just like with that promised raise for our brave men and women in the military that disappeared right after he was installed in the White House. George Bush has a problem with the truth.

* * * * *
Okay, the folks who vote for these guys are either racists or really, really dumb, right?

Rep. C. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), chairman of the House subcommittee on terrorism and homeland security and a candidate for the Senate, yesterday sought to play down remarks to Georgia law enforcement personnel suggesting they "just turn [the sheriff] loose and have him arrest every Muslim that crosses the state line."

In a letter to the Valdosta Daily Times, Chambliss contended that his comments were taken "out of context" and "should in no way be interpreted as my view of what should happen. . . . If my remarks were offensive in any way, I apologize."

Taken out of context, eh? Er, just what context were they in where they were not offensive?

* * * * *
It makes me nervous when Pakistan is nervous about being in "a strategic quagmire." Is it just me?

* * * * *
Chris Mooney looks at Leon Kass, Bush's choice to head his new Council on Biotheics, in The American Prospect:

Virginia Postrel, editor-at-large of Reason magazine, has already bloodied Kass considerably by drawing attention to a passage from his 1985 book Toward a More Natural Science in which Kass complains about "our dissection of cadavers." Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Postrel observed: "This isn't about the 21st century. It's about the 16th."

* * * * *
Over on the Bartcop discussion board, a wit called MadSatyrist quipped, "School prayer is to prayer What near beer is to real beer. Has kinda the same taste, but you get nothing out of it." Alas, my representative in the House did not agree. Did yours?

17:25 GMT: Permalink
The ACLU has a nifty "scorecard" feature that lets you figure out who your representatives in Congress are and how they are voting on issues. Right now might be a good time to write to them and tell them you aren't prepared to lose your civil liberties. The only trouble is, legislators don't pay as much attention to e-mail as they do to paper mail, and right now they really don't want to open any envelopes. Fortunately, it's not that hard to get their fax numbers. If you don't have a facility for faxing from wherever you are, there are fax gateways on the net, too.

* * * * *
One of Britain's more interesting "eccentrics" is trying to bring the future closer with the Starchaser project. Here is a BBC story that might be helpful.

02:50 GMT: Permalink
I don't listen to the radio, but Bartcop does and he says that Rush Limbaugh wants people to boycott newspapers that print Doonsbury because of this remarkably truthful strip.

* * * * *
The story going round is that this is just like daddy Bush's war, caused by a gross diplomatic miscalculation. God knows if any of it is true (I mean, it's not like we've got a Fourth Estate that could be trusted to track these things down for us--the people have a right to know what's in Democratic pants, apparently, but not much else), but I just love the idea of giving Pravda as a reference.

* * * * *
What I know is true is contained in the very fine rant Patrick Nielsen Hayden put on his weblog Tuesday afternoon.

* * * * *
David Broder wonders why the government has such messed up priorities when it comes to medical marijuana.

Tuesday, 20 November 2001:

16:00 GMT: Permalink
Important Fracture News: They took the cast off! I can walk!

* * * * *
01:51 GMT: Permalink
The Houston Chronicle says: Evidently, politics involved in book rejection, not 'errors'.

In 1995, the Texas Legislature rewrote the law that governs how public school textbooks are chosen. The revised law said members of the State Board of Education could reject books only for factual errors. Unfortunately, some board members continue to have difficulty with that concept and cling to a harmful agenda of turning down texts on the basis of narrow political agendas.

* * * * *
There's a lot of kvetching on the net over the last few days about safeweb going under. suggests noproxy as a replacement.

* * * * *
Did I mention that I'm a big fan of the 1st Amendment? But some people aren't.

Monday, 19 November 2001:

17:35 GMT: Permalink
The Washington Post presents what purports to be all the news that didn't fit, including this item:

Congressional-Local Dispute Resolved
Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) brought an end to a stalemated squabble with Washington Metrorail officials over his ultimatum that the word "Reagan" be added to all system signs and maps that read "National Airport." Barr short-circuited the controversy by taking a crew into the Metro stations after hours and painting in "Reagan," as he put it, "wherever I damn well wanted to."

Damn, I would have painted in "Ramone". Mind you, the whole "Reagan" airport fiasco is so stupid to begin with that it really wouldn't surprise me if Bob Barr, who is a a true humdinger, really did something like that. Nor would it surprise me if Washingtonians were out there the next day with their own paint brushes. I still think if they're going to name it after someone, Joey Ramone is a more appropriate choice. For one thing, he did more for Washington than Reagan ever did, and for another, he's aleady dead.

04:30 GMT: Permalink
This story in The Observer made me say, "Uh oh."

