The Sideshow

Archive for October 2002

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Thursday, 31 October 2002

Happy Hallowe'en!

14:01 GMT: Permalink

You remember the original DNC ad, and the dopey GOP response? Well, MWO now provides Part 3 of the Social Insecurity Wars.

13:00 GMT: Permalink

Fireworks over Liberty Island


Wednesday, 30 October 2002

18:55 GMT: Permalink

Stand Down

Stand Down is the name of a new joint weblog created by a conspiracy of bloggers on both left and right, and of whom I am one, who have this belief in common:

...that the use of military force to effect "regime change" in Iraq is ill advised and unjustified. We do not deny that the current Iraqi regime is monstrous, but we hold, with John Adams, that the United States must not go "abroad in search of monsters to destroy" unless they pose a clear and direct threat to American national security. This burden of proof has not been met.
Last March I spent a couple nights as a guest at my local hospital after coming down with a nasty stomach virus. When I was finally able to return to my desk and log on, I discovered a funny thing. As I wrote at the time:

Something odd seems to have happened while I was sequestered by the NHS. Suddenly, people who didn't previously think so have become convinced that we are in serious danger of a nuclear strike by Iraq within a year's time. I'm puzzled by this. Yes, they are scumbags, and yes, they are probably trying to develop "weapons of mass destruction" and yes, they are probably getting pretty worried about what we are planning to do to them, what with all the sabre-rattling in their direction from the Bushistas and all. None of this is new. Yet it is all anyone has offered me as an explanation for the sudden zeal to attack Iraq. I don't get it.
I was willing to be convinced, but as the days went by and I clicked on one link after another, I could find no new information that made going after Saddam seem any more pressing than it had been in the last decade.

On the contrary, I was faced daily with many good reasons not to embark on such an adventure. The first of these, of course, was George W. Bush himself, who seemed to have based his entire foreign policy on a strategy of alienating our every ally while exacerbating tensions with any nation that was not already a "friend". Having already proceeded on a course to create a diplomatic nightmare prior to 9/11, he was making things worse as time went by. Al Gore was hardly the first person to point out that Bush has squandered the good will the world felt toward Americans after the towers fell. If there is anything important to be done in the Middle East, the last guy I want touching it is George W. Bush, a man who seems to be able to make foreign policy disasters out of previously stable situations.

Secondly, what happened to Al Qaeda? The Bush administration's attempt to tie them to Iraq was obviously just smoke, but even were it not, surely a war with Iraq could only make going after AQ harder rather than easier; aside from anything else, it makes that diplomatic nightmare Bush has already created even nastier. Our allies are now more afraid of the United States than they are of terrorists. And why shouldn't they be? Only the US is threatening to invade countries or to nuke anyone these days.

And then there is Saddam himself. Yep, he's a bad guy, all right. He was also a bad guy back in the days when the Reagan-Bush administrations were his chums. This was never a secret to anyone on the left, but supporters of then-current US foreign policies shrugged it off as an irrelevancy; back then, you had to be a communist to be regarded as a real bad guy. But the truth is that everything they point to now as evidence of Saddam's evilness is stuff that happened pretty much with the blessings of the existing US administration of the day. Did he use WMD against his own people? Sure - and Washington didn't bat an eye, because he was their guy. He didn't even try to invade Kuwait until he had the Bush administration's permission. Where's the evidence that Saddam is crazy enough to deliberately provoke a war with the US? Face it: there isn't any.

And if there is a war, what's the likely outcome? Democracy in Iraq? Don't kid yourself. Sure, we can bomb them back to the stone age, but Iraq is not going to be a shining star of freedom and western values once the bodies are buried.

And Saddam knows he really has only one ace up his sleeve, and that's the fact that he's in shooting distance of Israel. Iraq isn't much of a threat to Israel as long as things are quiet, but it's all he's holding over our heads to keep us away from him: attack Iraq, and risk Iraq sending serious damage Israel's way. Is that what we want?

The Bush administration persists in talking like war has no costs. We can win it; that's enough. But win what? Another US puppet government surrounded by a populace that hates us for our continuous interference and manipulation of their economy? Is that worth the enormous loss of lives - theirs and ours - that will be paid for it? I can't help the feeling that it all seems cheap and easy to them because they know that no one who matters to them will be on the front lines.

So, I'm not convinced that Saddam can't be contained, and I don't think we've done all we need to do to avoid war - a prospect the administration seems to have written off a long time ago. I very much do believe that it will damage the United States in the eyes of the world in general and diplomatically on every issue that matters to us, including our efforts to defang terrorism, if we advance against Saddam without the willing support of our traditional western allies and the UN.

Most of all, I don't want my country to ask our military personnel to lay down their lives in the service of people who casually lie to them, and to us, about what is going on and why so many people must die. I trust neither their integrity nor their competence. If we must go into Iraq, I want to hear the case made by someone who means it, and I want the job done by someone who hasn't made a pig's breakfast out of foreign policy. I wouldn't ask our servicemen and women to follow this "commander-in-chief" into an ice cream parlor.

18:14 GMT: Permalink
From Hesiod at Counterspin Central:

QATAR BALL: The Agonist has a good piece about the coup attempt thwarted in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar.

You know. The place where we are building airbases, and doing a massive arms buildup in advance of our invasion of Iraq?

Apparently, some folks there were not happy with the current "regime" because it was helping the U.S. against Iraq, and wanted to "change" it.

Luckily...(wink) there were an awful lot of U.S. forces available to help the Government put down the coup.

Of course, you probably already know about this event because of the saturation coverage it got from the media. I distinctly remember Fox News breaking away from their attempt to get David Berkowitz to comment about the Sniper case, to tell us about this coup....

Oh wait.

Maybe it was CNN? Or were they too busy trying to get the actors from CSI to give us their persepctive on the forensic science involved in cracking the sniper case?

Never mind.

17:45 GMT: Permalink
Sam Heldman at Ignatz tells an interesting story:

A guy named Michael Peter pleaded guilty to a federal indictment, and served his time. Then, after he got out, the U.S. Supreme Court held (in somebody else's case) that the acts that he was alleged to have done -- and that he admitted doing, in his plea -- weren't even a crime under the statute that he was charged with violating. So naturally, he wants to have the conviction deleted from his record, presumably so that he can vote, etc. Sounds reasonable, right? But the Government opposed it, even though the Government agreed that his activity turns out not to have been a crime after all. Think about it: why would the U.S. Government think it good law or good policy to oppose a guy's effort to have his conviction expunged, when the thing to which he pleaded guilty turns out not to have been a crime? I suppose it's just the elevation of procedural fetishism over substantive justice; the same thing that drives much of criminal law in the appellate courts these days. Fortunately, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit rejected the Government's position in this opinion yesterday. Interesting case, I think; and we will now see whether the U.S. tries to take it to the Supreme Court.
17:20 GMT: Permalink
Mikel Reparaz thinks he's found a way to divert George Bush's attention from war.

Scooby Davis had a chat with Sean Hannity about the sexual hypocrisy of him and his guest, Newt Gingrich. Scooby quite rightly thinks Gingrich's form of serial marriage is more destructive than Bill Clinton's playing around on the side.

And Atrios has loads of stuff, but most interesting to me is that he read the latest from Greg Palast on the stolen election. Unfortunately, the page he got it from has been taken down due to copyright issues, apparently, so I'll just have to quote from some people who got there first:

In 2000, Katherine Harris, Florida Secretary of State, ordered county elections officials to purge 57,000 citizens from voter registries as felons not allowed to vote in Florida. In fact, about 95 percent of these voters were innocent of crimes -- but 54 percent were guilty of being African-American. No guess there: a voter's race is right there on the voter form. So there was the election: BBC Television, for whom I conducted the investigation of this black-out operation, figures Al Gore lost 22,000 votes this way.

But I was wrong. The company that put together racial roster that fixed the election, DBT On-Line of Boca Raton, has now 'fessed up, having been sued by the NAACP for violating Floridians' civil rights. They have turned over to the NAACP's lawyers a report indicating that the state ordered the purge of 94,000 voters and that, according to the company's data, no more than 3,000 are likely illegal voters.

And look in the comments to find this bit quoted:

Harris and the state admit that tens of thousands of black voters had been wronged, and with plantation noblesse have agreed to return them to the voter rolls -- at the beginning of 2003. In other words, the votes seized in November 2002 will not be emancipated until after the ballots are counted in the race between Governor Jeb Bush and his Democratic opponent Bill McBride. Is there some technical reason for the delay? The first purge was launched in 1998 only weeks before Jeb's last run for office; yet the order to reverse the process is dragging for months since settlement and nearly two years since the exposure of the list's falsity.
And elsewhere:

It's hard to imagine a machine with a racial bias, but they can be programmed for Jim Crow outcome.

Here's how it happened. Take two counties: Gadsden, Florida's most heavily African-American county (57% minority population) and white-majority Leon County (which includes the capital, Tallahassee). Both counties used paper ballots; both were read by machines. But in the black county one in eight votes was "spoiled" -- voided and never read; while in next-door Leon, almost no ballot went uncounted (a spoilage rate of only one in two-hundred).

The 180,000 spoiled ballots came overwhelmingly from the blackest, poorest, most Democratic counties. How could that be? ABC TV's Nightline sent down their Clark Kents to investigate -- and they concluded that African-American voters were not properly educated and trained to handle the sophisticated voting process. In other words, blacks are too dumb to figure out how to vote.

I found another explanation while investigating the matter for BBC TV Newsnight out of London. The Leon County officials showed me that in their (white) county, if a voter made an error, the machine automatically returned the ballot and issued a new one for correction. However, if the black voters of Gadsden made a minor error -- a stray mark, a circle not an x -- their machine accepted the ballot, then voided it; the reject mechanisms were either missing or disabled.

This was no surprise mistake -- Leon County election clerks told me that before the election, they set up example machines at their office across from the Governor's office, and his election chiefs thoroughly examined how the machines operated.

Florida officials are considering an end to this mechanical apartheid; the issue will be addressed some time AFTER the November race.

Tuesday, 29 October 2002

19:19 GMT: Permalink

Robert Parry with more of the hard stuff, Deeper Into the Big Muddy:

On the campaign trail this fall, George W. Bush has been selling his hard-line foreign policy as a strategy for protecting Americans. But the opposite now appears to be true: Bush's tough-guy rhetoric in the face of complex world problems is adding to the dangers confronting Americans.

The latest episode of Bush's unintended consequences is North Korea's admission that it is pressing ahead to build nuclear weapons.

Bush's supporters have tried to shift the blame for this unsettling development to President Clinton, by claiming that a 1994 agreement to stop North Korea's nuclear program was too weak. But the evidence now is that North Korea cast aside that agreement this year and sped up its quest for nuclear weapons in direct reaction to Bush's threats and rhetoric.

The collision course with North Korea was set early in the Bush administration. In 2001, shortly after taking office, Bush cut off talks with North Korea and snubbed South Korea's President Kim Dae-Jung over his détente strategy. Kim Dae-Jung, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, found himself humiliated during a state visit to Washington.

After the Sept. 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington, Bush began counting North Korea as part of his "axis of evil," along with Iraq and Iran. Apparently, Bush's reasoning for putting North Korea into the "axis" was to avoid fingering only Islamic countries. So his speechwriters added North Korea as a kind of politically-correct multiculturalism in reverse.

More substantively, in late 2001, Bush sent to Congress a "nuclear posture review," which laid out future U.S. strategy for deploying nuclear weapons. Leaked early this year, the so-called NPR put North Korea on a list of potential targets for U.S. nuclear weapons. In doing that, Bush reversed President Clinton's commitment against targeting non-nuclear states with nuclear weapons. Clinton's idea was that a U.S. promise not to fire nuclear weapons at non-nuclear states would reduce their incentives for joining the nuclear club.

But to Bush's advisers, Clinton's strategy was simply more "appeasement." So Bush showed his toughness by aiming nuclear missiles at North Korea and other enemy states. As part of the nuclear review, the Bush administration also discussed lowering the threshold for the use of U.S. nuclear weapons by making low-yield tactical nukes available for some battlefield situations.

All of this may have played well with Bush's conservative base and many of his neo-conservative geo-political enthusiasts. But North Korea's famously paranoid communist government went, as they say, ballistic.

There's more, of course, and you should go read it.

It seems to me that the Republican strategy here is to reprise their performance in the cold war, when bellicose hawkishness had the duel effect of keeping Moscow too paranoid about us to relax, and simultaneously providing a convincing enemy for the GOP to pretend to be the "real" defenders against, instead of those wimpy Democratic doves. This program kept the cold war going for decades longer than it had to. (Yes, it was Kennedy who proved the perfection of that strategy, but the Republicans learned from it really well.) It's almost as if they had a plan to create and maintain Big, Scary Enemies for them to play hero against.

Of course, that could be giving them too much credit for being able to see what's as plain as the nose on my face, but it is as plain as the nose on my face that if you insult and threaten people a lot, and stoke up their fears with lots of rhetoric about how you're ready to beat them up, they might just believe you and take measures to prepare for that. They aren't likely to respond with love and friendship.

Which leaves you with two possible theories:

1. The Republicans are smart and evil; or
2. The Republicans are just stupid, bumbling fools.

Well, I guess there is:

3. The Republicans are mean-spirited, small-minded, evil people who are also too stupid to understand the real consequences of what they are doing.

Maybe that's right. It's certainly consistent with what Parry is saying - the White House was apparently genuinely surprised that by telegraphing that they were breaking our side of Clinton's agreement with them, the Bushistas had as much as told North Korea that there was no point in keeping to the bargain. This would speak to a level of short-sightedness and stupidity that might be predictable from someone who has never been held to account for even his meanest and most childish - and stupidest - actions. Someone like George Bush.

Is there really anyone left who imagines that Bush deserves their support? If so, I think they've lost any claim to being called "anti-idiotarians" rather than simply "idiots".

Save our country and save the world: Get the Democratic vote out on November 5th.

13:12 GMT: Permalink
Buzzflash has a list of sleazy things the Republicans are up to in the campaigns. Here's a few:

  • Someone is making calls in Florida, one assumes for Jeb Bush, urging Democrats not to vote until after the election! How do we know this? The head of the Florida Democratic Party received such a call.
  • In New Mexico, the head of the Republican Party admitted that the RNC wanted to finance the Green Party campaign there.
  • The RNC has urged Republican candidates to go on the offensive and claim that privatizing social security was a Democratic idea.
Florida Democratic Party Chair Bob Poe has written to Attorney General John Ashcroft demanding an investigation of that phone call, by the way:

Yesterday afternoon I received a call from an individual who urged me to cast my absentee ballot on November 10th - even though the general election is on Tuesday, November 5th. From the background noise it appears that the call was being made from a call center. When I questioned the caller about the November 10th election date, he was adamant that I wasn't to cast my absentee ballot until November 10th. When I inquired about whom he was making the call for, he said "the McBride campaign" - apparently unaware he was speaking with the chair of the Florida Democratic Party. When I asked what company he worked at, he said "California" and then said something I couldn't understand. Upon asking him again, the caller said he was calling from "CSS." When I asked to speak to his supervisor, he disconnected the call.

I was able to capture the phone number he was calling from on my caller ID. I'll be happy to provide the number to you and/or your investigators. To make sure no one connected with the Florida Democratic Party or the McBride campaign was responsible for this call, I double-checked with our coordinated campaign and the McBride campaign. Neither were currently making live phone calls to voters.

As the election gets closer, you might want to check out MyDD and Daily Kos regularly to keep track of the politics and the various races and polls and projections.

A public service announcement (via The People's Republic of Seabrook).

12:31 GMT: Permalink
Jim Henley has a pointer to this piece by Radley Balko, explaining why he has stopped leaning toward war with Iraq and moved to the other side. There's a lot of that going around.

Walter Cronkite says invading Iraq will start World War III.

Iraq checklist (via Bartcop.)

Monday, 28 October 2002

23:50 GMT: Permalink

Charlie Stross reports that men still can't unhook bras.

And a Lego harpsichord! (Via Epicycle.)

13:25 GMT: Permalink
Here's just a snippet from a piece on media by Lisa English:

Have you ever heard the expression, "don't shoot me, I'm just the messenger?" Oh, it's classic line, and one heard alot among people who carve out a living in journalism. For a long time, in a different America, I bought into the mantra, too. But nowadays, I've come to think differently. When the messenger neglects to pass on the important messages, I think we've got every right to assign blame. We in America are not hearing the important stories from our corporate press. For the most part, we are being fed a pabulum of consumeristic drivel, sensationist spin and conservative rant. And you know...just like I told my friend - if we don't focus on this issue, it's likely to get worse before it gets better.

You might look at all this as some kind of real radical think. You might then ask, "if it's not news they're giving us...what the hell is it?" Well, I and a lot of folks - people who are inveterate media watchers - have come to believe that what the big players in American media call "news" is for the most part, little more than "filler" for advertising. Bottom line: our beloved media is reneging on its responsibility to provide us with more than a passing program in the "public interest." Stories like the one my friend brings up - those 20% of American children, who live in poverty - those stories don't see much of the light of day - they're not sexy enough - they don't sell enough widgets and laundry soap - they run counter to the corporate ideology. But make no mistake about it, these are the important stories.

