The Sideshow

Archive for November 2002

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Saturday, 30 November 2002

17:19 GMT: Permalink

Oh, the shame!

I know I'm a bit behind on things, but I'm still a bit baffled by the blogospheric dust-up generated by the announcement at Rittenhouse Review that a certain weblog had become so offensive that:

I can no longer in good conscience include on the Rittenhouse Review's blogroll any weblog that has provided a permanent blogroll link of its own to the site known as "Little Green Footballs" or "LGF."
To me it's not a big deal. I know people have lots of different reasons for linking to someone, but I only have two:

  • Recommendation: so you'll know where you can find more stuff you might like if you like what I do here; and
  • My own convenience: because I look at those pages a lot and the easiest way to get to them is to click on my own page (which, of course, I always have open).
In which case, it would say something both unpleasant and wrong about me if I were to just keep adding links of people who don't do anything for me, who aren't doing something that relates positively to what I'm doing or, worse, are people whose views I find repugnant. I just can't bring myself to recommend people who I don't, y'know, recommend. So what does it say about you if you are recommending them? I can see Jim's point.

What I can't see is why Steven Den Beste let himself get so worked up about it. And Steven, even hinting that it's related to "censorship" is just plain silly. "I do not wish to be counted among the company of bigots," is not censorship, not even a little.

The "cocooning" charge is for people who can't think too well. I don't have to read weblogs to be made aware of views that are different from my own. I don't watch Fox News or listen to Limbaugh, but I know what they have to say because 15 minutes later it's in the mainstream media (where I will certainly see it), and 15 minutes after that it's quoted on the numerous web pages both left and right. The right-wing partisan viewpoint is at the center of the discourse, it's unavoidable. Right-wingers can "cocoon" themselves by avoiding liberal/leftish weblogs because there really isn't any other source that is pushing those positions/analyses out into the mainstream; bitch all you want about Dan Rather, but it's hardly as if he quotes me on his show, or anyone like me. Even Paul Krugman doesn't have his own radio show (broadcast daily in every market). Joe Conason wasn't asked to do election night coverage on television. Eric Alterman is lucky to get the occasional spot on CSPAN. (Dan Rather doesn't quote them, either.)

Meanwhile, how much do rightish bloggers really pay attention to the rest of us? Instapundit gets more hits than anyone else, and while we do pay some attention to Glenn, I'm sure not getting a lot of click-through off his page. Hey, I say smart stuff that no one else is saying! Don't I deserve the occasional quote, reference, plaudit? Well, perhaps not, because I'm really just a left-wing loony - but wait, that's not what Den Beste says in his piece about Rittenhouse Review's blogroll:

When I took a look at what sites were actually listed there, most of the ones I recognized are best described as "the usual suspects", and there was a clear ideological similarity to them. Any site which links approvingly to Warblogger Watch, This Modern World, Ted Barlow, Tapped, Sullywatch, Shadow of the Hegemon, Smirking Chimp, Media Whores, Eschaton, and Counterspin Central is applying a distinct filter to the choices. (Which is RR's privilege, of course.) I also found links to Brian Linse, Patrick Nielsen Hayden (and Teresa), and Avedon Carol, none of which do I consider extremist voices.
Am I misreading, or is he saying that Ted Barlow is an "extremist" voice? And if that's right, well, I gotta say it: Anyone who thinks Ted is an extremist but I'm not must be applying a distinct filter. (Atrios says I'm obviously doing something wrong.)

And, boy, Steven didn't even put a link in when he mentioned me as a non-extremist. Is that stinginess or just fear that his readers will climb out of the cocoon?

And is Atrios really more extreme? He's a lot more exuberant in some ways, uses language I usually don't use, and doesn't generally write long essays, but politically I don't think we're that far apart. We both take for granted that Gore won the election, that other people's sex lives are not really the business of the criminal justice system, and that the Bush administration is a nasty, lying entity that doesn't really represent the mainstream of America and doesn't care about protecting our country and its people. So, for that matter, do Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. We all share Jim Henley's distrust of government power, although I think we still recognize the necessity of government to provide some services and protect us from corporate power in a way Jim is less comfortable with - but then, that makes Jim the extremist. And yet, Steven lists Jim's Unqualified Offerings on his relatively short blogroll. Hmmm.

15:41 GMT: Permalink
Congratulations to Stranger at blah3 for giving birth to a new website: is now online.

9/11 investigation poster: Expect Nothing.

Electrolite and Making Light are back up and jumpin'.

Hope you didn't miss this piece in PLA in which Dwight says: "In one respect, the media's coverage of the 2000 campaign was spot on. One candidate really does have a problem telling the truth and is constantly reinventing himself. There was just one little problem of mistaken identity."

TBogg found an interesting item: "The United Nations launched perhaps its most important weapons inspections ever yesterday with a team that includes a 53-year-old Virginia man with no specialized scientific degree and a leadership role in sadomasochistic sex clubs."

16:02 GMT: Permalink
Jim Jeffords on the real homeland security issues:

Our slumping economy, our threatened environment, our underfunded schools, our corporate scandals — these are not issues that you will hear discussed by the White House, but they are being talked about by people who don't have the power to define the nation's agenda.
Paul Krugman on Gore on the media:

This week Al Gore said the obvious. "The media is kind of weird these days on politics," he told The New York Observer, "and there are some major institutional voices that are, truthfully speaking, part and parcel of the Republican Party."

The reaction from most journalists in the "liberal media" was embarrassed silence. I don't quite understand why, but there are some things that you're not supposed to say, precisely because they're so clearly true.

03:08 GMT: Permalink
Thanks to Elton Beard for sending me this story. Here's the good bit:

"We even had five of the seven dwarfs at one time," said Debbie Speciale, police records supervisor. "Apparently two escaped capture."
Related links on the same page lead to Gnome freedom group strikes again:

In 1998 it came back into the public eye after staging a mass "suicide" with 11 gnomes dangling by their necks under a bridge at Briey in eastern France.
What I find disappointing is that fewer and fewer reporters seem willing to play. Used to be the whole article would be carefully worded to allow the interpretation that the gnomes were doing these things themselves - staging protests, taking a holiday in Tahiti, etc. - but lately you really have to search through the article to find a decent paragraph. This latest article didn't even use the word "shadowy". Hmph.

Friday, 29 November 2002

15:53 GMT: Permalink

Atrios says Christopher Hitchens' head is exploding, but I dunno, I think someone's already sprayed on the foam. The piece in Slate is called "Why is a proven liar and wanted man in charge of the 9/11 investigation?" but, c'mon, the answer is obvious and Hitch just doesn't want to face it. This is reality, Christopher: The Nixon-Reagan-Bush administration is back in the White House. This is what they do. It's what they've always done. Now they're doing it again. If you don't want them to do it some more, you have to get them out of the White House.

There is a tendency, some of it paranoid and disreputable, for the citizens of other countries and cultures to regard President Bush's "war on terror" as opportunist and even as contrived. I myself don't take any stock in such propaganda. But can Congress and the media be expected to swallow the appointment of a proven coverup artist, a discredited historian, a busted liar, and a man who is wanted in many jurisdictions for the vilest of offenses? The shame of this, and the open contempt for the families of our victims, ought to be the cause of a storm of protest.
Yes, Christopher. They - and you - swallowed Bush, Cheney, Reich, Negroponte, and Poindexter, and Kissinger was just the next step. Who did you think he was going to appoint when it has been manifestly obvious all along that the last thing Bush wants is an investigation of 9/11? Or didn't you notice? How the hell can you not notice?

05:55 GMT: Permalink
Eric Tam dances on Frum's head for his attack on Al Gore's advocacy of single-payer:

That's because for a guy like Frum, statistics are wonderful playthings, but not worthy of real care or respect. If Frum actually did respect the integrity of facts and numbers, he'd at least bother to present us with comparative U.S. waiting times for the procedures that he serves up. Instead, the only comparative statistics Frum uses in the article are the survival rates of a couple of arbitrarily chosen diseases of a handful arbitrarily chosen subregions of each country. He doesn't mention, of course, that life expectency is several years higher in Canada than in the U.S. Nor does he mention that report after report shows that aggregate health care outcomes in Canada are the same or better than American outcomes, even though the U.S. spends twice as much money on health care. See, for example, this compilation of studies by the New England Journal of Medicine, which calls the U.S. health care system "at once the most expensive and the most inadequate system in the developed world."
03:32 GMT: Permalink
Clinton can upstage you without even being onstage.

This even carries over to the White House Web site. A friend who recently went online to look up remarks by Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on the 1998 embassy bombings in Africa easily found the text of Albright's four-year-old press statements on the State Department site. But on the White House site, the only reference he could find to Clinton was a standard biography. "I've checked out the 'site map," the 'history' section, the 'current news' etc," quipped my friend. "It seems history began on Jan 21 of last year."
01:04 GMT: Permalink
Patrick Nielsen Hayden asks me to convey a message:

"We'd like the blog world to know that our Movable Type setup appears to be temporarily broken, which is why we've been silent for a couple of days. We're waiting to hear from the MT folks."

Thursday, 28 November 2002

17:50 GMT: Permalink

It's been a busy week, so I'm not really caught up on what's been going on, but before I crashed last night I did manage to grab The Rittenhouse Review at painfully slow speed on my lousy dial-up connection. I've spent a long time reading the page this afternoon, because it's not only very good but it also made me sit back and think a lot about many things. Particularly absorbing was his Al Gore and the Alpha Girls, a meaty rumination on high school cliques and the American media. I highly recommend this piece, which I'm not even going to try to quote the substance of, but I hope you non-clickers (yes, you) will make an exception and check this one out.

There is one thing in it I did want to mention, though it isn't really relevant to what Jim's writing about, because it's something I've been musing on for the last few weeks:

(I say at least as much because women are like that: the discussion here notwithstanding, pertaining as it does to the behavior of young girls, women, as a group, are and always will be more mature than men of similar age.)
I first heard the cliche that "girls mature earlier than boys" when I'd had my feelings hurt by boys I'd been playing with as long as I'd been able to play with anyone else. My friends had always been boys, because I didn't seem to click with the girls in my neighborhood and I had a lot of things in common with the boys. The point of playing with dolls had eluded me, but the attractions of climbing trees, reading comics, and playing Stratego did not. And then, alas, the boys somehow got the notion that girls were different, and for some reason I was excluded after that. I ran home crying one day, and my mom wasn't home, so someone else's mother ended up comforting me, and she was the one who said those fateful words. They seemed true and comforting then and on many future occasions when male behavior seemed inexplicable, but I wonder now if they were particularly wise.

What does it mean, exactly, that girls are "more mature"? Are we really? And is it a good thing to say so? I'm starting to doubt it, because looking back, I think that such a thought is so firmly lodged in the minds of so many girls that we eventually start to assume that if enough of our female peers depart from a significant portion of our male peers on some subject, it is always the case that we are right and they are wrong.

This is most visible, of course, in the way we congratulate ourselves on the "fact" that we are allegedly more interested in "relationships" and less interested in "sex" than men are, as well as the claim that men are the really looksist sex, while we are interested in higher things like personality, character, and so on.

It's rubbish, of course. Despite all appearances, I would argue that women are at least as interested in sex as men are, it's just that we're less convinced that we're going to get it from any old roll in the hay. Intercourse as an activity is pretty much defined in terms of what the guy does - he has to be aroused (hard) while the woman can be cold and still do it. He finishes and then it's over. It doesn't really have much to do with whether we're in the mood, let alone whether we have an orgasm. It's just physical reality: that particular act can satisfy a man without engaging a woman's eroticism at all. But we love to be aroused and we can have orgasms that are absolutely as consuming and powerful as any man's, and we even fall asleep afterwards all relaxed and happy. We're interested in the thing that does that to us, but it's hardly a foregone conclusion that intercourse is that thing. But "relationship" isn't necessarily that thing, either. Because in our society we define "sex" as "intercourse" (yes, we still do) and we think intercourse is supposed to be That Thing, we can pretend that only men are really prioritizing sex. But women, trust me, will put up with a lot for good sex. We just don't always realize that it is sex that's making us be so crazy. So we think we're "more mature" because we are looking at something that is bigger and more important than sex, while men are just focused on what we regard as shallow and trivial and "merely physical". (And we're wrong about that part, too.)

A joke that was going around for a while went: "I'd rather be pretty than smart, because men can see better than they can think." There's a lot packed into that little quip, and part of it is the assumption women pick up that men don't have much going on behind the eyes when it comes to women. Men don't really see women for what they are, we think. We do, of course - we recognize ourselves in other women, we know when they're doing a routine, when they are involved in a game, when they are being false, or manipulative, or unethical. We know when a woman is really a whore, or a tramp. And we judge each other - harshly. And we think men are dumb because they don't see that stuff. (We also think men are dumb because they often don't judge each other particularly harshly, either, even when a man is some kind of rapist or wife-beater or something.)

The other end of the quip, of course, is that men judge women entirely on the basis of our appearance - and always by the same criteria, as well. This is so wrong I could spend hours detailing just how wrong it is, and how many ways you know it's wrong and just haven't thought about, but boy is it wrong! Lucky for you, I don't have the hours to write those details.

But, you know, if we're so mature, why do we think such stupid things about men, and sex, and ourselves? What are we doing that's supposedly so mature?

04:03 GMT:
So I had a good time up in Newcastle, where the people were so lovely that I couldn't seem to make myself leave at a reasonable time, and then I had a nice, restful train trip back, and I get home and go online and it just goes from the sublime to the ridiculous....

Get Your Gore On! Permalink

The speaking tour continues with Al saying great stuff. He's back to the media, for example:

Among the many problems facing the Democratic Party, according to former Vice President Al Gore, is the state of the American media. "The media is kind of weird these days on politics, and there are some major institutional voices that are, truthfully speaking, part and parcel of the Republican Party," said Mr. Gore in an interview with The Observer. "Fox News Network, The Washington Times, Rush Limbaugh—there’s a bunch of them, and some of them are financed by wealthy ultra-conservative billionaires who make political deals with Republican administrations and the rest of the media …. Most of the media [has] been slow to recognize the pervasive impact of this fifth column in their ranks—that is, day after day, injecting the daily Republican talking points into the definition of what’s objective as stated by the news media as a whole."
And then there's James Higdon, saying, "It will be a long bet":

Milton Mayer, in his book, They Thought They Were Free, describes this process from his personal observations of living in Germany during the rise of the Third Reich. "Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for the one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow." But who will speak out without a voice? When the press is gone, organized opposition disappears also. "To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it - please try to believe me - unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us had ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, 'regretted,' that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these 'little measures' that no 'patriotic German' could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head."
But what if there is at least one single voice with the power to be heard, and the courage to face the onslaught of public criticism by speaking the forbidden truth? By this I mean an individual who will be recognized by the people as one who has the capability of national leadership. An individual with a steady and clear voice with the ability to find traction with those yet too frightened to exercise their own political power. Might there still be a chance to turn the tide before circumstances can completely silence even those who were once powerful?