Britain last night signalled its grave concern about the dangers facing coalition forces in Afghanistan as heavily armed warring factions demanded that foreign troops 'get off our sovereign soil'.

* * * * *
Lots of amusing rumors, lies, and innuendo in Roll Call from Heard on the Hill - like this one:

McCain vs. Lott. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) stunned the press corps on Thursday night with yet another zinger aimed at Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who was standing just a couple of feet away.

McCain, who likes to joke that he's never going to win the "Miss Congeniality" award in the Senate, was at a press conference with Lott and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) focused on the airport security deal.

Lott was asked to identify the best thing about the deal and said it was great that the compromise was getting done so quickly, just in time for Thanksgiving.

Then McCain was asked the same question. "There's not a single piece of pork for the state of Mississippi in this bill," he cracked.

Lott briefly looked like he had been hit with a shovel. McCain, meanwhile, sported a wide smile.

* * * * *
A funny kind of Democrat who first registered as a Republican, switched to Independent and then switched again just in time to run for office in a Democratic district, and who oddly referred to "her" party as "the Democrat Party", Theresa LaPore managed to design a ballot that became a crucial factor in robbing the winner of the 2000 presidential race of his seat in the White House. I've always thought it was strange that on 7 November, the same press corps that was never able to learn that those ballots still had to be hand-counted by law (and not waiting for a request by the contenders) "knew" almost immediately that poor Theresa and other Florida Democrats had jointly made a well-meaning but not too bright error. But Randy Schultz in The Palm Beach Post is pretty clear on one thing:

Let's dispel one myth. The county's Democratic and Republican parties didn't "sign off" on the butterfly ballot, as Mr. Bush's spinmeisters got away with claiming last year. The parties don't have to approve the ballot. Democratic officials never saw the ballot in the voting machine. The elections supervisor just has to get the names right and in order. Other supervisors told The Post that Ms. LePore never showed them her plan for putting all the candidates on two pages, and that if she had, they would have warned her about confusion. Once the complaints began, Ms. LePore's office did nothing to make certain that voters from both parties -- double-punches cost Mr. Bush votes, too -- were sure of their choice. Calls to her office got busy signals; I watched one poll worker try for 10 minutes. Ms. LePore has spent more energy rationalizing since Nov. 7 than she did responding on Nov. 7.

02:07 GMT: Permalink
Back in what used to be the USSR, the English-language Moscow Times has a pretty good article on the Florida ballot-count in the latest Global Eye column by Chris Floyd.

* * * * *
Andrew Sullivan says: THE MEDIA ARE NOW FLEEING ACROSS THE BORDER: According to Gallup, almost every single public institution has grown in popularity since the war began. Except, boo hoo, the media. We now have a negative rating of 54 percent. Do you think any of those titans of the press will figure out why?
- 11/16/2001 12:54:55 PM

* * * * *
Mark Crispin Miller reads his e-mail and finds Bush's most ardent defenders, and maybe an answer to Andrew's question:

For reasons too complex for us to hazard here, the anti-intellectuals are finally on the side of power at its most unforgiving and voracious. And so they give a pass to those professors who are at the service of such power, while jeering anyone--inside or outside the Academy--who thinks to raise a fuss about how wrong it is. For them, this isn't something to discuss, because discussion is itself suspicious, even dangerous--the sport of jerk-offs and Prevaricators. Thus there is no point in arguing with them--and yet no wisdom in attempting to ignore them. And such is true not only of the Bush regime's most unrestrained supporters, but of the Bush regime itself--a fact that now requires a lot of careful thought, and something more.

And yet it's just such thinking that has all but disappeared since 9/11--as it always disappears in time of war. In bringing down the World Trade Center (a mile from where I sit right now) and ravaging the Pentagon, the terrorists not only murdered thousands, and left tens of thousands more bereft, and devastated lower Manhattan, and sparked the wreckage of the local and the national economy. Through that spectacular atrocity, the killers also managed, at one blow, to knock the brains clean out of countless good Americans. Although those citizens had started out that day with all their wits intact, by dinnertime they sounded way much like Fred--a terroristic consequence a lot less hideous, surely, than what happened in the air and on the ground, and yet even more destructive in the long run. For while we can and will no doubt rebuild beyond the shattered lives and property, the prospects aren't as upbeat for our frail democracy, which cannot function if too many people think like Bill O'Reilly and his fans.

Sunday, 18 November 2001:

15:20 GMT: Permalink
The BBC's John Simpson liberated Kabul the other day - or that's how it looked on our screens. Ah, but he found something to make us tremble in our boots - or perhaps not, as The Daily Rotten points out in its top story, "Taliban Thwarted by Irreproducible Result".