13:00 GMT: Permalink
I know you need something to cheer you up, so don't forget that Oliver Willis is lots of fun:

The Machine, The Myth
I've seen the phrase on a couple blogs now: "anti-war machine". So of course, if there is an anti-war machine - the "liberal" New York Times must be its propaganda sheet, right? So 100,000 people protest in Washington (plus 40,000 in San Francisco) and it's on the front page. Right? Riiiight.

ADVANTAGE: Anti-war Machine!

And there's a longer bit I'm not gonna quote but it made me chuckle. And some other stuff.

12:43 GMT: Permalink
Big Government

P.L.A. is at it again:

In 1961, under the last Eisenhower budget, there were 782,000 executive branch, non-defense employees in the Federal Government. By the end of 2001 that number had risen to 1,151,000 employees. That is an increase of 369,000 employees or a 47% increase over the 40 year period.

We decided to determine in which presidential terms that increase occurred. In order to do so, we looked at the years 1962 through 2001. We assigned credit or blame to an administration for the years for which it submitted a budget. Thus, for our purposes, the Kennedy term runs from 1962-1965. The Johnson term runs from 1966-1969 etc. We got our data here at table 17-1.
Under the 20 years of Republican administrations the number of non-defense government employees rose by 310,000.

Under the 20 years of Democratic administrations, the number of non-defense government employees rose by 59,000.

Of the 369,000 employees added between 1962 and 2001, 84% were added under Republican administrations and 16% were added under Democratic administrations.

Again, the details are pretty interesting - like the fact that the only decreases occurred under Presidents whose last names begin with "C".

Don't miss this piece, either, in which he takes a hammer to The Big Liar and his enablers.

12:19 GMT: Permalink

Bush Enlists Government in GOP Campaign

President Bush has harnessed the broad resources of the federal government to promote Republicans in next month's elections. From housing grants in South Dakota and research contracts in Florida to Air Force One rides and photos in the White House driveway, Bush has made Republican success on Nov. 5 a government-wide project.

More than 330 administration appointees, some of whom were told by White House officials that they needed to show their Republican credentials, have taken vacation time and are being flown by the party to House and Senate campaigns in states where control of Congress will be decided. The appointees will organize volunteers, work the phones and go door to door.
Scholars called Bush's partisan use of the government unprecedented for a midterm election, and said the aggressiveness and thoroughness of his politicking approached that of a presidential reelection campaign. The broad orchestration of executive branch activity to benefit campaigns was moved up to the midterm elections this year because of a confluence of history: a hairsbreadth margin of control in both chambers of Congress, the huge repercussions of tiny swings in a closely divided electorate, and the dawn of new campaign finance restrictions the day after the election.

"This full-court press by the whole administration has a very different feel from most midterms," said Stephen Hess, a Brookings Institution senior fellow in governmental studies. "This is a very political presidency, and I didn't expect that. When one seat can make the difference between divided and unified government, that's a big incentive."

Bobby L. Harnage Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest union of federal workers, said he has been hearing increasing complaints about what his members consider politicization of their work, and said the effect is dampened morale. He asserted that Republicans' use of the federal government is the most aggressive he has seen in 34 years as a union official. "Bush and his administration are making no attempt to cover up what they're doing," Harnage said.

Funnily enough, government employees I know who are Democrats have been explicitly told that they are not allowed to involve themselves in any kind of political campaigning in their free time.

12:02 GMT: Permalink
For those who tried the link to the censored Boondocks strip and couldn't find it because it expired, this link should work. (also fixed below). I think I'd be lost without Owen Boswarva telling me when links are bad. I'm still baffled by that one to the WashPost page that said "" a couple weeks back - I mean, that was the link I clicked on to get to that page, it shouldn't have worked for me, either, but it did - and then it didn't. Strange.

Sunday, 27 October 2002

18:27 GMT: Permalink


So I watched the anti-war demo on C-SPAN. It almost made me feel a little nostalgic. There was something strange, though: The organizers kept enthusing about how big the turn-out was, how the Mall was overflowing, how there were probably at least 100,000 people there - and later, gosh, must be 150 thousand! Now, I know they've built a couple of things since the last time I went to a demo on the Mall, but I've seen 'em and they don't take up that much space, and it takes a good 300,000 to fill the Mall.

And then NPR said there were 30,000. And the Post said "tens of thousands". Sheesh.

So then I watched the counter-demo the Freeps held. Man, that was hilarious. There were about 17 of them - seriously, look at the picture Atrios has up. The media claim "hundreds" were there. The numbers did swell for a while - after they ranted about how evil Muslims are, they noticed another pro-war group nearby and invited them to join. These were, of course, anti-Saddam Iraqi Muslims, about a hundred of them, who promptly took over the entire event, dominating the podium for quite some time, eventually not even bothering to speak in English anymore.

No media bias here, of course.

Then I watched the McBride-Bush debate from the C-SPAN archive. It was interesting the way McBride was hectored to take responsibility for something someone else (not in his campaign) said while this line of questioning was "balanced" by letting Jeb completely weasel out of taking responsibility for what had come out of his own mouth.

No bias there, either.

18:00 GMT: Permalink

Matt Yglesias says:

So here's the question. After the first post-9/11 terrorist attack the common reaction seems to have been "look, see, terrorism really is a serious problem and we need serious tough Republicans in office to handle it. Don't listen to these silly Democrats who tell you that you should be more worried about the economy." But after some number of terrorist attacks and after the administration has been given some decent interval of time to implement it's policies don't we need to start saying "look, George W. Bush promised he'd lick the terrorism problem and he's obviously failing." After 9/11, I saw a strong response, complete with the rapid drawing-up of a military plan to topple the Taliban and nail al Qaida. But after the Pakistan church bombings I saw . . . words of condemnation. Similarly after Bali. And now after the Moscow theater and the DC sniper still . . . nothing. Nothing but Iraq, that is. But reasonable supporters of attacking Iraq say that such a move won't do anything to prevent people from blowing up buildings with conventional explosives or gunning people down with small arms or even hijacking airplanes. And the Bush administration doesn't seem to have any plan whatsoever about how to deal with this problem. Al Qaida used to have a sovereign state to use as a base of operations. We were told that if they were denied that base, we'd all be a lot safer. And we probably are. But we're nowhere near safe enough.
Matt also responds to a post by Nick Denton about what is allegedly "wrong with the left", which generated some interesting comments. It set me off and I ended up writing a comment that is longer than Matt's entire post. I get prickly when people try to suggest that having Cynthia McKinney in Congress for a while is the same thing as having an entire White House and Republican leadership full of loonies. I think it's useful for the Republicans and their Stepford Press to pretend that the figures for the 2000 presidential election demonstrate that the country is split down the middle ideologically, but I also think it is manifestly untrue. I'm not disagreeing with Matt so much as I'm going a lot farther than he does - but then, I usually do.

Meanwhile, a word on that original Nick Denton post:

I finally understand why the Left has failed over the last two decades. It has stopped trying to persuade. Okay, I'm basing this entirely on one conversation, tonight, with an intelligent but dogmatic left-wing blogger in London. He's the kind of person who believes in moral absolutes: most importantly, that one should care for a stranger as one would do for one's self, child, or friend.
I think the kind of piety Nick mentions here is a problem, but I think it's all in that first sentence: The left has stopped trying to persuade. And not because their arguments are crummy, but simply because they often don't bother to make them at all. People use jargon rather than explaining what they mean and why one formula is more potentially useful than another. Calling something racist doesn't really make any points even when it's absolutely true. What people never quite get the hang of is the fact that even though something was thoroughly examined in the public discourse three years ago, many people are too young to remember it, or were doing something else at the time, or misheard it the first time, or have just plain forgotten. You need to keep doing it, again and again and again. Yep, tedious, I know, but it's still true.

And another thing: The right wing attacks individuals because they have to, the real arguments on issues aren't on their side. It's fair enough if we go after particularly egregious individuals, but if we do that as a substitute for presenting the issues, we lose.

12:45 GMT: Permalink

Great David Horsey cartoon in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

And...hmmm, a letter in The Washington Post Free For All says:

There is, as I am sure you know, a difference between exercising editorial judgment and censorship. Refusing to run the "Boondocks" strip on Oct. 13 falls into the latter category ["Pics and Strips," ombudsman, Oct. 20]. And from just what dangerous ideas were you shielding your readership by censoring the strip? From a reminder that George W. Bush wasn't actually elected president? That Hitler was a popular leader? Is your readership so susceptible to terrible ideas that every reference to Hitler in your pages has to be politically correct? [Hugh B. Gordon]
That'd be this strip. God, the Post is such a bunch of weenies.

Saturday, 26 October 2002

23:50 BST: Permalink

Earlier this month I linked to a clever little Democratic Party flash animation on how the Republicans are trying to pull the rug out from under Social Security. Now the GOP has released an amateurish response, in which they claim they aren't doing any such thing, denying that privatizing is privatizing, and repeating Bush's offensive campaign claim that Democratic criticisms are just trying to "scare" seniors. Why, Bush is actually rescuing SS, they claim. In tights.

Here are some interesting recipes for all you folks doing the Atkins diet, from the Low Carb Luxury site. I, of course, am probably too lazy to make any of them, but if anyone wants to make some up in my kitchen, hey, I'm game.

23:00 BST: Permalink
After I did my last virus scan update it started claiming I had a virus. I had no idea what to do, since I've never had one before - I mean, I'm pretty careful about this stuff. But a check of the web revealed:

Problems with W32/Insane.dam and McAfee

In the past week EuroTrust Virus112 has seen a number of false warnings from McAfee Antivirus. Several customers have reported that they have got the virus W32/Insane.Dam on clients and servers, but that they cannot find any information on the virus in question.

However, the case seems to be an error in McAfee's antivirus product, causing the scan engine to warn about this virus. The false virus warning disappears if you follow McAfee's recommendations and update "scan engine".

We await further information from McAfee concerning the problem.

So I didn't do anything, figuring that it would be gone in the next update of the .dat file - which it was. I never heard of anyone getting any interesting notifications about it from McAfee, though. And I thought it was pretty sleazy of McAfee to con people into paying for the upgrade when it would be gone in a few days anyway. If they had any class, they would have immediately put out a new, clean update. They don't appear to have done so.

But my wasn't that fun! I really feel sorry for the folks who deleted files before finding out the problem was the virus scan rather than a virus.

15:44 BST: Permalink
Paul Wellstone
He showed how it could be done.

I guess Josh Marshall pretty much says it:

Like so many others I am in a state of shock over the sudden and tragic death of Paul Wellstone. I can scarcely believe I've just written those words. For every Democrat -- probably as much for those who didn't share his politics as for those who did -- Wellstone was a special treasure: a sort of genuinely progressive, utterly engaged and sincere politician who somehow captured what was essential in the aspirations of his party, even if he supported policies that others didn't. ("I'm from the Democratic party-wing of the Democratic party," he got fond of saying in the late 1990s ...) One thinks of his vote against welfare reform in 1996, on the eve of his first run for re-election. Whatever you think of the merits of that vote [...] no other Senate Democrat who was up for re-election that year had the nerve to make the vote that he did -- though many of them thought the way that he did. He did something very similar this year on Iraq. And in recent days it seemed conviction was making for good politics.
I came home from work late last night (or early this morning) and the first thing I looked at when I logged on was Electrolite, where I saw the news. He also links to two posts at Daily Kos (there is now a third), noting that there is much to read in the comments there as well. Last night I opened a lot of pages and was interested to see the many people who had actually talked to Wellstone and heard him speak in person who were inspired by him. Like Josh Marshall, all seemed to agree that he was both a nice guy and a politician who was guided by his principles.

And yes, there have been a lot of disgusting, jubilant comments from the usual suspects, but have a look at this from the state GOP and this from Peggy Noonan that managed to rise above all that.

This is terrible, terrible news, but it is not an omen that it's time to give up. On the contrary, it means fighting harder. Someone in the Daily Kos comments said we should write to our reps and tell them that with Wellstone gone it is left to them to take up the slack in the fight for principles. Maybe that's a good idea.

Friday, 25 October 2002

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Second star to the right

I didn't know 'til I read it at POV that Adolph Green has died at 87.

I have a place where dreams are born
And time is never planned
It's not on any chart
You must find it with your heart
Never Never Land

It might be miles beyond the moon
Or right there where you stand
Just keep an open mind
And then suddenly you'll find
Never Never Land

You'll have a treasure if you stay there
Even more precious far than gold
For once you have found your way there
You can never, never grow old

And that's my home where dreams are born
And time is never planned
Just think of lovely things
And your heart will fly on wings
In Never Never Land.

14:48 BST: Permalink
The Gadfly's Buzz has found yet another example of the right-wing's fabulous use of language. He quotes some brilliant semanticist at Media Minded:

What is a Stalinist? In popular culture, the definition has evolved somewhat, from "follower of Stalin" to "a person who engages in outrageous personal attacks in an attempt to discredit a political foe."

With that in mind, Harry Belafonte's recent outburst accusing Colin Powell of being a sell-out to his race is a perfect example of Stalinist rhetoric.

Harry Belafonte aside, when has a competent speaker of English ever used the word "Stalinist" to mean "a person who engages in outrageous personal attacks in an attempt to discredit a political foe" . . . or, for that matter, anything other than "a supporter of Marxist-Leninist political principles associated with Stalin?

(Hint: it's a trick question.)

And just as an aside, I thought that the current term in popular culture for "engaging in outrageous personal attacks in an attempt to discredit a political foe" was "fisking."

14:02 BST: Permalink
Brad DeLong on file-sharing and why the music industry is really in trouble:

The reason that the audio entertainment industry may be in real trouble. If it really has lost the allegiance of its performers--if enough of its big name stars are angry enough at it to, in Don Henley's words, be happier los[ing] money to music-downloading fans than losing money to the record companies, it's hard to see how the audio industry will be able to convince anyone it's a useful intermediary standing between musicians and fans... ...Don Henley encouraging everyone to "Download all you want". "The record companies have been ripping artists off for years", he said. "Go ahead. I'd rather lose money to you than them. I don't have a contract with you." The crowd roars with delight.
13:30 BST: Permalink

Ray Davis (of Bellona Times) responds to Patrick's mail below:

I'm an old-timey heartlander who just came back from a trip to the heartland, and I think Patrick mistook. There was nothing in that entry that called mid-America stupid. It called the mass media of mid-America solidly right-wing. And as far as I encountered this trip (and my trip five years ago for my grandma's funeral), that's correct.

My people are far from stupid, although, like people almost everywhere, they're willing to go against their own interests for what they believe are more important principles. The few I talked to about politics knew, all too well from all too personal experience, what's going on. But everyone agreed that getting the word out was almost impossible, and that the propaganda was coming from one direction only. That's a real problem that has to be dealt with -- it's not necessarily a reflection on those being broadcast to.

One bent ray of hope: for the first time ever, I heard no non-sequitur attacks on New York City.

Thursday, 24 October 2002

15:10 BST: Permalink

Others have earlier cited this one from The New Republic by John B. Judis on how the Democrats might win in November, but here's a nice reminder of what the Republicans are doing:

Most Republican candidates are turning away from traditional conservative economic appeals and instead are running Orwellian ad campaigns in which they claim that they never wanted to privatize Social Security and that they favor the Democrats' prescription-drug programs. They are denying that they ever tried to hamstring the Securities and Exchange Commission, and they are trying to portray themselves as corporate reformers and their opponents as sleazy lobbyists and speculators. For instance, when Jim Talent--the Republican Senate candidate in Missouri--was in Congress, he sponsored legislation to divert 16 percent of Social Security taxes to retirement accounts managed by private managers. Now Talent says he "has not voted and will not vote to fully or partially privatize Social Security." In South Florida, Republican E. Clay Shaw Jr. voted this year for the GOP prescription-drug plan that would have bypassed Medicare in favor of private insurance companies. Now he boasts that he voted for "a comprehensive prescription-drug benefit under Medicare." In Colorado, Republican Senate candidate Wayne Allard--who tried to block accounting reform in 2000 and was initially indifferent to corporate reform--runs ads criticizing corporate executives for "engaging in fraud" and announcing "Wayne Allard said, `Enough.'" But judging from the polls--which show the Democrats' edge on Social Security, prescription drugs, and corporate reform to be as large as ever--this GOP political cross-dressing isn't working.
14:35 BST: Permalink
Someone let me know if the "anti-idiotarians" who have so zealously attacked Noam Chomsky, Susan Sontag, Jesse Jackson, Ramsey Clark et al. have also routinely "fisked" the reprehensible Ms. Coulter, who writes things like this:

The anti-death penalty lobby never sleeps. Unable to convince the public that savage murderers should be given radio shows rather than lethal injections, anti-death penalty zealots have turned to lying about proof of guilt. With convicted felons constantly being "proved innocent," the public finally began to sour on the death penalty. The phony DNA "exoneration" project was the first attack on the death penalty that ever worked.