There is a man who walks among us, apparently once ignorant of the current nature of our national press corps and who allowed himself to be destroyed by it, who has watched for two years in silence before his recent reemergence. He has observed the casual change in our nation from an innovative democracy to an emerging dictatorship. He no longer carries the fear of losing, because he has already lost enough. He has become the voice of opposition, even within his own complacent opposition party. When asked if he is old and damaged goods in a party that now seeks new blood after crushing defeats, he only quotes Bob Dylan. "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now."
Watch Al Gore! Watch him very closely. He has distanced himself from the rightward drifters who have left the Democratic party impotent. He is speaking truth to power, from a powerful pulpit. If you decide that you agree with me, that he is the best candidate to take our message to America and the world, I ask that you join with me to encourage him to run. I ask this of the Greens as well. If you feel that his ideas are clear and unqualified, I hope that you will assist in giving him traction. It is not necessary for me to say that I hope he means this, or I hope he means that, because I believe that he is saying everything he needs to say quite clearly. And if he gains the proper traction, others in his party will follow. It will then be up to all of us to prevent another election from being stolen.

Maybe, just maybe, we can find a way to turn America on her proper course. There is no question that it's a long bet. Only the best gamblers will be able to play in this crapshoot, but it is my belief that Al Gore has learned, on his own, the proper way to throw the dice.

And (via Atrios) a Salon review of Al & TIpper's book:

It's very Sweet Valley High, and the book could have wound up as rich camp, a collection of cute Gore anecdotes bouncing off profiles of the downtrodden lives of the handful of families the Gores choose to represent new American paradigms. But, against all odds, the Gores actually grow on you pretty fast in "Joined at the Heart." Their humor is sepia-toned and quaint, but it's sincere. And that imbues the book with a warmth only a true cynic can resist (and I tried). It's also a difficult exercise to pull off: a couple born into privilege trying to document the struggles of much tougher lives. The result can, and probably ought, to sound pandering or condescending. But what emerges is a fairly upbeat exploration of a few families, very different from our nuclear sitcom stereotypes, and the original ways they've devised to get along, interspersed with the Gores' comments on the restorative powers of family life.
This can't be true Permalink

And then I read, also via Atrios, that of all people Henry Bloody Kissinger, America's biggest war criminal, has been appointed to head the 9/11 investigation. (Hey, isn't September 11th a big day in Kissinger's history, too?) Even I can't believe some of the stuff that comes out of this administration. The only reason they haven't got all of their convicted criminals and unindicted co-conspirators in this administration is because some are too busy doing talk radio or, in Nixon's case, in Hell, to join them. And then there's:

However, Bush did not set as a primary goal for the commission to uncover mistakes or lapses of the government that could have prevented the September 11 attacks. Instead, he said it should try to help the administration learn the tactics and motives of the enemy.

"This commission will help me and future presidents to understand ... the nature of the threats we face," he said.

"We must uncover every detail and learn every lesson of September the 11th," Bush said in a ceremony with survivors, families of victims, and advocates of the bill, including lawmakers.

Meanwhile, David E puts it all in perspective with Al Gore is Worse Than Saddam Hussein:

Well yes, he won the popular vote, but that doesn't count. What counts is the support of a political system that demands fealty to one party. And it's not the late, unlamented (by them at least ) Democratic party. Democrats who wish to face what the "mainstream" calls "reality" dare not go any further than what's left of the left of the Republican party -- what used to be called "Rockefeller Republicans"

Too bad Al Gore isn't a "Rockefeller Republican."

Not that The Party would tolerate "Rockefeller Republicans" any longer. After all, this is the party of Ronald Reagan. And that's why noted war criminal Henry Kissinger has been asked to investigate the events of September 11th 2001 (It wouldn't be possible for him to investigate another September 11th in Chile.) And that's why convicted Iran/Contra conspirator John Poindexter has been put in charge of keeping an eye on the likes of you and me

and Al Gore.

And then....
Broadcasting watchdogs have told a team of award-winning satirists not to be rude about George Bush without asking him first. The BACC, which vets television adverts before they are broadcast, said the promotion of the Christmas video of ITV1's award-winning animation show 2DTV was offensive because it questioned the US president's intelligence. It would not clear the advert for broadcast unless Mr Bush gave his permission.
Giles Pilbrow, the 2DTV producer, dismissed the request to seek Mr Bush's permission. "It's an idiotic request - we'd write a letter to Bush, but I doubt he could read it. Anyway the Bush joke was innocuous - we're much harder hitting about the president on the TV show." In the programme, everything has to be explained to Mr Bush by a sock-puppet sidekick, Professor Liebstrom.

Tuesday, 26 November 2002

11:12 GMT: Permalink

The Boston Globe has a long article about Governor Howard Dean (D-VT), who is running for president:

Dean grew up in the Hamptons and on the East Side of Manhattan. His father was a stockbroker, and his mother worked as an art appraiser. At 15, Dean went to San Francisco, to the 1964 Republican National Convention. The Deans were Rockefeller Republicans, a political species now long gone the way of the Whigs. Their extinction began that weekend - Nelson Rockefeller's national political career butchered into hamburger on the floor of the Cow Palace. The ideologues did it, Barry Goldwater's people - the Western wild men, screaming on top of their chairs and shaking their fists at nervous network anchors. The Republican Party was changing, moving West and South toward glory, and it was leaving the Rockefellers and the Deans behind.
10:33 GMT: Permalink
This Naderite says Ralph, Don't Run:

Given the GOP sweep in the midterm elections, progressives and populists must position themselves to play a pivotal role in the next presidential contest. As we demonstrated in 2000, we are a fragmented political force, divided between those who supported, however reluctantly, the Democratic choice, Al Gore, and those who backed the Green Party's Ralph Nader. But the Bush disaster, compounded now by the meltdown of the Democratic Party on November 5, is an emergency. We cannot afford another division in our ranks that will bring about the election of George W. Bush in 2004.

His selection as President by the Supreme Court in 2000 was a presidential and judicial coup. Progressives may believe this coup stains his Administration as illegitimate, but apparently he and his inner group take it as leave to cast aside the Bill of Rights and international law. Now the President is out of control and threatens American democracy and the peace of the world. At home, there is mounting evidence that we are living in a land ruled by a crypto-fascist government: The FBI spies on law-abiding political organizations and churches, citizens are deputized to spy and inform on one another, an underground parallel executive government has been activated, lawyer-client consultations are bugged, the government keeps citizens locked up without lawyers or hearings and talks of using the military to police the United States, and the Pentagon is making a vast database of the American people. We are being cudgeled into agreeing to wars of aggression, to make first use of nuclear weapons and to put weapons in outer space. Setting a lethal example for other nations, the Bush government prepares to initiate an attack on a small nation 6,000 miles away and asserts the right to wage a war with no discernible end by attacking any nation that one man--an unelected President who has rarely traveled overseas--determines to be harboring terrorists or seeking weapons of mass destruction. This same unelected President schemes to exempt Americans from the jurisdiction of the new International Criminal Court, which punishes crimes against humanity. The will to dominate the world is explicit when he tells Congress he will not allow "any foreign power to catch up with" or surpass "the power of the United States." If Bush and the Pentagon control the government through 2008 we will become a militarized nation bent on world domination, a third-millennium Rome. Intensified terrorist attacks on us and a series of widening wars can be expected. All of this is dramatically worse in kind and degree than what Al Gore would have done as President.

These are the realities that tell us Bush must be beaten in 2004. Not only the nation, but the world, depends on it. If we divide our votes for President again between the Democratic nominee and Ralph Nader, we will very probably help elect Bush. Therefore, Nader should not run for President as a Green in 2004.

Monday, 25 November 2002

11:00 GMT: Permalink

William Burton lays out his tax plan.

Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden have updated their homepage - with different pictures, including one (bottom of the page) from back when we were all thin and cool.

Whiterose has posted an .mp3 of Mike Malloy's rant explaining how George W. Bush recapitulates George Orwell's 1984.

10:21 GMT: Permalink
Blowback finds evidence that Thomas Friedman has some gaps in his knowledge:

It's revealing that Thomas Friedman's first question after arriving in Berlin is "where's the wall?", perhaps not quite comprehending the events of 1989... He's terribly disappointed that the Germans haven't left it up, inexplicably suggests that its absence is at "the core of the crisis between America and Germany today", and finally asks "Would somebody please bring back the Berlin Wall?"

I haven't the strength of spirit to address each of the fatuous myths that Friedman goes on to render in hyperventilating prose, but pause to note his assertion that "Germany [is] to the left of Saudi Arabia, which at least says it will support an Iraq war if it is approved by the U.N."

09:45 GMT: Permalink
Jeff Cooper on the Alabama monument case:

Three members of the Supreme Court (whose identities should come as no surprise) have suggested that inclusion of the Ten Commandments in a display of otherwise secular documents related to the founding principles of American law does not violate the First Amendment. My own view is that any text that prominently features the words, "You shall have no other God before Me," is difficult to treat as secular in most circumstances. But if this case involved such a display, featuring the Ten Commandments as a peer text of the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the post-Civil War amendments, for example, I would be inclined to agree that there are more important battles to be fought.

But that's not this case. There are growing forces seeking to advance a radically different vision of the First Amendment than the one that currently prevails in Supreme Court jurisprudence and to bar contrary voices from the courts. Chief Judge Moore's monument is an important part of this effort. Here we have a religious document, prominently placed in an important government building, for an express religious purpose. If the establishment clause is to retain meaning beyond barring government endorsement of one particular Christian denomination, this action cannot be allowed to pass unchallenged.

Saturday, 23 November 2002

17:39 GMT: Permalink

From Body and Soul:

It's common knowledge that terrorists are locked into their hatred of America and nothing we do can change that. Even I've said that, arguing only that many people -- especially young men -- in the Arab world can be tilted in our direction or theirs, depending on our actions.

So, if I start with the assumption that some people have simply set aside their humanity and can't be moved, how do I explain the fact that Mir Aimal Kasi, the Pakistani national who was recently executed for murdering two CIA employees in 1993, asked that Muslims not attack American citizens or attempt to avenge his execution? An American woman who corresponded with him for three years believes that during the time he was in prison, he got to know Americans and his hatred subsided. I find it so miraculous, I won't even speculate.

And this post quoting the Amazing Robert Byrd. And this one wondering how Tapped only managed to find one blog by a woman that was worth linking to.

16:51 GMT: Permalink
I learn via the newly-renovated Sore Eyes that you can now find out if your computer has exactly the right amount of porn. Find out if you have too much or too little porn - and how to fix it.

If you click through the Mercedes slideshow, you can get through to the Salon Interview with Al Gore. For more Gore, Bartcop also has a forever version of the NYT article on Gore's criticisms of Bush administration policy, in which he ends up quoting Dylan.

16:33 GMT: Permalink
Ann Landers didn't think much of Bush:

"I'm nervous about the upcoming election," Lederer wrote to her sister on the eve of the 2000 election. "I can't bear the thought of looking at George Bush's smirk for the next four years--maybe eight. ... The next president will make three, maybe four appointments and I can see Roe vs. Wade and all the good stuff going down the tubes."

Months earlier, she had seen candidate Bush at a dinner gathering, and she told her sister then, "The guy is extremely good looking, but when he opens his mouth, you know that he is not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree."

15:47 GMT: Permalink
Spooky item at NRO's The Corner:

Several Rapture-believing Christians wrote to say I was wrong and insulting to say in today's piece that the Rapture isn't a doctrine widely held by Christians. But I am correct: worldwide, the number of Christians whose churches do not profess belief in the Rapture dwarfs those who do. These writers fall for the parochial error known as the Kael Fallacy, attributed to the late Manhattan critic Pauline Kael, who legendarily observed, "I don't know how Nixon won; I don't know a soul who voted for him." On the other hand, never underestimate the power of pop culture over the pulpit, especially when preachers are silent about the real-life concerns of the congregation. Kevin Orlin Johnson, author of "Why Do Catholics Do That?," writes to say: "I speak so often to groups of Catholics who are ready and waiting for the Rapture -- a doctrine their own Church doesn't profess. After all, they've had no catechesis whatsoever, these fifty years, and they figure that The Rapture is just part of Catholic teaching because they hear about it on the TV."
And while I'm there, a look into the mind of high-level spy Robert Hanssen, just so you'll know what a real, genuine, dyed-in-the-wool traitor sounds like:

The Media Research Center complains about the following lines spoken by William Hurt, playing Soviet spy Robert Hanssen in the recent CBS movie: "Anybody who ever voted for Gore ought to be shot. The very thought of Gore daring to be President, toitering up to that psychopath and sociopath Bill Clinton for eight years. Makes my blood boil." I see why the MRC is upset, but I have to tell you, I had a phone conversation with Hanssen that wasn't far in tone and content from that. This was several years ago, before he was exposed. He was a source of mine for a story I was working on about the politicization of the FBI under Bill Clinton. He spoke in this manner about Clinton and Janet Reno, and was particularly outraged over what he called Reno's forcing the FBI to hire lesbians. He told me gruffly that if Gore were elected, he was going to retire, because the lesbian left was going to complete its takeover the Bureau. His vehemence and intensity made it a real Strangelovian moment.
15:11 GMT: Permalink
Epicycle has found Lego Dilbert, and also had this item from the 13th:

Today's media news is full of the MPAA and its paid mouthpieces bleating that the second Harry Potter movie has been pirated already, is widely available on the various P2P file-sharing networks, and how it will be the death of the motion picture industry. As usual, it hardly sounds plausible - apparently it's a poor-quality video of a preview screening last weekend, badly digitised from a hand-held camcorder, and I can't imagine that it would be of interest to anyone except the die hard fanatic... who would only be using it as a stopgap until they could watch, rent and buy the real thing! Indeed, a thread at Slashdot is discussing the likelihood that Warner Brothers leaked the file themselves - as usual, the thread is long and convoluted, so here's a summary from Ars Technica:

WB could have infected the P2P supply with a crummy version which would become ubiquitous across the networks. When higher quality rips show up, downloaders would find the bad version and eventually give up. Mainstream news outlets are sure to pick up news of the leak with WB benefiting from millions of dollars of free advertising, far more money than (actual) lost ticket sales from a bootleg internet version. If ticket sales are lackluster they can blame bootleg versions on the internet for (theoretical) lost ticket, DVD and VHS sales while running to Congress for stricter DRM protections. Yea the theories may sound far fetched, but I wouldn't put it past them to leak the bootleg themselves.
It's certainly not out of the question, but I suspect that right now RIAA and MPAA are content to wait for Congressman "Hollywood" Berman to win them the privileged hacking rights they feel they need to protect their livelihood... After all, the "Harry Potter" canon has a sufficiently high media profile, and is sufficiently popular with an almost unprecedented age range, that I don't think they would need to rely on dubious 3rd party publicity or need to disguise poor ticket sales!

[Ten minutes later] Things move fast, on the Internet... Apparently the movie hasn't been leaked after all! Warner Brothers now say that they "had opened a copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets that it discovered in a hard-to-find location on the Internet and found it to be an empty decoy." Bizarre stuff...