* * * * *
Here's a story from Matt Drudge (yeah, I know) that makes me wonder many things. Do they have shredders in Afghanistan's government offices? Or fireplaces? Should this be filed under "Mensa Rejects" or "Paranoia"?

02:33 GMT: Permalink
On the paranoia front, a reminder that distrusting the government isn't always stupid.

* * * * *
I'm not an out-doorsy type these days, but finding this story on Bioluminescent Bay made me want to see it up close and personal. Here are some photos.

* * * * *
This article by Greg Palast isn't new but it keeps leaping to mind during conversations with friends. I'd heard people criticize the World Bank's policies but it's laid out nice and clear in this short column.

* * * * *
Vince Bugliosi says in The Nation that it's Still Time to Impeach the Supreme Court Five:

Let me offer an illustrative example: If the Los Angeles Lakers are leading the Boston Celtics by two points in the last game of the NBA playoffs with one minute to go, and suddenly the referee stops the game and hands the title to the Lakers, anyone would say the referee stole the NBA championship for the Lakers. Who would make the preposterous argument that if the Lakers and Celtics had played the game out the Lakers would win anyway, so what difference does it make what the referee did? Bush winning a media recount has nothing at all to do with the fact that the Justices intervened inappropriately to steal an election--and in so doing committed one of the most serious crimes in American history. The two realities are independent of each other.... A 5-year-old could see that, even if most of the media cannot.

Which is indeed why we should impeach the Supreme Court 5. And anyway (as Bugliosi does not say), if the ballots had all been counted on November 7th as per Florida law, Al Gore would have won. Gore never should have had to ask for a recount at all.

Saturday, 17 November 2001:

18:31 GMT: Permalink
I keep having to remind some of my American contacts that it's not really any better over here when it comes to the press or civil liberties. The government does sleazy things like telling the Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA) that they won't be forcing them to hold user data on their machines for a year, wait for ISPA to say so in public, and then when it turns out not to be true they pretend that they never said it, it's all ISPA's fault. Don't miss the whole sordid story at Foundation for Information Policy Research, who tried hard to warn everyone about the Regulation of Investigatory Powers bill before it passed.

I can't get enough of Ashcroft-bashing. Let's face it, the guy is a mean-spirited madman who his own state was so unwilling to put up with that they voted for a dead man rather than re-elect him. The debate on medical marijuana is settled for everyone who doesn't actually make money off of the War on Some Drugs. The euthenasia question is trickier, but it doesn't deserve Ashcroft's ham-fisted intervention. Personally, I'm glad the professionals who were caring for my father in his final days last year took seriously his desire to have the whole thing over with as quickly and painlessly as possible; I know at the time I would have cheerfully strangled anyone who denied him that peaceful departure.

Helen Thomas isn't comfortable with Ashcroft giving himself the right to Disappear people, either. I like that woman.

Dick Cheney is supposed to be the knowledgeable, experienced hand who is "really" running the government, but when it comes to our criminal justice system, he apparently doesn't have a clue that people are legally presumed innocent until after they are convicted of being terrorists.

03:07 GMT: Permalink
The Democratic Underground engages in a little fantasy in GOP Anger at President Gore's War Actions.

The Economist offers a correction.

That poor Tom DeLay, he was denied his chance to go to 'Nam because there was no room for good white guys like him with all those minorities grabbing all the places, so he was forced to join the war on bugs instead.

Country Joe MacDonald is still alive and making music, among other things, and you can hear it all at his own web site. Pete Townshend also has a homepage of his own, and his journal, too. Includes his thoughts on 9/11, the Madison Square Garden concert (with photos), and other things.

Brain Aldiss talks about AI.

Friday, 16 November 2001:

22:55 GMT: Permalink
Can it really be true? Patrick says it's been confirmed that Asimov's Foundation is translated in some editions under the title Al Qaeda.

Sifting through links at Buzzflash I find a couple that catch my eye: An article in the NYT triggers a memory. Return to "Message: I care." Like father, like son; it's all just words.

And, of course, we all love Molly Ivins, don't we?

Ooooh, something scary. Richard Cohen points out that:

Attorney General John Ashcroft does not read newspapers or watch TV news. Instead, he's briefed by aides.

So, like, he's got nowhere to get a reality check at all? No wonder he's such a fruitcake. Mind you, I've wanted to have Wonder Woman drag him out in front of the cameras with her golden lasso ever since the Republican leadership re-invented the word "integrity" to include him. This guy made bearing false witness against thy neighbor into a high art (under oath, no less), but somehow he thinks our schoolchildren need to read the Ten Commandments. You first, Johnny.