Years after juries have rendered their guilty verdicts, criminal defense lawyers are still hard at work, hatching new theories of innocence and dredging up phony "new" evidence. Once the police, prosecutors and victims have all moved on, the defense bar can spin its lies to gullible reporters without contradiction. Evidently, it never occurs to journalists that a criminal defense lawyer might lie to them.

Coulter then goes on to perform what she thinks is a take-down of the exoneration of the boys originally convicted in the case of the Central Park jogger. By her lights, this is all just a plot by anti-death penalty conspirators who, according to her, just make this stuff up. DNA evidence, Ms. Coulter appears to feel, is itself just a load of old fabrication. Mere science cannot be expected to be more reliable than, say, confessions elicited by beatings or threats.

You know, it's funny, but I can't remember Ms. Coulter objecting to the use of DNA evidence in the OJ Simpson case. How come it's only bad when it indicates innocence rather than guilt?

14:06 BST: Permalink
Here's another IQ test, just in case you want to be matched up with a Mensa date. I confess to being baffled by their analysis of my performance:

Our analyses indicate that your Intellectual Type is: Visual Mathematician. This means that among other things, you have superior skills in mathematics and spatial reasoning.
Well, there's something no one has ever said about me before.

01:07 BST: Permalink
We were so much younger then

Back before we all had webblogs, C. S. Cleebers wrote this little polemic in the midst of the 2000 campaign, when this was how it seemed:

How All the President's Men Ruined National Political Journalism

I blame Woodward and Bernstein. Also Michael Korda and Dick Snyder. And everyone associated with the movie version of All the President's Men. That thing ruined national-level journalism.

For a year or two in the '70s journalism actually looked glamorous, which it ain't. But before the glow faded, half the fluffbrains in the country decided they wanted to grow up to be reporters, just like Robert Redford and/or Dustin Hoffman.

Some of them actually went and did it. But alas, life has disappointed them. There they are, at the peak of their careers, and they've discovered that journalism at the top is exactly like journalism at the bottom: grubby, underpaid, and only fun if you're a news junkie. If they're on the national political beat they've also discovered that Washington D.C. is boring, provincial, and has godawful weather, and that reporting on national politics is only fun if you're a news junkie and a policy wonk.

See what that movie did? Time was, only news junkies and policy wonks wound up in jobs like that, and they didn't expect to become media stars.

This is why the national media hate Clinton. He's a genuine news junkie and a genuine policy wonk, and unlike those reporters he likes what he's doing. He's fascinated by the process of government. He thinks it's swell.

So not only is Clinton not stuck in the wrong profession, but if he were in the journalists' profession he'd probably have a good time doing that, too.

The man is unforgivable.

And Al Gore is even worse, because he's a news junkie, a policy wonk, AND A FORMER NEWSPAPER REPORTER.

Hate, hate, hate.

Remember all those stories you've heard about how Gore mendaciously claimed to have helped invent the Internet? Every one of those stories was written by a journalist who didn't check his facts, or didn't care that his facts were wrong, because:

Al Gore actually did help invent the Internet. It's a matter of public record. You can look it up.

But tracking down Gore's record is kind of a lot of trouble. Mind you, it's exactly the kind of work national political reporters are supposed to know how to do; but even reporters from the most prominent national newspapers and television networks have blown that off. It's a lot much easier to write some piece of hogwash about Gore being chronically untruthful, or delusional, or some other smart-aleck thing that can't be fact-checked because it's unprovable either way.

George W. Bush is more their kind of guy. They get along. Because just like them, he's an underperformer who doesn't actually want to take on the job. He just wants to play it in the movie.

Today, however, Cleebers says:

I couldn't write it now. I don't have as much naive faith in the American political system as the author of that piece had. I think now that some of these journalists know perfectly well what they're doing, and write the stories they do because they want to have an in with the winning side--some for all the usual discreditable reasons, others because it's getting rarer and rarer to have more than one major daily in any metropolitan area, the organization they're working for wants to be on the winning side, and they just want to keep their jobs.
00:15 BST: Permalink
The Heartland

Patrick Nielsen Hayden takes issue with something from Seeing the Forest that I quoted below. The quote was:

"The Republicans have greatly increased their control over the information that the public receives. I drove across the country in 2001, and once you get away from the coasts, news is ENTIRELY a Republican media operation. Every town is right-wing radio, right-wing newspapers, FOX in the motel rooms, etc. There are very few other sources of information."
And Patrick's reply:

This is simply not true, and assertions like this drive me up the wall, because what they do is reinforce coastal types and Europeans in their belief that the middle of America is a desert of stupidity, while making people of good will everywhere despair.

Every time a liberal rants about how the right totally dominates middle America, Karl Rove smiles, because we're doing his work for him.

There are more of us and we are more powerful than we're constantly being told. And we aren't voiceless. If we're going to hold our own, we need to stop believing the myth that the right owns what is often stupidly called the "heartland." They don't. It's entirely contestable, and contested.

Yes, right-wing media control is a big problem. No, exaggerating the problem -- crying wolf -- doesn't help. It makes the situation seem hopeless, when in fact it's merely difficult. It's shitty, but it's not 1984. It's still possible for passionate conviction to win. We need to inspire people to hope, not bludgeon them into cowed despair.

I don't know much about how media in the midwest differs from coastal media, but I do know that there are no "red states" in any real terms. They're purple states, and many are a lot further along the blue side of the spectrum than many people seem to think. Check out Shades of Purple - the Myth of the Red and the Blue America if you haven't seen it before.

Wednesday, 23 October 2002

18:55 BST: Permalink

I've been busy. Go look at this:

Question Mark #29: 'Promise'

Tuesday, 22 October 2002

03:25 BST: Permalink

Liberal Oasis is always full of good stuff:

Is American foreign policy based on peace, freedom and security for all? Or is it based on power, oil and misleading fearmongering for us?

While the Bush rhetoric implies the former, the North Korea-Iraq contradiction shows it is closer to the latter.

And when an Administration is implementing the wrong foreign policy values, that's when the public has a duty to weigh in.

How do you get to peace, freedom and security? That's a question often best left to the experts.

But are we even striving for peace, freedom and security? That's a question for everyone.

And in the same piece, a pointer to something interesting from Seymore Hirsh:

President Clinton and those aides who supported his decision may have been right: the Iraqi intelligence service may have developed and put in motion a plot to assassinate George Bush during his triumphant visit to Kuwait to celebrate the Gulf War victory over Iraq. And if such a plot did exist Saddam Hussein may have known of it, or should have known, and thus would have been personally responsible for not preventing it. But my own investigations have uncovered circumstantial evidence, at least as compelling as the Administration's, that suggests that the American government's case against Iraq—as it has been outlined in public, anyway—is seriously flawed.
03:00 BST: Permalink
I see I've had another tragic oversight in neglecting to add Seeing The Forest to the blogroll - and I'm not just saying that to repay the compliment. I actually thought I'd already added it. Check it out here on how Enron's PR campaign against Gray Davis seems to have stuck, and this one:

For more reasons than I care to delve into, comparing Saddam to Hitler is a gross disservice to history. For one thing, Hitler never asked our position on attacking Poland whereas Saddam checked with our envoy as to the position of the US regarding Kuwait. The day after we responded that we had no official position on middle east boarders Saddam attacked. I have a whole group of in-laws that survived Nazi Germany (concentration camps and all) and I see firsthand how that effects the next two, three generations. Nobody who has any idea what really happened during WWII would seriously put forth such an insulting comparison. That the world joined forces and repelled Saddam out of Kuwait shortly after his invasion shows that we have indeed learned the lesson that ignoring the takeover of Poland taught us.
And this one, and this one, of course:

The Republicans have greatly increased their control over the information that the public receives. I drove across the country in 2001, and once you get away from the coasts, news is ENTIRELY a Republican media operation. Every town is right-wing radio, right-wing newspapers, FOX in the motel rooms, etc. There are very few other sources of information.

Coming back from my lunch I'm thinking about how AM radio has been completely taken over by the Republican Party and is being used used as a 24/7 running Republican Party political advertisement. Today's Hannity show, while I was listening, was a blatant full-scale Republican Party ad, asking people to donate, to volunteer to work on Republican campaigns, etc. AS WELL as spewing out the right-wing lies, like that Democrats are blocking the Fatherland Security Bill so you have to vote for Republicans if you want the country protected. (Facts - The Democrats PROPOSED the agency, and the Republicans are filibustering it.)

This use of the AM band is illegal, and it shows where The Party wants to take the country. The Democrats should grow spines and demand that the these stations be fined for making in-kind donations to The Party, and that they put some opposing voices on the airwave.

02:45 BST: Permalink
From Bartcop, Great Moments in Freedom.

Here's a good tune you can listen to: Kelley Hunt doing "Talk to Me." (Thanks, M&S!)

02:00 BST: Permalink
President Clinton officially an honorary black man (via MWO):

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Bill Clinton, once famously described by author Toni Morrison as "our first black president," is being inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame as an honorary member. The former president will be the first non-black recognized in the hall's 10-year history. He is expected to attend the Saturday night event.

"It is this community's way of saying thank you to him for the work that he has done," Charles Stewart, the hall's chairman and founder.

Monday, 21 October 2002

10:42 BST: Permalink

Lack of Judgment

Scoobie Davis has a look at an NR article on Clarence Thomas:

In his article on today's National Review Online, John A. Foster-Bey writes, "October 15, 2001 marked the ten-year anniversary of the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. While the hearings should have been used as an opportunity for the nation to hear and assess the legal philosophy and judicial perspectives of the second black nominee to the Supreme Court, liberal opponents to his confirmation chose instead to attack his character and private life rather than debate his ideas."

Here are the problems with this assessment:
1. Thomas doesn't have a meaningful "legal philosophy and judicial perspectives" to hear or assess. Thomas was a mediocre law student at best. Although his law school transcript is not available, his grade in Thomas I. Emerson's first year course on politics and civil rights, he scored a 69. [Quick note: 69 was the lowest score Al Gore had when was a law student. The right has falsely accused Gore of flunking out of law school. Rather, Gore dropped out to win election to Congress (the same year, George W. Bush's most notable activity was to drink like a fish and drive around his friends and family).] The American Bar Association gave Thomas the low rating of simply "qualified" (with a minority rating him "unqualified")--the lowest rating of modern nominee. It's kind of pathetic when a guy is rated lower than the infamous G. Harold Carswell (remember Senator Roman Hruska's endorsement of Carswell: "Even if he is mediocre there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they?"). Since perjuring himself to the high court, Thomas has been a Scalia clone and was part of the 2000 coup.

Famously, part of the problem at the time of Thomas' nomination was that he was close-mouthed about his positions and even claimed to have never given any thought to one of the major political issues of the day (and this day, for that matter, when it comes to Supreme Court nominees), Roe v. Wade. Aside from that, he had a record for doing a lousy job in his previous positions. People wanted to hear what he had to say, see some evidence of his thinking. The charges by Anita Hill that led to the hearings provided that opportunity. Thomas could have used them to show there was more to him than puppetry and false pride, but he did the reverse, demonstrating that he was even worse than anyone suspected.

Let's go back to the very beginning of those hearings, when Thomas made his opening statement. Bear in mind that at this point no decisions had been made, and that the Senate that was now holding these hearings had resisted holding them until a public outcry had dragged them to the chamber. Yet Thomas' first words were to accuse the assembled body of racism because they permitted Anita Hill to be heard. He made clear that he expected people to assume, without hearing a word Hill said, that she was not worth listening to. Why, we should know merely by looking at her that she had nothing to say. And what did we know about her? We knew she was a black woman. That's it - but that should have been enough, apparently.

Thomas complained that he was being victimized by the use of common racist sexual stereotypes. That was a very odd thing to say, since he was accused of things that are largely associated with white men - abuse of power and use of pornography. Yet his own "defense" of himself exploited another racist stereotype - that of the oversexed black woman. By relying on hearsay (from only one man) suggesting that Hill was "a little bit slutty", he was playing straight to the most prominent of all insults to black women, saying, in essence, that she was just another colored whore.

Thomas also implied that the likes of Ted Kennedy were punishing him for violating racial taboos. He wasn't actually speaking to a white audience when he said it, nor was he speaking to the highest values in the black community. Ironically, where most white people are concerned, it's something you'd have to be thinking like a racist to pick up on - Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms undoubtedly understood it even though most of Kennedy's white supporters were probably baffled by it; it's a taboo that matters a great deal to Jesse Helms, but not to you and me. (You remember Jesse Helms, whose strongest outrage against Robert Mapplethorpe was in response not to the picture with the bullwhip, not to numerous other highly-charged homoerotic images, but to a photograph that showed a white man and a black man together?) Thomas was not referring to his success in politics or law.

Thomas then proceeded to use thinly-veiled comparisons between himself and Emmet Till, Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, and, by inference, the brave man he was replacing, Thurgood Marshall. Being asked questions by boring white men who could potentially subject him to the indignity of being denied a seat on the Supreme Court, leaving him only a sitting judge on the federal bench, amounted to a "high-tech lynching". (I always liked that phrase "high-tech" - like speaking into a microphone was all that distinguished it from being wrapped in barbed-wire or hung from a tree.) He implied there was some similarity between what he was experiencing and being the victim of "a sniper's bullet" - threats that King, Evers, and Marshall all faced, and which ultimately claimed both of the former. Marshall, as we all know, survived to win a case before the Supreme Court and eventually earned his own place there; Thomas was pretending that the minor embarrassment of facing a hearing was all he needed do to earn that same place.

From our judges we expect a sense of proportion as well as an understanding of law. We expect good judgment. What we got was a display of the most cynical cunning, manipulating half-understood emotions and fears.

On the Supreme Court bench, Thomas first distinguished himself by offering a minority opinion so offensive that even Rehnquist chastised him - publicly! - for his failure to understand the simplest of restrictions on abuses of power by government's agents. Yet conservatives continue to pretend he is defensible, that only some evil on the part of liberals could have made us despise him. No. We despise him because he is despicable.

09:51 BST: Permalink
Matt Yglesias jumps into the fray on the compartive virtues of the USA and Sweden.

Alex Frantz wonders why the few Republican moderates remain in their party. (I disagree with him about moderate/liberal Republican nominees, though - you have to remember that comparatively speaking, George H.W. Bush was a party moderate, unlike his son.)

Max examines Bush administration policy as if they were all honoroble men. It's a useful exercise, even if you don't believe it, but they still come out all wrong.

Twice in a row, Summary Opinions points me to an article by Ellis Henican, someone I'd never heard of before. This time he is talking about the Central Park jogger case and the phenomenon of people confessing to things they didn't do. (We can make you talk, even if you have nothing to say.)

Are you willing to do your part?

Sunday, 20 October 2002

22:15 BST: Permalink

Jacob Sullum on The Forever War:

Since 9/11, anyone who has questioned a proposed extension of government power or contraction of individual liberty has had to deal with an intimidating three-word rejoinder: "We're at war."
Except...they don't really act like our nation is at war with an enemy. But they're at war, all right. With us.

22:00 BST: Permalink
Terminus is ticked off by MTV:

Gotta Give the Peeps What They Need. This is an interesting story to be filed under the miscellaneous category. You should all know that your humble blogger has been a fan of Public Enemy ever since he saw the video for "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" on Yo! MTV Raps many many years ago (back in the good old days when it was hosted by Fab Five Freddy). Anyway, PE's latest album, "Revolverlution" hit the stores a couple of months ago, and it became a part of my CD collection very shortly thereafter. The first track, and also the first single, is called "Gotta Give the Peeps What They Need". It's an amazing song, and just barely edges out "Son of a Bush" for my favorite cut off the album. Anyway, MTV, in its infinite wisdom, has declined to play the video because it is "political". I don't know why, but MTV likes banning videos from my favorite artists. Who remembers the hoopla over Neil Young's "This Note's For You" several years back? Anyway, Chuck D, Public Enemy's powerful principle voice, is pretty ticked off about the whole situation. You might find his comments here to be pretty interesting.
21:22 BST: Permalink
Greeting Cards of the Apocalypse

Rob Humenik says this is a cause he can get behind. Hey, me too!

12:37 BST: Permalink
The week in The Washington Past

The Washington Post has noticed that the budget picture isn't as pretty as it used to be, but seems to think it's some sort of act of god. Rather than admit that we need to reverse the errors of the current administration and their Congressional lackeys, they think our veteran service personnel should pay for it. This same newspaper is perfectly happy to stomp on Democrats who haven't said much lately about overturning the tax cuts (why aren't Republicans to blame for the tax cuts, by the way?), but when it comes to allowing the vets to collect their ordinary pensions and the special thanks we have historically wanted to give them because of the extraordinary risks they take on our behalf, well, hey, we can't talk about those tax cuts, can we?

E.J. Dionne asks, Are Moderate Republicans Obsolete? This is basically an article about why Connie Morella may lose her seat in November - not because of her positions, but because people are wising up to the fact that the only way to moderate the Republican Party is to kick more of them out of Congress. How to counter that? Like this:

Talk about scurrilous charges: Rep. Connie Morella (R-Md.) is running a television ad that ends with a vicious attack on her opponent. "To hear this guy talk," the announcer declares, "you'd think he was the Republican."