Friday, 22 November 2002

15:16 GMT: Permalink

One of the people who will be at that debate I'll be doing next week is Chris Evans of Internet Freedom. Here's "Better Sorry Than Safe", posted on their site this week:

Governments in the US and UK have achieved a remarkable clampdown on the Internet. Everything from new privacy-eroding legislation to the suppression of information. Chris Evans takes a look at how safety concerns are driven by fear.

Since September 11, laws protecting privacy have been eroded, data protection laws have been flaunted, electronic surveillance has increased, and UK ISPs now collect data on all their customers on behalf of the police. The EC is also considering making cyber attacks a terrorist offence, Canada has proposed handing over data on airline passengers to security forces, and Germany has suggested creating a database of "known troublemakers".

Meanwhile the US government has removed a variety of information sources: from environmental reports on chemical plants and their emergency response plans; to mapping software showing the communications infrastructure in Pennsylvania; and data on drinking water and gas pipelines.

When Bush and Blair proclaimed that inaction is "not an option" they were clearly not just speaking about launching another war against Iraq. The last twelve months have been characterised by their frantic desire to "just do something", even if it involves spying on everyone at home, restricting public information and killing a few thousand people abroad. Quite how this is guaranteed to stop a determined terror attack is anyone's guess. It seems hard to escape the conclusion that the governments are not motivated by rational assessment but by a deep-seated sense of isolation and insecurity.

The problem is that every panic reaction that seeks to make the world a safer place simply reinforces everyone's sense of insecurity. Turning ISPs into a branch of MI5 does nothing to make Internet users feel safer. It just engenders a general mistrust of people. The irony is that for society in general it is actually healthier to be "sorry" than "safe".

14:32 GMT: Permalink
Rittenhouse Review is back, and did something reporters used to do - he made a phone call! - and got the runaround from Eli Lilly.

Scooby Davis lines up with Tom Daschle against Sean Hannity on the dangers of hate media.

Lisa English finds out how responsive her Senator is to his constituents.

David Horsey on the Congressional leadership.

Toles on privacy.

14:03 GMT: Permalink
It was always a stupid idea

U.S. watch list has 'taken on life of its own,' FBI says

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- FBI officials said Tuesday they have "lost control" of an agency-created watch list of people wanted for questioning after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Additionally, agency officials acknowledged that the list, which has gone through several manifestations, has "taken on a life of its own" and has shown up on several Web sites and contains names of people who have been cleared of any possible connection to last year's attacks.

The FBI said the list was not a list of suspects, but people whom agents wanted to talk to.

A law enforcement official compared it to the weekly terror bulletins sent out to state and local law enforcement partners. "Once that leaves headquarters, we have no control," the official said.

The admission came as FBI officials acknowledged Tuesday that in the months after the September 11 attacks the agency distributed several versions of the watch list that contained names of people possibly associated with terrorism both to law enforcement agencies and some businesses.

Speaking Tuesday in Charlotte, North Carolina, Attorney General John Ashcroft supported the list as a way to fight terrorism.

Well, yeah, if what you want is to terrorize a lot of innocent Americans. Jeez.

Thursday, 21 November 2002

15:16 GMT: Permalink

The Daily Kos evaluates the 2004 Democratic presidential hopefuls, generating some fascinating comments. A poster called ColoZ said some interesting things, not all of which sound right to me (Monkey Business would be in the forgotten past if Hart was a Republican; however, he's a Democrat, so they won't let anyone forget it), but this bit is spot on:

Gore is clearly a huge front-runner. The loser-thrashing he's taken over the past how-many months might end up being a blessing in disguise since it allows him to beat Bush at the low-expectations game. Especially since it's not really deserved.

In 2000, remember, Gore was a sitting vice president. It's amazing how Bush 41's win in '88 completely blinded everyone to how hard it has been historically for vice presidents to be elected president. It had been about 150 years since that last happened, and it only happened in '88 because of Dukakis' painful reluctance to counter the Bush-Atwater attacks. Anyone old enough to remember '88 (or '68 or '60 or ....) should recall that the 'Veep Factor' is not exactly an advantage after the primaries. Combine that with: a pretty slick Republican operation; a third party eating away at his left flank; the diciness of running as a representative of an impeached administration (which Bush was eager to exploit); and a weirdly hostile press. It's hard to blame Gore for, well, not winning big enough. Even those who disparage him as "no Clinton" should recall that Gore got more votes than Clinton ever did.

I think that analysis is correct. I'm also baffled by the fact that when people talk about needing a contender who is "strong on defense", they don't talk about Gore's bona fides there. Unlike former Governor Bush, Gore actually went to Viet Nam, he wrote the report on airport security (that Bush ignored), the Clinton-Gore administration commissioned the Hart-Rudman report (which Bush round-filed) and had strongly warned the incoming administration about terrorism, and Gore has made strong statements recently about focusing on Al Qaeda. Gore also has a long, hawkish record, and long-time experience in both houses of Congress and the executive branch. I can't think of anyone more qualified on that score, and I think it's important that when we talk about him, we stress that point.

As for performance, have a look at the streaming video of Al Gore on Letterman & 20/20.

14:32 GMT: Permalink
If you're in Newcastle next Tuesday, you could always watch us debate Internet censorship.

14:16 GMT: Permalink
Among the eight million interesting things Atrios has up, this pointer to a bit of America-hating from the Cato Institute:

Yet most attention has been focused on combating terrorism by deterring and disrupting it beforehand and retaliating against it after the fact. Less attention has been paid to what motivates terrorists to launch attacks. According to the Pentagon's Defense Science Board, a strong correlation exists between U.S. involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States. President Clinton has also acknowledged that link. The board, however, has provided no empirical data to support its conclusion. This paper fills that gap by citing many examples of terrorist attacks on the United States in retaliation for U.S. intervention overseas. The numerous incidents cataloged suggest that the United States could reduce the chances of such devastating--and potentially catastrophic--terrorist attacks by adopting a policy of military restraint overseas.
Hmmm, I wonder why no one thought of that. Oh, wait....

13:58 GMT: Permalink
The Road to Surfdom discusses the thoughts of a certain talk-radio guy:

Rush Limbaugh tells you how to become a big fat radio star like him: "For someone who tried to study conservative talk radio and got it wrong, here's the secret: all conservative talk radio does is simply validate, inform and inspire the original thought people already had."

For good measure he tells you why "liberal" talk hosts will never be as good or as successful as he is: "they just can't get up to the level I've achieved (who can?) because people don't want to listen to some liberal sit there and rip their country for three hours. Liberals have their talk radio outlet: NPR – and it would die if taxpayers weren't forced to work as slaves to support it….No one wants to hear Bill Moyers, or even watch TV the way they used to when liberals owned that medium."

The thing is he's right and wrong.

(Psst! Tim! There's only one "n" in "Avedon"!)

13:40 GMT: Permalink
The Poor Man discovers 20 new reasons why we should invade Iraq that the White House has forgotten to mention, including:

1) Biased liberal media will realize the error of their ways, and finally reveal secret evidence proving that Jimmy Carter financed the Watergate break-in.

2) Hippie chick who dumped you in college will be chastened, and show up at your door begging you to take her back. You will have to ask her to come back later, because you are busy making sweet, sweet love to Ann Coulter.
4) The Viet Cong will unconditionally surrender.

5) Tucker Carlson will be able to fly by twirling his jaunty bow-tie like a helicopter rotor.

6) Everyone who voted for Clinton will be forced to offer a signed apology.

7) "Ballad of the Green Berets" will hit #1 for 44 straight weeks.

8) France will sink into the ocean.

9) Osama bin Laden will appear on new al-Jazeera tape, and, removing Scooby-Doo plastic head mask, will reveal that he was Al Gore all along.

10) Ted Kennedy will be hurt in head-on collision with Bill Moyers. Both will fail breath-o-lizer tests.

Wednesday, 20 November 2002

06:25 GMT: Permalink

Fatherland Security

I'll be sending short notes to my Senators - to thank Paul Sarbanes and to ask Barb Mikulski what the hell she was thinking - for this.

05:43 GMT: Permalink
Mike Finley doesn't think Wellstone's death was murder, but takes issue with the idea that there was no motive:

The Star Tribune this morning reported on absentee ballots. Because of the timing of Wellstone's death, absentee ballots figured to be the decisive margin in the Coleman/Wellstone contest.

Since Wellstone crashed three days after the state's absentee ballots were mailed out, and the election was only 9 days later, state law required that votes for Wellstone be cast aside. Which, in the close election it was shaping up to be, could easily have provided the margin of victory.

As it was, 11,381 votes for Paul Wellstone were declared null. Several thousand others were "revoted," with the presumable lion's share going to Mondale. But those 11,381 vanished down a hole.

05:00 GMT: Permalink
Check it out.

Joe Conason on more Republican lies. (Oh, yeah, and Bush knew.)

Nathan Newman on why younger workers should hate privatization of Social Security. And, he says, The New Republic has rushed to support Al Gore on single-payer. And he also concludes that Clinton was honest, but Bush is a liar.

Government's promises to WWII & Korean War vets no good, court rules. Hailed as a victory for the federal government, it's okay to stiff these poor guys to save a few bucks.

RealPlayer audio of Al Gore & Tipper on NPR, talking about real family values. And Al comes out for gay partnerships with all the legal protections of marriage. (I just can't believe I'm saying this, but I love this guy).

Something really bizarre happened during the last third of this episode of Hardball when former Congressman Joe Scarborough (R-FLA) defended Al Gore against Dee Dee Myers. (In the middle section, Marc Rotenberg talks about the latest incursion by Big Brother.)

Take Back The Media #5: 'Out Comes The Evil'
The New Trifecta

Tuesday, 19 November 2002

19:21 GMT: Permalink

James Nicoll on rec.arts.sf.fandom:

Given the 2nd Amendment, it follows that as many people as possible should be armed. Support the National Endowment for Self Defense and help give the poor of America the firearms they so desperately need but can not afford.


A smiling nuclear family of African Americans, outside a well kept home in an obviously poor part of town, holding their shotguns, pistols and semi-automatic rifles.

"We're the NESD."

17:13 GMT: Permalink
Yuval Rubinstein is on the trail of anti-semitism at Groupthink Central.

At Body and Soul, the story of how John Aschcroft leaps to the defense of the downtrodden. Oddly, I'm on Aschoft's side for a change.

16:40 GMT: Permalink
Maureen Farrell on How 'Conspiracy Kooks' Became More Credible Than the White House:

During the 1980 presidential campaign, for example, the History Channel reports that Ronald Reagan repeatedly expressed a distrust of secret societies and promised that Skull and Bonesman, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) member and Trilateral Commission alumni George Bush would not be offered a position in his administration. Yet during the Republican Convention, Reagan broke tradition by making a late-night dash from his hotel room to the convention floor and declaring George Bush his running mate. The Iran hostage situation was miraculously resolved the day Reagan was sworn in.
One hastily added amendment to the Homeland Security bill, for example, which was rumored to have been added at the White House's request, is the provision under which pharmaceutical companies would be protected from lawsuits. Currently, 150 lawsuits have been filed against vaccine manufacturers, alleging that mercury preservatives within measles, mumps and rubella vaccines caused their children's autism (the New York Times recently dubbed this "the not-so-crackpot autism theory"). This amendment, which has nothing to do with Homeland Security, would limit compensation to $250,000.

Even more sinister, however, is that this provision reintroduces proposals which were previously rejected by most states in last years' Model State Emergency Health Powers Act (MEHPA). Calling for mandatory vaccination, MEHPA allows for confiscation of real estate, food, medicine and other property; and outlines plans to herd afflicted citizens into stadiums. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson urged state legislatures to adopt the act, providing all the proof conspiracy theorists needed to prove that the U.S government was using 9/11 to impose a reign of tyranny. The mysterious deaths of 15 microbiologists following the attacks didn't help.

Monday, 18 November 2002

22:34 GMT: Permalink

A lot of other people have linked Ampersand's cartoon from last Wednesday but if you haven't seen it yet, check it out. And then read this fascinating piece about whether men or women commit more violence against their partners.

The Washington Post has an interview with Al Gore. (Someone will have to explain to me what possessed them to give it that title.) Time and Newsweek also have features on him.

Thanks to Kevin Maroney for the heads-up on this Tom Toles cartoon.

Take Back The Media #4: 'Terrible Lie'

22:01 GMT: Permalink
I can never bring myself to read Andrew Sullivan at all anymore, but Matt Yglesias did and found this bit of what is either remarkable ignorance or disingenuous bull:

Sullivan attacks Al Gore for his new position in favor of the single-payer health care system they have in Canada by telling some horror stories from Britain's National Health Service. I doubt that Republicans spend enough time discussing health care policy (it's the flipside of the liberal aversion to studying defense policy) to realize this, but Britain doesn't have a single-payer health care system. That — in case you were wondering — is why single-payer is always described as the system they have in Canada. I don't know the technical term for an NHS-style system but the salient difference is that in the UK there's a single health care provider (the NHS) which gives you health care either for free or for very little money. In Canada health care, just as in the US, is provided by whoever the hell wants to (well, you need some medical degrees and such), but the government foots the bill. The Canadian system allows for much more competition (and hence, better quality) but the British system is much cheaper to run. The UK government, in fact, spends significantly less per capita on their universal health care system than the US government does on Medicare, Medicaid, and various kinds of tax credits.
20:46 GMT: Permalink
Public Nuisance reports a Fred Phelps sighting:

In a world of spin and PR there's something almost refreshing about the unabashed nuttiness of the Phelps clan. There were 8 hate picketers at the play, and their slogans pretty clearly weren't market tested on focus groups, unless the testing consisted of checking to see what made people angriest. Along with the classic 'God hates fags", there were such winners as 'God hates America', 'God sent the sniper', 'No tears for queers', and the crowd pleasing 'Thank God for 9/11'.
20:00 GMT: Permalink
Charlie Stross believes he detects The Manufacture of Dissent:

Something's bugging me. Since January 1st, 2000, the trans-Atlantic gap has gaped wide in our collective perception of the way the world works. You need look no further than the blogosphere for evidence of this, from warblogging Americans denouncing spineless European perfidy to Europeans expressing outrage and disgust at American warmongering. You can see it in the news every night, US diplomats and politicians snorting contempt at the EU and EU politicians calling George W. Bush Hitleresque. Or ... can you?

I'm not particularly well-travelled, but in the past year I've visited the United States, Eire, Holland and Belgium, as well as the UK. (And I've chewed the political fat with people from other EU countries.) The feeling I get from many people in all these places is that they think the other side is wrong -- that what they're saying is ludicrous propaganda aimed at us, and we are of course right. Huh? Can someone tell me what's going on here?

Some of the dissent seems to be subtly manufactured. I'm not a one-man media monitoring agency, so I can't quote chapter and verse, but I think the trans-Atlantic rift over Israel is one symptom of it. Palestinian atrocities against Israeli civilians tend to be underreported in Europe, with significantly more emphasis directed towards the Israeli army carrying out reprisals. Meanwhile, US TV news is full of atrocities that are cut short in the BBC coverage, whenever a suicide bomber wipes out a restaurant or a bus stop, but coverage of the suffering of the Palestinians is minimal. It's not overt censorship; we hear about both sides -- but one side gets more airtime than the other, more pans and zooms across the bloody carnage.