And what does Brock Meeks say about all this?

Funny, I don’t remember electing Ashcroft to make wholesale changes in our judicial system that has stood for 200 years. Oh that’s right, he’s a political appointee.

18:54 GMT: Permalink
Something that has shaken me even more than the predictable authoritarianism of deranged loons like John Ashcroft has been the numb silence of normally sensible people who have been unable to resist the government's onslaught since "9/11". I locate the problem in the fact that New York City is the capital of Liberal America, and that's home to some of what are usually the strongest voices defending our Constitutional freedoms. Mary McGrory has noticed this, too.

Something I never expected to see from Cal Thomas was an article called "George McGovern was right."

Spinsanity has a couple of outrageous Rush Limbaugh quotes under their microscope. It would almost be funny if you didn't know that there are actually people who fall for the stuff he says.

It's always scary to read the latest set of figures from the right-leaning Zogby Poll.

02:19 GMT: Permalink
Award-winning economist Paul Krugman talks about how the Republicans are playing with Other People's Money - probably yours:

Let's do the math here. This bill has a $100 billion price tag in its first year, more than $200 billion over three years. So even on Mr. Armey's self-justifying estimate, we're talking about giving at least $600,000 in corporate tax breaks for every job created. That's trickle-down economics without the trickle-down.

Thursday, 15 November 2001:

23:50 GMT: Permalink
Ah, here's that Gene Lyons article, and he's jumped on one of my very favorite hobby-horses, the slimebag media:

Many things have changed in this country since Sept. 11, but not the brazen distortions of the right-wing media nor the craven failure of "mainstream" journalists to confront them. The result is a decadent national press unwilling to stand up for the ethical standards that supposedly govern the "profession" of journalism, and a steep decline in the quality of public discourse in our democracy.

Here's the controversial Clinton speech in which President Bill did not say that America got "what we deserved" on "9/11". You can't call "Shame!" on The Washington Times, 'cause they don't have any.

Another person I'm agreeing with today is Nat Hentoff. Um, is there anyone who's actually supporting Ashcroft & Bush on this stuff?

Joshua Micah Marshall, looking at this post-Taliban world, wonders today in Talking Points Memo:

Will White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and al Qaeda spokesman Suleiman Abu Gheith form an odd-couple DC public relations firm once Ari gets fired for being a risible hack?

That Dick Armey has one great sense of humor. I bet you get the joke.

22:05 GMT: Permalink
The Festival of Loud Bangs proceeds apace. Of course, I am so oblivious to my surroundings that, despite the fact that it's become routine every autumn, I still haven't bothered to find out anything more than that there is something called Dawali, which means The Festival of Lights, and it happens sometime around, um, autumn. I have no idea how long it lasts, and whether all of the noise that's been going on for a month is part of Dawali or whether something else is involved. Anyway, it sounds like a war zone outside. It occurs to me that if anyone were discharging or exploding a serious weapon out there, I wouldn't be able to tell. I wish they used more of the pretty ones and less of the loud ones, though. I always love to watch July. I've never managed to get used to the fact that all the fireworks holidays over here happen after it gets cold out. Seems such a waste.

Well, let's see what Mr. Gore's Fabulous Device says about it:

It says Holidays and Observances Around the World, which seems a good start, and it says Dawali is 14 November. Oh, but wait, it also says:

Diwali is a five day Hindu festival which occurs on the fifteenth day of Kartika. Diwali means "rows of lighted lamps" and the celebration is often referred to as the Festival of Lights. During this time, homes are thoroughly cleaned and windows are opened to welcome Laksmi, goddess of wealth. Candles and lamps are lit as a greeting to Laksmi. Gifts are exchanged and festive meals are prepared during Diwali. The celebration means as much to Hindus as Christmas does to Christians.

Well, that would explain last night and tonight, but this has been going on for weeks. You can say maybe a night or two was for Guy Fawkes, but what about the rest of it? Ah, this could be it:

The festival of Dassera, also known as Vijayadashmi, is one of the fascinating festivals of India and is celebrated with joy and enthusiasm for ten continuous days. The first nine nights are spent in the worship of goddess Durga and hence these nights are known as "Navaratri". This festival falls in the month of Ashwin (September / October). The tenth day of the Dassera day is in honour of Durga Devi. The tribal communities also worship Durga as the presiding deity of Navaratri. The farmers invoke her blessings because this festival coincides with the period of rest and leisure after their strenuous work in the fields. The farmers with her blessings wait with tremendous hopes for a bountiful harvest.