What's so bad about calling somebody a Republican? Isn't that normal partisanship? But Connie Morella is -- don't say it out loud in Montgomery County -- the Republican incumbent. The guy she's accusing of being the Republican is state Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a popular liberal Democrat who is offering Morella her toughest challenge in 16 years.

William Raspberry remembers what prisons are supposed to accomplish, notes that they don't do that anymore, and then throws up his hands.

I think Christopher Buckley's Iraq: The Q and A is supposed to be humor, but frankly it looks like a more serious examination of the question than many of the "straight" items in the paper.

Mary McGrory asks:

Are Democrats making a major effort to reduce voter turnout in the coming election? Or are they just trying to fight free of the trap they diligently fashioned for themselves on the subject of war with Iraq? By their conduct on the issue in the recent congressional debate, they seemed eager to show there was no difference between them and the Republicans -- a strategy that guarantees voters will ask themselves, when it comes to digging out on a cold November morning, "Why bother?"
It's obvious that a lot of Democrats voted for Bush's war resolution because they were afraid of getting the Barbara Lee treatment - disagree with the Princeling and have the right-wing brand you a traitor. And, of course, they will, but they will anyway, and in the meantime this kind of cowardice is so obvious that everyone sees through it and the Republicans won't shut up about it, either. They may be damned if they do and damned if they don't, but since that is the case, they should bloody well do what's right. Ditto on the tax cuts, of course.

Two letter writers make helpful corrections to Asa Hutchinson's lame attack on Britain's relaxed marijuana laws:

Under the Lambeth scheme, which was implemented last fall at the behest of British law enforcement, police "cautioned" rather than arrested minor marijuana offenders. Contrary to Hutchinson's allegations, street crime fell in Lambeth by nearly 50 percent during this program. Violent crime also fell dramatically under decriminalization. According to the BBC, robberies in the borough fell 18 percent during the first half of 2002 -- the largest reported decrease in England. Regardless of Hutchinson's impressions, the evidence dictates that marijuana decriminalization makes for safer streets. Additional statistics from Lambeth are equally telling. According to the British Home Office, arrests for hard drugs and drug trafficking increased nearly 20 percent under the pilot scheme. This increase was not because of an overall jump in hard drug use but because police had shifted their focus from marijuana to prosecuting more serious drug crimes. The Home Office further found that cautioning small-time pot users freed an estimated 1,300 hours in police time -- time the police used to better protect the public by targeting robbers, hard- drug dealers and other serious criminals.
10:03 BST: Permalink
You really need to read Paul Krugman's For Richer. No, I really mean it; I'm saving this one, it explains everything:

Still, you can understand why Novak assumed that we were No. 1. After all, we really are the richest major nation, with real G.D.P. per capita about 20 percent higher than Canada's. And it has been an article of faith in this country that a rising tide lifts all boats. Doesn't our high and rising national wealth translate into a high standard of living -- including good medical care -- for all Americans?

Well, no. Although America has higher per capita income than other advanced countries, it turns out that that's mainly because our rich are much richer. And here's a radical thought: if the rich get more, that leaves less for everyone else.

It is, as Krugman says, simple arithmetic. It's always been obvious, and if you were paying attention, you already knew it. But, as Krugman also points out, there is now a rather significant industry built around selling you the counter-intuitive idea that if the top 1% get to hoard most of the wealth, somehow that makes things better for the rest of us. It doesn't - obviously - but we have heard it so often that we have come to doubt what we see with our own eyes. There really are people who believe, despite their own interests, that if a Jack Welch makes $275 million a year, you and they and I are doing better as well. We aren't.

In September the Senate debated a proposed measure that would impose a one-time capital gains tax on Americans who renounce their citizenship in order to avoid paying U.S. taxes. Senator Phil Gramm was not pleased, declaring that the proposal was "right out of Nazi Germany." Pretty strong language, but no stronger than the metaphor Daniel Mitchell of the Heritage Foundation used, in an op-ed article in The Washington Times, to describe a bill designed to prevent corporations from rechartering abroad for tax purposes: Mitchell described this legislation as the "Dred Scott tax bill," referring to the infamous 1857 Supreme Court ruling that required free states to return escaped slaves.

Twenty years ago, would a prominent senator have likened those who want wealthy people to pay taxes to Nazis? Would a member of a think tank with close ties to the administration have drawn a parallel between corporate taxation and slavery? I don't think so. The remarks by Gramm and Mitchell, while stronger than usual, were indicators of two huge changes in American politics. One is the growing polarization of our politics -- our politicians are less and less inclined to offer even the appearance of moderation. The other is the growing tendency of policy and policy makers to cater to the interests of the wealthy. And I mean the wealthy, not the merely well-off: only someone with a net worth of at least several million dollars is likely to find it worthwhile to become a tax exile.

You don't need a political scientist to tell you that modern American politics is bitterly polarized. But wasn't it always thus? No, it wasn't. From World War II until the 1970's -- the same era during which income inequality was historically low -- political partisanship was much more muted than it is today. That's not just a subjective assessment. My Princeton political science colleagues Nolan McCarty and Howard Rosenthal, together with Keith Poole at the University of Houston, have done a statistical analysis showing that the voting behavior of a congressman is much better predicted by his party affiliation today than it was 25 years ago. In fact, the division between the parties is sharper now than it has been since the 1920's.

What are the parties divided about? The answer is simple: economics.

Whose interests does it serve to tell you that huge concentrations of wealth at the top are a good thing? Whose interests does it serve to claim that the capital gains tax, or estate taxes, or corporate taxes are too much of a burden for the rich, and that eliminating those taxes will make our economy better? Not yours.

Saturday, 19 October 2002

20:50 BST: Permalink

Randolph Fritz advises I can find "free moosic" here:

See Dana Lyons' web site. Really. He doesn't have all his albums up, but he does have a fair number of songs, including his one famous one.

Friday, 18 October 2002

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Dwight Meredith:

From FY1962 (the first Kennedy budget) through FY2001 (the last Clinton budget) presidents have prepared forty budgets. Control of the White House was evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats with each party preparing and submitting twenty budgets. We decided to take a look at the fiscal performance of the Federal government during that period. The measurement we used was budget deficits and surpluses. We wanted to control for inflation to make the comparisons meaningful. Fortunately, the Government Printing Office publishes such information on the web. We got our data here at table 1-3. All dollars are adjusted for inflation and are expressed as 1996 dollars.
The twenty years of budgets prepared by Republican presidents increased the national debt by $3.8 trillion. The average yearly deficit under Republican budgets was $190 billion.

The twenty years of budgets prepared by Democratic presidents increased the national debt by $719.5 billion. The average yearly deficit under Democratic budgets was $36 billion.

You should read the whole thing for the details, though; it's short but illuminating.

14:00 BST: Permalink
I've said before that Big Media is still a pretty vital source, even though it is frequently falling down on the job - but even so, it's still a substantial part of our source material, and we mostly couldn't operate without it. CalPundit says so, too, and he's right, but Skippy is right, too, when he takes exception to the idea that those pros are necessarily better than bloggers:

hold the phone, mabel! yes, we may "depend entirely on the regular media," however, we at skippy use many more internet sources than electronic or print sources. and yes, we do very little investigative reporting ourselves. but we would take exception to the stand that we bloggers "aren't as good" as the dunderheads who shout out sound bites in lieu of sources, and present fights and fracases instead of facts.
In fact, we don't depend entirely on the regular media; in many cases, we are responding to it with the thinking and even research and expertise that they should have, but did not, provide. Some of us are even the talking heads they should have phoned when doing that research. You can't rely on the newspapers or news shows to tell you what those big demonstrations out in the streets are about (or even whether they are happening at all, sometimes), but you can rely on Max. You're better off getting your explanations of numerous political activities (legal wrangling, legislation, even straight-politics) by checking out the Blogosphere (e.g. Nathan Newman, Talk Left, or LiberalOasis) rather than trying to ferret out the details from the paucity of reporting the dead tree media manages to do. And for sheer analysis, I'm sorry, but the paid op-ed crowd is by and large presenting some pretty thin stuff, most of it heavily corrupted by too much acceptance of RNC spin. Almost anyone could have given a more intelligent response to Gore's speech on Iraq than Michael Kelly's appalling screed, and the Blogosphere certainly did.

In fact, Max and Nathan are reporting pretty much every week on stories that should be news, but are almost impossible to find in the papers, let alone in broadcast media. Moreover, they are writing more clearly and they are accessible and responsive to their readers, unlike their counterparts in Lazy Old Media. Brad DeLong actually knows what he's talking about. Jim Henley is more measured and thoughtful than David Broder or any of his would-be successors, and doesn't have his mind clouded by the fever that seems to grip the White House press corp with peer pressure, personal enmities, and soul-selling for access. Bear in mind that for a considerable amount of political reporting, there's not much that the Stepford Press is covering that can't be found right on the official websites of various legislators - and the rest, being unattributed whispers, is frequently in serious doubt. By genuflecting in the halls of power, the press corps has given up its independence; even though they know Ari Fleischer is lying, they don't have the guts to come right out and say it. So what good are they? This certainly isn't the press corps that finally lost its temper with Nixon's press flunky and said right to his face, "You're lying, Ron."

No, this is the press corps in which Dana Milbank can dismiss the decades-long reputation of a politician as a scrupulously honest man and simply assume that anything Al Gore says is a lie. This is the press corps that simply does not bother to notice the enormous contradictions between what the administration does and what it says, let alone what it says one day and what it then says the very next day. This press corps can spend the best part of two years writing stories about how George Bush has broken all fundraising records and then not even notice something is wrong when Bush claims Gore has raised more funds than he has. This press corps can write about invading Iraq as if nothing of import is at risk - not even lives.

This - the failure to ask necessary questions, the absence of independent thought, the weak reporting, the glibness of those who no longer have working bullshit detectors - is why political blogging exists. If we thought Big Media was doing its job, we wouldn't feel the need to do this stuff.

12:45 BST: Permalink
William Rivers Pitt still sees four lights:

One of the best 'The Next Generation' episodes is called 'Chain of Command.' A two-part cliffhanger, the story revolves around the abduction and torture of the captain of the Enterprise, Jean-Luc Picard, at the hands of an enemy commander named Gul Madred. Madred strips Picard naked, implants a device in his body that delivers agonizing pain at the push of a button, and over the course of many days attempts to wear Picard down through a disturbingly simple process of psychological warfare. Picard is seated in a chair with four bright lights shining in his face, and Madred attempts through painful coercion to make him say that there are, in fact, five lights. Every time he refuses to say there are five lights, he is drilled with pain. In essence, Picard is expected to deny the reality described by his own eyes, and surrender the will of his mind to the definition of reality offered by his captor.
Watching television news is not torture, nor is reading a local newspaper, at least not in the physical sense. No one has implanted any devices in our flesh that twist us in agony if we refuse to believe and parrot what we see and read. Yet we are being asked, every day, to say there are five lights when, in fact, there are four.
The thing that worries me is that maybe the people in the news media really do see five lights.

12:00 BST: Permalink
Georgie Anne Geyer
One can see war in their terms only when one has not seen the horror, contradictions and confusion that characterize real warfare. Indeed, there is a strange and delusional sense about them that one used to find primarily on the far left: violence as abstraction, spilt blood as purifying nectar, duty as somebody else's principle.

What's more, a democracy's tendency to engage in unjust or unnecessary warfare has always been contained by the fact that all citizens supposedly had to take equal risks. The coefficient of willingness to send one's people to war, with all that means in terms of loss of life and of derangement of the world, is one's willingness to sacrifice oneself.

But this is not at all true today, when America has a volunteer army often removed from everyday Americans and where these nonserving hawks, none of whose children ever would serve either, actually look down on the uniformed soldiers.

Some Americans seem to be seeing -- or at least, feeling -- what is going on. John P. Artusa of Chicago wrote to me recently:

"May I suggest that the sons or grandsons of Dick Cheney, Richard Perle, Don Rumsfeld and the editors of The Wall Street Journal promptly enlist for infantry officers training. Their war fervor should make them excellent field officers. Then the concept of 'noblesse oblige' will take on its original meaning and no longer will be reserved only for the working class."

The members of this war party in the administration, so filled with fervor for their own purposes, virtually never speak of the American soldier himself or herself with any emotion. It is as if these soldiers were merely pawns on a grand map of personal agendas and remote schemas.

The first President Bush, who served valiantly in a war in which we were attacked, spoke recently on television of suffering terrible pain the night before he led his men into attacks in the South Pacific.

"It was not from fear," he said, tears welling in his eyes even after all this time, "but of my custodianship -- of being responsible for someone else." It makes you think.

02:22 BST: Permalink
It came in the e-mail

Tonight I downloaded 2 megs of mail, most of which was offering the opportunity to have my bank account emptied, a wide variety of niche pornography (most of it illegal in this country), bigger body parts, free money, and enormous attachments with such inviting subject lines as, "Hi", and "memo 234857". A small proportion of it was from real people, though. I could even find some of them.

Sam Heldman writes:

Weren't you looking, a while back, for more sites that gave free streaming audio of albums? I just stumbled, through Beck, onto what is apparently an entire streaming album from Flaming Lips, whom I haven't heard before but so far so good on first listen.
Why, yes, Sam, I was looking for that, thanks! (Well, not albums per se, but entire songs that are not crummed up with built-in drop-outs.) The way I figure it, we ought to be able to listen to the music before we buy it, and I'm happy to spread the word if someone is giving us the opportunity to do that.

And Nick Kessler writes:

Here's the update from Miami-Dade: the county commission met again and approved the election monitors. BUT, now "Democratic" Mayor Alex Penalas is considering a veto, and will announce his decision today. (Recall that Penalas couldn't be bothered to get the ballots counted in 2000, and he gave in immediately to the the "bourgeois rioters")
People, I can't tell you how important this election is. If you doubt me, remember that the reason George W. Bush's name came first on the ballot in 2000 is because in Florida the party of the governor gets listed first. And, as I have remarked previously, the person whose name is listed first has an automatic advantage - and that advantage increases if the ballots are confusing. Which means the Republicans are much less likely to make the ballots confusing if a Democrat is in the Governor's Mansion. Get it?

01:00 BST: Permalink
3G have rebranded themselves as just "3". Go here to see how they present thier logo (via Ben Hammersley).

Thursday, 17 October 2002

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Michael Tomasky says:

Liberals are angry over: Florida, still (nope, not over it; have no plans to be). The cocktail of fiscal corruption and incompetence that this White House serves us. The flimsy lies hiding the real motives for going into Iraq (look up a September 29 column by Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution). The sheer gall of virtually everything they do, like the recent misappropriation of John Kennedy (see Fred Kaplan's terrific piece in Slate, posted last week).
Actually, it's not just liberals, and it's not just people who didn't vote for Bush. I know a number of people who are now very sorry they voted for Bush, and many of them were sorry as soon as they realized (yes, some Republican Bush-voters did realize) that the Republicans were stealing the election. Some were actually angry even before the Supreme Court decision. Some were only angry after the SC decision. Some weren't angry until it became obvious that this administration was the most secretive they had ever seen, or that they have at best a casual, or even hostile, regard for our Constitutional rights. Some weren't angry until they realized that the Bushistas had actually made a policy of laxness toward our security in the face of terrorist threats. Some weren't angry until they began to notice that this administration was selling a war they refused to justify.

For some it has been a slow dawning of suspicion that has grown into a burn, while for others there was a single moment of epiphany. But there have been quite a number of Republicans even since Florida who have been angry at how the election was hijacked, and that number has been growing as the Republicans have continued to heap lie upon insult upon lie.

There were also liberals, and Democrats, who did not really believe the Republicans could have been guilty of what the rest of us knew was a putsch, a coup; that was, they thought, mere paranoia, or hyperbole, on our part. But as the months have gone by and bits and pieces of evidence have been squeezed out, they've come to believe that we weren't so paranoid, or so extreme, after all. And much the same is true of charges of administration negligence in the face of terrorism; it is no longer "reasonable" to assume that such charges are made merely out of partisanship.

For nearly two years now I have been receiving letters, in ones and twos, from people who voted for Gore, and people who voted for Bush, and people who voted for Browne, all saying that they have come to believe that I was right: about the machinations of Republicans in Florida, about the threat of the Bushistas and their values and plans, about the negligence of the administration prior to 9/11. These are all people who once accepted the conventional wisdom as perceived through the lens of a media they failed to recognize as right-wing, and who have increasingly understood that something is seriously, horribly, wrong.