Another example is reporting on the EU itself. In the USA, and to some extent in England (but less so in Scotland and Northern Ireland), the EU has a reputation for being a huge, bloated bureaucratic nightmare of misrule. Stories of strange EU regulations are lovingly repeated; the committee to standardize the radius of curvature of the banana, or the perfidious attempt to destroy the Scottish fishing fleet by banning them from catching anything. But step outside the charmed circle of anti-EU reporting and some uncomfortable facts become clear. The EU employs fewer bureaucrats than the British government assigns to the Scottish Office in London. The banana committee is a myth. And the stories about the Scottish trawler fleet quota are entirely true but omit the key detail that last year's total North Sea catch was down to 37,000 tons, from a peak of 250,000 tons in 1977 -- the ban on fishing is a desperate last-ditch attempt to save the North Sea from following the Grand Banks off Newfoundland into sterile extinction.

Meanwhile, stories about George W. Bush's legendary stupidity, insularity, and ignorance abound in the European media.

Do I have to draw you a diagram?

Something nasty is going on, something that seems to follow Noam Chomsky's doctrine of the manufacture of consent -- only in a different direction; it's the manufacture of an artificial dissent, a mutual contempt between the inhabitants of the fifteen richest, most developed nations on the planet. The key is the way issues are reported in privately owned news media in different countries. "Balance" is a fetish in news reportage circles -- the idea that both sides of a story must be equally described. In reality, it's a chimera -- one side always gets more airtime, or is otherwise favoured. You pick a moderate on one side, and an extremist on the other, assert that it's a balanced debate -- and you've just shifted the centre ground towards the second faction's territory.

At present, "balanced" reporting seems to be being used to drive a wedge between Europe and America, by building a climate in which concilliatory statements of solidarity are downplayed and the extremists are represented as the voices of the centre ground. I wish I knew why this was happening; not that I believe it's some kind of colossal top-down conspiracy. It may be an emergent property of the way news media work -- after all, bad news is good for audience ratings, and conclusive proof that the other guys hate us is bound to get more eyes focussed on the silver screen than yawn-worthy reports that they're on our side after all. Or then again, it may be a conspiracy -- a conspiracy of dunces, that is, of privately owned conglomerates pandering to the ideological prejudices of their owners. Rupert Murdoch reputedly hates the EU, and so does Conrad Black, after all: and the power to sack editors must exert a wonderful concentration upon their minds.

Whatever the cause, it's worrying to consider. Because we're going to have to live with the consequences of believing these lies for many years to come.

Sunday, 17 November 2002

17:57 GMT: Permalink


Years later he would remind me of that first meeting and we would both hold our sides laughing. It wasn't funny at the time, though. I was at work behind the counter at Yonder's Wall in Georgetown and Sexy Danny dragged Andy in and tried to convince me to go on a date with him. I was only 16 but somehow I had a brief moment of intelligence and gave an honest answer when Danny insisted on knowing why I wouldn't: "Because I don't find him sexually attractive."

We eventually became the best of friends, traipsing across Washington together, wending our way through the mysterious labyrinth of Tasso's, driving down Wisconsin Avenue with Parris and Andy calling weird slogans out the window to passers-by, staying up all night at his place, or mine, listening to Hendrix, following the trails.... People took to calling him Wizard, and I think most of the Dupont Circle and Georgetown crowd knew him only by that name. In those days he was an art-restorer, and he used the acrylic paints to make designs on index cards - what he called "trip cards" - and hand them out to people.

He married one of my chums, and even after it fell apart we all remained friends. I don't think anyone ever stopped being friends with Andy. By then he was looking amazingly hip and sexy as hell, but our pattern had been set long ago. We shared our life changes, commiserated on our respective heart-breaks or economic hassles, and kept growing up together.

Some other friends of ours took in a boarder, a student at Maryland named Natalia. We dubbed her Nate and to the surprise of all of us she and Andy hit it off. I moved to England, Nate and Andy got married, honeymooned here in London, and moved back to her home in New England. She made him happy.

Andy and I have stayed in touch, first by hard-mail, then by e-mail, lately mostly by Instant Messenger. If I remembered to let him know in advance that I was coming home for a visit, he'd arrange to be there, too. He was doing programming and mostly doing ok, although with the same economic uncertainty that seems to be going around lately. I thought we'd always keep right on growing up together. But a few hours ago, as I was about to leave for a party, the phone rang and there was Nate, sobbing, "I have very bad news." She came in Friday night and found him, dead of a heart attack - no warning. So we cried a lot and talked about how wonderful he was and how to work Hendrix into his memorial service.

And after that I didn't feel like going to a party full of people who didn't understand that a bright light had gone out.

Saturday, 16 November 2002

17:08 GMT: Permalink

The Republican leadership considered

Jim Henley is an anti-government libertarian, but a real one. He's therefore not real happy with the passage of what he calls "this turkey" - the domestic security legislation. So he says:

You don't like it, my neo friends, and that's to your credit, but in your small way you helped to bring it about. You did this by imagining that the likes of Robert Fisk were a bigger danger to you than John Poindexter. You did it by imagining that somehow the part you liked about the Bush administration - war on your target of choice - was separate and distinct from the part you didn't like - HSD, IAO, the brute-force linkage of the War on Drugs to the War on Terror, USA-PATRIOT. You put more energy into refuting "idiotarian" claims that our liberties had already been taken away than into fighting the people who were, right out in front of god and everybody, working to take them away in earnest. You imagined that war and repression somehow don't go together, even that war could function to inoculate against repression. You forgot or never saw a very important adage of Teresa Nielsen Hayden's:

Just because you're on their side doesn't mean they're on your side.
If you imagine yourselves as part of some coalition, ask yourself what you're getting for your trouble. You lost HSD. You lost USA-PATRIOT. You get IAO. An independent 9/11 commission? Gone. A lot of you favor liberal rules on therapeutic cloning. Think you'll get that from this Congress? Is there anything whatsoever that neolibertarians favor that the rest of the Republican coalition does not where you have gotten or expect to get your way? Any case where the Administration said "We've got to give the libertarians this?" Or where you can imagine them saying it? Remember, the war doesn't count. The neocons want it and the Christian Coalition wants it. They matter. Ditto for the tax cut. I'm talking about something that neolibertarians hold dear that neocons and/or the Christian Right oppose, where the will of the neolibertarians prevails.

I'm here every day. You can get back to me.

This administration, in a remarkably short period of time, has virtually stripped the Constitution of whatever meaning it had left - and they started doing it before 9/11. What's happened since then should horrify anyone who has ever considered freedom and civil liberties to be positive values. (For further details, don't miss this post from Talk Left with a letter from people who are still freaked out by what we did to Japanese Americans in World War II, and see more of the same coming now toward others.)

Meanwhile, Atrios has found this interesting quote regarding Bushista political honcho Joseph Goebbels Karl Rove:

Watching from owner George Steinbrenner's box, Karl Rove thought, It's like being at a Nazi rally. (p. 277)
Funny, it looks the same way from here, too.

When I was a kid, my many Jewish elders had a short-hand phrase they'd use to explain their objections whenever some suggested legislation (censorship, for example) or discrimination against blacks or gays left them gasping in horror: "The Nazis did that." (Or sometimes just: "The Nazis....") These were people who remembered how it took place, with not too much disruption of everyday life, at first, and most people going unmolested and therefore not making much of it. Nothing to see here, just a few commies and Jews and a couple of queers, not any of us Normal people.... These were, you understand, people who would have been crushed if their son turned out to be gay or their daughter married "a Negro", but by god they knew better than to give an inch on these things. They didn't have to like pornography to know it shouldn't be illegal - they knew what censorship was about. They understood, with crystal clarity, that there are no good excuses for dismissing people's civil liberties.

With the carefully stage-managed "public" appearances of Bush to crowds from which all potential Bush detractors (i.e., the ordinary American public) have been removed to "First Amendment zones", a "free press" that is bought-and-paid for by the administration (doesn't have to be government-controlled, since they own it anyway), not to mention so many enormous lies that it's hard to pick which is the Big Lie, comparisons to Nazi Germany seem impossible to avoid. Bear a few things in mind: Hitler had to start somewhere; it wasn't Kristallnacht on the very first day. It creeps up on you, and then it's too late. If you wait until they really are putting people in gas chambers and making lampshades out of human skin, then eventually they will probably get around to that as well. Don't think, "It can't happen here"; the German people thought so, too. Even the Jewish ones. And Americans spoke with horror of "the camps" even as we were rounding up Japanese Americans and depriving them of both their property and their liberty. Do check out that letter at Talk Left to see what Ashcroft has really been up to.

Over on the liberal side of the isle, Patrick Nielsen Hayden has this:

It's official: Your government has no interest in protecting you from terrorism. In fact, the supposed "war on terror" is of completely secondary importance to the much more important task of ejecting homosexuals from the military.

You may have thought your government cared about whether you were killed or maimed. Silly you. Your government cares about whether desperately-needed, rare-as-hens'-teeth Arabic-speaking Army translators have sex with members of their own gender.

Keep that in mind the next time you hear the Right going on about how "liberals" are unserious about issues of war and national security.

UPDATE: Nathan Newman makes a good point: what we have here is a collaboration between two right-wing fundamentalist movements, one of which wants to kill you and the other of which is more interested in expunging homosexuals than in protecting you. Handy how that works out.

16:00 GMT: Permalink
For the three of you who get all your Big American News from this site instead of reading Liberal Oasis:

If anyone still thought Bush v. Gore II would be a boring rehash of a sequel, you can surely forget it now.

Al Gore shocked the wonk world this week with these three sentences:

We spend so much per person on health care, if we spent it in a different way, we could have not only the best health care system in the world, but we could have everyone covered...

I think we've reached a point where the entire health care system is in impending crisis.

I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that we should begin drafting a single-payer national health insurance plan.

This raises a couple of questions.

Is Gore crazy or a mad genius?

Either way, you got to admit -- damn, the guy's got moxie.

Man, I never expected that, but this is it: This guy really should be president - and not just because he won last time. This guy is actually telling the truth and saying all the right things. And if he's the Democratic nominee in 2004, it'll be the first time in my life I actually get to vote for the presidential candidate rather than just against the Republican.

I think it's clear now that Al Gore has had his bath of fire; he has been in the cauldron and come out stripped of everything that was holding him back. I'm really starting to love this guy.

15:00 GMT: Permalink
A campaign slogan

Friday, 15 November 2002

15:10 GMT: Permalink

Dwight Meredith has good reason to be angry:

We previously reported on a large California study that showed that the incidence of autism rose dramatically in the 1990s. The study concluded that there are now more than twice as many autistic kids as a decade earlier.

In the 1990s, at the same time as the increase in the incidence of autism, pediatricians began giving additional vaccines to infants. The total number of vaccinations rose from 8 to 20 by the 1990s.

Among the new vaccinations being given in the 1990s was one for hepatitis B. The hepatitis B shot, like some other vaccines, contained the preservative thimerosal. Thimerosal is 50% by weight ethyl mercury. At some levels of exposure, mercury is known to cause brain damage.

The new vaccinations tripled the total amount of mercury contained in shots given to infants. During the 1990s, thirty million American children received vaccinations containing levels of mercury that exceed EPA guidelines.

We are not yet sure that mercury in vaccines causes brain damage and/or autism. More studies are needed. Thimerosal is no longer used as a preservative in vaccines. If thimerosal was the culprit, the incidence of autism should now drop as a result of its removal from the vaccines.

Nonetheless, the question remains:


Dr. Neal Halsey, a pediatrician and former proponent of additional vaccinations, including those containing thimerosal, explained to the New York Times how it became routine to inject children with levels of mercury that exceeded safety guidelines:

My first reaction was simply disbelief, which was the reaction of almost everybody involved in vaccines. In most vaccine containers, thimerosal is listed as a mercury derivative, a hundredth of a percent. And what I believed, and what everybody else believed, was that it was truly a trace, a biologically insignificant amount. My honest belief is that if the labels had had the mercury content in micrograms, this would have been uncovered years ago. But the fact is, no one did the calculation.

The medical establishment knew that it was injecting mercury into my son's body. It knew that mercury causes brain damage. The medical establishment did not take the care necessary to determine just how much poison they were pumping into Bobby.

It is possible that Bobby is autistic and will never lead a normal life because the medical establishment did not make the effort to add up a row of numbers to determine how much mercury they were injecting into his body.

I am not a person who is quick to anger. Nevertheless, every time I even begin to think about the fact that NO ONE DID THE CALCULATION, pure blinding rage wells up inside me.

He posted that Tuesday evening. Thursday morning, Atrios posted this about the domestic security bill:


In one last-minute addition, Representative Dick Armey, Republican of Texas, inserted a provision that was apparently intended to protect Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical giant, from lawsuits over thimerosal, a mercury-based vaccine preservative that some parents contend has caused autism in their children.

12:00 GMT: Permalink
Last night Patrick pointed me to this piece: The Parable of the Prodigal Son explored. Kind of inspiring, really.

05:24 GMT: Permalink
Many good things at CalPundit, like this item pointing to some cool new pictures of the sun, and this one on a spin story.

He has also discovered the sleazy trick Blunkett is up to:

BRITAIN SET TO SCRAP DOUBLE JEOPARDY....NO, NOT THE GAME SHOW....Carla Passino is back blogging after laser surgery on her eyes, and via her blog, The International Sentinal, I learn that Britain is planning to scrap the rule against double jeopardy.

'We will rebalance the system emphatically in favour of the victims of crime. Offenders get away too easily. Previous convictions should be properly taken into account, so should hearsay evidence.

'There should be a change in the double jeopardy law. If there is overwhelming new evidence that implicates the accused again, they should go back into court.'

Need to think about this. It sure sounds like a bad idea though. The other stuff doesn't sound too hot either....
Of course, they make it all sound nearly reasonable (if you didn't already know better), but all this became an issue because the police had gone to court earlier this year without putting a proper case together (as often happens) and they lost. Since it was a high-profile case and everyone is convinced the culprits are guilty, this was considered unacceptable. But, as I was saying back in July, it's all just a way to pretend the fault isn't with police and prosecutors who didn't do their job right the first time - and it also makes it easy to just keep trying potentially innocent people over and over until you get the result you want.

Thursday, 14 November 2002

15:49 GMT: Permalink

Well, here we are, the first anniversary of The Sideshow. I feel like I ought to say something about that, but aside from, "And my mother always said I never stick to anything," I can't think of much, other than that it's been neat to interact with a lot of other interesting people who are linked at right. (For the record: When I asked my mom what she meant, she listed ballet lessons and some group she signed me up for against my will, both when I was around six or seven. We were having this conversation when I was over 40.)

Anyway, not everyone I've encountered in the land of blog loves me. For example, Jake Arnsparger calls me a raving lefty paranoid (well, someone had to). I don't mind that part, but this - "Could it be that some people just have different opinions? It's possible, you know" - well, of course, honey, I figured that out when they cancelled That Was The Week That Was. And I don't expect them to vote for what I want, I expect them to vote for what they want, which is not what happened. Like Nathan Newman was just saying:

And guess what, not only Dems but the population as a whole is still to the left of most Dem policy, especially the weakass version presented in this election.