Okay, I got it, now.

12:14 GMT: Permalink
Sometimes Bill Safire is absolutely right, and if he and I agree, you can take it to the bank. Today he's right about John Ashcroft's latest mad scheme. Those New York Times links can expire fast, so don't miss this one: Seizing Dictatorial Power.

04:20 GMT: Permalink
Patrick has just pointed out to me that the Daily Californian actually talks about sex, like in this article by Rachael Klein.

And, um, I think that's really a cue for me to go to bed.

01:10 GMT: Permalink
Ah, I think I see the problem, and thanks to Vicki Rosenzweig for reminding me that Windows Explorer likes to change the first letter of a file name to upper case. I see Vicki is referencing the Jacob Weisberg article about the Florida ballot count from Slate, also referenced at MWO.

Which reminds me, if you're really into the Theft of the Presidency, Make Them Accountable gets into it in vivid detail. Another good link is Failure Is Impossible. These people are doing the original reporting we used to expect from the big newspapers. I mean, they even know how to dial a phone!

00:43 GMT: Permalink
Media Whores Online has a new Gene Lyons column linked. Only trouble is, his newspaper doesn't let you in for free anymore. Which means I have to wait 'til tomorrow to get it from 'cause he puts up his own version for the masses. I hate to miss a Gene Lyons column.

New Joe Conason, too. I like that about Wednesdays. Alas, that link is dynamic, so you have to check it every week.

00:06 GMT: Permalink
It uploads, sorta, but it's only showing this funny index page, so you have to click on the link to get the real page. Hmph. I hope this situation doesn't persist, but the fact that it's doing that after five hours doesn't make me feel optimistic. I wonder how fast it updates.

These days always has a nifty photograph up at the top, some kind of purple mountain's majesty or shining seas or red and gold sunsets or something like that. Content is sorta, "What if Rush Limbaugh cared about the truth?" The cartoons aren't bad, either. Sometimes I wonder how anyone can have that much energy, but then I remember what I was like before I moved to London. I have to be careful to avoid some of the spoilers for TV shows that haven't arrived here yet, too.

Tonight, Bartcop is freaked out about how the US seems to be under unofficial martial law, now. I have to admit, this "Land of the free and home of the brave" stuff falls a bit flat when they're not rioting in the streets to prevent the shredding of the 4th Amendment.

Bartcop sez: "Y'know, it's hard doing a comedy page when your country is being taken over by a gang of ruthless fascist thugs."

Wednesday, 14 November 2001:

7:21 PM GMT: Permalink
My friend Patrick has been bugging me to do a weblog, but I've been procrastinating. This is partly because I felt a bit superfluous, and partly because I am supposed to be elevating my fractured ankle and it's not easy to get the right angle while seated at the keyboard. Now that I've reached the point where just about everything bothers me more than my actual ankle does, I'm not so hesitant to sit up normally for a bit, so I thought I'd make a stab at it. My heart cries out for simplicity, but I was also planning to spend more time studying his source code so I could steal some of his bright ideas. But then I noticed I was finding more and more reasons to put things off, so I thought I'd just get started.

The top stories at Media Whores Online are amusing me at the moment; I rather liked the piece on Tom DeLay and "the Republiban Party" because it finally supplied me with something I could casually use in response to Usenet posts that talk about "the Democrat Party".

They also have some good links on the NORC recount story, too. You'd never guess from most of the mainstream media that the bottom line is this:

If the ballots had been counted according to Florida law on the night of 7 November 2000 and the following morning, Al Gore won.
If the Supreme Court had ordered the full recount that they said should be held, instead of imposing that phony deadline and then claiming there wasn't enough time, Al Gore won.

Meanwhile, here's a rather unsettling note on the leader of the US occupation government by William O'Rourke at the Chicago Sun Times:

In a recent Rose Garden impromptu press conference, following a photo op with the president of Nigeria, Bush announced that he isn't running the war in Afghanistan--the military is. He voiced the following unscripted thoughts when asked about curbing military action during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting:

"I'll let our military speak to that. My own personal attitude is, is that the enemy won't rest during Ramadan, and neither will we. We're going to pursue this war until we achieve our objective. As to the specific times and dates, we'll let the military speak to that. They're in charge of this operation. This is not a political campaign, this is a war. And I respect the chain of command, I honor the chain of command, and I will tell you, our military is doing a very good job."

I haven't started my web trawling for the evening, though. I'll see if I can manage to upload this page, and if that works, there will be more.

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, 30 November 2001

Back to front page

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