These days, you have to be an awfully intrepid news-digger to notice these examples of resistance to the consensus. What you get out of Washington, and New York, is a bunch of dishwater clichés about what will play in Peoria. Even those are wrong. Here's the Peoria Journal-Star, which endorsed George Bush in 2000, from October 6: "The president must tell the American people why toppling Saddam is worth the sacrifice of their lives and the lives of those they love. He has not said so yet."
03:54 BST: Permalink

From Bushwatch:

While others were taking Hughes’ lies at face value, I wrote way back in May, "Hughes recently left the White House amid what some sources tell me were some key differences with Rove and others, as well as marching orders from Bush to help his Texas Republican friends. In other words, don’t believe the BS fed us that Hughes just, sniff-sniff, ‘missed Texas.’" Therefore, I was not surprised to see how nasty and negative and desperate Republican Gov. Slick Rick Perry, who was appointed to that seat when Bush took over the White House, Senate candidate John Cornyn, and Lt. Gov. candidate David Dewhurst have become in their campaigns lately. I was not surprised to see Hughes’ name actually appearing in mainstream news articles saying she was campaigning for Cornyn and others, despite her published comments saying she would not do so when she left Washington a few months before.
And from Tapped:

LET'S GET THIS STRAIGHT. The White House resists creating a Homeland Security Agency for months. When the FBI scandals break, they quickly hop on board the Homeland Security bandwagon and the president urges Congress to pass homeland security legislation right away, without debate. Then the administration tries to use the legislation to strip federal workers of their existing collective bargaining rights, on the very thin pretext that the president needs "management flexibility" to fight the war on terrorism. The Senate Democrats try to pass a bill that creates the asked-for Homeland Security Agency, as Joe Lieberman had been advocating ever since September 11, but without the special-interest union-busting. Republicans vote against that bill repeatedly, but still blame the Democrats for holding things up. And now Tom Ridge tells The New York Times that the Democrats are trying to "strengthen" workers' rights in the midst of a national security crisis, which is incorrect.
03:00 BST: Permalink
Escher Legos! (via Pigs & Fishes).

Good stuff via Gary Farber: This entry on The Myth of '18 to 34', and how it's pretty silly that advertising is aimed at a group that has less discretionary income and spends less on music and toys than those over 50. And he also links to The Alabama Dildo Law case at

Quiz: How free are you?

Homeland Security Advisory System

Wednesday, 16 October 2002

16:25 BST: Permalink

Atrios doesn't quite applaud when Tim Noah backs down in the face of Bob Somerby's criticism:

Tim Noah discovers that maybe, just maybe, he was wrong about Gore. Calls it "split decision." I call it a split decision on Noah -- nice he could revisit the issue, but characteristically whorish that he can't just admit the truth - he spun Gore's comments in the present one way, in the past the other way, and groped for the inconsistency. He should apologize. Or, hey - here's an idea - Call Al Gore and *ask him what he meant.* But, that would, you know, require real journalism instead of the onanism which has taken its place.
I have to agree. What Noah did is, essentially, assume that Gore is not capable of a complex thought. Well, that, or Noah himself is not capable of understanding one; there is a difference between "end the war" and "run off in a hurry as soon as we've dropped the last bomb". As in 2002, there are a certain number of people who simply cannot grasp that there is a great deal of territory between "make war" and "do nothing". One interesting point in Noah's column, though, at the end:

Postscript: In retrospect, the most intriguing thing in that April 1991 New York Times piece dug up by Somerby isn't the part about Gore. It's the part where then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney defends the decision to end the war. "If you're going to go in and try to topple Saddam Hussein," Cheney said, "you have to go to Baghdad. Once you've got Baghdad, it's not clear what you do with it. It's not clear what kind of government you would put in place of the one that's currently there now. Is it going to be a Shia regime, a Sunni regime or a Kurdish regime? Or one that tilts toward the Baathists, or one that tilts toward the Islamic fundamentalists? How much credibility is that government going to have if it's set up by the United States military when it's there? How long does the United States military have to stay to protect the people that sign on for that government, and what happens to it once we leave?"
14:04 BST: Permalink
Note: Blogging has been light for a lot of reasons that I'm not going to try to explain. I have a few things I want to say percolating in the back of my mind, but they aren't ready to come together yet. When they are, you'll be the first to know. Meanwhile....

Over at Buzzflash, a look at duplicitous stalling:

Oh my. At the eleventh hour Iraqi diplomats threw a wrench into United Nations negotiations over the wording of inspection terms while insisting they're in "100 percent accordance" with that global body's determination to find out what in hell is going on in Baghdad. Every Earthling of passable intelligence knew this would happen, of course, and it just goes to show you, said a U.S. spokesman, "once again the Iraqis want to delay and deceive."

True, delay and deceit are standard tools of the diplomatic trade, and thus, thankfully, far from authentic casus belli. Nevertheless Bush II has added their mealy-mouthed deployment by Iraq as yet another specific and reasonable reason to dispatch the Marines with the latest in guns blazing. Sadly, according to U.S. military officials they'll be blazing away with inadequate protection from Saddam's biological cookery, but best to skip over that for now.

None of this is extraordinary. Everyone expected Iraq to play duplicitous games; everyone expected the Bush administration to capitalize on them; and everyone absolutely knows that whatever transpires diplomatically, hundreds, maybe thousands of young Americans and even more innocent Iraqis -- children, women, the aged -- are about to die. Aside from habitual hawks, those of politically ambitious persuasions, and dropouts from Elementary Logic, no one is quite clear why these deaths are imperative. But, off we'll march behind the exact thinking of George W. and invertebrate Senate Democrats. As columnist Maureen Dowd so eloquently framed our leaders' rationality, "Tom Daschle, Dianne Feinstein and other doubters came around ... to the view that Iraq is an urgent threat after the C.I.A. director, George Tenet, sent Congress a memo ... stating that Iraq is not an urgent threat." Unsettling? Yes. Extraordinary for Washington? No.

Also unextraordinary was that which occurred the very day before Iraq leveled its "delay and deception" at the ever-truthful world community. The loudest opponent of those scandalous tactics leveled its own delay and deception in investigating the rampant intelligence bumbling that preceded the slaughterous event now cynically used as a pretext for more slaughter. On the heels of a delicately reached bipartisan congressional agreement on the terms of an investigative commission, the White House -- whose cooperation seemed assured -- shut it down with "fresh objections." Oh my. And at the eleventh hour, no less.

Who ever could have imagined such betrayal coming from an ethically depraved band of former corporate cutthroats? Certainly not the chief dope of the congressionally bewildered, Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman. He was "surprised" at the administration's underhandedness and openly pondered, "[Does the White House] really want to allow this commission to be created?" It's chumps like Lieberman who entice one to enter the swampland sales profession.

MWO cites a different take on Lieberman by Mickey Kaus, saying he "comes up with the best Lieberman 2004 campaign slogan so far":
Perhaps Lieberman just rationalizes his principles away. After all, he has to be pretty good at deluding himself if he still thinks he's got a shot at the Democratic nomination.

Tuesday, 15 October 2002

18:38 BST: Permalink

I admit it, I'm feeling a bit depressed about this war thing. Here's something from Democratic Underground to cheer you up:

Belgians Lead Push for Regime Change in America

Spurred by reports of an aggressive military build-up and failure to reign in corporate terrorists, the government of Belgium is pressing for a preemptive strike against the regime of George W. Bush.

"We cannot sit idly by and eat our delicious chocolates while the United States government engages in a policy of harassment," Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt said in a nationally-televised address to the Belgian people. "Now is the time for action. We cannot waffle."

Recent reports from Belgian intelligence sources indicate that the United States is now in possession of weapons of mass destruction ­ chemical, biological and nuclear. "We know that the United States has nuclear weapons and that they have actually used them in the past," intoned the Prime Minister." There is no reason to think they will not use them in the future."

05:35 BST: Permalink
Dwight Meredith has a beautifully sarky put-down of Michael Kelly's disgusting response to Al Gore's Iraq speech - you know, the part where Kelly insists Gore is full of it for claiming that Al Qaeda is still a threat?

Dwight also has a nice take on political patronage and why we want government workers to have employment protections - yes, we really, really do.

LiberalOasis has some projections for the future:

WASHINGTON, April 24, 2004 -- President George W. Bush prepared the nation for his 11th pre-emptive strike by insisting that the impending invasion of Armenia will be his last.
Pandagon says, "Evolution is not a 'belief' system."

Lately Josh Marshall has been doing some absolutely wonderful stuff. Check him out on the dockworkers lock-out and Larry King's boneheaded questions, for example.

Kevin Raybould is in the fight for the soul of the Democratic Party.

Mr. Happy says USS Clueless and Little Green Footballs have long since jumped the shark.

This is not an appropriate response to this.

Question Mark #26: 'Smiling Faces'

05:02 BST: Permalink
Hesiod says:

BUSH ADMINISTRATION PARANOIA: The Secretive Bush administration is finally starting to piss off the White House press corps.

Of course, they will still be as sycophantic in their coverage as ever. They just whine about "access" to make them sound like they are actually doing their jobs.

"Look. The Presdent's kiester is only so big. You'll have to wait in line if you want to smooch it." As evidence, check out this quote from CBS' John Roberts:

"If the National Hurricane Center were as stingy with its information, there would be thousands dead...."
The sick irony of his "joke" is apparently lost on poor John.
Isn't it a lucky thing that no one is going to die as a result of, oh, a War of World Domination.

04:30 BST: Permalink
Check out the the speech Pete Stark (D-CA) made on the House floor:

"Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to this resolution (authorizing military force against Iraq). I am deeply troubled that lives may be lost without a meaningful attempt to bring Iraq into compliance with U.N. resolutions through careful and cautious diplomacy.

"The bottom line is I don't trust this president and his advisors.

"Make no mistake, we are voting on a resolution that grants total authority to the president, who wants to invade a sovereign nation without any specific act of provocation. This would authorize the United States to act as the aggressor for the first time in our history. It sets a precedent for our nation -- or any nation -- to exercise brute force anywhere in the world without regard to international law or international consensus.

"Congress must not walk in lockstep behind a president who has been so callous to proceed without reservation, as if war was of no real consequence.

And then he goes on to quote Molly Ivins, and says some other things, too.

00:07 BST: Permalink
In local news, I finally found out what dental dams are actually designed for, and they are great! (It was actually pretty painless, too.) Just thought you should know. And now, back to the usual....

Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) on the Iraq resolution vote:

Congress has granted President Bush the authority to use all necessary force against Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. I voted against the resolution -- not because our nation has nothing to fear from Hussein but because I am convinced that the resolution misstates our national priorities in a dangerous way.

What is our greatest responsibility? The answer is easy -- securing the peace and safety of our homeland. Right now the most urgent threats to our security are posed by the shadowy networks of international terrorist organizations that have the capabilities to repeat the tragedy of Sept. 11 -- not Saddam Hussein.
If this were 1938, the course advocated by the president -- and endorsed in the congressional resolution -- would be the equivalent of the Allies' declaring war on Mussolini's Italy but ignoring Hitler's Germany. We are turning our backs on the greater danger, and pretending not to recognize that an attack on Baghdad could spark the wake-up call to the terrorists sleeping in our midst.
The resolution just passed by Congress allows the sanctuaries of the next generation of terrorists to remain standing, including the training camps where, in the 1990s, thousands of zealots were given the skills and determination to be hardened assassins.

Monday, 14 October 2002

13:33 BST: Permalink

Matthew Yglesias explains "Is," the present tense of "to be":

&c. decides to break with TNR precedent and accept the conventional wisdom about something, namely Bill Clinton:
History will probably judge Bill Clinton's bathetic efforts to define the word "is" to be his slipperiest moment.
Now Bill Clinton certain was a slippery guy, but Ive never understood why his saying "it depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is" has gone down as a symbol of his slipperiness. Remember the situation: He was asked something about his relationship with Monica and he replied, "there is no sexual relationship." At the time he said that, there was no sexual relationship. Then Ken Starr decided that he wanted to accuse Bill Clinton of lying on the basis of the fact that there had been a sexual relationship. But it was Ken Starr who had to play fast-and-loose with the meaning of the word "is" to make that charge stick. All Bill Clinton was doing was maintaining that "is" is the present tense third person singular form of "to be" which is a totally standard definition. It's the guy who's decided that "is" means "is or ever was" who's the slippery one in that exchange.
Yes, and it is not "legalistic", as the Republicans were claiming, to define "is" as meaning "is" - which is, in fact, the ordinary, everyday usage, and not some bizarre legal jargon. Little children pick this up in childhood, before we ever go to school - although we usually also learn it in school quite early on.

As I've said before, the Republicans were also being dishonest in claiming that "sexual relations" is some sort of conversational term that covers all sexual contact. In truth, it's not really a conversational term at all, and is used largely by physicians and priests to refer explicitly to the reproductive act. I can find no evidence that Clinton ever lied about what he did with Monica Lewinsky, since at no time did he ever deny that he had had some kind of sexual relationship with her. He was never asked, and never answered, a general question of that nature. Moreover, the only answer to a related question that he gave under oath that I can find telegraphs that he's answering only the question he was asked and that had he been asked a different question, he would have had to give a different answer.

Clinton didn't volunteer any information (about something that was none of your business, or about some other things that were your business but that the press couldn't be bothered to ask), but as far as actually lying is concerned, he may be the most honest president we've had in my lifetime. By no working definition of the term is he a perjurer. Unlike George Bush.

Sunday, 13 October 2002

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Kevin Maroney told me to check this one out - from Visual Journalism, Is Bush a Liar? - about George's "interesting day".

"The fix is in," says Atrios, pointing to this story about how a procedural trick by Miami-Dade County commissioners prevented a vote on getting voting monitors in on 5 November. So, they are being pretty up-front about wanting to be able to run crooked elections, yeah?

All the great arguments for war in the comments at Maxspeak - I particularly liked the one about how we were right to go into Viet Nam because after we left Ho Chi Minh wiped out all those people - a neat trick, considering Uncle Ho had died a few years earlier. (And here we are, on the eve of World Domination, and by my lights the pro-war faction still hasn't made its case.)

Saturday, 12 October 2002

18:23 BST: Permalink

It's been a busy week. Fortunately, there is Summary Opinions, where I found a link to He's Old Enough To Know Better, by Ellis Henican:

So this is the world's greatest deliberative body, confronting the single greatest issue of our time?

Someone had better remind the senators - quick!

This was the U.S. Senate's abbreviated debate on the coming war in Iraq, and the week had gotten off to a painfully slow start. There was Pennsylvania Republican Arlen Specter up at the podium, looking as lonely as a little boy whose puppy ran off.

As Slate's clear-eyed William Saletan noted depressingly from the press gallery: "The atmosphere on the Senate floor is devoid of urgency. Indeed, it's devoid of senators."
Every day it becomes more apparent that a powerful date hangs over all this talk about Iraq. It isn't Sept. 11, as the president kept insisting in his pep-rally speech from Cincinnati on Monday night. The date is Nov. 5, when every congressman and one-third of the senators will face the voters again.

Weak people at a perilous time.

George W. Bush is bum-rushing the nation toward a war whose urgency he still hasn't been able to explain. Even his own CIA yesterday raised doubts about one of his prime justifications, saying that a U.S. attack might actually provoke Saddam Hussein into using chemical or biological weapons.

But the men and women who should be asking the difficult questions are mostly nodding passively - or off hiding somewhere.

Not Robert Byrd.

Of course, most of the Senate performed just as shamefully when it came to voting on the resolution. They all managed to vote, and I'm relieved to see that at least both of my own Senators were among the 21 Democrats not eager to approve the Imperial Plan For World Domination, but only one Republican (Chafee, RI) joined in, along with Jeffords (I-VT). Most surprising to me was the "Yes" vote from Tom Harkin (D-Have you lost your mind?) in the House. Oh, yeah, and isn't it long past time to make sure someone strong beats Feinstein in the primary next time?

06:20 BST: Permalink
Harold Meyerson has a good little piece in The American Prospect, Gore vs. Gephardt:

Gephardt's defenders say that in backing the president, the House Democratic leader is looking out for Democratic candidates in swing districts next month. The party has a set of pretested themes that are supposed to sway the swingers, they complain, and Gore has forced the party off message. As one party strategist grumped to The New York Times about Gore's Commonwealth Club speech, "Is this going to enable the peace caucus in the House and the Senate?"

Now, I hardly need convincing that keeping Congress from falling wholly into Republican hands is hugely important, what with that Bush boy in the White House and all. Still, what the consultant is arguing is that it is better to have a nominal peace caucus within the majority party than a peace caucus that actually bestirs itself for peace when a declaration of war is up for debate.

Why this crackpot realism is smart politics for this November, or the one or two years hence, is by no means apparent. Midterm elections hinge on mobilizing your base, and recent polling for National Public Radio makes clear that Democrats favor Gore's position over Gephardt's by nearly a 3-to-1 margin. Gore's position is every bit as calculated as Gephardt's, of course. The difference is that Gore has factored into his calculation the radical notion that the purpose of politics is to advance your core beliefs.

I bow to no one in my exasperation with the Gore of the 2000 campaign. But Gore is now displaying the very leadership that was so missing from his presidential run. In a year in which, at Gephardt's and Tom Daschle's insistence, the Democrats have calculated themselves into silence on both the tax cut and preemptive war, Gore has apparently concluded that a party with nothing to say doesn't have much claim on its voters come election time. He's also concluded that a questionable war merits audible questioning. Two calculations that should require many Democrats to do a little recalculation of their own as to the merits of Al Gore.