Take prescription drugs, which the Dems refused to push hard--

60% of the population agree that Medicare should be expanded, only 36% want the GOP plan of private insurance subsides.

On other issues:

77% of voters favor raising the minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $8 per hour.

Depending on the question, 50% to 65% of Americans are favorable towards unions. Only 28-32% share the GOP's hostility.

Only 37% of Americans support repeal of the estate tax, which can drop to 27% with fuller information on who benefits.

77 percent of voters want tougher environmental laws and stricter enforcement. 74% think global warming is a real problem and should support the Kyota treaty.

73% of Americans want trade agreements to include labor standards to lift workers rights in other countries. (Old poll but couldn't find more recent ones.)

And so on. It's really not that hard to work out that it's the right wing that's out of touch with ordinary Americans - and compared to most folks, even the Democratic Party is too right-wing.

The difference between what the people want and what the candidates offer should be front-page news during an election cycle. Did you see those issues delineated on the front page, and on the TV news shows? No, you didn't. And you didn't because it would be a disadvantage to the Republicans to keep people informed.

15:01 GMT: Permalink
Bob Herbert looks Behind the Smile:

I think of the G.O.P. as the costume party. It wears a sunny mask, which conceals a reality that is far more ideological, far more extreme, than most Americans realize.

Among the less meaningful questions being asked in Washington is whether the Republicans, having won control of the Senate and strengthened their hold on the House, will now go too far and outpace their mandate. My question is: Where have you been? In a nation that is divided almost 50-50 politically, the Republicans flew past their mandate a long time ago.

Driven by its right wing and aided immeasurably by George W. Bush's genial smile, the G.O.P. is putting in place profoundly conservative policies that will hamper progressive efforts for decades to come, no matter what happens in upcoming elections.

With the help of Democrats who should have known better, the Republicans have already enacted a huge and potentially hazardous round of tax cuts. In an environment in which budget deficits have returned and war appears to be imminent, common sense would seem to suggest that the government tread softly on tax cuts for the time being. But a key element of the G.O.P. agenda in the immediate aftermath of last week's stunning victories was a plan to make the current tax cuts permanent and enact a new package of cuts.

There is a method to the G.O.P.'s tax cut madness, beyond the obvious benefits to the very rich. Conservatives have long reasoned that the only way to destroy popular programs that actually help ordinary Americans (Social Security, Medicare and so on) is to starve the government of the money needed to pay for them.

14:00 GMT: Permalink
Sebastian Mallaby says Republicans are Lost in a Reagan Time Warp:

My colleague Charles Krauthammer says that Democrats haven't had a fresh idea since the Great Society programs of the 1960s and that the party is "brain-dead." There may be some truth to this delicious provocation. But in a climate of post-electoral Republican smugness, it's worth asking whether the GOP is different. If you set aside President Bush's strong response to Sept. 11, the Republicans are notable mainly for clinging to their own version of the Great Society -- a stale and lifeless Reaganism.

Just as the Great Society was once a powerful platform, so Reaganism was potent in its day. When Ronald Reagan cut taxes, he could argue that he was boosting the "supply side" -- he slashed the top income tax rate from 80 percent to 50 percent, dramatically sharpening high earners' work incentives. But this administration inherited a top rate that was already below 40 percent and cut it only fractionally. Work incentives barely have been affected. A few Republicans cling to the supposed supply-side magic of tax cuts, but the truth is that the Bush tax package was mainly about rewarding rich backers.

Wednesday, 13 November 2002

19:25 GMT: Permalink

In this world
Of right-wing news
Mike Finley gets
the Talkin' Blues
Burma Shave

One thing I was certain of: these Bircher backwoodsites would never run the United States of America. The thought was just too risible.

Fast forward 30 years, and here they are, in charge of every goldamn thing under the sun. Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Lord!

18:37 GMT: Permalink
The Drug War in Black & White:

"The drug war is a proxy for racism," says Andy Ko, Project Director of ACLU-Washington's Drug Policy Reform Project. "Most modern politicians wouldn't dream of explicitly advocating that society persecute or enslave poor people or members of minority communities. But that is exactly what is happening as a result of the 'get-tough-on-crime' drug war policies of the past few decades."

Ten years ago, perspectives such as these might still have been viewed as exaggerated, rhetorical stabs at trying to reverse the trend of skyrocketing U.S. incarceration rates.

But today, civil liberties attorneys like Ko are being joined by what amounts to a nationwide chorus of drug war dissenters.

"It's impossible, in the [sociohistorical] context that we're living in now, to think about civil and human rights without looking at the impact of the War on Drugs," says Sharda Sekaran, Associate Director of Public Policy and Community Outreach for the Drug Policy Alliance in New York. "We now have the vantage point from which to examine the impact of decades of failed drug policies on the nation's most vulnerable communities."

I believe it was Fiorello LaGuardia himself who first pointed out that trying to ban marijuana was about something other than marijuana - that it was singling out not a drug, but a group of people, to criminalize something they were more likely to use than were the Anglos.

We know that white people in middle-class neighborhoods are using drugs at least as much as black people in the inner-city. But the police don't hang around those white middle-class neighborhoods harassing white folks, jacking them up against the wall and searching them. And that fact means it's always easier to put black people in jail. Lots of them.

Then, see, you make it illegal for convicted felons to vote, and....

Well, you get the picture.

18:15 GMT: Permalink
Article, video, and other interactive junk including Uncle Usama's new hit record can be found on this page.

00:55 GMT: Permalink
Yeah, I took the day off to do something else. Meanwhile, Liberal Oasis is so good I ought to print it out and mail it to my Senators:

The GOP isn't wasting time, giddily attacking Nancy Pelosi as a "San Francisco liberal," in an attempt to claim the center.

But the ammo on DeLay and Blunt is much more potent than the tired label-warfare utilized by Republicans.

Losing last week is no excuse to be wimpy.

When Bill Clinton won the presidency in 1992, did then-Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole slink under the covers?

No, he said right away that he would represent the 57% of the country that didn't vote for Clinton.

That confident attitude is sorely needed, particularly because there is reason to be confident.

Pelosi is a pragmatist with liberal principles. DeLay and Blunt are right-wing ideologues.

If both sides play at full strength, the Dems can win the crucial center.

So get in the game.

Naturally, that ammo is enumerated (with links), so check it out and be well-armed.

Monday, 11 November 2002

18:41 GMT: Permalink

Read these:


Matt Yglesias suggests eliminating the payroll tax.

Charles Dodgson on the fact that even being the reason for Harvey Pitt getting fired doesn't seem to be enough to make William Webster too sleazy for Bush, and Nathan Newman on just how sleazy Webster really is.

Also, read Nathan on Why Productivity Gains are a Bad Sign.

Now, what I want to see is back-and-forth about the payroll tax suggestion and the productivity issue between Nathan, Matt, Max, and Brad DeLong in articles on their pages (not in the comments). That would be cool.

17:12 GMT: Permalink
The wonderful Brad DeLong says:

Well... I'll tell you why I'm whingeing and snivelling right now... It's not so much because Republicans control all three centers of power--the presidency, the house, and the senate... It's because I have a low opinion of *these* particular Republicans...

You see, it's not that I think America would be a better country if Republicans never had a majority in any house of congress and never held the presidency. I kind of think periods of Republican political dominance should be like abortions--safe, legal, and *rare*. You see, I believe that Republicans--in my particular issue areas, at least--were put on earth to take power occasionally and clean up the broken crockery dropped on the floor by the Democrats as they prepare the great social-democratic feast.

But of course, as Brad points out, they aren't doing it. On the contrary, the reverse seems to be happening lately: Reagan made such a mess of the budget that Clinton had to clean up after him. Which meant, of course, that there was no money around for doing good and wise things that would make our world more secure and our nation nicer to live in. So Clinton ended up running what was basically a good, solid, Republican administration, in the old-fashioned sense.

This is actually modern Republican strategy, as you may already realize. The project is not to keep the economy solvent or protect your liberty from intrusive government, or to secure our borders; it's to prevent the existence of what they regard as "liberal" programs. No, it's not just the fact that taxes are collected, it's that tax money is spent on those programs. The Republicans are absolutely delighted that most of us pay taxes that they can funnel into their own pockets. (And it's not because those programs don't work - rather, it's because they do.) Meanwhile:

The 2001 tax cut... Let me give you some marginal tax rates... a mother with two kids earning $24000: 68% (she loses the last of her food stamps, and her earned income tax credit phases out)... a doctor making $200,000: 36.4%... an executive making $1,000,000: 40%... Any decent supply-sider would say that the real place where marginal tax rates needed to be cut in 2001 was around the $25000 a year zone: the place where the phase out of the earned income credit makes marginal rates astronomical. We economist types were never able to interest Clinton and company in such a proposal--at a gut level, Clinton simply didn't get the importance of lower marginal rates so that people don't get hit in the nose by a 2 x 4 when they work more hours and the IRS snarfs most of it. Larry Lindsey is supposed to have led a charge to get a proposal to "deal with the EITC phaseout problem" into the 2001 tax bill, but he got absolutely nowhere. Bush, Cheney, and their personal staffs don't resonate with the problems of mothers of two making $12 an hour... mothers of two making $12 an hour don't give big to Republican presidential candidates, or show up at the $1000 a plate dinners that are what presidential candidates do day after day these days. So we got a tax cut that gives 40% of its notional dollars to those making more than $300,000 a year whose marginal tax rates are much lower than those of the mother of two earning $12 an hour. (Larry Lindsey keeps saying that they'll come back to it and fix it; but the word is that he's about to get "invited" to "spend more time with his family.")
And that's just one little thing.

So from my perspective--in my issue areas--this generation of Bushies are zero for four. Not only are they doing all the bad things that Republicans usually do, but they are doing none of the good things that Republicans are supposed to do...
04:59 GMT: Permalink
Talk Left says:

Don't miss this Baltimore Sun editorial today, Virginia is for Killers?, expressing fear that Ashcroft is on some kind of "bizarre and unchecked crusade" in deciding the accused snipers should be tried in Virginia first based upon the the greater likelihood the death penalty will be imposed there.
Aaron McGruder speaks at Yale.

Story on Joss Whedon ("If television has a cult hero, it's not the guy with the S on his chest on Smallville. It's Joss Whedon"), via Off the Kuff.

04:00 GMT: Permalink
Do you remember your draft number? I watched the drawing on the night, and I remember my draft number as being something like 340-something, but according to this, my draft number was three. Anyone else have December 30th?

01:36 GMT: Permalink
Media or organizing?

Consortium News has one view:

For years, the Democrats have followed the dictum of the late House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill, "All politics is local." From that, it has followed that what's most important is local organizing, not national media. Once again, on Nov. 5, the Democrats paid dearly for these misconceptions.

While the Republicans and conservatives continue to pour billions of dollars into building a national media infrastructure – from talk radio and Fox News to print publications and sophisticated Internet operations – the Democrats and liberals continue to do next to nothing.

After Election 2000, some Democratic strategists told us their hope for media was for the emergence of some pro-Democratic Web sites and some e-mail lists to distribute articles. They seemed to have no recognition of how inadequate this response was.

Indeed, some Web sites and e-mail lists have emerged, as under-funded part-time endeavors run by grassroots Democrats outraged by the pro-conservative media imbalance. But these well-meaning operations have only a tiny fraction of the reach of the well-funded professional organizations developed by conservatives in strong support of George W. Bush and other Republicans.

Now, finally, the Republican sweep in Election 2002 should explode O'Neill's outdated slogan and the belief that local organizing is the answer to almost all political ills.
So now, a key question facing Democrats and liberals is this: Will the debacle of 2002 finally convince them that serious effort must be made to build a professional national media infrastructure to address the interests of those 50 million Americans who cast their votes for Al Gore in 2000 – and for millions of others who find the conservative media grotesque and the mainstream media vapid.

Though much of the post-election criticism has been centered on the Democrats' supposed lack of a message or effective messengers, a more important realization is that what the Democrats most lack is a media infrastructure for getting out a message and protecting their messengers from the ugly attacks that the conservative media is able to generate.

Unless that recognition becomes a chief lesson learned from Nov. 5, the Democrats and the liberals can expect a continued erosion of their political influence in a United States that is connected more than ever through national media.

And Seeing the Forest has another:

Campaign consultants get a cut of the money a candidate spends on TV ads. So campaign consultants tell candidates it is vitally important to spend tons of cash on TV. So candidates need to raise tons of cash in a limited time period. So they need to appeal to people with the means to give $1000 contributions. Any way you cut it people who can freely give $1000 contributions are rich people. So the candidate spends his or her time associating with the rich - The Donor Class - appealing to them for money. So the candidate's viewpoint naturally amends itself to the concerns of the people the candidate spends time with and depends on.

While money is always important, campaigns USED TO have get-out-the-vote (GOTV) mechanisms in place. Poll watchers, block captains, precinct captains and volunteers - all geared toward getting out the vote. Several years ago the national Democrats largely abandoned local GOTV in favor of putting their resources behind TV ads.

Poll watching works - I know it does because I increased the Democratic turnout in my precinct by 20%. It wasn't a matter of great skill, mostly it was a phone call telling them where the polling place was, maybe offering a ride. (Increasing by 20% meant getting 6 more people to vote in a precinct where 30 Democrats had already voted, but increasing is increasaing and that is a good thing.) While unions contributed to a GOTV effort this time, it wasn't enough and was starting largely from scratch. The old way, the block captain knew everyone on the block and talked to them about why they should vote Democratic and then got them to the polls on election day. I was calling strangers, starting that afternoon.

We just had an election where more money than ever was spent on TV ads, with the lowest voter turnout ever. Maybe now you know where I'm going with this. Maybe Democrats DON'T need to put all that money into TV ads.

If we're going to rebuild a Democratic Party that isn't a Republican Party Lite, we will have to reduce the dependence on the Donor Class. Building a strong GOTV machine, precinct-by-precinct is the way to get the job done.

Of course, they're both right.

Sunday, 10 November 2002

18:19 GMT: Permalink

The big news in The International Herald Tribune for the last couple of weeks has been the buyout by the NYT of the Washington Post share of the paper. I'm not too sure how I feel about this - after all, I started reading the IHT when I discovered that no amount of daily UK papers could fill the void left by the absence of the WP on my doorstep in the morning. The IHT is pretty thin and astonishingly pricey, but at least I understood the crossword puzzles well enough to complete them. (Mind you, I'm not fond of the relatively new NYT editor of the crossword puzzle - he doesn't seem to speak American as well as the other guy, and I really dislike being given clues that indicate I'm being asked for the British spelling of something when, in fact, it's a word that's spelled the same way in both countries.) On the other hand, my home-town paper isn't what it once was, and frankly I'm hoping the buyout means there'll be fewer crackpot editorials and they can just leave all that to William Safire. (Although I like Frank Stewart's bridge column - are we still gonna get that?)

There were lots of anguished letters from readers in the paper in response to the announcement, but surprisingly few were about losing Post content - most seemed to be worried about the loss of items that were original to the IHT, though I'm not sure why they assumed this might happen. Of course, that would be a major loss. Here are just a couple of examples of such material:

Found this story in there last week and have been meaning to blog it - Youssef M. Ibrahim says Bush's Iraq adventure is bound to backfire:

Let us not be fooled: The upcoming war against Iraq has nothing to do with the war against terror.

President George W. Bush's war is fueled by two things: bolstering the president's popularity as he attempts to ride on the natural wave of American patriotism unleashed by the criminal attacks of Sept. 11; and a misguided temptation to get more oil out of the Middle East by turning a "friendly" Iraq into a private American oil pumping station.

Both will backfire and may indeed cost this president and his warmongering cabinet their sought-after second term.

To begin with, the emperor is naked because the real war on terror is far from finished. If anything it is falling apart.

In Afghanistan, where it all started, things are so bad that the puppet president the United States installed, Hamid Karzai, is now guarded by U.S. special forces because he cannot trust his life to his own people.

Al Qaeda, according to the CIA and the Pentagon, is reconstituting itself. In fact every Middle East and Muslim affairs expert is saying that Al Qaeda's ranks will be fattened by new recruits right now and will have more of them when the United States attacks Iraq.

Those joining are no longer Muslim religious fanatics. They now include secularist young men and women angry at the impact of U.S. policies on the world's 1.2 billion Muslims.

In other words, a new Al Qaeda, far more dangerous than the existing one, is in the making. Witness the attack on the tourist resort of Bali, on U.S. Marines in Kuwait and on a French oil tanker off Yemen. In Afghanistan the United States' main enemies, Osama bin Laden's cadre of leadership, has disappeared, while his shock troops, the Taliban, are there in their homes and villages sitting on their weapons, patiently waiting for the right moment to go back into action when America gets busy attacking Iraq.

Thus far, all the arguments presented for sending American boys and girls into one of the world's most dangerous neighborhoods are half-truths, spurious assumptions and utter nonsense. Washington simply cannot prove the case that Iraq is tied to Al Qaeda.

There's more.

More recently, this William Pfaff article about some of the debate on what should go into the European constitution, "Secularism born of Christianity":

Modern American politics tends to neglect the cool secularism of the revolutionary period, preferring to look past it to the messianic politico-religious ideas of the original New England Puritan settlers of the 17th century.

President George W. Bush and other mainstream American politicians rarely conclude a speech without invoking God's blessing. Yet this seems religiosity rather than religion, voiced in an increasingly globalized and secularized American popular culture.

United Europe today is writing its own constitution, and wondering whether God belongs in it. Discussion has sprung up over whether this document should include a reference to Christianity as essential to the historical identity of Europe. The pope has asked for such a statement, arguing that the values even of European secular humanism have an ultimate source in Christianity.

17:46 GMT: Permalink
Another paranoia report on Wellstone's plane, this time from Liberal Slant.

Saturday, 09 November 2002

21:05 GMT: Permalink

From today's Washington Past, What Now for Democrats? with Zell Miller, William Greider, Mark Warner, and Carter Eskew offering advice. You know, Zell Miller has turned into a real jerk, hasn't he? Look at this:

Leave it to Democrats -- the "bumper-sticker party" -- to unveil a catchy slogan for their complex problem. The solution du jour for the latest Democratic debacle: Stand for Something.

Well, this old Democrat has been there when we stood for something.

I was in Miami in 1972 when McGovern really stood for something -- or against something: the war.

And that was wrong? Are you saying the Vietnam war was a good thing, Zell?

I was in San Francisco in 1984 when Mondale told the nation what we stood for: raising taxes.

I watched in 1988 when Dukakis told us unemotionally where he stood on capital punishment even if the victim was his wife: no death penalty.

Zell, I've got news for you: What killed Dukakis there wasn't his position (which everyone already knew he held), but how he answered the question. The important word up there was "unemotionally". That wasn't a question you could get away with answering that way. The proper answer was: "I wouldn't be thinking about due process in a court of law, I'd be wanting to get my own hands around the guy's throat. But, you know, we have laws against that, and for good reason."

Yes, three good Democrats who all stood for something -- the wrong things. And I fear it's about to happen again. We've got the left turn signal on and we're headed down another rabbit hole to political oblivion.
Sure, that explains how Democratic candidates who ran on a platform of "I'm practically a Republican" lost Tuesday.

20:08 GMT: Permalink
William Burton has a post that's just too good to quote only part of:

Hold Your Horses Fellas
I notcied Tuesday night that the talking heads were already deep into spin mode before the votes were all counted. Headlines on Tuesday were little better. Everyone seemed to be calling the election historic and giving George Bush credit for a mandate, neither of which is particularly true. The most levelheaded analysis I've seen in a major outlet was by Jill Lawrence in the USA Today (of all places):

Patterns show nation's political gap remains. Republicans' gains don't signal major change in voters' views.

The government is no longer divided, but that doesn't mean the country is one big happy Republican family. A close look at this week's election results reveals a country still split in half when it comes to politics.........

........"The results tell you more about the enthusiasm and intensity within each party than they tell you about a shifting center of gravity between Democrats and Republicans," Garin says. "Republican voters were rallying around President Bush. Democrats didn't have much to rally around."

Yes, this election was a victory for the Republicans and a loss for the Democrats, but it didn't signal any sort of historic shift in voter preferences (and anyone telling you it did is blowing smoke up your ass). It was a very, very close election on terms favorable to the Republicans, and the Democrats still barely lost. How close was it? If 10,000 people in New Hamshire and 12,000 people in Missouri had switched their votes, then the Democtras would've broken even in the Senate. Throw in 25,000 thousand switching their votes in Minnesota (or 50,000 in Maine, or 38,000 in Colorado) and they would've gained a seat. Even fewer switched votes would've taken control of the House. There's no fucking way an election decided by fewer than 100,000 votes out of over 40,000,000 is any sort of landslide, despite the medial spin on the election.

A few things to keep in mind:

1) The election was being fought on Republican home turf. Of the 34 Senate races, 22 were in states won by George Bush in 2000, and another 6 were in states he had a good chance to win (he also campaigned heavily in both Illinois and New Jersey, but lost them by lopsided margins).

2) The Republicans outspent the Democrats by several hundred million dollars. This is addition to all the travel George Bush did on the taxpayer's dime while campaigning (as Eric Alterman has pointed out). This allowed them to flood the airwaves with last second negative ads, which the Democrats didn't have the money to respond to. Matthew Yglesias has described the flood of anti-Shaheen ads in New England and I saw the same thing directed against Phil Bredesen down here. The difference is that Bredesen is a multi-millionaire who loaned his campaign $4 million to respond to the slanders thrown his way. Not every candidate has those kind of resources.

3) Some very large states are becoming solidly Democratic. Lost among all the Republican chest-thumping is the fact that they weren't even comeptitive running for the governorships in Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania. These were all swing states in 2000, and may well be even more Democratic by 2004. Potentially close Senate races in New Jersey and Iowa became blowouts, and a really unpopular Democratic governor in California easily won reelection. None of this is good news for Republicans.

4) Like most mid-term elections, this one was more about turnout than a mandate for the winner. The Republicans managed to get their people more worked up about the election, and as a consequence they won most of the close races. This doesn't translate into being suddenly the benficiary of a vast surge in voter preference. I don't recall the talking heads referring to the '98 election as a mandate for Clinton, why would this one be a mandate for Bush?

5) Most mid-terms go against the incumbent because of all the marginal candidates who got swept in on his coattails in the previous election. Since Bush lost the popular vote, he didn't have any coattails, and there were fewer marginal republican seats to defend.

6) The redistricting in Michigan and Pennsylvania was completely controlled by Republicans, and they eliminated a lot of Democrtaic seats. This made it very hard to take back the House, especially since the Democratic majority in California wimped out and didn't eliminate any Republican districts.

7) The Democrats won some tough House races in places like Kansas and Utah; they picked up a couple seats in Maryland, and they even won one of the districts gerrymandered against them in Pennsylvania (and almost won another). It still hasn't been called, but the Democrats may also have beaten an incumbent Republican in Texas, and it's even the Hispanic that Bush wanted to appoint to Phil Gramm's seat as poster boy for Republican inclusiveness (if Gramm had given into pressure and resigned early). Of course, Bonilla didn't even bother running for the Republican nomination to the Senate, since no Hispanic is going to win a statewide Republican primary in Texas.

8) The Democrats took control of the governorships of a lot of swing states, which should pay off in 2004 for electoral help and further down the line for future national candidates. This is a really big deal, but is being downplayed by the press. I've yet to see a map showing the midwestern states mostly covered in blue.

Just a few things to keep in mind next time you hear Karl Rove insisting he's the reincarnation of Mark Hannah. While this election was a victory for Republicans, is was by no means a resounding one and didn't signal any kind of epic shift in the electorate.

06:10 GMT: Permalink
Lots of can't-miss articles to look at. Atrios has some kickers, like:

And speaking of media, there's a bunch of great stuff up at blah3, but most especially the start of a new series of flash shorts, 'Take Back The Media' #1. Well, you knew I was gonna cheer.

And then there's Alterman with the painfully ironic Bush Lies, Media Swallows.

Sam Parry's Bush's Life of Deception also works with the themes of Bush's dishonesty and the media's unwillingness to call him to account.

Just about everyone has mentioned this but if you haven't seen it yet check out Jeff Koopersmith's article about - that's right, how the media handles politics.

Via Bartcop, Helen Thomas is one of the few established members of Big Media who isn't afraid to go after George Bush. ("Dissent is patriotic!")

Also from Bartcop, a Mother Jones story explaining that the No Child Left Behind Act contains a provision requiring public school teachers to provide military recruiters with contact information on every student or have their federal aid cut off.

Friday, 08 November 2002

13:00 GMT: Permalink


The Death Of The Internet
How Industry Intends To Kill The 'Net As We Know It

The Internet's promise as a new medium -- where text, audio, video and data can be freely exchanged -- is under attack by the corporations that control the public's access to the 'Net, as they see opportunities to monitor and charge for the content people seek and send. The industry's vision is the online equivalent of seizing the taxpayer-owned airways, as radio and television conglomerates did over the course of the 20th century.

To achieve this, the cable industry, which sells Internet access to most Americans, is pursuing multiple strategies to closely monitor and tightly control subscribers and their use of the net. One element can be seen in industry lobbying for new use-based pricing schemes, which has been widely reported in trade press. Related to this is the industry's new public relations campaign, which seeks to introduce a new "menace" into the pricing debate and boost their case, the so-called "bandwidth hog."

But beyond political and press circles are another equally important development: new technologies being developed and embraced that can, in practice, transform today's open Internet into a new industry-regulated system that will prevent or discourage people from using the net for file-sharing, internet radio and video, and peer-to-peer communications. These are not merely the most popular cutting-edge applications used by young people; they also are the tools for fundamental new ways of conducting business and politics.

These goals and objectives are visible to anyone who cares to look at the arcane world of telecommunications policy and planning, either in the industry trade press or government documents. The bottom line is the industry want to kill the Internet as we know it.

Thursday, 07 November 2002

15:50 GMT: Permalink

Doing the business

I'm calmed down, now, and though I'm still not comfortable with the way the votes are (or are not) counted, I know there's a lot more to it than that. So first, go read what Teresa Nielsen Hayden says about the election, and what we need to do.

When I first moved here and couldn't watch baseball anymore, I was distracted by snooker, and particularly one amazing player named Jimmy White, who had a knack for doing things that were physically impossible. In post-match interviews, White, like most snooker players, is astonishingly humble, even when his performance has been utterly dazzling. When he loses, he usually says it's because his opponent played better than he did, and when he wins, he doesn't insult the competetion. The phrase he uses to describe the only thing that matters in winning goes something like this: "He did the business."

The Republicans lied and cheated, and had non-stop free advertising from the mass media, and a lot of other things, but at the end of the day the real problem in this election was that the Democrats didn't do the business. We knew in advance that the media was underplaying the election and distorting the issues. We knew that the only way to get our message out was if we did it. But did we? Or did we keep expecting that somehow the media would have an epiphany and do it for us?

Well, get real, folks. Tim Russert is not going to suddenly develop a conscience, GE is not going to magically decide that getting the truth out to the public via their network is a good thing after all. The right-wing made that mistake with the impeachment and it was a PR disaster for them - the last thing they will ever want to do again is to tell us enough about what's going on that we can vote knowledgably.

As I noted earlier, citing Charles Dodgson, Democrats in important races engaged with the Republicans in their sleazoid slug-fests rather than talking about issues. Of course voters stayed home rather than try to make the effort to choose between two mud-slingers. And, in addition to everything else, when the chips were down, the Dems went for election strategy rather than putting the issues themselves up front - like that unforgiveable vote on Iraq, not because they supported the resolution but because they wanted to get it out of the way for the campaign.

This election may have helped put the Democratic leadership on notice that voters are not going to work for them until they start representing us. Let's hope so. But your letters to them can help, so start faxing them (don't just e-mail - they know that's too easy) and let them know that if they don't do the business you will find someone else who will.

And then do it. Becoming active in your local Democratic Party is bound to be frustrating, but get invovled, find out who the challengers are, who the elected officials in your local government are and if any of them are worth your time. Help develop alternatives to the "pragmatists" and corporate suck-ups so that next time people will have someone to vote for. Voting against the Republicans really isn't enough.

If the media has gone over to the other side, and the party isn't going to use their resources to inform the public, then the rest of us have to do it. Remember, the powerful have always had more access to the media than "the little guy" has - and we've always had to find alternative means to communicate with our peers. Create those flyers that explain the issues and why people should vote for your candidate. Hit the streets and distribute them. If you're a good writer, post your text on the web so people can print up fliers from it. If you're not a good writer, find someone else who is (on the 'net or elsewhere) and ask if you can use their material. But for goodness' sakes do the business, 'cause if you don't, nobody will.

Wednesday, 06 November 2002

23:59 GMT: Permalink

A couple of months ago Ratboy discovered a new toy. I don't have a link for this story from Metro but it seems the makers have chickened out:

A HARRY Potter toy which teenage girls were using for sexual thrills has been taken off the market. Maker Mattel was inundated with complaints about the vibrating broomstick after parents suspected it was being used for more than pretend Quidditch matches. The complaints made the Nimbus 2000 even more famous - with one magazine testing it alongside bona fide sex aids. Now, Mattel has stopped making the toy but insisted: 'It's not because of the stories. Its just not a continued product in our 2002 line."
23:41 GMT: Permalink
Postmortems from Get Donkey, Cooped-up and Lean Left all express disgust with the Democratic leadership's strategy for this election, sometimes with bitter passion. Their prescriptions are worth a read.

Barry says in e-mail:

Please post a blurb in your blogs, asking every Democrat to write their senators and reps, asking them to sack Daschle and Gephardt.

Ask your blog friends to do the same. We have the potential to start a wave.

These guys have got to be feeling bad right now, and the Reps know that they are totally irrelevant for the next two years, bare freaking minimum.