Friday, 11 October 2002

15:45 BST: Permalink

Paul Merton says he once turned in a "How I spent my holidays" assignment with some sort of science fictional tall tale, which earned a response from his teacher to the effect that he'd failed the assignment because the story wasn't true - it was just a load of fantasy. "That's rich coming from a nun," he retorted.

That's kind of how I feel whenever the Republicans accuse Democrats of hating America, as detailed by Spinsanity's Bryan Keefer:

In an interview yesterday with Wolf Blitzer on CNN, conservative radio host Mike Gallagher made the inflammatory charge against liberal radio host Joe Madison. Responding to an email from a viewer named Gila suggesting that "The Bush administration is making Iraq its cause celebre and diverting attention from other issues like the economy", Gallagher claimed that "people like Joe [Madison] and Gila are rooting against the president and against this country. And listen, I say to Gila or to Joe, if you don't like what this government stands for, go over to Baghdad and be a loyal to Saddam Hussein like [Rep. Jim] McDermott is." When Madison began to respond, Gallagher claimed "You're un-American. You're un-American", "you hate America" and "You're un-American. You're either with us or with the terrorists," concluding "You're either with us or with the terrorists, Wolf. . . . Which side are you on, Joe?"
That's rich, coming from people who are so contemptuous of America that they deliberately, in front of god and everyone, promoted the ascencion to the White House of a man who obviously knows little and cares less about our country's values or anything that is involved in protecting them. He's lazy, shiftless, morally empty and mentally vacant except for an overabundance of petty meanness. He has neither the experience nor the willingness to do the work that we require of presidents, and he has shambled around the world doing his best to stir enmity from our allies and distrust from pretty much anyone else. Rather than finishing what he started in Afghanistan and continuing the fight against Al Qaeda, he is actually embarked on a plan to endanger us even more. Anyone with an IQ over seven can see this, but they don't care - they don't care what he's doing and they don't care how we look to the world. They call us "anti-American" because we want America to live up to its own high standards and values, and not down to his.

Congressman Joe Wilson (R-NC) attacked Congressman Joe Filner (D-CA) several days ago in a similar vein. On Sept. 25, Filner suggested on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" that the United States gave Iraq biological and chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. Filner was probably relying on a Newsweek article of Sept. 23, 2002 which cited classified Commerce Department documents in reporting that the Reagan administration allowed Iraq to import several shipments of "bacteria/fungi/protozoa" that were known to have potential biological warfare applications.
And kudos to Senator Robert Byrd (D-WVA) who then stood up on the Senate floor and read the entire list of biological and chemical weapons we'd put in Saddam's hands.

Wilson argued with Filner, who would not retract his claim, and then launched into a series of attacks. According to Lloyd Grove of the Washington Post, Wilson blustered that "This hatred of America by some people is just outrageous. And you need to get over that", then "accused Filner of harboring 'hatred of America' four more times, of being 'hateful' three times and of being 'viscerally anti-American' once." Grove does note that Wilson sent him this apology afterward: "If I said something in the heat of the debate that was taken as critical of the congressman's patriotism or commitment to this country, I apologize."
If? That's pretty rich, too.

02:18 BST: Permalink
The latest Zogby poll results are worth spending a little time studying. For one thing, they show that not only is Gore the Democratic front-runner, but that he's not all that far behind Bush - indeed, Bush was farther ahead of Gore prior to the 2000 Democratic Convention. The poll also shows "Economy/Jobs" to be the most important issue to most of those polled. Support for war seems fairly conditional. And I wish the poll asked more questions in ranked order rather than one-choice-only.

Thursday, 10 October 2002

15:15 BST: Permalink

MWO is reporting that new evidence relevant to the SEC investigation of George W. Bush's secret Harkin deal has come to light (detailed at HarvardWatch). MWO says:

But now, according to major reports in the Wall Street Journal and the Boston Globe, the White House cover-up on Harken has begun to collapse. There is plenty that is new.

These reports document how a long-time Bush family political supporter, Robert J. Stone, Jr., in league with the Cabot family oil interests, manipulated the Harvard Management Company to invest millions in Harken in an off-the books arrangement that bailed the failing company out of a liquidity crisis, kept hidden from Harken investors and the S.E.C., in 1990.

The reports further show that the financial guarantor of the deal was none other than Robert Abboud of First City Boston -- the one-time head of the U.S.-Iraq Business Forum, a close political supporter of Bush's father, a personal friend of Saddam Hussein, and a figure with a longtime history of dubious financial and political dealings.

Finally, the reports show that George W. Bush, as a member of Harken's audit committee, personally signed off on the secret deals, the deception of investors, and the manipulation of Harken's stock price.

As a result of that manipulation, the S.E.C. then justified its suspension of its investigation into possible fraud in the younger Bush's earlier Harken dealings – an investigation whose files still remain under lock and key thanks to Harvey Pitt.

"It seems to be a simple case of Aeneas [Harvard Management Company's venture capital arm] bailing out Harken," Dala Bharan, the accounting expert consulted by the Wall Street Journal, said.

The timing of that bail-out is all-important – coming at a time that salvaged George W. Bush's sinking reputation as a businessman and fended off official federal investigations.

So are the off-the-books methods, which are almost identical to the kinds of arrangements that the thieves at Enron indulged in.

And the persons involved make the reports all the more alarming.

MWO also points to a story in The Mercury News saying that Ralph Nader is now doing his thing in California, working against Gray Davis. Look, everyone knows Gray Davis is no hero, but leaving the people of California in the hands of the much creepier Simon is too high a price to pay for spanking Davis. Laura Kurtzman writes:

Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate and former Green Party candidate for president, came to the Bay Area on Tuesday to lend his support to the Green Party ticket and to deride Gov. Gray Davis as the epitome of a corrupt political system that values campaign contributions over people.
The epitome? No, Ralph, those are the people you helped put in the White House.

14:39 BST: Permalink
LiberalOasis says:

Gary Hart and Tom Friedman, two normally sage guys, each wrote NYT columns recently criticizing Dems for abandoning foreign policy.

Hart says, "Recent speeches by Democratic leaders critical of the current administration have failed to offer a coherent foreign policy alternative to the president's plans."

Friedman rhetorically asks, "Where are the Democrats who would declare that confronting Saddam is legitimate, but it must not be done without real preparation of the U.S. public?"

LO then wonders whether Hart and Friedman have heard of Al Gore (here and here), Senate Armed Services Chair Carl Levin (MI), Rep. Jerry Nadler, congressman from Ground Zero, Sen. Ted Kennedy (MA), Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH), and Sen. Chris Dodd (CT).

Personally, I'm a little bit sick of seeing "principled criticism" of Democrats by people who are trying to put their phony non-partisanship on display by inventing things to complain about. There are certainly many legitimate criticisms that can be made of a number of Democrats, and these might have made sense a month or so ago, but I'd expect Hart and Friedman to have noticed that something new has been going on lately. But they seem to have fallen instead for the right-wing spin that Gore et al. have not addressed these issues. Well, they have.

LiberalOasis also takes a look at the bizarre DLC take on Democratic criticisms of Bush's war talk, and holds the likes of Zell Miller up to the light. Not a pretty sight.

13:54 BST: Permalink
Last night Mike Malloy went hoarse on his radio show ranting and raving about the way Republicans keep claiming that the management shut-down of the ports is a "work stoppage" or a "strike", and that the administration has been forced to invoke Taft-Hartley in order to force the workers back to work. As Mike made clear, this is a lie; the workers were locked out by management. What's really going on is that the Bush administration is deliberately interfering with any attempts by the union to have a fair bargaining position while it tries to negotiate with management. Nathan Newman has the real goods on the story.

Nsthan also makes a worthy contribution to the discussion of the viciousness of right-wing pundits (raised by Ted Barlow and Atrios):

It's not so much that I am in favor of defamation of character; it's just that politics matters in peoples lives and when something matters, people go over the top with rhetoric and actions at points. If they do so all the time, it's a sign of psychosis and immaturity, while if it happens too rarely, it's a sign of failure to connect with the passions that should motivate political action. For much of the 90s, the conservative elite pundit class has been in thrall to psychosis-- and it's hurt them at times as with Gingrich's gradual self-immolation-- while the liberal pundits have been so passionless that they become caricatures of elitist disconnect (most liberal punits) or snarky wise-ass condecension (read Michael Kinsley and Maureen Dowd).
He's right, but I wish he'd use a spell-checker.

13:21 BST: Permalink
Alterman quotes the remarks of Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) on the Iraq resolution, which you should read, but for you non-clickers, here's the end of it:

When I vote whether to send our brave young men and women into harm's way, I must be absolutely sure that I can face their fathers and mothers — their husbands, wives and children — and tell them:

"We have no other choice. War is the only option."
And I simply can't do that yet.
Last September, I voted for force.
It was necessary. It was right.
It was clearly in defense of our nation.
But today, I must dissent.

Alterman also says: "Wow. Dylan plays Zevon three times."

01:12 BST: Permalink
Laws of physics revisited

Lot's of people wrote in to remind me that heat weakens steel, and that's all you need. Since I already know that heat makes lots of things weak or brittle, I just wondered why I didn't remember that at the time. But it was fun for a minute, anyway.

One person wrote in and wondered what we're supposed to think if the theory is right - that is, that the planes could not have caused the buildings to fall. Is it that 9/11 was a hoax?

Actually, I don't think that's where he was going - he seemed to be hinting that there must also have been some sort of network of bombs rigged inside the building (although that seems awfully elaborate to me). I suppose you could also have a theory about the builders having cheated on the materials, if you wanted.

But I still love theories like this, because they often rely on exactly the sort of thing that went on in my head with this - that there's some fact that you're forgetting, or maybe just don't know, that makes the whole thing fall apart, but for some reason you simply don't think about it. And of course, that's what I deal with all the time - people who ignore their own experience, even seem to forget it entirely, because some idea has taken hold of them that just shuts reality out when they're looking at it. The little bit of physics involved here is actually pretty mundane stuff that we probably all have experience with - I, personally, have had possessions ruined because they were exposed to heat and became brittle, even though they didn't warp or change color - they just suddenly broke when they shouldn't have.

Of course, I'm not normally dealing with physics - I'm usually dealing with sexual issues, and it's amazing how we let little slogans and things corrupt our ability to remember our own experience. Every time someone says to me that relationships of a certain type (gay, poly, long-distance, whatever) "usually don't work", I have to point out that this is actually true of most relationships. If it weren't, most of us never would have had a single break-up in our lives. Yet people who've had half a dozen apparently "normal" relationships fail on them still point to unusual relationships and talk about how those don't work. "So how's that conventional relationship thing working for you, hm?" "Oh...right."

That's the thing about humans - we don't actually have a firm grasp of the obvious. And I don't just mean people who are especially thick, I mean everyone. That's why I love Forteana. I still can't get over the fact that there's anyone in the world who didn't look at crop circles and think, "College students."

Wednesday, 09 October 2002

15:56 BST: Permalink

From the Torygraph, Bush-Blair transcript 'seized by IRA spies':

Secret documents obtained by an IRA spy network included transcripts of telephone conversations between Tony Blair and President Bush, security sources confirmed yesterday.

As Northern Ireland enters its biggest crisis since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the province is bracing itself today for a final meeting of the power-sharing Assembly. Direct rule from Westminster is likely to be imposed within days.

The disclosure that terrorists gained access to confidential White House information is likely to provoke a furious reaction in America. David Trimble, Northern Ireland's First Minister and leader of the Ulster Unionists, compared the republican espionage as "10 times worse than Watergate", which led to the resignation of President Nixon.

Confidence in sharing power between the Unionists and Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, has collapsed following the revelations connecting them to terrorist intelligence gathering.

15:00 BST: Permalink
I did not go to Hard Science High, so I never know what to make of stuff like this, but maybe someone else can read Muslims Suspend Laws of Physics! and help me work it out:

I tried to be patriotic.

I tried to believe. I watched those quarter mile high buildings fall through their jaw-dropping catastrophes over and over again. I listened to the announcer and the experts explain what had happened. And I worked at my pitiful lack of faith, pounding my skull with the remote control and staring at the flickering images on the TV screen.

But poor mental peasant that I am, I could not escape the teachings of my forefathers. I fear I am trapped in my time, walled off from further scientific understanding by my inability to abandon the Second Millennium mindset.

But enough of myself. Let us move on to the Science and Technology of the 21st Century. Those of you who cannot believe should learn the official truth by rote and perhaps you will be able to hide your ignorance.
Using jet fuel to melt steel is an amazing discovery, really. It is also amazing that until now, no one had been able to get it to work, and that proves the terrorists were not stupid people. Ironworkers fool with acetylene torches, bottled oxygen, electric arcs from generators, electric furnaces, and other elaborate tricks, but what did these brilliant terrorists use? Jet fuel, costing maybe 80 cents a gallon on the open market.

Let us consider: One plane full of jet fuel hit the north tower at 8:45 a.m., and the fuel fire burned for a while with bright flames and black smoke. We can see pictures of white smoke and flames shooting from the windows.

Then by 9:03 a.m. (which time was marked by the second plane's collision with the south tower), the flame was mostly gone and only black smoke continued to pour from the building. To my simple mind, that would indicate that the first fire had died down, but something was still burning inefficiently, leaving soot (carbon) in the smoke. A fire with sooty smoke is either low temperature or starved for oxygen -- or both.
But by 10:29 a.m., the fire in north tower had accomplished the feat that I find so amazing: It melted the steel supports in the building, causing a chain reaction within the structure that brought the building to the ground.

And with less fuel to feed the fire, the south tower collapsed only 47 minutes after the plane collision, again with complete destruction. This is only half the time it took to destroy the north tower.

I try not to think about that. I try not to think about a petroleum fire burning for 104 minutes, just getting hotter and hotter until it reached 1538 degrees Celsius (2800 Fahrenheit) and melted the steel [...].

I try to forget that heating steel is like pouring syrup onto a plate: you can't get it to stack up. The heat just flows out to the colder parts of the steel, cooling off the part you are trying to warm up. If you pour it on hard enough and fast enough, you can get the syrup to stack up a little bit. And with very high heat brought on very fast, you can heat up one part of a steel object, but the heat will quickly spread out and the hot part will cool off soon after you stop.

Am I to believe that the fire burned for 104 minutes in the north tower, gradually heating the 200,000 tons of steel supports like a blacksmith's forge, with the heat flowing throughout the skeleton of the tower? If the collapse was due to heated steel, the experts should be able to tell us how many thousands of tons of steel were heated to melting temperature in 104 minutes and how much fuel would be required to produce that much heat. Can a single Boeing 767 carry that much fuel?

Thankfully, I found this note on the BBC web page ([link] or: [link]): "Fire reaches 800 [degrees] C -- hot enough to melt steel floor supports."

That is one of the things I warned you about: In the 20th Century, steel melted at 1535 degrees Celsius (2795 F), (see [link]), but in the 21st Century, it melts at 800 degrees C (1472 F).

14:40 BST: Permalink
Newsing around

Public Nuisance notes that there is pretty strong public support for legalizing medical marijuana, but legislators are trailing far behind.

MWO says even the South Carolina media is getting disgusted with Republican candidate Lindsey Graham's crawl through the mud in his attempts to keep Democrat Alex Sanders from getting Strom Thurmond's seat. Having falsified his own record (military and political) and gotten caught, Graham is now peddling furiously by taking a strong, public stand on the most important issue of the day:

Graham has posted hysterical ads proclaiming his support for a constitutional ban on flag-burning – complete with ugly claims that, because Sanders thinks such a move silly and unnecessary, he is kissin’ cousins with Osama bin Laden.
Also a bit of history on the same page:

So, in 1991,did bin Laden

a) side with Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait;
b) remain neutral, hoping that the Iraqis and the Saudis would knock each other out;
c) plot to deploy weapons of mass destruction against Israel and the United States;
d) offer the Saudis to help in the effort to drive Hussein out of Kuwait

The answer is d).

And they report that prosecutors have found No Laws Violated in Exposing Ganske's Sleaze by openly taping Ganske's remarks at a meeting and passing the tape on to Harkin's people.

The Star Tribune says the Minnesota Veterans of Foreign Wars has endorsed Paul Wellstone.

A Bartcop reader notes the headline, "4 US Officials Describe Iraqi Involvement in OKC Bombing" and asks:

Why doesn't someone interrogate McVeigh and try to ferret some of the information?

....oh, right, yeah. Never mind.

Atrios found this in The Washington Post from CIA Director George Tenet:

Tenet, in a letter read before a joint hearing of the House and Senate intelligence committees Tuesday, said that "Baghdad for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or chemical or biological weapons."

But Tenet went on to say that should Saddam conclude that a U.S.-led attack against his country could not be deterred, "he probably would become much less constrained in adopting terrorist action."

He also thanks a reader for sending in this wonderful Bush quote:

"I was proud the other day when both Republicans and Democrats stood with me in the Rose Garden to announce their support for a clear statement of purpose: you disarm, or we will."
—Speaking about Saddam Hussein, Manchester, N.H., Oct. 5, 2002
Gary Farber finds proof that Bush is evil, says you can study at MIT online for free, and finds a delightful applet that writes out all of Bart's chalkboard lessons for you.