Let's add what we can to this feeling. Maybe our shove will make the difference.

19:25 GMT: Permalink
Thank goodness for Body and Soul:

And anyway, I have a seven-year-old who needs a supervised bath, a chapter of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and tucking in. Priorities and all.

In last night's chapter, the White Witch and her evil hordes tied Aslan down, muzzled him, cut off his mane, made fun of him, and killed him. Evil is greedy. People doing bad things always overreach. I could see from the look on my daughter's face that she was very confused. This is not the way things are supposed to go in children's books. Evil is not supposed to win. Trickery is not supposed to be rewarded. Oh, maybe it will look that way briefly, but by the end of the chapter, someone is supposed to come and save Aslan. Or Aslan will fight back and win.

When the Witch's rabble muzzled Aslan, my daughter announced quite confidently that Peter would come with his sword. That was why Aslan had told Peter to make sure he kept his sword clean, wasn't it? -- because Aslan knew that Peter would need it to save him.

We're a very bookish family. She's read and heard a lot of stories. She's very sure of her ability to predict the way a story will go. A second grade pundit.

At the end of the chapter the children turned away because they couldn't stand to watch Aslan be killed. My daughter thinks she sees a loophole there. Since Lucy and Susan didn't look, maybe Aslan didn't die after all. Maybe he got away. Maybe Peter came, and Lucy and Susan just didn't see it. That's what happened, right?

"You'll just have to wait and see, sweetheart," I said.

I went to bed early last night, and got up early. Made coffee, trudged back up the stairs, turned on the computer, and went straight to the New York Times.

Sometimes trickery is rewarded, even if you turn away. The widow loses her home. The bully beats up the guy in the wheel chair, and gets away with it. Politics is not a children's story.

I poke around various political sites, expecting anger and gloating, and am pleased to find signs of wisdom and class. (Okay, and a little anger too. If you don't weigh yourself down with a little righteous anger at a time like this, you're liable to be blown away.) But I'm still feeling depressed.

This morning I am going to drive my daughter to school, go grocery shopping, make a big pot of minestrone for tonight's dinner (and maybe some bread, too, although I may take it easy and just buy a baguette), and pay some bills. This afternoon, I will take my daughter to her dance class. She has a wonderful, funny teacher -- a woman about my age who does cartwheels. It is hard to be sad when you see a forty-some-year-old woman do cartwheels. Makes you believe anything is possible.

Tonight I'll read the next chapter of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. In case you've never read it -- Aslan comes back.

13:49 GMT: Permalink
An interview with Greg Palast was posted at Buzzflash Monday:

BUZZFLASH: On election day, what kind of potential voter fraud on the part of the Republicans should be watching for in Florida?

GREG PALAST: It's a whole new horror show. Two years ago, I reported that Katherine Harris and Jeb Bush had order county elections officials to erase 57,000 voters from voter rolls -- most of them Black, almost all of them innocent -- on grounds they are felons.

It cost Gore the White House.

So here's the new tricks from these old dogs: The company that came up with this rotten little "purge" list has, under threat of suit from the NAACP, confessed that the total purge targeted 94,000 voters -- and that, at outside tops, only 3,000 may be illegal voters.

This weekend, on, I'm breaking the ill news that, while the state admits that it kept these legal voters away from the polls, they will not put them back on the registries -- get this -- until AFTER the election on Tuesday.

First Bro' Jeb is in the fight of his life -- a statistical dead heat with Democrat Bill McBride ... so the Republicans, with their hands on the elections machinery, seem to be saying, "What's the use of stealing an election in 2000 if we have to give it back two years later?"

If Jeb wins by less than 100,000, it will be theft, pure and simple.

BUZZFLASH: Doesn't electronic, touch screen voting actually improve the chances for large scale election fraud? Votes can more easily be lost with a little "software glitch" or Democratic votes could become Republican votes and who would know the difference?

PALAST: Hell, yes. The "touch" screens are made by ES&S, chosen by Katherine Harris, congressional candidate. The lobbyist for that company is Sandy Mortham, founder of Women for Jeb -- and Harris' predecessor as Secretary of State. It was Mortham that began the hunt for black voters in 1998.

These Mortha-matic machines -- surprise, surprise --failed to work in Black precincts. And there was no paper ballot back-up.

It's not planned "conspiracy" -- it's what I call "passive vote fraud." You KNOW a screw up will occur that will wipe out your opponents votes ... and you simply don't do anything to prevent it. I used to be a government investigator of racketeering and fraud. Passive fraud is no more legal than active fraud. But then, who's going to act on this? John Ashcroft?

No paper ballots to re-count. No exit polls to check the reporting figures against. No way to know what really happened yesterday.

Why no exit polls? What was wrong with them?

I'm sorry, I just don't believe the official figures reflect how people voted. The evidence is that the Republicans were pulling out all the stops to make sure they won whether they had public support or not, and I have no reason to doubt that they did exactly that. I don't think it's an accident that we don't even have exit polls to compare. You can call me a raving lefty paranoid if you want, but the evidence is on my side and the official results simply don't make sense.

And before you do call me a raving lefty paranoid, let's remember who we're talking about, shall we? As Bartcop put it:

The question is, Would evil men kill to take over the world's only superpower?

I think the answer is yes, you think the answer is no.

Let me ask you this:

Would evil men make a secret and illegal deal with terrorists to hold our hostages a few months longer so they could affect the 1980 election?

Of course they did, and Bush pardoned the whole gang of traitors to bury the truth when Cap Weinberger was about to go to trial.

Only a fool would allow ruthless thugs to have unlimited, unchecked power.

(In related news, Owen Boswarva tells me that someone posted the full text of the Greg Palast article "Bush's secret weapon", which I quoted from last Wednesday, to Usenet, and you can find it here.)

00:06 GMT: Permalink
Just saw this one - Mark Kearnes has an election editorial up at Adult Video News:

The simple fact is, far-right-wing religious zealots are trying to take over the country, and if you don't vote against them, you're letting them do so.
Mark is a libertarian, and apparently unaware that right-wing politicians get lots of guilty sex (though not from their wives) - but at least he knows who the real bad guys are.

Tuesday, 05 November 2002

04:49 GMT: Permalink

Nixon had just been re-elected, and around town, right in front of the press, Republicans were rubbing their hands together gleefully and announcing that now, at last, they could finally get rid of elections. Openly.

Maybe that was it, the fact that they gave themselves away, that turned the press against them and made the Watergate prosecution possible.

I haven't heard of them saying it out loud, this time, but a look at the things they're doing to fix the vote suggests they are still on that same page.

You don't want to know what happens if the Republicans win. Don't let it happen.

Vote. Vote Democratic. Get others to do the same.

04:00 GMT: Permalink
Before you vote (flash video).

Monday, 04 November 2002

13:41 GMT: Permalink

The Issues

Since I know some of you didn't click through and read that Paul Begala interview, here's a useful bit:

BUZZFLASH: Your last chapter describes "what the Democrats are for (or at least what they should be for)." Can you tell BuzzFlash readers what you think the Democratic economic policy should be?

BEGALA: Democrats should stand for working people, period. As Paul Wellstone said in his last campaign ad -- Worldcom, Enron, the big financial interests, they have great representation in Washington. So we should be for stopping the Bush tax cut for the rich before it does any more damage. We should be for an immediate cut in the payroll tax -- 80% of us pay more in payroll taxes than income taxes. We should apply the inheritance tax to estates valued over $2 million, with protections for family farms, then use half the proceeds to repeal the "pre-death tax" -- the Medicaid requirement that forces seniors to "spend down" their life savings to almost nothing before they can receive long-term care under Medicaid.

Far more Americans are taxed to death before they die because of our lack of long-term care insurance. Democrats should stand for free and fair trade, with appropriate compensation for people who are hurt by it. We should invest in our people -- education, training, the things that make us smarter. And we should save social security from ever being gambled on in the stock market. The 75-year shortfall in social security is $3.7 trillion. But the 75-year cost of the Bush tax cut is $8.7 trillion. So we can save social security, without a tax increase and without a benefit cut, and still have $5 trillion left to balance the budget, cut payroll taxes, and invest in education.

BUZZFLASH: The Democrats haven't been able to get the message out that our deficits are subsidizing the rich, through a gluttonous, ruinous tax cut. The Democrats are petrified that if they speak out, the Republicans will accuse them of wanting to raise taxes. How do the Democrats get out of this box?

BEGALA: I think I answered this one above, but let me try again: when Bush says we're for raising taxes, we should say, "The Hell we are! We're for cutting payroll taxes to create jobs and put money in the pockets of working people. But with the country at war, with Bush spending our social security surplus, we're going to ask the wealthiest one percent of Americans to forgo the tax cut Bush promised you. It's nothing compared to the sacrifice of those families who are sending loved ones to the Persian Gulf. It is, literally, the least you can do. And guess what? The strong economy our policies will create will put more money in your pocket than any tax cut ever could."

BUZZFLASH: What will happen to the economy if the Republicans assume control of the Senate as a result of the November election?

BEGALA: The entire federal judiciary will look like the famous "ascent of man" evolutionary chart -- except stopped about two guys from the end. Every right-wing, mouth-breathing knuckle-dragging thug they can squeeze into a black robe will receive a lifetime appointment to the federal bench. You can bet that someone who became president because he lost an election but won a lawsuit understands the power of the courts. The Democratic Senate has stopped Bush thus far. If we lose the Senate, we lose the courts for a generation.

Second, bar the door on corporate giveaways. Senate Democrats killed Bush's plan to rebate billions of dollars in corporate taxes, including $254 million to Enron.

Third, chew carefully while you breathe. Polluters will control environmental policy and it won't be a pretty sight.

Finally, you can make book that social security will be turned over to Wall Street, where Aunt Gladys' retirement savings will pay for Jack Welch's dry cleaning and Dennis Kozlowski's $6,000 shower curtain.

Make sure you vote Democratic tomorrow.

04:22 GMT: Permalink
The Election is a site set up to catalogue "a collection of reports of voting problems, errors, disenfranchisement, and other aberrations in our electoral system." If you haven't seen all of the scary vote-fixing news, give it careful study. Here's an example:

Unless turnout is ridiculously low, there is no way that voters in Broward county will have enough time to vote using the new touch screen machines. It is estimated that it should take on average 15 minutes per voter. There are 987,000 registered voters in the county. There are 5765 machines. With, say, 500,000 voters turning out that means 86 voters per machine. With polls scheduled to be open for 12 hours, that means that just over half of voters would have time to vote - assuming an even distribution of voters across machines. Election officials in Florida have declined to allow paper ballots to supplement the machines in case of long lines, and two congressmen are taking it to Ashcroft and possibly to federal court.
They also say you should phone 1-866-VOTE-411 if you encounter any voting problems.

Meanwhile, from blah3: Question Mark #32: 'Revolution'. "Everything depends on one vote: yours."

03:49 GMT: Permalink
Paul Begala interviewed at Buzzflash. ("When you put the car in 'R' instead of 'D', don't be surprised if it goes backwards.")

03:10 GMT: Permalink
From Amygdala I learn that Charles Sheffield has died. He was a part of my local fandom in Washington, and I'm sorry to know that he won't be there anymore.

Sunday, 03 November 2002

18:11 GMT: Permalink

I meantioned Charles Dodgson's wonderful page earlier, but with the election so close, maybe I really should have quoted this one:

I've been going light on the local items lately, but the race for governor here reflects on the national scene. Specifically, to judge by the ads that the candidates are running, you'd think they agreed on everything substantive, and that the differences are only about competence to implement the agreed-on program. So we're seeing ads comparing the candidates' records in business ("Mitt Romney bought factories and fired the workers!" "He didn't run the companies! He was just an investor! And O'Brien's two year business career was in a company where other people got indicted for stuff she had nothing to do with!")

In fact, as the Boston Phoenix points out, the two candidates have huge differences on real issues, on the most basic level:

It's been a long time since the two leading candidates for governor have differed so sharply on the economy, housing, health care, education, the environment, crime, capital punishment, gay rights, and reproductive rights. ...

Take the most fundamental divide between the candidates: O'Brien believes government has a role to play in creating jobs, building housing, reforming health care, cleaning up the environment, fighting crime, and making sure the rights and privileges afforded to the majority of our citizens are extended to the minority. Romney does not.

Yet in an important race in what should be a Democratic stronghold state, the professionals running her campaign aren't stressing the issues, but are instead going straight for the sleaze. They have somehow convinced themselves that voters don't want to hear which candidate supports government programs which actually matter to them, but could be motivated instead by hearing about factories in Nebraska in the 1980s. The latest "issue" they're flogging to the press is an absurd claim that there were sexist implications when Romney described O'Brien's attacks as "unbecoming". "Unbecoming" is a fine word to use. For both of them.

And so it goes nationally. We have an administration with unpopular positions on the environment, business issues, and many other things, which is trying to gain power for its adherents in Congress by distracting the voters from real issues, turning politics instead into a debased freakshow of charges and countercharges. There are two messages here --- one being that government is corrupt, and involvement with it is unbecoming (a truly fine word); the other, which comes through loud and clear on a network news whose coverage of "politics" and the legislative process is dominated by horse-race analysis and personal smears, is that this unseemly business has nothing to do with the voters. Which is wholly false. The horse-race analysis and personal smears may have nothing to do with the lives of the voters --- but politics does. Very much.

Yes, there are issues, dammit, and it's not just about "politics", no matter how the media tries to spin it. I've read a few articles in the last week that as much as say this election isn't really about anything which is why the press is mostly trying to ignore it. But we all know who that benefits, don't we? You might want to write to your representatives and demand that they stop fooling around and start talking about those issues, before we lose our democracy forever.

And it's not too late to volunteer to go door-to-door, folks. Those of you who know how to write might even consider writing up a page about the issues and printing them out yourself for by-hand distribution. Remember, the Republicans have a lot more money than we do for that, too.

16:26 GMT: Permalink
Matt Yglesias discussing the anti-semitism vs. anti-zionism question:

Now I'll be happy to concede that not every criticism of Israel — not even every trenchant criticism — deserves the label of anti-Semitism, but when Amitai Etzioni says that calling for the total destruction of the Jewish state is just some kind of policy dispute, I think he's gone too far.
Even calls to destroy Israel, or to throw it into the Mediterranean sea -- suggestions all too common in the Arab world -- are not anti-Semitic per se, even if they fail to recognize the importance of a homeland for all Jews.
This is absurd. Suppose I proposed the destruction of Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon — not just a change of regimes, the elimination of the countries — and then I denied having any sort of anti-Arab bias. Or if I told you I had no problem with Japanese people, I just think they should be pushed into the sea? They can swim to China, can't they?
Well, that thing about throwing it into the sea sure does have that genocidal tone to it, but: It's never clear whether people with these kinds of views are against Israel because it is a "Jewish state" or because of the manner of its existence. If aliens just grabbed a piece of your local environment and planted a whole population of other aliens there and declared it their country, it might not really matter to you that they were aliens or anything else so much as the fact that suddenly a bunch of strangers had come along and taken over and changed the rules. Suddenly you're a minority in your own land, and you have to adapt to a whole new way of life - or leave. That's the kind of thing that really upsets people; I mean, most folks can't stand it when their favorite radio station starts adding a different kind of music.

I know many people who support the existence and defense of Israel who nevertheless think it should never have been created in the first place. I could certainly understand if some Arab asked: "If you think the idea of Israel is such a good thing, why didn't you put it in your country?" But it's there now, it's home to the Israelis, and whether creating it was a mistake or not, letting it be overrun by its enemies would be an even bigger mistake. Moreover, since we are responsible for having created the situation in the first place, we are responsible for the defense of Israel.

The religious aspects of the situation can be terrifying, but let's not pretend that it's only the Islamic world that's being horrible and bigoted about it. The Pentecostal Christians who "support" Israel with such fervor are possibly even more nasty and dangerous than Israel's overt enemies. Virtually all of them are extremely anti-semitic, and the outcome of their planned "defense" of Israel is even worse for Israelis than merely dissolving the state. We're talking about people who aspire to seeing virtually everyone in the Middle-east, Muslims and Jews alike, wiped out.

So let's be clear: You can not distinguish anti-semitism merely on the basis of support for Israel - and I'm not just talking about the particular policies of this or that Israeli government: I mean any degree of Zionism or anti-zionism at all. There are plenty of Zionists who are anti-semitic, and there are even anti-zionists who would be perfectly happy to have their daughter marry a Jew just as long as Israel itself no longer existed.

Within Israel, of course, there are many different positions held by its people on specific policy, ranging from the most rabid extremes (take over the whole of historic Palestine by force, for example) to the downright peacenik. While I haven't encountered any Israelis who are for the dissolution of the Israeli state, I do know of many who were against opposition to the second intifada, and many who think Sharon is a madman.

Personally, I think Sharon is a madman because I support the existence of Israel. I believe his policies have made things worse and threaten to bring on the very war the Christian loonies are praying for.

Do I believe Israel should retreat to it's old borders? No - I think such a policy at this time would leave Israel far too vulnerable. But there are other exchanges of land that are possible and would satisfy the needs of the Palestinians. And I think a good faith effort by Israel to try to engage with them is now vitally needed to calm things down in the region. This would be a good start.

15:00 GMT: Permalink
The Rittenhouse Review says: "Remember . . . when you're reading Sullivan, always click through to the linked article(s)!"

Mike Finley has a neat little piece about humor that's worth a read. It's not funny, but it's good.

Via Atrios, this page rating the two parties on economic performance raises an interesting question: If Democratic programs are so bad for economics, why do the most liberal areas produce so much more effectively than areas with conservative programs? Answer: "The fact of the matter is that regulations (which we will separate qualitatively from "controls"), if imposed moderately can significantly help business. Not enforcing regulations, by weakening bodies like the FERC, SEC, FEC, etc., as many Republicans and some Democrats are wont to do, hurts consumers and businesses."

Paranoia watch: Accident or assassination? They report, you decide.

Charles Dodgson - I can't pick just one thing, he's been right on the money on pretty much everything, as usual.

Divine Dildos

Saturday, 02 November 2002

16:50 GMT: Permalink

Danny Schechter asks, Where's PBS?
When it was over, George W. Bush's new administration asked Americans to forget Florida, to "move on" and "get over it." Much of the media did just that — never fully investigating the charges of voting irregularities and claims of disenfranchisement by minorities. (Even the Justice Department sued three Florida counties on voting-rights issues.) After September 11, the "newspaper of record" quipped that the Florida debate shifted from "Who won?" to "Who cares?"

In truth, millions do care.

So Schechter and his colleagues made a movie about it:

In making the film, we tried very hard to avoid strident voices and conspiracy theorists, instead building the argument that a "tyranny of small decisions" was responsible. We sought out credible figures, including civil-rights leaders and top journalists with Newsweek and the New York Times. We even featured the president of the Associated Press. We tried to interview leading Florida Republicans too, but they all refused, perhaps believing (correctly, it may turn out) that the film would be perceived as "biased" if they were not part of it.

We did manage to talk with two top officials of the GOP, including the man who ran the Bush campaign's recount-stopping strategy and a GOP former governor. We also showed an interview with Florida director of elections Clayton Roberts and testimony by Governor Jeb Bush and Secretary of State Katherine Harris. On the Democratic side, we spoke with members of Congress, the lawyer who argued Gore's case before the Supreme Court, and the head of the Gore campaign — who admitted they made big mistakes that cost them the election — among others. But the main characters were voters, labor organizers, and American Civil Liberties Union monitors. The film indicts Bush and Gore equally for compromising their commitment to small-d democracy to get elected.

So far, so good. Everyone seemed to think it was a fine film:

Counting on Democracy was hailed at the Taos Talking Picture film festival. "This tale of race, political payback, voter fraud and justice deferred could have come out of a Hollywood thriller. But no — this is the story of the 2000 Presidential election in Florida," proclaimed written materials distributed at the screening before an enthusiastic crowd. It was praised in Florida's Palm Beach Post, a paper that knows the story well; and it was licensed by the Independent Television Service (ITVS) for airing on public television.

The ITVS, born out of US producers' fight for Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) funding at a time when PBS was spending a small fortune to buy overseas shows from BBC, enthusiastically embraced Counting on Democracy. It paid for its completion and offered it to PBS for airing. Films with an ITVS imprimatur often have an inside track because they have gone through a due-diligence process by public-television professionals. We rushed to complete it in time to be seen before the 2002 elections. The film is timely, with updated information about reform efforts in both the US Congress and Florida to fix our broken electoral system.

But PBS doesn't want it. In early August, it decided it will not screen Counting on Democracy. Here's what ITVS told us: "They felt strongly that the program was not journalistic in that it tried to appear to be unbiased by including a Republican, but he was mocked and made to look silly. They felt it was ‘full of cheap shots' and the narration was overly simplistic. They felt that ‘due to the subject matter,' care needed to be taken to present a more balanced look at the subject matter — even if the show ultimately had a point of view — and that wasn't the case."

It is hard to respond to such a vague attack. As someone who has made over 200 magazine shows that aired on PBS stations, produced 50 segments for ABC's prime-time 20/20 newsmagazine, and directed 10 major documentaries, I think I know something about journalistic standards. And I beg to differ. Suffice it to say, we have "creative differences." As for our featuring only three Republicans, we told PBS before it made its decision that other Florida Republicans refused to be interviewed. It didn't matter. To PBS, their absence just proved "bias" on our part.

It's hard to imagine an issue that is more in the public interest than the assurance of the integrity of our democracy's basis: counting votes. So how did this happen?

Leaving aside PBS's false characterization of our documentary as biased and the surrealistic logic that prefers making fun of Florida to explaining what happened there, it's possible that a more insidious scandal is at work here — like the one that came to light the very week we learned our film was being censored. This episode shows how PBS operates — in the shadows. It concerns an earlier PBS financial payoff to an aggressive conservative zealot who a decade ago crusaded against our South Africa Now 156-piece TV series that criticized apartheid week after week. According to the Los Angles Times, this man was successful in getting the PBS affiliate in Los Angeles, KCET, to drop the show and then later claimed victory in his own publication for muzzling it. (Protests by the black community later forced it back on the air.) He had labeled Nelson Mandela a "Marxist" and baited us with similar language for our tough reporting on South Africa's fight for freedom.

His name is David Horowitz, a 1960s revolutionary leftist turned 1980s revolutionary rightist. He surfaced as an activist-adviser in George W. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign. Years earlier, he was widely known for his well-publicized attacks against progressive PBS programming and even the middle-of-the-road documentary series Frontline. For years, Horowitz lobbied right-wing congress members and senators to pressure public-television stations. He also orchestrated calls for defunding PBS, which he denounced as part of the irresponsible "liberal media." He savagely attacked Bill Moyers for profiting from public television.

So, all the time he's been whining about how liberals "censor" conservatives, Horowitz has been nothing but an ardent censor all along of the very few marginally liberal voices that exist in media. What a phony.

16:00 GMT: Permalink
Last week Paul Starr took a look at a phenomenon within the Democratic Party, in Nobody Loves You When You're Dem and Out:

Beginning with Lyndon Johnson, every Democrat who has run for president has been repudiated within his own party after serving in office or losing the election. Democrats repudiated Johnson because of the Vietnam War, Jimmy Carter because of the economy and Bill Clinton because of his personal conduct, and they repudiated George McGovern, Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis for their seeming personal inadequacy in the crucible of political battle.

Seen in this context, the widespread rejection of Al Gore within the Democratic Party after the 2000 election is less an idiosyncratic event than another instance of a persistent syndrome. Like the other defeated candidates, Gore has suffered a kind of ritual denigration and shunning, as everything about him has come to be seen through the lens of political disappointment.

Well, yes, historically this has all been true, but I think this time around it's a little different, in more ways than one. And Starr misses the boat by repeating the pundit "wisdom" that America is more split than ever before, ignoring the fact that the left clearly won significantly more votes than the right did. Most importantly, he completely omits what is unquestionably one of the most crucial facts about the 2000 election: that the media completely distorted the issues (including "character") around which the election revolved; Americans were not voting for Bush's policies by any stretch of the imagination.

But he's also left out something else: that many of the same people who were not big fans of Gore originally have come to support him a lot more strongly both because of the election theft and because he is visibly superior to the vast majority of his detractors, most of whom have their own aspirations for power that can only be harmed by a Gore candidacy. A considerable number of people who used to hold their nose and vote Democratic although they were more sympathetic to the Green/Nader positions will vote next time for Gore without those reservations - he is no longer "the lesser of two evils" to them but a candidate they can support.

Gore's real handicap at this point is the same one that any Democrat will have in 2004: the media. The media will do its damnedest to defeat any Democrat, and it will be hard work for Dems to get their message past them. That means that people who actually care about restoring democracy in our country will have to use their feet - go door to door, hustle for headlines, write letters to newspapers, stuff envelopes, or whatever else is necessary to make sure voters know what's going on. It won't be easy, and it won't be accomplished just by sitting in front of your computer and putting your thoughts on the Internet. If you want to win, you gotta do the business.

15:15 GMT: Permalink
Prepare for the future:

Local Board Membership Information Request

Local Board members are volunteers appointed by the President. They play an important community role closely connected with our nation's defense. If a military draft becomes necessary, approximately 2,000 Local Boards throughout America would decide which young men in each community receive deferments, postponements, or exemptions from military service based on federal guidelines.

This form is for people interested in becoming a Local Board Member with Selective Service. To register with Selective Service, you should go to the on-line registration page.

If you are interested in receiving information on becoming a Board Member for the Selective Service System (SSS), please complete this form. When you submit the following information to the Selective Service System, you will receive an application for board membership, a business reply envelope, and a Board Member Information Booklet that gives details on Board Member responsibilities. After you have submitted your application, a Selective Service employee will contact you to schedule a personal interview.

14:55 GMT: Permalink
Daily Kos is a bit blown away by a poll that shows the Dems with a chance to take the gubernatorial seat in Oklahoma. And MyDD is predicting good news generally for the Dems on Tuesday.

Friday, 01 November 2002

14:58 GMT: Permalink

Funeral politics

As Atrios noted the other day, some people are attacking this Ted Rall piece but it looks like they didn't read past the first graf. Maybe these paragraphs from further down will help:

Odds are overwhelmingly in favor of a natural or mechanical explanation for the crash of Paul Wellstone's plane. For one thing, substitute candidate Walter Mondale is expected to retain Wellstone's senate seat for the Democrats. That's predictable. The victories of last-minute substitute candidates like Missouri's Jean Carnahan in 2000 and New Jersey's Frank Lautenberg this year provide ample evidence that losing a candidate needn't mean losing an election. If anything, Mondale is more likely to win than Wellstone was, notwithstanding the inadvertent prediction of China's president Jiang Zemin (news - web sites), who offered his "deep condolences for the loss of the Senate."

The fact that we're having this discussion at all is a symptom of the polarizing effect that Bush and his top dogs have had on the United States since assuming office and even more so in the hard-right free-for-all that followed the Sept. 11 attacks. Presidents routinely cause their political detractors to take offense, but one would have to go back to Franklin D. Roosevelt's attempt to stack the U.S. Supreme Court (news - web sites) or Richard Nixon's wiretapping and enemies list to find another American leader who crossed the line of acceptable discourse as extremely as George W. Bush has done.

Ronald Reagan (news - web sites) may have been a hard line conservative, but had Wellstone died during his watch you wouldn't have heard liberals asking whether the Gipper had had him offed. Bush is different. Asking mailmen to spy on ordinary Americans, creating military tribunals for anyone deemed an "enemy combatant," locking prisoners of war in dog cages, spending a decade's worth of savings in six months, allowing journalists to die rather than provide them with help in a war zone, smearing Democratic politicians as anti-American, invading sovereign nations without excuse--these are acts that transgress essential American reasonableness. A man capable of these things seems, by definition, capable of anything.

Not to mention that little stolen election thing....

On the other side of the street, the right-wingers are up in arms over the Wellstone Tribute actually being a tribute to Wellstone rather than a funeral. (See, e.g., Will Saletan getting the hump, not to mention the comments under Matt Yglesias' response to Saletan.) This phony concern for proper funeral decorum is just more Republican spin, blast-faxed to the media in an attempt to counter the public outpouring of love for someone they have treated as a demon from Hell. And, as Liberal Oasis pointed out yesterday, the whole thing is a major PR disaster for the GOP for another reason: by actually talking about what Wellstone stood for, his mourners are giving liberalism a good name.

They may be complaining that the tribute had the wrong sort of decorum for a funeral, but what they're really complaining about is anything good being said about a liberal anywhere in the media for any reason whatsoever.

And anyway, it wasn't a funeral and it wasn't advertised as one. The pretence that something advertised as "a Tribute to Paul Wellstone" should somehow have avoided being a tribute to Paul Wellstone's life and work is frankly deranged. It wasn't his funeral - that service was held the day before and was closed to the public. The public event was obviously meant to celebrate Wellstone and what he was all about.

Which leads to another question: What the hell was Trent Lott doing there in the first place? Of course a few people booed him; by no stretch of the imagination would there be any reason to think Lott would celebrate the meaning of Wellstone's life. Lott has been one of the nastier carriers of the hate machine's banners in Congress. Other Republicans who attended were not booed, by the way, so it's a lie to pretend that he was booed "just because he was a Republican." He was booed because he was Trent Lott, which is something else.

Jesse Ventura is having a hissy fit over this and has apparently reversed his principled statement that a Democrat would be appointed to serve out the remainder of the term. Someone should tell him that it's not his place to defy the electorate - the one that elected a liberal progressive Democrat - just because his supporters don't happen to like a mean, nasty, far-right creep like Trent Lott.

[Update: Jesse has apparently cooled off and now seems to be rethinking that threat.]

14:00 GMT: Permalink
PNN is announcing a poll to choose between two potential 1st Thursday pubs...or the hot, crowded, always-something-gone-wrong Silver Cross. The Melton Mowbray is on Holborn by Chancery Lane tube and The Barley Mow is on Long Lane, EC1 near Barbican and Farringdon tubes.

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, November 2002

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