Tuesday, 08 October 2002

13:19 BST: Permalink

From Tapped:

LET HIM VETO IT. First the Bush administration tried to dissuade veterans from seeking health benefits to which they were entitled. Now the Post reports that Bush is considering vetoing a $335-billion defense bill that contains expanded disability benefits for veterans. Basically, disabled veterans today can collect military pensions and veterans disability benefits at the same time. Don Rumsfeld thinks this is "double-dipping" and wants to mandate that the former be reduced, dollar for dollar, by the amount received of the latter. John McCain points out -- rightly, we think -- that "retirement pay is for length of service and disability compensation is for pain and suffering incurred in uniform." Tapped thinks the Democrats should get this bill passed and dare Bush to veto it. We doubt he will. But if he does, let it be one more reminder of things our country cannot afford to do -- for our veterans, no less -- over the long-term thanks to the Bush tax cut.
And also - blimey! - The Washington Post ombudsman finally admits that the Post doesn't cover the news that doesn't cheerlead for Bush. [Update: link fixed, and don't ask me how that happened, it wasn't my typing. Thanks to Owen Boswarva for the correction.]

12:00 BST: Permalink
Slacktivist has fun with the lame "insights" of a certain columnist:

Mickey Kaus grows increasingly shrill and impatient with those of us who fail to see the hidden genius of President Bush's economic master plan.

Today he continues his cheerleading for the former cheerleader, arguing that now that we're facing long-term economic woes, the stimulus potential of Bush's tax-cut seems intentional. Kaus notes that this stimulus effect was even among the arguments Bush used to promote his tax cut:

Bush explicitly cast both long-term and short term tax relief as an anti-recession remedy, as in this March 28. 2001 New York Times report: "'We need an immediate stimulus for our economy,' Mr. Bush said, referring to some of the ideas gathering force in the Senate without throwing his explicit support behind any single measure."

What Kaus avoids mentioning is that almost anything can be cited as a reason Bush embraced to promote his tax cut.

President Bush said the tax cut would bring the rains. That it would stop the rains. That it would slow a runaway economy. That it would stimulate a sluggish economy. That it would help you lose weight. And help you gain weight. It will make you taller and shorter. Warmer and cooler. It will, he argued, do everything for everyone.

Bush's hodgepodge of conflicting arguments was like a paraphrase of Whitman: "Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. My tax cut is large, it encompasses multitudes."

A parody/analogy/allegory:

The president is asked to pick a number from 1 to 10.

Bush: I pick 1, 2, 3 and 4. Along with 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. And I can't rule out 10, 11 or 12.

Krugman: First of all, the president cheated. Secondly, he was still wrong more than 9 times out of 10.

Kaus: The answer is 7, and Bush said "7"! Bush was right! He said "7" and those idiots at the Times won't admit he was right! Krugman said Bush was wrong, but he was right - he said "7"! I demand a retraction and a correction from Krugman and the Times!

[Then later, after lefty bloggers point out that the answer is actually 8, not 7 ...]

Kaus: Good point! But Bush is still right -- he said "8" too! Krugman, therefore, was still wrong to say Bush was wrong. Advantage Kausfiles!

11:30 BST: Permalink
DNC Social Insecurity political ad (Flash).

Nicholas Thompson's WHERE HAVE ALL THE NEW MEDS GONE? explains why you can't believe the excuses the pharmaceutical companies are handing out.

Public says Bush needs to pay heed to weak economy say Adam Nagourney and Janet Elder (in the NYT).

MWO is headlining a story about Jeb Bush's secret plot to sabotage a class-size reduction initiative if it passes - which he inadvertently blabbed about without realizing a reporter was in the room. Governor cites his own 'devious plans' to squash unfunded proposal if it passes and he is re-elected. Comes complete with .mp3 of Bush spilling the beans.

USA Today/Gallup Poll results.

A clear view from Boondocks.

11:00 BST: Permalink
Kenneth Davidson says Total surrender? More like total hypocrisy (via Smirking Chimp):

So now we know. Last week the New York Times and the Guardian newspapers carried well-timed and well-informed leaks of the American draft of the proposed United Nations Security Council Resolution ostensibly governing the operations of UN weapons inspectors in Iraq.

What these leaks show is the US is demanding what amounts to an "occupation agreement", which is usually imposed after unconditional surrender.

The Bush administration (and the governments of the other four permanent members of the Security Council) must know that it amounts to an ultimatum that no government can accept. As John Pike, the director of the Washington-based military think tank, Global, commented: "I can never imagine Iraq agreeing to this. The resolution is worded in such a way that Iraq is certain to reject it. If you are going to be invaded you may as well make the invading force shoot their way in. It is the sort of proposal meant to be rejected."

Monday, 07 October 2002

22:06 BST: Permalink

Turning a corner

"A Mississippi Odyssey" (Part 1 and Part 2) by Wil Haygood is a remarkable piece of writing about James Meredith and the integration of Ole Miss:

There is so much Mississippi in Mississippi. So much of yesterday that chases today. Like some dizzy snake swirling across a calendar that stopped in 1963. Or 1964. Or 1965.

For so many reasons, the place -- its cities, country towns, its Delta, even its nighttime darkness -- claims a huge swath of the American imagination. The blood here is no redder than anywhere else, but the stain seems deeper, has survived longer.

Forty autumns ago a good amount spilled on the Ole Miss campus here when an unassuming man by the name of James Meredith, in black suit, white shirt, dark tie -- he looked as formal as a Bible salesman -- came to integrate the all-white university.

It seemed so improbable.

It certainly seemed as foolhardy as the deadly wishing well that Emmett Till dropped into, the 14-year-old murdered in Money, Miss., in 1955 for -- according to lore and trial transcript -- whistling at a white woman. And Herbert Lee, too, murdered in 1961 in Amite County for trying to register blacks to vote. And other ripples: Fannie Lou Hamer, "sick and tired of being sick and tired," a survivor of a vicious beating in Winona in '63. Medgar Evers, his back to the night air in his Jackson driveway, shot dead. Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney, murdered together in '64 in the darkness of Neshoba County. All of a piece, all of a similar thread.

Of all the Southern states, Mississippi seemed to ignite a singular kind of terror. Nina Simone sang a song called "Mississippi Goddam." It explained itself.

Others died; Meredith kept rolling. His strides across the Ole Miss campus cracked a part of the South wide open. Robert Khayat, now chancellor of Ole Miss, has invited them all back. Well, at least the victors: Meredith, the federal marshals, some selected students, some Kennedy administration officials, all for a year-long commemoration of the event.

Read it.

(Thanks to Patrick for calling this one to my attention.)

02:20 BST: Permalink
Stuff to read

Zack Weinberg examines the Constitution for evidence that Congress has no right to levy taxes - and doesn't find it. [Update: In the morning, this didn't look like an accurate description to me. It's what I was looking for.]

Web-Goddess will be wearing red panties Monday.

A Level Gaze joins Atrios in departing from the Republican theory that liberals/Democrats hate America.

Tblogg finds an old pre-election analysis from 2000.

Bob Somerby documents Saletan's descent into the press slime pits.

Alterman admires Gore's courage.

Blowback finds the word from troops in Afghanistan.

Comics Journal is right: Ted Rall is great on going after Bush, but not so great on a lot of other things.

The Observer interviews Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd.

Sunday, 06 October 2002

20:31 BST: Permalink

Nathan Newman takes issue with creeping McCainism:

The Myth that McCain is a Democrat
It's a bit disturbing that even Tapped has bought the line that McCain is now really just a Democrat parading around in Republican drag. Sure, McCain is not a team player and says harsh things about his party when the cameras are rolling. Most politicians have the decency to say such things about their allies "off the record" when they can put the knife in anonymously. But most of them do it repeatedly.

But while McCain has dissented from his party on a few issues like campaign finance reform and the patients bill of rights, his voting record overall is still hard-right Republican.

In the last three years (1999-2001), his average "liberal quotient" according to Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) was 17%.

His voting record for those same three years according to the AFL-CIO was 14%.

On environmental issues, according to the League of Conservation Voters, McCain had an average score of 13% for the past three years.

There's more.

11:05 BST: Permalink
Chilled to the bone

I kept hearing "Rockville Pike" and "Wheaton" and thought, "Jeez, that's my neighborhood back home" - but I just saw Jim Henley refer to the Kensington Shell Station. Understand: to a teenager or young adult, Rockville Pike and Wheaton were both relatively tolerable walking distance from my mom's house in Kensington, but the Kensington Shell station is practically my brother's street. His two young teenaged kids must walk by that corner on a daily basis.

You can't imagine how shocking this is. You know that thing about how "in the old days we didn't even have to lock our doors"? Well, we locked our doors, but we didn't really have to - no one ever tried to break in. The closest thing to crime we ever had on our streets was some smoking, and a bit of very stupid driving over that little bridge (that isn't as scary as it used to be now that it's been fixed) that gets you from Stoneybrook back into Kensington.

I mean, nothing ever happens there. The most excitement we ever had (beside the time our house caught fire) was when Tom and Jane came to do their anti-war rap at the Cedar Lane Unitarian Church. (Yes, that's right, I have personally argued with Jane Fonda about the hierarchy of political causes.)

Now it's all too easy to imagine my brother, olive-complected and in summer deeply tanned, with a mass of curly hair on his head, stepping out of his truck at the local gas station, maybe with his kids in the car....

It's just scary.

10:30 BST: Permalink
Free-Online was down for emergency maintenance last night, so I couldn't upload anything - and, presumably, you didn't find this page if you looked for it. But it appears to be back now, so here's some stuff:

Krugman: My Economic Plan:

The key point is that this isn't your father's recession — it's your grandfather's recession. That is, it isn't your standard postwar recession, engineered by the Federal Reserve to fight inflation, and easily reversed when the Fed loosens the reins. It's a classic overinvestment slump, of a kind that was normal before World War II. And such slumps have always been hard to fight simply by cutting interest rates.
Jimmy Breslin: City Set Up For Slaughter:

I am walking in a silent city. There is supposed to be noise that does not stop but there is none now. We are, here in New York, the only place in the world that terrorists want to blow up. They'll take Washington as a second choice, but New York is the prize, the place Arabs will die for.

New York is a place filled with Jews and blacks and islanders and the government in Washington doesn't care for any of them or what happens to them.

And nobody says anything about it anywhere. So yesterday New York sat in silence, and here was the government in Washington out actively promoting our chances to get blown up.

All through this World Trade Center turmoil I wondered why the Bush administration was so openly frightened of questions about why nobody knew the trade center bombing was coming, or did they know enough about it and simply say, it's New York, we'll see what it's about when we get a chance? Let's not get in a turmoil. This is about New York. Who cares? They're not ours.

"What's the statute of limitations on interfering with a Federal election?"

Buy this video: Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election

10:00 BST: Permalink
Ripped open by metal explosion
caught in barbed wire
bullet shock
bayonet electricity
throbbing meat
Two hundred fifty-six Viet Cong captured
Prisoners in Niggertown, it's a dirty little war
Take weapons up and begin to kill
Watch the long, long armies drifting home
    - from "Wichita Vortex Sutra" (14 February 1966), by Allen Ginsberg

Saturday, 05 October 2002

16:26 BST: Permalink

Jim Henley tipped me off to this, in which Jessie Walker wonders:

It should go without saying, but just in case: Coulter's merits or demerits as a writer, thinker, and human being have nothing to do with whether anyone thinks she's cute. I wouldn't even bring this up if we weren't already swimming in lustful appreciations of Coulter's physique, of which the most infamous is the man who told The New York Observer that he'd "fuck the shit out of her." Sometimes I just have to know whether I'm a minority of one.
Jessie, it's not just you. Some people just get a bit nuts about long blond hair, even when they know it comes out of a bottle. And some people do the same with red hair. And some people do the same with long black hair, and I'm not cuttin' mine for anything.

No, she isn't conventionally pretty and yes, she is skinnier than most guys like, but those problems can be overcome by force of personality and stuff like that. There are some guys who don't even mind if a woman is a bit insane and obviously in need of someone to take care of her - some even like that. Still, in most circles, showing up in public with a woman like Coulter on your arm would probably leave people feeling sorry for you and telling each other that boy, she must give really great head - until they found out she wasn't a member of the party of blow-jobs, of course.

Another point to remember is that the world is full of sexually submissive guys who mistake an intense persona in a woman for sexual dominance. They probably don't realize that Coulter's personality is of the Spoiled Brat type, which means that, far from being a Domme, she's spoiling for a spanking. This also means that there may actually be a few dominant men out there who do recognize the hungry submissive aspects of Coulter's performance and are itching to get her over their laps. I'm sure there must be some.

But pretty? No. Can't tell through the make-up and dye job whether she could ever be beautiful (something that doesn't necessarily track with "pretty"), but she won't attain it as long as she keeps dying her hair a color that looks so wrong on her.

Naturally, I'm only saying all this because I know it turns Jim Henley on.

Meanwhile, I found some other interesting things on Jessie's page, including a link to this appreciation of Warren Zevon by Brian Doherty.

16:08 BST: Permalink
At Open Democracy, Todd Gitlin says:

The Bush administration's manifesto of 17 September, The National Security Strategy of the United States of America (NSSUSA), is a gift to anti–Americans everywhere. This sweeping declaration of defence and offence, martial intent and free trade, ideas of war and ‘a war of ideas', is ill–argued, empty, hypocritical and dangerous – but that's not all that's wrong with it.
Their métier is not consultation outside their charmed circle. They practise small–group communion. The rhetoric of the NSSUSA is recognisably the logic of the Republican majority in the Supreme Court's 2000 decision in Bush v. Gore, the logic that put Bush in the White House. It reads like a bulldozer – things are so because we say they are so. This is the bully's logic. It must be opposed – not because America has no enemies, or because it deserves the enemies it has, but because even paranoids who have real enemies are obliged to be intelligent and wise.
Well, those are the first and last paragraphs, but you really ought to read the whole thing. Oh, just one more thing - this paragraph:

Not one of the major commercial networks, however many hours they have to fill, found Gore's effort worthy of full coverage. But Gore did open space for Senator Robert Byrd, the conservative Democrat from West Virginia, and Senator Ted Kennedy, the liberal from Massachusetts, to chime in with principled doubt about the Iraq adventure.
It occurred to me, reading this, that references to Byrd as conservative have been far too infrequent of late. He is, of course, but the press these days seems strangely unwilling to admit that the Democratic Party is full of conservatives. (They like to call them "moderates", which is wrong.) It's a game the right has been playing for a while, trying to claim that the party is composed entirely of liberals. It never has been, of course. It's just that all of the liberals in Congress - I think there may be 10 or 15 of them - happen to be Democrats. (I almost wrote "all but one" but then I remembered that Bernie isn't a liberal, he's a socialist.) A lot of the real conservatives with serious political ambitions have joined the Democratic Party as the Republicans have become more clearly radical, too, but Byrd was always a conservative Democrat. And he's far from being the only one.

15:55 BST: Permalink
Michael Kinsley says some smart things about politics, ideology, and judicial nominations:

"Ideology" does mean something special in the case of judges. In practice, an ideology is what other people have while you yourself have a judicial philosophy. In theory, though, there's a real difference. Your ideology tells you what to believe about welfare reform or invading Iraq. Your judicial philosophy tells you whether and how the courts ought to involve themselves in such decisions.
And some people's judicial philosophy is that people with their ideology have a right to give judicial opinions that support that ideology, regardless of how they have to twist the law to do it. As we have seen:

Federal judges are appointed for life and are supposed to be above politics. The selection process is where politics -- aka democracy -- is supposed to play a role, and the last chance to make sure we have judges who meet the above-politics ideal. Two episodes of recent history ought to gird the loins of any senator going into battle over judgeships. Clarence Thomas swore under oath that he had no opinion about abortion and other matters and then never wavered from the opinions he self-righteously denied having. (Of course, it's only been 11 years . . . ) And then there was Bush v. Gore, the most brazenly politicized court decision of our lifetime, which anointed our current president based on reasoning that was truly shocking in its desperation to reach a particular result. We need no lectures from the beneficiary of this judicial coup d'état about the dangers of mixing politics and judges.
14:30 BST: Permalink
Atrios asks a couple of good questions:

Has Zell Miller lost his goddamn mind? Saddam Hussein is a bigger threat than the Soviet Union?

Have we all lost our goddam minds?

And I've just noticed that Mark now is blogging on subjects I actually understand. The site design isn't outstandingly pretty or anything, but it loads quicker than the intensely geek-oriented one.

Friday, 04 October 2002

13:49 BST: Permalink

Statistics in Ponds

Lying in Ponds is trying to put together a statistical evaluation of partisanship in the press. I have about 18 different problems with this, starting with the idea that being critical of one party is necessarily partisan. As I've noted before, you don't have to be a Democrat, a liberal, or a lefty of any kind to oppose the radicalism of the Bush administration, which is not conservative in any normal sense of the word, and not consistent with the sort of Republicanism that many people traditionally joined that party for in the first place. Similarly, many Democrats have criticized the policies of Johnson, Carter, Clinton, and even JFK himself, and been scathing about these men as individuals.

Again, the idea that the entire political milieu is merely a team sport, where issues themselves don't matter, is a big mote in the eye of all too many political commentators (and, alas, politicians themselves). Shortly after 9/11, I was fuming at a public statement by David Obey to the effect that Democrats were not in the mood to oppose Bush on taxes and other domestic policies because that would be "partisan". This is maddening; it is not partisan to stick to your guns on issues - virtually all issues have supporters and opponents in every party.

Take LIP's top-ranking "partisan" columnist, Paul Krugman, for example. He has in fact not distinguished himself as particularly liberal or even particularly partisan. He was critical of Clinton during the '90s and even when he was supportive of the administration's policies he credited them to Greenspan rather than Clinton. (And I don't recall ever seeing Krugman depart from the conventional wisdom that the good economic news of the period was the result of an expansion of information technology that the administration had nothing to do with - despite the fact that this was driven by the Internet, which no one did more to promote than Al Gore.)

It's pretty clear that Krugman's standards for economic policy are what, until very recently, were always mainstream conservative views: be honest, be frugal, and don't mess up America's economic stability. Since George Bush has adhered to none of those rules, why would any traditional economic conservative support him for any reason other than pure partisanship? Yes, it's pretty clear that Krugman doesn't approve of Bush's policies, but it's even more clear that it has nothing to do with which party Bush is in - he doesn't like those policies and he wouldn't like them no matter who brought them to the table.

And there lies a problem: If you assume that any criticism of a party's actions or policies is "partisan", you are pretty much saying that issues are not meaningful matters for debate; the only thing that matters is which colors your gang wears.

But I criticize my party's policies and actions all the time, and I'm still partisan in my party affiliation. Although I'm not in love with the Democratic Party, my fear and loathing of the Republicans is pretty ferocious these days. I'm feeling pretty damned partisan as a result. And yet, you won't catch me trying to pretend, for example, that the Torch isn't dirty; like most Democrats, it's not the fact that Torricelli has been busted that bugs me, but the fact that far dirtier Republicans, as MWO has pointed out, are getting a pass from the oh-so-pure Republicans who are so scandalized by Torricelli's ethical lapses.

Now, you might think it's non-partisan when the press covers the story of the Torch's little problem, but how do you gauge the partisanship of reporters or news sources that don't talk about the lies and corruption of Republicans? The Chandra Levy story was broken by Josh Marshall - someone who is clearly in the Democratic camp - and it's easy to think that, well, this was just a big sexy story so it's not partisan that the press ran with it. But while Chandra Levy was missing, a woman was found dead in a Republican's office - also a staff member, and with some indications that there was some hanky-panky going on - and the press did not have a field day with that story.

The stories that are not being covered often tell you more than what you actually see. If The New York Times or The Washington Post have already accepted the Republican strategy of treating political maneuvering as "the news", above and beyond the issues - and they have - that in itself is a form of partisanship - for the Republicans, who know they are cooked if the voters ever get a clear picture of what each party really stands for. The news media as a whole has aided and abetted the Republicans consistently for the last few years by increasingly covering political strategy in preference to covering the issues themselves. Ultimately, isn't that in itself partisan? But of course, that isn't what LIP is measuring when it looks at individual opinion columnists.

Another point is that opinion columns, however widely they may be read, are not as influential as the telegraph page. Front-page headlines are the most important measure of what a newspaper is trying to tell you - so why isn't anyone looking at that? What does it mean when it's front-page news that an actress/singer misattributed a quote - when that performer is a visible supporter of the Democratic Party and much-despised by the right-wing? Highly influential Republicans in and out of government make far more egregious "misstatements" all the time without ever having it mentioned in the A section at all.

There's a similar problem with the mix-and-match method that Andrew Sullivan was so fond of a few months back - you know the one, where you do a search through the NYT for the words "conservative" and "liberal" to see who gets labelled more often? So you might get raw numbers showing that the words "conservative" and "Helms" appear together more often than the words "liberal" and "Wellstone". Then you jump up and down and say, "See? Look at all that liberal bias - they label Helms more often!" What you don't hear them say is, "See? The NYT mentions Helms much more often than it mentions Wellstone!"

I've even seen the phrase "Democrat Senators" creep into headlines in the "liberal" newspapers once or twice lately. LIP isn't looking for that, either. Nor is LIP checking out the number of stories where the headline and the first graf are completely inconsistent with the rest of the article as it continues down the page. Our favorite example is, of course, the NORC recount: remember, the media groups sponsored the NORC study to find out who really got the most votes in Florida; but when the newspapers finally released the story, that information didn't appear until the 43rd graf, with the top lines all telling us that by some other measure inconsistent with the "who got the most votes?" query, a different result could be squeezed out. That is, Gore got the most votes, but with enough twists and turns of events, Bush "still wins". This violates just about every rule of journalism; they had to work to get the "Bush still wins" headline. Could that be, um, partisanship? Ah, but LIP won't be measuring that, because it isn't on the op-ed page.

11:29 BST: Permalink
MWO tickled me with a heads-up on this story about the Massachusetts gubernatorial race:

BOSTON - Republican Mitt Romney, running against a woman for governor of Massachusetts, is turning on the sex appeal.

The candidate — named one of People magazine's 50 most beautiful people — appears barechested in a swimsuit in a new television ad

Thank god the Republicans are bringing dignity back into politics.

MWO is also headlining a bunch of Republican legislators who are all sleazier than the Torch and yet who seem to be getting a pass from the "news" media. But hell, Bob Somerby says that even E.J. Dionne has come right out and said that he no longer believes there's a liberal media in the US:

DIONNE: You know, I was struck—and I came across this looking up the text of [Gore's] speech, and I found The News with Brian Williams, and the tease began, "Is it un-American to speak out against the Bush plan to take on Iraq? Is it democratic to ridicule and threaten those who do it?"

I mean, since when do we debate that it's un-American to take on a president? Surely that subject surely didn't come up during the Clinton scandals, when people were trashing Clinton's foreign policy all the time. And then he went on later in the story to say, "Today, our—

KURTZ: Brian Williams.

DIONNE: This is Brian Williams. "Today, our friend Rush Limbaugh told his radio listeners he almost stayed home from work not due to any health reasons, but because he was so livid at the speech given yesterday by former Vice President Al Gore criticizing the Bush administration," et cetera.

Now, have you ever seen the news report, Jane Fonda couldn't get out of bed because she was so mad about former Vice President Nixon's speech? Or, Phil Donahue couldn't get out of bed because he was so mad about President Bush's speech? I mean, [Gore] got 47 million votes. Why couldn't you have a straight account of what Al Gore said, and then a debate, including all the questions, including the ones Dana [Milbank] raised about what he said?

What is going on here? I don't believe there is a liberal media anymore. That's—that is, Rush Limbaugh's now the producer of the news.

KURTZ (continuing directly): Well, that's going a little far because when you're on cable and people have seen the speech 20 times, by the time you come on, you look for a little different way to get in the story, perhaps by going to—framing it around what the critics—

DIONNE (continuing directly): Why begin with—in other words, we are told all the time it is the "liberal media," and here Rush Limbaugh not being able to get out of bed supersedes what Al Gore says. If you—if you want to have Rush Limbaugh on trashing Al Gore afterward, fine. Report the news. Report what he said, and then criticize him.

I guess Howie is right — Dionne must've been smoking some powerful stuff if he's expecting any of that "news reporting" stuff out of this crowd. What took him so long? (And where did he get that 47 million votes figure, anyway? Gore broke 50m by half a mil.)

Thursday, 03 October 2002

03:24 BST: Permalink

I have just been informed that the big news in the US Wednesday was that Barb Streisand misattributed a quote, Saddam is bad, and Ann Nicole Smith has an "extended posterior".

The big news on this side of the pond, however, was that Former President of the United States William Jefferson Clinton made a well-received speech (standing ovation) to the Labour Party Conference that saved Blair's bacon and, it is alleged, helped people remember that the terms "George W. Bush" and "Americans" are not synonyms. (He also had a burger and hung out with Kevin Spacey.)

02:45 BST: Permalink
Jim Henley offers a patriotic message:

L'Etat, C'Ain't Him - A note for international visitors and immigrants still getting the hang of how things work here. George Bush is President of the United States, not the United States itself. A partisan disagreement with the President cannot be "perilously close to treason," no matter where it takes place. "Treason" is something one commits against the country, not against a politician, however much said politician and his partisans may be getting ahead of themselves.

And damn you people for making Unqualified Offerings stick up for David Bonior, for whom it has never had any use. Unqualified Offerings will get you for this.

Also, a refresher for the native-born: The President is not "our Commander-in-Chief." He is Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. (You can look it up.) He is also Commander-in-Chief of "the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States." If this happens, it will be in the papers. If you ain't in the uniformed services or the active duty militia, you ain't got a commander-in-chief. It's a republican thing, with a small 'r.'

The very best kind.

01:00 BST: Permalink
LiberalDesert has an interesting story on how optical scanners still ain't perfect.

"Chickenhawks - Hall of Shame" Flash video (via MWO).

The Guardian reports that satirical website is back up after recent interference by the Obscene Publications Squad.

Wednesday, 02 October 2002

14:02 BST: Permalink

Personally, I rather like Adam Magazine's site re-design, especially since it now looks a lot less like Amygdala, among others. There is, of course, one glaring omission, but it doesn't change the fact that it's a good blog, and it gives me an excuse to get two links out of one source. I sometimes feel a bit guilty about quoting people with no comment, but Adam reminds me that sometimes just putting a couple of paragraphs up there all naked can really help concentrate your brain on just those words - like these few that Adam excerpted from a longer piece by Max about the IMF/World Bank protests. The thing is, I'd read the piece already, but for some reason those paragraphs didn't make my quote buzzer go off until I saw them all exposed like that:

The dominant trend in the movement is reformist. The labor movement is on the reformist side of the divide. Whether you seek to reform or abolish an institution like the IMF does not bear on the substance of your critique of its policies. Disagreement over remedies does not impeach the validity of the critique.

An important focus of all these groups is trade, but it is not the only one. The interest is in what is called 'fair' trade, not no trade. Fair trade could mean different things. An analogy is regulations in the U.S. against child labor. The movement seeks similar regulations applying to child labor in other countries. Since no world government exists to implement such regulations, the recourse is to include such stipulations in trade agreements. If you think it is legitimate for the U.S. to promulgate a regulation against child labor, what could be wrong with two nations' governments agreeing to do the same?

A principal interest is to include "social clauses" in trade agreements. Such clauses would be aimed at safeguarding basic human rights, and at upholding minimum standards for labor and environment.

All that seems so simple and obvious when it's put like that, but it's not like you hear it on the news. The main thing I hear about the protests is that there are protests, and the commentary by our alleged journalists rarely rises above the level of trivia. More than one talking head has made such in-depth analysis as to complain that the protestors have not made clear what they are protesting about - as if it isn't the job of journalists to ask them. In a later post, Max produces his statement on the war and left politics. I thought this was a particularly interesting bit:

Another bit of fluff is the idea that Bush's managing of the debate reflects crass politics. To the contrary, the discussions of grand imperial strategy among elites indicate that the Iraqi enterprise is part of a much larger, infinitely more malign and reckless project. That is what should be criticized. There is still plenty of room for the U.S. to play international rescue squad without buying into the recolonization of the Middle East and South Asia.
I think this is right, but I also think there's plenty of crass politics involved, too - in the timing. But I think Max's point is one that deserves wider play; it seems to me that the true horror of what the Bushistas are up to is just not being taken seriously enough. It's not "just politics" - it's something worse.

15:42 BST: Permalink

DOCTOR DOOM: The unthinking world calls us villains, Namor--or, rather melodramatically, super-villains; but the true word for us both is "conquerors"! You and I know that villainy, like all else, is but a relative term. Let us emerge triumphant in the end, and we shall write the history books! Then, the Fantastic Four--the Avengers --all the so-called superheroes shall be the "villains".. --and we, the mighty forebears of a brave new world!

NAMOR: You tempt me...truly you do... And, if only I could be sure that your course of empire would not be far more bloody than my own--!

DOC DOOM: Details! Mere details! The important things is--we were made to rule, you and I--you, by birth--and I, by dint of conquest!

(From Marvel's Giant-Size Super-villain Team-up #2, 1975.)

I dunno, it just seemed...germane.

Tuesday, 01 October 2002

23:01 BST: Permalink

A few weeks ago Sam Parry took a close look at Bush, the Polls & 2004:

With the worldwide war against terrorism expected to continue indefinitely, Republicans appear confident that Bush is positioned to win the 2004 election, quite possibly in a landslide. Some think Bush’s wartime leadership and his staunch support for Israel can help him crack into traditional Democratic strongholds, including liberal centers like New York City and Democratic Jewish communities in key states.

But a close look at the latest numbers suggests that impression may be more ephemeral than real.

Parry cuts through the spin for a serious appraisal of what the numbers might really mean when 2004 rolls around and concludes that a Democrat, including (or maybe especially) Al Gore, might just have a good chance of winning again, despite all that "united we stand" war-prez stuff.

20:20 BST: Permalink
Personal note: I don't know why, but I'm still in a state of shock after going to the dentist for what I thought would be an ordinary filling and having him utter the words, "You need a root canal," instead. I'm really shaken - enough that I just don't feel like dealing with the news in the outside world at the moment.

So in the meantime, I've added a few new links at right, most of which I should have added already, and particularly Naked Writing, which was absent only due to a strange brain-o and I don't know how I overlooked it. (He's got an interesting piece on religion as superstition up front at the moment.) To a slightly lesser degree I guess this is also true of Get Donkey and Ain'tNoBadDude. PLA, William Burton and Noosphere Blues are newer but they've quickly become very popular here at the fabulous Sideshow offices so as long as I was doing this I couldn't resist. Read and be thoughtful.

12:29 BST: Permalink
Question Mark #20: 'Push'

Rumsfield goes nuts around the 48-minute mark (RealPlayer). Who is he talking about? It really only makes sense if he means, "How many more lies are you gonna swallow from us?"

Elton Beard makes a Public Service Announcement.

Salman Rushdie says there's a big difference between criticizing a religion and criticizing the individuals who practice it. Matt Yglesias agrees.

Jessica Lange really doesn't like George Bush. Says he stole the election, in fact.

12:00 BST: Permalink
The Case for Regime Change

In a much-anticipated speech to a special session of the U.N. General Assembly held in Brussels, Khatami launched a blistering attack against American leader George W. Bush, accusing him of defying U.N. resolutions and using his country's wealth to line the pockets of wealthy cronies at a time when the people of his country make do without such basic social programs as national health insurance.

"Nearly two years ago, the civilized world watched as this evil and corrupt dictator subverted the world's oldest representative democracy in an illegal coup d'état," said Khatami. "Since then the Bush regime has continued America's systematic repression of ethnic and religious minorities and threatened international peace and security throughout the world. Thousands of political opponents and ordinary citizens have been subjected to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment. Basic civil rights have been violated. This rogue state has flouted the international community on legal, economic and environmental issues. It has even ignored the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war by denying that its illegal invasion of Afghanistan ( news - web sites)--which has had a destabilizing influence throughout Central Asia--was a war at all."

Khatami said the U.S. possesses the world's largest arsenal of nuclear weapons, weapons "that, when first developed, were used immediately to kill half a million innocent civilians just months after acquiring them. No nation that has committed nuclear genocide can be entrusted with weapons of mass destruction."

"Bush has invaded Afghanistan and is now threatening Iraq. We cannot stand by and do nothing while danger gathers. We can't for this tyrant to strike first. We have an obligation to act pre-emptively to protect the world from this evildoer," Khatami said.

As delegates punctuated his words with bursts of applause, Khatami noted that U.S. intelligence agencies had helped establish and fund the world's most virulent terrorist organizations, including Al Qaeda, and the Taliban regime that harbored them. "The U.S. created the Islamist extremists who attacked its people on September 11, 2001," he stated, "and Bush's illegitimate junta cynically exploited those attacks to repress political dissidents, make sweetheart deals with politically-connected corporations and revive 19th century-style colonial imperialism."

Khatami asked the U.N. to set a deadline for Bush to step down in favor of president-in-exile Al Gore ( news - web sites), the legitimate winner of the 2000 election, the results of which were subverted through widespread voting irregularities and intimidation. "We favor not regime change, but rather restoration and liberation," he said. In addition, Khatami said, the U.S. must dismantle its weapons of mass destruction, guarantee basic human rights to all citizens and agree to abide by international law or "face the consequences."

00:30 BST: Permalink
Been having a busy day, so here's some stuff I saw last night.

Simon Hoggart reads Prince Charles' letters.

Gary Farber finds Adam Clymer doing some inaccurate reporting, accepting RNC spin, and also responds to Dick Morris' assertion that the anti-telemarketing laws will hurt pollsters, among other things.

Elton Beard has the goods on Tucker Carlson's truth-killing style.

Jack finds a culinary delicacy the Scots would just love. And some moments of beauty.

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, October 2002

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

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